Election Day is finally here, but most voters already took the plunge: Nearly 100 million Americans have mailed or cast early ballots in person (the total 2016 turnout was 138 million), signaling record turnout in a year marked by a deadly pandemic and racial unrest. It’s hard to know at this stage which side the blockbuster turnout favors, but Joe Biden remains the consistent favorite in this race. The final edition of our exclusive prediction model gives him an 88 percent chance of victory over President Donald Trump — though some renegade pollsters foresee a replay of Trump’s 2016 shocker. Heading to the voting booth today? Here’s how to find your polling place and who to call if you run into roadblocks.
Tonight we’ll start seeing results, but don’t necessarily expect resolution: The critical states of Pennsylvania and Michigan will likely take days to count given the crush of mail votes. But Florida could be mostly counted by 9:15 p.m. ET, and Ohio counts quickly as well. If Biden takes either of those, it nearly blocks off Trump’s chances of victory, while solid Trump wins in those states could presage a second term — or at least a court fight. Trump indicated he’ll try to halt counts of late-arriving postal ballots over his repeated unsupported claims of mass voter fraud. Meanwhile, yesterday a Republican-appointed Texas judge rejected GOP efforts to invalidate 127,000 ballots cast via drive-thru polling centers in Houston, a sign of legal battles to come.
Police are searching for one of several attackers who sprayed six locations in the Austrian capital with gunfire on the eve of another pandemic lockdown. Four people were killed and 15 seriously injured before police arrested one attacker and killed another. After searching his home, authorities described him as an ISIS sympathizer. Some of the shooting occurred near a synagogue, but it’s not clear if the building was a target. Authorities are urging Vienna residents to remain indoors as they review video footage and track down at least one other “heavily armed and dangerous” assailant.
Free speech matters. America’s highest court yesterday nullified a federal appeals ruling against Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson in a key victory for free speech advocates. Newly seated Justice Amy Coney Barrett sat out the unsigned decision, while Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. The majority ruled that the lower court had mistakenly allowed a Louisiana police officer to sue Mckesson for alleged incitement after he was injured during unrest following the police killing of Alton Sterling in 2016. The vacated decision was “fraught with implications for First Amendment rights,” the justices explained in returning the case for review.
Not so fast, comrade. After announcing history’s largest initial public offering, Alibaba founder Jack Ma has reportedly been brought to heel by Chinese officials. Before Thursday’s IPO for financial behemoth Ant Group, which has reeled in $3 trillion from investors, yesterday Ma was summoned to meet with central bankers and financial officials. Afterwards Ant promised to “implement the meeting opinions in depth,” including putting limits on lending, seen as protection for China’s banks. Social media users created a scathing pun in response: Chinese characters that sound the same as Ant’s name but mean “Jack Ma has now been tamed.”
Nicaragua is bracing for Hurricane Eta, expected to bring “catastrophic” damage when it makes landfall this morning. Afghanistan has declared a day of mourning after Monday’s ISIS-claimed terror attack at Kabul University that killed 22 people. And British researchers have found evidence of an immune response in COVID-19 patients up to six months after infection.
Coronavirus Update: Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House pandemic task force, warned that America is “entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” sharply contradicting President Trump’s continual reassurances that things are improving.
Required listening: On this Election Day, take a moment to listen to a powerful story about voter suppression and a Black massacre exactly 100 years ago in the little town of Ocoee, Florida. In a special miniseries of OZY's hit history podcast, Flashback, with guest host Eugene S. Robinson, hear from the descendants of some of the survivors of the worst incident of election violence in U.S. history — and explore how the massacre still haunts today. Listen now.
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It leaks air and the toilets go on the fritz. Humans have now been living aboard the ISS for two decades and it’s showing its age. But dealing with breakdowns is part of the mission, as a Russian cosmonaut demonstrated recently by following floating tea leaves to the elusive year-old leak. The scientific vessel, pieced together by more than 25 nations and run jointly by Russian and U.S. space agencies, isn’t without controversy: This month NASA is letting an astronaut be sworn into Space Force service while in orbit — which some argue violates the station’s peaceful founding principles.
Skynet won’t like this one bit. Walmart has decided to lay off its robotic inventory scanners, or more precisely, end its contract with San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics. Why? It seems that, counterintuitively, humans proved they can check stock — even while fulfilling online orders and performing other tasks — just as well as machines during the pandemic. So the humans will take over the robots’ jobs in some 500 stores where the six-foot automatons were deployed. While that may no longer delight little kids, it may put their parents more at ease.
The president’s reelection campaign says Joe Biden is caught up in a bad romance after he hosted Lady Gaga at last night’s drive-in Pittsburgh rally. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh called it a “sharp stick in the eye” for Pennsylvanians who work in the industry, describing the singer as an “anti-fracking activist.” Biden told the crowd, “I will not ban fracking,” disputing Trump’s repeated claims he would outlaw the fossil fuel extraction technique. As for the “Shallow” singer, she tweeted back at Trump and Murtaugh, saying she was “GLAD TO BE LIVING RENT FREE in your HEAD.”
4. Freak Football Injury Leads Coach to Question Game
The symptoms were ominous. “He was hit and hasn’t moved since,” Ole Miss football coach Lane Kiffin noted as tight end Damarcus Thomas was airlifted from practice after a collision. The 18-year-old from Alabama has recovered some movement and feeling and has been released from the hospital, but it’s still not clear why he appeared to be temporarily paralyzed after what was described as a normal play. But it made Kiffin rethink his 11-year-old son’s future in the sport: “I called Knox’s mom and said I couldn’t care less whether he ever plays football after seeing that.”