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Emilia-Romagna election: Polls open in key Italian regional vote

Polls have opened in Italy in a key regional election which the far right hopes will destabilise the country’s fragile coalition government and help opposition leader Matteo Salvini return to power. The wealthy centre-north region of Emilia-Romagna has been a stronghold of the Italian left for more than 70 years, but while left-wing values still…

Emilia-Romagna election: Polls open in key Italian regional vote

Polls have opened in Italy in a key regional election which the far right hopes will destabilise the country’s fragile coalition government and help opposition leader Matteo Salvini return to power.
The wealthy centre-north region of Emilia-Romagna has been a stronghold of the Italian left for more than 70 years, but while left-wing values still hold sway in its cities, the right has been rallying serious support in towns and the countryside.
More:

Emilia-Romagna: Will Italy’s left-wing stronghold turn far-right?

Italy’s ‘Sardines’ pack Rome for anti-far-right rally

With Salvini gone, what’s next for Italy’s migration policy?

The last opinion polls published before the pre-election media blackout showed Salvini’s anti-immigrant, anti-European League neck-and-neck with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which governs Italy in coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
Some 3.5 million citizens are eligible to cast ballots to elect the region’s president between 7am (06:00 GMT) and 11pm (22:00 GMT), alongside similar regional elections in the smaller southern region of Calabria.
The League hopes for a repeat of its historic October win in Umbria, which had been a left-wing stronghold for 50 years.
Its candidate in Emilia-Romagna, Lucia Borgonzoni, 43, has been overshadowed by Salvini, who has held daily rallies and inundated social media with photographs of himself sampling delicacies in the Parma ham and Parmesan cheese heartland.
The League has been dominating Italian politics since it entered a coalition with the M5S after the 2018 general elections. In a surprise move last August, Salvini decided to pull the plug on that government, hoping to induce – and win – new elections.
Salvini, a former interior minister and deputy prime minister, angered his opponents on Saturday by breaking the pre-election silence – Italian law dictates that candidates cannot campaign the day before a vote – by tweeting about the “eviction notice” he was set to deliver to the government.
The PD’s candidate Stefano Bonaccini is the incumbent president and is hoping to win for his track record in the region, which boasts low jobless figures and is home to “Made in Italy” success stories such as Ferrari and Lamborghini.

He may also benefit from the youth-driven, anti-fascist Sardines movement, which was born in the region just a few months ago but has fast become a national symbol of protest against the far-right.
Not only is Emilia-Romagna the largest and most populous of Italy’s “red regions”, it is also one of Italy’s richest
Unemployment levels are well below the national average – despite considerable inequality between urban and industrial areas and left-behind villages in the mountain areas.
“Positive economic and social indicators in the areas of welfare, public health and employment levels, in fact, hide a number of issues,” Carlo De Maria, director of the Institute of the Resistance and Contemporary History, told Al Jazeera.
“Take unemployment levels, for example. They may be low, but the quality of work has, in fact, been getting worse. There is more precariousness and uncertainty,” added De Maria, who is a senior researcher in contemporary history at the University of Bologna.
“Some people can be sceptical of all the talk about good governance and perceive it as untrue, particularly those living in the suburbs or the Apennine.”
Stabilising factor
The League triumphed in Emilia-Romagna at the European Parliament elections in May, becoming the leading party with nearly 34 percent of the votes, topping the PD’s 31 percent.
Just five years earlier it had taken home a mere 5 percent, compared with the PD’s 53 percent.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has dismissed fears of a government crisis should Salvini’s party win, saying the election concerns the region alone and has no bearing on national politics.
The coalition’s main stabilising factor is a joint fear of snap elections which would likely hand power to Salvini, whose party is leading national polls.
Analysts expect a League victory to increase tensions within the coalition government considerably, with the PD likely to blame the M5S for refusing to join forces behind a single candidate – thus splitting the anti-Salvini vote.
And observers have also warned it could cause the M5S, which is riven by infighting and has been haemorrhaging members, to collapse.
Contested M5S head Luigi Di Maio resigned on Wednesday in a bid to stave off a crisis – but observers warned that it may not be enough.
“If the PD were to lose another regional bastion after Umbria three months ago, it may conclude that it would have more to lose from staying in alliance with the ever-weaker M5S than from risking new elections,” Berenberg Economics said on Friday.
The PD is braced for a poor election showing in both Emilia-Romagna and Calabria.
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Biden

Joe Biden 1988 election disaster doesn’t stop tall tales

Joseph R. Biden blew up his 1988 presidential bid with a plagiarized fictitious account of his hardscrabble roots, but the experience failed to cure him of his tendency to exaggerate, conflate and even invent stories about his upbringing and political history. Since the start of the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden has been caught on numerous…

Joe Biden 1988 election disaster doesn’t stop tall tales

Joseph R. Biden blew up his 1988 presidential bid with a plagiarized fictitious account of his hardscrabble roots, but the experience failed to cure him of his tendency to exaggerate, conflate and even invent stories about his upbringing and political history.

Since the start of the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden has been caught on numerous occasions spinning false and even ludicrous yarns, a tendency that has prompted head-scratching from his supporters and exasperation from conservatives stunned that his tall tales have yet to torpedo his salt-of-the-earth image.

“This has been a career-long problem that he’s had,” said Rick Manning, president of the free-market Americans for Limited Government. “I think a lot of people look at the things he’s doing now, and say, oh, he’s getting older, and that may be true, but the fact is, this is his historical record. This is not a recent phenomenon. This is who he is.”

Last year, Mr. Biden told voters in South Carolina that he “got started” at Delaware State University, a historically Black college. There is no record of his having attended. He said he remembered meeting with the Parkland students when he was vice president. The school shooting happened two years after he left office.

He delivered in August 2019 a stirring, detailed account of traveling as vice president to Kunar province, Afghanistan, to pin a Silver Star on a heroic Navy captain in Kunar province, Afghanistan, who risked his life to retrieve the body of another soldier.

“God’s truth, my word as a Biden,” Mr. Biden told the crowd at Dartmouth. “He stood at attention, I went to pin him, he said: ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me sir, please. Do not do that. He died. He died.’”

The reality was significantly different. Mr. Biden did visit Afghanistan, but as a senator in 2008; the soldier was not a Navy captain but an Army specialist, and he was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Barack Obama, not by the vice president overseas, according to a Washington Post fact-check.

Mr. Biden did pin a medal on another soldier in 2011 who said he didn’t deserve it in, and later defended his account, disputing the idea that “there’s anything I said about that that wasn’t the essence of the story,” as he told the [Charleston] Post and Courier.

He did backtrack in February after claiming at least twice on South Carolina campaign stops that he and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young were arrested in the 1970s trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison. Mr. Young later told media outlets it never happened.

In a Feb. 28 CNN interview, Mr. Biden acknowledged “I wasn’t arrested,” but added, “I was stopped.” He went on to describe how “Afrikaners” with “short pants and their guns” made him go through a “white only” door while directing Black lawmakers elsewhere, an account disputed by others because, for one, the delegation had not traveled to South Africa in 1976 but to Lesotho, which did not have apartheid.

A Feb. 25 fact-check by the Washington Post gave the account four Pinocchios in an article headlined, “Biden’s ridiculous claim he was arrested trying to see Mandela.”

The Washington Times has reached out to the Biden campaign for comment.

Embarrassing as it may have been, the whopper didn’t hurt him in the Feb. 29 primary. Mr. Biden won South Carolina with 39% of the vote, more than twice as much as second-place finisher Sen. Bernie Sanders, marking the start of the former vice president’s comeback.

‘Recollection was inaccurate’

None of this has received the same attention as the scandal that knocked him out of the Democratic primary in 1987, thanks in part to an overwhelmed news cycle dominated by the pandemic and protests, coupled with the “Trump lied” narrative.

Mr. Trump has been accused of being a habitual liar by media outlets and Democrats, including Mr. Biden, who recently said that the president “knowingly lied” about the threat of COVID-19, which Mr. Trump has denied.

The Washington Post says he has made more than 20,000 “false or misleading claims,” which includes 360 statements about the economy during his administration being the best in U.S. history.

Is that a lie or spin? “What they call lies for Trump is partially spin, but a lot of times, it’s just disagreement on policy,” said Mr. Manning. “Those tend to be policy fights. But when it comes to what happened when your first wife and your daughter were killed, that’s a very edge-of-your-soul kind of fact.”

Indeed, most of Mr. Biden’s blarney could be defended as misleading but essentially harmless braggadocio were it not for the “drunk driver” claim. In 2001 and 2007, he indicated that the 1972 car crash that killed his wife Neilia and baby daughter was caused by a driver who had too much to drink, even though the investigation said otherwise.

The family of the driver, Curtis C. Dunn, wrote to Mr. Biden the first time asking him to stop. He agreed, but then repeated the line in 2007, saying that the driver “allegedly — and I never pursued this — drank his lunch.” He apologized in a call to Mr. Dunn’s daughter in 2008, according to the Newark Post.

“Joe’s calling card is decency, an affable man without a malicious bone in his body. Yet he allowed Dunn, who died in 1999, to go to his grave having been falsely shamed by Biden as a drunk driver responsible for the death of Biden’s wife and newborn daughter,” said conservative radio host Larry Elder in a March op-ed on RealClearPolitics. “What ‘decent’ man does that.”

It may be that sometimes Mr. Biden simply gets carried away. Last week, he repeated the line about being the first in his family to attend college — “Like, guys like me were the first in my family to go to college” — a false statement for which he paid a steep price.

He dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential primary after extensive coverage of a speech he lifted from Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock about his coal-mining roots that included the line, “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?”

Mr. Biden used the same words and format, including, “I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?” and “Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?”

Not only was he accused of plagiarizing — the campaign said he had credited Mr. Kinnock as the source on some if not all occasions — but it turned out Mr. Biden was not the first person in his family to go to college.

His maternal grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, attended Santa Clara College in California, according to Time magazine. His maternal great-grandfather, Edward Francis Blewitt, earned a degree in civil engineering from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and served in the state Senate.

Mr. Biden admitted as much in 1987, saying that “there are Finnegans, my mother’s family, that went to college,” promptly the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway to write last week that it was “unclear why he has resurrected one of the false claims that got him in so much trouble 33 years ago.”

The same year, he exaggerated his academic credentials at an appearance in New Hampshire, saying that he attended Syracuse law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one granted; graduated in the top half of his class, and earned three undergraduate degrees.

He later admitted his “recollection was inaccurate”: He received a partial scholarship based on financial need; graduated 76th in a class of 85 students, and earned one bachelor’s degree with a double major at the University of Delaware.

Mr. Trump’s family has its own history of hidden heritage. Mr. Trump’s father Fred Trump for years concealed his German ancestry, saying he was Swedish, to avoid anti-German sentiment during World War II and afterward.

Donald Trump repeated the Swedish ancestry claim in his 1987 book “Art of the Deal,” but has since “acknowledged and embraced” his German roots, according to CNN, serving as grand marshal of a German-American parade in 1999 and describing himself in 2011 as a “proud German-American.”

Mr. Biden has occasionally joked about his record of embellishment. In a “Decision 2004” interview with Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, he said, “Hell, I might be president now if it weren’t for the fact that I said my uncle was a coal miner.”

“It turns out I didn’t have anyone in the coal mines,” Mr. Biden said to laughter. “I tried that crap — it didn’t work.”

Four years later, however, he was back at it. “I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pennsylvania,” he told a crowd, as shown on video posted by the Trump campaign.

Indeed, the Trump-Pence website offers a veritable treasure trove of Biden misstatements and exaggerations, labeling them “Joseph’s Book of Fables.”

As it turns out, however, Mr. Biden does have at least one relative in the coal-mining business. As noted by Wikipedia, Mr. Blewitt, his great-grandfather, “founded the Edward F. Gold Mining Company, a silver and gold mining operation in Montana.”

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Analysis

Analysis: US election ‘October surprise’ comes early |NationalTribune.com

Every four years around this time, political observers become breathless in anticipation of an “October surprise,” an event or disclosure or a gaffe that will change the dynamic of the upcoming US presidential election. And it is almost a given something will come up to shake things up. 2016 had two so-called “surprises”: Donald Trump’s…

Analysis: US election ‘October surprise’ comes early |NationalTribune.com

Every four years around this time, political observers become breathless in anticipation of an “October surprise,” an event or disclosure or a gaffe that will change the dynamic of the upcoming US presidential election. And it is almost a given something will come up to shake things up.
2016 had two so-called “surprises”: Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, released on October 7, and the FBI reopening their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails on October 28.
This year’s October surprise arrived a month early: the death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the impending political war over filling her vacancy on the court. Of course, everybody wants to know how this will affect November’s presidential and congressional elections, but the short answer is: nobody knows.
For the clearest sense of how this might all play out, cut through the noise of the politicians and talking heads and look closely at voters’ reactions in the coming weeks to Trump’s choice and the subsequent nomination battle.

Leading up to this moment, there has been little indication of how a Supreme Court fight might influence the vote. A Fox News poll released last week showed that likely voters trust Democrat Joe Biden over Trump, 52 to 45 percent, to do a better job with Supreme Court nominations.
The New York Times last week asked voters in three battleground states who are undecided or could change their minds who they preferred to choose the next Supreme Court justice – they preferred Biden over Trump 49 to 31 percent.
However, until voters are asked by pollsters what they think about this development and the subsequent fallout, all we can do for now is watch the political players.

Biden said if he wins the election, a Trump nominee for the court position should be withdrawn [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Their strategies will be calibrated not only for a long-term political advantage, as Supreme Court appointments usually are, but also for a short-term electoral advantage, something the US has never seen this close to a presidential election.
There is no question this is an opportunity for Trump to change the focus of the election away from voters’ negative reviews on his performance as president and his handling of the pandemic and racial justice issues.
It is almost certain he will make his choice and this process one of, if not the, main focus over the next six weeks. But what is not clear is which strategies he will adopt regarding his nominee and the subsequent fight over that choice.
Trump had announced a lengthy public list of potential nominees before Ginsburg’s death and said on Saturday he would nominate a woman. But will he choose one to placate his unwavering conservative base, promising them a 6-3 conservative-leaning court for the next generation?
Will he pick someone who will emphasize his divisive, us-versus-them, culture-war campaign strategy or someone he and Republicans can try to sell to voting blocs with whom he is underperforming, such as independents, suburban women and older voters?

Trump said he would nominate a woman to fill the Supreme Court vacancy [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

As for the pace of the nomination process, will it be rammed through before election day or will Trump and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell try to hold a vote after the election to allow embattled incumbent Republicans fighting in Senate battlegrounds to defer making up their minds until the electoral pressure has eased?
Will Republicans even have the full support of their Senate ranks? It only takes a few out of their 53-47 majority to create significant problems for confirming Trump’s nominee.  
As for Democrats, they have no immediate legislative or procedural tools at their disposal, so at this point, the focus will be on vociferously arguing that Trump and the Republicans are imperilling the country by trying to ram a nominee through.
They will talk about Republicans’ hypocrisy on blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 because the vacancy was too close to an election, though it was 9 months prior.
They will talk about how abortion rights, immigration, healthcare, LGBTQ rights and civil rights will all be in jeopardy under a 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court.
And they will surely talk about how just days before her death, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Ginsburg said she wanted a new president to be installed before her replacement on the court is selected [Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Berggruen Institute via AFP]

In their effort to honour Ginsburg’s wish, Democratic leaders escalated their rhetoric over the past two days, suggesting they are ready to strike back at the Republicans, maybe not immediately, but down the road.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer issued a direct threat to McConnell: If the Senate Republicans go forth with filling the vacancy, “nothing is off the table for next year”.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked if another impeachment of Trump could be used to prevent filling the vacancy, did not respond directly but did say: “We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now.”
With all the uncertainties Ginsburg’s passing and her vacant Supreme Court seat create, there is one certainty: every crucial decision and statement made by an elected official will be made while they ask themselves the question: “How does this affect me on election day?” It is the effect of those decisions and statements that will be closely watched to see how voters react to this early October surprise.
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election

US election live updates: Trump, Biden face off on climate change |NationalTribune.com

United States President Donald Trump heads to fire-ravaged California on Monday, as Democratic Candidate Joe Biden speaks on west coast wildfires, and climate change, in Delaware. Kamala Harris hosts virtual fundraisers with Hillary Clinton, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler  Mike Pence campaigns in Janesville, Wisconsin Trump held his first indoor rally in three months on…

US election live updates: Trump, Biden face off on climate change |NationalTribune.com

United States President Donald Trump heads to fire-ravaged California on Monday, as Democratic Candidate Joe Biden speaks on west coast wildfires, and climate change, in Delaware.

Kamala Harris hosts virtual fundraisers with Hillary Clinton, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler 

Mike Pence campaigns in Janesville, Wisconsin

Trump held his first indoor rally in three months on Sunday, prompting rebuke from Nevada governor

Monday marks 50 days until the November 3 vote.

Here are the latest updates:
11:30 ET – Biden creates legal war room in preparation for voting fight: Report
Biden’s campaign is building an unprecedented legal war room, which will include two former solicitors general and hundreds of lawyers, according to the New York Times. 
Campaign officials told the newspaper the operation is readying for a fight over voting integrity, amid on-going legal battles over how Americans will vote and how those votes will be counted. 
Experts expect half of US voters to cast ballots by mail, and Trump has repeatedly spread unfounded claims that mail voting leads to higher rates of fraud.
 As state’s grapple with new systems of voting, they are likely to encounter delays, which analysts fear could create weeks or months of fraught uncertainty.

Why is Trump worried about mail-voting? | Start Here

11:00 ET – Trump responds indoor rally criticism 
Trump has responded to criticism over his holding of an indoor rally in Nevada, saying he did not believe he was subject to the state’s 50-person gathering limit.
Instead, Trump blamed the state’s governor, Steve Sisolak, for what he described as blocking the campaign from holding the events at outdoor sites in Reno and Las Vegas, in an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal . Trump instead held the indoor event at a friend’s manufacturing facility.
“They canceled six different sites because the governor wouldn’t let it happen, all external sites,” the president said.
Sisolak had called Trump decision to host the indoor event, which had little in the way of social distancing and mask wearing, “shameful, dangerous and irresponsible”.

Supporters — many not wearing masks — gather for an indoor rally with US President Donald Trump in Henderson, Nevada [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

10:30 ET – Trump, Biden both hold events regarding West Coast wildfires
Trump will travel to California to be briefed about its devastating wildfires while Biden plans a speech on the matter from Delaware, bringing climate change to the forefront of the presidential campaign.
Trump, who pulled the US out of the Paris accord on global warming because he found it too costly, has blamed poor forest management for the fires that are raging around the West Coast but has authorised federal disaster aid.
Democrats have said that climate change plays a role, and Biden is expected to emphasise that in his remarks.
A spate of deadly and destructive wildfires have swept California, Oregon and Washington this summer, destroying thousands of homes and a handful of small towns, burning more than four million acres and killing more than two dozen people since early August.

10:00 ET – Biden targets Black voters in new ad
Biden campaign has released a new series of ads in key battleground states aimed at Black voters, amid concerns over lagging enthusiasm in the demographic.
“Today, Biden for President released a batch of new ads nationally and in battleground states, including Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that address the concerns of millions of Black Americans who fear their lives are at risk under a second Trump administration,” the campaign said in a statement. 
The ads will air nationally on television and digital platforms, and include the “Shop Talk” series, which shows socially distanced conversations among Black men at a Black-owned barbershop in North Carolina. Meanwhile, the “Get This Right” ad highlights Biden and Harris’ criminal justice reform plan.
It remains unclear if Black voters will be energised to come out and vote for Biden. Read more here. 

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden meets with members of the community at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin [File: Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

09:00 ET – Weekend recap: Trump hosts Nevada rallies, shrugs restrictions
Trump defied local restrictions in Nevada over the weekend and held the first indoor rally of the campaign.
The event in Henderson, Nevada saw hundreds of Trump supporters gather into a building with little social distancing. Many did not wear masks. 
The state’s governor tweeted the event violated a ban on gatherings of 50 or more in the state.
“This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices, and put their neighbors before themselves,” Governor Steve Sisolak said in a lengthy series of posts. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”
 Biden on Saturday called Trump’s decision to hold an outdoor rally in Reno “reckless”. 

At a time when Nevada is focused on getting our economy back on track and protecting public health, the President’s actions this weekend are shameful, dangerous and irresponsible.
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) September 14, 2020

_______________________________________________________________
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.
Read all the updates from last week (September 11) here.
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