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About 3,500 US Companies Sue Over Trump-Imposed Chinese Tariffs

About 3,500 U.S. companies, including Tesla Inc., Ford Motor Co., Target Corp., Walgreen Co. and Home Depot, have sued the Trump administration in the last two weeks over the imposition of tariffs on more than $300 billion in Chinese-made goods. The lawsuits, filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade, named U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the Customs and Border Protection agency and challenge what they call the unlawful escalation of the U.S. trade war with China through the imposition of a third and fourth round of tariffs. The legal challenges from a wide variety of companies argue the Trump administration failed to impose tariffs within a required 12-month period and did not comply with administrative procedures. FILE – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks during a news conference in Washington, Aug. 16, 2017.The companies challenge the administration’s “unbounded and unlimited trade war impacting billions of dollars in goods imported from the People’s Republic of China by importers in the United States,” according to a lawsuit filed by auto parts manufacturer Dana Corp. Lighthizer’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The suits challenge tariffs in two separate groups known as List 3 and List 4A. List 3 includes 25% tariffs on about $200 billion in imports, while List 4A includes 7.5% tariffs on $120 billion in goods. One suit argues the administration cannot expand tariffs to other Chinese imports “for reasons untethered to the unfair intellectual property policies and practices it originally investigated.” The Trump administration said tariffs on Chinese goods were justified because China was stealing intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to transfer technology for access to China’s markets.  Companies filing suit included heavy truck manufacturer Volvo Group North America, U.S. auto parts retailer Pep Boys, clothing company Ralph Lauren, Sysco Corp., guitar manufacturer Gibson Brands, Lenovo’s U.S. unit, Dole Packaged Foods, a unit of Itochu Corp. and golf equipment manufacturer Callaway Golf Co. Home Depot’s suit noted it faces tariffs on bamboo flooring, cordless drills and many other Chinese-made products. Walgreen, a unit of the Walgreen Boots Alliance, said it is paying higher tariffs on products like “seasonal novelties; party, first aid, and office supplies; and household essentials.” On September 15, the World Trade Organization found the United States breached global trading rules by imposing multibillion-dollar tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China.

Attorney, Family Say US Justice System Failed Breonna Taylor

The attorney for Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker who was killed by white police officers last March in Kentucky as they carried out a botched drug raid, said Friday that a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges against the officers was an example of systemic racism that persists in America.“There seems to be two justice systems in America, one for Black America and one for white America,” said Benjamin Crump at a news conference in Louisville. “It underscores what we’ve been saying all along.”Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, also denounced the grand jury’s decision, saying in a statement the decision underscored “why I have no faith in the legal system. The police and law were not made to protect us Black and brown women.”Palmer said she “knew” Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron “would never do his job” and added, “The system as a whole has failed Breonna.”Taylor’s family and Crump repeated a call for Cameron to release a transcript of the grand jury proceedings.A billboard sponsored by O, The Oprah Magazine, is on display with a photo of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 7, 2020.McConnell defends probeU.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky defended the investigation in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, saying Cameron “conducted exactly the kind of thorough, impartial investigation that justice demands.” He called protests in Louisville in which two police officers were shot “more evidence of the lawlessness, riots and violence that has plagued American cities too often this year.”Crump tweeted earlier Friday that he was hopeful a federal investigation into Taylor’s killing would produce charges against the officers. “We hope the FBI investigation finally gets justice for Bre and her family,” he said in reference to Breonna.The news conference was held hours after protests erupted for a second night Thursday in Louisville in response to the grand jury’s decision. Some protesters smashed windows, and police said at least 24 people were arrested.More than a hundred protesters took refuge in the First Unitarian Church after the start of a nighttime curfew.Earlier Thursday, there were some tense moments when a group of armed white people confronted the protesters, but no shots were fired.Breonna Taylor family attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference, Sept. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky.’No easy answer’Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a news conference Thursday, “What do we do with this pain?”  The mayor added that there is “no easy answer to that question.”Taylor was killed when police entered her apartment on a “no-knock” drug raid, authorized to allow police to burst into a dwelling without warning to keep evidence from being destroyed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.However, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that a neighbor of Taylor’s heard police announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment and that their entry was not deemed a “no-knock” raid.Cameron said the officers “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he heard no announcement by the police, opened fire at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders.Attention is being focused on Taylor’s shooting and other cases following the death earlier this year of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world about social injustice.

NASA Says It Added $64 Billion to US Economy in 2019

The U.S. space agency NASA released the results of its first-ever agency-wide economic impact study Friday, indicating its work generated more than $64 billion for the U.S. economy last year. In a release on its official website, NASA said through all its activities during fiscal year 2019, the agency supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generated an estimated $7 billion in federal, state and local taxes throughout the country. NASA said it commissioned the study to better understand how the U.S. economy benefited from its work and paid back the investment by the federal government. FILE – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 23, 2020.In the release, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the study provides numbers and data to illustrate how taxpayer investment of one-half of one percent of the total federal budget in America’s space program pays off, in both a stronger economy and through advances in science and technology. The study showed that every state in the country saw some benefit from NASA activities, with 43 states seeing an economic impact of $10 million or more, and eight showing an impact of $1 billion or more. The analysis also showed that NASA’s “Moon to Mars” program alone generated $14 billion in economic output, brought in $1.5 billion in tax revenue and supported more than 69,000 jobs. The study said the program is expected to double those figures next year. The program aims to return people to the moon by 2024, and use it as a base for operations to Mars and elsewhere. The economic impact study also showed NASA has generated more than 2,000 technologies since 1976. The study was conducted by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Virginia Governor Northam, Wife Test Positive for COVID-19

The governor of the eastern U.S. state of Virginia announced Friday that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
Governor Ralph Northam said they were notified Wednesday that a staff member who works in the living quarters of their official residence developed symptoms and subsequently tested positive, after which the couple had their own tests done.
He said his wife, Pamela, is experiencing mild symptoms, while he remains asymptomatic.
The couple is isolating for 10 days, during which the governor is continuing his work.
Crews are also cleaning the governor’s mansion, and the Northams are working with state health officials on contact-tracing efforts to make sure anyone they may have been in contact with is aware of their positive tests.
Northam said the best thing people can do is “take this seriously.” 

Ginsburg is First Woman, Jewish Person to Lie in State at US Capitol

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol when her body was moved there Friday morning. After her casket arrived on the plaza outside the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, a private ceremony for her family and invited guests began at the hall, where her casket will rest on the same wooden platform built for the casket of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, are attending the tribute.  Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and his wife Jill Biden stand as the flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 25, 2020.The coronavirus outbreak restricted the number of people who were invited to the ceremony. Lawmakers who were not invited to the private ceremony are able to pay their respects before her body is removed later Friday.A statement by the U.S. Supreme Court said Ginsburg, who is also the first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol, will be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony. Ginsburg has lain in repose for two days at the Supreme Court.President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pay respects as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at the Supreme Court building, Sept. 24, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump was met with boos and chants of “vote him out” as he and his wife, Melania, appeared Thursday at the Supreme Court to pay their respects to Ginsburg. The president, wearing a face mask, made no remarks as he stood briefly a short distance from Ginsburg’s casket at the top of the court building’s steps. Vice President Mike Pence paid his respects to Ginsburg as she lay in state at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Ginsburg was honored Wednesday with a private ceremony in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall attended by her family and fellow justices. Her casket was then moved to the front steps for the public to file past and pay their respects until Thursday night. Rosa Parks
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks lay in honor in the Capitol’s historic Rotunda after her death in 2005, a distinction given to eminent private citizens. Ginsburg died last Friday at age 87 of metastatic pancreatic cancer, ending a 27-year tenure on the nation’s highest court. Her status as leader of the court’s liberal minority, along with her pre-jurist work seeking legal equality for women and girls in all spheres of American life, made her a cultural icon, earning her the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.” Her death has sparked a political battle over her replacement. Trump and Senate Republicans vowed to name and confirm a new justice before the November 3 presidential election, which would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority. Trump announced Tuesday that he will name his nominee for the lifetime appointment on Saturday. 

Louisville Protests for Second Night After Grand Jury Decision in Breonna Taylor Case

Protests erupted for a second night Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges against any of the three white police officers who carried out a drug raid that led to the shooting death last March of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was an emergency medical worker.Demonstrators took to Louisville’s downtown streets Thursday night to express their anger and frustration with the grand jury’s decision. Some protesters smashed windows. Police said at least 24 people were arrested.More than 100 protesters took refuge in the First Unitarian Church after the start of a night-time curfew.Earlier Thursday, there were some tense moments when a group of armed white people confronted the protesters, but no shots were fired.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a news conference Thursday, “What do we do with this pain?” The mayor added that there is “no easy answer to that question.”Taylor was killed when police entered her apartment on a “no-knock” drug raid, authorized to allow police to burst into a dwelling without warning to keep evidence from being destroyed.However, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that a neighbor of Taylor’s heard police announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment and that their entry was not deemed a “no-knock” raid.Cameron said the officers “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who says he heard no announcement by the police, opened fire at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders.No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.Attention is being focused on Taylor’s shooting and other cases following the death earlier this year of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world about social injustice. 

US House Democrats Crafting New $2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are working on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that could be voted on next week, a key lawmaker said Thursday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that she is ready to negotiate with the White House.With formal COVID-19 relief talks stalled for nearly seven weeks, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said new legislative efforts got under way this week after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in congressional testimony that lawmakers needed to provide further support for an economy reeling from the pandemic.”The contours are already there. I think now it’s about time frame and things like that,” Neal told reporters when asked about the potential for new legislation.He predicted a vote could come within days.”I assume, since the House is scheduled to break for the election cycle, then I think next week’s … appropriate,” said Neal, adding that Pelosi would determine when a legislative package might be introduced.House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed the new initiative as partisan. Pelosi also faces pressure from moderate House Democrats who say they want to see bipartisan aid proposals that have a chance of becoming law.”If it’s a messaging exercise, it’s worthless,” Rep. Dean Phillips, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, told CNN. He said the effort risked looking like Senate Republicans who had unsuccessfully pushed their own partisan coronavirus aid bill.”Many of us are getting sick of that,” Phillips said.Stocks reacting positively to the announcements from Congress, with the S&P reaching a session high shortly after, before paring some gains.Formal talks between Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows broke down without a deal on August 7, with the two sides far apart. Pelosi and Mnuchin have since spoken by phone.”We’re ready for negotiation,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday, saying she had last spoken to Mnuchin on Wednesday.Pelosi and Schumer, who initially sought a $3.4 trillion relief package, have since scaled back their demands to $2.2 trillion. Neal said a new legislative package would be somewhere near $2.2 trillion. Some media reports said it could be $2.4 trillion.But it was not clear whether the White House would agree to such a sum. Meadows has said that Trump would be willing to sign a $1.3 trillion relief package.Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, who have not been involved directly in the negotiations, initially proposed a $1 trillion bill, which was rejected by many Republicans who thought it too large and by Senate Democrats who said it was too small.Senate Republicans later tried and failed to bring a smaller $300 billion bill to the floor.

Lawmakers Criticize Changes at US International Broadcasting Networks

U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack is the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position created by Congress to modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts worldwide. Since taking charge in June, the U.S. international broadcasting CEO has drawn bi-partisan criticism for removing agency broadcasting chiefs and initiating a security review that resulted in some foreign Voice of America journalists losing their visas. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Independent support group @VOAJournalists 
Produced by: Katherine Gypson, Victoria Sneden and Tressie Rhodes

US-China-Russia Rift Simmers at UN

The growing rift between the United States and China and Russia was clearly evident on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, threatening to overshadow international cooperation on the coronavirus response.This year’s assembly has been held online because of the pandemic, and its focus has been on confronting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, through effective multilateral action.At a side event in the Security Council meant to complement that theme, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the pandemic is unfolding against a backdrop of “high geopolitical tensions.”“The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation, a test we have essentially failed,” Guterres told the videoconference of the U.N.’s most powerful body. Those tensions were on display in the council, as the foreign ministers of China and Russia referenced their divisions with the United States.Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is seen on a computer monitor at U.N. headquarters as he speaks during a virtual Security Council meeting during the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2020.“In such a challenging moment, major countries are even more duty-bound to put the future of humankind first, discard Cold War mentality and ideological bias, and come together in the spirit of partnership to tide over the difficulties,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.His Russian counterpart said differences between some nations have been reignited and heightened by the impact of the virus.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is seen on a computer monitor at U.N. headquarters as he speaks during the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2020.“A number of countries are increasingly tempted to look abroad to find those who are responsible for their problems at home,” Sergey Lavrov said. “There are obvious attempts by individual states to use the current situation to promote self-serving and fleeting interests and to settle scores with unwanted governments or geopolitical rivals.”Some U.S. allies were also seemingly critical of the United States and the Trump administration.Potential for cooperation“We need to refocus on the positive potential of cooperation instead of on putting our own countries first,” said German State Minister Niels Annen. “If one of us fails, all of us fail.”U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft was blunt in return, telling the entire council, “Shame on each of you” for focusing on “political grudges.” She zeroed in on China and reiterated President Donald Trump’s strong stance that Beijing should be held accountable as the source of the pandemic.U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft is seen on a computer monitor at U.N. headquarters as she speaks during the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2020.“The actions of the Chinese Communist Party prove that not all member states are equally committed to public health, transparency and their international obligations,” she said. “This fact should deeply trouble all of the responsible nations of the world who are working in good faith to defeat COVID-19 and keep future pandemics from emerging.”China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun fired back, telling Craft, “Enough is enough.” Acknowledging that his country was the first “to be hit” by the virus, he said it had made a great contribution to the global response.He noted the U.S. has nearly 7 million of the world’s almost 32 million confirmed virus cases, and 200,000 deaths.“The U.S. should understand that its failure in handling COVID-19 is totally its own fault,” Zhang said.Rising tensions between Washington and Beijing have been evident this week, in both the speeches of their leaders to the General Assembly and on the sidelines.China targeted on virusOn Tuesday, Trump told the assembly that Beijing should be “held accountable” for having a domestic lockdown in the earliest days of the virus but allowing air travel from China to continue “and infect the world.”U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also took aim at China this week, saying the administration is in the process of determining how to label Beijing’s repression of Uighur Muslims — as “crimes against humanity” or “genocide.” Such terms carry enormous weight in international law and relations.In remarks directed at Washington, China’s President Xi Jinping denounced efforts to politicize or stigmatize the virus.

Lawmakers Criticize Trump Administration Changes at US-funded Media Networks

U.S. lawmakers from both parties said Thursday that they feared the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded broadcasters were at risk of losing credibility with foreign audiences because of actions by new CEO Michael Pack.Pack, the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position that Congress created to streamline and modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts, has faced bipartisan criticism for his actions since taking charge in June.Thursday’s hearing was the first time that lawmakers have had the opportunity to publicly examine Pack’s changes at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of VOA, Radio Free Asia, and other U.S.-funded broadcasters.Pack said he had a scheduling conflict and could not attend, despite a subpoena from House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York.”He has shown tremendous disrespect for the committee, our committee, and its role overseeing USAGM. He’s the wrong person for the job. He should resign. And if he doesn’t, the president should fire him,” Engel said.Audience of 350 millionUSAGM’s annual budget of around $800 million funds news programming that each week reaches an estimated 350 million people in 62 languages.Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Pack’s decision to not attend “ignored the will of Congress.”McCaul singled out USAGM’s decision to freeze $18 million in funding to the Open Technology Fund (OTF) as a particularly dangerous decision.“I believe his actions damaged support during the height of unrest in Hong Kong. And they are continuing to do so today in Belarus. Their tragic lack of support to freedom and democracy movements is also regrettable,” McCaul said Thursday.FILE – Michael Pack is seen at his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019. Pack’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media was confirmed June 4, 2020.Since arriving at the agency, Pack has fired the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network; attempted to replace the board of the Open Technology Fund, a group that uses federal grants to promote internet freedom technologies; and has not renewed J-1 visas for international journalists.Review of renewalsUSAGM announced a review of the J-1 renewal process in early July, resulting in work permits expiring for several foreign journalists working in VOA’s language divisions. At least five have left the United States.Witnesses at Thursday’s hearing included Grant Turner, the USAGM chief financial officer placed on administrative leave last month; Amanda Bennett, former VOA director, who resigned two days before Pack joined; Jamie Fly, former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president, who was dismissed by the incoming CEO; Karen Kornbluh, chair of the OTF’s board of directors; and Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador and board member of the OTF.They testified on how changes implemented since June affected the ability of the broadcasting networks to function and risked endangering the editorial firewall that shields the agency’s journalists from political interference in their reporting.FILE – Then-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Dec. 10, 2011.“I am very worried that the cracks in the firewall are going to just destroy the whole image of USAGM,” said Crocker, who has served as the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. “Our reputation for telling the truth has been a core element of our strength as a nation. Now, it is in danger, putting at risk not only our national values, but also our national security.”Witnesses said apparent firewall violations include the request to place editorials on the entities’ homepages; attempts by USAGM to attend editorial meetings on U.S. election coverage; the removal of Steven Springer, VOA’s standards editor; mass firings of agency heads; the nonrenewal of J-1 visas; and Pack’s statements in radio interviews that the agency would be “a great place to put a spy.”Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and witnesses said those comments could endanger agency journalists.’Incredibly dangerous’“It’s incredibly dangerous for the USAGM head to start basically writing a press release that the Kremlin can then turn around and use the next week about USAGM journalists,” Fly said.Turner also raised concerns about damage to the credibility of the network, telling the committee, “Nothing in my 17 years comes even close to the gross mismanagement, the abuse of authority, the violations of law that have occurred since Michael Pack assumed the role of CEO at USAGM.”Pack, a former independent film and television producer and head of a conservative foundation, has defended his actions in interviews and in communications with USAGM staff, saying he wants to protect the agency’s editorial independence and make it more effective in achieving its mission.Pack has also said that government audits revealed serious, yearslong security problems that were left unaddressed by the agency’s previous leaders.In his confirmation hearing last September, Pack pledged to uphold U.S. law mandating VOA’s editorial independence.“The whole agency rests on the belief reporters are independent, that no political influence is telling them how to report the news,” Pack told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.Pack’s two-year confirmation process in the Senate ended up in a partisan battle after Senate Democrats alleged he misused funds for his documentary production company. However, Senate Republicans praised his experience as a filmmaker and former media executive.FILE – Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa, speaks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing Sept. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.’Poor vetting procedures’On Thursday, Republican Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania defended Pack’s actions, pointing to a recently released Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report that found 40% of the agency’s staff had been improperly vetted over the past 10 years.“The reforms undertaken by Mr. Pack have undergone a significant amount of public scrutiny, as they should,” Perry said. “But USAGM’s poor vetting procedures over those last decades continue to threaten U.S. national security, and it’s entirely the fault of those who mismanaged the process.”Perry also criticized practices by OTF, which he said presented security risks and a misuse of government funds.Kornbluh disputed Perry’s comments.“I believe that the congressman has been misinformed,” she said. “The security claims are just not true.”Kornbluh said the funding freeze had caused OTF to halt 49 of its 60 ongoing internet freedom programs.Several committee members questioned the witnesses about the impact of Pack’s comments about spies within the agency.“Mr. Pack, without evidence, has made libelous claims, really, that were these journalists to go get a job somewhere else in another country, could threaten not only their livelihoods, but their safety,” Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas said.Who will trust them?“When somebody from the United States government has labeled a journalist a spy, who is going to go trust them in another country? Who is going to go hire them somewhere else? This man has acted incredibly recklessly, and even for that alone, he should be dismissed from his job,” Castro said.Fly made recommendations for ways to rein in the CEO’s powers, suggesting Congress pass new international broadcasting legislation to clarify the roles of the networks and how best to explain U.S. foreign policy to audiences.Lawmakers pledged to continue oversight of U.S. international broadcasting even as Congress deals with a myriad of issues related to the upcoming election and the pandemic.VOA’s Jessica Jerreat contributed to this report.