US election systems more secure, but voting problems persist
ATLANTA (AP) — Tuesday's midterm elections will mark the first nationwide voting since Russia targeted state election systems in the 2016 presidential race, with federal, state and local officials seeking to reassure the public their voting systems are secure.
There have been no signs so far that Russia or any other foreign actor has tried to launch cyberattacks against voting systems in any state, according to federal authorities.
The Department of Homeland Security has been working over the last year to improve communication and intelligence-sharing with state and local election officials who were largely left in the dark about Russian activities in 2016. Federal agencies including Homeland Security and the FBI have opened a command center to help state or local election offices with any major cybersecurity problems that arise.
"Things are running pretty smoothly around the country," said Matt Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser with the Department of Homeland Security.
The same can't be said for all security preparations, or for early voting and the voter registration process in some states.
Path to power: House races to watch on election night
WASHINGTON (AP) — The path to power in the House winds through a few dozen districts, many of them suburban, in Tuesday's election. Republicans defending their majority and Democrats looking to gain 23 seats they would need to win control.
After the first polls close in the Eastern United States, the tallies will start revealing clues to where Americans stand in 2018 on immigration, guns, health care, gender equality in the #MeToo era — and who they want representing them in Washington during the next two years of Donald Trump's presidency.
Some races to watch for those keeping score, listed in order of poll-closing times:
Trump calls Fox's Hannity onstage at campaign rally
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel insisted Sean Hannity would not be part of President Donald Trump's last midterm election rally Monday — but Trump called on Hannity to join him onstage anyway.
Hannity appeared on the podium with the president and delivered brief remarks. Another Fox News personality, Jeanine Pirro, also appeared onstage with the president.
Hannity, cable news' most popular personality, told the crowd, "By the way, all those people in the back are fake news."
It was an extraordinary scene after the news network had worked Monday to establish distance between Hannity and the campaign. Trump's campaign had billed Hannity as a "special guest" at the rally, but Fox had said that wasn't so, insisting he was merely broadcasting his show from the arena.
During his prime-time Fox show, Hannity played the role of cheerleader from the side as the crowd waited for Trump's appearance. He pleaded with viewers to vote Republican on Tuesday to support Trump, and his opening monologue echoed a campaign slogan seen on signs overlooking the stage: "Promises made, promises kept."
Fox, NBC and Facebook turn down Trump ad deemed racist
NEW YORK (AP) — NBC, Fox News Channel and Facebook all said Monday they will stop airing President Donald Trump's campaign advertisement that featured an immigrant convicted of killing two police officers.
CNN had rejected the same ad, declaring it racist.
Asked before leaving for campaign rallies if he thought the advertisement was offensive, Trump said, "a lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of times."
The ad has already likely been seen by more people than it would if it kept running. NBC aired it on the "Sunday Night Football" game between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers, which drew the highest overnight ratings of the franchise's history. During football season, it's usually the most-watched show on television, often with around 20 million viewers.
MSNBC also aired it on "Morning Joe" Monday.
Caravan migrants arrive in Mexico City, bed down in stadium
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Thousands of Central American migrants traveling in a caravan arrived in the Mexican capital Monday and began to fill up a sports stadium, still hundreds of miles from their goal of reaching the U.S. a day before midterm elections in which President Donald Trump has made their journey a central campaign issue.
By afternoon 2,000 or more had arrived at the Jesus Martinez stadium, which has a capacity of about three times that, and eagerly began sifting through donations of clothes, gave themselves sponge baths, lunched on chicken and rice under the shade of tents and picked up thin mattresses to hunker down for the night.
The inflow of migrants continued into the night, and four large tents set up for sleeping had filled. Much in demand were blankets to ward of the chill, a big change after trudging for three weeks in tropical heat.
Many people went to medical tents to get treatment for blistered and aching feet, illness and other maladies. "Since we got here, we have not stopped," said Tania Escobar, a nurse with Mexico City's public health department.
Melvin Figueroa, a 32-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was traveling with his pregnant wife and two children, 6 and 8. He brought the 6-year-old girl to the tent because her eyes were irritated and "she throws up everything she eats."
Economic realities moderate Trump's hard line on Iran
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration was caught between allies at home and abroad and the reality of global economics as it reinstated sanctions Monday on Iran, forced to carve out exemptions for important allies and back off on measures that could have been even more punishing for Tehran.
The U.S. granted waivers to allow China and seven close U.S. partners and allies to continue importing Iranian crude and other petroleum products without penalty, bowing to concerns that a complete end to Iran's exports would cause a major spike in world oil prices and cause other economic disruptions. Trump conceded that reality on his way to a last-minute campaign event a day before critical midterm congressional elections.
"We have the toughest sanctions ever imposed but on oil we want to go a little bit slower because I don't want to drive the oil prices in the world," he told reporters. "I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately, but it would cause a shock to the market."
The newly reinstated sanctions target Iran's energy, financial and shipping sectors and are aimed at forcing Iran to end ballistic missile program and end its support for armed movements throughout the Middle East.
The measures restore all the U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 accord that gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, a deal that Obama administration critics had argued was too soft on the Islamic Republic.
With political future on line, Trump makes last midterm push
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — President Donald Trump, his shadow hanging over midterm elections that will determine the future of his administration, used his final pitch Monday to ask voters to help preserve "fragile" GOP victories that could be erased by Democratic gains in Congress.
With the monthslong fight serving as a testing ground for his nationalist appeals and the strength of the coalition that powered him to the White House two years ago, Trump closed out a campaign season that has been defined by his racially charged rhetoric, hard-line immigration moves and scattershot policy proposals. Acknowledging the stakes in the closing days of campaigning, Trump stressed to voters that everything is on the line.
"It's all fragile. Everything I told you about, it can be undone and changed by the Democrats if they get in," Trump told supporters on a telephone "town hall" organized by his re-election campaign. "You see how they've behaved. You see what's happening with them. They've really become radicalized."
In an election-eve interview, Trump struck a gentler note with media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting, saying he regretted some of his caustic campaign rhetoric.
"I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do," Trump said.
USOC moves to shut down USA Gymnastics after Nassar scandal
The U.S. Olympic Committee took steps Monday to decertify USA Gymnastics as the governing body for the sport at the Olympic level, choosing to pursue the nuclear option for an organization that botched its own rebuilding attempt in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal involving former team doctor Larry Nassar.
In an open letter to the gymnastics community, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said "you deserve better," and that the challenges facing USA Gymnastics are more than it is capable of overcoming as currently constructed.
The USOC itself also has faced criticism for not responding quickly and appropriately to sex abuse cases, and though the move was cheered by the gymnast whose own revelations helped propel Nassar's years of abuse to the fore — "THANK YOU," tweeted Rachel Denhollander — others viewed it as a ploy to shift blame for the scandal.
"Today's announcement by USOC seeks only to deflect from their total failure over decades to protect the gymnasts in their care," said a statement from attorneys Michelle Simpson Tuegel and Mo Aziz, who represent Olympian Tasha Schwikert and her sister, Jordan, in their lawsuit against USAG and the USOC.
Earlier this year, the USOC said it was seeking to remove itself as a defendant from a number of lawsuits — including those filed by gold medalists McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman — claiming Nassar never worked for the federation, nor were his crimes foreseeable by the USOC. The lawsuits claim the USOC, as the umbrella organization that oversees USA Gymnastics, should have done more when it learned of the abuse.
Amazon mum on reports it will split new headquarters
NEW YORK (AP) — Online leader Amazon Inc. has refused comment on reports that it plans to split its new headquarters between two locations.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported late Monday that the company would locate the new facilities in Queens in New York City and in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia.
A company spokesman said Tuesday that Amazon would not comment on "rumors and speculation." An update from the company is expected soon.
The Wall Street Journal said the main reason for having the two facilities is to recruit enough tech workers. It also would relieve demand on housing, transportation and other issues.
The newspaper cited a person familiar with the matter.
Iowa winner claims huge Powerball jackpot
CLIVE, Iowa (AP) — After hearing someone from Iowa had won half of a nearly $700 million Powerball jackpot, Lerynne West couldn't find the ticket she'd bought the day before so asked her sister to check her pickup truck.
There it was, on the pickup floor — a scrap of paper worth a share of $688 million.
The win was a shock to the single mom, who struggled to persuade her three daughters and other relatives that it was for real.
"Nobody believed me," West said Monday after submitting her winning ticket at lottery headquarters in suburban Des Moines. "They thought I was crazy."
West will share the $688 million jackpot drawn Oct. 27 with someone who bought the other winning ticket in New York City but hasn't claimed the prize.