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Voting is underway across the country as Americans head to the polls to decide the 2012 election between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The outcome will again hinge on the results in a handful of battleground states, namely Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia.
Addressing supporters in Wisconsin, President Obama said his initial campaign vow of “change” is still underway.
President Obama: “So when I say, Wisconsin, that I know what real change looks like, you’ve got cause to believe me because you’ve seen me fight for it. And you’ve seen me deliver it. You’ve seen the scars on me to prove it. You’ve seen the gray hair on my head to show you what it means to fight for change. And you’ve been there with me. And after all we’ve been through together, we can’t give up now, because we’ve got more change to do.”
President Obama finished a packed day of campaigning in Iowa, the state that effectively launched his White House run with a Democratic primary win in 2008. Speaking meanwhile in Ohio, Mitt Romney told supporters that Obama has failed to live up to his promise of change.
Mitt Romney: “I know the president wants you to think about all sorts of diversionary issues to decide what’s key in this election, but I think that the election comes down to this question: Do you want four more years like the last four years, or do you want real change? President Obama promised change, but he couldn’t deliver it. I promise change, and I have a record of achieving it.”
Widespread concerns have been raised over how residents in areas hit hard by Superstorm Sandy will be able to vote today as some areas remain without power. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order allowing residents to cast a provisional ballot or “affidavit” in any polling place in the state, an ability New Jersey has also extended. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has announced displaced New Jersey residents can vote through email and fax, but state officials now say those voters will also need to submit a paper ballot. In one coastal county in New Jersey, officials reportedly hired a converted camper to deliver mail-in ballots to storm shelters.
Barbara Netchert, Hudson County clerk: “Because the devastation across the state, all of the county clerks throughout the state of New Jersey have extended hours so that people can actually physically walk into our office and vote by mail, which is — they call it vote by mail, but it’s really like a paper ballot, so that they fill out their application, they get a ballot today, they vote that ballot, and they can actually walk to the Hudson County Board of Elections office, which is right down the hall.”
New York City, meanwhile, plans to run shuttle buses today to bring coastal residents to the polls.
The government has ordered a halt to home foreclosures on federally backed mortgages in areas devastated by last week’s Superstorm Sandy. On Monday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said loans under the Federal Housing Administration would see a foreclosure moratorium for 90 days. The Housing Department also says it plans to pay for the hotel stays of some 34,000 displaced people in New York and New Jersey. New York City alone has up to 40,000 displaced residents in need of shelter, including 20,000 in public housing.
Syria is seeing some of its worst violence in months with fighting raging across the country. Syrian activists say at least 159 people were killed nationwide on Monday, nearly half in the city of Idlib.
At least 31 people have been killed in a suicide attack on a group of Iraqi soldiers outside a military base near Baghdad. It was one of the worst attacks against the Iraqi military so far this year.
The U.S. soldier charged for the massacre of Afghan civilians in March appeared in court Monday for a preliminary hearing to determine whether he will face a full court-martial. Robert Bales faces 16 counts of murder, one for each of his victims. Musa Mahmuddi of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission called on the United States to ensure that the victims’ families are heard.
Musa Mahmuddi: “We strongly demand and we strongly ask the United States that the justice should be applied, and a trial should be based on the principles of fair trial and provide opportunities and time to victim families and members to be represented and to be heard in the court of the United States there.”
Robert Bales was on his fourth combat tour following earlier stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Monday, a former military comrade testified that Bales had shown no remorse after committing the shootings. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
A family in Pakistan is accusing the United States of killing an elderly woman and wounding six of her grandchildren in a drone attack late last month. The strike reportedly occurred in a remote village of North Waziristan near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. Speaking from Peshawar, the woman’s grandson and son described the moment her body was found, and called for a full investigation of her death.
Kaleem Ullah: “I saw that my uncle was running around in the field. I thought he was looking for my grandmother. I started running here and there with him. Then we found her lying in a ditch. My uncle tried to pick her up but could not do so because she was broken into pieces. She was in a very bad shape.”
Rafiq Ur Rehman: “We appeal to the whole world to thoroughly investigate this incident so that any such occurrences do not take place with other people in the future, and that no innocent women and children are killed again.”
A federal appeals court has heard arguments in the case of four New York men who have alleged government entrapment in their 25-year sentences for a bombing plot. The “Newburgh Four,” as they are known, were convicted for placing what they thought were bombs in a New York synagogue in 2010. Defense attorneys say the men were entrapped by government agents and not predisposed to commit a terrorist crime. During their sentencing last year, the judge in the case acknowledged from the bench that the men were not terrorists as alleged by the government and that no crime would have occurred if not for the role of the FBI informant. After hearing from prosecutors and defense attorneys on Monday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would rule at a later date.
An African-American Muslim and 10-year veteran of the U.S. military has come forward to reveal he has been placed on the U.S. no-fly list without explanation. Speaking to The Guardian, former Air Force servicemember Saadiq Long says he has been prevented from visiting his ailing mother in Oklahoma after learning the Department of Homeland Security has barred him from flying to the United States. Long had bought a ticket to Oklahoma from his home in Qatar shortly after learning his mother’s congestive heart condition has worsened. According to Long, he has no criminal history and, after six months, has yet to receive an explanation as to why he has been included on the list.
A federal appeals court heard arguments Monday in a case challenging an Arizona law that bans abortion after 20 weeks gestation — or 18 weeks post-fertilization — except in medical emergencies. Abortion rights advocates call the measure among the most extreme of the more than six similar bans across the United States. The law is on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Michigan company seeking to opt out of a requirement in the new federal healthcare law to provide contraception coverage to female employees. Judge Robert Cleland of the Federal District Court in Detroit sided with a family-owned company that argued that funding contraceptives would violate the family’s religious beliefs. The ruling marked the second time a federal judge has sided with an employer seeking an exemption on the grounds of opposition to contraceptives.
Dozens of protesters opposed to the Keystone XL oil pipeline held a rally on Monday at the Washington, D.C., office of a firm lobbying on behalf of TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline. Four protesters were arrested after staging a sit-in and refusing to leave. The protest was held in solidarity with a more than six-week blockade in Texas where protesters are attempting to block progress on the pipeline’s construction. The Keystone XL would carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast. President Obama has put off a decision on its approval until after the election.