In Brief: May 7, 2021

Florida gov signs GOP voting law critics call ‘un-American’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a wide-ranging list of new voting restrictions into law Thursday, staging a misleading, made-for-TV ceremony meant to tout his credentials on a top priority for the Republican Party’s conservative base.

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At a live bill-signing event aired exclusively on Fox News, DeSantis said the new law would prevent fraud and restore confidence in Florida’s elections — although the state has found no evidence of widespread fraud. The move made Florida the latest GOP-led state to enact tighter voting rules over the objections of Democratic critics who charge the law only makes it harder for people, particularly the elderly and people of color, to vote.

But DeSantis’ unusual promotion of the bill — on the GOP-friendly morning show Fox &Friends — demonstrated the rising Republican leader’s confidence the new law would only boost his standing.

“Right now I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” the governor said.

Florida’s new law restricts when ballot drop boxes can be used, and who can collect ballots — and how many. It mandates that drop boxes must be guarded, and available only when elections offices and early voting sites are open. To protect against what Republicans call “ballot harvesting,” someone can only collect and return the ballots of immediate family, and no more than two from unrelated people.

Some in GOP worry new limits will hurt their voters, too

As Republicans march ahead with their campaign to tighten voting laws in political battlegrounds, some in their party are worried the restrictions will backfire by making it harder for GOP voters to cast ballots.

The restrictions backed by Republicans in Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Texas and Arizona often take aim at mail voting, a method embraced by voters from both parties but particularly popular with older voters. The new rules, concerned Republicans note, may be billed as adding security or trust in elections but ultimately could add hurdles for key parts of the GOP coalition.

“The suppression tactics included in this bill would hurt the Republican Party as much or more than its opposition,” Texas state Rep. Lyle Larson, a Republican, said in an opinion column this week. “One can only wonder — are the bill authors trying to make it harder for Republican voters to vote?”

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a wide-ranging voting bill, making his state the latest to tighten its election rules, while lawmakers in GOP-controlled Texas were debating new limits on voting. The push for new restrictions comes even though former President Donald Trump won both states last year and Republican officials touted their elections as fair and efficient. Critics charge the effort is meant to make it harder for Democrats to vote.

But some of the impact is likely to be bipartisan. The Texas proposals add new restrictions on early voting and prohibit county officials from sending ballot request forms to all registered voters. Until last year, it was Republicans who were more likely to cast mail ballots than Democrats were. In 2016, 40% of mail ballots were cast by people who had voted in a GOP primary, compared to 27% cast by Democratic primary voters.

From wire sources

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Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

BOISE, Idaho — A sixth-grade girl brought a gun to her Idaho middle school, shot and wounded two students and a custodian and then was disarmed by a teacher Thursday, authorities said.

The three victims were shot in their limbs and expected to survive, officials said at a news conference. Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson says the girl pulled a handgun from her backpack and fired multiple rounds inside and outside Rigby Middle School in the small city of Rigby, about 95 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Yellowstone National Park.

A female teacher disarmed the girl and held her until law enforcement arrived and took her into custody, authorities said, without giving other details. Authorities say they’re investigating the motive for the attack and where the girl got the gun.

“We don’t have a lot of details at this time of ‘why’ — that is being investigated,” Anderson said. “We’re following all leads.”

The girl is from the nearby city of Idaho Falls, Anderson said. He didn’t release her name.

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Survivor of subway crash reflects on decision to change cars

MEXICO CITY — A decision to change cars to get closer to a station exit may have saved Erik Bravo, a 34-year-old financial adviser who survived the collapse of an elevated line in Mexico City’s subway system that killed 25 people and injured around 80.

Bravo said Thursday that he and two colleagues from work were accustomed to taking the Number 12 line home from their jobs. His two friends got off late Monday, as usual, at their stops.

Alone, Bravo decided to put on his headphones and use the time before his stop at the Olivos station to walk forward through a couple of subway cars, to be closer to the exit at the end of the platform when he arrived.

The move likely kept him from disaster.

“You realize that, in some way, you got a second chance, because that could have been you,” Bravo said.

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At least 25 dead during Brazilian police raid in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO — Police targeting drug traffickers raided a slum in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday and at least one officer and two dozen others died after being shot, authorities said.

The civil police’s press office confirmed the death of the cop and 24 alleged “criminals” in a message to the Associated Press.

A police helicopter flew low over the Jacarezinho favela as heavily armed men fled police by leaping from roof to roof, according to images shown on local television.

One woman told The Associated Press she saw police kill a badly wounded man she described as helpless and unarmed who they found after he had fled into her house.

Felipe Curi, a detective in Rio’s civil police, denied there had been any executions. “There were no suspects killed. They were all traffickers or criminals who tried to take the lives of our police officers and there was no other alternative,” he said during a press conference.

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US says fate of nuclear pact up to Iran as talks resume

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is signaling that Iran shouldn’t expect major new concessions from the United States as a new round of indirect nuclear talks is set to resume.

A senior administration official told reporters Thursday that the U.S. has laid out the concessions it’s prepared to make in order to rejoin the landmark 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. The official said success or failure now depends on Iran making the political decision to accept those concessions and to return to compliance with the accord.

The official spoke to reporters in a State Department-organized conference call on the eve of the negotiations’ resumption in Vienna. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the U.S. position going into the fourth round of closed-door talks at which the remaining participants in the nuclear deal are passing messages between the American and Iranian delegations.

The comments came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken complained of Iranian intransigence in the talks during a visit to Ukraine.

“What we don’t know is whether Iran is actually prepared to make the decisions necessary to return to full compliance with the nuclear agreement,” Blinken said in an interview with NBC News in Kyiv. “They unfortunately have been continuing to take steps that are restarting dangerous parts of their program that the nuclear agreement stopped. And the jury is out on whether they’re prepared to do what’s necessary.”

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National Teacher of Year focuses on individual student needs

LAS VEGAS — The coronavirus pandemic forced students out of the classroom and starkly revealed how learning difficulties, distractions and challenging home dynamics can make it tough to adhere to a rigid curriculum.

In a year with so much loss, a silver lining is that educators are embracing a flexible approach that meets students where they are, said Juliana Urtubey, the newly named 2021 National Teacher of the Year.

“We, as teachers, are much more open to this self-paced learning, this flipped classroom, which has been an invitation for students who think and learn differently,” Urtubey said.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers recognized the Las Vegas special education teacher with the award Thursday.

“Juliana Urtubey exemplifies the dedication, creativity and heart teachers bring to their students and communities,” council CEO Carissa Moffat Miller said.

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