Friday morning news – October 23, 2020

Trump, Biden square off in final debate » The president and his Democratic rival faced off for the final time last night before the election. 

AUDIO: We welcome to the stage former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald J. Trump. 

The candidates met at Belmont University in Nashville for the second and final debate. And while both candidates lobbed personal attacks, they avoided the name-calling and constant cross-talk that marked the first debate. 

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said President Trump’s response has been reckless. And he called for a more measured approach to reopening the economy. 

WELKER: You haven’t ruled out more shutdowns?
BIDEN: Well no, I’m not shutting down today, but look, you need standards. The standard is, if you have a reproduction rate in a community that’s above a certain level, everybody says slow up. 

The president countered that Biden is ignoring the unintended consequences of lockdowns. 

TRUMP: People are losing their jobs. They’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before. We have to open our country. The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. 

On healthcare, Trump again said he still hopes to replace Obamacare, while retaining its most popular provision. 

TRUMP: Pre-existing conditions will always stay. What I would like to do is a much better healthcare. 

The former vice president said he would largely keep the current law in place while expanding the government’s role. 

BIDEN: What I’m going to do is pass Obamacare with a public option. It’ll become “Biden-Care.” 

Election Day is now 11 days away, though more than 40 million Americans have already voted early. 

Biden holds an 8-point lead in an average of recent national polls. Trump is also trailing in most swing state surveys. But the Trump campaign is quick to note he trailed in the polls four years ago as well. 

U.S. officials: Russia, Iran attempting to influence election » Meantime, the U.S. intelligence community is working overtime to guard against foreign interference ahead of the election. 

On Thursday, intel officials said Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of U.S. state and local governments, stealing data from at least two servers.

U.S. officials say it would be extremely difficult for hackers to alter vote tallies. But they’ve warned about other interference, including cyberattacks meant to impede the voting process.

And on Wednesday, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told reporters…

RATCLIFFE: We have identified that Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections. 

He said Iran sent a flurry of fake emails aimed at hurting President Trump’s reelection campaign. 

The threatening emails sent to Democratic voters claimed to be from far-right groups in the United States. That in an apparent effort to make it appear as though pro-Trump groups were terrorizing voters. 

At a news conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray assured voters…

WRAY: We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election. 

The two officials called out Iran and Russia for obtaining U.S. voter registration information.

Wray said the United States will hold bad actors accountable and that the integrity of the vote remains sound.

Unemployment claims fall to lowest level since March » The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level in months. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The Labor Department said 787,000 people filed claims last week. That figure was down from 842,000 the week before. 

And it’s the lowest that number has been since pandemic shutdowns started crushing many businesses back in March. 

Unemployment claims fell in 39 states and rose in just 11.

Thursday’s report also said the number of people continuing to receive jobless aid tumbled by 1 million to 8.4 million.

Economists welcomed the declines as evidence that the job market is continuing to recover. Though, many are concerned that a fall coronavirus surge could reverse some of those gains. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Senate panel advances Barrett Supreme Court nomination » Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate on Thursday, despite a Democratic boycott. 

AUDIO: Mr. Chairman, the votes are 12 yeas, 10 no votes. The nomination will be reported favorably to the floor with a unanimous vote. 

Boycotting Thursday’s Judiciary panel session forced Republicans on the panel to change its rules to keep the confirmation on track. Those rules said at least two members of the minority party need to be present to constitute a quorum for doing business.

Democrats refused to show up in protest of the committee’s vote on Barrett. They say it should’ve waited until after the presidential election and that the next president should fill the Supreme Court vacancy. 

The full Senate will vote on Barrett’s nomination on Monday and Republicans say they have the 50-plus votes needed to confirm her.

(Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times via AP, Pool) In this May 5, 2020, file photo then-Rep. John Ratcliff R-Texas, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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