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► Both President Trump and his 2020 opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, are visiting Shanksville, PA today to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Washington Post looks back at what each candidate was doing on that fateful Tuesday:
Joe Biden was on an Amtrak train on Sept. 11, 2001, when his wife called to tell him about the attacks on the World Trade Center, and when he reached Washington, he grew frustrated that he couldn’t get to the Senate floor for a speech because the U.S. Capitol had been evacuated.
Biden nonetheless found ways to make his point — that institutions like Congress and NATO are bulwarks against such assaults on democracy. “I refuse to be part of letting these bastards win,” Biden said that day.
Hundreds of miles to the north — and four miles from Ground Zero — Donald Trump was sitting in a tower bearing his name, watching CNBC and preparing to call a local TV station to offer his own commentary, including a lament that the stock market was forced to close.
Given the coronavirus pandemic and the racial justice protests, Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post wonders if the “9/11 era” is now over.
► As The Denver Post reports, Colorado is doing a better job than the federal government of preventing fraudulent benefit claims:
More than three out of four claims made for unemployment assistance under a program for self-employed workers and independent contractors since July 18 were fraudulent, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday.
“We have prevented $750 million to $1 billion in improper unemployment insurance payments going out the door,” said Cher Haavind, the department’s deputy director during a press call Thursday morning. About $40 million in federal money, however, may have gotten into the hands of criminals.
Revisions to initial claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for the weeks of July 18 to Aug. 22 showed that of the 62,498 initial claims approved, only 14,292 were deemed legitimate, the department said. And in the two weeks since Aug. 22, the department estimates it has been hit with 40,000 to 50,000 fraudulent PUA claims.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was set up under the CARES Act to help individuals who didn’t pay premiums for unemployment insurance but suffered a loss of income due to the outbreak.
As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado will soon begin paying out a temporary — and partial — extension of unemployment benefits related to an executive order from President Trump.
► As POLITICO reports, Democrats are out to a big lead in early voting across the country:
Democrats are amassing an enormous lead in early voting, alarming Republicans who worry they’ll need to orchestrate a huge Election Day turnout during a deadly coronavirus outbreak to answer the surge.
The Democratic dominance spreads across an array of battleground states, according to absentee ballot request data compiled by state election authorities and analyzed by Democratic and Republican data experts. In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Democrats have a roughly three-to-one advantage over Republicans in absentee ballot requests. In Florida — a must-win for President Donald Trump — the Democratic lead stands at more than 700,000 ballot requests, while the party also leads in New Hampshire, Ohio and Iowa.
Even more concerning for Republicans, Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 are requesting 2020 ballots at higher rates than their GOP counterparts. The most striking example is Pennsylvania, where nearly 175,000 Democrats who sat out the last race have requested ballots, more than double the number of Republicans, according to an analysis of voter rolls by the Democratic firm TargetSmart.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for President Trump to spend so much time and effort casting doubts about mail ballots.
► As The New York Times reports, wildfires in the Western United States are getting perilously close to large population centers:
The wildfire crisis on the West Coast grew to a staggering scale on Friday, as huge fires merged and bore down on towns and suburbs, state leaders pleaded for firefighting help, and tens of thousands of people were told to evacuate.
Oregon, Washington State and California are enduring a wildfire season of historic proportions, with the firefighting effort compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and misinformation online. At least 15 people have died in the fires, with more expected as teams search through burned homes.
The fires have consumed more than three million acres in California, almost a million acres in Oregon and destroyed entire towns in Washington. The blazes have torn through idyllic mountain towns, reduced subdivisions to beams and embers, and spewed foul smoke-filled air across a region that is home to millions of people.
The Mayor of Portland has declared a state of emergency as a wildfire approaches the city’s suburbs.
More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…