CNN-National & Wolrd

A Pennsylvania mom and her daughter pleaded guilty to killing five family members

By Mirna Alsharif, CNN

A Pennsylvania woman and her daughter are expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison after pleading guilty Monday to killing five of their relatives last year, according to the Buck’s County District Attorney’s office.

Shana Decree, 47, and her daughter Dominique Decree, 21, plead guilty but mentally ill to five counts of first-degree murder and one count of criminal conspiracy, according to the district attorney’s office. They will serve five consecutive life sentences and avoid the death penalty as part of a plea deal.

The women killed two of Shana’s children, Naa’Irah Smith, 25 and Damon Decree Jr., 13, as well as Shana’s sister, Jamilla Campbell, 42, and her 9-year-old twin daughters Imani and Erika Allen, according to prosecutors. The murders took place between February 23 and 25 in an apartment all seven people shared in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, according to the district attorney’s office.

John Fioravanti Jr., Dominque’s lawyer, told CNN that this was a troubling case from the beginning.

“She was very remorseful and pleasant to deal with,” Fioravanti Jr. said of Dominique. “It’s very troubling for me. One of the hardest cases I’ve ever had and I’ve been doing this a long time.”

CNN reached out to Shana’s lawyer, Christa Dunleavy, for comment.

Surprise social worker visit sparks discovery of gruesome scene

A social worker conducting a surprise visit knocked on their apartment door but didn’t get an answer, according to a probable cause affidavit. The building’s maintenance crew checked the apartment and less than 20 minutes later, a worker called 911.

There was broken glass and clutter throughout the apartment and the furniture was turned over, according to the affidavit.

When police arrived, they found that Shana and Dominique Decree were “disoriented” and took them to the hospital.

The rest of the family was in one of the bedrooms. Damon’s body was on the bed and the bodies of his sister, aunt and cousins were around the bed, the affidavit said.

During the investigation, Shana told investigators that all five victims, including the children, wanted to die, according to the district attorney’s office.

Autopsies determined Erika Allen, Imani Allen, Damon Decree Jr. and Naa’Irah Smith were killed by homicidal asphyxia and Jamilla Campbell was killed by homicidal ligature strangulation, according to the district attorney’s office.

“Were it not for their severe mental illness, both would face the death penalty,” said District Attorney Matt Weintraub after the sentencing on Monday. “By murdering Erica, Imani, Damon, Naa’Irah, and Jamilla, they’ve decimated entire generations of their own family.”

CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Nicole Chavez and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

CNN-National & Wolrd

Campus police in Texas entered a sleeping student’s dorm room with a gun and taser after a false report was filed, university says

By Alaa Elassar, CNN

A college freshman at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas was sound asleep when campus police entered her room at 3 a.m. on September 14, with one officer’s gun drawn, her lawyer and university officials said.

The freshman, Christin Evans, 18, hadn’t committed any crime, her lawyer, Randall Kallinen, told CNN. Rather, she was the victim of a “swatting” set up by her two roommates. Eleven women, including her roommates, were involved in the incident, SFA Chief of Police John Fields confirmed in a news conference Wednesday morning.

“A story was made up about her that she was threatening to stab people in the room with scissors,” Kallinen said. “It was extremely traumatizing for her and has led to a lot of problems psychologically and she is suffering from depression. Whenever she hears any footsteps outside of her dorm room, she’s always terrified.”

The lawyer said the individuals had “convinced” the dorm’s resident assistant, who called campus police, that Evans, who was 17 at the time, was having a manic episode and was going to stab people with scissors.

It’s unclear why the students targeted the freshman, Fields said.

The freshman, who is Black, told CNN that she believes her roommates wanted her removed from their dorm room, despite spending the day before the incident “talking like normal friends.”

And she said her race affected the school’s response.

“I definitely think if I was a White student, they would have been a lot faster with the punishments. Things would have been handled a lot faster,” Evans told CNN.

Authorities have not identified the women allegedly responsible for the incident, and CNN has not been able to contact them for comment. Of the 11 women, six were White, four were Black, and one was Hispanic, according to Fields.

“The evidence doesn’t lead to any racism,” Fields said. “It’s more students doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.”

University officials say they’re investigating the incident, and no criminal charges have been filed yet.

“Filing a false report violates the SFA Code of Conduct, and potentially violates the law as well,” SFA President Scott Gordon said in a statement to CNN. “The investigation and judicial processes take time. I want to urge everyone to withhold judgment until the conclusion of our investigation and process.”

“My heart goes out to the young lady who was an innocent victim in this matter. We will do all we can to support her and her family through this heinous ordeal. We will not have this at SFA!”

The students who are found responsible “will be dealt with appropriately,” Gordon said.

‘My life is now different’

Evans, who was recruited by the university for the school’s cheer squad in December 2019, said she expected her freshman year to be about making friends and cheering. Instead, just one month since the start of her first semester, she says she is now reconsidering her decision to stay at the university.

“It has really, really changed the way that I do things. I can’t sleep, my eating habits are totally different. I’m really paranoid, skittish,” Evans told CNN. “Because of their actions, my life is now different.

“I really think that it will take a lot of time to recover and build myself back up to where I was,” she added.

More than two weeks after the incident, Kallinen says the family is still demanding that the school discipline everyone involved.

“These are adult college students who are older than her, who know about Breonna Taylor, who was sleeping when police entered and shot and killed her,” he said. “This could have ended just as badly. We’re lucky she wasn’t shot.”

Louisville Metro Police Department officers fatally shot Taylor on March 13 while executing a “no-knock” search warrant at her apartment. Gunfire broke out after her boyfriend fired what he said was a warning shot because he thought the plainclothes officers were intruders. The 26-year-old EMT was killed in the barrage of gunfire.

Evans was cleared of any suspicions and her “innocence is not in question,” according to a text Fields sent to Evans’s mother. Kallinen provided the text to CNN and Fields confirmed he sent it.

“You have to give people that are accused due justice … We are doing a criminal investigation case, once we’re finished, we are going to present our case to the local district attorney’s office and then they will determine if there are charges or not,” Fields said during the news conference.

“We ensure accountability throughout the campus…This is not a racial issue; we hold students accountable but at the end of the day, students are coming to the university to get an education. Our job as administrators for the university is to educate our students and correct their behaviors when it needs correcting and then when it’s over with, we want them to graduate.

There are two judicial processes at the university taking place simultaneously regarding the incident; A criminal investigation led by university police and a student rights investigation led by Dennis Mosley, the director of the university’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

The students involved in the incident will go through a disciplinary hearing by the university Mosley said during the news conference. Then, the university will determine whether they should be charged with violating the school’s code of conduct and what punishment is deemed appropriate.

Police plan to release body camera footage

Campus police officers who responded to the call were wearing body cameras which showed what happened during the incident. The footage will be released upon parental permission, Fields said.

When police arrived, Fields said they knocked on Evans’ door four times before being let into the room by one of Evans’ suit mates.

Only one officer had a weapon, with a flashlight attached which he used to see in the dark, and the weapon was not pointed at Evans, Fields said. Another officer had a taser ready, while the third officer had no taser or weapon out, Fields added.

Once police found Evans in bed, the threat was deescalated.

“At no time did we go inside the room like the wild, wild west, like it’s been presented in the media,” Fields said. “The officers were always professional, and they had a conversation with her.”

She was moved out of the room

Evans is still enrolled at the school but has been moved by the university to another dorm room.

“I sent my child there, a normal happy teenager, and these girls have changed her life and who she is for now,” her mother, LaShondra Evans, told CNN.

“They still kept living their lives. They stayed in the same room, nothing was affected, so far they faced no consequences, so to them this is something you can get away with while my child’s life has been uprooted.”

The family says they will continue pushing the university to discipline the students involved.


Japan’s Tokyo Stock Exchange suffers its worst outage ever

By Laura He and Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN Business

A hardware failure has caused the Tokyo Stock Exchange to completely halt trading for an entire day for the first time in its history.

The exchange said Thursday afternoon that the technical problem was due to an issue with hardware. A backup device failed to work, making it impossible to distribute market information.

The issue also appeared to affect smaller Japanese stock exchanges in Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo, which share the same trading system as the TSE.

The daylong halt is a significant nuisance for a stock market that is worth about $6 trillion and is the world’s largest after the United States and mainland China, according to statistics compiled by the World Federation of Exchanges.

The TSE said that it is replacing the hardware “to ensure normal trading” from Friday onward.

The exchange earlier said that it “sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience caused to investors and the people related to stock market.”

The suspension is “regrettable,” said Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, at a press conference. He added that the country’s financial regulator has ordered the exchange and its operator, Japan Exchange Group, to investigate the cause of the glitch.

When asked about the possibility of a cyberattack, Kato said that he had “not heard about such information as of now.”

The problems shut down one of the only major exchanges operating in Asia on Thursday. Other countries are celebrating public holidays, including mainland China, Hong Kong and South Korea. Markets in mainland China will remain closed for several days for the Golden Week holiday.

Markets elsewhere were higher. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1%. US stock futures advanced: The Dow ticked up 240 points, or 0.9%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were each up 0.7%.

September wasn’t rosy for the market. Wall Street’s major indexes all recorded losses, breaking a five-month winning streak and marking the first down month since March.

For the quarter overall, things were a bit better: All three indexes ended higher, making it the second straight quarter that stocks rose following the abysmal first three months of the year.

Jazmin Goodwin and Anneken Tappe contributed to this report.


Study finds female doctors work harder for less money

By Maggie Fox, CNN

Female doctors get paid less than male doctors, but a new study disputes the common wisdom that it’s because they work less.

In fact, female doctors spend more time with patients, order more tests and spend more time discussing preventive care than their male counterparts, a team of researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“That raises the question of whether we are paying for what we really care about in health care,” said Dr. Ishani Ganguli, an internal medicine specialist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the study team.

Ganguli and colleagues looked at billing and time data covering more than 24 million visits to primary care doctors in the US in 2017.

“We calculated that women were paid 87 cents to the dollar for every hour worked compared to their male colleagues,” Ganguli told CNN.

Female doctors spent an average of two minutes more per visit than men did. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time, Ganguli said. And they are not spending that time chit-chatting.

“When you compare by visit, women actually did more during the visit,” said Ganguli, herself a primary care provider. “They put in more medical orders, they discussed more medical diagnoses and preventive care. They are spending more time per visit.”

Ganguli and her team did not sit in on visits, so they cannot say precisely what is going on. “We are using clues from billing information about what orders are put in, like for blood tests, or what diagnosis was talked about,” she said.

But other studies have indicated that patients and doctors alike prefer to spend more time in visits, and that patients do better, healthwise, when physicians spend more time with them.

“Per visit, after adjustment for primary care provider, patient and visit characteristics, female primary care providers generated equal revenue but spent 15.7% more time with a patient,” the team wrote.

“We know that all primary care doctors are strapped for time and that doctors and patients all want more time in visits,” Ganguli said.

“So it seems that female doctors are spending that time, but at a cost. Female doctors are responding to pressure from society to be kind and to pay attention and talk to patients. And male doctors are responding to pressure from society to churn through visits so they can make more money from those visits.”

Hannah Neprash, a health economist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health who worked on the study, said the findings show the U.S. health system pays physicians using a flawed formula.

“Female physicians report the highest rates of burnout and our findings may help explain why. If longer visits contribute to feelings of time pressure and a chaotic work environment — for lower pay — it’s understandable that job satisfaction might be lower,” she said in a statement.

Male doctors are better at something else, too. “We also found evidence of billing differences,” the team wrote.

“Although female primary care providers documented more diagnoses and placed more orders, they were more likely to miss opportunities to bill higher-paying visit codes on the basis of the time they had spent with patients, a finding that was consistent with the results of a study showing that female radiation oncologists billed fewer lucrative procedures than their male counterparts.”


Man charged after confessing to 1993 killing of liquor store owner

By KMOV Staff

Click here for updates on this story

    Arnold, MO (KMOV) — Charges in a 27-year murder case in Arnold were filed Wednesday.

Loril Harp, 68, of St. Louis, is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the 1993 death of Steven Weltig.

The family was told Harp is in poor health and not a flight risk. According to the prosecutor, there is no bond in the case.

According to investigators, Harp shot and killed Steven Weltig on April 23, 1993, at Ajax Liquor, where he was working. Weltig was the owner of the the liquor store located on Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold. He was 40 years old at the time of the murder.

News 4 spoke to Weltig’s family and they said police approached them just over a week ago to break the news about a big development in the case.

At a 25th year remembrance event, Weltig’s mother told News 4 she wanted answers. Unfortunately, she died earlier this year.

The rest of Weltig’s family was told by police the tip came in 2015, but according to Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey, a confession didn’t happen until two weeks ago.

“They found him (shot) execution style laying on the floor. He was killed with his own gun – shot in the head,” Weltig’s sister, Laura Steinman told News 4 in 2018, at the remembrance event.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.


Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale steps down from role as senior adviser

By Jeremy Diamond and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Brad Parscale stepped down from his role as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump‘s campaign on Wednesday, two sources close to the campaign confirmed to CNN.

Three days earlier he was detained by police and hospitalized over suicidal threats he made at his home while holding a gun.

“I am stepping away from my company and any role in the campaign for the immediate future to focus on my family and get help dealing with the overwhelming stress,” Parscale said in a statement obtained by Politico.

His wife, Candice Parscale, also released a statement on Wednesday denying that her husband was physically abusive toward her after telling police days earlier that Parscale was responsible for several bruises on her body, according to a police report.

“The statements I made on Sunday have been misconstrued, let it be clear my husband was not violent towards me that day or any day prior,” she said, according to Politico.

A police detective at the scene wrote in a report that after asking Candice Parscale about bruises on her body, she “stated Brad Parscale hits her.”

Another police officer noted the incident as well in a police report, writing, “While speaking with Candice I observed several bruises on both arms (photographs were taken and uploaded into evidence), which she advised occurred a few days ago, during a physical altercation with Bradley, which she did not report.”

CNN has reached out to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for an updated response to the new statement from Candice Parscale.

Parscale was demoted from his position this summer after Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Though he had maintained a senior position on the campaign, he was rarely seen inside the headquarters following his demotion.

Once lauded by the President and his allies as a digital guru who helped secure Trump’s first election effort, Parscale worked for the Trump family years before Trump launched a presidential bid and he ascended to a role leading the campaign’s data analytics team in June 2016.

He parlayed that goodwill into his role running the entire campaign.

Parscale officially took the job in February 2018, but — as the election grew closer and the demands of the campaign took hold, along with the curveball of the Covid-19 pandemic — there were increasing concerns that his lack of political experience was starting to show.

“It was only a matter of time” before Parscale was moved out of his role as campaign manager, a senior adviser to the campaign previously told CNN. “His inexperience hindered the campaign.”

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications manager, told CNN in a statement after his hospitalization, “Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated.


American and United cutting 32,000 jobs as federal aid plans stall

By Chris Isidore and Pete Muntean, CNN Business

Time has run out for 32,000 airline employees at American and United.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said late Wednesday that the airline has no choice but to cut 19,000 jobs after attempts to get more federal money failed. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said the decision to cut 13,000 jobs marked “a very sad day for all of us here at United.”

Earlier in the day, Parker told CNN he still hoped that the job cuts might be avoided if the airline saw signs that Congress and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be able to reach a deal. They were considering a multi-trillion dollar stimulus package that would include $25 billion in help for the nation’s airlines. But sources told CNN that an agreement needs more time to win the support it needs to pass.

“Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any of these efforts will come to fruition,” Parker wrote in a memo to staff.

Both Parker and Kirby suggested they could reverse course and quickly recall employees if a deal is reached in the coming days, though.

We implore our elected leaders to reach a compromise, get a deal done now, and save jobs,” Kirby wrote in his memo to employees.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused air traffic to plunge, which has devastated the airline industry. American lost $5 billion in the first half of this year, while United lost $3.3 billion. Every other airline in the industry has also lost money. The losses are projected to continue into 2021 if not beyond.

Lawmakers agreed to give airlines $25 billion in direct grants earlier this year as long as they agreed to no involuntary job cuts through the end of September.

But the probation on involuntary job cuts expires Thursday. And while seven airlines — including American and United — are prepared to accept another round of loans that was also approved earlier this year, that aid does not include a prohibition on cutting jobs.

Even with the prohibition on job cuts, airlines were already taking measures to trim costs. They offered voluntary buyout and early retirement packages that prompted nearly 50,000 employees to leave the industry.

In addition to the job losses at American and United, some 17,000 other employees throughout the US airline industry have been notified their jobs are also at risk.


Fact check: Almost every single one of Trump’s debate claims about mail-in voting was wrong

By Daniel Dale and Marshall Cohen, CNN

President Donald Trump lied about a wide variety of topics — including health care, the economy and the coronavirus pandemic — during Tuesday’s presidential debate. But he was especially dishonest on the subject of voting by mail.

Almost every single claim Trump made during the debate segment about the integrity of the election was inaccurate in whole or in part.

His Tuesday performance was just the latest component of a systematic, months-long disinformation campaign he has waged to try to undermine confidence in mail-in voting. Let’s go through 11 of his Tuesday claims item by item:

Mail voting and fraud

Trump said, “As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster.” He went on to say that “a solicited ballot” is “OK” but an “unsolicited” ballot is not. And he added, later, that “It’s a rigged election.”

Facts First: Trump is lying. The election is not rigged. Fraud is exceedingly rare in US elections — whether with in-person voting, mail voting in states where voters have to request ballots or mail voting in states where all eligible registered voters are sent ballots without having to make requests.

Voters in nine states and the District of Columbia are being sent mail ballots without needing to request them. However, five of those states — Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Washington — have held their elections primarily by mail since before the pandemic, and there has not been any significant incidence of fraud.

Since Trump is alleging that Democrats are using mail voting to try to rig the election, it’s worth noting that Utah is governed by Republicans; Vermont has a Republican governor, though a Democratic-controlled Legislature; and the top election officials in Nevada, Oregon and Washington are all Republicans. It’s also worth noting that Republican election officials around the country have emphasized that mail voting is fair and secure.

A Democratic primary in New York

After Biden said nobody has established that mail voting is a fraudulent process, Trump replied, “It’s already been established. Take a look at Carolyn Maloney’s race in Manhattan.”

Facts First: This is false. There has been no evidence to date of fraud in this primary in New York’s 12th District. There was a legal dispute about the fact that a large number of ballots were rejected for non-fraud reasons. And while the ballot-counting was slow because the state has had administrative problems — ranging from insufficient staffing to outdated technology — in trying to count a much larger than usual number of absentee votes, a slow count is not evidence of anything nefarious.

The candidate Maloney defeated, Suraj Patel, tweeted Tuesday night that “Trump lied about what happened here,” saying that the issue in the race was “disenfranchisement” of voters whose ballots had been rejected, “not voter fraud.”

A mailman in West Virginia

Trump said, “Take a look at West Virginia, mailmen selling the ballots. They’re being sold.”

Facts First: This is false in three ways. There is one known recent instance of attempted election fraud in West Virginia by a postal carrier — a single postal carrier who altered applications for absentee ballots during the 2020 primaries. So it wasn’t “mailmen” plural, it didn’t involve “selling” anything and it was applications rather than ballots themselves.

According to the Department of Justice, Thomas Cooper changed the party affiliation on five absentee ballot applications from Democratic to Republican, and also changed parts of three other applications.

Cooper, who had claimed that he was joking, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted election fraud and one count of “injury to the mail,” according to the Department of Justice.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, issued a statement Wednesday saying that the incident was a “unique circumstance” that involved applications, “not ballots.” He said: “The timely prosecution of election fraud in the 2020 Primary election cycle in West Virginia shows that we take election fraud seriously, that the system we have in place works well. Voters should be confident that this election will be safe, secure, and fair.”

The situation in Philadelphia

Trump said, “As you know, today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things.”

Facts First: Trump’s version of what happened in Philadelphia is highly misleading; contrary to his suggestion, nothing nefarious happened there. Some pro-Trump poll watchers were turned away from voting sites — but local officials said this was because poll watchers, whether Republican or Democratic, are allowed under state law to observe voting only at in-person sites on Election Day in November. Independent election experts pointed out that official poll watchers for November haven’t even been named and certified yet in the state.

People being sent two ballots

Trump said of mail ballots: “They’re being sent all over the place. They sent two in a Democrat area — they sent out a thousand ballots. Everybody got two ballots. This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen.”

Facts First: There was an error in Democratic-leaning Fairfax County, Virginia, that resulted in an estimated 1,000 voters being sent two ballots, but this does not mean there will be any fraud. Fairfax County officials have explained that when anyone returns a ballot with their vote, the fact that they have done so is marked in their voter record — so they cannot vote twice.

Rejected ballots in the 2016 election

Trump said, “I read today where at least 1% of the ballots for 2016 were invalidated. They take ’em. ‘We don’t like ’em. We don’t like ’em.’ They throw them out, left and right.”

Facts First: Trump’s “1%” number was correct, but he was inaccurately suggesting this number is evidence of something nefarious happening. According to the federal government’s Election Assistance Commission, “The most common reasons for rejection in 2016 were missing the deadline, the signature on the ballot not matching the signature on the state’s records, and the ballot not having a signature.”

It’s theoretically possible that there could be fraud involved in some of the cases of nonmatching or missing signatures, but there’s no proof of even that.

More on ballots

Trump vaguely urged people to look at what is happening in various places in the US, then said, “They’re not losing 2%, 1%, which by the way is too much. An election could be won or lost with that. They’re losing 30 and 40%. It’s a fraud, and it’s a shame.”

Facts First: Trump was vague here about what he meant by “losing” and “it’s a fraud,” but there are no recent examples of 30% or 40% of ballots in an election getting lost or being deemed fraudulent.

Trump has often cited a case of alleged fraud in a city council race in Paterson, New Jersey, over which four people face charges. But the percentage of possible fraudulent ballots even in that election does not appear to be nearly as high 30% or 40%. According to attorney Scott Salmon, who represents the incumbent city council member who is the alleged victim of the fraud, about 900 ballots, roughly 5% of the total vote, were potentially fraudulent.

Creeks and rivers

Trump said of ballots: “They found ’em in creeks.” He also said, “They’re being dumped in rivers.”

Facts First: We could not find any examples of 2020 ballots being found in “creeks” or “dumped in rivers.” Trump might have been referring to a Wisconsin case in which three trays of mail that were supposed to be headed to the local post office were found on the side of the road and in a ditch off of Highway 96 in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, according to the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office, local TV station WBAY reported. Some of the mail included absentee ballots, the sheriff’s office said.

Wisconsin’s chief election official, Meagan Wolfe, said the USPS was investigating the situation. She told reporters this month that if absentee ballots were lost, they could be traced with intelligent mail bar codes placed on absentee ballot mail to ensure all ballots are tracked.

An incident in Pennsylvania

Trump said: “Number two, they cheat. They cheat. Hey, they found ballots in a wastepaper basket three days ago, and they all had the name military ballots — there were military — they all had the name Trump on ’em.”

Facts First: It’s true that there was an incident with a small number of discarded ballots in one county in Pennsylvania, but what happened is not evidence of cheating. Also, Trump was wrong that all of these ballots were cast for him. There were nine discarded ballots; seven were Trump votes, according to an unusual statement from the Department of Justice, while the recipient of the other two votes is not known.

According to federal and local authorities, an election worker improperly threw out nine military ballots in Luzerne County. The Justice Department initially said all nine of the ballots were marked for Trump, then deleted its initial statement and issued a new one saying only seven were Trump votes. Local officials said they would try to reach the affected voters and fix the ballots.

Luzerne County officials said that the incident was caused by a “temporary seasonal independent contractor” who “incorrectly discarded (the ballots) into the office trash” on their third day in the election office. The officials called this an “error” and said the fact that it was quickly noticed and investigated proves that “the system of checks and balances set forth in Pennsylvania elections works.”

People briefed on the matter told CNN that federal investigators are not treating the incident as intentional fraud but rather as something that occurred because of poorly designed procedures for handling mail-in ballots, and because newly hired election workers weren’t properly trained.

You can read a full fact check here.

Ballots received after Election Day

Some states accept ballots that arrive after Election Day as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day. But Trump suggested that these votes were illegitimate — and that only Democratic states have such a policy.

“We have major states with that — all run by Democrats. All run by Democrats,” he said.

Facts First: Close to half of the states that accept late-arriving postmarked ballots are run by Republicans. There is nothing illegitimate about these votes.

According to CNN’s latest tally, there are 25 states where it is legal for mail-in ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted even if they are received after Election Day. Of those 25 states, 11 have Republican governors, including some ruby-red states like Mississippi, West Virginia and North Dakota.

Liberal groups have filed lawsuits across the country to allow more late-arriving ballots to be counted; the Trump campaign has been fighting such efforts. The liberals’ efforts have prevailed in some key states, like Pennsylvania.

Election results

Complaining of ballots being accepted after Election Day, Trump said a state that allowed ballots to come in until November 10 would mean ballots were arriving “seven days after the election in theory should have been announced.”

Facts First: This is misleading. There is no requirement that the result of the election is announced on the night of Election Day. When we do know the winner that night, it is not because complete results have been tabulated by election authorities; it is because media outlets have used the available data to make a projection. Vote tallies always change after Election Day as absentee ballots and provisional ballots get counted; results that are publicly reported on election night are always “unofficial” and “preliminary.” The official, final count is typically certified weeks later.

Tara Subramaniam, Holmes Lybrand, Ellie Kaufman, Jeremy Herb and Pamela Brown contributed to this article.


Neanderthal genes may be to blame in some severe coronavirus cases

By Maggie Fox, CNN

Genes inherited from Neanderthal ancestors may be involved in some cases of severe Covid-19 disease, researchers in Germany reported Wednesday.

A team of experts on Neanderthal genetics examined a strand of DNA that has been associated with some of the more serious cases of Covid-19 and compared it to sequences known to have been passed down to living Europeans and Asians from Neanderthal ancestors.

The DNA strand is found on chromosome 3, and a team of researchers in Europe has linked certain variations in this sequence with the risk of being more severely ill with Covid-19.

“Here, we show that the risk is conferred by a genomic segment … that is inherited from Neanderthals and is carried by about 50% of people in South Asia and about 16% of people in Europe today,” Svante Paabo and Hugo Zeberg of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology wrote, in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Nature.

“It turns out that this gene variant was inherited by modern humans from the Neanderthals when they interbred some 60,000 years ago,” Zeberg said in a statement.

“Today, the people who inherited this gene variant are three times more likely to need artificial ventilation if they are infected by the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2.”

Paabo and Zeberg found similar variations in the DNA from a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal skeleton found in Croatia and a few of them in skeletons found in Siberia, as well.

Studies have shown that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals and a related species, known as the Denisovans, tens of thousands of years ago. Studies estimate that about 2% of DNA in people of European and Asian descent can be traced back to Neanderthals.

“It is currently not known what feature in the Neanderthal-derived region confers risk for severe Covid-19 and if the effects of any such feature is specific to SARS-CoV-2, to other coronaviruses or to other pathogens,” the researchers wrote.

“There really isn’t anything medically or biologically special about the fact that this variant arose in Neanderthals,” Dr. Jeffrey Barret, a geneticist at Britain’s Sanger Institute who was not involved in the study, told CNN.

“Humans have a great deal of genetic diversity, some of which arose in our pre-human ancestors, some in Neanderthals, some during the time when all ancient humans lived in Africa, and some more recently.”

Barret said this particular stretch of DNA explains only a small percentage of the differences in illness severity among coronavirus patients.

“However, with respect to the current pandemic, it is clear that gene flow from Neanderthals has tragic consequences,” Paabo and Zeberg concluded in their study.

CNN’s Katie Hunt contributed to this report.


In unusual move, FAA chief test flies 737 Max; says more fixes needed

By Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace, CNN

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson says he has some suggestions for new changes to the Boeing 737 MAX after piloting the grounded jetliner Wednesday.

“I like what I saw on the flight,” said Dickson, a former airline pilot who flew earlier versions of the 737.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t have some debrief items going forward,” said Dickson after his two-hour flight from Seattle’s Boeing Field.

Dickson said he’d like to see tweaks “not so much in the procedures, but in the narrative that describes the procedures.”

Federal regulators are still evaluating Boeing’s proposed safety changes to the embattled design after a pair of fatal crashes abroad killed 346 people, grounding the plane worldwide in March 2019. Dickson stressed his unorthodox flight was not part of the official FAA recertification process — which Dickson said is in the home stretch.

The 18-month grounding has cost Boeing at least $18 billion. And it has missed a series of target dates for getting approval for the plane to again carry passengers. Before the Covid-19 pandemic it had been expecting approval for the plane by the middle of this year.

But the pandemic, and the resulting plunge in air travel worldwide, has led virtually all airlines to park a large percentage of their planes, reducing the need for Boeing to win the approval for the plane to fly sooner than later.

Crash victim daughter criticizes flight

The daughter of Joseph Waithaka, who was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, called the flight a “gimmick.”

“It’s nothing but a clown in a suit to reassure the public that everything is fine,” Zipporah Kuria said in an email shared by her attorney. “It’s clearly a PR stunt for the FAA and a free endorsement for Boeing.”

Dickson told reporters the flight was “not a publicity stunt.”

“It was important to me to understand the training and handling of the aircraft,” said Dickson, who prepared in a flight simulator and flew the actual airplane alongside a Boeing company pilot.

He also said concerns about the plane’s safety raised earlier this month by the FAA’s own safety engineers are under consideration by the officials certifying the plane. The safety engineers, in a document submitted to the FAA by their union, said additional work is needed before the jet should be cleared for passenger flights.

Dickson would not address the specific concerns, saying there is “a process for responding to and reviewing the comments,” but that he is proud of the agency’s work to raise questions and prevent “groupthink.”

A report prepared this month by investigators with the House Transportation Committee called into question the way the agency reviewed the plane for safety leading up to its initial certification in 2017.

“The problem is it was compliant but not safe, and people died,” committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, said.