Bangladesh opposition alliance says it plans to contest polls to rescue democracy

DHAKA (REUTERS) – A group of opposition parties in Bangladesh, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said on Sunday (Nov 11) that it plans to contest the Dec 23 general election, despite the ruling party last week rejecting a series of its demands.

The Jatiya Oikyafront, a 20-party alliance led by 81-year-old Kamal Hossain, had in particular wanted a caretaker government to take over in the weeks heading into the polls.

The BNP says a caretaker government is essential for free and fair elections, but the ruling Awami League says the demand is unconstitutional.

The BNP, which is in disarray following the jailing of its chief, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, on corruption charges, had also pressed for a caretaker government at the 2014 election and boycotted it after the demand was not met.

The last election was marred by deadly violence and shunned by international observers as flawed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is seeking to be reelected for a third successive term.

“With the aim of rescuing democracy and a continuation of the movement to sustain a democratic process, Jatiya Oikyafront decided to participate in the election,” said Dr Hossain in a statement, following days of deliberations with alliance members.

Madam Hasina’s government has won widespread global plaudits for letting in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar, but its critics have decried her increasingly authoritarian rule. In particular, they have attacked her for the government’s heavy-handed handling of student protests this year and its crackdown on free speech.

While announcing the election date last Thursday, Mr K.M. Nurul Huda, the head of Bangladesh’s Election Commission, urged all parties to participate in the election “to make it meaningful”.

Madam Hasina and Madam Khaleda, who between them have ruled Bangladesh for decades, are bitter rivals and the BNP says its leader has been jailed on trumped-up charges to keep her out of politics.

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Four UK ministers on verge of quitting, EU rejects latest plan: Sunday Times

LONDON (Reuters) – Four British ministers who back remaining in the European Union are on the verge of quitting Theresa May’s government over Brexit, the Sunday Times reported, as pressures built on the prime minister from all sides.

The newspaper also said that the European Union had rejected May’s plan for an independent mechanism to oversee Britain’s departure from any temporary customs arrangement it agrees. The newspaper sourced the development to British sources, and not sources in the EU team.

May is trying to hammer out the final details of the British divorce deal but the talks have become stuck over how the two sides can prevent a hard border from being required in Ireland.

Britain has proposed a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement with the EU to resolve the issue but Brexiteers in her party want London to have the final say on when that arrangement would end, to prevent it from being tied indefinitely to the bloc.

A senior cabinet minister was quoted in the paper as saying: “This is the moment she has to face down Brussels and make it clear to them that they need to compromise, or we will leave without a deal.”

An EU diplomat told Reuters earlier on Saturday that they were cautiously hopeful that an EU summit could happen in November to endorse the deal but that the volatile situation in Britain made it very difficult to predict.

Other EU diplomats said several issues remained unresolved.

May is expected to meet with her cabinet this week to set out her plans for the divorce deal. She was dealt a blow on Friday when junior minister Jo Johnston, who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, quit over her plan.

To add to the pressure, a leading member of a group of Brexiteer lawmakers in parliament joined with the Brexit spokesman for the small Northern Irish party that props up May’s party in government to warn that they could not vote for the deal as it currently stands.

Steve Baker, a former junior Brexit minister who resigned over May’s so-called Chequers proposals on Brexit, and Sammy Wilson of the DUP wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that they could not back a deal if it treated Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the country.

May had been expected to hold a vote in parliament on her deal before the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for May’s Downing Street office said the talks were going down to the wire. “The prime minister has always said these negotiations are tough and toughest in the final stages.

“The prime minister has told colleagues this week we should aim to conclude the withdrawal agreement as soon as possible but we will not do that at any cost.”

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Sri Lanka to hold snap election on Jan 5

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka will hold a snap election in January, the country’s president announced on Friday (Nov 9), hours after dissolving parliament when it became clear his prime minister nominee did not have a majority.

Maithripala Sirisena said in a proclamation that a new parliament will be convened on Jan 17 after conducting the nation-wide vote on Jan 5.

The election timetable was accompanied by an official notice dismissing the nation’s 225-member assembly with effect from midnight.

(This story is developing)

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U.N. envoy says Libya should start process for elections in spring

TUNIS (Reuters) – Libya should start the process to hold an election in spring 2019 only after a national conference to discuss its conflict, the U.N. Libya envoy said on Thursday, officially burying a long obsolete idea to stage a vote next month.

Western powers and the United Nations had originally hoped to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 10 as a way out of Libya’s conflict raging sine the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But violence and a deadlock between rival administrations had made that goal unrealistic although nobody had declared it officially dead or offered a new time frame.

Instead, the United Nations wants to focus on a national conference to give Libyans a forum to discuss their future and bridge divisions between armed groups, tribes, town and regions, Ghassan Salame told the U.N. Security Council.

“The National Conference is to be held in the first weeks of 2019. The subsequent electoral process should commence in the spring of 2019,” Salame said, without being more specific about whether he meant it was expected then or that it ought to happen then.

Saleme did not give a new date for elections or even mention the date of Dec. 10 agreed only verbally by rival Libyan players at a summit hosted by France in May.

Shelving the vote is the latest setback for Western powers that helped topple Gaddafi seven years ago before stepping back and seeing hopes for a democratic transition crumble.

Salame said the internationally recognized House of Representatives had deliberately failed to approve legislation to hold a vote.

“The House has failed to uphold its responsibilities,” he said. “It is now clear that the postponed sessions and contradictory public statements (by lawmakers) were simply intended to waste time. The body calling itself Libya’s sole legislature is largely sterile.”

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Trump vows 'war-like posture' if Democrats investigate White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed to jettison any attempt at bipartisanship and fight back if the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives used its powers to press investigations into his administration.

Trump, speaking during a combative news conference in which he tangled with reporters and trumpeted his role in Republican gains in Tuesday’s midterm congressional elections, warned he would adopt a “warlike posture” if Democrats investigated him.

Democrats will now head House committees that can probe the president’s tax returns, which he has refused to turn over, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia, a matter being investigated by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump was buoyed by victories that added to the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, telling reporters at the White House that the gains outweighed the Democrats’ takeover of the House. He added that he was willing to work with Democrats on key priorities but felt any investigations of his administration would hurt prospects for bipartisanship.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better,” Trump said of the possibility of Democratic investigations. “All you’re going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won’t have done a thing.”

The divided power in Congress combined with Trump’s expansive view of executive power could herald even deeper political polarization and legislative gridlock in Washington.

There may be some room, however, for Trump and Democrats to work together on issues with bipartisan support such as a package to improve infrastructure, protections against prescription drug price increases and in the push to rebalance trade with China.

“It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation,” Trump said.

He said Nancy Pelosi, who could be the next speaker of the House, had expressed to him in a phone call a desire to work together. With Democrats mulling whether to stick with Pelosi, who was speaker when the party last controlled the House, or go in a new direction, Trump wrote in a tweet earlier that she deserves to be chosen for the position.

Pelosi, at a news conference on Capitol Hill, said Democrats would be willing to work with Trump where possible, but added, “We have a constitutional responsibility to have oversight.”

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“I don’t think we’ll have any scattershot freelancing in terms of this. We will have a responsibility to honor our oversight responsibilities and that’s the path we will go down. We again (will) try to unify our country,” she said.

The Democrats fell short of a tidal wave of voter support that would have won them control of both chambers of Congress. But in the 435-member House, the party was headed for a gain of around 30 seats, beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in eight years.

A Senate majority would have allowed Democrats to apply even firmer brakes on Trump’s policy agenda and given them the ability to block any future Supreme Court nominees.

House Democrats could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico and pass a second major tax-cut package. Legislators could also demand more transparency from Trump as he negotiates new trade deals with Japan and the European Union.

“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans; it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” Pelosi told supporters at a victory party Tuesday night.

Trump also mocked Republican candidates who had refused to back his policies and ultimately lost their races, such as U.S. Representative Barbara Comstock of Virginia.

“They did very poorly. I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad but I feel just fine about it,” he said.

GRIDLOCK?

U.S. stocks jumped on Wednesday as investors, who often favor Washington gridlock because it preserves the status quo and reduces uncertainty, bought back into a market that had its worst month in seven years in October.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had gained more than 1.6 percent by midafternoon while the broad-based S&P 500 index was up 1.6 percent. The dollar was slightly weaker against a basket of currencies.

A Democrat-controlled House could hamper Trump’s attempts to further his pro-business agenda, fueling uncertainty about his administration. His corporate tax cuts and the deregulation that have played a large hand in the U.S. stock market’s rally since the 2016 election, however, are likely to remain untouched.

“With the Democrats taking over the House, we will now have to see what gridlock in Congress means for policy. As for the market impact, a split Congress has historically been bullish for equities and we expect to see the same pattern again,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist for Deutsche Bank.

Democrats will use their new majority to reverse what they see as a hands-off approach by Republicans toward Trump’s foreign policy, and push for tougher dealings with Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

Foreign policy has been an area that Trump has approached in a very personal way, sometimes antagonizing allies such as Canada while making what critics see as unduly warm overtures to traditional U.S. rivals or foes.

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats could work with Republicans to produce a long-awaited bill to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges and airports.

“Of course, we want to work in a bipartisan fashion. I think we can get an infrastructure bill,” he said.

Trump had hardened his rhetoric in recent weeks on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters. He threw himself into the campaign, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed through Mexico to the U.S. border and condemnations of liberal American “mobs” he says oppose him.

DEMOCRATIC PROBES

Every seat in the House was up for grabs on Tuesday and opinion polls had pointed to the Democratic gains. The party with the presidency often loses House seats in midterm elections.

The Republicans had an advantage in Senate races because elections were held for only 35 seats in the 100-member chamber and many of them were in states that often lean Republican.

Republicans built on their slim Senate majority by several seats and ousted at least three incumbent Democrats: Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

In Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson was trailing his Republican rival, Governor Rick Scott, by a slim margin, with the possibility of a recount looming. Republican Martha McSally was leading Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. Senate race in Arizona with some votes still to be counted.

The Republican gains are sure to bolster the party’s efforts to get conservative federal judges through confirmation proceedings. In the 36 gubernatorial contests, Democrats won in several states that supported Trump in 2016 but lost high-profile races in Florida and Ohio.

Democrats could infuriate Trump by launching another congressional investigation into allegations of Russian interference on his behalf in 2016. Moscow denies meddling and Trump, calling the Mueller probe a witch hunt, denies any collusion.

Trump said he could fire Mueller if he wanted but was hesitant to take that step. “I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it, because politically I don’t like stopping it,” he said.

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Democrats will seek to rein in Trump after taking U.S. House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump faced greater restraints on his presidency and intrusive investigations from Democrats who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives and pledged to hold the Republican accountable after a tumultuous two years in the White House.

Trump and his fellow Republicans expanded their control of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections, following a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race and immigration.

But they lost their majority in the House, a setback for the president after a campaign that became a referendum on his combative leadership.

The split power in Congress combined with Trump’s expansive view of executive power could herald even deeper political polarization and legislative gridlock in Washington.

The Democrats will now head House committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

There may be some room, however, for Trump and Democrats to work together on issues with bipartisan support such as a package to improve infrastructure or protections against prescription drug price increases.

Trump made an unlikely gesture toward Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats who he has frequently ridiculed, saying her party should pick her to be House Speaker in the new Congress that convenes in January.

“In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Earlier on Wednesday, he was less conciliatory, describing the elections results as a “very Big Win” and taking a swipe at the media. Trump was due to hold a news conference at the White House at 11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT).

The Democrats fell short of a tidal wave of voter support that would have won them control of both chambers of Congress. But in the 435-member House, the party was headed for a gain of around 30 seats, beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in eight years.

A Senate majority would have allowed Democrats to apply even firmer brakes on Trump’s policy agenda and given them the ability to block any future Supreme Court nominees.

The House Democrats could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

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“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,” Pelosi told supporters at victory party. 

Losing the House will test Trump’s ability to compromise, something he has shown little interest in over the last two years with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress.

He hit back at the prospect of investigations by House Democrats, saying on Twitter that Republicans in Senate would counter with their own investigations of Democrats.

GRIDLOCK?

U.S. stocks opened higher on Wednesday after the elections,

while the dollar dropped on the reduced chances of further U.S. fiscal stimulus.

Financial markets often favor Washington gridlock because it preserves the status quo and reduces uncertainty.

A Democrat-controlled House will hamper Trump’s pro-business agenda and could lead to uncertainty about his administration, but corporate tax cuts and deregulation measures that have played a large hand in the U.S. stock market’s rally since the 2016 election are likely to remain untouched.

“With the Democrats taking over the House we will now have to see what gridlock in Congress means for policy. As for the market impact, a split Congress has historically been bullish for equities and we expect to see the same pattern again,” said Torsten Slok, Chief International Economist of Deutsche Bank.

Democrats will use their new majority to reverse what they see as a hands-off approach by Republicans toward Trump’s foreign policy, and push for tougher dealings with Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

Foreign policy has been an area that Trump has approached in a very personal way, sometimes antagonizing allies such as Canada while making what critics see as unduly warm overtures to traditional rivals or foes.

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Democrats could work with Republicans to produce a long-awaited bill to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges and airports.

“Of course, we want to work in a bipartisan fashion. I think we can get an infrastructure bill,” he said.

Trump had hardened his rhetoric in recent weeks on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters. He threw himself into the campaign, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed through Mexico to the U.S. border and condemnations of liberal American “mobs” he says oppose him.

DEMOCRATIC PROBES

Every seat in the House was up for grabs on Tuesday and opinion polls had pointed to the Democratic gains. The party with the presidency often loses House seats in midterm elections.

The Republicans had an advantage in Senate races because elections were held for only 35 seats in the 100-member chamber and many of them were in states that often lean Republican.

Republicans built on their slim Senate majority by several seats and ousted four incumbent Democrats: Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

Those gains are sure to bolster Republicans’ efforts to get conservative federal judges through confirmation proceedings. In the 36 gubernatorial contests, Democrats won in several states that supported Trump in 2016 but lost high-profile races in Florida and Ohio.

Democrats could infuriate Trump by launching another congressional investigation into allegations of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election. A federal probe by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s role in that election is ongoing.

Moscow denies meddling and Trump, calling the Mueller probe a witchhunt, denies any collusion.

A House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaced of collusion by his campaign, or of obstruction by the president of the federal investigation. But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate, an unlikely scenario.

Most Democratic candidates in tight races stayed away from harsh criticism of Trump during the midterm campaign’s final stretch, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like maintaining insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, and safeguarding the Social Security retirement and Medicare healthcare programs for senior citizens.

WOMEN, YOUNG, HISPANIC VOTERS FUEL GAINS

The Democratic gains were fueled by women, young and Hispanic voters, a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll found. Fifty-five percent of women said they backed a Democrat for the House this year, compared to 49 percent in the 2014 midterm congressional election.

A record number of women ran for office this election, many of them Democrats. There were 237 women on ballots for House seats and at least 95 had won their races as of early Wednesday morning, shattering the previous record of 84 women in the House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The party picked up seats across the map but some of the campaign’s biggest Democratic stars lost.

Liberal Beto O’Rourke’s underdog Senate campaign fell short in conservative Texas against Republican Ted Cruz. Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis in his quest to become Florida’s first black governor.

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams was seeking to become the first black woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state. Her opponent, Brian Kemp, was ahead in a very close race early on Wednesday and Abrams said she would not concede until all the votes were counted.

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Dead Republican brothel owner wins election in Nevada

(Reuters) – A brothel-owning, evangelical Christian-backed Republican candidate who died last month won his race for the Nevada state legislature late on Tuesday, according to state election officials.

Dennis Hof, 72, defeated Democratic candidate and educator Lesia Romanov in the race for Nevada’s 36th Assembly District, earning about 68 percent of the vote. County officials said they would appoint a replacement candidate from the same party for his seat.

A representative for Romanov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hof, who presented himself as an American pimp, was a strip-club owner who ran multiple brothels. He had nicknamed himself the “Trump from Pahrump,” after the town where he lived in Nevada.

In a June interview with Reuters at Moonlite BunnyRanch, his brothel near his home in Pahrump, Nevada, Hof said his political fortunes had parallels with those of U.S. President Donald Trump. (reut.rs/2IdFeHn)

“This really is the Trump movement,” Hof said. “People will set aside for a moment their moral beliefs, their religious beliefs, to get somebody that is honest in office.”

Chuck Muth, Hof’s campaign manager, was one of many who predicted last month that Hof would win, stating that Republicans had a two-to-one advantage over Democrats in the state Assembly district in terms of voter registration.

“I know Republicans in Nevada got massacred tonight, but my man Dennis Hof crushed his opponent from the great beyond in AD-36 & we crushed the anti-brothel initiative in Lyon County by about 80%,” Muth wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “So pardon me, but I’m celebrating.”

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office said Hof was found dead last month at one of his properties in Crystal, Nevada. It was not immediately clear what caused his death.

Friends found him dead when they went to wake him for a meeting hours after his 72nd birthday party, his campaign manager, Chuck Muth, said on Twitter. He said Hof appeared to have died in his sleep.

The thrice-divorced author of “The Art of the Pimp,” who appeared on HBO’s “Cathouse,” owned a strip club and five legal brothels in Nevada, the only U.S. state with legalized prostitution.

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Madagascar votes in presidential elections in bid to end poverty

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is seeking a second term and faces strong challenge from two former presidents.

    Millions of voters in Madagascar queued in long lines early on Wednesday to cast their ballots in a presidential election, as the Indian Ocean island struggles to create jobs, fight poverty and end corruption.

    President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is seeking a second term in office and his two main challengers are former heads of state Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

    All three have crisscrossed the island in a hunt for votes and each has pledged to accelerate recovery for an economy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts will grow at more than five percent this year, its highest rate in a decade.

    Civil society groups accuse the three wealthy frontrunners of enriching themselves in office, something each denies.

    The groups said a fisheries deal the incumbent signed with Chinese firms in September is opaque and will impoverish local fishermen.

    They also said Ravalomanana failed to tackle corruption during his time in office that ended in 2009, when he was forced out by protests led by Rajoelina in what international organisations like the African Union said was a coup.

    Conservation groups then accused Rajoelina, the man who overthrew him, of profiting from the plunder of natural resources.

    Praying for change

    As queues started forming on Wednesday morning in the capital, Antananarivo, voter Sahondramalala Nirisoa told Reuters news agency she had arrived early because she needed to get to work. 

    “I hope and I pray for a change,” she said. “That is why I came to vote.”

    According to a World Bank report, more than 80 percent of the population lives in poverty. 

    There are nearly 10 million registered voters in the country of 25 million people, data from the electoral commission showed.

    Few analysts expect an outright winner from the 36 total who are contesting.

    If the poll needs to go to a second round, it will involve only the two top candidates and take place on December 19.

    Since a peaceful election in 2013, investors and donor governments re-engaged following a four-year freeze that began after Rajoelina came to power.

    The events of 2009 prompted an exodus of foreign investors from a country that is one of the world’s poorest despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

    The island was hit by a fresh political crisis in April sparked by a legal amendment by Rajaonarimampianina’s government that would have prevented Ravalomanana from standing for office.

    Rajaonarimampianina approved a new law removing that provision the following month, allowing Ravalomanana to register as a candidate.

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    Celebrities head to the polls in the US

    NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Celebrities: Sometimes they are just like us. The latest example was on Tuesday (Nov 6), when athletes, actors, musicians and those famous for being famous joined ordinary Americans to vote on Election Day. They waited in long lines, filled out ballots and shared “I Voted” photos – just like the rest of us.

    In past years, midterm elections have typically drawn far less interest among all voters, including celebrities, and turnout at the polls has dipped in off-years between presidential elections.

    But this year is different. An energised and polarised electorate is fired up – and celebrities are playing a big part, both at campaign rallies and on social media, to get people engaged. More than 31.5 million people were estimated to have voted early across the United States, with 22 states and the District of Columbia surpassing total turnout in the last midterm four years ago.

    “I voted because I honour those that have fought and died for these rights,” singer Pink wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “In order to have an opinion, you must participate. I voted. Go be loud. Go vote.”

    On Tuesday morning, a bunch of celebrities, including actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zoe Kazan, encouraged their fans to go vote and offered them an incentive to do so: Share a photo of your “I Voted” sticker, they said, and they would share it with their followers.

    Singer Melissa Etheridge shared a selfie with her “I Voted” sticker, as did actress Melissa McCarthy and Jimmy Fallon.

    Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor of California, encouraged people to bring friends out to vote, too.

    “Get to the polls!” Schwarzenegger said in a video he shared on Twitter.

    BECAUSE NO ONE WILL EVER TAKE MY VOICE. I VOTED. Because they work for us. I VOTED. BECAUSE I HONOR THOSE THAT HAVE FOUGHT AND DIED FOR THESE RIGHTS. I voted. BECAUSE IN ORDER TO HAVE AN OPINION YOU MUST PARTICIPATE. I voted. GO BE LOUD. GO VOTE

    A post shared by P!NK (@pink) on

    View this post on Instagram

    Pulled out my #pussyjacket and I voted!

    A post shared by Maggie Gyllenhaal (@mgyllenhaal) on

    Pulled out my #pussyjacket and I voted!

    A post shared by Maggie Gyllenhaal (@mgyllenhaal) on

    View this post on Instagram

    Vote!!! Let your voice be heard!!! 🇺🇸💕

    A post shared by Melissa McCarthy (@melissamccarthy) on

    Vote!!! Let your voice be heard!!! 🇺🇸💕

    A post shared by Melissa McCarthy (@melissamccarthy) on

    Mike Sorrentino, the reality TV star known as “The Situation” on Jersey Shore, advocated for voting. Actress and singer Zendaya, who is a former Disney star, voted on Tuesday and showed off her sticker.

    View this post on Instagram

    I voted, you?

    A post shared by Zendaya (@zendaya) on

    I voted, you?

    A post shared by Zendaya (@zendaya) on

    A slew of celebrities voted early. Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, tweeted a photo of his mail-in ballot and said “Vote Blue” – and then got an earful from fans who disagreed with his politics.

    Another outspoken music star, Taylor Swift, voted early after spending the past few weeks urging her fans to register to vote. (The website Vote.org said her campaign led to an increase in registrations on its site.)

    Swift, who had stayed silent for years about her political beliefs, said last month that she supported Democratic candidates in Tennessee, which she calls home. On Oct 30, she announced on Instagram that she and her mother, Andrea Swift, had voted early in Tennessee for Phil Bredesen, the state’s former Democratic governor now running for Senate.

    ⬆️These two Tennessee women⬆️ voted for the candidate who has proven himself to be reasonable and trustworthy. We want leadership, not fear-based extremism. Early voting goes til Thursday and Election Day is November 6. Please don’t sit this one out.

    A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

    In an Instagram story on Tuesday, Swift, who had a concert in Australia on Election Day, told her fans that they would feel better about themselves if they voted.

    “It’s not enough to just want change,” Swift said. “You have to go and make change by voting. Today is your opportunity to do that.”

    Other big names who voted early were actress Kerry Washington, who is currently in New York for her role in the new Broadway play American Son, and country music stars Faith Hill and her husband, Tim McGraw, who live in Nashville.

    Leading up to Election Day, candidates across the country, from races for governor to those in the Senate, have attracted superstars to join them on the campaign trail.

    For the most part, the big-name stars joined Democratic candidates. Case in point: Last week, Oprah Winfrey knocked on doors in Georgia with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and now lawyer for President Donald Trump, stopped in Indiana to campaign for Mike Braun, a Republican.

    Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Texas, has campaigned with Willie Nelson and even jammed onstage with him.

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    U.S. networks drop 'racist' Trump ad as critical elections near

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NBC, Fox News and Facebook pulled an ad by President Donald Trump’s campaign that critics had labeled racist as a bitter election fight for control of the U.S. Congress headed on Monday for an unpredictable finish.

    Tuesday’s elections, widely seen as a referendum on Trump, have been portrayed by both Republicans and Democrats as critical for the direction of the country. At stake is control of both chambers of Congress, and with it the ability to block or promote Trump’s agenda, as well as 36 governor’s offices.

    A surge in early voting, fueled by a focus on Trump’s pugilistic, norms-breaking presidency by supporters of both parties, could signal the highest turnout in 50 years for a midterm U.S. election, when the White House is not on the line.

    The 30-second ad, which was sponsored by Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and which debuted online last week, featured courtroom video of an illegal immigrant from Mexico convicted in the 2014 killings of two police officers, juxtaposed with scenes of migrants headed through Mexico.

    Critics, including members of Trump’s own party, had condemned the spot as racially divisive.

    CNN had refused to run the ad, saying it was “racist.” NBC, owned by Comcast Corp, said on Monday it was no longer running the ad, which it called “insensitive.”

    Fox News Channel, which Trump has repeatedly named his favorite broadcaster, also said it would no longer run the spot. Fox News, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, said it had made the decision after a review but did not elaborate.

    Facebook Inc said it would no longer allow paid promotions of the ad, although it would allow users to share the ad on their own pages.

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    Trump batted away reporters’ questions about the networks’ decision to drop the ad.

    “You’re telling me something I don’t know about. We have a lot of ads, and they certainly are effective based on the numbers we’re seeing,” Trump said as he departed Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for a rally in Cleveland.

    Asked about concerns that the ad was offensive, he replied: “A lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive.”

    After Ohio, Trump headed to campaign against vulnerable Democratic U.S. senators in Indiana and Missouri at the end of a six-day pre-election sweep that has featured heated rhetoric about immigration and repeated warnings about a caravan of Central American migrants moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border.

    “The contrast in this election could not be more clear,” Trump told supporters in Indiana at a rally for Republican Mike Braun, who is facing incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in a tight race. “If you want more caravans, vote for Democrats tomorrow.”

    Opinion polls and election forecasters favor Democrats to pick up the minimum of 23 seats they need on Tuesday to capture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would enable them to stymie Trump’s legislative agenda and investigate his administration.

        Republicans are favored to retain their slight majority in the U.S. Senate, currently at two seats, which would let them retain the power to approve U.S. Supreme Court and other judicial nominations on straight party-line votes.

    STILL COMPETITIVE

    But 64 of the 435 House races remain competitive, according to a Reuters analysis of the three main nonpartisan U.S. forecasters, and control of the Senate is likely to come down to a half dozen close contests in Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Florida.

    Democrats also are threatening to recapture governor’s offices in several battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a potential help for the party in those states in the 2020 presidential race.

    Trump, who frequently warns of voter fraud and has asserted without evidence that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, said on Twitter on Monday that law enforcement should be on the lookout for “illegal voting.”

    Democratic former President Barack Obama delivered doughnuts to campaign volunteers in a House district in suburban Virginia, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a state senator, is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock in a fiercely contested race.

    Obama said the country’s character and its commitment to decency and equality were on the ballot on Tuesday.

    “All across the country, what I’m seeing is a great awakening,” he said. “People woke up and said: ‘Oh, we can’t take this for granted. We’ve got to fight for this.’”

    About 40 million early votes – including absentee, vote-by-mail and in-person ballots – will likely be cast by Election Day, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks the figures. In the last such congressional elections in 2014, there were 27.5 million early votes.

    McDonald estimated that 45 percent of registered voters would cast ballots, which would be the highest for a midterm election in 50 years.

    “The atypical thing that we’re seeing is high early vote activity in states without competitive elections or no statewide elections,” McDonald said in a phone interview.

    “There’s only one explanation for that: Donald Trump. He’s fundamentally changed how people are following politics.”

    Full election coverage: here

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