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US: North Carolina kicks off mail-in voting as requests spike | USA News

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Mail-in voting in the United States presidential elections is set to begin on Friday as North Carolina starts sending out more than 600,000 ballots to voters – responding to a significant increase in requests across the country as voters look for a safer way to cast ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 643,000 ballots requested in the initial wave in North Carolina were more than 16 times the number the state sent out at the same time four years ago.

The requests came overwhelmingly from Democratic and independent voters, a reflection of a new partisan divide over mail-in voting ahead of the November 3 election.

The North Carolina numbers were one more bit of evidence backing up what experts have been predicting for months: Worries about the novel coronavirus are likely to push tens of millions of voters to cast their ballots by mail for the first time, transforming the way the election is conducted and the vote is counted.

Workers prepare absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, North Carolina [Gerry Broome/AP] 

In 2016, just one-quarter of the US electorate cast votes through the mail. This time, election officials expect the majority of voters to do so.

Wisconsin already received nearly 100,000 more requests compared with the 2016 election. In Florida, 3,347,960 people requested ballots during the 2016 election. The state has already received 4,270,781 requests.

While ballots go out in two weeks in other battlegrounds like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all eyes are on North Carolina as it leads off.

Wake County, which includes the capital city of Raleigh, accounts for more than 100,000 absentee ballot requests so far. This week, the office groaned under the twin stresses of record mail-in voting and the pandemic.

On Thursday, workers in yellow vests and masks sat at folding tables spaced apart in a county warehouse, affixing address labels to envelopes and then putting the ballots inside.

Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said the pandemic presents new challenges for the workers, including staying spaced out and using hand-sanitiser as much as possible.

“We’re already at over three times the amount of requests that we’ve ever had in its entirety in an election. So that’s caused us to change some of our business processes,” Sims said.

The increase in interest has come with an increase in partisan division.

The Republican party has historically done well in North Carolina mail-in voting, but this year, the people asking for the ballots are not generally Republicans. Democrats requested more than 337,000 ballots, and independents 200,000, while only 103,000 were sought by Republicans.

Voters in the state can continue to request the ballots up until October 27, though that may be too close to the November 3 election for them to receive the ballot and return it to their local elections office in time.

Composite - Donald Trump and Joe Biden [AP Photo]The numbers in North Carolina and elsewhere suggest Republicans are listening to Donald Trump and shying away from mail-in ballots [AP Photo] 

The Democratic lead in mail-in ballots is not only in North Carolina.

In Maine, 60 percent of requests for mail-in ballots were made by Democrats and 22 percent by independents – Democrats requested nearly triple the number of absentee ballots as Republicans.

In Florida, where the Republican party once dominated mail-in voting, 47.5 percent of requests came from Democrats and 32 percent from Republicans.

“These numbers are astronomical, and on top of that there’s these clear partisan differences,” said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida who tracks early voting.

The party split comes as President Donald Trump baselessly derided mail-in ballots as vulnerable to fraud, even though multiple studies have debunked the notion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the mail-in ballots as a safer alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.

The numbers in North Carolina and elsewhere suggest Republicans are listening to Trump, shying away from mail-in ballots while Democrats rush to use them.

Elections

A worker prepares absentee ballots for mailing at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, North Carolina [Gerry Broome/AP]

The Democrats’ advantage in mail-in voting will not necessarily translate into an advantage in the election, however. Ballots cast on Election Day are expected to be mostly Republican.

“Even if the Democrats build up a huge lead in the early vote ballot, I still need to see the Election Day votes, because that’s going to be that red wave,” McDonald said.

Tom Bonier, chief executive officer of the Democratic data firm Target Smart, agreed.

But he has seen one hopeful indicator for his party – 16 percent of the mail-in ballot requests so far have been from voters who did not vote in 2016. They are younger than typical mail voters, as well.

“Seeing younger Democrats adapting to the technique is the first sign of a potential enthusiasm gap,” Bonier said, noting it will not be possible to know if the Republican party catches up until the election.

Campaigns usually want their voters to cast ballots by mail because they can “bank” those early votes and focus their scarce resources on getting their remaining supporters to the polls on Election Day.

Trump has complicated that effort among Republicans by repeatedly condemning mail-in voting, even though in the five states that routinely mail ballots to all voters there has been no large-scale fraud.

On Wednesday, while in North Carolina, the president suggested supporters vote once by mail and a second time in person to test whether the system could weed out voter fraud.

The next day, the executive director of North Carolina’s board of elections, Karen Brinson Bell, warned that voting twice in the state is a felony, as is trying to induce someone to vote twice.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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