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U.S. officials in Turkey have warned Americans in the country of possible terror attacks in Istanbul and other areas within the country.
 
In a security alert issued Friday, the mission said it received “credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings against U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in Istanbul, including against the U.S. Consulate General, as well as potentially other locations in Turkey.”
 
The mission warned U.S. citizens to exercise extra caution in large office buildings, shopping malls and in other places where Americans and other foreigners may gather.
 
Visa and other services for Americans provided at the mission’s facilities in Turkey have been suspended, the mission said.
 
The U.S. State Department said Saturday the alert was issued “as a result of ongoing assessments of security conditions” in the country but did not disclose specifics about what prompted the alert.
 
The alert followed recent U.S. air strikes against al-Qaida forces in Syria, including a strike on Thursday where senior leaders of the terrorist group were said to be meeting.
 
“[Al-Qaida in Syria] takes advantage of the instability in northwest Syria to establish and maintain safe havens to coordinate activities,” the U.S. military’s Central Command warned in a statement.
 
Syria’s Idlib province is the last rebel stronghold in the country after a decade of war. Opposition forces that include jihadist fighters continue to repel attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with assistance from Turkey’s military.
 

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U.S. President Donald Trump casts his ballot for the November 3 presidential election in his adopted home state of Florida Saturday while his Democratic challenger Joe Biden spends the day focusing on the key swing state of Pennsylvania.
 
Trump, who switched his official residence from New York to Florida last year, votes early in the day in West Palm Beach after spending the night at his nearby Mar-a-Lago resort.  
 
The president then addresses crowds at rallies in Lumberton, North Carolina, Circleville, Ohio, and Waukesha, Wisconsin.FILE – Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Oct. 23, 2020.Former Vice President Biden, meanwhile, holds drive-in events in Bucks County, a suburban Philadelphia county that Hillary Clinton captured by a slim margin in 2016, and in nearby Luzerne County. Former President Barack Obama won Luzerne County twice before voters there cast ballots overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.
 
Biden’s campaign also seeks voter support Saturday in the key state of Florida, with Obama holding a drive-in rally in North Miami on behalf of his former vice president.
 
Although the presidential election is less than two weeks away, more than 52 million people have already voted. Another 100 million or so are expected to cast ballots before a winner is declared. 
 

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said the Olympic Games are not about politics and must guard against becoming a “marketplace of demonstrations.”
Against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement to protest racial injustice, calls have increased this year for a change to Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans any form political protest during the Games.
World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said earlier this month he believes athletes should have the right to make gestures of political protest during the Games, contrary to official IOC policy.
“The Olympic Games are firstly about sport. The athletes personify the values of excellence, solidarity and peace,” Bach wrote in The Guardian.
“They express this inclusiveness and mutual respect also by being politically neutral on the field of play and during the ceremonies. At times this focus on sport needs to be reconciled with the freedom of speech all athletes also enjoy at the Games.
“The unifying power of the Games can only unfold if everyone shows respect for and solidarity to one another. Otherwise, the Games will descend into a marketplace of demonstrations of all kinds, dividing and not uniting the world.”
Bach said he experienced the “political impotence” of sport when West Germany was among several countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games.
“As chair of the West German athletes’ commission I strongly opposed this boycott because it punished us for something we had nothing to do with – the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army,” Bach, the winner of team fencing gold at Montreal 1976, wrote.
“It’s no consolation that we were ultimately proven right that this boycott not only punished the wrong ones, but that it also had no political effect… the Soviet army stayed nine more years in Afghanistan.
“The Olympic Games are not about politics. The IOC, as a civil non-governmental organization, is strictly politically neutral at all times.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the IOC to delay this year’s Tokyo Games until 2021. 

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Pacific Gas & Electric will cut power to more than 1 million people on Sunday to prevent the chance of sparking wildfires as extreme fire weather returns to the region, the utility announced Friday.The nation’s largest utility said it will black out customers in 38 counties — including most of the San Francisco Bay Area — as weather forecasts called for a return of bone-dry, gusty weather that carries the threat of downing or fouling power lines or other equipment that in recent years have been blamed for igniting massive and deadly blazes in central and Northern California.The safety shutoffs were expected to begin as early as Sunday morning and last into Tuesday, affecting 466,000 homes and businesses, or more than 1 million residents assuming between two and three people per home or business customer.Cuts are predicted to encompass parts of the Sacramento Valley, the northern and central Sierra Nevada, upper elevations of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Central Coast and portions of southern Kern County.The shutoffs included 19,000 customers in parts of Butte County, where a 2018 blaze ignited by PG&E equipment destroyed much of the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.Forecasts call for the “the driest humidity levels and the strongest winds of the wildfire season thus far,” a PG&E statement said.The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for many areas, predicting winds of 56 kph or higher in San Francisco and lower elevations and up to 113 kph in some mountains. The concern is that any spark could be blown into flames sweeping through tinder-dry brush and forestland.“On a scale of 1 to 10, this event is a 9,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab, told the Bay Area News Group. “Historically our biggest fires are in October. We are in a critical period.”The National Weather Service said the conditions could equal those during devastating fires in California’s wind country in 2017 and last year’s Kincade Fire.Fire officials said PG&E transmission lines sparked that Sonoma County fire last October, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee.The public safety power shutoff, or PSPS, would be the fifth this year, including one that began Wednesday and was scheduled to end late Friday.The upcoming weather forecast will be even more dangerous, said Scott Strenfel, the utility’s chief meteorologist.“We’re seeing four extremes in the weather for this potential PSPS event: extremely high winds, extremely low humidity, extreme dry fuels due to the hottest average temperatures over the last six months according to records that go back 126 years, and extreme drought across the territory given lack of rainfall,” he said in a statement.Southern California, meanwhile, continued to cool down with patchy drizzle. Forecasters said light rain was expected Saturday night through early Monday, with light mountain snow possible Sunday night, followed by Santa Ana winds.Eight of the 10 deadliest fires in California history have occurred in October or November. Some of the largest also have occurred since August of this year.The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said 5,500 firefighters were working Friday to fully contain 19 wildfires. Two-dozen new fires were contained Thursday despite red flag conditions.Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas.Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable.More 8,600 wildfires have scorched well over 16,576 square kilometers and destroyed about 9,200 buildings in California this year. There have been 31 deaths.All the huge fires have been fully or significantly contained, but more than 6,000 firefighters remain committed to 19 blazes, including a dozen major incidents, Cal Fire said.Many of this year’s devastating fires were started by thousands of dry lightning strikes. But some of the fires remain under investigation for potential electrical causes.

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Heavy fighting continues over the Nagorno-Karabakh region as Armenia and Azerbaijan accuse each other of shelling residential areas.Nagorno-Karabakh authorities said Azerbaijani rockets hit the town of Martakert and several villages in the Martuni region overnight.Nagorno-Karabakh officials say 927 of their troops have been killed, and more than 30 civilians have died.Azerbaijan has not disclosed its military losses but has said 63 civilians have been killed and 292 wounded.While the fighting continued in the breakaway mountain enclave, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan to “end the violence and protect civilians” after nearly a month of intense fighting.In a statement issued Friday after Pompeo met separately with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan in Washington the state department said, “The secretary also stressed the importance of the sides entering substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to resolve the conflict based on the Helsinki Final Act principles of the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”Pompeo said in a tweet after his talks that he and both foreign ministers discussed “critical steps” to halt the violence. “Both must implement a ceasefire and return to substantive negotiations,” he said.Mnatsakanyan told VOA the talks were “very good” on Friday as he left the State Department, where about two dozen demonstrators, mostly Armenians, were gathered outside. When asked about a timeline for a cease-fire, he said “we [will] keep working on that.” The meeting in Washington was arranged after two failed Russian attempts to broker a cease-fire in the worst outbreak of fighting over the region in more than a quarter-century.Pompeo has joined other global leaders in pushing for an end to the fighting over the disputed territory. But Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Wednesday he sees no possibility of a diplomatic solution at this stage of the conflict.For his part, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said Armenian forces must withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh to end the fighting, which Russian President Vladimir said may have killed about 5,000 people since the violence erupted.Turkey said Wednesday it will not hesitate to send troops and provide military support to help Azerbaijan if such a request is made. Pompeo has called on other countries not to provide “fuel” for the conflict.Shortly before the meetings in Washington began, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped to collaborate with Russia to resolve the conflict.Aram Avetisyan of VOA’s Armenian Service contributed reporting.  

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As the United States saw its highest number of new coronavirus cases reported in a single day, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that if he defeats President Donald Trump in next month’s election, he will push for a nationwide mask mandate.“I’ll go to every governor and urge them to mandate masks in their state. And if any refuse, I’ll go to the mayors and county executives to get local masking requirements in place nationwide,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, 11 days before the vote.“As president, I’ll mandate mask-wearing in all federal buildings and on interstate transportation because masks save lives,” he said.More than 80,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported Friday by Johns Hopkins University, topping the single-day record of 77,362 set July 16.All but about a half dozen of the 50 U.S. states have shown increased coronavirus cases this week compared to last week. At least 14 states have reported new highs in hospitalized coronavirus patients in the past seven days.Trump criticized Biden on Friday in Florida for emphasizing the infection, for which there is yet no vaccine or cure.“All he talks about is COVID COVID, COVID because they want to scare people, and we’ve done so well with it,” Trump said in the senior citizens’ community of The Villages.“We’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. We’re rounding the corner beautifully,” he said.Later, at a second campaign rally in Pensacola, he told a packed crowd of thousands, where few were wearing masks, “we want normal to fully resume and that’s happening.”Trump’s critics have accused him of holding “super-spreader events,” in defiance of federal health guidelines and local regulations on social distancing.Biden, laying out his pandemic response plan Friday, criticized Trump for asserting during their nationally televised debate Thursday night that the country is learning to live with the coronavirus.“As I told him last night, we’re not learning to live with it,” Biden said.“We’re learning to die with it, and there is a dark winter ahead,” he said.There are predictions from public health officials of a coronavirus case surge as cold weather sets in across the Northern Hemisphere.Biden said Friday that “once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone — whether or not you’re insured.”Trump continues to defend his administration’s handling of the pandemic amid criticism he has sidelined top career government infectious diseases experts on his coronavirus task force, in favor of outsiders such as Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuro-radiologist who has minimized the importance of masks.Atlas has also reportedly promoted the argument that lockdowns and prohibitions on gatherings and indoor activities do more damage than good and lead to increases in poverty and mental problems.COVID-19 has killed more than 223,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 8.5 million.Trump on Friday, without giving specifics, vowed “we will eradicate the pandemic and defeat this scourge from China once and for all.”

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Tensions between the United States and Turkey appear to be growing, following the latest war of words between the two allies over Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.The latest spat ignited Friday, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed earlier reports that Turkey has started testing the Russian-made system, brushing aside U.S. concerns.”(The tests) have been and are being conducted,” Erdogan told reporters. “The United States’ stance absolutely does not concern us.”“If we are not going to test these capabilities at our disposal, then what are we going to do?” he added.Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media, in Istanbul, Oct. 23, 2020. Erdogan confirmed the country tested its Russian-made missile defense system, despite objections from the United States.The U.S. Defense Department responded hours later Friday, with a harshly worded statement, stopping short of accusing Turkey of betraying the alliance.”The U.S. Department of Defense condemns in the strongest possible terms Turkey’s October 16 test,” Chief Pentagon Spokesman, Jonathan Rath Hoffman said, warning the testing “risks serious consequences for our security relationship.”“We have been clear and unwavering in our position,” Hoffman added. “An operational S-400 system is not consistent with Turkey’s commitments as a U.S. and NATO ally.”Reports that Turkey has started testing the Russian-made air defense system first emerged last week, sparking a U.S. Navy F-35 jets fly over Levi’s Stadium during the national anthem before an NFL playoff football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif.Since then, the U.S. has suspended Turkey from participation in its F-35 stealth fighter jet program and, at times, has considered potential sanctions against Ankara even though it is a NATO ally.U.S. officials have warned Turkey’s use of the advanced Russian radar technology could compromise NATO’s military systems and could potentially be used to target NATO jets in Turkey, including the F-35.Turkey has previously dismissed such concerns, and Erdogan indicated Friday there may not be much the U.S. can do to get hm to change course.”It seems that the gentlemen (in the U.S.) are especially bothered that this is a weapon belonging to Russia,” Erdogan told reporters, before adding, “We are determined, we are continuing on our path as always.”Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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The United States has set a daily record for coronavirus cases as a new surge of the virus raises fears of a further increase during the cold fall and winter months.According to The New York Times, more than 82,000 cases were reported across the United States by Friday evening, breaking a single-day record set July 16 by more than 6,000 cases.The Times also reported that around 41,000 Americans are currently in the hospital, which represents a 41% increase from the past month. The northern Rocky Mountain states and the upper Midwest are currently seeing spikes in reported cases.A new estimate by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Friday said the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could surpass 500,000 by February unless nearly all Americans wear face masks. It said the number of possible deaths could drop by 130,000 if 95% of Americans would wear face coverings.In Europe, France surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, registering a record 42,032 cases in 24 hours.France becomes the seventh country to pass the milestone, after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, Argentina and Spain.Epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the scientific council advising the French government, said, “The virus is circulating more quickly than in the spring.”President Emmanuel Macron said a curfew that took effect Friday night for two-thirds of France could be tightened if the restrictions do not lead to a lowering of coronavirus cases.Residents in many European countries, including parts of Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain, and Slovakia, are facing more restrictions in their daily lives as officials impose curfews and limits on social interaction.Countries are scrambling to look for ways to slow the spread but also to avoid the blanket lockdowns imposed earlier this year that have taken a massive economic toll and have little public support.Hundreds of protesters in Naples, Italy, protested Friday night over a new regional curfew. Demonstrators threw smoke bombs, and police responded with tear gas. Italy reached a new daily high Friday of nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases.Wales began a shutdown of nonessential businesses Friday night that will last until Nov. 9. Shops restaurants and bars will be under a severe two-week lockdown.”A firebreak period is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and much more damaging national lockdown,” First Minister Mark Drakeford said earlier this week.Poland announced the entire country will become a “red zone” of strict restrictions starting Saturday, just short of a lockdown. The country is closing restaurants and bars, limiting public gatherings to five people, and requiring masks at all times outdoors.Other countries are taking less severe measures.Belgium, one of the hardest-hit countries, restricted social contacts and banned spectators from sporting events. Denmark said it would lower the limit on public gatherings from 50 people to 10 and would ban the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m.The New York Times reported data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that despite the jump in cases, hospitalizations in Europe are “still less than half of the peak in March and April,” but are rising steadily each week.Researchers around the world are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.1 million globally and sickened more than 42 million.

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