WASHINGTON — The millions of votes that have been cast already in the U.S. presidential election point to an advantage for Hillary Clinton in critical battleground states, as well as signs of strength in traditionally Republican territory.
The strong early-voting turnout by those likely to support Clinton — registered Democrats, minorities, and young people among others — could leave Donald Trump with virtually no path to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Clinton is showing strength in Florida and North Carolina, both must-win states for Trump, as well as the battleground states of Nevada, Colorado and Arizona. There are even favorable signs for Clinton in Republican-leaning Utah and Texas.
“It’s going to be a very tall order for Trump to win,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who specializes in election turnout. Other analysts also point to a strong finish for Clinton based on the early vote.
Early voting, via mail or in-person, is underway in 37 states. More than 12.5 million votes have been cast, far higher than the rate in 2012, according to Associated Press data. In all, more than 46 million people —or as much as 40 percent of the electorate — are expected to vote before Election Day, Nov. 8.
VISSO, Italy — Officials in central Italy began early today to assess the damage caused by a pair of strong earthquakes in the same region of central Italy hit by a deadly quake in August, as an appeal went out for temporary housing adequate for the cold mountain temperatures.
Thousands of people spent the night in their cars following the pair of quakes that struck late in the evening, sending residents into the streets in pouring rain, too late for authorities to come up with adequate shelter. A series of small shocks overnight, including two registering magnitudes above 4 before dawn, further unsettled residents.
The morning after the quakes, there remained no reports of serious injuries or signs of people trapped in rubble. The head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio, said it appeared that the situation “is not as catastrophic” as it could have been. A 73-year-old man died of a heart attack, possibly brought on by the quakes, local authorities told the ANSA news agency.
Mayors of towns scattered in the mountain region spanning the Umbria and Marche regions say many more homes were rendered uninhabitable, on top of those damaged in the August quake, while historic structures that survived previous quakes had succumbed this time.
Camerino Mayor Gianluca Pasqui said the town’s historic bell tower had collapsed, but emphasized that reconstruction work after a 6.1 quake in 1997 appeared to have contributed to the absence of serious injury.
BEIRUT — The U.N. Children’s agency called the airstrikes in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province a day earlier an “outrage,” suggesting it may be the deadliest attack on a school since the country’s war began nearly six years ago. The attack, according to UNICEF, killed 22 children and six of their teachers.
A series of airstrikes in the village of Hass around midday Wednesday hit a residential compound that houses a school complex as children gathered outside. The Syrian Civil Defense first responder team and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today the airstrikes killed at least 35, most of them children. Initially, the estimated death toll was 22.
The Observatory put the death toll among children at 16 children and five women. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the two figures, but divergent death tolls are not uncommon in a conflict-torn Syria that has been largely inaccessible to international media for over two years.
UNICEF and the Civil Defense said the death toll is likely to rise, as rescue efforts continue. The civil defense said there were two schools in the area hit with 11 airstrikes around midday.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake called the airstrikes an “outrage.” He added if found to be deliberate, the attacks would be considered a war crime.
PENDLETON — City officials say Pendleton’s marijuana odor ordinance is necessary, but some residents say the law is bound to bring trouble.
The East Oregonian reports (https://is.gd/K46Vit ) that the Pendleton City Council in June passed an ordinance prohibiting “unreasonable” amounts of marijuana odors from leaving a property and entering another.
Pendleton attorney Will Perkinson says the ordinance is too vague and it doesn’t distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana or properly establish the level of odor a marijuana smell would need to reach to be considered harmful.
Since the odor law went into effect, there have been two cases where it has been enforced.
The City Council has not reconsidered the ordinance, but the planning commission is set to consider zoning regulations for marijuana retailers at a meeting today.
GARBERVILLE, Calif. — Laura Costa’s son and husband moved quickly with the pruning shears to harvest the family’s fall marijuana crop, racing along with several workers to cut the plants and drop them in plastic bins ahead of an impending storm.
The rain could invite “bud rot,” Costa said, “a big no-no.”
The farm, hidden along a winding mountain road in a remote redwood forest, is just one of many illegal “grows” that make up Northern California’s famous Emerald Triangle, a rural region that developed over decades into a marijuana-producing mecca at the intersection of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties.
California voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use — an issue that has sown deep division here among longtime growers. The Costa family and many other pot farmers have yearned for the legitimacy and respectability that growers of legal crops enjoy.
But they also fear Proposition 64 will bring big changes, including costly regulations and taxes, lower prices and the risk that corporate interests could put smaller operations out of business.
LACEY, Wash. — Police have arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with an internet hoax that flooded 911 Tuesday night with non-emergency calls in a western Washington county.
The Olympian reports (https://goo.gl/kxmIf6 ) the man was booked into Thurston County Jail on felony suspicion of electronic data service interference Wednesday.
Lacey police Sgt. Terence Brimmer says the man told police he received a link from a friend, tested it and posted it on his Facebook page as a joke.
Brimmer says smartphone users who clicked on the link watched as their phones became “hijacked,” repeatedly dialing 911. Some users apparently had to remove their phone’s batteries to get them to stop.
Officials say the non-emergency calls tied up Thurston 911 lines for about 30 minutes although anyone trying to make an emergency call was able to get through.
PORTLAND — A Portland woman says her red Subaru was stolen from her driveway -- and then reappeared with an apology note and gas money.
Erin Hatzi tells The Oregonian/OregonLive (http://bit.ly/2eeHeRh ) that her husband noticed the missing Subaru Impreza on Tuesday night and she posted security camera stills on Facebook, asking for help finding her car.
Police caught a woman returning the vehicle to Hatzi’s driveway Wednesday evening. The accidental thief had instructions from a friend to pick up a different red Subaru in Hatzi’s neighborhood and returned when the friend said it wasn’t her car.
Police told Hatzi that some older Subaru keys are interchangeable, making it easy for the woman to make off with the wrong car.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Nations’ refugee agency is shipping tents, blankets and other aid from the United Arab Emirates to northern Iraq to help those affected by the military campaign to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group.
The UNHCR shipment, leaving Dubai’s International Humanitarian City today, is expected to reach those affected as soon as Friday.
Soliman Mohamed Daud, a senior UNHCR supply officer, told The Associated Press that 7,000 units of the relief aid will be sent to northern Iraq. The UAE shipment leaving today includes some 1,500 kits.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. advisers and airstrikes, began the operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city earlier this month.
Aid groups fear that a mass exodus from Mosul could overwhelm camps set up around its outskirts.
CALAIS, France — Bulldozers have started demolishing the makeshift migrant camp in the French port city of Calais, one day after authorities declared it empty.
Work intensified today to remove the tents and shelters, shops and restaurants at the site, until recently a sprawling temporary home to thousands of people trying to go to Britain.
French authorities said 5,596 people were evacuated in the complex operation that began Monday. Buses have been transferring migrants to reception centers across the country, where they are to stay for a few months to apply for asylum.
Dozens of migrants could still be seen today morning on the outskirts of the camp.
Prefect Fabienne Buccio, the state’s highest authority in the region, said authorities have stopped processing migrants for transfer to other parts of France.
BRUSSELS — Two Yazidi women who survived sexual enslavement by the Islamic State before escaping and becoming advocates for their people have won the EU’s Sakharov Prize for human rights.
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal ALDE group, said today that Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Ashar were “inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality. I am proud that they have been awarded the 2016 Sakharov Prize.”
Among the finalists were the Crimean Tatars and a former Turkish newspaper editor.
The award, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honor individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year’s winner was Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
MANILA, Philippines — Abu Sayyaf pocketed at least 353 million pesos ($7.3 million) from ransom kidnappings in the first six months of the year and have turned to abductions of foreign tugboat crewmen as military offensives restricted the militants’ mobility, a confidential Philippine government report said.
The joint military and police threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press today said the offensives have reduced the number of Abu Sayyaf fighters slightly, although the group remains capable of launching terrorist attacks.
Government offensives have reduced the number of militants to 481 in the first half of the year from 506 in the same period last year but they managed to carry out 32 bombings in that time — a 68 percent increase — in attempts to distract the military assaults, the report said.
They wield at least 438 firearms and managed to conduct a number of terrorist trainings despite constant military assaults.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June, has ordered troops to destroy Abu Sayyaf, known for its brutality, and he has ruled out the possibility of any peace talks with them. He has pursued talks with two other larger Muslim insurgent groups.