Ohio Democrats trying to turn GOP statewide tide
By JULIE CARR SMYTH AND DAN SEWELL
Tuesday, November 6
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democrats in Ohio are trying to turn a recent Republican tide in statewide races, relying on a ticket led by a familiar U.S. senator and a competitive governor candidate.
Sherrod Brown, first elected to an Ohio office in 1974, is seeking his third Senate term against fourth-term U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. Richard Cordray, President Barack Obama’s appointee as federal consumer protection chief, is locked in a tight race for governor with Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. It’s a rematch of the 2010 election when DeWine narrowly ousted Cordray to become attorney general.
DeWine’s been running in elections nearly as long as Brown, who unseated DeWine in the 2006 Senate race.
Republicans have dominated recent statewide elections, capped by Republican Donald Trump’s decisive 8-point victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Some voters in Ohio said Trump was a factor when casting their Election Day ballots.
Kevin Benson, a 38-year-old graphic designer from Westerville in central Ohio, said he’s registered a Republican, considers himself an independent, and voted all Democrat on his polling place on Tuesday, mostly because of Trump.
“I’m frustrated with the way he’s acting, plus just Republicans in general … I’m just kind of dissatisfied across the board with them,” he said.
Grant Stitzlein, a 30-year-old registered Republican who works for FedEx Freight, said he did what Trump said when voting in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.
“We’re trying to make America great again, so I’m out here voting for the Republicans,” he said.
Linda Bishop, a 71-year-old textbook editor from Westerville, Ohio, said she voted for candidates from both major parties Tuesday but stuck with Democrats in the gubernatorial and congressional races. Bishop said her disapproval of Trump was a factor in her voting.
“I wanted to be sure that we sent a strong message to him that we are not happy with what he’s doing with regard to immigration” Bishop said.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office says more than 1.3 million people voted ahead of Tuesday’s election, far outpacing the number of votes cast early statewide four years ago. Officials say that through Monday, nearly 885,000 absentee ballots had been received by mail statewide and that 430,000 people voted early in person. That compares with around 719,000 people mailing in ballots in 2014 and 146,000 people voting early in person, for a total of about 865,000.
Around 8 million Ohioans are registered to vote.
A few problems were reported at polling places in at least two Ohio counties. Sam Rossi, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, said there had been no major problems reported in the state.
Lucas County’s Board of Elections in Toledo says at least three sites had technical problems involving setup of electronic poll books. Some callers to the board reported being asked to wait instead of receiving backup paper ballots, but all the technical issues were resolved, board Director LaVera Scott said.
Some Hamilton County voters encountered problems in downtown Cincinnati and other sites when voting machines appeared to reject some ballots not completely filled out. Board of Elections Director Sherry Poland said a new change alerts voters if some races are left blank and they have to press a “cast ballot” button indicating they didn’t intend to fill out all races. A worker was assigned at all locations to help with any confusion, according to Poland.
Ohioans are deciding another four down-ticket races, two Supreme Court seats, dozens of state legislative races and a statewide drug sentencing ballot issue.
Republicans are trying to maintain the 12-4 U.S. House delegation lead they’ve held since GOP-dominating redistricting for 2012.
The Democrats’ best chances for upsets appear to be in central Ohio’s 12th district, where Republican Troy Balderson, a former state senator, barely defeated Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor in an August special election, and in southwest Ohio’s 1st District, where Democratic upstart Aftab Pureval ran a well-funded race against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who is seeking his 12th term. Chabot got a late campaign boost from Trump’s visit to the district Oct. 12.
Sewell reported from Cincinnati.
Follow them at http://twitter.com/jcarrsmyth and http://www.twitter.com/dansewell
Associated Press writers Kantele Franko in Columbus, Angie Wang in Columbus, Mark Gillispie in Cleveland and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
Facebook blocks 115 accounts ahead of US midterm elections
By KELVIN CHAN and BARBARA ORTUTAY
Tuesday, November 6
Facebook said it blocked 115 accounts for suspected “coordinated inauthentic behavior” linked to foreign groups attempting to interfere in Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections.
The social media company shut down 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts and is investigating them in more detail, it said in a blog post late Monday.
Facebook acted after being tipped off Sunday by U.S. law enforcement officials. Authorities notified the company about recently discovered online activity “they believe may be linked to foreign entities,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, wrote in the post .
U.S. tech companies have stepped up their work against disinformation campaigns, aiming to stymie online troublemakers’ efforts to divide voters and discredit democracy. Facebook’s purge is part of countermeasures to prevent abuses like those used by Russian groups two years ago to sway public opinion ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The company based in Menlo Park, California, has been somewhat regularly disclosing such purges in recent months, most recently in October. More are likely going forward since, even as its systems get better at detecting and removing malicious accounts, the bad actors are sharpening their attacks, too.
Gleicher said Facebook will provide an update once it learns more, including whether the blocked accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, or other foreign entities.
Almost all of the Facebook pages associated with the blocked accounts appeared to be in French or Russian. The Instagram accounts were mostly in English and were focused either on celebrities or political debate. No further details were given about the accounts or suspicious activity.
Also on Monday, Facebook acknowledged that it didn’t do enough to prevent its services from being used to incite violence and spread hate in Myanmar. Alex Warofka, a product policy manager, said in a blog post that Facebook “can and should do more” to protect human rights and ensure it isn’t used to foment division and spread offline violence in the country.
Last month, Facebook removed 82 pages, accounts and groups tied to Iran and aimed at stirring up strife in the U.S. and the U.K. It carried out an even broader sweep in August, removing 652 pages, groups and accounts linked to Russia and Iran.
Twitter, meanwhile, has said it has identified more than 4,600 accounts and 10 million tweets, mostly affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, which was linked to foreign meddling in U.S. elections, including the presidential vote of 2016. The agency, a Russian troll farm, has been indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller for its actions during the 2016 vote.
Facebook, Twitter and other companies have been fighting misinformation and election meddling on their services for the past two years . There are signs they’re making headway, although they’re still a very long way from winning the war.
Facebook, in particular, has reversed its stance of late 2016, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as “pretty crazy” the notion that fake news on his service could have swayed the presidential election.
In July, for instance, the company said that its spending on security and content moderation, coupled with other business shifts, would hinder its growth and profitability. Investors expressed their displeasure by knocking $119 billion off Facebook’s market value.
One problem is that it’s not just agents from Russia and other nations who are intent on sharing misinformation and propaganda. There is plenty of homegrown fake news too, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.
Still, Facebook is seeing some payoff, and not just with the accounts it has been able to find and take down. A recent research collaboration between New York University and Stanford found that user “interactions” with fake news stories on Facebook, which rose substantially in 2016 during the presidential campaign, fell significantly between the end of 2016 and July 2018. On Twitter, however, the sharing of such stories continued to rise over the past two years.
Pipe bombs suspect appears at hearing, held without bail
By JIM MUSTIAN
Tuesday, November 6
NEW YORK (AP) — The man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent critics of President Donald Trump was ordered held without bail after his first court appearance in New York on Tuesday.
Cesar Sayoc, who was transferred from federal custody in Florida, hugged his lawyer after a hearing in which Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim called him “a serious risk of danger to the public and a flight risk.”
Sayoc has been accused of sending improvised explosive devices to numerous Democrats, Trump critics and media outlets in a scare that heightened tensions before the crucial midterm elections Tuesday. None of the devices exploded, and no one was injured in the pipe bomb scare.
He was arrested outside a South Florida auto parts store. He was living in a van covered with stickers of Trump and showing images of some of the president’s opponents with red crosshairs over their faces.
Sayoc faces nearly 50 years in prison if convicted on five federal charges that were filed in New York because some of the devices were recovered there.
Assistant Federal Defender Sarah Baumgartel declined to comment after the hearing, in which Sayoc presented himself as polite and soft-spoken and responded “Yes, sir” to the judge’s questions. He wore navy blue jail scrubs and a gray pony tail.
At one point during the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes, Sayoc told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lehrburger that he understood his rights “100 percent.” He appeared taken aback, however, when Lehrburger noted that Sayoc is charged with assaulting federal officials, among other counts.
His lawyers decided not to seek his release on bail after prosecutors released a letter outlining more evidence against him, including DNA linking him to 10 of the explosive devices and fingerprints on two of them.
Other evidence includes online searches Sayoc did on his laptop and cellphone for addresses and photos of some of his intended targets, which included former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Packages were also mailed to CNN in New York and Atlanta.
Prosecutors say the most recent crude bomb was recovered Friday in California, addressed to the liberal activist Tom Steyer.
Sayoc is scheduled to return to federal court Monday for a preliminary hearing.
While Sayoc’s attorneys have not commented on his mental health, his mother wrote a letter to ABC News saying he has suffered from mental illness for years.
“While I have not lived with my son for 35 years or even heard from him in over four years, I cannot express how deeply hurt, sad, shocked and confused I am to hear that my son may have caused so many people to be put in fear for their safety,” Madeline Sayoc wrote in the letter, according to ABC News. “This is not how I raised him or my children.”
Bangladeshi immigrant convicted in NYC subway bombing
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Tuesday, November 6
NEW YORK (AP) — A Bangladeshi immigrant convicted Tuesday of supporting a terrorist group after setting off a pipe bomb in New York City’s busiest subway station let the jury leave before saying he was angry at President Donald Trump and didn’t plan the attack for the Islamic State group.
The unusual outburst by Akayed Ullah in Manhattan federal court capped a trial in which the defense maintained he intended to kill only himself last Dec. 11. Nobody died, and most of the injuries were not serious.
Just after jurors left the Manhattan federal courtroom, Ullah announced he had something to say and repeatedly insisted he did not act on the Islamic State group’s behalf.
“I was angry with Donald Trump because he says he will bomb the Middle East and then he will protect his nation. So I said: ‘Donald Trump, you cannot do like this.’ Nobody likes bombing, your honor.”
Judge Richard J. Sullivan told him: “Right now is not the time for a statement.”
Prosecutors said Ullah sought to maim or kill commuters in response to calls for “lone wolf” terrorist attacks by the terror group.
“Your honor, you heard what the government is trying to do. They are trying to put me in the group, which I don’t support, your honor,” Ullah told Sullivan.
“Mr. Ullah, now is not the time for this,” said the judge, who set sentencing for April 5. Ullah faces a mandatory 30-year prison sentence and could be sent to prison for life.
Hearing about Ullah’s claims as she left court, juror Linda Artis told reporters that Ullah may have swayed some jurors if he had taken the witness stand.
“He did it. The big question was why,” she said. “And a lot of it couldn’t be answered because he didn’t testify. That was the big hang-up for me.”
Artis, 38, of Manhattan, said she worried that some laws used against Ullah were too vague.
She said she didn’t want a lot of people to be “labeled a terrorist if they are just a random whack job.”
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said the Election Day verdict after an attack in which Ullah sought to make a political statement through deadly violence “fittingly underscores the core principles of American democracy and spirit: Americans engage in the political process through votes, not violence.”
At trial, prosecutors said Ullah would not have worn a bomb had he wanted to kill only himself. They also cited Ullah’s social media postings and said he told an investigator: “I did it for the Islamic State.”
The verdict capped a weeklong trial that featured surveillance video of Ullah the morning when his pipe bomb sputtered, seriously burning him in a corridor beneath Times Square and the Port Authority bus terminal, where most subway lines converge.
Ullah, 28, of Brooklyn, was confronted with his post-arrest statements and his social media comments, such as when he taunted Trump on Facebook before the attack.
Within hours of Ullah’s blast, Trump was assailing the immigration system that had allowed Ullah — and multitudes of law-abiding Bangladeshis — to enter the U.S.
Ullah got an entry visa in 2011 because he had an uncle who was already a U.S. citizen. Trump said allowing foreigners to follow relatives to the U.S. was “incompatible with national security.”
Authorities said Ullah’s radicalization began in 2014 when he started viewing materials online, including a video instructing Islamic State supporters to carry out attacks in their homelands.
In closing arguments Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Turner said Ullah told investigators after his arrest that he wanted to avenge U.S. aggression toward the Islamic State group and had chosen a busy weekday morning to attack so he could terrorize as many people as possible.
Ullah’s attorney, Amy Gallicchio told jurors in closings that Ullah was not a terrorist and wanted to die alone.
Assistant U.S. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley disputed the claim.
“It was about martyrdom, not suicide,” she said.
6 arrested in suspected plot to attack French leader Macron
By THOMAS ADAMSON
Tuesday, November 6
PARIS (AP) — French security agents arrested six people Tuesday on suspicion of plotting to attack French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a French judicial official.
Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation of alleged criminal terrorist association, the judicial official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the allegations, said intelligence agents detained the six suspects in three scattered regions: one in the Alps, another in Brittany and four near the Belgian border in Moselle.
The plan to target the French president appeared to be vague and unfinished, but violent, the official said.
Authorities said the six were between the ages of 22 and 62 and included one woman.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters they are believed to be far-right activists. Authorities feared “concrete threats” from the group, Castaner said.
French presidents have been targeted several times over the decades. In 2002, a far-right sympathizer tried to attack President Jacques Chirac on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris during Bastille Day celebrations.
Macron was in the northeastern French city of Verdun on Tuesday as part of centenary commemorations for the end of World War I.
The alleged plot was uncovered days before U.S. President Donald Trump and dozens of other world leaders are due in France for weekend observances marking the signing 100 years ago of the Nov. 11 armistice that ended World War I.
Study uncovers possible link between immune system and postpartum depression
Research in rats shows inflammation in brain region after stress during pregnancy
SAN DIEGO – The immune system might play an important role in the development of postpartum depression after a stressful pregnancy, new research suggests.
Areas of the brain responsible for mood regulation showed signs of inflammation in the study, which used an animal model of postpartum depression to examine the possible connection between the immune system, the brain and the disorder. The study by researchers at The Ohio State University was presented Nov. 6 in San Diego at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting.
“Postpartum depression is understudied and, as a result, remains poorly understood,” said lead author Benedetta Leuner, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.
“Gaining a better understanding of the factors that contribute to this serious and prevalent disorder will be key to finding ways to better help women who are struggling.”
Postpartum depression is common after childbirth – about 15 percent of all new mothers will experience the disorder, which has a variety of symptoms including prolonged depression, difficulty bonding with the baby, overwhelming fatigue and hopelessness.
“At least a half million women in the U.S. each year suffer from postpartum depression, and that is probably a low estimate. It’s surprising how little we know about how it arises,” Leuner said.
Previous research has focused primarily on potential hormonal explanations for postpartum depression, though some earlier work has been done on the immune system. In those studies, scientists have looked at signs of inflammation in the blood and found mixed results.
This study looked at the medial prefrontal cortex, a mood-related brain region previously implicated in postpartum depression.
For the experiment, rats were stressed during pregnancy to mimic a well-known risk factor for postpartum depression in human mothers. Similar to behaviors seen in women with postpartum depression, the stressed animals exhibited decreased attentiveness to their pups and depression- and anxiety-like behavior during various tasks.
And, unlike unstressed comparison animals, the stressed rats had higher levels of inflammatory markers in their brain tissue, Leuner said. Furthermore, the researchers found evidence that the stress might lead to changes in how certain immune cells in the brain – called microglia – function.
Study co-author Kathryn Lenz, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State, said she has become increasingly interested in the role of the immune system and its subsequent effects on the brain in mood disorders, including postpartum depression.
“It was especially interesting that we found no evidence of increased inflammation in the blood, but we did find it in this area of the brain that is important for mood regulation. We’re really excited because this suggests that inflammation in the brain may be a potential contributor to postpartum depression,” Lenz said.
“Eventually, this might provide a better target for treatment, whether through medication or other techniques such as meditation, diet and stress reduction,” she said.
“Postpartum depression is debilitating and can negatively impact the whole family. We are hopeful that this and future research will improve the lives of women and those around them,” Leuner said
Written by Misti Crane