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Final debate comes amid FBI warning and a 'distressing' uptick in Covid-19 cases

"We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook," former President Barack Obama said Wednesday evening at an event for Joe Biden
Image: John Ratcliffe
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Iran was behind threatening "Proud Boys" emails sent to Florida Democrats. MSNBC

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The FBI says Iran and Russia are trying to interfere in the election, former President Barack Obama urges Americans to hand President Donald Trump a resounding defeat and what to watch at tonight's final debate.

Here's what's happening this Thursday morning.

The final showdown: 5 things to watch in last Trump-Biden debate

Americans will have one final chance to hear from President Donald Trump and Joe Biden when they face off in their final debate this evening.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day and more than 36 million votes already cast, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Trump has been trailing Biden in national polls, especially since the last debate, so this may be his last chance to re-energize his base and convince undecided voters that he's their man.

  • Will Trump soften his tone? How will the mute button impact the discussion? Here are five key things to keep an eye on tonight.
  • How do I watch? The 90-minute debate is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET. It will be aired on all the major TV networks, including NBC and MSNBC.
  • What topics will be discussed? Here's everything you need to know about tonight's debate.
  • November 3 is fast approaching. Check out NBC News' Live Updates to stay on top of all the latest developments heading into election day.

FBI says Iran behind threatening emails sent to Florida Democrats

Iran and Russia have obtained some Americans' voter registration information, top national security officials announced late Wednesday, warning that the two countries were trying to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Iranian intelligence was responsible for a recent campaign that sent fake, intimidating emails to Florida voters, said John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The emails, which ominously instructed Democratic voters in Florida to switch to the Republican Party, purported to come from the Proud Boys, the right-wing group of Trump supporters that became a flashpoint during the first presidential debate.

But the emails were actually "spoofed" and had been designed "to incite social unrest and damage President Trump," Ratcliffe said. He did not explain how the emails were damaging to Trump, since they were urging Democrats to switch to the Republican Party.

However, Wray made a point of saying that there was still no way for Iranian or Russian intelligence to change Americans' votes.

"You should be confident that your vote counts," Wray said.

Meantime, a cybersecurity company says it has found a hacker selling personally identifying information of more than 200 million Americans, including the voter registration data of 186 million.

Obama calls on voters to hand Trump a clear defeat

In a rare gloves-off moment, former President Barack Obama tore into Trump in a fiery speech Wednesday urging people to vote for Biden.

Obama said Trump was "incapable of taking the job seriously," faulted him for lacking a plan to address the coronavirus and accused him of emboldening racism.

Obama, who has been stingy with his public appearances but is making targeted efforts to nudge voters to turn out, pleaded with Americans to vote for Biden, his former vice president, and deliver Trump a defeat so resounding that he cannot try to delegitimize the result.

"We've got to turn out like never before. We cannot leave any doubt in this election," Obama said. "We can't be complacent. I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out.

CDC warns of 'distressing trend' in Covid-19 cases as country heads into fall

The government's top public health officials warned that the number of Covid-19 cases is rising across a majority of the country in a rare briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency has noted a "distressing trend" in which coronavirus case numbers are "increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country."

Butler, a respected career scientist at the agency, spoke Wednesday at a rare on-camera media briefing at the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta, alongside Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC's director, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Much of the increase in cases is centered in the Midwest. States like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin have recorded rises in Covid-19 case numbers in the last two weeks. Public health officials attribute the spikes, in part, to cooler weather that is forcing people indoors.

"Smaller, more intimate gatherings with family, friends and neighbors may be driving infections," Butler said while acknowledging public pandemic fatigue.

"We get tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it's ever been," he said.

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THINK about it

Here's my debate question: Should I let my children watch it? Journalism professor at Florida Atlantic University Ilene Prusher asks in an opinion piece.


Daylight saving time ends Nov. 1. Here's how to adjust more easily.


"Sapiens," Yuval Noah Harari’s best-selling book lauded by Obama and Bill Gates, has been transformed into a graphic novel that may appeal to your young readers.

One 2020 thing

As if 2020 wasn't bad enough.

This year you won't even be able to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on regular network television.

Fans of the beloved holiday special are outraged that the program will now air exclusively on the Apple TV+ streaming service.

Charles M. Schulz’s "Peanuts" holiday specials have aired on broadcast television since the 1960s, with ABC owning the rights since about 2000. Apple bought the rights in 2018, according to the The Hollywood Reporter.

Many fans took to social media to express their upset over the move, saying felt like the end of a cherished shared American tradition.

"The point of having them on network TV is the country coming together and watching at the same time. That’s being taken from us," one Twitter user wrote. "The Peanuts specials are one of the very FEW things that brings US together."

Another Twitter user summed it up simply: "Good Grief.

Image: "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
Sorry Charlie Brown. Great knowing ya. Charles M. Schultz / ABC TV via AP file

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Thanks, Petra