Good morning, NBC News readers.
With just five days to go before Election Day, the Supreme Court weighed in on ballot counting in two battleground states. Hurricane Zeta hammered New Orleans and is heading toward Alabama. And three people are dead after a possible terror attack inside a French church.
Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.
One battleground state, two rallies — and dueling versions of reality
President Donald Trump and vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris held rallies 30 miles apart in the battleground state of Arizona on Wednesday.
But voters could be forgiven for thinking they were running in two different universes, writes NBC News national political reporter Sahil Kapur.
In Trump's world, the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and the biggest danger to the country is a threat of socialism or communism.
In the Biden-Harris world, the pandemic is an overarching issue that is crushing middle-class pocketbooks and the country is on a knife's edge between a return to normalcy and a march to authoritarianism.
Symbolic of the two attitudes, Trump's rally featured supporters packed in, many of them elbow to elbow and maskless, while Harris held a drive-in event that was sparse and heavily socially distanced, with attendees covering their faces even when nobody was near them.
In Houston, voters are turning out in record numbers. Experts say the surge in voter participation will almost certainly benefit Democrats in the state and are wondering if it could be the key to flipping Texas from red to blue.
Meantime, in the critical state of Florida, Biden holds a slight 4-point lead over Trump, fueled by his standing among seniors and independents, according to the final NBC News/Marist poll in the state before Tuesday's election. Our latest Into America podcast digs into the impact the Black male vote could have in the Sunshine State.
And religious Latino voters say they are being targeted with abortion misinformation campaigns on Facebook and its messaging service, WhatsApp.
Follow our live blog for all the latest news, polls and analysis on the election.
Supreme Court won't block mail ballots in North Carolina that arrive up to six days after Election Day
The Supreme Court late Wednesday declined to block lower court rulings that allow six extra days for accepting ballots sent by mail in North Carolina, a victory for Democrats in a presidential battleground state.
Earlier in the day, in a defeat for Republicans, the court declined to take another look, on a fast track, at the issue of late arriving mail ballots in Pennsylvania, another tight race, leaving intact a lower court ruling that said the state must count ballots that arrive up to three days after the election.
The vote was 5-3, and newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn’t take part in either case. The court cited the same reason in both cases, saying she did not participate in the decision "because of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties' filings."
Top Trump health official warns of 'draconian measures' if America doesn't mask up
The Trump administration’s Covid-19 testing czar warned Wednesday that local governments may be forced to impose "draconian measures" if Americans don’t start taking safety precautions seriously and the coronavirus crisis worsens.
"We still can control this" by wearing masks, social distancing and being careful around the holidays, Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health, said on NBC’s "Today" show.
"But if we don’t do those things, it may force local officials or government officials in the states to have more draconian measures because cases will go up if we don’t make a change."
Those changes may have to be implemented sooner than later as Covid-19 continues to spread across the U.S. at the fastest rate since the start of the pandemic.
The U.S. reported 80,662 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting another new record high for daily cases.
It is the first time the U.S. has recorded more than 80,000 cases in one day, topping the previous high of 79,303 cases last Friday. More than 228,000 people in the U.S. have died of Covid-19, according to NBC News' latest count.
Both Germany and France announced new nationwide lockdowns on Wednesday as Europe enters a deadly new phase of the pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said German officials have agreed to a four-week shutdown of restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and other leisure facilities in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.
"We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency," Merkel said.
Wall Street plunged on Wednesday amid the soaring coronavirus infection rates and fears of a new round of restrictive measures.
'Please don't shoot my son': Man killed by Philadelphia police had mental health problems, family says
Relatives of Walter Wallace Jr. say he suffered from mental illness and was struggling with "another one of his episodes" Monday when two Philadelphia police officers responding to a call from his family shot and killed him.
Family members said they called 911 to request an ambulance and had hoped for Wallace to receive medical intervention but that police arrived first.
The state of Wallace's mental health — and how familiar police were with his history — has sparked questions about officers' response at the scene and their use of lethal force.
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- At least three people have been killed and others injured in a suspected terrorist attack at a French church on Thursday.
- Hurricane Zeta hammered New Orleans as a powerful Category 2 storm and is now roaring toward Alabama.
- "Anonymous" no more: Former DHS "senior official in the Trump administration" Miles Taylor revealed he was the writer of the scathing New York Times Trump op-ed.
THINK about it
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One civic thing
Whatever the outcome, after all the hand-wringing, the biggest winner this year may be voters.
With predictions of record voter turnout already, people are enduring long lines and epic wait times to exercise their civic duty — and right — as Americans.
"If you want to have your voice, you have to do your duty and vote," one determined voter lined up on a rainy afternoon in New York City told NBC News' Harry Smith.
So if you haven't already, get out there and do your duty!
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