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Good morning. Israel and the U.A.E. struck a deal to normalize relations. The Justice Department accused Yale of discrimination. And President Trump stepped up his threats against the Postal Service.
A postmaster general who’s a major Trump donor. A sweeping Postal Service reorganization. And a president who said on Thursday that he opposed emergency funding to support voting by mail.
To understand what’s going on with the Postal Service, and whether President Trump is trying to undermine mail voting before the presidential election, we spoke with Michael Shear, a White House correspondent for The Times.
“Basically, two things are colliding,” Michael told us. The number of Americans who plan to vote absentee has spiked during the pandemic. “But at the same time,” Michael said, “post office officials who are allies of President Trump are taking actions — like limiting overtime — that seem to be slowing down the mail right before the election.”
States set their own rules on mail voting. But some fear postal delays could undermine those rules. “The concern from Democrats is that the president and his allies at the Postal Service could slow down the mail so that ballots from Democratic voters would not be returned in time to be counted,” Michael said.
But it’s unclear which side any delays would hurt most. Despite the president’s false claims of fraud, studies show mail voting doesn’t benefit one political party over the other. And while Democrats disproportionately say they intend to vote absentee this year, Trump’s criticisms of absentee ballots “could result in more of his own supporters failing to vote,” Michael said.
Given those uncertainties, what can states do to limit potential delays?
One option is to send absentee ballots early and encourage their prompt return, Michael said. “States could also provide more opportunities for voters to fill out absentee ballots and drop them off at official election drop boxes, avoiding any possible mail delays.”
More on mail voting:
White House aides have considered potential executive actions that Trump could take to stop the delivery or counting of mail ballots, Politico reports.
The Supreme Court rejected Republicans’ request to block a trial judge’s ruling that makes it easier for voters in Rhode Island to cast absentee ballots.
Delaying or discrediting mail ballots will help Trump only if he is ahead of Joe Biden on election night among voters who cast ballots in person, argues Jamelle Bouie, a Times Op-Ed columnist. “Going to the polls or bringing your mail-in ballot to a ‘drop box,’” he writes, “will be the best way to protect your vote.”
FOUR MORE BIG STORIES
1. Israel and U.A.E. strike an agreement
Israel and the United Arab Emirates made a landmark agreement on Thursday to establish “full normalization of relations” in exchange for Israel’s suspension of plans to annex occupied West Bank territory.
Trump said he had brokered a deal in which Israel and the U.A.E. would sign a string of agreements on investment, tourism and other areas. If fulfilled, it would make the U.A.E. the third Arab country to establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel, after Jordan and Egypt.
The agreement generated an immediate backlash: Many Palestinians felt abandoned by an Arab nation leaving them to remain locked in an untenable status quo, while some Israeli settlers and their political allies were disappointed that Israel would pause its plan to claim sovereignty over West Bank territory.
Why now? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel craved a historic achievement. Trump needed a diplomatic win. And the U.A.E., under fire for alleged human rights abuses in Yemen and Libya, needed to improve its image internationally.
2. U.S. accuses Yale of discrimination
The Justice Department on Thursday accused Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants. The finding could have far-reaching consequences for the continuing legal challenges to affirmative action, a practice born in the civil rights era that some conservative groups have long opposed.
The charge comes two years after the department publicly backed Asian-American students who accused Harvard in a lawsuit of systematically discriminating against them. A federal judge later rejected that claim.
3. A contact tracing success
Members of the White Mountain Apache tribe in eastern Arizona have contracted the coronavirus at more than 10 times the rate of people in the state as a whole, but their death rate is much lower. Epidemiologists believe an intensive contact tracing program on the reservation most likely helped doctors find and treat gravely ill people before it was too late.
In other virus developments:
4. How the push to open schools backfired
In July, as the coronavirus outbreak reached new heights in much of the U.S., Trump issued a demand: “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” His order seems only to have hardened the view among many school officials that reopening is unsafe.
A high school teacher in the Bronx told The Times he had already been nervous about the prospect of returning to school. When Trump started tweeting, it “just solidified that this is not being planned rationally or with health experts’ recommendation in mind,” the teacher said.
A tough spot for parents: Though the problems with the health crisis are systemic, the angst over schooling is personal. Here’s how families are navigating an issue with no perfect solution.
Here’s what else is happening
Trump falsely suggested that Senator Kamala Harris, who was born in California, was not eligible for the vice presidency because her parents were immigrants. The attack rehashes the racist “birther” conspiracy theory he previously promoted about President Barack Obama.
More than 250,000 people in the Midwest were still without power as of Thursday, after a powerful group of storms brought winds of over 100 miles per hour to the region on Monday.
Protests against the Thai government have gained momentum this summer, but in the past few days demonstrators have added a perilous new element to the mix: criticism of the king. “I know I am taking a very high risk that I could go to jail or be tortured or die,” one student said.
Apple and Google kicked the wildly popular video game Fortnite out of their app stores on Thursday, after the game’s maker, Epic Games, violated a contentious rule concerning in-app payments. Epic responded with lawsuits.
Lives Lived: Konrad Steffen, a renowned researcher who helped warn the world that climate change was melting Greenland’s massive ice sheet, died there at 68 in an ice crevasse accident. “In the end, it looks like climate change actually claimed him as a victim,” a colleague said.
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IDEA OF THE DAY: The future of Hollywood
All eyes in Hollywood are on “Jurassic World: Dominion,” one of the first major films to restart production since the coronavirus crisis spurred a global shutdown in March.
The studio behind the film, Universal, has poured millions into safety protocols for the blockbuster, which has a relatively small cast and few shooting locations. If a production of this scale succeeds, it may set a precedent for film shoots of all sizes.
From shuttered theaters to strict new regulations on set, the way people make and watch movies has fundamentally changed in the past few months. What could that spell for the future of the industry?
The highly anticipated sci-fi epic “Tenet” was delayed numerous times before being tentatively scheduled for a theatrical release in September. Disney, however, decided to release its live-action “Mulan” on its Disney+ streaming service — with a whopping $30 price tag.
Some Hollywood executives believe that bypassing theaters and premiering movies on demand may be changing consumer behavior permanently, explained Nicole Sperling, a Times reporter who covers media and entertainment. “But then there’s the argument that once theaters are open again, aren’t people going to want to get out of the house?”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, GRILL
Make unboring chicken
Grilled chicken is tricky: The window between raw and bone-dry is unfairly narrow. But when it’s done right, the deliciously tender payoff is worth it. Try your hand at it with this recipe for chicken skewers spiced with a fragrant ginger-and-cumin yogurt marinade. (The leftovers also make for an excellent chicken salad.)
Watch something … genre-bending
Our weekly suggestion from Gilbert Cruz, The Times’s Culture editor:
Many of you (hopefully most of you) know about “Parasite,” the South Korean film that won best picture at the Oscars this year, as well as the top prize at Cannes. Fewer of you have heard about the film that came in second at Cannes. I’m here to tell you it’s wonderful.
Set in Senegal, where a young bride-to-be yearns for another man, “Atlantics” is a romance and a supernatural drama. If those modes sound like they would clash, be assured that the French-Senegalese director Mati Diop holds it all in perfect balance in her feature debut.
“Atlantics” is also one of the 50 best movies on Netflix. If you’re looking for 49 other choices, here’s our list.
The athlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson won five Paralympics medals by age 27 — four in swimming and one in track and field. After a three-year retirement, he decided to start training again, in the hopes of making it to the Paralympics for the fifth time. But there was one snag: Because of the coronavirus outbreak, all of the public pools near his home were closed.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: What Britain Brexited from (five letters).
Or try this week’s news quiz.