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    A Nebraska man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for making online threats last year against Colorado’s top elections official. It was one of the first cases brought by a federal task force devoted to protecting elections workers nationwide from increasing threats since the 2020 presidential election. Travis Ford was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Lincoln, Nebraska. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to sending threats to Secretary of State Jena Griswold on social media. The sentence came the same day an Iowa man was arrested for allegedly leaving voicemail threats for a local Arizona election official and Arizona’s Attorney General’s Office.

      Delaware’s Democratic attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s ruling declaring a new vote-by-mail law unconstitutional. The justices heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit challenging both the vote-by-mail law and a new law allowing same-day registration. A Chancery Court judge last month upheld the same-day registration law. But he said the vote-by-mail law violates restrictions on absentee voting that are spelled out in Delaware’s constitution. Attorney General Kathleen Jennings is appealing the decision striking down the vote-by-mail law. Republican attorneys representing voters, a state House candidate, and a Department of Elections employee are appealing the ruling upholding same-day registration.

        President Joe Biden is expected to designate his first national monument in Colorado next week. The president will be using his powers to conserve a World War 2-era alpine warfare training camp whose graduates went on to help found the U.S. ski industry. The designation of Camp Hale as a national monument will be an election year gift to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who pushed for Biden to make the designation after legislation to conserve the camp and other areas stalled in Congress. Biden has expanded the boundaries of other national monuments but has yet to create his own.

          A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to plotting with other members of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group to violently stop the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election. Jeremy Joseph Bertino is the first Proud Boys member to plead guilty to a seditious conspiracy charge. Bertino also pleaded guilty on Thursday to a charge of unlawfully possessing firearms. Bertino has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation of the role that Proud Boys leaders played in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Former Proud Boys national chairman Henry “Ënrique” Tarrio and four other group members also have been charged with seditious conspiracy.

            The FBI estimates violent crime rates didn’t increase substantially last year, though they remained above pre-pandemic levels, according to annual crime data. But the report presents an incomplete picture, in part because it doesn’t include some of the nation’s largest police departments. The analysis, released Wednesday, found violent and property crime remained consistent between 2020 and 2021, with 4.3% uptick in the murder rate that’s not considered statistically significant. The report comes with major caveats though, since about 40% of law-enforcement agencies didn’t participate after a major overhaul in the reporting system. That includes big cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.

              The Republican candidate for Kansas governor is pivoting from education to crime as a focus in the final weeks of the campaign. GOP challenger and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is portraying Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly as anti-police because she created a commission on policing and racial justice in response to the state’s protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020. Schmidt launched a new television ad Thursday suggesting the commission pushed what the ad called “anti-policing laws” and said Kelly called police racist by referencing systemic racism at the outset. Kelly has said her support for police is shown by increases in state spending on law enforcement.

                At least 66 clinics have stopped providing abortions in 15 states since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. That's according to a Guttmacher Institute analysis released Thursday. The institute is a research group that supports abortion rights.  The analysis examines the impact of state laws on access to abortion in the 100 days since that landmark decision on June 24.  As of October 2, there were no providers offering abortions in 14 of these 15 states. The number of clinics providing abortions in the 15 states dropped from 79 to 13.

                Idaho's top wildlife official says the state's wolf population appears to be holding steady despite recent changes by lawmakers that allow expanded methods and seasons for killing wolves. Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever told lawmakers on the Natural Resources Interim Committee on Thursday that human-caused and natural wolf mortality looks similar to three previous years. The agency says the population fluctuates from more than 1,600 in the spring when pups are born to about 800 in late winter. He says the midpoint is about 1,250 wolves. The agency won't have a solid estimate until January when it finishes analyzing millions of photos taken by remote cameras.

                Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is the sole finalist to become president of the University of Florida, the school says, and the Republican senator has indicated he will take the job. That means he would resign in coming weeks. The school said Thursday in a statement that its presidential search committee had unanimously recommended Sasse, a decision that will have to be be voted on by the school’s board of trustees and then confirmed by its board of governors. The school said he will visit the campus next week to meet with students and others.

                Russian missile attacks have hit apartments in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least seven people, with at least five other missing. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky called Thursday's attacks “absolute evil.” The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, meanwhile, says his agency will increase the number of inspectors at Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant from two to four. Ukrainian forces say they retook 154 square miles of territory from the Russians in the Kherson region this month. Kherson is one of four regions Russia has illegally annexed. Elsewhere, several hundred Ukrainians fleeing Russian-occupied areas reportedly were detained near the Russian-Estonian border and taken on Russian trucks to an unknown destination.

                Ohio's Republican elections chief says he is responding to Americans’ “crisis of confidence” in the U.S. electoral system by creating a public integrity unit to consolidate his office's investigative work, including rare cases of voter fraud or voter suppression. Secretary of State Frank LaRose says the division announced Wednesday will more efficiently bring together work his office already does, such as voting system certification and investigation of election law violations. Eventually, after the November election, LaRose also wants to incorporate a dedicated team of investigators to focus on any alleged election or voting violations. LaRose says it's another step to boost Ohioans' faith in the election system.

                The leaders of Turkey and Armenia have held their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries agreed to improve relations. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Prague on Thursday on the sidelines of a summit by the leaders of 44 countries to launch a “European Political Community.” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev was also present at what appeared to be an informal gathering of the three leaders. Turkey and Armenia, which have no diplomatic relations, agreed last year to start talks aimed at putting decades of bitterness behind. Special envoys appointed by the two countries have held four rounds of talks since then.

                Police in Mississippi’s capital city have agreed to pull back on aggressive roadblocks. This comes in response to a lawsuit that said Jackson officers were violating people’s constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. A settlement was reached Wednesday in the federal class-action lawsuit filed in February. The Mississippi Center for Justice and the MacArthur Justice Center accused the police department of using roadblocks in majority-Black and low-income neighborhoods to try to catch suspects. The settlement says Jackson police can conduct safety checkpoints “only for constitutionally acceptable purposes” and “with a minimal amount of intrusion or motorist inconvenience.”

                Kentucky’s sweeping abortion ban is being challenged by three Jewish women who say it violates their religious rights under the state constitution. The legal challenge was filed Thursday in state court in Louisville. The lawsuit says the state’s Republican-dominated legislature “imposed sectarian theology” by prohibiting nearly all abortions. It says that “under Jewish law, a fetus does not become a human being or child until birth.” The suit bears similarities to legal challenges to abortion bans in at least two other states. Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, is signaling he will fight the lawsuit.

                In a close diplomatic victory for China, the U.N.’s top human rights body has voted down a proposal from Britain, Turkey, the United States and other mostly Western countries to hold a debate on alleged rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. At the 47-member state Human Rights Council, 17 countries voted in favor, 19 were against, and 11 abstained in a vote to hold a debate on Xinjiang at its next session in March. The vote amounted to a test of political and diplomatic clout between the West and Beijing. In August, former U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office had released a report that found that possible “crimes against humanity” had occurred in Xinjiang.

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                U.S. officials say U.S. forces killed three senior Islamic State leaders in two separate military operations in Syria Thursday, including a rare ground raid in a portion of the northeast that is controlled by the Syrian regime. Officials say special operations forces conducted a raid near the village of Qamishli, killing IS insurgent Rakkan Wahid al Shamman, wounding another and capturing two others. Later Thursday, the U.S. conducted an airstrike in northern Syria, killing Abu Ala, the Number 2 Islamic State leader in Syria, and Abu Mu’ad al Qahtani, another IS leader, officials said.

                Republican Blake Masters has a much-needed chance Thursday night to reset his Arizona Senate race against Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the campaign’s only televised debate. Kelly is coming in from a position of strength. He has a small lead in polling and a commanding advantage in fundraising, and that's allowed him and allied groups to bombard voters with ads portraying Masters as an extremist. For Masters, the debate is a chance to counter that narrative and go on the offensive against Kelly. Masters has struggled to redefine his image after the Republican primary for the more moderate swing voters he’ll need to win in November.

                The leaders of 44 European countries are hailing their united stand against Russia’s war on Ukraine as the conflict fuels an energy crisis and high inflation. The inaugural summit of the European Political Community involves the 27 European Union member countries, aspiring partners in the Balkans and Eastern Europe and as well as neighbors like Britain and Turkey. Russia is the one major European power not invited along with its major supporter in the war Belarus. Thursday's gathering in Prague provided an opportunity for several side meetings. The leaders of Turkey and Armenia met face-to-face for the first time since agreeing last year to mend their bitter relations. The UK, France and the Netherlands held talks on migration.

                The second man to plead guilty in a kidnapping plot against Michigan’s governor has been sentenced to four years in prison. Kaleb Franks was rewarded for testifying for prosecutors at two trials. But his prison term was longer than the sentence given to Ty Garbin, who quickly cooperated and pleaded guilty much earlier. Franks was sentenced Thursday. He was among six anti-government extremists who were charged with conspiracy in federal court. Investigators said the group’s goal was to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and incite a U.S. civil war, known as the “boogaloo,” before the 2020 presidential election. Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., were convicted in August. Two other men were acquitted in April.

                The Biden administration has approved a $3 billion sale of advanced medium-range missiles to Kuwait to help the tiny Gulf country defend itself. The State Department notified Congress on Thursday of the planned sale, which comes amid heightened tensions in the region that many blame on Iranian proxies notably in Kuwait's northern neighbor of Iraq. The package includes 63 medium range air-to-air missiles, 63 extended-range surface-to-air missiles and 63 tactical missiles along with associated equipment like radar and communications systems. The administration said the sale would support U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives while bolstering Kuwait's defense capabilities.

                Bodies floated off two Greek islands as the death toll from the sinking of two migrant boats reached 22, with about a dozen still missing. Residents of the island of Kythira pulled shipwrecked migrants to safety up steep cliffs in dramatic rescues after their sailboat broke up on the rocks surrounding the island. Hundreds of miles east, the coast guard on the island of Lesbos said 16 young women, a man and a boy died when their dinghy went down. The deadly incidents further stoked tension between neighbors Greece and Turkey, which are locked in a heated dispute over migration and maritime boundaries.

                President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color. He is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases. Biden says the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” He says his action will ease the consequences for “people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.”