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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Chicago (AFP) – Residents sifted through piles of rubble Monday as they recovered from violent tornadoes that ripped through four midwestern U.S. states, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens.

An unusually powerful fall storm spawned reports of 81 twisters in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio on Sunday along with powerful winds and heavy rain which soaked a dozen states.

Homes were smashed into rubble, cars and trucks were tossed into the air, trees were ripped out of the ground and downed power lines left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark.

In the hard-hit town of Washington, Illinois Michelle Cumrine came back from a trip to find that her house was completely gone.

“A lot of people have a pile of rubble still,” Cumrine said in disbelief as she stared at the destruction. “I don’t have anything. It’s gone. I don’t know where it went.”

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared a state of emergency in seven counties where hundreds of homes and business were destroyed and six of the storm’s fatalities were reported.

“As we pray for the families of those who have lost their lives and others who are injured, the state of Illinois will do everything necessary to help these communities recover,” Quinn said in a statement.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence said he was thankful that despite the massive property damage and significant number of injuries “there has been no loss of life in the Hoosier state.”

“We will help these families pick up the pieces and move on with their lives,” he told reporters after touring some of the damage.

President Barack Obama was briefed about the storms and will receive regular updates, the White House said.

The fast moving storm weakened overnight but still caused damage as it marched east through New York and Philadelphia, the National Weather Service said.

The service predicted stormy conditions for much of the northeastern United States on Monday, including hail and isolated tornadoes, but said it would likely be over by the afternoon.

At least two victims were killed in the small town of New Minden, Illinois, Washington County Coroner Mark Styninger told AFP.

Joseph Hoy, 80, was found dead on his farm while his 78-year-old sister Frances was pronounced dead in hospital.

“It just happened so fast,” said Styninger.

Some 55 people were treated at St. Francis hospital in Peoria, the biggest town in largely rural central Illinois. Of those, 16 were so badly injured they needed to be admitted, the hospital said.

The dangerous weather caused the National Football League to suspend a game in Chicago, asking fans and players to take cover in the stadium. The game resumed almost two hours later.

The town of Washington, Illinois was among the hardest-hit with entire blocks of homes flattened.

Tears welled up in the mayor’s eyes as he struggled to describe the damage.

“Devastating. A war zone,” Mayor Gary Manier told reporters. “I walked through one of the hardest hit areas and four streets of homes are gone. … I couldn’t tell what street I was on.”

In Kokomo, Indiana the storm pushed a two-story house off its foundation and into the middle of the street.

Michael Gardner, 21, had just come home from church with four friends when the storm hit. They rushed into the basement for shelter, with the last person having to jump down the stairs as the house started to move.

“It all caved in on us,” Gardner told the Kokomo Tribune. “We were buried in rubble.”

A Michigan man was killed when his car was crushed by a fallen tree Sunday night in rural Jackson county, MLive news reported.

Another man was electrocuted when he went outside to investigate a noise during the storm and got tangled in high tension wires in Michigan’s rural Shiawassee county, MLive reported.

The storm also grounded flights across the region.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]