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[00:00:02]

The postmaster general promises to hold off on changing the postal service until after the election.

[00:00:07]

What he did was take three big steps forward and took one baby step back.

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How ready is the post office for the vote? I'm David Greene with Steve Inskeep. And this is up first from NPR News.

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A security guard who met Joe Biden in an elevator was among those who nominated him for president last night, and the candidate briefly appeared from the bottom of my heart.

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Thank you all. Had a Joe Biden make the case for her husband. Also, protests in Belarus grow larger. The response to a disputed election continues despite thousands of arrests.

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How might the European Union get involved from the West? And what about Russia from the east? Stay with us. We'll guide you through this day's news.

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It was during a recent interview on NPR that a postal worker reported a mysterious development the Postal Service was removing sorting machines from Waterloo, Iowa.

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And that news and also other developments added to suspicion about Lewis Dejoy. He's the major donor to President Trump, also an investor in postal service contractors who is now the postmaster general. His changes came at the same time the president was raising false fears about mail in voting.

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Dejoy now promises he will make no more service and equipment cuts until after the election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not impressed.

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Let me just say nice try. Not so nice try on the part of the postmaster general. What he did was take three big steps forward and took one baby step back.

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What is happening to the Postal Service? NPR's Miles Parks has been covering this story. Miles, good morning. Hi, Steve. What is the postmaster general say that he was doing?

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Well, he says he's trying to ease concerns about the election. He had promised this organizational realignment just a few weeks ago as an effort to save money. And he still says those changes are sorely needed. But the political backlash from those changes, which it is also worth noting, they were never publicly detailed. It came swiftly over the past week and he was forced to change course, saying a statement yesterday that, quote, to avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I'm suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.

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It's useful to hear you say that the Postal Service never said in public what they were supposedly trying to do. It's only now that we learned about this. But he has said, I'm freezing everything. Whatever I was trying to do, we're going to try it later. Why are Democrats not satisfied?

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So it seems like why they're not satisfied is because there's been no mention of a reversal of the changes. You know, the removal of the sorting machines that you mentioned. It has been a high profile issue. The Washington Post reported that the plan was to decommission 10 percent of these machines. And we know that some of them had already begun to be removed to join now says no more machines will be removed. But his statement made no mention of the machines that were already removed and whether they'll be returned.

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I talked to Alex Padilla, who's the secretary of state of California and a Democrat, after the statement was released yesterday from Dejoy.

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They still have a lot of questions to answer and frankly, information to share. Whatever these notices or changes and directives were, the public deserves to see them because the public deserves to have confidence that when they're mailing their ballots and their ballots will be delivered on a timely basis.

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Lawmakers will have a lot of questions for Dejoy this week when he set to testify before a Senate committee on Friday and then again before a House committee on Monday Miles.

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Up to now, delivering the mail had not been a partisan issue. The Postal Service is very, very popular. What are Republicans saying about these changes?

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So Republican Senator Susan Collins, who had called on Dejoy to rescind the changes, said on Twitter that she was happy that he did it. But she also said now Congress needs to pass funding for the Postal Service, which is heading towards financial ruin if Congress doesn't swoop in in the next few months. Even President Trump tweeted save the post office this week after openly questioning whether he would support funding. So it does seem like there's some bipartisan agreement that money is needed.

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The question now is how much Democrats say. Twenty five billion dollars is the number. But Republicans in the Senate, like Senator Ron Johnson, may question in these hearings whether that much money is actually needed.

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I want to emphasize the president made a confusing and partly false statement, but in some ways a clear statement saying he resisted funding for the post office because he was afraid of mail in balloting. Is that correct? That's fair.

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That's fair to characterize it. Yeah. He said he would sign legislation that included funding, but he still says he's against the overall expansion of mail voting.

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Right. Right. He backed off some of that statement. NPR's Miles Parks, thanks so much. Thank you. Even before they became virtual events, the national political conventions were mostly a TV show, mostly.

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Yeah, but there is some essential business to conduct, like formally voting on a candidate for president. Delegates voiced support for Joe Biden. The party took the chance to showcase its diversity during the roll call across all 50 states, the American territories and the District of Columbia.

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Normally, the delegates would all be in a convention hall together. But this time last night, they were at scenic spots all across America.

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We must elect the president to respect our voices, protect our waters and address climate change. Alaska casts seven votes, Bernie Sanders and towboats for the next president, Joe Biden, no matter where we came from.

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Immigrants belong in our country's long fight for justice. We belong in the America we are building together. Hawaii birthplace.

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My husband and I aren't corporate tycoons. We just want to make an honest living and feed our community. Small businesses like ours are the backbone of our economy.

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I'm putting all my math at work on every corner in North Carolina to help me think about this, but.

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Bernie Sanders is in 2010 as well. But I. Joe Biden.

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NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is watching NITU of the Democratic Convention. Domenico, good morning. Good morning, Steve. Hope you got a little bit of sleep once you did wake up. What felt like the most important news from last night?

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Well, you know, Democrats needed to boost Biden and they've been doing that. You know, they walk through some of his long track record in public office and his personal life leading his family. There was even this kind of cutesy video about his romance with his wife, Jill.

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The message overall that I think they were hoping people took away was that the Bidens are good people.

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They're like the kind of people you want as your neighbors.

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They're not perfect, but they're perfectly relatable and open to change and evolve. And of course, they clearly love each other. You could see that at the end of Jill Biden's speech, she was the closing speaker and she certainly did testify to her husband's character. But she also had a bigger point to make. She was speaking here from a high school classroom where she used to teach.

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You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways. There's no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors. The rooms are dark as the bright young faces that should fill them are now confined to boxes on a computer screen.

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So whether to send kids back to school, it's the big debate right now. And Democrats point is that if this were handled better through a unified national response, there wouldn't be a question of kids and teachers can go back safely.

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How did Democrats face the question of what they do if Biden became president? Well, certainly him becoming president is a huge piece of what they wanted to be able to try to do.

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There are a lot of issues that they had to kind of walk through and deal with, you know, in addition to coronavirus and health care obviously stems from that part of that, you know, is trying to set aside differences that they have to try to defeat Donald Trump. That was summed up by Adi Barkan, an activist with ALS.

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We must elect Joe Biden. Each of us must be a hero for our communities, for our country. And then with a compassionate and intelligent president, we must act together and put on his desk a bill that guarantees us all the health care we deserve.

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Biden hasn't always agreed with the progressive base on how to go about getting health care for Americans.

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But you heard there even barking, who's passionately pushed for single payer health care, backing Biden, someone he calls compassionate and intelligent and putting progress ahead of purity.

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Very briefly, isn't foreign policy experience in that one of Biden's major claims to be qualified?

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And, you know, that got some attention last night. It's something that's gotten kind of lost this year, but it's a principal job of the president. Being commander in chief is arguably something that the president has the most control over. And it's always been a pet issue for Biden. He's a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was very involved in President Obama's foreign policy, sometimes notably disagreeing with him on what to do about Syria.

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So he's prided himself with having relationships with these world leaders. And you heard people like John Kerry and Colin Powell speak to that.

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NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much. You're welcome. We want you to know that NPR's coverage of the Democratic National Convention continues tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time. You can visit Unpeg or tell your smart speaker to play NPR or your local station by name to join us live.

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In Belarus, pressure on the country's authoritarian leader to step down continues, yeah, this pressure is coming from people who say the recent re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, who's been in power for nearly three decades, was rigged.

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Strikes by factory workers at state controlled companies have added to ongoing mass protests. That effort is being led by an exiled political novice named Svetlana Yanofsky.

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And now the European Union is convening an emergency session today to talk about a possible response as well as possible sanctions.

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NPR Moscow correspondent Lucien Kim has been following all this. Hi, Lucien. Good morning. Do you feel you understand why it is now that people are protesting after so many years for him in power?

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Well, they're protesting because they say there was such a massive vote rigging. Watching this from Moscow has been like a roller coaster ride with moments when the opposition looks like it's tipped the balance. And then Lukashenko comes back swinging at a meeting with the Security Council.

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He really went after the opposition.

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They formed what they're calling a coordination council, which is supposed to enter into dialogue with the regime. But Lukashenko said this is just a front and that he'll deal with individual members of this council appropriately, which is pretty sinister given the crackdown going on right now. Lukashenko has really been playing up this idea of a foreign threat since Belarus does border three NATO member states. But that looks more like sort of a faint or a distraction from a very domestic conflict and may be one way for him to draw in his only ally, which is Russia.

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And we should just note, we look at a map. Russia is right to the east and very influential in Belarus, a former Soviet republic. Other European nations are right to the west. The European Union is out there and they're meeting to discuss Belarus. What can they do? Right.

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This is an emergency video conference summit. Yesterday, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Belarus. Apparently, they see any solution to Belarus problems taking place in concert with Russia. There's a debate what the EU should do.

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Some want to punish Lukashenko for human rights abuses with sanctions. But others, including members of the Belarusian opposition, argue that punitive sanctions could stop him from entering dialogue and push him closer to Russia. Svetlana Torkanowsky, the main opposition candidate, has made an appeal to European leaders.

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I call on you not to recognize this fraudulent elections. Mr. Lukashenko has lost all the legitimacy in the eyes of our nation and the world, she went on to appeal to all countries to respect international law and the sovereignty of Belarus.

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And that message seemed directed particularly at Vladimir Putin.

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Well, what is Putin going to do? That's what everybody is waiting to see right now. Yesterday, it really looked like he had thrown his weight behind Lukashenko. So it looks like, again, the EU is facing off against Vladimir Putin.

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NPR's Louisa Lim. Kim, thanks so much. Thank you. And that's a first for this Wednesday, August 19th. I'm Steve Inskeep. And I'm David Greene. Will be back here tomorrow. Hope you will join us as well. You can subscribe to us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you have a minute or so, do us a favor and read us and reviews on Apple podcasts.

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If you like your news on demand, check out the NPR one app. You get a mix of local, national and international news wherever you go and whenever you want it. You also hear podcasts based on what you like. Download NPR one at the App Store. Some days, reading a bunch of headlines just isn't enough. You need to let the news sink in. Consider this NPR's new daily news podcast.

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