Headlines from off the Hill

#EndSARS Nigeria protests ongoing

Nigerians have taken to the streets over the last three weeks to protest the continued existence of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a police unit charged with tackling violent crime in the country. Created in 1992, SARS officers operate anonymously, wearing normal street clothes and driving unmarked cars. The squad has drawn heavy criticism for years and has been linked to extrajudicial killings, torture and cases of ill-treatment, according to Amnesty International. Some also claim that SARS targets young people for money.

Protests began on Oct. 3 following the death of a Nigerian man during a stop-and-search operation, although the police claim SARS was not involved. Despite the president saying he will shut down SARS, protests are continuing because the Nigerian government had previously promised to disband the force, but has not followed through on its vow. Protesters say they will not be satisfied until the president decisively disbands SARS and addresses other broader problems with the Nigerian police.

 

Election roundup: 8 days until Nov. 3

The last presidential debate occurred Thursday evening. The event introduced a mute feature to help mitigate interruptions and control how much each candidate could talk, resulting in a much more civil and substantive conversation compared to the first debate. The candidates tackled contentious issues ranging from the pandemic to health care to the environment. 

Early voting opened on Oct. 17 and will continue through Oct. 30 in Massachusetts. As of Oct. 23, more than 1.4 million residents of the state, 30.8% of registered voters, had cast their ballot. These numbers may indicate an increased number of people voting in comparison to the 2016 election.

This weekend, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and several other close members of his team tested positive for the coronavirus. Pence and his wife announced Sunday that they have both tested negative. Despite Pence’s close contact with aides who have tested positive, he is refusing to quarantine.

Finally, the Senate advanced the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in a procedural vote on Sunday held to break the Democratic filibuster of her nomination. She is expected to be confirmed today despite widespread controversy over placing someone on the highest court so close to the election.

 

Russian hackers are targeting state, local governments leading up to the election

The Russian government is behind recent cyberattacks targeting local and state governments and aviation networks. It has extracted data from at least two servers, according to an alert from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The Agency maintains that, while there is “some risk to the election information,” there is no evidence that the integrity of the elections has been compromised. U.S. intelligence analysts believe Russia may try to use the information to create chaos if a winner of the election is not determined shortly after the polls close. Sound familiar? In the 2016 election, Russian hackers infiltrated several election offices and gained access to sensitive information regarding roughly 500,000 voters. Additionally, the Agency announced in an alert on Thursday that Iran is actively trying to undermine confidence in the election with a misinformation campaign.

 

Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions

In the premiere of a documentary on Wednesday, Pope Francis endorsed civil unions between same-sex couples, a clear break from his predecessors and members of the Roman Catholic Church. His remarks have the potential to lay out a pathway for the recognition of gay people by the Church and shift worldwide debate regarding gay rights. Despite Pope Francis’ revolutionary remarks, the Church does not have plans to change its standing on marriage and sexuality.


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