Florida Woman Out Of Luck When Winning Lottery Ticket Gets Lost In Mail

RIDGE MANOR, Fla. (AP) — A woman who won $1,000 in a second chance drawing on July 29 isn’t getting her prize because the certified letter she sent to the Florida Lottery’s headquarters never arrived.

Sue Burgess told WFLA that officials in Tallahassee told her “no ticket, no prize.”

The second chance lottery prize gives winners limited time to turn in a ticket to claim the prize. Their options are to either put the ticket in a drop box at a local lottery office, which were not then open to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, or mail them to the headquarters.

Burgess told the television station she felt it would be safer to send the ticket via certified mail with the U.S. Postal Service.

The tracking information shows the ticket arrived at a Tallahassee post office at 7:12 a.m. on Aug. 12. But the online tracking shows the ticket was never delivered to the lottery office.

When Burgess called, lottery officials told her that without a ticket, the prize would go to an alternate winner.

In a second chance game, the lottery has a record of winners because players register their names and contact information. Burgess told the station she was notified she won by a lottery official who called to give her the good news.

Typically, lottery winners of more than $600 can submit winning tickets in person at their local lottery office. But because of COVID-19, offices were closed to the public. Burgess says she was told she could send the ticket via certified mail or leave the ticket in a drop box at a local lottery office.

Burgess said there was a one-week time frame to submit the ticket, but she missed an email about being a winner and by the time the office called her, she only had days to get the ticket post-marked.

“That’s why you chose certified mail,” Burgess told the station. “With COVID, I understand the mail is a little bit slow. But for safety sake, certified mail usually has priority.”

Lottery officials told WFLA the claim was never received at the headquarters.

The claims department told Burgess to contact the postal service to find out what happened to the letter. The postal service said they are investigating what happened.

In a statement to the station, the postal service offered an apology to Burgess for any “inconvenience.”

If the package arrives, lottery officials told the station they would bend the rules and pay Burgess the $1,000 if it was postmarked by the original deadline.

“Ms. Burgess’ situation is an unusual circumstance and, to our knowledge, no other winner has experienced a similar issue,” the lottery said.

Twitter marvels at a prophetic Joe Biden tweet from exactly one year ago

It was Oct. 25, 2019 when former Vice President and hopeful 2020 candidate Joe Biden tweeted out a warning to the American public.

“We are not prepared for a pandemic,” he wrote, weeks ahead of COVID-19 being named and flagged as an emerging threat. “Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.”

Biden was responding at the time to a Washington Post report that shined a light on the world’s lack of preparedness for the kind of outbreak that we’re living through right now. No one was prepared for COVID-19, but Biden made the case in October 2019 that the U.S. in particular was behind the curve because of a regressive administration whose principal focus over four years was undoing all the work of the Obama White House.

The Biden tweet took off almost immediately after WaPo reporter Dave Weigel flagged it on Sunday morning. A majority of Americans are well aware of all that we’ve lost over the past four years, but the Democratic presidential candidate’s prescient words still broke through as he and Trump both round into the final days before the 2020 U.S. election concludes.

The tweet struck an especially stark contrast between the two candidates as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ name splashed across Twitter for asserting that “we are not going to get control of the pandemic … because it’s a contagious virus.” Infectious disease experts around the world have repeatedly said that control is possible, it just takes discipline and personal responsibility.

Is there anything more conspicuously absent from the current U.S. leadership than those two qualities? Donald Trump has spent years saying one thing and doing another, even when it costs him an opportunity to be the leader everyone hoped he’d evolve into when he took office in January 2017. And personal responsibility? This is the same president who said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the faults and failures in early U.S. testing.

Needless to say, the sudden reappearance of a year-old Biden tweet that seemed to peer into the future resonated with people who are more than ready for a change.

Facebook’s tools for ‘at-risk’ countries will be used to manage U.S. election unrest

Facebook is apparently preparing to break out the emergency tool kit to deal with the 2020 U.S. election. 

These internal tools, typically reserved for use in “at-risk” countries, help to slow down the spread of viral misinformation related to an election or other major event, The Wall Street Journal reports.  Sources “familiar with the matter” say the company is ready to implement those tools if needed as the 2020 election concludes.

As part of the process, Facebook will not only slow down the spread of posts as they go viral, but will also alter the news feed to change the type of content that appears. Additionally, the company might also “lower the threshold” for what its software considers to be dangerous content.

Essentially, the tools are meant to help limit the amount of exposure Facebook users have to posts that contain misinformation, sensationalism, and calls for violence. While that seems like the responsible approach, WSJ‘s sources say that Facebook employees feel uneasy because it “could suppress some good-faith political discussion.”

But the tech giant isn’t pulling out the tools just yet — Facebook executives said they would only carry out the changes “in dire circumstances,” such as if violence erupted in relation to the election.  But the company does need to be prepared for all types of situations as well. 

This also wouldn’t be the first time Facebook had plans to combat misinformation prepared ahead of an election. As noted by WSJ, the company developed tools for the 2018 midterm elections as well, such as turning off Facebook group recommendations, but they were never used. 

Even if the social media company does decide to break out the internal tools for the 2020 election, it remains to be seen if the public is even notified. We likely won’t hear anything as events unfold if the company doesn’t feel it’s in the public interest. 

Regardless, it’s clear that Facebook is bracing itself for whatever this fraught election may bring.

One true thing Donald Trump said in that ’60 Minutes’ interview

In Sunday night’s now infamous 60 Minutes interview, Donald Trump told at least 16 lies, according to CNN.

But he did get something right. Right before he made a number of menacing statements to Lesley Stahl, and then walked off in a huff in the middle of the interview, Trump reminded the world how he ended up in the White House in the first place. 

“I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have social media,” said Trump.

Unlike pretty much everything else he said, that is true. 

Even a Twitter board member said the social media network helped Trump win the first time around. And despite changes to its algorithms in 2019, YouTube led plenty of users down misinformation rabbit holes in the lead-up to Trump’s victory in 2016.

But the worst offender was Facebook. As Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, told 60 Minutes in 2017, “I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Facebook was the method — it was the highway which his car drove on.”

In a leaked internal memo from the end of 2019, Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth said the social media network “was responsible for Donald Trump getting elected” — but claimed “Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica” wasn’t the culprit. Instead, it’s because he “ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Many experts find that a bit too generous. An Ohio State study suggests blatantly fake news likely convinced swing voters to pick Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. And the co-founder of FactCheck.org wrote a book about how Russian misinformation most likely helped Trump win.

But aside from the issues of ads (some possibly used to suppress the Black vote in swing states in 2016) and Russian interference, Facebook allowed toxic right-wing misinformation to flourish before and after Trump became president. The list of top-performing Facebook content still regularly looks like this:

Facebook has made some positive changes to fight misinformation. But it continues to let Republicans work the refs with accusations of “anti-conservative bias” (see above list for evidence to the contrary). And Trump is hoping social media, once again, can propel him to victory on Nov. 3.

Fight Breaks Out On Plane After Man Refuses To Wear Face Mask

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who refused to wear a face mask on a Utah-bound flight was escorted off the plane in Arizona after he and another man who asked him to follow the rules got into a physical altercation, police said Monday.

Rylie Lansford of Lehigh, Utah, boarded the Allegiant flight in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday and was sitting near both passengers. As soon as the two men started fighting on the Provo-bound flight, Lansford said, she ran to the front of the plane and started recording video.

“I just knew that something was going to go down and so really all I was thinking about was getting out of the way,” she said Monday.

Lansford said the fight began when a man sitting behind her started arguing with a flight attendant after she asked him to wear a mask. He was wearing a face shield, but “face shields must be worn in addition to a face covering, but not as an alternative,” according to Allegiant’s policy.

Another passenger sitting in Lansford’s row then turned around, started yelling at the man to wear a mask and began shouting obscenities and other threats, she said. Police said the first man told him to mind his own business.

A gate supervisor came to remove the man wearing a face shield who then elbowed the man in front of him and said he was the reason why he had to leave, Mesa police said in a statement.

Lansford’s video shows the man in front choking the passenger who refused to wear a mask, pulling his hair and hitting him in the back.

An off-duty police officer stopped the fight and escorted the man who wouldn’t wear a mask off the flight, police said.

The second man was allowed to stay on the plane, Lansford said.

“I was just annoyed that it was just one simple thing that one person had to do,” she said. “If you buy a plane ticket, wear a mask.”

Allegiant Air said in a statement that passengers are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times when traveling.

Authorities identified the man who was removed from the flight as 52-year-old Rio Honaker. An officer cited Honaker with one count of disorderly conduct.

It was not clear if Honaker had an attorney, and no listed phone number could be found.

Facebook wants NYU researchers to stop sharing the political ad data it keeps secret

Facebook isn’t happy with New York University.

It’s because of NYU Ad Observatory, a newly launched research project from the university’s engineering school that aims to show how different election campaigns are spending their ad money on the site, and what kinds of voters they’re targeting. The research is gathered with help from a data-collecting browser extension.

Facebook let NYU know that the project, which is being driven by the work of more than 6,500 volunteers, runs afoul of the social network’s terms of service provision barring bulk data collection.  Word of the Oct. 16 letter comes via a Wall Street Journal report that ran late Friday.

“Scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us,” Facebook’s letter read. It goes on to threaten “additional enforcement action” if the project isn’t shut down, and if data that was already gathered isn’t deleted. 

It’s not clear what kind of enforcement actions are on the table, but a Facebook spokesperson told the WSJ that code could be changed to block the NYU browser extension. Though it’s also worth noting that, after the report published, Facebook clarified that it wouldn’t pursue any action until, in the newspaper’s words, “well after the election.”

Facebook may have been swayed in part by the political response to the WSJ report. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement that the social network’s stance of “making it harder for Americans to get information about political ads” in the middle of an election is “unacceptable.”

Facebook is notably on the hook for an upcoming Senate hearing in which tech executives will be grilled on misinformation, moderation, and bias in online spaces. There are also rumblings of a possible antitrust case brought by the government against Facebook.

The project, which hasn’t been taken down as of Oct. 24, offers a wealth of illuminating information on how campaigns are spending dollars to push ads across Facebook. The main page features top-level stats, just as the detail that almost 30 percent of Donald Trump’s Facebook ad spend attacks the media.

Things get even more interesting when you drill down into the different categories, though. You’re able to view what ad spending looks like at the national and state levels, but even better: You can zero in on individual Senate, House, and governor’s races. 

Not only do you see how much money each campaign is spending; you also get a breakdown of topics the ads for each candidate cover, the dollar amount going into each one, and the specifics of how ads are targeted toward each candidate’s hoped-for voters. It’s not necessarily comprehensive information, since it depends on how much data volunteers are able to gather. But it’s more transparency than Facebook has provided on the political ad spending hosted by the platform.

That may well change after the election. The NYU team has indicated that more transparency from Facebook would be the best way to halt the Ad Observatory project. And in its October letter to the university, Facebook said that it’s already set up an academic partnership that will study how the site impacted voters during the 2020 election.

White supremacists responsible for the majority of 2020 domestic terror attacks

The numbers are in.

White supremacists are responsible for the majority of terrorist plots and attacks that occurred during the first eight months of 2020, according to a recent report by the nonpartisan think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

Researchers found that white supremacists, anti-government extremists from the violent far-right, and involuntary celibates (incels) carried out 67 percent of all domestic terrorist plots and attacks. Far-left terrorists accounted for 20 percent of the plots and attacks. CSIS analyzed 61 incidents from Jan. 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020.

Terrorism, the report states, is defined by “the deliberate use — or threat— of violence by non-state actors in order to achieve political goals and create a broad psychological impact.” 

So, incidents like hate crimes or protests and riots (like the racial justice demonstrations we saw this summer after the police killing of George Floyd) didn’t factor into the research. Though the researchers acknowledge hate crimes and terrorism can overlap, hate crimes aren’t always violent.

In protests for racial justice over the summer, far-right terrorists primarily targeted demonstrators. Some of their tactics included vehicle attacks, which were committed mostly by white supremacists or people who were against the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Far-left terrorist attacks went up in 2020, with four times as many in 2020 as in 2019. The number of far-right terrorist attacks stayed the same in 2019 vs. 2020.

Despite the violence, there were only five people who were killed (all by guns) during these domestic terrorist attacks. This is very low compared to past incidents, like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. 

But, the researchers warn, violence could rise over the next year due to political divides, the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening economic conditions, racial injustice, and other factors. 

NASA collected dust from asteroid Bennu. But now the material is leaking into space.

In case you missed the news, NASA pulled off a pretty complicated maneuver: It collected dust from the asteroid Bennu, a rock speeding through space some 200 million miles from Earth. 

In fact, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft did the job so well that an issue has cropped up since the collection on Tuesday. Some of the sample is leaking into space because a lid was jammed open by large bits of material. 

“The big concern now is that particles are escaping because we’re almost a victim of our own success,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson, via CNN. “Large particles left the flap open. Particles are diffusing out into space. They aren’t moving fast, but nonetheless, it’s valuable scientific material.”

Four years after it launched, the spacecraft retrieved a tiny bit of Bennu on Tuesday in a process that took just 16 seconds.  

NASA has had to shift plans because of the leak. The agency intends to have the collection device stored in its return capsule as soon as Tuesday, opting to skip a step in which the sample would be measured. NASA knows it collected more than enough, but now won’t know the exact size of the collection until it reaches Earth in 2023.

“I was pretty concerned when I saw these images coming in, and I think the most prudent course of action is to very safely stow what we have and minimize any future mass loss,” Lauretta said, according to the Washington Post

Tuesday marked the first time NASA ever collected material from an asteroid. 

“Bennu continues to surprise us with great science and also throwing a few curveballs,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, in a statement. “And although we may have to move more quickly to stow the sample, it’s not a bad problem to have. We are so excited to see what appears to be an abundant sample that will inspire science for decades beyond this historic moment.”

Americans asked Google a bunch of unintentionally funny election questions this week

After a wild week with dueling presidential town hall events and a Supreme Court nominee push only weeks before the election, our Google searches were pretty wide-ranging and involved some scandals and gossip. 

For the week of Oct. 15 to Oct. 23 here were some of the top questions for Google’s search engine. 

1. Who is Jeffrey Toobin?

When Zoom and an “accidental” exposure/masturbation incident collide, people want to know the details. Political commenter and contributor to CNN and The New Yorker Jeffrey Toobin was on a work call with the New Yorker and WNYC radio when, he later said, he thought he was off camera, so he got to some pressing, uh, personal business. He wasn’t. Now the magazine has suspended him and CNN has given him some time off.

 2. Who is Corn Pop?

“Corn Pop” came up most recently in 2017 when now Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden talked about a gang leader he confronted when he was a 19-year-old lifeguard in Delaware. That gang leader’s name was actually Corn Pop, like the cereal. This past week, amid final town halls and debates as voters head to the polls, Corn Pop is resurfacing in political commentary as Biden’s true nemesis that he has to confront. Biden has a tendency to go on long tangents and tell stories about the past and this one always raises some eyebrows.

3. Who is Savannah Guthrie married to?

Savannah Guthrie is a TODAY show anchor on NBC who moderated last week’s Donald Trump town hall. For an hour at an outdoor venue in Miami she managed to take on Trump. As for her spouse, he’s 52-year-old Michael Feldman. They’ve been married for 11 years and have two children together.

4. What is the crime bill?

At Joe Biden’s own town hall over on ABC with George Stephanopoulos at the exact same time as Trump’s, one voter asked him about his legislation as a senator, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (known as the 1994 crime bill or law).  

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During the town hall Biden defended the controversial bill, but admitted some parts of it were a “mistake.”

5. What are the five freedoms of the First Amendment?

After Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett couldn’t remember all five freedoms in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when asked at her confirmation hearing last week, we’re trying to list all five. 

She remembered speech, press, religion and assembly, but couldn’t recall “protest.” 

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