being repeatedly told that the American election process is deeply corrupted.

In fact, Mr. Mastriano’s candidacy has from its inception been propelled by his role in disputing the 2020 presidential election lost by Mr. Trump.

county by county, but election experts say they do not reflect factors as benign as changes in addresses.

“They’re in search of solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kyle Miller, a Navy veteran and state representative for Protect Democracy, a national advocacy organization, said in an interview in Harrisburg. “They are basing this on faulty data and internet rumors.”

Some Republican lawmakers have leaned on false claims to call for changes to rules about mail-in ballots and other measures intended to make it easier for people to vote. Several counties have already reversed some of the decisions, including the number and location of drop boxes for ballots.

Mr. Miller, among others, warned that the flurry of false claims about balloting could be a trial run for challenging the results of the presidential election in 2024, in which Pennsylvania could again be a crucial swing state.

In Chester County, a largely white region that borders Delaware and Maryland that is roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, the effort to sow confusion came the old-fashioned way: in the mail.

Letters dated Sept. 12 began arriving in mailboxes across the county, warning people that their votes in the 2020 presidential election might not have counted. “Because you have a track record of consistently voting, we find it unusual that your record indicates that you did not vote,” the letter, which was unsigned, said.

The sender called itself “Data Insights,” based in the county seat of West Chester, though no known record of such a company exists, according to county officials. The letters did include copies of the recipients’ voting records. The letters urged recipients to write to the county commissioners or attend the commission’s meetings in the county seat of West Chester, in September and October. Dozens of recipients did.

The county administrator, Robert J. Kagel, tried to assure them that their votes were actually counted. He urged anyone concerned to contact the county’s voter services department.

Even so, at county meetings in September and October, speaker after speaker lined up to question the letter and the ballot process generally — and to air an array of grievances and conspiracy theories.

They included the discredited claims of the film “2000 Mules” that operatives have been stuffing boxes for mail-in ballots. One attendee warned that votes were being tabulated by the Communist Party of China or the World Economic Forum.

“I don’t know where my vote is,” another resident, Barbara Ellis of Berwyn, told the commissioners in October. “I don’t know if it was manipulated in the machines, in another country.”

As of Oct. 20, 59 people in Chester County had contacted officials with concerns raised in the letter, but in each case, it was determined that the voters’ ballots had been cast and counted, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokesman.

Who exactly sent the letters remains a mystery, which only fuels more conspiracy theories.

“It seems very official,” Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in the county, said of the letter. She described it as part of “an ongoing, constant campaign to undermine the confidence in our voting system.” The county’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Disinformation may not be the only cause of the deepening partisan chasm in the state — or the nation — but it has undoubtedly worsened it. The danger, Ms. Valyo warned, was discouraging voting by sowing distrust in the ability of election officials to tally the votes.

“People might think, ‘Why bother, if they’re that messed up?’”

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On Portugal’s ‘Bitcoin Beach,’ Crypto Optimism Still Reigns

LAGOS, Portugal — The Bam Bam Beach Bitcoin bar, on an uncrowded beach in southwestern Portugal, is the meeting place.

To get there, you drive past a boat harbor, oceanside hotels and apartment buildings, then park near a sleepy seafood restaurant and walk down a wooden path that cuts through a sand dune. Yellow Bitcoin flags blow in the wind. The conversations about cryptocurrencies and a decentralized future flow.

“People always doubt when to buy, when to sell,” said Didi Taihuttu, a Dutch investor who moved to town this summer and is one of Bam Bam’s owners. “We solve that by being all in.”

melted down, and crypto companies like the experimental bank Celsius Network declared bankruptcy as fears over the global economy yanked down values of the risky assets. Thousands of investors were hurt by the crash. The price of Bitcoin, which peaked at more than $68,000 last year, remains off by more than 70 percent.

But in this Portuguese seaside idyll, confidence in cryptocurrencies is undimmed. Every Friday, 20 or so visitors from Europe and beyond gather at Bam Bam to share their unwavering faith in digital currencies. Their buoyancy and cheer endure across Portugal and in other crypto hubs around the world, such as Puerto Rico and Cyprus.

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In beach towns like Ericeira and Lagos, shops and restaurants show their acceptance of digital currencies by taking Bitcoin as payment. Lisbon, the capital, has become a hub for crypto-related start-ups such as Utrust, a cryptocurrency payment platform, and Immunefi, a company that identifies security vulnerabilities in decentralized networks.

“Portugal should be the Silicon Valley of Bitcoin,” Mr. Taihuttu said. “It has all the ingredients.”

news outlets covered his family’s story, Mr. Taihuttu’s social media following swelled, turning him into an influencer and a source of investment advice. A documentary film crew has followed him on and off for the past 18 months. This summer, he settled in Portugal and quickly became something of an ambassador for its crypto scene.

He has goals to turn Meia Praia, the beach where Bam Bam is located, into “Bitcoin Beach.” He is shopping for property to create a community nearby for fellow believers.

“You prove that it is possible to run some part of the world, even if it’s just one,” said Mr. Taihuttu, with a Jack Daniel’s and Coke in hand. He has shoulder-length black hair and wore a tank top that showcased his tan and tattoos (including one on his forearm of the Bitcoin symbol).

Ms. Bestandig was among those who Mr. Taihuttu drew to Portugal.

collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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Ukraine Live Updates: First Key Southern City Falls, Ukrainian Officials Say

ODESSA, Ukraine—Sparks fly day and night at the rail yard of Odessa’s tram authority, where men in coveralls are slicing up old steel rails and welding them into barricades called “hedgehogs” to stop Russian tanks.

Not far away, the area around the city’s elegant baroque opera house looks like a set from a World War II movie, with chest-high stacks of sandbags and troops in green uniforms. And a food market downtown popular with hipsters has been turned into a warehouse for a range of provisions — food, clothing and medicine for the troops.

A major attack on Odessa, which as Ukraine’s biggest port city is crucial for the country’s economic survival, feels like an inevitability, officials and residents say.

Russian naval ships have gathered just outside Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Black Sea, and Russian troops are pushing ever closer from the east. On Wednesday, the city’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov was inspecting a bomb shelter at an orphanage when he received a call that a Russian jet, likely having flown in from the Crimean Peninsula, had fired a rocket at a military installation just outside town.

“Do you have your diaper on?” the mayor asked the person he was speaking with, laughing. “Don’t be a hero, there will be time for that later,” he said.

“I think they’re testing our antiaircraft systems,” Mr. Trukhanov said when he hung up the phone. “He flies in, we open fire, he flies away and almost immediately they fire a rocket.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

For the first several days of the invasion, Russia primarily concentrated its military forces on Kyiv, in the north, and Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the northeast. But a concerted and in many ways more successful campaign is being waged in Ukraine’s south, along the coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, a small, important body of water where Russia seeks full control.

As of Wednesday, Russian forces had captured the strategically important city of Kherson at the mouth of the Dnieper River, the first major city to come under Russian control. The fate of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, an inland body of water that Russia and Ukraine share, also hung in the balance as Russian naval forces gathered in an apparent effort to mount an amphibious attack.

The carnage in Kherson was particularly extreme: Volunteers had been dispatched to gather up bodies, many of them unidentifiable because of tank and artillery fire, and bury them in mass graves, the city’s mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, said in an interview on Wednesday.

“They’ve fully come into the city,” Mr. Kolykhaev said, adding that he met with the Russian commander, who said he intended to put in place a military administration.

Kherson, with a population of around 300,000, is just over 120 miles from Odessa, and Russian troops have already pushed beyond it to Mykolaiv, about 45 miles to the north, Ukrainian officials said.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

But it is Odessa that would be the real prize. Founded by Catherine the Great in the late 1700s, the city was a crown jewel of the Russian Empire and a critical commercial port for the Soviet Union. Though not as militarily significant as the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has spoken wistfully about the reconstitution of imperial-era New Russia, a region along the Black Sea centered on Odessa.

Like the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Odessa was the site of a separatist uprising backed by Russia in 2014 that sought to create an independent state. But the effort was crushed after a series of pitched street battles pitting the separatists against Ukrainian nationalists and soccer hooligans, which culminated in the torching of a trade union building on the outskirts of Odessa. At least 40 pro-Russian activists were killed.

Days before the invasion started last week, Mr. Putin issued a threat against those who started the fire, suggesting that Odessa was on his mind.

“The criminals who committed this evil act have not been punished,” he said. “No one is looking for them, but we know them by name.”

Mr. Trukhanov, the Odessa mayor, backed by assessments from Ukraine’s military, said Russia’s goal was likely to surround Odessa with land and naval forces, cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, which is the country’s primary link to the global economy.

Surrounding Odessa, he said, “will put an end to cargo shipments, an end to the economy and the end of development.”

He added, “But we’re not talking about that often, because the priority is survival.”

Odessa has undergone a profound and disturbing transformation since Russia invaded. Just over a week ago, the city was experiencing an unusual early warm snap that drove people outside, to the city’s cobblestone streets and beaches. Crowds flocked to the opera house, flamboyantly renovated with polished marble and 25 pounds of gold leaf, to see a performance of Madama Butterfly.

Now the entire, historic center around the opera is sealed off by sandbags, barbed wire and troops armed with automatic weapons.

“I can’t believe that a week ago I was a lawyer,” said Inga Kordynovska. She said he had been planning to compete in an international ballroom dancing competition, but was now coordinating the collection of food, clothing and medicine for Odessa’s territorial defense troops.

“One day, I had heels and makeup; I was going to ballroom dancing,” she said “And now everything has changed.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The entrance to the Odessa Food Market has been draped with a large Red Cross banner and fortified with sandbags. Before the war, people used to eat Chinese street food and sip craft IPAs; now men in beanie hats and neck tattoos are stacking bottles of water and sorting bags of clothing.

Though the mission is to gather supplies for the city’s defenders, none of the combatants are allowed to enter the hall, said Nikolai Viknianskyi, who owns a furniture company and is now volunteering at the site.

“We’ve banned people with weapons from coming here so as not to attract other people with weapons,” Mr. Viknianskyi. “We don’t want for our hipsters or our fashionable youth to be hurt. They’re not military people, they don’t know how to fight.”

The fight may come anyway. As if to underscore the threat, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenksy, replaced the Odessa region’s civilian governor with a colonel from Ukraine’s armed forces. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Navy accused Russian forces in the Black Sea of attempting to enter Ukraine’s territorial waters using civilian boats as a “human shield.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Though Odessa has not experienced the intense shelling of other cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv, there have been sporadic rocket attacks. It was unclear if Wednesday’s hostilities caused any injuries, but one person was killed on Tuesday in an attack on a military radar installation, Mr. Trukhanov, the Odessa mayor, said.

Also on Tuesday, an explosion ripped through the small village of Dachne, north of Odessa just off the highway to Kyiv. Several houses along a potholed street were reduced to rubble, and power line poles and trees were snapped at their bases.

A 60-year-old resident named Yuri said workers had extracted an undetonated shell from his front yard, which destroyed a brand-new Volkswagen his children had given him for his birthday. It was not clear whether the shell was fired by Russian forces or if Ukrainian troops mistakenly hit the village.

All this has rattled the residents of Odessa. At an orphanage visited by Mr. Trukhanov on Wednesday, tiny jackets had been arranged on a table to be ready in case the children have to make a dash to the bomb shelter in the basement.

After lunch time, a group of the youngest was tucked into their beds for nap time, while their caretaker stood over them, playing a lullaby on her phone, and silently crying.

“God,” she said, addressing the mayor, “everything is going to be OK, right?”

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Voting for President, Chile Faces Stark Choice, With Constitution at Stake

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chileans faced a stark choice between left and right on Sunday as they began voting in a presidential election that has the potential to make or break the effort to draft a new constitution.

The race was the nation’s most polarizing and acrimonious in recent history, presenting Chileans with sharply different visions on a range of issues, including the role of the state in the economy, pension reform, the rights of historically marginalized groups and public safety.

José Antonio Kast, 55, a far-right former lawmaker who has promised to crack down on crime and civil unrest, faces Gabriel Boric, 35, a leftist legislator who proposes raising taxes to combat entrenched inequality.

The stakes are higher than in most recent presidential contests because Chile is at a critical political crossroads. The incoming president stands to profoundly shape the effort to replace Chile’s Constitution, imposed in 1980 when the country was under military rule. Chileans voted overwhelmingly last year to draft a new one.

campaigned vigorously against establishing a constitutional convention, whose members Chileans elected in May. The body is tasked with drafting a new charter that voters will approve or reject in a direct vote next September.

Members of the convention see Mr. Kast’s rise as an existential threat to their work, fearing he could marshal the resources and the bully pulpit of the presidency to persuade voters to reject the revised constitution.

“There’s so much at stake,” said Patricia Politzer, a member of the convention from Santiago. “The president has enormous power and he could use the full backing of the state to campaign against the new constitution.”

Recent polls have suggested Mr. Boric has a slight edge, although Mr. Kast won the most votes during the first round of voting last month.

Mr. Boric has referred to his rival as a fascist and has assailed several of his plans, which include expanding the prison system and empowering the security forces to more forcefully crack down on Indigenous challenges to land rights in the south of the country.

Mr. Kast has told voters a Boric presidency would destroy the foundation that has made Chile’s economy one of the best performing in the region and would likely put the nation on a path toward becoming a failed state like Venezuela.

“This has been a campaign dominated by fear, to a degree we’ve never seen before,” said Claudia Heiss, a political science professor at the University of Chile. “That can do damage in the long run because it deteriorates the political climate.”

Mr. Boric and Mr. Kast each found traction with voters who had become fed up with the center-left and center-right political factions that have traded power in Chile in recent decades. The conservative incumbent, Sebastián Piñera, has seen his approval ratings plummet below 20 percent over the past two years.

Mr. Boric got his start in politics as a prominent organizer of the large student demonstrations in 2011 that persuaded the government to grant low-income students tuition-free education. He was first elected to congress in 2014.

A native of Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost province, Mr. Boric made taking bold steps to curb global warming a core promise of his campaign. This included a politically risky proposal to raise taxes on fuel.

Mr. Boric, who has tattoos and dislikes wearing ties, has spoken publicly about being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a condition for which he was briefly hospitalized in 2018.

In the wake of the sometimes violent street protests and political turmoil set off by a hike in subway fares in October 2019, he vowed to turn a litany of grievances that had been building over generations into an overhaul of public policy. Mr. Boric said it was necessary to raise taxes on corporations and the ultrarich in order to expand the social safety net and create a more egalitarian society.

“Today, many older people are working themselves to death after backbreaking labor all their lives,” he said during the race’s final debate, promising to create a system of more generous pensions. “That is unfair.”

Mr. Kast, the son of German immigrants, served as a federal lawmaker from 2002 to 2018. A father of nine, he has been a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. His national profile rose during the 2017 presidential race, when he won nearly 8 percent of the vote.

Mr. Kast has called his rival’s proposed expansion of spending reckless, saying what Chile needs is a far leaner, more efficient state rather than an expanded support system. During his campaign’s closing speech on Thursday, Mr. Kast warned that electing his rival would deepen unrest and stoke violence.

Mr. Kast invoked the “poverty that has dragged down Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba” as a cautionary tale. “People flee from there because dictatorship, narco-dictatorship, only brings poverty and misery,” he said.

That message, a throwback to Cold War language, has found resonance among voters like Claudio Bruce, 55, who lost his job during the pandemic.

“In Chile we can’t afford to fall into those types of political regimes because it would be very difficult to bounce back from that,” he said. “We’re at a very dangerous crossroads for our children, for our future.”

Antonia Vera, a recent high school graduate who has been campaigning for Mr. Boric, said she saw electing him as the only means to turn a grass-roots movement for a fairer, more prosperous nation into reality.

“When he speaks about hope, he’s speaking about the long-term future, a movement that started brewing many years ago and exploded in 2019,” she said.

The new president will struggle to carry out sweeping changes any time soon, said Claudio Fuentes, a political science professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, noting the evenly divided incoming congress.

“The probability of making good on their campaign plans is low,” he said. “It’s a scenario in which it will be hard to push reforms through.”

Pascale Bonnefoy reported from Santiago and Ernesto Londoño from Rio de Janeiro.

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Eurovision, Celebrating the Sounds of a Postpandemic Continent

ROTTERDAM — The Italian band Maneskin celebrated its 2021 Eurovision win by the rock ’n’ roll playbook, with bare chests covered in tattoos, champagne spraying and the thuds of fireworks exploding.

The win was a close and deeply emotional one, with the band’s song, “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Be Quiet,” edging into first place in an exhilarating vote that was ultimately decided by the public. Maneskin barely beat France’s Barbara Pravi, and her chanson “Voilà.” After the victory, an Italian reporter was sobbing as tears streamed down his face.

Capturing what many felt, he said the victory was a fresh start for Italy. “It was a very difficult year for us,” the reporter, Simone Zani, said, talking about the devastating impact of the coronavirus. Explaining through his tears, he said, “We are from the north of Italy, from Bergamo,” an Italian city with record numbers of Covid-19 deaths. “To be No. 1 now, this is a new start for us, a new beginning.”

Eurovision, the largest music contest in the world, is a campy trifle to some, but it celebrates Europe’s cultural diversity and is a reflection of the times we live in. For many outside Europe, the attraction of Eurovision can be hard to comprehend. But a key reason the 200-million plus audience is watching is that there is no cultural mold for the event. Anything goes, and diversity is highly encouraged. The global entertainment business may be dominated by U.S. pop culture, but at Eurovision, 39 different countries can showcase their ideas of music and pop culture with no industry rules other than a three-minute song limit.

Jendrik playing a diamond studded ukulele while being accompanied by a dancing finger. Tix, the singer for Norway, has Tourette’s syndrome. He was dressed in a gigantic fur coat and wearing angel wings, while being chained to four horned demons. “Remember guys, you are not alone,” he said to everyone “suffering” in the world.

The three singers of Serbia’s entry, Hurricane, may have sported the big hair look of American groups of decades past, but despite seeming as if they had bought up most of the hair extensions on the continent, they sang their song, “Loco Loco,” in Serbian.

Nikkie Tutorials. The crowd went wild every time she came onstage or even walked past the corridors.

Dadi Freyr, and other group members, watched from a hotel room as the results came in. Standing in for the missing performers were dolls wearing the band’s outfit, topped with iPads showing their faces. Despite the recorded performance, Iceland landed fourth place.

Duncan Laurence, who had won for the Netherlands in 2019, also contracted the virus and wasn’t able to perform during this year’s finals as is the tradition. The event was canceled in 2020.

Hossein Zenderoudi. Her song dusts off the French chanson, recalling singers like Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.

Some had criticized her, calling her style of singing out of fashion, but Ms. Pravi strongly disagreed. “You don’t need to make concessions in music,” she said. “You can be absolutely yourself, doing the music you like, say the words you want and being the woman you want to be. And now I am here at Eurovision, the biggest contest in the world.”

Early Sunday morning Ms. Pravi was seen in the dimly lit press center speaking to French reporters who couldn’t believe that their country had come so close to victory, after having achieved almost no Eurovision honors since their victory in 1977.

James Newman, the United Kingdom’s entrant, was nowhere to be found. His song “Embers” had received zero points from both the national juries and the international audience. “It’s Brexit,” said Meg Perry-Duxbury, a Briton living in Rotterdam, sitting next to me in the arena. “Europe doesn’t want us to win.” She herself was supporting Cyprus (another song featuring devils) anyway, Ms. Perry-Duxbury said. “So whatever.”

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Will NFTs Transform Tattoos Into Bankable Art?

Top tattoo artists are highly coveted, their work displayed on some of the world’s most visible real estate: LeBron James’s shoulders, Scarlett Johansson’s back, Post Malone’s face.

But you can’t hang tattoos in a gallery, or auction them at Sotheby’s. They live and (unless previously removed) die with their owner. It also means that the most in-demand tattoo artists are still paid by the hour, just as many were during their apprenticeships decorating the biceps of sailors and bikers.

Artists do not generally get paid by the hour, said Scott Campbell, 44, a Los Angeles tattoo artist who has inked Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Aniston and Marc Jacobs. “Musicians don’t get paid by how long it takes them to create a song. You’d never go to a gallery and think, ‘How long did it take the artist to paint it? I’ll pay him for his time.’”

Mr. Cartoon) and Brian Woo (Dr. Woo), wants to change this equation.

All Our Best, where tattoo artists can offer their designs as permanent, tradable commodities in the form of NFTs.

To refresh: an NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is basically a digital stamp of authenticity that can be bought, sold or traded like cryptocurrency on a blockchain. This is a far cry from the tattoo world, where the stars of the field see their earnings capped at around $1,000 an hour for a one- to three-hour session, even when working on Hollywood stars.

In this new marketplace, customers will be buying the exclusive rights to the design of the tattoo, rather than the tattoo itself. “I’m selling you an idea, instead of just hours of my life,” said Mr. Campbell, who has been blurring the line between tattoo and fine arts for years, showing his tattoo-inspired sculptures and paintings at galleries and art fairs. “The NFT is basically a digital baseball card.”

As a perk of ownership, buyers get a guaranteed slot with the tattoo artist — no small thing, since top tattoo artists can be nearly impossible to book for those outside the celebrity orbit.

Mr. Campbell, Mr. Cartoon, Dr. Woo, Grime, Sean from Texas and Tati Compton. Mr. Campbell plans to expand the roster, and eventually open the marketplace for any tattoo artist to sell work.

He is not the only tattoo artist to see opportunity in blockchain. An artist in Portland, Me., named Brad Wooten, for example, is selling photos of digitally designed tattoos as NFTs.

The earning potential is considerable. Prices for the initial round of NFT tattoos on All Our Best will range from $1,000 to $10,000. The blockchain technology also allows artists to make a 10 percent royalty every time a work is resold.

Clients also stand to profit if the work appreciates, unlike the current setup where “the only thing they get out of the deal is an Instagram post and some bragging rights,” Mr. Campbell said. “They actually have something that they can keep and pass onto their kids, that has a life beyond being just that thing on their arm that in 10 years is going to be sunburned and blurry anyway.”

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