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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

August 20, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Biden vows end of national 'darkness' in convention finale

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden vowed to unite an America torn by crisis and contempt Thursday night, accepting the Democratic presidential nomination and achieving a pinnacle in an unfinished quest that has spanned three decades and been marred by personal tragedy, political stumbles and more dynamic rivals.

The past hurdles fell away as Biden addressed his fellow Democrats and millions of Americans at home who he hopes will send him to the White House to replace Donald Trump – though his triumphant moment was drained of immediate drama by the coronavirus pandemic, which left him speaking to a nearly empty arena rather than a to a joyously cheering crowd.

“Here and now I give you my word, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst," Biden declared. "I’ll be an ally of the light, not our darkness.”

“And make no mistake, we’ll overcome this season of darkness in America”

The pandemic has shaken the nation and fundamentally altered the campaign. But Biden pointed to the public health emergency and the severe economic fallout to turn traits previously seen as vulnerabilities, notably a long career spent in elected office, into an advantage by presenting himself as a competent leader in a moment that Democrats say cries out for one in the White House.

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The Latest: Biden accepts Democratic presidential nomination

The Democratic Party officially has its presidential nominee.

Joe Biden formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, a position he has sought for more than 30 years and through three White House bids. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, accepted the vice-presidential nomination on Wednesday.

Biden served three decades as a senator from Delaware before being tapped as President Barack Obama’s vice-president. He first ran for president in 1988 and tried again in 2008 before launching his 2020 campaign last year.

President Donald Trump will formally be renominated as his party’s candidate during the virtual Republican National Convention next week.

The general election is 75 days away. Trump has been struggling in the polls amid a confluence of health, economic and racial crises.

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Takeaways from the final night of the Democratic convention

A convention without a roaring crowd, confetti cannons, funny hats — a gathering in name only — delivered the Democratic presidential nomination to Joe Biden on Thursday, the culmination of a lifelong pursuit that comes at a time of crisis.

Here are key takeaways from the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

FAITH AT THE FOREFRONT

On the night he was to officially accept the Democratic nomination for president, Joe Biden put faith front and centre, making a point not to cede the issue to Republicans.

Sen. Chris Coons, who represents nominee Biden’s home state of Delaware, spoke of a “private” faith that is personally defining for Biden, a practicing Roman Catholic. Coons said the nominee “believes in the power of prayer” and in “the dignity of all people” because they are “made in the image of God.”

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At least 3 people killed in Northern California wildfires

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — Dozens of wildfires raging throughout Northern California have now claimed at least three lives, including the first civilian, and threaten tens of thousands of homes, authorities said Thursday.

The death of a resident in Solano County, in the northeastern San Francisco Bay Area, was reported Thursday by Sheriff Thomas A. Ferrara, although he didn't have any additional details.

A Pacific Gas & Electric utility worker assisting with advance clearing was found dead Wednesday in a vehicle in the Vacaville area between San Francisco and Sacramento. A pilot on a water-dropping mission in central California also died Wednesday when his helicopter crashed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed the wildfires, calling them clear evidence of climate change, in a last-minute video recorded for the Democratic National Convention from a forest near Watsonville after he visited an evacuation centre.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” he said.

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Ex-Trump aide Bannon pleads not guilty in border wall scheme

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was pulled from a luxury yacht and arrested Thursday on allegations that he and three associates ripped off donors trying to fund a southern border wall, making him the latest in a long list of Trump allies to be charged with a crime.

The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a “big beautiful” barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project.

But according to the criminal charges unsealed Thursday, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon, who served in Trump's White House and worked for his campaign.

He allegedly took over $1 million, using some to secretly pay co-defendant Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both legs in a mortar attack in Iraq and the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

“This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,” said Philip R. Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the New York office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which arrested Bannon aboard a luxury yacht at 7 a.m.

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Barr: Feds to appeal ruling, seek death for Boston bomber

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department will seek to reinstate a death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man who was convicted of carrying out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said the Justice Department would appeal the court’s ruling last month that tossed Tsarnaev’s death sentence and ordered a trial to determine whether he should be executed for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. Barr said the Justice Department would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We will do whatever’s necessary,” Barr said. “We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty.”

Under Barr, the Justice Department has again begun carrying out federal executions, putting three men to death so far and scheduling at least three others next week and in September, despite the coronavirus pandemic and waning public support for the death penalty. Barr has said it is the Justice Department's duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts — including the death penalty — and to deliver justice for the families of the victims.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit court found in July that the judge who oversaw the 2015 trial did not adequately question potential jurors about what they had read or heard about the highly publicized case.

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Russia's Navalny in coma, allegedly poisoned by toxic tea

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, lay in a coma Friday at a Siberian hospital, the victim of what his allies said appeared to be a poisoning engineered by the Kremlin.

Navalny's organization was scrambling to make arrangements to transfer him to Germany for treatment; a German group said it was ready to send a plane for him and that a noted hospital in Berlin was ready to treat him.

The 44-year-old Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk on Thursday and was taken to a hospital after the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter.

She told the Echo Moskvy radio station that he must have consumed poison in tea he drank at an airport cafe before boarding the plane early Thursday. During the flight, Navalny started sweating and asked her to talk to him so that he could “focus on the sound of a voice." He then went to the bathroom and lost consciousness, and has been in a coma and on a ventilator in grave condition ever since.

In a video statement released early Friday in Omsk, Yarmysh said Navalny remained in critical condition and she called on the hospital's leadership “not to obstruct us from providing all necessary documents for his transfer.” It was not clear what the possible obstructions could be.

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US demands restoration of UN sanctions against Iran

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday formally notified the United Nations of its demand for all U.N. sanctions on Iran to be restored, setting off an immediate confrontation with Russia and other Security Council members, including America's European allies, who called the U.S. move illegal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the notification to the president of the U.N. Security Council, citing significant Iranian violations of the 2015 nuclear deal, a requirement to “snap back” U.N. sanctions.

“The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons ... (or) to have a nuclear weapon," Pompeo told a U.N. press conference.

He said the U.S. action will extend the arms embargo, which is set to expire Oct. 18, and also prohibit Iran from ballistic missile testing and enrichment of nuclear material.

Russia's deputy ambassador to the U.N., Dmitry Polyansky, shot back on Twitter: “Looks like there are 2 planets. A fictional dog-eat-dog one where US pretends it can do whatever it wants without ‘cajoling’ anyone, breach and leave deals but still benefit from them, and another one where the rest of the world lives and where intl law and diplomacy reign.”

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Whitmer: $600M Flint water deal a step toward making amends

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A $600 million deal between the state of Michigan and Flint residents who were harmed by lead-tainted water is a step toward making amends for a disaster that upended life in the poor, majority-Black city, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday.

State officials and lawyers for Flint residents announced the settlement, which Attorney General Dana Nessel said likely would be the largest in Michigan history, with tens of thousands of potential claimants. It's designed primarily to benefit children, who were most vulnerable to the debilitating effects of lead that fouled drinking water after Flint switched its source to save money in 2014 while under supervision of a state financial manager.

City workers followed state environmental officials' advice not to use anti-corrosive additives. Without those treatments, water from the Flint River scraped lead from aging pipes and fixtures, contaminating tap water.

The disaster made Flint a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, with residents of the city of nearly 100,000 lining up for bottled water and parents fearful their children had suffered permanent harm. A criminal investigation that has resulted in only misdemeanour no-contest pleas so far was resumed last year.

“What happened in Flint should have never happened, and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of the many ways we can continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families," Whitmer, a Democrat, said.

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1 in 5 nursing homes short on PPE and staff in virus rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) — One in five U.S. nursing homes faced severe shortages of protective gear like N95 masks this summer even as the Trump administration pledged to help, according to a study released Thursday that finds facilities in areas hard-hit by COVID-19 also struggled to keep staff.

Significantly, there was no improvement from May to July in the shortages of personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or in the staffing shortfalls, according to the analysis of federal data by academic researchers. The summer has seen the coronavirus surge across the South, and much of the West and Midwest.

People living in long-term care facilities represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 43% of coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar glaring disparities have been seen with nursing home residents in other countries, but in the U.S. the issue has become politically sensitive for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters in his reelection bid.

“A study that shows that 1 in 5 nursing homes has a severe shortage of PPE and a shortage of staff, and that it did not change from May to July, should be a massive red flag,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a non-profit that works to improve care for older adults.

“We have had no coherent federal response,” added Fulmer, who was not involved in the research.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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