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

September 13, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Winds a worry as death toll reaches 35 from West Coast fires

BEAVERCREEK, Ore. (AP) — Nearly all the dozens of people reported missing after a devastating blaze in southern Oregon have been accounted for, authorities said over the weekend as crews battled wildfires that have killed at least 35 from California to Washington state.

The flames up and down the West Coast have destroyed neighbourhoods, leaving nothing but charred rubble and burned-out cars, forced tens of thousands to flee and cast a shroud of smoke that has given Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, some of the worst air quality in the world.

The smoke filled the air with an acrid metallic smell like pennies and spread to nearby states. While making it difficult to breathe, it helped firefighters by blocking the sun and turning the weather cooler as they tried to get a handle on the blazes, which were slowing in some places.

But warnings of low moisture and strong winds that could fan the flames added urgency to the battle. The so-called red flag warnings stretched from hard-hit southern Oregon to Northern California and extended through Monday evening.

Lexi Soulios, her husband and son were afraid they would have to evacuate for a second time because of the weather. They left their small southern Oregon town of Talent last week when they saw a “big, huge flow of dark smoke coming up," then went past roadblocks Friday to pick through the charred ruins of their home.

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Teacher departures leave schools scrambling for substitutes

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

Several states have seen surges in educators filing for retirement or taking leaves of absence. The departures are straining staff in places that were dealing with shortages of teachers and substitutes even before the pandemic created an education crisis.

Among those leaving is Kay Orzechowicz, an English teacher at northwest Indiana’s Griffith High School, who at 57 had hoped to teach for a few more years. But she felt her school's leadership was not fully committed to ensuring proper social distancing and worried that not enough safety equipment would be provided for students and teachers.

Add the technology requirements and the pressure to record classes on video, and Orzechowicz said it “just wasn’t what I signed up for when I became a teacher.”

“Overall, there was just this utter disrespect for teachers and their lives,” she said. “We’re expected to be going back with so little." When school leaders said teachers would be "going back in-person, full throttle, that’s when I said, ‘I’m not doing it. No.’”

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As Trump played down virus, health experts' alarm grew

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public health officials were already warning Americans about the need to prepare for the coronavirus threat in early February when President Donald Trump called it “deadly stuff” in a private conversation that has only now has come to light.

At the time, the virus was mostly a problem in China, with just 11 cases confirmed in the United States.

There was uncertainty about how the U.S. ultimately would be affected, and top U.S. officials would deliver some mixed messages along the way. But their overall thrust was to take the thing seriously.

“We’re preparing as if this is a pandemic," Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Feb. 5. “This is just good commonsense public health."

Trump, however, had a louder megaphone than his health experts, and in public he was playing down the threat. Three days after delivering his “deadly” assessment in a private call with journalist Bob Woodward, he told a New Hampshire rally on Feb. 10, “It’s going to be fine."

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The Latest: S. Korea eases restrictions as virus cases drop

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Monday that the 109 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths.

It’s the 12th consecutive day for South Korea’s daily jump to stay in the 100s. The 109 additional cases are also the lowest daily tally since mid-August.

The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul metropolitan area, citing a downward trend in new infections and worries about public livelihoods.

Under new distancing rules that are formally effective from Monday for two-weeks, franchise cafes and bakeries are allowed to have customers drink and eat inside their shops while indoor gyms and after-school academics can reopen. A ban on dining at restaurants after 9 p.m. was also lifted.

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In defiance of Nevada governor, Trump holds indoor rally

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In open defiance of state regulations and his own administration’s pandemic health guidelines, President Donald Trump on Sunday hosted his first indoor rally since June with a packed, mask-less Nevada crowd.

Eager to project a sense of normalcy in imagery, Trump soaked up the raucous cheers inside a warehouse. Not since a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was blamed for a surge of coronavirus infections has he gathered supporters indoors. There was no early mention from the president that the pandemic had killed nearly 200,000 Americans and was still claiming 1,000 lives a day.

Few in the crowd wore masks, with one clear exception: Those in the stands directly behind Trump, whose images would end up on TV, were mandated to wear face coverings.

The rally in Tulsa, which was his first in three months after the coronavirus reached American shores, was a disaster for the campaign, a debacle that featured a sea of empty seats and a rise in COVID-19 cases, including on his own staff. One prominent Trump supporter at the rally, businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, died of COVID-19 weeks later, though it was not clear if he contracted the virus in Tulsa.

Recognizing that many supporters were uncomfortable to gather in a large group indoors, where the virus spreads more easily, the Trump campaign shifted to holding smaller, outdoor rallies, usually at airplane hangers. But those rallies have grown in size in recent weeks, with little social distancing and few masks.

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Source: Oracle wins TikTok over Microsoft in Trump-urged bid

The owner of TikTok has chosen Oracle over Microsoft as the American tech partner that could help keep the popular video-sharing app running in the U.S., according to a source familiar with the deal who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Microsoft announced Sunday that its bid to acquire TikTok's U.S. operations was rejected, removing the tech giant from the running a week before President Donald Trump promises to follow through with a plan to ban the Chinese-owned app in the U.S. over spying concerns.

TikTok and the White House declined to comment Sunday. Oracle didn’t return a request for comment but has previously declined comment.

Walmart, which had planned to partner with Microsoft on the acquisition, said Sunday it “continues to have an interest in a TikTok investment” and is talking about it with ByteDance and other parties.

The Trump administration has threatened to ban TikTok by Sept. 20 and ordered ByteDance to sell its U.S. business, claiming national-security risks due to its Chinese ownership. The government worries about user data being funneled to Chinese authorities. TikTok denies it is a national-security risk and is suing to stop the administration from the threatened ban.

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Thiem 1st since 1949 to win US Open after ceding 1st 2 sets

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. Open unlike any other finished unlike any other — with an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreaker as Dominic Thiem became the first man in 71 years to win the tournament final after dropping the opening two sets.

So close to defeat in a nearly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium — fans were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic — Thiem slowly but surely turned things around against a faltering Alexander Zverev and surged to a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory at Flushing Meadows to earn his first Grand Slam title.

When a backhand from Zverev landed wide on the third championship point, a weary Thiem dropped to his back way behind the baseline and covered his face with his hands. When he arose, he was met by Zverev, who walked around the net to clasp hands, then embrace his friend and foe, two sights rarely seen in this era of social distancing.

Thiem then rested his head on the shoulder of the taller Zverev, a 23-year-old from Germany who himself came within two points of what would have been his first major triumph.

“I wish we could have two winners today,” Thiem said. “I think we both deserved it.”

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Gunman sought after California deputies shot in patrol car

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities searched Sunday for a gunman who shot and critically wounded two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who were sitting in their squad car — an apparent ambush that drew a reward for information and an angry response from the president.

The 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy underwent surgery Saturday evening, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a late-night news conference. Both graduated from the academy 14 months ago, he said.

“They performed in an admirable fashion in spite of grave adversity," Villanueva said Sunday during a conversation with local religious leaders. “God bless them, it looks like they’re going to be able to recover."

He said the wounded female deputy was able to get help for the male deputy by calling in on the police radio despite having been shot.

“They’ve survived the worst," he added.

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First US spring flight to Antarctica aims to keep out virus

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The first U.S. flight into Antarctica following months of winter darkness arrived Monday with crews taking extra precautions to keep out the coronavirus.

Antarctica is the only continent without the virus, and there is a global effort to make sure incoming scientists and workers don’t bring it with them.

The U.S. Air Force flight left Monday from the gateway city of Christchurch carrying 106 passengers and crew, said Tony German, the U.S. Antarctic program's representative in New Zealand.

He said the new arrivals will start getting ready for the summer and swap out with skeleton crews who have spent the Southern Hemisphere winter in Antarctica.

The flight was delayed for three weeks by big storms, resulting in an extended six-week quarantine for those aboard.

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Racial injustice themes fill empty NFL stadiums

Jason Myers kicked off to start the Seahawks' season-opener against the Falcons, and the ball sailed through the end zone for a touchback. No one moved a step.

Instead, the players all dropped to one knee.

After years of pleading with the NFL to act against systemic racism, they were willing to wait another 10 seconds to make their point.

Teams opening the year in empty stadiums knelt, locked arms, raised fists in protest or stayed off the field entirely for the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the Black anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on Sunday as the once-reluctant league brought racial injustice to the forefront on the NFL's first full slate of games.

In Atlanta, the teams wore armbands honouring civil rights leader John Lewis and staged the most striking of the day's gestures: They barely flinched as the opening kickoff landed beyond the end line, took a knee, and remained there for about 10 seconds before trotting off the field to resume the game.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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