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

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

September 07, 2020 - 8:04 PM

The Summer of COVID-19 ends with health officials worried

The Lost Summer of 2020 drew to a close Monday with many big Labor Day gatherings cancelled across the U.S. and health authorities pleading with people to keep their distance from others so as not to cause another coronavirus surge like the one that followed Memorial Day.

Downtown Atlanta was quiet as the 85,000 or so people who come dressed as their favourite superheroes or sci-fi characters for the annual Dragon Con convention met online instead. Huge football stadiums at places like Ohio State and the University of Texas sat empty. Many Labor Day parades marking the unofficial end of summer were called off, and masks were usually required at the few that went on.

"Please, please do not make the same mistakes we all made on Memorial Day weekend. Wear your masks, watch your distance and wash your hands,” said Dr. Raul Pino, state health director in Orange County, Florida, which includes the Orlando area.

The U.S. had about 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases around Memorial Day, before backyard parties and other gatherings contributed to a summertime surge. It now has more than 6.2 million cases, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths from the virus more than doubled over the summer to nearly 190,000.

In New Orleans, which had one of the largest outbreaks outside of New York City this spring, city officials reminded residents that COVID-19 doesn't take a holiday after they received 36 calls about large gatherings and 46 calls about businesses not following safety rules on Friday and Saturday.

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Trump, Biden spar over economy, workers in Labor Day blitz

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump spent Monday diminishing each other's credentials on the economy and understanding of the American worker as the presidential campaign entered its final, post-labour Day stretch.

While workers live by an “American code," Biden said Trump “lives by a code of lies, greed and selfishness" as he met with labour leaders in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a key swing state. Trump, meanwhile, tried to put the halting economic recovery under the best light in a White House press conference where he said Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would “destroy this country and would destroy this economy.”

Labor Day typically marks the unofficial start to the fall campaign season as candidates accelerate their activity for the final sprint to Election Day. Both campaigns reflected that urgency Monday, as Harris and Vice-President Mike Pence each campaigned in Wisconsin, a state Trump narrowly won in 2016. The events played out against the background of the pandemic, which has upended campaigning and pushed Biden and Harris in particular to conduct much of the traditional election activity online.

While the health of the American economy and status of workers were dominant Labor Day themes, both campaigns also focused on recent protests that have roiled Wisconsin and the rest of the nation after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha last month.

Harris, the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket, met privately with Blake's family at the Milwaukee airport after arriving in the state, where she spoke with Blake by phone from his hospital bed. Harris told Blake she was proud of him and individually spoke to each of his family members, in person and on the phone, urging them to take care of their physical and mental health, Blake's lawyers said in a statement.

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Scorched earth: Record 2 million acres burned in California

SHAVER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Wildfires have burned a record 2 million acres in California this year, and the danger for more destruction is so high the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday it was closing all eight national forests in the southern half of the state.

After a typically dry summer, California is parched heading into fall and what normally is the most dangerous time for wildfires. Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and dozens of others more around California.

A three-day heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures to much of the state during Labor Day weekend. But right behind it was a weather system with dry winds that could fan fires. The state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, was preparing to cut power to 158,000 customers in 21 counties in the northern half of the state to reduce the possibility its lines and other equipment could spark new fires.

Randy Moore, regional forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region that covers California, announced the national forest closures and said the decision would be re-evaluated daily. Campgrounds at all national forests in the state also were closed.

“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously." Moore said. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behaviour, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire."

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In battlegrounds, absentee ballot rejections could triple

ATLANTA (AP) — Thousands of absentee ballots get rejected in every presidential election. This year, that problem could be much worse and potentially pivotal in hotly contested battleground states.

With the coronavirus creating a surge in mail-in balloting and postal delays reported across the country, the number of rejected ballots in November is projected to be significantly higher than previous elections.

If ballots are rejected at the same rate as during this year's primaries, up to three times as many voters in November could be disenfranchised in key battleground states when compared to the last presidential election, according to an Associated Press analysis of rejected ballots. It could be even more pronounced in some urban areas where Democratic votes are concentrated and ballot rejection rates trended higher during this year’s primaries.

“It is the number one thing that keeps me up at night — the idea that voters will do everything they can to ensure their ballot is returned on time and the system will still fail them,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Ballot rejections occur even under the best of circumstances. They go uncounted because they arrived too late in the mail, voters forgot to sign them or signatures didn't match the one on file at local election offices.

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Bold hopes for virus antibody tests still unfulfilled

WASHINGTON (AP) — At the height of the coronavirus lockdown, President Donald Trump and his top health advisers trumpeted a new test that would help Americans reclaim their lives — one that would tell them if they already had the virus and were protected from getting it again.

Their arrival would help “get Americans back to work” by showing those who might have “the wonderful, beautiful immunity,” said Trump, a point repeated at the daily briefings last April.

Months later, the U.S. is awash in the tests but the bold predictions about their usefulness have yet to materialize.

“There was definitely a lot of wishful thinking that there was going to be a magical test that was going to save us all, but we’re not there yet,” said Dr. Jennifer Rakeman of New York City’s Public Health Laboratory.

The tests check the blood for antibodies the body makes to fight off an infection. Scientists are still working to figure out how well antibodies for the coronavirus may shield someone from another infection, or how long that protection might last. Some early studies suggested any immunity fades fast; research published last week was more promising, suggesting that antibodies last at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly.

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Hospital: Russia's Alexei Navalny out of coma, is responsive

BERLIN (AP) — Poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's condition has improved, allowing doctors to take him out of an induced coma, the German hospital treating him said Monday.

Navalny, a fierce, high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany last month after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. German chemical weapons experts say tests show the 44-year-old was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, prompting the German government last week to demand that Russia investigate the case.

“The patient has been removed from his medically induced coma and is being weaned off mechanical ventilation," Berlin’s Charite hospital said in a statement. ”He is responding to verbal stimuli. It remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning."

It added that the decision to publicly release details of his condition was made in consultation with Navalny's wife.

Navalny had been in an induced coma in the Berlin hospital since he was flown to Germany on Aug. 22 for treatment.

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Saudi court issues final verdicts in Khashoggi killing

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi court issued final verdicts on Monday in the case of slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after his son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.

While the trial draws to its conclusion in Saudi Arabia, the case continues to cast a shadow over the international standing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose associates have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for their alleged involvement in the brutal killing, which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them. The court ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the five. Another individual received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

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Prince Harry repays taxpayer money for UK home renovation

LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry has repaid 2.4 million pounds ($3.2 million) in British taxpayers’ money that was used to renovate the home in Windsor intended for him and his wife Meghan before they gave up royal duties and moved to California.

A spokesman for the couple said Monday that Harry had made a contribution to the Sovereign Grant, the public money that goes to the royal family. He said the contribution “fully covered the necessary renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage,” near Queen Elizabeth II’s Windsor Castle home, west of London.

He said Frogmore Cottage will remain the home of Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, when they visit the U.K.

Royal accounts for 2019 show that 2.4 million pounds was spent renovating the house, including structural work, rewiring and new flooring. Harry and Meghan agreed to pay back the money and start paying rent as part of the plans drawn up when they quit as senior working royals in March.

They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California and last week announced a deal with Netflix to produce a range of films and series for the streaming service.

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'Mighty mice' stay musclebound in space, boon for astronauts

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Bulked-up, mutant “mighty mice” held onto their muscle during a monthlong stay at the International Space Station, returning to Earth with ripped bodybuilder physiques, scientists reported Monday.

The findings hold promise for preventing muscle and bone loss in astronauts on prolonged space trips like Mars missions, as well as people on Earth who are confined to bed or need wheelchairs.

A research team led by Dr. Se-Jin Lee of the Jackson Laboratory in Connecticut sent 40 young female black mice to the space station in December, launching aboard a SpaceX rocket.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lee said the 24 regular untreated mice lost considerable muscle and bone mass in weightlessness as expected — up to 18%.

But the eight genetically engineered “mighty mice” launched with double the muscle maintained their bulk. Their muscles appeared to be comparable to similar “mighty mice” that stayed behind at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's errant views on voting, Biden miscues

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been putting forth convoluted guidance to his supporters on submitting double votes in the November election, an act that would be illegal and risk public safety in the pandemic.

In a week filled with fabrication, half-truths and misrepresentation, he also wrongly took full credit for veterans improvements that were underway before he took office.

He said he never called John McCain a loser — he did — and also distorted events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Democratic rival Joe Biden falsely claimed to have been the first person to have called for the use of emergency production powers in the pandemic, and he tried to shed light on the history of the incandescent bulb, but was a bit hazy.

A look at recent claims and reality:

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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