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

August 15, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Texas testing drops as schools reopen, prepare for football

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Anyone can get a coronavirus test at the CentroMed clinic in San Antonio, but on a recent day, the drive-thru was empty. Finally two masked people in a maroon SUV pulled straight on through with no wait.

With hundreds of deaths reported each day, students returning to class and football teams charging ahead with plans to play, Texas leaders who grappled with testing shortages for much of the pandemic are now facing the opposite problem: not enough takers.

“We’re not having enough people step forward,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said.

The number of coronavirus tests being done each day in Texas has dropped by the thousands in August, mirroring nationwide trends that has seen daily testing averages in the U.S. fall nearly 9% since the end of July, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The problem is dwindling demand: Testing centres like CentroMed are no longer inundated by long lines that stretch for blocks, or closing hours early because tests run out.

The dropoff comes as the U.S. has surpassed 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and is closing in on 170,000 deaths. It threatens to put the U.S. even further behind other countries that have better managed the pandemic, in part, through more aggressive testing.

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The Ultimate Recovery: Cycles of pain anchor Biden's moment

WASHINGTON (AP) — A young lawyer bounds across a parking lot in New Castle, Delaware, a blur of long sideburns, wide lapels and self-assurance. He throws open a door to a beauty salon, and the ladies inside whoop with surprise. It’s clear from the grainy footage that the stylists don’t know this 29-year-old candidate – yet.

“I’m Joe Biden, Democratic candidate for United States Senate,” he announces, shaking the hand of a grinning beautician. “Maybe if you get a chance, you’ll look me over between now and November.”

The pitch, captured in an October 1972 broadcast by WPVI in Philadelphia, is one Biden has made repeatedly since, winning seven terms in the Senate and two as vice-president. But throughout his lifetime in politics, his eye has been on the next rung — the presidency -- in a quest that failed spectacularly in his first two tries.

On this, his third attempt, the White House is within Biden's reach at what in some ways seems an improbable moment. At age 77, he is too old to even be called a Baby Boomer at a time when Democrats are prioritizing youth and diversity. But he's vowing to reset the nation's compass after four turbulent years under President Donald Trump, staking his claim on the pillars of competence, experience and empathy.

“The moment has met him, right now,” says former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “People know he’s been there, and he’s not going to just stand there. He’s going to do something to make it better. We need that desperately right now. People are scared.”

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AP FACT CHECK: Harris meets constitutional requirements

CHICAGO (AP) — False claims that Kamala Harris is not legally eligible to serve as U.S. vice-president or president have been circulating in social media posts since 2019, when she first launched her Democratic primary campaign.

As a person born in the U.S., at least 35 and a resident for at least 14 years, she is eligible for the nation's highest office as prescribed in the Constitution.

President Donald Trump has elevated the conspiracy theory that Harris is ineligible, citing the claim on Thursday without weighing in on its validity and then on Saturday refusing to say whether he believes the California-born senator does or doesn't meet the constitutional requirements of the office he holds.

“I have nothing to do with it. I read something about it,” Trump said Saturday during a news conference. He added: “It's not something that bothers me. ... It's not something that we will be pursuing.” Asked point blank if Harris is eligible, Trump replied: “I just told you. I have not got into it in great detail."

A look at the claim:

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Robert Trump, the president’s younger brother, dead at 71

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's younger brother, Robert Trump, a businessman known for an even keel that seemed almost incompatible with the family name, died Saturday night after being hospitalized in New York, the president said in a statement. He was 71.

The president visited his brother at a New York City hospital on Friday after White House officials said he had become seriously ill. Officials did not immediately release a cause of death.

"It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight," Donald Trump said in a statement. “He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

The youngest of the Trump siblings had remained close to the 74-year-old president and, as recently as June, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Trump family that unsuccessfully sought to stop publication of a tell-all book by the president’s niece, Mary.

Robert Trump had reportedly been hospitalized in the intensive care unit for several days that same month.

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'Do something:' Harris' rapid rise driven by call to action

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hours before Kamala Harris took the stage for the first time as Joe Biden's vice-presidential pick, she received a text message from a childhood classmate with photos from their school days.

In one of the pictures, a racially diverse group of first-graders are gathered in a classroom. Some had taken the bus from their homes across town to join white students from the affluent hillside neighbourhoods in Berkeley, California. A pensive Harris sits on the floor, dutifully looking ahead, a child in the centre of an experiment in racial integration.

“That’s how it started. There’s no question!” Harris, 55, texted back to Aaron Peskin, the former classmate who is now a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Fifty years after she was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley’s public schools, Harris is now the first Black woman and first Asian American woman named to a major party presidential ticket.

From her earliest years, Harris' path toward the second-highest office in the United States has tracked the nation's struggle for racial equality. The start-and-stop progress and sometimes messy debate have shaped her life, from an upbringing by immigrant parents, a childhood among civil rights activists, a career at the helm of a flawed criminal justice system and her rapid ascent to the top of Democratic politics.

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New rolling blackout hits at least 200,000 customers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — One of California’s three biggest utilities says it is cutting power to at least 200,000 customers in the northern and central parts of the state.

The move Saturday night comes as a heat wave baking California in triple-digit temperatures continued to strain the electrical system.

The California Independent System Operator (California ISO), which manages the power grid, declared a need for the rolling power outage at 6:30 p.m. The authority previously said it didn't expect to issue more rolling blackouts Saturday.

California ISO ordered the first rolling outages in nearly 20 years on Friday when it directed utilities around the state to shed their power loads. The state’s three biggest utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric — turned off power to more than 410,000 homes and businesses for about an hour at a time until the emergency declaration ended 3 1/2 hours later.

The move came as temperatures around the state hit triple digits in many areas, and air conditioning use soared.

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The Latest: S. Korea reports largest virus jump since March

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 279 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, it’s highest daily jump since early March, as fears grow about a massive outbreak in the greater capital region.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sunday brought the national caseload to 15,318, including 305 deaths.

The number of new cases was the highest since 367 were reported on March 8, when the country was concentrating public health tools and personnel from nationwide to combat an outbreak in the less populated southern region.

The KCDC said 253 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to 26 million people, where health authorities have been struggling to stem transmissions linked to various places and groups, including churches, nursery homes, schools, restaurants and door-to-door salespeople.

Infections were also reported in other major cities, such as Busan and Daegu, a southeastern city that was the epicenter of the country’s previous virus crisis in late February and March, when hundreds of new cases were reported each day.

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Fear, language barriers hinder immigrant contact-tracing

Only a handful of contact tracers working to slow COVID-19 in 125 communities near Chicago speak Spanish, despite significant Hispanic populations. Churches and advocacy groups in the Houston area are trying to convince immigrants to co-operate when health officials call. And in California, immigrants are being trained as contact tracers to ease mistrust.

The crucial job of reaching people who test positive for the coronavirus and those they’ve come in contact with is proving especially difficult in immigrant communities because of language barriers, confusion and fear of the government.

The failure of health departments across the U.S. to adequately investigate coronavirus outbreaks among non-English speakers is all the more fraught given the soaring and disproportionate case counts among Latinos in many states. Four of the hardest-hit states -- Florida, Texas, Arizona and California -- have major Spanish-speaking populations.

In the ZIP code with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland, 56% of adults speak Spanish. But only 60 of Maryland’s 1,350 contact tracers speak Spanish.

And the language barriers go beyond Spanish: Minneapolis needs tracers who also speak Somali, Oromo and Hmong, Chicago needs Polish speakers and Houston’s Harris County is grappling with a population that includes Vietnamese, Chinese and Hindi speakers.

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Trump to withdraw Pendley's nomination as public lands chief

SEATTLE (AP) — President Donald Trump intends to withdraw the nomination of William Perry Pendley to head the Bureau of Land Management, a senior administration official said Saturday — much to the relief of environmentalists who insisted the longtime advocate of selling federal lands should not be overseeing them.

Pendley, a former oil industry and property rights attorney from Wyoming, has been acting as the director of the agency for more than a year under a series of temporary orders from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Democrats alleged the temporary orders were an attempt to skirt the nomination process, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and conservation groups have filed lawsuits to have Pendley removed from office.

Trump announced Pendley's nomination to become the bureau's director in June. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, confirmed Saturday that the president intended to withdraw that nomination.

“Good!” Bullock, a Democrat, tweeted Saturday. “William Perry Pendley wants to sell off our public lands – and has no business being in charge of them.”

The bureau oversees nearly a quarter-billion public acres in the U.S. West and much of the nation’s onshore oil and gas development.

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Police move in after fights break out during Georgia protest

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) — After several hours of mostly peaceful demonstrations Saturday in an Atlanta suburb that's home to a giant Confederate memorial, large numbers of police moved in to disperse the crowds when fights broke out.

Several dozen right-wing demonstrators, some waving the Confederate battle flag and many wearing military gear, gathered in downtown Stone Mountain where they faced off against a few hundred counterprotesters, many of whom wore shirts or carried signs expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. People in both groups carried rifles. For several hours, there was little visible police presence and things were largely peaceful, aside from some shoving and pushing and spirited arguments.

But just before 1 p.m., fights broke out, with people punching and kicking each other and throwing rocks. That's when police officers in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowds.

By 2 p.m., almost all of the protesters had left the area.

Right-wing groups led by an Arkansas group called Confederate States III%, had applied for a permit to hold a rally in Stone Mountain Park, where there's a giant sculpture of Confederate leaders. The event was planned as a response to a march in the park by a Black militia group on July 4.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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