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

June 23, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Trump-backed House candidates lose in Kentucky, N. Carolina

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Voters rebuffed President Donald Trump's preferences and nominated two Republicans he opposed to House seats from North Carolina and Kentucky on Tuesday. Calls in higher-profile races in Kentucky and probably New York faced days of delay as swamped officials count mountains of mail-in ballots.

In western North Carolina, GOP voters picked 24-year-old investor Madison Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair following an accident, over Trump-backed real estate agent Lynda Bennett. The runoff was for the seat vacated by GOP Rep. Mark Meadows, who resigned to become Trump's chief of staff and joined his new boss in backing Bennett.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian-minded maverick who often clashes with GOP leaders, was renominated for a sixth House term in Kentucky. Trump savaged Massie in March as a “disaster for America” who should be ejected from the party after he forced lawmakers to return to Washington during a pandemic to vote on a huge economic relief package.

Cawthorn, who will meet the constitutionally mandated minimum age of 25 when the next Congress convenes, has said he's a Trump supporter, and Massie is strongly conservative. Still, their victories were an embarrassment to a president whose own reelection campaign has teetered recently.

As states ease voting by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic, a deluge of mail-in ballots and glacially slow counting procedures made delays inevitable. That torturous wait seemed a preview of November, when numerous states will embrace mail-in voting and officials are warning that uncertainty over who is the next president could linger for days.

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Fauci: Next few weeks critical to tamping down virus spikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The next few weeks are critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday — issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks just hours before mask-shunning President Donald Trump was set to address a crowd of his young supporters in one hot spot.

Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down virus testing, in contrast to Trump’s claim last weekend that he had ordered fewer tests be performed because they were uncovering too many infections. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he wasn't kidding when he made that remark.

“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, pledged to a House committee conducting oversight of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic.

The leading public health officials spent more than five hours testifying before the committee at a fraught moment, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.

Fauci told lawmakers he understands the pent-up desire to get back to normal as the U.S. begins emerging from months of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But that has “to be a gradual step-by-step process and not throwing caution to the wind,” he said.

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Baseball's back: MLB sets 60-game sked, opens July 23 or 24

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball issued a 60-game schedule Tuesday night that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus following months of acrimony.

A dramatically altered season with games full of new rules was the final result of failed financial negotiations. But for fans eager to see any baseball this year, at least now they can look forward to opening day.

The announcement by MLB came while more players continue to test positive for the virus — at least seven on the Philadelphia Phillies alone. And a stark realization remained, that if health situations deteriorated, all games could still be wiped out.

“What happens when we all get it?" Milwaukee pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted this week.

One day after the players' association rejected an economic agreement and left open the possibility of a grievance seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, the bickering sides agreed on an operations manual. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred then unilaterally imposed the schedule, his right under a March agreement with the union.

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With student gathering, Trump gets a more boisterous crowd

PHOENIX (AP) — It wasn’t quite one of his signature big-stadium rallies.

But President Donald Trump drew something closer to the jam-packed audience of political supporters he’s been craving as hundreds of young conservatives filled a Phoenix megachurch Tuesday to hear his call for them to get behind his reelection effort.

The crowded Dream City Church for the gathering of Students for Trump offered a starkly different feel compared to Trump’s weekend rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his first of the coronavirus era, which drew sparser attendance.

Trump hailed the “patriotic young Americans who stand up tall for America and refuse to kneel to the radical left.”

“You are the courageous warriors standing in the way of what they want to do and their goals,” he told the boisterous crowd. “They hate our history. They hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans.”

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Police officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting fired

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Louisville Metro police department has fired one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, more than three months after the 26-year-old black woman was killed in her home.

A termination letter sent to Officer Brett Hankison released by the city’s police department Tuesday said Hankinson violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March. The letter also said Hankison, who is white, violated the rule against using deadly force.

Taylor, who was Black, was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville home using a no-knock warrant during a March 13 narcotics investigation. The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

The no-knock search warrant that allows police to enter without first announcing their presence was recently banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.

The letter said Hankison fired the rounds “without supporting facts” that the deadly force was directed at a person posing an immediate threat.

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Powerful earthquake shakes southern Mexico, at least 5 dead

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A powerful earthquake centred near the southern Mexico resort of Huatulco on Tuesday killed at least five people, swayed buildings in Mexico City and sent thousands fleeing into the streets.

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said one person was killed in a building collapse in Huatulco, Oaxaca. Otherwise he said reports were of minor damage from the magnitude 7.4 quake, including broken windows and collapsed walls. Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat said a second person was killed in an apparent house collapse in the mountain village of San Juan Ozolotepec and a third died in circumstances he did not explain.

Federal civil defence authorities reported two more deaths: a worker at the state-run oil company, Pemex, fell to his death from a refinery structure, and a man died in the Oaxaca village of San Agustin Amatengo when a wall fell on him.

Pemex also said the quake caused a fire at its refinery in the Pacific coast city of Salina Cruz, relatively near the epicenter. It said one worker was injured and the flames were quickly extinguished. Churches, bridges and highways also suffered damage during the quake.

López Obrador said there had been more than 140 aftershocks, most of them small.

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Baptists and Walmart criticize rebel-themed Mississippi flag

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Confederate-themed Mississippi flag drew opposition Tuesday from two big forces in the culturally conservative state: Southern Baptists and Walmart.

Walmart said it will stop displaying the Mississippi flag while the state debates whether to change the design. The Mississippi Baptist Convention said lawmakers have a moral obligation to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag because many people are “hurt and shamed” by it.

“We believe it’s the right thing to do, and is consistent with Walmart’s position to not sell merchandise with the confederate flag from stores and online sites, as part of our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all of our customers in the communities we serve," company spokesperson Anne Hatfield said.

The announcements increase pressure for change in a state that is slow to embrace it. Protests against racial injustice across the U.S. are focusing new attention on Confederate symbols.

Mississippi has the last state flag that includes the Confederate battle emblem: a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The NCAA, the Southeastern Conference, prominent business organizations and other religious groups have already called for the state to adopt a more inclusive banner.

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White House wins ruling on health care price disclosure

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration won a court ruling Tuesday upholding its plan to require insurers and hospitals to disclose the actual prices for common tests and procedures in a bid to promote competition and push down costs.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called the decision in federal court in Washington, D.C., “a resounding victory" for President Donald Trump's efforts to open up the convoluted world of health care pricing so patients and families can make better-informed decisions about their care.

“This may very well be bigger than healthcare itself,” Trump tweeted Tuesday, on the ruling. “Congratulations America!”

But the American Hospital Association, which sued to block the Trump administration regulation and was on the losing side, announced it would appeal. Industry argues that forcing the disclosure of prices negotiated between hospitals and insurers amounts to coercion.

That means the decision by U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols may not be the final word.

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Rope found hanging in Wallace's garage was coincidence

NASCAR stood by its decision to alert federal authorities to a rope that resembled a noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway, even after the investigation determined it had been there since at least last October.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said Tuesday an investigation determined “nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned" to that same stall. NASCAR said it was the lone garage stall with a pull down rope that resembled a noose.

Wallace is the only Black driver at NASCAR's top level and has become a leading activist in the sport during a push for racial equality. He has worn an “I Can't Breathe” shirt, had a Black Lives Matter paint scheme and successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag.

In using his newfound voice, the 26-year-old has said he's received death threats and NASCAR had assigned him at-track security.

It made for heightened sensitivity and a potential overreaction when a crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports reported a noose had been found sometime after Sunday's race was delayed by rain. NASCAR said it was “angry and outraged” over the “heinous act” that the series directly linked to racism.

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Trump's brother seeks to halt family tell-all book

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s brother is asking a New York City judge to prevent the president’s niece from publishing a tell-all book, which is expected to be released later this month.

In court papers, Robert Trump’s lawyers argue that Mary Trump and others had signed a settlement agreement in the late 1990s that included a confidentially clause explicitly saying they would not “publish any account concerning the litigation or their relationship,” unless they all agreed.

The settlement agreement related to the will of Donald Trump’s father, New York real estate developer Fred Trump.

“Confidentiality was at the essence of the Settlement agreement,” the court papers say.

Robert Trump argues the publication of the book is prohibited by the settlement agreement reached in 2001 and he never consented to it being published. Mary Trump is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr., the president's older brother, who died in 1981.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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