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 14, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Trump spurns science on climate: 'Don't think science knows'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With the smell of California wildfires in the air, President Donald Trump on Monday ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast infernos and renewed his unfounded claim that failure to rake forest floors and clear dead timber is mostly to blame.

The fires are threatening to become another front in Trump’s reelection bid, which is already facing hurdles because of the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and social unrest. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in his own speech Monday said the destruction and mounting death toll across California, Oregon and Washington require stronger presidential leadership and labeled Trump a “climate arsonist.”

Trump travelled to Northern California to be briefed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and federal officials. At one point, state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged the president to “recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests.”

“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians," Crowfoot added.

Trump responded, “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.”

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Sally's threat: 'Potentially historic' floods, fierce winds

WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) — Hurricane Sally, one of four storms churning simultaneously in the Atlantic, closed in on the Gulf Coast on Monday with rapidly strengthening winds of at least 100 mph (161 kph) and heavy rain as forecasters warned of “potentially historic” flooding and governors declared states of emergency.

The slow-moving storm was forecast to brush the southeastern tip of Louisiana and then blow ashore late Tuesday or early Wednesday near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, the National Hurricane Center said. Hurricane warnings stretched from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, an action that authorizes federal emergency officials to co-ordinate disaster relief efforts and provide emergency assistance to the affected areas.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey asked the president to do the same for her state after the National Weather Service in Mobile warned of the increasing likelihood of "dangerous and potentially historic flooding.” The weather service forecast that waters could rise as much as 9 feet (2.7 metres) above ground in large parts of the Mobile metro area. With a population of 400,000 people, it is among the largest metro areas along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Tampa, Florida. Some businesses in Mobile placed sandbags at their entrances in preparation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the Panhandle's westernmost counties, Escambia and Santa Rosa as the hurricane's outer bands began to lash the area. All along the storm-weary Gulf Coast, residents rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies ahead of the hurricane, which powered up to a Category 2 in the afternoon. Forecasters said sustained winds could reach 110 mph (177 kph), just below Category 3 strength, by landfall.

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Wildfires during pandemic intensify economic pain in West

The fires consuming the forests of California and Oregon and darkening the skies over San Francisco and Portland are also damaging a regional economy already singed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Wildfires are destroying property, running up huge losses for property insurers and putting a strain on economic activity along the West Coast that could linger for a year or more.

The credit rating agency A.M. Best estimates that insured losses from the blazes in California could top the unprecedented $13 billion recorded in 2017 when the state was hit by three of the five costliest fires in U.S. history.

“We know that the damage is widespread, but we don’t really know how many homes, how many structures have been destroyed," said Adam Kamins, an economist who tracks natural disasters for Moody’s Analytics. "I imagine the number is going to be an unbearably high one.’’

The fires are unlikely to make much of a dent in the overall $20 trillion U.S. economy. The financial fallout will be measured in the low billions of dollars, not in hundreds of billions or trillions. To make a nationwide impact, Kamins said, it would take something like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which disrupted oil supplies.

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A family struggle as pandemic worsens food insecurity

NEW YORK (AP) — At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic this spring, Sharawn Vinson often woke up crying. A recurring thought was making the unemployed single mother desperate: That her kids could go hungry.

There was also fear of contracting the virus, which has disproportionately hit low-income Black families like hers. Meanwhile some of the largest protests against racial injustice in decades were transpiring right outside their window, after the family had experienced its own terrifying encounter with police earlier in the year. There were unpaid bills, and feelings of shame from having to go to a soup kitchen in search of a meal.

So Vinson made the painful decision to send 11-year-old twins Mason and Maddison to live with their father, six states to the south, knowing that way they’d at least be fed.

“I needed them to breathe,” Vinson said, wiping away tears in her living room of peeling gray walls in a Brooklyn housing development.

Vinson was not alone in struggling to put food on the table in this historically tumultuous year. In New York City alone, an estimated 2 million residents are facing food insecurity, a number that the city’s mayor estimates nearly doubled in the pandemic amid the biggest surge in unemployment since the Great Depression. The scope of the problem outstrips previous crises such as the Great Recession, according to those who are working to combat it, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

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Trump defies virus rules as 'peaceful protest' rallies grow

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate. But that hasn't stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds ever-growing rallies in battleground states.

Democratic governors and local leaders have urged the president to reconsider the events, warning that he's putting lives at risk. But they have largely not tried to block the gatherings of thousands of people, which Trump and his team deem “peaceful protests” protected by the First Amendment.

“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States," Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a statement.

Trump’s refusal to abide by health guidelines — even those crafted by his own administration — underscores the extent to which he believes projecting an image of normalcy is vital to winning in November, even as the country approaches 200,000 deaths from COVID-19.

Trump has tried to use this summer's mass protests over racial injustice and police misconduct as cover for his rallies, making the case that, if demonstrators can gather en masse, so can his supporters. So far, Democratic governors have declined to stand in his way, refusing to become a foil to Trump and feed into his narrative that liberals are trying to deny Republicans their First Amendment rights.

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Rochester police chief out in fallout over Prude death

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.

Chief Le’Ron Singletary announced his retirement last week as part of a major shakeup of the city’s police leadership but said he would stay on through the end of the month.

Instead, Warren said at a news conference that she had permanently relieved him while suspending Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days following a cursory management review of the city's role in Prude's death.

“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewd the case throughout city government at every level.”

Officers found Prude running naked down the street in March, handcuffed him and put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

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Biden assembles legal team ahead of divisive 2020 election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden is assembling a team of top lawyers in anticipation of court challenges to the election process that could ultimately determine who wins the race for the White House.

Biden's presidential campaign says the legal war room will work to ensure that elections are properly administered and votes correctly counted. It will also seek to combat voter suppression at the polls, identify foreign interference and misinformation, and educate voters on the different methods available for casting ballots.

The effort, which the Biden campaign described as the largest election protection program in presidential campaign history, reflects the extent of the preparation underway for an already divisive presidential contest in November that could produce significant, perhaps even decisive, court cases over voter access and the legitimacy of mail ballots.

Democrats and Republicans are locked in legal fights on election rules that could help shape the outcome of the vote, and President Donald Trump's campaign has its own attorneys handling cases on a variety of issues.

Trump in recent months has sought to preemptively cast doubt on the election, warning that the expected surge in mail ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic will lead to massive fraud and could open the door to foreign countries to print their own fraudulent ballots.

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AP: Feds probing in-custody death of Black man in Louisiana

Federal authorities are investigating the death of a Black man during what Louisiana State Police described as a struggle to take him into custody following a rural police chase last year, officials told The Associated Press.

The death of 49-year-old Ronald Greene remains shrouded in secrecy because State Police have declined to release body-camera footage related to the May 2019 chase north of Monroe, Louisiana. Troopers say it began when Greene failed to stop for an unspecified traffic violation.

Greene's death drew new attention after his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit this year alleging state troopers “brutalized” Greene and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death.

Greene's family said authorities initially claimed Greene died after crashing into a tree but omitted what State Police now acknowledge was the “struggle” preceding his death. The lawsuit, drawing on witness accounts, alleges officers pinned Greene to the ground and used a stun gun on him even after he apologized for leading them on a chase.

Greene's mother, Mona Hardin, said her family has not been able to grieve because so many questions remain unresolved. She said her son had been a well-liked barber who lived in West Monroe and had a “giving spirit.”

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South Dakota agency: AG reported hitting deer, but hit man

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car on Saturday night but actually killed a pedestrian whose body was not found until the next day, state investigators said Monday.

Ravnsborg's office has said he immediately called 911 after the crash on a rural stretch of U.S. Highway 14 and did not realize he had hit a man until his body was found. The Department of Public Safety issued a statement Monday that said only that Ravnsborg told the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that he had hit a deer. Tony Mangan, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Ravnsborg called 911, saying it is part of the ongoing investigation.

The pedestrian, who was identified as 55-year-old Joseph Boever, was not found until Sunday morning, according to the department. He had crashed his truck in that area earlier, according to relatives, and was apparently walking near the road toward it.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem had revealed Sunday that Ravnsborg was involved in a fatal crash and tasked the Department of Public Safety with investigating, but neither she nor the agency had provided any details.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also participating in the investigation. The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which would normally be involved, is part of the attorney general's office. It is standard practice to request an outside agency to conduct an investigation when there may be a conflict of interest.

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Netflix's ‘Cuties’ becomes target of politicized backlash

The backlash to the French independent film “Mignonnes,” or “Cuties,” started before it had even been released because of a poster that went viral for its provocative depiction of its young female actors. But the spotlight has only intensified since the film became available on Netflix last week and it has become the target of heightened politicized outrage from members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and others online calling for subscribers to #CancelNetflix.

At the heart of the backlash is the idea that “Cuties” is dangerously and irresponsibly sexualizing pre-teen girls, which, ironically, is what the movie itself is criticizing too. The campaign against the film, which includes calls for the Department of Justice to investigate it and hundreds of thousands calling for subscribers to cancel their Netflix accounts, is riddled with inaccuracies due in part to the fact that some critics have not seen the film (one claims that there is child nudity when there is not).

Netflix said in a statement that it is a, “social commentary against the sexualization of young children.”

Written and directed by Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties” is about an 11-year-old Senegalese immigrant named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) who is living in an impoverished Paris suburb with her observant Muslim family. She becomes fascinated with a clique of rebellious girls at her middle school who choreograph dance routines and wear crop tops and heels. They talk about Kim Kardashian and diets, practice “twerking” and giggle about boys and sex-related things that they don’t yet understand.

Netflix acquired “Cuties” out of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it was favourably reviewed and won an award for its direction. It is the kind of film (foreign-language and with no stars from a first-time director) that would otherwise have gone under the radar. But because Netflix’s promotional materials caught the attention of the internet and even led to an apology from the streaming giant and the removal of the posters, “Cuties” was thrust onto the national stage.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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