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

August 21, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Plane carrying dissident in coma leaves Russia for Germany

OMSK, Russia (AP) — A plane carrying a Russian dissident who is in a coma after a suspected poisoning left for a German hospital Saturday following much wrangling over Alexei Navalny’s condition and treatment.

The plane could be seen taking off from an airport in the Siberian city of Omsk just after 8 a.m. local time. Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, confirmed the departure on Twitter. The flight to Berlin was expected to take about five hours.

Navalny, a 44-year-old politician and corruption investigator who is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, was admitted to an intensive care unit in Omsk on Thursday. His supporters believe that tea he drank was laced with poison — and that the Kremlin is behind both his illness and the delay in transferring him to a top German hospital.

When German specialists first arrived on a plane equipped with advanced medical equipment Friday morning at his family’s behest, Navalny’s physicians in Omsk said he was too unstable to move.

Navalny’s supporters denounced that as a ploy by authorities to stall until any poison in his system would no longer be traceable. The Omsk medical team relented only after a charity that had organized the medevac plane revealed that the German doctors examined the politician and said he was fit to be transported.


Quarantines, closures: Confusion reigns as schools reopen

Frightening calls from the school nurse. Waiting in vain for word from school officials. Cancelled sports practices. Marching bands in quarantine.

For countless families across the country, the school year is opening in disarray and confusion, with coronavirus outbreaks triggering sudden closings, mass quarantines and deep anxiety among parents.

Schools in at least 10 states have had students and staff test positive for the virus since they began opening. The outbreaks have occurred in a variety of school settings: marching bands, high school football teams, elementary classrooms, high schools.

A Colorado high school shut down for two weeks after two students tested positive. Football teams in Utah cancelled practices and games after several players came down with the virus. The entire football team and marching band in a small Alabama town were placed under quarantine because of exposure to the virus, the second time the team had to be quarantined this summer.

Michigan is reporting 14 outbreaks at schools. Mississippi started the week with about 2,000 students and 600 teachers in quarantine; the state has had 245 cases of coronavirus in teachers and about 200 in students since districts began returning to school in late July.


Mounting US deaths reveal an outsize toll on people of colour

As many as 215,000 more people than usual died in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2020, suggesting that the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll. And half the dead were people of colour — Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and, to a marked degree unrecognized until now, Asian Americans.

The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight a stark disparity: Deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among whites.

As of the end of July, the official death toll in the U.S. from COVID-19 was about 150,000. It has since grown to over 170,000.

But public health authorities have long known that some coronavirus deaths, especially early on, were mistakenly attributed to other causes, and that the crisis may have led indirectly to the loss of many other lives by preventing or discouraging people with other serious ailments from seeking treatment.

A count of deaths from all causes during the seven-month period yields what experts believe is a fuller — and more alarming — picture of the disaster and its racial dimensions.


Apology at sentencing deepens mystery of Golden State Killer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Just before receiving multiple consecutive life sentences, Joseph James DeAngelo, the former California police officer who lived a double life as the murderous sociopath dubbed the Golden State Killer, broke his silence to tell a hushed courtroom filled with victims and their family members that he was “truly sorry” for the crimes.

It was such an unexpected moment that it brought gasps from those in the gallery, many of whom sat through an extraordinary four-day sentencing hearing filled with graphic and heart-wrenching testimony from dozens of victims. It also reinforced that nobody ever seemed to know what DeAngelo would do and who he was, which helps explain how he eluded detection for four decades while committing at least 13 killings and dozens of rapes.

The 74-year-old DeAngelo spoke for only a few seconds after rising from a wheelchair that newly released jail video shows he doesn’t need.

"I listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I’m truly sorry for everyone I’ve hurt,” he said, putting aside the weak, quavering voice he used to plead guilty and also admit to multiple other sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Prosecutors and victims said it was more evidence of a manipulative and vicious criminal who fooled investigators and his own family until he finally admitted victimizing at least 87 people at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties. He was finally unmasked in 2018 with a pioneering use of DNA tracing.


Postmaster says election mail will go through despite cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said Friday he has no plans to restore mailboxes and other agency cuts made since he took over in June, sparking fresh questions over how the Postal Service will ensure timely delivery of an expected surge of mail-in ballots for the November election.

It was DeJoy's first time publicly answering questions since summer mail delays brought a public outcry. Testifying before a Senate committee, the ally of President Donald Trump said it was his “sacred duty” that ballots arrive on time. But he told senators he did not yet have a plan for handling a crush of election mail.

From the White House, Trump delivered fresh complaints over the mail-in ballots expected because of the coronavirus pandemic. As he did, the House pushed ahead with plans for a rare Saturday vote to block the postal cutbacks and funnel $25 billion to shore up operations.

DeJoy declared that the Postal Service “is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on-time.” He distanced himself from Trump's objections about widescale mail-in voting and said ensuring ballots arrive was his "No. 1 priority between now and Election Day.”

The outcry over mail delays and warnings of political interference have put the Postal Service at the centre of the nation's tumultuous election year, with Americans of both parties rallying around one of the nation's oldest and more popular institutions.


California wildfires some of largest in state history

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Lightning-sparked wildfires in Northern California exploded in size Friday to become some of the largest in state history, forcing thousands to flee and destroying hundreds of homes and other structures as reinforcements began arriving to help weary firefighters.

More than 12,000 firefighters aided by helicopters and air tankers are battling wildfires throughout California. Three groups of fires, called complexes, burning north, east and south of San Francisco have together scorched 780 square miles (2,020 square kilometres), destroyed more than 500 structures and killed five people.

More than 140,000 people are under evacuation orders.

The number of personnel assigned to the sprawling LNU Complex — a cluster of blazes burning in the heart of wine country north of San Francisco — doubled to more than 1,000 firefighters Friday, Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said.

"I’m happy to say there are resources all around the fire today. We have engines on all four sides of it working hand-in-hand with the bulldozers to start containing this fire, putting it to bed,” Nicholls aid.


Loughlin, Giannulli get prison time in college bribery plot

BOSTON (AP) — Apologizing publicly for the first time for crimes their lawyers insisted for months they didn’t commit, “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, were sentenced to prison Friday for using their wealth and privilege to cheat their daughters' way into the college of their choice.

The two-month prison sentence for Loughlin and five-month term for Giannulli bring to a close the legal saga for the highest-profile parents ensnared in the college admissions bribery scheme — a scandal that rocked the U.S. educational system and laid bare the lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their kids into elite universities.

Fighting back tears, Loughlin told the judge her actions “helped exacerbate existing inequalities in society" and pledged to do everything in her power to use her experience as a “catalyst to do good.” Her lawyer said she began volunteering with special needs students at an elementary school.

“I made an awful decision. I went along with a plan to give my daughters an unfair advantage in the college admissions process and in doing so I ignored my intuition and allowed myself to be swayed from my moral compass,” Loughlin, 56, said during the hearing held via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours before in a separate hearing, Giannulli, whose Mossimo clothing had long been a Target brand until recently, told the judge he “deeply” regrets the harm to his daughters, wife and others.


Former sailor details misconduct by SEALs pulled from Iraq

SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Navy intelligence specialist Colleen Grace was asleep on a remote air base in Iraq in 2019 when she was woken up by knocking on the door next to her room, and then a voice she recognized.

The voice belonged to a Navy corpsman she knew. He was upset and speaking loudly to the Army colonel who lived next door. Grace heard the corpsman say that a sailor who attended a Fourth of July barbecue had just been raped by a Navy SEAL on the base. The corpsman asked the colonel what to do because the victim was afraid that if she reported the incident, retribution would follow.

“And that’s real,” Grace heard Hospitalman First Class Gustavo Llerenes tell Col. Thomas Collins, a physician’s assistant with the Florida National Guard. “It’s a good ol’ boy’s network.”

She said she heard Collins urge Llerenes to keep his voice down, saying the walls between the rooms were thin.

Grace, who could no longer hear the conversation between medical professionals, looked down at her phone to check the time. Just then Grace noticed a missed text from a friend asking her to come over. “Urgent,” the message read.


NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


CLAIM: Biden’s tax rate on a family making $75,000 dollars a year would go from 12% to 25%.

THE FACTS: False posts circulating on Facebook and Twitter claim that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has proposed a staggering tax increase for families making $75,000 a year. A current federal tax rate of 12 per cent applies to families making up to $80,000, or individuals making up to $40,000. That would still apply under Biden, who has vowed publicly not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. “Nobody making under $400,000 bucks would have their taxes raised. Period. Bingo,” Biden said in an interview on CNBC in May. Biden has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 per cent. He has also proposed a 12.4 per cent Social Security tax for income above $400,000, in addition to rolling back the 2018 tax cuts that President Donald Trump signed into law for those making $400,000 or more. An analysis of his tax plan performed by University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model in March found that the bottom 90 per cent of income earners would not pay more in federal income taxes under Biden’s proposal. Another analysis of Biden’s tax plan by the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan think-tank in Washington, D.C., predicted a slight increase for the bottom 99 per cent of earners. On average, the report said earners in varying brackets could pay between an extra $30 to $590, as a result of Biden’s tax plan. But that increase, the Tax Policy Center said, would not be the result of Biden directly raising taxes on those earners. Instead, the Tax Policy Center predicted workers would indirectly pay more because of Biden’s plan to increase the corporate tax, a cost which some employers could pass along in ways to their own employees.

— Amanda Seitz reported this item from Chicago.


Birth of panda cub provides 'much-needed moment of pure joy'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Delivering a “much-needed moment of pure joy,” the National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a wiggling cub Friday at a time of global pandemic and social unrest.

An experienced mom, “Mei Xiang picked the cub up immediately and began cradling and caring for it,” the zoo said in a statement. “The panda team heard the cub vocalize.”

Panda lovers around the world were able to see the birth on the zoo's Panda Cam. Zookeepers also were using the camera to keep an eye on mom and baby.

“Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and with the birth of this precious cub we are thrilled to offer the world a much-needed moment of pure joy,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Monfort said Mei Xiang's age — 22 — made her chances of giving birth to a cub slim. “However, we wanted to give her one more opportunity to contribute to her species’ survival,” he said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
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