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

June 24, 2020 - 8:04 PM

'Coming back and biting us': US sees virus resurgence

HOUSTON (AP) — A coronavirus resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the U.S. and sending infections to dire new levels across the South and West, with hospital administrators and health experts warning Wednesday that politicians and a tired-of-being-cooped-up public are letting a disaster unfold.

The U.S. recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest level since late April, when the number peaked at 36,400, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

While newly confirmed infections have been declining steadily in early hot spots such as New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some of them also broke hospitalization records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina.

“People got complacent,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of the Houston Methodist hospital system. “And it’s coming back and biting us, quite frankly.”

Stocks slid on Wall Street as the news dampened hopes for a quick economic turnaround. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 700 points for a drop of 2.7%. The broader S&P 500 fell 2.6%.

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Virus cases surge among the young, endangering older adults

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Coronavirus cases are climbing rapidly among young adults in a number of states where bars, stores and restaurants have reopened — a disturbing generational shift that not only puts them in greater peril than many realize but poses an even bigger danger to older people who cross their paths.

In Oxford, Mississippi, summer fraternity parties sparked outbreaks. In Oklahoma City, church activities, fitness classes, weddings and funerals seeded infections among people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. In Iowa college towns, surges followed the reopening of bars. A cluster of hangouts near Louisiana State University led to at least 100 customers and employees testing positive. In East Lansing, Michigan, an outbreak tied to a brew pub spread to 34 people ages 18 to 23.

There and in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, young people have started going out again, many without masks, in what health experts see as irresponsible behaviour.

“The virus hasn’t changed. We have changed our behaviours," said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Younger people are more likely to be out and taking a risk.”

In Florida, young people ages 15 to 34 now make up 31% of all cases, up from 25% in early June. Last week, more than 8,000 new cases were reported in that age group, compared with about 2,000 among people 55 to 64 years old. And experts say the phenomenon cannot be explained away as simply the result of more testing.

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Appeals court orders dismissal of Michael Flynn prosecution

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of the criminal case against President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, turning back efforts by a judge to scrutinize the Justice Department's extraordinary decision to drop the prosecution.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a 2-1 ruling that the Justice Department's move to abandon the case against Flynn settles the matter, even though Flynn pleaded guilty as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to lying to the FBI.

The ruling, a significant win for both Flynn and the Justice Department, appears to cut short what could have been a protracted legal fight over the basis for the government's dismissal of the case. It came as Democrats question whether the Justice Department has become too politicized and Attorney General William Barr too quick to side with the president, particularly as he vocally criticizes, and even undoes, some of the results of the Russia investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday centred on another unusual move by Barr to overrule his own prosecutors and ask for less prison time for another Trump associate, Roger Stone. Barr has accepted an invitation to testify before the panel on July 28, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, and he will almost certainly be pressed about the Flynn case.

Trump tweeted just moments after the ruling became public: “Great! Appeals Court Upholds Justice Departments Request to Drop Criminal Case Against General Michael Flynn.”

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Election results are delayed again. Get used to it.

Kentucky and New York had primaries Tuesday, but the winners of the closest races probably won't be known until next week. What's going on?

Get used to it. Slow vote counts and delayed results are a feature of elections during the pandemic and are likely to continue into the general election in November, when many election officials say that, absent a landslide, it won't be clear who won the presidential election for several days.

“Americans need to learn a little patience," said Josh Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky who studies voter rights. "The fact of not knowing who won right away is the process actually working.”

WHAT'S THE HOLDUP?

In short, more Americans are voting by mail — heeding health officials' warnings that close contact at polling places could spread the coronavirus — and mail ballots take longer to count.

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WikiLeaks founder Assange faces new indictment in US

WASHINGTON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought to recruit hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia who could provide his anti-secrecy website with classified information, and conspired with members of hacking organizations, according to a new Justice Department indictment announced Wednesday.

The superseding indictment does not contain additional charges beyond the 18 counts the Justice Department unsealed last year. But prosecutors say it underscores Assange's efforts to procure and release classified information, allegations that form the basis of criminal charges he already faces.

Beyond recruiting hackers at conferences, the indictment accuses Assange of conspiring with members of hacking groups known as LulzSec and Anonymous. He also worked with a 17-year-old hacker who gave him information stolen from a bank and directed the teenager to steal additional material, including audio recordings of high-ranking government officials, prosecutors say.

Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack, said in a statement that “the government’s relentless pursuit of Julian Assange poses a grave threat to journalists everywhere and to the public’s right to know.”

“While today’s superseding indictment is yet another chapter in the U.S. Government’s effort to persuade the public that its pursuit of Julian Assange is based on something other than his publication of newsworthy truthful information,” he added, “the indictment continues to charge him with violating the Espionage Act based on WikiLeaks publications exposing war crimes committed by the U.S. Government.”

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Scarce medical oxygen worldwide leaves many gasping for life

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea’s best hope for coronavirus patients lies inside a neglected yellow shed on the grounds of its main hospital: an oxygen plant that has never been turned on.

The plant was part of a hospital renovation funded by international donors responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa a few years ago. But the foreign technicians and supplies needed to complete the job can’t get in under Guinea’s coronavirus lockdowns — even though dozens of Chinese technicians came in on a charter flight last month to work at the country’s lucrative mines. Unlike many of Guinea’s public hospitals, the mines have a steady supply of oxygen.

As the coronavirus spreads, soaring demand for oxygen is bringing out a stark global truth: Even the right to breathe depends on money. In much of the world, oxygen is expensive and hard to get — a basic marker of inequality both between and within countries.

In wealthy Europe and North America, hospitals treat oxygen as a fundamental need, much like water or electricity. It is delivered in liquid form by tanker truck and piped directly to the beds of coronavirus patients. Running short is all but unthinkable for a resource that literally can be pulled from the air.

In Spain, as coronavirus deaths climbed, engineers laid 7 kilometres (4 miles) of tubing in less than a week to give 1,500 beds in an impromptu hospital a direct supply of pure oxygen. Oxygen is also plentiful and brings the most profits in industrial use such as mining, aerospace, electronics and construction.

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Democrats confirm plans for nearly all-virtual convention

Democrats will hold an almost entirely virtual presidential nominating convention Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee using live broadcasts and online streaming, party officials said Wednesday.

Joe Biden plans to accept the presidential nomination in person, but it remains to be seen whether there will be a significant in-person audience there to see it. The Democratic National Committee said in a statement that official business, including the votes to nominate Biden and his yet-to-be-named running mate, will take place virtually, with delegates being asked not to travel to Milwaukee.

It’s the latest sign of how much the COVID-19 pandemic has upended American life and the 2020 presidential election, leading Biden and the party to abandon the usual trappings of an event that draws tens of thousands of people to the host city to mark the start of the general election campaign. Not even during the Civil War or World War II did the two major parties abandon in-person conventions with crowded arenas.

Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said the drastically altered convention won’t be an impediment. “Vice-President Biden intends to proudly accept his party’s nomination in Milwaukee and take the next step forward towards making Donald Trump a one-term president,” she said, adding that Biden’s campaign will continue to highlight Wisconsin as a key battleground state.

Democrats had offered strong signals before Wednesday that they’d curtail convention activities, including when Perez pushed back the original convention dates in mid-July.

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3 men indicted on murder charges in killing of Ahmaud Arbery

ATLANTA (AP) — Three white men have been indicted on murder charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man fatally shot while running in a neighbourhood near Georgia's coast.

Prosecutor Joyette Holmes announced Wednesday that a grand jury has indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges including malice and felony murder in Arbery's death.

“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said at a news conference outside the Glynn County courthouse in Brunswick that was streamed online by news outlets.

Arbery's death has often been invoked during protests against racial injustice that have broken out across the nation since George Floyd's death last month under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee. Arbery's death also fueled a renewed push for a state hate crimes law in Georgia, which state lawmakers passed on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the McMichaels have cautioned against a rush to judgment and have said the full story will come out in court. A lawyer for Bryan has maintained that his client was merely a witness.

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Disney delays Southern California theme park reopenings

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disney is postponing the mid-July reopening of its Southern California theme parks until it receives guidelines from the state, the company announced Wednesday.

Disney had hoped to reopen Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim on July 17 after a four-month closure due to the coronavirus. But the state has indicated it won’t issue guidelines until after July 4, the company said.

“Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,” Disney said in a statement.

The company didn’t provide a new reopening date. The parks closed on March 14 and the reopening requires government approval.

Gov. Gavin Newsom “appreciates Disney’s responsiveness to his concerns about reopening amid the recent increases in COVID-19 infections across many Southern California counties," Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said. “The governor, the state and our public health experts continue to be in contact with the company and their workers — as well as other theme parks in the state — as we track and combat the spread of the virus."

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AP interview: Manfred: `We owe it to our fans to be better'

NEW YORK (AP) — Rob Manfred knows many fans were angered by the financial fight between Major League Baseball and the players’ association during a pandemic.

“We need to get back on the field, and we need to in a less-charged environment start to have conversations about how we — and the we in that sentence is the commissioner’s office, my staff, the clubs and the MLBPA and the players — can be better going forward,” he said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we’ve been last three months.”

Spring training was cut short by the novel coronavirus on March 12. The sides reached an initial agreement on March 26, which was to have been opening day. That deal called for players to receive prorated salaries, get $170 million in advances and receive a guarantee of service time in the event no games were played this year.

When it became clear the only way to start the season was to play in empty ballparks, the sides battled publicly over what the agreement meant.

Owners said players needed to accept additional cuts and proposed an 82-game schedule starting around the Fourth of July. Players argued they shouldn’t have to accept less than the original deal called for. But that agreement didn’t bind Manfred to start the season with no gate revenue.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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