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

August 17, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Biden's convention: Left and Not-So-Left unite against Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Biden introduced the breadth of his political coalition to a nation in crisis Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, giving voice to victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the related economic downturn and police violence and featuring both progressive Democrats and Republicans united against President Donald Trump’s reelection.

In taped excerpts released before the convention opening, former first lady Michelle Obama, wife of the nation’s first Black president, vouched for Biden’s empathy and experience. And the ideological range of Biden’s many messengers was demonstrated by former presidential contenders from opposing parties: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who championed a multi-trillion-dollar universal health care plan, and Ohio’s former Republican Gov. John Kasich, an anti-abortion conservative who spent decades fighting to cut government spending.

The former vice-president won’t deliver his formal remarks until Thursday night, but he made his first appearance just half an hour into Monday’s event as he moderated a panel on racial justice, a theme throughout the night, as was concern about the Postal Service. The Democrats accuse Trump of interfering with the nation's mail in order to throw blocks in front of mail-in voting.

“My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders declared.

Kasich said his status as a lifelong Republican “holds second place to my responsibility to my country.”

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Five takeaways from first night of the Democratic convention

In another profound way that the coronavirus pandemic has upended American life, the Democratic National Convention started Monday with no convening. Instead, Democrats opted for the first virtual convention as the party begins the formal process of nominating Joe Biden as its candidate for president.

Here are five takeaways from the first night.

TRUMP'S DIVISIVENESS HAS UNITED DEMOCRATS

From former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich to self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, the first night of the convention showcased how wide the Democratic party’s tent is — and, in contrast, how narrow a political space is occupied by its counterpart.

Integral to Biden’s pitch is the idea that he can unite the country against President Donald Trump with a call to restore common decency. And the Democrats showed how people on either ends of the ideological spectrum are joining that effort. “We can all see what’s going on in our country today and all the questions that are facing us, and no one person or party has all the answers,” Kasich said in his convention message. “But what we do know is that we can do better than what we’ve been seeing today, for sure.”

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The Latest: Sanders warns of authoritarian rise under Trump

Bernie Sanders has unleashed a scathing attack on President Donald Trump, suggesting that under him “authoritarianism has taken root in our country.”

Addressing the opening night of the virtual Democratic National Convention on Monday, the Vermont senator said Trump had proved incapable of controlling the coronavirus outbreak, coping with the economic fallout and addressing institutional racism in the United States and climate change threatening the globe.

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” Sanders said. “Trump golfs.”

Sanders, who finished second in the Democratic primary behind Joe Biden, struck a more optimistic tone when he thanked supporters who voted for him in 2016 and 2020 for helping to move the country “in a bold, new direction.”

He called on his backers, as well as those who supported other 2020 Democratic primary contenders or Trump four years ago, to unite behind Biden.

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Amid outcry, postmaster general to testify before House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a public backlash over mail disruptions, the Trump administration scrambled to respond Monday as the House prepared an emergency vote to halt delivery delays and service changes that Democrats warned could imperil the November election.

The Postal Service said it has stopped removing mailboxes and mail-sorting machines amid an outcry from lawmakers. President Donald Trump flatly denied he was asking for the mail to be delayed even as he levelled fresh criticism on universal ballots and mail-in voting.

“Wouldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters Monday at the White House. “I have encouraged everybody: Speed up the mail, not slow the mail.”

Embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify next Monday before Congress, along with the chairman of the Postal Service board of governors.

Democrats and some Republicans say actions by the new postmaster general, a Trump ally and a major Republican donor, have endangered millions of Americans who rely on the post office to obtain prescription drugs and other needs, including an expected surge in mail-in voting this fall.

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AP survey: States uncommitted to Trump's unemployment boost

President Donald Trump’s plan to offer a stripped-down boost in unemployment benefits to millions of Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak has found little traction among the states, which would have to pay a quarter of the cost to deliver the maximum benefit.

An Associated Press survey finds that as of Monday, 18 states have said they will take the federal grants allowing them to increase unemployment checks by $300 or $400 a week. The AP tally shows that 30 states have said they're still evaluating the offer or have not said whether they plan to accept the president's slimmed-down benefits. Two have said no.

The uncertainty is putting some families' finances in peril.

Tiana Chase, who runs a community game room and store in Maynard, Massachusetts, said the extra $600 she and her partner had been receiving under the previous federal benefit helped keep them afloat after the pandemic caused many businesses to shutter.

For the past few weeks, she’s been getting less than $300 in unemployment. If that’s boosted by another $300, “it’s going to be a lot tighter, but at least I can vaguely manage,” she said. “I can cover my home expenses.”

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Report: Nursing home cases up nearly 80% in COVID-19 rebound

WASHINGTON (AP) — COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes jumped nearly 80% earlier this summer, driven by rampant spread across the South and much of the West, according to an industry report released Monday.

“The case numbers suggest the problem is far from solved,” said Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes in long-term care. She was not involved with the study.

Long-term care facilities account for less than 1% of the U.S. population, but more than 40 per cent of COVID-19 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The situation is a politically sensitive issue for President Donald Trump, who is scrambling to hold on to support from older voters as polls show disapproval of his administration’s response to the pandemic.

The White House announced in late July the release of $5 billion for nursing homes, while launching a program to equip each of some 15,000 facilities with a fast-test machine to screen residents and staff for the coronavirus.

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2 men charged in '02 killing of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly two decades after the slaying of Run-DMC star Jam Master Jay, federal prosecutors said Monday they have solved one of New York City’s most enduring mysteries, charging two men from his neighbourhood with murder and suggesting that the hip-hop artist — celebrated for his anti-drug stance — was ambushed over a cocaine deal.

The suspects were identified in court papers as Ronald Washington, 56, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence stemming from a string of robberies while on the run from police after Jay’s 2002 death, and Karl Jordan Jr., 36, who is also charged with engaging in a cocaine distribution conspiracy in 2017.

Jason “Jay” Mizell, known professionally as Jam Master Jay, formed Run-DMC with Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniel in the early 1980s. Together, they helped take hip-hop mainstream with hits like “It’s Tricky” and the Aerosmith remake collaboration “Walk This Way."

Jay's death, following the long unsolved slayings of rappers Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996 and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in Los Angeles in 1997, shook the hip-hop world. Chuck D of Public Enemy compared his death to that of John Lennon. More than $60,000 in rewards was offered, but witnesses refused to come forward and the case languished.

“This is a case about a murder that for nearly two decades had gone unanswered,” Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said at a news conference announcing the charges. “Today, we begin to answer that question of who killed Jason Mizell, and why, and we’re confident that we can prove those charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Trump rule on transgender health blocked at the 11th hour

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge blocked the Trump administration on Monday from enforcing a new regulation that would roll back health care protections for transgender people.

Finalized days after the Supreme Court barred sex discrimination against LGBT individuals on the job, the regulation from the federal Department of Health and Human Services was to have taken effect Tuesday.

Monday's preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn bars the administration from enforcing the regulation until the case can be heard in court and decided. Block indicated he thought the Trump administration's so-called transgender rule is invalid in light of the Supreme Court ruling in June on a case involving similar issues in the context of job discrimination.

“When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact,” Block wrote in his order, suggesting the agency may want to reconsider. “Since HHS has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the court now imposes it.”

The HHS health care rule was seen as a signal to President Donald Trump's social and religious conservative supporters that the administration remained squarely behind them after the shock of the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump.

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Death Valley's brutal 130 degrees may be record if verified

California sizzled to a triple-digit temperature so hot that meteorologists need to verify it as a planet-wide high mark.

Death Valley recorded a scorching 130 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius) Sunday, which if the sensors and other conditions check out, would be the hottest Earth has been in more than 89 years and the third-warmest ever measured.

The temperature, measured at the aptly-named Furnace Creek during a blistering heat wave, would be the hottest temperature recorded on Earth in August, said Arizona State University professor Randy Cerveny, who co-ordinates the World Meteorological Organization’s extreme temperature team, which is already investigating the mark.

That 130 is only below the disputed all-time record of 134 degrees (56.67 Celsius) at nearly the same spot in 1913 and a 131-degree mark (55 degrees) in Tunisia in 1931, but both were in July, traditionally the planet's hottest month.

The relentlessly hot weather conditions at the spot support such an extreme reading, so much of the verification effort will be looking at how the measurement was taken and the sensor itself, Cerveny said. Sunday's temperature would beat marks of 129 (53.9 Celsius) recorded three times in recent years, he said. The monitor is an official one that follows world guidelines, but still needs to be examined in a process that takes months, he said.

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National Zoo awaits birth of pandemic panda cub

WASHINGTON (AP) — Zookeepers at Washington’s National Zoo are on furry black-and-white baby watch after concluding that venerable giant panda matriarch Mei Ziang is pregnant and could give birth this week. It’s a welcome bit of good news amid a pandemic that kept the zoo shuttered for months.

“We need this! We totally need this joy,” said zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson. “We are all in desperate need of these feel-goods.”

Although so-called “phantom pregnancies” are common with pandas and other large bears, Baker-Masson said an ultrasound scan revealed a “really strong-looking, fantastic fetus” that could be delivered this week.

“The image was great. She is absolutely pregnant. But things could still happen, just like in a human pregnancy,” Baker-Masson said.

The zoo posted a video from the ultrasound on Instagram. “Keep your paws crossed!” the zoo posted, reporting that the fetus was “kicking and swimming in the amniotic fluid.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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