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

August 23, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday announced emergency authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma — a move he called “a breakthrough,” one of his top health officials called “promising” and other health experts said needs more study before it's celebrated.

The announcement came after White House officials complained there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump put himself at the centre of the FDA's announcement of the authorization at a news conference Sunday evening. The authorization makes it easier for some patients to obtain the treatment but is not the same as full FDA approval.

The blood plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies, may provide benefits to those battling the disease. But the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.

In a letter describing the emergency authorization, the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, said: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”

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The Latest: As virus spikes, S. Korea tightens restrictions

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea counted its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases as officials tighten social distancing restrictions nationwide to combat what they describe as the biggest crisis since the emergence of COVID-19.

The 266 cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday came after three consecutive days of over-300 increases, although infection numbers tend to be lower at the start of the week due to the lesser number of tests in weekends.

The KCDC said 202 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million population, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions linked to various sources, including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.

Infections were also reported in major cities throughout the country, including Busan, Daejeon and Sejong.

KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it’s likely the country will continue to report huge infection numbers in coming days as health workers scramble to trace and test contacts of virus carriers.

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Residents flee as Gulf Coast sees possible tandem hurricanes

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Gulf Coast braced Sunday for a potentially devastating hit from twin hurricanes as two dangerous storms swirled toward the U.S from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Officials feared a history-making onslaught of life-threatening winds and flooding along the coast, stretching from Texas to Alabama.

A storm dubbed Marco grew into a hurricane Sunday as it churned up the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana. Another potential hurricane, Tropical Storm Laura, lashed the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and was tracking toward the same region of the U.S. coast, carrying the risk of growing into a far more powerful storm.

Experts said computer models show Laura could make landfall with winds exceeding 110 mph, and rain bands from both storms could bring a combined total of 2 feet of rain to parts of Louisiana and several feet of potentially deadly storm surge.

“There has never been anything we’ve seen like this before, where you can have possibly two hurricanes hitting within miles of each over a 48-hour period,” said Benjamin Schott, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Slidell, Louisiana, office.

The combination of the rain and storm surge in a day or two means “you're looking at a potential for a major flood event that lasts for some time,” said weather service tropical program co-ordinator Joel Cline. "And that’s not even talking about the wind.’’

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Northern California firefighters dig in ahead of high winds

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Three massive wildfires chewed through parched Northern California landscape Sunday as firefighters raced to dig breaks and make other preparations ahead of a frightening weather system. That system was packing high winds and more of the lightning that sparked the huge blazes and scores of other fires around the state, putting nearly a quarter-million people under evacuation orders and warnings.

At the CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, authorities said their effort was hindered by people who refused to heed evacuation orders and those who were using the chaos to steal. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said 100 officers were patrolling and anyone not authorized to be in an evacuation zone would be arrested.

“What we’re hearing from the community is that there’s a lot of looting going on," Hart said. He said eight people have been arrested or cited and “there's going to be more."

He and county District Attorney Jeff Rosell expressed anger at what Rosell called the “absolutely soulless" people who seek to victimize those already victimized by the fire. Among the victims was a fire commander who was robbed while helping co-ordinate efforts on Saturday.

Someone entered the commander’s fire vehicle and stole personal items, including a wallet and “drained his bank account,” said Chief Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

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Court told New Zealand shooter planned to burn down mosques

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The white supremacist who slaughtered 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques had intended to burn down the mosques afterward, a prosecutor said in court Monday, while describing two of those praying as making heroic efforts to stop the mass shooting.

New details about the March 2019 attacks were outlined during the first day of a four-day sentencing hearing at the Christchurch High Court. The hearing gave some families and survivors their first chance to confront the gunman.

“You killed your own humanity, and I don’t think the world will forgive you for your horrible crime,” said a tearful Maysoon Salama, the mother of 33-year-old Atta Elayyan, who was killed in the attacks. “You thought you can break us. You failed miserably.”

The gunman, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism — the first terrorism conviction in New Zealand’s history.

He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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'End of the world': Countdown to Beirut's devastating blast

BEIRUT (AP) — The 10 firefighters who received the call shortly before 6 p.m. — a big fire at the nearby port of Beirut — could not know what awaited them.

The brigade of nine men and one woman could not know about the stockpile of ammonium nitrate warehoused since 2013 along a busy motorway, in the heart of a densely populated residential area — a danger that had only grown with every passing year.

They and nearly all the population of Beirut were simply unaware. They were not privy to the warnings authorities had received, again and again, and ignored: ammonium nitrate is highly explosive, used in fertilizer and sometimes to build bombs. The stockpile was degrading; something must be done.

They knew, of course, that they lived in a dysfunctional country, its government rife with corruption, factionalism and negligence that caused so much pain and heartbreak. But they could not know that it would lead to the worst single-day catastrophe in Lebanon’s tragic history.

Across the city, residents who noticed the grey smoke billowing over the facility Aug. 4 were drawn to streets, balconies and windows, watching curiously as the fire grew larger. Phones were pulled out of pockets and pointed toward the flames.

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Trump delivered on some big 2016 promises, but others unmet

WASHINGTON (AP) — He’s broken his pledge never to take a vacation or play golf for pleasure. His plan to update the nation’s infrastructure has become a running punchline and he’s dropped his threat to throw Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl out of a plane without a parachute. But behind the drama, chaos and tumult that has defined President Donald Trump’s administration, the president has fulfilled a wide range of promises he made during his 2016 campaign.

It’s a theme that will play a major role in the upcoming Republican National Convention, as the president tries to convince a weary nation that he deserves a second term, even when millions of Americans have been infected by the coronavirus, the economy is in tatters and racial tensions are boiling over.

“I’m the only candidate that gave you more than I promised in the campaign. It’s true. I’m the only one ever, maybe ever,” Trump said at a rally in battleground Arizona last week.

Back in 2016, Trump was criticized for failing to release detailed policy plans akin to those of his rival, Hillary Clinton. What Trump did do was lay out a vision for a new America — one driven by a nationalist self-interest and disregard for Democratic norms.

In the years since, Trump has acted on that vision, making good on his nativist immigration rhetoric, tearing back regulations on business and transforming America’s role in the world by abandoning multilateral agreements and upending decades-old alliances, cheered on by many of his most loyal supporters and generating great alarm among his critics.

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Shipbuilders approve 3-year pact, ending monthslong strike

BATH, Maine (AP) — A 63-day strike at Bath Iron Works — against the backdrop of a pandemic in an election year — came to an end Sunday with shipbuilders voting to return to their jobs producing warships for the United States Navy.

With the approval of a three-year contract, the 4,300 production workers represented by Machinists Local S6 will begin returning to work on Monday.

After falling behind schedule, Bath Iron Works is eager to get caught up on production of destroyers as the U.S. Navy faces growing competition from China and Russia on the high seas. The General Dynamics subsidiary was already more than six months behind schedule before the strike.

“We are pleased to welcome back our valued manufacturing employees and get back to the important work of building ships on schedule for the U.S. Navy,” Bath Iron Works said Sunday in a statement.

Robert Martinez Jr., the Machinists' international president, cast the outcome on Sunday in historic terms, saying “this fight for dignity, justice and good Maine jobs will go down in the history books of the Machinists Union.”

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Opera's Domingo denies abusing power, seeks to clear name

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Opera legend Plácido Domingo denied ever abusing his power during his management tenure at two U.S. opera houses in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, as he embarks on a full-throttle campaign to clear his name after two investigations found credible accusations he had engaged in ‘’inappropriate conduct’’ with multiple women over a period of decades.

Domingo deflected direct questions about whether he ever sexually harassed women, accusations that were first reported by the AP last summer. The allegations have crippled his career in the United States, as well as his native Spain.

‘’I never promised a part to a singer, or never take a part from a singer," he said. “I have spent my whole life helping, and you know, encouraging and driving people.”’ He added that responsibilities within opera companies are divided, meaning he never had sole sway over casting decisions.

‘’People that deserved to sing were singing,’’ he said.

Multiple performers told the AP that Domingo harassed them and abused his power while he held management positions at Los Angeles Opera and Washington National Opera. Numerous women said Domingo had dangled career opportunities as he pursued sexual relationships with them and then withdrew the offers or stopped hiring them when they rejected his advances.

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NFL has 77 apparently false positive COVID-19 tests from lab

NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams re-examined by a New Jersey lab after false positives, and all those tests came back negative.

The league asked the New Jersey lab BioReference to investigate the results, and those 77 tests are being re-tested once more to make sure they were false positives.

Among teams reporting false positives, the Minnesota Vikings said they had 12, the New York Jets 10 and the Chicago Bears nine.

The Jets cancelled a walk-through Saturday night but had a full practice Sunday morning after the previously positive tests came back negative. The Bears moved their practice scheduled for Sunday morning to the afternoon.

The Detroit Lions had a player with a false positive test from the same lab in New Jersey and he was held out of practice Sunday, a league source told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and team were not disclosing test results.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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