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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Last Updated Jul 2, 2020 at 12:14 am EDT

Cases spike in Sunbelt, other states back off on reopening

PHOENIX (AP) — California closed bars, theatres and indoor restaurant dining all over again across most of the state Wednesday, and Arizona’s outbreak grew more severe by nearly every measure as the surging coronavirus crisis across the South and West sent a shudder through the country.

The run-up in confirmed cases has been blamed in part on what’s been called “knucklehead behaviour” by Americans not wearing masks or obeying social-distancing rules as economies reopened from coast to coast over the past two months.

“The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in dramatically expanding the round of closings he announced over the weekend.

The shutdown announcement, which came just ahead of what is expected to be a busy Fourth of July weekend that could fuel the spread of the virus, applies to 19 counties encompassing nearly three-quarters of California’s 40 million people, including Los Angeles County.

Confirmed cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up 43%. Newsom reported nearly 5,900 new cases and 110 more deaths in 24 hours.

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Analysis: Trump fights to keep a job Dems say he isn’t doing

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is asking Americans to let him keep his job. His critics are questioning how much of that job he’s actually doing.

The questions have gotten louder in recent days following revelations that Trump didn’t read at least two written intelligence briefings about Russia paying bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans in Afghanistan.

He also appeared to either downplay or miss repeated warnings about the coronavirus that were included in intelligence briefing s, and he has been reluctant to amplify some of his own government’s recommendations for reducing transmission, including wearing masks.

“He is not doing his job,” said Michael Hayden, the former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency.

Such assessments put Trump in a precarious position four months from Election Day, and risk undercutting the central argument most incumbents make to voters when seeking re-election: Keep me on the job because I’ve proven I can do it.

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GOP candidate is latest linked to QAnon conspiracy theory

DENVER (AP) — When Lauren Boebert was asked in May about QAnon, she didn’t shy away from the far-right conspiracy theory, which advances unproven allegations about a so-called deep state plot against President Donald Trump that involves satanism and child sex trafficking.

“Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values,” she said.

At the time, Boebert was on the political fringe, running a campaign largely focused on her gun-themed restaurant and resistance to coronavirus lockdowns. She is now on a path to becoming a member of Congress after upsetting five-term Rep. Scott Tipton in Tuesday’s Republican primary. The GOP-leaning rural western Colorado district will likely support the party’s nominee in the November general election.

Boebert is part of a small but growing list of Republican candidates who have in some way expressed support for QAnon. They include Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is advancing to a runoff for a congressional seat in a GOP-dominated Georgia congressional district, and Jo Rae Perkins, the party’s Senate nominee in Oregon.

The trend pales in comparison to previous movements that have swept Capitol Hill, such as the 2010 tea party wave. But at a time when the GOP is facing steep headwinds among women and in the suburbs, the QAnon candidates could add extra headaches.

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A pinch where it hurts: Can Facebook weather the ad boycott?

On Wednesday, more than 500 companies officially kicked off an advertising boycott intended to pressure Facebook into taking a stronger stand against hate speech. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with its organizers early next week.

But whether Zuckerberg agrees to further tighten the social network’s carefully crafted rules probably boils down to a more fundamental question: Does Facebook need big brand advertisers more than the brands need Facebook?

In a broad sense, the current boycott, which will last at least a month, is like nothing Facebook has experienced before. Following weeks of protests against police violence and racial injustice, major brands have for the first time joined together to protest still-prevalent hate speech on Facebook’s platforms by taking aim at the social network’s $70 billion in annual ad revenue.

After years of piecemeal measures to address hate, abuse and misinformation on its service, Facebook’s critics hope that pinching the company where it hurts will push it toward more meaningful change. As of Wednesday, 530 companies have signed on — and that’s not counting businesses like Target and Starbucks, which have paused advertising but did not formally join the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, which calls its action a “pause” rather than a boycott.

“Many businesses told us how they had been ignored when asking Facebook for changes,” campaign organizers wrote in a letter to advertisers this week. “Together, we finally got Facebook’s attention.”

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Appeals court lifts restraint against Trump book publisher

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York appeals court cleared the way Wednesday for a publisher to distribute a tell-all book by President Donald Trump’s niece over the objections of the president’s brother.

The New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division said it was lifting a temporary restraint that a judge put on Simon & Schuster a day earlier that sought to block distribution of “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Although the book was scheduled to be published on July 28, Simon & Schuster said thousands of copies of the 75,000-copy first run of the book had already been sent to bookstores and others.

The appeals ruling, written by Judge Alan D. Scheinkman, left in place restraints against Mary Trump, the book’s author and the president’s niece, after the president’s brother, Robert Trump, said she agreed with family members not to write about their relationships without permission.

Robert Trump had sued Mary Trump to block publication of a book promoted to contain an “insider’s perspective” of “countless holiday meals,” “family interactions” and “family events.”

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Video: Florida police laugh about shooting rubber bullets

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida police officers can be heard laughing and celebrating after shooting protesters with rubber bullets during a May protest against police brutality, according to newly released body camera footage.

In response to a story by the Miami Herald, Fort Lauderdale police posted a video on its official YouTube channel Wednesday taken from the body camera of Detective Zachary Baro, who was leading the department’s SWAT team unit on May 31. It was less than a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, which sparked protests through the U.S.

At one point in the video, Baro can be heard saying, “Beat it” and using a profanity, after officers shot less lethal projectiles.

LaToya Ratlieff was shot in the face during what had been a largely peaceful protest, suffering a fractured skull and requiring 20 stitches. She couldn’t eat for a week and still has trouble seeing out of one eye that is filled with blood.

She has asked to sit down with the police department to discuss ways to change the system and make sure there’s accountability going forward.

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Stonewall Jackson removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Work crews wielding a giant crane, harnesses and power tools wrested an imposing statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson from its concrete pedestal along Richmond, Virginia’s famed Monument Avenue on Wednesday, just hours after the mayor ordered the removal of all Confederate statues from city land.

Mayor Levar Stoney’s decree came weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the most prominent and imposing statue along the avenue: that of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which sits on state land. The removal of the Lee statue has been stalled pending the resolution of several lawsuits.

The Jackson statue is the latest of several dozen Confederate symbols to be removed from public land in the U.S. in the five weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked a nationwide protest movement.

In most instances, state or local governments moved to take down monuments in response to impassioned demonstrators, but in a few cases —including several other Virginia Confederate statues — protesters toppled the figures themselves. Also this week, Mississippi retired the last state flag in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem.

Confederate statues were erected decades after the Civil War, during the Jim Crow era, when states imposed new segregation laws, and during the “Lost Cause” movement, when historians and others tried to depict the South’s rebellion as a fight to defend states’ rights, not slavery. In Richmond, the first major monument — the Lee statue — was erected in 1890.

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24 shot to death in attack on drug rehab centre in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Gunmen burst into an unregistered drug rehabilitation centre in central Mexico and opened fire Wednesday, killing 24 people and wounding seven, authorities said.

Police in the north-central state of Guanajuato said the attack occurred in the city of Irapuato. Three of the seven wounded were reported in serious condition.

Apparently the attackers shot everyone at the rehab centre. State police said nobody was abducted. Photos purporting to show the scene suggest those at the centre were lying down when they were sprayed with bullets.

Guanajuato is the scene of a bloody turf battle between the Jalisco cartel and a local gang, and the state has become the most violent in Mexico.

No motive was given in the attack, but Gov. Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo said drug gangs appeared to have been involved.

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Trump says he looks like Lone Ranger in a mask and likes it

WASHINGTON (AP) — After long resisting wearing a mask in public, President Donald Trump said Wednesday he thinks it makes him look like the Lone Ranger — and he likes it.

“I’m all for masks. I think masks are good,” Trump told Fox Business in an interview. “People have seen me wearing one.”

Trump’s comments came a day after Republican lawmakers suggested that he wear a mask in public to set a good example for Americans.

“If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” Trump said in the interview.

Trump has long resisted being photographed in a mask. In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures were difficult to maintain.

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MLB players begin reporting for tests as first workouts near

Yoán Moncada has spent the past couple of months working out in what he called a “controlled and limited environment” in Florida, where the White Sox slugger could continue to get at-bats while protecting himself from the coronavirus.

That’s a good description of the environment that greeted him upon his return to Chicago.

Players began reporting to their teams and home ballparks Wednesday in the most significant step yet as Major League Baseball presses ahead with its plan for a 60-game sprint of a season. Most players underwent a battery of health checks, not only for COVID-19 but also for any other lingering ailments from spring training, ahead of planned workouts beginning Friday and Saturday.

“We were doing workouts by time, you know? You have to reserve a time. I wasn’t interacting with a lot of people there,” Moncada said of his sessions in Florida. “The last couple of weeks I started lifting a little bit. I was hitting with limitations that we had during this situation. But I feel good. I’m ready to go.”

Much like other clubs, the White Sox intend to split their 60-man roster into two groups, one working out in the morning and the other in the afternoon. All players will have their temperatures checked multiple times each day, observe increased social distancing and get accustomed to stringent safeguards that MLB has put into place for the season.

The Associated Press

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