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

Last Updated Oct 16, 2020 at 12:14 am EST

Trump, Biden go at it — from a distance — in town halls

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden squared off, in a way, in dueling televised town halls that showcased striking differences in temperament, views on racial justice and approaches to a pandemic that has reshaped the nation.

Coming just two and a half weeks before Election Day, the events Thursday night offered crystalizing contrasts and a national, if divided, audience. But it seemed unlikely to have produced a needed moment for a president running out of time or opportunities to appeal beyond his core base.

He was defensive about his administration’s handling of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 215,000 American lives, and evasive when pressed about whether he took a required COVID-19 test before his first debate with Biden. Angry and combative, Trump refused to denounce the QAnon conspiracy group — and only testily did so regarding white supremacists.

The president also appeared to acknowledge revelations from a recent New York Times report that he was in debt and left open the possibility that some of it was owed to a foreign bank. But he insisted that he didn’t owe any money to Russia or any “sinister people” and suggested that $400 million in debt was a “very, very small percentage” compared to his overall assets.

Biden denounced the White House’s handling of the virus, declaring that it was at fault for closing a pandemic response office established by the Obama administration in which he served. Though vague at times, he suggested he will offer clarity on his position on expanding the Supreme Court if Trump’s nominee to the bench is seated before Election Day.

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AP FACT CHECK: Rhetoric from Trump, Biden in the non-debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden faced inquisitive voters on separate stages in different cities Thursday night in a substitute for the debate that was meant to be.

Here’s how some of the rhetoric compared with the facts in the prime-time events and a day of campaigning:

ECONOMY

TRUMP, answering questions in Miami on NBC: “We had the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

THE FACTS: The numbers show it wasn’t the greatest in U.S. history.

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Europe, US reel as virus infections surge at record pace

Coronavirus cases around the world have climbed to all-time highs of more than 330,000 per day as the scourge comes storming back across Europe and spreads with renewed speed in the U.S., forcing many places to reimpose tough restrictions eased just months ago.

Well after Europe seemed to have largely tamed the virus that proved so lethal last spring, newly confirmed infections are reaching unprecedented levels in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. Most of the rest of the continent is seeing similar danger signs.

France announced a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. Londoners face new restrictions on meeting with people indoors. The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants this week. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland shut schools. Poland limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and pools.

In the United States, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with many of the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains, where resistance to masks and other precautions has been running high and the virus has often been seen as just a big-city problem. Deaths per day are climbing in 30 states.

“I see this as one of the toughest times in the epidemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious-disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. “The numbers are going up pretty rapidly. We’re going to see a pretty large epidemic across the Northern Hemisphere.”

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Black man’s family views graphic video of in-custody death

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Family members viewed long-secret body-camera video this week of a Black man who died in Louisiana State Police custody, their attorney calling it damning footage that shows troopers choking and beating the man, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns and dragging him face-down across the pavement.

Ronald Greene’s mother and sister wailed “like they were at a funeral” Wednesday after meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards and watching a half-hour of the footage of the May 2019 encounter that is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, their attorney told The Associated Press.

“This family has been lied to the entire time about what happened,” said civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who also viewed the footage. “The video was very difficult to watch. It’s one of those videos like George Floyd and even Ahmaud Arbery where it’s just so graphic.”

The video, which police have refused to release publicly, only added to persistent questions about Greene’s death, such as why State Police initially blamed it on a car crash and why they waited more than a year to discipline one of the responding officers. Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash last month just hours after learning he had been fired over his role in the incident.

The meeting followed AP’s disclosure of a 27-second audio clip from Hollingsworth’s body-camera in which he can be heard telling a colleague, “I beat the ever-living f— out of him,” and of graphic pictures of Greene’s body released by his family showing deep bruises to his face and cuts on his head.

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Scramble to get people counted as 2020 census winds down

Census advocates across the nation made last-ditch efforts Thursday to get as many households to answer the 2020 census, which has been challenged by a pandemic, natural disasters, court fights and the Trump administration’s push to have it end a month earlier than planned.

The tally was mandated to halt at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Thursday — 5:59 a.m. Friday for people living on the East Coast — but questions lingered about deadlines and who gets counted when congressional seats are allotted.

Advocates are particularly worried that minorities, and people in rural and tribal areas, are going to be missed due to the rushed ending of the count, resulting in less federal funding for those communities and perhaps fewer congressional seats and electoral votes for states that have large minority populations.

Census advocates who had been planning on two more weeks to encourage people to answer the census found themselves scrambling after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Trump administration could end the nation’s head count this week.

“Everybody is leaning in hard to try to make sure they can reach as many people as possible,” said Kathay Feng, an official with Common Cause, the good-government advocacy group.

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Correa hits walkoff homer to keep Astros alive in ALCS

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Before Carlos Correa headed to the plate in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, he told Dusty Baker, “Walkoff.”

The 71-year-old manager replied, “Go ahead, man,” and then said a quick prayer to his father and brother.

If the Houston Astros had been forced to go extra innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, Baker thought, he’d have to burn Framber Valdéz, his projected Game 6 starter.

Baker’s prayer was answered with a loud crack.

Correa homered with one out in the ninth, and the Astros beat the Rays 4-3 Thursday behind sensational pitching from five rookies, closing to 3-2 in the series.

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Christie says he was wrong not to wear mask in White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that he was wrong not to wear a mask at the White House, after he and President Donald Trump both came down with the coronavirus.

Christie, in a statement, said he has recovered from COVID-19 after a weeklong stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit. He called on all political leaders to advocate for face coverings, with the practice becoming increasingly politicized even as the pandemic has killed more than 217,000 Americans.

“I believed that when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that and I and many others underwent every day,” Christie said. “I was wrong.”

Christie, who was at the White House for the announcement of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court and to a participate in several rounds of Trump’s debate prep, seemingly chided the president’s attitude toward the disease.

“No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others,” Christie said.

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Rethinking the holidays: Traditions, change are on the table

Nina Bryant will cook a feast for Thanksgiving this year, as always.

Bryant works as an executive chef. But in her own family, she’s the one everyone depends on to prepare her grandmother’s recipes, which spark memories at the holidays. So along with a turkey, Bryant will make her grandmother’s sweet potato souffle, and fingerling potatoes with tender asparagus.

This time, because of the pandemic, she’ll do it all several days before Thanksgiving, then ship portions from her home in Florida to her family around the country.

That same week, Jeannine Thibodeau plans to go all out as well. She’ll bake brownies three days in advance. Then she’ll roast a turkey, along with “about 5 pounds of mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and green beans and cranberry sauce.”

Since she can’t welcome the friends she’d normally invite, she’ll pack ample portions in gift bags with handwritten notes, then place the bags on her stoop for contactless pickup on Thanksgiving Day.

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Georgia’s McBath seeks 2nd win in once-famed GOP district

ATLANTA (AP) — Karen Handel is looking for Republicans to mobilize in Georgia’s 6th District, once an incubator of high-profile Republicans. But Democrat Lucy McBath, who unseated Handel in 2018, is trying to show that Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs have changed.

The rematch in the district, covering parts of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties, is being fought on a nationalized stage, with arguments about health care, abortion, support for police and gun control.

It’s a seat held by Newt Gingrich when he was House speaker, Johnny Isakson before he became a U.S. senator, and Tom Price before he became U.S. Health and Human Services secretary.

Jon Ossoff, now running for Senate, nearly battered down the Republican fortress in 2017 in the nation’s most expensive U.S. House election. Ossoff fell just short, with Handel going to Washington for almost two years. But McBath, who became a gun control advocate after her son was fatally shot, closed the deal for Democrats in 2018, edging out Handel.

McBath crafts an image as a bipartisan worker. She points to a law she authored that President Donald Trump signed that protects veterans’ benefits from being seized in bankruptcy.

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Biden campaign flips COVID-19 threat into new Trump contrast

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Confronted with its first known coronavirus scare, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign turned the threat into another contrast with President Donald Trump in the closing weeks of a general election battle dominated by how the Republican incumbent has handled the pandemic and his own COVID-19 diagnosis.

According to Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign learned late Wednesday that two people associated with the operation had tested positive for the coronavirus. By 10 a.m. Thursday, O’Malley Dillon had publicly identified a top aide to vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris as having contracted the virus and confirmed that the campaign would suspend travel temporarily for the California senator and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

Before the end of the day, the campaign announced a third positive case linked to Biden’s campaign plane and up-to-date negative COVID-19 tests for Biden and Harris, along with medical experts’ explanations of why they believed Biden was never exposed and wouldn’t have to cancel upcoming travel.

With the election quickly approaching, the episode was another example of how Biden and Trump are responding in vastly different ways to the pandemic. While Trump’s aides offered shifting and sometimes contradictory explanations following a White House coronavirus outbreak, Biden’s team offered more specifics. And as Trump returns to aggressive campaign travel before massive, often unmasked crowds, the Biden campaign reinforced its commitment to following public health guidelines.

“It is because of the protocols that we have in place that we have been able to get this information, that we were able to identify what’s happening here,” O’Malley Dillon said, noting the campaign’s regular testing for Biden, Harris and those who travel with them, along with strict enforcement of masks and social distancing at all events.

The Associated Press

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