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

Last Updated Jul 13, 2020 at 1:10 am ADT

As US grapples with virus, Florida hits record case increase

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — With the United States grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, Florida hit a grim milestone Sunday, shattering the national record for a state’s largest single-day increase in positive cases.

Deaths from the virus have also been rising in the U.S., especially in the South and West, though still well below the heights hit in April, according to a recent Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

“I really do think we could control this, and it’s the human element that is so critical. It should be an effort of our country. We should be pulling together when we’re in a crisis, and we’re definitely not doing it,” said University of Florida epidemiologist Dr. Cindy Prins.

Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, called mask-wearing in public, which has been met with resistance in some U.S. states, “absolutely essential.”

Giroir, the assistant secretary at the Health and Human Services Department, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that “if we don’t have that, we will not get control of the virus.’’

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Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say

As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.

They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.

But U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doubled down on President Donald Trump’s insistence that kids can safely return to the classroom.

“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” she told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

Still, health experts say there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.

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It’s Trump’s call on what the GOP convention will look like

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of insisting that the Republican National Convention go off as scheduled despite the pandemic, President Donald Trump is slowly coming to accept that the late August event will not be the four-night infomercial for his reelection that he had anticipated.

After a venue change, spiking coronavirus cases and a sharp recession, Trump aides and allies are increasingly questioning whether it’s worth the trouble, and some are advocating that the convention be scrapped altogether. Conventions are meant to lay out a candidate’s vision for the coming four years, not spark months of intrigue over the health and safety of attendees, they have argued.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to move forward will be Trump’s alone.

Already the 2020 event has seen a venue change –- to more Trump-friendly territory in Jacksonville, Florida, from Charlotte, North Carolina — and it has been drastically reduced in scope. For technical reasons, the convention will be unable to formally adopt a new party platform. And what is normally a highlight of the convention — the roll call of the states to renominate the president — is set to be conducted through proxy votes in the original host city.

Still, Trump and his aides had pinned their hopes on creating the pageantry of a formal acceptance speech in Jacksonville, envisioning an arena of packed with supporters, without face masks. Outwardly, the White House and the RNC have said they’re full-steam ahead with the revised plan.

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21 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Twenty-one people suffered minor injuries in an explosion and fire Sunday on board a ship at Naval Base San Diego, military officials said.

The blaze was reported shortly before 9 a.m. on USS Bonhomme Richard, said Mike Raney, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Seventeen sailors and four civilians were hospitalized with “non-life threatening injuries,” Raney said in a brief statement. He didn’t provide additional details.

Previously, officials said at least one person was treated for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. It wasn’t immediately known where on the 840-foot (255-meter) amphibious assault vessel the blast and the fire occurred. The flames sent up a huge plume of dark smoke visible around San Diego.

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Feds to execute 1st inmate in 17 years for Arkansas murders

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The federal government is planning to carry out the first federal execution in nearly two decades on Monday, over the objection of the family of the victims and after a volley of legal proceedings over the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 4 p.m. on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana. He was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

The execution, the first of a federal death row inmate since 2003, comes after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction on Sunday that had been put in place last week after the victims’ family argued they would be put at high risk for coronavirus if they had to travel to attend the execution. The family had vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The decision to move forward with the execution — and two others scheduled later in the week — during a global health pandemic which has killed more than 135,000 people and is ravaging prisons nationwide, drew scrutiny from civil rights groups and the family of Lee’s victims.

The decision has been criticized as a dangerous and political move. Critics argue that the government is creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency around a topic that isn’t high on the list of American concerns right now. It is also likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

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Maryland governor says GOP needs ‘bigger tent’ after Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican governor rumoured to be eyeing a run for the White House in 2024 said Sunday that the GOP needs to be a “bigger tent party” after President Donald Trump leaves office.

Maryland’s Larry Hogan, who has been known to break with Trump, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he doesn’t “know what the future holds in November.”

“But I know that the Republican Party is going to be looking at what happens after President Trump and whether that’s in four months or four years,” Hogan said. “And I think they’re going to be looking to, ‘How do we go about becoming a bigger tent party?’”

The rebuke was a rarity from Republicans, who have largely been afraid to criticize a president still popular with the GOP rank-and-file despite questions about how he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hogan did not rule out voting for Joe Biden, the Democrat challenging Trump in the November election. In 2016, Hogan wrote in the name of his father, a former Republican congressman from Maryland.

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The Latest: Mexico tops 35,000 deaths, 4th highest toll

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials say the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths has passed 35,000, making it the country with the fourth highest total.

A count by Johns Hopkins University has only the United States, Brazil and Britain with more confirmed deaths from the new coronavirus. Sunday’s rise to 35,006 confirmed deaths moved Mexico, a country with 130 million inhabitants, past Italy.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisted the development of the pandemic in Mexico “is positive, it is good” because of the country’s 32 states only nine had increases in infections.

“The bottom line is that the pandemic is on the downside, that it is losing intensity,” Mexico’s president said.

Nevertheless, some days this past week have seen record daily numbers of new infections.

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Exit poll: Duda leads Poland’s tight presidential runoff

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A late exit poll in Poland’s presidential runoff Sunday showed the conservative, populist incumbent, Andrzej Duda, leading against the liberal, pro-Europe mayor of Warsaw, but with the race still too close to call.

It appeared to be the closest election in Poland’s history, reflecting the deep divisions in this European Union nation. Although the country is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and problems in its health and education systems, the campaign was dominated by issues of culture and saw strains of homophobia and anti-Semitism.

The late exit poll by the Ipsos institute showed Duda with 50.8% of the vote and challenger Rafal Trzaskowski with 49.2%. An earlier exit poll had showed Duda with 50.4% and Trzaskowski 49.6%. The polls had margins of error of plus-or-minus 1 percentage point and 2 points, respectively.

Official results are not expected until Monday or Tuesday.

The results would lead Poland down starkly different political paths, at least until 2023, when the next parliamentary election is scheduled.

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Trump rips private Texas border wall built by his supporters

HOUSTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday criticized a privately built border wall in South Texas that’s showing signs of erosion months after going up, saying it was “only done to make me look bad,” even though the wall was built after a months-long campaign by his supporters.

The group that raised money online for the wall promoted itself as supporting Trump during a government shutdown that started in December 2018 because Congress wouldn’t fund Trump’s demands for a border wall. Called “We Build the Wall,” the group has raised more than $25 million promoting itself as supporting the president.

Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon joined the group’s board and Trump ally Kris Kobach became its general counsel. Kobach is now seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Kansas.

The company that built the private section in January, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, has since won a $1.3 billion border wall contract from the federal government, the largest award to date.

The section in question is a roughly 3-mile (5-kilometre) fence of steel posts just 35 feet (10 metres) from the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. That’s much closer to the river than the government ordinarily builds border barriers in South Texas because of concerns about erosion and flooding that could violate U.S. treaty obligations with Mexico.

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Grandson of Elvis Presley has died at age 27, agent says

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The son of Lisa Marie Presley has died. He was 27.

Presley’s representative Roger Widynowski said in a statement Sunday to The Associated Press that she was “heartbroken” after learning about the death of her son Benjamin Keough. He is the grandson of the late Elvis Presley.

TMZ reports that Keough died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in Calabasas, California.

“She is completely heartbroken, inconsolable and beyond devastated but trying to stay strong for her 11-year-old twins and her oldest daughter Riley,” Widynowski said in the statement. “She adored that boy. He was the love of her life.”

Presley had Keough and actress Riley Keough, 31, with her former husband Danny Keough. She also had twins from another marriage.

The Associated Press

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