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US death toll from coronavirus surges past 100,000 people

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. surpassed a jarring milestone Wednesday in the coronavirus pandemic: 100,000 deaths.

That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

“It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

The once-unthinkable toll appears to be just the beginning of untold misery in the months ahead as Las Vegas casinos and Walt Disney World make plans to reopen, crowds of unmasked Americans swarm beaches and public health officials predict a resurgence by fall.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, issued a stern warning after watching video of Memorial Day crowds gathered at a pool party in Missouri.

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Victim in police encounter had started new life in Minnesota

Before he died after being pinned for minutes beneath a Minneapolis police officer’s knee, George Floyd was suffering the same fate as millions of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic: out of work and looking for a new job.

Floyd moved to Minneapolis from his native Houston several years ago in hopes of finding work and starting a new life, said Christopher Harris, Floyd’s lifelong friend. But he lost his job as a bouncer at a restaurant when Minnesota’s governor issued a stay-at-home order.

On Monday night, an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police after Floyd allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

In widely circulated cellphone video of the subsequent arrest, Floyd, who was black, can be seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back while Officer Derek Chauvin presses him to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding Floyd down for minutes as Floyd complains he can’t breathe. The video ends with paramedics lifting a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and placing him in an ambulance.

Four officers were fired Tuesday; on Wednesday, Mayor Jacob Frey called for Chauvin to be criminally charged. Frey made no mention of the other three officers, who were also at the scene.

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Trump threatens Twitter over fact checks: What’s next?

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Twitter has taken the unprecedented step of adding fact-check warnings to two of President Donald Trump’s tweets that falsely called mail-in ballots “substantially fraudulent” and predicted a “Rigged Election.” On Wednesday, the president threatened to impose new regulation on social media companies or even to “close them down.”

But Twitter’s move and Trump’s reaction raise a host of questions, including why Twitter acted now, how it decides when to use such warnings and what its newly assumed role means for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

QUESTION: Twitter has resisted taking action on Trump’s tweets for years, despite the president’s history of spreading misinformation and abuse on the platform. What changed?

ANSWER: Trump has pushed Twitter’s boundaries for years, using it to attack rivals, speak to his base and simply vent. Until Tuesday, he had never faced sanctions — though other world leaders had.

But things started to change earlier this year when coronavirus misinformation began to spread. Twitter began flagging tweets that spread disputed or misleading claims about the virus with “get the facts” links to more information, including news stories and fact checks.

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College student wanted in 2 Connecticut slayings is captured

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A college student wanted by police in a crime spree that included two slayings in Connecticut has been captured in Maryland, police said Wednesday night.

Peter Manfredonia, 23, had been the subject of a six-day search involving several police agencies and the FBI.

He was found in the area of a truck stop in Hagerstown, Maryland. He was not injured and no officers were hurt during the arrest, Connecticut State Police said.

Manfredonia was wanted in the machete killing of 62-year-old Ted DeMers and the wounding of another man in Willington, Connecticut, on Friday. Cyndi DeMers, the victim’s wife, has said Manfredonia was looking for a female acquaintance when he came walking down the road in front of their home wearing a motorcycle helmet and her husband offered him a ride to his motorcycle.

The University of Connecticut senior also went to another man’s home, held him hostage, stole his guns and truck and drove about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest to Derby, Connecticut, state police said.

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Bertha forms, hits South Carolina coast, dissipates in a day

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Tropical Storm Bertha surprised the South Carolina coast Wednesday, forming, making landfall within two hours and was downgraded before sundown, bringing a poor beach day of rain and gusty winds, but no major problems.

Forecasters expected the bad weather, but didn’t predict it to organize so quickly and become the second named storm before the official start of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Bertha was named around 8 a.m. Wednesday and was onshore east of Charleston by 9:30 a.m. The state Department of Natural Resources called it “a sunrise surprise.” Six hours after the tropical storm formed, the National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a depression well inland. They said Bertha was no longer a tropical depression at 5 p.m. and stopped issuing advisories.

Like almost all storms with heavy rain, several streets flooded in Charleston, leaving ankle- to calf-high brown water mixed with trash from knocked over cans Wednesday. Sea rise and an antiquated drainage system mean the city floods an average of more than once a week. Heavy rains from an unnamed storm last week caused more problems.

Less than 1,000 power outages and scattered downed trees were reported as Bertha and its 50 mph (80 kph) maximum sustained winds moved onshore and into eastern South Carolina.

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Will mail-in voting turn Election Day into Election Week?

A shift to mail voting is increasing the chances that Americans will not know the winner of November’s presidential race on election night, a scenario that is fueling worries about whether President Donald Trump will use the delay to sow doubts about the results.

State election officials in some key battleground states have recently warned that it may take days to count what they expect will be a surge of ballots sent by mail out of concern for safety amid the pandemic. In an election as close as 2016’s, a delayed tally in key states could keep news organizations from calling a winner.

“It may be several days before we know the outcome of the election,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, said in an interview. “We have to prepare for that now and accept that reality.”

Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, pleaded for “patience” from the public. “We’ve gotten accustomed to this idea that by the middle of the evening of election night, we’re going to know all the results,” LaRose said Wednesday at a forum on voting hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Election night reporting may take a little longer” this year, he warned.

Delayed results are common in a few states where elections are already conducted largely by mail. But a presidential election hasn’t been been left in limbo since 2000, when ballot irregularities in Florida led to weeks of chaos and court fights.

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Biden accuser’s credentials, expert testimony under scrutiny

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — State prosecutors in California are investigating the credentials that Tara Reade, the former Senate staffer who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her in 1993, attested to in as many as 20 criminal trials, including an attempted murder case where her testimony was deemed “critical.”

The Monterey County District Attorney’s office said it never tried to verify the credentials on her resume before using her as a paid expert witness on domestic violence issues. Reade, who went by Alexandra Tara McCabe, made several claims on her resume and in court that have now come into question.

Reade said she had a bachelor’s degree from Antioch University, which the school denies. She said she worked in Biden’s office from 1991 to 1994, while Senate records show her there from December 1992 to August 1993. And she said she served as legislative aide for Biden while he worked on the Violence Against Women Act, while witnesses and records describe her holding a more junior role, sometimes supervising interns or handling mail.

“We are investigating whether Ms. McCabe gave false testimony under oath,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon of Monterey County said Wednesday.

“At the time, we did not contact the schools she said she attended to see if they would disclose her records. We did not require that she provide proof of all the extensive professional training and experience listed on her CV (curriculum vitae),” Brannon told The Associated Press in an email.

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Larry Kramer used voice, pen to raise consciousness on AIDS

NEW YORK (AP) — Time never softened the urgency of Larry Kramer’s demands.

Theatergoers leaving a celebrated revival of Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” in 2011 were greeted by the playwright himself, deep in his 70s by then, handing out leaflets outside the Broadway theater demanding they do more to stop AIDS.

“Please know that AIDS is a worldwide plague. Please know there is no cure,” the leaflets read.

That same year, Kramer found time to help the American Foundation for Equal Rights mount their play “8” on Broadway about the legal battle over same-sex marriage in California. “I don’t believe much acting is required other than being fervent and I’m pretty good at that,” he joked to The Associated Press.

Kramer, whose angry voice and pen raised consciousness about AIDS and roused thousands to action, died Wednesday at 84. His art was often as blunt as his anger, but his dedication was unwavering.

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‘Bummed out’: SpaceX launch scrubbed because of bad weather

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The launch of a SpaceX rocket ship with two NASA astronauts on a history-making flight into orbit was called off with less than 17 minutes to go in the countdown Wednesday because of thunderclouds and the risk of lightning.

Liftoff was rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.

The spacecraft — designed, built and owned by SpaceX — was set to blast off in the afternoon for the International Space Station, opening a new era in commercial spaceflight. It would have also marked the first time in nearly a decade that the U.S. launched astronauts into orbit from American soil.

But thunderstorms for much of the day threatened to force a postponement, and the word finally came down that the atmosphere was so electrically charged that the spacecraft was in danger of getting hit by lightning.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency and SpaceX worked together to “make the right decision” and put safety first at a time when some were wondering whether the public attention surrounding the flight would create undue pressure to launch.

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AP PHOTOS: Funerals become lonely affairs amid pandemic

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Mohammad Altaf, the generous spirit. Eudiana Smith, the trailblazer. Servius Collin, the caretaker. All were taken by COVID-19. And in death, all were robbed of the funerals they deserved.

As the coronavirus pandemic worked its way toward 100,000 U.S. deaths, a wave of shaken families has had to honor the dead apart and in small groups during an era of social distancing.

Restrictions on gatherings are only now being loosened, and many have been forced to deny themselves the collective show of affection that helps the living cope with grief.

When Smith, a retired mental health professional who died at age 73, was laid to rest at a cemetery this month near her home in Jersey City, New Jersey, mourners watched from their cars as workers interred the casket. Then, only one person at a time was allowed at her graveside.

“My mother was healthy and still full of life,” said her daughter, Erika Bermudez.