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Trump pushes state, local leaders to reopen schools in fall

President Donald Trump on Tuesday launched an all-out effort pressing state and local officials to reopen schools this fall, arguing that some are keeping schools closed not because of the risks from the coronavirus pandemic but for political reasons.

“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”

The White House’s round-table gathered health and education leaders from across the nation who said schools and colleges are ready to open this fall and can do so safely. They argued that the risks of keeping students at home outweigh any risks tied to the coronavirus, saying students need access to meal programs and mental and behavioral health services.

“We want to reopen the schools,” Trump said. “Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It’s time to do it.”

But that bright outlook was met with skepticism by some beyond the White House. The president of the nation’s largest education union said Trump is more interested in scoring points for the November election than in keeping students safe.

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In risky bid, Trump stokes racial rancor to motivate voters

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump is wielding America’s racial tensions as a reelection weapon, fiercely denouncing the racial justice movement on a near-daily basis with language stoking white resentment and aiming to drive his supporters to the polls.

The incendiary discourse is alarming many in his own party and running contrary to the advice of some in his inner circle, who believe it risks alienating independent and suburban voters. It’s a pattern that harks back to cultural divisions Trump similarly exploited in his victorious 2016 campaign.

“It’s not about who is the object of the derision or the vitriol. The actual issue is understanding the appeal to white resentment and white fear,” said Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African American studies at Princeton University. “It’s all rooted in this panic about the place of white people in this new America.”

Though Trump has long aired racially divisive language and grievances in the public sphere, his willingness to do so from behind the presidential seal — and on his Twitter account — has reached a breakneck pace in recent days as the nation grapples with racial injustice.

The president tweeted — and later deleted — a video of a supporter yelling “white power.” He referred to the Black Lives Matter mantra as a “symbol of hate.” He took a swipe at NASCAR for removing the Confederate flag from its races and falsely suggested a Black driver had carried out a racially charged hoax. He mused about overturning a suburban fair-housing regulation and spoke approvingly of the current branding of the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, team nicknames that many consider offensive to Native Americans.

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Protective gear for medical workers begins to run low again

The personal protective gear that was in dangerously short supply during the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is running low again as the virus resumes its rapid spread and the number of hospitalized patients climbs.

A national nursing union is concerned that gear has to be reused. A doctors association warns that physicians’ offices are closed because they cannot get masks and other supplies. And Democratic members of Congress are pushing the Trump administration to devise a national strategy to acquire and distribute gear in anticipation of the crisis worsening into the fall.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union’s members. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

When the crisis first exploded in March and April in hot spots such as New York City, the situation was so desperate that nurses turned plastic garbage bags into protective gowns. The lack of equipment forced states and hospitals to compete against each other, the federal government and other countries in desperate, expensive bidding wars.

In general, supplies of protective gear are more robust now, and many states and major hospital chains say they are in better shape. But medical professionals and some lawmakers have cast doubt on those improvements as shortages begin to reappear.

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Data: Congress created virus aid, then reaped the benefits

WASHINGTON (AP) — At least a dozen lawmakers have ties to organizations that received federal coronavirus aid, according to newly released government data, highlighting how Washington insiders were both author and beneficiary of one of the biggest government programs in U.S. history.

Under pressure from Congress and outside groups, the Trump administration this week disclosed the names of some loan recipients in the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program, launched in April to help smaller businesses keep Americans employed during the pandemic. Connections to lawmakers, and the organizations that work to influence them, were quickly apparent.

Among businesses that received money was a California hotel partially owned by the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as a shipping business started by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Car dealerships owned by at least three Republican House members — Reps. Roger Williams of Texas, Vern Buchanan of Florida and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania — received money. So, too, did fast-food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., a law firm owned by the husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and the former law firm of Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., which employs his wife.

Money also flowed to a farming and equipment business owned by the family of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and a regional casino company led by the husband of Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.

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AP Explains: Bolsonaro has downplayed virus fears for months

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for months flirted with the new coronavirus as he flouted social distancing at lively demonstrations and encouraged crowds during outings from the presidential residence, often without a mask.

He has at times downplayed the risk posed by COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus, and at others expressed fatalism that it will inevitably claim lives. He says tough measures to cub the virus’ spread such as lockdowns are a threat to Brazil’s economic well-being

On Tuesday, he announced that he has tested positive for the virus, making him one of the more than 1.6 million Brazilians with confirmed infections. It is the world’s second highest total, though considered by experts to be an undercount due to lack of testing. Here’s a look at what Bolsonaro has said as the tally grew.

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HOW HAS HE MINIMIZED THE THREAT OF THE CORONAVIRUS?

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Civil rights groups denounce Facebook over hate speech

Facebook keeps telling critics that it is doing everything it can to rid its service of hate, abuse and misinformation. And the company’s detractors keep not buying it.

On Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg met with a group of civil rights leaders, including the organizers of a growing advertising boycott over hate speech on Facebook. One of those leaders, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, said Facebook’s executives offered little but cheap talk that skirted major commitments to new rules or actions that would curb racism and misinformation on its platform.

“We’ve watched the conversation blossom into nothingness,” Johnson said. “They lack the cultural sensitivity to understand that their platform is actually being used to cause harm. Or, they understand the harm their platform is causing and they’ve chosen to take the profit.”

The NAACP was one of several groups that sent Facebook a list of 10 demands for policy change. Those included hiring a civil rights executive; banning private groups that promote white supremacy, vaccine misinformation or violent conspiracy theories; and ending an exemption that allows politicians to post voting misinformation.

Such calls have the support of big-name companies like Coca-Cola and Unilever who have yanked their Facebook ads in recent days. But nothing concrete will change for Facebook’s 2.6 billion users.

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FBI investigating reported assault on Black Indiana man

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The FBI said Tuesday it’s investigating the reported assault of a Black man by a group of white men at a southern Indiana lake.

Vauhxx Booker, a civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, said the men pinned him against a tree, shouted racial slurs and one of them threatened to “get a noose” at Monroe Lake near Bloomington over the Fourth of July weekend.

Much of the assault was captured on cellphone video by Booker’s acquaintances.

“The FBI is investigating. We have no further comment,” spokeswoman Chris Bavender said.

Booker’s attorney, Katherine Liell, said the FBI was questioning witnesses and that charging decisions could be made soon.

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Missouri summer camp virus outbreak raises safety questions

Missouri leaders knew the risk of convening thousands of kids at summer camps across the state during a pandemic, the state’s top health official said, and insisted that camp organizers have plans in place to keep an outbreak from happening.

The outbreak happened anyway.

An overnight summer camp in rural southwestern Missouri has seen scores of campers, counselors and staff infected with the coronavirus, the local health department revealed this week, raising questions about the ability to keep kids safe at what is a rite of childhood for many.

Missouri is one of several states to report outbreaks at summer camps. The Kanakuk camp near Branson ended up sending its teenage campers home. On Friday, the local health department announced 49 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus at the camp. By Monday, the number had jumped to 82.

Some states, like Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, closed summer camps this year, and many camps elsewhere have voluntarily canceled programs. But other camps are plowing ahead, hoping that precautions like social distancing, masks and requiring children to quarantine before coming to camp will quell the risk. Other states where outbreaks have been reported have included Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

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AMERICA DISRUPTED: Troubles cleave a nation, and a city

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — It was difficult to celebrate America in Saginaw this year. The deadly coronavirus had torn through the county. Unemployment had surged five-fold. Weeks of protest over racial inequality left many debating what should be hallowed and what must be changed.

But Tom Roy had given it his best. As the head of the July Fourth fireworks board, he struggled to save the display of red-rocketed flares and bursting peonies, fruitlessly seeking a venue that felt safe from the sickness.

He couldn’t do it. So Saginaw canceled its festivities, upsetting many of Roy’s neighbors who lost an opportunity to unify a bitterly divided community for one night.

The dark skies over this mid-Michigan city were a plaintive marker of a nation utterly disrupted in a matter of months.

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‘Palm Springs’ arrives for the Groundhog Days of quarantine

NEW YORK (AP) — Though most of the films that have debuted during the pandemic never got to screen for packed movie houses, “Palm Springs” had the kind of premiere filmmakers dream of.

At the Sundance Film Festival in January, the time-loop romantic comedy, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti drew big laughs, enthusiastic reviews and a record deal for the festival. Hulu and the indie distributor Neon acquired “Palm Springs” for $17,500,000.69. The extra cents were suggested after negotiations stretched deep into the night by Samberg’s Lonely Island partner Akiva Schaffer, a producer on the film.

“We’ve been saying Hulu insisted. It was either Akiva or Hulu,” says Samberg, chuckling. “It might have been Akiva at, like, 5 a.m. after staying up all night making a deal and having been drinking earlier in the night. Or it was Hulu. I can’t quite recall.”

That memory may be distant and from another lifetime, entirely. But “Palm Springs,” which premieres Friday on Hulu and in drive-in theaters, has found itself oddly suited to right now. The film, the feature debut of director Max Barbakow and screenwriter Andy Siara, is about a bridesmaid, Sarah (Milioti), who, after an encounter with a guest, Nyles (Samberg), at her sister’s wedding, falls into a time loop. She begins reliving the day over and over again, a cycle that Nyles has already been stuck in for so long he can’t remember.

When other movies were postponing their releases, “Palm Springs” opted to essentially stay put. With people in some state of lockdown across the country, a movie about the comedy of reliving the same day became weirdly appropriate. A time loop opened, and “Palm Springs” dove in.