Published: 10:04 pm, Mon. Sep. 14th, 2020Updated: 9:04 pm
Seeping under doors, bad air from West’s fires won’t ease up
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Dangerously dirty air spewing from the West Coast wildfires is seeping into homes and businesses, sneaking into cars through air conditioning vents and preventing people already shut away by the coronavirus pandemic from enjoying a walk or trip to the park.
People in Oregon, Washington state and California have been struggling for a week or longer under some of the most unhealthy air on the planet. The acrid yellow-green smog may linger for days or weeks, scientists and forecasters said.
It is also a sign of things to come. With wildfires getting larger and more destructive because of climate change and more people living closer to areas that burn, smoke will likely shroud the sky more often in the future.
“I don’t think that we should be outside, but at the same time, we’ve been cooped up in the house already for months, so it’s kind of hard to dictate what’s good and what’s bad. I mean, we shouldn’t be outside period,” Portland resident Issa Ubidia-Luckett said Monday.
The hazy air closed businesses like Whole Foods and the iconic Powell’s Books in Portland and suspended garbage pickup in some communities. Pollution and fire evacuations canceled online school and closed some college campuses in Oregon.
‘Huge rainmaker’: Hurricane Sally threatens historic floods
NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Heavy rain, pounding surf and flash floods hit parts of the Florida Panhandle and the Alabama coast on Tuesday as Hurricane Sally lumbered toward land at a painfully slow pace, threatening as much as 30 inches of rain and dangerous, historic flooding.
The storm’s center churned offshore 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southeast of Mobile, Alabama, as Sally crept north-northeast toward an expected Wednesday landfall at 2 mph (3 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane force winds extended 40 miles (65 kilometers). Rain fell sideways and began covering roads in Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile. A curfew was ordered in the coastal Alabama city of Gulf Shores as authorities warned of life-threatening conditions. More than 60,000 power customers were without electricity, according to poweroutage.us .
Up to a foot (more than 30 centimeters) of rain had fallen already on the coast by Tuesday night and Sally’s lumbering pace meant there would likely be extended deluges.
“A hurricane moving at 2 mph is stalled for all intents and purposes,” said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami. “If they aren’t moving along and they just kind of sit there, you’re going to get a ridiculous amount of rain.”
Apology, no firing: Official said US scientists hurt Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump health appointee who is accused of trying to muzzle an important scientific publication in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic apologized Tuesday for a separate video in which he reportedly says scientists battling the virus are conspiring against President Donald Trump and warns of shooting in America if Trump loses the election.
Michael Caputo, the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, apologized to his staff for the Facebook video, said an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The department is standing by Caputo so far in the face of calls by congressional Democrats for his dismissal — and for the resignation of his boss, HHS Secretary Alex Azar. But Caputo, a Trump loyalist and former New York political operative, has become a significant new problem for a White House that has struggled all year with its coronavirus response.
He can be heard on an HHS podcast asserting that Democrats don’t want a coronavirus vaccine before the election in order to punish Trump. Although Trump has made the same assertion, with no evidence to support it, such broadsides are not in a department spokesman’s normal portfolio.
News reports alleged last week that Caputo’s office tried to take over and muzzle a scientific weekly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that publishes what is supposed to be authoritative, unvarnished information about disease-fighting efforts, including, most importantly at present, COVID-19.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe resigns, clearing way for successor
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet resigned, clearing the way for his successor to take over after parliamentary confirmation later Wednesday.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.
“I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office before heading into his final Cabinet meeting. “During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges together with the people, and I’m proud of myself.”
He said his health is improving thanks to treatment and that he, as a lawmaker, will support his successor-to-be, Yosihide Suga, from now on. He also thanked the people for their understanding and strong support for the upcoming leadership under Suga.
Suga, chief Cabinet secretary for Abe’s government and long seen as his right-hand man, was chosen Monday as the new head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, virtually guaranteeing his election as prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the party’s majority.
Trump denies downplaying virus, casts doubt on mask usage
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Fielding compelling questions about voters’ real-world problems, President Donald Trump denied during a televised town hall Tuesday that he had played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating he did just that.
Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration strongly urging the use of face coverings and seemed to bat away the suggestion that the nation has racial inequities.
“Well, I hope there’s not a race problem,” Trump said when asked about his campaign rhetoric seeming to ignore the historical injustices carried out against Black Americans.
Face-to-face with everyday voters for the first time in months, Trump was defensive but resisted agitation as he was pressed on his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why he doesn’t more aggressively promote the use of masks to reduce the spread of the disease.
“There are people that don’t think masks are good,” Trump said, though his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urges their use.
Biden courts Latino voters in 1st trip to Florida as nominee
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Joe Biden made his first trip to Florida as the Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday with an urgent mission to boost support among Latinos who could decide the election in one of the nation’s fiercest battleground states.
“More than any other time, the Hispanic community, Latino community holds in the palm of their hand the destiny of this country,” Biden said during a Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff event in Kissimmee. “You can decide the direction of this country.”
A win for Biden in Florida would dramatically narrow Trump’s path to reelection. But in a state where elections are often decided by a percentage point, there are mounting concerns that Biden may be slipping, particularly with the state’s influential Latino voters.
An NBC-Marist poll released last week found Latinos in the state about evenly divided between Biden and Trump. Democrat Hillary Clinton led Trump by a 59% to 36% margin among Latinos in the same poll in 2016 — and Trump won Florida by about 1 percentage point.
To regain lost ground, Biden made the case Tuesday night that he would be a better president for Hispanics than Trump, touting his commitment to immigration reform and a new plan to support Puerto Rico’s economy.
Police leaders pressed Rochester to keep Prude video secret
Rochester police commanders urged city officials to hold off on publicly releasing body camera footage of Daniel Prude’s suffocation death because they feared violent blowback if the video came out during nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, newly released emails show.
Deputy Chief Mark Simmons cited the “current climate” in the city and the nation in a June 4 email advising then-Chief La’ron Singletary to press the city’s lawyers to deny a Prude family lawyer’s public records request for the footage of the March 23 encounter that led to his death.
The video, finally made public by Prude’s family on Sept. 4, shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a spit hood over his head as an officer pushes his face against the ground, while another officer presses a knee to his back. The officers held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was taken off life support a week later.
“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally,” Simmons wrote. “That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blow back in this community as a result.”
The Western New York city released the emails, police reports and other documents on Monday as Mayor Lovely Warren fired Singletary and suspended Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days amid continuing fallout from Prude’s death. Simmons was named interim chief of the police department.
Experts worry as US virus restrictions are eased or violated
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State and local officials around the U.S. are rolling back social-distancing rules again after an abortive effort over the summer, allowing bars, restaurants and gyms to open. Fans are gathering mask-free at football games. President Donald Trump is holding crowded indoor rallies.
While some Americans may see such things as a welcome step closer to normal, public health experts warn the U.S. is setting itself up for failure — again.
“Folks are becoming very cavalier about the pandemic,” said Mark Rupp, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Nebraska’s governor ended nearly all of his state’s restrictions on Monday, even with new cases of the coronavirus on the rise.
“I think it is setting us up for further transmission and more people getting ill and, unfortunately, more people dying,” Rupp said.
The virus is blamed for more than 6.5 million confirmed infections and 195,000 deaths in the U.S., by far the highest totals of any country, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Democrats to investigate forced surgery claims in Georgia
ATLANTA (AP) — Leading congressional Democrats reacted furiously Tuesday to lightly substantiated claims that immigrants held at a detention center in Georgia are undergoing questionable hysterectomies.
In a complaint filed Monday, a nurse alleges that the Irwin County Detention Center performed questionable hysterectomies, refused to test detainees for COVID-19 and shredded medical records.
A top medical official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement “vehemently” disputing the claims, saying only two women have been referred for hysterectomies from the facility since 2018.
The statement came after Democrats seized on nurse’s allegations that a gynecologist she called the “uterus collector” was performing “mass hysterectomies” — declaring they would investigate the matter.
A follow-up news conference Tuesday in Atlanta provided little information to substantiate the claims. Lawyers for the nurse, Dawn Wooten, refused to release her full statement that she made to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General. She declined to take questions after making a statement with no reference to mass hysterectomies.
South Dakota AG was frequent traveler before fatal crash
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — For South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg spending Saturday driving hundreds of miles on the state’s roads was not unusual. But by this past Sunday, it was clear that his latest trip was anything but routine: An investigation was underway that would reveal he struck and killed a man walking along a rural stretch of highway.
Ravnsborg has said that he thought he had hit a large animal while driving home to Pierre from a Republican fundraiser some 110 miles (180 kilometers) away in Redfield. He said he realized he killed a man only after returning to the site the next morning.
Until then, Ravnsborg had made few waves as the state’s top law enforcement officer, garnering a reputation as a quiet prosecutor, but a relentless campaigner who developed personal connections in the state’s Republican Party.
Ravnsborg crisscrossed South Dakota in his Ford Taurus, attending what are often small events known as Lincoln Day Dinners. He made the drive Saturday even though he does not face reelection for two years. Photos posted on the Spink County Republican Party’s Facebook page show no more than two dozen people at Rooster’s Bar & Grill.
It was Ravnsborg’s dutiful attendance of these events that propelled him from being a GOP outsider to winning the party’s nomination for attorney general, said Republican state Sen. Lance Russell, who ran against him in 2018. Ravnsborg had mounted an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2014, garnering just over 2,000 votes in the primary. But South Dakota political parties decide their candidates for attorney general at conventions, meaning they gather support from party stalwarts.