Trump’s vision of American greatness at center of convention
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans will aim to recast the story of Donald Trump’s presidency when they hold their national convention, featuring speakers drawn from everyday life as well as cable news and the White House while drawing a stark contrast with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump is looking to shift his campaign away from being a referendum on a presidency ravaged by a pandemic and economic collapse and toward a choice between vastly different visions of America’s future. Reshaping the national conversation around the race has taken on greater urgency for Trump, who trails in public and private surveys as the coronavirus continues to ravage the nation’s economy and his reelection chances.
The four-day event is themed “Honoring the Great American Story,” according to four Trump campaign officials involved with the planning process but not authorized to discuss it by name. The convention will feature prominently a number of well-known Trump supporters, including members of the Trump family, but also those whom the GOP say are members of the “silent majority” of Americans who have been aided by Trump’s policies. Some have been “silenced” by a “cancel culture” pushed by Democrats, the campaign officials said.
Where Democrats highlighted Republicans who crossed party lines to back Biden as an indictment of Trump’s leadership, the GOP lineup will primarily feature figures on the conservative media circuit with the hope that they can deliver red meat for the president’s loyal supporters — though planners say they will feature some people who did not vote for Trump in 2016.
Planners insist they will put forward a more “positive” convention than Democrats’ roasting of Trump. Yet the president also appears intent on trying to seize on the nation’s cultural divides, particularly around issues of racial injustice and policing, drawing on grievances to motivate his base.
House passes bill to reverse changes blamed for mail delays
WASHINGTON (AP) — With heated debate over mail delays, the House approved legislation in a rare Saturday session that would reverse recent changes in U.S. Postal Service operations and send $25 billion to shore up the agency ahead of the November election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled lawmakers to Washington over objections from Republicans dismissing the action as a stunt. President Donald Trump urged a no vote, including in a Saturday tweet, railing against mail-in ballots expected to surge in the COVID-19 crisis. He has said he wants to block extra funds to the Postal Service.
“Don’t pay any attention to what the president is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote,” Pelosi said at the Capitol.
Pelosi called the Postal Service the nation’s “beautiful thread” connecting Americans and said voters should “ignore” the president’s threats.
The daylong session came as an uproar over mail disruptions puts the Postal Service at the center of the nation’s tumultuous election year, with Americans rallying around one of the nation’s oldest and more popular institutions. Millions of people are expected to opt for mail-in ballots to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts flag risks in India’s use of rapid tests for virus
NEW DELHI, India (AP) — In June, India began using cheaper, faster but less accurate tests to scale up testing for the coronavirus — a strategy that the United States is now considering.
These rapid tests boosted India’s testing levels nearly five-fold within two months. But government numbers suggest some parts of the country might have become over reliant on the faster tests, which can miss infections. Experts warn that safely using them requires frequent retesting, something that isn’t always happening.
Cases surged faster than labs could scale up testing once India’s harsh lockdown was relaxed. So far authorities have rationed the use of the more precise molecular tests that detect the genetic code of the virus. But on June 14, India decided to bolster these with faster tests that screen for antigens, or viral proteins.
Albeit less accurate, these tests are cheap and yield results in minutes. Most don’t require a lab for processing or any specialized equipment or trained personnel. The plan was to rapidly increase testing to identify infected people and prevent them from spreading the virus. Samples tested using both tests increased from 5.6 million in mid-June to 26 million two months later, and nearly a third of all tests conducted daily are now antigen tests, health officials say.
But India’s experience also highlights the inherent pitfalls of relying too heavily on antigen tests, at the expense of more accurate tests. The danger is that the tests may falsely clear many who are infected with COVID-19, contributing to new spread of the virus in hard-hit areas.
Changing weather prompts more fire fears in California
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An unwelcome change in the weather, with higher winds, temperatures and lightning that threatens to spark new wildfires was coming Sunday to parched Northern California, where firefighters have for nearly a week battled three huge “complexes” of fires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands to flee.
Firefighters made slow but hopeful progress in battling the blazes on Saturday, aided by good weather but hampered by smoky skies that grounded water-dropping aircraft for some of the day. Reinforcements arrived to bolster overwhelmed crews, and evacuation orders were lifted in some areas.
But the changing weather brought fears of new fires overnight and warnings from state and local officials for residents in threatened areas to prepare to flee at any moment.
“There’s not a feeling of pure optimism, but a feeling of resolve, a feeling of we have resources backing us up,” Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore said.
Since Aug. 15, state fire officials said more than 12,000 lightning strikes across the state have ignited more than 500 wildfires. Of those, about two dozen major fires were attracting most of the state’s resources. Most of the damage was caused by three clusters of fire “complexes” that were ravaging forest and rural areas in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. They have burned 1,120 square miles (2,900 square kilometers).
AP EXCLUSIVE: US faces back-to-school laptop shortage
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts.
As the school year begins virtually in many places because of the coronavirus, educators nationwide worry that computer shortfalls will compound the inequities — and the headaches for students, families and teachers.
“This is going to be like asking an artist to paint a picture without paint. You can’t have a kid do distance learning without a computer,” said Tom Baumgarten, superintendent of the Morongo Unified School District in California’s Mojave Desert, where all 8,000 students qualify for free lunch and most need computers for distance learning.
Baumgarten was set to order 5,000 Lenovo Chromebooks in July when his vendor called him off, saying Lenovos were getting “stopped by a government agency because of a component from China that’s not allowed here,” he said. He switched to HPs and was told they would arrive in time for the first day of school Aug. 26. The delivery date then changed to September, then October. The district has about 4,000 old laptops that can serve roughly half of students, but what about the rest, Baumgarten asks rhetorically. “I’m very concerned that I’m not going to be able to get everyone a computer.”
‘End of the world’: Countdown to Beirut’s devastating blast
BEIRUT (AP) — The 10 firefighters who received the call shortly before 6 p.m. — about a big fire at the nearby port of Beirut — could not know what awaited them.
The brigade of nine men and one woman could not know about the stockpile of ammonium nitrate warehoused since 2013 along a busy motorway, in the heart of a densely populated residential area — a danger that had only grown with every passing year.
They and nearly all the population of Beirut were simply unaware. They were not privy to the warnings authorities had received, again and again, and ignored: ammonium nitrate is highly explosive, used in fertilizer and sometimes to build bombs. The stockpile was degrading; something must be done.
They knew, of course, that they lived in a dysfunctional country, its government rife with corruption, factionalism and negligence that caused so much pain and heartbreak. But they could not know that it would lead to the worst single-day catastrophe in Lebanon’s tragic history.
Across the city, residents who noticed the grey smoke billowing over the facility were drawn to streets, balconies and windows, watching curiously as the fire grew larger. Phones were pulled out of pockets and pointed toward the flames.
Iran retrieves data, cockpit talk from downed Ukraine plane
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has retrieved some data, including a portion of cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian jetliner accidentally downed by the Revolutionary Guard forces in January, killing all 176 people on board, an Iranian official said Sunday.
That’s according to a report on the website of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, which described the official’s remarks as part of the final report that Tehran plans to issue on the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
The development comes months after the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran. Iranian authorities had initially denied responsibility, only changing course days later, after Western nations presented extensive evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.
The shootdown happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
At the time, Iranian troops were bracing for a U.S. counterstrike and appear to have mistaken the plane for a missile. Iran, however, has not acknowledges that, only saying that after the ballistic missile attack, its air defense was sufficiently alert and had allowed previously scheduled air traffic to resume — a reference to the Ukrainian plane being allowed to take off from Tehran.
In recordings, Trump’s sister says he ‘has no principles’
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s older sister, a former federal judge, is heard sharply criticizing her brother in a series of recordings released Saturday, at one point saying of the president, “He has no principles.”
Maryanne Trump Barry was secretly recorded by her niece, Mary Trump, who recently released a book denouncing the president, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” Mary Trump said Saturday she made the recordings in 2018 and 2019.
In one recording, Barry, 83, says she had heard a 2018 interview with her brother on Fox News in which he suggested that he would put her on the border to oversee cases of immigrant children separated from their parents.
“His base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this,” Barry says.
At another point she says: “His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God.” She adds: “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.”
Riot declared outside Portland public safety building
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police forced protesters away from a law enforcement building in Oregon’s biggest city early Sunday, as efforts to stop the demonstrators from gathering at the building seemingly fell apart.
The protesters apparently had plans Saturday night to march from a park to the Penumbra Kelly public safety building, news outlets reported. But, a standoff between marchers and officers took place on a bridge along the way — and the demonstrators retreated.
Protesters appear to have returned to the park, and then taken cars to the building, according to a reporter for The Oregonian/Oregon Live.
Police initially declared an unlawful assembly, saying items had been thrown at officers, green lasers had been pointed at them and paintball guns had been fired.
The gathering was later declared a riot. Officers had been hit with rocks, bottles and other objects, police said.
Protest erupts over fatal police shooting of Black man
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The mother of a man fatally shot by Louisiana police said her son was intelligent, shy and had sought therapy for social anxiety. Her lawyers said they plan to sue over the death of Trayford Pellerin, who police said had a knife and was trying to enter a convenience store.
The shooting Friday night was captured on video, and the state ACLU condemned what it described as a “horrific and deadly incident of police violence against a Black person.” Both the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center quickly called for an investigation.
Pellerin’s death prompted a crowd of protesters to gather Saturday and demonstrate against the latest fatal police shooting. Officers in riot gear fired smoke canisters on Saturday night to get the crowd to disperse, Trooper Derek Senegal said. No tear gas was deployed, he said.
At a news conference late Saturday, local officials said the protest began peacefully, but violence later erupted with fireworks shot at buildings and fires set in the median of the road.
“Our intent is not going to be to just let people disrupt our town and put our citizens and our motorists and our neighborhoods in danger,” Interim Police Chief Scott Morgan said.