Coronavirus state tracker: Hospitalizations down 17% in last 14 days in California on August 24

According to the California COVID-19 dashboard there are 5,618 patients hospitalized in California on Monday, Aug. 24. This is a decrease of 1,152 patients (17%) over the last 14 days.

The state is reporting that 31% of its ICU beds are available, 65% of its ventilators are available and ICUs occupancy has declined by 17.6% in the last 14 days.

The state had conducted 1,654,133 tests in the last 14 days with a 6.5% test positivity rate. There have been more than 10.65 million tests in the state since March.

Orange County and San Diego County were dropped from the state’s monitoring list as of Sunday. They are the only two counties in Southern California to attain that status.

All data on the state tracker is preliminary and subject to change.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the California Department of Public Health, The Associated Press, reporting counties and news sources

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Jill Biden’s path from reluctant politico to possible FLOTUS

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE | Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. — Jill Biden is a prankster.

It’s the first thing most of her friends and former aides say when asked about her character. She once sneaked into a close aide’s birthday party dressed as catering staff and surprised him with a drink. She has dressed up as the Grinch to toy with colleagues during Christmas. And she likes to put on a red wig with a bob to pop up unnoticed at events or make her husband, Joe Biden, laugh.

That sense of humor has helped Joe Biden navigate decades in public life that have been marked by achievements, defeats and considerable personal loss. As she prepares to speak Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, those who have worked closely with Jill Biden say her warmth will appeal to Americans confronting tough times of their own.

“She has a very good sense of, especially in these times, that bringing a little smile, some joy, some levity into moments is important,” said Courtney O’Donnell, who served as Jill Biden’s communications director during her husband’s first term as vice president.

Jill Biden married the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 1977, more than four years after his first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident. She helped raise his surviving sons, Beau and Hunter, before giving birth to daughter Ashley in 1981.

As Joe Biden commuted from Delaware to Washington while serving as a senator, Jill Biden built a career as a teacher, ultimately earning two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007.

Along the way, former coworkers say, Jill Biden, 69, became one of her husband’s most valuable political advisers, someone whose opinion was paramount in most of his biggest decisions, both political and personal. She was skeptical of his 1988 presidential campaign, but pushed him to run again in 2008, according to her memoir.

After Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee this year, she played a prominent role in auditioning many of the vice presidential candidates, appearing with them at various events. During a recent interview on CBS, Jill Biden acknowledged that she and her husband “talked about the different woman candidates.”

“But it’s gotta be Joe’s decision,” she added.

But those who know Jill Biden best say she’s slightly perplexed at being called one of her husband’s most significant “advisers,” insisting that her relationship with her husband is far deeper and more nuanced than such a label would suggest.

“He’s got plenty of political advisers. That’s not what she is,” said Cathy Russell, who was Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration and is now a vice chair on the campaign. “She is his spouse, and she loves him and she talks to him about all sorts of things, but she has a unique role, and it’s not being a political adviser. That’s not her thing.”

Jill Biden does remain one of her husband’s closest confidantes — particularly now, at a time when both Bidens are largely confined to their Wilmington home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Aides say the Bidens often pass each other in the halls during the day as they head from a briefing to a virtual event to a fundraiser.

“They see each other a lot, but there’s a lot of passing and crossing each other. In the evening they try to sit together and just kind of regroup and chat about things,” Russell said. “They’ve got grandkids and kids and two dogs. They’ve got family and lives that are sort of spinning around them, and I think they just try to always find time for each other.”

A self-described introvert, Jill Biden was initially a reluctant political wife. In her memoir, she writes of giving her first political speech and having no desire to “give any speeches, anytime, anywhere — just the thought of doing so made me so nervous I felt sick.”

But after eight years as the vice president’s wife and then giving speeches and appearing at events after her husband left office, Jill Biden has become one of her husband’s most prominent surrogates. She has appeared in virtual events in more than 17 cities since May, and is one one of the campaign’s primary surrogates to Latino voters, headlining town halls and holding frequent calls with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In one week this month, Jill Biden appeared at everything from a science-focused fundraiser to an event with Joe Biden’s faith coalition to one focused on LGBTQ youth, speaking with emotion and fluency about her husband’s plans for each constituency.

She’s also one of his most protective surrogates, a quality she writes about in her memoir — and one that was on full display during a Super Tuesday speech Joe Biden gave in March when a handful of protesters rushed the stage. Jill moved between the protesters and her husband, pushing a protester away.

But the resistance to being called an “adviser” on Biden’s team reflects Jill Biden’s persistent and successful efforts to carve out her own career and identity independent of her husband’s political ambitions, something she prioritized even during his time in the Senate.

“They lived in Delaware always, through all those Senate campaigns, and she had her own life. She was raising her children, she was teaching, she was going to school at night at different times,” said Russell. “She was never a part of the Washington scene. That political life just wasn’t her life.”

Jill Biden continued to teach at a community college while her husband was vice president, against the advice of multiple aides at the time.

“Being a teacher is not what I do but who I am,” she wrote in her memoir, and described “scrambling into a cocktail dress and heels” in the bathroom at her school to make it to a White House reception, or grading papers on Air Force Two, with relish.

Indeed, she has said she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady.

As longtime friend and teaching colleague Mary Doody described it, the classroom offers Jill Biden a bit of an escape.

“When you’re in a classroom, for an hour and a half or two hours or however long you’re with those students, it’s just you and them, and you build this rapport. It’s like you build a little family,” Doody said. “And I think that’s why it’s so important for her to teach.”

Aides say she’ll continue to advocate for many of the same issues she championed as the vice president’s wife if she returns to the White House as first lady. During her eight years in the Obama administration, she focused on military spouses and families, advocated for community colleges and sought to raise awareness around breast cancer prevention.

All the while, Doody notes, Jill Biden is known for being impeccably dressed, always offering up a good book recommendation, writing small notes or sending flowers to friends, family and staff who need a pick me up, and making sure to get to all her grandkids’ sports games. Doody expects her to continue it all.

“If I could figure out how she does all that, I would have a really good secret to share,” Doody said.

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U.S., Oregon in talks about pulling federal agents from Portland

By GILLIAN FLACCUS and ANDREW SELSKY and JONATHAN LEMIRE

PORTLAND, Ore.  — The Trump administration has started talks with the Oregon governor’s office and indicated that it would begin to draw down the presence of federal agents sent to quell two months of chaotic protests in Portland if the state stepped up its own enforcement, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

The official stressed to The Associated Press that the talks with the office of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown are in the early stages and there is no agreement. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Brown didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office also didn’t immediately respond to an email.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers again used tear gas to disperse protesters early Wednesday on the streets of Portland as loud booms filled the air.

Just a day earlier, the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security were weighing whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.

Homeland Security was considering a similar measure with Customs and Border Protection agents, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump did not let up on criticizing local authorities in their handling of the protests that began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities.

The nightly protests often spiral into violence as demonstrators target the U.S. courthouse in Oregon’s largest city with rocks, fireworks and laser pointers and federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.

“We, as you know, have done an excellent job of watching over Portland and watching our courthouse where they wanted to burn it down, they’re anarchists, nothing short of anarchist agitators,” Trump said Tuesday. “And we have protected it very powerfully. And if we didn’t go there, I will tell you, you wouldn’t have a courthouse. You’d have a billion-dollar burned-out building.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that she had received confirmation that U.S. agents had left her city after being sent to Seattle last week to protect federal buildings amid lingering unrest.

The developments came as the American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon filed a motion alleging that the militarized U.S. agents are attacking journalists and legal observers with riot-control munitions, despite a federal court ordering them to stop.

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Portland — located in the same federal court building that’s been the focus of protests — temporarily blocked federal officers from targeting journalists and legal observers at the protests.

The ACLU asked the court to sanction and hold in contempt federal agents for violating the temporary restraining order. It also asked the court to order Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to personally appear and show why they should not be sanctioned for contempt.

The organization cited numerous instances in which agents have violated the order by firing impact munitions and using pepper spray against people clearly marked as journalists or legal observers.

The motion was filed after U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended the aggressive federal response to Congress, saying “violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests” sparked by Floyd’s death.

The ACLU accused federal agents of acting unlawfully in Portland.

“This administration claims to be defending the federal courthouse, but won’t obey the orders coming out of it. What purpose are these agents actually serving then?” said Kelly Simon, interim legal director of the ACLU of Oregon.

One journalist, Jonathan Levinson of Oregon Public Broadcasting, said in a statement to the court that while he was trying to take a photograph Friday, he saw a federal agent raise his weapon, aim it at him and fire several rounds.

“My camera and lens were splattered with paint,” Levinson said. “Based on my position and the position of people around me, there is almost no chance the agent was aiming at anyone other than me.”

Levinson, who has covered conflicts worldwide and was deployed to Iraq as an Army officer, said he was wearing a press pass and a helmet that says “PRESS” in big letters on the front and back.

Kat Mahoney, a legal observer with the ACLU, said a federal agent fired a paintball at her, hitting her in the head Friday. The next night, an agent sprayed her and three other observers in the face as they told him they were legal observers and pointed to their credentials.

There was no immediate comment from the federal agencies on the motion and accusations.

Two groups also have sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging it violated the Constitution by sending federal law enforcement to disperse crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit from the Wall of Moms — a group of self-described mothers — and the Don’t Shoot Portland group.

Members of the group of mothers have “been tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them,” the lawsuit said.

Wheeler and City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty had asked Wolf on Monday for a meeting to discuss a cease-fire and their desire for the removal of the extra federal agents deployed to Portland.

The same day, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams insisted that the agents will remain as long as protesters keep attacking the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

Protesters have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails and bricks, rocks and bottles at the agents inside.

On the 60th night of protests, demonstrators near the courthouse were met with tear gas, pepper balls and stun grenades fired by agents early Tuesday.

Lemire reported from Washington. Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington and Suman Naishadham in Atlanta also contributed to this report.

 

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Powerful quake jolts Alaska towns, produces small tsunami

By MARK THIESSEN

ANCHORAGE, Alaska  — A powerful earthquake located off Alaska’s southern coast jolted some coastal communities late Tuesday, and some residents briefly scrambled for higher ground over fears of a tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of damage in the sparsely populated area of the state, and tsunami warning was canceled after the magnitude 7.8 quake off the Alaska Peninsula produced a wave of a less than a foot.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake struck Tuesday at 10:12 p.m. local time, centered in waters 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southeast of Perryville, Alaska at a depth of 17 miles (28 km).

Because of its location, nearby communities along the Alaska Peninsula did not experience shaking that would normally be associated with that magnitude of a quake, said Michael West, Alaska State Seismologist.

However, that doesn’t mean they slept through it: West said residents in small towns within a hundred miles of the quake reported very strong shaking, and was also felt more than 500 miles away in the Anchorage area, West said.

“No reports of any damage,” Kodiak Police Sgt. Mike Sorter told The Associated Press early Wednesday morning. “No injuries were reported. Everything is nominal.”

Kodiak is about 200 miles northeast of where the earthquake was centered.

The tsunami warning had coastal residents evacuating for higher ground. Social media posts showed long lines of people fleeing towns like Homer and Kodiak while tsunami sirens wailed in the background.

On Kodiak Island, the local high school opened its doors for evacuees, as did the local Catholic school, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

“We’ve got a high school full of people,” said Larry LeDoux, superintendent of the Kodiak School District. “I’ve been passing out masks since the first siren sounded,” he told the Daily News.

“Everything’s as calm as can be. We’ve got probably 300, 400 people all wearing masks,” he said before the warning was canceled.

Tsunami warnings are commonplace for people who grew up in Kodiak.

”I’ve been doing these since I was a little kid,” LeDoux told the newspaper. “Old news.”

Officials at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, began calling off tsunami advisories and warnings after a wave of only 25 centimeters (.8 foot) was recorded in the community of Sand Point.

“I might have expected a little bit more water, but I’m happy that there wasn’t,” said David Hale, the senior duty scientist at the tsunami center.

Tuesday’s quake was more powerful than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused damage in the Anchorage area in November 2018.

“This earthquake released about 15 times as much energy as that earthquake, said West, the state seismologist.

More than a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or higher were reported immediately after the earthquake, he said by telephone from the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

”We got people here who are going be working all night,” West said early Wednesday morning. ”These aftershocks will go and go and go and go.”

The Alaska-Aleutian Trench was also where a magnitude 9.2 quake in 1964 was centered. That remains the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The temblor and ensuing tsunami caused widespread damage and killed 131 people, some as far away as Oregon and California. Alaska is the most actively seismic state. Nearly 25,000 earthquakes have been recorded in Alaska since Jan. 1, according to the center.

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John Lewis, lion of civil rights and Congress, dies at 80

By CALVIN WOODWARD Associated Press

ATLANTA >> John Lewis, a lion of the civil rights movement whose bloody beating by Alabama state troopers in 1965 helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, and who went on to a long and celebrated career in Congress, died. He was 80.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ passing late Friday night, calling him “one of the greatest heroes of American history.”

“All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing,” Pelosi said. “May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble.’”

Lewis’s announcement in late December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer — “I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now,” he said — inspired tributes from both sides of the aisle, and an unstated accord that the likely passing of this Atlanta Democrat would represent the end of an era.

Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

At age 25 — walking at the head of the march with his hands tucked in the pockets of his tan overcoat — Lewis was knocked to the ground and beaten by police. His skull was fractured, and nationally televised images of the brutality forced the country’s attention on racial oppression in the South.

Within days, King led more marches in the state, and President Lyndon Johnson soon was pressing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. The bill became law later that year, removing barriers that had barred Blacks from voting.

“John is an American hero who helped lead a movement and risked his life for our most fundamental rights; he bears scars that attest to his indefatigable spirit and persistence,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said after Lewis announced his cancer diagnosis.

Lewis joined King and four other civil rights leaders in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. He spoke to the vast crowd just before King delivered his epochal “I Have a Dream” speech.

A 23-year-old firebrand, Lewis toned down his intended remarks at the insistence of others, dropping a reference to a “scorched earth” march through the South and scaling back criticisms of President John Kennedy. It was a potent speech nonetheless, in which he vowed: “By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in an image of God and democracy.”

It was almost immediately, and forever, overshadowed by the words of King, the man who had inspired him to activism.

Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940, outside the town of Troy, in Pike County, Alabama. He grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools.

As a boy, he wanted to be a minister, and practiced his oratory on the family chickens. Denied a library card because of the color of his skin, he became an avid reader, and could cite obscure historical dates and details even in his later years. He was a teenager when he first heard King preaching on the radio. They met when Lewis was seeking support to become the first Black student at Alabama’s segregated Troy State University.

He ultimately attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He began organizing sit-in demonstrations at whites-only lunch counters and volunteering as a Freedom Rider, enduring beatings and arrests while traveling around the South to challenge segregation.

Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was named its chairman in 1963, making him one of the Big Six at a tender age.

The others, in addition to King, were Whitney Young of the National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph of the Negro American Labor Council; James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality; and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. All six met at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York to plan and announce the March on Washington.

The huge demonstration galvanized the movement, but success didn’t come quickly. After extensive training in nonviolent protest, Lewis and the Rev. Hosea Williams led demonstrators on a planned march of more than 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, on March 7, 1965. A phalanx of police blocked their exit from the Selma bridge.

Authorities shoved, then swung their truncheons, fired tear gas and charged on horseback, sending many to the hospital and horrifying much of the nation. King returned with thousands, completing the march to Montgomery before the end of the month.

Lewis turned to politics in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council.

He won his seat in Congress in 1986 and spent much of his career in the minority. After Democrats won control of the House in 2006, Lewis became his party’s senior deputy whip, a behind-the-scenes leadership post in which he helped keep the party unified.

In an early setback for Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Lewis endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination. Lewis switched when it became clear Obama had overwhelming Black support. Obama later honored Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and they marched hand in hand in Selma on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack.

Lewis also worked for 15 years to gain approval for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Humble and unfailingly friendly, Lewis was revered on Capitol Hill — but as one of the most liberal members of Congress, he often lost policy battles, from his effort to stop the Iraq War to his defense of young immigrants.

He met bipartisan success in Congress in 2006 when he led efforts to renew the Voting Rights Act, but the Supreme Court later invalidated much of the law, and it became once again what it was in his youth, a work in progress. Later, when the presidency of Donald Trump challenged his civil rights legacy, Lewis made no effort to hide his pain.

Lewis refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, saying he didn’t consider him a “legitimate president” because Russians had conspired to get him elected. When Trump later complained about immigrants from “s—hole countries,” Lewis declared, “I think he is a racist … we have to try to stand up and speak up and not try to sweep it under the rug.”

Lewis said he’d been arrested 40 times in the 1960s, five more as a congressman. At 78, he told a rally he’d do it again to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration.

“There cannot be any peace in America until these young children are returned to their parents and set all of our people free,” Lewis said in June, recalling the “good trouble” he got into protesting segregation as a young man.

“If we fail to do it, history will not be kind to us,” he shouted. “I will go to the border. I’ll get arrested again. If necessary, I’m prepared to go to jail.”

In a speech the day of the House impeachment vote of Trump, Lewis explained the importance of that vote.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us ‘what did you do? what did you say?” While the vote would be hard for some, he said: “We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”

Lewis’ wife of four decades, Lillian Miles, died in 2012. They had one son, John Miles Lewis.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Warren contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court clears way for execution of federal prisoner

By MICHAEL BALSAMO

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The Trump administration was moving ahead early Tuesday with the execution of the first federal prison inmate in 17 years after a divided Supreme Court reversed lower courts and ruled federal executions could proceed.

Daniel Lewis Lee had been scheduled to receive a lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital at 4 p.m. EDT Monday. But a court order issued Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan prevented Lee’s execution.

A federal appeals court in Washington refused the administration’s plea to step in, leaving the hold in place, before the Supreme Court acted by a 5-4 vote. Still, Lee’s lawyers insisted the execution could not go forward after midnight under federal regulations.

With conservatives in the majority, the court said in an unsigned opinion that the prisoners’ “executions may proceed as planned.” The four liberal justices dissented.

Lee’s execution was scheduled for about 4 a.m. EDT Tuesday, according to court papers. There was another delay when the government asked for an emergency ruling related to an old stay that had been issued in the case, but that wasn’t expected to derail the execution.

The Bureau of Prisons had continued with preparations even as lower courts paused the proceedings.

Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, has had access to social visitors, visited with his spiritual adviser and has been allowed to receive mail, prison officials said. The witnesses for Lee are expected to include three family members, his lawyers and spiritual adviser.

Lee 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 government has been trying to plow forward with these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol,” said Shawn Nolan, one of the attorneys for the men facing federal execution.

The decision to move forward during a global health pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 people in the United States and is ravaging prisons nationwide, drew scrutiny from civil rights groups as well as family of Lee’s victims.

Some members of the victims’ family argued they would be put at high risk for the coronavirus if they had to travel to attend, and sought to delay the execution until it was safer to travel. Those claims were at first granted but also eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.

Critics argue that the government is creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency for political gain. The developments are also likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

Two more executions are scheduled this week, though one, Wesley Ira Purkey, was on hold in a separate legal claim. Dustin Lee Honken’s execution was scheduled for on Friday.

A fourth man, Keith Dwayne Nelson, is scheduled to be executed in August.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has a duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts, including the death penalty, and to bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened.

But relatives of those killed by Lee strongly oppose that idea. They wanted to be present to counter any contention that it was being done on their behalf.

“For us it is a matter of being there and saying, `This is not being done in our name; we do not want this,’” said relative Monica Veillette.

The federal prison system has struggled in recent months to contain the exploding number of coronavirus cases behind bars. There are currently four confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates at the Terre Haute prison, according to federal statistics, and one inmate there has died.

Barr said he believes the Bureau of Prisons could “carry out these executions without being at risk.” The agency has put a number of additional measures in place, including temperature checks and requiring witnesses to wear masks.

But on Sunday, the Justice Department disclosed that a staff member involved in preparing for the execution had tested positive for the coronavirus, but said he had not been in the execution chamber and had not come into contact with anyone on the specialized team sent to handle the execution.

The three men scheduled to be executed this week had also been given execution dates when Barr announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.

Executions on the federal level have been rare and the government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 — most recently in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.

In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.

The attorney general said last July that the Obama-era review had been completed, clearing the way for executions to resume.

___

Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Mark Sherman in Washington, Michael Tarm in Chicago and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.

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Sources: White House aware of Russian bounties in 2019

By JAMES LaPORTA

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues at the time that he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

The White House didn’t respond to questions about Trump or other officials’ awareness of Russia’s provocations in 2019. The White House has said Trump wasn’t — and still hasn’t been — briefed on the intelligence assessments because they haven’t been fully verified. However, it’s rare for intelligence to be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt before it is presented to top officials.

Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the AP if he’d briefed Trump about the matter in 2019. On Sunday, he suggested to NBC that Trump was claiming ignorance of Russia’s provocations to justify his administration’s lack of response.

“He can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it,” Bolton said.

The revelations cast new doubt on the White House’s efforts to distance Trump from the Russian intelligence assessments. The AP reported Sunday that concerns about Russian bounties also were in a second written presidential daily briefing this year and that current national security adviser Robert O’Brien had discussed the matter with Trump. O’Brien denies doing that.

On Monday, O’Brien said that while the intelligence assessments regarding Russian bounties “have not been verified,” the administration has “been preparing should the situation warrant action.”

The administration’s earlier awareness of the Russian efforts raises additional questions about why Trump didn’t take punitive action against Moscow for efforts that put the lives of American service members at risk. Trump has sought throughout his time in office to improve relations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, moving this year to try to reinstate Russia as part of a group of world leaders it had been kicked out of.

Officials said they didn’t consider the intelligence assessments in 2019 to be particularly urgent, given Russian meddling in Afghanistan isn’t a new occurrence. The officials with knowledge of Bolton’s apparent briefing for Trump said it contained no “actionable intelligence,” meaning the intelligence community didn’t have enough information to form a strategic plan or response. However, the classified assessment of Russian bounties was the sole purpose of the meeting.

The officials insisted on anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the highly sensitive information.

The intelligence that surfaced in early 2019 indicated Russian operatives had become more aggressive in their desire to contract with the Taliban and members of the Haqqani Network, a militant group aligned with the Taliban in Afghanistan and designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2012 during the Obama administration.

The National Security Council and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence held meetings regarding the intelligence. The NSC didn’t respond to questions about the meetings.

Late Monday, the Pentagon issued a statement saying it was evaluating the intelligence but so far had “no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations.”

“Regardless, we always take the safety and security of our forces in Afghanistan — and around the world — most seriously and therefore continuously adopt measures to prevent harm from potential threats,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

Concerns about Russian bounties flared anew this year after members of the elite Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, raided a Taliban outpost and recovered roughly $500,000 in U.S. currency. The funds bolstered the suspicions of the American intelligence community that Russians had offered money to Taliban militants and linked associations.

The White House contends the president was unaware of this development, too.

The officials told the AP that career government officials developed potential options for the White House to respond to the Russian aggression in Afghanistan, which was first reported by The New York Times. However, the Trump administration has yet to authorize any action.

The intelligence in 2019 and 2020 surrounding Russian bounties was derived in part from debriefings of captured Taliban militants. Officials with knowledge of the matter told the AP that Taliban operatives from opposite ends of the country and from separate tribes offered similar accounts.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Russian intelligence officers had offered payments to the Taliban in exchange for targeting U.S. and coalition forces.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Taliban’s chief negotiator, a spokesman for the insurgents said Tuesday, but it was unknown whether there was any mention during their conversation of allegations about Russian bounties. Pompeo pressed the insurgents to reduce violence in Afghanistan and discussed ways of advancing a U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in February, the Taliban spokesman tweeted.

The U.S. is investigating whether Americans died because of the Russian bounties. Officials are focused on an April 2019 attack on an American convoy. Three U.S. Marines were killed after a car rigged with explosives detonated near their armored vehicles as they returned to Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military installation in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department identified them as Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware; Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania; and Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York. They were infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve infantry unit headquartered out of Garden City, New York.

Hendriks’ father told the AP that even a rumor of Russian bounties should have been immediately addressed.

“If this was kind of swept under the carpet as to not make it a bigger issue with Russia, and one ounce of blood was spilled when they knew this, I lost all respect for this administration and everything,” Erik Hendriks said.

Three other service members and an Afghan contractor were wounded in the attack. As of April 2019, the attack was under a separate investigation, unrelated to the Russian bounties.

The officials who spoke to the AP also said they were looking closely at insider attacks from 2019 to determine if they were linked to Russian bounties.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Deb Riechmann in Washington, Deepti Hajela in New York and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus: Here are some case trends in the U.S., California and its counties

Experts are looking at trends and averages to know when it’s safe to open up the nation, state and counties. There are some good trends and some not so good trends to consider.

California and U.S.

Data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center shows that California’s three-day moving average of new cases is steadily increasing. You can follow the trends of every state and country on the Coronavirus Resource Center website.

California’s test positivity rate for a 14-day period ending Friday was 4.4% (out of 53,473 tests). You can find the daily trend for the state and county here at the California Department of Public Health’s dashboard.

Here’s a list of criteria the state has for reopening. You can see how all the counties are doing at this link to the California Department of Health’s data table.

Trends by county

Here’s a look at some of the hardest-hit counties, how they are measuring up to the state’s reopening criteria and each one’s seven-day case rates.

You can follow Southern California county totals at this SCNG website.

Maps show daily count of coronavirus cases, deaths in Southern California by county

You can follow Bay Area county totals at this BANG website.

The national picture:

Sources: County health departments, John’s Hopkins University, COVID-19 Tracking Project, California Department of Health, Our World in Data

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Protests, some violent, spread nationally in wake of George Floyd death

By SUDHIN THANAWALA The Associated Press

ATLANTA >> Demonstrators marched, stopped traffic and in some cases lashed out violently at police as protests erupted Friday in dozens of U.S. cities following the killing of George Floyd after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody in Minnesota. In Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and beyond, thousands of protesters carried signs that said: “He said I can’t breathe. Justice for George.” They chanted “”No justice, no peace” and “Say his name. George Floyd.”

After hours of peaceful protest in downtown Atlanta, some demonstrators suddenly turned violent, smashing police cars, setting one on fire, spray-painting the iconic logo sign at CNN headquarters, and breaking into a restaurant. The crowd pelted officers with bottles, chanting “Quit your jobs.”

At least three officers were hurt and there were multiple arrests, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said. Campos said protesters shot BB guns at officers and threw bricks, bottles and knives at them. People watched the scene from rooftops, some laughing as skirmishes broke out.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms passionately addressed the protesters at a news conference: “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”

“You are disgracing our city,” she told protesters. “You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. We are better than this. We are better than this as a city. We are better than this as a country. Go home, go home.”

Bottoms was flanked by rappers T.I. and Killer Mike, as well as King’s daughter, Bernice King.

Killer Mike cried as he spoke.

“We have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes. Because if we lose Atlanta what have we got?” he said.

After Mayor Bottoms appealed for calm, the violence continued. More cars were set on fire, a Starbucks was smashed up, the windows of the College Football Hall of Fame were broken, and the iconic Omni Hotel was vandalized.

Protesters gathered outside the White House, with President Donald Trump inside, and some tried to push through barriers set up by the U.S. Secret Service along Pennsylvania Avenue.

In Minneapolis, a curfew did little to stop protesters and others from gathering in several areas of the city, including the battered Lake Street neighborhood where a police precinct was burned the night before. There were scattered small fires and some stores in a strip mall were being broken into near the city’s 5th Precinct.

An initially peaceful demonstration in New York City spiraled into chaos as night fell, as protesters skirmished with officers, destroyed police vehicles and set fires.

In Brooklyn, activists who had marched from Manhattan chanted insults at officers lined up outside the Barclays Center and pelted them with water bottles. Police sprayed an eye-irritating chemical into the largely diverse crowd multiple times, then cleared the plaza.

Video posted to social media showed officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets.

Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, then scrawled graffiti across its charred hulk and set it on fire a second time as officers retreated from the area. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.

Numerous people were arrested and police brought in buses to carry off those they arrested.

“We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “Our sole focus is deescalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight. We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”

The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one who had a tooth knocked out.

The names of black people killed by police, including Floyd and Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island in 2014, were on signs carried by those in the crowd, and in their chants.

“It’s my duty to be out here,” said Brianna Petrisko, among those at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, where most were wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Our country has a sickness. We have to be out here. This is the only way we’re going to be heard.”

In Houston, where George Floyd grew up, several thousand people rallied in front of City Hall. Among them was 19-year-old Jimmy Ohaz, who came from the nearby city of Richmond, Texas.

“My question is how many more, how many more? I just want to live in a future where we all live in harmony and we’re not oppressed.”

Tensions rose in several West Coast cities as night fell.

About 1,000 protesters gathered in Oakland at a demonstration billed on social media as a rally to “F(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) the police,” and some windows were smashed.

Demonstrators shut down a freeway in Los Angeles amid isolated scuffles with police that ended in a few protesters detained and one officer receiving medical treatment, police said. An LAPD vehicle had its windows smashed, and CNN reported that someone wrote “killer” on a patrol car.

Protesters repeatedly clashed with police in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose, said Mayor Sam Liccardo, and police responded with flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets. One officer was being treated at a hospital for an injury that was not life-threatening, he and police officials said.

Liccardo said his own officers shared the community’s outrage over Floyd’s in-custody death.

“It was a horrible injustice. I’d venture to guess that every police officer out there feels much of the same anger about what happened in Minneapolis,” he told The Associated Press.

Thirty miles to the west, Santa Cruz police chief Andrew G. Mills said in a statement that the actions by Minneapolis officers in Floyd’s death “are the antithesis of what we view as good policing.”

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Democrats push new $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill through House

By ANDREW TAYLOR and ALAN FRAM

WASHINGTON — Democrats powered a massive $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the House on Friday, an election-year measure designed to brace a U.S. economy in free fall and a health care system struggling to contain a pandemic still pummeling the country.

The 208-199 vote, with all but one Republican opposed, advances what boils down to a campaign-season display of Democratic economic and health-care priorities. It has no chance of becoming law as written, but will likely spark difficult negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans. Any product would probably be the last major COVID-19 response bill before November’s presidential and congressional elections.

The enormous Democratic measure would cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling Postal Service.

“Not to act now is not only irresponsible in a humanitarian way, it is irresponsible because it’s only going to cost more,” warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “More in terms of lives, livelihood, cost to the budget, cost to our democracy.”

Republicans mocked the bill as a bloated Democratic wish-list that was dead on arrival in the GOP-led Senate and, for good measure, faced a White House veto threat. Party leaders say they want to assess how $3 trillion approved earlier is working and see if some states’ partial business reopenings would spark an economic revival that would ease the need for more safety net programs.

Republicans are also sorting through internal divisions and awaiting stronger signals from President Donald Trump about what he will support.

“Phase Four is going to happen,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, using Washington insider-speak for the measure. “But it’s going to happen in a much better way for the American people.”

Trump and top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are insisting the next measure should protect reopening businesses from liability lawsuits. The president is also demanding a cut to payroll taxes, but GOP leaders are not yet onboard.

The daylong debate painted a Capitol scene that’s become common in the era of coronavirus, even as it remains disconcerting. The sparsely populated House floor was dotted with lawmakers and aides wearing protective masks and even gloves, though some Republicans lacked them.

Many members looked shaggier and sported beards they had not worn weeks ago. Roll call votes lasted over an hour each because lawmakers were voting in small groups to limit crowding.

To enhance the bill’s political impact, Democrats named their measure “The Heroes Act” for the payments it would provide front-line emergency workers. With more than 86,000 Americans dead, 1.4 million confirmed infections and 36 million filing unemployment claims in an frozen economy, Democrats saw GOP opposition as an easy campaign-season target.

“Are you kidding me?” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, of Republican assertions that it was time to stop spending more money. “Where do you guys live? Food lines at our food banks around the block? In the United States of America?”

Republicans saw the bill as a Democratic political blunder. They said overly generous unemployment benefits discouraged people from returning to work, and attacked language helping immigrants in the U.S. illegally get federal benefits. They also singled out provisions helping states set up voting by mail and easing the marijuana industry’s access to banks.

“It may help the cannabis industry, but it won’t help Main Street,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Pelosi pushed the measure through after overcoming party divisions aggravated by election pressures. Some moderate Democrats opposed the package for its price tag and politically fraught provisions like assisting marijuana businesses. A few progressive Democrats were upset because it did not do more, such as guaranteeing workers’ salaries and bolstering their health insurance coverage.

Fourteen Democrats voted against the measure. Nearly all are centrists and number among the party’s most vulnerable lawmakers in November’s elections: freshmen from districts Trump won in 2016.

Among them was Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, who labeled the measure “bloated.” Another, Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, tweeted, “This bill strays far beyond delivering relief or responding to an urgent crisis, & it has no chance at becoming law.”

Republicans were already planning to use the day’s votes against other moderate Democrats who backed Friday’s legislation and face competitive reelection races.

Clearly, the bipartisan consensus that produced four previous coronavirus bills was crumbling quickly. Polls show GOP voters are satisfied with the federal response and aren’t agitating for more. Self-branded deficit hawks are citing the massive increase in the spiraling $25 trillion national debt.

Some congressional aides said the Democratic bill’s real price tag could breach $3.5 trillion. A partial estimate of tax provisions alone revealed eye-popping costs: $412 billion to renew $1,200 cash payments to individuals, more than $100 billion to pay health insurance premiums for the unemployed and $164 billion to make an “employee retention” tax credit for businesses more generous.

Republicans leaders faced disunity between conservatives who feel enough has been done and pragmatists who back rescuing the Postal Service from looming insolvency and delivering cash to revenue-starved state and local governments. The huge price tag and a lack of consultation with Republicans by Pelosi cemented GOP opposition.

“This bill is nothing more than the Democratic policy agenda masquerading as a response to the coronavirus crisis,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. He said the bill is “going nowhere, and is going nowhere fast.”

Liberal Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also opposed the bill. She told reporters that if constituents ask her if the bill would put money in their pockets or preserve their health care, “I can’t tell them yes.”

The lone Republican backing the legislation was Rep. Peter King of New York, who is retiring.

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