(TNS)

Tribune News Service

News Budget for Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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Updated at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 UTC).

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Adds TRUMP-NUCLEAR:CON, CORONAVIRUS-GOHMERT-MASKS:CON, LEWIS-ATLANTA:AT, SCSENATE-GRAHAM-AD:RA, CONGRESS-CENSUS:LA, EPSTEIN-MAXWELL:MI, CMP-UNC-BUILDINGNAMES:RA, CALIF-POLICE-INTERVENTION:LA

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Updates WEA-STORM:FL, CONGRESS-TECHCOMPANIES:LA

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Additional news stories appear on the MCT-NEWSFEATURES-BJT.

This budget is now available at TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.

^TOP STORIES<

^Virus death toll hits 150,000 even as new US cases plateau<

CORONAVIRUS-US:BLO — The number of Americans killed by the coronavirus topped 150,000 Wednesday as death tolls surged to records in some of the hardest-hit and most populous states.

California and Florida, two places most affected by the pandemic's current surge, reported daily fatalities that easily topped previous records, even as new infections appear to have reached a plateau. Texas, which already raised its death tally by 13% this week after changing how it reports cases, also set a new high in daily fatalities Wednesday.

700 by David R. Baker and Jonathan Levin. MOVED

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^Bezos, Zuckerberg and other Big Tech chiefs answer to Congress on antitrust concerns<

CONGRESS-TECHCOMPANIES-2ND-LEDE:LA — Members of Congress were in rare bipartisan accord Wednesday in putting titans of Big Tech on the defensive about perceived abuses of their power, as the House antitrust subcommittee continued its year-old investigation of concentration across the digital realm.

The chief executives of four of the most prominent technology companies in the world — Google's Sundar Pichai, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Apple's Tim Cook — appeared remotely amid the pandemic and fielded questions about their business practices and market dominance.

1300 by Brian Contreras in Washington. MOVED

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^US to bring 6,400 troops home from Germany, move others elsewhere in Europe<

USGERMANY-TROOPS:LA — The Pentagon said Wednesday it would withdraw nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, carrying out an order from President Donald Trump to punish Berlin for failing to meet NATO defense spending targets.

About 6,400 soldiers and other military personnel would be sent back to the U.S., while 5,600 personnel would be shifted to Belgium and Italy, a move Defense Secretary Mark Esper said was aimed at bolstering the Pentagon's ability to deter Russia from threatening U.S. allies in Eastern Europe.

650 by David S. Cloud in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump, Mnuchin push short-term aid package<

CORONAVIRUS-RELIEF:CON — With prospects dim for a broader $1 trillion-plus COVID-19 relief package by the end of the week, President Donald Trump and his top negotiators are talking about a narrow package focused on continuing expanded unemployment benefits and preventing evictions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been leading negotiations on the part of the Trump administration with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, said a short-term bill could be on the table.

700 by Niels Lesniewski in Washington. MOVED

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^CORONAVIRUS<

^Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert reportedly tests positive for coronavirus<

CORONAVIRUS-GOHMERT:AU — U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday morning at the White House, according to multiple news reports.

Gohmert, who was scheduled to fly to Texas on Wednesday morning with President Donald Trump, tested positive ahead of his trip, Politico first reported, citing anonymous sources.

300 by Nicole Cobler in Austin, Texas. (Moved as a Washington story.) MOVED

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^Gohmert's positive coronavirus test raises fresh safety questions<

CORONAVIRUS-GOHMERT-CAPITOL:CON — Rep. Louie Gohmert's positive coronavirus test has the potential to have far-reaching effects: from his contacts with fellow members and staffers to possible enhanced protective measures around the Capitol.

The Texas Republican has frequently skipped wearing a mask around the Capitol complex and his positive diagnosis is spurring calls from Democratic leaders to reconsider a testing mandate for lawmakers.

750 by Chris Marquette in Washington. MOVED

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^Pelosi announces masks are required 'at all times' in the House<

CORONAVIRUS-GOHMERT-MASKS:CON — In Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement Wednesday that masks would now be required on the House floor she reminded those present that, "the speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor as a matter of decorum."

The shift comes after Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day.

150 by Thomas McKinless in Washington. MOVED

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^Coronavirus bills stuffed with F-35 money, help for cannabis firms<

CORONAVIRUS-RELIEF-SPENDING:BLO — Tucked into the latest coronavirus packages from Democrats and Republicans are a slew of provisions that don't have much to do with a public health crisis.

Republicans want $29.4 billion for fighter jets and other military spending and $1.75 billion for a new FBI building. Democrats are proposing $136.6 billion for state and local tax breaks for high earners and expanded access to banks for cannabis companies.

Those budget lines are becoming key sticking points.

600 by Laura Davison, Skylar Woodhouse and Laura Litvan in Washington. MOVED

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^US created a data disaster with its uneven COVID-19 response<

^CORONAVIRUS-DATA:BLO—<More than a month into a resurgence of the novel coronavirus that has besieged Sun Belt states, flooded hospitals and strained public-health infrastructure, the U.S. still lacks a complete picture of the on-the-ground reality.

That's no surprise to public-health experts following the country's response, since the U.S. doesn't have an accessible, real-time system to track the virus's spread. At times, even the federal government has had to rely on third-party databases.

The gap is due to decades of neglect of technological infrastructure, exacerbated by the country's sprawling size and a state-by-state approach to collecting public health data. It has left not only government officials hunting for reliable data, but kept the public in the dark as well.

1000 (with trims) by Emma Court. MOVED

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^Rep. Clyburn asks Kemp for documents detailing Georgia's handling of COVID-19<

^CORONAVIRUS-GA-CONGRESS:AT—<The chairman of a U.S. House coronavirus subcommittee sent Gov. Brian Kemp a letter Wednesday saying Georgia is not in compliance with White House COVID-19 task force recommendations and requesting detailed plans for dealing with the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said Georgia is not following at least six recommendations from the task force, including mask mandates, strict limits on indoor dining and tighter restrictions on social gatherings.

900 by James Salzer and J. Scott Trubey in Atlanta. MOVED

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^All California counties now have coronavirus cases as Modoc County confirms first 2<

CORONAVIRUS-CALIF-COUNTIES:LA — Modoc County, in California's far northeast corner, reported its first two COVID-19 infections this week, which means that all 58 counties in the state have now confirmed at least one case of coronavirus.

As cases surged throughout the state and ravaged nearby counties in Northern California, Modoc had remained untouched by the virus and, at times, defied state safety orders.

450 by Colleen Shalby. MOVED

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^California won't conquer the coronavirus, and fully reopen, until it can protect essential workers<

CORONAVIRUS-CALIF-WORKERS:LA — Five months into the pandemic, it's becoming increasingly clear that California is not going to conquer the coronavirus until it dramatically improves safety measures for essential workers at the epicenter of the health crisis.

From farming communities to urban centers and suburbs, workers in retail, manufacturing, agriculture and logistics are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 outbreaks, and state and local officials are struggling to control the infections even as the outlook in more prosperous communities has improved.

1100 by Rong-Gong Lin II and Anita Chabria in San Francisco. MOVED

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^Florida reports 217 more people have died from COVID-19, the highest of pandemic<

CORONAVIRUS-FLA:FL — Florida added 217 deaths to its COVID-19 reporting on Wednesday, setting another high mark for the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes one day after the state added 191 fatalities to the toll caused by disease complications. The state has reported 998 deaths over the last seven days, or an average of almost 143 deaths per day.

1000 by Marc Freeman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. MOVED

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^Florida Gov. DeSantis avoids saying if virtual-only education would bring funding cuts<

CORONAVIRUS-FLA-SCHOOLS:FL — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his education chief gave little assurance Wednesday that school districts will keep their state funding if they refuse to offer in-person instruction this fall.

Instead, DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said they have full confidence that all school districts in the state will offer parents a choice of face-to-face instruction this fall — something South Florida school districts say they're not doing right away.

350 by Scott Travis in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. MOVED

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^Known coronavirus death toll in Texas at nearly 6,200<

CORONAVIRUS-TEXAS:AU — State health officials reported 313 deaths attributed to the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the known pandemic death toll in Texas to 6,190.

Officials also announced 9,042 new known cases, bringing the current statewide tally to 403,307 cases.

The number of coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals was reported on Wednesday as 9,595, according to the Department of State Health Services.

350 Asher Price in Austin, Texas. MOVED

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^Record high hospital cases for COVID-19 continue in North Carolina<

CORONAVIRUS-NC:RA — North Carolina reached a new high for COVID-19 hospital cases for a second-straight day Wednesday, while the state added 45 new deaths, a single-day high increase, to the pandemic's death toll.

The state Department of Health and Human Services listed hospitalizations from coronavirus reaching 1,291 statewide, increasing by 47 patients since Tuesday.

350 by Josh Shaffer in Raleigh, N.C. MOVED

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^Gov. Pritzker warns of a possible 'reversal' as COVID-19 numbers rise in Illinois<

CORONAVIRUS-ILL:TB — Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned on Wednesday that Illinois could be headed for a "reversal" in its reopening as the state continues to see a resurgence in coronavirus case numbers, and he called on residents to "defend our progress."

If the trend continues or worsens, it could mean clamping back down in regions of the state on business restrictions, gatherings or even a return to a stay-at-home order, which Pritzker initially imposed in March, but since eased.

350 by Jamie Munks and Rick Pearson in Chicago. MOVED

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^The COVID-19 downturn triggers jump in Medicaid enrollment<

^CORONAVIRUS-MEDICAID:KHN—<Reversing a three-year decline, the number of people covered by Medicaid nationwide rose markedly this spring as the impact of the recession caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 began to take hold.

Yet, the growth in participation in the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people was less than many analysts predicted. One possible factor tempering enrollment: People with concerns about catching the coronavirus avoided seeking care and figured they didn't need the coverage.

Program sign-ups are widely expected to accelerate through the summer, reflecting the higher number of unemployed.

1000 by Phil Galewitz. MOVED

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^Scientists figure out why coronavirus can rob the senses of smell and taste<

^CORONAVIRUS-SENSES:NY—<New research has revealed why many people infected with the coronavirus temporarily lose their sense of smell, and the result is not what scientists assumed.

The loss of taste and smell has proven to be the most distinctive symptom of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2. One-quarter to half of patients report ageusia and anosmia, as the two are respectively known, a symptom at least 20 times more likely to predict a positive test than signs such as fever and cough, according to Forbes.

400 by Theresa Braine. MOVED

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^WASHINGTON<

^Trump says he never raised Taliban bounties in talks with Putin<

USRUSSIA-BOUNTIES-TRUMP:BLO — President Donald Trump says he hasn't discussed reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite having numerous phone calls as recently as last week.

"I have never discussed it with him," Trump told Axios in a video clip posted on Twitter Wednesday. Trump said he didn't raise the matter in last Thursday's discussion. "That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that's an issue that many people said was fake news."

350 by Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump administration's case for new nuclear weapon cites risks in current arsenal<

TRUMP-NUCLEAR:CON — The Trump administration, in a closely held memo to lawmakers this spring, justified developing the first new U.S. atomic weapon since the Cold War by citing vulnerabilities and risks in the current nuclear arsenal that are rarely or never acknowledged in public.

In an unclassified five-page white paper sent to Congress in May, the Pentagon and the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, affirm a point they have long minimized: the dangers of land-based missiles ready to launch minutes after a warning of enemy attack.

They also discuss threats to U.S. nuclear missile submarines that have previously been depicted as all but undetectable.

The document, which has not previously been disclosed, was obtained by CQ Roll Call.

2300 by John M. Donnelly in Washington. MOVED

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^Rep. Ocasio-Cortez tries to stop housing rule as Trump plays to race<

TRUMP-HOUSING-RACE:CON — President Donald Trump implied that having Black neighbors leads to lower house prices and increased crime in a pair of tweets Wednesday boasting about killing an Obama-administration fair housing rule and replacing it with one that a group of House Democrats led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hope to block this week.

800 by Jim Saksa in Washington. MOVED

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^At hearing on military harassment, concerns about sex abuse in Coast Guard are aired<

CONGRESS-MILITARY-HARASSMENT:WA — A congressional hearing Wednesday on sexual harassment, assault and bullying in the military, held in the wake of the murder in Texas of a female soldier, spotlighted how the Defense Department and the Coast Guard continue to fail to protect women service members from abuse — often by superiors — despite a decadelong effort to address the problem.

"In an institution that prides itself in cohesiveness, to leave no soldier behind, we are failing," Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who heads the Military Personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the start of the emotional hearing she chaired.

950 by Kevin G. Hall in Washington. MOVED

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^Former Census Bureau directors tell Congress extra time is vital for accurate 2020 count<

CONGRESS-CENSUS:LA — Completing an accurate count in the 2020 census is in doubt as the government grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and attempts by President Donald Trump to exclude residents who are in the country illegally, four former Census Bureau directors told Congress on Wednesday.

"The chances of having a census accurate enough to use is unclear — very, very much unclear," said Kenneth Prewitt, who was director from 1998 to 2001.

900 by Sarah D. Wire in Washington. MOVED

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^First Republican votes by proxy on the House floor<

^CONGRESS-ROONEY-PROXY:CON—<Florida Rep. Francis Rooney became the first House Republican to vote by proxy Wednesday, bucking his party's leadership and its outspoken opposition to the emergency procedure.

Rooney, who is retiring at the end of this term, filed a letter in June with the House clerk designating Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. to serve as his proxy.

But he waited until this week to utilize it.

350 by Katherine Tully-McManus in Washington. MOVED

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^Congress still playing catch-up on accessibility, despite progress, 30 years after ADA<

CONGRESS-ADA:CON — Thirty years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 25 years after Congress decided to apply those standards to itself, significant advancements have been made in accessibility in and around the historic buildings. But challenges remain for people navigating Capitol Hill in person and in the digital space.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 26 percent of adults in the United States have some type of disability, but representation in Congress is far below that and the institution is still playing catch-up in providing accommodations mandated by the ADA for equitable access to daily life, as well as the government.

1900 (with trims) by Katherine Tully-McManus in Washington. MOVED

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^Trump says Fox News 'totally forgot who got them where they are'<

TRUMP-FOXNEWS:NY — President Donald Trump lashed out at Fox News on Wednesday, accusing the cable channel of being ungrateful.

"I was on Air Force One flying to the Great State of Texas, where I just landed. It is AMAZING in watching Fox News," the president tweeted. "How different they are from four years ago. Not even watchable. They totally forgot who got them where they are!"

550 by Brian Niemietz. MOVED

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^POLITICS<

^Ad with darkened skin for Black opponent is 'fake controversy,' Lindsey Graham's camp says<

SCSENATE-GRAHAM-AD:RA — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has received pushback over an advertisement showing his Black opponent with a darkened skin tone — but his campaign called the controversy "fake."

The advertisement was posted to the South Carolina Republican's Facebook page last week and features a photo of Jaime Harrison in a dark background with noticeably darker skin along with a photo of actress Kathy Griffin.

650 by Bailey Aldridge. MOVED

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^UNITED STATES<

^Federal officers to withdraw from downtown Portland, governor says<

PORTLAND-FEDAGENTS:SE — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday said that the federal government has agreed to a "phased withdrawal of federal officers" that have been deployed at the federal Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland amid nightly protests.

Brown said that the Oregon State Police will provide protection and security for the exterior of the courthouse with the Federal Protective Service. Beginning Thursday "all Customs and Border Protection and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers will leave downtown Portland, and shortly thereafter will be going home."

350 by Hal Bernton in Portland, Oregon. MOVED

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^John Lewis' final return to Atlanta<

LEWIS-ATLANTA:AT — John Lewis came home Wednesday.

His casket was greeted by mourners who thronged stops for the processional from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta to the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, where the mayor called Lewis a prophet who was deeply loved.

Lewis died July 17 at the age of 80.

His funeral will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Thursday. A source told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that former President Barack Obama will speak.

900 by Ernie Suggs, Tia Mitchell and Maya Prabhu in Atlanta. MOVED

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^Trump's green card wealth test rule blocked during pandemic<

^IMMIGRATION-GREENCARDS:BLO—<The Trump administration was blocked by a federal judge from screening out green card applicants who might become dependent on public benefits during the national emergency over the coronavirus.

A group of states led by New York sued the administration last year over the rule, which makes immigrants considered "public charges" if they are deemed likely to receive government benefits, including the Medicaid health care program for the poor, for more than 12 months over a three-year period. The states won a ruling last year preventing the measure from taking effect, but the Supreme Court blocked that decision and the rule went into effect in February.

300 by Chris Dolmetsch. MOVED

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^College admissions scandal: Bay Area financier, gets 6 months in prison<

CMP-ADMISSIONS-FRAUD:LA — Manuel Henriquez, who led a venture capital firm before being charged with paying $450,000 to rig his daughters' college entrance exams and bribe a coach at Georgetown University, was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, ruling from Boston in a video conference, said Henriquez's "despicable" crimes made the financier, whose lawyers had lauded his support of children's charities, "not only a felon, but a hypocrite."

750 by Matthew Ormseth. MOVED

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^These UNC dorms and academic buildings are no longer named after white supremacists<

CMP-UNC-BUILDINGNAMES:RA — The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is removing the names from three campus buildings that honor individuals who are tied to white supremacy and racism. A fourth building will keep its name, but signs will clarify which members of a family it honors.

The campus Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to remove the names of Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr and Josephus Daniels from their respective buildings. The name of Thomas Ruffin Sr. will be stripped from that residence hall, but it will still honor his son, Thomas Ruffin Jr.

1850 (with trims) by Kate Murphy in Raleigh, N.C. MOVED

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^Puerto Rico's power grid fails hours ahead of potential arrival of tropical storm<

PUERTORICO-GRID:MI — A day before potential Tropical Storm Isaias was expected to bring rains and winds to Puerto Rico, at least 400,000 customers throughout the island were left without power.

The outage affected multiple municipalities — from cities in the metropolitan area such as San Juan and Guaynabo to the mountainous towns of Jayuya and Naranjito to the coastal town of Cabo Rojo in the southwest.

But even on Wednesday morning, hours before the storm was expected to be felt across the island and people and officials prepared for its effects, an internal spat within Puerto Rico's bankrupt electric utility company dominated early headlines.

800 by Syra Ortiz-Blanes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. MOVED

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^South Florida still fully in forecast path of what is expected to be Tropical Storm Isaias<

WEA-STORM-2ND-LEDE:FL — The disturbance now called Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine has not yet become Tropical Storm Isaias, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday in its latest public advisory.

The storm still lacks a well-defined center of circulation, but it is expected to become a tropical storm Wednesday night, Senior Hurricane Specialist Daniel Brown wrote in the latest forecast discussion describing the meteorological conditions of the storm.

900 by Brett Clarkson, Robin Webb, David Fleshler and Brooke Baitinger in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. MOVED

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^Ghislaine Maxwell loses last-ditch plea to keep potentially damning records sealed<

EPSTEIN-MAXWELL:MI — A federal judge late Wednesday rejected an attempt by lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of being a sex trafficker and alleged madam for Jeffrey Epstein, to block the unsealing and release of potentially embarrassing documents from a settled defamation suit.

1000 by Kevin G. Hall and Ben Wieder in Washington. MOVED

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^Texans with disabilities sue to challenge mail-in ballot process<

TEXAS-VOTEBYMAIL-DISABILITIES:AU — Disability rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas secretary of state, contending that the vote-by-mail process is inaccessible to people with impairments to vision and writing.

People with these disabilities must either seek help to vote by mail or "risk their health during this pandemic by traveling to a polling place," the suit argues. The solution would be to offer online voting options, which are already available to people in the military and people overseas, they said.

700 by Katie Hall in Austin, Texas. MOVED

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^Fired Minneapolis officer Tou Thao seeks dismissal of charges in Floyd's killing<

MINN-POLICE-DEATH:MS — Another of the three former Minneapolis police officers who were charged last month for failing to stop former officer Derek Chauvin from restraining George Floyd by kneeling on his neck has filed a motion to dismiss two felony charges against him.

Attorneys for Tou Thao, who was seen on a bystander's cellphone video keeping people at bay while Floyd was being held down, asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to toss the two aiding-and-abetting charges "on the grounds that they are not supported by probable cause."

300 by Randy Furst in Minneapolis. MOVED

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^California considers strict 'George Floyd' law to punish police who fail to intervene<

^CALIF-POLICE-INTERVENTION:LA—<Outraged that Minneapolis officers stood by while their colleague killed George Floyd, California lawmakers are considering a tough law to punish police who fail to intervene when witnessing potential excessive force — including possible criminal charges and being banned from law enforcement.

If enacted, the proposed law would put California at the forefront of legal efforts to criminalize the "blue code of silence" that many say contributed to Floyd's death.

900 by Anita Chabria in Sacramento, Calif. MOVED

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^ 'She had a great career. She had it all,' says friend of retired Manhattan fashion exec killed in Maine shark attack<

MAINE-SHARKATTACK-VICTIM:NY — The Manhattan fashion executive killed by a great white shark in Maine retired from her successful career four years ago and hoped to spend her days staying active and spending time with her family, a longtime colleague told the Daily News.

"She had a great career. She had it all," Julie Dimperio Holowach's longtime boss and colleague Karen Murray told The News.

The 63-year-old Manhattanite was vacationing in Maine and swimming in the Casco Bay off Bailey Island Monday afternoon when the shark mauled her in front of her daughter.

350 by John Annese in New York. MOVED

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^Appeals court rules Ashley Judd can pursue sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein<

JUDD-WEINSTEIN:LA — Harvey Weinstein's legal woes continue.

On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision, ruling that actress Ashley Judd can go forward with a sexual harassment claim against the disgraced movie producer.

One of the first actresses to speak out publicly against Weinstein, Judd claimed that in 1998, the once powerful Hollywood figure, lured her to his room at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Once there, he made unwanted advances, including asking her to watch him shower and attempted to give her a massage, she said.

In April 2018, Judd sued Weinstein, claiming that he retaliated against her professionally and sabotaged her career after she rejected his overtures.

600 by Stacy Perman in Los Angeles. (Moved as an entertainment story.)

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^US attorney's office claims at least 50 arrests made in Kansas City federal operation<

KC-FEDAGENTS-ARRESTS:KC — In the past week, more than 50 arrests have been made as part of Operation LeGend, the U.S. attorney's office claimed Tuesday evening of the federal operation focused on reducing and solving homicides in Kansas City.

"For those keeping score at home federal agents and their local law enforcement partners in #OperationLeGendKC made 50+ arrests this past week. They seized 15 guns, heroin, meth, marijuana, pills," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri tweeted.

500 by Anna Spoerre in Kansas City, Mo. MOVED

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^Unsolicited seeds sent to Americans, possibly from China, may be part of 'brushing' scam<

SEEDS-PACKAGES:NY — The strange seed situation sprouting up across the United States might be part of a "brushing" scam, officials said.

Authorities in multiple states have recently warned citizens not to open unsolicited packages containing seeds that may have been sent from China. "A brushing scam is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver's behalf," police officials in Ohio said.

250 by Peter Sblendorio. MOVED

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^US State Department will switch out its top diplomat in Havana<

USCUBA-ENVOY:MI — The U.S. State Department will appoint Timothy Zuniga Brown as the new charge d'affaires for its embassy in Havana, the Miami Herald has learned.

He will replace Mara Tekach, who in turn will take his current position as coordinator of the Department's Office of Cuban Affairs.

Diplomats on foreign missions usually rotate every few years.

250 by Nora Gamez Torres and Mario J. Penton. MOVED

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^Suspects in murder of 3-year-old Alabama girl hit with federal kidnapping charges<

ALA-GIRLKILLED:NY — The man and woman already charged with murdering a 3-year-old Alabama girl last year were indicted Wednesday on federal kidnapping charges.

Patrick Stallworth, 40, and Derick Irisha Brown, 29, are charged with kidnapping Kamille "Cupcake" McKinney from a party in Birmingham, Alabama, in October 2019, the Justice Department announced in a news release. Kamille's body was found 10 days after she disappeared.

200 by Joseph Wilkinson. MOVED

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^Man fires gun in Miami hotel because people weren't social distancing, police say<

FLA-HOTEL-GUNFIRE:MI — A South Florida man fired a gun at a Miami Beach hotel after police say he became enraged over a mother and son's lack of social distancing.

Douglas Marks, 29, was arrested Tuesday on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, use of a firearm to commit a felony and discharging a firearm in public.

200 by C. Isaiah Smalls II in Miami. MOVED

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^McCloskeys claim prosecutor used their case as part of reelection campaign<

STLOUIS-PROTEST-MCCLOSKEYS:SL — Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple charged with illegally pointing guns at protesters outside the couple's Portland Place home last month, are seeking to disqualify Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner from their case, claiming she exploited the confrontation for political gain.

250 by Joel Currier in St. Louis. MOVED

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^THE WORLD<

^Muslim pilgrims begin curtailed Hajj in Saudi Arabia<

RELIG-SAUDI-HAJJ:DPA — Muslim pilgrims started performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, although Islam's largest gathering has been significantly curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A few thousand people are taking part, a fraction of the usually 2.5 million people from all over the world who usually gather annually in the holy city of Mecca.

400 by Nehal El-Sherif in Amman, Jordan. MOVED

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^US allies, rivals move to crack down on foes and lock in gains in case Trump loses<

US-ALLIES-HUMANRIGHTS:LA — Members of Saad Jabri's family are missing.

The former Saudi intelligence officer, along with U.S. congressional lawmakers and human rights groups, say Saudi Arabia's ruling royal dynasty is holding the Jabri relatives hostage to lure the family patriarch back to the desert kingdom from his self-imposed exile in Canada. Jabri is said to have incriminating information about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Critics call it the latest crackdown by the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, who apparently feels empowered in part by a Trump administration that has shown little interest in condemning authoritarian regimes or advocating for human rights. President Donald Trump essentially whitewashed the crown prince's involvement in the gruesome murder of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist two years ago.

1150 (with trims) by Tracy Wilkinson in Washington. MOVED

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^Emmanuel 'Toto' Constant must not be allowed to escape justice, UN tells Haiti<

UNHAITI-CONSTANT:MI — Michelle Bachelet, former Chilean president and current U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, is joining the call for Haiti to hold death squad leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant accountable for countless human rights violations he and his paramilitary group committed in the 1990s.

There is growing concern that Constant, currently in jail, may walk free.

450 by Jacqueline Charles. MOVED

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^Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion to displaced white farmers<

ZIMBABWE-FARMERS:DPA — Zimbabwe's government on Wednesday signed an agreement to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to white farmers whose land was expropriated during the long tenure of late former president Robert Mugabe.

250 by Columbus Mavhunga in Harare, Zimbabwe. MOVED

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^SCIENCE, MEDICINE, ENVIRONMENT<

^Meet Perseverance, JPL's newest Mars rover<

^SCI-NASA-MARS-ROVER:LA—<NASA's newest Mars rover is called Perseverance, and it has already lived up to the name.

Weighing in at just over a ton and loaded with the most sophisticated instruments ever sent to the red planet, the six-wheeled vehicle has already survived a hurdle no previous rover has had to face: a global pandemic.

After overcoming months of uncertainty, Perseverance is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, awaiting the start of the 309-million-mile journey that will take it to an ancient lake bed that may contain evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, the $2.4-billion space robot is expected to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as early as Thursday — right on schedule.

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^'A win for the Everglades': 5,000 pythons removed in state-sponsored capture program<

ENV-EVERGLADES-PYTHONS:MI — Florida's fight against the invasive Burmese python has hit a new milestone: 5,000 snakes captured in the Everglades since wildlife managers started paying hunters to remove the destructive constrictors in 2017.

The South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which manage the state's python elimination programs, announced the achievement on Tuesday.

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^NEWS BRIEFS<

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NEWSBRIEFS:MCT — Nation and world news briefs.

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^TODAY'S TOP NEWSFEATURES<

^Analysis: Trump stirs old racial hatred, but this time feels different<

^CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-RACE-ANALYSIS:LA—<Seemingly every time President Donald Trump speaks about race or what it means to be an American, he sparks outrage.

His purposeful use of divisive and inflammatory language to energize his political base isn't new in American politics, though. It's part of a legacy of racism going back to the country's founding, when the authors of the Constitution gave slaveholders immense political power while allowing them to treat enslaved Africans as less than human.

"It taps into this racial resentment toward Black people that is deep-seated," said Pearl Dowe, a professor of political science and African American studies at Emory University in Atlanta. "Politicians use it because it works."

Trump's tactics served him well in 2016, but they feel out of step in an election year that has seen a dramatic shift in the public's attitudes about race.

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^For local Native Americans, a reckoning over hurtful images goes way beyond one South Philadelphia statue<

NATIVEAMERICANS-SYMBOLS:PH — When Stephanie Mach leaves her Philadelphia home, she often passes the Swann Memorial Fountain, with its three bronze Native American figures, in the heart of Logan Square.

What many people don't know — but she does, as a scholar and activist of Din , or Navajo, descent — is that the square's namesake, James Logan, was not just a colonial statesman and Philadelphia mayor. He was an architect of the infamous "Walking Purchase," a scheme in which he and others swindled the original Lenape inhabitants out of perhaps a million acres of land in 1737.

As Philly officials begin renovation of Columbus Square, native peoples protest against honoring the explorer

Across the United States, the Black Lives Matter protests against racism and police violence have also ignited new discussions and demands over the use of Native images, symbols and mascots, and the future of monuments to men who harmed and killed indigenous people.

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