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Israel inks pacts with 2 Arab states

WASHINGTON — Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with two Gulf Arab states at a White House ceremony that President Donald Trump declared will mark the “dawn of a new Middle East,” casting himself as an international peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign. The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel’s already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran. But the agreements do not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state. Hundreds of people massed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements in a festive atmosphere little marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks. “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day “is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace.” Neither Netanyahu nor Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks, but both the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers spoke of the importance of creating a Palestinian state. Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, even thanked Netanyahu for “halting the annexation” of West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians in exchange for Emirati recognition. Netanyahu, however, has insisted that Israel has only suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements. “Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East — a change that will send hope around the world,” al-Nahyan said.

Death toll linked to wedding at 7

PORTLAND, Maine — At least seven people have died in connection to a coronavirus outbreak that continues to sicken people in Maine following a wedding reception held over the summer that violated state virus guidelines, public health authorities said. The August wedding reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket is linked to more than 175 confirmed cases of the virus, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Maine authorities have identified overlaps between the wedding reception and outbreaks elsewhere in the state. An employee of the York County Jail attended the wedding, Maine CDC officials have said. Maine health officials have also said an outbreak at a Madison rehabilitation center, which is the site of six of the seven deaths, is connected to the wedding because an employee of the facility lives in the same household as a person who attended. The virus cases stemming from the wedding have spanned hundreds of miles in a state that had largely controlled the spread of the coronavirus through the summer. Maine has reported less than 5,000 cases of the virus in total since March. But the growing number of cases related to the wedding, which exceeded the state’s guidelines of 50 people or less at indoor gatherings, could undo some of that progress if it continues to swell. Authorities have said more than 65 people attended the wedding. The six people from the Madison rehabilitation facility who died were all residents of that facility and none of them attended the wedding reception.

Don’t squeeze the Petalo

NEW YORK — Toilet paper is back on store shelves. But you may not recognize some of the brands. Demand for toilet paper has been so high during the pandemic that in order to keep their shelves stocked, retailers are buying up foreign toilet paper brands, mostly from Mexico. Major chains, across the country, including CVS, Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, 7-Eleven and others, are carrying the international brands. In recent weeks, a CVS in New York has been selling three Mexican brands: Regio, Hoteles Elite and Daisy Soft. Mexico’s Petalo was on the shelves of a Piggly Wiggly in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. And a Safeway supermarket in Fremont, California, had those same brands, plus Vogue, whose label says in Spanish that it smells like chamomile. The stores said they needed to get creative during the pandemic and started working with new suppliers to get shoppers what they needed. But don’t worry about popular U.S. brands like Charmin — they aren’t going to disappear. Supply chain experts expect the Mexican and other foreign-made rolls to be on store shelves only temporarily, until U.S. manufacturers catch up with demand. Americans use much more toilet paper than other countries, according to Patrick Penfield, a supply chain professor at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University — which is why Mexico can handle shipping more rolls to the United States. Stores have done this with other products during the pandemic, he said, bringing Mexican-made hand sanitizer to the U.S. when there was a shortage.

Gee sorry for maskless photo

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University’s president has apologized after a photo posted to social media showed him shopping in a convenience store without a mask on. The photos of President Gordon Gee were posted to Twitter on Sunday and appeared to show the college leader walking through aisles maskless. In one photo, he could be seen carrying a disposable mask in his hand. Gee apologized in a statement Sunday, calling it an “error in judgment.” “As president, I must hold myself to the highest of standards and set the very best example for our University,” Gee wrote in a tweet. “In this instance, I did not do that. As I have asked you to do the right things, so must you expect me to do the same.” Some West Virginia University students criticized Gee for violating Gov. Jim Justice’s executive order requiring masks be worn in indoor spaces, pointing out that students have been suspended for breaking similar health and safety rules, including 29 members of a fraternity house. Earlier this month, Justice shut down bars in the college town indefinitely, citing crowds of unmasked students and an increase in positive coronavirus cases.

Orphaned bear cub killed

WEST LEBANON, N.H. (AP) — One of three black bear cubs orphaned by the recent death of their famous mother was hit and killed by a bus in New Hampshire, authorities said. The 30-pound cub was struck Monday afternoon after it ran onto Route 10, in West Lebanon, said Michael Hinsley, deputy fire chief in nearby Hanover. The cub was similar to an 8-month-old cub that was rescued Aug. 31 and determined to the offspring of the mother, known as Mink. Ben Kilham, who runs a bear rehabilitation center in Lyme and took in the rescued cub, buried its remains. He told the Valley News, “It was one of Mink’s.” Andrew Timmins, New Hampshire Fish and Game black bear project leader, agreed Tuesday, saying the cub was hit very close to where the first one was successfully captured. The status of the third cub isn’t known, although authorities are investigating a report that a cub was hit by a vehicle last week around the same location. “Bears can absorb a hard hit and survive, however, that obviously applies less to a small bear,” Timmins said. “Because we don’t know how hard the cub was hit last week, we lack the ability to predict its survival.” Hinsley said he would continue to monitor the area and work with residents and landowners to find the cub. Officials had been searching for the cubs since Mink was found dead in late August. She gained fame when Gov. Chris Sununu spared her life in 2017 and when she traveled thousands of miles in a looping route through Vermont and New Hampshire to return to her home territory after being relocated to near the Canadian border. Mink had been set to be euthanized, along with three of her earlier offspring, in 2017 after repeated problems with them feeding from trash and bird feeders culminated in two bears entering a home in Hanover. Sununu instead ordered them to be moved to far northern New Hampshire. One of the yearlings was killed within weeks by a hunter in Quebec. Mink wasn’t captured then because she left town to mate and later returned with four cubs in 2018. She was fitted with a tracking collar in June of that year and moved about 120 miles north, but returned to the Hanover area in 2019.

Bad air won’t ease up in West

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dangerously dirty air spewing from the West Coast wildfires is seeping into homes and businesses, sneaking into cars through air conditioning vents and preventing people already shut away by the coronavirus pandemic from enjoying a walk or trip to the park. People in Oregon, Washington state and California have been struggling for a week or longer under some of the most unhealthy air on the planet. The acrid yellow-green smog may linger for days or weeks, scientists and forecasters said. It is also a sign of things to come. With wildfires getting larger and more destructive because of climate change and more people living closer to areas that burn, smoke will likely shroud the sky more often in the future. “I don’t think that we should be outside, but at the same time, we’ve been cooped up in the house already for months, so it’s kind of hard to dictate what’s good and what’s bad. I mean, we shouldn’t be outside period,” Portland resident Issa Ubidia-Luckett said Monday. The hazy air closed businesses like Whole Foods and the iconic Powell’s Books in Portland and suspended garbage pickup in some communities. Pollution and fire evacuations canceled online school and closed some college campuses in Oregon. “It is so bad that you can likely smell (smoke) inside your house,” said Sarah Present, the health officer for Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. “In some areas, the air quality is so hazardous it is off the charts of the EPA’s rating scale.” The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index is considered hazardous between 301 and 500. Values above 500 — which multiple Oregon cities have reported during the past week — are beyond the index’s scale. The air quality agency extended an alert to Thursday, and the air was so thick that Alaska Airlines stopped flights to Portland and Spokane, Washington, until Tuesday afternoon.

$12M to Breonna Taylor’s family

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The city of Louisville agreed to pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor and reform police practices as part of a settlement announced Tuesday, months after Taylor’s slaying by police thrust the Black woman’s name to the forefront of a national reckoning on race. But Taylor’s mother and others who have taken up her cause said more must be done to right the wrongs of racial injustice in America. “Please continue to say her name,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, declared at an emotional news conference, evoking the call that has become a national refrain for those outraged by the shooting and police violence. Taylor’s death sparked months of protests in Louisville and calls nationwide for the officers to be criminally charged. The state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, is investigating police actions in the March 13 fatal shooting. “I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain, and I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in announcing the terms of the lawsuit settlement. Standing nearby as the mayor spoke, Palmer said the police reforms were not enough.

Suspect abandons winning ticket

CANTON, Ga. (AP) — A suspect in Georgia left his good luck behind when he abandoned a winning lottery ticket while fleeing sheriff’s deputies. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office says the man had a Georgia Lottery scratch game card worth $100 when he ran away during a traffic stop on Interstate 75 on Monday. In a Facebook post, it offered its congratulations and invited him to claim the ticket at its office in Canton about 40 miles north of Atlanta. The man was later taken into custody. Police said the man was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over for a tag violation, and he ran into the woods. The lottery ticket was in a backpack that also had methamphetamine. The man can have the lottery ticket back, but the sheriff’s office said it will keep the drugs.

Mexico has quieter independence

MEXICO CITY — Mexicans will celebrate their Independence Day without big public ceremonies for the first time in 153 years Tuesday night due to restrictions on public gatherings caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Each year, the president rings the bell that marked the call to arms during the 1810-1821 struggle to win independence from Spain, and shouts “Viva Mexico!” That shout, or “grito,” gives the ceremony its name. Independence Day is formally Sept. 16, but has been celebrated the night before for over a century. The event has not been cancelled since 1847, during the Mexican-American War, when U.S. troops occupied Mexico City. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised to perform the “grito,” but only in front of a select number of invited guests. Lopez Obrador usually has no problem with crowds and dislikes wearing face masks, but with over 668,000 cases and almost 71,000 deaths — the fourth-highest number in the world — the president apparently thought twice about packing the usual 100,000 rowdy revelers into Mexico City’s main square, known as the Zocalo. “It is ceremony that you can watch on television,” Lopez Obrador said Tuesday. “We can all participate from our homes.”

Allegheny inmates file suit

Five inmates on Tuesday sued Allegheny County jail and mental health officials, alleging the in Pennsylvania facility offers inadequate treatment and medication for inmates with mental health disabilities and often punishes them with extended solitary confinement or excessive force. Lawyers with the Abolitionist Law Center spent over a year interviewing more than 100 current and former inmates about their access to mental health care and treatment. They say they found a lack of privacy in the intake process, insufficient training for staff members on how to handle mental health needs, chronic understaffing, lack of adequate medication distribution and bad medical record keeping. They also noted more than a quarter of people interviewed were forced into a restraint chair, and many reported disciplinary retribution — including use of stun guns, pepper spray and time in solitary confinement — for requesting mental health care or for mental health episodes. Lawyers with the law center, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, LLP say the jail’s practices violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment by failing to provide adequate care and inflicting punishment for medical conditions.

Lego to ditch plastic bags

NEW YORK — Lego said Tuesday that it will stop using plastic bags inside its boxed sets and replace them with paper ones. The Danish toymaker said it will start making the switch next year and expects plastic bags to be completely phased out in the next five years. The bags are used to hold loose bricks in boxed sets. Lego, as well as other big brands, have been looking for ways to cut plastic use in order to please customers increasingly worried about how their purchases impact the environment. Monopoly maker Hasbro, for example, has also announced plans to eliminate plastics in its packaging. Among the environmental issues posed by plastic is that it doesn’t disintegrate. Instead, it breaks down into tiny pieces that can be eaten by birds or other wildlife, endangering their health. Lego’s colorful bricks are also made of plastic, but the company has had trouble finding another material that’s as durable. About 2% of its pieces, such as Lego trees and bushes, are made of sugar cane.

Navalny posts hospital photo

BERLIN — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday posted a picture of himself from his hospital bed in Germany where he’s recuperating from being poisoned with a nerve agent, wryly joking about being able to breathe on his own. “Hi, this is Navalny,” he wrote in the Russian-language post on Instagram in the first image of the 44-year-old since he was taken to Berlin’s Charite hospital. The photo shows him being given a hug by his wife Yulia and flanked by his two children as he sits upright in his bed in a hospital gown. “I have been missing you. I still can’t do almost anything on my own, but yesterday I managed to breathe on my own for the entire day,” he added in the post, which got over 1.1 million likes in several hours. Separately, Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh tweeted that once he has recovered, Navalny plans to return to Russia, where he has supported opposition candidates and waged anti-corruption battles. “No other option has ever been considered,” she wrote.

India nears 5 million in cases

NEW DELHI — India confirmed more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing its total caseload to nearly 5 million. The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776. With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India has the second-highest total in the world after the U.S. Infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in coronavirus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last week alone. Maharashtra, with more than 1 million cases, remains the worst-affected state in India, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.8%, with nearly 3.8 million people recovering from the virus so far.

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