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WORLD BRIEFING

Analysis: US to hit 200K dead; Trump sees no need for regret

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the coronavirus pandemic began bearing down on the United States in March, President Donald Trump set out his expectations. If the U.S. could keep the death toll between 100,000 to 200,000 people, Trump said, it would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job.” In the coming days, the number of U.S. deaths is set to clear the outer band of the president’s projections: 200,000, according to the official tally, though the real number is certainly higher. The virus continues to spread and there is currently no approved vaccine. Some public health experts fear infections could spike this fall and winter, perhaps even doubling the death count by the end of the year. Yet the grim milestone and the prospect of more American deaths to come have prompted no rethinking from the president about his handling of the pandemic and no outward expressions of regrets. Instead, Trump has sought to reshape the significance of the death tally, trying to turn the loss of 200,000 Americans into a success story by contending the numbers could have been even higher without the actions of his administration. “If we didn’t do our job, it would be three and a half, two and a half, maybe 3 million people,” Trump said Friday, leaning on extreme projections of what could have happened if nothing at all were done to fight the pandemic. “We have done a phenomenal job with respect to COVID-19.”

Sen. Graham’s challenge: Fill a court seat and save his own

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Few members of the Republican Party have taken a political journey as long as Lindsey Graham’s, from ridiculing Donald Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” to becoming one of the president’s fiercest defenders in Congress, as well as a regular golf partner. Graham has long been known to have flexible politics, and that has served him well in South Carolina for decades. But this November may be his toughest test yet as he seeks reelection and explains to voters how, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will push for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on the president’s aggressive timetable, when the senator was so clearly — even defiantly — opposed to that approach as recently as two years ago, even demanding that he be called out for hypocrisy if he switched. He switched. “The rules have changed as far as I’m concerned,” Graham said Saturday. It falls to Graham, as committee chairman, to vet Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and manage the spectacle of televised hearings on the nomination. It’s one of the most volatile tasks in all of politics, more so now with a pandemic raging, a country on edge, and the ideological tilt of the high court in the balance.

Biden to focus on health care in Supreme Court debate

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joe Biden on Sunday used the sudden Supreme Court vacancy to reinforce his argument that the upcoming election should be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of health care and the coronavirus. The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jolted the presidential campaign just six weeks before the election and as several states are already voting. Trump has seized on the opportunity to nominate a new justice to motivate his most loyal voters. Biden kept the focus on health care, which has proven to be a winning issue for Democrats during previous elections and could be even more resonant amid the pandemic. The Supreme Court will hear a Republican-led case seeking to throw out the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration supports, the week after the Nov. 3 election. Biden charged that Trump is seeking to undermine the protections for people with pre-existing conditions under the ACA, as well as its provisions covering preventative care for women. “Millions of Americans are voting because they know their health care hangs in the balance,” Biden said during remarks at Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court, trying to strip health care coverage away from tens of millions of families.” The Supreme Court could also hear cases on a few more particularly salient issues in the next few months: voting rights, and potentially who wins the November election.

Douglas statue comes down, but Lincoln had racist views, too

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — With the nation racing to come to grips with centuries of racial sins, officials plan to remove the Capitol lawn statue of Stephen A. Douglas, whose forceful 19th century politics helped forge modern-day Illinois but who also profited from slavery. Just inside the Statehouse hangs another revered depiction of an Illinois legend — and longtime Douglas rival — who expressed white supremacist views: Abraham Lincoln. The immense painting in the governor’s second-floor office depicts a Sept. 18, 1858, debate between the two men that opened with these words from Lincoln, who was vying for Douglas’ Senate seat and was still two years away from running for president: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and Black races. … There is a physical difference between the white and Black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.” When the Douglas statue is put in storage this fall, it will become the latest in a line of monuments, from Confederate generals to Christopher Columbus, to come down during the global reckoning on race sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. There has been no discussion, though, about removing likenesses of Lincoln, the president whose Civil War victory freed the slaves, despite his earlier views on race. “At a certain point, where do you cut it off? Jefferson, he wrote the Declaration of Independence. You separate that from him being a slave owner,” St. Louis tourist Eric Zuelke said during a recent visit to the Douglas statue, referring to Thomas Jefferson.

Southern California wildfire grows, burns nature center

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The destruction wrought by a wind-driven wildfire in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles approached 156 square miles (404 square kilometers) Sunday, burning structures, homes and a nature center in a famed Southern California wildlife sanctuary in foothill desert communities. Firefighters were, however, able to defend Mount Wilson, which overlooks greater Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains and has a historic observatory founded more than a century ago and numerous broadcast antennas serving Southern California, from the Bobcat Fire. The Bobcat Fire started Sept. 6 and has already doubled in size over the last week — becoming one of Los Angeles County’s largest wildfires in history, according to the Los Angeles Times. No injuries have been reported. The blaze is 15% contained as teams attempt to determine the scope of the destruction in the area about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of downtown LA. Thousands of residents in the foothill communities of the Antelope Valley were ordered to evacuate Saturday as winds pushed the flames into Juniper Hills. Roland Pagan watched his Juniper Hills house burn through binoculars as he stood on a nearby hill, according to the Los Angeles Times .

Sweden spared surge of virus cases but many questions remain

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A train pulls into the Odenplan subway station in central Stockholm, where morning commuters without masks get off or board before settling in to read their smartphones. Whether on trains or trams, in supermarkets or shopping malls — places where face masks are commonly worn in much of the world — Swedes go about their lives without them. When most of Europe locked down their populations early in the pandemic by closing schools, restaurants, gyms and even borders, Swedes kept enjoying many freedoms. The relatively low-key strategy captured the world’s attention, but at the same time it coincided with a per capita death rate that was much higher than in other Nordic countries. Now, as infection numbers surge again in much of Europe, the country of 10 million people has some of the lowest numbers of new coronavirus cases — and only 14 virus patients in intensive care.

Official: Toilet display mocking mail-in voting is a crime

MASON, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan resident’s apparent joke showing disdain for voting by mail is no laughing matter for one election official. The resident put a toilet on their lawn with a sign that says, “Place mail in ballots here.” Barb Byrum, the Democratic clerk of Ingham County, filed a complaint with police over the display, saying it could mislead people who aren’t familiar with the voting system. “It is a felony to take illegal possession of an absentee ballot,” Byrum said Friday. “Elections in this country are to be taken seriously and there are many people who are voting by mail for the first time this election,” she said. Police told the AP that the complaint is being investigated. resident Donald Trump has repeatedly warned that voting by mail could lead to fraud and spoil the election, making distorted claims that elections officials fear could cause anxiety and confusion among voters. It’s the “safest way to vote during the pandemic,” Byrum said. She didn’t identify the person who lives at the address. The lawn also has a sign that calls for the recall of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. No one answered the door Friday night, the Lansing State Journal reported. More than 2 million Michigan voters could cast absentee ballots after changes in election law. Separately, a judge on Friday said absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can be counted if received within 14 days after the Nov. 3 election.

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