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AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT

| August 31, 2020 6:27 PM

2 shootings, 2 days: In Kenosha, a microcosm of US strife

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A Black man, accosted by police on a domestic dispute call, is left with bullet wounds in his back that will likely keep him from ever walking again. A white 17-year-old, rifle in hand, strolls past authorities untouched amid cries that he just gunned down three people protesting the Black man’s shooting.

Two moments of bloodshed, two days and 2 miles apart in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And in those two moments, this mid-sized Midwestern city seemed a stark microcosm of a nation wracked by discord over racial inequity, policing and the meaning of public safety.

The chain of events that began Aug. 23 with Jacob Blake’s shooting has become a disputed X-ray of a divided society -- a black-and-white picture where some see racial injustice that proves the urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement, while others see rioting that spurred a teenager to try to defend a community against chaos.

But to many in Kenosha -- taking stock of a convulsive week ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned visit Tuesday -- it’s not as simple as that.

As people here navigate barricaded streets, boarded-up windows and their own place along some of the deepest fault lines cleaving the U.S., there are many more than two perspectives on what happened, what it means and the way forward.

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New focus for campaign: Will Biden or Trump keep you safer?

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The battle over who can keep Americans safe after recent deadly protests emerged Monday as the sharpest dividing line for the presidential campaign’s final weeks as Joe Biden condemned the violence and President Donald Trump defended a supporter accused of fatally shooting two men.

While the president blamed Biden, his Democratic foe, for siding with “anarchists,” Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump of causing the divisions that have ignited the violence. He delivered an uncharacteristically blistering speech and distanced himself from radical forces involved in altercations.

Biden said of Trump, "He doesn’t want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”

Trump blames radical troublemakers stirred up and backed by Biden. But when he was asked about one of his own supporters who was charged with killing two men during the mayhem in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he declined to denounce the killings and suggested that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self defense.

After a confrontation in which he fatally shot one man, police say, Rittenhouse fell while being chased by people trying to disarm him.

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Appeals court keeps Flynn case alive, won't order dismissal

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court in Washington declined Monday to order the dismissal of the Michael Flynn prosecution, permitting a judge to scrutinize the Justice Department's request to dismiss its case against President Donald Trump's former national security adviser.

The decision keeps the case at least temporarily alive and rebuffs efforts by both Flynn's lawyers and the Justice Department to force the prosecution to be dropped without further inquiry from the judge, who has for months declined to dismiss it. The ruling is the latest development in a criminal case that has taken unusual twists and turns over the last year and prompted a separation of powers tussle involving a veteran federal judge and the Trump administration.

In a separate ruling Monday, a three-judge panel of the same appeals court again threw out a lawsuit by House Democrats to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee.

The Flynn conflict arose in May when the Justice Department moved to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn's own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period.

But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who had upbraided Flynn for his behavior at a 2018 court appearance, signaled his skepticism at the government's unusual motion. He refused to dismiss the case and instead scheduled a hearing and appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the Justice Department's position. That former judge, John Gleeson, challenged the motives behind the department's dismissal request and called it a “gross abuse” of prosecutorial power.

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Liberty announces investigation into Falwell's tenure

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Liberty University is opening an independent investigation into Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tenure as president, a wide-ranging inquiry that will include financial, real estate and legal matters, the evangelical school's board announced Monday.

In a statement, the board said it had retained an outside firm to investigate “all facets” of the school's operations under Falwell, and that it was “committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president.”

Calls for such an investigation had been mounting since Falwell's departure last week from the post he had held since 2007.

He officially resigned on Tuesday, after a confusing day of back-and-forths about whether he would be leaving. His departure came after a news outlet published an interview with Giancarlo Granda, a much younger business partner of the Falwell family. Granda said that he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Becki Falwell and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.

Although the Falwells have acknowledged that Granda and Becki Falwell had an affair, Jerry Falwell has denied any participation. The couple allege that Granda sought to extort them by threatening to reveal the relationship unless he was paid substantial monies.

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A Zoom Thanksgiving? Summer could give way to a bleaker fall

As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts fear an even bleaker fall and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom.

Because of the many uncertainties, public health scientists say it’s easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the U.S. coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn. But school reopenings, holiday travel and more indoor activity because of colder weather could all separately increase transmission of the virus and combine in ways that could multiply the threat, they say.

Here's one way it could go: As more schools open for in-person instruction and more college students return to campuses, small clusters of cases could widen into outbreaks in late September. Public fatigue over mask rules and other restrictions could stymie efforts to slow these infections.

A few weeks later, widening outbreaks could start to strain hospitals. If a bad flu season peaks in October, as happened in 2009, the pressure on the health care system could result in higher daily death tolls from the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that scenario is his biggest fear.

One certainty is that the virus will still be around, said Jarad Niemi, a disease-modeling expert at Iowa State University.

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Detroit turns island park into COVID-19 memorial garden

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit island park was transformed Monday into a drive-thru COVID-19 victims memorial as policy makers across the U.S. moved forward with plans to reopen schools and public spaces.

Hearses led processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River, where more than 900 large photos of local coronavirus victims provided by relatives were turned into posters and staked into the ground.

As the death toll continued to rise around the world, officials announced plans to bring children back to school in Rhode Island, allow diners back inside New Jersey restaurants and let fans watch football inside an Iowa college stadium.

New COVID-19 cases were linked to travelers on vacation in Europe and the head of the World Health Organization cautioned against opening societies too quickly. Nearly 1,000 inmates at a Tennessee prison tested positive.

More than 847,000 people worldwide have perished from the virus and more than 25.3 million have contracted it, according to Johns Hopkins University — figures experts say understate the true toll due to limited testing, missed mild cases and other factors.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump tweets distort truth on National Guard

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's become a pattern when unrest flares in a city: President Donald Trump suggests he has National Guard troops ready to send to the scene and takes credit for dispatching them and restoring calm while he accuses Democrats of being squishy on law and order.

That's a distortion.

Trump omits the fact that he is largely a bystander in National Guard deployments. While presidents can tap rarely used powers to use federal officers for local law enforcement, there is no National Guard with national reach for Trump to send around the country.

And when violence broke out in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a week ago, Trump's demand that National Guard troops be used came a day after the Democratic governor had already activated them.

National Guard units in each state answer to the governor and sometimes state legislatures, not to the president. When National Guard forces from outside Wisconsin came in to help, it was because the governor has asked for that help from fellow governors, not the White House.

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House to subpoena postmaster general over mail delays

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Oversight Committee intends to subpoena Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for documents about disruptions in mail delivery operations that are now central to questions over the ability to handle an onslaught of mail-in ballots expected for the November election.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the committee chair, sent a memo Monday saying DeJoy blew past last week’s deadline to fully respond to the committee’s request for more information. He has not provided any new materials, she said.

“It is clear that a subpoena has become necessary to further the Committee’s investigation and help inform potential legislative actions,” she said.

Democrats are aggressively pursuing oversight of postal operations after President Donald Trump railed against mail-in ballots. Trump suggested he wanted to starve the Postal Service of funds to make it more difficult to handle the surge expected in November.

DeJoy, who was tapped to lead the agency in June, started quickly initiating changes at a time when the agency was already straining under the COVID-19 crisis. Reports of delays soon piled up.

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Americans divided over armed civilians who flock to protests

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The scenes have become commonplace in 2020: People gathered at state Capitols with semiautomatic long guns strapped across their chests. A couple near St. Louis emerging from their mansion brandishing firearms as Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched by the house. Men roaming the streets with rifles during protests over racial inequality, punctuated by two people being killed in Wisconsin and another in Oregon over the weekend.

The coronavirus pandemic, protests against racism and police killings, a rancorous election and some people's perception that cities are being overrun by violent mobs have brought about a markedly more aggressive stance by some gun owners and widened the divide over firearms in the U.S.

Americans are turning out more often and more visibly with guns, a sign of the tension engulfing the country.

Last week's arrest of a 17-year-old accused of killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with a semiautomatic rifle is just the latest flashpoint. Over the weekend, supporters of President Donald Trump streamed into Portland, Oregon, resulting in a clash with protesters that ended with a supporter of a right-wing group fatally shot.

The white teenager and other gun-toting protesters have been denounced as radical vigilantes who benefit from a double-standard — that if they were Black gun owners brandishing their firearms, the police would use deadly force against them.

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Niecy Nash surprises with wedding to singer Jessica Betts

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor and comedian Niecy Nash surprised fans with her weekend wedding to singer Jessica Betts.

Nash and Betts posted Twitter and Instagramphotos Monday of their outdoor marriage ceremony in a lush garden setting.

Nash, whose legal first name is Carol, captioned the photo “Mrs. Carol Denise Betts," adding a rainbow emoji and the hashtag #LoveWins."

“I got a whole Wife,” Betts wrote in her own caption.

The couple had kept their relationship under wraps, and the revelation of the ceremony also served as a coming out for Nash, who had not publicly been in a relationship with a woman before.