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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EDT

| September 19, 2020 3:27 AM

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Her death just over six weeks before Election Day is likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, even though it’s an election year.

Trump called Ginsburg an “amazing woman” and did not mention filling her vacant Supreme Court seat when he spoke to reporters following a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Biden said the winner of the November election should choose Ginsburg's replacement. "There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters after returning to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, from campaign stops in Minnesota.

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McConnell vows quick vote on next justice; Biden says wait

WASHINGTON (AP) — The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election cast an immediate spotlight on the crucial high court vacancy, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly vowing to bring to a vote whoever President Donald Trump nominates.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden vigorously disagreed, declaring that "voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider.”

McConnell, who sets the calendar in the U.S. Senate and has made judicial appointments his priority, declared unequivocally in a statement not long after Ginsburg’s death was announced that Trump’s nominee would receive a confirmation vote in the chamber. In 2016, McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court months ahead of the election, eventually preventing a vote.

The impending clash over the vacant seat — when to fill it and with whom — is sure to significantly affect the stretch run of the presidential race, further stirring passions in a nation already reeling from the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people, left millions unemployed and heightened partisan tensions and anger.

Trump, in brief remarks to reporters after learning of Ginsburg's death, called her “an amazing woman who led an amazing life.” He had continued with a campaign speech in Minnesota for about an hour and a half after the nation — as well as aides and many in his audience with cell phones — had learned of her death. He seemed surprised when he spoke with reporters afterward, saying he did not know she had died.

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Hundreds gather at Supreme Court to mourn Ginsburg's death

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered Friday night outside the Supreme Court, singing in a candlelight vigil and weeping together as they mourned the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The large group of mourners packed the high court’s steps and the street across from the U.S. Capitol in a nighttime memorial. Dozens of people sat on the steps quietly reflecting on Ginsburg’s legacy.

Scores of memorial candles flickered in the wind along the front steps of the court as people knelt to leave bouquets of flowers, small American flags and handwritten condolence messages for Ginsburg, who died Friday of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87 after 27 years on the court. Prayer candles with Ginsburg’s photo on them were also left on the steps.

Several times, dozens in the crowd broke out into song, singing “Amazing Grace” and “This Land is Your Land” as others embraced one another and wiped tears from their eyes. At one point, the crowd broke into a thunderous applause — lasting for about a minute — for Ginsburg.

“Thank you RBG,” one sign read. On the sidewalk, “RBG” was drawn inside a pink chalk heart.

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How Ginsburg's death could reshape the presidential campaign

NEW YORK (AP) — A presidential campaign that was already tugging at the nation’s most searing divides has been jolted by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, potentially reshaping the election at a moment when some Americans were beginning to cast ballots.

For months, the contest has largely centered on President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus, the biggest public health crisis in a century that has badly damaged his prospects for reelection as the U.S. death toll nears 200,000 people.

But in a flash, Ginsburg's death on Friday added new weight to the election, with the potential that Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, could pick a successor who could decide abortion access, environmental regulations and the power of the presidency for a generation.

With early voting underway in five states and Election Day just over six weeks away, Democrats and Republicans were largely unified late Friday in praising Ginsburg as a leading legal thinker and advocate for women's rights. But strategists in both parties also seized on the moment to find an advantage.

Facing the prospect of losing both the White House and the Senate, some Republicans viewed the Supreme Court vacancy as one of the few avenues remaining for Trump to galvanize supporters beyond his most loyal core of supporters, particularly suburban women who have abandoned the GOP in recent years.

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AP Explains: What happens with the Supreme Court vacancy?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrust the Senate into uncharted political terrain, with no recent precedent for a vacancy on the high court so close to a presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement Friday night vowed that “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." But he did not say when or how that would happen, and there's significant uncertainty about what comes next.

A look at the confirmation process and what we know and don't know about what's to come:

CAN THE SENATE FILL THE SEAT BEFORE THE ELECTION?

Yes, but it would require a breakneck pace. Supreme Court nominations have taken around 70 days to move through the Senate, and the last, for Brett Kavanaugh, took longer. The election is 45 days away. Yet there are no set rules for how long the process should take once President Donald Trump announces his pick, and some nominations have moved more quickly. It will come down to politics and votes.

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Biden would push for less US reliance on nukes for defense

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden leaves little doubt that if elected he would try to scale back President Donald Trump's buildup in nuclear weapons spending. And although the former vice president has not fully detailed his nuclear priorities, he says he would make the U.S. less reliant on the world's deadliest weapons.

The two candidates' views on nuclear weapons policy and strategy carry unusual significance in this election because the United States is at a turning point in deciding the future of its weapons arsenal and because of growing debate about the threat posed by Chinese and Russian nuclear advances.

China, whose relatively small nuclear force is growing in sophistication, is cited by the Pentagon's top nuclear commander as a leading reason why the United States should go all out on nuclear modernization.

“We are going into a very different world,” Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said Sept. 14. “We are on a trajectory, for the first time in our nation's history, to face two peer nuclear-capable competitors.” He was referring to Russia, which has long been a nuclear peer, and China, whose leaders Richard says have put a strategic nuclear buildup “next on their to-do list.”

Days later, Richard said China could become a peer “by the end of the decade, if not sooner.” But other estimates suggest a slower pace. The Pentagon recently said Beijing may double its nuclear stockpile over the next 10 years, which would still leave it far behind the U.S.

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Stopgap bill to prevent shutdown held up over farm funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — Efforts to fashion a temporary spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month ran aground Friday amid a fight over farm bailout funding that's a key priority of President Donald Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans.

A House Appropriations Committee spokesman said the measure, which aides had predicted would be released Friday evening, won't be unveiled until next week. The measure needs to be passed by the end of the budget year on Sept. 30 to prevent a shutdown of nonessential government functions.

A tentative proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to permit Trump to keep awarding agricultural funds this campaign season in exchange for food aid for the poor ran into severe turbulence with both House and Senate Democrats.

The evolving measure is a lowest-common-denominator, bare-minimum bill that befits a deeply polarized Congress. Even so, it took intense efforts at the highest levels of Washington to get the measure this far, but a negotiating flurry Friday fell apart. Neither side wants a partial government shutdown.

Aides following the talks closely said Pelosi initially denied an administration request to add routine flexibility to rules governing Trump’s farm bailout efforts, which would freeze his ability to dole out subsidy payments until after the election. Trump is using the funding, over which he has much control, to try to shore up his support in farm country, which has been hit hard by low commodity prices and higher tariffs he himself imposed.

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Homes destroyed after winds push California fire into desert

JUNIPER HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Homes were destroyed Friday by an unrelenting wildfire that reached a Mojave Desert community and was still growing on several fronts after burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

Officials were investigating the death of a firefighter on the lines of another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.

The death occurred Thursday in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of LA, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

In northern Los Angeles County, the Bobcat Fire burned semi-rural desert properties when it was pushed by gusts into the community of Juniper Hills after churning all the way across the San Gabriel Mountains.

Crews protected homes and chased spot fires sparked by embers blown across neighborhoods by erratic winds. Surrounding areas were under evacuation orders and residents of ranches scrambled to get horses and other animals out.

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Moroccans protest Arab nations normalizing ties with Israel

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Despite a government ban on large gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, scores of demonstrators protested outside the Moroccan Parliament to denounce Arab countries agreeing o normalize ties with Israel.

Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in a U.S.-brokered deal. Morocco was reported to be among other Arab countries considering a similar move, though the prime minister rejected the idea last month.

Protesters in Morocco's capital of Rabat Friday waved Palestinian flags, decrying the deals as “treason" and chanting “Palestine is not for sale."

The Palestinians view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs in the Gulf and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state. Israel and Bahrain's agreements have been condemned by many across the Arab world.

The protesters in Rabat also burned a mock Israeli flag. Dozens of police officers watched the scene from a distance.

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Police: 2 dead, 14 wounded at party in Rochester, New York

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Gunfire at a backyard party killed two people and wounded 14 others early Saturday in Rochester, New York, a city that has been roiled in recent weeks by outrage over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.

As many as 100 people were at the gathering when the shooting started just before 12:30 a.m., Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons told reporters.

Police were still trying to piece together who opened fire and why. Simmons said it was too early to say whether more than one person was shooting or who the intended targets may have been.

A man and woman, estimated to be in their late teens or early 20s, were killed, Simmons said. None of the wounded people were believed to have life-threatening injuries. They were being treated at two area hospitals.

“This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions,” Simmons said in a news conference held near the home. “I mean 16 victims is unheard of, and for our community, who’s right now going through so much, to have to be dealt with this tragedy, needlessly, for people who decide to act in a violent manner is unfortunate and shameful, and we’re going to do everything that we can as a department to bring those people involved to justice.”

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