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AP News in Brief at 12:09 a.m. EDT

| September 23, 2020 9:33 PM

2 Louisville officers shot amid Breonna Taylor protests

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Hours after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police for Breonna Taylor's death and protesters took to the streets, authorities said two officers were shot and wounded Wednesday night during the demonstrations expressing anger over the killings of Black people at the hands of police.

Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said a suspect was in custody but did not offer details about whether that person was participating in the demonstrations. He says both officers are expected to recover, and one is undergoing surgery.

He says the officers were shot after investigating reports of gunfire at an intersection where there was a large crowd.

Several shots rang out as protesters in downtown Louisville tried to avoid police blockades, moving down an alleyway as officers lobbed pepper balls, according to an Associated Press journalist. People covered their ears, ran away and frantically looked for places to hide. Police with long guns swarmed the area, then officers in riot gear and military-style vehicles blocked off roadways.

The violence comes after prosecutors said two officers who fired their weapons at Taylor, a Black woman, were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The only charges were three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into a home next to Taylor's with people inside.

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In Taylor case, limits of law overcome calls for justice

“Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” became a rallying cry this summer, emblazoned on T-shirts worn by celebrities and sports stars while protesters filled the streets demanding police accountability. In the end, none of the officers were charged with Taylor's killing, although one was indicted for shooting into a neighboring home that had people inside.

The outcome demonstrates the vast disconnect between widespread public expectation of justice and the limits of the law when police use deadly force.

“Criminal law is not meant to respond to every sorrow and grief," Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first African American elected to the job in Kentucky, told reporters after the grand jury announced its decision on Wednesday. “And that is, that is true here. But my heart breaks for the loss of Miss Taylor."

Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical worker studying to become a nurse, was shot several times in her hallway after three plainclothes narcotics detectives busted down the door of her apartment after midnight on March 13. The officers entered the home as part of an investigation into a suspect who lived across town. No drugs were found at Taylor’s home.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was with her at the apartment and fired a shot at Louisville police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly after the door was broken down. Walker has said he fired because he feared he was being robbed or that it might be an ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s trying to get in. Mattingly was struck in the leg and returned fire, along with other officers who were outside the apartment.

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US experts vow ‘no cutting corners’ as vaccine tests expand

WASHINGTON (AP) — A huge international study of a COVID-19 vaccine that aims to work with just one dose is getting underway as top U.S. health officials sought Wednesday to assure a skeptical Congress and public that they can trust any shots the government ultimately approves.

Hopes are high that answers about at least one of several candidates being tested in the U.S. could come by year's end, maybe sooner.

“We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee.

President Donald Trump is pushing for a faster timeline, which many experts say is risky and may not allow for adequate testing. On Wednesday he tweeted a link to news about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine study and said the Food and Drug Administration “must move quickly!”

“President Trump is still trying to sabotage the work of our scientists and public health experts for his own political ends,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, said before ticking off examples of pressure on the FDA.

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200,000 dead as Trump vilifies science, prioritizes politics

NEW YORK (AP) — “I did the best I could,” President Donald Trump said.

Huddled with aides in the West Wing last week, his eyes fixed on Fox News, Trump wasn’t talking about how he had led the nation through the deadliest pandemic in a century. In a conversation overheard by an Associated Press reporter, Trump was describing how he’d just publicly rebuked one of his top scientists — Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist and head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Redfield had angered the president by asserting that a COVID-19 vaccine wouldn’t be widely available to the general public until summer or fall of 2021. So hours later, with no supporting evidence, Trump called a news conference to say Redfield was “confused.” A vaccine, Trump insisted, could be ready before November’s election.

Mission accomplished: Fox was headlining Trump’s latest foray in his administration’s ongoing war against its own scientists.

It is a war that continues unabated, even as the nation's COVID-19 death toll has reached 200,000 — nearly half the number of Americans killed in World War II, a once unfathomable number that the nation’s top doctors just months ago said was avoidable.

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High court fight adds to pile of issues weighing on voters

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The Republican Party headquarters in this former steel town was buzzing Saturday as supporters filed in to pick up Trump 2020 stickers and yard signs, including ones declaring: “Your pro-life vote matters."

But even as coverage of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death played on Fox News on an office television, the political fight brewing in Washington over her replacement felt like a world away to some.

“I don't really pay attention to the news much," said Dan Thomas, a 24-year-old from Johnstown, in western Pennsylvania, after he filled out paperwork to vote for the first time. It wasn't the court that brought Thomas in. (When a friend tried to convince him it was a big deal, he shrugged: “Oh, OK. Whoopie.”)

Instead, he's convinced that President Donald Trump is fighting for working-class voters like him in a tough economy and is “the best shot this country has."

In dozens of conversations here and in other battleground states since Ginsburg's death of cancer Friday, the bitter debate over the court was buried under a pile of other, more pressing concerns. Most voters were quick to name health care, the economy and personal complaints about Trump, a Republican, and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, as driving their votes — well before the Supreme Court vacancy. And those who were fired up about the issue were already strongly committed to voting for either Trump or Biden, reflecting stark polarization in a country where only a sliver of the electorate remains undecided.

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Trump won't commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump again declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“We’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said Wednesday at a news conference, responding to a question about whether he’d commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."

It is highly unusual that a sitting president would express less than complete confidence in the American democracy’s electoral process. But he also declined four years ago to commit to honoring the election results if his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, won.

His current Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, was asked about Trump’s comment after landing in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday night.

“What country are we in?” Biden asked incredulously, adding: “I’m being facetious. Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say about it. But it doesn’t surprise me.”

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Long lines of mourners pay respects to Ginsburg at court

WASHINGTON (AP) — With crowds of admirers swelling outside, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was remembered Wednesday at the court by grieving family, colleagues and friends as a prophet for justice who persevered against long odds to become an American icon.

The court’s eight justices, masked along with everyone else because of the coronavirus pandemic, gathered for the first time in more than six months for the ceremony to mark Ginsburg’s death from cancer last week at age 87 after 27 years on the court.

Washington already is consumed with talk of Ginsburg’s replacement, but Chief Justice John Roberts focused on his longtime colleague.

The best words to describe Ginsburg are “tough, brave, a fighter, a winner," Roberts said, but also “thoughtful, careful, compassionate, honest.”

The woman who late in life became known in admiration as the Notorious RBG “wanted to be an opera virtuoso, but became a rock star instead,” Roberts said. Ginsburg’s two children, Jane and James, and other family members sat on one side of the casket, across from the justices.

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World leaders criticize haphazard response to pandemic

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World leaders gathering remotely Wednesday criticized a haphazard global response to a microscopic virus that has unleashed economic havoc and taken nearly 1 million lives in its march across the globe. In the words of Kazakhstan’s president, it was “a critical collapse of global cooperation.”

“Our world has been turned upside down,” said Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo. “We all fell together and looked into the abyss together.”

The coronavirus pandemic and its consequences topped the list of concerns on the second day of prerecorded speeches by world leaders at the General Assembly’s first virtual high-level meeting. Countries large and small spoke about struggling to deal with its impact without international coordination.

Pleas for the world to work together to combat the scourge and other global problems have taken the forefront at this week's U.N. gathering that itself was altered by the virus.

“A pandemic is by definition a global challenge” and requires a global response, but COVID-19 “has unfortunately revealed how we are tempted to react to immediate threats — nationally, not internationally,” said Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto.

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Wildfires taint West Coast vineyards with taste of smoke

TURNER, Ore. (AP) — Smoke from the West Coast wildfires has tainted grapes in some of the nation's most celebrated wine regions with an ashy flavor that could spell disaster for the 2020 vintage.

Wineries in California, Oregon and Washington have survived severe wildfires before, but the smoke from this year's blazes has been especially bad — thick enough to obscure vineyards drooping with clusters of grapes almost ready for harvest. Day after day, some West Coast cities endured some of the worst air quality in the world.

No one knows the extent of the smoke damage to the crop, and growers are trying to assess the severity. If tainted grapes are made into wine without steps to minimize the harm or weed out the damaged fruit, the result could be wine so bad that it cannot be marketed.

The wildfires are likely to be "without question the single worst disaster the wine-grape growing community has ever faced,” said John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

Winemakers around the world are already adapting to climate change, including rising temperatures and more frequent, more severe droughts. Those near fire-prone forests face the additional risk that smoke could ruin everything.

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He's a Herro: Heat top Celtics, move a game from NBA Finals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The youngest player on the floor helped the Miami Heat move a game away from the NBA Finals.

Tyler Herro — still just 20 years old — scored a Heat rookie-record 37 points, Jimmy Butler had 24 and Miami beat the Boston Celtics 112-109 on Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Goran Dragic added 22 and Bam Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds to help the Heat take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They can close it out Friday night in Game 5.

Jayson Tatum scored all 28 of his points in the second half for the Celtics. They erased a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead in the fourth — then saw the Heat run away again. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, Kemba Walker added 20, Gordon Hayward had 14 and Marcus Smart finished with 10 points and 11 assists.

Brown's 3-pointer with 16 seconds left cut Miami's lead to 107-104. Herro went to the line 2.1 seconds later and coolly swished a pair, stretching the lead back to five. The Celtics got within two points twice, Butler made a free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining, and Boston — out of timeouts — never got a desperation shot off.