AP US News in Brief – First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday — as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March.

Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream — molecules key to blocking infection — at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Florida virus deaths surge, vaccine research moves forward

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP)- Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths Tuesday amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the U.S. had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.

Florida’s 132 additional deaths topped a state mark set just last week. The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.

The new deaths raised the state’s seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas.

The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

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Trump signs bill, order rebuking China, and slams Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump signed legislation and an executive order on Tuesday that he said will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong, then quickly shifted his policy speech into a political one, hurling broadsides against Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The legislation and order are part of the Trump administration’s stepped-up offensive against China for what he calls the rising Asian superpower’s exploitation of America and its effort to conceal details about the human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus from the world. The almost daily administration attacks on Beijing come as Trump defends his own response to the virus, with cases surging in parts of the United States, and as he works ahead of the election to portray Biden as soft on China.

“So Joe Biden and President Obama freely allowed China to pillage our factories, plunder our communities and steal our most precious secrets,” Trump said, adding, “I’ve stopped it largely.”

Trump said that as vice-president, Biden advocated for the Paris Agreement addressing climate change; Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord. “It would have crushed American manufacturers while allowing China to pollute the atmosphere with impunity, yet one more gift from Biden to the Chinese Communist Party,” Trump said.

Trump talked up his own tough approach to Beijing, though he spent the early weeks of the pandemic praising Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two nations signed phase one of a trade deal, but since then, relations have soured and Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden that he has no interest in talking to Xi.

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Tuberville defeats Sessions, wins Alabama Senate GOP primary

MOBILE, Ala. (AP)- Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions lost the Republican nomination for his old Senate seat in Alabama to former college football coach Tommy Tuberville on Tuesday, likely ending a long political career with a bitter defeat egged on by President Donald Trump.

Tuberville, 65, beat Sessions in Tuesday’s Republican runoff as Sessions fell short in his attempted comeback for a seat he held for two decades before resigning to become Trump’s attorney general in 2017.

Familiar to Alabamians from his decade as Auburn University’s head football coach, Tuberville won about 60% of the vote, according to unofficial returns, and is now positioned for a robust challenge against Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. With Alabama’s strong GOP tilt, the seat is likely Republicans’ best chance for a pickup as they try to maintain their thin Senate majority amid Trump’s lagging popularity nationally.

Sessions, 73, was wounded by Trump’s criticisms after he recused himself in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The first U.S. senator to endorse Trump during the GOP presidential primary campaign, Sessions insisted throughout his attempted comeback and again in defeat that he was required by law to recuse because he was a potential subject and witness given his campaign ties to the president. “Let me say this about the president and our relationship: I leave with no regrets,”

Session said on a small stage at a Mobile, Alabama, hotel, with his many grandsons looking on. “I was honoured to serve the people of Alabama and I was extraordinarily proud of the accomplishments we had as attorney general.” Sessions repeated that he was right to step away from the investigation. “I did the right thing and I saved the president’s bacon in the process. Any other action to try to squelch an investigation in that environment would not have worked,” he said, adding that it ultimately led to Trump’s exoneration. “I leave elected office with my integrity intact.”

Sessions was gracious to Tuberville, as well, pledging he’d work to help defeat Jones. “He is our Republican nominee,” Sessions said. “We must stand behind him in November.”

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Justice Ginsburg treated in hospital for possible infection

WASHINGTON (AP)- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was being treated for a possible infection and was expected to stay in the hospital for a few days following a medical procedure, the Supreme Court said in a statement Tuesday.

The court said that the 87-year-old Ginsburg went to a hospital in Washington on Monday evening after experiencing fever and chills.

She then underwent a procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon to clean out a bile duct stent that was placed last August when she was treated for a cancerous tumour on her pancreas.

The statement said the justice “is resting comfortably and will stay in the hospital for a few days to receive intravenous antibiotic treatment.”

Ginsburg spent a night in the hospital in May with an infection caused by a gallstone. While in the hospital, she participated in arguments the court heard by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ginsburg, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and joined the court in 1993, has been treated four times for cancer. In addition to the tumour on her pancreas last year, she was previously treated for colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.

She had lung surgery to remove cancerous growths in December 2018.

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Whether inmate mentally fit for execution could cause delay

CHICAGO (AP)- The man next on the list to be executed by the federal government after a nearly 20-year hiatus ended this week may have a better chance of avoiding lethal injection, legal experts say, because he suffers from dementia and so, his lawyers say, can no longer grasp why he’s slated to die.

Wesley Ira Purkey, convicted of a gruesome 1998 kidnapping and killing, is scheduled for execution Wednesday at the U.S.

Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, where Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death Tuesday after his own 11th-hour legal bids failed.

Lee, who was convicted of killing an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation, was the first of four condemned men scheduled to die in July and August despite the coronavirus pandemic raging both inside and outside prisons.

Purkey, 68, of Lansing, Kansas, would be the second, but his lawyers were still expected to press for a ruling from the Supreme Court on his competency.

“This competency issue is a very strong issue on paper,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “The Supreme Court has halted executions on this issue in the past. At a minimum, the question of whether Purkey dies is going to go down to the last minute.”

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Trump administration rescinds rule on foreign students

BOSTON (AP)- Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”

A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct.

The announcement brings relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy. With the policy rescinded, ICE will revert to a directive from March that suspended typical limits around online education for foreign students.

ICE did not immediately comment on the decision.

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Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan aims to reframe debate

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP)-Joe Biden released a $2 trillion plan on Tuesday to boost investment in clean energy and stop all climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035, arguing that dramatic action is needed to tackle climate change and revive the economy.

In remarks near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee sought to reframe the politics of climate change. He rebuffed arguments from President Donald Trump and his Republican allies that Democratic plans to invest in clean energy would cost jobs.

“When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is `hoax,”’ Biden told reporters. “When I think about climate change, what I think of is jobs.”

The climate package added to a series of detailed policy proposals Biden has released, including a $700 billion plan unveiled last week that would increase government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and invest in new research and development to frame a contrast with Trump, who has struggled to articulate a vision for a second term in the White House.

Biden’s proposal on Tuesday didn’t go as far as some measures in the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal from progressives in Congress that calls for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2030.

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Man killed by police after mask dispute at Michigan store

DETROIT (AP)-A Michigan sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday fatally shot a man suspected of stabbing another man who had challenged him about not wearing a mask at a store, police said.

The shooting occurred in Eaton County, southwest of Lansing, about 30 minutes after the stabbing at a Quality Dairy store, state police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said.

A sheriff’s deputy spotted the man’s vehicle in a residential neighbourhood and shot him when he got out of his car and tried to attack her, Oleksyk said.

“Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon!” the officer, a 22-year veteran, demanded, according to neighbourhood security video released by police.

The man, Sean Ruis, was holding a screwdriver and knives, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said.

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‘Mythbusters’ star Grant Imahara dies from brain aneurysm

LOS ANGELES (AP)- Grant Imahara, the longtime host of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters,” died from a brain aneurysm, the network said Tuesday.

Imahara died Monday at the age of 49.

“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant,” the network said in a statement. “He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Along with his “MythBusters” fame, Imahara was known for starring on Netflix’s “White Rabbit Project.” He became popular in Hollywood for his talents in electronics and recently showcased his creation of a fully animatronic Baby Yoda.

Discovery said on its website that Imahara dedicated his life to using his skills to make people smile. The network said he was one of the few trained operators for the famed R2-D2 droid from the Star Wars franchise and engineered the Energizer Bunny’s popular rhythmic beat.

 

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