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

Mexico 3rd in global pandemic deaths, Vietnam struggles anew

PARIS (AP) — Mexico now has the third most COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind the United States and Brazil, while former success story Vietnam is struggling to control an outbreak spreading in its most famous beach resort.

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China reported a more than 50% drop in newly confirmed cases in a possible sign that its latest major outbreak in the northwestern region of Xinjiang may have run its course.

However, in Hong Kong, infections continue to surge, with more than 100 new cases reported as of Saturday among the population of 7.5 million. Officials have reimposed dining restrictions and mask requirements.

South Korean prosecutors arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect linked to more than 5,200 of the country's 14,336 confirmed cases. He has denied charges of hiding members and underreporting gatherings to avoid broader quarantines.

Mexican health officials on Friday reported 688 new deaths, pushing the country’s total to 46,688. That put Mexico just ahead of the United Kingdom, which has 46,119, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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Foreign threats loom ahead of US presidential election

NEW YORK (AP) — As the Nov. 3 presidential vote nears, there are fresh signs that the nation’s electoral system is again under attack from foreign adversaries.

Intelligence officials confirmed in recent days that foreign actors are actively seeking to compromise the private communications of "U.S. political campaigns, candidates and other political targets" while working to compromise the nation's election infrastructure. Foreign entities are also aggressively spreading disinformation intended to sow voter confusion heading into the fall.

There is no evidence that America's enemies have yet succeeded in penetrating campaigns or state election systems, but Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign confirmed this week that it has faced multiple related threats.

The former vice-president's team was reluctant to reveal specifics for fear of giving adversaries useful intelligence.

Because of such secrecy, at least in part, foreign interference largely remains an afterthought in the 2020 contest, even as Republicans and Democrats alike concede it poses a serious threat that could fundamentally reshape the election at any moment. Biden's campaign is increasingly concerned that pro-Russian sources have already shared disinformation about Biden's family with President Donald Trump's campaign and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill designed to hurt the Democratic candidate in the days leading up to the election.

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Hurricane Isaias lashes Bahamas while Florida battens down

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Isaias ripped shingles off roofs and blew over trees as it carved its way through the Bahamas early Saturday and headed toward the Florida coast, where officials in Miami said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks.

Miami Mayor Carlos Giménez said Friday that 20 evacuation centres were on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures.

"We still don’t think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready," he said.

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas evacuated people on Abaco island, who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian. People living in the eastern end of Grand Bahama were also being moved.

Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (135 kph) Saturday morning and some strengthening was possible later Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centred about 80 miles (125 kilometres) south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph). Forecasters said some decrease in its forward motion was expected.

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Court overturns Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence

A federal appeals court Friday threw out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, saying the judge who oversaw the case did not adequately screen jurors for potential biases.

A three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new penalty-phase trial on whether the 27-year-old Tsarnaev should be executed for the attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

"But make no mistake: Dzhokhar will spend his remaining days locked up in prison, with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in the ruling, more than six months after arguments were heard in the case.

An attorney for Tsarnaev said they are grateful for the court's "straightforward and fair decision: if the government wishes to put someone to death, it must make its case to a fairly selected jury that is provided all relevant information."

"It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release," David Patton said in an email.

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Trump, GOP soften on opposition to $600 jobless benefit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and its GOP allies appear to be retreating from their opposition to a $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped up the economy and family budgets but expired Friday.

President Donald Trump is eager to extend the benefit, undercutting his GOP allies on Capitol Hill who have spent considerable effort devising an alternative that could unite Republicans.

The unemployment insurance is a principal element as talks continue on a COVID-19 relief bill, which is expected to grow considerably from a $1 trillion-plus GOP draft released this week. Top Democrats announced a meeting with administration representatives for Saturday morning after Thursday night talks at the Capitol failed to produce a breakthrough.

The two sides took their case to the media Friday morning, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaking to reporters on short notice at the exact moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared at her weekly news conference.

Meadows accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate, saying Trump has instructed him to be "aggressive and forward-leaning" in trying to extend the supplemental jobless benefit.

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Change laws that shield police, Missouri prosecutor says

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — After a third review failed to uncover enough evidence to charge the officer who fatally shot Black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, some prosecutors and civil rights leaders agree it’s time to focus on changing the laws that shield police.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said legislators need to take a hard look at laws that offer protection against prosecution for police officers that regular citizens aren’t afforded, pushing a message that has gained strong momentum in the two months since George Floyd's death by Minneapolis police launched a national reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.

"We see those types of laws throughout the country, and it is something that handcuffs prosecutors in numerous ways when you are going about prosecuting officers who have committed unlawful use of force or police shootings," Bell said.

Bell, St. Louis County’s first Black prosecuting attorney, was elected in 2018 as a reformist, and he has implemented sweeping changes that have reduced the jail population, ended prosecution of low-level marijuana crimes and sought to help offenders rehabilitate themselves.

He also established an independent unit to investigate officer-involved shootings, a division that spent five months looking at the 2014 death of Brown, who was shot by white Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson. The shooting spurred months of unrest and helped solidify the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.

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Joe Biden nears final decision on running mate

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Joe Biden nears the announcement of his vice-presidential choice, the top contenders and their advocates are making final appeals.

The campaign hasn't finalized a date for naming a running mate, but three people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans said a public announcement likely wouldn't happen before the week of Aug. 10. That's one week before Democrats will hold their convention to officially nominate Biden as their presidential nominee.

Biden said in May that he hoped to name his pick around Aug. 1 and told reporters this week that he would "have a choice in the first week of August." He notably stopped short of saying when he would announce that choice.

Running mates are often announced on the eve of a convention. As he prepares to make his choice, a committee established to vet possible running mates has provided Biden with briefing materials. Biden will likely soon begin one-on-one conversations with those under consideration, which could be the most consequential part of the process for a presidential candidate who values personal connections.

The leading contenders include California Sen. Kamala Harris, California Rep. Karen Bass and Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. The deliberations remain fluid, however, and the campaign has reviewed nearly a dozen possible running mates.

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Early in pandemic, frantic doctors traded tips across oceans

Amid the chaos of the pandemic’s early days, doctors who faced the first coronavirus onslaught reached across oceans and language barriers in an unprecedented effort to advise colleagues trying to save lives in the dark.

With no playbook to follow and no time to wait for research, YouTube videos describing autopsy findings and X-rays swapped on Twitter and WhatsApp spontaneously filled the gap.

When Stephen Donelson arrived at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in mid-March, Dr. Kristina Goff was among those who turned to what she called "the stories out of other places that were hit before."

Donelson’s family hadn’t left the house in two weeks after COVID-19 started spreading in Texas, hoping to shield the organ transplant recipient. Yet one night, his wife found him barely breathing, his skin turning blue, and called 911.

In New York or Italy, where hospitals were overflowing, Goff thinks Donelson wouldn’t even have qualified for a then-precious ventilator. But in Dallas, "we pretty much threw everything we could at him," she said.

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DC releases police footage from 2018 deaths of 3 Black men

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under pressure from the D.C. Council, Washington's Metropolitan Police Department on Friday released long-sought body camera and security footage from the 2018 deaths of three young Black men in 2018. The release was compelled by an emergency police reform bill that Mayor Muriel Bowser criticized as rushed.

"The council has determined that this is the statute, that’s the law of the land and we’re going to abide by it," said MPD Chief Peter Newsham.

The videos relate to the deaths of three men that have become enduring causes for local activists: Marqueese Alston, 22, who was shot by police during a foot chase on June 12, 2018; D'Quan Young, 24, who was shot by an off-duty officer in civilian clothes on May 9, 2018; and Jeffrey Price, 22, who died on May 4, 2018, after his motorbike collided with an MPD cruiser.

The Young and Alston shootings were reviewed by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which declined to prosecute either case. Both were classified as justified by the MPD’s Use of Force Review Board. Price's death was ruled an accident.

The Price family is suing the MPD for wrongful death. Newsham, citing the lawsuit, declined to discuss the case in detail, but he called it "preventable" and "a tragic accident where a young man lost his life."

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AP Week in Pictures, Global

JULY 25 - 31, 2020

This photo gallery highlights some of the most compelling images from around the world made or published by The Associated Press in the past week.

The selection was curated by AP photo editor Patrick Sison in New York.

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