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ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION

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.

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.

Ohio sues

to block nuclear bailout money from being paid

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s attorney general sued Wednesday in an attempt to block the state’s nuclear plants from collecting fees on electricity bills that were authorized in a new law at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe involving the former speaker of the Ohio House.

Attorney General Dave Yost filed the lawsuit in Franklin County Court in Columbus against Energy Harbor, asking the judge to block payments to the company’s two nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo that were bailed out through the now-tainted legislation.

The bailout is funded by a fee that will be added to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 — directing over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the two nuclear plants. This fee is still set to go into effect at the start of the new year if the Legislature does not repeal the law by then.

Energy Harbor is the former FirstEnergy Solutions, a onetime subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. The subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 amid a mounting load brought on by the rise of competition from natural gas power in the East and Midwest.

The lawsuit came hours after a House committee looking at repealing the law heard varying proponent testimony from energy lobbying groups and state office representing consumers.

Yost had previously promised he would take the legal remedies necessary if the General Assembly could not do so in time.

The lawsuit also seeks to freeze the assets of former House Speaker Larry Householder’s $1 million campaign fund and dissolve the dark money groups involved in the bribery scheme, Yost said.

TikTok asks

judge to block Trump’s ban as deadline looms

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese-owned TikTok asked a judge to block the Trump Administration’s attempt to ban its app, suggesting the video-sharing app’s forced deal with Oracle and Walmart remains unsettled.

An app-store ban of TikTok, delayed once by the government, is set to go into effect Sunday. A more comprehensive ban is scheduled for November, about a week after the presidential election. President Donald Trump set this process in motion with executive orders in August that declared TikTok and another Chinese app threats to U.S. national security. The administration has offered no specifics to substantiate that charge.

Trump has pushed for a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations to an American company. The president said this week that he would bless a proposed deal in which Oracle and Walmart take a 20% stake in a new U.S. entity to be called TikTok Global. But he also said he could retract his approval if Oracle doesn’t “have total control.”

The two sides in the TikTok deal appear at odds over the corporate structure of TikTok Global. ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent, said Monday that it will still own 80% of the U.S. entity after a financing round. Oracle, meanwhile, put out a statement saying that Americans “will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

Chinese media have criticized the deal, suggesting that the Chinese government is not happy with the arrangement. The Chinese government complicated deal arrangements in August when it restricted exports of artificial-intelligence tech like that used by TikTok.

In its filing in federal court in the District of Columbia, TikTok said Trump’s Aug. 6 executive order is unlawful. So are resulting Commerce Department prohibitions that aim to kick TikTok out of U.S. app stores and, in November, essentially shut it down in the U.S., it claimed.

The Chinese firm said the president doesn’t have the authority to take these actions under the national-security law he cited; that the ban violates TikTok’s First Amendment speech rights and Fifth Amendment due-process rights; and that there’s no authority for the restrictions because they are not based on a national emergency.

California is ready to pull the plug

on gas vehicles

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks in 15 years, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday, establishing a timeline in the nation’s most populous state that could force U.S. automakers to shift their zero-emission efforts into overdrive.

The plan won’t stop people from owning gas-powered cars or selling them on the used car market. But in 2035 it would end the sale of all new such vehicles in the state of nearly 40 million people that accounts for more than one out of every 10 new cars sold in the U.S.

California would be the first state with such a mandate while at least 15 other countries have already made similar commitments, including Germany, France and Norway.

Newsom used the hood of a red, electric-powered Ford Mustang Mach-E to sign an executive order directing state regulators to develop new regulations to meet the deadline. He urged Californians to “pull away from the gas pumps” and encouraged other states to join California for the good of the environment and public health.

“If you want to reduce asthma, if you want to mitigate the rise of sea level, if you want to mitigate a loss of ice sheets around the globe, then this is a policy for other states to follow,” Newsom said.

While environmental groups cheered the announcement, the oil industry panned it and the automakers’ industry group sought a middle ground, saying it’s committed to increasing zero-emission vehicles but through cooperation among governments and businesses, not by mandates.

Meantime, White House spokesman Judd Deere said flatly: “President Trump won’t stand for it.” And Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser, labeled it a “very extreme” position that he doesn’t think other states will follow.

RBG remembered as prophet

for justice,

American icon

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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