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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Last Updated Jul 4, 2020 at 12:16 am EDT

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. (AP) — Speaking to a largely maskless crowd at Mount Rushmore, President Donald Trump said Friday that protesters have waged “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history” amid demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

The sharp rebuke in a holiday address to mark the nation’s independence follows weeks of protests across the nation, sparked by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Some demonstrators have also destroyed or damaged Confederate monuments and statues honouring those who have benefited from slavery.

“This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore,” Trump said, adding that some on the political left hope to “defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”

His speech, intended to rev up his conservative base, comes as Trump has seen his standing slump over his handling of the pandemic and response to protests and unrest around the country. With four months until the election, Trump’s hopes for a second term — once buoyed by low unemployment and a roaring stock market — seem uncertain.

Amid the headwinds, Trump has sharpened his focus on his most ardent base of supporters as concern grows inside his campaign that his poll numbers in the battleground states that will decide the 2020 election are slipping.

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`Huge bummer’: July Fourth will test Americans’ discipline

The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays cancelled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.

With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors and local officials have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.

“This year is a huge bummer, to say the least,” said Ashley Peters, who for 14 years has hosted 150 friends and relatives at a pool party at her home in Manteca, California, complete with a DJ, bounce house, water slide and shaved-ice stand. This time, the guest list is down to just a few people.

Pulling the plug on the bash, she said, was a “no-brainer” because so many of those she knows are front-line workers, including her husband, a fire captain. “I woke up and told my husband I wish it was just July 5,” she said.

Health experts agree this will be a pivotal moment in determining whether the nation slides into a deeper mess. The fear is that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.

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Can Trump’s anti-mail-voting crusade hurt him in key states?

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President Donald Trump’s campaign and allies have blocked efforts to expand mail-in voting, forcing an awkward confrontation with top GOP election officials who are promoting the opposite in their states.

The rare dissonance between Trump and other Republican elected officials also reflects another reality the president will not concede: Many in his party believe expanding mail-in voting could ultimately help him.

Trump’s campaign has intervened directly in Ohio, while allies have fired warning shots in Iowa and Georgia, aimed at blunting Republican secretaries of state in places that could be competitive in November.

“There is a dimension to legislatures underfunding or undercutting election officials that could ironically backfire and hurt Republicans,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor and director of the nonpartisan United States Election Project.

Action by these three secretaries of state, who are the top election officials in their states, was designed to make ballot access easier during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has repeatedly made the unfounded claim that voting by mail could lead to fraud so extensive it could undermine the integrity of the presidential election.

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The Latest: Calif gov warns local officials on enforcement

LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is warning local elected officials that they risk losing state funding if they don’t enforce health orders as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

Newsom has rolled back or limited some businesses reopening in Los Angeles and 20 other counties, now including San Diego. Recently reopened bars, indoor restaurant dining and other indoor entertainment venues were ordered closed in those counties for at least three weeks.

About 200 state inspectors fanned out Friday to look for violators over the long Fourth of July weekend. The new enforcement strike teams issued seven citations in their first day of operation.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

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8-year-old killed, 3 injured in shooting at Alabama mall

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — An 8-year-old boy was killed Friday in a shooting at an Alabama shopping mall that left three other people injured, police said.

Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said the child was killed in the afternoon shooting at the Riverchase Galleria. The police chief said a girl and two adults were also hospitalized after the shooting.

The Bessemer City School system identified the 8-year-old victim as Royta Giles Jr. (pronounced Roy-TAY Jyles), who would have been a third grader this fall at Jonesboro Elementary School.

The school system described him as “a smart child, who was a jewel, with big dreams of someday entering the music industry.”

“He was bright, articulate, and very convincing. We even tried to convince him to become a lawyer,” former assistant principal Van James said in the school system statement.

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Cops fired over photos of chokehold used on Elijah McClain

AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Three officers were fired Friday over photos showing police reenact a chokehold used on Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police stopped him on the street in a Denver suburb.

One of those fired is Jason Rosenblatt, a white Aurora officer who helped stop McClain in August for wearing a ski mask and “being suspicious.” Police put McClain in a chokehold, paramedics injected him with a sedative and McClain suffered cardiac arrest before later being taken off life support.

Aurora Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson told reporters that officers sent the photos to Rosenblatt and others two months after McClain died to “cheer up a friend,” without explaining who that was. Rosenblatt responded with a text saying, “Haha.” Officer Nathan Woodyard, who put McClain in a chokehold, also got the photos but he was not disciplined because he didn’t respond.

“We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry,” Wilson said. The officers may not have committed a crime, but the photographs are “a crime against humanity and decency,” she added.

McClain’s death has become a rallying cry amid a national reckoning over police brutality and racial injustice, with the state reopening the case for possible criminal charges and federal officials looking into a civil rights investigation. In several places, the chokehold has been banned and other police reforms passed after nationwide protests.

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Epstein cohort’s arrest becomes new test for plea deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Before Jeffrey Epstein’s jailhouse suicide last year, his defence hinged on a 2008 deal with federal prosecutors in Florida over his alleged sexual abuse of multiple teenage girls. His lawyers said it prevented him from being charged with further crimes.

Could that same deal now help Ghislaine Maxwell, the Epstein confidante arrested Thursday, evade charges she helped lure at least three girls into sexual liaisons with him?

Maxwell’s lawyers haven’t outlined their defence strategy, but her legal team is bound to raise the issue in the months ahead.

The British socialite was arrested Thursday in New Hampshire on charges that she acted as a recruiter of underage girls for Epstein, usually under the guise of hiring them to perform massages, and sometimes participated in his sexual abuse of the teens.

The allegations against the couple date back many years, but Epstein, for a while, appeared to have resolved them under a deal with federal and state prosecutors in South Florida in which he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges and served 13 months in jail and a work-release program.

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Paint schemes go political as NASCAR season heats up

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Many a fan is quick to insist they do not like politics in their sports — no kneeling, no raised fists, no T-shirt messages. Just the game or event, please and thank you.

That has not been the case of late as the nation goes through a reckoning on race and racism following the death of George Floyd in police custody. In NASCAR, the colorful paint schemes on the stock cars themselves have taken a decidedly political turn in recent weeks — and will again this weekend.

Corey LaJoie’s car will carry a scheme touting the re-election bid of President Donald Trump during Sunday’s Brickyard 400. The Patriots of America PAC spent $350,000 for the political advertisement that will be seen by anyone who catches a glimpse of the No. 32 Ford on NBC.

Political ads are not unheard of in NASCAR, but the move still drew attention in part because Trump is a polarizing figure for many and because the series itself is wrestling with how to boost diversity.

“Let’s just say there’s been a lot of Corey LaJoie stories this week,” said Tom Jensen, manager of curatorial affairs for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “Historically, I can tell you (NASCAR) sponsorship is a mixture of brand awareness, brand favourability and in some cases to move product directly.”

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More fireworks in Americans’ hands for July 4 raises risks

ATLANTA (AP) — For many Americans, the Fourth of July will be more intimate this year. It also could be riskier.

Saturday will be unlike any Independence Day in recent memory. From Atlanta to San Diego, hundreds of fireworks shows have been cancelled as officials restrict large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as infections surge across the U.S.

With fewer professional celebrations, many Americans are bound to shoot off fireworks in backyards and at block parties. And they already are: Sales have been booming. Some public safety officials say consumer fireworks in more hands means greater danger of injuries and wildfires in parts of the country experiencing dry, scorching weather.

“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.

While it’s not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

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Reps: Singers Kacey Musgraves, Ruston Kelly file for divorce

NEW YORK (AP) — Grammy-winning singer Kacey Musgraves and her musician-husband, Ruston Kelly, have filed for divorce.

Representatives for both singers confirmed the news Friday to The Associated Press. In a joint statement, Musgraves and Kelly said “we’ve made this painful decision together.”

“With heavy but hopeful hearts we wanted to put our own thoughts into the air about what’s happening. These kinds of announcements are always met with scrutiny and speculation and we want to stop that before it even starts. We believe that we were put into each other’s lives for a divine reason and have both changed each other infinitely for the better. The love we have for each other goes far beyond the relationship we’ve shared as husband and wife. It’s a soul connection that can never be erased,” the emailed statement read.

“We’ve made this painful decision together — a healthy decision that comes after a very long period of trying the best we can. It simply just didn’t work. Though we are parting ways in marriage, we will remain true friends for the rest of our lives. We hold no blame, anger, or contempt for each other and we ask for privacy and positive wishes for us both as we learn how to navigate through this,” the statement continued.

Musgraves and Kelly, both 31, were married in 2017.

The Associated Press