Briefs: Donald Trump ends Republican convention with fireworks

Protesters hold a lighted sign as fireworks light up the sky around the Washington Monument after President Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the White House to the 2020 Republican National Convention, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Associated Press

At a protest outside the White House the leader of a band shouts: 'I hope you hear us, Trump'

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump blasted Joe Biden as a hapless career politician who will endanger Americans' safety as he accepted his party's renomination on the South Lawn of the White House. While the coronavirus kills 1,000 Americans each day, Trump defied his own administration's pandemic guidelines to speak for more than an hour to a tightly packed, largely maskless crowd.

Facing a moment fraught with racial turmoil, economic collapse and a national health emergency, Trump delivered a triumphant, optimistic vision of America's future Thursday. But he said that brighter horizon could only be secured if he defeated his Democratic foe, who currently has an advantage in most national and battleground state polls.

"We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years," Trump said, referring to the former senator and vice president's career in Washington.

When Trump finished, a massive fireworks display went off by the Washington Monument, complete with explosions that spelled out "Trump 2020."

His acceptance speech kicked off the final stretch of the campaign, a race now fully joined and, despite the pandemic, soon to begin crisscrossing the country. Trump's pace of travel will pick up to a near daily pace while Biden, who has largely weathered the pandemic from this Delaware home, announced Thursday that he will soon resume campaign travel.

'I hope you hear us, Trump'

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered around the White House for a “noise demonstration and dance party" in an attempt to drown out President Donald Trump's speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination.

And later, a crowd enveloped U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as he left the convention, yelling for him to say the name of police shooting victim Breonna Taylor, who was killed in his state.

“I hope you hear us, Trump,” the leader of the popular local band TOB shouted Thursday night near the site of Trump's speech. The band blared Go-Go music, a distinctive D.C. variant on funk, as it moved in the direction of the White House, where Trump delivered his acceptance speech to a crowd of more 1,500 people on the South Lawn.

One protester held up a sign, “Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue” — the street where the White House is located.

There was no indication that Trump heard the protesters, but there were a few points when a mix of sirens, music and blowhorns could be heard in the background and spectators in the back turned to see where the sounds were coming from.

AP Analysis: Trump wields fear in pitch for 4 more years

WASHINGTON — As he laid out his case for reelection, President Donald Trump deployed a powerful, and familiar, political tactic: fear. 

In a tradition-defying convention address delivered from the White House, Trump painted a grim portrait of violence in American cities run by Democrats and populated by voters who largely oppose him. Though his depictions were at odds with the full reality on the ground in those cities, Trump held himself up as the last best hope for keeping lawlessness from reaching suburban communities — the same communities where he needs to stem the tide of voters turning against the Republican Party. 

"Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens," Trump declared, adding that the "American way of life" is on the line in his race against Democrat Joe Biden. 

Fear has long been wielded by politicians, in part because it works. Richard Nixon, who ran on a similar "law and order" message when seeking the presidency in 1968, once said: "People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday school, but it's true."

Trump embraced that belief during his 2016 campaign, barnstorming the country warning that an influx of immigrants would steal Americans jobs, rape and murder citizens, and change the fabric of American society. When he accepted the Republican nomination that year, he painted a dark portrait of America and vowed that "crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end."

Weakened but still dangerous, Laura to pose continued threat

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Remnants of Hurricane Laura unleashed heavy rain and twisters hundreds of miles inland from a path of death and destruction and mangled buildings along the Gulf Coast, and forecasters warn a turn toward the east may spell new dangers for the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend.

The threat of tornadoes was forecast to redevelop Friday, less than a day after a reported tornado tore through a church and homes in northeastern Arkansas. Trees were reported down and power was out where what was left of the once fearsome Category 4 hurricane packing 150-mph winds spun over the state.

No injuries were immediately reported. Around 45,000 customers were without electricity in Arkansas early Friday.

Laura weakened to a tropical depression late Thursday, but forecasters said the possibility of more tornadoes and up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain was headed for the Tennessee Valley region before the system closed in on the Mid-Atlantic states by Saturday.

One of the strongest hurricanes ever to strike the United States, Laura was blamed for six deaths as it barreled across Louisiana and parts of Texas.

Thousands expected at March on Washington commemorations

WASHINGTON — Capping a week of protests and outrage over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin, civil rights advocates will highlight the scourge of police and vigilante violence against Black Americans at a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Thousands are expected at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic "I Have A Dream" address, a vision of racial equality that remains elusive for millions of Americans.

And they are gathering on the heels of yet another shooting by a white police officer of a Black man — this time, 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last Sunday — sparking days of protests and violence that left two dead.

"We've got to create a different consciousness and a different climate in our nation," said Martin Luther King III, a son of the late civil rights icon and co-convener of the march.

"That won't happen though, unless we are mobilized and galvanized," King said Thursday.

Kenosha shooting strains tie between Black residents, police

KENOSHA, Wis. — Until the police shooting of Jacob Blake, the bedroom community of Kenosha had been largely untouched by the level of demonstrations that were seen in nearby Milwaukee and Chicago after the death of George Floyd.

Like other places in America, Kenosha's Black residents saw inequality in the way police treated them. But there had been nothing like the shooting that left Blake, who is Black, paralyzed. An officer shot Blake in the back Sunday as the 29-year-old leaned into his SUV, three of his children seated inside. 

Now the city of 99,000 residents along Lake Michigan finds itself as the latest flashpoint in a larger discussion about racism and police brutality in the U.S. 

"We've had some situations where we've thought the Police Department hasn't been treating some minorities fairly. This incident, it's just changed," said Anthony L. Davis, president of the Kenosha NAACP branch.

The shooting, captured on cellphone video, led to several nights of protests and unrest, with some people destroying buildings, setting fires and hurling objects at police, who responded at times with tear gas. On Wednesday, a 17-year-old from a nearby Illinois community killed two demonstrators, according to authorities.

AP finds Brazil's plan to protect Amazon has opposite effect

NOVO PROGRESSO, Brazil — In May, facing urgent international demands for action after a string of massive wildfires in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro put the army in charge of protecting the rainforest.

Instead, The Associated Press has found, the operation dubbed as "Green Brazil 2" has had the opposite effect. Under military command, Brazil's once-effective but recently declining investigation and prosecution of rainforest destruction by ranchers, farmers and miners has come to a virtual halt, even as this year's burning season picks up.

The Brazilian army appears to be focusing on dozens of small road-and-bridge-building projects that allow exports to flow faster to ports and ease access to protected areas, opening the rainforest to further exploitation. In the meantime, there have been no major raids against illegal activity since Bolsonaro required military approval for them in May, according to public officials, reporting from the area and interviews with nine current and former members of Brazil's environmental enforcement agency. 

Virus lockdown brings new misery to long-suffering Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Ahmed Eissa, a father of two living in the Gaza Strip, was already struggling to make ends meet on $7 a day, dealing with frequent electricity cuts and worried that another war might break out.

Then the coronavirus found its way into the impoverished Palestinian territory, just as Israel was tightening its blockade in a standoff with Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, and a strict lockdown has confined everyone to their homes. 

Now Eissa doesn't know how he will feed his family.

"I don't have savings and I don't have a job, so no one would lend me money," he said. "I won't beg from anyone."

The restrictions imposed by Hamas are aimed at averting what many fear would be an even bigger catastrophe: a wide-scale outbreak in a population of 2 million people confined to a territory where the health care system has been devastated by years of war and isolation.

Small businesses in college towns struggle without students

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Perry Porikos sat in the street outside one of his five businesses, in a makeshift patio area that didn't exist before the COVID-19 pandemic sent his best customers — University of Michigan students — back home in mid-March.

The Greek immigrant arrived here more than four decades ago as a 20-year-old soccer player for the Wolverines and part-time dishwasher at The Brown Jug Restaurant, which he now owns. He nonchalantly dropped names of sports stars like Tom Brady and Michael Phelps, two of the many former Michigan students he counts as friends, and recalled hustling enough to own more than 10 businesses at one time.

"Living the dream that people talk about, especially if you live in Europe and you come here," Porikos said, "I am the dream."

Lately, though, it has been difficult for Porikos to rest easy. And he's not alone.

Both the stress and the stakes are high for all the small business owners near Michigan's campus on and around South University Avenue, which winds through the city of about 120,000 residents -- about one-third of them students.

Fact check: Trump distorts record

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump claimed accomplishments he didn't earn on the pandemic, energy and veterans Thursday at a Republican convention finale that also heard Black Lives Matter baselessly accused of coordinating violent protests across the country. 

A look at some of the rhetoric Thursday from Trump and his supporting speakers at Republican National Convention proceedings:

COVID-19

TRUMP: "Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation's children, families, and citizens of all backgrounds."

THE FACTS: That's false. Biden has publicly said he would shut down the nation's economy only if scientists and public health advisers recommended he do so to stem the COVID-19 threat. In other words, he said he would follow the science, not disregard it.

Speaking Sunday in an ABC interview, Biden said he "will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives" when he was asked if he would be willing to shut the country again.

"So if the scientists say shut it down?" asked ABC's David Muir.

"I would shut it down," Biden responded. "I would listen to the scientists." The former vice president has said repeatedly that no one knows what January would look like.

TRUMP: "For those of you that still drive a car, look how low your gasoline bill is. You haven't seen that in a long time."

THE FACTS: Trump seems to be taking credit for lower prices that were the byproduct of a pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans.

Gasoline prices didn't fall because of the Trump administration. They plunged because of the coronavirus forcing people to abandon their offices, schools, business trips and vacations.

As more people worked from home, they needed to fill up their cars less frequently. Airlines didn't need to burn through as much fuel. Here's the statement from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: "Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy demand and supply patterns in 2020." World demand for oil has fallen by 8 million barrels a day, according to that agency's estimates.

TRUMP: "The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country anywhere in the world."

THE FACTS: Not true. Not if you consider Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and India to be major countries.

The U.S. sits right in the middle when it comes to COVID-19 mortality rates in the 20 nations most impacted by the pandemic, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Of the 20, Mexico has the highest mortality rate at 10.8 deaths for every 100 confirmed COVID cases, followed by Ecuador at 5.8. Saudi Arabia had the lowest rate of the 20 nations at 1.2, followed by Bangladesh, the Philippines, Russia, Morocco, India, Argentina, South Africa and Chile.

The U.S. had the 10th lowest of the 20 nations, with a mortality rate of 3.1.

When the center looked at the data in another way, analyzing the COVID death rate for every 100,000 residents, the U.S. fares even worse. Only three nations — Brazil, Chile and Peru — posted higher death rates.

Understanding deaths as a percentage of the population or as a percentage of known infections is problematic because countries track and report COVID-19 deaths and cases differently. Many other factors are in play in shaping a death toll besides how well a country responded to the pandemic, such as the overall health or youth of national populations.

BLACK LIVES MATTER

RUDY GIULIANI, Trump's personal attorney and former New York mayor: "Black Lives Matter and antifa sprang into action and, in a flash, they hijacked the peaceful protest into vicious, brutal riots."

THE FACTS: That's a hollow claim. 

There's no evidence that Black Lives Matter or antifa, or any political group for that matter, is infiltrating racial injustice protests with violence. 

In June, The Associated Press analyzed court records, employment histories and social media posts for 217 people arrested in Minneapolis and the District of Columbia, cities at the center of the protests earlier this year. 

More than 85 percent of the people arrested were local residents, and few had affiliation with any organized groups. Social media posts for a few of those arrested indicated they were involved in left-leaning activities while others expressed support for the political right and Trump himself. 

Local police departments across the country were forced to knock down widespread social media rumors that busloads of "antifa," a term for leftist militants, were coming to violently disrupt cities and towns during nationwide racial justice protests. In June, Twitter and Facebook busted accounts linked to white supremacy groups that were promoting some of those falsehoods online. 

EDUCATION

TRUMP: "Biden also vowed to oppose school choice and oppose all charter schools."

THE FACTS: That's false. Biden doesn't oppose charter schools. He opposes federal money going to for-profit charter companies.

Such firms are only a slice of the charter school market, meaning Biden's position wouldn't substantially alter the charter landscape that is dominated by non-profit organizations. 

Biden does oppose federal money for tuition vouchers.

MILITARY

TRUMP: "We have spent $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office, as you know."

THE FACTS: That's an exaggeration.

His administration has accelerated a sharp buildup in defense spending and paused spending limits but a number of new Pentagon weapons programs, such as the F-35 fighter jet, predate Trump.

The Air Force's Minuteman 3 missiles, a key part of the U.S. nuclear force, for instance, have been operating since the early 1970s and the modernization was begun under the Obama administration.

VETERANS

TRUMP: "We also passed VA accountability and VA Choice, our great veterans. We are taking care of our veterans."

THE FACTS: False. He didn't get Veterans Choice approved; President Barack Obama did in 2014. Trump expanded it, under a 2018 law known as the MISSION Act. It allows veterans to get health care outside the VA system at public expense under certain conditions.

ENERGY

TRUMP, claiming to have "secured for the first time American energy independence."

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-California: Under Trump, "we ... achieved energy independence."

THE FACTS: This is misleading. The pandemic has severely lessened the demand for crude oil. But through June, the United States was still importing more crude oil than it was selling overseas, according to the Census Bureau.

While the United States has become less reliant on foreign oil, it only produces 11.3 million barrels a day and consumes 18.5 million barrels of liquid fuels daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Technological advances like fracking and horizontal drilling have allowed the U.S. to greatly increase production, but the country still imports millions of barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iraq and other countries. One reason is that foreign oil is more affordable. Another is that much of what the U.S. produces is hard for domestic refiners to convert to practical use. So the U.S. exports that production and imports oil that is more suitable for American refineries to handle.

VIRUS TESTING

IVANKA TRUMP: "Our president rapidly mobilized the full force of government and the private sector to produce ventilators within weeks — to build the most robust testing system in the world."

THE FACTS: Her assertion of superior U.S. testing for COVID-19 is dubious. The U.S. repeatedly stumbled with testing in the early weeks of the outbreak, allowing the virus to quickly spread in the U.S. His own experts say the U.S. is nowhere near the level of testing needed to control the virus.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently testified that health officials are still working to significantly increase testing capacity, calling such expansion a "critical underpinning of our response."

The U.S. currently is conducting nearly 750,000 tests a day, far short of what many public health experts say the U.S. should be testing to control the spread of the virus. Looking to the fall, some experts have called for 4 million or more tests daily, while a group assembled by Harvard University estimated that 20 million a day would be needed to keep the virus in check.

Redfield has said the U.S. was aiming to boost testing to 3 million daily by "pooling" multiple people's samples, a technique that is still under review by the FDA. He stressed the need for expanded surveillance because some people who get infected may not show symptoms.

"We still have a ways to go," Redfield said.

Frequent shortages also spurred the CDC to quietly issue new guidance on testing. While in the early months of the outbreak Trump repeatedly insisted that "anybody" who wants a test can get a test, Redfield issued a statement this week that "'Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test."

The U.S. stumbled early in the pandemic response as the CDC struggled to develop its own test for the coronavirus in January, later discovering problems in its kits sent to state and county public health labs in early February.

It took the CDC more than two weeks to come up with a fix to the test kits, leading to delays in diagnoses through February, a critical month when the virus took root in the U.S.

IRAN

SEN. TOM COTTON of Arkansas: "Joe Biden sent pallets of cash to the ayatollahs."

THE FACTS: This is a distorted tale Trump and Republicans loves to tell. Yes, the U.S. flew cash to Iran in the Obama years, but it was money the United States owed to that country.

Cotton also played into the convention's pattern of attributing every questionable action of President Barack Obama's administration to Biden personally.

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