Briefs: Slow Hurricane Sally moves on Gulf Coast

Nikita Pero of Gulfport, Miss., walks with her son Vinny Pero, 2, on the beach along the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Miss., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Hurricane Sally is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast sometime through the night and morning. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Associated Press

News headlines for September 15th

The Associated Press

WAVELAND, Miss. — Hurricane Sally, a plodding but powerful storm with winds of 85 mph, crept toward the northern Gulf Coast early Tuesday, with forecasters warning of potentially deadly storm surges, flash floods spurred by up to 2 feet of rain and the possibility of tornadoes. 

Hurricane warnings have been replaced by a tropical storm warning from the Mouth of the Pearl River westward to Grand Isle, Louisiana, including in New Orleans, the National Hurricane Center said. A tropical storm warning west of Grand Isle has been discontinued. 

Hurricane warnings had stretched from Grand Isle to Navarre, Florida, but forecasters — while stressing "significant" uncertainty — kept nudging the predicted track to the east.

That eased fears in New Orleans, which once was in the storm's crosshairs. But it prompted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare an emergency in the Panhandle's westernmost counties, which were being pummeled by rain from Sally's outer bands early Tuesday. The threat of heavy rain and storm surge was exacerbated by the storm's slow movement. 

President Donald Trump issued emergency declarations for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Monday, and on Twitter urged residents to listen to state and local leaders. 

Trump spurns science on climate: 'Don't think science knows'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With the smell of California wildfires in the air, President Donald Trump on Monday ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast infernos and renewed his unfounded claim that failure to rake forest floors and clear dead timber is mostly to blame.

The fires are threatening to become another front in Trump's reelection bid, which is already facing hurdles because of the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and social unrest. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in his own speech Monday said the destruction and mounting death toll across California, Oregon and Washington require stronger presidential leadership and labeled Trump a "climate arsonist."

Trump traveled to Northern California to be briefed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state and federal officials. At one point, state Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot urged the president to "recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests."

"If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians," Crowfoot added.

Trump responded, "It will start getting cooler, just you watch."

Choking air from Western fires just won't ease up

PORTLAND, Ore. — Relief from putrid, dangerous air spewing from massive wildfires across the West won't come until later in the week or beyond, scientists and forecasters say, and the hazy and gunk-filled skies might stick around for even longer.

People in Oregon, Washington and parts of California were struggling under acrid yellowish-green smog — the worst, most unhealthy air on the planet according to some measurements. It seeped into homes and businesses, sneaked into cars through air conditioning vents and caused the closure of iconic locations such as Powell's Books and the Oregon Zoo in Portland, the state's biggest city. 

"I don't think that we should be outside, but at the same time, we've been cooped up in the house already for months so it's kind of hard to dictate what's good and what's bad. I mean, we shouldn't be outside period," said Issa Ubidia-Luckett, a Portland resident, who was grabbing lunch on Monday.

Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality extended an air quality alert to Thursday after it was to initially expire on Monday. The air was so thick that on Monday Alaska Airlines announced it was suspending service to Portland and Spokane, Washington, until Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, smoky skies fouled Washington state and experts said some parts of California might not see relief until next month. 

Zoe Flanagan, who has lived in Portland for 12 years, has barely left the house but braved the smog to walk her two dogs on Monday. On Sunday, Flanagan and her husband, in desperation, turned on the heater, which has a better filter than their air conditioning. 

Asia Today: India adds over 83,000 cases, nears 5 million

NEW DELHI — India confirmed more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing its total caseload to nearly 5 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776.

With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India has the second-highest total in the world after the U.S. Infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in coronavirus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last week alone.

Maharashtra, with more than 1 million cases, remains the worst-affected state in India, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country's recovery rate stands at 77.8%, with nearly 3.8 million people recovering from the virus so far, according to the Health Ministry.

US issues sweeping new travel warning for China, Hong Kong

BEIJING — The U.S. on Tuesday issued a sweeping new advisory warning against travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, citing the risk of "arbitrary detention" and "arbitrary enforcement of local laws."

The advisory is likely to heighten tensions between the sides that have spiked since Beijing's imposition on Hong Kong of a strict new national security law in June that has already been met with a series of U.S. punitive actions. 

The statement warned U.S. citizens that China imposes "arbitrary detention and exit bans" to compel cooperation with investigations, pressure family members to return to China from abroad, influence civil disputes and "gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments." 

"U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China or Hong Kong, may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention without due process of law," the advisory said. 

In Hong Kong, China "unilaterally and arbitrarily exercises police and security power," the advisory said, adding that new legislation also covers offenses committed by non-Hong Kong residents or organizations outside of Hong Kong, possibly subjecting U.S. citizens who have publicly criticized China to a "heightened risk of arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution." 

President Trump to preside over historic Arab-Israel recognition deals

WASHINGTON  — President Donald Trump is set to preside over the signing of historic diplomatic deals between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations that could herald a dramatic shift in Middle East power dynamics and give him a boost ahead of the November election.

In a White House ceremony aimed at showcasing presidential statesmanship, Trump will host more than 700 guests Tuesday on the South Lawn to witness the sealing of the agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Trump and his allies hope the occasion will burnish Trump's credentials as a peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers are to ink the deals before the crowd, which will include representatives of supporting nations from the Washington-based diplomatic corps but few other dignitaries from overseas. Some congressional Democrats who have offered muted praise have been invited to attend.

In addition to the individual bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three will sign a trilateral document, officials said. The agreements are dubbed the "Abraham Accords" after the patriarch of the world's three major monotheistic religions. Trump is expected to sign as a witness.

The agreements won't end active wars but will rather formalize the normalization of the Jewish state's already warming relations with the two countries. And, while not addressing the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they may pave the way for a broader Arab-Israeli rapprochement after decades of enmity, a pair of wars and only two previous peace deals.

'Work like the devil': Joe Biden visiting Florida to woo Latinos

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden is making his first trip to Florida as the Democratic presidential nominee, while his campaign is acknowledging concerns about his appeal with Latinos, a voting bloc likely to prove pivotal against President Donald Trump in one of the nation's fiercest battleground states. 

On Tuesday, the former vice president will hold a roundtable with veterans in Tampa before marking Hispanic Heritage Month with an event in Kissimmee near Orlando. The visit comes as some Democrats worry that Biden's standing among Hispanics is slipping in a state where they make up one-fifth of eligible voters. 

"I will talk about how I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote," Biden said after a Monday speech on climate change in his home state of Delaware.

Biden doesn't need to win Florida to capture the White House as long as he reclaims the upper Midwestern states that Trump flipped in 2016. But Trump's path to reelection is virtually nonexistent if he loses Florida, which is why Democrats are focused on it.

A recent NBC-Marist poll found Latinos in the state about evenly divided between Biden and Trump. Democrat Hillary Clinton led Trump by a 59% to 36% margin among Latinos in the same poll in 2016 — and Trump won Florida by about 1 percentage point.

WNBA playoff field set with Las Vegas earning top seed

The WNBA playoff field is finally set and will tipoff Tuesday now that the league's abridged 22-game season has come to an end.

The postseason will begin Tuesday with the defending champion Washington Mystics taking on Diana Taurasi and Phoenix in a single elimination game in the opening round. Chicago will face Connecticut in the other opening round later Tuesday night.

It went down to the last day — and the last game — of the regular season before the field was set.

Las Vegas and Seattle already knew Sunday they would be the top seeds in the postseason before their matchup on the season's final day. The Aces clinched the No. 1 seed beating the short-handed Storm, who were missing stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird to foot injuries. Both have have a week to rest as Seattle and Las Vegas both earned double-byes into the best-of-5 semifinal series that will begin on Sunday.

It's the first time that the Aces are the top seed. They were in a three-way battle for No. 1 spot and over a 24-hour span had to beat Los Angeles on Saturday and Seattle on Sunday to secure the berth.

"Who would have thunk it?" coach Bill Laimbeer said after the win Sunday. "We end up with the best record in the league for the regular season. That's a pretty good accomplishment for our basketball team. ... We realize we've won nothing. We put ourselves in a position to get into a series with only four teams remaining and that's an accomplishment in itself."

While Las Vegas and Seattle played for seeding on Sunday, the Mystics were playing to get in.

Washington needed a victory in its final game, beating Atlanta, to give the Mystics the final spot in the playoffs and a chance to repeat as WNBA champions — a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Los Angeles did it in 2001-02.

"The work we've done the last few weeks when most teams would have quit has paid off," Mystics Coach Mike Thibault said. "It's a great, great testament to how they've hung in. It's just a wonderful feeling anytime you win. But to do it how we've done to get in, it's a great feeling."

The Mystics, who lost 12 of 13 games during a stretch in the season, have now reached the playoffs four years in a row and in seven of the past eight years. This might have been their most improbable appearance over that stretch since the team was missing four starters from last season's championship run including league MVP Elena Delle Donne. 

There is no margin for error in the postseason. The league switched to the single-elimination format for the first two rounds of the playoffs in 2016. 

Los Angeles and Minnesota earned byes into the second round by finishing third and fourth and await the winners of Tuesday night's games.

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