Sunday update: Campaign whine & wine

The Associated Press

News briefs from The Associated Press

House vote locks in impeachment as issue in '20 Hill races

WASHINGTON (AP) — The day after nearly every House Democrat voted to impeach President Donald Trump, the chief of the House Republican campaign committee said the political fallout was clear. 

"Last night their obsession with impeachment finally came to a head, and they basically ended their majority," Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer said Thursday. "Max Rose is done," he continued, listing him among freshmen Democrats from districts Trump captured in 2016 who he said won't survive next November's elections. 

The feisty Rose, a Brooklyn native and Afghanistan combat veteran with an advanced degree from the London School of Economics, sees things differently. "Mark my words, okay?" said Rose, whose Staten Island-centered district was the only one Trump won in New York City. "We are going to beat them by such a wide margin that next time around, they won't even talk like this again, okay?"

It's too early to say who will be proven correct as Republicans wage a challenging struggle to regain the House majority they lost last year. But less than 11 months from presidential and congressional elections, the near party-line House vote impeaching Trump locked in lawmakers' positions on the subject. Many moderate lawmakers from swing districts had spent months saying they were on the fence. 

Now, voters will decide whether to reward or punish incumbents for their choices. And while Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that other issues like the economy and health care costs could overwhelm impeachment by next November, both sides — but especially the GOP — are already using the bitter impeachment fight as weapons. 

Trump slams 'unfair' Pelosi delay, rallies conservatives

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump complained Saturday about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's delayed transmission of the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which may delay a trial in the GOP-controlled chamber.

"It's so unfair," Trump said, days after he was impeached by the House, as he spoke at a conservative student conference organized by the group Turning Point USA. "They are violating the Constitution," he added. 

Pelosi has refused so far to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, in part to provide more leverage to Democrats in that chamber as they seek to negotiate the rules for the trial proceedings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer remain at an impasse over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony in the trial. 

Still, Trump is expected to be acquitted of both charges in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in what will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Proceedings are expected to begin in January. 

Trump lashed out at the Democrats who supported impeachment, accusing them of trying to "overthrow" the 2016 election.

Warren's souvenir wine bottle pops up in big-donor debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — On a Saturday evening in June 2018, with temperatures in the 70s and the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park, supporters of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren gathered at the City Winery Boston for a fundraiser.

They were treated to songs by the Grammy-winning artist Melissa Etheridge and heard remarks from Warren, who was months away from announcing her campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. For the top donors, those who could contribute or raise $5,400 per couple or $2,700 a person, there was a VIP photo reception and premium seating.

For them and others who gave at least $1,000, there was also a gift: a souvenir wine bottle.

In Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, Warren lit into rival Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, for attending a fundraiser at a "wine cave" in California's Napa Valley where he dined and sipped under a chandelier with Swarovski crystals and where a novelty large bottle of wine can cost $900.

"Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States," Warren said. Later, she added, "I do not sell access to my time." 

6 killed, 13 injured in Las Vegas apartment building fire

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A fire in a three-story apartment building in downtown Las Vegas where residents were apparently using their stoves for heat killed six people and forced some residents to jump from upper-floor windows to escape the heavy smoke before dawn Saturday, authorities said.

Investigators reported that the fire started around a first-floor unit's stove and that residents had told them that there was no heat in the building, which sits a few blocks from downtown Las Vegas' touristy Fremont Street District. 

Residents reported awakening to pounding on doors around 4 a.m.

By the time Matthew Sykes got his clothes on to flee, one end of his second-floor hallway was choked with thick black smoke, as was a stairwell, making it impassable for he and his wife.

"The whole place was like one big black cloud of smoke — couldn't get down the stairs," Sykes told The Associated Press.

Notre Dame fire wakes the world up to dangers of lead dust

PARIS (AP) — It took a blaze that nearly destroyed Paris' most famous cathedral to reveal a gap in global safety regulations for lead, a toxic building material found across many historic cities.

After the Notre Dame fire in April spewed dozens of tons of toxic lead-dust into the atmosphere in just a few hours, Paris authorities discovered a problem with the city's public safety regulations: There was no threshold for them to gauge how dangerous the potentially-deadly pollution was from the dust that settled on the ground.

Since then, The Associated Press has found this regulatory gap extends far beyond France. Officials in other historic European capitals such as Rome and London, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization also have no such outdoor lead dust hazard guidelines.

The reason, they say, is that although there are lead regulations, no one contemplated a conflagration on a lead-laden building the scale of Notre Dame — whose spire towered nearly 100 meters (330 feet) high. 

Poisoning from lead dust can cause permanent loss to cognitive ability, seizures, coma, or death — and exposure is of greatest risk to pregnant mothers and to young children, who can easily transfer toxic dust into their mouths.

India prime minister addresses rally as protest deaths climb

NEW DELHI (AP) — Clashes continued Sunday between Indian police and protesters angered by a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi used a rally for his Hindu nationalist party to defend the legislation, accusing the opposition of pushing the country into a "fear psychosis."

Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the law was passed in Parliament earlier this month in protests that represent the first major roadblock for Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda since his party's landslide re-election last spring. 

Most of the deaths have occurred in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where 20% of the state's 200 million people are Muslim. Police, who deny any wrongdoing, said that among the 15 people killed in the state was an 8-year-old boy who died in a stampede in the city of Varanasi, the heart of Modi's parliamentary constituency. Since last week, police in Uttar Pradesh have taken nearly 900 people into custody for engaging in violence.

Authorities across the country have scrambled to contain the situation, banning public gatherings and blocking internet access. India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an advisory Friday night asking broadcasters across the country to refrain from using content that could inflame further violence.

Modi took the stage at a rally in the capital launching his Bharatiya Janata Party's campaign for New Delhi legislative assembly elections in February, and quickly turned to the contentious new law. 

NFL at 100: Helmets go high tech in quest for player safety

Long gone are the days of the leather shell and single-bar face mask.

Today's football helmets are technological marvels, using cutting edge materials and design elements to make the headgear the safest it's been in the 100th season of the NFL.

No piece of protective equipment has undergone as much transformation over the past decade as the helmet. Through a combination of technological advancements, investment by the NFL and an open marketplace for development, helmets are rapidly evolving — with more innovation on the horizon.

The helmet will never be expected to fully prevent concussions or other head trauma. But the advancements in recent years are making a major difference, the league says.

"There is no question there has been significant success from the helmet manufacturer side in terms of building equipment that is more protective than it was four or five years ago," said NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller. 

Australia's leader apologizes for vacation amid wildfires

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologized Sunday for taking a family vacation in Hawaii as deadly bushfires raged across several states, destroying homes and claiming the lives of two volunteer firefighters.

Morrison cut short a vacation with his wife and adult children amid public anger at his absence during a national crisis, and arrived home Saturday night. He spoke to reporters Sunday morning while visiting the headquarters of the Rural Fire Service in Sydney.

"If you had your time over again and you had the benefit of hindsight, we would have made different decisions," Morrison said. "I am sure Australians are fair-minded and understand that when you make a promise to your kids you try and keep it." 

"But as prime minister, you have other responsibilities, and I accept that and I accept the criticism," he added.

Morrison said this was not a time for political point-scoring, but a "time to be kind to each other." He said that while he is not a trained firefighter, "I'm comforted by the fact that Australians would like me to be here just simply so I can be here, alongside them, as they are going through this terrible time."

Slain Barnard College student mourned at private memorial

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A Barnard College freshman who was fatally stabbed in a New York City park earlier this month was remembered by friends and classmates Saturday at a private memorial service at her high school alma mater in Virginia. 

Those who knew Tessa Majors gathered at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia, local media outlets reported. Music figured prominently in the gathering, along with poetry readings and personal testimonies by those close to her. 

Majors had played in a rock band in New York and had told an editor from a newspaper internship in high school that she planned to take journalism classes in college. She was attacked Dec. 11 in a park near the school's campus in New York City. 

More than 25 young musicians and Majors' friends performed many of her favorite songs on a stage, leading off with Paul Simon's "Graceland" and closing with "Prom Queen," a song she wrote for her band, The Daily Progress newspaper reported.

"Essentially, Tess had a really big band and I was a part of it. You all are too," friend Nahlij Corbin told those present, according to the paper.

Computer plate umps allowed in new labor deal

NEW YORK (AP) — Computer plate umpires could be called up to the major leagues at some point during the next five seasons.

Umpires agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball in the development and testing of an automated ball-strike system as part of a five-year labor contract announced Saturday, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association also agreed to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to utilize the system at the major league level. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because those details of the deal, which is subject to ratification by both sides, had not been announced.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game on July 10. Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

The Atlantic League experimented with the computer system during the second half of its season, and the Arizona Fall League of top prospects used it for a few dozen games this year at Salt River Fields.

MLB has discussed installing the system at the Class A Florida State League for 2020. If that test goes well, the computer umps could be used at Triple-A in 2021 as bugs are dealt with prior to a big league callup.

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