News briefs for July 30

  • Demonstrators huddle and blow back tear gas with leaf blowers during clashes with federal officers during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, studies notes during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the oversight of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, July 28, 2020 in Washington. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

US agents to pull back in Portland but will stay on standby

PORTLAND, Ore. — Some federal officers guarding a U.S. courthouse that’s been targeted during violent protests in Portland will leave in the next 24 hours, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday. But the Trump administration’s insistence that some agents would remain in the building and the entire contingent would stay in the city in case they’re needed sparked confusion and concern among demonstrators.

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While each side declared victory in the political fight over the federal deployment, it was not clear if the agreement would reduce tensions on the streets of the liberal city, where nightly protests have persisted for more than two months.

Many demonstrators are peaceful, but smaller numbers have thrown fireworks, flares and rocks at federal agents, used lasers to blind them and sprayed graffiti across the downtown Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse. Agents have responded with tear gas, pepper balls, stun grenades and nearly 100 arrests.

The deal also seemed likely to further muddle the situation by adding yet another law enforcement agency to the mix — Oregon State Police.

President Donald Trump earlier this month sent agents to the city from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service as protests against racial injustice increasingly targeted federal property. The deployment appeared to have the opposite effect, reinvigorating demonstrations with a new focus: getting rid of the federal presence.

Guatemala burying dozens of unidentified COVID-19 dead

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan hospitals say they have had to bury dozens of COVID-19 victims who have never been identified, and one hospital is creating archives in hopes that once the pandemic passes, their relatives will come looking for them.

Workers at one of the country’s largest public hospitals have started photographing patients who arrive alone and too ill to give their personal details. Those who die unidentified are placed in body bags with transparent windows over the faces in case relatives finally arrive.

Protocols that call for rapidly burying the dead during a pandemic only make the situation more difficult, officials say.

The government has reported more than 47,000 confirmed infections and more 1,800 deaths nationwide.

The first of 63 unidentified dead at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, one of the capital’s largest, died April 25 . She was in her 20s and was buried the same day.

Gohmert’s positive virus test renews safety fears in Capitol

WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive on Wednesday for the coronavirus, forcing him to abruptly cancel his plan to travel to his home state with President Donald Trump. The Republican immediately faced criticism from colleagues for shunning masks on Capitol Hill, where face coverings are not mandatory and testing is sparse. “A selfish act,” one lawmaker said.

The 66-year-old Gohmert, one of the House’s most conservative and outspoken members, told a Texas news station that he tested positive at the White House and planned to self-quarantine. He is at least the 10th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The congressman’s positive test raised further questions about the lack of mask and testing requirements in the Capitol as members frequently fly back and forth from their hometowns and gather for votes, hearings and news conferences.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on the House floor Wednesday evening that all members will be required to wear a mask and one will be provided if they forget. She said failure to wear a mask is a “serious breach of decorum” and members could be removed from the chamber if they aren’t wearing one. They will be able to temporarily remove them while speaking, however.

Several GOP senators said they were pushing for more regular testing in the Capitol.

Census director wasn’t told about Trump district drawing order

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham testified Wednesday that he wasn’t informed ahead of time about President Donald Trump’s order seeking to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the process of redrawing congressional districts.

Dillingham testified during an emergency congressional hearing that he was unaware of anyone from the Census Bureau playing a role in the order that civil rights groups have called unconstitutional. The bureau is collecting the head count data that will be used to redraw the districts.

The Democratic-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Reform held the hearing after Trump issued a memorandum last week seeking to exclude people in the country illegally from being included during the district redrawing process. Civil rights group have filed multiple lawsuits challenging the memorandum as unconstitutional and an attempt to limit the power of Latinos and immigrants of color.

Democratic lawmakers expressed both dismay and sympathy with Dillingham, a Trump appointee, for being kept out of the loop on such a vital decision involving the bureau.

Opponents of Trump’s order say it could discourage immigrants and noncitizens from participating in the once-a-decade head count used for deciding how many congressional seats each states gets in a process known as apportionment. A Pew Research Center analysis shows that the order, if it stands up to challenges, could cost California, Florida and Texas congressional seats.

Civil rights icon Lewis lauded as hero at Georgia Capitol

ATLANTA — John Lewis was lauded as a warrior and a hero during a ceremony Wednesday at the Georgia Capitol, where the civil rights icon who represented much of Atlanta in Congress will lie in repose before a funeral service that at least two former presidents are expected to attend.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Lewis called on “America to be America again,” referencing the poem in which Langston Hughes reproaches the country for not living up to its ideals.

“Until his last days, he was calling on America to be America again in his words and deeds,” she said, citing his visit to the Black Lives Matter street mural in Washington, D.C., as well as a videoconference he participated in with former President Barack Obama.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp called Lewis a “beloved Georgian, an American hero and a friend to all who sought a better, fairer, more united society.”

“And even today, as our country faces a public health crisis and new challenges rooted in injustice, I know that the example left behind by Congressman Lewis … will inspire all of us to do the hard necessary work to overcome our shared challenges and emerge stronger,” Kemp said.

4 Big Tech CEOs take congressional heat on competition

WASHINGTON — Fending off accusations of stifling competition, four Big Tech CEOs — Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai of Google and Tim Cook of Apple — are answering for their companies’ practices before Congress as a House panel caps its yearlong investigation of market dominance in the industry.

The powerful CEOs sought to defend their companies amid intense grilling by lawmakers on Wednesday.

The executives provided bursts of data showing how competitive their markets are, and the value of their innovation and essential services to consumers. But they sometimes struggled to answer pointed questions about their business practices. They also confronted a range of other concerns about alleged political bias, their effect on U.S. democracy and their role in China.

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The four CEOs were testifying remotely to lawmakers, most of whom were sitting, in masks, inside the hearing room in Washington.

Among the toughest questions for Google and Amazon involved accusations that they used their dominant platforms to scoop up data about competitors in a way that gave them an unfair advantage.

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