News briefs for August 13

Let it flow: Trump Administration eases showerhead rules

WASHINGTON — The Trump Administration wants to change the definition of a showerhead to let more water flow, addressing a pet peeve of the president who complains he isn’t getting wet enough.

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Publicly talking about the need to keep his hair “perfect,” President Donald Trump has made increasing water flow and dialing back long held appliance conservation standards — from light bulbs to toilets to dishwashers — a personal issue.

But consumer and conservation groups said the Department of Energy’s proposed loosening of a 28-year-old energy law that includes appliance standards is silly, unnecessary and wasteful, especially as the West bakes through a historic two-decade-long megadrought.

Since 1992, federal law has dictated that new showerheads shouldn’t pour more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute (9.5 liters). As newer shower fixtures came out with multiple nozzles, the Obama administration defined the showerhead restrictions to apply to what comes out in total. So if there are four nozzles, no more than 2.5 gallons total should come out between all four.

The new proposal Wednesday would allow each nozzle to spray as much as 2.5 gallons, not just the overall showerhead.

Biden introduces VP choice Harris; much history, no crowd

WILMINGTON, Del. — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his newly chosen running mate Kamala Harris campaigned together for the first time Wednesday, as the former primary rivals sought to solidify their advantage over President Donald Trump and secure their place in American history.

Biden, a 77-year-old white man, embraced the significance of naming the first Black woman to a major party’s presidential ticket, but he focused on other attributes Harris brings to the ticket. He hailed the California senator, the 55-year-old former prosecutor who a year ago excoriated Biden on a primary debate stage, as the right woman to help him defeat Trump and then lead a nation facing crises in triplicate: a pandemic, wounded economy and long-simmering reckoning with systemic racism.

Harris, Biden said at a high school gymnasium in his hometown of WIlmington, Delaware, is “smart, she’s tough, she’s experienced, she’s a proven fighter for the backbone of this country.”

“Kamala knows how to govern. She knows how to make the hard calls. She’s ready to do this job on day one,” he continued.

Biden spoke of her experience questioning Trump administration officials in the Senate, and highlighted the historic nature of her pick, noting she’s the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica,

Companies test antibody drugs to treat, prevent COVID-19

With a coronavirus vaccine still months off, companies are rushing to test what may be the next best thing: drugs that deliver antibodies to fight the virus right away, without having to train the immune system to make them.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking there’s an infection so it makes antibodies and remembers how to do that if the real bug turns up.

But it can take a month or two after vaccination or infection for the most effective antibodies to form. The experimental drugs shortcut that process by giving concentrated versions of specific ones that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests.

“A vaccine takes time to work, to force the development of antibodies. But when you give an antibody, you get immediate protection,” said University of North Carolina virologist Dr. Myron Cohen. “If we can generate them in large concentrations, in big vats in an antibody factory … we can kind of bypass the immune system.”

These drugs, given through an IV, are believed to last for a month or more. They could give quick, temporary immunity to people at high risk of infection, such as health workers and housemates of someone with COVID-19. If they proved effective and if a vaccine doesn’t materialize or protect as hoped, the drugs might eventually be considered for wider use, perhaps for teachers or other groups.

QAnon-supporting candidate unrepentant despite GOP criticism

ATLANTA — Political newcomer Marjorie Taylor Greene was mocked as a supporter of QAnon conspiracies and denounced for videos deemed racist even by fellow Republicans who withdrew endorsements and declared her unfit for Congress.

The businesswoman from northern Georgia had a blunt message for her critics as she coasted to victory in a Republican primary runoff election that should put her on an easy path to winning an open U.S. House seat: “I will not apologize.”

“If Republicans want to win in 2020, they need to listen the message that I’m speaking,” Greene told cheering supporters in a victory speech that railed against “spineless Republicans” and “anti-American leftists.” Targeting Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she said: “We’re going to kick that b – – – – out of Congress.”.

Outspoken and unrepentant, Greene is proving there’s a place among Republicans even for candidates whose views many consider extreme.

In one online video, Greene embraced QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals. In other videos, she said Black and Hispanic men are being held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” alleged an “Islamic invasion” of government offices and accused Jewish billionaire George Soros of collaborating with Nazis.

State Department rejects further probe of diplomat’s remarks

WASHINGTON — A report Wednesday by the State Department’s internal watchdog confirms news accounts that staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Britain have accused Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and the U.S. ambassador, of making “insensitive” and “inappropriate” remarks.

The department’s Office of the Inspector General called for further investigation into the allegations against Johnson, a friend and campaign contributor to President Donald Trump.

Johnson denies the allegations. State Department officials replied to the watchdog office that no further investigation is necessary because Johnson is “well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission,” according to the report.

While the Office of the Inspector General said it continues to believe the State Department should further examine Johnson’s alleged conduct, the State Department said it considers the matter closed.

“We stand by Ambassador Johnson and look forward to him continuing to ensure our special relationship with the UK is strong,” it said in a written response to a request for comment on the report.

US commander: Islamic State threat in west Syria growing

WASHINGTON — Elements of the Islamic State group are working to rebuild in western Syria, where the U.S. has little visibility or presence, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East warned on Wednesday.

In the region west of the Euphrates River where the Syrian regime is in control “conditions are as bad or worse” than they were leading up to the rise of the Islamic State, said Gen. Frank McKenzie. “We should all be concerned about that.”

McKenzie said insurgents are operating with some degree of freedom, and he said the U.S. and its allies have little hope the Syrian regime will do anything to tamp down the group there.

Speaking online to a United States Institute of Peace from his U.S. Central Command office in Tampa, McKenzie said that the slow-moving effort to transfer people out of Syrian refugee camps has been further complicated and delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. And that, he said, fuels concerns about the radicalization of people — particularly the youth — in the camps, which officials worry are breeding grounds for IS insurgents.

The al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria is home to as many as 70,000 people — mostly women and children — who were displaced by the ongoing civil war in Syria and the battle against IS. Many fled as the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces cleared out the last pockets of land held by IS last year.

Prosecutors charge 3 with threatening women in R. Kelly case

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against three men accused of threatening and intimidating women who have accused R&B singer R. Kelly of abuse, including one man suspected of setting fire to a vehicle in Florida.

A longtime friend of the indicted singer offered to pay a victim $500,000 to keep her from cooperating in Kelly’s prosecution, authorities said, while a manager and adviser of Kelly threatened to release sexually explicit photographs of a woman who sued Kelly.

A Kelly defense attorney said he had “no involvement whatsoever” in any attempt to silence witnesses.

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“He hasn’t attempted to intimidate anyone, or encouraged anyone else to do so,” attorney Steve Greenberg said on Twitter.

The Grammy-award winning musician has pleaded not guilty to dozens of state and federal sexual misconduct charges in Illinois, Minnesota and New York.

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