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January 5, 2021 GMT

FINAL, KEY RACE TAKES PLACE IN GEORGIA TODAY

ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden has told Georgia Democrats they have the power to “chart the course” for a generation as President Donald Trump urged Republican voters to “swamp” the polls ahead of runoff elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Trump made his final pitch to voters at a nighttime rally in north Georgia, where Republicans are banking on strong voter turnout today to reelect Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and hold control of the chamber.

Biden campaigned with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta, hoping he could recreate the coalition that secured him a narrow victory in the presidential race in November.

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The stakes have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s main political battleground. Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast in November.

The president’s trip yesterday came a day after disclosure of a telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state over the weekend. Trump pressured Republican Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to flip Georgia’s election results ahead of tomorrow’s joint session of Congress that will certify Biden’s Electoral College victory.

STATEHOUSES EYED AS POSSIBLE CORONAVIRUS VECTORS

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — As lawmakers around the U.S. convene this winter to deal with the crisis created by the pandemic, statehouses themselves could prove to be hothouses for infection.

Many legislatures will start the year meeting remotely, but some Republican-controlled statehouses, from Montana to Pennsylvania, plan to hold at least part of their sessions in person — without requiring masks. Public health officials say that endangers the safety of other lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, the public — and the journalists responsible for holding politicians accountable.

The risk is more than mere speculation: An ongoing tally by The Associated Press finds more than 250 state lawmakers across the country have contracted COVID-19 — and at least seven have died.

The Montana Legislature convened yesterday without masking rules. The Republican majority shot down recent Democratic requests to hold the session remotely or delay it until vaccines are more widely available. Failing that, Democrats asked for requirements on masks and virus testing, which were also rejected.

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Democratic lawmakers wore masks as they were sworn in. Few Republicans did the same.

PHARMACIST EXPLAINS DESTRUCTION OF HUNDREDS OF COVID-19 VACCINES

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin pharmacist convinced that the world was “crashing down” told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he believed the shots would mutate people’s DNA.

The information is included in court documents released yesterday.

Police in Grafton, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, arrested Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg last week following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna vaccine. Officials say the destroyed vials had enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people.

Charges are still pending in the case.

LAWSUITS FILED IN WISCONSIN SHOOTINGS

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Claims filed on behalf of two men shot by an Illinois teen during a night of protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, allege the city and Kenosha County were negligent in their response to the unrest.

Gaige Grosskreutz, who was seriously wounded, and the parents of Anthony Huber, who was killed, have each filed $10 million claim notices with both the city and county. The notices usually are precursors to lawsuits filed against local governments.

Grosskreutz and Huber were shot allegedly by 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse on Aug. 25 during violent protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man left partially paralyzed when a white officer fired numerous shots into his back as police tried to arrest him.

Rittenhouse, who’s now 18, is charged with five felonies, including first-degree intentional homicide. He claims he fired his assault-style rifle in self-defense.

Grosskreutz’s attorney, Kimberly Motley, says the actions, or inactions, by police and sheriff’s deputies are tied to the shootings.

Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, is free on $2 million bail while awaiting trial.

The city of Kenosha is preparing for protests when a charging decision comes in the Blake case. Officials say a decision is expected within the next two weeks.