In Brief: September 20, 2020

Trump pledges woman for court, pushes Senate to move on pick

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Saturday promised to put forth a female nominee in the coming week to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, pushing the Republican-controlled Senate to consider the pick without delay.

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Taking the stage at a North Carolina rally to chants of “Fill that seat,” the president said he would nominate his selection despite Democrats’ objections. And, after conducting what he joked was a “very scientific poll” of the Fayetteville crowd as to whether supporters wanted a man or a woman, he declared the choice would be “a very talented, very brilliant woman.”

He added that he did not yet know whom he would choose.

“We win an election and those are the consequences,” said the president, who then seemed to signal that he’d be willing to accept a vote on his nominee during the lame duck period after the election. “We have a lot of time. We have plenty of time. We’re talking about January 20th.”

But one Republican senator already broke ranks. Maine’s Susan Collins, who is in a tough reelection battle, said Saturday that she believed replacing Ginsburg should be the decision of the president who is elected Nov. 3. Three more defections from the GOP ranks would be needed to stop Trump’s nominee from joining the court.

Envelope addressed to White House contained ricin

WASHINGTON — Federal officials intercepted an envelope addressed to the White House that contained the poison ricin, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The letter appeared to have originated in Canada, according to a statement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which said it was assisting the FBI

The letter was intercepted at a government facility that screens mail addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump, the U.S. official said. A preliminary investigation indicated it tested positive for ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans, the U.S. official said.

The U.S. official was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal investigators were working to determine where the enveloped originated and who mailed it. The FBI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service were leading the investigation.

Homes burned as winds push California fire into desert floor

JUNIPER HILLS, Calif. — Strong afternoon winds intensified a wildfire burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles, prompting authorities to issue new evacuation orders Saturday for desert communities that lost some homes a day earlier.

Meanwhile, officials were investigating the death of a firefighter on the lines of another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.

The death occurred Thursday in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

From wire sources

In northern Los Angeles County, firefighters focused on protecting homes Saturday as increasingly erratic winds pushed the Bobcat Fire toward foothill communities in the Antelope Valley after churning all the way across the San Gabriel Mountains. An evacuation order was issued Saturday for all residents in that zone as the fire burned toward Wrightwood, a mountain community of 4,000, said fire spokesman Andrew Mitchell.

The fire grew to 142 square miles (368 square kilometers) on Saturday when winds pushed the flames into Juniper Hills.

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Carpenters wow public with medieval techniques at Notre Dame

PARIS — With precision and boundless energy, a team of carpenters used medieval techniques to raise up — by hand — a three-ton oak truss Saturday in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, a replica of the wooden structures that were consumed in the landmark’s devastating April 2019 fire that also toppled its spire.

The demonstration to mark European Heritage Days gave the hundreds of people a first-hand look at the rustic methods used 800 years ago to build the triangular frames in the nave of Notre Dame de Paris.

It also showed that the decision to replicate the cathedral in its original form was the right one, said Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who heads the cathedral’s reconstruction.

“It shows … firstly that we made the right choice in choosing to rebuild the carpentry identically, in oak from France,” Georgelin said in an interview. “Secondly, it shows us the … method by which we will rebuild the framework, truss after truss.”

A debate over whether the new spire should have a futuristic design or whether the trusses should be made of fireproof cement like in the Cathedral of Nantes, which was destroyed in a 1972 fire, ended with the decision in July to respect Notre Dame’s original design and materials.

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How Ginsburg’s death could reshape the presidential campaign

NEW YORK — A presidential campaign that was already tugging at the nation’s most searing divides has been jolted by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, potentially reshaping the election at a moment when some Americans were beginning to cast ballots.

For months, the contest has largely centered on President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, the biggest public health crisis in a century that has badly damaged his prospects for reelection as the U.S. death toll nears 200,000 people.

But in a flash, Ginsburg’s death on Friday added new weight to the election, with the potential that Trump or his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, could pick a successor who could decide abortion access, environmental regulations and the power of the presidency for a generation.

With early voting underway in five states and Election Day just over six weeks away, Democrats and Republicans were largely unified late Friday in praising Ginsburg as a leading legal thinker and advocate for women’s rights. But strategists in both parties also seized on the moment to find an advantage.

Facing the prospect of losing both the White House and the Senate, some Republicans viewed the Supreme Court vacancy as one of the few avenues remaining for Trump to galvanize supporters beyond his most loyal core of supporters, particularly suburban women who have abandoned the GOP in recent years.

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Tigers manager Gardenhire announces immediate retirement

DETROIT — Ron Gardenhire mostly maintained his jovial demeanor this season. As recently as Friday night, he was needling a reporter while discussing a strategic decision from the late innings.

Less than 24 hours later, Gardenhire announced his retirement. This year was taking more of a toll on the 62-year-old Detroit Tigers manager than he’d necessarily let on.

As much as he enjoyed managing, Gardenhire valued his health more.

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“It’s been wonderful here, but I also know I have to take care of myself,” said Gardenhire, who was nearing the end of his third season with the Tigers. “When you come to the ballpark, and you’re stressed out all day, and your hands are shaking, that’s not fun. I’ve got grandbabies, I’ve got kids that I need to take care of, and my wife.”

Gardenhire’s announcement came in an abruptly scheduled video conference about an hour before Saturday night’s game against Cleveland. General manager Al Avila said he made a routine visit to Gardenhire’s office Saturday, when the manager told him about the decision.

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