In Brief: July 17, 2021

Few AZ voter fraud cases, discrediting Trump’s claims

PHOENIX — Arizona county election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3 million ballots cast in last year’s presidential election, further discrediting former President Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election as his allies continue a disputed ballot review in the state’s most populous county.

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An Associated Press investigation found 182 cases where problems were clear enough that officials referred them to investigators for further review. So far, only four cases have led to charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation. No one has been convicted. No person’s vote was counted twice.

While it’s possible more cases could emerge, the numbers illustrate the implausibility of Trump’s claims that fraud and irregularities in Arizona cost him the state’s electorate votes. In final, certified and audited results, Biden won 10,400 more votes than Trump out of 3.4 million cast.

AP’s findings align with previous studies showing voter fraud is rare. Numerous safeguards are built into the system to not only prevent fraud from happening but to detect it when it does.

“The fact of the matter is that election officials across the state are highly invested in helping to ensure the integrity of our elections and the public’s confidence in them,” said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. “And part of that entails taking potential voter fraud seriously.”

Rescuers race to prevent more deaths from European floods

BERLIN — In one flooded German town, the ground collapsed under family homes. In another, floodwaters swept through an assisted living center, killing 12.

Rescue workers across Germany and Belgium rushed Friday to prevent more deaths from some of the Continent’s worst flooding in years as the number of dead surpassed 125 and the search went on for hundreds of missing people.

Fueled by days of heavy rain, the floodwaters also left thousands of Germans homeless after their dwellings were destroyed or deemed to be at risk, and elected officials began to worry about the lingering economic effects from lost homes and businesses.

Elsewhere in Europe, dikes on swollen rivers were at risk of collapsing, and crews raced to reinforce flood barriers.

Sixty-three people perished in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, including 12 residents of an assisted living facility for disabled people in the town of Sinzig who were surprised by a sudden rush of water from the nearby Ahr River, authorities said.

Iowa duo deny involvement in the death of Mollie Tibbetts

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two childhood friends named by defense lawyers as alternate suspects in the killing of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts said Friday they had nothing to do with the crime.

Lawyers for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man convicted of killing Tibbetts, named Gavin Jones and Dalton Hansen as perhaps responsible for Tibbetts’ 2018 stabbing death in court filings this week.

They made that assertion after inmate Arne Maki came forward in May to say Jones told him that Jones and Hansen killed Tibbetts after she was kidnapped and briefly held at a home used for sex trafficking. Jones’ ex-girlfriend came forward independently the same day to say that Jones, 21, also told her that he killed Tibbetts.

A prosecutor said in court Thursday that there’s “zero” evidence to substantiate Jones’ alleged confessions and that there should be no doubt Bahena Rivera killed Tibbetts.

Reached by phone separately Friday by The Associated Press, Jones and Hansen said they had no involvement in Tibbetts’ disappearance from her hometown of Brooklyn, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Iowa City, or her violent death. They said they hadn’t spoken with investigators but were eager to do so in order to clear their names.

Biz Markie, known for classic rap song ‘Just a Friend,’ dies

LOS ANGELES — Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend,” has died. He was 57.

Markie’s representative, Jenni Izumi, said the rapper-DJ died peacefully Friday evening with his wife by his side. The cause of death has not been released.

“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” Izumi said in a statement. “Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years. He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter.”

Markie, who birth name was Marcel Theo Hall, became known within the rap genre realm as the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for lighthearted lyrics and a humorous nature. He made music with the Beastie Boys, opened for Chris Rock’s comedy tour and was a sought-after DJ for countless star-studded events.

From wire sources

The New York-native’s music career began in 1985 as a beat boxer of the Juice Crew, a rap collective he helped Big Daddy Kane join. Three years later, he released his debut album “Goin’ Off,” which featured underground hits “Vapors” and “Pickin’ Boogers.”

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Biden to meet with Iraqi prime minister at White House

President Joe Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi later this month in Washington, the White House said Friday.

The meeting set for July 26 comes at a pivotal point in the U.S.-Iraq relationship, and amid growing concerns about more frequent attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

There have been at least eight drone attacks targeting the U.S. presence since Biden took office in January, as well as 17 rocket attacks.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “also looks forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation with Iraq on political, economic and security issues to include joint efforts to ensure the enduring defeat” of the Islamic State militant group.

The attacks on U.S. forces have been blamed on the Iranian-backed militias that make up the bulk of Iraq’s state-supported Popular Mobilization Forces.

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Chaos reigned in wake of Haitian president’s assassination

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The attackers raided the private compound of Haiti’s president before dawn, yelling “DEA operation!” and wielding high-caliber weapons. They tied up a maid and houseboy and ransacked Jovenel Moïse’s office and bedroom.

When it was over, Moïse lay sprawled on his bedroom floor. He had been shot in the forehead, chest, hip and stomach, and his left eye was gouged.

By the time the sun rose, the suspects had scattered by car and foot, leaving this country of more than 11 million in shock. People tuned into radio stations, some still in disbelief until gruesome photos began to circulate on social media.

“I’m not saying he was a good person, but he didn’t deserve death,” said a woman named Sandra, who lived across the street from the president’s mansion. She and her son and husband squeezed into a shower in the back of their home when they heard gunshots echoing through the Pelerin neighborhood.

Sandra, who declined to give her last name for fear of being killed, thought it was Haitian gang members who had been threatening to take over the area until she heard someone yell in English: “Go! Go! Go!”

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Pope reverses Benedict, reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass

ROME — Pope Francis cracked down Friday on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on them and the ancient liturgy.

Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict relaxed in 2007, and went further to limit its use. The pontiff said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.

Critics said they had never before witnessed a pope so thoroughly reversing his predecessor. That the reversal concerned something so fundamental as the liturgy, while Benedict is still alive and living in the Vatican as a retired pope, only amplified the extraordinary nature of Francis’ move, which will surely result in more right-wing hostility directed at him.

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Francis, 84, issued a new law requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, and requiring newly ordained priests to receive explicit permission to celebrate it from their bishops, in consultation with the Vatican.

Under the new law, bishops must also determine if the current groups of faithful attached to the old Mass accept Vatican II, which allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular rather than Latin. These groups cannot use regular churches; instead, bishops must find alternate locations for them without creating new parishes.

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