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George W. Bush has ‘absolute confidence’ in nation’s coronavirus experts

Former President George W. Bush said that while “these are difficult days for our country,” he has “absolute confidence in the experts who are in charge” of the nation’s coronavirus response, according to a note emailed to his staff in recent days.

Bush pointed in particular to Debbie Birx and Tony Fauci, two doctors who serve on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.

“Laura and I know Deb Birx and Tony Fauci well, as do many of you,” Bush said, referring to his wife, Laura Bush. “And we know the character of our county. Like other crises we have overcome, we will come out of this better informed and stronger together.”

The former president’s praise of Birx and Fauci is especially noteworthy. Birx has served for years as the U.S.’s global AIDS coordinator, while Fauci is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Both doctors have become mainstays in the Trump administration’s response — with Fauci, in particular, sometimes challenging Trump over policies and positions.

Bush also used the recent staff note, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, to share some insight on how he and his wife are taking care during the outbreak. The couple – who typically split time between Dallas and their ranch in Crawford – are “handwashing and social distancing to the max,” he said.

The former president is “reading, painting and riding mountain bikes,” while the former first lady is “reading, working puzzles and hiking,” he said. “And yes, we’re binging – mysteries, dramas and documentaries,” he said, referring to watching streaming video.

— The Dallas Morning News


Biden holds sizable edge over Trump in swing counties, poll finds

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has a substantial lead over President Donald Trump in 300 of the crucial so-called swing counties that could determine the November election, a new poll released Tuesday showed.

The poll was taken last week as Americans were just beginning to grapple with staying at home and employment and economic worries because of the coronavirus. Trump was holding daily televised briefings on the coronavirus, while Biden was largely out of the limelight.

The Monmouth University poll showed that 50% of voters in crucial swing counties backed Biden, while only 41% backed Trump. Biden is the Democratic front-runner to face off against Trump in the November presidential election, having amassed a near-insurmountable lead in delegates over Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, the 300 counties gave a margin of victory to either Trump or Hillary Clinton of less than 10 percentage points, and comprise about one-fifth of the total U.S. electorate.

The poll did not yet show much impact from the pandemic’s hit on the economy.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said their current financial situation was stable, more than the 55% who said their situation was stable in the same poll in April 2019. Only 25% said they were struggling and just 12% said that it was improving.

— Bloomberg News


R. Kelly knowingly gave 19-year-old fan herpes, prosecutors say

NEW YORK — A 19-year-old R. Kelly fan paid a lasting price for becoming the disgraced R&B singer’s concert tour paramour — a case of herpes he knowingly gave her, prosecutors said Monday.

Kelly, 53, had met the teen at one of his concerts and then arranged travel and hotel accommodations so she could meet him at a Long Island show in May 2017, prosecutors said. After the performance, Kelly went to her hotel room, had sex with her and infected her with herpes, according to papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

“In the early morning hours, the defendant unexpectedly arrived at (her) room and loudly announced his presence. Ultimately, at the defendant’s direction, the encounter became sexual in nature and the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse with (her),” federal prosecutors wrote in court papers.

“The defendant did not use a condom. Prior to the intercourse, the defendant learned from his health care provider that he had contracted herpes, an infectious venereal disease, and that he should inform his sexual partners of this diagnosis and use a condom to limit exposing his sexual partners to herpes.”

Kelly arranged several more trips for the young woman — identified by prosecutors only as Jane Doe No. 6 — including a final one in February 2018 to New York, where Kelly had unprotected sex with her again without disclosing he had herpes, according to prosecutors.

The defense argued that charges against R. Kelly for knowingly giving herpes to more than one woman should be dropped because the charge prohibits consenting adults from having sex if one has a sexually transmitted disease.

— New York Daily News


San Jose reports sharp crime drop during first week of COVID-19 stay-at-home order

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Reported crimes dropped significantly in the Bay Area’s largest city last week, in yet another sign of the dramatic ways that the coronavirus pandemic — and social distancing mandates aimed at stopping its spread — have changed life in the region and statewide.

Data from the San Jose Police Department, obtained by this news organization Monday, shows that in the week after six counties implemented a sweeping shelter-in-place order, violent crime in the city declined by 46%, falling from 101 reported cases to 56 cases in the week of March 15-21, compared to the same week the previous year. The county’s stay-at home order went into effect at 12 a.m. on March 17.

Reported property crimes were down as well, from 495 cases to 317 over the same period. The declines were seen across a range of reported categories, including aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts.

The decline was not unexpected, officials said — with far fewer people out in the city, far fewer opportunities exist for serious crime to occur. Police and city leaders acknowledge that the numbers could mask upticks in under-reported crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault.

Other Bay Area cities that were able to provide figures Monday also saw declines in crime, though to varying degrees.

— The Mercury News


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