Nation and world news briefs

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Private jet loaded with weapons and cash stopped from leaving for Venezuela

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Learjet loaded with weapons and cash was stopped from leaving the U.S. for Venezuela over the weekend.

Seized at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were 18 assault/bolt actions rifles with optics, six shotguns, 58 semi-automatic pistols and $20,312 in cash and $2,618.53 in endorsed checks, a news release said. Air and Marine Operations in Fort Lauderdale seized the plane and a vehicle.

Two Venezuelan nationals were arrested but not identified by Homeland Security Investigations.

According to Broward Sheriff’s Office booking records, the pilots are Gregoni Jenson Mendéz, 40, and Luis Alberto Patiño, 36. Both were charged with illegally possessing firearms, and they are in the custody of U.S. Marshals.

Several agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, were already investigating the plane, the release said.

—Sun Sentinel


Notre Dame moves classes online for 2 weeks after COVID-19 cases more than double in a day

The University of Notre Dame is shifting its classes online for a two-week period in response to a spike of COVID-19 cases on campus since classes started a week ago.

The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, announced the change in a livestreamed video for students Tuesday afternoon. It came after cases on campus jumped from 58 to 147 in just one day.

“We have decided to take steps short of sending students home, at least for the time being, while protecting the health and safety of the campus community,” Jenkins said. “For at least the next two weeks, we will move undergraduate classes to remote instruction, close public spaces on campus and restrict residences halls to residents only.”

Jenkins said the school, located in South Bend, Indiana, was prepared to send students home altogether but decided to try enacting a stricter trial period after consulting with the county’s public health department, which endorsed the move.

Notre Dame spokesman Paul Browne said students are expected to remain in their residences and take classes virtually for the time being.

“Traveling to various points across the country and back again is not helpful,” he said.

While classes are remote, students living off campus should stay there, limit interactions to roommates only and refrain from visiting campus, according to Jenkins. Gatherings larger than 10 people will also be prohibited.

“The objective of these temporary restrictions is to tame the spread of the virus so we can get back to in-person instruction,” Jenkins said. “If these steps are not successful, we will have to send students home, as we did last spring.”

Tuesday’s one-day increase marked the largest surge in cases since students returned to campus Aug. 3. At that point, only 33 of about 12,000 students had tested positive when they were assessed prior to arriving.

But after the first weeks on campus, the challenges became clearer. On Sunday, Notre Dame announced it was enhancing its testing procedures and planned to carry out surveillance testing of the general student population, in addition to athletes. The school also said it would improve the process for students with symptoms or known exposures to get tested on campus.

In that message, Notre Dame officials said the majority of cases — at that time, it was about 50 cases — appeared to stem from two off-campus events held Aug. 6 and Aug. 9.

—Chicago Tribune


Hornets suspend radio announcer who tweeted ‘mistyped’ racial slur

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets have indefinitely suspended radio play-by-play announcer John Focke after a tweet he sent Monday included the N-word.

“The Charlotte Hornets are aware of the recent social media post by radio broadcaster John Focke. As an organization, we do not condone this type of language,” the Hornets’ statement said via Twitter.

“John has been suspended indefinitely as we investigate the matter more closely.”

Focke, who just completed his first season with the Hornets, was tweeting about the Utah Jazz-Denver Nuggets playoff game Monday afternoon. The tweet included the N-word instead of “Nuggets.”

“Shot making in this Jazz-(N-word) game is awesome! Murray and Mitchell going back and forth what a game!” the tweet read.

Focke apologized on his Twitter account around 10 p.m. Monday night.

“Earlier today I made a horrific error while attempting to tweet about the Denver-Utah game,” Focke’s tweet read. “I don’t know how I mistyped, I had (and have) no intention of ever using that word.

“I take full responsibility for my actions. I have been sick to my stomach about it ever since. I’m truly sorry that this happened and I apologize to those I offended.”

Focke responded to a text from The Charlotte Observer on Monday night, saying he would not have additional comments for now.

—The Charlotte Observer


‘God help us all’ if Democrats win Senate, SC’s Graham says as his race gets tighter

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott urged voters during a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce forum Tuesday to get involved to make sure Democrats don’t gain control of the U.S. Senate and White House after November.

Graham, who faces his own contentious battle for his Senate seat against challenger Jaime Harrison, said on the videoconference call that he was “scared” of the causes championed by House Democrats, calling the politicians on the other side of the aisle “radical.”

“It’s very important that President (Donald) Trump get reelected,” Graham said. “But it’s more important that we keep the Senate.”

In order to gain control of the Senate, Democrats would need to hold their current seats and win four more. Democrats also could aim to win three seats and the White House, leaving a Democratic vice president to break the tied votes.

“If we lose that majority, God help us all,” said Graham.

On the call Tuesday, Graham also criticized the Green New Deal, an environmental and economic plan championed by several Democrats and rebuked by Republicans. Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden also supports parts of the program, which aim at tackling climate change and promoting jobs in the clean energy sector.

Graham said the plan would “destroy the economy in the name of helping the environment.”

Scott, meanwhile, warned that if Democrats gain control of the Senate they could try to get rid of the filibuster, a method of blocking or delaying a bill. Several Democrats have advocated getting rid of the filibuster, including former President Barack Obama.

Without the filibuster, Scott said it would be easier for the controlling party to pass legislation and the type of legislation passed would change dramatically as the Senate changes hands.

“The ability for a bipartisan coalition to transform this country will be gone,” Scott said. “What we really want is certainty and predictability. Good policy is helpful, certainty is necessary.”

Graham reiterated Tuesday that Republicans need to be reelected to the Senate to keep that control. But recent polling suggests Graham’s own standing might be changing.

—The State (Columbia, S.C.)