WASHINGTON — The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea.The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous U.S. sanctions and other penalties on other matters.It also comes as President Donald Trump has come under growing fire for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stepped up criticism of China ahead of the 2020 election and sought to paint his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice-President Joe Biden, as weak on China.Previously, U.S. policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbours be resolved peacefully through U.N.-backed arbitration. But in a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters to be illegitimate. The shift does not involve disputes over land features that are above sea level, which are considered to be "territorial" in nature.“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose 'might makes right' in the South China Sea or the wider region.”Although the U.S. will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means the administration is in effect siding with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs and shoals.“There are clear cases where (China) is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.In a statement Monday night from its embassy in Washington, China accused the State Department of “deliberately distorting the facts and international law.” It added that the U.S. “exaggerates the situation in the region and attempts to sow discord between China and other littoral countries. The accusation is completely unjustified. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to it.”China also accused the U.S. of interfering in disputes in which it was not directly involved and “throwing its weight around in every sea of the world.”“We advise the US side to earnestly honour its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, respect regional countries’ efforts for a peaceful and stable South China Sea and stop its attempts to disrupt and sabotage regional peace and stability,” the embassy statement said.The U.S. announcement came a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that rejected China's maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.China has refused to recognize that decision, which it has dismissed as a “sham,” and refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to defy the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial spats with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.However, as a result, the administration says China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The U.S. has repeatedly said that areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a U.S.-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.In addition to reiterating support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, it says the U.S. will regard any Chinese harassment of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.The announcement came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over numerous issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Chinese policy in Hong Kong and Tibet and trade, that have sent relations plummeting in recent months.But the practical impact wasn't immediately clear. The U.S. is not a party of the U.N. Law of the Sea treaty that sets out a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. Despite that, the State Department noted that China and its neighbours, including the Philippines, are parties to the treaty and should respect the decision.China has sought to shore up its claim to the sea by building military bases on coral atolls, leading the U.S. to sail its warships through the region in what it calls freedom of operation missions. The United States has no claims itself to the waters but has deployed warships and aircraft for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight in the busy waterway.Last week, China angrily complained about the U.S. flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea by conducting joint exercises with two U.S. aircraft carrier groups in the strategic waterway. The Navy said the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying vessels and aircraft, conducted exercises “designed to maximize air defence capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations.”China claims almost all of the South China Sea and routinely objects to any action by the U.S. military in the region. Five other governments claim all or part of the sea, through which approximately $5 trillion in goods are shipped every year.Matthew Lee And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia fired a prime minister without warning the palace - or the prime minister - because "under the constitution the responsibility is mine", according to archived letters released on Tuesday. In a Nov. 11, 1975 dispatch, Governor-General John Kerr told the Queen's private secretary he took the unprecedented step to sack Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as Whitlam prepared to end a months-long budget standoff by calling a partial Senate election. "I decided to take this step ... without informing the Palace in advance," Kerr wrote to former private secretary Martin Charteris on the day of Whitlam's dismissal.
NEW YORK — Naya Rivera, a singer and actor who played a gay cheerleader on the hit TV musical comedy “Glee,” was found dead Monday in a Southern California lake. She was 33.Rivera's body was discovered five days after she disappeared on Lake Piru, where her son, Josey, was found July 8 alone on a boat the two had rented, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff's Office confirmed that the body was Rivera's.“Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were,” wrote “Glee” co-star Jane Lynch on Twitter. Steven Canals, who co-created and produced the FX television show "Pose," tweeted that he was “heartbroken over all the stories that will remain untold.”Viola Davis sent her prayers to Rivera’s family and Kristin Chenoweth said: “Thank you for what you gave the world.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that “as a Latina, it's rare to have a rich, complex characters reflect us in media.”Rivera began acting at a young age, but she rose to national attention playing a lesbian teen on “Glee,” which aired from 2009 until 2015 on Fox. She is survived by her parents, Yolanda and George; a younger brother, Mychal; a sister, Nickayla; and her 4-year-old son.“Naya Rivera was a fierce talent with so much more to do and this is such a terrible tragedy. We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to ‘Glee,’ from the first episode to the last," said a statement from 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment.A native of Santa Clarita, California, Rivera began acting at 4, appearing in such series as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Family Matters” and “The Bernie Mac Show.” As a teen, she struggled with an eating disorder and had breast implants put in at 18 ("a confidence thing, not a sexual thing," she would later write in her autobiography).“I had the lowest self esteem in high school possible. I wasn’t popular, I didn’t have friends, but I would say it’s really important that you know who you are and you’re going to win in the end because of that,” Rivera said in a 2011 interview with The Associated Press.She worked odd jobs as a telemarketer, a nanny, a waitress and an Abercrombie & Fitch greeter before landing the role of Santana Lopez on Ryan Murphy’s “Glee.” She auditioned by singing “Emotion.” The pilot offered her no speaking lines.Rivera played a secondary character — the mean cheerleader with blistering put-downs — in the show’s first season, but became a show regular in the second season as she struggled to reveal her character’s sexual identity. Many on social media credited her character for making them feel better about their own sexuality.“Honestly, I never thought I’d actually be playing a teen lesbian,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. "I didn’t think it was going to go this far. But I’m glad that it did, because there have been a lot of fans who have expressed that they’ve been going through similar situations in their lives. I’ve heard from girls that are in high school, they’re 16, 17, and they’re like, ‘I came out to my mom,’ or ‘I came out to my friends, and thank you for helping me do that.’”Some of her more memorable songs on the show include a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” with guest star Gwyneth Paltrow, “Here Comes the Sun” with Demi Lovato, and a tearful cover of The Band Perry's “If I Die Young.”Rivera's “brilliance and humour were unmatched,” said “Glee” co-star Chris Colfer on Instagram. “She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying.” Jenna Ushkowitz, another “Glee” co-star, promised "to help the legacy of your talent, humour, light and loyalty live on.”Rivera struggled to get career traction amid the rising young talent on the show that included Colfer, Cory Monteith, Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Amber Riley, Melissa Benoist and Dianna Agron. She was no longer a series regular during the sixth and final season of “Glee.”“It would be an understatement to say that ‘Glee’ changed my life. It overhauled it. It got me out of debt. It helped to cement my career. And before the show, I’d never had a group of people I was that close with,” she wrote in her memoir, titled “Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up.”“But while ‘Glee’ changed our lives, it didn’t necessarily change who we were. We started the show as a ragtag group of misfits, and six seasons later, when we filmed the last episode, we were still the same bunch of misfits. Just now wearing more expensive jeans.”After the show, Rivera sought success in film and music. She made her feature film debut in 2014’s “At the Devil’s Door,” playing a woman caught in the middle of supernatural events, and released the single “Sorry” in 2013 featuring rapper Big Sean, a one-time fiance.She and actor Ryan Dorsey were married in 2014 and their son, Josey, was born in 2015. She called her young son “my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him.”Rivera was arrested and charged in West Virginia in 2017 with misdemeanour domestic battery after she allegedly hit Dorsey. The charge was dismissed because Dorsey did not wish to press charges. They divorced soon after.Most recently, Rivera had a role on Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” released her memoir in 2016 and played school administrator Collette Jones in the YouTube Red online series “Step Up: High Water” starring Ne-Yo. The show is about a cutthroat performing arts school in Atlanta.Rivera’s death is the latest death in a tragic arc of “Glee” actors. Monteith died in 2013 — exactly seven years to the day before Rivera's body was publicly identified — from a toxic mix of alcohol and heroin, and Rivera’s ex-boyfriend Mark Salling, who played a jock on the series, killed himself in 2018 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. Rivera and Salling dated for three years and broke up in 2010.In the preface to her autobiography, Rivera wrote that motherhood had changed her life and given it perspective. She said she was braver, too.“Your life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to be proud. In fact, I think it’s the opposite: the more imperfect your life has been, the prouder you should be, because it means you’ve come that much further, and also probably had a lot more fun along the way.”___This story has been corrected to show Rivera’s body was discovered five days after she disappeared, not six days.___Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwitsMark Kennedy, The Associated Press
HOUSTON — The Republican Party of Texas changed course Monday night and accepted a virtual convention after courts refused to force Houston, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, to let the party stick to its original plans of a massive indoor gathering.The decision came after the state GOP was left with few options. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said last week he directed city lawyers to terminate the convention contract because he believed the three-day event could not be held safely. The party sued, alleging breach of contract, but lost an appeal at the Texas Supreme Court on Monday.The convention typically draws thousands of attendees and was scheduled to begin this week. Following the losses in court, the party's executive committee voted overwhelmingly Monday night to move the event online.“The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true,” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion. “But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center.”Turner denied that the convention was cancelled due to political differences and cited the potential risk to service workers and first responders if the virus spread through Houston's downtown convention centre.State District Judge Daryl L. Moore on Monday afternoon denied another party request for an injunction forcing Houston to allow the convention.Texas has set daily records in recent days for the number of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases. Top officials in Houston have called for the city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate an onslaught of patients.State District Judge Larry Weiman last week sided with Turner, citing Houston statistics that show major hospitals exceeding their base intensive-care capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.The Texas Medical Association withdrew its sponsorship of the state GOP convention and asked organizers to cancel in-person gatherings. As the virus has surged throughout the state in June and July, Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s top Republican, has reversed some business reopenings and broadly required the use of face masks.State GOP chair James Dickey had insisted that organizers could hold the event safely. Prior to Turner’s move to cancel the convention, Dickey said the party had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install hand sanitizer stations.State Democrats held an all-online convention in June. Nationally, the Republican Party is moving forward with plans for an in-person convention in August to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, though some GOP elected officials have said they won't attend for health concerns.Nomaan Merchant And Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press
Hong Kong will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight Tuesday, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the coronavirus broke out, as authorities warn the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high. The measures dictate that face masks will be mandatory for people using public transport and restaurants will no longer provide dine in services and only offer takeaway after 6 pm. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 ($645).
As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.But U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doubled down on President Donald Trump's insistence that kids can safely return to the classroom.“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” she told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."Still, health experts say there are too many uncertainties and variables for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.Children infected with coronavirus are more likely than adults to have mild illnesses, but their risk for severe disease and death isn’t zero. While a virus-linked inflammatory condition is uncommon, most children who develop it require intensive care, and a few have died. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk.“The single most important thing we can do to keep our schools safe has nothing to do with what happens in school. It’s how well we control COVID-19 in the community,” Frieden said. “Right now there are places around the country where the virus is spreading explosively and it would be difficult if not impossible to operate schools safely until the virus is under better control.”Zahrah Wattier teaches high school in Galveston, Texas, where cases and deaths have been spiking. Until the state recently said schools must reopen to in-person classes, her district had been weighing options many others are considering, including full-time online teaching or a hybrid mix.Wattier's school has mostly Hispanic and Black students, many from low-income families; almost 70% qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches and many have parents who work in “essential” jobs that increase potential exposure to the virus. Online education was hard for many with limited internet access, and Wattier knows in-person classes can help even the playing field.But she’s worried.“My school has over 2,000 students. That’s over 2,000 exposures in a day,” said Wattier, whose parents live with the family and are both high-risk. “It’s a lot to think about. It’s my job. It’s something I choose to do, it’s something I love. Now it comes at a really high risk.’’The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidance the Trump administration has cited to support its demands, says the goal is for all students to be physically present in school. But, it adds, districts must be flexible, consult with health authorities and be ready to pivot as virus activity waxes and wanes.“It is not that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks this is a done deal because we have put out guidance,” said Dr. Nathaniel Beers, a member of the academy’s school health council. “But what we do know is that we need to have a more realistic dialogue about the implications of virtual learning on the future of children. We have left whole swaths of society behind, whether it’s because they have limited access to a computer, or broadband internet,” or because of other challenges that online education can’t address.DeVos said local school officials are smart enough to know when conditions are not right.“There’s going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall,” she told CNN's “State of the Union."“And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school by school or a case by case basis.”Following CDC and academy guidelines would mean big changes for most schools. Mask-wearing would be strongly encouraged for adult staff and students except the youngest. Desks would be distanced at least 3 feet apart; the CDC recommends 6 feet. Both suggest limiting adults allowed in schools, including parents, and cancelling group activities like choir and assemblies. Staggered arrival and dismissal times, outdoor classes, and keeping kids in the same classroom all day are other options.President Trump has threatened federal funding cuts for districts that don’t fully reopen.DeVos defended that stance, saying, “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families.”“If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfil that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise," she said on “Fox News Sunday."U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeVos' comments “malfeasance and dereliction of duty.”“They’re messing, the president and his administration are messing with the health of our children," the California Democrat told CNN's “State of the Union."While most funding typically comes from state and local sources, experts say schools will need more federal funding, not less, to reopen safely. Masks, extra cleaning supplies or janitors, additional classroom space, and mental health support for students and staff traumatized by the pandemic are among potential costs. And with more parents out of work, more children will qualify for federally funded school lunches.Lynn Morales, 49, teaches 8th grade English at a high-poverty public school in Bloomington, Minnesota, that is considering several options including in-person classes; a final decision is expected Aug. 1.Some colleagues are considering not returning to the classroom because their children’s day care centres aren’t reopening. Some say they won’t come back until there’s a vaccine.“I am concerned and it’s because of the age group,” Morales said. ‘’Middle school students ... are lovely and I love them, but they touch, they get close, they roughhouse. It is their nature. They’re 13 years old. They are defiant.”“If masks are required and a kid isn’t wearing a mask, is my job description going to be to chase down this kid and insist they wear a mask? And what if they don’t?’’Dr. Emily Landon, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist, is helping the university and a campus preK-12 school decide how to reopen safely.“Things are evolving from, ‘We can’t do it unless it’s perfectly safe’ to more of a harm reduction model, with the caveat that you can always step back” if virus activity flares, Landon said.Single-occupancy dorms, outdoor classes, socially distanced classrooms and mask-wearing by students and faculty are on tap for the university. Face coverings will be required at the school too. Policies may change depending on virus activity.She dismisses complaints from some parents who say masks are a loss of personal freedom.“It’s not harmful for your child,” she said. “If you see wearing masks as a loss of personal freedom, then you have to think the same of pants.”Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University is leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine what role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Almost 2,000 families are enrolled and self-test every two weeks. The idea is to find infected children without symptoms and see how easily disease spreads within families. Results may come by year’s end.“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.She noted that in other countries where schools have reopened, evidence suggests no widespread transmission from children.In France, public schools reopened briefly before a summer break, with no sign of widespread virus transmission. Masks were only required for upper grades, but students stayed in the same classroom all day. A better test will be when the new school year starts Sept. 1.In Norway, schools closed in March for several weeks. Nursery schools reopened first, then other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks aren't required. There have been only a few virus cases, said Dr. Margrethe Greve-Isdahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, but she noted virus activity is much lower than in the U.S.Kati Spaniak, a realtor in Northbrook, Illinois, says her five teenage daughters have struggled to cope with pandemic fears, school closures and deficits of online learning. She strongly supports getting kids back in the classroom, and all her girls will return to some form of that in the fall.It’s been hard for her high school senior, Kylie Ciesla. Prom, graduation and other senior rituals were cancelled, and there were no good-byes. “Just to get ripped away from everything I’ve worked for 12 years, it’s really hard,” Kylie said.At college, classes will be in person, masks mandated and a COVID-19 test required before she can move into her dorm. Kylie isn’t sure all that is needed.“I hate that this thing has become so political. I just want the science. I want to know what we need to do to fix it,” she said.___AP reporters John Leicester and Arno Pedram in Paris contributed to this report.___Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.___This story was first published on July 12, 2020. It was updated on July 13, 2020, to correct the name of the member of the American Academy of Pediatrics school health council. He is Dr. Nathaniel Beers, not Dr. Nicholas Beers.Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
HONOLULU — A vacation rental association and four homeowners have filed a federal lawsuit against the county of Maui claiming their rights have been violated by restrictions placed on short-term vacation rentals on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.In a statement released Monday, the group said Maui County violated their rights to due process. Some of the homeowners, the lawsuit said, must cancel reservations and answer “potential claims” from customers as a result of the county's action. Some owners had permits that would have allowed them to operate into 2021, the statement said.“Instead of grandfathering in existing permit holders, they told my clients -- with no due process whatsoever," said the group’s Honolulu-based lawyer Terrance Revere. He added their short-term rental housing permits "were being yanked away,”The lawsuit names the county, Mayor Michael Victorino and the head of the Maui County Planning Department. Calls to those officials seeking comment were not immediately returned.The bill was signed into law in March and has not yet gone into effect. It sets the number of short-term rental properties allowed on the sparsely populated island of Molokai to zero. The bill said the action was based on recommendations set by the Molokai Planning Commission in 2017.Short-term vacation rentals have been subject to new restrictions across Hawaii in recent years.The group said they met with the Maui County Council among other officials before filing the lawsuit."We met with County Council members, with the Mayor and with the Planning Department. Ultimately, they were not able to protect these Molokai property owners and residents,” said Jen Russo, executive director of the Maui Vacation Rental Association, in a statement. The association is among those suing the county.Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee said in a phone interview that decisions to allow for vacation rental permits are made on a case-by-case basis and that the board considers concerns from the community in making their decisions. She said the county was not targeting those that lived on Molokai."We're going to have to deal with this in court," Lee said. “If there needs to be a reduction in the amount allowed or an elimination of the amount allowed, I believe that is within the purview of the council. So we will discuss the finer details in court.”Lee said other areas of the county could also face a reduction or elimination of permits."Primarily the council looks at community concerns because, after all, a lot of these vacation rentals are located in residential areas," Lee added.Caleb Jones, The Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. — A man accused in the shotgun slaying of a Native American woman in Tulsa was charged with murder in federal court Monday in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.Federal prosecutors charged James Michael Landry, 29, with first-degree murder for the killing of his girlfriend, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation identified in court documents only by her initials, C.B.The federal prosecutor's office is pursuing the case consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that state prosecutors lack authority in criminal cases on Indian land in which the suspect or victim are tribal citizens, said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.“In this case and others that may now fall under federal jurisdiction, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will uphold its trust responsibility in the public safety arena," Shores said in a statement.Authorities who arrived at Philpott Park in Tulsa on Friday to an emergency call of a woman in need of assistance observed Landry standing over the body of a woman who had been shot in the head, according to a court affidavit. A shotgun was found nearby.Landry admitted to detectives that he was holding the gun when it discharged, but said the shooting was unintentional, the affidavit said. A message left Monday with the federal public defender's office in Tulsa seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.Landry is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.—-This story has been corrected to reflect the preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday, not Tuesday.The Associated Press
Asian stock markets slipped on Tuesday, oil sagged and a safety bid supported the dollar as simmering Sino-U.S. tensions and fresh coronavirus restrictions in California kept a lid on investor optimism as earnings season gets underway. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2%. Japan's Nikkei retreated from a one-month high touched on Monday, dropping 0.8%.