Texas on Thursday halted steps to reopen its economy after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases that threatens to undo earlier efforts to quell the disease.
The number of new coronavirus infections is approaching record daily levels in the US, with more than 35,900 cases recorded in the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June after months of lockdown.
“The State of Texas will pause any further phases to open Texas as the state responds to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Governor Greg Abbott’s office announced in a statement.
“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread,” Abbott said, asking residents to wear masks and respect social distancing guidelines.
Abbott is an ally of Donald Trump, but his latest announcement was in stark contrast to the president, who has tried to signal that the virus crisis is largely over.
The US death toll is over 121,000, by far the world’s highest.
Three northeastern states that made significant progress beating back the pandemic — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — on Wednesday urged visitors arriving from US hotspots such as Texas, Florida and Alabama to quarantine themselves.
Several states in the South and West are suffering what White House advisor and top scientist Anthony Fauci described as “disturbing” new surges in infections.
A shooting killed two people and wounded at least seven while they were filming a music video in the US state of Texas, authorities said Saturday.
“We are now at 9 total gunshot wound victims: 2 were confirmed deceased at scene, 1 was critical, the others remain hospitalized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted.
The attack on a group of Hispanic men in their 20s occurred around 9:30 pm Friday (0330 GMT Saturday) at a parking lot in a residential Houston neighborhood, Gonzalez said at a media briefing that night.
A video posted on Twitter Saturday morning by a Houston Chronicle reporter showed bloodstains on the ground in the parking lot and cars dotted with bullet holes.
“There were other vehicles that were staged there, and they were filming some type of music video when, all of a sudden, basically they were ambushed, we believe by individuals in cars and/or foot that fired shots into the parking lot,” Gonzalez said in the media briefing.
Police do not yet know the motive for the shooting, he added.
According to government figures, around 40,000 people died from gunfire in 2017 in the US, a country that is plagued by frequent gun violence.
An explosion at a chemical plant in Texas early Wednesday sent a large fireball into the sky, media reports said, triggering a mandatory evacuation.
“Please be aware that there is a mandatory evacuation for everyone within a 1/2 mile of the TPC plant in Port Neches,” local fire officials said in a post on the Nederland Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page.
Dramatic videos and photos shared on social media showed a massive explosion, with one resident describing waking up to a huge boom and “glass all over us”.
Ryan Mathewson, who lives roughly two minutes from the plant with his family, told AFP: “We woke up to glass all over us and parts of the ceiling caved in, (and) doors blown in.”
The 25-year-old said they were “shook up and scared” following the blast.
County Judge Jeff Branick told local news site KFDM News that there were no injuries reported.
The site of the explosion is believed to be a petrochemical plant roughly 85 miles (135 kilometers) from Houston.
The opening of a new Louis Vuitton production site in Texas provided a rare chance for Donald Trump to meet with a foreign business leader — and not just any business, but one the president says he knows “very well.”
“It cost me a lot of money over the years,” he joked of the posh French handbag maker.
Among those joining Trump and Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH conglomerate that owns the leathergoods brand, for the tour were Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
“Even though they’re related to me, just slightly, I will tell you, what a job,” he said of the pair, extolling their work on his job-creation pitch as he gears up for next year’s re-election campaign.
The group saw a demonstration of how the luxury handbags are sewn, cut an opening-day ribbon and met with workers at the new facility.
The president himself even appeared to admire a handbag covered in the brand’s iconic LV print — a bag with an extra red detail.
Trump applauded the company’s $50 million investment.
“I want to thank you all for your confidence in the United States and your confidence and investment in the Lone Star State, the great state of Texas,” the president said, speaking in front of a wall of colorful spools of thread. “You’ll be very happy. You’ll be very, very happy.”
The workshop is near the town of Alvarado at the Rochambeau Ranch, named for the general who led French troops alongside the 13 colonies in the American Revolution.
It is expected to employ about a thousand skilled workers within five years, according to Arnault.
“This investment in job creation reflects the strengths of our US business, which continues to grow,” said Arnault, whom Forbes magazine has ranked as the third-richest person in the world.
“I always believed in the fact that America is a land of opportunity,” he said.
Arnault was one of the first high-profile French business leaders to meet with Trump in January 2017, weeks after his election, when he suggested he would consider expanding Louis Vuitton in the United States.
On Thursday, Trump called such an expansion part of his “vision for creating an American manufacturing renaissance.”
Highlighting France as the US’s oldest ally, Trump asked Arnault to pass on a message to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We have our little disputes with Emmanuel every once in a while. Say hello to Emmanuel.”
The American market generates a quarter of LVMH’s sales overall, and it already has two US production sites in California for Louis Vuitton, whose handbags can cost thousands of dollars.
The company has said half the Louis Vuitton workers it hires have no previous experience in leathercraft, and receive intensive in-house training before being allowed to cut or sew.
The brand first opened in 1859 in Asnieres, France. Overall, the LVMH group and its 70 brands saw a record-breaking 2018, with 46 billion euros ($51 billion) in profits.
Trump touted the Louis Vuitton opening during a campaign rally in nearby Dallas Thursday night, seeking to mobilize supporters as he fends off an impeachment inquiry.
The Odessa Police Department had earlier reported that a suspect was “driving around Odessa shooting at random people” and “just hijacked a US mail carrier truck.”
A rifle through the window
Troopers had initially tried to pull over a passenger vehicle on the Interstate 20 highway but before it stopped, “the male driver (and only occupant in the vehicle) pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots toward the DPS patrol unit,” the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
One trooper was wounded, the suspect fled the scene, “and continued shootinginnocent people,” the department said.
Some of the shots were fired on the highway linking the cities of Odessa and Midland, where cars were left with bullet holes.
“I just found out a friend of mine passed away,” David Turner, the mayor of Odessa where the incident ended, told Fox News.
“This coward pulls up beside” and opens fire on the car where the man and his family were waiting at a stop light, Turner said.
During his rampage, the suspect had switched vehicles by hijacking the postal van, and Gerke said he “would assume” the postal worker was among the victims.
Police said the suspect died during an exchange of fire with law enforcement at a movie theater in Odessa.
Alex Woods, a witness, told CNN that near the movie theater “I could see a bunch of gunfire going off. And I could see the officer walking up to the mail van and discharging his weapon into it.
“And I believe that was when the shooter was killed.”
President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed by Attorney General Bill Barr.
The latest incident came after the early August mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, where many victims were Hispanic.
In that case, officers arrested Patrick Crusius, 21, a white Texan, who told police that he was targeting “Mexicans,” according to an arrest warrant published by US media.
The tragedy in El Paso was committed on the basis of “racist” anti-Mexican rhetoric, Jesus Seade, Mexico’s foreign ministry undersecretary for North America, said during a memorial after that shooting.
Critics of Trump have accused him of stoking such hatred.
The shooting in El Paso came hours before a gunman in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, reigniting calls for gun control in the United States where firearms were linked to nearly 40,000 deaths in 2017.
“We need to end this epidemic,” former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke reacted on Twitter after the latest killings.
O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential hopeful, expressed sympathy with “everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again.”
Another Democratic contender, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, appealed on Twitter to the Republican-controlled Senate “who refuse to move on gun reform.”
“What is the number? How many Americans are you willing to sacrifice to the NRA?”
After a series of mass shootings since late July Trump had expressed provisional support for implementing universal background checks.
The president’s position is crucial, because congressional Republicans, who count on gun rights supporters for votes, cannot move on tougher firearms legislation without his support.
However, US media including The Washington Post and The Atlantic in late August quoted White House sources as saying Trump promised National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre he would not pressure Congress for a stringent, universal, pre-sale review of all gun buyers.
Texas authorities are investigating the Saturday mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso as a possible hate crime, the city’s police chief said, as authorities study an online manifesto linked to the suspect.
A 21-year-old from Allen, a suburb of Dallas, surrendered to police outside the store after the rampage that left 20 people dead and 26 wounded.
US media identified him as Patrick Crusius, who is white, and linked him to a “manifesto” posted online that includes passages railing against the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
“Right now we have a manifesto from this individual that indicates to some degree he has a nexus to potential hate crime,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said at a news conference.
Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso in Congress, said “the manifesto narrative is fueled by hate.”
“And it’s fueled by racism and bigotry and division,” she added, speaking at a press conference with El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“El Paso has historically been a very safe community. We have been safe for decades. We will continue to be safe.”
“This is someone who came from outside our community to do us harm. A community that has shown nothing but generosity and kindness to the least among us. Those people arriving at America’s front door,” she said.
El Paso, a nine-hour drive from the Dallas area, lies on the Rio Grande River that marks the US border with Mexico.
It has a population of 680,000, of which 83 per cent are of Hispanic descent, according to US census figures.
The city averaged 18 murders a year over the past five years and has a significantly lower violent crime rate than similar-sized US cities.
In recent months, El Paso has also become one of the busiest entry points for undocumented migrants, especially from Central America, seeking asylum in the United States.
On weekends, the city attracts droves of shoppers from Mexico, including from its Mexican sister city Ciudad Juarez, population 1.5 million.
Three of those killed on Saturday came from Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tweeted. And there are six Mexicans among the wounded, the country’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said.
– AK-47 ‘overheats’ – Crusius wrote that the attack “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and made references to the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, where a white gunman killed 51 mosque worshippers in March.
Crusius claimed that he was “defending” his country “from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
He also complained that the AK-47 rifle that he chose was “not designed to shoot rounds quickly, so it overheats massively after about 100 shots are fired in quick succession.”
To counter this, he said he’d wear a heat-resistant glove.
Crusius wrote that he probably spent less than a month preparing for the shooting. “I have to do this before I lose my nerve,” he noted.
Oddly, the document includes a rant against automation and corporate America.
“The inconvenient truth is that our leaders, both Democrat AND Republican, have been failing us for decades,” the document read.
He then describes his death as “likely inevitable.”
“If I’m not killed by the police, then I’ll probably be gunned down by one of the invaders.
“Capture in this case is far worse than dying during the shooting because I’ll get the death penalty anyway,” he wrote.
El Paso police said there was no exchange of gunfire when Crusius was detained.
CNN said the “manifesto” was posted to 8chan, a no-censorship site where other extremist manifestos have appeared.
Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, confirmed that there had been up to 20 casualties in the shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall after local television networks had reported similar numbers.
“We have between 15 and 20 casualties, we don’t know the number of fatalities,” Patrick told Fox News.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo acknowledged that there had been a number of deaths after gunfire was first heard around 10 am.
“I can’t confirm the number of fatalities. But there are fatalities,” he told CNN.
“It is a tragedy and I don’t want to comment until I have full information. It is a tragedy, I’m just so torn up about it.”
Margo said three suspects were in custody, though police spokesman Sergeant Robert Gomez said he could confirm only one suspect in custody at the moment.
A witness who gave her name as Vanessa said she had just pulled into the parking lot at Walmart and “all of a sudden you heard what sounded like fireworks, really loud fireworks.”
“You could hear the pops, one right after another and at that point as I was turning, I saw a lady, seemed she was coming out of Walmart, headed to her car. She had her groceries in her cart and I saw her just fall,” she told Fox News.
The witness told Fox that she had seen one man open fire wearing what appeared to be combat fatigues.
“He was wearing a black t-shirt, camo colored pants. He was wearing something to cover his ears, like headphones, really thick ones.
“He was carrying a dark rifle and he was just pointing at people and just shooting and, yeah, the last thing I saw, he shot somebody that was in a corner.”
After seeing the woman fall in the parking lot, “that’s when I thought, okay, this is not — these aren’t fireworks … He was just shooting randomly. It wasn’t to any particular person. It was any that would cross paths.”
The White House said President Donald Trump, who is spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey, had been told about the shooting.
“The President has been briefed on the shooting in El Paso, and we continue to monitor the situation,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves said in a statement.
Trump had spoken to Attorney General Bill Barr and Texas Governor Greg Abbott about the shooting.
Abbott called the shooting “a heinous and senseless act of violence,” adding that “our hearts go out to the victims.”
It has been a particularly bad week for gun violence in the United States.
Two people died and a police officer was wounded Tuesday at a Walmart in Mississippi.
Last Sunday a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a food festival in northern California, killing three, including two children.
A small twin-engine plane crashed on takeoff Sunday into a hangar at a Texas airport, officials said, killing all 10 aboard.
“The Dallas County Medical Examiner has confirmed 10 fatalities and no survivors,” a spokeswoman for the town of Addison told AFP.
The plane was heading from Addison to St. Petersburg, Florida and was carrying two flight crew and eight passengers, said Bruce Landsberg, Vice Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
NTSB investigator Jennifer Rodi said the plane — which had changed ownership recently — hit a private hangar at the airport.
David Snell, who was waiting for another flight at the airport, told local news channel KDFW TV he saw the plane take off.
“It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn’t know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left and you could tell it couldn’t climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Oh my God. They’re going to crash’,” he said.
CBS News quoted sources as saying the Beechcraft lost an engine on takeoff and veered into the hangar.
A massive column of black smoke poured out of a building at the airport in Addison after the crash, as firefighters directed streams of water toward the blaze.
“There are any number of possibilities that could occur,” the NTSB’s Landsberg told a press conference.
A 70-year-old convicted murderer is scheduled Thursday to become the oldest man executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in the US five decades ago.
Billie Wayne Coble was convicted for the 1989 murders of three people — the parents and brother of his estranged wife, who had asked for a divorce.
If the lethal injection is administered Thursday evening in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, it would be the third this year in the United States and the second in the Lone Star state, which puts to death the most inmates.
A state official confirmed that Coble would be the oldest man executed in Texas since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The oldest in the US was serial bomber Walter Moody, executed last year in Alabama at the age of 83.
Apple announced on Thursday it will build a $1 billion campus in Texas as part of a nationwide expansion.
The facility will be less than a mile from the tech giant’s existing facility in Austin and initially accommodate 5,000 additional employees, with room to grow to 15,000.
As it stands, 6,200 people now work for Apple in the Texan capital — the largest cluster outside its headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Employees at the new campus will work in fields including engineering, R&D, operations, finance, sales and customer support, Apple said in a statement.
“Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.
“Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or zip code, and, with this new expansion, we’re redoubling our commitment to cultivating the high-tech sector and workforce nationwide.”
Apple also said it plans to boost its employee base in regions across the United States over the next three years.
It will expand to over 1,000 employees each at new sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and add hundreds of jobs in Pittsburgh, New York, Boulder, Colorado, Boston and Portland.
Apple said it plans to invest $10 billion in US data centers over the next five years, including $4.5 billion this year and next.
Earlier this month online retail giant Amazon also announced a major expansion, saying it will build a new headquarters divided between Long Island City in New York and Crystal City, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. It says this $5 billion investment will create 50,000 jobs.
Texas Republican Ted Cruz won re-election to a second term in the Senate, beating off Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in one of America’s most expensive and closely watched midterm races, US news networks projected Tuesday.
Cruz — a 47-year-old who battled President Donald Trump for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — overcame major deficits in fundraising to ultimately defeat his charismatic rival, whose campaign electrified Democrats across the country and was backed by a galaxy of stars from Beyonce to Jim Carrey and LeBron James.
A win for O’Rourke, 46, a three-time congressman and former punk rocker whose given names are Robert Francis but who goes by Beto, would have amounted to a political earthquake in the reliably Republican “Lone Star State,” but he ultimately fell short.
Cruz’s campaign meanwhile was given a late boost by his former rival Trump, who belatedly stumped for the Cuban American two weeks before the vote.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump infamously insulted the looks of Cruz’s wife Heidi, vaguely suggested Cruz’s father had played a role in John F. Kennedy’s assassination and tagged him with the nickname “Lyin’ Ted” — an insult used by O’Rourke.
Cruz’s victory represented a significant boost for the Republican party as it looked set to retain control of the upper chamber of Congress.