First presidential debate was an acrid tone from the opening minute

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By JILL COLVIN, AAMER MADHANI and PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

CLEVELAND — It started out civil enough, with President Donald Trump striding deliberately to his lectern, and Democrat Joe Biden nodding to his opponent and offering, “How you doing, man?”

Within 15 minutes, the interruptions and talking over one another at Tuesday’s presidential debate had deteriorated to the point that Biden blurted out, “Will you shut up, man?”

There were no handshakes to start the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election. The traditional nicety was one of several formalities abandoned because of the ongoing pandemic.

The 90-minute faceoff played out in a makeshift debate hall with a crowd of under 100 people due to coronavirus safety restrictions, in an atrium that previously was set up for use as a hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Trump kept up his badgering of Biden, drawing a string of rejoinders from the Democrat, including a plea to “just shush for a minute” at the half-hour mark.

At other points, the two candidates dialed down their rhetoric, but then the interruptions would spring up again. When Trump was fielding a question about reports he paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, Biden was the one interjecting: “Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes.”

The reaction from the mask-wearing crowd was inaudible on television as Trump frequently talked over Biden. There was no discernible response when the former vice president called the sitting president a “clown” and frustratedly told him to “keep yapping.”

In the first head-to-head debate, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic could not be missed. Crowds and pageantry were out. COVID-19 tests and masks were in.

Trump came out of the gate looking to challenge Biden at every turn — and the former vice president’s patience was soon spent.

“Will you shut up, man!” Biden snapped, drawing laughs loud enough that they could be heard through the masks from the atypically small debate crowd.

Roughly 50 minutes into the debate, moderator Chris Wallace’s frustration came to a boil, as he tried to remain even-keeled and stop the rivals from talking over each other.

“Gentlemen, I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be any different than the two of you?” Wallace said.

Trump blamed Biden, but Wallace firmly pushed back to the president, “Frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting.”

Presidential debates are typically some of the most exciting nights of the campaign season, drawing thousands of staffers, media and guests.

But this year, as with almost everything else, things were very, very different, with a long list of precautions in place before Trump and Biden took the stage.

Instead of the usual auditorium setting, the debate was hosted by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the spacious 27,000-square-foot (2,500-square-meter) atrium of the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion on the clinic’s Health Education Campus. Notre Dame, the original debate host, withdrew because of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the building had been transformed into a temporary, 1,000-bed surge hospital, named Hope Hospital, for expected coronavirus patients. Though it never ended up needing to be used, the floor where the debate stage was built was not long ago lined with beds for patients and copper piping to bring in oxygen.

The atrium, with its skylighted roof, was turned into a makeshift debate hall with a stage, red carpeting and elevated platforms for cameras. About 100 people watched, all of whom were tested for the virus.

Each candidate’s campaign was given 20 tickets to hand out to guests, said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Trump’s guests included his wife, Melania, and his four adult children. Seats were set with programs and anti-bacterial wipes.

Some in Trump’s section tried to greet the first lady with a standing ovation as she walked in, but with the sparse crowd it didn’t quite come together.

As the crowd filed in before the start of the debate, nearly all were abiding by the social distancing and mask wearing rules. One audience member even wore a bright red MAGA face mask, technically a violation of rules prohibiting campaign paraphernalia.

The emptiness of the room only made the sharpness of the candidates’ verbal slugfest, which often took the tone of a schoolyard squabble, more notable.

“The fact is that everything he’s saying so far is simply a lie,” a flustered Biden snapped when Trump suggested that the vice president stole the nomination from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar.”

Madhani reported from Chicago.

Gale Sayers, Bears Hall of Fame running back, dies at 77

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CHICAGO — Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, who made his mark as one of the NFL’s best all-purpose running backs and was later celebrated for his enduring friendship with a Chicago Bears teammate with cancer, has died. He was 77.

Nicknamed “The Kansas Comet” and considered among the best open-field runners the game has ever seen, Sayers died Wednesday, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Relatives of Sayers had said he was diagnosed with dementia. In March 2017, his wife, Ardythe, said she partly blamed his football career.

Sayers was a blur to NFL defenses, ghosting would-be tacklers or zooming by them like few running backs or kick returners before or since. Yet it was his rock-steady friendship with Brian Piccolo, depicted in the film “Brian’s Song,” that marked him as more than a sports star.

“He was the very essence of a team player — quiet, unassuming and always ready to compliment a teammate for a key block,” Hall of Fame President David Baker said. “Gale was an extraordinary man who overcame a great deal of adversity during his NFL career and life.”

He became a stockbroker, sports administrator, businessman and philanthropist for several inner-city Chicago youth initiatives after his pro football career was cut short by serious injuries to both knees.

Sayers was a two-time All-American at Kansas and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as well. He was selected by Chicago with the fourth pick overall in 1965, and his versatility produced dividends and highlight-reel slaloms through opposing defenses right from the start.

He tied one NFL record with six touchdowns in a game and set another with 22 touchdowns in his first season: 14 rushing, six receiving, one punt and one kickoff return. Sayers was a unanimous choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Sayers followed that by being voted an All-Pro during the first five of his seven NFL seasons (1965-71). But he was stuck on a handful of middling-to-bad Bears teams and, like Dick Butkus, another Hall of Fame teammate selected in the same 1965 draft, he never played in the postseason. Sayers appeared in only 68 games total and just two in each of his final two seasons while attempting to return from those knee injuries.

Butkus said he hadn’t even seen Sayers play until a highlight film was shown at an event in New York that both attended honoring the 1964 All-America team. He said the real-life version of Sayers was even better.

“He was amazing. I still attribute a lot of my success from trying to tackle him (in practice),” Butkus said at the Bears’ 100th anniversary celebration in June 2019.

“I never came up against a running back like him in my whole career, as far as a halfback. And that was counting O.J. (Simpson) and a couple of other guys,” he added. “No one could touch this guy.”

The Bears drafted them with back-to-back picks in ’65, taking Butkus at No. 3 and Sayers at No. 4. It didn’t take long for Sayers to win over veterans who had helped the Bears take the NFL championship in 1963.

“We were both No. 1s, so they’re going to make it hard on us and show us the ropes and everything else,” Butkus said. “But Gale just ran circles around everybody. Quickly, they adopted him.”

The friendship between Sayers and backfield mate Piccolo began in 1967, when the two became unlikely roommates. In an era of sometimes tense race relations, Sayers was black and already a star; Piccolo was white and had worked his way up from the practice squad. Early on, they were competing for playing time and carries.

But when the club dropped its policy of segregating players by race in hotel room assignments, they forged a bond. In 1968, Piccolo helped Sayers through a tough rehab process while he recovered from a torn ligament in his right knee. After Sayers returned the next season to become an All-Pro, he made sure his friend shared in the credit.

They became even closer after Piccolo pulled himself out of a game early in the 1969 season because of breathing difficulties and was diagnosed with cancer. That phase of their friendship was recounted first by Sayers in his autobiography, “I Am Third,” and then in the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song.”

With actor Billy Dee Williams playing Sayers and James Caan in Piccolo’s role, the made-for-TV movie was later released in theaters.

Sayers stayed by Piccolo’s side as the illness took its toll, donating blood and providing support. Just days before Piccolo’s death age 26, Sayers received the George S. Halas Award for courage and said: “You flatter me by giving me this award, but I can tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. … I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him, too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

After his playing days, Sayers served as athletic director at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and founded several technology and consulting businesses.

Sayers made the 130-mile trip from his home in Indiana to attend the opening ceremony of the Bears’ 100th-season celebration in June 2019, receiving a rousing ovation.

“It’s amazing someone that was so beautiful and gifted and talented as a player and later in life to have that happen to you is really, I know, tough on everybody,” Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary said that weekend.

“It’s tough on his teammates, former teammates. It’s tough on the league. And as a player,” Singletary concluded, “it just makes you take a step back and thank God every day for your own health and blessings.”

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman dies of cancer at 43

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By Ryan Pearson

Chadwick Boseman, who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before finding fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, died Friday of cancer, his representative said. He was 43.

Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.

Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s “42” drew attention in Hollywood and made him a star.

A year later, he wowed audiences as Brown in the biopic “Get On Up.”

Boseman died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day. “His transcendent performance in ‘42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” the league wrote in a tweet.

“This is a crushing blow” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter, one of many expressing shock as the news spread across social media.

“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.

Captain America actor Chris Evans called Boseman “a true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that Boseman “inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want — even super heroes.”

His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016′s “Captain America: Civil War,” and his “Wakanda Forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of “Black Panther” two years ago.

“I don’t think the world was ready for a ‘Black Panther’ movie before this moment. Socially and politically, it wasn’t ready for it,” he told AP at the time.

The film’s vision of Afrofuturism and the technologically advanced civilization of Wakanda resonated with audiences, some of whom wore African attire to showings and helped propel “Black Panther” to more than $1.3 billion in global box office. It is the only Marvel Studios film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination.

The character was last seen standing silently dressed in a black suit at Tony Stark’s funeral in last year’s “Avengers: Endgame.” A “Black Panther” sequel had been announced, and was one of the studio’s most anticipated upcoming films.

Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about — and even skeptical of — the industry in which he would become an international star.

“You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he told AP while promoting “42.” “The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”

In addition to Robinson and Brown, Boseman portrayed the future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017′s “Marshall.” He humanized the larger-than-life historical figures with the same quiet dignity — interrupted by flashes of sparkling wit — that he would later bring to T’Challa.

He took on his first producing job in last year’s action thriller “21 Bridges,” in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lee’s film “Da 5 Bloods” as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The Netflix film, which reunited Boseman with his “Get On Up” co-star, Viola Davis, finished shooting last summer.

It took some time for Boseman’s moment to come. He first got into theater, acting and writing plays as an undergrad at Howard. He visited Africa for the first time during college with director and theater professor Mike Malone, working in Ghana to preserve and celebrate rituals with performances on a proscenium stage. He later called the trip “one of the most significant learning experiences of my life.”

Boseman had roles on TV shows like ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights” and NBC’s “Persons Unknown,” but before “42” he had only acted in one film, 2008’s football drama “The Express.” Boseman attracted notice, but missed out on big parts.

“2011 was a rough year,” he said. “I was up for everything that was happening that year, really good roles. I would get down to the end and then it would go to someone else.”

Asked about his own childhood heroes and icons, Boseman cited Black political leaders and musicians: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Prince. Deeply private and often guarded in his public appearances and interviews, he made clear that he understood the significance of his work and its impact on the broader culture.

At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Award, “Black Panther” won best ensemble, electrifying the room. Before an auditorium full of actors, Chadwick Boseman stepped to the microphone. He quoted Nina Simone: “To be young, gifted and black,” and put the moment in context.

“We know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. … We know what’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day,” said Boseman. “We knew that we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something to give.”

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AP Film Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.

First day of school for thousands and Zoom gets glitchy

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NEW YORK — Zoom is experiencing partial outages during the first day of school for thousands of students who are relying on the video conferencing technology to connect with educators.

The company said Monday that it began receiving reports of disruptions around 9 a.m. Eastern time. It has identified the issue causing the problem and is working on a fix, it reported on its status page.

Technical issues are occurring across the U.S., with the most reports on the East Coast, as well as in Europe, according to downdetector.com, which monitors self-reported outages.

Grade schools, high schools and universities are relying on Zoom and competing technologies like Microsoft Teams to learn remotely, and reduce the chance of infection during the pandemic.

The first day of school has rolled out throughout the country over the past several weeks, a hybrid of in-person and online classes. Last year, about 21% of school districts and 14% of elementary and secondary student, began instruction during the last week in August, according to Pew Research.

Some school districts like New York City, the nation’s largest, don’t begin until after Labor Day.

Zoom Video Communications became a familiar tool to millions of new users after the spread of COVID-19 made face-to-face meetings risky. It now has about 300 million users.

It suffered some growing pains during the early months of the pandemic, such as “ zoombombers ” who crashed meetings, but successfully went public in April.