JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Urgent efforts increased in Mauritius on Monday to empty a stranded Japanese ship of an estimated 2,500 tons of oil before the vessel breaks up and increases the contamination of the island’s once-pristine Indian Ocean coastline.
Already more than 1,000 tons of fuel has washed up on the eastern coast of Mauritius, polluting its coral reefs, protected lagoons and shoreline.
High winds and waves are pounding the MV Wakashio, which was showing signs of splitting apart and dumping its remaining cargo oil into the waters surrounding Mauritius. The bulk carrier ran aground on a coral reef two weeks ago.
“We are expecting the worst,” Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said.
“The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days,” Gardenne said. “So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It’s important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton.”
French experts arrived from the nearby island of Reunion and were deploying booms to try to contain any new oil spill, Gardenne said. France sent a navy ship, military aircraft and technical advisers after Mauritius appealed for international help Friday.
“The booms should be in place within hours, which we hope will help to protect the coastline from further damage,” he said. The booms will boost the improvised barriers that thousands of volunteers in Mauritius created from fabric tubes stuffed with straw and sugar cane leaves.
Amid the rough seas, efforts were also underway to get other ships close enough to pump large amounts of oil out of the MV Wakashio.
“The danger of the ship breaking into two is increasing hour by hour,” environmental consultant Sunil Dowarkasing, a former member of parliament in Mauritius, said. “The cracks have now reached the base of the ship and there is still a lot of fuel on the ship. Two ships are headed to the site so that fuel can be pumped into them, but it is very difficult.”
The ship ran aground on July 25 but work to remove the oil it was carrying only started last week when the hull cracked and started emptying the fuel into the sea, according to Dowarkasing.
The MV Wakashio’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, said Monday that two shipss arrived at the scene to pump oil from the endangered vessel. “A hose connection has been successfully established … and the transfer of fuel oil is underway,” said the company in a statement. It said it is working with Mauritian authorities “to mitigate the spill. The primary focus at this time is reducing the effects of the spill and protecting the environment.”
Pressure is mounting on the government of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth to explain why it did not take immediate action to avert the environmental disaster. Jugnauth has declared the oil spill a national emergency, but some residents say he acted too late.
The opposition and activists are calling for the resignation of the environment and fisheries ministers. Volunteers have ignored a government order to leave the clean-up operation to local officials.
Japan said Sunday it would send a six-member expert team to assist.
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Students began returning to some Florida university campuses on Monday as the state reported the fewest new daily cases in more than a month.
Classes for new students started Monday at Stetson University. Students moved into dormitories over the weekend at the DeLand campus as well as at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
In Orange County, public school students started the school year on Monday with two-weeks of online learning. At the end of the month, they will get to choose between continuing with the virtual learning or going to in-person classes.
Meanwhile, Florida reported 4,155 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the smallest daily caseload increase since the end of June.
The Sunshine State now has 536,961 total cases, and 8,408 virus-related deaths. That marked an increase of more than 90 deaths reported in Florida on Monday.
BALTIMORE (AP) — A “major gas explosion” completely destroyed three row houses in Baltimore on Monday, killing a woman, injuring several other people and trapping at least one person in the wreckage, firefighters said.
At least three dozen firefighters converged on the disaster scene, where the natural gas explosion reduced to the homes to piles of rubble and pieces of debris. A fourth house in the row was partly destroyed, and the neighborhood was strewn with glass from shattered windows.
Two of the homes’ occupants were taken to hospitals in serious condition, while an adult woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the fire department tweeted.
The firefighters’ union tweeted that special rescue operation units were searching for other people.
The Baltimore Gas and Electric Company received an “initial call” from the fire department at 9:54 a.m. on Monday and was working to turn off the gas to buildings in the immediate area, its spokeswoman Linda Foy said.
“We are on the scene and working closely with the fire department to make the situation safe,” she said, without answering any questions from reporters. “Once the gas is off, we can begin to safely assess the situation, including inspections of BGE equipment.”
Moses Glover was inside his nearby home when he heard a boom and looked outside his window. Suddenly, a second blast knocked him off his feet, he told The Baltimore Sun.
“It knocked me across the bed,” said Glover, 77. “I came downstairs and saw all of the front of the houses across the street, they were on the ground. I had a picture window downstairs, the glass is in the chair now.”
Moses struggled to steady his breathing and said he was “shook up” by the experience.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers are pushing to enact nearly a dozen policing reform laws driven by nationwide outrage and protests after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May. Lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to approve and send legislation to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The bills include:
AB1196 by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would bar law enforcement agencies from using carotid restraints, chokeholds or similar techniques.
The California Police Chiefs Association initially called for banning the carotid and chokeholds, but withdrew its support after it said Gipson broadened his bill “to include additional restrictions that are vague and subjective.”
DUTY TO INTERCEDE
AB1022 by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would require law enforcement officers to immediately intercede and report what they believe to be the use of excessive force.
Officers’ careers would end if they are found to have used excessive force resulting in serious injury or death, or failed to stop the overuse of force by another officer. Officers who don’t intercede could be criminally charged as accessories to any crimes committed by those who use excessive force.
Associations representing police officers say a new state law already gives officers a duty to intercede. They say more training and strong policies are better than criminalizing officers who may only have passing involvement.
AB767 by Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, would allow even criminal suspects and their survivors to apply for victims’ compensation if they were injured or killed by police use of excessive force. The first-in-the-nation proposal supported by State Treasurer Betty Yee, who sits on the California Victim Compensation Board, would also let the board consider documents beyond police reports that proponents said can be biased.
Advocates include the sisters of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa, who was killed June 2 in Vallejo, near San Francisco, when police suspected him of stealing from a pharmacy on the night of a national protests over Floyd’s death. Police say what they thought was a gun turned out to be a hammer.
AB66 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would respond to perceived police overreactions during recent protests by limiting the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and other projectiles against demonstrators.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says barring tear gas risks escalating physical confrontations between officers and demonstrators.
SB629 by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, would protect the right of journalists to cover protests without interference from police.
SB480 would bar law enforcement officials from wearing military-style uniforms. Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Pico Rivera, said that can make it difficult for civilians to distinguish officers from members of the National Guard. He said it can also sow fear and confusion, as when federal officers wore camouflage while confronting protesters in Portland, Oregon.
AB1506 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would create a new division within the state Department of Justice that, if requested by a local law enforcement agency, would investigate an officer-involved shooting or other use of force that kills a civilian. The department could also prosecute any officer it found had violated state law.
AB1185, also by McCarty, would let county supervisors name inspectors general to help oversee independently elected county sheriffs.
SB776 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would expand on a 2019 law that lifted some of the nation’s most secretive police records by requiring public access to disciplinary records involving investigations into officer shootings, use-of-force incidents and incidents involving officer misconduct.
It would add records of discipline against officers accused of racist or discriminatory actions, or those who have a history of wrongful arrests or searches, among others. Investigations would be completed even if officers resign. Records fees would be limited and fines imposed on agencies that don’t comply.
Numerous law enforcement organizations say the bill would remove a requirement that only sustained complaints be made public.
SB731 by Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, would allow the state Department of Justice to revoke the certification of officers if they are fired for misconduct or convicted of certain crimes, to prevent them from getting new law enforcement jobs elsewhere.
The California Police Chiefs Association, which initially supported the idea, now says the legislation “is overly complex” and would remove immunity protections for all public employees.
SB203, also by Bradford, would would bar those who are 17 years old or younger from being questioned by police or waiving their rights until they have a chance to consult with an attorney. California currently applies those restrictions to youths 15 years or younger.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Protesters in Portland, Oregon, defied police orders to disperse and threw rocks, frozen or hard-boiled eggs and commercial-grade fireworks at officers as unrest in the Northwest city continued early Saturday.
An Oregon State Police Trooper was struck in the head by a large rock and suffered a head injury, police said in a release. The trooper’s condition was not immediately known.
Some demonstrators filled pool noodles with nails and placed them in the road, causing extensive damage to a patrol vehicle, police said. Oregon State Police worked with Portland officers to clear the protesters.
“Officers are having rocks and chunks of concrete thrown at them,” police said on Twitter. “Individuals in the crowd are shining lasers trying to blind officers.”
Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, protests over racial injustice and police brutality have occurred nightly for 70 days.
Portland police declared an unlawful assembly Friday night at the Penumbra Kelly public safety building, ordering everyone in the area to leave. Authorities had previously warned people not to trespass on the property.
Protesters remained for several hours before officers began to rush the crowd away from the building using crowd-control munitions early Saturday. Several people were arrested, police said.
“As arrests were made, certain crowd members began throwing rocks towards officers,” police said in a statement. “As this criminal activity occurred, the crowd also blocked all lanes of traffic on East Burnside Street, not allowing vehicles to pass by. Several people in this group wore helmets and gas masks as well as carried shields.”
Police said Saturday that they arrested 24 people during the overnight demonstration. Most of those arrested were from Portland, while one man was from Oakland, California, and another was Tulsa, Oklahoma. Most were in their 20s or 30s.
The police also said officers are investigating a report on social media that someone threw explosive devices at protesters early Saturday morning in Laurelhurst Park. There are no reports that anyone was injured, the police said.
The charges included assault on an officer, interfering with an officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Most of the crowd left the area by about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, police said.
Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler said this week the violent protesters are also serving as political “props” for President Donald Trump in a divisive election season where the president is hammering on a law-and-order message. Trump has tried to portray the protesters as “sick and dangerous anarchists” running wild in the city’s streets.
The chaos that started Thursday night lasted into Friday morning in a residential neighborhood about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from downtown. The demonstrations this week had been noticeably smaller than the crowds of thousands who turned out nightly for about two weeks in July to protest the presence of U.S. agents sent by the Trump administration to protect a federal courthouse that had become a target of nightly violence.
This week’s clashes have, however, amped up tensions after an agreement last week between state and federal officials seemed to offer a brief reprieve.
The deal brokered by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown called for agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pull back from their defense of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse starting July 30.
Early Friday, as peaceful demonstrations proceeded elsewhere in the city, a group of people gathered at a park in eastern Portland and marched to the local police precinct, where authorities say they spray-painted the building, popped the tires of police cars, splashed paint on the walls, vandalized security cameras and set a fire in a barrel outside the building. One officer was severely injured by a rock, police said, but no additional details were provided.
Tear gas was used by police on protesters Wednesday for the first time since the U.S. agents pulled back their presence in the city. But officers did not use it Thursday despite declaring the demonstration an unlawful assembly.
Portland police have arrested more than 400 people at protests since late May. U.S. agents arrested at least an additional 94 people during protests at the federal courthouse in July.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A fire inside a police union building led authorities in Portland, Oregon, to declare a riot and force protesters away from the offices as violent demonstrations continue in the city that had hoped for calm after federal agents withdrew more than a week ago.
Three officers were hurt, including two who were taken to a hospital, during efforts to clear a crowd of several hundred people outside the Portland Police Association building late Saturday, police said in a statement. The two hospitalized officers have since been released.
Rallies had been held earlier in the afternoon and evening throughout the city, including at Peninsula, Laurelhurst and Berrydale parks, local media reported.
Police said a group from Peninsula Park marched to the Portland Police Association building, which is located about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the federal courthouse that had been the target of nightly violence earlier this summer. The Portland Police Association is a labor union that represents members of the Portland Police Bureau.
A group of demonstrators broke into the building, set the fire and were adding to it when officers made the riot declaration just after 11:30 p.m., police said. Video shot by a journalist, and surveillance video from inside the building obtained by the police department, shows smoke and flames arising from inside the building.
Officers formed a line and used flash bangs and smoke canisters to force the protest several blocks away. Demonstrators congregated at Kenton Park, where they were again ordered to disperse. Most of the crowd had left by 2 a.m., police stated.
The gatherings this week had been noticeably smaller than the crowds of thousands who turned out nightly for about two weeks in July to protest the presence of U.S. agents sent by the Trump administration to protect the federal courthouse downtown.
This week’s clashes have, however, amped up tensions after an agreement between state and federal officials seemed to offer a brief reprieve.
Police arrested 24 people during demonstrations overnight Friday after they said people defied orders to disperse and threw rocks, frozen or hard-boiled eggs and commercial-grade fireworks at officers. An unlawful assembly was declared outside the Penumbra Kelly public safety building.
Most of those arrested were from Portland, while one man was from Oakland, California, and another was from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Most were in their 20s or 30s. The charges included assault on an officer, interfering with an officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
An Oregon State Police trooper was struck in the head by a large rock and suffered a head injury, police said. The trooper’s condition was not immediately known.
Some demonstrators filled pool noodles with nails and placed them in the road, causing extensive damage to a patrol vehicle, police said. Oregon State Police worked with Portland officers to clear the protesters.
Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, protests over racial injustice and police brutality have occurred nightly for more than 70 days.
Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler said violent protesters are also serving as political “props” for President Donald Trump in a divisive election season where the president is hammering on a law-and-order message. Trump has called the protesters as “sick and dangerous anarchists” running wild in the city’s streets.
Tear gas was used by police on protesters Wednesday for the first time since the U.S. agents pulled back their presence in the city. But officers did not use it Thursday or Friday despite declaring the demonstrations unlawful assemblies. Police said tear gas wasn’t used Saturday.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — More protests are expected in Portland, Oregon, throughout the weekend following violent demonstrations this week that have brought more unrest to the Northwest city.
Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis protests have occurred nightly for 70 days. Friday night, Portland police declared an unlawful assembly at the Penumbra Kelly public safety building, ordering everyone in the area to leave. Authorities had previously warned people not to trespass on the property.
Early Friday morning about 200 people, some wielding homemade shields, clashed with police for the third consecutive night as two other Black Lives Matter rallies proceeded peacefully elsewhere.
Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler said this week the violent protesters are also serving as political “props” for President Donald Trump in a divisive election season where the president is hammering on a law-and-order message. Trump has tried to portray the protesters as “sick and dangerous anarchists” running wild in the city’s streets.
The chaos that started Thursday night and lasted into Friday morning in a residential neighborhood about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from downtown. The demonstrations this week had been noticeably smaller than the crowds of thousands who turned out nightly for about two weeks in July to protest the presence of U.S. agents sent by the Trump administration to protect a federal courthouse that had become a target of nightly violence.
This week’s clashes have, however, amped up tensions after an agreement last week between state and federal officials seemed to offer a brief reprieve.
The deal brokered by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown called for agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pull back from their defense of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse starting July 30.
Early Friday, as peaceful demonstrations proceeded elsewhere in the city, a group of people gathered at a park in eastern Portland and marched to the local police precinct, where authorities say they spray-painted the building, popped the tires of police cars, splashed paint on the walls, vandalized security cameras and set a fire in a barrel outside the building. One officer was severely injured by a rock, police said, but no additional details were provided.
Tear gas was used by police on protesters Wednesday for the first time since the U.S. agents pulled back their presence in the city, but officers did not use it Thursday despite declaring the demonstration an unlawful assembly.
Portland police have arrested more than 400 people at protests since late May. U.S. agents arrested at least an additional 94 people during protests at the federal courthouse in July.
KOCHI, India (AP) — The plane swayed violently as it approached a hilltop runway drenched in monsoon rain, and moments later the special return flight for Indians stranded abroad by the pandemic skidded off, nosedived and cracked in two, leaving 18 dead and more than 120 injured.
Among the injured on Friday night, at least 15 were in critical condition, said Abdul Karim, a senior police officer in southern Kerala state. The dead included both pilots of the Air India Express flight, the airline said in a statement, adding that the four cabin crew were safe.
The 2-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala. There were 174 adult passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew on board.
In a telephone interview from his hospital bed, Renjith Panangad, a plumber who was returning home for the first time in three years after losing his job at a construction company in Dubai, said the plane swayed before the crash and everything went dark.
He said he followed other passengers who crawled their way out of the fuselage through the emergency door.
“A lot of passengers were bleeding,” said Panangad, who escaped without major injuries. “I still can’t comprehend what happened. As I am trying to recall what happened, my body is shivering.”
He said the pilot made a regular announcement before landing, and moments after the plane hit the runway, it nosedived.
“There was a big noise during the impact and people started screaming,” he said.
Kozhikode’s 2,850-meter (9,350-foot) runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 34-meter (112-foot) drop.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S. Puri said in a statement that the flight “overshot the runway in rainy conditions and went down” the slope, breaking into two pieces upon impact.
As the rain stopped Saturday morning, searchers recovered a flight data recorder as the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau started work on the wreckage. Air India Express said its teams also reached Calicut to support and assist families of the victims.
A similar tragedy was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago, when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike upon landing. None of the 180 passengers of that flight was injured.
Questions dogging investigators would include not only the aircraft, weather and pilots but also the runway itself. Its end safety area was expanded in 2018 to accommodate wide-body aircraft.
The runway end safety area meets United Nations international civil aviation requirements, but the U.N. agency recommends a buffer that is 150 meters (492 feet) longer than that at Kozhikode airport, according to Harro Ranter, chief executive of the Aviation Safety Network online database.
The Press Trust of India news agency reported that the country’s aviation regulator had sought an explanation from the director of the Kozhikode airport in 2019 on finding “various critical safety lapses,” which included cracks on the runway, water stagnation and excessive rubber deposits.
Dubai-based aviation consultant Mark Martin said that while it was too early to determine the cause of the crash, annual monsoon conditions appeared to be a factor.
“Low visibility, wet runway, low cloud base, all leading to very poor braking action is what looks like led to where we are at the moment with this crash,” Martin said, calling for the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to assist with the Indian government’s investigation.
Kerala state Health Minister KK Shailaja asked local residents who joined the rescue effort to go into quarantine as a precautionary measure. The survivors were being tested for the virus, officials said.
The Air India Express flight was part of the Indian government’s special repatriation mission to bring Indian citizens back to the country, officials said. All of the passengers were returning from the Gulf region, authorities said. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode,” and that he had spoken to Kerala’s top elected official.
Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India.
The worst air disaster in India was on Nov. 12, 1996, when a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided midair with a Kazakhastan Airlines Flight near Charki Dadri in Haryana state, killing all 349 on board the two planes.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius declared a “state of environmental emergency” late Friday after a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tons of fuel.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced the development as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near environmental areas that the government called “very sensitive.”
Mauritius has said the ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tons of fuel and cracks have appeared in its hull.
Jugnauth earlier in the day said his government was appealing to France for help, saying the spill “represents a danger” for the country of some 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism and has been been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I have appealed for help from France and President Emmanuel Macron,” he said. Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and “I worry what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates.”
Jugnauth shared a photo of the vessel, the MV Wakashio, tilted precariously. “Sea rough beyond the reefs with swells. Ventures in the open seas are not advised,” according to the Mauritius Meteorological Services.
Video posted online showed oily waters lapping at the shore as people murmured and peered at the ship in the distance. Online ship trackers showed the Panama-flagged bulk carrier had been en route from China to Brazil.
The French island of Reunion is the closest neighbor to Mauritius, and France’s Foreign Ministry says France is Mauritius’s “leading foreign investor” and one of its largest trading partners.
“We are in a situation of environmental crisis,” the environment minister of Mauritius, Kavy Ramano, said, calling the Blue Bay Marine Park and other areas near the leaking ship “very sensitive.”
After the cracks in the hull were detected, a salvage team that had been working on the ship was evacuated, Ramano told reporters Thursday. Some 400 sea booms have been deployed in an effort to contain the spill.
Government statements this week said the ship ran aground July 25 and the National Coast Guard received no distress call. The ship’s owners were listed as the Japanese companies Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd.
A police inquiry has been opened into issues such as possible negligence, a government statement said.
Tons of diesel and oil are now leaking into the water, environmental group Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy manager Happy Khambule said in a statement.
“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health,” Khambule said.
A government environmental outlook released nearly a decade ago said Mauritius had a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan but equipment on hand was “adequate to deal with oil spills of less than 10 metric tonnes.”
In case of major spills, it said, assistance could be obtained from other Indian Ocean countries or from international oil spill response organizations.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Three men have been rescued from a tiny Pacific island after writing a giant SOS sign in the sand that was spotted from above, authorities say.
The men had been missing in the Micronesia archipelago for nearly three days when their distress signal was spotted Sunday on uninhabited Pikelot Island by searchers on Australian and U.S. aircraft, the Australian defense department said Monday.
The men had apparently set out from Pulawat atoll in a 7-meter (23-foot) boat on July 30 and had intended to travel about 43 kilometers (27 miles) to Pulap atoll when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel, the department said.
Searchers in Guam asked for Australian help. The military ship, Canberra, which was returning to Australia from exercises in Hawaii, diverted to the area and joined forces with U.S. searchers from Guam.
The men were found about 190 kilometers (118 miles) from where they had set out.
“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfill our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world,” said the Canberra’s commanding officer, Capt. Terry Morrison, in a statement.
The men were found in good condition, and an Australian military helicopter was able to land on the beach and give them food and water. A Micronesian patrol vessel was due to pick them up.
SOS is an internationally recognized distress signal that originates from Morse code.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration’s plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: The government won’t supply enough test kits to check staff and residents beyond an initial couple of rounds.
“I think the biggest fear is that the instruments may be delivered but it won’t do any good, if you don’t have the test kits,” said George Linial, president of LeadingAge of Texas, a branch of a national group representing nonprofit nursing homes and other providers of elder care.
The weekly cost of testing employees could range from more than $19,000 to nearly $38,000, according to estimates by the national organization. LeadingAge is urging the administration to set up a nationwide testing program to take over from the current patchwork of state and local arrangements.
The Trump administration responds that nursing homes could cover the cost of ongoing testing from a $5 billion pot provided by Congress, and allocated to the facilities by the White House.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the Health and Human Services department’s “testing czar,” recently told reporters that the government would only supply enough kits to test residents once and staff twice. But Giroir said officials have made arrangements with the manufacturers so nursing homes can order their own tests, for much less than they are currently spending.
Giroir acknowledged that the administration’s effort to provide at least one fast-testing machine to each of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes is a work in progress, but said it’s a top priority nonetheless.
“This is not wrapped up with a bow on it,” Giroir told reporters on a recent call. “We (are) doing this as aggressively as possible.”
The program is on track to deliver 2,400 fast-test machines and hundreds of thousands of test kits by mid-August, Giroir said, with the devices and supplies first going to nursing homes in virus hot spots.
However, informational materials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, say getting a machine to every nursing home could take 14 weeks. That would mean deliveries may not be completed until early November. In Texas alone there are more than 1,200 nursing homes, Linial said, and only a few dozen have gotten them.
“Part of the problem is resources and a lack of clarity about who pays for this in the future.” said Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes in long-term care issues. “Doing one round of testing doesn’t really solve the problem in a pandemic that could last months or years.”
The stakes are higher now because the virus has rebounded in many communities and threatens to spread uncontrolled. Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable. They’re older and many have underlying medical problems associated with more severe cases of COVID-19, even death. They live in close quarters, ideal conditions for the virus to spread.
Experts say the coronavirus probably gets into nursing homes via staffers, who unwittingly bring it from the surrounding community. Regular testing is seen as essential to protect people living and working in facilities, and the CMS agency is working on regulations to require weekly testing of staff in areas where the prevalence of the virus is 5% or greater.
The devastating toll among nursing home residents has become a politically sensitive issue for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hold onto support from older voters in November’s elections.
The machines the administration is sending to nursing homes perform antigen tests, which check for fragments of the virus protein in samples collected from a person’s nose. The tests take about 20 minutes to run, from start to finish.
The gold standard coronavirus test is different. Known as a PCR test, it identifies the genetic material of the virus.
Nursing homes have other concerns about the program, beyond costs.
For example, antigen tests can sometimes return a negative result when a person actually has the virus. A government guidance document for nursing homes says the tests “do not rule out” COVID-19.
Giroir said the antigen tests are being used for ongoing surveillance and monitoring, not to make a definitive diagnosis.
“We are not routinely repeating negative tests,” he said. “That kind of defeats the purpose.” The administration is working to clarify the guidance.
Nursing homes that have begun getting the machines may also be in the dark about how to operate them correctly.
“It’s not exactly as advertised,” said Steve Fleming, president of the Well-Spring Group, a retirement community in North Carolina that provides comprehensive retirement services. “It’s a complicated process to complete the test.”
The administration says the manufacturers of the machines are supposed to provide training and technical support.
Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.
SOUTHPORT, N.C. (AP) — Tropical Storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain along the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it smashed boats together and caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people. At least two people were killed when one of its twisters hit a mobile home park.
Nearly 12 hours after coming ashore, Isaias was still sustaining near-hurricane strength winds of 70 mph (110 kph) Tuesday morning, and its forward march accelerated to 35 mph (56 kph).
“Potentially life-threatening urban flooding is possible in D.C., Baltimore and elsewhere along and just west of the I-95 corridor today,” the National Hurricane Center warned.
Forecasters also issued clear warnings earlier, as Isaias approached land, urging people to heed the danger of life-threatening storm surge along the coasts of North and South Carolina.
Nevertheless, some veterans of earlier storms were under the impression that their areas would be spared.
Royce Potter, a fifth-generation seafood purveyor and owner of Potter’s Seafood in Southport, said he rode out the storm on a boat docked near his business, which was damaged by the wind and water.
“They got this wrong,” Potter said, visibly shaken. “I’ve ridden storms out here for years.”
The storm surge and wind damage actually matched what the hurricane center predicted, leaving dozens of boats piled up against the docks and many decks facing the water smashed.
As Hurricane Isaias’ heaviest bands approached North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Monday evening, Dean Burris watched from the balcony of his family’s vacation rental.
“The water was crazy; the wind was up. The waves were coming up over the pier out there and people were walking, and we were scared for them,” he said.
Burris says a group of people were standing on Sea Cabin Pier taking photos but took off running for land just moments before a portion collapsed from the strength of the storm.
“Next thing you know, the water kept getting higher and higher. It overtook the pier and I’m shocked it’s still standing.”
Two people were killed and at least three others were unaccounted for after a tornado destroyed several mobile homes in Windsor, North Carolina, said Ron Wesson, the chairman of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners. He said as many as 15 others were taken to hospitals with injuries.
An aerial shot by WRAL-TV showed fields of debris where rescue workers in brightly colored shirts picked through splintered boards and other wreckage. Nearby, a vehicle was flipped onto its roof, its tires pointed up in the air.
“It doesn’t look real. It looks like something on TV. Nothing is there,” Bertie County Sheriff John Holley told reporters. “All my officers are down there at this time. Pretty much the entire trailer park is gone.”
The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.
The hurricane’s eye moved over land near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, just after 11 p.m. Monday with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (136 km/h). Many homes were flooded and at least five caught fire in the city, Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT-TV.
Forecasters expected the storm to hold its strength and spin off damaging winds on a path into New England on Tuesday night.
“We don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening. We still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two,” hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told The Associated Press.
As the rains grew stronger and steadier in the Philadelphia area Tuesday, emergency responders rescued a few people trapped in vehicles when roads suddenly became flooded and mostly impassable. No injuries were reported.
Isaias toggled between tropical storm and hurricane through its path to the U.S. coast, killing two people in the Caribbean and trashing the Bahamas before brushing past Florida.
Most of the significant damage seemed to be east and north of where the hurricane’s eye struck land.
Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday morning that Brunswick, Pender and Onslow counties, along North Carolina’s southeast coast, were among the hardest hit with storm surge, structure fires and reports of tornadoes. About two dozen shelters were open, he said.
Eileen and David Hubler were out early Tuesday cleaning up in North Myrtle Beach, where the storm surge topped 4 feet (1.2 meters), flooding cars, unhinging docks and etching a water line into the side of their home.
“When the water started coming, it did not stop,” she said. They had moved most items of value to their second floor, but a mattress and washing machine were unexpected storm casualties. Eileen Hubler said Isaias’ incoming wrath was downplayed, and she wishes she had followed her gut.
“We keep thinking we’ve learned our lesson. And each time there’s a hurricane, we learn a new lesson. The new lesson is you never trust that you’re going to have a 2-foot (0.6 meter) storm surge,” she said.
Coastal shops and restaurants had closed early in the Carolinas, where power began to flicker at oceanfront hotels and even the most adventurous of beachgoers abandoned the sand Monday night. The Hurricane Center warned residents to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) and up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain in spots.
As the storm neared the shore, a gauge on a pier in Myrtle Beach recorded its third highest water level since it was set up in 1976. Only Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 pushed more salt water inland.
Morgan reported from North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Associated Press contributors include science writer Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland; Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina; Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; Shawn Marsh in Trenton, New Jersey.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Slow, grinding negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill are set to resume Monday afternoon, but the path forward promises to be challenging and time is already growing short. Republicans are griping that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t drop her expansive wish list even as concerns are mounting that the White House needs to be more sure-footed in the negotiations.
Both the Trump administration negotiating team and top Capitol Hill Democrats remain far apart, and talks since Saturday — when the combatants announced modest progress — have yet to lend momentum. Both sides used television appearances over the weekend to showcase their differences.
The White House is seeking opportunities to boost President Donald Trump, like another round of $1,200 stimulus payments and extending the supplemental jobless benefit and partial eviction ban. Pelosi, the top Democratic negotiator, appears intent on an agreement as well, but she’s made it clear she needs big money for state and local governments, unemployment benefits, and food aid.
Appearances by the principal negotiators on Sunday’s news shows featured continued political shots by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at Pelosi for turning down a one-week extension of the $600 benefit in talks last week.
Meadows, however, is understaffed during the talks and seems to struggle with his read on Pelosi. He spent much of his time on CBS’ “Face The Nation” attacking her for opposing a piecemeal approach that would revive jobless benefits immediately but leave other items like food stamps and aid to states for later legislation. She is insisting on a complete package.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is so far playing a low-profile role. But he has been a constant in negotiations in four prior COVID-19 response bills, and he is facing time pressure as an antsy Senate yearns to exit Washington. The Democratic-controlled House has left for recess and won’t return until there is an agreement to vote on, but the GOP-held Senate is trapped in the capital.
Areas of agreement already include the $1,200 direct payment and changes to the Paycheck Protection Program to permit especially hard-hit businesses to obtain another loan under generous forgiveness terms.
But the terms and structure of the unemployment benefit remains a huge sticking point, negotiators said Sunday, and Meadows hasn’t made any concessions on the almost $1 trillion Pelosi wants for state and local governments grappling with pandemic-related revenue losses.
“We still have a long ways to go,” Meadows said, adding, “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”
Pelosi said she’d consider reducing the $600 benefit for states with lower unemployment rates. Republicans want to cut the benefit to encourage beneficiaries to return to work and say it is bad policy since it pays many jobless people more money than they made at their previous jobs.
“But in this agreement it’s $600,” Pelosi said on ABC’s ’This Week.″ “Yes, they might anecdotally have examples, but the fact is, is that they’re subjecting somebody who gets $600 to scrutiny they won’t subject some of the people that are getting millions of dollars” through the loan program for small businesses that keep employees on their payrolls.
Another sticking point is that Republicans want to give more school aid to systems that are restarting with in-school learning, even as Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump’s top coronavirus adviser, cautioned that schools in areas with spikes in cases should delay reopening
“In the areas where we have this widespread case increase, we need to stop the cases, and then we can talk about safely reopening,” Birx said on “This Week.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Norwegian cruise ship line halted all trips and apologized Monday for procedural errors after a coronavirus outbreak on one ship infected at least 5 passengers and 36 crew. Health authorities fear the ship also could have spread the virus to dozens of towns and villages along Norway’s western coast.
The confirmed virus cases from the MS Roald Amundsen raise new questions about safety on all cruise ships during a pandemic even as the devastated cruise ship industry is pressing to resume sailings after chaotically shutting down in March. In response to the outbreak, Norway on Monday closed its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.
The Hurtigruten cruise line was one of the first companies to resume sailing during the pandemic, starting cruises to Norway out of northern Germany in June with a single ship, then adding cruises in July to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
The 41 people on the MS Roald Amundsen who tested positive have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsoe, north of the Arctic Circle, where the ship currently is docked. The cruise line said it suspended the ship and two others — the MS Fridtjof Nansen and the MS Spitsbergen — from operating for an indefinite period.
“A preliminary evaluation shows that there has been a failure in several of our internal procedures,” Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam said in a statement. He added the company that sails along Norway’s picturesque coast between Bergen in the south and Kirkenes in the north is “now in the process of a full review of all procedures.”
It has contacted passengers who had been on the MS Roald Amundsen for its July 17-24 and July 25-31 trips from Bergen to Svalbard, which is known for its polar bears. The ship had 209 guests on the first voyage and 178 on the second. All other crew members tested negative.
But since the cruise line often acts like a local ferry, traveling from port to port along Norway’s western coast, the virus may not have been contained onboard. Some passengers disembarked along the route and may have spread the virus to their local communities.
A total of 69 municipalities in Norway could have been affected, Norwegian news agency NTB reported. Officials in the northern city of Tromsoe are urging anyone who traveled on the ship or had any contact with it to get in touch with health authorities.
Police in Norway are opening an investigation to find out whether any laws had been broken.
It’s not yet clear how the MS Roald Amundsen outbreak began. NTB reported that 33 of the infected crew members came from the Philippines and the others were from Norway, France and Germany. The passengers were from all over the world.
Skjeldam said cruise ship officials did not know they should have notified passengers after the first infection was reported Friday, adding that they followed the advice of the ship’s doctors.
But Line Vold of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said its advice was to inform passengers and crew as soon as possible so they could monitor their health and go into quarantine or isolation, if needed.
“We have made mistakes. On behalf of all of us in Hurtigruten, I am sorry for what has happened. We take full responsibility,” Skjeldam said.
The Norwegian government announced Monday it was tightening the rules for cruise ships by banning ships with more than 100 passengers from docking in Norwegian harbors and disembarking passengers and crew for two weeks. The ban does not apply to ferries.
Health Minister Bent Hoeie said the situation on the Hurtigruten ship prompted the decision.
In Italy, the Costa Crociere cruise ship line said three crew members from two ships in Civitavecchia, near Rome, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The cruise company said two assigned to the Costa Deliziosa were hospitalized and a third, assigned to the Costa Favolosa, was in isolation on the ship.
The Italian cruise company, which is part of Carnival Corp. said the crews of both ships were being screened ’’in view of the possible relaunch of our cruises, as soon as the government gives the authorization.” The Cabinet was to meet on the matter Sunday.
Costa Crociere said that all crew members were tested for the virus before leaving their countries, then undergo a second test once they arrive in Italy, after which they are put under a two-week monitoring period.
In the South Pacific, some 340 passengers and crew were confined on a cruise ship in Tahiti on Monday after one traveler tested positive for the virus. The commissariat for French Polynesia said all those aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship are being tested and will be kept in their cabins pending the results.
The South Pacific archipelago started reopening to tourists last month, with a requirement that all visitors get tested before arriving and re-tested four days later.
Cruise lines stopped sailing in mid-March after several high-profile coronavirus outbreaks at sea. More than 710 people fell ill aboard Carnival’s Diamond Princess cruise ship while it was quarantined off Japan and 13 people died.
The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents more than 50 companies and 95% of global cruise capacity, said the resumption of cruises has been extremely limited so far. The voyages taking place must have approval from and follow the requirements of national governments, it said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is not allowing cruise ships in U.S. waters at least through September.
The industry association said it is still developing COVID-19-control procedures based on advice from governments and medical experts and once they are finalized, member companies will be required to adopt them.
A German cruise ship last week set sail from Hamburg, testing procedures for how cruise ships can operate safely during the pandemic. The ship sailed with less than 50% capacity and only went on a four-day trip at sea with no stops at other ports.
Colleen Barry in Milan, Angela Charlton in Paris and Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this report.
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Isaias was forecast to strike land as a minimal hurricane on Monday in the Carolinas, where coastal residents were warned to brace for flooding rains and storm surge.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Surf City, North Carolina. Isaias was still a tropical storm at 11 a.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph), but it was expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane later Monday, with winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or more.
“We are forecasting it to become a hurricane before it reaches the coast this evening,” senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown said. “It’s forecast to produce a dangerous storm surge, of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 meters) in portions of North and South Carolina.”
Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — could bring heavy rains, too — up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in spots as it moves up the coast, Brown said — and “all those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast U.S.”
Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and roughed up the Bahamas but remained at sea as it brushed past Florida over the weekend, providing some welcome relief to emergency managers who had to accommodate mask-wearing evacuees in storm shelters. It remained well offshore as it passed Georgia’s coast on Monday.
Authorities were getting ready in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, ordering swimmers out of the water to avoid rough surf and strong rip currents. Still, many people were out enjoying the beach, walking dogs and getting their feet wet under overcast skies.
“We’re from Michigan, so we get snow and go through it all,” Aliyah Owens, who arrived in Myrtle Beach for a summer vacation Sunday, told WTBW-TV. “A little water isn’t going to hurt.”
The storm remained about 220 miles (354 kilometers) to the south-southwest of Myrtle Beach at 11 a.m., though conditions were expected to worsen as Isaias picked up speech and marched northward.
At the Caribbean Resort & Villas in Myrtle Beach, grounds manager Jeremy Philo was out before sunrise looking for loose objects that might be picked up and tossed like missiles by the storm’s winds. He tied down pool chairs and removed hanging baskets and patio furniture from hotel balconies.
“Anything that can move we tie down or bring inside,” Philo told The Sun News of Myrtle Beach.
Officials in frequently flooded Charleston, South Carolina, handed out sandbags and opened parking garages so residents in the low-lying peninsula that includes downtown could stow their cars above ground.
Though the center of Isaias was expected to pass Charleston offshore Monday evening, National Weather Service meteorologists said a major flood was possible if rainfall is heavy when the high tide arrives at about 9 p.m.
North Carolina’s ferry operators were wrapping up evacuations of tourists and residents from Ocracoke Island. The ferry division tweeted Sunday that its vessels had carried 3,335 people and 1,580 vehicles off of Ocracoke, which is reachable only by plane or boat. Officials on North Carolina’s Outer Banks were taking no chances after taking a beating less than a year ago from Hurricane Dorian.
At 11 a.m. Monday, the center of Isaias was passing about 90 miles to the east-southeast of Brunswick, Georgia, where state officials closed a towering suspension bridge out of concern that wind gusts of tropical-storm force could endanger motorists.
Isaiah’s passage is particularly unwelcome to authorities already dealing with surging coronavirus caseloads. The storm brought heavy rain and flooding to Florida, where authorities closed outdoor virus testing sights along with beaches and parks after lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away.
About 150 people had to keep masks on while sheltering in Palm Beach County, which has a voluntary evacuation order for people living in homes that can’t withstand dangerous winds, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda.
Isaias was blamed for two deaths as it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Then it snapped trees and knocked out power Saturday in the Bahamas, where shelters were opened on Abaco island to help people still living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people in September 2019.
Associated Press reporters Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, Wilfredo Lee in Verona Beach, Florida, Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Florida and Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.
By Suzie Ziegler for the Associated Press via PoliceOne
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Three inmates at a Georgia county jail are being hailed heroes after they helped save a deputy who suffered a medical emergency.
According to the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, the deputy was supervising a housing unit when he lost consciousness and fell to the concrete floor, cracking his head open. The inmates, who had noticed he had appeared unwell, immediately began shouting for help, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post Tuesday.
“The inmates whose rooms were close enough to see what was happening began pounding on their doors. Soon the entire unit was thundering with noise as many inmates pounded on the doors shouting for our deputy who lay unconscious and heavily bleeding on the floor,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
The deputy later told officials he hadn’t realized he’d been unconscious. However, he said he became aware that the inmates were shouting his name. Thinking that someone needed help, the deputy managed to stand up and press the control panel to open cell doors.
Three inmates rushed out of their rooms to the deputy, who had fallen unconscious again. They called for help with the deputy’s desk phone and radio, which came almost immediately, the sheriff’s office said.
The sheriff’s office praised both the deputy and the inmates for their actions.
“These inmates had no obligation whatsoever to render aid to a bleeding, vulnerable deputy, but they didn’t hesitate,” officials wrote. “We’re proud of our deputy, whose strong desire to serve gave him the strength to activate the door release when he believed an inmate needed his help. In doing so, he released his rescuers. We’re proud of them, too. Thank you.”
The deputy survived the incident and is now recovering at home until he can return to duty, the sheriff’s office said.
MILWAUKEE — More than 100 police agencies are withdrawing from agreements to send personnel to bolster security at next month’s Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, in part because they’re concerned about a recent directive ordering police in the city to stop using tear gas to control crowds.
A citizen oversight commission last week directed Milwaukee’s police chief to publicly account for why the department used tear gas during protests in late May and early June after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and to change Milwaukee’s police policies to ban the use of tear gas and pepper spray. The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission said in its order that Police Chief Alfonso Morales could be fired if he fails to comply.
That order came amid intense scrutiny of police tactics at protests in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.
Since the Milwaukee order was issued, more than 100 law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin and across the country decided against coming to Milwaukee, Morales told WTMJ-TV on Tuesday. They were concerned with directives placed on the police department, including not allowing tear gas or pepper spray, he said.
Morales did not say which agencies would not be coming or how many officers were still expected. The original plan was to have 1,000 officers on hand from outside agencies to assist with security. Morales said utilizing the National Guard or enlisting federal assistance was under consideration.
The convention, scheduled for Aug. 17-Aug. 20 at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee, has been scaled down to a mostly virtual event, with only about 300 people expected to attend in-person. Most of the speeches will be delivered online from other locations, though former Vice President Joe Biden has said he will be in Milwaukee to accept the nomination. Despite the event’s smaller scale, police are preparing for potentially large protests in and around the venue.
A spokeswoman for the convention did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. The Milwaukee police oversight commission also did not return a message seeking comment.
Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the agreements were collapsing, saying he expects other agencies in the state to also withdraw. Lamb chairs the Wisconsin Police Executive Group, which is made up of police chiefs from cities with populations of more than 20,000 people.
Lamb sent a letter to Milwaukee police on July 6 outlining his organization’s concerns about limiting the use of tear gas and pepper spray. West Allis police first sent a letter to Morales with concerns in mid-June after Milwaukee’s Common Council temporarily halted the purchase of those chemicals.
“Our concern is that in the event protests turn non-peaceful, such a policy would remove tools from officers that may otherwise be legal and justifiable to utilize in specific situations,” West Allis Deputy Chief Robert Fletcher told the Journal Sentinel in an email.
Waukesha’s police chief said he was consulting with the city attorney’s office on how to withdraw from the agreement, which had promised about two dozen Waukesha officers.
Not all police departments withdrew because of the tear gas order. The Madison Police Department notified Milwaukee early this month that “an accelerating COVID-19 pandemic coupled with ongoing protests in Madison” had strained its resources, making it impossible to commit resources to the convention, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Madison originally committed to providing 100 officers to Milwaukee for what was to have been a 10-day convention before it got shortened and postponed until August.
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday extended a state order requiring face coverings in public for another month and expanded it to include students in grade 2 and above in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 as schools reopen.
Ivey’s action, announced during a Capitol news conference, added more than four weeks to an earlier order that had been set to expire on Friday. Hospital officials had pushed for an extension, saying the state’s intensive care units are nearly full because of the new coronavirus.
The mandate, which she announced on July 15, requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public and within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone who is not a relative. It makes exceptions for people who have certain medical conditions, are exercising or performing certain types of jobs.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said previously that it would take two, but preferably three weeks, to judge if the mandate was making a difference in transmission rates.
Hospital officials had urged Ivey to extend the order.
“We feel strongly that Governor Ivey should extend it for several more weeks,” Dr. Ricardo Maldonado with the East Alabama Medical Center said in a statement the hospital posted on Facebook. “Our COVID-19 census now is dangerously high.”
Maldonado said hospitals need to see their patient counts fall before the mask mandate is lifted.
Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association, said the association also supports an extension.
He said the state in recent days has seen a slight decrease in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, but he noted that as of Tuesday, 90% of the state’s intensive care beds were full, the highest number since the pandemic began.
“We have to continue until the disease is at a very low level and 1,100 (cases per day) is not a low level,” Williamson said. “If you do away with the mask order, more people get infected and we head right back up.”
By GILLIAN FLACCUS and ANDREW SELSKY and JONATHAN LEMIRE for the Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal agents who have clashed with protesters in Portland, Oregon, will begin a “phased withdrawal” from Oregon’s largest city, Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement the plan negotiated with Brown over the last 24 hours includes a “robust presence” of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland.
“State and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack for the past two months,” Wolf said.
The agents will begin leaving the city’s downtown area on Thursday, Brown said.
Before departing Wednesday for a trip to Texas, President Donald Trump insisted federal troops would not leave Portland until local authorities “secured their city.”
“Either they’re gonna clean up Portland soon, or the federal government is going up, and we’re gonna do it for them. So either they clean out Portland — the governor and the mayor, who are weak — either they clean out Portland or we’re gong in to do it for them,” he said.
The U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security had been weighing this week whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.
The nightly Portland protests began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities.
They often spiral into violence as demonstrators target the U.S. courthouse in Oregon’s largest city with rocks, fireworks and laser pointers. Federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.
Protesters have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails and bricks, rocks and bottles at the agents inside. Authorities this week reinforced the fence by putting concrete highway barriers around it.
Demonstrators near the courthouse Wednesday were met before dawn with tear gas, pepper balls and impact munitions fired by agents, the Oregonian newspaper reported.
Lemire reported from Washington. Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Mike Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington and Suman Naishadham in Atlanta also contributed to this report.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — About 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, are being evacuated from the popular Vietnamese beach city of Da Nang after more than a dozen people there were confirmed to have COVID-19, the government said Monday.
Vietnam, widely seen as a success in dealing with the coronavirus, reimposed a social distancing order in Da Nang following the confirmation of the cases, the first known to be locally transmitted in the country in over three months.
A 57- year-old man was confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus on Saturday, the country’s first local case since April. Three more cases were confirmed over the weekend, followed by 11 more on Monday, the Ministry of Health said.
On Sunday, the government reimposed a social distancing order on the city.
The new outbreak sparked fear among tourists in the city, with many cutting their trips short.
The Civil Aviation Administration said the country’s four airlines have added extra flights and larger planes to transport the people, mostly domestic tourists, out of the city.
“It will probably take four days to evacuate the 80,000 passengers,” CAA director Dinh Viet Thang said in a statement. Those leaving Da Nang have been told to self-quarantine and report their health condition to local health agencies, the Ministry of Health said.
It said the 11 cases confirmed Monday were all patients and health workers at Da Nang Hospital, where the initial case is being treated.
The hospital has been isolated and authorities are tracing the contacts of those infected for testing and compulsory quarantines.
The ministry also said the virus is a new strain that has not previously been found in Vietnam. The mutated strain has a faster speed of infection, but its harmfulness compared to the previous strain is not yet known, it said.
U.S. Park Police began the violent clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square last month without apparent provocation or adequate warning to demonstrators, immediately after Attorney General William Barr spoke with Park Police leaders, according to an Army National Guard officer who was there.
The account of Adam DeMarco challenges key aspects of the Trump administration’s explanation for the clearing of the protest in front of the White House, just before President Donald Trump walked through the area to stage a photo event in front of a historic church.
DeMarco’s account was released in written testimony for his scheduled appearance Tuesday before the House Natural Resources Committee’s hearing on the Park Police’s punching, clubbing and use of chemical agents against what appeared to be largely peaceful protesters on June 1. The administration’s forceful clearing of the protest area in front of the White House came at the height of nationwide street demonstrations sparked by the killings of George Floyd and other Black citizens at the hands of police.
“From what I could observe, the demonstrators were behaving peacefully,” when Park Police, the Secret Service, and other, unidentified forces turned on the crowd, DeMarco writes. The rout started shortly after Barr and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared in the square, where Barr appeared to confer with Park Police leaders, he says.
The legally required warnings to demonstrators before clearing the square shortly after were “barely audible” from 20 yards away and apparently not heard by protesters, he said.
Park Police and other officers began suddenly routing the crowd without warning to National Guard forces present, DeMarco said. And a Park Police liaison officer told DeMarco that his forces were only using “stage smoke” against the crowd, not tear gas. DeMarco said the stinging to his nose and eyes appeared to be tear gas, however, and says he found spent tear gas canisters in the street later that evening.
Spokespeople for Barr and for the U.S. Park Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. In the past, the Trump administration has said violent actions by protesters warranted the forceful clearing of Lafayette Square, and denied the Park Police acted to clear the square ahead of Trump’s photo event.
DeMarco says he was the appointed liaison at the event for the Interior Department’s Park Police and the National Guard, and was standing near a statue of Andrew Jackson, as Barr and other senior officials involved congregated.
The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race.
There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect.
The needed proof: Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked.
“Unfortunately for the United States of America, we have plenty of infections right now” to get that answer, NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told The Associated Press.
Moderna said the vaccination was done in Savannah, Georgia, the first site to get underway among more than seven dozen trial sites scattered around the country.
In Binghamton, New York, nurse Melissa Harting said she volunteered as a way “to do my part to help out.”
“I’m excited,” Harting said before she received a study injection Monday morning. Especially with family members in front-line jobs that could expose them to the virus, “doing our part to eradicate it is very important to me.”
Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month.
But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: Every month through fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate — each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers.
The massive studies aren’t just to test if the shots work — they’re needed to check each potential vaccine’s safety. And following the same study rules will let scientists eventually compare all the shots.
Next up in August, the final U.S. study of the Oxford shot begins, followed by plans to test a candidate from Johnson & Johnson in September and Novavax in October — if all goes according to schedule. Pfizer Inc. plans its own 30,000-person study this summer.
That’s a stunning number of people needed to roll up their sleeves for science. But in recent weeks, more than 150,000 Americans filled out an online registry signaling interest, said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute in Seattle, who helps oversee the study sites.
“These trials need to be multigenerational, they need to be multiethnic, they need to reflect the diversity of the United States population,” Corey told a vaccine meeting last week. He stressed that it’s especially important to ensure enough Black and Hispanic participants as those populations are hard-hit by COVID-19.
It normally takes years to create a new vaccine from scratch, but scientists are setting speed records this time around, spurred by knowledge that vaccination is the world’s best hope against the pandemic. The coronavirus wasn’t even known to exist before late December, and vaccine makers sprang into action Jan. 10 when China shared the virus’ genetic sequence.
Just 65 days later in March, the NIH-made vaccine was tested in people. The first recipient is encouraging others to volunteer now.
“We all feel so helpless right now. There’s very little that we can do to combat this virus. And being able to participate in this trial has given me a sense of, that I’m doing something,” Jennifer Haller of Seattle told the AP. “Be prepared for a lot of questions from your friends and family about how it’s going, and a lot of thank-you’s.”
That first-stage study that included Haller and 44 others showed the shots revved up volunteers’ immune systems in ways scientists expect will be protective, with some minor side effects such as a brief fever, chills and pain at the injection site. Early testing of other leading candidates have had similarly encouraging results.
If everything goes right with the final studies, it still will take months for the first data to trickle in from the Moderna test, followed by the Oxford one.
Governments around the world are trying to stockpile millions of doses of those leading candidates so if and when regulators approve one or more vaccines, immunizations can begin immediately. But the first available doses will be rationed, presumably reserved for people at highest risk from the virus.
“We’re optimistic, cautiously optimistic” that the vaccine will work and that “toward the end of the year” there will be data to prove it, Dr. Stephen Hoge, president of Massachusetts-based Moderna, told a House subcommittee last week.
Until then, Haller, the volunteer vaccinated back in March, wears a mask in public and takes the same distancing precautions advised for everyone — while hoping that one of the shots in the pipeline pans out.
“I don’t know what the chances are that this is the exact right vaccine. But thank goodness that there are so many others out there battling this right now,” she said.
AP photographer Ted Warren in Seattle contributed to this report.
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.
ALBANY, N.Y. — The union representing State Police investigators on Thursday said that troopers and investigators deployed in New York City’s five boroughs could face arrest on misdemeanor charges if they use restraint techniques that are part of their training but have been banned under new codes adopted by the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“They have trained their whole career to effectively control a resistant subject by methods that were taught by instructors with the New York State Police and now we’re being told we can’t do that anymore and, in my opinion, it’s placing the investigators and senior investigators who work in these situations in a vulnerable situation,” said union Vice President Ronald Pierone.
The changes adopted by the New York City Council, which were intended to largely influence physical confrontations between civilians and the New York Police Department, make it a misdemeanor crime for a police officer to use any neck restraints or to put their knees on the back or stomach of a person.
State Police leaders issued a directive to the agency’s members earlier this week cautioning them about the city’s ordinances.
But for a trooper, turning off years of training may not be simple, Pierone said, and could create more dangerous situations if a person who is combative cannot be restrained and their behavior escalates to the point the trooper may need to use a Taser, baton, pepper spray or even deadly force if their life becomes endangered.
“It’s ingrained. It’s (a) muscle-memory thing,” Pierone said. “You have guys down there that have made hundreds of arrests and some of the arrests go simple, no issues. … It’s going to be a difficult process to tell yourself, ‘well I’m in one of the five boroughs of New York City and I can’t do that now.'”
The roughly five restraints banned by New York City, including sitting, standing or kneeling on a person’s back or chest, are considered a proper restraint by other police agencies across the state. Police consider the methods “non-violent restraining techniques” that they said safely subdue people who are combative with the least amount of force.
But the controversy follows a series of highly publicized cases in which people have died during physical encounters with police, including some who succumbed after being placed in chokeholds. Still, police officials said many of those cases involved officers who may have used improper techniques.
New York City and many other municipalities across the country began changing or debating police use of force techniques in the wake of protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd was handcuffed and complaining that he could not breathe. Many police use-of-force experts have said that officer, who has been charged with murder, was using force that was unjustified and is not part of their training.
There are more than 100 State Police investigators and senior investigators deployed in New York City, many of them assigned to narcotics and organized crime task forces, as well as violent felony warrant squads.
“A police officer who is forced to struggle with a criminal who refuses to follow a lawful order may be charged with a crime in New York City even though his/her actions are lawful everywhere else in New York state, may not be intentional, and no one was injured,” the investigators’ union said in a statement.
Last week, the head of the New York State Troopers PBA issued a statement demanding that state troopers be removed from New York City “and cease any law enforcement activities within that jurisdiction.”
“We have arrived at this unfortunate decision due to the hastily written so-called police reform legislation recently passed by the New York City Council,” said PBA President Thomas H. Mungeer.
But there is no indication that troopers will be removed from New York City, where many patrol airports, bridges and tunnels.
State Police are arranging for troopers and investigators assigned to New York City to receive additional training on the restraint laws, a spokesman said.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty said Wednesday she didn’t believe protesters in Portland are setting fires but that police are sending in “saboteurs” to create the strife – an unsubstantiated claim that drew immediate pushback from police and then an apology from her hours later.
She also made a not-so-oblique reference to Mayor Ted Wheeler, referencing “ignorance at the highest levels in our city government” as she participated in a national briefing sponsored by a left-leaning think tank based in Portland.
Hardesty spoke amid growing frustration in the city for the aggressive tactics of federal officers who have been firing tear gas, impact munitions and striking demonstrators with batons as larger crowds have descended this month outside the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse demanding that the federal officers leave town. Federal officers in camouflage fatigues also whisked away at least two people from Portland streets last week in unmarked vans for questioning.
Hardesty said she believes federal officers are targeting sanctuary cities.
“I asked the mayor, ‘Who do you think they’re grabbing off the street?’ Well, ah, ah,” she said, attempting to mimic Wheeler stammering in response to her question.
“And he says, ‘Well, a sanctuary city just means we don’t work with ICE.’ So we have an ignorance at the highest levels in our city government,” she said. “People who just assume that if the police say it happened, it really happened.”
Hardesty’s comments came three days after she issued a statement via Twitter, telling Wheeler that if he couldn’t control the Police Bureau, he should allow her to replace him as police commissioner. Wheeler responded that he planned to continue in the position during this “period of transformation.”
He couldn’t be reached for immediate comment on Hardesty’s latest broadside.
Her remarks were made during a video conference “Emergency National Briefing,” sponsored by the Portland-based Western States Center. She spoke after Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Hardesty, who has been the leading voice for police reform on the City Council, blamed police for creating strife on the city’s streets by sending in provocateurs.
“I want people to know that I do not believe there’s any protesters in Portland that are setting fires, that are creating crisis. I absolutely believe it’s police action, and they’re sending saboteurs and provocateurs into peaceful crowds so they justify their inhumane treatment or people who are standing up for their rights.”
She didn’t offer any information to back up her allegations.
Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland rank-and-file police union, quickly responded: “Really? Really? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“With statements like this, it has become completely clear that Commissioner Hardesty is part of the problem in Portland,” Turner said in a statement. “Every one of the many videos we have seen confirms that small groups of rioters are starting the fires and trying to burn down buildings. Even a quick search of Twitter shows rioters setting the fires and boldly claiming responsibility.”
Video images on May 29 caught people breaking windows of the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland and throwing flares and setting a fire in a sheriff’s records office there and more recently setting fires outside the federal courthouse next door.
Two weeks earlier, Portland city officials recorded 114 fires set by people in the city since demonstrations began after the death of George Floyd on May 25 while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight members. The fires were recorded by the Portland Fire & Rescue Bureau, which Hardesty oversees as fire commissioner.
By Wednesday evening, Hardesty issued a statement apologizing, but referenced similar statements on fires she made to another publication, Marie Claire, not the remarks she issued during the national briefing carried live on Facebook.
“Today I let my emotions get the most of me during council and the comment I made to the press. But I’m angry , frustrated, and horrified by what has happened these past 50 days. I’m angry that even as a City Commissioner, I am coming up against countless barriers from protecting protecting Portlanders from the deluge of tear gas, pepper spray and other munitions on a nightly basis.”
She said she drew from her experience as a child of the civil rights movement that “people have been sent to infiltrate these spaces to create incidents that justify enhanced police actions…I appreciate the reminder that as a public servant I need to be careful making statements out of misinformation, and I take this to heart.”
In one of the latest cases involving an attempted fire, a 21-year-old man named Joseph James Ybarra appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon, accused by federal prosecutors of attempted arson for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at the front of the federal courthouse about 3:15 a.m. Wednesday.
According to a federal affidavit, video surveillance caught two men lighting a white wick that appeared to stick out of a glass bottle in the pre-dawn hours outside the courthouse.
One in a black sweatshirt, white shorts and carrying a bag, later identified as Ybarra, moved some of the fencing that was used to barricade an exposed opening to the courthouse, while the other person lit the wick of bottle and threw it at the courthouse, according to the affidavit.
The device appeared to fall to the ground and Ybarra picked it up and threw it twice more, wrote Nathan Miller, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the federal affidavit. It didn’t explode, Miller said.
Ybarra, who said he lived in a tent in Southeast Portland, confirmed he was the person in video surveillance holding the device and told a federal officer he did it because he thought it was cool, the agent wrote in the affidavit. Ybarra remains in custody.
Turner, who represents rank-and-file officers, detectives and sergeants for the Portland Police Association, said he has invited elected officials to stand at the front lines with police officers during protests, but no City Council member has taken him up on it.
“Politicians bent on power, perpetuating misinformation and untruths, are just as guilty of using their privilege to hijack this movement as the rioters who are committing violent acts, burning, and looting,” he said.
Western States Center, which tracks extremist groups, hosted what it a video-based national briefing on “the Trump Administration’s misuse of armed federal agents in Portland and beyond.”
Joining Hardesty and U.S. Sen. Merkley, D-Ore., were a New York State assemblywoman, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Eric K. Ward, the director of Western States Center. The center this week filed a federal suit against federal law enforcement, seeking to restrict their tactics on the city’s streets.
Hardesty’s statements about sanctuary cities arose partly in response to remarks made the day before by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad F. Wolf, who said he was concerned about Portland city officials’ lack of cooperation and willingness to assist federal enforcement, stemming from the time City Hall restricted Portland police from helping federal immigration officers deal with a growing encampment outside their Portland field office in 2018.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to address newly rising infection numbers, Washington, D.C., is mandating that anyone arriving in the nation’s capital after non-essential travel to a coronavirus hot spot area must self-quarantine for 14 days.
The executive order from Mayor Muriel Bowser comes days after Bowser took the step of making face-masks mandatory outdoors in the nation’s capital.
“We know, unfortunately, there are states that are seeing significant spikes in new cases,” Bowser said.
After saying they had successfully blunted the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly crept upward, reaching triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in weeks.
Bowser’s government is defining a hot spot as any area where the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is 10 or more per 100,000 persons. The city government plans to publish a list of those hot spots on Monday, and update it every two weeks.
Anyone coming or returning to Washington from one of these hot spots will be asked to stay in their home or hotel room for 14 days, allowing no visitors and only leaving for essential reasons such as medical treatment.
Bowser said the self-quarantines would essentially be on the honor system and there would be “nobody standing at the hotel door telling people if they can come or go.”
The order begins on Monday, July 27 and will continue until October 9, the current expiration date for the city’s state of emergency and public health emergency declarations.
The order does not apply to people travelling between the District of Columbia and the neighboring communities of Maryland or Virginia. It also doesn’t apply if someone is merely transiting through an airport in a hot spot area.
Those arriving or returning from travel considered essential will be asked to limit their activities and monitor their physical symptoms, Bowser said. Members of Congress travelling to and from their districts would be considered essential.
MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Hanna is expected to hit the southern Texas coast as a hurricane on Saturday afternoon or early evening, forecasters said, all while another tropical storm approached the Caribbean.
Hanna was centered about 140 miles (225 kilometers) east-southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said early Saturday. The storm had maximum sustained winds around 65 mph (100 kph) and was moving west at 8 mph (13 kph).
A hurricane warning is in effect for Port Mansfield to Mesquite Bay, a span that includes Corpus Christi. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Barra el Mezquital, Mexico, to Port Mansfield, Texas, and from Mesquite Bay to High Island, Texas.
A storm surge warning is in effect for Baffin Bay to Sargent. Storm surge up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) was forecast for that area. People were advised to protect life and property from high water.
Forecasters said Hanna could bring 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain through Sunday night — with isolated totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) — in addition to coastal swells that could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Hanna broke the record as the earliest eighth Atlantic named storm, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The previous record was Harvey on Aug. 3, 2005, Klotzbach tweeted.
Tropical Storm Gonzalo was also the earliest Atlantic named storm for its place in the alphabet. The previous record was held by Tropical Storm Gert, which formed on July 24, 2005. So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard and Fay also set records for being the earliest named Atlantic storm for their alphabetic order.
Gonzalo was moving west at 17 mph (30 kph) while its maximum sustained winds held at 40 mph (65 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center’s update early Saturday. It was centered about 240 miles (390 kilometers) east of Trinidad.
Officials said that those in the Windward Islands should monitor the storm as it is expected to approach the islands Saturday afternoon or evening. The storm is expected to weaken as it moves into the Caribbean Sea.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tobago and Grenada and its dependencies. Forecasters said Gonzalo could bring 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 centimeters) of rain, with isolated totals of 5 inches (13 centimeters).
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Democratic-led city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, asked the U.S. Justice Department for written assurances Friday that a surge in federal agents won’t be used to police protests or to target immigrant families or racial and ethnic minorities.
In a letter to the Justice Department’s U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, the city said it does not welcome federal agents making arrests and using force on people who assemble to exercise their rights to free speech.
The letter from deputy city attorney Samantha Hults seeks to hold newly assigned federal agents to the same standards of conduct imposed on the Albuquerque Police Department under a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department aimed at reining in police brutality — including the use of body-worn cameras.
The U.S. attorney’s office had no immediate response to the city’s requests.
The Albuquerque Police Department began implementing reforms years ago under a prior administration as part of a consent decree with the Justice Department. Federal authorities in 2014 issued a scathing report in response to a series of deadly police shootings in the city that pointed to patterns of excessive force, constitutional violations and a lack of training and oversight of its officers.
“We ask for your written commitment that federal agents will abide by the City of Albuquerque’s policies governing First Amendment assemblies … use of force and the use of on-body recording devices,” Hults wrote.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced in June that he wants to create a new city department to focus on community safety amid nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
That new department would be made up of social workers and other civilian professionals to focus on violence prevention and provide alternatives to dispatching police, firefighters or paramedics when people call 911.
The White House announced this week that federal agents will deploy to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Albuquerque to combat violent crime. U.S. Attorney General William Barr says 35 agents are being assigned to Albuquerque.
The Trump administration is contending with a backlash to sending federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland, Oregon, where protests have spiraled into violence.
A collection of Chicago activist groups want a judge to block federal agents sent to the city from interfering in or policing protests, arguing in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the surge ordered by President Donald Trump will inhibit residents’ ability to hold demonstrations.
The city of Albuquerque is seeking a “written commitment that these agents will focus on continuing the existing operations based on our partnership and continue to focus on high-level drug offenses, human trafficking offenses, federal crimes against children and gun crimes,” the letter says.
By DAMINI SHARMA and WEIHUA LI of The Marshall Project and DENISE LAVOIE and CLAUDIA LAUER of The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Stephanie Parris was finishing a two-year prison sentence for a probation violation when she heard she’d be going home three weeks early because of COVID-19.
It made her feel bad to leave when she had so few days left at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. She said she wasn’t sick and there were no cases at the facility. But there were others still inside who could have used the reprieve.
“I would have helped someone who had nine or 10 months, someone who absolutely needed it,” she said recently. “There was a lady in there who was very elderly, and she has very bad health problems. I would have given my place to her.”
There has been a major drop in the number of people behind bars in the U.S. Between March and June, more than 100,000 people were released from state and federal prisons, a decrease of 8%, according to a nationwide analysis by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press. The drops range from 2% in Virginia to 22% in Connecticut. By comparison, the state and federal prison population decreased by 2.2% in all of 2019, according to a report on prison populations by the Vera Institute of Justice.
But this year’s decrease has not come because of efforts to release vulnerable prisoners for health reasons and to manage the spread of the virus raging in prisons, according to detailed data from eight states compiled by The Marshall Project and AP. Instead, head counts have dropped largely because prisons stopped accepting new prisoners from county jails to avoid importing the virus, court closures meant fewer people were receiving sentences and parole officers sent fewer people back inside for low-level violations, according to data and experts. So the number could rise again once those wheels begin moving despite the virus.
This story is a collaboration between The Associated Press and The Marshall Project exploring the state of the prison system in the coronavirus pandemic. Damini Sharma and Weihua Li reported for The Marshall Project.
In Virginia, about 250 prisoners were released as corrections officials scrambled to minimize the spread of the virus, accounting for less than half of the decrease in population in that state between March and June, the news organizations found.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom last week ordered the release of up to 8,000 people by the end of August after a series of coronavirus outbreaks in the state’s prisons. Between mid-March and mid-June, California’s prison population dropped by more than 7,000, less than half of which can be attributed to an earlier decision by the state to let vulnerable prisoners out early.
More than 57,000 prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus in facilities across the country since the outbreak began. Of those, at least 34,000 have recovered, and at least 651 have died, the data showed. Over 12,400 infections have been reported among staff, including 46 deaths.
Experts and advocates said whether the public perceives a public safety threat from people who are released early because of COVID-19 is likely to affect the larger criminal justice reform movement, especially the push to decrease prison populations.
While many people may be qualified for early releases, very few actually got out. In April, Pennsylvania launched a temporary reprieve program, allowing the state’s corrections department to send people home under the condition that they return to finish their sentences once the pandemic passes. The governor’s office predicted more than 1,500 would be eligible for release.
So far, the state’s corrections department has recommended 1,200 people for reprieves, but the application process is slow and tedious, said Bret Bucklen, the department’s research director. Each application needs approval from the governor, the secretary of corrections and the assistant district attorney who oversaw the initial conviction.
Nearly three months later, fewer than 160 people have been released through the reprieve program, while Pennsylvania’s total prison population dropped by 2,800.
As in Pennsylvania, data from states such as North Carolina, Illinois and New Jersey shows coronavirus releases only account for less than one-third of the decrease in prison population, which suggests something else is driving the drop. According to Martin Horn, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former corrections commissioner for New York City, the pandemic has slowed the entire criminal justice system, which means fewer people are going to prisons.
Before the pandemic, parolees were required to meet with their parole officers in person. For the last four months, those meetings have mostly been by phone, and people on parole are under less scrutiny and less likely to be returned to prison for violating the rules right now, Horn said.
Even many who have been sentenced for crimes are not being transferred to state prisons. In North Carolina, the courts enacted a two-month moratorium on accepting newly sentenced individuals into prisons. By the time the moratorium was lifted in May, about 1,800 people were in county jails awaiting transfer to state prisons, said John Bull, a spokesman for North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety.
Whether prison populations rise once the pandemic eases will depend in part on how the public perceives people who are released early now, said Wanda Bertram, spokeswoman for the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on mass incarceration.
For example, if people leaving prison have little support and end up homeless, Bertram said she fears they may be more likely to get arrested for things like sleeping on the street, and the community may in turn associate early releases with more crime.
Garland King, who will turn 78 in a few weeks, spent 12 years in a North Carolina prison for shooting and killing his son-in-law during an argument. Like many older prisoners, he has mounting medical issues, including asthma and arthritis.
King was scheduled to be released in June, but on April 17 he became one of almost 500 prisoners who were let go early for good behavior. Since his wife died two years ago, he needed to find housing and apply for social services. He fretted over everything so much that he barely ate in the days leading to his freedom and nearly had a medical crisis as a result. He eventually found housing through a community health program in Durham, North Carolina.
Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a senior research analyst at the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for sentencing reform, said that while the prison population decreases are a step in the right direction, she is disappointed by the numbers. Even if the COVID-19 release policies work as intended, they might not lower the prison population enough because states often exclude violent offenders from such releases, Ghandnoosh said.
“Even though we are sending too many people to prison and keeping them there too long, and even though research shows people who are older have the highest risk from COVID-19 and the lowest risk of recidivism, we are still not letting them out,” Ghandnoosh said.
Lauer reported from Philadelphia. Sharma reported from Mountainview, California, and Li from Stamford, Connecticut.
In a story July 16, 2020, about prisoners released during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Associated Press, relying on numbers provided by Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections, incorrectly reported the number of sentenced prisoners in the state had dropped by 32%. It was 18%.
FORT COLLINS, CO—Super Vac has released an all-new battery-powered chainsaw conversion kit that turns out-of-the-box wood-cutting Makita, DeWalt, or Milwaukee battery-powered chainsaws into heavy-duty rescue saws for the fire industry.
These battery-powered chainsaws are usually only ideal for cutting wood, but this kit equips the saw with a carbide-tipped chain designed to cut through roof materials, asphalt shingles, and light metal—all with the ease on the firefighter and without damaging the chain. The chain easily sharpens with diamond equipment.
The kit also features a custom bar that allows the wider chain gauge to operate with added room, putting less strain on the saw for repeat, heavy use. The flame-hardened bar is slotted to work with Super Vac’s Quick Silver Depth Gauge. This aluminum gauge prevents the blade from cutting too deep during roof ventilation.
The kit is compatible with Makita XCU07, XCU04, and XCU03 chainsaws; DeWalt DCCS670B and DCCS670X1 chainsaws; and Milwaukee 2727-20 and 2727-21HD chainsaws. Components can be ordered individually, or to take advantage of special discounted pricing, the chain, bar, and gauge can be ordered together as a complete kit. To request pricing, complete the form at supervac.com/saws/battery-chain-saw-conversion-kit.
With this kit, Super Vac continues to grow its battery lineup, which includes battery fans compatible with DeWalt or Milwaukee batteries and available in 16” or 18” models. Super Vac also offers a battery-powered aircraft brake cooling fan. The kit also joins Super Vac’s existing and reputable lineup of rescue saws, the SVC3 gas-powered chainsaw, and the SVC4 gas-powered cutoff saw.
“When we first introduced our battery fan lineup, we wanted to create a platform that would work with department’s other battery-operated tools. We did that, and it’s been exciting to see how departments really do appreciate this compatibility, so we wanted to carry that into our saw lineup,” Super Vac Owner Roger Weinmeister said. “Overall, we’re glad to be partnering with some of the best in the battery industry and in rescue tools to deliver a cohesive battery arsenal.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation, according to data from John’s Hopkins University showing Wednesday that California now has about 1,200 more cases than New York.
However, New York’s 32,520 deaths are by far the highest total in the country and four times more than California’s tally, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 people is twice California’s rate.
California is by far the most populous U.S. state, with nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million.
U.S. government data published Tuesday found that reported and confirmed coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, echoing results from a smaller study last month.
The U.S. also has had consistent testing failures that experts say contribute to an undercount of the actual virus rate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study said true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.
California initially succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus, but the state has had a sharp reversal, with COVID-19 infection rates climbing sharply in recent weeks.
California residents starting in March were urged to stay home as much as possible and state health orders shut down all but essential businesses such as grocery stores.
Throughout May and June, California reopened much of its economy, and people resumed shopping in stores and dining in restaurants.
The extent of reopening was evident in data that showed California’s unemployment rate fell in June as the state added a record 558,000 jobs.
But infections began to surge and a new round of business restrictions were imposed, including a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, reported that younger people were driving the spread of new infections.
More than half of the county’s new cases came from people under age 41 and the county’s COVID-19 deaths was at 4,154 with positive cases topping 161,670, the county’s Department of Public Health said.
“The tragedy of what we are witnessing is that many of our younger residents are interacting with each other and not adhering to the recommended prevention measures, while our older residents continue to experience the results of this increased spread with the worst health outcomes, including death,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
This story has been corrected to show that the number of New York deaths is 32,250, not 72,302, and that the New York death toll is four times higher than California’s toll, not eight times.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia district attorney announced criminal charges Wednesday against a police officer seen on video lowering the masks of protesters to douse them with pepper spray as they knelt on a city interstate during a protest.
Charges were filed against Philadelphia SWAT Officer Richard Paul Nicoletti, including simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and official oppression.
A video of Nicoletti dressed in riot gear approaching three protesters kneeling on Interstate 676 on June 1, pulling down at least one protester’s mask or goggles, then dousing them with pepper spray was circulated widely on social media and has been included in several news stories about the national police response to demonstrators.
“The complaint alleges that Officer Nicoletti broke the laws he was sworn to uphold and that his actions interfered with Philadelphians’ and Americans’ peaceful exercise of their sacred constitutional rights of free speech and assembly,” District Attorney Larry Krasner wrote in an emailed news release. “The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve.”
A message was left Wednesday with an attorney representing Nicoletti. Attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Nicoletti had turned himself in Wednesday morning to face charges.
Just before 5 p.m. on June 1, protesters had climbed onto the section of center city interstate, shutting down traffic during a demonstration over police brutality and racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Video of officers launching tear gas, smoke and other projectiles at protesters clambering to get over a steep embankment and fence to get off the highway during the same encounter also have been widely circulated.
Krasner said his office had interviewed the protesters as well as other witnesses to the encounter between Nicoletti and three protesters who were doused with the irritant. He noted a protester had thrown back a tear gas canister to get it away from the kneeling protesters and that it had not hit or injured any officers.
Krasner also alleged that the video showed that Nicoletti “reached down, grabbed and violently threw the protester onto his back, continually spraying him” with pepper spray. He said the three protesters who were sprayed at close range were left to find their way off the highway and were not offered medical attention.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw suspended Nicoletti with the intent to fire him last month after reviewing the video and referred the investigation to the district attorney’s office to decide whether criminal charges were merited. During a news conference, both Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney said the actions were unacceptable.
Outlaw said she was “disgusted” after watching some of the videos. Both she and Kenney apologized for the use of tear gas on the highway.
Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said the Philadelphia police union would help Nicoletti with his defense. The union has had a confrontational relationship with Krasner’s office, and McNesby criticized the district attorney in a statement released Wednesday.
“Once again DA Larry Krasner is only charging Philadelphia police officers following the recent unrest in the city,” he wrote, saying Krasner “had an anti-police agenda.”
In June, Krasner filed aggravated assault charges against Philadelphia police officer Joseph Bologna, who was seen on video hitting a protester in the head with a metal baton in a separate incident.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A potential constitutional crisis is looming over the actions of federal officers at protests in Oregon’s largest city that have been hailed by President Donald Trump but were done without local consent. The standoff could escalate there and elsewhere as Trump says he plans to send federal agents to other cities, too.
In Portland, demonstrators who have been on the streets for weeks have found renewed focus in clashes with camouflaged, unidentified agents outside the city’s U.S. courthouse. Protesters crowded in front of the courthouse and the Justice Center late Monday night, before authorities cleared them out as the loud sound and light of flash bang grenades filled the sky.
State and local authorities, who didn’t ask for federal help, are awaiting a ruling in a lawsuit filed late last week. State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in court papers that masked federal officers have arrested people on the street, far from the courthouse, with no probable cause and whisked them away in unmarked cars.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security was planning to deploy about 150 of its agents to Chicago, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The agents are expected to stay for at least two months and could be sent to other locations at some point, the official said. Homeland Security said in a statement that the department does not comment on “allegedly leaked operations.”
“We’re going to have more federal law enforcement, that I can tell you,” Trump said Monday. “In Portland, they’ve done a fantastic job. They’ve been there three days, and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time.”
As Oregon officials have, Chicago’s mayor has pushed back against the deployment of federal agents. It’s not clear what exactly what they will do there, but Trump has pointed to rising gun violence in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, where more than 63 people were shot, 12 fatally, over the weekend.
Homeland Security agents generally do lengthy investigations into human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling and child exploitation, but they have also been deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border during the height of the crisis there to help.
The ACLU of Oregon has sued in federal court over the agents’ presence in Portland, and the organization’s Chicago branch said it would similarly oppose a federal presence.
“This is a democracy, not a dictatorship,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “We cannot have secret police abducting people in unmarked vehicles. I can’t believe I have to say that to the President of the United States.”
Constitutional law experts said federal officers’ actions in the progressive city are a “red flag” in what could become a test case of states’ rights as the Trump administration expands federal policing.
“The idea that there’s a threat to a federal courthouse and the federal authorities are going to swoop in and do whatever they want to do without any cooperation and coordination with state and local authorities is extraordinary outside the context of a civil war,” said Michael Dorf, a professor of constitutional law at Cornell University.
“It is a standard move of authoritarians to use the pretext of quelling violence to bring in force, thereby prompting a violent response and then bootstrapping the initial use of force in the first place,” Dorf said.
The Department of Homeland Security tweeted that federal agents were barricaded in Portland’s U.S. courthouse at one point and had lasers pointed at their eyes in an attempt to blind them.
“Portland is rife with violent anarchists assaulting federal officers and federal buildings,” the tweet said. “This isn’t a peaceful crowd. These are federal crimes.”
Top leaders in the U.S. House said Sunday that they were “alarmed” by the Trump administration’s tactics in Portland and other cities. They have called on federal inspectors general to investigate.
Trump, who’s called the protesters “anarchists and agitators,” said the DHS and Justice Department agents are on hand to restore order at the courthouse and help Portland.
Nightly protests, which began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, have devolved into violence.
The Trump administration’s actions run counter to the usual philosophies of American conservatives, who typically treat state and local rights with great sanctity and have long been deeply wary of the federal government — particularly its armed agents — interceding in most situations.
But Trump has shown that his actions don’t always reflect traditional conservatism — particularly when politics, and in this case an impending election, are in play.
The protests have roiled Portland for more than seven weeks. Many rallies have attracted thousands and been largely peaceful. But smaller groups of up to several hundred people have focused on federal property and local law enforcement buildings, at times setting fires to police precincts, smashing windows and clashing violently with local police.
Portland police used tear gas on multiple occasions until a federal court order banned its officers from doing so without declaring a riot. Now, concern is growing that the tear gas is being used against demonstrators by federal officers instead.
Anger at the federal presence escalated on July 11, when a protester was hospitalized with critical injuries after a U.S. Marshals Service officer struck him in the head with a less-lethal round. Video shows the man, identified as Donavan LaBella, standing across the street from the officers holding a speaker over his head when he was hit.
Court documents filed in cases against protesters show that federal officers have posted lookouts on the upper stories of the courthouse and have plainclothes officers circulating in the crowd. Court papers in a federal case against a man accused of shining a laser in the eyes of Federal Protective Service agents show that Portland police turned him over to U.S. authorities after federal officers identified him.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, who’s has been under fire for his handling of the protests, said on national TV talk shows Sunday that the demonstrations were dwindling before federal officers engaged.
“Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism,” Wheeler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Indeed, crowds of demonstrators had begun to dwindle a week ago, and some in the liberal city — including Black community leaders — had begun to call for the nightly demonstrations to end.
But by the weekend, the presence of federal troops and Trump’s repeated references to Portland as a hotbed of “anarchists” seemed to give a new life to the protests and attract a broader base.
On Sunday night, a crowd estimated at more than 500 people gathered outside the courthouse, including dozens of self-described “moms” who linked arms in front of a chain-link fence outside the courthouse. The demonstration continued into Monday morning.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — When Sonia Ramírez was told by her local clinic that she had tested positive for the coronavirus, she expected to be asked about anyone she had come in close contact with recently.
Instead, like an unknown number of Spaniards in the northeast region of Catalonia, she was left on her own to warn family, friends and co-workers that they could have been exposed amid a new surge of infections.
“They didn’t ask me who I had been with,” said Ramírez, a 21-year-old cleaner in the greater Barcelona area. “They didn’t even ask if I had been to work recently, which of course I had.”
With the virus rebounding in parts of Spain, it appears Catalonia and other regions are not adequately prepared to trace the new infections in what was supposed to be an early detection system to snuff out any outbreaks and prevent a new cascade of cases.
Spain imposed a three-month lockdown earlier this year and reined in a devastating first wave of infections that left at least 28,000 dead. As conditions improved in May and June, the government in Madrid gave in to pressure by the separatist-minded leaders in Catalonia and the right-wing political opposition to return full control of the health care system to the regions.
Now, Barcelona and an agricultural area in the same Catalonia region have become the two areas hit hardest by a resurgence of the virus.
Ramírez believes she got infected from her boyfriend, who had caught the virus a few days earlier. After her positive test, the clinic she visited told her to self-isolate for two weeks, and someone has called every two days to check how she feels.
In over a week since testing positive, no health care worker has asked Ramírez or her boyfriend about their contacts in the two weeks before their symptoms started, as mandated by public health guidelines.
Catalonia leads Spain’s 19 regions with 9,600 new reported cases since May 10 and its growth rate has more than doubled in the past three weeks, according to Spain’s National Epidemiological Survey.
The survey found that Catalonia on average only traces up to two contacts and detects under one new infection per case, the lowest rates in the country. Experts say that on average, each infected person spreads the virus to three more people.
“We are seeing a rise in cases and community contagion that worries us,” Dr. Jacobo Mendioroz, the epidemiologist in charge of Catalonia’s virus response, told Catalonia Radio on Sunday. “The system of contact tracers can still be improved. Now we have 300 tracers and we are going to add another 600 shortly.”
Catalonia’s Health Department did not respond to repeated requests from The Associated Press for Mendioroz or another top official to comment on the contact tracing failures, which also have been reported in local media and have drawn complaints from mayors.
“This is the main problem: The virus is outpacing our control measures,” said Dr. Joan Caylà, a retired epidemiologist who set up Barcelona’s contact tracing unit in the 1980s.
According to Caylà, Catalonia should have boosted its full-time contact tracing force to 1,500 trained professionals over a month ago when the virus was still in remission.
“It would have cost a lot of money, but it would have paid off because the consequences are going to be much more costly,” he said. “This is a race against the clock.”
The contact tracers were supposed to be supported by 120 workers of a private call center that the Catalan government contracted for a reported 17 million euros. Faced with criticism from health professionals who said the call center workers were not properly trained, the government has scaled back their role to checking in on patients in self-isolation.
Because of the flare up in Catalonia, authorities have restored restrictions. Catalonia was the first region to make face masks mandatory regardless of the distance between people in public areas. It then closed off a rural area that is home to 210,000 people around the city of Lleida, and prohibited gatherings over 10 people in Barcelona, while also asking them to limit their outings.
Even so, Barcelona’s beaches were packed Saturday, and young people appear to be fed up with social distancing guidelines.
Wary of privacy concerns over smartphone apps that warn users they could have been exposed to the virus, Spain has focused on manpower to track outbreaks.
England recruited about 25,000 contact tracers, but data shows the number of people reached and asked to self-isolate has been falling since the program began in May.
Italy has had no major complaints about its contact tracers, but it has pinned its hopes on a tracing app that few people have downloaded.
“We have always been ready to take our place in the front line,” said Dr. Rocío Moreno, who coordinates several clinics in an area of greater Barcelona that has a large virus cluster.
“Our own doctors, nurses, and social workers are making the calls and searching for contacts,” Moreno said, adding that her staff has had to drop almost all other work to concentrate on COVID-19 cases.
Nurse Raúl Martín is tracing contacts from his clinic because he and his colleagues say the contact tracers are overloaded.
“I would speak with a patient to see if they had been contacted by tracers to get their contacts, and they would say nobody had called them,” Martín said.
His biggest fear is that another onslaught of infections is coming.
“If a second wave like the first one hits, I don’t believe that the system could take it,” Martín said. “Maybe we do have enough protection suits and better protocols now, but as human beings we could not take another period of 12-hour shifts treating COVID patients, one after the other, and seeing people die all alone.”
Associated Press writers Aritz Parra in Madrid, Sylvia Hui in London, and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is planning to deploy federal agents to Chicago and possibly other Democrat-run cities as he continues to assert federal power and use the Department of Homeland Security in unprecedented, politicized ways.
DHS is slated to send about 150 Homeland Security Investigations agents to Chicago to help local law enforcement deal with a spike in crime, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The agents, which are generally used to conduct investigations into human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling, were expected to stay in Chicago at least two months, according to the official. It’s not clear exactly how they will back up local law enforcement or when they will arrive, but they will make arrests for federal crimes, not local ones.
It’s possible they may be deployed to other locations as well.
A spokesman for Homeland Security said the department does not comment on “allegedly leaked operations.”
In a tweet Sunday, Trump blamed local leaders for violence in Chicago and other cities.
“The Radical Left Democrats, who totally control Biden, will destroy our Country as we know it. Unimaginably bad things would happen to America,” Trump tweeted, referring to his likely Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. “Look at Portland, where the pols are just fine with 50 days of anarchy. We sent in help. Look at New York, Chicago, Philadelphia. NO!”
The move is Trump’s latest effort to use an agency — created after the Sept. 11 attacks to protect the country from terrorists threats — to supplement local law enforcement in ways that have alarmed critics. Trump has already deployed agents to Portland under the mantle of protecting federal buildings from protesters, drawing intense criticism from local leaders who say they have only exacerbated tensions.
Homeland Security agents have also been deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border along with national guard troops during the crisis there.
But with the border largely shuttered because of the coronavirus and the number of illegal crossings plummeting, Trump has now turned the department onto what he sees as a threat within the U.S. and one that similarly plays to his base: Violence following police reform protests that have rocked the nation since the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
In June, federal authorities in riot gear used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds from Lafayette Square so the president could walk across the plaza and shoot a photo with a Bible outside a church. That land is federal property. But Portland and Chicago are not, though agents are supposed to be guarding federal buildings and other federal property.
In Chicago, the president of the local police officer’s union wrote Trump a letter asking “for help from the federal government” to help combat gun violence. The city has seen 414 homicides this year, compared with 275 during the same period last year, and a spate of shootings in recent weeks as cities around the country have seen an uptick in violence.
West Sussex residents can look forward to enhanced cover from their local fire service following the introduction of a radical new appliance based on the UK’s first 6×6 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Developed by German specialist Oberaigner, the 7.0-tonne chassis combines a highly competitive payload with exceptional ‘go anywhere’ capability.
The ground-breaking vehicle has been commissioned, along with a 4×4 Sprinter, by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service. Supplied by local Dealer Rossetts Commercials, the sole UK agent for the 6×6 variant, both have purpose-designed bodies by WH Bence Coachworks, of Bristol. They are equipped with ultra-high pressure (100 bar, 38 litres/min) pumps, battery-powered hydraulic rescue gear and medical response equipment including defibrilators, as well as comprehensive communications systems.
Based in Midhurst, the Oberaigner vehicle can deliver a crew of up to five to any incident in any weather across the county. Its 1,200-litre tank will allow crews to fight off-road heath and forest fires with water or foam for 30 minutes before needing to refill. It is also well equipped to cope when roads are compromised by severe weather, such as heavy snow. The 6×6 also has a snorkel for enhanced capability in deep water. The 1.8 tonnes of spare capacity allows mission-specific loads to be transported to incidents, enabled by a rear-mounted hoist.
The 5.0-tonne 4×4 Sprinter will operate from Storrington. Fitted with a 400-litre tank, it has been specified to carry Environment Agency spill kits and swift water rescue equipment. As this vehicle may be the first to reach the scene of an accident on the A24 trunk road, the rear also has high-visibility markings to maximise operator safety.
West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service has been running smaller 4×4 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens in a variety of roles since 1999 and these have impressed with their reliability and performance. Its specialist rescue and support teams also use Mercedes-Benz Vito vans, alongside a 4×4 Unimog truck.
Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer Kieran Amos explained: “We wanted to move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and have more flexibility in our off-road fleet. These new 6×6 and 4×4 vehicles are not intended to be like-for-like replacements but represent a new concept for us in terms of equipment carried and operational capacity. They give us options for future mobilising which can be tailored to the specific demands of each incident.
“Most importantly, our vehicles have to meet the needs of the firefighters who will be using them. We believe the Sprinters represent a significant improvement for our fleet and will enhance the response we can provide to communities in times of need.”
County Fleet Manager Paul Mace said: “The Fire & Rescue Service works closely with Sussex Police and South-East Coast Ambulance, both of which operate extensive fleets of Mercedes-Benz vans. This, coupled with comprehensive research and our own positive experience, gave us the confidence to invest in these new vehicles.
“The Sprinter offers well proven reliability and closely matched our requirements in terms of weights, performance and economy, as well as supply chain and after sales back-up. These two, highly flexible vehicles will enable us to deliver a full range of capabilities in all terrains and all conditions, across a rural part of the county.”
Rossetts Commercials Van Sales Manager Mike Sanders added: “As well as firefighting and rescue operations, the Oberaigner Sprinter’s outstanding traction makes it ideally suited to forestry and utilities work. The Sprinter 4×4, meanwhile, is also aimed at building and utilities contractors, and municipal operators, who often have to work on rough terrain and in challenging conditions.”
To arrange a test drive of either vehicle, call Mike on 07795 564572.
BERLIN (AP) — The governors of the four German states that are home to critical U.S. military facilities are urging members of U.S. Congress to try and force President Donald Trump to back down from plans to withdraw more than a quarter of American troops from the country.
In the letter, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, the governors of Bavaria, Hesse, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate said American facilities like the Grafenwoehr training area, the Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases, the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center hospital and the headquarters of U.S. European Command “form the backbone of the U.S. presence in Europe and NATO’s ability to act.”
“For decades, Americans and Germans have worked together to build and develop these unique and highly capable structures,” the governors wrote. “They provide the necessary foundation for a partnership-based contribution to peace in Europe and the world, to which we all share a common commitment.”
The U.S. currently has about 34,500 troops in Germany, which Trump said in June he had ordered reduced to 25,000.
Many members of Congress have spoken out against the plan, and the German governors in their letter emphasized that the American troops “serve the strategic interests of the United States” as much as NATO interests and the trans-Atlantic partnership.
The letter was sent to more than a dozen senators and representatives Friday, including members of security and foreign policy committees, and lawmakers who have spoken out against the move, according to Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
They included Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who has called Trump’s plan a “gift to Russia,” and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons who said “withdrawing nearly 10,000 troops from Germany, without consulting German leadership or our other European allies does not make America any safer.”
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — School districts that plan to reopen classrooms in the fall are wrestling with whether to require teachers and students to wear face masks — an issue that has divided urban and rural schools and yielded widely varying guidance.
The divide has also taken on political dimensions in Iowa, among other places, where Democratic-leaning cities like Des Moines and Iowa City have required masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while smaller, more conservative communities have left the decision to parents.
“It’s a volatile issue,” said Mike McGrory, superintendent in Ottumwa, a district in the state’s southeast corner with 4,700 students. “You have to be very sensitive and realize there are lots of perspectives.”
McGrory said it would have been easier if state health officials had issued specific rules, but since that did not happen, the district gave weight to the state Education Department’s recommendation against a mask requirement.
Many states are calling for teachers to wear masks, including Alaska, Connecticut, California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Utah and Washington. Some will require masks for students. Many other states are leaving the decision to local officials.
Dr. Rob Murphy, an infectious disease expert at Northwestern University, said from a medical perspective, it should be an easy choice: Wear a mask in school.
Schools should take other steps, too, including reducing class sizes, limiting contact sports and screening students and teachers before they enter school buildings, Murphy said. But a first and essential step should be a mask requirement, said Murphy, who called the current lack of direction a “no plan plan.”
“This is how ridiculous the whole situation is. It’s all over the place,” Murphy said. “There’s a lack of any continuity to this. There’s nobody at the wheel.”
Even among health experts, there are disagreements. Many districts point to a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges school officials to encourage but not require face coverings. The organization stresses the need for students to return to school and notes that coverings can impede learning for some children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended students and teachers wear masks whenever feasible.
Other countries where schools have reopened have stopped short of mandating masks for all students.
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.
In Norway, nursery schools reopened first, followed by other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks were not required.
Iowa’s largely rural Western Dubuque Community School District will let students and their parents choose. Superintendent Rick Colpitts has heard the arguments for face coverings, but he also hears from people who are opposed.
“It’s a lose-lose situation,” Colpitts said. “We tried to take the political piece out of it, but there’s no way to make everyone happy.”
Iowa is among many states that have left the mask decision to local school officials. The state Education Department’s recommendation against a mask requirement was based on the idea that a mandate would lead to a host of questions about what face coverings are acceptable, how the rules would be enforced and what exceptions could be made.
“There are just so many things that go into it,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said in explaining why she opposes a school mask requirement. “If somebody wears the same mask for seven days without appropriately washing it or changing it out, is it actually doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Who’s going to monitor that?”
To Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the lack of mask requirements and other safety rules is “a formula for chaos.”
Claire Hanson, who teaches 8th grade English in North Liberty, Iowa, sympathizes with concerns that face coverings would be hard for young children but thinks it’s still the best option.
“Do you understand how resilient children are? It’s not a mask of terror. They will get through it,” Hanson said.
In Connecticut, officials have said they expect to include “mask breaks” throughout the day, especially for special-needs students. Schools also must provide masks for students who don’t have one.
Kasey Barrett said she’s worried about how the pandemic’s social isolation is affecting her 4-year-old, Harper, who has not been able to play with her friends since March. She said she’s concerned about sending her to prekindergarten in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, in the fall, but believes her daughter can manage a mask.
“It might come off at some point during the day. And as a 4-year-old, she probably will need redirection from the teacher,” she said. “But then, if she sees other kids taking it off, will she take it off?”
DeAnna Strethers, whose youngest daughter attends high school in State Center, Iowa, said she understands parents who want to make their own decisions without mandates from the government.
“I’m not a big government type of person. I do not like my government telling me that you have to do this or can’t do that,” she said. “But personally, I think masks are smart.”
Associated Press writers David Pitt in Urbandale, Iowa; Grant Schulte in Omaha, Nebraska; Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut; Joshua Housing and Brian P.D. Hannon in Phoenix; Desiree Mathurin in Atlanta; and Torrance Latham in Chicago contributed to this story.
GREENWOOD, Del. (AP) — The owner of a pizza shop used his available resources to fend off a robbery attempt by a man with a machete outside his store in Delaware, police said.
He threw a pizza at him.
It happened Friday as the owner of Stargate Pizza in Greenwood was closing down his shop for the night, Delaware State Police said in a news release. The owner told troopers that a man with a machete approached him demanding money. He said he told him he didn’t have any, and threw a pizza at him, causing the machete-wielding man to flee in a car.
Troopers say the shop owner was not injured. They’re asking anyone with information to contact state police. The news release doesn’t say how the pizza was disposed of.
SWANTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont State Police troopers have returned to its rightful owner a shotgun stolen during a burglary in 1994 in the town of Albany.
Police say they learned Monday that a shotgun found to be in possession of a Swanton resident had been stolen during the burglary 26 years ago.
Upon further investigation. it was determined that the resident was not involved in the burglary and had only recently taken possession of the gun.
The firearm, a Remington Shotgun, was returned to the owner on Thursday.
Also stolen in the original burglary were a television and video-cassette recorder, a second shotgun, a handgun and some baseball and football cards. The investigation into the original burglary is continuing.
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong on Monday and blocked arms sales to the former British territory, after China imposed a tough new national security law.
As tensions grow with Beijing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had concerns about the new law and about alleged human rights abuses in China in particularly in regard to the treatment of the Uighur minority. He described the measures being taken Monday as “reasonable and proportionate.″
“We will protect our vital interests,″ Raab said. “We will stand up for our values and we will hold China to its international obligations.
Raab followed the example of the United States, Australia and Canada by suspending extradition arrangements with the territory.
The arms embargo extends a measure in place for China since 1989. It means that Britain will allow no exports of potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition as well as equipment that might be used for internal repression such as shackles, firearms and smoke grenades.
The review of the extradition measures comes only days after Britain backtracked on plans to give Chinese telecommunications company Huawei a role in the U.K.’s new high-speed mobile phone network amid security concerns fueled by rising tensions between Beijing and Western powers.
Johnson’s government has already criticized China’s decision to impose a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong. The U.K. has accused the Beijing government of a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration under which the U.K. returned control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, and announced it would open a special route to citizenship for up to 3 million eligible residents of the community.
Beijing has objected to the move. China’s ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, recently described the offer as “gross interference” in Chinese affairs.
Liu told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday that Britain was “dancing to the tune” of the U.S. and rejected the allegations of human rights abuses against the mainly-Muslim Uighur people.
He accused Western countries of trying to foment trouble with China.
“People say China (is) becoming very aggressive. That’s totally wrong,” he told the BBC “China has not changed. It’s Western countries, headed by United States — they started this so-called new Cold War on China.”
LONDON (AP) — Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot.
British researchers first began testing the vaccine in April in about 1,000 people, half of whom got the experimental vaccine. Such early trials are designed to evaluate safety and see what kind of immune response was provoked, but can’t tell if the vaccine truly protects.
In research published Monday in the journal Lancet, scientists said that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55 that lasted at least two months after they were immunized.
“We are seeing good immune response in almost everybody,” said Dr. Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. “What this vaccine does particularly well is trigger both arms of the immune system,” he said.
Hill said that neutralizing antibodies are produced — molecules which are key to blocking infection. In addition, the vaccine also causes a reaction in the body’s T-cells, which help by destroying cells that have been taken over by the virus.
The experimental COVID-19 vaccine caused minor side effects like fever, chills and muscle pain more often than in those who got a control meningitis vaccine.
Hill said that larger trials evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness, involving about 10,000 people in the U.K. as well as participants in South Africa and Brazil are still underway. Another big trial is slated to start in the U.S. soon, aiming to enroll about 30,000 people.
How quickly scientists are able to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness will depend largely on how much more transmission there is, but Hill estimated that if there were enough data to prove the vaccine’s efficacy, immunization of some high-risk groups in Britain could begin in December.
He said the vaccine seemed to produce a comparable level of antibodies to those produced by people who recovered from a COVID-19 infection and hoped that the T-cell response would provide extra protection.
“There’s increasing evidence that having a T-cell response as well as antibodies could be very important in controlling COVID-19,” Hill said. He suggested the immune response might be boosted after a second dose; in a small number of people, their trial tested two doses administered about four weeks apart.
Hill said Oxford’s vaccine is designed to reduce disease and transmission. It uses a harmless virus — a chimpanzee cold virus, engineered so it can’t spread — to carry the coronavirus’ spike protein into the body, which should trigger an immune system response.
Hill said Oxford has partnered with drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce their vaccine globally, and that the company has already committed to making 2 billion doses.
“Even 2 billion doses may not be enough,” he said, underlining the importance of having multiple shots to combat the coronavirus, given the ongoing surge of infections worldwide. “I think its going to be very difficult to control this pandemic without a vaccine.”
Hill said researchers were also considering conducting a “challenge” trial by the end of 2020, an ethically controversial test where participants would be deliberately infected with COVID-19 after being immunized to determine if the vaccine is effective.
“This has been done before in 19 different infectious diseases to develop vaccines and drugs and is likely to happen for COVID-19 as well,” he said.
Numerous countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, U.S. and the U.K. have all signed deals to receive hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine — which has not yet been licensed — with the first deliveries scheduled for the fall.
Chinese researchers also published a study on their experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the Lancet on Monday, using a similar technique as the Oxford scientists. They reported that in their study of about 500 people, an immune response was detected in those who were immunized. But they noted that because the participants weren’t exposed to the coronavirus afterwards, it wasn’t possible to tell if they were protected from the disease.
CanSino Biologics’ vaccine is made similarly to Oxford’s except the Chinese shot is made with a human cold virus, and the study showed people whose bodies recognized it didn’t get as much of the presumed COVID-19 benefit. Still, China’s government already gave special approval for the military to use CanSino’s vaccine while it explores final-stage studies.
In an accompanying editorial, Naor Bar-Zeev and William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health called both the Oxford and Chinese results “encouraging” but said further judgment should wait until the vaccine is tested on much bigger populations.
Bar-Zeev and Moss also called for any effective COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed equitably around the world.
“Global planning is underway, but should be underpinned and informed by specific local realities,” they wrote. “Only this way can these very encouraging first earlyphase randomised trial results yield the global remedy for which we all yearn.”
Last week, American researchers announced that the first COVID-19 vaccine tested there boosted people’s immune systems just as scientists had hoped and the shots will now enter the final phase of testing. That vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna, produced the molecules key to blocking infection in volunteers who got it, at levels comparable to people who survived a COVID-19 infection.
The vaccine being developed by Pfizer also works to trigger a similar dual immune response as the Oxford shot. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech also released an encouraging Phase 1 report Monday.
Nearly two dozen potential vaccines are in various stages of human testing worldwide, with a handful entering necessary late-stage testing to prove effectiveness.
AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard in Alexandria, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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.
By MARTHA BELLISLE for the Associated Press via PoliceOne
SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Monday blasted the City Council’s plan to cut the police department’s budget by 50% and instead proposed transferring a list of functions like the 911 call center and parking enforcement out of the agency’s budget.
“We need to invest in community-based solutions that address underlying root issues,” Durkan said at a news conference. “The community has made clear, they want us to transform the Seattle Police Department and to reinvest in programs that provide this kind of community safety.”
Monday’s announcement came after weeks of street protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Calls to defund the Seattle police grew louder after protesters were hit with pepper spray and flash bombs during demonstrations.
The Office of Police Accountability received more than 17,000 complaints against officers related to protests. Most focus on 17 incidents that range from excessive force, flashbang injuries and aggressive crowd-handling tactics.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant had said on Twitter that in July and August the council will vote on the police budget for the rest of 2020 and they plan to cut about 50%, or about $85 million.
On Monday, Sawant said: “In the autumn budget vote, Seattle City Council will vote on the budget for next year. People’s Budget will then bring the legislation to defund all of next year’s police budget by at least half, around $200 million, going by their budget for this year.”
Seven of the council’s nine members support that plan, Durkan said, but they’ve failed to speak with the chief or conduct any thorough research to understand the impacts of that kind of a drastic cut. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said eliminating half the department would risk public safety.
“Our budget is almost entirely personnel,” Best said. “I will not sacrifice officers of color for political points.”
City Councilmember and Public Safety Chair Lisa Herbold said via Twitter on Monday that the council is working through the police budget and is in the very beginning stages of developing proposals. Herbold also said Best wouldn’t have to fire the newest people, many of whom are people of color, in a layoff scenario because Best can request permission to do them out of order.
Durkan wants to reduce the 2021 budget by about $76 million by transferring a number of non-officer functions out of the department. The department’s budget for the current year is more than $400 million. Included in the reorganization would be the 911 call center, parking enforcement, the Office of Emergency Management and Office of Police Accountability.
An officer is not always the best person to respond to every call, Durkan said. Some emergencies should instead be handled by a social worker, nurse, firefighter or family counselor.
About $20 million will be cut by not expanding the force and reducing overtime, Durkan said.
Moving the 911 call center will reduce the police budget by $34.2 million, she said. Transferring the parking enforcement division will save $13.7 million and moving the emergency management department would cut $3.3 million.
Durkan has been sharply criticized for the way she has handled the protests and police response. A campaign to unseat Durkan secured a boost last week when a judge approved a petition for an election to recall the mayor.
Durkan has repeatedly said that she has sought the help of the community while making decisions about police reform, but members of the Community Police Commission said they have not been consulted. The group was formed as part of the consent decree agreement with the federal court.
“A staff member from the mayor’s office emailed us at 9:22 a.m. telling us that the mayor would be announcing their plan,” commission spokesperson Jesse Franz said Monday.
Others have supported shifting funds to help people in crisis.
Councilmember Andrew Lewis has proposed legislation to use some of the policing budget for a new mental health and substance abuse program. Unarmed medical personnel and crisis workers would respond to a mental health crisis instead of an officer.
“By the most conservative estimates one in every four people fatally shot by a police officer has a mental illness,” Lewis said on Twitter. “This has to stop.”
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The battle to save the USS Bonhomme Richard from a ravaging fire entered a third day in San Diego Bay on Tuesday with indications that the situation aboard the amphibious assault ship was improving.
The U.S. Navy said in a statement late Monday that firefighters were making significant progress with the assistance of water drops by helicopters.
The ship was emitting much less smoke than the previous two days, when acrid billows poured out and blanketed parts of the region.
The Navy, meanwhile, has taken precautions in case the warship sinks and potentially releases 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of oil on board into the harbor.
The U.S. Coast Guard has hired an oil clean-up crew to put a containment boom in place that could be ready if any oil is spilled. It also halted boat and air traffic within a nautical mile of the vessel.
On Monday, health officials warned people to stay indoors as acrid smoke wafted across San Diego from one of the Navy’s worst shipyard fires in recent years. At least 59 people, including 36 sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and minor injuries. Five people who had been in a hospital under observation were released.
Some 400 sailors along with Navy helicopters and local and federal firefighters poured water on the carrier-like ship, which erupted in flames Sunday morning.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck said fire temperatures had reached up to 1,000 degrees (538 Celsius), causing the mast of the ship to collapse and threatening the central control island where the captain operates the vessel. He said there were about two decks between the fire and the fuel supplies.
Water being dumped on the vessel was causing the 840-foot (255-meter) ship to list to one side, but crews were pumping off the water.
Sobeck said it was too soon to give up on saving the 23-year-old amphibious assault ship, which has been undergoing maintenance since 2018.
“I feel absolutely hopeful because we have sailors giving it their all,” said Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3.
The fire was first reported in a lower cargo area where seafaring tanks and landing craft are parked. It appears to have started where cardboard boxes, rags and other maintenance supplies were being stored, Sobeck said.
A fire suppression system had been turned off because it was being worked on as part of the ongoing maintenance. The system uses Halon, a liquefied, compressed gas that disrupts a fire and stops its spread by cutting off its oxygen.
Sobeck said there was no ordnance on board the ship and he did not believe there was anything toxic.
However, the flames were burning plastic, cabling and other materials, sending a haze over downtown San Diego. The San Diego Air Pollution Control District warned that concentrations of fine particulate matter could reach unhealthful levels in some areas and that people should avoid exercising outdoors and stay indoors if possible to limit exposure.
Retired Navy Capt. Lawrence B. Brennan, a professor of international maritime law at Fordham University in New York, said there is a risk of the hull rupturing, which could cause the ship to spill its oil.
“If this is a million gallons of oil that ends up settling on the bottom of the San Diego Harbor and can’t be removed safely, we’re talking about billions of dollars of environmental damage,” said Brennan, who has investigated and litigated hundreds of maritime cases.
The ship can be used to deploy thousands of Marines to shore and has the capacity to accommodate helicopters, certain types of short-takeoff airplanes, small boats and amphibious vehicles.
AP writers Christopher Weber and John Antczak contributed from Los Angeles.
GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday fatally shot a man suspected of stabbing another man who had challenged him about not wearing a mask at a convenience store, police said.
The shooting occurred in Eaton County, southwest of Lansing, about 30 minutes after the stabbing at a Quality Dairy store, state police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said.
A sheriff’s deputy spotted the man’s vehicle in a residential neighborhood and shot him when he tried to attack her with a knife, Oleksyk said.
Sean Ruis, 43, of Grand Ledge, who worked at the Michigan Department of Transportation, died at a hospital. He was suspected of stabbing a 77-year-old man inside the store when he was confronted about not wearing a mask, Oleksyk said.
The stabbing victim was in stable condition at a hospital. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered people to wear masks in stores to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The decision about whether to wear a mask in public for some has become a political statement, and there have been other instances of violent encounters over masks. In May, a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint was fatally shot after denying entry to a customer without a mask.
BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Senate early Tuesday passed a police accountability bill that would place limits on the “qualified immunity” shielding officers from civil prosecution, put checks on the use of chokeholds and tear gas and require law enforcement officers to be licensed if it becomes law.
Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka tweeted at 5 a.m. that the final vote was 30-7.
“This begins the long, necessary work of shifting power and resources to Black communities and communities of color who have, for too long, faced criminalization and punishment instead of investment,” Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, said in a written statement after the vote.
Under the final version of the Senate bill, the concept of qualified immunity will remain as long as a police officer is acting in accordance with the law, according to Spilka’s office. The bill would not limit existing indemnification protections for public officials.
The measure has come under criticism from police unions and their supporters who argue that officers should not have to worry about potential lawsuits while on patrol.
Debate on the Senate bill was delayed several days by a Republican lawmaker.
Sen. Ryan Fattman used parliamentary procedures to delay debate for three consecutive days last week because he thought the bill was being rushed.
Another bill filed last month by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would require that police be certified in Massachusetts.
Baker’s bill would allow for the decertification of officers who engage in excessive force, including chokeholds, or who fail to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force.
Massachusetts is one of only a few states without a statewide law enforcement certification program.
The bill now moves to the House.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat, has said he is committed to passing a bill, but it won’t come before the House holds a public hearing.
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union for rank-and-file Boston officers, said in a tweet it was disappointed with the Senate’s vote, but hoped for a better process in the House.
“The fight goes on and the BPPA is already encouraged by @SpeakerDeLeo and his desire to seek and allow public feedback on ever important issues of basic fairness which include due process and qualified immunity,” the union said.
To make any laws about excessive force meaningful, the state must take a tougher stand against qualified immunity, said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.
“While the ACLU and many of our allies still wish to see qualified immunity eliminated, we commend the Senate for taking this critical action and urge the House to do the same,” Rose said Tuesday in a written statement.
The bills are a response to demonstrations throughout the country following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Three class-action lawsuits filed in Philadelphia on Tuesday accuse the city of using military-level force that injured protesters and bystanders alike during peaceful protests against racial inequality and police brutality.
One lawsuit accuses Philadelphia police of lobbing tear gas and firing rubber bullets at protesters indiscriminately as they marched peacefully on a city highway. Another accuses the police of using tanks, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets in an African American business and residential district, at times injuring people in or near their own homes.
“They were just opening fire on anybody they saw, for hours and hours, regardless of any conduct or justification,” said Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, who called the police response to demonstrations that rocked the city in May and June reckless.
“They were shooting children. They were shooting old people. They were shooting residents on their own street. They were gassing the firefighters,” he said.
The lawsuits, involving more than 140 plaintiffs, were filed the same day the city announced the resignation of Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy. The suits were filed by the law center, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and various civil rights lawyers in the city.
Both the city and the police department declined to comment directly on the lawsuits. However, Mayor Jim Kenney, in a statement, said the city is conducting an independent review of both situations.
“I am highly concerned about what transpired on both I-676 and 52nd Street and I fully regret the use of tear gas and some other use of force in those incidents,” Kenney said. “The investigation is still underway, but any officer found to have violated (department) policy will be held accountable.”
Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw had previously apologized for using tear gas in the June 1 demonstration on the interstate, saying they were relying on incorrect information. They also announced a temporary moratorium on its use in most nonviolent situations.
Videos show Philadelphia police that day firing tear gas at dozens of protesters trapped on the roadway, many of whom were unable to retreat to an on-ramp, and had to try to climb up a steep embankment and over a concrete wall and fence to escape.
The protests in Philadelphia were part of nationwide demonstrations that erupted after George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes to pin him to the ground.ADVERTISEMENT
“In response to protests and a national conversation about police accountability and an end to a long history of police brutality, the Philadelphia Police Department reacted with more brutality,” said lawyer Jonathan Feinberg, who was involved in the suit and works for one of the city’s most prominent civil rights firms, Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg and Lin LLP.
“Our firm dates back to 1971. We cannot recall a single episode in which the Philadelphia police used munitions like this in a peaceful protest,” Feinberg said.
Shahidah Mubarak-Hadi, a plaintiff, said her 3- and 6-year old children were hurt after police fired tear gas at their home in West Philadelphia, where they were inside seeking refuge during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Officers violated the sanctity of our home, without forethought, senselessly firing tear gas around our residence while we were inside,” she said. “My children and I no longer feel safe in our own house.”
They live near the 52nd Street business corridor, the heart of a predominantly Black neighborhood rocked by clashes between police and protesters on May 31. The police response, lawyers said in a press release, violated their clients’ First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, Fourth Amendment ban on excessive force and 14th Amendment ban, through the Equal Protection Clause, on racially discriminatory policing.
“In what many witnesses described as a war zone in an otherwise peaceful, residential community, police officers in tanks traveled away from West Philadelphia’s business corridor and down residential side streets for hours, chasing residents into their homes and indiscriminately firing canisters of tear gas at them,” they said.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) — Florida surpassed its previous one-day record for coronavirus deaths Tuesday and Britain and France announced they will require people to wear masks in public indoor spaces, amid rising global worries about a resurgence of the pandemic.
Florida reported 132 additional deaths, topping the previous record for the state set just last week. The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.
Even so, the new deaths raised Florida’s seven-day average to 81 per day, more than double the figure of two weeks ago and now the second-highest in the United States behind Texas. Doctors have predicted a surge in deaths as Florida’s daily reported cases have gone from about 2,000 a day a month ago to over 12,000.
Marlyn Hoilette, a nurse who spent four months working in the COVID-19 unit of her Florida hospital until testing positive recently, said she worries about returning given the pressure to handle the surge in cases.
“Nurses are getting sick, nursing assistants are getting sick and my biggest fear is that it seems we want to return folks to work even without a negative test,” said Hoilette, who works at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee. Florida. “It’s just a matter of time before you wipe the other staff out if you’re contagious, so that is a big problem.”
Word of the rising toll in Florida came as Arizona officials tallied 4,273 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The state, which became a virus hot spot after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in May, reported 3,517 patients hospitalized because of the disease, a record high. Arizona’s death toll from COVID-19 rose to 2,337, with 92 additional deaths reported Tuesday.
In Britain, officials announced they will require people to wear face masks starting July 24, after weeks of dismissing their value.
“We are not out of the woods yet, so let us all do our utmost to keep this virus cornered and enjoy summer safely,” British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
French President Emmanuel Macron said masks will be required by Aug. 1, after recent rave parties and widespread backsliding on social distancing raised concerns the virus may be starting to rebound.
Even Melania Trump, whose husband President Donald Trump resisted wearing a mask or urging anyone else to do so, called on people to step up precautions.
“Even in the summer months, please remember to wear face coverings & practice social distancing,” she said Tuesday in a posting on her Twitter account. “The more precaution we take now can mean a healthier & safer country in the Fall.”
Meanwhile, officials in the Australian state of Queensland said those breaking quarantine rules could face up to six months in jail.
The current set of fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts “appears not to be enough” in some cases, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
With higher fines and the threat of jail time, “I hope that will demonstrate to the public just how serious we are about enforcing these measures,” Miles said.
Queensland shut its state borders to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak, but reopened to all but residents of Victoria, Australia’s worst affected region, two weeks ago.
The city of Melbourne in Victoria recorded 270 new coronavirus infections overnight, with more than 4,000 cases now active across the state. Melbourne is one week into a six-week lockdown in an attempt to stop a spike in new cases there.
Health experts have warned that outbreaks that had been brought under control with shutdowns and other forms of social distancing were likely to flare again as precautions were relaxed.
Disney officials announced that Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing Wednesday until further notice following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people to combat newly spreading infections.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday after 41 out of 52 newly reported infections were locally transmitted cases. Hong Kong has reported 250 new cases since July 6. Lam urged the private sector to put in place work-from-home arrangements for employees.
In Thailand, where there have been no reports of locally transmitted cases for seven weeks, authorities have revised rules governing visitors from abroad after a breakdown in screening led to two infected foreigners posing a possible risk to public health.
The government said Tuesday that diplomats will be asked to stay in state-supervised quarantine for 14 days, instead of self-isolating. And it is postponing the recently allowed entry of some foreign visitors so procedures can be changed.
“I am angry because this shouldn’t happen. They should have been quarantined, same as Thais who travel back have to be quarantined for 14 days. Why should this group of people get the privilege to skip quarantine?” said Panpen Sakulkru, a company manager who was among hundreds who lined up for virus tests in the Thai city of Rayong on Tuesday.
The cases that caused concern involved a member of an Egyptian military group and the young daughter of a foreign diplomat whose family returned from Sudan. Thai authorities revoked landing permission for eight Egyptian flights, and some schools and a mall were closed in the eastern province where the Egyptian man may have had contacts.
India, which has the third-most cases after the U.S. and Brazil, was rapidly nearing 1 million cases with a jump of more than 28,000 reported Tuesday. It now has more than 906,000 and accumulated more than 100,000 in just four days.
Its nationwide lockdown has largely ended, but the recent spikes have prompted several big cities to reimpose partial lockdowns. A 10-day lockdown that began Tuesday in the southern city of Pune will allow only essential businesses such as milk shops, pharmacies, clinics and emergency services to open.
The ebb and flow of the pandemic has governments scrambling to quash new outbreaks while attempting to salvage economies from the devastation of long shutdowns and travel restrictions.
In the U.S., flaring outbreaks have led officials in some areas to mandate mask wearing and close down bars and some other businesses to once again try to bring the pandemic under control.
Hawaii’s governor pushed back by another month plans to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19.
The state has one of the lowest infection rates in the U.S., with 1,243 cases. Its quarantine requirement has virtually shut down tourism since it took effect in late March, pushing the unemployment rate in the islands to 22.6%, the second-highest in the U.S.
Geller reported from New York. Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he has tested positive for the new coronavirus after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.
The 65-year-old right-wing populist who has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled close in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.
He said he is taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that he, like President Donald Trump, has been promoting even though it has not been proven effective against COVID-19.
“I’m, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can’t due to medical recommendations,” Bolsonaro said. “I thought I had it before, given my very dynamic activity. I’m president and on the combat lines. I like to be in the middle of the people.”
Brazil, the world’s sixth-biggest nation, with more than 210 million people, is one of the outbreak’s most lethal hot spots. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, and over 1.5 million have been infected.
Both numbers are the world’s second-highest totals, behind those of the U.S., though the true figures are believed to be higher because of a lack of widespread testing. On Tuesday alone, 1,254 deaths were confirmed.
Other world leaders who have had bouts with COVID-19 include British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince Albert II of Monaco and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.
Bolsonaro is “the democratic leader who has most denied the seriousness of this pandemic,” said Maurício Santoro, a political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “Him getting infected is a blow to his credibility. It will be seen as another example of the failure of his coronavirus response.”
Bolsonaro has often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask. He has said that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus and that it would be nothing more than a “little flu” if he were to contract it.
He has also repeatedly said that there is no way to prevent 70% of the population falling ill with COVID-19 and that local authorities’ efforts to shut down economic activity would ultimately cause more hardship than allowing the virus to run its course.
For nearly two months, Brazil’s fight against COVID-19 has been in the hands of an interim health minister with no health experience before April. He took over after his predecessor, a doctor and health care consultant, quit in protest over Bolsonaro’s support for hydroxychloroquine.
Bolsonaro on Tuesday likened the virus to a rain that will fall on most people and said that some, like the elderly, must take greater care.
“You can’t just talk about the consequences of the virus that you have to worry about. Life goes on. Brazil needs to produce. You need to get the economy in gear,″ he said.
Brazilian cities and states last month began lifting restrictions that had been imposed to control the spread of the virus, as deaths began to decline along with the caseload in intensive care units.
Bolsonaro supporter Silas Ribeiro said on the streets of Rio that the president is correct in saying the dangers of the virus have been exaggerated.
“Our president is a popular man. He is showing that he isn’t afraid to die,” said Ribeiro, 59. “He is going to have health and get through this sickness.”
Speaking near recently reopened shops in Rio, Wesley Morielo said he hopes Bolsonaro’s sickness prompts him to reassess his stance.
“I think everything he said before, of not giving importance to COVID-19, came back against him,″ said Morielo, a 24-year-old student.
The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, wished Bolsonaro a speedy recovery and said his infection “brings home the reality of this virus” by showing that it doesn’t distinguish between “prince or pauper.”
The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.
He stepped back from the journalists and removed his mask at one point to show that he looks well.
Brazil’s benchmark Ibovespa stock index fell after Bolsonaro’s announcement, and closed 1.2% down on the day.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly visited the hospital since taking office, requiring several operations to repair his intestines after he was stabbed on the campaign trail in 2018.
He said on Tuesday that he canceled a trip this week to the country’s northeast region and will continue working via videoconference and receive rare visitors when he needs to sign a document.
Unlike Britain’s prime minister, who moderated his rhetoric after testing positive for the virus, Bolsonaro will probably not change his stance, said Leandro Consentino, a political science professor at Insper, a university in Sao Paulo.
“He’s going down a path of trying to indicate to his base of support that COVID-19 is just a little flu and take advantage of the illness to advertise for chloroquine,” Consentino said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bolsonaro posted a video to Facebook of him taking his dose of hydroxychloroquine. “I trust hydroxychloroquine. What do you think?” he said while laughing.
Over the weekend, the Brazilian leader celebrated American Independence Day with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, then shared pictures on social media showing him in close quarters with the diplomat, several ministers and aides. None wore masks.
The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that Ambassador Todd Chapman is not showing any symptoms but would be tested.
Bolsonaro tested negative three times in March after meeting with the Trump in Florida. Members of his delegation to the U.S. were later reported to be infected.
AP video producer Diarlei Rodrigues contributed to this report from Rio.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — At least 239 people have been killed and 3,500 arrested in more than a week of unrest in Ethiopia that poses the biggest challenge yet to its Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.
In the Oromia region, the toll includes 215 civilians along with nine police officers and five militia members, regional police commissioner Mustafa Kedir told the ruling party-affiliated Walta TV on Wednesday.
Hachalu Hundessa had been a rallying voice in anti-government protests that led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking power in 2018. Abiy swiftly introduced political reforms that also opened the way for long-held ethnic and other grievances in Africa’s second most populous country.
The military was deployed during the outrage that followed Hachalu’s death.
In remarks last week while wearing a military uniform, Abiy said dissidents he recently extended an offer of peace had “taken up arms” in revolt against the government. He hinted there could be links between this unrest and the killing of the army chief last year as well as the grenade thrown at one of his own rallies in 2018.
The 3,500 arrests have included that of a well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, and more than 30 supporters. It is not clear what charges they might face. The Oromo make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but had never held the country’s top post until they helped bring Abiy to power.
Local reports have said that in some places ethnic Oromo have attacked ethnic Amhara, and in Shashamane town some people were going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents.
Businesses have now begun opening slowly in Oromia after the violence in which several hundred homes in Ethiopia were burned or damaged.
But Ethiopia’s internet service remains cut, making it difficult for rights monitor and others to track the scores of killings.
ATLANTA (AP) — The mayor of Atlanta said Tuesday that she doesn’t agree with the Georgia governor’s order to mobilize the National Guard in her city as a surge in violence became a political talking point.
Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized activation of up to 1,000 Guard troops after a weekend of gun violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including Secoriea Turner, an 8-year-old girl.
Police on Tuesday released a short video of an armed man who they described as a person of interest in the girl’s shooting. Atlanta Police Lt. Pete Malecki said the video comes from a surveillance camera near where Secoriea was shot while riding in the back seat of an SUV. The reward for information in the case was doubled to $20,000.
Kemp’s office said troops will provide support at sites such as the Capitol, governor’s mansion and the state Department of Public Safety headquarters — damaged by a group early Sunday — freeing state law enforcement to patrol other areas of the city.
Some National Guard troops guarded those sites Monday night, but there was no visible presence by mid-morning Tuesday.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the Republican governor said.
But Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Kemp issued his order without asking if the city needed help. The city had already been coordinating with the Georgia State Patrol, and “at no time was it mentioned that anyone felt there was a need for the National Guard to come in,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, who oversees the Georgia National Guard, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that troops stood guard at the three sites Monday night and will return Tuesday night. He said the first night was peaceful.
Carden declined to say how many troops were deployed, citing safety concerns. There were four Humvees with 10 to 12 armed troops outside the Georgia State Capitol Tuesday evening.
Secoriea Turner was riding with her mother and another adult Saturday night near a Wendy’s that was burned after a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the restaurant parking lot last month. When the SUV Secoriea was in tried to enter a parking lot, they were confronted by “a group of armed individuals” blocking the entrance, police said. The girl’s mother, Charmaine Turner, said shots were fired and Secoriea was hit before they could make a U-turn.
The video released Tuesday shows a Black man in a white shirt and dark pants carrying an AR-15 rifle with a tan stock and grip.
“I’m going to ask, I’m going to plead, for the assistance of the public in helping us get a person of interest identified in the case,” Malecki told reporters. “I’m confident that somebody, somebody knows the name of this male.”
Malecki said police believe “numerous armed individuals” were present at the barricade on University Avenue and that at least four people may have participated in the shooting. He said police believe at least eight gunshots were fired into the Jeep after Turner tried to drive across the barricade.
The fast food outlet was burned the night after Brooks’ death, and the site had become a focus of frequent demonstrations against police brutality. At least intermittently, armed people had manned a barricade on the street in front of the Wendy’s.
Police had removed barricades at least once before, but one journalist was assaulted near the site and gunmen threatened or turned back other people. Atlanta police helped sanitation crews clear the area Monday, despite some protesters who said they were not part of the violence.
Nikema Williams, a state senator and chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called Kemp’s decision reckless. Critics of such mobilizations have said that deploying troops on city streets could provoke more violence.
“His choice to deploy National Guard troops for today’s selfish purpose is outrageous and will endanger lives,” she said in a statement.
But Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia said Tuesday he agreed with the governor’s decision, and said lawless areas must not be allowed to exist in Atlanta or any other American city.
“After what we saw this past weekend, I think it was the right move,” said Collins, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Over the holiday period from Friday through Sunday, 31 people were shot in 11 different incidents, Atlanta police said.
When asked about the surge in violence, the mayor said she thinks people are anxious and frustrated about the coronavirus pandemic and high-profile cases of police brutality.
“I think it’s just a perfect storm of distress in America,” said Bottoms, who learned Monday that she, her husband and one of their four children have tested positive for COVID-19.
Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Jeff Martin and photographer John Bazemore contributed to this story.
By BEN NADLER and JEFF MARTIN for the Associated Press via PoliceOne
ATLANTA — Georgia’s governor on Monday declared a state of emergency and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a weekend of violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.
A statement from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says troops will provide support at certain locations including the Capitol and governor’s mansion, freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the Republican governor said. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
Saturday night’s fatal shooting of Secoriea Turner, 8, prompted a $10,000 reward for information as authorities searched for at least two people who opened fire on the car she was riding in near a flashpoint of recent protests.
Officers returned to the scene late Sunday to investigate another shooting, steps away from where Secoriea was shot, that left one person dead at the scene and two others injured.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for justice in Secoriea’s death during an emotional news conference Sunday with the girl’s grief-stricken mother.
“You can’t blame this on a police officer,” the mayor said. “You can’t say this about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car for what?”
“Enough is enough,” Bottoms, who is Black, continued. “If you want people to take us seriously and you don’t want us to lose this movement, we can’t lose each other.”
The killing happened near the Wendy’s restaurant where a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by a white police officer June 12. The fast food outlet was later burned, and the area has since become a site for frequent demonstrations against police brutality.
Earlier Monday, Atlanta police helped as sanitation crews cleared the area around the torched Wendy’s. Flowers and memorials to Brooks, as well as posters with messages protesting police brutality, were cleared away.
Secoriea was slain during a particularly violent night in Atlanta on Saturday. Kemp’s office said that over thirty people were wounded by gunfire, including five dead, over the holiday weekend.
Kemp addressed the shootings on social media on Sunday night, saying the “recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous and unacceptable.”
“Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime and violence,” Kemp tweeted. “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.”
The order says the declaration of a state of emergency is justified by “unlawful assemblage, violence, overt threats of violence, disruption of the peace and tranquility of this state and danger existing to persons and property.” The order is to remain in effect until at least June 13.
Authorities said Secoriea was in the car with her mother and another adult when the driver tried to drive through illegally placed barricades to get to a parking lot in the area. Armed individuals blocking the entrance opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times and killing the child, police said.
“She was only 8 years old,” said her mother, Charmaine Turner. “She would have been on Tik Tok dancing on her phone, just got done eating. We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks. We didn’t have anything to do with that. We’re innocent. My baby didn’t mean no harm.”
The girl just wanted to get home to see her cousins, said her father, Secoriya Williamson.
“They say Black lives matter,” he said. “You killed your own.”
A 53-year-old man was also fatally shot over the weekend near the restaurant, Kemp noted.
“At that location, city officials have failed to quell ongoing violence with armed individuals threatening citizens, shooting at passersby, blocking streets, destroying local businesses, and defying orders to disperse,” his order says.
The governor also cited vandalism at the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters early Sunday. The order says several dozen people “armed with rocks, spray paint, and fireworks” broke windows and tried to set fire to the building.
A spokesman for Bottoms didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the governor’s authorization of Guard troops.
In Washington, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany lamented at Monday’s news briefing that she was not asked by reporters about weekend killings in Atlanta and other major U.S. cities. McEnany said she was asked “probably 12 questions about the Confederate flag” and was dismayed that she did not get one about the weekend shootings. She also said comments by Secoriea’s father “broke my heart.”
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s largest county is again severely limiting its restaurants and fully closing gyms and other indoor venues weeks after they reopened because a spike in coronavirus cases is creating a shortage of intensive care unit beds at its hospitals.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday that starting Wednesday, restaurants will be limited to outdoor dining, takeout and delivery service and gyms, banquet halls and short-term vacation rentals like those available on Airbnb will be closed. Bars are already closed statewide and restaurants were limited to 50% capacity indoors.
Gimenez had initially said that restaurants would be closed to all dining but in a statement Monday evening the mayor said that after meeting with medical experts and the restaurant industry group that his emergency order “will allow for outdoor dining, where possible, to continue with restrictions.” Those limits include no more than 4 people at a table with appropriate distancing and music to be played at a level that does not require shouting.
Like much of the state, Miami-Dade’s restaurants had reopened with capacity and social-distancing restrictions in mid-May, while gyms reopened about a month ago. During that time, the county’s daily rate for confirmed cases skyrocketed from about 300 a day to more than 2,000.
Miami-Dade County now has more than 1,600 hospitalized coronavirus patients, double what it had two weeks ago. Of those, 331 are in intensive care and 168 are on ventilators, figures that have also doubled. Miami-Dade has been the state’s hardest-hit area along with its South Florida neighbors, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They have also seen recent spikes.
Dr. David De La Zerda, a pulmonologist at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, said if the new infection rate isn’t slowed, his hospital soon won’t have enough rooms or ventilators and the staff will be stretched thin.
“COVID patients require more nurses, more respiratory therapists. The nurses need to check on them more often,” De La Zerda said.
Gimenez blamed his county’s spike on young adults visiting restaurants and other indoor gathering spots without wearing masks and not practicing social distancing. He also blamed the recent protests over the death of George Floyd while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police. People under 35 are significantly less likely to die from COVID-19 than those over 65, but they can spread the disease to their older family members, co-workers and friends.
“We can tamp down the spread if everyone follows the rules, wears masks and stays at least 6 feet apart,” he said in a statement. “If you don’t have to go out, remember, you are safer at home.”
Gimenez, a Republican, is running to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She said Gimenez reopened the county too soon “just to please” President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“This is failed leadership. Our community deserves better,” she wrote Monday on Twitter.
Miami-Dade’s announcement came shortly after Florida recorded 6,336 new confirmed cases statewide, raising the total to 206,447 since the state’s outbreak was first identified March 1. The state says 3,880 people have died from the virus.
Over the last week, about 43 Floridians a day have died of the disease, up from 30 a day three weeks ago but still below the 60 a day recorded in early May. Hospitalizations are up about 40% statewide over the last two weeks.
Part of the reason for the spike in the raw number of infections is more people are being tested: 45,000 a day, about double the figure of a month ago. But the positivity rate for tests is increasing far quicker: for the past week it has been more than 18%, four times higher than a month ago when the weekly average stood at 4.6%. A month ago, the state was averaging about 1,500 new confirmed coronavirus cases a day.
Gov. DeSantis, speaking at a Monday news conferences at The Villages, the mammoth retirement community northwest of Orlando, said while he wants to get the positivity rate back to its earlier levels, he echoed Gimenez in saying much of the increase is among younger people who are less likely to die. The median age for those testing positive statewide has dropped from the mid-50s to the mid-30s, he said.
He said 21 is the No. 1 age for testing positive in Florida, an age where the death rate is near zero unless the person has underlying health issues like heart disease or diabetes. He said that has helped keep the daily death toll below the early May peak when nursing homes were seeing many deaths.
“From a clinical perspective, a thousand cases under the age of 30 is going to be less significant than 50 cases in a long-term care facility,” he said.
Since the outbreak began, an average of 30 Floridians have died per day from COVID-19, which makes it one of the state’s biggest killers.
Using 2018 Florida Health Department statistics, the last year available, coronavirus’ daily death toll would rank sixth behind heart disease (128 deaths a day), cancer (123), stroke (36), accidental injury (34) and chronic lung disease (33).
But coronavirus is easily the state’s deadliest infectious disease, killing nearly three times more Floridians than flu/pneumonia (8 a day), AIDS (2) and viral hepatitis (1) combined.
Gomez Licon reported from Miami. Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing its coronavirus outbreak — with one exception.
The southeastern state of Victoria had some of the nation’s toughest pandemic measures and was among the most reluctant to lift its restrictions when the worst of its outbreak seemed to have passed.
But as most of the country emerges from pandemic restrictions, the virus has resumed spreading at an alarming rate in Victoria’s capital, Melbourne. The city is buckling down with more extreme and divisive measures that have ignited anger and arguments over who is to blame.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that the entire city and some of its surrounds will be locked down again from Wednesday night under tougher restrictions than were imposed during the first shutdown that started in March.
“We are in many respects in a more precarious, challenging and potentially tragic position now than we were some months ago,” Andrews said.
About 3,000 residents of nine public housing high-rise buildings were given just an hour’s notice at the weekend before being prohibited from leaving their apartments for at least five days.
“The amount of police officers makes us feel like we’re criminals,” said a resident of one of the buildings, Nada Osman. “It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s like we’re caged in.”
Forty suburbs that are virus hot spots have been locked down by postal code since last week, with the result that businesses and households in some areas face restrictions while ones across the street from them do not.
“The line has to be drawn somewhere and I think most people can understand that,” Maria Iatrou, whose cafe is restricted to takeout because it is on the wrong side of a suburban border, said before the citywide lockdown was announced.
“But that doesn’t take away any of the frustration and disappointment associated with having to live with these restrictions again because we’re unlucky enough to belong to one of these post codes,” she said.
Victoria authorities had been praised for their aggressive testing and contact tracing. Melbourne researchers developed what they describe as the world’s first saliva test for the coronavirus, a less accurate but more comfortable diagnostic tool than nasal swabs, in an effort to encourage more people to agree to door-to-door testing.
It’s an extraordinary situation that raises questions about how Australia’s second-largest city fell so far behind the rest of the country.
The nation of 26 million people has recorded about 8,500 cases and only 106 deaths from COVID-19.
Most if not all the blame is being directed at lax controls at quarantine centers set up in two Melbourne hotels.
Australian citizens and permanent residents returning from overseas are required to spend 14 days in strict hotel quarantine. Genomic sequencing that identities which virus strains are circulating in specific clusters indicates the city’s expanding outbreak is emerging from hotel quarantine guards and guests.
Critics of the Victoria government blame a decision to use private security contractors to enforce the quarantine.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city, which in the early days of the pandemic had the country’s highest number of daily new cases, chose to use police and the military to provide hotel security, with greater apparent success.
Media reports have alleged security firms charged the Victoria government for hotel guards that were not provided and that guards had sex with quarantined hotel guests and allowed families to go between rooms to play cards.
The Victoria government has largely shut down public debate on what went wrong by appointing a retired judge to hold an inquiry. Government officials maintain it would not be appropriate to make public comment before the judge reports her findings on Sept. 25.
But the government acknowledged infection control failures and has changed its system. State prison workers now oversee hotel quarantine and international travelers are no longer allowed to land at Melbourne airport.
Premier Andrews has defended plans to employ grounded Qantas flight crews to work with the prison guards in the hotel quarantine against union complaints that the crews were offered little training.
“There are very few groups of people who take safety more seriously and know and understand safety protocols and dynamic environments and the need to always go by the book than those who work in our aviation sector,” Andrews said.
Catherine Bennett, an epidemiologist at Melbourne’s Deakin University, said the city could be having similar success as the rest of Australia in virtually eliminating community transmission if not for the hotel quarantine breaches that allowed security guards to bring the virus home to their suburbs.
“We’ve had multiple positive people take the virus home at the same time into extensive multi-household families just after Victoria had relaxed its restrictions,” said Bennett, who lives outside the 40 shutdown suburbs.
“Luck comes into it. You just need one person positive in a setting where it can take off to have a problem. That setting probably exists in cities all around Australia,” she said.
Victoria officials wonder how many of Melbourne’s residents will continue social distancing during their second lockdown as they see the rest of Australia lift restrictions.
Iatrou said the current lockdown has made a “massive difference” in earnings at her cafe in the suburb of Ascot Vale.
She welcomed the Melbourne-wide shutdown because it put her business back in competition with her competitors in previously unrestricted suburbs.
But time would tell whether business would return to the levels of the first nationwide lockdown.
“People are a lot more scared this time around,” Iatrou said.
If customers stayed away though fear of infection or they lacked income, she said: “There’ll be a lot more businesses closing their doors by the end of this.”
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The coronavirus has ripped through Poland’s coal mines, where men descend deep underground in tightly packed elevators and work shoulder-to-shoulder to extract the source of 75% of the nation’s electrical power.
Of Poland’s more than 36,000 reported COVID-19 cases, about 6,500 are miners — making them nearly a fifth of all confirmed infections in the country, even though they make up only 80,000 of the country’s population of 38 million.
The virus hot spots, centered in the southern Silesia region, have paralyzed an already-troubled industry, forcing many to stay home from work and triggering a three-week closure of many state-run mines that are only now reopening.
It is one more blow that the pandemic has dealt to the global coal sector, already in steep decline in much of the world as renewable and other energy sources get cheaper and societies increasingly reject its damaging environmental impact.
Economic shutdowns from the virus also have cut electricity demand. Britain completely removed coal-fired power from its grid for 67 days starting April 9 — a record set since the Industrial Revolution as the National Grid works toward a zero-carbon system by 2025.
“Coal is in a long-term decline,” said Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. “It’s simply cheaper to use gas or renewables, and the economics of coal just no longer make sense in many parts of the world.”
“The question is whether the recent sharp reduction in coal use is sustainable and will last beyond the impacts of the pandemic,” Ward said.
U.S. coal companies, already in financial trouble, are more likely to default because of the pandemic, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Italian utility ENEL says it will be able to close coal-fired power stations that it operates across the world sooner than anticipated due to the virus.
But China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, actually has been accelerating plans for new coal power plant capacity as it tries to revive its virus-hit economy.
Poland, under pressure from the 27-member European Union to lower carbon emissions, is seeing the pandemic complicate its coal troubles.
Poland is the only EU state refusing to pledge carbon neutrality by 2050. Governments in Warsaw have argued for years that as an ex-communist country still trying to catch up with the West, it cannot give up the cheap and plentiful domestic energy source. It also says its reliance on coal plays is important for weaning itself from Russian gas.
In reality, Poland’s coal production is becoming less efficient, and it has increasingly been importing cheaper coal from Mozambique, Colombia, Australia and even Russia. As it does so, Poland’s own coal piles up unused, and some mines have been closed.
“Look what’s happening with coal, how many millions of tons are being imported from outside Poland, and it was supposed to be completely different,” Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said at a campaign rally in Silesia. He faces conservative President Andrzej Duda in a presidential runoff election Sunday.
Piotr Lewandowski, president of the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw, says Poland’s coal sector is being pushed to a “tipping point” by several factors: falling demand for coal because of warmer winters; wind and other renewables becoming cheaper; rising costs of carbon emissions; and a society less willing to tolerate high levels of air pollution.
“As coal mines struggle, their stock of unsold coal is the highest it has been in five years,” Lewandowski said. “The mines are between a rock and a hard place. They need to manage the outbreak while they are in financial tatters.”
In an open letter Friday to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, some 40 environmentalists, scientists and other groups urged him to urgently prepare a plan for phasing out coal use in order to receive EU funds for making a transition to a greener society. They said the pandemic has sped up “the economic, ecological and social problems” associated with coal.
Miners, however, worry the government could use the outbreak as a pretext to permanently shut inefficient mines. Conservative leaders have tried to calm those fears, aware of the political costs of job cuts to the industry.
When communism fell in Poland, it still had about 390,000 coal miners. Layoffs created high unemployment and poverty in Silesia, and miners staged violent protests in Warsaw.
Jacek Sasin, the deputy prime minister in charge of mining, insists there is no reason for miners to fear for their long-term prospects.
“All those who tried to argue that reduction was some sly plan to liquidate mines talked nonsense,” he said.
Certainly nobody expects any big decisions about coal before Sunday’s election between Duda, the incumbent, and Trzaskowski.
Coal miners already are frustrated by stagnant wages and a feeling the government is less committed to supporting them, said Patryk Kosela, a spokesman for a miners’ trade union, Sierpien 80.
Adding to their concerns have been long waits for coronavirus test results and a state mining institute report issued at the start of the pandemic that said miners were not at risk.
“It was wishful thinking,” Kosela said. “In mining, you work in tight groups. You go down in a packed small lift, people are crowded. Then you travel on an underground train, together, rubbing shoulders.”
Polish miners normally wear only goggles and helmets with lamps, but one of the biggest companies said it supplied masks and disinfectant, and implemented other hygiene measures at the start of the outbreak. It was unclear how many workers actually wore the masks.
The virus spread very fast, Kosela said. The good news is that very few have faced serious complications, and many have recovered.
“Some are surprised that they are infected because they feel fine,” he said.
Adam Henkelman, a 44-year-old miner who recovered from the virus, blames the government for the high infection rates and the other troubles in the sector.
“They had lost interest in us,” said Henkelman, who works in the Murcki-Staszic coal mine in Katowice. “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”
Associated Press writer Monika Scislowska contributed to this report.
TOKYO (AP) — Soldiers rescued residents on boats as floodwaters flowed down streets in southern Japanese towns hit by deadly rains that were expanding across the region Tuesday. At least 50 people have died and a dozen are missing.
Pounding rain since late Friday in Japan’s southern region of Kyushu has triggered widespread flooding. More rain was predicted in Kyushu and the western half of Japan’s main island as the rain front moved east.
In Fukuoka, on the northern part of the island, three soldiers waded through knee-high water pulling a boat carrying a mother, her 2-month-old baby and two other residents.
“Good job!” one of the soldiers said as he held up the baby to his chest while the mother got off the boat, Asahi video footage showed. Several children wearing orange life vests over their wet T-shirts arrived on another boat.
An older woman told NHK television she started walking down the road to evacuate, but floodwater rose quickly up to her neck. Another woman said, “I was almost washed away and had to grab a electrical pole.”
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 49 victims were from riverside towns in the Kumamoto prefecture. Another of the dead confirmed as of Tuesday morning was a woman in her 80s found inside her flooded home in another prefecture.
About 3 million residents were advised to evacuate across Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island.
Tens of thousands of army troops, police and other rescue workers mobilized from around the country worked their way through mud and debris in the hardest-hit riverside towns along the Kuma River. Rescue operations have been hampered by the floodwater and continuing harsh weather.
In Kuma village in the hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture, dozens of residents took shelter at a park. The roofed structure had no walls or floor and they sat on blue tarps spread on the dirt ground, with no partitions. The village office’s electricity and communications had been cut.
Among the victims were 14 residents of a nursing home next to the Kuma River, known as the “raging river” because it is joined by another river just upstream and is prone to flooding. Its embankment fell, letting water gush into the nursing home.
LONDON — British police have arrested hundreds of suspected members of organized crime groups after international experts infiltrated an encrypted messaging network, the National Crime Agency said on Thursday.
The agency said police mounted Britain’s “biggest ever law enforcement operation,” making 746 arrests and recovering 54 million pounds, 77 firearms and more than 2 tons of drugs.
French and Dutch police infiltrated the EncroChat encrypted communications platform two months ago, sharing data via Europol that allowed British police to make “a massive breakthrough in the fight against serious and organized crime.”
The NCA said EncroChat, which provided secure mobile phone instant messaging, had some 60,000 users worldwide, including about 10,000 in Britain.
“The sole use was for coordinating and planning the distribution of illicit commodities, money laundering and plotting to kill rival criminals,” it said.
Nikki Holland, the agency’s investigations director, said the infiltration of EncroChat had underpinned work by more than 500 British police officers in “the broadest and deepest ever UK operation into serious organized crime.”
“Together we’ve protected the public by arresting middle-tier criminals and the kingpins, the so-called iconic untouchables who have evaded law enforcement for years, and now we have the evidence to prosecute them,” Holland said.
“This operation demonstrates that criminals will not get away with using encrypted devices to plot vile crimes under the radar,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel.
BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — As coronavirus-related restrictions are eased and temperatures climb, people are flocking back to the Jersey Shore.
And with the July Fourth holiday weekend upon us, that’s making some people nervous, particularly given the large crowds that have surfaced at some popular shore spots recently and poor compliance with mandated measures to help slow the spread of the virus.
“I am really concerned,” said Paul Kanitra, mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, a popular shore town that was unexpectedly overrun by thousands of tourists who swarmed the beach and boardwalk a few weeks ago at a “pop-up party,” paying little heed to social distancing or masks.
“We’re seeing spikes across the country in states that opened up weeks ago, and while we’re doing a good job in New Jersey, there are a lot of people that are way too cavalier about social distancing,” he said. “There’s inherent risk in all of this.”
Large crowds are expected at the shore for the holiday weekend: New Jersey’s casinos have reopened, along with amusement rides and water parks. Beaches are open, though at reduced occupancy levels. Restaurants can offer limited outdoor dining, and stores and shopping malls have reopened.
But not everyone is following rules designed to prevent the spread of the virus, including wearing masks and keeping 6 feet (2 meters) apart. In late June, large crowds swarmed D’Jais, a popular oceanfront nightclub in Belmar in scenes reminiscent of pre-pandemic days. Few patrons wore face coverings, and fewer still kept their distance from others on a packed dance floor.
Gov. Phil Murphy saw videos of the packed club and warned the state will not hesitate to reimpose harsher restrictions if people don’t behave.
“We cannot let up on our social distancing or our responsibility just because the sun is out,” the governor said. “We can’t be lulled into complacency and think it’s OK to crowd around a bar. That is how flare-ups happen.”
Skyler Walker, a woman from Scotch Plains in her early 20s, was on the Belmar beach last week on a sunny day with temperatures brushing 90 degrees.
“I definitely think people people are starting to care less about” the virus, she said. But the face mask she wore on the boardwalk while waiting in line to buy beach badges indicated she does not share that view. “They act like it’s over now.”
She was at the beach with a friend who is a nurse in a Jersey Shore hospital filled with coronavirus patients. The friend, who would not give her name, was adamant that the virus is not over, based on what she sees at work every day. She is scheduled to work at the hospital on July Fourth.
Michael Scott, another 20-something on the Belmar beach, said he and his friends have modified their behavior this summer, including at nightclubs.
“I try to just hang out with my people,” he said. “I’m not all about looking to meet new people. We have a close group of friends that all kind of quarantined together.”
Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian pleaded with residents and visitors to wear masks during the long holiday, including on the boardwalk, noting, “Ocean City is already very crowded.”
Although New Jersey’s hospitalization rate is down drastically from a peak a few months ago, officials fear hospitalizations for the virus will rise again if people become lax about taking precautions.
“We are especially concerned after the gatherings we saw at the Jersey Shore,” added the state’s health commissioner, Judith Persichilli. “Individuals were packed together, which raises the risk of spreading the virus.”
A big test is happening this weekend with the reopening of eight of Atlantic City’s nine casinos. The Borgata is remaining closed due to smoking, drinking and indoor eating bans Murphy imposed on the gambling halls.
Most casinos scan guests temperatures upon entering, hand sanitizer dispensers are placed throughout the premises, and everyone inside must wear a mask.
The first day of operations, on Thursday, appeared to go well, with widespread compliance with virus precautions. In 2 1/2 hours on the gambling floor of the Hard Rock casino, an Associated Press reporter did not see a single person without a mask.
PARIS (AP) — A collective of French health care workers said Thursday it is seeking a broad legal inquiry into France’s failure to protect its members and their colleagues by providing adequate masks, gloves and other protective equipment as the coronavirus swept across the country.
The professional association, Collectif Inter Urgences, (Inter-Emergencies Collective), said it was filing a four-count civil complaint alleging manslaughter, involuntary harm, voluntary failure to prevent damage and endangering the life of others.
As is common in French law, the complaint does not target a specific perpetrator but asks judicial authorities to determine who, across governments past and present, failed to renew personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks and adequately supply hospitals to prevent such a crisis.
More than 60 other legal complaints have been filed so far over how France, which has reported the fifth-highest number of virus deaths worldwide, managed its virus outbreak. The collective is building a database of accounts from paramedics and hopes its complaint has farther-reaching legal impact than those targeting specific government ministers or nursing homes.
“We’ve had to run after stocks, run after PPE, which affected our ability to help people,” said Yasmina Kettal, a nurse at the Delafontaine Hospital in Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs. “But there was also a constant feeling of insecurity and gutting fear because in some services there was no PPE stock, and in many, very little PPE, which led to misuses.”
The group notably wants to know the reasoning behind the changing protocols around PPE use in France. As French hospitals faced growing shortages of gear and increasing numbers of virus patients, staff members were told they could reuse their equipment or keep it for longer periods, for example.
The changing protocols “made us wonder as to whether they were scientific recommendations or shortage management,” Kettal said.
The health care workers in the collective said they were also psychologically impacted by the handling of the crisis.
“We found ourselves in situations with colleagues where we didn’t know what to wear, which masks, in which situations,” Nicolas Kazolias, an emergency medic at Tenon Hospital in Paris, said. “We don’t ever want to live this again.”
French Health Minister Olivier Veran acknowledged Thursday that “our country was not sufficiently stocked with masks” during the first wave of the virus, and the government is now asking all companies to keep at least 10 weeks worth of masks for their employees in case of a second wave of infections.ADVERTISEMENT
France’s national health agency has confirmed more than 300 new virus clusters since the country started reopening May 11, and says about half have been contained. France has so far reported a total of 29,861 deaths linked to the virus, about half of them in nursing homes.
French health care workers are already wondering whether they can make it through a second round.
“After going through all of this, the question as to who will be here for a second wave is in the minds of all of us, even mine,” Kettal said.
HPAKANT, Myanmar (AP) — At least 162 people were killed Thursday in a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, the worst in a series of deadly accidents at such sites in recent years that critics blame on the government’s failure to take action against unsafe conditions.
The Myanmar Fire Service Department, which coordinates rescues and other emergency services, announced about 12 hours after the morning disaster that 162 bodies were recovered from the landslide in Hpakant, the center of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry.
The most detailed estimate of Myanmar’s jade industry said it generated about $31 billion in 2014. Hpakant is a rough and remote area in Kachin state, 950 kilometers (600 miles) north of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the Fire Service said. It said 54 injured people were taken to hospitals. The tolls announced by other state agencies and media lagged behind the fire agency, which was most closely involved. An unknown number of people are feared missing.
Those taking part in the recovery operations, which were suspended after dark, included the army and other government units and local volunteers.
The London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness said the accident “is a damning indictment of the government”s failure to curb reckless and irresponsible mining practices in Kachin state’s jade mines.”
“The government should immediately suspend large-scale, illegal and dangerous mining in Hpakant and ensure companies that engage in these practices are no longer able to operate,” it said in a statement.
At the site of the tragedy, a crowd gathered in the rain around corpses shrouded in blue and red plastic sheets placed in a row on the ground.
Emergency workers had to slog through heavy mud to retrieve bodies by wrapping them in the plastic sheets, which were then hung on crossed wooden poles shouldered by the recovery teams.
Social activists have complained that the profitability of jade mining has led businesses and the government to neglect enforcement of already very weak regulations in the jade mining industry.
“The multi-billion dollar sector is dominated by powerful military-linked companies, armed groups and cronies that have been allowed to operate without effective social and environmental controls for years,” Global Witness said. Although the military is no longer directly in power in Myanmar, it is still a major force in government and exercises authority in remote regions.
Thursday’s death toll surpasses that of a November 2015 accident that left 113 dead and was previously considered the country’s worst. In that case, the victims died when a 60-meter (200-foot) -high mountain of earth and waste discarded by several mines tumbled in the middle of the night, covering more than 70 huts where miners slept.
Those killed in such accidents are usually freelance miners who settle near giant mounds of discarded earth that has been excavated by heavy machinery. The freelancers who scavenge for bits of jade usually work and live in abandoned mining pits at the base of the mounds of earth, which become particularly unstable during the rainy season.
Most scavengers are unregistered migrants from other areas, making it hard to determine exactly how many people are actually missing after such accidents and in many cases leaving the relatives of the dead in their home villages unaware of their fate.
Global Witness, which investigates misuse of revenues from natural resources, documented the $31 billion estimate for Myanmar’s jade industry in a 2015 report that said most of the wealth went to individuals and companies tied to the country’s former military rulers. More recent reliable figures are not readily available.
It said at the time the report was released that the legacy to local people of such business arrangements “is a dystopian wasteland in which scores of people at a time are buried alive in landslides.”
In its statement Thursday, Global Witness blamed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which came to power in 2016, for failing “to implement desperately needed reforms, allowing deadly mining practices to continue and gambling the lives of vulnerable workers in the country’s jade mines.”
Jade mining also plays a role in the decades-old struggle of ethnic minority groups in Myanmar’s borderlands to take more control of their own destiny.
The area where members of the Kachin minority are dominant is poverty stricken despite hosting lucrative deposits of rubies as well as jade.
The Kachin believe they are not getting a fair share of the profits from deals that the central government makes with mining companies.
Kachin guerrillas have engaged in intermittent but occasionally heavy combat with government troops.
By DAVID RISING and JAKE COYLE for the Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — The United States and South Africa have both reported record new daily coronavirus infections, with U.S. figures surpassing 50,000 cases a day for the first time, underlining the challenges still ahead as nations press to reopen their virus-devastated economies.
The U.S. recorded 50,700 new cases, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, as many states struggled to contain the spread of the pandemic, blamed in part on Americans not wearing masks or following social distancing rules.
Surging numbers in California prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to announce just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend that he was closing bars, theaters and indoor restaurant dining over most of the state, a region that includes about 30 million people and Los Angeles County.
“The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said.
Confirmed cases in California have increased nearly 50% over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up 43%. Newsom said California had nearly 5,900 new cases and 110 more deaths in just 24 hours.
Infections have been surging in many other states as well, including Florida, Arizona and Texas. Florida recorded more than 6,500 new cases and counties in South Florida were closing beaches to fend off large July Fourth crowds that could further spread the virus.
“Too many people were crowding into restaurants late at night, turning these establishments into breeding grounds for this deadly virus,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.
Despite the fact that the U.S. has the highest number of infections and deaths in the world by far, President Donald Trump seemed confident the coronavirus would soon subside.
“I think we are going to be very good with the coronavirus,” he told Fox Business. “I think that, at some point, that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”
The U.S. has now reported nearly 2.7 million cases and more than 128,000 dead. Globally there have been 10.7 million coronavirus cases and more than 516,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins’ count. The true toll of the pandemic is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of limited testing and mild cases that have been missed.
In South Africa on Thursday, authorities reported 8,124 new cases, a new daily record. The country has the most cases in Africa with more than 159,000, as it loosens what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.
Johannesburg is a new hot spot with hundreds of health workers infected and Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, has more than 45,000 confirmed cases. The African continent has more than 405,000 confirmed cases overall.
India, the world’s second-most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, surpassed 600,000 infections on Thursday after over 19,000 new cases were reported. India has reported nearly 100,000 new cases in the past four days alone.
Despite the surging numbers, the western beach of state of Goa, a popular backpacking destination, allowed 250 hotels to reopen Thursday after being closed for more than three months. Tourists will either have to carry COVID-19 negative certificates or get tested on arrival.
Many industries and businesses have reopened across the country, and Indians have cautiously returned to the streets. Schools, colleges and movie theaters are still closed.
On the medical front, the World Health Organization says smoking is linked to a higher risk of severe illness and death from the coronavirus in hospitalized patients, although it was unable to specify exactly how much greater those risks might be.
In a scientific brief published this week, the U.N. health agency reviewed 34 published studies on the association between smoking and COVID-19, including the probability of infection, hospitalization, severity of disease and death.
WHO noted that smokers represent up to 18% of hospitalized coronavirus patients and that there appeared to be a significant link between whether or not patients smoked and the severity of disease they suffered, the type of hospital interventions required and patients’ risk of dying.
In Japan, the capital of Tokyo confirmed 107 new cases of coronavirus, nearly triple that of June 24, just before the number began to spike. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said many cases were linked to nightclubs and bars, and urged their workers to proactively be tested and take further safety measures.
“We need to use caution against the spread of the infections,” Koike said.
South Korea confirmed 54 more COVID-19 cases as the coronavirus continued to spread beyond the capital region and reach cities like Gwangju, which has shut schools and tightened social restrictions after dozens fell sick this week.
Despite the spike in many U.S. states, several eastern states have seen their new infections slow down significantly, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey, which was going ahead Thursday with allowing its famous Atlantic City casinos to reopen.
Strict social distancing and other measures will be in place. Gamblers will not be allowed to smoke, drink or eat anything inside the casinos. They will have to wear masks in public areas of the casino and have their temperatures checked upon entering.
TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) — About 220 officers and inmates at a Washington state prison have tested positive for COVID-19, nearly doubling since restricting movement in its medium-security unit last month.
The state Department of Corrections brought in the Washington National Guard last week to administer coronavirus testing at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.
The results showed 171 inmates and 47 staff members tested positive Tuesday, the Tri-City Herald reported. Two inmates died.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.
Coyote Ridge, located in Connell about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Spokane, has minimum- and medium-security units. All employees in both units, and all inmates in the medium-security unit will now be regularly tested, the department said.
Employees are tested before their shift, and will be repeatedly tested every seven days until further notice, officials said. Only employees who previously tested positive will be exempt from further testing.
Inmates who test negative will be tested a second time, then will remain housed together. Temporary housing was created at Coyote Ridge to allow inmates who have tested positive to also be housed together, Superintendent Jeffrey Uttecht said.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong police made the first arrests Wednesday under a new national security law imposed by China’s central government, as thousands of people defied tear gas and pepper pellets to protest against the contentious move on the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule.
Police said 10 people were arrested under the law, including a man with a Hong Kong independence flag and a woman holding a sign displaying the British flag and calling for Hong Kong’s independence — all violations of the law that took effect Tuesday night. Others were detained for possessing items advocating independence.
Hong Kong police said on Facebook that they arrested some 370 people on various charges, including unlawful assembly, possession of weapons and violating the new law, which was imposed in a move seen as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.Protesters against the new security law start a fire to block traffic during a march marking the anniversary of the Hong Kong handover from Britain to China, Wednesday, July. 1, 2020, in Hong Kong.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The law, imposed following anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Any person taking part in activities such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city’s independence is violating the law regardless of whether violence is used.
The most serious offenders, such as those deemed to be masterminds behind these activities, could receive a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Lesser offenders could receive jail terms of up to three years, short-term detention or restriction.
Wednesday’s arrests came as thousands took to the streets on the 23rd anniversary of Britain’s handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. For the first time, police banned this year’s annual march. Protesters shouted slogans, lambasted police and held up signs condemning the Chinese government and the new security law.
Some protesters set fires in Hong Kong’s trendy shopping district, Causeway Bay, while others pulled bricks from sidewalks and scattered obstacles across roads in an attempt to obstruct traffic. To disperse protesters, police shot pepper spray and pepper balls, as well as deployed water cannons and tear gas throughout the day.
Hong Kong’s leader strongly endorsed the new law in a speech marking the anniversary of the handover of the territory — officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“The enactment of the national law is regarded as the most significant development in the relationship between the central authorities and the HKSAR since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” chief executive Carrie Lam said in a speech, following a flag-raising ceremony and the playing of China’s national anthem.
“It is also an essential and timely decision for restoring stability in Hong Kong,” she said.
A pro-democracy political party, The League of Social Democrats, organized a protest march during the flag-raising ceremony. About a dozen participants chanted slogans echoing demands from protesters last year for political reform and an investigation into accusations of police abuse.
SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle police showed up in force early Wednesday at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down demonstrators’ tents and used bicycles to herd the protesters after the mayor ordered the area cleared following two fatal shootings in less than two weeks.
Television images showed no signs of clashes between the police, many dressed in riot gear, and dozens of protesters at the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Police swarmed the zone known as CHOP at about 5 a.m. and a loud bang was heard at about 6:15 a.m. followed by a cloud of smoke. At least 23 people were arrested, said Police Chief Carmen Best.
“Our job is to support peaceful demonstration but what has happened on these streets over the last two weeks is lawless and it’s brutal and bottom line it is simply unacceptable,” Best told reporters.
Police tore down fences that protesters had erected around their tents and used batons to poke inside bushes, apparently looking for people who might be hiding inside. One officer took down a sign saying “we are not leaving until our demands are met: 1. Defund SPD by 50% now. 2. Fund Black Communities. 3. Free all protesters.”
Most protesters appeared to have dispersed several hours after the operations started and armed officers looked on from rooftops as clean-up crews of workers arrived to break down tables and tarps that protesters had set up in the zone.
Officers were investigating several vehicles circling the area after police saw people inside them “with firearms/armor,” police said in a tweet, adding that the vehicles did not appear to have “visible license plates.”
The protesters had occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks and police abandoned a precinct station following standoffs and clashes with the protesters, who called for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
Police said they moved in to protect the public after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued the order for protesters to leave.
“Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings,” Seattle police said on Twitter. “Police have also documented robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes.
The tweet added that “suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms.”
Best said she supports peaceful demonstrations but that “enough is enough.”
“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings–-two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” she said.
There had been mounting calls by critics, including President Donald Trump, to remove protesters following the fatal shootings.
Protesters have said they should not be blamed for the violence in the area.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police will stop releasing the mug shots of people who have been arrested unless they pose a threat to the public, as part of an effort to stop perpetuating racial stereotypes, the city’s police chief announced Wednesday.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said the policy, which goes into effect immediately, means the department will no longer release booking photos of suspects to the media or allow officers to post them online.
Booking photos are taken when someone is arrested. They are often made public whether or not the person is prosecuted for the alleged crime, which undermines the presumption of innocence and helps perpetuate stereotypes.
Jack Glaser, a public policy professor at the University of California Berkeley who researches racial stereotyping and whose work Scott consulted, said data shows Black people who are arrested are more likely to have their cases dismissed by prosecutors.
But the mug shots live on.
Numerous websites post photos of mug shots online, regardless of whether anyone was convicted of a crime, and then charge a fee to those who want their photo taken down. The phenomenon prompted California’s attorney general to charge one of the biggest operators with extortion, money laundering, and identity theft.
That contributes to Americans making an unfair association between people of color and crime, Scott said.
“This is just one small step but we hope this will be something that others might consider doing as well,” he said.
Large cities like Los Angeles and New York already have policies against releasing booking photos but make exceptions. For example, the New York Police Department, the nation’s largest, releases information on arrests but doesn’t put out mug shots unless investigators believe that will prompt more witnesses to come forward or aid in finding a suspect.
In San Francisco, the only exceptions will be if a crime suspect poses a threat or if officers need help locating a suspect or an at-risk person, Scott said. Under the policy, the release of photos or information on a person who is arrested will also require approval from the police department’s public relations team.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A white couple who stood outside their St. Louis mansion and pointed guns at protesters support the Black Lives Matter movement and don’t want to become heroes to those who oppose the cause, their attorney said Monday.
Video posted online showed Mark McCloskey, 63, and his 61-year-old wife, Patricia, standing outside their Renaissance palazzo-style home Sunday night in the city’s well-to-do Central West End neighborhood as protesters marched toward the mayor’s home to demand her resignation. He could be heard yelling while holding a long-barreled gun. His wife stood next to him with a handgun.
Mark McCloskey told KMOV-TV that he and wife, who are personal injury lawyers, were facing an “angry mob” on their private street and feared for their lives Sunday night.
No charges were brought against McCloskeys. Police said they were still investigating but labeled it a case of trespassing and assault by intimidation against the couple by protesters in the racially diverse crowd.
However, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner issued a statement later Monday characterizing what happened differently and saying her office was working with police to investigate the confrontation.
“I am alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend, where peaceful protesters were met by guns and a violent assault,” she said. “We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated.”
Their attorney, Albert Watkins, told The Associated Press on Monday that the couple are long-time civil rights advocates and support the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said they grabbed their guns when two or three protesters — who were white — violently threatened the couple and their property and that of their neighbors.
“The most important thing for them is that their images (holding the guns) don’t become the basis for a rallying cry for people who oppose the Black Lives Matter message,” Watkins said. “They want to make it really clear that they believe the Black Lives Matter message is important.”
The marchers were angry at Mayor Lyda Krewson for reading aloud the names and addresses of several residents who wrote letters calling for defunding the police department. The group of at least 500 people chanted, “Resign, Lyda! Take the cops with you!” news outlets reported.
Police said the couple had heard a loud commotion in the street and saw a large group of people break an iron gate marked with “No Trespassing” and “Private Street” signs. The video showed the protesters walking through the gate and it was unclear when it was damaged.
The McCloskeys’ home, which was featured in the local St. Louis Magazine after undergoing a renovation, was appraised at $1.15 million.
President Donald Trump retweeted an ABC News account of the confrontation without comment.
Krewson has faced demands for her resignation since a Facebook Live briefing on Friday in which the white mayor read the names of those who wrote letters about wanting to defund the police force. The video was removed and Krewson apologized the same day, saying she didn’t intend to cause distress.
The Rev. Darryl Gray, an organizer with ExpectUs, who used a megaphone to urge protesters to keep moving after the couple brandished firearms, blamed Krewson, saying she “threw gasoline on an already burning fire” by releasing people’s home addresses.
“In this climate of hatred and this climate of fear and the concern activists have for safety, we didn’t feel that this was the most prudent thing to do in this particular time,” Gray said. “It is a sign that she just does not know or does not care.”
The names and letters are considered public records, but Krewson’s actions caused a heavy backlash.
“As a leader, you don’t do stuff like that. … It’s only right that we visit her at her home,” said state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a St. Louis Democrat, speaking into a megaphone at the march.
Krewson, a longtime alderwoman, was elected St. Louis’ first female mayor in 2017 by pledging to work to reduce crime and improve poor neighborhoods. She and her two young children were in the car in front of their home in 1995 when her husband, Jeff, was slain during a carjacking attempt.
Homicides have spiked in recent years in St. Louis, which annually ranks among the most violent cities in the nation.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The governor of Brazil’s Amazonas state was targeted by a police raid on Tuesday over allegations of corruption related to COVID-19 spending.
Federal police ordered the preventive detention of eight people and raided more than a dozen addresses of people linked to Gov. Wilson Lima as part of an investigation into alleged fraud in the purchase of ventilators for treating COVID-19, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The state in the northern region of the Amazon rainforest has been one of the nation’s hardest-hit. Its capital, Manaus, was devastated by the virus, with patients turned away from full intensive-care units, scores of people dying at home and the city burying coffins in mass graves to keep up with the mounting death toll. Manaus’ mayor was hospitalized with COVID-19 this week.ADVERTISEMENT
Lindora Araujo, a deputy prosecutor-general, said in the statement that there is a “criminal organization that, installed in the structures of Amazonas state’s government, makes use of the situation of calamity to obtain illicit financial gains.” The statement said Gov. Lima was targeted by the searches and an asset freeze.
The state government of Amazonas said it will wait for more information before commenting and that Gov. Lima was in the capital of Brasilia for work.
Lima’s administration had already come under fire for buying ventilators at quadruple the market price from a wine importer and distributor. The breathing machines were deemed inadequate for use on coronavirus patients by the regional council of medicine and the Amazonas’ doctors’ union. Lima previously denied any wrongdoing.
Public prosecutors said the purchase of the ventilators revealed a process by which the wine distributor acted as intermediary for the purchase from a health equipment supplier, adding some $90,000 to the cost and then returning the full amount of the sale to the company.
The judge who ordered the raid froze $500,000 in the accounts of 13 people and companies, prosecutors said.
Manaus’ Mayor Arthur Virgílio Neto tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, and as of Tuesday was receiving non-invasive ventilation in a hospital, City Hall said in a statement.
Lima is the third governor to be investigated in relation to suspect medical expenditures during the pandemic.
On May 26, police searched the residence of Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Wilson Witzel as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities in contracts awarded for the construction of emergency field hospitals. Rio legislators voted nearly unanimously to begin impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Also, the government palace of Helder Barbalho, governor of Pará state, was raided June 10 as part of an investigation into alleged fraud in the purchase of ventilators for treating Covid-19.
Witzel and Barbalho have criticized President Jair Bolsonaro’s rejection of quarantine measures to contain spread of the coronavirus. Lima is a Bolsonaro ally.
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union will reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries, and possibly China soon, the bloc announced Tuesday, but most Americans have been refused entry for at least another two weeks due to soaring coronavirus infections in the U.S.
As Europe’s economies reel from the impact of the coronavirus, southern EU countries like Greece, Italy and Spain are desperate to entice back sun-loving visitors and breathe life into their damaged tourism industries. American tourists make up a big slice of the EU market and the summer holiday season is a key time.
Citizens from the following countries will be allowed into the EU’s 27 members and four other nations in Europe’s visa-free Schengen travel zone: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
The EU said China is “subject to confirmation of reciprocity,” meaning Beijing should lift all restrictions on European citizens entering China before European countries will allow Chinese citizens back in. Millions of travelers who come from Russia, Brazil and India will miss out.
The 31 European countries have agreed to begin lifting restrictions from Wednesday. The list is to be updated every 14 days, with new countries being added or dropped off depending on whether they are keeping the pandemic under control. Non-EU citizens who are already living in Europe are not included in the ban, nor are British citizens.
“We are entering a new phase with a targeted opening of our external borders as of tomorrow,” European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits of EU national leaders, tweeted. “We have to remain vigilant and keep our most vulnerable safe.”
American tourists made 27 million trips to Europe in 2016 while around 10 million Europeans head across the Atlantic each year.
Still, many people both inside and outside of Europe remain wary about traveling in the coronavirus era, given the unpredictability of the pandemic and the possibility of second waves of infection that could affect flights and hotel bookings. Tens of thousands of travelers had a frantic, chaotic scramble in March to get home as the pandemic swept the world and borders slammed shut.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has surged over the past week, and President Donald Trump also suspended the entry of all people from Europe’s ID check-free travel zone in a decree in March, making it extremely difficult for the EU to include the U.S. on their safe travel list for now.
In contrast, aside from a recent outbreak tied to a slaughterhouse in western Germany, the spread of the virus has generally stabilized across much of continental Europe.
To qualify for the “safe” list, EU headquarters said that countries should have a comparable per capita number of COVID-19 cases to those in the 31 European countries over the last 14 days and have a stable or decreasing trend in the number of infections.
The Europeans are also taking into account those countries’ standards on virus testing, surveillance, contact tracing and treatment and the general reliability of their virus data.
For tourist sites and stores in Paris that are already feeling the pinch of losing clients from around the world, the decision not to readmit most American travelers is another blow.
In the heart of Paris, on the two small islands in the Seine River that are home to Notre Dame Cathedral and a wealth of tempting boutiques, businesses were already mourning the loss of American visitors during the coronavirus lockdown, and now the summer season that usually attracts teeming crowds is proving eerily quiet since France reopened.
“Americans were 50% of my clientele,” said Paola Pellizzari, who owns a mask and jewelry shop on the Saint-Louis island and heads its business association. “We can’t substitute that clientele with another.”
“When I returned after lockdown, five businesses had closed,” Pellizzari said. “As days go by, and I listen to the business owners, it gets worse.”
American travelers spent $67 billion in the European Union in 2019, according to U.S. government figures. That was up 46% from 2014.
The continued absence of Americans also hurts the Louvre as the world’s most-visited museum plans its reopening on July 6. Americans used to be the largest single group of foreign visitors to the home of the “Mona Lisa.”
Sharmaigne Shives, an American who lives in Paris, is yearning for the day when her countrymen and women can return to the clothing shop where she works on Saint-Louis island and drive away her blues at having so few summer visitors.
“I hope that they can get it together and bring down their numbers as much as they can,” she said of the United States.
“Paris isn’t Paris when there aren’t people who really appreciate it and marvel at everything,” Shives added. “I miss that. Seriously, I feel the emotion welling up. It’s so sad here.”
A trade group for the biggest U.S. carriers including the three that fly to Europe — United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines — said it was “obviously disappointed” by the EU decision.
“We are hopeful that the decision will be reviewed soon and that at least on a limited basis international traffic between the United States and the EU will resume,” said Nicholas Calio, CEO of Airlines for America.
U.S. airlines hope the Europeans will give the U.S. credit if it implements steps such as temperature checks on passengers bound for Europe, which he said was discussed between U.S. government and EU officials.
Last year, United got 38% of its passenger revenue from international travel including 17% from flights between the U.S. and Europe, while Delta and American were slightly less dependent on those routes. Business travel on routes such as New York-London is highly profitable for all three.
In Brussels, EU headquarters underlined that the list “is not a legally binding instrument” which means the 31 governments can apply it as they see fit. But the bloc urged all member nations not to lift travel restrictions to other countries without coordinating such a move with their European partners.
Officials fear that such ad hoc moves could incite countries inside Europe to start closing their borders to each other again. Panic closures after the disease began spreading in Italy in February caused major traffic jams at crossing points and slowed deliveries of medical equipment.
In publishing its list, the EU also recommended that restrictions be lifted on all people wanting to enter who are European citizens and their family members, long-term EU residents who are not citizens of the bloc, and travelers with “an essential function or need,” regardless of whether their country is on the safe list or not.
John Leicester in Paris, David Koenig in Dallas, and Dee-Ann Durbin in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said coronavirus cases could grow to 100,000 a day in the U.S. if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert made the remark at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces.
Asked to forecast the outcome of recent surges in some states, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
MONDRAGONE, Italy (AP) — The governor of a southern Italian region insisted on Friday that residents of an apartment complex quarantine inside for 15 days, not even venturing out to buy food, after dozens of COVID-19 cases among Bulgarian seasonal farm workers and Italians who live there were confirmed.
Wearing a mask to discourage virus spread, Campania Gov. Vincenzo De Luca told reporters that the national civil protection agency should deliver groceries to the estimated 700 occupants of the apartments in Mondragone, a seaside town about 50 kilometers (32 miles) northwest of Naples.
The complex must be kept in “rigorous isolation,” De Luca said. That means that for 15 days, “nobody leaves and nobody enters” the apartments.
Later on Friday, the governor said that of 743 swab tests performed on residents who live in the complex’ five buildings, 43 COVID-19 cases were detected, including those of nine homeless Italians who have been sheltering in one of the buildings.
Fueling some of the anger in the town had been word that some of the Bulgarians had fled from the complex, in defiance of the mandatory quarantine order. But De Luca said that all 19 who had run away had been tracked down and tested for the coronavirus, and “thank God, all tested negative.”
The entire town of 30,000 has been urged to be tested, and many people lined up Friday to have swab tests.
“Since this morning, when we started, we have done over 250 swabs. They have understood here the importance of being careful about this virus,” said a Red Cross volunteer, Massimo D’Alessio.
The south has been spared the high numbers of coronavirus cases that have ravaged northern Italy.
Known for his particularly hard line on anti-contagion measures throughout the nationwide coronavirus outbreak this year, De Luca has vowed to lock down all of Mondragone if the number of cases at the hot spot reaches 100.
“Have I been clear? I’m used to speaking clearly,″ De Luca told RAI state TV.
The apartment complex was put under lockdown earlier in the week, and all who live there were ordered to be tested for the virus, after a handful of cases initially surfaced.
The Campania region has requested police reinforcements to impose the quarantine on the complex. De Luca said the Interior Ministry had authorized an army contingent.
The apartment residents have balked at staying indoors in these hot, steamy summer days. Tensions flared on Thursday, with Italians in the streets jeering at the Bulgarians who live in the complex, although Friday, tensions appeared mainly limited to name-calling.ADVERTISEMENT
“It is like a war between the two communities,” said Giuseppe Capotosto, a Civil Protection volunteer, referring to the Italians and the Bulgarians who live in the complex. “Basically there is no integration, we just would like to integrate these people, help them, but they have no intention to integrate in the community.”
The Bulgarians are currently harvesting string beans and other vegetables at farms near Mondragone.
Italians, migrants from Africa and Asia, as well as seasonal workers from Europe, including Ukrainians, Romanians and Bulgarians are involved in picking fruit and vegetables at orchards and farms throughout Italy.
Igor Prata, an official from the CGIL labor confederation told Sky TG24 in Mondragone that Bulgarians are among exploited farm workers.
“Let’s not forget they work (seasonally) for years, subject to exploitation,″ Plata said. They labor from nine to 11 hours daily in the fields, with men earning at most 40 euros ($45) per a day’s work, and women earning about 5 euros less, he said. Each laborer gives some 5 euros of daily wages to gang bosses who help them find work or transport them to fields.
Gov. De Luca said the first COVID-19 case among the Bulgarians was that of a woman who gave birth in a local hospital, with the newborn testing negative.
Tracing down the woman’s contacts eventually led to the discovery of the other cases at the complex, De Luca said.
During the pandemic, Campania has registered some 4,660 COVID-19 cases and 431 deaths, a small fraction of the nationwide cases and deaths.
In Italy’s north, in the area of Bologna, another outbreak triggered concern by health authorities. Italian news reports said 64 workers at courier services, most of them with one company, have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days. So far, 370 people, including the delivery workers and their families, have been tested. Nearly all of the positive cases are without symptoms and only two have been hospitalized, Corriere della Sera daily reported.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Heavily armed gunmen attacked and wounded Mexico City’s police chief in a brazen operation that left three people dead, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said Friday. The chief later tweeted, apparently from the hospital where he was being treated, that the Jalisco New Generation cartel was responsible.
Sheinbaum said in a news conference that the police chief, Security Secretary Omar García Harfuch, was being treated in a hospital, but was out of danger.
She said a 3 1/2 ton truck holding gunmen with rifles blocked the chief’s SUV and opened fire.
Two of those killed were part of García’s security detail. The third was a woman who just happened to be driving by. Sheinbaum said that the city’s security cameras recorded the attack.
“This morning we were attacked in a cowardly way by the CJNG,” García tweeted, using the Spanish-language acronym for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Mexico’s most violent criminal group.
“Two colleagues and friends of mine lost their lives,” García wrote. “I have three bullet wounds and various pieces of shrapnel. Our nation has to continue standing up to cowardly organized crime. We will continue working.”
A federal official who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed that it was García’s Twitter account.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel has been behind brazen attacks before, including the downing of a military helicopter. The cartel traffics in drugs and operates extortion rackets and other criminal enterprises.
Asked about the tweet from García, Sheinbaum declined to speculate on who was responsible.
Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy Ramos said on Twitter that there were 12 arrests and that her office was investigating the attack.
The police said in a statement that gunmen armed with .50 caliber sniper rifles and grenades exchanged fire with the chief’s security detail. The statement said two police were wounded. Harfuch was hospitalized in stable condition, it said.
The attack occurred around 6:30 a.m. on Mexico City’s grand boulevard Paseo de la Reforma in an area of large homes surrounded by walls and foreign embassies. Photographs from the scene showed a bullet-riddled black SUV and a high-sided construction truck with a number of rifles in the back that apparently hid the gunmen until the ambush.
There was no immediate word on motive or the identity of the attackers, but a number of organized crime groups operate in the city.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered his support and solidarity to Sheinbaum and the city’s public security forces.
“It has to do without a doubt with the work he is carrying out to guarantee peace and tranquility,” López Obrador said.
Mexico’s federal Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo, who was travelling with the president, condemned what he called a “cowardly” attack. “It’s clear that the work of the (police) is touching strong criminal interests,” he tweeted.
Earlier this month, a federal judge and his wife were killed at their home by gunmen in the western state of Colima. The judge had handled a number of cases related to organized crime.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved a far-reaching police overhaul from Democrats in a vote heavy with emotion and symbolism as a divided Congress struggles to address the global outcry over the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the Capitol steps, challenging opponents not to allow the deaths to have been in vain or the outpouring of public support for changes to go unmatched. But the collapse of a Senate Republican bill leaves final legislation in doubt.
“Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words — ‘I can’t breathe’ — and changed the course of history,” Pelosi said.
She said the Senate faces a choice “to honor George Floyd’s life or to do nothing.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is perhaps the most ambitious set of proposed changes to police procedures and accountability in decades. Backed by the nation’s leading civil rights groups, it aims to match the moment of demonstrations that filled streets across the nation. It has almost zero chance of becoming law.
On the eve of the Thursday vote, President Donald Trump’s administration said he would veto the bill. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said it would not pass the Republican-held chamber.
“If nothing happens with it, it’s one of those things,” Trump said. “We have different philosophies.”
Congress is now at a familiar impasse despite protests outside their door and polling that shows Americans overwhelmingly want changes after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others in interactions with law enforcement. The two parties are instead appealing to voters ahead of the fall election, which will determine control of the House, Senate and White House.
“We hear you. We see you. We are you,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., during the debate.
It has been a month since Floyd’s May 25 death sparked a global reckoning over police tactics and racial injustice. Since then, funeral services were held for Rayshard Brooks, a Black man shot and killed by police in Atlanta. Thursday is also what would have been the 18th birthday of Tamir Rice, a Black boy killed in Ohio in 2014.
Lawmakers who have been working from home during the COVID-19 crisis were summoned to the Capitol for an emotional, hours-long debate. Dozens voted by proxy under new pandemic rules.
During the day, several Democratic lawmakers read the names of those killed, shared experiences of racial bias and echoed support of Black Lives Matter activists.
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said hundreds of thousands of people “in every state in the union” are marching in the streets to make sure Floyd “will not be just another Black man dead at the hands of the police.”
Republican lawmakers countered the bill goes too far and failed to include GOP input. “All lives matter,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. New York Rep. Pete King said it’s time to stand with law enforcement, the “men and women in blue.” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy decried the “mob” of demonstrators.
At one point Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., stood up to say he just didn’t understand what was happening in the country — from Floyd’s death to the protests that followed. Several Black Democratic lawmakers rose to encourage him to pick up a U.S. history book or watch some of the many films now streaming about the Black experience in America.
Later, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noting the legacy of Emmett Till, asked others to “walk in my shoes.”
In the stalemate over the policing overhaul, the parties are settled into their political zones, almost ensuring no legislation will become law. While there may be shared outrage over Floyd’s death, the lawmakers remain far apart on the broader debate over racial bias in policing and other institutions. The 236-181 House vote was largely on party lines. Three Republicans joined Democrats in favor of passage and no Democrats were opposed.
Both bills share common elements that could be grounds for a compromise. Central to both would be the creation of a national database of use-of-force incidents, which is viewed as a way to provide transparency on officers’ records if they transfer from one agency to another. The bills would restrict police chokeholds and set up new training procedures, including beefing up the use of body cameras.
The Democratic bill goes much further, mandating many of those changes, while also revising the federal statute for police misconduct and holding officers personally liable for damages in lawsuits. It also would halt the practice of sending military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
Neither bill goes as far as some activists want with calls to defund the police and shift resources to other community services.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican senator, who drafted the GOP package, said the bill is now “closer to the trash can than it’s ever been.”
“I’m frustrated,” he said on Fox News Channel.
Scott insisted he was open to amending his bill with changes proposed by Democrats. But Democrats doubted McConnell would allow a thorough debate, and instead blocked the GOP bill.
Senate Democrats believe Senate Republicans will face mounting public pressure to open negotiations and act. But ahead of the November election, that appears uncertain.
Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Andrew Taylor, Darlene Superville and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
The governor of Texas ordered the closing of all bars again and scaled back restaurant dining Friday in the biggest retreat yet by any state, as the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. hit an all-time high of 40,000.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had pursued up to now one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any state and had not only resisted calls to order the wearing of masks but had also refused until last week to let local governments take such measures.
“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” he said. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”
Abbott joined the small but growing number of governors either backtracking or putting any further reopenings on hold.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed new infections in the U.S. per day soared past the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches in the crisis so far, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
While the increase is believed to reflect, in part, greatly expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the virus is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country, especially in the South and West.
Arizona, Florida and Arkansas are among the states that have been hit hard like Texas.
Amid the surge, the White House coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Pence, was scheduled to hold its first briefing in nearly two months on Friday afternoon. signaling the White House’s recognition that it cannot ignore the alarming increases.
Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are down to around 600 per day, compared with about 2,200 in mid-April. Despite the rise in cases, some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and also because a large share of the new infections are in younger adults, who are more likely than older ones to survive.
The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count. But U.S. health officials said the true number of Americans infected is about 20 million, or almost 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.
In addition to scaling back restaurant capacity, Abbott shut down rafting operations and said any outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people will need approval from the local government. The move came as the number of patients at Texas hospitals statewide more than doubled in two weeks.
Texas reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the past three days, with a record high of nearly 6,000 on Thursday. The day’s tally of over 4,700 hospitalizations was also a record.
On Thursday, Arizona put on hold any further efforts to reopen the economy, with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey saying the numbers “continue to go in the wrong direction.” Arizona reported over 3,000 additional infections Thursday, the fourth day in a week with an increase over that mark.
Nevada’s governor ordered the wearing of face masks in public, Las Vegas casinos included.
Elsewhere around the world, China moved closer to containing a fresh outbreak in Beijing. Another record daily increase in India pushed the caseload in the world’s second most populous nation toward half a million. And other countries with big populations like Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico grappled with large numbers of infections and strained health care systems.
South Africa, which accounts for about half of the infections on the African continent with over 118,000, reported a record of nearly 6,600 new cases after loosening what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns earlier this month.
Italy, one of the hardest-hit European nations, battled to control an outbreak among Bulgarian seasonal crop pickers near Naples.
The governor of the southern Campania region insisted that the workers who live in an apartment complex with dozens of COVID-19 cases stay inside for just over two weeks, not even emerging for food — authorities will deliver groceries to them.
Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island; D’Emelio reported from Rome. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
BRUSSELS (AP) — Americans are unlikely to be allowed into more than 30 European countries for business or tourism when the continent begins next week to open its borders to the world, due to the spread of the coronavirus and President Donald Trump’s ban on European visitors.
More than 15 million Americans are estimated to travel to Europe each year, and such a decision would underscore flaws in the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, which has seen the United States record the highest number of infections and virus-related deaths in the world by far.
European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1. Their representatives in Brussels have been debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting border restrictions to the outside world, which were imposed in March to stop all non-essential travel to Europe.
In recommendations to EU nations on June 11, the European Commission said “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
That is likely to rule out people living in the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. After trending down for well over a month, new U.S. cases have risen for more than a week.
The U.S. on Tuesday reported 34,700 new cases of the virus, bringing its total to more than 2.3 million cases and over 121,000 dead. The virus outbreaks in Brazil, India and Russia are remarkably high too, and it’s also unlikely that the EU will let their citizens in.
In contrast, aside from a notable new outbreak tied to a slaughterhouse in western Germany, the virus’s spread has slowed across the EU and particularly in the 26 nations that make up Europe’s visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen area.
For the EU’s executive arm, the key criteria for opening up to the outside world should include the number of new infections per 100,000 population — the exact ceiling is up for debate — and the country’s overall response to the pandemic, in terms of testing, surveillance, treatment, contact tracing and reporting cases.
EU envoys are trying to agree on objective, scientific criteria so the decision to put a country on the admission list or not is based on facts and not political considerations. Southern European countries like Spain, Italy and Greece are desperate for tourists to return and breathe new life into their virus-ravaged economies.
The bloc aims to revise the list of countries allowed to enter every two weeks based on developments, with new countries joining or possibly even denied access to Europe depending on the spread of the disease. The commission hopes that exemptions can be given to foreign students, non-EU citizens who live in Europe and certain highly skilled workers.
But more than epidemiological criteria, any country being considered would first be expected to lift its own travel restrictions for people from all EU and Schengen nations, the commission said, adding “it cannot be applied selectively.”
Brussels fears that opening up to countries outside in ad hoc way could lead to the reintroduction of border controls between nations inside the Schengen area, threatening once again Europe’s cherished principle of free movement, which allows people and goods to cross borders without checks.
This principle of reciprocity on its own should rule out U.S. citizens, at least initially.
In a March 11 decree, Trump suspended the entry of all people from the Schengen area. More than 10 million Europeans usually visit the United States each year.
“The potential for undetected transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States from the Schengen area threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security,” Trump’s proclamation said.
The EU commission also wants the bloc to be open as soon as possible after July 1 to the Balkans region, including citizens from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Louisville Metro police department has fired one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, more than three months after the 26-year-old Black woman was killed in her home.
A termination letter sent to Officer Brett Hankison released by the city’s police department Tuesday said Hankinson violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March. The letter also said Hankison, who is white, violated the rule against using deadly force.
Taylor was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville home using a no-knock warrant during a March 13 narcotics investigation. The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.
The no-knock search warrant that allows police to enter without first announcing their presence was recently banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
The letter said Hankison fired the rounds “without supporting facts” that the deadly force was directed at a person posing an immediate threat.
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said in the letter. “Your actions have brought discredit upon yourself and the Department.”
The announcement comes after Mayor Greg Fischer said last week that Schroeder had started termination proceedings for Hankison while two other officers remain on administrative reassignment as the shooting is investigated.
Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family, previously said the move to fire Hankison was long overdue. “It’s about damn time,” he said, adding Hankison was an officer who “plagued our streets and made this city worse for over a dozen years.”
“Let’s hope that this is a start to some good, strong criminal proceedings against Officer Hankison, because he definitely deserves to at least be charged,” Aguiar added.Full Coverage: Racial injustice
Protesters calling for justice in Taylor’s shooting have taken their calls to the streets amid the international protests over racism and police violence after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.
This month, Beyoncé also joined the call for charges against officers involved in Taylor’s death. The singer sent a letter to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, saying the three Louisville police officers “must be held accountable for their actions.”
“Your office has both the power and the responsibility to bring justice to Breonna Taylor, and demonstrate the value of a Black woman’s life,” said the letter released on the singer’s website.
A Black man who says he was unjustly arrested because facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a suspected shoplifter is calling for a public apology from Detroit police. And for the department to abandon its use of the controversial technology.
The complaint by Robert Williams is a rare challenge from someone who not only experienced an erroneous face recognition hit, but was able to discover that it was responsible for his subsequent legal troubles.
The Wednesday complaint filed on Williams’ behalf alleges that his Michigan driver license photo — kept in a statewide image repository — was incorrectly flagged as a likely match to a shoplifting suspect. Investigators had scanned grainy surveillance camera footage of an alleged 2018 theft inside a Shinola watch store in midtown Detroit, police records show.
That led to what Williams describes as a humiliating January arrest in front of his wife and young daughters on their front lawn in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.
“I can’t really even put it into words,” Williams said in a video announcement describing the daytime arrest that left his daughters weeping. “It was one of the most shocking things that I ever had happen to me.”
The 42-year-old automotive worker, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is demanding a public apology, final dismissal of his case and for Detroit police to scrap its use of facial recognition technology. Several studies have shown current face-recognition systems more likely to err when identifying people with darker skin.
The ACLU complaint said Detroit police “unthinkingly relied on flawed and racist facial recognition technology without taking reasonable measures to verify the information being provided.” It called the resulting investigation “shoddy and incomplete,” the officers involved “rude and threatening,” and said the department has dragged its feet responding to public-information requests for relevant records.
Detroit police and Wayne County prosecutors didn’t immediately return emailed requests for comment Wednesday.
DataWorks Plus, a South Carolina company that provides facial recognition technology to Detroit and the Michigan State Police, also couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Police records show the case began in October 2018 when five expensive watches went missing from the flagship store of Detroit-based luxury watchmaker Shinola. A loss-prevention worker later reviewed the video footage showing the suspect to be a Black man wearing a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap.
“Video and stills were sent to Crime Intel for facial recognition,” says a brief police report. “Facial Recognition came back with a hit” — for Williams.
At the top of the facial recognition report, produced by Michigan State Police, was a warning in bold, capitalized letters that the computer’s finding should be treated as an investigative lead, not as probable cause for arrest.
But Detroit detectives then showed a 6-photo lineup that included Williams to the loss-prevention worker, who positively identified Williams, according to the report. It took months for police to issue an arrest warrant and several more before they called Williams at work and asked him to come to the police department. It’s not clear why.
Williams said he thought it was a prank call. But they showed up soon after at his house, took him away in handcuffs and detained him overnight. It was during his interrogation the next day that it became clear to him that he was improperly identified by facial recognition software.
“The investigating officer looked confused, told Mr. Williams that the computer said it was him but then acknowledged that ‘the computer must have gotten it wrong,’” the ACLU complaint says.
Prosecutors later dismissed the case, but without prejudice — meaning they could potentially pursue it again.
The case is likely to fuel a movement in Detroit and around the U.S. protesting police brutality, racial injustice and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Detroit activists have presented reforms to the city’s mayor and police chief that include defunding the police department and ending its use of facial recognition.
Providers of police facial recognition systems often point to research showing they can be accurate when used properly under ideal conditions. A review of the industry’s leading facial recognition algorithms by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found they were more than 99% accurate when matching high-quality head shots to a database of other frontal poses.
But trying to identify a face from a video feed — especially using the ceiling-mounted cameras commonly found in stores — can cause accuracy rates to plunge. Studies have also shown that face recognition systems don’t perform equally across race, gender and age — working best on white men and with potentially harmful consequences for others.
Concerns about bias and growing scrutiny of policing practices following Floyd’s death led tech giants IBM, Amazonand Microsoft to announce earlier this month they would stop selling face recognition software to police, at least until Congress can establish guidelines for its use. Several cities, led by San Francisco last year, have banned use of facial recognition by municipal agencies.
SEATTLE (AP) — Faced with growing pressure to crack down on an “occupied” protest zone following two weekend shootings, Seattle’s mayor said Monday that officials will move to wind down the blocks-long span of city streets taken over two weeks ago that President Donald Trump asserted is run by “anarchists.”
Mayor Jenny Durkan said the violence was distracting from changes sought by thousands of peaceful protesters opposing racial inequity and police brutality. She said at a news conference that the city is working with the community to bring the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone, or CHOP, to an end and that police soon would move back into a precinct building they had largely abandoned in the area.
Durkan also vowed to address some of the protesters’ demands, including investing more in Black communities, reimagining policing in cooperation with community leaders, and pushing for accountability measures and statewide reform of police unions.
The mayor did not give an immediate timeline for clearing out the occupation but said “additional steps” would be examined if people don’t leave voluntarily. With scores of people camping in a park in the protest zone, Durkan said peaceful demonstrations could continue, but nighttime disorder had to stop.
“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” Durkan said. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.”
A shooting Sunday night was the second in less than 48 hours at the edge of the zone, which is named for the Capitol Hill neighborhood near downtown Seattle and emerged during nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The 17-year-old victim was shot in the arm and declined to speak with detectives, police said. Gunfire early Saturday left a 19-year-old man dead and another person critically wounded.
The victims were taken to a hospital by volunteer medics in private cars, and police said they were met by a hostile crowd that prevented them from immediately getting to the scene.
It was not apparent if the shootings had anything to do with the protest — gunfire sometimes occurs in the neighborhood, especially on warm summer nights.
Protesters cordoned off the several-block area near the police’s East Precinct after Seattle riot squads unleashed tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bangs on large crowds of mostly peaceful protesters, drawing condemnation from many city leaders and a federal court order temporarily banning the use of the weapons on demonstrators.
After police largely abandoned the building, protesters took over the area — with demonstrators painting a large “Black Lives Matter” mural on the street, handing out free food, playing music and planting a community garden. Its existence incensed Trump, who criticized Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, both Democrats.
Peace has prevailed during the day. On Monday, people lounged on the turf at a park, while volunteers handed out food, water and toiletries. Artists painted designs on wooden barricades, and a few candles burned in front of a sign on the police building listing people killed by officers.
At night, however, the atmosphere has become more charged, with demonstrators marching and armed volunteer guards keeping watch.
“With not having a police presence here, people are free to do whatever they want to do,” said Bobby Stills, a Seattle resident who has spent time volunteering at the protest zone. “You never know who’s going to show up. That’s why people here are on such high alert — they don’t know who’s who or what’s what or their intentions.”
Durkan, who has faced calls from protesters and even some City Council members to resign over her handling of the demonstrations, and Police Chief Carmen Best said they did not immediately have a timeline for returning officers to the East Precinct, which was established to better respond to emergency calls in the city’s historically Black district. They said officers would return safely and in the near future. Best noted that some other crimes, including rape, arson and burglary, had been reported in or near the protest zone.
Demonstrators who had marched to the West Precinct police building downtown were returning to the zone when Sunday night’s shooting occurred, police said.
Andre Taylor, who founded of the anti-police-shooting organization Not This Time! after his brother was killed by Seattle police in 2016, said Monday that he had warned protest organizers that the city would need to retake the area because of the violence.
“That CHOP area is attracting this kind of activity and it’s unsafe,” Taylor said in a Facebook video. “I told them, ’All those people that were supporting you guys, they’re going to start walking away from you, especially all those white people that were following you. … They don’t want to be associated with any part of that violence.”
Former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican who previously served as sheriff in the county where Seattle is located, also called on the city to take back control.
“Elected officials have abandoned the rule of law and their oath to protect and defend our communities,” he wrote in an opinion piece for Washington State Wire, a website devoted to state political news. “They have abandoned their law-abiding citizens and have been cowardly bullied into surrendering the East Precinct – and multiple city blocks.”
Associated Press photographer Ted Warren in Seattle contributed.
ATLANTA — The Georgia House backed an effort Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department following its handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
The House voted 152-3 to allow voters to decide to eliminate their county police departments, moving authority to county sheriff’s offices.
There are several county police departments in Georgia, including in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. In counties where there are two agencies, the county police handle the enforcement of state and local laws while the sheriff’s office manages the jail.
The vote comes after the shooting death of Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was killed in February while jogging near Brunswick. Three white men, Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, have each been charged with felony murder in the Arbery case, which has drawn national attention and sparked demonstrations.
“There have been too many missteps over there,” said state Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat from Midway. “It’s time to be going in a different direction.”
A previous version of the legislation, Senate Bill 38, was initially introduced in January in response to years of alleged problems with the Glynn County Police Department. That bill didn’t advance, but it was revived after Arbery’s death.
Travis and Greg McMichael were charged with murder and aggravated assault in May after video of the incident surfaced and the GBI opened an investigation.
“They should have arrested the McMichaels at the scene, and they did not,” said state Rep. Don Hogan, a Republican from St. Simons Island.
The legislation now moves to the state Senate for further consideration.
LONDON — Counter-terrorism officers have declared the stabbing to death of three people in a British park late Saturday a terrorist incident, police said on Sunday.
Thames Valley Police said three others were injured after a stabbing spree by a lone attacker in the town of Reading.
They arrested a 25-year-old local man on suspicion of murder.
Dean Haydon, national coordinator for Britain’s counter-terrorism policing, had deemed the attack a terrorism incident, and his force would take over the investigation, Thames Valley Police said.
“This was a truly tragic incident and the thoughts of Thames Valley Police are with all those who have been affected,” Chief Constable John Campbell said in a statement.
“We will be working closely with our partners over the coming days and weeks to support the Reading community during this time, as well as with [counter-terrorism police] as they progress their investigation,” Campbell said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson met security officials, police chiefs and senior ministers on Sunday and was “updated on the ongoing investigation into the fatal stabbings,” Downing Street said.
“My thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading and my thanks to the emergency services on the scene,” Johnson tweeted earlier.
Unconfirmed reports said police subdued the suspect in a street close to the park.
“There can be no doubt that the swift response of our Thames Valley Police colleagues saved further harm from being caused and potentially more lives from being lost,” Craig O’leary, chairman of the Thames Valley Police Federation, said in a statement.
Thames Valley police chief constable – John Campbell – praises the ‘bravery’ of his officers and members of the public who helped out in yesterday’s “very distressing scene.”
Witness Lawrence Wort told broadcaster Sky News that he saw a man walk up to people in the park and stab them before running towards him, in what appeared to be a “completely random” attack.
“So the park was pretty full, a lot of people sat around drinking with friends when one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them,” Wort said.
The police rejected speculation that the attack was linked to a Black Lives Matter protest in the park earlier Saturday, saying the protest had ended about three hours before the attack.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee couple has filed an excessive force lawsuit against the city of Knoxville and three of its police officers, who were seen on dashcam video pulling the handcuffed man from a cruiser and putting him in a chokehold.
John and Kelli Gorghis claim the officers violated John Gorgis’ rights, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The officers, Jason Kalmanek, Matthew Speiser and Preston Tucker, responded to the couple’s home on June 13, 2019, after neighbors called and said the couple was fighting, the newspaper reported, citing a police report.
The officers said John Gorghis initially resisted arrest and assaulted Tucker when he slammed Tucker’s fingers into the front door.
In a report, Tucker said he used “directional control” to put Gorghis on the ground but Gorghis said Tucker slammed his face onto the floor.
Video wasn’t taken inside the home because Knoxville police aren’t outfitted with body cameras.
Dashcam video shows the officers, who are all white, put the handcuffed Gorghis, who is also white, into the patrol vehicle, but about 20 minutes later, they pulled him out and slammed him to the ground.
In the video, one of the officers put his arm around Gorghis’ neck. Gorghis said the officer was choking him and another was holding his nose. The officers told Gorghis they were trying to rearrange Gorghis’ handcuffs from the front of his body to the back.
Tucker wrote a use-of-force report that mentioned Gorghis being taken down inside the home but didn’t mention the second incident seen in the dashcam video. The report was reviewed and approved by a supervisor and the internal affairs unit.
Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland no officers were disciplined nor was there an internal affairs investigation.
Erland declined to comment on the pending litigation.
On Friday, the Knoxville Police Department announced that they would no longer use chokehold techniques. The announcement comes amid the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died while in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds.
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — It began with a dry cough, weakness and back pain. For Reagan Taban Augustino, part of South Sudan’s small corps of health workers trained in treating COVID-19 patients, there was little doubt what he had.
Days later, hardly able to breathe, the 33-year-old doctor discovered just how poorly equipped his country is for the coronavirus pandemic: None of the public facilities he tried in the capital, Juba, had oxygen supplies available until he reached South Sudan’s only permanent infectious disease unit, which has fewer than 100 beds for a country of 12 million people.
It took more than an hour to admit him. “I was almost dying at the gate,” he told The Associated Press from the unit last week.
The pandemic is now accelerating in Africa, the World Health Organization says. While the continent had more time than Europe and the United States to prepare before its first case was confirmed on Feb. 14, experts feared many of its health systems would eventually become overwhelmed.
South Sudan, a nation with more military generals than doctors, never had a fighting chance. Five years of civil war and corruption stripped away much of its health system, and today nongovernmental organizations provide the majority of care. Nearly half of the population was hungry before the pandemic. Deadly insecurity continues, and a locust outbreak arrived just weeks before the virus.
When world leaders talk about the pandemic not being over until it’s over everywhere, they are talking about places like South Sudan.
The United Nations says the country’s outbreak is growing rapidly, with nearly 1,900 cases, including more than 50 health workers infected, more than 30 deaths and no way to know the true number of infections. At one point several members of the COVID-19 task force tested positive, including Vice President Riek Machar.
“It can be out of control at any time,” said David Gai Zakayo, a doctor with the aid group Action Against Hunger.
“The groups we are treating are malnourished,” Zakayo said. “My big worry is if the virus begins spreading to those groups we are treating, it will be a disaster.”
At South Sudan’s only laboratory that tests for the virus, supervisor Simon Deng Nyichar said the team of 16 works up to 16-hour days slogging through a backlog of more than 5,000 tests. Around 9,000 samples have been tested since early April, when the country became one of the last in Africa to confirm a coronavirus case.
With materials in short supply, testing is largely limited to people with symptoms of COVID-19. It can take weeks to receive results, “creating mistrust in communities and resentment toward contact tracers,” the Health Ministry said last week.
Three lab workers have been infected and recovered, Nyichar told the AP. “This is the nature of our work. We are not scared of the disease.”
With the long hours, they work in pairs to stay sharp. “It’s a must for everybody to have a buddy as a helper to monitor all the steps on the dos and don’ts, otherwise we would have infected all of us,” he said.
While they’re aware of the dangers, South Sudan’s population at large still takes convincing.
The government’s loosening of lockdown measures last month was “perceived as an indication that the disease is not in South Sudan,” the Health Ministry said. Bars, restaurants and shops are open after people said they feared hunger more than the disease.
Some people have died waiting for rapid-response teams to arrive, the ministry said. And this month it stopped issuing “COVID-19 negativity certificates,” citing the peddling of fake ones — especially around Juba International Airport.
Meanwhile the virus has spread into more rural areas, including one of the United Nations-run camps upcountry where more than 150,000 civilians still shelter after South Sudan’s civil war ended in 2018.
There’s been an increase in deaths related to respiratory tract infections at that camp in Bentiu, WHO official Wamala Joseph told reporters last week, though it’s not clear whether they were from the virus. Testing is difficult as all samples must be flown to the capital. “This is a very vulnerable population,” he said.
Three of the six camps have no virus screening at the gate, according to a U.N. migration agency document dated this month. One camp has no facility to isolate the sick, and another will only have one when a generator is installed. Listed under preventative measures for the two camps in Juba, home to 30,000 people: “Face masks to be distributed in coming weeks.”
Meanwhile “our hospitals are full,” Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, who leads the International Committee of the Red Cross’ team in Bor, wrote last week. “COVID-19 means that we need to create more space between our hospital beds, which has reduced the number of people we can accommodate in our wards by 30%.”
The pandemic is also worsening what was already a major problem in South Sudan: hunger.
Most border crossings are closed, and food prices in the markets have shot up. Now the rainy season has started, making transport and storage more difficult.
More than 1.5 million people in South Sudan are newly vulnerable, including the urban poor who had not been receiving aid before, the U.N. humanitarian agency said last week.
“I cannot be saying famine, but I can say COVID-19 will worsen the situation,” said Kawa Tong, health and nutrition manager for the aid group CARE.
She knows the country already faced a long and winding path to emerge from multiple crises, starting with progress on the peace agreement that ended the civil war. Security would need to improve, people would find the confidence to return to their homes and begin cultivating their crops, and hunger would fall.
But now, of course, there’s the pandemic, and Tong has no idea when or how it will end.
“People are overwhelmed,” she said. “People are scared.”
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Coronavirus cases in Florida surpassed 100,000 on Monday, part of an alarming surge across the South and West as states reopen for business and many Americans resist wearing masks or keeping their distance from others.
The disturbing signs in the Sunshine State as well as places like Arizona, Alabama, Texas and South Carolina — along with countries such as Brazil, India and Pakistan — are raising fears that the progress won after months of lockdowns is slipping away.
“It is snowballing,” said Dr. Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist Hospital, noting that the number of hospitalizations in the Texas Medical Center system that includes the hospital has more than doubled since Memorial Day.. “If we don’t do what we can RIGHT NOW as a community to stop the spread, the virus will take our choices away from us.”
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases across the country per day has reached more than 26,000, up from about 21,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The analysis looked at a seven-day rolling average through Sunday. Over 120,000 deaths in the U.S. have been blamed on the virus.
In Orlando, 152 coronavirus cases were linked to one bar near the University of Central Florida campus, said Dr. Raul Pino, a state health officer in the resort city.
“A lot of transmission happened there,” Pino said. “People are very close. People are not wearing masks. People are drinking, shouting, dancing, sweating, kissing and hugging, all the things that happen in bars. And all those things that happen are not good for COVID-19.”
Although he asked health officials to renew calls for people to wear masks and keep their distance, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not signaled he will retreat from reopening the state after three months of shutdowns that have damaged the economy.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said that the outbreak is “definitely accelerating” in the U.S. and a number of other countries, dismissing the notion that the record daily levels of new COVID-19 cases simply reflect more testing. He noted that numerous countries have also noted marked increases in hospital admissions and deaths.
“The epidemic is now peaking or moving towards a peak in a number of large countries,” he warned.
Arizona, in particular, is seeing disturbing trends in several benchmarks, including the percentage of tests that prove positive for the virus. Arizona’s is the highest in the nation.
The stat’s positive test rate is at a seven-day average of 20.4%, well above the national average of 8.4% and the 10% level that public health officials say is a problem. When the positive test rate rises, it means that an outbreak is worsening — not just that more people are getting tested.
At Maryland’s Fort Washington Medical Center on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, workers described a scramble to find new beds, heartbreaking interactions with family members of critically ill patients and their frustration with Americans who do not believe the coronavirus threat is real.
“Everybody is out lounging on the beaches. Just thinking that it’s over. And it’s not,” respiratory therapist Kevin Cole said. “It’s far from being over. And unfortunately, it’s those people that keep we’ll keep this pandemic going.”
Nearly 9 million people have been confirmed infected by the virus worldwide and about 470,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins, though experts say the actual numbers are much higher because of limited testing and cases in which patients had no symptoms.
Amid the global surge, the head of WHO warned that world leaders must not politicize the outbreak but unite to fight it.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has faced criticism from President Donald Trump, said during a videoconference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit that it took over three months for the world to see 1 million confirmed infections, but just eight days to see the most recent 1 million cases.
Tedros did not mention Trump ;by name or his determination to pull the United States out of the U.N. health agency but warned against “politicizing” the pandemic.
“The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,” he said. “We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world.”
Trump has criticized the WHO for its early response to the outbreak and what he considers its excessive praise of China, where the outbreak began, though his own administration’s response in the U.S. has come under attack. Trump has threatened to end all U.S. funding for the WHO.
Companies around the world are racing to find a vaccine, and there is fierce debate over how to make sure it is distributed fairly. WHO’s special envoy on COVID-19, Dr. David Nabarro, said he believes it will be “2 1/2 years until there will be vaccine for everybody in the world.”
India’s health care system has been slammed by the virus. The country’s caseload climbed by nearly 15,000 Monday to over 425,000, with more than 13,000 deaths.
After easing a nationwide lockdown, the Indian government in recent weeks ran special trains to return thousands of migrant workers to their home villages.
In Pakistan, infections are accelerating and hospitals are having to turn away patients, with new cases up to 6,800 a day. The government has relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, hoping to salvage a near-collapsed economy in the country of 220 million people.
Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The police chief of Tennessee’s capital city has announced he will retire amid calls for his resignation and a wave of protests nationwide over policing.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson will step down after a national search for a new chief is completed, Mayor John Cooper said in a statement Thursday. Cooper said Anderson, who took over as chief in 2010, intended to retire after serving 10 years in the role.
“Over the next several months, my office will organize input from the entire community as we find the right leader for this next chapter of community safety in Nashville,” said Cooper, who declined to say if he asked Anderson to resign when asked by multiple reporters Thursday.
At least 15 Nashville Metro Council members signed a document last week urging Cooper to call for Anderson’s resignation and pursue “meaningful policy and behavioral change” in the agency.
Anderson has been criticized in recent years, with activists and some city leaders saying he has resisted change and transparency. Calls for his resignation have intensified amid the nationwide wave of protests calling for police reforms.
Those calls grew louder early this month, when Metro police announced arrest warrants for Nashville activists Justin Jones and Jeneisha Harris on riot charges, stating the pair were connected to vandalism of a police cruiser during a protest. Police said the activists walked on the car, damaging it. Three hours after the announcement, Metro police recalled the warrants after reviewing “additional information” received by the department and District Attorney General Glenn Funk.
Anderson also faced some calls for his removal after two instances in which white officers shot and killed black men in recent years.
In February 2017, then-officer Josh Lippert shot and killed Jocques Clemmons during a confrontation that happened after a traffic stop and chase. Police and prosecutors determined he fired only after he saw Clemmons was armed with a gun.
Officer Andrew Delke, who is charged with first-degree murder, fatally shot Daniel Hambrick from behind in July 2018 as Hambrick ran during a foot chase. Delke’s attorney has said the officer acted in line with his training and Tennessee law in response to “an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun.” Funk has argued Delke had other alternatives, adding the officer could have stopped, sought cover and called for help. Delke’s trial has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which called for Anderson to resign, also criticized the chief’s level of cooperation with a new community oversight board of police that Nashville voters created after Hambrick’s death.
Anderson drew some praise when officers handed out hot chocolate during the 2014 protests in Nashville after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Activists across the nation are demanding changes to policing after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died last month in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed his knee against the handcuffed man’s neck for nearly 8 minutes.
“In order for police practices to change in Nashville and in order to build trust between the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and communities of color in Nashville, a change in leadership is essential,” the resolution stated.
Cooper said Nashville’s focus will be on finding the best police chief, not specifically an African American one.
“It would be super, of course, to have an African American chief in Nashville, but they need to understand that they are being picked because they are the best chief,” Cooper said.
In addition to searching for a new chief, Cooper said the police department would work with a public commission to review the agency’s use of force policies and procedures. He said officials must address additional public safety demands, including a nationally televised presidential debate hosted at Belmont University in October.
Anderson has served 45 years at the Nashville police department beginning as a patrol officer. Cooper said he wanted people “to celebrate (Anderson’s) tenure as its chief.”
“Chief Anderson is a thoughtful and effective leader – a dedicated public servant who has the admiration of his officers and the thanks of a grateful Mayor for his years of service to our community,” Cooper said.
SEATTLE (AP) — The largest labor group in the Seattle area has expelled the city’s police union, saying the guild representing officers failed to address racism within its ranks.
The vote Wednesday night by the King County Labor Council to exclude the Seattle Police Officers Guild comes after weeks of protests in the city over police brutality and racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It’s also significant as the labor council is politically influential. Local elected leaders are reluctant to go against the umbrella group of more than 150 unions and 100,00 workers.
“Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large,” the labor council said on Twitter after the vote. “Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer part of our council.”
The Seattle Times reports that the delegate vote was 45,435 to expel, with 36,760 voting to keep the police union within the council.
Before the vote, police union president Mike Solan told delegates the police union wanted to stay involved with the council and was “willing to learn.”
“We are human beings and we are workers who are committed to this city and committed to the community,” Solan said. “We see a future, one that engages in these robust conversations, and in particular to race and how the institution of racism impacts all labor unions.”
Labor council representative said the police guild could be readmitted at some point in the future.
“At this point, I just can’t justify to our members, ones who are staffing the medical tents and getting gassed by SPD, having SPOG at the table, using our unity as a shield to justify contracts that go against our principles and mission,” said Jane Hopkins, registered nurse and executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
The Seattle City Council on Monday voted unanimously to bar police from using tear gas, pepper spray and several other crowd control devices after officers repeatedly used them on mostly peaceful demonstrators.
The 9-0 vote came amid frustration with the Seattle Police Department, which used tear gas to disperse protesters in the city’s densest neighborhood, Capitol Hill, just days after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best promised not to.
Police have now largely left a several block area of Capitol Hill, which for more than a week has been the site of active protests by demonstrators who have dubbed the area the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest.”
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s police department reassured residents Thursday that it can still protect the city even though officers are calling out to protest a member of the force being charged with murder for shooting a man in the back.
Prosecutors brought felony murder and other charges against the white officer who shot Rayshard Brooks, saying that Brooks was not a deadly threat and that the officer kicked the wounded black man and offered no medical treatment for over two minutes as he lay dying on the ground. Another officer is being charged with aggravated assault.
Hours later, the Atlanta Police Department tweeted late Wednesday that it had more officers calling out than normal but that it had “enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.”
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” the department tweeted Thursday.
It’s not clear how many officers have called out, but just one officer showed up for work Thursday morning in Zone 6, which covers much of Atlanta’s east side and which several dozen are assigned to patrol, said Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
Atlanta officers are walking off their shifts or not responding to calls because they feel “abandoned, betrayed, used in a political game,” Champion told The Associated Press.
“What they realized is that the city, meaning the mayor and the police department, does not support them,” Champion said.
Champion said he’s heard from several officers that they fear using force to protect themselves will get them fired or arrested.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has issued orders calling for reforms in policing, also insisted that the department would be able to operate effectively and that many officers were still at work.
“If we have officers that don’t want bad officers weeded out of the force then that’s another conversation we need to have,” Bottoms said on CNN.
The decision to prosecute the officers came less than five days after the killing rocked a city — and a nation — already roiled by the death of George Floyd under a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis last month. Floyd’s death set off nationwide protests that have urged an extensive rethink of policing and an examination of racism in the United States.
Brooks’ funeral is set for Tuesday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was Martin Luther King Jr.’s congregation, the Rev. Raphael Warnock announced. Tyler Perry, the actor and filmmaker, has offered financial help for the services, officials said in announcing the funeral.
Police were called to a Wendy’s last week over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep behind the wheel, and a breath test showed he was intoxicated. Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers having a long, relatively calm conversation before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him.
Officer Garrett Rolfe shot Brooks after the 27-year-old black man grabbed a Taser and ran, firing it at the officer, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. But when the officer fired his gun, Brooks was too far ahead of him for the Taser to be a danger, and it had already been fired twice, so it was empty and no longer a threat, Howard said.
“I got him!” Howard quoted Rolfe as saying.
A lawyer for two witnesses said Thursday that the shooting could have been avoided and that officers need to be held accountable.
“As the video shows, this could have been avoided by just letting him run away, giving him another day, but instead a family has lost a father, a loved one, a friend,” attorney Shean Williams said at a Thursday news conference.
Williams’ client Michael Perkins, who was a passenger in a car that arrived just minutes before the shooting, said that when he heard officers telling Brooks to stop resisting he predicted that Brooks would end up getting shot.
“It’s just what I felt like was going to happen because that’s what’s been happening lately,” he said during the news conference.
Prosecutors also announced charges of aggravated assault and violation of his oath against a second officer, Devin Brosnan, who the district attorney said stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life.
Rolfe’s lawyers said he feared for his and others’ safety and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” apparently from the Taser.
“Mr. Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable or seriously injure him,” the lawyers said in a statement.
The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
The district attorney said Brosnan, 26, is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify. But one of his attorneys, Amanda Clark Palmer, denied that.
Clark Palmer said the charges were baseless and that Brosnan stood on Brooks’ hand, not his shoulder, for just seconds to make sure he did not have a weapon.
Brosnan turned himself in Thursday. He did not speak to reporters as he later left. The district attorney said he and Rolfe had until 6 p.m. to surrender. He said he would request $50,000 bond for Brosnan and no bail for Rolfe. Rolfe was fired, while Brosnan was placed on desk duty.
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, said it was painful to hear the new details of what happened to her husband in his final minutes.
“I felt everything that he felt, just by hearing what he went through, and it hurt,” she said.
Brooks’ killing Friday night sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital against police brutality after occasionally turbulent protests over Floyd’s death had largely died down. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died, and the Wendy’s restaurant was burned.
Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala and Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Matt Ott in New York; Lisa Mascaro and Jim Mustian in Washington; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in a minor car crash on Wednesday after a protester ran in front of the vehicle as it left Parliament. No one was hurt.
Footage posted on social media showed a man step running toward the silver Jaguar as it drove out of the gates of Parliament accompanied by a police motorcycle outrider and a Range Rover support vehicle.
Johnson’s car braked suddenly and was hit from behind by the Range Rover, sustaining a large dent. It paused for a moment before the motorcade moved on.
The prime minister’s office confirmed Johnson was in the car and said there were no reports of any injuries.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said at a news conference that Johnson was “wholly unscathed.”
The protester, who was knocked to the ground in the incident, was detained by police. The Metropolitan Police said he was arrested on suspicion of public order offenses and for “obstructing the highway.”
Several groups were protesting outside Parliament in small numbers on Wednesday, including anti-Brexit and pro-Kurdish groups. Johnson was returning to his office at 10 Downing St. from his weekly question-and-answer session with lawmakers when the crash happened.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers have flown near Alaska on a mission demonstrating the military’s long-range strike capability.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that four Tu-95 bombers have flown over the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, the Chukchi Sea and the Northern Pacific during an 11-hour mission. The ministry said the bombers were shadowed by U.S. F-22 fighters during part of their patrol.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash, the commander of Russian long-range aviation, praised the bombers’ crews for their “excellent” performance. He added that Su-35 and MiG-31 fighters jets escorted the bombers during “the most complicated stages of the route.”
The U.S. also scrambled its fighters when two groups of Russian warplanes neared Alaska last week.
Russia and the United States have regularly sent strategic bombers on training flights near each other’s borders as their ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and Russian support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. and its NATO allies have repeatedly said that Russian fighter jets have performed unsafe maneuvers while shadowing their planes — accusations that the Russian military has rejected.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concern over the deployment of NATO forces near Russian borders, describing it as a threat to its security. Russia and the alliance also have blamed each other for conducting destabilizing military exercises near the borders.
O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A white suburban St. Louis police detective who was captured on video apparently hitting a black suspect with a police SUV then kicking and punching the man was charged Wednesday with two counts of assault and armed criminal action.
Special Prosecutor Tim Lohmar announced the charges against Florissant Detective Joshua Smith, 31, who was fired June 10, eight days after the violent arrest amid nationwide protests and unrest over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
About one-third of Florissant’s 51,000 residents are black. Its just north of Ferguson, where Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white police officer in 2014 was a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement. The St. Louis region has been the site of dozens of protests since Floyd’s May 25 death.
The arrest occurred on June 2, a day after four St. Louis police officers were shot and a retired St. Louis police captain was fatally shot during a violent night in the city. Florissant Police Chief Timothy Fagan has said Smith was on duty because of civil unrest in the area.
Officers were pursuing a vehicle occupied by three men because it had been seen near an earlier shots-fired incident, Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery said. The pursuit ended on a residential street in nearby Dellwood.
What happened next was captured by a resident’s doorbell camera and posted online by media outlet Real STL News soon thereafter.
Attorneys for the 20-year-old man who was struck released a second video Tuesday, from another home’s security camera, closer and with a different angle. It shows a car slowing on a residential street. Two men in the front seat jump out of the still rolling car, before a third man jumps out of the back seat.
The unmarked police SUV appears from behind the car and drives across part of the front lawn, striking the third man and knocking him onto the driveway as he cries out in pain. An officer gets out of the SUV and appears to kick and hit the man on the ground as the man yells out, “OK! OK! OK!” and repeatedly says, “I don’t have nothing.”
“When you see the second video it’s clear that he intentionally ran into him and used the vehicle as a weapon,” the man’s attorney, Jerryl T. Christmas, said Wednesday. “It’s difficult to watch, and difficult to listen to the audio because of the way he’s screaming and hollering.”
Smith’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said what happened was an accident.
Fagan said the man was treated at the hospital for an ankle injury, but Christmas said his injuries were far worse. He said the man’s leg was “shattered” and required multiple surgeries.
“He was traumatized,” Christmas said.
Fagan said police are seeking municipal charges against all three men for possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. No weapons were found on the men or in their car.
In addition to Lohmar’s investigation of the officer, U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said his office, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and the FBI also are reviewing the case to determine if a federal response is warranted.
Lohmar, speaking last week, called the video “shocking” but said it showed only part of the encounter.
“What I saw is not standard police work, it is not acceptable police work,” he said.
The arrest led to several peaceful protests outside of police headquarters in Florissant, including a “die-in” in which participants lay face down with their hands behind their backs. A few dozen protesters also gathered Monday outside Lohmar’s office urging prosecution of Smith.
Two other officers who were with the detective but are not seen on the video participating in the arrest are on leave pending the investigation, Fagan said.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Police officers who cause serious injuries or face complaints of excessive force will now be subject to investigation by Rhode Island’s attorney general, the office said Wednesday.
Attorney General Peter Neronha’s announcement came as investigators say police did not racially profile a black Providence firefighter when they pulled their guns on him outside his own fire station — a conclusion the city firefighters’ union is disputing.
The new rules issued by Neronha require police to report any use of force that results in serious injury to any person, and any allegation of excessive force that’s backed up by video or other evidence. It’s an expansion of previous rules that required state investigations when police use deadly force or when someone dies in police custody.
Authorities had been reviewing the rules “even before the tragic events of the last month,” Neronha said in a statement. But the Democrat said the death of George Floyd and the wave of ensuing protests made the update “all the more urgent.”
“Our collective goal is to identify, and hold accountable, those officers who use excessive force before it results in death, as happened in the case of George Floyd,” he said.
Under the rules, police must immediately report cases to the attorney general’s office for review. The office will investigate and decide whether criminal charges should be filed or if cases should go before a grand jury.
The rules say it’s critical that the public have confidence that when force is used, it’s reasonable and lawful.
“The Attorney General and those in law enforcement have a responsibility to build community trust,” Neronha said. “A critical component of building that trust is to hold those officers who ignore their training, best practices, use of force policies and the law accountable.”
The rules had last been updated in 2007.
Meanwhile, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said an internal investigation determined the two officers involved in the confrontation — one white, one black — did not act inappropriately in ther interactions with a black firefighter as they conducted a search for a suspect in an armed robbery.
Paré said the white officer would be disciplined, however, for failing to turn on his body camera during the June 3 encounter.
“I was like, ‘I’m a firefighter, I’m one of you — don’t shoot,’ and they still kept approaching the vehicle with guns drawn,” Paci, 23, said while choking back tears in a televised interview earlier this month.
Mayor Jorge Elorza called Paci’s account “deeply disturbing” and publicly apologized. But Paré defended the officers’ actions and said the firefighter “happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Paci could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Paci’s union, Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799, said it stood by his claims and disputed the idea that he wasn’t racially profiled.
“If it were me, would they have done that to me?” said union head Derek Silva, who is white.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans unveiled proposed changes to police procedures and accountability Wednesday, countering Democratic policing legislation with a bill that is less sweeping but underscores how swiftly the national debate has been transformed five months before elections.
Republicans are embracing a new priority with the “Justice Act,” the most ambitious GOP policing proposal in years, in a direct response to the massive public protests over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes America is not a racist country but “the stain is not totally gone” from slavery and the Civil War.
He said the chamber will move swiftly to floor debate next week, a change in schedule after the lead senator on the bill, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, said he believed it should be considered immediately. Scott is the Senate’s lone black Republican.
The GOP proposal includes an enhanced use-of-force database, restrictions on chokeholds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race. Scott led a task force of GOP senators compiling the package.
Scott spoke of his own experiences being stopped by police — including once this year — and urged colleagues to understand it’s “not a binary choice” between supporting law enforcement or people of color.
“We hear you,” Scott said, addressing himself to the families of those Americans killed by police. “I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person and his concern when he stopped by law enforcement officers.”
McConnell said Republicans are “serious about making a law” and challenged Democrats to support it. But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer immediately criticized the legislation, saying it was clear that the GOP bill “does not rise to the moment” and would provide less accountability than House Democrats’ version.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the bill as well, saying in a statement that the House version would “fundamentally and forever transform the culture of policing” but the Senate legislation would not.
“The Senate proposal of studies and reporting without transparency and accountability is inadequate,” Pelosi said.
As Senate Republicans released their 106-page legislation, the House Judiciary Committee was considering a much broader Democratic proposal before an expected House vote next week. That bill would limit legal protections for police, ban chokeholds and attempt to reduce racial profiling. It would also boost requirements for police body cameras and limit the transfer of military equipment to local jurisdictions.
The GOP legislation would beef up requirements for law enforcement to compile use-of-force reports under a new George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, named for the Minnesota man whose May 25 death sparked worldwide protests over police violence, and Scott, a South Carolina man shot by police after a traffic stop in 2015. Scott is not related to the senator.
It would also establish the Breonna Taylor Notification Act to track “no-knock” warrants. The 26-year-old was killed this year after police in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky used a no-knock warrant to enter her Louisville home.
Focusing on ending chokeholds, the legislation encourages agencies to do away with the practice or risk losing federal funds — but does not require them to do so. Many big city departments have long stopped the use. The legislation also provides funding for training to “de-escalate” situations and establish a “duty to intervene” protocol to prevent excessive force.Full Coverage: Racial injustice
The GOP effort seeks to reach across the aisle to Democrats in several ways. It includes one long-sought bill to make lynching a federal hate crime and another to launch a study of the social status of black men and boys that has been touted by House Speaker Pelosi.
The Republican package — dubbed the “Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2020” — also includes a bipartisan Senate proposal to establish a National Criminal Justice Commission Act and extends funding streams for various federal law enforcement programs, including the COPS program important to states.
The package includes a mix of other proposals, including tapping the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to create a law enforcement training curriculum on “the history of racism in the United States.” Another closes a loophole to prohibit federal law enforcement officers from engaging in sexual acts with those being arrested or in custody.
Expenditures for the bill would be considered on an emergency basis, so as not to count against federal deficits.
BEIJING (AP) — China raised its emergency warning to its second-highest level and canceled more than 60% of the flights to Beijing on Wednesday amid a new coronavirus outbreak in the capital. It was a sharp pullback for the nation that declared victory over COVID-19 in March and a message to the rest of the world about how tenacious the virus really is.
New infections spiked in India, Iran and U.S. states including Florida, Texas and Arizona as authorities struggled to balance restarting economic activity without accelerating the pandemic.
European nations, which embarked on a wide-scale reopening this week, looked on with trepidation as the Americas struggled to contain the first wave of the pandemic and Asian nations like China and South Korea reported new outbreaks.
“This has truly rung an alarm bell for us,” Party Secretary Cai Qi told a meeting of Beijing’s Communist Party Standing Committee.
After a push that began June 14, the city expects to have tested 700,000 people by the end of the day, said Zhang Qiang, a Beijing party official. About half of them were workers from the city’s food markets, nearby residents and close contacts.
The party’s Global Times said 1,255 flights to and from the capital’s two major airports were scrapped by Wednesday morning, about two-thirds of those scheduled.
Since the virus emerged in China late last year and spread worldwide, there have been more than 8.1 million confirmed cases and at least 443,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll is much higher, due to the many who died without being tested and other factors.
The U.S. has the most infections and deaths in the world, with a toll that neared 117,000 on Wednesday, surpassing the number of Americans who died in World War I.
Arizona reported a daily high of nearly 2,400 new infections for a total of more than 39,000, while in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott insisted the state’s health care system could handle the fast-rising number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Tuesday marked the eighth time in nine days that Texas set a new high for COVID-19 hospitalizations at 2,518. State health officials reported 2,622 new cases.
“It does raise concerns, but there is no reason right now to be alarmed,” Abbott said.
Texas began aggressively reopening its economy May 1. Abbott noted that Texans may have become lax in wearing masks or practicing social distancing and urged people to stay home as much as possible.
Canada and the U.S. extended to July 21 a deal to keep their border closed to nonessential travel, with many Canadians fearing cases arriving from the U.S.
As the U.S. struggles with the first wave of the virus, other countries where it was widely thought to be under control faced disturbing developments.
In South Korea, authorities reported 43 new cases amid increased public activity. Authorities said 25 of them came from around Seoul, where hundreds of infections have been linked to nightclubs, church gatherings, e-commerce workers and door-to-door salespeople. Twelve of the new cases came from international arrivals.
Not long after declaring itself virus-free, New Zealand saw a reemergence of the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern assigned a top military leader to oversee the border quarantines after what she described as an “unacceptable failure” by health officials.
Two New Zealand citizens who had returned from London to see a dying relative were allowed to leave quarantine before being tested. After the women tested positive, New Zealand began tracing their potential contacts to ensure the virus is contained.
Their cases raised the specter that international air travel could ignite a new surge of the virus just as countries seek to boost devastated tourism industries.
China also limited other travel around the capital, keying in on hot spots. Beijing had essentially eradicated local transmissions until recent days, with 137 new cases since last week.
On Wednesday, the city of 20 million raised its threat level from 3 to 2, canceling classes, suspending reopenings and strengthening requirements for social distancing. China had relaxed many lockdown controls after the Communist Party declared victory over the virus in March.
India, with the fourth-highest caseload after the U.S., Brazil and Russia, added more than 2,000 deaths to its tally after Delhi and Maharashtra states included 1,672 previously unreported fatalities. Its death toll of 11,903 is now eighth-highest in the world. India has reported 10,000 new infections and more than 300 deaths each day for the last two weeks.
Iran’s latest outbreak comes after a major Muslim holiday last month and as travel and lockdown restrictions were relaxed. Health Minister Saeed Namaki said he realized the extent of the challenge when he took a domestic flight.
“Many people have become careless, frustrated with wearing masks,” he said. “They did not observe (social) distancing in the flight’s seating and the airliner’s ventilation system was not working.”
In Europe, which has seen over 184,000 virus-related deaths, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the country will hold a ceremony July 16 to honor its more than 27,000 dead.
German officials said over 400 people at a large meatpacking plant had tested positive for COVID-19, prompting authorities to order the closure of all schools and childcare centers in the western region of Guetersloh. The industry has seen several outbreaks in recent weeks, prompting the government to impose stricter safety rules.
Denmark’s health minister urged anyone who joined a large racial injustice protest on June 7 to be tested “whether you have symptoms or not” after one person in the crowd was found to be infected.
“As long as we have the virus in Europe and in Denmark, it will flare up. We are dealing with a very, very contagious disease,” said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke.
Rising reported from Berlin and McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed.
LONDON (AP) — For many in England, it’s been a day of much-needed retail therapy.
Long lines stretched down streets in England on Monday as shops selling items considered as nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic, such as sneakers and toys, welcomed customers for the first time since the U.K. was put into lockdown in late March.
Starved of the retail experience for the best part of three months, the keenest of shoppers rushed to make up for lost time, to pick up a bargain, browse or just have a chat.
Most appeared to abide by the rules of the “new normal” to remain two meters (6-1/2 feet) apart as they awaited their turn to enter the stores, though pushing and shoving was evident in some places, like the NikeTown store on Oxford Street, London’s famous shopping district.
For Pamela Crystal, 46, it was a far more relaxing experience at the nearby upscale Selfridges department store.
“You don’t realise how much you miss physical shopping until you actually come into the shop. It’s great,” she said. “It’s nice to see people, talk to salespeople. It feels like we’re normal again.”
Monday’s reopening of shops only applies to England. Scotland and Wales are taking a more tentative approach to the easing of the coronavirus restrictions. Northern Ireland’s stores reopened last week. England also saw zoos, safari parks and drive-in cinemas reopen on Monday.
The new shopping experience is anything but normal, though.
Shops are limiting numbers and are providing hand sanitizers as well as creating one-way traffic systems inside. Plastic screens protect workers from shoppers at payment counters and some shops won’t accept cash. At the Apple store on Regent Street in central London, staff checked customers’ temperatures and insisted upon face coverings.
Roger Shakles, managing director of Sewcraft, a small haberdashery shop in the central England town of Swindon, said people have to sanitize their hands before entering.
“We’re a very tactile shop, people have to feel and touch to get an idea of what they’re buying,” he said.
Not all shops in England are reopening. Many say the social distancing guidelines are just too difficult and are urging the British government to reduce the 2-meter requirement.
Critics have also accused the government of being too hasty given still-high levels of daily coronavirus infections. Though the country’s daily virus-related death rates have fallen to below those seen before the lockdown, there are worries of a second spike. The U.K., as a whole, has recorded 41,736 coronavirus-related deaths, the third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil.
On Oxford Street, businesses have installed scores of signs to ensure social distancing. Some sidewalks have been widened and extra bike stations were put up to encourage shoppers to travel there without using the city’s Underground subway.
With virtually no tourists in town, London’s entire West End shopping and theater district is expected to see just 10% to 15% of its normal customers this week. International tourists now face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Britain.
Linda Pilkington, who owns a high-end perfume boutique off London’s designer and jewellery hub of Bond Street, says the shopping experience will inevitably be dulled because restaurants, theaters and other entertainment facilities remain closed.
“People like the social side of shopping. When you hit Bond Street and all the grand shops, it’s an exciting event,” she said. “All those people coming to London for a show, making a weekend of it, that won’t be there. It’s just not going to be the same.”
Pilkington’s tiny shop, Ormonde Jayne, will only let one customer in at a time. Shoppers are encouraged to sanitize their hands and the whole store needs to be wiped down every time a shopper leaves.
John Lewis, a popular British department store with outlets around the country, is trying to be optimistic.
“I’m hopeful that, while the overall atmosphere will feel a bit different to them, what they’ll actually find is a kind of pleasant surprise that it’s calm, it’s pleasant, it’s well ordered,” said Andrew Murphy, director of operations. “But it’s also still got the real advantage of the physical shopping experience and the things that you can’t do online.”
Analysts say the pandemic has accelerated a shift to online shopping, not least because many businesses need to cut rental costs to survive.
To lure wary shoppers back, Selfridges lined up street performers to entertain anyone queuing, while DJs will play music inside to liven things up. Selfridges said the last time it had to close its doors was in 1941 when it was hit by a bomb during World War II.
“We’ve nearly doubled our sales online, but clearly three months’ closure is going to have an impact on our business,” said Meave Wall, store director at Selfridges. “Today’s the first day of what’s going to be quite a long journey back for us but based on the customers we’ve seen queueing this morning we’re definitely optimistic of a return to the stores.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Driven by a rare urgency, Senate Republicans are poised to unveil an extensive package of policing changes that includes new restrictions on police chokeholds and other practices as President Donald Trump signals his support following the mass demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole African American Republican in the Senate, has been crafting the package set to roll out Wednesday. While it doesn’t go as far as a sweeping Democratic bill heading toward a House vote, the emerging GOP legislation shares similar provisions as Congress rushes to respond.
With Trump set to announce executive actions on law enforcement as soon as Tuesday, the crush of activity shows how quickly police violence and racial prejudice are transforming national party priorities.
“I think we’re going to get to a bill that actually becomes law,” Scott said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Scott said the chokehold, in particular, “is a policy whose time has come and gone.”
The GOP package is one of the most extensive proposed overhauls to policing procedures yet from Republicans, who have long aligned with Trump’s “law and order” approach but are suddenly confronted with a groundswell of public unrest in cities large and small over police violence.
Over the weekend, the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks during a routine stop by a white officer in Atlanta led to an outcry, more protests and the police chief’s swift ouster.
The Republican bill would create a national database of police use-of-force incidents, encourage police body cameras and include a long-stalled effort to make lynching a federal hate crime.
Additionally, the GOP package is expected to restrict the use of chokeholds by withholding certain federal funds to jurisdictions that continue to allow the practice, according a Senate Republican unauthorized to discuss the pending bill and granted anonymity.
Democrats have said the GOP package doesn’t go far enough in the aftermath of Floyd’s death and the outpouring of protests and Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the number of black Americans killed at the hands of law enforcement.
In particular, the Republican bill does not address the issue of “qualified immunity,” as the Democrats’ bill does, which aims to enable those injured by law enforcement personnel to sue for damages. The White House has said that is a line too far. As an alternative, Scott has suggested a “decertification” process for officers involved in misconduct.
“This is not a time for lowest common denominator, watered-down reforms,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a co-author of the Democratic bill, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s a time to stop the problem.”
Yet Democrats signaled a willingness to look at the Republican approach for areas of common ground.
“I never call anything a nonstarter,” said Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House’s third-ranking Democrat.
Democrats face criticism over activists’ calls to defund the police, and party leaders in Congress have distanced themselves from that approach. The defund movement describes a range of options, from dismantling departments to shifting policing resources to other community services. The Democratic bill does not go that far, but would instead provide grant money to departments that want to consider new ways of policing.
“Nobody is going to defund the police,” Clyburn said. “We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do.”
The House Judiciary Committee is set to consider the bill midweek, and House lawmakers are scheduled to return to Washington next week for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whose state has been roiled by the death of Breonna Taylor after police entered her Louisville home, has signaled his interest in legislation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider policing issues on Tuesday.
SEATTLE — Following days of violent confrontations with protesters, police in Seattle have largely withdrawn from a neighborhood that protesters have transformed into a festival-like scene that has President Donald Trump fuming.
Trump taunted Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan about the situation on Twitter and said the city had been taken over by “anarchists.”
The “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” sprung up after police on Monday removed barricades near the East Precinct and basically abandoned the structure after officers used tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs over the weekend to disperse demonstrators they said were assaulting them with projectiles.
The president has sparred before with Inslee and Durkan — both liberal Democrats. Inslee previously sought his party’s presidential nomination.
Inslee tweeted Thursday that state officials will not allow threats of military violence from the White House.
The zone set up by protesters stretches across several blocks on Capitol Hill, where dozens of people show up to listen to speakers calling for police reform, racial justice and compensation for Native groups on whose land the city of Seattle was founded.
Signs proclaim “You are entering free Capitol Hill” and “No cop co-op” along sidewalks where people sell water and other wares.
“From what I’ve gathered, we’re trying to take our community back so we can live without a massive police force patrolling the streets,” Michael Taylor told The Seattle Times.
Over the weekend, police were sharply criticized by City Council members and other elected leaders. Since officers dialed back their tactics, the demonstrations have largely been peaceful.
Nollette said the precinct has been boarded up because of credible threats that it would be vandalized or burned. She offered no details about the threats and no fires have been reported at the site.
She said protesters have set up their own barricades, which are intimidating some residents.
“We are dedicated to working with peaceful protesters on a way to move forward,” Nollette said.
Protesters have said they want to see the precinct turned into a community center or used for purposes other than law enforcement.
City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant on Thursday disputed accounts of violence or intimidation by protesters within the area on Capitol Hill and said it was more like a street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.
“The right wing has been spreading rumors that there is some sort of lawlessness and crime taking place at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, but it is exactly the opposite of that,” said Sawant, a socialist and a critic of Durkan and the police.
Sawant said she wants the precinct to be “converted into a public resource that will actually be helpful to society.”
MINNEAPOLIS — When former Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau invited the U.S. Justice Department to review her department in 2014, the resulting report proposed developing an early warning system to flag problem officers and get them help before they misbehave.
Harteau characterized its findings as “progressive steps we can take to enhance our community relationships and increase public trust and accountability.” But the effort has fallen off course.
Harteau resigned under pressure as chief after an officer fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond after responding to her 911 call in 2017. Now, the so-called early intervention system, or EIS, seems little more than an afterthought. It has gained new attention in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, raising questions about whether Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with second-degree murder and other charges in Floyd’s death, should’ve been on the department’s radar.
Officials say the program started with promise, but never really got off the ground.
The program has gone through three police lieutenants in five years, and has yet to hire a civilian supervisor, as planned.
There were delays almost from the start, as the department couldn’t settle on a vendor to build the system, said retired MPD assistant chief Kris Arneson: “I think it was started, but didn’t get off the ground.”
Whether the program has been mothballed or dismantled altogether under the current chief, Medaria Arradondo, is unclear, but Arneson said that anytime there’s a change in leadership, some of the previous administration’s initiatives inevitably go by the wayside.
“Chiefs make adjustments all the time, so maybe they found something better,” said Arneson, who served as Harteau’s second in command until her retirement in 2015.
Blong Yang, a former council member who headed the Council’s public safety committee at the end of the Harteau administration, said that any program’s success depends, in part, on where a leader’s priorities lie.
“You can have all these programs, but the people implementing these programs have to believe in them and have to use them or else they’re just programs,” Yang said.
Since Floyd’s death, which has drawn international attention on the beleaguered department, MPD officials have signaled they may relaunch the program.
If they do so, it would be the latest in a series of internal reforms since the launch of a state civil rights investigation of the MPD’s policies and practices. Last week, Minneapolis banned chokeholds and neck restraints and strengthened requirements for officers to intervene if they see a colleague use improper force, under a deal negotiated between the city and the state.
The tentative agreement still needs a judge’s approval. It would also give the public more access to officers’ disciplinary decisions and to limit the number of supervisors who can authorize the use of tear gas, rubber projectiles and other crowd dispersal devices.
Since Floyd’s death, Chauvin’s 19-year MPD career has been dissected and his actions leading up to the May 25 incident examined in part to determine whether authorities had missed warning signs. Personnel records and past news accounts show he was involved with several police shootings, and had racked up both commendations and more than 15 conduct complaints in his time with the department. Almost all the complaints were closed without discipline, records show, suggesting the allegations weren’t sustained.
His Internal Affairs file includes a 2008 letter of reprimand Chauvin received for the two violations involving “discretion” and a squad car camera, apparently in connection with an August 2007 episode, in which a woman accused him and another officer of stopping her for going 10 mph over the speed limit, and pulling her out of her car and frisking her. Chauvin reportedly forgot to turn on his squad’s dashboard camera before the stop, prompting the complaint.
Whether Chauvin or the three other officers present during Floyd’s death and also charged in the case might have come to the attention of supervisors is not known.
Arneson, the retired assistant chief, doubts it, saying that even if the program were up and running it wasn’t intended to be retroactive and thus may not have flagged an officer like Chauvin, whose last complaint was lodged in 2015.
The system is set up to automatically flag officers for certain instances of excessive force, such as kicking a suspect in the head, which would prompt a full review of the officer’s body camera footage. Less severe infractions, such as an officer taking repeated sick days, might also get the system’s attention.
“If an officer was flagged for having so many punches in a year, or slaps or whatever it is, or if it was a critical incident, then we would set up tools to help that employee,” said Arneson, the former assistant chief. “It could be training, a performance improvement plan, mentoring, any kind of mental or psychological testing, counseling, peer support.”
The MPD continues to deal with the fallout from Floyd’s death, which resulted in widespread protests, looting and arson.
In an e-mail to officers over the weekend, Arradondo commended his officers, saying they had “experienced more in the past two weeks than probably at any other time in the history of the MPD or arguably policing in our nation.” He also sought to soothe concerns about growing calls for “defunding” the police department, while adding that more changes were on the way.
“Over the next several days I will be announcing structural and policy changes that are intentional on continuing to make sure we evolve as an organization and one in which those we serve see that we have their best interests at heart,” Arradondo wrote. “Make no mistake some of these changes will be difficult for some of you. Resisting or feeling uncomfortable about change is human nature but rest assured these changes are necessary to make us better not worse.”
In an interview, Deputy Chief and Chief of Staff Art Knight reiterated that Chauvin’s actions that night do not relect department culture.
“What’s lost in this is the family of Mr. Floyd, for him to have the way he died, my deepest apologies to the family of Mr. Floyd,” he said.
“No one should have to die in that kind of a manner, no one should have to be treated this way, and my deepest apology to the people of Minneapolis, because that is not what we’re about. Because I wear the same uniform that Chauvin wears. And when I go out, people look at me and what they say, is he looks just like Chauvin. And I tell people Chauvin does not represent us, that is not what we are about.”
In 2014, Harteau reached out to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and asked it to conduct a “diagnostic analysis” of her department’s inner workings. The following year, federal officials released a 35-page report calling on the department to rethink its coaching program for officers, expand racial sensitivity training and create a computer tracking system for identifying potentially troubled officers — replacing an old process that critics long had argued allowed bad cops to slip through the cracks.
In all, the report pointed to five key areas where department polices fell short, ranging from ramping up community knowledge and trust of police oversight to addressing inconsistencies on how officers are coached.
But, as recently as last year, department officials admitted that they were still working to implement some of those recommendations.McClatchy-Tribune News Service
ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Unfilled potholes, uncollected trash, unmown grass and, most significantly, fewer police on the street are some of what Allentown says it’s contemplating unless Washington helps it plug a multimillion-dollar budget hole left by the coronavirus pandemic.
Pennsylvania’s third-largest city, with a population of over 120,000, Allentown has largely fended for itself amid sharply falling tax revenue. It’s one of thousands of smaller cities and counties across the U.S. that were cut off from direct aid in the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in late March. Local officials in those left-out places are now pleading for a massive cash infusion from the federal government to help them stave off financial calamity.
“We represent the average city. If cities like Allentown begin to crumble, that’s how America crumbles,” said City Council member Ce-Ce Gerlach. “So something needs to be done. We need help.”
The federal CARES Act sent $150 billion to states and the nation’s most populous cities and counties to help them pay for expenses related to the virus outbreak. But only 36 cities met the population threshold of 500,000 or more to qualify for the money. With the next round of aid stalled in Congress — and no guarantee of a federal bailout anytime soon — Allentown and other local governments are facing tough choices about what to cut and what to keep.
Already, cities are dipping into reserves, canceling road projects, postponing routine maintenance, cutting parks and recreation programs, and furloughing staff. State and local governments have shed more than 1.5 million jobs since the beginning of March, the U.S. Labor Department reported last week. The National League of Cities says municipalities could be looking at $360 billion in red ink through 2022.
“I am hearing from our members all across the country that every day that goes by, the situation is increasingly dire,” said Irma Esparza Diggs, the group’s chief lobbyist.
That’s especially true in Pennsylvania, where cities and towns could see a 40% revenue shortfall — the most of any state, according to a League of Cities analysis.
Allentown predicts a budget deficit of over $10 million, a number officials say could go higher if the economy doesn’t rebound quickly. Like other local governments, Allentown has already been paring back. The city furloughed as many as 87 people out of a work force of 783, and all city department chiefs were ordered to slice another 7% from their budgets, including for police, fire and emergency medical services.
Tax hikes, for now, appear to be off the table. City leaders raised property taxes by 27% two years ago and say residents can’t bear another increase, especially in the middle of a pandemic and historic unemployment.
“It wasn’t fair,” Mayor Ray O’Connell said of the lack of federal support. “The cities are the backbone, the heart of the state and the nation, and to get nothing … we’re scrambling.”
A $3 trillion relief bill passed in May by the U.S. House, where Democrats have the majority, included nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments. It has no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, where prospects for future aid to states and cities remain uncertain.
Allentown, a former industrial center about an hour north of Philadelphia, had been revitalizing its moribund downtown before the pandemic struck. State tax incentives contributed to development that included a new hockey arena, gleaming office buildings and upscale apartments. Yet Allentown remains a poor city, with over a quarter of its residents living in poverty, more than twice the rate of surrounding Lehigh County and Pennsylvania as a whole.
The pandemic hit the city hard. About 2,300 people in Allentown have tested positive for the virus — an infection rate higher than Philadelphia’s — and 67 have died. The economy has suffered, too, with businesses deemed nonessential forced to close their doors for 2 1/2 months. Allentown’s main street was virtually devoid of pedestrians and auto traffic on a recent Friday afternoon, though some pandemic restrictions have since been lifted and retailers were allowed to reopen last Friday.
“One of the things that’s most disheartening right now is we had a lot of really good momentum going,” said Santo Napoli, owner of assembly88, a men’s clothing store downtown. “You have all this great momentum and then, March, the sky falls with corona.
“This is not a downtown Allentown problem,” Napoli added. “This is a Main Street everywhere problem.”
Other virus impacts have been less visible than an empty downtown, but no less troubling.
The city was forced to cancel a popular summer playground program that many parents lean on while they’re at work. A major homeless shelter lost nearly all its volunteer workforce because of virus restrictions.
At Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, an Allentown community group, executive director Hasshan Batts and his colleagues began buying up all the diapers they could find — 60,000 and counting — and have been going door to door to distribute them to families in need.
“The city’s been limited in the role that they can play, because they didn’t get the support and resources from the federal government,” Batts said. “Our city was set up for failure by the lack of federal support.”
Meanwhile, some of the region’s cultural institutions, shuttered for months and heavily reliant on ticket sales to stay afloat, are at risk of going under, according to the Cultural Coalition of Allentown, an umbrella group.
The Alternative Gallery, a nonprofit arts organization located in an old cigar factory, is holding an online fundraiser “just to keep our doors open through September,” said Brandon Wunder, the founder and gallery director.
He criticized the federal response as inadequate to the task.
The pandemic “got politicized, which never should’ve happened. And because of that, it’s been a battle when we should’ve been working together,” he said.
Some states are sharing the money they received from the earlier congressional relief package with local governments. Pennsylvania plans to distribute $625 million to counties that did not get direct aid from the federal government, including $33 million for Lehigh County, of which Allentown is the seat. A committee will decide how the money will be distributed, but it’s too soon to say whether Allentown will get a cut, or how much. In any case, there will be a lot of competition for the money.
“When everybody holds their hand out, not everybody is going to get the amount of M&Ms they were hoping for,” said Lehigh County Executive Phil Armstrong, the county’s top elected official. “When you look at the needs, it’s probably going to be short.”
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have said they want to see how the money they previously approved is being spent so they can get a better idea of the needs before negotiating another massive aid bill. The Allentown region, for instance, has received nearly $90 million in federal funding for hospitals, public transit, the airport and the Allentown School District.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who helped start an Allentown-area restaurant chain before his 1998 election to Congress, “believes we should take a pause on the massive spending bills and switch gears to helping states safely reopen their economies,” said a statement from his office. “Government spending can never be a substitute for a functioning economy.”
Gerlach, the Allentown City Council member, said it’s already clear to him that the federal government needs to do more.
“We’re on fire right now, literally,” said Gerlach, noting the violence that ravaged other cities following George Floyd’s death in Minnesota. “So the last thing we need is for midsize cities, the majority of the country, to not be able to sustain themselves and provide for the people.”
Associated Press reporter Marc Levy in Harrisburg contributed to this report.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two public statues of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oñate in New Mexico are drawing renewed attention and criticism as memorials erected in honor of Confederate leaders and other historical figures worldwide become a focus of protests.
A petition drive with more than 1,500 signatures on Friday is calling for the removal of an Oñate statue on the outskirts of Española in northern New Mexico, while activists are calling on Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller to remove another Oñate likeness from a caravan of Spanish colonists set in bronze outside a city museum.
Moises Gonzales, a professor of urban planning at the University of New Mexico, has protested the Albuquerque statue as a glorification of white supremacy since its installation in the late 1990s.
“If NASCAR can do away with Confederate flags at their events, surely our cities can do this,” Gonzales said.
Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he’s also reviled for his brutality.
To Native Americans, Onate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after his soldiers stormed Acoma Pueblo’s mesa-top “sky city.” That attack was precipitated by the killing of Onate’s nephew.
In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue of Oñate near Española.
Tributes to the region’s early European colonists appear to be losing favor among the public and state lawmakers, who last year replaced Columbus Day with Native American Peoples Day.
Annual costumed tributes to Spanish conquistadors including Oñate have been scaled back or cancelled in recent years in deference to local indigenous communities and new revelations about the subjugation and enslavement of Native American servants and people of mixed ancestry.
The city of Española cut sponsorship ties two years ago with a summer community carnival that includes a costumed pageant of an armored Oñate on horseback with a coterie of soldiers, royalty, Christian friars and an Indian scout. A nonprofit group now carries on the tradition.
An online signature petition to remove the stand-alone statue of Oñate north of Española describes the conquistador’s inhumane treatment of indigenous people and invokes solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Critics scheduled public protests at the Oñate statues for Monday.
SYDNEY (AP) — Hundreds of police disrupted plans for an anti-racism rally in downtown Sydney on Friday, but protest organizers vowed that other rallies will continue around Australia over the weekend despite warnings of the coronavirus risk.
Police ringed Sydney Town Hall hours before around 3,000 people were expected to attend a rally inspired by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota. Police vans were parked in side streets in preparation for mass arrests for breaching a 10-person limit on public gatherings because of the pandemic.
Protesters instead split, with about 100 dispersing around the hall while a few hundred converged on nearby Hyde Park.
Protesters in the park held a banner reading “Stand up Australia” near a statue. Those near the hall chanted “Too many coppers, not enough justice.” They appeared to obey police directions to leave or be arrested.
Government leaders have urged activists not to attend anti-racism and other rallies planned for the weekend due to the pandemic risk.
Rallies are planned for Australian cities this weekend over Floyd, the coronavirus risk posed to asylum-seekers held in crowded Australian immigration detention centers, and a pandemic threat created by eating meat.
Police largely did not enforce social distancing rules during peaceful anti-racism rallies attended by thousands in Australian cities last weekend that focused on the high incarceration rate of indigenous Australians.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged police to charge protesters with breaching pandemic restrictions during the coming weekend.
“The very clear message is that people should not attend those events, because it is against the health advice to do so,” Morrison told reporters.
A court on Thursday ruled that a refugee rally planned for Sydney on Saturday is illegal because of the pandemic threat, increasing the range of powers available to police to block it.
Organizer Ian Rintoul said the protest would continue because asylum seekers are in urgent need.
“The point has come, even in terms of the COVID-19 experience in Australia, where the street protests are possible. They can be held safely, and I think we need to insist on that,” Rintoul told Ten Network television.
Animal rights group PETA plans to limit numbers at a Sydney protest on Saturday to avoid police attention. PETA blames the consumption of wildlife sold in Chinese wet markets for the pandemic.
“If a pandemic born out of animal abuse is not the best time to talk about and protest animal abuse, then when is?” PETA spokeswoman Aleesha Naxakis said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested demonstrators could lose government welfare payments if they attend rallies, but Morrison later ruled out any such federal retaliation. The government pays a wage subsidy to 3.5 million Australians to keep them in work during the pandemic lockdown.
A protester became sick after attending a Melbourne rally on Saturday and later tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities suspected he was infected before the rally and might have spread the virus to other protesters. Authorities say any disease cluster caused by last weekend’s rallies might not become apparent for weeks.
Australia is relaxing its pandemic restrictions, with 2,000 fans allowed in Adelaide for an Australian rules football match on Saturday, but no protest rallies.
Melbourne is the state capital of Victoria, which is alone among Australia’s eight states and territories to experience community spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Most cases involve people who have returned from overseas.
Australia has not recorded any COVID-19 deaths since May 23, when the toll rose to 102. The country has confirmed 7,285 coronavirus cases and 524 cases remain active.
Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
PARIS (AP) — French police defied a ban on mass gatherings to protest what they see as a lack of government support, marching shoulder to shoulder on Friday on the Champs-Elysees to show their anger against new limits on arrest tactics and criticism of racism in their ranks.
France this week announced a ban on chokeholds is part of government efforts to stem police brutality and racism in the wake of global protests over George Floyd’s death in the U.S. But police have especially taken issue with any implication of systemic racism among French police.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier this week any “strong suspicion” of racism would be punished, in response to investigations into racist comments on closed Facebook and WhatsApp groups for police.
Friday’s protest was small but highly visible, with honking, flags and blue smoke blowing under rainy skies. As officers marched close together, with hardly a mask in sight, Paris police issued a bulletin confirming that anti-police protests planned this weekend were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday’s group walked unimpeded to the interior ministry, which is next to the presidential palace and has been barricaded against demonstrators since the 2018 yellow-vest protests that frequently ended in violent clashes. Uniformed guards appeared startled at the arrival of the protest but did not intervene. After a minute of silence for dead police officers, they sang the French national anthem, spoke briefly and dispersed.
“French police are the most controlled in the world, so when there are certain lapses by a tiny minority, don’t stigmatize all police,” said Fabien Vanhemelryck of the Alliance union. He accused politicians of responding hastily to a crisis in the United States “that has nothing to do with us.”
Police unions met Thursday and Friday with Castaner to discuss changes to police tactics after the minister announced Monday that police would no longer be taught to seize suspects by the neck or push on their necks. Castaner stopped short of banning another technique — pressing on a prone suspect’s chest — that also has been blamed for leading to asphyxiation and possible death.
Such immobilization techniques have come under growing criticism since Floyd’s death. But French police say the new restrictions go too far.
“He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about,” said Jean-Paul Megret, another police union leader. “Sometimes you can’t just ask people to follow you to be arrested. Every day, you’re dealing with people who are completely insane.”
Unions floated the idea this week of widening the use of stun-guns, which are only available to a handful of specialized officers.
France has seen several anti-police protests sparked by Floyd’s death, and another is planned Saturday. Friday’s protest began on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was repeatedly the scene of violence between police and the “yellow vest” protesters last year.
Last week, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into racist insults and instigating racial hatred based on comments allegedly written in a private police Facebook group.
Website Streetpress published a string of offensive messages that it said were published within the group, though acknowledged that it is unclear whether the authors were officers or people pretending to be police. Some of the reported comments mocked young men of color who have died fleeing police.
Separately, six police officers in the Normandy city of Rouen are under internal investigation over racist comments in a private WhatsApp group. Both incidents have prompted public concerns about extreme views among French police.
BURIEN, Wash. (AP) — Seattle officers hold down a protester, and one repeatedly punches him in the face. In another run-in, officers handcuff a looting suspect on the ground, one pressing a knee into his neck — the same tactic used on George Floyd.
The officers were captured on videos appearing to violate policies on how to use force just days after Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police, setting off nationwide protests.
With calls for police reforms across the U.S., instructors and researchers say officers lack sufficient training on how and when to use force, leaving them unprepared to handle tense situations. Better training can’t fix all the issues facing the nation’s police departments, but experts believe it would have a big impact.
“The skills are not taught well enough to be retained and now the officer is scrambling to find something that works,” said William Lewinski, executive director at Minnesota-based Force Science Institute, which provides research, training and consulting to law enforcement agencies.
Its two-year study of three large U.S. police academies says skills like using a baton or taking down an aggressive offender deteriorate dramatically within two weeks.
A recent Associated Press investigation found that a lack of firearms training has resulted in unintentional shootings by law enforcement. It’s the same problem with use-of-force techniques, Lewinski said.
“Police officers across the country are woefully undertrained,” said Sean Hendrickson, an instructor at Washington state’s police academy in suburban Seattle.
The AP was invited to the facility to see use-of-force training, a component of a 2012 federal agreement to reform the Seattle Police Department after officers were found to routinely use excessive force. The academy is considered one of the more progressive in the country for trying to mirror what officers will face on the streets.
There’s classroom work, and cadets learn to combine skills by play-acting scenarios. In an old building decorated to look like an apartment, one officer plays the offender and others try to deescalate tensions, take away his weapon and put him in handcuffs.
In a parking lot, officers pair off. One wears padding on their shins and the other practices swinging a baton, hitting low on the legs.
They also learn to arrest someone who’s fighting back. An instructor plays the suspect, with one officer bear-hugging his legs and another wrapping his arms around him to take him to the ground. That officer presses against him chest to chest until he “wears himself out,” instructor Rich Lee said.
Then they flip him over, still holding his legs, with an officer’s knee in the center of his back as they handcuff him.
Police in the Seattle videos didn’t use those techniques. No one held the suspects’ legs and one officer had his knee on a suspect’s neck until his partner pushed it off.
In Washington state, cadets must complete 720 hours of training, “but those skills start to degrade immediately,” Hendrickson said. Some states only require 400 to 500 hours of academy training and require 24 hours or less of training once they’re on the job. Often, follow-up training is online, not hands-on.
“There’s no profession that trains so little but expects so much,” Lewinski said.
But not all officers can be taught, he acknowledged. When it came to Derek Chauvin, the officer charged in Floyd’s death, “I’m not sure that training would have made a difference,” Lewinski said. “What he did was definitely criminal.”
Protesters are demanding reforms ranging from cutting funding to banning chokeholds. There’s been success in some states, such as California, where the governor ordered the police training program to stop teaching a neck hold that blocks blood flowing to the brain.
A measure introduced this week in Congress would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents and address training.
“A profession where you have the power to kill should be a profession where you have highly trained officers that are accountable to the public,” U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters.
Reforming police use-of-force training was a major issue in 2014 and 2015, following the deaths of several black men at the hands of police, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others. In New York City, where Garner died, the nation’s largest police department retrained all patrol officers, dismantled how beat cops did their jobs and moved to a community policing model where officers were encouraged get to know their precincts and focus on deescalation.
It looked like police reform was gaining traction nationwide, but as the 2016 election took the spotlight, the effort faded, especially after the Justice Department shifted its civil rights priorities.
Most academies bombard officers with one subject, like communication, and then move to the next topic, like use of force, without integrating those skills, making them easy to forget, Force Science studies say.
An example of successfully using training can be seen in a video of a security guard who took two stolen AR-15′s from some young men during the Seattle protests. The guard with military training hired to protect several journalists secured one gun and then calmly walked up to the second suspect, took the firearm out of his hands and unloaded it.
“His movements were very deliberate, even under those stressful circumstances,” Hendrickson said. “When you’ve done it enough times, that’s going to dictate how smooth you’re able to take control. He didn’t have to think about those skills.”
Lacking skills leads to bad reactions, Hendrickson said.
“I’ve been in situations where I’m frantic and the other officer is cool, calm and collected,” he said. “How did they do that without screaming? It all comes back to training. When we lack confidence, a lot of times we raise our voice, start swearing. It’s all about fear.”
Jerrell Wills, manager of the applied-skills division at the Washington academy, said racial tension is a reason he wants to improve how officers are taught.
A black man who’s been in law enforcement for 30 years, Wills said he’s been racially profiled and had people threaten to call the police for no good reason. Now, he worries about his sons.
“That’s why the work we do is so important,” Wills said. “Because I care about this industry, my community and my African American community.”