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Restrictions reimposed as virus resurges in much of Asia

By HUIZHONG WU and ZEN SOO, Associated Press

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all


 

Across much of Asia, taxi drivers are starved for customers, weddings are suddenly canceled, schools are closed, and restaurant service is restricted as the coronavirus comes surging back in countries where it had seemed to be well under control.

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taxi drivers are starved for customers, weddings are suddenly canceled, schools are closed, and restaurant service is restricted across much of Asia as the coronavirus makes a resurgence in countries where it had seemed to be well under control.

Sparsely populated Mongolia has seen its death toll soar from 15 to 239, while Taiwan, considered a major success in battling the virus, has recorded more than 1,200 cases since last week and placed over 600,000 people in two-week medical isolation.

Hong Kong and Singapore have postponed a quarantine-free travel bubble for a second time after an outbreak in Singapore of uncertain origin. China, which has all but stamped out local infections, has seen new cases apparently linked to contact with people arriving from abroad.

The resurgence hasn’t come close to the carnage wrought in India and parts of Europe, but it is a keen reminder that the virus remains resilient, despite mask mandates, case tracing, mass testing and wider deployment of the newest weapon against it — vaccinations.

That’s setting back efforts to get social and economic life back to normal, particularly in schools and sectors like the hospitality industry that are built on public contact.

In Taiwan, the surge is being driven by the more easily transmissible variant first identified in Britain, according to Chen Chien-jen, an epidemiologist and the island’s former vice president, who led the highly praised pandemic response last year.

Complicating matters are some senior citizens who frequent slightly racy “tea salons” in Taipei’s Wanhua neighborhood. They accounted for about 375 of the new cases as of Tuesday, Chen said. The tea shops are known for providing adult entertainment with singing and dancing.

“These seniors, when they go to these places, want to keep it veiled,” Chen said. “When we are conducting the investigation, they may not be honest.”

In Wanhua, normally a bustling area with food stalls, shops and entertainment venues, the Huaxi night market and historic Longshan Buddhist temple are closed.

Kao Yu-chieh, who runs a breakfast shop in the area, said business is down at least 50% since last week.

Cab driver Wang Hsian Jhong said he hasn’t had a customer in three days. “Everyone is affected. This is a Taiwan-wide problem. We have to get through it,” he said, puffing on a cigarette on a street in Wanhua.

The island has shut all schools and restrictions previously only in the Taipei area were expanded island-wide Wednesday: Restaurants, gyms and other public venues were closed, and gatherings of more than five people indoors and more than 10 people outdoors are banned.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has sought to reassure a public that is reverting to panic-buying and shunning public places.

“We will continue to strengthen our medical capacity,” Tsai said, adding that vaccines are arriving from abroad.

Malaysia unexpectedly imposed a one-month lockdown through June 7, spooked by a sharp rise in cases, more-infectious variants and weak public compliance with health measures.

It was the second nationwide lockdown in just over a year and came after the country’s cases shot up fourfold since January; it’s now more than 485,000 and 2,040 people have died, a sum also up by four times from January. Interstate travel and social activities are banned, schools are shut, and restaurants can provide only takeout service. The government has warned that hospitals have almost maxed out their capacity to take new coronavirus cases.

Singapore has imposed stringent social distancing measures until June 13, restricting public gatherings to two people and banning dine-in service at restaurants.

That came after the number of coronavirus infections of untraceable origin rose to 48 cases in the past week, from 10 cases the week before. Singapore had previously been held up as a role model after keeping the virus at bay for months.

Schools moved online after students in several institutions tested positive. Wedding receptions are no longer allowed, and funerals are capped at 20 people.

For wedding planner Michelle Lau, at least seven clients either canceled or postponed weddings meant to take place over the next month. Other couples have opted for a simple ceremony without a reception, she said.

Janey Chang, who runs two Latin dance studios in Singapore, says that the tougher restrictions have drastically reduced class size.

“We are taking on fewer students, but the costs such as rent remain the same,” Chang said. “Whether we can continue to operate is highly dependent on the number of coronavirus cases.”

Hong Kong has responded to fresh outbreaks by increasing the quarantine requirement from 14 to 21 days for unvaccinated travelers arriving from “high-risk” countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, and, farther afield, Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands and Kenya.

China has set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and railway stations in Liaoning province, where new cases were reported this week. Travelers must have proof of a recent negative virus test, and mass testing was ordered in part of Yingkou, a port city with shipping connections to more than 40 countries.

Thailand reported 35 deaths, the highest since the outbreak started, on Tuesday, and an additional 29 on Wednesday. That brought its number of fatalities to 678, of which 584 have been reported in the latest wave. About three-quarters of Thailand’s more than 116,000 cases have been recorded since the beginning of April.

Thailand had about 7,100 cases in all of last year in what was regarded as a success story.

The resurgence has posed difficult choices for governments, particularly in poorer nations where lockdown restrictions can increase financial suffering for those already living on the edge of starvation.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has eased a lockdown in the bustling capital and adjacent provinces to fight economic recession and hunger but has still barred public gatherings this month, when many Roman Catholic festivals are held.

COVID-19 infections started to spike in March to some of the worst levels in Asia, surging beyond 10,000 a day and prompting Duterte to impose the lockdown in and around Manila in April. The Philippines has reported more than 1.1 million infections with 19,372 deaths, though the surge has begun to ease.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the partial resumption of economic activities, increased noncompliance with restrictions and inadequate tracing of people exposed to the virus combined to spark the steep rise in infections.

Experts said the delivery of vaccines, however delayed and small in amount, also fostered false confidence the pandemic might be ending.

___

Soo reported from Singapore. Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.


 


 

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Colonial Pipeline back to ‘normal operations’ following ransomware attack

By Shaddi Abusaid, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all

More than a week after a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline led to widespread gas shortages, the Alpharetta-based fuel distributor said it has returned its system to normal operations.

Metro Atlantans struggled to find gas this past week amid a strained fuel supply and panic buying, but stations across the area have started receiving steady shipments again. As of Saturday morning, about 46% of Georgia’s gas stations were still without fuel, however, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

He expected that figure to drop as more stations receive shipments this weekend.

“First gas outage readings this AM don’t show much improvement this morning,” De Haan said on Twitter, “but it’s early on a Saturday and stations that got refueled overnight may not be reported yet.”

Colonial shut down its 5,500 miles of pipelines — typically carrying nearly half of East Coast’s fuel supply — for five days following a May 7 ransomware attack. The company began restarting pipeline operations late Wednesday afternoon.

“Since that time, we have returned the system to normal operations, delivering millions of gallons per hour to the markets we serve,” the company said Saturday morning.

On Friday, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the country is “over the hump” when it comes to gas shortages after last week’s cyberattack that forced a shutdown of the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline.

Shortages peaked on Thursday night, but Granholm told The Associated Press that service should be back to normal in most areas by the end of the weekend.

“The good news is that … gas station outages are down about 12% from the peak,” with about 200 stations returning to service every hour, she said. “It’s still going to work its way through the system over the next few days, but we should be back to normal fairly soon.’’

The hackers didn’t take control of pipeline operations, but Colonial Pipeline shut it down to prevent malware from affecting industrial control systems. The AP reported that the company paid a ransom of about $5 million after the cyberattack, citing two people briefed on the matter.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday extended the suspension of the state’s gas tax to help control the price of fuel. His new executive order also extended an increase in weight limits for trucks carrying fuel and prohibited price gouging. The previous executive order had been scheduled to expire Saturday.

The Biden administration on Thursday approved a waiver to allow a foreign tanker to deliver gas to an East Coast seaport and may approve more waivers. Federal trucking rules also have been relaxed.

”The idea is to look at every … tool we have to help mitigate the shortage and get back to normal as quickly as we can,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a video interview Friday afternoon.

As fuel returns to pumps across across the U.S., officials continue to urge drivers not to panic or hoard gasoline.

“Really, the gasoline is coming,’’ Granholm said. “If you take more than what you need, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of the shortages. Let’s share a little bit with our neighbors and everybody should know that it’s going to be OK in the next few days.’’


 

 

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4 ex-cops indicted on U.S. civil rights charges in Floyd death

By The Associated Press

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all #picks-all

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air, according to indictments unsealed Friday.

The three-count indictment names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao. Specifically, Chauvin, Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care. Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the arrest and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Kueng appeared via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Chauvin was not part of the court appearance.

Chauvin was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison as he awaits sentencing. The other three former officers face a state trial in August, and they are free on bond. They were allowed to remain free after Friday’s federal court appearance.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably in the situation and that Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use. He has filed a request for a new trial, citing many issues including the judge’s refusal to move the trial due to publicity.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges Friday. Messages left with attorneys for two of the other officers were not immediately returned, and an attorney for the fourth officer was getting in an elevator and disconnected when reached by The Associated Press.

Floyd’s arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked protests nationwide and widespread calls for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.


 

 

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1 verdict, then 6 police killings across America in 24 hours

By ALANNA DURKIN RICHER and LINDSAY WHITEHURST , Associated Press

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all


 

At least six people were fatally shot by officers across the United States in the 24 hours after jurors reached a verdict in the murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Even as the Derek Chauvin case was fresh in memory — the reading of the verdict in a Minneapolis courtroom, the shackling of the former police officer, the jubilation at what many saw as justice in the death of George Floyd — even then, blood flowed on America’s streets.

And even then, some of that blood was shed at the hands of law enforcement.

At least six people were fatally shot by officers across the United States in the 24 hours after jurors reached a verdict in the murder case against Chauvin on Tuesday. The roll call of the dead is distressing:

A 16-year-old girl in Columbus, Ohio.

An oft-arrested man in Escondido, California.

A 42-year-old man in eastern North Carolina.

The deaths, in some cases, sparked new cries for justice. Some said they reflect an urgent need for radical changes to American policing — a need that the Chauvin verdict cannot paper over. For others, the shootings are a tragic reminder of the difficult and dangerous decisions law enforcement face daily.

An unidentified man in San Antonio.

Another man, killed in the same city within hours of the first.

A 31-year-old man in central Massachusetts.

The circumstances surrounding each death differ widely. Some happened while officers investigated serious crimes. Police say some of the people were armed with a gun, knife or a metal pole. One man claimed to have a bomb that he threatened to detonate. In several cases, little is known about the lives of those killed and what happened in their final moments.

The deadly encounters are only a small snapshot of the thousands of interactions between American police officers and civilians every day, most of which end safely. Uneventful encounters between the police and the populace, however, are not an issue.

It’s a very different story when a weapon is drawn and a life is ended.

___

As the nation watched the judge read the verdict against Chavuin on Tuesday afternoon, an officer hundreds of miles away was listening over his patrol car radio in a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Minutes earlier, a colleague fatally shot a teenage girl.

Police had been called to the house after someone called 911 and reported being physically threatened. Body camera footage shows an officer approaching a group of people in the driveway as the teenager, Ma’Khia Bryant, swings a knife wildly. Moments later, the girl charges at a young woman pinned against a car.

The officer fires four shots before Bryant slumps to the ground. A black-handled blade, similar to a kitchen or steak knife, lies on the sidewalk next to her.

“You didn’t have to shoot her! She’s just a kid, man!” a man shouted at the officer.

The officer responds, “She had a knife. She just went at her.”

Later, an anguished neighbor yells at officers: “Do you see why Black lives matter? Do you get it now?”

Bryant, who was in foster care at the time, was a shy, quiet girl who liked making hair and dance videos on TikTok, her grandmother, Debra Wilcox, told The Associated Press. Her family says her actions that day were out of character.

“I don’t know what happened there unless she was fearful for her life,” Wilcox said.

Though officials have said Bryant’s death was a tragedy, they point to laws allowing police to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.

The officer’s actions were “an act of heroism” with tragic results, said the National Fraternal Order of Police president, “yet another demonstration of the impossible situations” police face.

___

About the same time the radio brought the news of Chauvin’s verdict to Columbus, two officers in San Antonio were confronting a man on a bus. Exactly how the encounter started remains unclear, but police say the unidentified man was armed. It ended with officers firing fatal shots.

Later that evening in the same city, authorities say a man killed a person working in a shed outside his home. As officers arrived, the suspect started shooting at police. They returned fired, killing him. Officials have not released his name.

___

As the nation digested the news from Minneapolis, the day wore on and daily life unspooled. In Worcester, Massachusetts, the night was punctuated by a standoff with police that ended in gunfire. 

Phet Gouvonvong, 31, called 911 and claimed to have a bomb he threatened to set off, police said. Officers found him on the street. They said he was wearing body armor and had a backpack and what appeared to be a rifle.

A police SWAT team joined negotiators. One reached Gouvonvong by phone to try to calm him, officials say.

Around midnight, officials say, Gouvonvong moved toward police, and an officer opened fire.

Gouvonvong was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not said whether he actually had an explosive device.

Gouvonvong had run-ins with police over the years, including a conviction for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, but an aunt said he turned his life around, the Telegram & Gazette newspaper reported.

On Thursday, his mother crumpled onto the street in tears where flowers had been laid at the site of his killing. Marie Gonzalez told the newspaper she had called police Tuesday night to try to connect with her son but they wouldn’t put her through. She believed she could have prevented it.

“They had no right taking my son’s life,” she said. “They had no right.”

___

The next morning, as people in Minneapolis awakened to a city boarded up for unrest that never materialized, a 42-year-old Black man in eastern North Carolina was shot and killed when deputy sheriffs tried to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants.

An eyewitness has said Andrew Brown Jr. was shot dead in his car in Elizabeth City as he tried to drive away. A car authorities removed from the scene appeared to have multiple bullet holes and a shattered back window.

His slaying sparked an outcry as hundreds demanded the release of body camera footage. Seven deputies have been placed on leave.

Relatives described Brown as a doting father who always had a joke to tell. He also had a difficult life. His mother was killed when he was young, he was partially paralyzed on his right side by an accidental shooting and lost an eye in a stabbing, according to an aunt, Glenda Brown Thomas.

He also had troubles with the law, including a misdemeanor drug possession conviction and some pending felony drug charges. The day before he was killed, two arrest warrants were issued for him on drug-related charges including possession with intent to sell cocaine, court records show.

Officers have so far said little about why they fired, but his family is determined to get answers.

“The police didn’t have to shoot my baby,” said another aunt, Martha McCullen.

___

That same morning, police in Southern California got a call about someone hitting cars with a metal pole. The man ran off when police arrived, but another officer spotted him carrying a 2-foot metal pole in the street.

The white man charged at the officer, who ordered him to drop the pole before opening fire, police said.

Police in Escondido, near San Diego, have not released the man’s name, but did say he had been arrested nearly 200 times over the past two decades for violent assaults on police and the public, drug charges and other crimes. Efforts to get him help from mental health professionals hadn’t worked, the police chief said.

___

Whether any officers will face charges in these shootings remains to be seen.

Chauvin was largely convicted based on video that showed him pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Police shootings in a heated moment are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Juries have generally been reluctant to second-guess officers when they claim to have acted in life-or-death situations.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s verdict, prosecutors on opposite coasts announced opposite decisions on whether to advance charges against law enforcement who killed.

A Florida prosecutor announced Wednesday he would not pursue charges against a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed two Black teenagers; a California prosecutor announced manslaughter and assault charges against a deputy in the eastern San Francisco Bay area in the shooting of an unarmed Filipino man.

None of these cases has focused attention like the trial that came to a conclusion Tuesday. Some people hold out hope that the Chauvin verdict might be a crucial juncture in the national conversation about race, policing and the use of force.

“We are in a moment of reckoning,” said Rachael Rollins, district attorney for Boston and surrounding communities and the first woman of color to serve as a top county prosecutor in Massachusetts.

“If we can be strategic and come together,” she said, “we can make profound changes, profound.”

____

Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Julie Watson in San Diego and Juliet Williams in San Francisco contributed to this report, as did Farnoush Amiri in Columbus, Ohio. Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

 

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Months after unrest over George Floyd’s death, Atlanta relieved at guilty verdict

By Alan Judd – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Alexis Stevens – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren #breaking-all #local-all

At 5:07 p.m. Tuesday, the youngest of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children let out a virtual cry of deliverance.

“Whew,” Bernice King wrote on Twitter. “I can now take a breath.”

Exactly five minutes earlier, a jury in Minneapolis had announced its verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin: guilty, on all counts, in the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. His death stirred massive protests and inspired a reckoning with the nation’s history of institutional racism.

Across Atlanta and the nation, King’s relief was echoed at informal memorials to Floyd, in social media posts, and in conversations in barrooms and living rooms alike. A measure of often-elusive justice been served in the death of a Black person at the hands of a white police officer, and a reprise of the sometimes destructive unrest that followed Floyd’s death appeared to have been averted.

“There would’ve been rioting in the streets, no question about it” had there been an acquittal, said Kendric Smith, who watched the verdict announced at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta.

Manuel’s patron Sheila Bailey called the guilty verdicts an affirmation of the American judicial system. Any other outcome, Bailey said, would have raised doubts about ever holding police accountable.

“I was so glad they found him guilty on all counts,” she said. “It leaves no room for doubt.”

At a mural honoring Floyd on Atlanta’s Edgewood Avenue, civil rights activist Porch’se Miller called Tuesday “a good day for Black America.”

“We needed this win so bad,” she said.


 

But for many, jubilation over the verdict was tempered by the losses of Floyd and others killed by police violence.

“Finally, we’re getting some type of justice,” said Jamiliah Robinson, a mental health therapist. But “they’re still going to kill Black people. It’s been happening for hundreds of years now, and I don’t think much is really going to change.”

Floyd’s death — and Chauvin’s trial — brought unprecedented attention to killings by police in America. In Atlanta, thousands of protesters marched in the streets last year, some for months, and confrontations with police officers sometimes turned ugly. At the state Capitol last spring, officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, and elsewhere in the city, police in riot gear cleared the streets when nightly curfews took effect.

The Atlanta Police Department was criticized both for not protecting property from looting and for using excessive force on demonstrators. Six officers faced criminal charges after pulling two college students out of their car near a downtown protest.

Then, 18 days after Floyd’s death, an Atlanta officer shot and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks after a scuffle in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant south of downtown. More protests erupted, demonstrators set fire to the Wendy’s, and an 8-year-old girl, Secoriea Turner, died when shots were fired into her mother’s car.

MORE: Rayshard Brooks’ final 41 minutes

Suspects in Secoriea Turner shooting remain at large

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, like numerous other political leaders, issued a statement Tuesday celebrating the verdict in Minneapolis. She did not mention the unrest that roiled Atlanta after Floyd and Brooks died.

“While I am grateful that the verdict is guilty on all three counts, there is no verdict or punishment that will bring George Floyd back to his family,” Bottoms’ statement said. “As tragedies have propelled our nation into a level of needed consciousness and action in the past, it is my sincere hope that the tragic death of George Floyd will forever be our reminder that the work towards reform, healing and reconciliation is not a one-time event.”

For some, the Chauvin verdict brought to mind another trial. In April 1992, a California jury acquitted Los Angeles police officers charged with beating motorist Rodney King after a high-speed chase.

Said Sewell was a Morehouse College senior at the time and joined a march from the Atlanta University Center to the state Capitol to protest the verdicts in the King case. On Tuesday, Sewell, now an educator at the center, watched with “my stomach in knots,” hoping for a different result.

“I’m saddened that … even though we saw a man killed on television, I was still worried that justice may not be as blind as it should be,” said Sewell, director of the center’s division of academic affairs, sponsored research and student success. “I’m overjoyed that justice was served, but saddened that we were worried it might not have been this way as it has been in previous cases. We still have a lot of work to do.”

As news spread of the verdict on Tuesday, several dozen people gathered at the Floyd mural, preparing to march to Centennial Olympic Park.

“Guilty, guilty, guilty,” the marchers chanted. Jerome Trammel, a television producer, arrived at the park holding a sign that read, “Jail Killer Cops Now.” Onlookers in cars or buildings along the procession held up fists in solidarity or recorded the marchers on their phones.

“We were outside for 150 days” protesting after Floyd died, Atlanta attorney Gerald Griggs told the marchers. “We didn’t just march for George,” but also for Brooks and others killed by police, he said. He urged Congress to pass legislation to hold police accountable.

“This isn’t about a few bad apples,” Griggs said. “The system has a problem.”

Marcher Sugga Myrick, said the video that showed Chauvin pinning Floyd’s neck to the pavement for more than nine minutes before he died turned her stomach. A retired nursing assistant, Myrick said a stiff sentence for Chauvin, who faces as much as 40 years in prison, might cause other officers to take more care with the lives of Black people.

“I hope they don’t just give him a slap on the wrist,” Myrick said. “I want the max.”

For many at the Floyd mural, the verdict felt personal. Melodee Lovett said one of her friends is the sister of Rayshard Brooks.

“This is just the beginning,” she said of the Chauvin verdict. Still, “it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”


 

Staff writers J.D. Capelouto, Bill Rankin, Chris Joyner, Tyler Estep, Ernie Suggs, Sheila Poole, Kristal Dixon, Wilborn P. Nobles III, Arielle Kass, Christian Boone and Tia Mitchell contributed reporting.


 

 

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Prince Philip dead at 99

By The Associated Press

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all

Buckingham Palace announced Friday that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died.

He was 99.

Earlier this year, Prince Philip underwent surgery and a lengthy recovery from surgery for a preexisting heart condition. Philip was admitted Feb. 16 to the private London hospital, where he was treated for an infection.

Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, retired in 2017 and rarely appeared in public. Before his hospitalization, he had been isolating at Windsor Castle, west of London, with the queen.

Although he enjoyed good health well into old age, Philip has had heart issues. In 2011, he was rushed to a hospital by helicopter after suffering chest pains and was treated for a blocked coronary artery.

The longest-serving royal consort in British history, Philip married the then-Princess Elizabeth in 1947. He and the queen had four children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Philip’s life spanned nearly a century of European history, starting with his birth as a member of the Greek royal family and ending as Britain’s longest serving consort during a turbulent reign in which the thousand-year-old monarchy was forced to reinvent itself for the 21st century.

He was known for his occasionally racist and sexist remarks — and for gamely fulfilling more than 20,000 royal engagements to boost British interests at home and abroad. He headed hundreds of charities, founded programs that helped British schoolchildren participate in challenging outdoor adventures, and played a prominent part in raising his four children, including his eldest son, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle.

Philip, who was given the title Duke of Edinburgh on his wedding day, saw his sole role as providing support for his wife, who began her reign as Britain retreated from empire and steered the monarchy through decades of declining social deference and U.K. power into a modern world where people demand intimacy from their icons.

In the 1970s, Michael Parker, an old navy friend and former private secretary of the prince, said of him: “He told me the first day he offered me my job, that his job — first, second and last — was never to let her down.”

The queen, a very private person not given to extravagant displays of affection, once called him “her rock” in public.

In private, Philip called his wife Lilibet; but he referred to her in conversation with others as “The Queen.”

Over the decades, Philip’s image changed from that of handsome, dashing athlete to arrogant and insensitive curmudgeon. In his later years, the image finally settled into that of droll and philosophical observer of the times, an elderly, craggy-faced man who maintained his military bearing despite ailments.

The popular Netflix series “The Crown” gave Philip a central role, with a slightly racy, swashbuckling image. He never commented on it in public, but the portrayal struck a chord with many Britons, including younger viewers who had only known him as an elderly man.

Philip’s position was a challenging one — there is no official role for the husband of a sovereign queen — and his life was marked by extraordinary contradictions between his public and private duties. He always walked three paces behind his wife in public, in a show of deference to the monarch, but he was the head of the family in private. Still, his son Charles, as heir to the throne, had a larger income, as well as access to the high-level government papers Philip was not permitted to see.

Philip often took a wry approach to his unusual place at the royal table.

“Constitutionally, I don’t exist,” said Philip, who in 2009 became the longest-serving consort in British history, surpassing Queen Charlotte, who married King George III in the18th century.

He frequently struggled to find his place — a friction that would later be echoed in his grandson Prince Harry’s decision to give up royal duties.

“There was no precedent,” he said in a rare interview with the BBC to mark his 90th birthday. “If I asked somebody, ‘What do you expect me to do?’ they all looked blank.”

But having given up a promising naval career to become consort when Elizabeth became queen at age 25, Philip was not content to stay on the sidelines and enjoy a life of ease and wealth. He promoted British industry and science, espoused environmental preservation long before it became fashionable, and traveled widely and frequently in support of his many charities.

In those frequent public appearances, Philip developed a reputation for being impatient and demanding and was sometimes blunt to the point of rudeness.

Many Britons appreciated what they saw as his propensity to speak his mind, while others criticized behavior they labeled offensive and out of touch.

In 1995, for example, he asked a Scottish driving instructor, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?” Seven years later in Australia, when visiting Aboriginal people with the queen, he asked: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

Many believe his propensity to speak his mind meant he provided needed, unvarnished advice to the queen.

“The way that he survived in the British monarchy system was to be his own man, and that was a source of support to the queen,” said royal historian Robert Lacey. “All her life she was surrounded by men who said, ‘yes ma’am’ and he was one man who always told her how it really was, or at least how he saw it.”

Lacey said at the time of the royal family’s difficult relations with Princess Diana after her marriage to Charles broke down, Philip spoke for the family with authority, showing that he did not automatically defer to the queen.

Philip’s relationship with Diana became complicated as her separation from Charles and their eventual divorce played out in a series of public battles that damaged the monarchy’s standing.

It was widely assumed that he was critical of Diana’s use of broadcast interviews, including one in which she accused Charles of infidelity. But letters between Philip and Diana released after her death showed that the older man was at times supportive of his daughter-in-law.

After Diana’s death in a car crash in Paris in 1997, Philip had to endure allegations by former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed that he had plotted the princess’s death. Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, also died in the crash.

During a lengthy inquest into their deaths, a senior judge acting as coroner instructed the jury that there was no evidence to support the allegations against Philip, who did not publicly respond to Al Fayed’s charges.

Philip’s final years were clouded by controversy and fissures in the royal family.

His third child, Prince Andrew, was embroiled in scandal over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier who died in a New York prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

U.S. authorities accused Andrew of rebuffing their request to interview him as a witness, and Andrew faced accusations from a woman who said that she had several sexual encounters with the prince at Epstein’s behest. He denied the claim but withdrew from public royal duties amid the scandal.

At the start of 2020, Philip’s grandson Harry and his wife, the American former actress Meghan Markle, announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America to escape intense media scrutiny that they found unbearable.

Born June 10, 1921, on the dining room table at his parents’ home on the Greek island of Corfu, Philip was the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew, younger brother of the king of Greece. His grandfather had come from Denmark during the 1860s to be adopted by Greece as the country’s monarch.

Philip’s mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, a descendent of German princes. Like his future wife, Elizabeth, Philip was also a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria.

When Philip was 18 months old, his parents fled to France. His father, an army commander, had been tried after a devastating military defeat by the Turks. After British intervention, the Greek junta agreed not to sentence Andrew to death if he left the country.

The family was not exactly poor but, Philip said: “We weren’t well off” — and they got by with help from relatives. He later brought only his navy pay to a marriage with one of the world’s richest women.

Philip’s parents drifted apart when he was a child, and Andrew died in Monte Carlo in 1944. Alice founded a religious order that did not succeed and spent her old age at Buckingham Palace. A reclusive figure, often dressed in a nun’s habit, she was little seen by the British public. She died in 1969 and was posthumously honored by Britain and Israel for sheltering a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied Athens during the war.

Philip went to school in Britain and entered Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth as a cadet in 1939. He got his first posting in 1940 but was not allowed near the main war zone because he was a foreign prince of a neutral nation. When the Italian invasion of Greece ended that neutrality, he joined the war, serving on battleships in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific.

On leave in Britain, he visited his royal cousins, and, by the end of war, it was clear he was courting Princess Elizabeth, eldest child and heir of King George VI. Their engagement was announced July 10, 1947, and they were married on Nov. 20.

After an initial flurry of disapproval that Elizabeth was marrying a foreigner, Philip’s athletic skills, good looks and straight talk lent a distinct glamour to the royal family.

Elizabeth beamed in his presence, and they had a son and daughter while she was still free of the obligations of serving as monarch.

But King George VI died of cancer in 1952 at age 56.

Philip had to give up his naval career, and his subservient status was formally sealed at the coronation, when he knelt before his wife and pledged to become “her liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship.”

The change in Philip’s life was dramatic.

“Within the house, and whatever we did, it was together,” Philip told biographer Basil Boothroyd of the years before Elizabeth became queen. “People used to come to me and ask me what to do. In 1952, the whole thing changed, very, very considerably.”

Said Boothroyd: “He had a choice between just tagging along, the second handshake in the receiving line, or finding other outlets for his bursting energies.”

So Philip took over management of the royal estates and expanded his travels to all corners of the world, building a role for himself.

From 1956, he was Patron and Chairman of Trustees for the largest youth activity program in Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a program of practical, cultural and adventurous activities for young people that exists in over 100 countries. Millions of British children have had some contact with the award and its famous camping expeditions.

He painted, collected modern art, was interested in industrial design and planned a garden at Windsor Castle. But, he once said, “the arts world thinks of me as an uncultured, polo-playing clot.”

In time, the famous blond hair thinned and the long, fine-boned face acquired a few lines. He gave up polo but remained trim and vigorous.

To a friend’s suggestion that he ease up a bit, the prince is said to have replied, “Well, what would I do? Sit around and knit?”

But when he turned 90 in 2011, Philip told the BBC he was “winding down” his workload and he reckoned he had “done my bit.”

The next few years saw occasional hospital stays as Philip’s health flagged.

He announced in May 2017 that he planned to step back from royal duties, and he stopped scheduling new commitments — after roughly 22,000 royal engagements since his wife’s coronation. In 2019, he gave up his driver’s license after a serious car crash.

Philip is survived by the queen and their four children — Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — as well as eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The grandchildren are Charles’ sons, Prince William and Prince Harry; Anne’s children, Peter and Zara Phillips; Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Edward’s children, Lady Louise and Viscount Severn.

The great-grandchildren are William and Kate’s children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis; Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie; Savannah and Isla, the daughters of Peter Phillips and his wife, Autumn; Mia and Lena, the daughters of Zara Phillips and her husband, Mike Tindall; and Eugenie’s son, August, with her husband, Jack Brooksbank.


 

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The 15 jurors selected for the trial of Derek Chauvin

By The Associated Press

Troy Warren #local-all #breaking-all

MINNEAPOLIS — Fifteen jurors have been selected for the case against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death.

Twelve jurors and two alternates will actually hear the evidence, but a 15th person was chosen in case one of the other panelists is unable to serve when opening statements begin Monday. That 15th person will be dismissed at the start of trial if the rest of the jury remains intact.

The panel includes six men and nine women; nine of the jurors are white, four are Black, and two are multiracial, according to the court. They include a chemist, a nurse, a social worker and a grandmother.

Here is a closer look at the panel, in the order in which jurors were selected. They are identified by juror number only; the judge has ordered their names withheld until after the trial due to the high-profile nature of the case. Their races and approximate ages were provided by the court.

Juror No. 2

Juror No. 2 is a white man in his 20s who works as a chemist. With a combined degree in environmental studies and chemistry, he works in a lab where he tests samples for contaminants that may be harmful to the environment or worker hygiene. He said he enjoys outdoor activities, including Ultimate Frisbee, backpacking and biking. He and his fiancée visited George Floyd Square because Floyd’s arrest was such a “transformative event for that area.”

Juror No. 2 said he worked for seven or eight summers at a camp through his childhood synagogue. He considers himself to be a logical thinker, and is the only juror on the panel who said he has never seen bystander video of Floyd’s arrest.

Juror No. 9

Juror No. 9 is a multiracial woman in her 20s who has Type 1 diabetes. She grew up in northern Minnesota and has an uncle who is a police officer in that area. She described herself as a “go-with-the-flow, open-minded type of person” and said she was “super excited” to get her jury notice.

She said she has only watched the bystander video once, and it gave her a “somewhat negative” impression of Chauvin. She said “that video just makes you sad. Nobody wants to see somebody die, whether it was his fault or not.” She said there could be other possible explanations for Chauvin’s actions, suggesting that Floyd might have been resisting, or civilian lives may have been in danger.

Juror No. 19

Juror No. 19 is a white man in his 30s. He is an auditor who said he tries to resolve conflict and make decisions based on facts, not emotions. He has a friend who is a canine officer with the Minneapolis Police Department.

He said he supports Black Lives Matter as a general concept but disagrees with some of the ways group members go about things. He has an unfavorable opinion of Blue Lives Matter. He wrote in his questionnaire that he heard Floyd was on hard drugs, but said he doesn’t believe it should have much impact on the case. “Whether you are under the influence of drugs doesn’t determine whether you should be living or dead,” he said.

Juror No. 27

Juror No. 27 is a Black man in his 30s who immigrated to America more than 14 years ago. He went to school in Nebraska and moved to Minnesota in 2012. He manages eight people at his job in IT security, and speaks multiple languages including French. He and his wife have a dog, but no children. He is a big Minnesota Gophers fan and loves the Vikings.

He said he had a somewhat negative view of Chauvin, based on clips of bystander video he saw on TV. He said he talked with his wife about Floyd’s death: “We talked about how it could have been me, or anyone else,” he said. Juror No. 27 said he hopes to learn more about events that led up to Floyd’s arrest.

Juror No. 44

Juror No. 44 is a white woman in her 50s, a single mom of two teenage boys. She is an executive in the nonprofit sector, working in health care advocacy. She said she had prior professional dealings with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in her job, but said it would not affect her impartiality.

She said she was exposed to a lot of news about this case, adding that the media is biased and doesn’t have all the facts. She saw only part of the bystander video and said she has empathy for both Floyd and Chauvin. She said she had a somewhat negative view of Chauvin and a neutral opinion of Floyd, saying he was not a model citizen but didn’t “deserve to die.”

She said she strongly agrees that the criminal justice system is biased against racial and ethnic minorities. “Not all police are bad,” she said. “I don’t want them terrorized or disrespected. But bad police need to go.”

Juror No. 52

Juror No. 52 is a Black man in his 30s. He describes himself as a friendly, positive person. He works in banking and likes sports, especially basketball. He coaches youth sports and writes creatively for a hobby, including scripts and poetry.

He said he had neutral opinions on Chauvin and Floyd. He said he has not seen the bystander video in its entirety but has seen clips of it two or three times. He hasn’t posted about it on social media but has talked with family and friends and he wrote in his questionnaire that his opinion has been “why didn’t the other officers stop Chauvin.”

“I don’t know if he was doing something wrong or not, but somebody died … Even if you have no intention of doing something and something happens, somebody could’ve still intervened and prevented that,” he said. He has a very favorable view of Black Lives Matter, saying, “Black lives just want to be treated as equals and not killed or treated in an aggressive manner simply because they are Black.”

Juror No. 55

Juror No. 55 is a white woman in her 50s who is a single parent of two children. Her youngest is a teenager. She works as an executive assistant at a health care clinic and sells Pampered Chef. She enjoys riding motorcycles, saying she picked it up because her late husband was interested in it and she rides with him now “in the spirit.”

She said she was “disturbed” by the bystander video and “I just couldn’t watch it anymore.” She said she has a somewhat unfavorable view of Chauvin because she feels he could’ve handled the situation differently. Still, she said she wouldn’t be able to form an opinion until she has all of the facts. She has a basic trust in police officers, and a somewhat unfavorable view of Black Lives Matter, saying, “All lives matter to me. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they are.”

Juror No. 79

Juror No. 79 is a Black man in his 40s, a father who works in management and has lived in the Twin Cities area for about two decades after immigrating to America. He said he lives in a suburb and his home was burglarized once and police responded appropriately, even though the suspect was never caught.

He said he trusts police, but also feels it’s appropriate for jurors to evaluate an officer’s actions: “I would say it’s another pair of eyes and a new mind just looking at the action,” he said. He has a son about to take driver’s education. He said he would tell his son that when police stop him, he should cooperate. When asked if people who don’t cooperate have themselves to blame, he said “cooperation is good. … You help everybody.”

Juror No. 85

Juror No. 85 is a multiracial woman in her 40s, who is married and has a small child. She grew up in a river town and attended college in western Wisconsin. She is a consultant who helps companies with reorganizations and other transitions.

She said she has a neutral view of Floyd, writing in her questionnaire that she knew he died “as a result of this encounter” but did not know what his actions were before it happened. When pressed if she thought Chauvin was responsible, she said: “No, I never heard what a cause of death was.”

She said she has a pretty strong faith in police, but they are human and can make mistakes. She said she would generally agree that if someone does not cooperate, he or she might have themselves to blame. “You respect police and you do what they ask,” she said.

Juror No. 89

Juror No. 89 is a white woman in her 50s who lives in a suburb. She is a registered nurse currently working with patients on ventilators, including those with COVID-19, and has prior experience in cardiac care.

She was questioned extensively about her experience as a nurse, whether she has ever resuscitated anyone and how she would view medical evidence in the case. The woman said she would draw upon her knowledge to evaluate medical testimony, but said she’d refrain from using her knowledge in the jury room.

She said she somewhat disagrees that it’s not right to second-guess decisions officers make.

Juror No. 91

Juror No. 91 is a Black woman in her 60s. She is a grandmother of two who studied child psychology and worked in marketing before she retired, and she felt strongly that being on a jury was her civic duty. The woman, who volunteers with underserved youth, said she watched the bystander video of Floyd’s arrest for about four or five minutes, then shut it off because “it just wasn’t something that I needed to see.”

She grew up about 10 or 15 blocks from the site of Floyd’s arrest, but said she moved decades ago and has no reason to revisit the area. She had a very favorable view of Black Lives Matter, writing in her questionnaire “I am Black and my life matters,” though she said she is not familiar with the organization. She has a relative who is a police officer with Minneapolis.

Juror No. 92

Juror No. 92 is a white woman in her 40s who works in the commercial insurance business.

She said she has experience with someone who struggled with alcohol, and might view someone who uses drugs cautiously, out of fear they could act violently or aggressively when under the influence. Still, she said, she doesn’t agree that someone who uses drugs or doesn’t cooperate with police should be treated poorly. “If someone uses drugs, I don’t think there should be ramifications of violence for that,” she said.

Juror No. 96

Juror No. 96 is a white woman in her 50s, who had a job in customer service but is between jobs. She has done volunteer work with the homeless and wants to work on affordable housing issues. She said she has only seen clips of the video of Floyd’s arrest, and said she needs to learn more about what happened beforehand.

She said she has never personally seen police officers respond to Black people or minorities with more force than white people. She also said a person should have nothing to fear from police if they cooperate and comply with commands – though she stopped short of saying that means a person deserves to be harmed.

“If you’re not listening to what the commands are, obviously something else needs to happen to resolve the situation,” she said of officers’ actions. “I don’t know how far the steps need to go.”

Juror No. 118

Juror No. 118 is a white woman in her 20s, who was married in October and recently got a goldendoodle puppy. She has been a social worker for five years, and currently coordinates in-home services for people of all ages and mental health diagnoses to help them live independently.

She said she has had conversations with others about police reform and said she thinks “there are things that should be changed.” But she also described police and their jobs as important, and said she is “always looking at every side of things.”

Juror No. 131

Juror No 131, a white man in his 20s, is an accountant who is married and has a Bernese mountain dog puppy. He is a sports fan who enjoys March Madness and plays sports himself, including tennis. He said he approaches things with an analytical mind.

He said he initially formed a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin, saying the duration of his restraint on Floyd was longer than necessary. He said Floyd’s death sparked discussions about racism at work, and he decided to read a book about the subject.

He said he respects police and views Black Lives Matter somewhat favorably, but noted he believes some frustrations contributed to violent unrest in Minneapolis. He also said he understands that professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem are trying to start a dialogue on race, but “I would prefer if someone would express their beliefs in a different manner.”


 

 

 

 

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Judge reinstates murder charge against officer in George Floyd death

By ArLuther Lee, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for City News And Talk #local-all #breaking-all

A judge has reinstated a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the May 2020 custody death of George Floyd.

The decision by Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill was seen as a major victory for the prosecution after Chauvin’s lawyers failed to get an appellate court to block the grounds for it while ruling in a separate case.

On Wednesday, the state’s Supreme Court rejected Chauvin’s effort to block the charge.

Legal experts say the reinstatement of third-degree murder allows jurors one more option to convict the former officer.

Chauvin also faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the case where Floyd died May 25 after the officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The entire episode was captured on video shot by an eye-witness. Floyd, who was Black, pleaded with the white officer that he couldn’t breathe, but Chauvin kept his knee planted into the man’s neck even after he stopped moving and speaking.

The defense hasn’t said whether Chauvin will testify in his own defense.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired after Floyd’s death. The others face aiding and abetting charges and are set to go on trial in August.

Jury selection got underway this week in Chauvin’s trial, a process that resumes in court Thursday. Five jurors have already been seated after just two days of pre-trial screening.

Last October, Cahill threw out the third-degree murder charge, saying it was unwarranted given the circumstances of Floyd’s death, which sparked worldwide protests and a reckoning on systemic racism and police brutality in America.

The dispute over the third-degree murder charge in Chauvin’s case revolved around the conviction of another former Minneapolis police officer in the unrelated killing of an Australian woman. The appeals court affirmed Mohamed Noor’s third-degree murder conviction in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

The state argued that the Noor affirmation established precedent for the third-degree murder charge under the circumstances of Floyd’s death. If the Minnesota Supreme Court had taken up Chauvin’s appeal, it might have meant months of delay in his trial. After their ruling, the Court of Appeals rejected as moot the state’s request to pause the trial pending the appeal.

 

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By slimmest of margins, Senate takes up $1.9 trillion relief bill

By The Associated Press

Troy Warren for Hometown Hall #local-all #breaking-all

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted by the slimmest of margins Thursday to begin debating a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, after Democrats made 11th-hour changes aimed at ensuring they could pull President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority through the precariously divided chamber.

Democrats were hoping for Senate approval of the package before next week, in time for the House to sign off and get the measure to Biden quickly. They were encountering opposition from Republicansarguing that the measure’s massive price tag ignored promising signs that the pandemic and wounded economy were turning around.

Democratic leaders made more than a dozen late additions to their package, reflecting their need to cement unanimous support from all their senators — plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote — to succeed in the 50-50 chamber. It’s widely expected the Senate will approve the bill and the House will whisk it to Biden for his signature by mid-March, handing him a crucial early legislative victory.

The Senate’s 51-50 vote to start debating the package, with Harris pushing Democrats over the top, underscored how they were navigating the package through Congress with virtually no margin for error. In the House, their majority is 10 votes.

The bill, aimed at battling the killer virus and nursing the staggered economy back to health, will provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. There’s also money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry, tax breaks for lower-earners and families with children, and subsidies for health insurance.

“We are not going to be timid in the face of a great challenge,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

The new provisions offered items appealing to all manner of Democrats. Progressives got money boosting feeding programs, federal subsidies for health care for workers who lose jobs, tax-free student loans, and money for public broadcasting and consumer protection investigations.

Moderates won funds for rural health care, language assuring minimum amounts of money for smaller states and a prohibition on states receiving aid using the windfalls to cut taxes. And for everyone, there was money for infrastructure, cultural venues, start-up companies and afterschool programs.

Even with the late revisions, there was a good chance lawmakers will make yet another one and vote to pare back the bill’s $400 weekly emergency unemployment benefits to $300.

That potential change could also extend those emergency payments another month, through September. It was described by aides and a lobbyist who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.

Biden and Senate leaders had agreed Wednesday to retain the $400 weekly jobless payments included in the version of the relief bill the House approved Saturday. The reduction to $300 — which seemed likely to occur once the Senate begins a “vote-a-rama” on scores of amendments later this week — seemed to reflect a need to secure support from moderate Democrats.

It also left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, the task of keeping her chamber’s numerous progressives on board. Liberals already suffered a blow when their No. 1 priority — a federal minimum wage increase to $15 hourly that was included in the House package — was booted from the bill in the Senate for violating the chamber’s rules and for lack of moderates’ support.

In another bargain that satisfied moderates, Biden and Senate Democrats agreed Wednesday to tighten eligibility for the direct checks to individuals. The new provision completely phases out the $1,400 payments for individuals earning at least $80,000 and couples making $160,000, well lower than the original ceilings.

“My hope is they don’t screw around with it too much,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, said of the Senate in an interview. “If they do, there could be some problems.”

Congress wants to send the bill to Biden before March 14, when a previous round of emergency benefits for people tossed out of work by the pandemic expires.

As soon as the Senate began considering the bill, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, forced the chamber’s clerks to begin reading the entire 628-page measure aloud. He said earlier that he was doing it to “shine the light on this abusive and obscene amount of money.”

Schumer said Johnson would “accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks.”

Asked about GOP delays, Biden told reporters he’s talked to Republican lawmakers and added, “We’re keeping everybody informed.” Biden met last month with Republican senators who offered a plan one-third the size of Democrats’ proposal, and there have been no signs since of serious talks.


 

 

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Capitol Police increase security amid rumor of Trump’s March 4 return to power

By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for Hometown Hall #local-all #breaking-all

 

U.S. Capitol Police are increasing security this week ahead of a QAnon rumor that Donald Trump will return to power on March 4, the original inauguration day for presidents prior to 1933.

On Wednesday, the department said it has “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol” on Thursday.

“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical infrastructure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers.”

The acting sergeant at arms for the House of Representatives, Timothy Blodgett, told members of Congress Tuesday of the increased security measures.

The moves come as testimony continues from local and national law enforcement officials on security lapses on Jan. 6, when hundreds of Trump supporters rioted inside the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to seek shelter as they were trying to certify November’s presidential election results.

“The most prominent and most vocal QAnon promoters are not on board with the March 4 date,” said Travis View, a QAnon researcher and host of the “QAnon Anonymous” podcast. “Setting up big for big events and flagging that something big is going to happen, and then nothing happens, is a years-long QAnon tradition.”

Passed by Congress on March 2, 1932, and ratified on Jan. 23, 1933, the 20th Amendment was designed to remove the long period of time a defeated president or member of Congress would continue to serve after his or her failed bid for reelection.

On Wednesday, senators were ready to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations as supporters of then-President Trump talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington and interrupting the electoral count.

At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed each other as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting.

So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress.

The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated.

Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators presiding over Wednesday’s hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters.

The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump’s supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes.

Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat.

As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops.

“While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same.”

Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol.

Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defense Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations.

ExploreUS Capitol riots investigation

Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated through the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies.

Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.”

“We did communicate that information in a timely fashion to the Capitol Police and (Metropolitan Police Department) in not one, not two, but three different ways,” Wray said, though he added that since the violence that ensued was “not an acceptable result,” the FBI was looking into what it could have done differently.