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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

June 09, 2020 - 8:05 PM

`He is going to change the world': Funeral held for Floyd

HOUSTON (AP) — George Floyd was fondly remembered Tuesday as “Big Floyd” — a father and brother, athlete and neighbourhood mentor, and now a catalyst for change — at a funeral for the black man whose death has sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.

More than 500 mourners wearing masks against the coronavirus packed a Houston church a little more than two weeks after Floyd was pinned to the pavement by a white Minneapolis police officer who put a knee on his neck for what prosecutors said was 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Cellphone video of the encounter, including Floyd's pleas of “I can't breathe,” ignited protests and scattered violence across the U.S. and around the world, turning the 46-year-old Floyd — a man who in life was little known beyond the public housing project where he was raised in Houston’s Third Ward — into a worldwide symbol of injustice.

“Third Ward, Cuney Homes, that's where he was born at," Floyd's brother, Rodney, told mourners at the Fountain of Praise church. “But everybody is going to remember him around the world. He is going to change the world.”

The funeral capped six days of mourning for Floyd in three cities: Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born; Houston, where he grew up; and Minneapolis, where he died. The memorials have drawn the families of other black victims whose names have become familiar in the debate over race and justice — among them, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

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Heat, rain, long lines: Georgia election plagued by problems

ATLANTA (AP) — Voters endured heat, pouring rain and waits as long as five hours on Tuesday to cast ballots in Georgia, demonstrating a fierce desire to participate in the democratic process while raising questions about the emerging battleground state's ability to manage elections in November when the White House is at stake.

“It’s really disheartening to see a line like this in an area with predominantly black residents,” said Benaiah Shaw, a 25-year-old African American, as he cast a ballot in Atlanta.

A confluence of events disrupted primary elections for president, U.S. Senate and dozens of other contests. There were problems with Georgia’s new voting machines, which combine touchscreens with scanned paper ballots. The polls were staffed by fewer workers because of coronavirus concerns. A reduced workforce contributed to officials consolidating polling places, which disproportionately affected neighbourhoods with high concentrations of people of colour. Long lines were also reported in whiter suburban areas.

Some voters said they requested mail-in ballots that never arrived, forcing them to go to polling places and adding to the lines. Turnout, meanwhile, may be higher than expected as voters said they were determined to exercise their constitutional right after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing demonstrations that swept cities including Atlanta.

“Too many people died for me to have this opportunity,” said Stephanie Bush, a 49-year-old black independent voter in Atlanta. “So for me not to stick it out would be a dishonour to them.”

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Video evidence increasingly disproves police narratives

Minneapolis police initially told the public that George Floyd died after a “medical incident during a police interaction.” The Buffalo, New York, department said a protester “tripped and fell." Philadelphia police alleged that a college student who suffered a serious head wound had assaulted an officer.

All three claims were quickly disproved by videos seen widely on the internet and television, fueling mistrust and embarrassing agencies that made misleading or incomplete statements that painted their actions in a far more favourable light.

Police departments deny lying but acknowledge sometimes making mistakes when releasing information in fast-moving, complicated situations. The videos, they say, do not always capture officers' perspectives.

Defence lawyers say the inaccurate statements are encouraged by a culture of silence in which officers protect misbehaving colleagues, a court system that rarely holds officers accountable and a public that has given police the benefit of the doubt.

Floyd died after a white officer put his knee on his neck, even after Floyd stopped moving. Cellphone video showed him pleading for air as other officers stood by and bystanders urged the police to help him.

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Human remains found at property of man tied to missing kids

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Authorities said they uncovered human remains at an Idaho man’s home Tuesday as they investigated the disappearance of his new wife's two children — a case that's drawn global attention for its ties to two other mysterious deaths and the couple's doomsday beliefs.

Chad Daybell, who married the children’s mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, was arrested on suspicion of concealing or destroying evidence after local and federal investigators searched his property, according to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office. He has not yet been formally charged, and his attorney, Mark Means, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joshua “JJ” Vallow, who was 7 when he vanished, and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan haven’t been seen since September, and police say Chad and Lori Daybell lied to investigators about the children's whereabouts before quietly leaving Idaho. They were found in Hawaii months later. Besides the missing children, the couple has been under scrutiny following the deaths of both of their former spouses.

Police from the small town of Rexburg, the FBI and sheriff's investigators searched Chad Daybell’s home in the eastern Idaho town of Salem for the second time, bringing in backhoes and setting up tents in a nearby field. The search warrant is sealed, and Rexburg Assistant Police Chief Gary Hagan said he couldn't reveal details other than the search is linked to the children's disappearance.

“Throughout the investigation, detectives and investigators have recovered what’s believed to be human remains that have not been identified at this time,” Hagan said in a news conference.

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Officials back off removing temporary fencing at White House

The Trump administration appears to be retreating from its commitment to quickly remove most of a new fence blocking demonstrators and other members of the public from in front of the White House.

Instead, National Park Service spokeswoman Katie Liming says only that her agency is in “continuing discussions” with the Secret Service about what Liming called the temporary security fencing at the front of the White House.

Officials abruptly erected the high, black metal fence last week to block demonstrators from Lafayette Square outside the White House. That was as massive crowds rallied in Washington and around the country to protest the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and other deaths of African Americans at the hands of police.

Members of the park service's U.S. Park Police and other security forces lobbed chemical agents and punched and clubbed demonstrators and journalists in clearing Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1, just before crews raised the new fence. Trump administration officials have denied federal forces at the time of the forceful removal of crowds were making way for President Donald Trump to stage photos nearby.

Lafayette Square has historically been one of the country's most prominent spots for demonstrations and other public advocacy,

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New York passes bill to unveil police discipline records

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state lawmakers repealed a decades-old law Tuesday that has kept law enforcement officers’ disciplinary records secret, spurred by the national uproar over the death of George Floyd.

The measure to make officers’ records and misconduct complaints public is among several police accountability bills racing through the state legislature. Lawmakers passed other bills that would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.

Many of those bills were first proposed years ago, but got new momentum after huge protests nationwide condemned police brutality.

The passage came as criminal charges were brought Tuesday against an NYPD officer over his rough treatment of a protester during demonstrations following the death of Floyd, who pleaded he couldn’t breathe as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25.

Eliminating the law, known as Section 50-a, would make complaints against officers, as well as transcripts and final dispositions of disciplinary proceedings, public for the first time in decades.

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Movie theatres, shuttered for months, plan July reopening

NEW YORK (AP) — After three months of near total blackout of cinemas nationwide, movie theatres are preparing to reopen — even if it means only a few titles on the marquee and showings limited to as little as 25% capacity.

AMC Theaters, the world's largest theatre operator, said Tuesday that it expects to have 97-98% of its theatres worldwide reopened by mid-July. The National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group that represents exhibitors, expects some 90-95% of cinemas around the world will be opened by mid-July.

A lot is still “fluid,” as AMC Entertainment’s chief executive, Adam Aron, said in a call Tuesday with investors. But provided flare ups of the coronavirus don’t unmake plans, the industry is gearing up for a dramatic resumption of widespread business just in time for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” The Warner Bros. thriller, the latest from arguably Hollywood’s most passionate defender of the big-screen experience, is slated for release July 17.

Warner Bros. didn’t comment late Tuesday, and the most recent trailer for “Tenet” was notably vague on its release date. But theatre owners are cautiously optimistic that “Tenet” will hold where it is. Aron said that AMC’s conversations as recent as Monday with Warner Bros. and Disney, which has “Mulan” slated for July 24, have been reassuring.

The larger question might be whether moviegoers feel safe returning to theatres. Health officials have warned that large indoor gatherings are risky. Broadway theatres will remain dark through at least early September. It will be up to movie theatre operators to convince moviegoers that it’s safe to once again sit in the dark among strangers.

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Confusion reigns as UN scrambles mask, virus spread advice

LONDON (AP) — It's an issue that's been argued about for months, both by experts and by people strolling through parks all over the world: Can people who don't feel sick spread the coronavirus, and if so should we all be wearing masks to stop it?

Even the World Health Organization can't seem to get it straight. On Tuesday the U.N. health agency scrambled to explain seemingly contradictory comments it has made in recent days about the two related issues.

The confusion and mixed messages only makes controlling the pandemic that much more difficult, experts say.

“If you are giving them confusing messages or they’re not convinced about why they should do something, like wear masks, they will just ignore you,” said Ivo Vlaev, a professor of behavioural sciences at the University of Warwick.

The communications debacle highlighted WHO’s change to its longstanding mask advice — a revision that was made months after many other organizations and countries already recommended people don masks.

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IBM quits facial recognition, joins call for police reforms

IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business, saying it's concerned about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

Ongoing protests responding to the death of George Floyd have sparked a broader reckoning over racial injustice and a closer look at the use of police technology to track demonstrators and monitor American neighbourhoods.

IBM is one of several big tech firms that had earlier sought to improve the accuracy of their face-scanning software after research found racial and gender disparities. But its new CEO is now questioning whether it should be used by police at all.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” wrote CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter sent Monday to U.S. lawmakers.

IBM's decision to stop building and selling facial recognition software is unlikely to affect its bottom line, since the tech giant is increasingly focused on cloud computing while an array of lesser-known firms have cornered the market for government facial recognition contracts.

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4 'Vanderpump' regulars ousted over slurs, racial profiling

NEW YORK (AP) — Four cast members are not returning for another season of Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” — two over their racist social media posts, and the others after they racially profiled a coworker.

Bravo released a statement Tuesday confirming that Stassi Schroeder, Kristen Doute, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni would not return to the reality series, which will air its final episode of season eight next week.

The show follows the personal lives of current and former employees of former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump’s Los Angeles restaurants.

It was revealed last week on a podcast that Schroeder and Doute had reported a former African American coworker, Faith Stowers, for a crime she had nothing to do with. Stowers appeared on two seasons of “Vanderpump.”

Boyens and Caprioni were let go over past tweets that contained racial slurs.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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