AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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

House moves toward OK of Dems' sweeping social, climate bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided House moved toward passage Thursday of Democrats' expansive social and environment bill as new cost estimates from Congress' top fiscal analyst suggested that moderate lawmakers' spending and deficit worries would be calmed, moving President Joe Biden closer to a badly needed victory.

Final debate on the long-delayed legislation came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would worsen federal deficits by $160 billion over the coming decade. It also recalculated the measure’s 10-year price tag at $1.68 trillion, though that figure wasn’t directly comparable to a $1.85 trillion figure Democrats have been using.

House approval would ship the legislation to the Senate and end — though just for now — months of battling between Democrats' progressives and moderates over its costs and policies. While significant Senate changes are likely due to cost-cutting demands by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., House passage would edge Biden closer to winning more of his domestic priorities at a time when his public approval is faltering badly.

The 2,100-page bill's initiatives include bolstering child care assistance, creating free preschool, curbing seniors’ prescription drug costs and beefing up efforts to slow climate change.

“Too many Americans are just barely getting by in our economy,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “And we simply can’t go back to the way things were before the pandemic.”

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'Fundamental justice:' Judge clears 2 in Malcolm X slaying

NEW YORK (AP) — More than half a century after the assassination of Malcolm X, two of his convicted killers were exonerated Thursday after decades of doubt about who was responsible for the civil rights icon’s death.

Manhattan judge Ellen Biben dismissed the convictions of Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam, after prosecutors and the men’s lawyers said a renewed investigation found new evidence that undermined the case against the men and determined that authorities withheld some of what they knew.

“The event that has brought us to court today should never have occurred,” Aziz told the court. “I am an 83-year-old man who was victimized by the criminal justice system."

It pained Islam's sons, Ameen Johnson and Shahid Johnson, that their parents died before seeing the conviction reversed. Still, Ameen Johnson said his father would have been ecstatic to clear his name.

“His reputation meant a lot to him," the son said, and now “we don’t have to watch over our backs, worrying about any repercussions from anybody who thought that he might have been the one that killed Malcolm X.”

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Defense attorneys rest their cases at Arbery death trial

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Defense attorneys rested their case in the Ahmaud Arbery trial Thursday after calling just seven witnesses, including the shooter, who testified that Arbery did not threaten him in any way before he pointed his shotgun at the 25-year-old Black man.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley scheduled closing arguments in the trial for Monday, setting up the possibility of verdicts before Thanksgiving for the three white men charged with murder in Arbery's death.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution on his second day of testimony, Travis McMichael said that Arbery hadn't shown a weapon or spoken to him at all before McMichael raised his shotgun. But, McMichael said, he was “under the impression” that Arbery could be a threat because he was running straight at him and he had seen Arbery trying to get into the truck of a neighbor who had joined in a pursuit of Arbery in their coastal Georgia neighborhood.

“All he’s done is run away from you,” prosecutor Linda Dunikoski said. “And you pulled out a shotgun and pointed it at him.”

Cellphone video from the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting — replayed in court Thursday — shows Arbery running around the back of McMichael's pickup truck after McMichael first points the shotgun while standing next to the open driver's side door. Arbery then runs around the passenger side as McMichael moves to the front and the two come face to face. After that, the truck blocks any view of them until the first gunshot sounds.

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Oklahoma governor grants clemency, spares Julius Jones' life

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's governor spared the life of Julius Jones on Thursday, just hours before his scheduled execution that had drawn widespread outcry and protests over doubts about his guilt in the slaying of a businessman more than 20 years ago.

Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted the 41-year-old Jones’ death sentence to life imprisonment. He had been scheduled for execution at 4 p.m.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a news release.

A crowd of Jones' supporters at the Oklahoma Capitol broke out into loud applause and cheers when the decision was announced shortly after noon Thursday, and more than 100 supporters who had gathered outside the prison in McAlester erupted in cheers.

“Today is a day of celebration. It’s a day to recognize all the people who have come together to be able to fight for Julius,” said Rev. Keith Jossell, Jones' spiritual adviser.

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Virus surge worsens in Midwest as states expand boosters

A surge in cases in the Upper Midwest has some Michigan schools keeping students at home ahead of Thanksgiving and the military sending medical teams to Minnesota to relieve hospital staffs overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

The worsening outlook in the Midwest comes as booster shots are being made available to everyone in a growing number of locations. Massachusetts and Utah became the latest to say anyone 18 or older can roll up a sleeve for a booster shots, and an advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Friday to discuss expanding boosters.

Cold weather states are dominating the fresh wave of cases over the last seven days, including New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin, according to federal data. But the Southwest had trouble spots, too, with more than 90% of inpatient hospital beds occupied in Arizona.

In Detroit, where only 35% of eligible residents were fully vaccinated, the school district said it would switch to online learning on Fridays in December because of rising COVID-19 cases, a need to clean buildings and a timeout for "mental health relief.” One high school has changed to all online learning until Nov. 29.

At another high school, some students and teachers briefly walked out Wednesday, saying classes still were too large for a pandemic and the school needed a scrubbing.

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The AP Interview: Meng Hongwei's wife slams 'monster' China

LYON, France (AP) — In China, she enjoyed the privileges that flowed from being married to a senior member of the governing elite. Her husband was a top police official in the security apparatus that keeps the Communist Party in power, so trusted that China sent him to France to take up a prestigious role at Interpol.

But Meng Hongwei, the former Interpol president, has now vanished into China's sprawling penal system, purged in a stunning fall from grace. And his wife is alone with their twin boys in France, a political refugee under round-the-clock French police protection following what she suspects was an attempt by Chinese agents to kidnap and deliver them to an uncertain fate.

From being an insider, Grace Meng has become an outsider looking in — and says she is horrified by what she sees.

So much so that she is now shedding her anonymity, potentially putting herself and her family at additional risk, to speak out against China's authoritarian government that her husband — a vice minister of public security — served before disappearing in 2018. He was later tried and imprisoned.

“The monster” is how Grace Meng now speaks of the government her husband worked for. "Because they eat their children.”

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Brazil's Amazon deforestation surges to worst in 15 years

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The area deforested in Brazil's Amazon reached a 15-year high after a 22% jump from the prior year, according to official data published Thursday.

The National Institute for Space Research’s Prodes monitoring system showed the Brazilian Amazon lost 13,235 square kilometers of rainforest in the 12-month reference period from Aug. 2020 to July 2021. That's the most since 2006.

The 15-year high flies in the face of Bolsonaro government’s recent attempts to shore up its environmental credibility, having made overtures to the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and moved forward its commitment to end illegal deforestation at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow this month. The space agency's report, released Thursday, is dated Oct. 27 — before talks in Glasgow began.

The Brazilian Amazon hadn’t recorded a single year with more than 10,000 square kilometers of deforestation in over a decade before Jair Bolsonaro’s term started. in Jan. 2019. Between 2009 and 2018, the average was 6,500 square kilometers. Since then, the annual average leapt to 11,405 square kilometers, and the three-year total is an area bigger than the state of Maryland.

“It is a shame. It is a crime,” Márcio Astrini, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental nonprofit groups, told The Associated Press. "We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy."

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Biden praises Canada, Mexico as leaders discuss strains

WASHINGTON (AP) — Reviving three-way North American summitry after a five-year break, President Joe Biden on Thursday joined with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to declare their nations can work together and prove “democracies can deliver” even as they sort out differences on key issues.

But as Biden, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, spoke of their mutual respect, the three leaders also found themselves dealing with fresh strains on trade, immigration, climate change and other matters.

“We can meet all the challenges if we just take the time to speak to one another, by working together,” said Biden, who hosted the North American neighbors for what had been a near-annual tradition in the decade before President Donald Trump came to office.

It was a day of full-on diplomacy that required careful choreography as Trudeau and Lopez Obrador each met separately with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris before gathering for a three-way conversation in the East Room that featured a language mix of English, French and Spanish.

The leaders issued a post-summit statement saying they had agreed to collaborate on addressing migration, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic — without specifying how they would resolve their differences.

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Rittenhouse jury deliberates for third day without a verdict

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — The jury at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial deliberated for a third full day without reaching a verdict Thursday, while the judge banned MSNBC from the courthouse after a freelancer for the network was accused of following the jurors in their bus.

The jury members will return on Friday morning to resume their work. Unlike on previous days, they had no questions and no requests to review any evidence Thursday in the politically and racially fraught case.

Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial for killing two men and wounding a third with a rifle during a turbulent night of protests that erupted in Kenosha in the summer of 2020 after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by a white police officer.

Even as the jury weighed the evidence, two mistrial requests from the defense hung over the case, with the potential to upend the verdict if the panel were to convict Rittenhouse. One of those requests asks the judge to go even further and bar prosecutors from retrying him.

Also Thursday, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder banned MSNBC after police said they briefly detained a man who had followed the jury bus and may have tried to photograph jurors.

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Slain rapper Young Dolph left a lasting legacy in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two days before he was gunned down while buying cookies at his favorite bakery in Memphis, Tennessee, rapper Young Dolph visited a cancer center where a relative had received treatment.

The 36-year-old who grew up on the Memphis streets was in town to hand out turkeys at a church and other locations ahead of Thanksgiving. He stopped by West Cancer Center in the Memphis suburb of Germantown on Monday, spending time with clinical staff and thanking them for compassionate care given to a relative, the center said in a statement.

Return trips like this one had become common in his life, which ended Wednesday when he was shot multiple times inside Makeda’s Cookies, a popular bakery owned by a Black family and known for tasty butter cookies and banana pudding. The gritty southern city where Young Dolph grew up helped him forge the material that fueled his influential career in the hip-hop world — and was ultimately where his life was taken from him.

“Our associates were deeply touched by his sincerity and effort to extend such gratitude,” the cancer center's statement said. “During his visit, Dolph explained that he would soon venture to donate turkeys to the Memphis community at a variety of community centers across the city before Thanksgiving — which is yet another testament to his gracious heart.”

Police continued to search for suspects in the killing, which shook Memphis and shocked the entertainment world as another senseless act of gun violence against an African American man. Police on Thursday released photos taken from surveillance video that shows two men exiting a white Mercedes-Benz and shooting Young Dolph before fleeing.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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