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

June 08, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Democrats propose sweeping police overhaul; Trump criticizes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in Congress proposed a far-reaching overhaul of police procedures and accountability Monday, a sweeping legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans in the hands of law enforcement.

The political outlook is deeply uncertain for the legislation in a polarized election year. President Donald Trump is staking out a tough "law and order” approach in the face of the outpouring of demonstrations and demands to re-imagine policing in America.

“We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing on the nation’s history of slavery.

Before unveiling the package, House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol's Emancipation Hall, reading the names of George Floyd and many others killed during police interactions. They knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — now a symbol of police brutality and violence — the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned under a white police officer’s knee before he died.

Trump, who met with law enforcement officials at the White House, characterized Democrats as having “gone CRAZY!”

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A US recession began in February in the face of coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy entered a recession in February as the coronavirus struck the nation, a group of economists declared Monday, ending the longest expansion on record.

The economists said that employment, income and spending peaked in February and then fell sharply afterward as the viral outbreak shut down businesses across the country, marking the start of the downturn after nearly 11 full years of economic growth.

A committee within the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private non-profit group, determines when recessions begin and end. It broadly defines a recession as “a decline in economic activity that lasts more than a few months.”

For that reason, the NBER typically waits longer before making a determination that the economy is in a downturn. In the previous recession, the committee did not declare that the economy was in recession until December 2008, a year after it had actually begun. But in this case, the NBER said the collapse in employment and incomes was so steep that it could much more quickly make a determination.

“The unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warrants the designation of this episode as a recession, even if it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions,” the NBER panel said.

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Officer charged in Floyd's death held on $1 million bail

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge on Monday kept bail at $1 million for a former Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder in George Floyd's death.

Derek Chauvin, 44, said little during an 11-minute hearing in which he appeared before Hennepin County Judge Jeannice M. Reding on closed-circuit television from the state's maximum security prison in Oak Park Heights. He wore a mask and handcuffs as he sat at a table, where he answered yes or no to routine housekeeping questions and confirmed the the spelling of his name and address. He did not enter a plea; a step that usually comes later in Minnesota courts.

A judge raised Chauvin’s bail from $500,000 to $1 million when a second-degree murder charge was added on Wednesday. Monday’s hearing was a chance for arguments over the higher bail. Prosecutor Matthew Frank argued for keeping the higher bail, saying the seriousness of the charges and the “strong reaction in the community, to put it mildly,” made Chauvin a flight risk. The judge agreed with the state's request for $1.25 million unconditional bail, or $1 million with standard conditions including surrendering firearms, remaining law-abiding and making all future court appearances.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, did not contest the bail amount and didn't address the substance of the charges, which also include third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Nelson did not speak with reporters afterward. He has not commented on the case publicly since Chauvin's May 29 arrest.

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N. Korea says it will cut communication channels with South

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said it will cut off all communication channels with South Korea at noon Tuesday as it escalates its pressure on the South for failing to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across their tense border.

South Korea's liberal government, which espouses greater ties with North Korea, repeated that it will work toward restoring peace on the Korean Peninsula in its response to the warning.

Relations between the Koreas have been strained during a prolonged deadlock in broader nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington. Some experts say North Korea may be deliberately creating tensions to bolster internal unity or launch a bigger provocation in the face of persistent U.S.-led sanctions.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency said all cross-border communication lines will be cut off in “the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.”

It said the decision was made by Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Chol, a former hard-line military intelligence chief who Seoul believes was behind two 2010 attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.

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Thousands mourn George Floyd in Texas amid calls for reform

HOUSTON (AP) — The last chance for the public to say goodbye to George Floyd drew thousands of mourners Monday to a church in Houston where he grew up, as his death two weeks ago continues to stoke protests in America and beyond over racial injustice, and spurred France to abruptly halt the use of police choke holds.

Reflecting the weight of the moment, the service drew the families of black victims in other high-profile killings whose names have become seared in America’s conversation over race — among them Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin.

“It just hurts,” said Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, sobbing as he ticked off some of their names outside The Fountain of Praise church. “We will get justice. We will get it. We will not let this door close.”

Under a blazing Texas sun, mourners wearing T-shirts with Floyd’s picture or the words “I Can’t Breathe” — the phrase he said repeatedly while pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer — waited for hours to pay their respects as Floyd’s body, dressed in a brown suit, lay in an open gold-colored casket. Some sang “Lean on Me” and Houston’s police chief bumped fists and embraced others in line. Funeral home spokeswoman La’Torria Lemon said at least 6,000 attended the service.

Some knew Floyd in the nearby housing projects where he grew up. Others travelled hours or drove in from other states. Those who couldn’t make it whipped up their own tributes: In Los Angeles, a funeral-style procession of cars inched through downtown as the viewing began in Houston. In Tennessee, residents of Memphis held a moment of silence.

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Cristobal to merge with new storm system after lashing South

Tropical Storm Cristobal could soon renew its strength by uniting with another storm system coming from the west to form one giant cyclone, forecasters say.

After drenching much of the South, forecasters now expect the remnants of Cristobal to bring fierce winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms to much of the Midwest by Tuesday.

A very strong storm system sweeping out from the Rocky Mountains is expected to meld with Cristobal in the next couple of days, said Greg Carbin, who oversees forecasts at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“The two will eventually merge into a large cyclone," Carbin said. “It’s a pretty fascinating interaction we'll see over the next couple of days."

Wind gusts of up to 45 mph (72 kph) are expected in Chicago by Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said. Boaters were being warned of gale-force winds on nearby Lake Michigan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Behind virus and protests: A chronic US economic racial gap

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has been here before, staring into the deep chasm that divides white and black Americans.

It happened after cities burned in 1967, after Los Angeles erupted with the 1992 acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King, after the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

After those upheavals came talk of change — of reforming policing, yes, but also of expanding economic opportunity to black Americans who have been disproportionately left behind in one of the world’s richest countries. Yet despite big pledges and high hopes, economic progress has come slowly, if at all, for black America.

African Americans still earn barely 60 cents for every $1 in white income. They have 10 cents in wealth for every $1 whites own. They remain more than twice as likely to live in poverty. And they're about as likely to own a home as they were when Richard Nixon was president.

Now, demonstrators are out in the streets again, this time to protest what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd, dead after a police officer pressed a knee into his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

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Bonnie Pointer, early member of Pointer Sisters, dies at 69

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bonnie Pointer, who in 1969 convinced three of her church-singing siblings to form the Pointer Sisters, which would become one of the biggest acts of the next two decades, died Monday.

The Grammy winner died of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, publicist Roger Neal said. She was 69.

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of the Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning,” sister Anita Pointer said in a statement. “Our family is devastated, on behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.”

Bonnie Pointer often sang lead and was an essential member of the group through its early hits including “Yes We Can Can” and “Fairytale.” She would leave for a short and modest solo career in 1977 as her sisters went on to have several mega-hits without her.

Ruth, Anita, Bonnie and June, born the daughters of a minister who also had two older sons, grew up singing in his church in Oakland, California.

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MLB offers 76-game season, playoffs rise up to 16 teams

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball has made another try to start the coronavirus-delayed season in early July, proposing a 76-game regular season, expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to as many as 16 and allowing players to earn about 75% of their prorated salaries.

Players have refused cuts beyond what they agreed to in March shortly after the pandemic began, part of baseball's again acrimonious labour relations. The arduous negotiations have jeopardized plans to hold opening day around the Fourth of July in empty ballparks and provide entertainment to a public still emerging from months of quarantine.

MLB’s latest proposal would guarantee 50% of players’ prorated salaries over the regular season, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

The proposal would eliminate all free-agent compensation for the first time since the free-agent era started in 1976. It also would forgive 20% of the $170 million in salaries already advanced to players during April and May.

“If the players desire to accept this proposal, we need to reach an agreement by Wednesday,” Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union negotiator Bruce Meyer that was obtained by The Associated Press. “While we understand that it is a relatively short time frame, we cannot waste any additional days if we are to have sufficient time for players to travel to spring training, conduct COVID-19 testing and education, conduct a spring training of an appropriate length, and schedule a 76-game season that ends no later than Sept. 27.”

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AP PHOTOS: Huge crowds worldwide in name of racial justice

All weekend, the crowds did not let up.

From New York to Paris to Sydney, thousands upon thousands of mostly peaceful protesters demanding an end to institutional racism took over plazas, avenues and squares around the world.

In Australia, crowds of demonstrators in state capitals honoured the memory of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who was killed two weeks ago by a white police officer, and protested the deaths of indigenous Australians in custody.

In the southern French city of Marseille, protesters held up signs that read, “kill, it is being filmed," in a reference to Floyd's last moments, which were caught on video, and “I'm not black but will fight for you."

And so in Rome, London, Barcelona, Berlin.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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