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

June 15, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers protected by law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment, a resounding victory for LGBT rights from a conservative court.

The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The decision was a defeat not just for the employers, but also the Trump administration, which argued that the law’s plain wording compelled a ruling for the employers. Gorsuch, a conservative appointee of President Donald Trump, concluded the opposite, and Trump said Monday he accepted the court's “very powerful decision.”

Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberal members. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s other Supreme Court pick, dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

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'When does it stop?' Slain man's family makes tearful plea

ATLANTA (AP) — Pleading through tears Monday, the family of a black man killed by Atlanta police outside a drive-thru demanded changes in the criminal justice system and called on protesters to refrain from violence amid heightened tensions across the U.S. three weeks after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

An autopsy found that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back late Friday by a white officer who was trying to arrest him at a fast food restaurant for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car. Brooks tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a stun gun from one of them.

"Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” said Chassidy Evans, Brooks’ niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Monday that she was ordering changes to police use-of-force policies, including requiring that officers receive continuous training in how to deescalate situations and use those techniques before taking action that could be fatal. She said she also was requiring officers to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force.

The mayor said that after Brooks’ shooting, it was clear Atlanta did not have “another day, another minute, another hour to waste” in changing police practices.

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Could this latest police shooting have been prevented?

It started off as routine: a man asleep in his car in a fast-food drive-thru. But it rapidly spun out of control when Atlanta police tried to handcuff and arrest Rayshard Brooks for being intoxicated.

Video of the scene from late Friday shows the 27-year-old black man wrestling with two white officers, taking a Taser from one of them, running a short distance through the Wendy's parking lot, and then pointing the stun gun toward one. That officer shot him twice in the back, killing him.

How did it all go so wrong so fast? And what, if anything, could officers have done to defuse the situation?

Law enforcement experts say the answers to those questions are complicated and not as clear-cut as in the recent death of George Floyd, the black man who was pronounced dead after a Minneapolis officer put his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Among the questions being asked: Instead of arresting Brooks, couldn't officers have just taken away his keys and let him walk home or get a lift from someone? Could the officers have said or done something else to help keep him calm and safely place him under arrest?

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Fed moves to ensure companies can tap bond market for funds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve said Monday that it will begin purchasing corporate bonds as part of a previously announced plan to ensure companies can borrow through the bond market during the pandemic.

The program will purchase existing bonds on the open market, as opposed to newly issued debt. The central bank said will seek to build a “broad and diversified” portfolio that will mimic a bond-market index. The bonds will have to be from highly rated, investment-grade companies, or ones that fit that description before the viral outbreak struck.

The announcement boosted the stock market, which was already rebounding from early losses. The S&P 500 index rose 0.8% Monday.

The Fed's purchases should hold down corporate bond yields, making it cheaper for companies to borrow. But by also lowering the return from investing in those bonds, the Fed's actions will likely encourage investors to shift money from corporate bonds to stocks in hopes of achieving a higher return.

When the Fed announced its bond-purchase program in March, few companies were able to issue bonds. Banks and other large investors were dumping assets in favour of cash. New research has found that simply by announcing the program, the Fed was able to encourage more bond trading and improve the market's efficiency.

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Trump: Former adviser Bolton faces charges if book released

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Monday that his former national security adviser, John Bolton, could face a “criminal problem” if he doesn't halt plans to publish a new book that describes scattershot, sometimes dangerous, decision-making by a president focused only on getting re-elected.

Trump said it would be up to Attorney General William Barr to issue any charges, but hinted that the matter would end up in court. “We'll see what happens. They're in court — or they'll soon be in court," Trump said about the book, set to be released early next week.

The president accused Bolton of not completing a pre-publication review to make sure the book does not contain classified material. That contradicts statements from Bolton's attorney, Chuck Cooper, who says his client worked painstakingly for months with classification specialists at the White House National Security Council to make changes to avoid releasing classified material.

Barr echoed Trump's accusation. During an event at the White House, the attorney general said administration officials who have access to sensitive information typically sign non-disclosure agreements that require them to go through a clearance process before they can publish something based on information they accessed in the job.

“We don’t believe that Bolton went through that process — hasn’t completed the process — and, therefore, is in violation of that agreement,” Barr said. The Trump administration is “trying to get them to complete the process — go through the process — and make the necessary deletions of classified information,” Barr said.

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AP Exclusive: New dates set to begin federal executions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has set new dates to begin executing federal death-row inmates following a monthslong legal battle over the plan to resume the executions for the first time since 2003.

Attorney General William Barr directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions, beginning in mid-July, of four inmates convicted of killing children. Three of the men had been scheduled to be put to death when Barr announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.

The Justice Department had scheduled five executions set to begin in December, but some of the inmates challenged the new procedures in court, arguing that the government was circumventing proper methods in order to wrongly execute inmates quickly.

The department wouldn't say why the executions of two of the inmates scheduled in December hadn't been rescheduled.

The move is likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform and raise interest in an issue that has largely lain dormant in recent years amid the culture battles that President Donald Trump already is waging on matters such as abortion and immigration in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

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Coronavirus death rate is higher for those with chronic ills

Death rates are 12 times higher for coronavirus patients with chronic illnesses than for others who become infected, a new U.S. government report says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Monday highlights the dangers posed by heart disease, diabetes and lung ailments. These are the top three health problems found in COVID-19 patients, the report suggests.

The report is based on 1.3 million laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases reported to the agency from January 22 through the end of May.

Information on health conditions was available for just 22% of the patients. It shows that 32% had heart-related disease, 30% had diabetes and 18% had chronic lung disease, which includes asthma and emphysema.

Among patients with a chronic illness, about 20% died compared with almost 2% of those who were otherwise healthy. Virus patients with a chronic condition were also six times more likely to be hospitalized — 46% versus almost 8%.

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Feds to review cases into hanging deaths of 2 black men

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal authorities will review local investigations into the hanging deaths of two black men in Southern California to determine whether federal law was violated, officials said Monday.

Local authorities have said there is no evidence of foul play in the deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale and Malcolm Harsch in Victorville and early indications point both to suicide, but sheriffs have pledged to continue to investigate the cases.

Monday's announcement follows weekend protests, which were prompted by the initial determination of suicide as the likely cause of death for Fuller.

People who participated in a town hall hosted by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Monday also voiced concerns that Fuller and Harsch may have been lynched. The callers denounced what they described as a rush to judgment and urged investigators to look into the possibility that hate crimes were committed.

The FBI, U.S. attorney's office in the Central District of California and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division are monitoring the investigations of the Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County sheriffs, authorities said in a statement.

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Commissioner Rob Manfred says baseball season in jeopardy

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says there might be no major league games this year after a breakdown in talks between teams and the players' union on how to split up money in a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The league also revealed several players on big league rosters have tested positive for COVID-19.

Two days after union head Tony Clark declared additional negotiations futile, Manfred reversed his position of last week when he said he was “100%” certain the 2020 season would start.

Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem sent a seven-page letter to players' association chief negotiator Bruce Meyer asking the union whether it will waive the threat of legal action and tell MLB to announce a spring training report date and a regular-season schedule.

These were just the latest escalating volleys in a sport viewing disagreements over starting the season as a preliminary battle ahead of bargaining to replace the labour contract that expires on Dec. 1, 2021.

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Academy delays 2021 Oscars ceremony because of coronavirus

For the fourth time in its history, the Oscars are being postponed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the ABC Television Network said Monday that the 93rd Academy Awards will now be held April 25, 2021, eight weeks later than originally planned because of the pandemic’s effects on the movie industry.

The Academy’s Board of Governors also decided to extend the eligibility window beyond the calendar year to Feb. 28, 2021, for feature films, and delay the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures from December until April 30, 2021.

"Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a joint statement.

Karey Burke, the president of ABC Entertainment, added: “We find ourselves in uncharted territory this year and will continue to work with our partners at the Academy to ensure next year’s show is a safe and celebratory event."

The 12th annual Governors Awards has also been cancelled. The event, in which honorary Oscars are bestowed to previously announced recipients, is generally held in Los Angeles during the second week of November. The untelevised event is a major gathering for many of the year’s awards hopefuls.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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