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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Last Updated Jun 20, 2020 at 12:14 am EDT

Juneteenth takes on new meaning amid push for racial justice

DETROIT (AP) — Protesters marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, chanted “We want justice now!” near St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, stopped work at West Coast ports and paused for a moment of silence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, as Americans marked Juneteenth with new urgency Friday amid a nationwide push for racial justice.

The holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, is usually celebrated with parades and festivals but became a day of protest this year in the wake of demonstrations set off by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.

In addition to traditional cookouts and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation — the Civil War-era order that declared all enslaved people free in Confederate territory — Americans of all backgrounds were marching, holding sit-ins or taking part in car caravan protests.

Thousands gathered at a religious rally in Atlanta. Hundreds marched from St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case partially played out, a pivotal one that denied citizenship to African Americans but galvanized the anti-slavery movement. Protesters and revelers held signs in Dallas, danced to a marching band in Chicago and registered people to vote in Detroit.

“Now we have the attention of the world, and we are not going to let this slide,” Charity Dean, director of Detroit’s office of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity, said at an event that drew hundreds and called for an end to police brutality and racial inequality.

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US attorney in NY disputes resignation, vows probes continue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department abruptly announced late Friday that the U.S. attorney who was was overseeing an investigation into President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer was resigning. But he disputes that, saying he was staying on the job and his probes would continue.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that Geoffrey S. Berman was stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. The office is one of the nation’s top districts, trying major mob cases and terror cases over the years.

But Berman said in a statement later that he’d learned he was stepping down from a press release.

“I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption,” he said.

Barr’s announcement came after he visited New York City, and no reason was given for the abrupt departure. It was followed by a statement from the White House nominating the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission to the job, a lawyer with virtually no experience as a federal prosecutor.

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Trump embraces immigration court fight as election boost

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s rejection of one of Donald Trump’s key immigration measures reignites a hot-button issue in a presidential campaign already scorched by pandemic, economic collapse and protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

The president is betting that he can energize his most loyal supporters by fighting the Supreme Court, which decided on procedural grounds Thursday that he couldn’t end legal protections for young immigrants. Trump, who often attempts to shift the nation’s focus to immigration when forced to defend himself on other fronts, said Friday he would renew his legal effort.

His immigration push is risky, even for someone who has built his political career on defying conventional wisdom. It could allow Trump to fire up his base on an issue that was a centerpiece of his 2016 victory while highlighting Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s struggle to win over Latino voters. But it could also further alienate swing voters including suburban women who could decide the election.

Some Republicans say that, with less than five months before November, it’s not a fight worth having.

“It doesn’t make any political sense, or moral sense or ethical sense,” said Republican strategist Tim Miller, a frequent Trump critic and veteran of Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential run. “Anybody that likes (Trump) because of his willingness to ‘go there’ on racial and immigration issues is already with him, and he’s not picking up anybody else.”

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Navy upholds firing of carrier captain in virus outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — The two senior commanders on a coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier didn’t “do enough, soon enough,” to stem the outbreak, the top U.S. Navy officer said Friday, a stunning reversal that upheld the firing of the ship’s captain who had pleaded for faster action to protect the crew.

Capt. Brett E. Crozier and Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, commander of the carrier strike group, made serious errors in judgment as they tried to work through an outbreak that sidelined the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam for 10 weeks, said Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations. The Crozier decision was a surprise since Gilday had recommended that the captain be restored to his command less than two months ago after an initial inquiry.

The pandemic set off a dramatic series of events that led to Crozier’s dismissal, the abrupt resignation of the acting Navy secretary who fired him and the push for a broader review of the Pacific fleet’s top commanders and how they handled the virus outbreak.

The spread of COVID-19 aboard the carrier while on deployment in the Pacific in March exploded into one of the biggest military leadership crises of recent years. More than 1,000 crew members eventually became infected, and one sailor died, in what was the most extensive and concentrated spread of the virus across the U.S. military.

It eventually sent all of the 4,800 crew members ashore for weeks of quarantine, in a systematic progression that kept enough sailors on the ship to keep it secure and running. More broadly, it put out of commission a massive warship vital to the Navy’s mission of countering China’s power in the Asia-Pacific region.

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‘Why not a Black woman?’ Consensus grows around Biden’s VP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden is facing growing calls to select a Black woman as his running mate as an acknowledgement of their critical role in the Democratic Party and a response to the nationwide protests against racism and inequality.

The shifting dynamics were clear late Thursday when Amy Klobuchar took herself out of contention for the vice presidency. The Minnesota senator, who is white, told MSNBC that “this is a moment to put a woman of colour on that ticket.”

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has already pledged to select a woman as his vice-president to energize the party’s base with the prospect of making history. But following the outrage over the police killing of George Floyd last month, many Democratic strategists say there’s growing consensus that the pick should be a Black woman.

“Like it or not, I think the question is starting to become, ‘Well, why not a Black woman?’” said Karen Finney, a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Finney, who was one of 200 Black women who signed a letter to Biden encouraging him to select a Black woman for his ticket, warned that the former vice-president could face a backlash if he chose a white woman.

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Brazil tops 1 million cases as coronavirus spreads inland

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s government confirmed on Friday that the country has risen above 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, second only to the United States.

The country’s health ministry said that the total now stood at 1,032,913, up more than 50,000 from Thursday. The ministry said the sharp increase was due to corrections of previous days’ underreported numbers.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 deaths from COVID-19 in three months, saying the impact of social isolation measures on the economy could be worse than the disease itself.

Specialists believe the actual number of cases in Brazil could be up to seven times higher than the official statistic. Johns Hopkins University says Brazil is performing an average of 14 tests per 100,000 people each day, and health experts say that number is up to 20 times less than needed to track the virus.

Official data show a downward trend of the virus in Brazil’s north, including the hard-hit region of the Amazon, a plateau in cases and deaths in the countries’ biggest cities near the Atlantic coast, but a rising curve in the south.

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AMC Theaters reverses course on masks after backlash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest movie theatre chain changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.

AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theatres will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July. Customers who don’t wear masks won’t be admitted or allowed to stay.

“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”

Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theatres as well.

AMC Theaters wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cineplex Inc., which has a 75% box office market share in Canada, said they will leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theatres. Company spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange said they are taking the lead from public health authorities and provincial guidelines. She said employees will be required to wear masks.

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AP changes writing style to capitalize ”b” in Black

The Associated Press changed its writing style guide Friday to capitalize the “b” in the term Black when referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context, weighing in on a hotly debated issue.

The change conveys “an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa,” John Daniszewski, AP’s vice-president of standards, said in a blog post Friday. “The lowercase black is a colour, not a person.”

The news organization will also now capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place.

Daniszewski said the revisions aligned with long-standing identifiers such as Latino, Asian American and Native American. He said the decision followed more than two years of research and debate among AP journalists and outside groups and thinkers.

“Our discussions on style and language consider many points, including the need to be inclusive and respectful in our storytelling and the evolution of language,” he wrote. “We believe this change serves those ends.”

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NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:

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CLAIM: NASCAR, which recently banned the Confederate flag at its events, is now forcing its drivers to engage in Muslim prayer.

THE FACTS: NASCAR is not forcing drivers to engage in Muslim prayer. The bogus claim circulated with a photo that showed drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway taking part in a longstanding tradition called “kissing the bricks.” A post featuring the photo racked up more than 140,000 views last weekend. “So NASCAR bans the confederate flag but FORCES all their drivers to do Muslim prayer?” it read. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Unacceptable!!” NASCAR has been the target of heavy praise and some disdain since it announced it would ban the Confederate flag from its events and properties, citing a need to provide a more “welcoming and inclusive” environment for its fans. But the auto racing association has not asked its athletes to participate in a Muslim prayer. The photo that went viral on social media actually shows drivers participating in a well-known NASCAR tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Yard of Bricks. It was started by driver Dale Jarrett in 1996. After Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 race, he and his crew walked out to the finish line, knelt and kissed the yard-long section of bricks on the track. Since then, winners of the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400 and other races have done the same. A reverse image search reveals the photo was taken in July 2016, when Kyle Busch won the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 race at the track.

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AP source: MLB spring training sites close amid virus worry

Every team in Major League Baseball will shut its spring training camp over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, a move that came in the wake of the Philadelphia Phillies announcing Friday five players had tested positive for COVID-19.

The closures come while MLB owners and players try to negotiate a deal to begin the season, and raise the possibility the virus outbreak could scuttle all attempts at starting up this year.

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press the spring complexes in Florida and Arizona will temporarily close because of recent events. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there wasn’t an official statement.

The facilities will undergo a deep cleaning and disinfecting. No one will be permitted back inside without a negative test for the virus.

Soon after the Phillies became the first known team to be affected by the outbreak, Toronto shuttered its site in Dunedin, Florida, about five miles from Philadelphia’s camp in Clearwater. The Blue Jays said one player showed symptoms consistent with the virus.

The Associated Press

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