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HeadlinesJune 16, 2020

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In Long-Awaited Victory, SCOTUS Rules LGBTQ Workers Protected by the Civil Rights Act

Jun 16, 2020

In a major victory for the LGBTQ community and civil rights, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace. The historic 6-3 ruling comes after decades of legal battles and campaigning. The ruling was penned by one of the court’s most conservative justices: Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority opinion in stating that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, applies to gay and transgender people. At least half of the 50 states previously allowed employers to fire workers for being LGBTQ. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.

Atlanta Mayor Orders New Police Rules After Killing of Rayshard Brooks

Jun 16, 2020

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has ordered the police department to alter its use-of-force policy following the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed African American man who was shot dead in the parking lot of a Wendy’s. Police first approached Brooks because he had fallen asleep in his car. Bottoms described his killing as a “murder.” On Monday, Rayshard Brooks’s family spoke to the media. This is his cousin Jymaco.

Jymaco Brooks: “If you ask how this young Black man was, look at your children when you see them laugh — that innocence, that joy, that pureness of soul — and you had a glimpse of what we lost. You have a glimpse of what it feels like.”

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Police Department has revealed the officer who shot Brooks — Garrett Rolfe — had been the subject of several citizen complaints dating back to 2015, but no action was ever taken against him. Officer Rolfe was fired after Friday’s shooting. Newly released disciplinary records show the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, also discharged his firearm on Friday. Brosnan has been placed on administrative leave.

911 Dispatcher Raised Concerns About Police Treatment of George Floyd During His Arrest and Killing

Jun 16, 2020

In news about the police killing of George Floyd, newly released audio shows a 911 dispatcher in Minneapolis raised concerns with her supervisor about how Floyd was treated, after seeing surveillance video from a camera near the scene.

911 dispatcher: “I don’t know if they had to use force or not. They got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man. So, I don’t know if they needed to or not, but they haven’t said anything to me yet.”

In another newly released recording from that day, an eyewitness called 911 to say officers had “pretty much just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest.”

At least seven Minneapolis police officers have resigned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. Police officers have also quit in other parts of the country, including Atlanta, where Rayshard Brooks was killed.

Protester Shot in Albuquerque While Toppling Racist Statue; Right-Wing Militia Members Arrested

Jun 16, 2020

As antiracism and police brutality protests continue around the country, police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have detained several members of an armed right-wing militia after a protester was shot on Monday. The protester has been hospitalized in critical condition. The shooting occurred as protesters tried to topple a statue of Juan de Oñate, a Spanish colonizer who massacred Native Americans 400 years ago. Earlier in the day, another statue of Juan de Oñate was removed in the town of Alcalde in New Mexico.

19-Year-Old BLM Protester Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau Found Dead One Week After Disappearance

Jun 16, 2020

In Tallahassee, Florida, police confirmed Monday they found the dead body of 19-year-old African American, Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, who had been missing for just over a week. Nearby, the body of 75-year-old Victoria Sims, a white woman and AARP volunteer, was also found. Toyin Salau was last seen on June 6. She tweeted that same day that a man had sexually assaulted her. A man, Aaron Glee Jr., has been arrested in connection with the two killings. Toyin’s friends and supporters are calling for justice for the activist, who was a regular presence at Black Lives Matter protests. Here she is speaking following the police killing of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man, in Tallahassee last month.

Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau: “Tony McDade was a Black trans man, OK? We’re not doing this — we’re doing this for him. We’re doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot, but we’re doing this for every Black person, because, at the end of the day, I cannot take my [bleep] skin color off. I cannot mask this [bleep], OK? Everywhere I [bleep] go, I am profiled, whether I like it or not.”

Mourners Demand Justice for Killing of Black Teenager Na’Kia Crawford in Ohio

Jun 16, 2020

In Akron, Ohio, protesters gathered Monday at the site where an 18-year-old Black teenager, Na’Kia Crawford, was shot and killed Sunday while driving with her grandmother. She had graduated from high school less than two weeks before she was killed. Witnesses say a white man shot Crawford from a car that police are now trying to locate. Na’Kia Crawford’s family believes the incident was racially motivated.

FBI, DOJ to Review Probes into Two Black California Men Found Hanging from Trees

Jun 16, 2020

In California, the FBI, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California are reviewing investigations into the recent deaths of two Black men who were both found hanging from trees, 10 days apart. Twenty-four-year-old Robert Fuller was found in Palmdale last week. His death was originally described as a suicide by local authorities, but his family says they do not believe this was the cause, and many are calling his death a lynching. Thirty-eight-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in nearby Victorville, 10 days prior. No official cause of death has been released.

U.N. Human Rights Body to Hold Urgent Debate on Racism and Police Brutality in the U.S.

Jun 16, 2020

The United Nations Human Rights Council has announced it will hold a debate on racism and police brutality in the United States on Wednesday. This comes in response to a proposal by a group of African countries led by Burkina Faso. The nations recently expressed alarm over “recent incidents of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators defending the rights of Africans and of people of African descent.”

In other international news, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul has removed a large Black Lives Matter banner and Pride flag from the building’s facade. The U.S. ambassador had approved both, but on Monday the State Department ordered them removed.

Cities and States Adopt New Police Rules Amid Mass Uprising

Jun 16, 2020

The New York Police Department has announced it is dismantling its plainclothes anti-crime unit. The 600 officers in the unit will be reassigned. In 2018, The Intercept reported plainclothes anti-crime officers had been involved in 31% of fatal police shootings in New York since 2000. Meanwhile, Albuquerque, New Mexico, has announced plans to create a new civilian department made up of social workers and others to respond to non-emergency 911 calls. The Seattle City Council on Monday voted unanimously to ban police use of tear gas and chokeholds. In Georgia, the state Legislature reopened Monday after being shut down since March due to the pandemic, with a bipartisan call to pass a hate crimes bill. Georgia is one of four states with no hate crime laws.

In other policing news, the Supreme Court has declined to hear cases involving the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity. Critics of the doctrine said it has shielded many police officers and departments from being sued.

SCOTUS Hands Down Decisions on CA Sanctuary Law, Second Amendment Cases, Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Jun 16, 2020

Supreme Court justices rejected Trump’s challenge to California’s state sanctuary law, in a major victory for immigrant rights advocates. The move leaves in place the ruling by San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said local officials do not have to help immigration agents enforce federal laws.

The Supreme Court also declined to take up a number of Second Amendment cases, challenging state gun control laws, including open-carry restrictions in Maryland and New Jersey.

In a major blow for environmental and indigenous activists, the Supreme Court ruled the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, built by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, can cross beneath the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest. Only Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the 7-2 ruling. Friends of the Earth tweeted, “If built, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would spew toxins, harm wildlife & disproportionately impact the 30,000+ Native peoples living in its path. Today SCOTUS ruled to let it proceed, ignoring communities & environment in favor of the fossil fuel industry.”

Trump Defends Hydroxychloroquine for COVID, Blames Testing for Surge in Cases

Jun 16, 2020

As coronavirus cases in the United States top 2,100,000, with over 116,000 reported deaths, the Food and Drug Administration has pulled its emergency-use authorization for antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, saying, “It is no longer reasonable to believe [they] may be effective in treating Covid-19.” The drugs have been repeatedly touted by President Trump, even as multiple studies showed they were not only ineffective for COVID-19, but potentially could result in heart attack or even death. When asked about this latest news, Trump continued to defend the drugs Monday.

President Donald Trump: “People that were like seriously ill, like they weren’t going to make it, let’s give them a little hydroxy, and then they don’t make it, and they say, 'Oh, wow, maybe the president was wrong.' All I know is that we’ve had some tremendous reports.”

President Trump also blamed increased testing for the country’s high number of coronavirus cases. “If you don’t test, you don’t have any cases,” he told reporters. Vice President Mike Pence echoed this idea on a call with governors Monday, encouraging them to adopt the same message that more testing is leading to rising numbers, rather than community spread due to relaxed restrictions. But the data suggests recent spikes in cases are much greater than what would be reflected simply by a higher number of tests being administered.

Cases continue to surge in Arizona, where over 4,400 new cases were reported over the weekend. Arizona’s outbreak started surging in early June — two weeks after lifting its stay-at-home order. Arizona’s infection rate per capita is now more than three times higher than New York state. Florida, which is also seeing a spike in cases, reported Friday 3,400 children have tested positive for the coronavirus, 10 of whom have a serious inflammatory condition which has been described by health officials as similar to Kawasaki disease, or toxic shock syndrome.

Latin American Countries Grapple with Surging Coronavirus Cases

Jun 16, 2020

Confirmed coronavirus cases have now topped 8 million worldwide, with over 430,000 reported deaths. Latin America remains a coronavirus hot spot. In Peru and Bolivia, hospitals are on the brink as they grapple with a surge of patients and a lack of resources and equipment.

In Chile, where armed soldiers are charged with enforcing curfews and other lockdown measures, a new health minister was appointed after his predecessor quit over the government response to the pandemic and amid questions over the accuracy of the official death toll, which now stands at over 3,300.

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, anger is mounting against the government of President Daniel Ortega, which has refused to order social distancing and has encouraged large gatherings. Medical professionals say they are being retaliated against for speaking out. This is Dr. Marianela López, who says she was fired after suggesting a “voluntary national quarantine” to halt the surge in cases.

Dr. Marianela López: “We have seen an absence of health authorities. The president is absent. It has been more than 30 days since the first case appeared, that is impressive. We have seen the measures taken in Central American countries, the presidents in charge, the ministers of health. What we have had is a lack of information and little credibility.”

Officially, there have been over 1,400 cases and 55 deaths reported in Nicaragua, but a recent independent study suggests the true death toll could be 20 times higher.

Federal Gov’t Schedules Four Executions, Breaking Nearly 2-Decade Moratorium

Jun 16, 2020

The federal government has scheduled the execution of four prisoners this summer, including three next month. They will be the first federal executions in nearly two decades, after the Trump administration reinstated federal capital punishment last year.

Trump Admin Reinterprets Cold War Arms Treaty to Allow Saudi Arabia, UAE to Buy U.S. War Drones

Jun 16, 2020

Reuters is reporting the Trump administration is paving the way for U.S. defense contractors to sell armed drones to governments that have previously been barred from such purchases, by reinterpreting a Cold War-era arms treaty. The Departments of Commerce, Energy, Justice and Homeland Security approved the new interpretation to the 33-year-old treaty last month. The first drone sales are expected to be approved this summer. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are expected to be among the first countries to purchase the weapons.

Russian Court Sentences U.S. Citizen Paul Whelan to 16 Years for Espionage

Jun 16, 2020

In Russia, former U.S. marine Paul Whelan was sentenced Monday to 16 years of hard labor after being convicted of espionage. Whelan was arrested in Moscow last year after reportedly being given a flash drive containing classified information while visiting Russia for a wedding. Whelan has denied all charges and says he was framed. Some have speculated his arrest was retaliation for the arrest of Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a Russian agent without registering with the Justice Department.

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South Korea Reports North Korea Blew Up Liaison Office as Tensions in Region Mount

Jun 16, 2020

A South Korean news agency is reporting North Korea appears to have blown up an inter-Korean liaison office. North Korea had threatened to destroy the office, among other threats to South Korea in recent days. North Korea warned today it is ready to enter the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, reportedly partly in response to defectors in South Korea sending propaganda material to the North.

Hundreds of Nigerian Refugees in Netherlands Missing, Likely Victims of Trafficking

Jun 16, 2020

A group of investigative reporters found that nearly half of all Nigerian asylum seekers who arrived in the Netherlands last year effectively disappeared. They say most of the nearly 1,000 unaccounted-for refugees were likely forced into sex or drug trafficking. The reporters say the pattern is widely seen across other European nations and also affects refugees from other African countries. The International Organization for Migration says that up to 80% of Nigerian women who migrate to Europe are potential victims of trafficking.

European Human Rights Court Grants Victory to Palestinian Rights Activists, Says BDS Is Free Speech

Jun 16, 2020

The European Human Rights Court has ruled in favor of a group of activists who were convicted by French courts for their support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The activists campaigned at French supermarkets in 2009 and 2010, raising awareness of the oppression of Palestinians and calling for a boycott of Israeli products. The European Human Rights Court ruled their conviction violated the free speech of the activists, and ordered France to pay them damages.

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