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Colorado police officers fired after photos mocking death of black man surface

DENVER (REUTERS) – Three Colorado police officers were fired and a fourth resigned after they shared photographs they took of themselves re-enacting a chokehold officers used to subdue a black man who later died, authorities said on Friday (July 3).

Vanessa Wilson, interim chief of police in the Denver suburb of Aurora, called the officers’ actions surrounding the death of Elijah McClain, who was unarmed, “reprehensible.”

“I am disgusted to my core,” Wilson said at a news conference announcing the firings.

The officers who were terminated were named as Jason Rosenblatt, Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich. The fourth officer, Jaron Jones, resigned on Tuesday.

One photo depicts Dittrich and Jones recreating a carotid neck hold, while a grinning Marrero stands nearby. The pictures, which were released on Friday by authorities, were taken near the site where the fatal struggle took place.

Rosenblatt, who was among the officers who subdued McClain, was fired for responding “HaHa” after receiving the photo, Wilson said.

The McClain family attorney, Mari Newman, said police not only killed an innocent man but felt empowered to make a “mockery” of the incident by re-enacting it.

McClain, 23, was walking along a street in Aurora in August 2019 when he was approached by three officers on reports of a man acting suspiciously, although he had not committed any crimes.

During the confrontation, McClain said he could not breathe, according to audio recordings released by police.

The officers subdued McClain with the carotid chokehold, and paramedics later injected him with the sedative ketamine. He then went into cardiac arrest and was taken off life support days later.

A local prosecutor declined to file charges against the officers or paramedics, citing an autopsy that listed the cause of death as undetermined.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has appointed a special prosecutor to review the case, and this week the FBI and the US Department of Justice said they are investigating whether McClain’s civil rights were violated.

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Canada's Justin Trudeau unsure about Washington trip, cites concern over tariffs

OTTAWA (REUTERS) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday (July 3) he was still unsure whether he would go to Washington DC next week to celebrate a new North American trade treaty, citing concern about possible US tariffs on aluminium.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is due to meet US President Donald Trump next week, has said he would like Trudeau to attend.

Mexican sources had previously said Lopez Obrador’s visit was planned for Wednesday and Thursday, with the possibility of a trilateral meeting on Thursday.

“We’re still in discussions with the Americans about whether a trilateral summit next week makes sense,” Trudeau said in a news conference.

“We’re obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminium and steel that the Americans have floated recently.”

US national security tariffs on imported steel and aluminium – including from Canada and Mexico – were a major irritant during negotiations for the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which was reached last year and entered into force on July 1.

But now, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is considering domestic producers’ request to restore the 10 per cent duty on Canadian aluminum to combat a “surge” of imports.

Concern about the “health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries” is another factor in his decision on whether to go to Washington, Trudeau said.

Also next week, Trudeau said he would hold a two-day virtual Cabinet retreat – without saying which days – to discuss how to prepare for a potential second wave of Covid-19, among other things.

The spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed steadily in Canada over the past eight weeks, but new cases are spiking in many US states.

As of July 2, Canada had recorded a total of 104,772 coronavirus cases, with 68,345 recovered and 8,642 deaths.

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US coronavirus cases hit new global record, rising almost 55,000 in single day

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) – The United States reported nearly 55,000 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday (July 2), the largest daily increase any country has ever reported, according to a Reuters tally.

A surge in coronavirus cases across the US over the past week has put President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis under the microscope and led several governors to halt plans to reopen their states after strict lockdowns.

The daily US tally stood at 54,879 late on Thursday, topping the previous single day record of 54,771 set by Brazil on June 19.

Just two weeks ago, the US was reporting about 22,000 new cases a day.

It has now reported more than 40,000 cases for seven straight days and broken records for new cases three days in a row.

New infections rose in 37 out of 50 US states in the past 14 days compared with the two weeks prior in early June.

Florida reported the biggest increase of any state so far on Thursday, recording over 10,000 new cases in a single day.

With 21 million residents, the state has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.

Meanwhile, a tally by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University showed 53,069 more cases as of 8.30pm on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 2,735,339.

The university also recorded a further 649 fatalities, bringing the total death toll to 128,677 across the US.

Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned earlier this week the daily increase in new US cases could reach 100,000 without nationwide measures to slow the rate.

While testing rates have increased, so has the percentage of positive results.

Hospitalisations have also skyrocketed.

Nationally, 7 per cent of coronavirus diagnostic tests came back positive last week, up from 5 per cent the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis.

Arizona’s positivity test rate was 24 per cent last week, Florida’s was 16 per cent.

Nevada, South Carolina and Texas were all at 15 per cent, the analysis found.

The second consecutive day of a record-high case count came as the US – the hardest-hit country in the world in the coronavirus pandemic – headed into the July Fourth holiday weekend.

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Boeing communications chief resigns over decades-old article on women in combat

SEATTLE (REUTERS) – Boeing Co’s communications chief Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday (July 2), following an employee’s complaint over an article the former US military pilot wrote 33 years ago arguing women should not serve in combat.

His exit leaves Boeing trying to fill the crucial role for the fourth time in less than three years, just as it is battling to shore up its brand after the prolonged safety grounding of its Boeing 737 Max jetliner.

The job has become the industry’s biggest hot seat as Boeing fends off criticism for its handling of the 737 Max crisis.

“My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time,” Mr Golightly said in a statement included in Boeing’s announcement.

“My argument was embarrassingly wrong and offensive. The article is not a reflection of who I am; but nonetheless I have decided that in the interest of the company I will step down,” Mr Golightly said.

According to an excerpt on the US Naval Institute website, the December 1987 article titled “No Right to Fight” said: “At issue is not whether women can fire M-60s, dogfight MiGs, or drive tanks. Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for – peace, home, family.”

Mr Golightly told staff in an e-mail seen by Reuters on Thursday that the exclusion of women at the time was “government policy and broadly supported in society. It was also wrong.”

Mr Golightly declined to comment beyond Boeing’s statement and his e-mail.

Mr Golightly’s departure after just six months on the job, during which he was said to be introducing sweeping changes, followed the board’s review of an internal anonymous ethics complaint that flagged his article.

He decided to step down after discussions with Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun and others, Mr Golightly said in his e-mail.

Mr Golightly acted after Boeing members, already feeling pressure from the 15-month-old Max crisis, had expressed little patience for a potentially damaging new distraction, people familiar with the matter said.

US employers have been more responsive to complaints related to sex and racial equality and diversity fuelled in part by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, and anti-racist activism following the slaying of black men by police.

Boeing has touted its strong commitment to improving diversity, though the number of women on its executive council has fallen from five to two since the beginning of 2019, according to Boeing’s annual reports and website.

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Longtime US television broadcaster Hugh Downs has died at age 99: Media reports

NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Hugh Downs, whose congeniality and authoritative manner allowed him to move between the world of games shows and US network news, has died at the age of 99, according to US media reports.

Downs, who hosted the game show Concentration and the ABC News show 20/20 during a radio and television career of more than 60 years, died on Wednesday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to a statement from his family that was cited by several US media outlets.

Downs’ television work ranged from Today, NBC’s morning news show, to Tonight, working with Jack Paar. In 1985, the Guinness Book Of World Records said he had been on commercial television a record 15,188 hours – a mark that stood until Regis Philbin surpassed it in 2004.

“I thought TV was a gimmick like 3-D movies and it would just go away,” Downs, who had a friendly, low-key manner on the air, said in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

“I had no idea that the tail would eventually wag the dog and treat me much kinder than radio did.”

Downs’ broadcasting career began at age 18 when he auditioned for a radio announcer job on a whim in his hometown of Lima, Ohio.

After serving in the Army in World War II, he joined the NBC radio network in Chicago and that led to television announcing jobs, including work on the Kukla, Fran And Ollie children’s show and a soap opera.

Bigger television assignments lay ahead in New York in the late 1950s – announcer on Sid Caesar’s Caesar’s Hour and announcer-sidekick to host Paar on The Tonight Show from 1957 until 1962.

Downs had a co-starring role in one of television’s most dramatic moments of the 1960s when the emotional Paar walked off the stage during taping in protest of NBC censoring one of his jokes.

Downs, who had known that Paar was going to quit but did not expect a walkout, was called upon to fill in for the rest of the show.

In 1958, Downs became the host of Concentration, a new daytime NBC game show that tested contestants’ memory and ability to solve a picture puzzle. The show was a quick success and Downs was host for 10 years, continuing with the job even after he became an anchor on NBC’s Today morning show in 1962.

Downs spent 11 years on Today, many as co-anchor with Barbara Walters, and interviewed scores of celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers.

He joined ABC’s 20/20 show in its second week on the air in 1978 and was reunited with Walters, who became his co-anchor.

He also contributed special reports to the show, including one on his double knee replacement surgery and others on medicine and geriatrics, a field in which he had a long-running interest.

Each week he signed off the show by saying, “We’re in touch, so you be in touch,” before leaving the show and network television in 1999.

In his later years Downs was seen on television in an infomercial for a book promoting health secrets.

Downs won Emmys for his work on Today in 1970, for hosting PBS series on ageing, Over Easy, in 1981 and Live From Lincoln Centre in 1991.

Downs’ interests included music composition, aviation, astronomy and space exploration. He served as chairman of the National Space Society, a non-profit organisation that promotes space exploration.

Among the several books that he wrote were an autobiography,Yours Truly, Hugh Downs; A Shoal Of Stars, his account of sailing a 65-foot ketch across the Pacific; and Thirty Dirty Lies About Old Age.

Downs and his wife, Ruth, had two children.

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Jeffrey Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of disgraced money manager Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested and charged with conspiracy and enticing minors to engage in sex. 

Maxwell was arrested on Thursday (Jul 2) in New Hampshire, FBI spokeswoman Adrienne Senatore said.

Prosecutors have scheduled a mid-day press conference in New York. 

The charges against Maxwell, in a six-count indictment, come almost a year after Epstein was arrested by FBI agents on July 6, 2019 after his private plane landed at a New Jersey airport.

Epstein killed himself in a federal jail in August. 

The new case signals that prosecutors are aggressively pushing ahead with the investigation into allegations that others helped Epstein abuse underage girls.

Maxwell, the daughter of the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, was close to Epstein for years. She has long denied that she was involved in Epstein’s actions. 

Maxwell is accused of scheming with Epstein from 1994 to at least 1997 to entice minor girls to be sexually abused by him, according to the indictment.

The victims, described by the US as “multiple minor girls,” were as young as 14 years old when Maxwell allegedly selected and “groomed” them to be abused by Epstein by luring them to Epstein’s various homes, including in Manhattan and Palm Beach, the US says. 

Maxwell was not only paid by Epstein to manage his properties but was also involved in an intimate sexual relationship with him, the US said. 

Maxwell is charged with two counts of conspiracy, perjury, enticing minors to engage in sex, and transporting a minor to engage in criminal activity. 

One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, has claimed Epstein sexually abused her for two years starting in 2000, when she was 16, and that Maxwell recruited her while she was working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. 

A federal appeals court in August unsealed hundreds of pages of long-awaited documents from Giuffre’s defamation lawsuit against Maxwell, revealing details about the alleged abuse. 

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US coronavirus cases rise by nearly 50,000 in biggest one-day spike of pandemic

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – New US Covid-19 cases rose by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday (July 1), according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

The record follows a warning by the government’s top infectious diseases expert that the number could soon double to 100,000 cases a day if Americans do not come together to take steps necessary to halt the virus’ resurgent spread, such as wearing masks when unable to practise social distancing.

In the first week of June, the United States added about 22,000 new coronavirus cases each day.

But as the month progressed, hot spots began to emerge across the Sun Belt.

In the last seven days of June, daily new infections almost doubled to 42,000 nationally.

Brazil is the only other country to report more than 50,000 new cases in one day.

The United States reported at least 49,286 cases on Tuesday.

More than half of new US cases each day come from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, home to 30 per cent of the country’s population.

All four states plus 10 others saw new cases more than double in June.

The daily increase in new cases could reach 100,000 unless a nationwide push was made to tamp down the fast-spreading virus, Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Senate committee on Tuesday.

“We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk,” Mr Fauci said.

The rise in cases is not just the result of more testing.

Hospitalisations are also skyrocketing.

Nationally, 7 per cent of coronavirus diagnostic tests came back positive last week, up from 5 per cent the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis.

Arizona’s positivity test rate was 24 per cent last week, Florida’s was 16 per cent. Nevada, South Carolina and Texas were all 15 per cent, according to the analysis.

Some of the recent increase traces back to Memorial Day holiday celebrations in late May. Health experts are worried about Independence Day celebrations this weekend, when Americans traditionally flock to beaches and campgrounds to watch fireworks displays.

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Coronavirus: Trump says he'd have 'no problem' using mask in 'tight' quarters

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump, who has yet to be seen in public wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic, said on Wednesday (July 1) he would have “no problem” doing so – if conditions called for it.

“If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business, as many US states are seeing an uptick in cases.

But he added: “Usually I’m not in that position.” Trump noted that most people he sees at the White House are tested for Covid-19 before coming in contact with him.

“I’m all for masks – I think masks are good,” he said, while adding his doubts about whether face coverings needed to be “mandatory” nationwide to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

“You have many places in the country where people stay very long distance” from each other, he said.

Many Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are now more actively encouraging Americans to wear masks in public.

While Vice-President Mike Pence has worn masks on several occasions, including during a recent trip to hard-hit Texas, Trump has never been seen in public wearing one.

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'Not a generic name': Booking.com wins trademark fight at US Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The travel reservation company Booking.com, a unit of Booking Holdings, deserves to be able to trademark its name, the US Supreme Court decided on Tuesday (June 30), overruling a federal agency that found it too generic to merit protection.

The court decided 8-1 that the US Patent and Trademark Office was incorrect when it denied the company’s application to trademark the name Booking.com, with the justices finding it distinctive enough that the agency should have approved it.

The court said surveys made clear that consumers understand that Booking.com refers to a particular company, and not online hotel reservation services in general.

“Because ‘Booking.com’ is not a generic name to consumers, it is not generic,” liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the ruling.

In a dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the court’s majority had put too much emphasis on consumer surveys, which he said were of limited value.

Booking.com, based in Amsterdam, welcomed the ruling, with spokeswoman Kimberly Soward saying in a statement that it “demonstrates that the US legal system has the capacity to evolve in order to reflect the digital world we are all living in.”

David Bernstein, a lawyer for Booking.com, called the decision “a victory for countless brand owners that have invested significant resources in building their brands – such as Weather.com, Law.com, Wine.com and Hotels.com.”

US Patent and Trademark Office spokesman Paul Fucito declined to comment.

US law allows trademark registrations only on terms that are “descriptive,” or able to distinguish a particular product or service from others on the market.

“Generic” words that refer to an entire category of goods or services, like “car” or “computer,” cannot be protected under the law because that would give an unfair competitive advantage to the trademark holder.

Booking.com began using its name globally in 2006, and filed US trademark applications in 2011 and 2012.

A US Patent and Trademark Office tribunal rejected those applications in 2016, saying “booking” is a generic term for a category of services and that the addition of “.com” did not transform it into a protected trademark.

Lower courts sided with Booking.com, prompting the patent office’s Supreme Court appeal.

Tuesday’s ruling may guide how some other companies, such as Salesforce.com and Home Depot, protect their brands from potential copycats.

The May 4 oral argument in the case was the first that the justices held by teleconference amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In another first, the public was able to hear arguments through a live audio feed.

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US could hit 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day if nothing changes, Fauci tells Congress

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A top US health expert warned Congress on Tuesday (June 30) that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the United States was headed in the “wrong direction” on the pandemic and demanded that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds after lax behaviour propelled new outbreaks.

“I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on, because we’re going in the wrong direction,” he testified to a Senate panel.

Alarming spikes in new cases in southern hotspots Texas and Florida are driving the daily national total of new cases to over 40,000 per day, and they need to be tamped down quickly to avoid dangerous surges elsewhere in the country, Fauci stressed.

“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” he said adding: “I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

The dire messaging reinforced concerns about the US ability to rein in a pandemic that has claimed some 126,000 American lives.

The testimony comes as the United States, the world’s hardest-hit nation, with more than 2.6 million infections, was left off the list of 15 countries to which the European Union will open its borders from July 1, and as it grapples with how to assure a safe reopening of schools in the coming months.

Fauci said he believed some states are “skipping over some of the checkpoints” that assure safe reopenings of business and public spaces.

And he also offered a blunt message to the nation’s young adults who have engaged in “dangerous” behaviour including congregating in bars, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines.

“I think we need to emphasise the responsibility that we have, both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic, that we all have to play a part in that,” Fauci said.

TRUMP TOLD ‘WEAR A MASK’

The head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, sounded the alarm about rising trajectories in several jurisdictions, including Covid-19 hospitalisations rising in 12 states, and said it was “critical” that every American takes personal responsibility and “embraces the use of face coverings.”

But the chairman of the panel, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, also pointed the finger at Trump, saying the president had the power to end politicisation of mask-wearing that suggests “if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.”

“That’s why I’ve suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask,” Alexander said.

“The president has plenty of admirers, they would follow his lead,” he added.

“It would help end this political debate.”

Trump, who refuses to wear a mask at public events and in the past has mocked his rivals for wearing them, has signalled he wants to move on from the coronavirus crisis and focus on his re-election campaign.

Democrats including his November election rival Joe Biden have savaged the president for lack of leadership on pandemic mitigation.

Tuesday’s hearing focused in part on whether the United States can adequately prepare for tens of millions of children returning to school in the coming months despite the resilient pandemic raging in some states.

The American Academy of Paediatrics has advocated that the coming school year begin with students physically present in schools, arguing that children are less likely to become symptomatic or severely ill with coronavirus than adults.

Fauci himself said he feels “very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get our children back to school.”

He also said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.

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