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Political Headlines

    Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday implored mayors across the country to review police use-of-force policies as protests against police brutality and racial injustice continued to grip Atlanta and cities from coast to coast. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a tweet she would accept Obama’s challenge, which came just three days after she fired two police officers for their roles in a violent arrest over the weekend of two college students that triggered national outrage. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office this week charged six officers in total in connection with the incident. “I will issue an Executive Order establishing a Commission of stakeholders and organizers to examine our use of force policies and call upon them to make recommendations accordingly,” Bottoms said on Twitter. Protests in Atlanta have raged for six nights and have since spread across the region, from Peachtree City to Braselton. Complete Coverage: Atlanta protests Wednesday’s demonstration remained peaceful as the city of Atlanta’s 9 p.m. curfew neared and crowds of more than 1,000 assembled before a host of law enforcement officers and National Guard members, many clad in riot gear, near Centennial Olympic Park. “I don’t see a riot here! Why are you in riot gear?!” protesters chanted outside CNN Center. AJC Staff writers J.D. Capelouto, Stephen Deere, Joshua Sharpe, Ty Tagami and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this report. >>Read the FULL STORY on AJC.com.
  • Coronavirus deaths among Georgia’s long-term care residents topped 1,000 on Monday in the state’s official tally, a brutal milestone demonstrating the pandemic’s unforgiving attack on vulnerable seniors. Across Georgia, 5,850 residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and large personal care homes have tested positive for coronavirus at some point during the pandemic, and 1,001 have died, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health. The state’s long-term care workers were not spared, either, with 2,489 testing positive as of Monday. At least one has died. “It’s very heartbreaking and tragic to know the impact the virus has had on our residents and our staff,” said Tony Marshall, president and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association, which represents nursing home and assisted living operators. However, the state’s count doesn’t provide a complete picture of the toll the coronavirus is taking in senior care facilities. DCH isn’t tracking cases and deaths of hundreds of long-term care facilities across the state — those with fewer than 25 beds. Thousands of Georgians live in those facilities. >>Read the FULL STORY on AJC.com.
  • A Facebook post by a long-serving Georgia sheriff connecting the violent protests around the nation with the hanging of “traitors” is dividing his south Georgia community. “I think that it’s inappropriate for anyone who is in a leadership or political position,” said Grady County school board member Teresa Gee Hardy. “When anyone mentions hanging, it isn’t a good thing to me, whether it is a joke or whatever, considering the history in the Deep South.” Harry Young, serving his fourth term as sheriff of the rural county on the Georgia-Florida border, posted a meme to his personal Facebook page on May 8 showing a historical painting showing prisoners being led to a large scaffold with the legend “Can we get back to the tradition of hanging traitors?” Local Democratic activist Laura Register said she was alerted to the post by a friend and pasted it onto her own Facebook page. “I’m completely disgusted by the Facebook posts of our Sheriff Harry Young,” she wrote on May 31 as cities around the nation were dealing with large protests over the death of African-America Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. “This is just one example,” Register wrote. “If you think people that don’t look like him will get a fair chance you need to think again.” Young responded quickly to Register’s complaint by doubling down, re-posting the meme with the comment, “If you like destroying hard working people’s property because of one officer’s horrible decision then you are the problem!!!” Register’s post has been shared more than 100 times and drew dozens of outraged comments, including calls for Young to resign. On Young’s own page, the responses were more mixed about the sheriff and his political views. “Harry Young, you the man. You have been the sheriff for this county for since I was born. I hope you get it again!” one resident posted. Others were critical and vowed to see Young, who is running for reelection, defeated. “You won’t be sheriff for long,” another resident wrote. >>Read the FULL STORY on AJC.com.
  • When U.S. Rep. John Lewis weighed in on the looting and violence that followed peaceful gatherings in Atlanta and other cities Saturday night, his words drew a mix of praise and accusations that the Civil Rights-era activist is out of touch. “We must continue to teach the way of peace, the way of love, the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence,” he said on MSNBC Saturday evening. “And never, ever give up on any of our brothers and sisters. We’re one people; we’re one family. “  Lewis, 80, posted a longer statement on his U.S. House website directly addressing protesters.  “To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you,” he wrote. “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.” Read more: ‘Atlanta Way’ challenged after violent night of protests A post on Twitter excerpting his statement was shared by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, celebrity chef Padma Lakshmi and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley among others thanking Lewis for speaking out.  Lewis was badly beaten during a march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 and is one of the last living Civil Rights leaders. While many praised him, others said he wasn’t fully acknowledging that the protests of the past often turned violent because of police brutality and that it, along with racism and economic inequality, continues to persist. “Look how well that approach turned out for Martin Luther King Jr. & you,” Twittter user @SmizeEyes, wrote. “I’m sure you still feel the mental & physical scars from that.” Lewis and others who marched with King did not fight back even when provoked by white onlookers or law enforcement. Their successes, including the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, often came after Americans confronted by shocking images of black Americans being beaten or attacked without provocation. Still, this approach had its detractors even back then. Malcolm X and the Black Panthers advocated for armed self-defense. Some who responded to his statement Saturday acknowledged Lewis’ contributions, but said the approach no longer works. “I love you, you are a hero in my family but we have organized, sat in, stood up, voted,” Twitter user @RykerStevenson wrote to Lewis. “We’ve been doing that for decades. Maybe what the country needs is to know that if you murder a black man in the street then every street in major cities across the country will burn.” The protests, which swept across Atlanta for the past two nights, are sparked by outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Marchers have also voiced concerns about the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed when police in Louisville, Ky., erroneously executed a search on her home. The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, especially prosecutors’ conduct in that case, has also been criticized.  All of this is happening while many feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to job losses and limitations on daily life that affected African-Americans and other people of color more deeply.  “But what do you do when you've tried all those things and nothing has changed?” Christina M. Brooks wrote. “Trump and the Republicans sit on legislation or ignore it. Booth for gun control and civil rights. They revoke laws that even in a remedial way try to level the playing field. What more can people do?” Several said non-violent protests have proven ineffective.  Despite disagreement with Lewis’s statements, people who appeared to be condescending or disrespectful toward the congressman were generally rebuked.  Complete coverage: Atlanta protests Lewis’s MSNBC interview: 
  • Gov. Brian Kemp ordered a surge of additional National Guard troops to deploy across Georgia ahead of several potential protests Sunday, as officials in Savannah prepared for an unsanctioned rally and Atlanta imposed another curfew.  The governor signed the order late Saturday that expands a state of emergency across Georgia and allows as many as 3,000 National Guard troops to deploy to reinforce local and state law enforcement.  His decision came after discussions with Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who said Saturday that an out-of-state group is planning an afternoon rally with a mission to incite violence and vandalism. “We have watched protests degenerate into riots,” Johnson told reporters, according to The Savannah Morning News. “We do not believe that violence and destruction of property is a valid form of protest.” Johnson and other city leaders participated in a separate rally that drew thousands who gathered peacefully to demand an end to racial bias at City Hall. Later, he ordered a curfew for the coastal city to discourage mass gatherings.  Kemp told Channel 2 Action News late Saturday that the state would have “people on the ground down there” to thwart the chaos that erupted in Atlanta late Friday when peaceful demonstrations turned violent.  Echoing Atlanta officials, who blamed some of the disruptions on out-of-state provocateurs, Kemp said the state takes a “zero tolerance” policy toward violence and that top law enforcement officials are prepared to deploy “wherever we need to, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.” “My message to those individuals if they have that outside agenda, other than justice and peaceful protest, they should rethink their decision to stay in Georgia and maybe move on to places where they came from.”  Kemp said officials aim to prevent the looting and destruction that rocked Atlanta Friday, when demonstrators ransacked stores and attractions in parts of downtown and in Buckhead.  Little damage was reported Saturday as roughly 1,000 National Guard troops fanned out across parts of the city, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms imposed another curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to dawn on Monday.  Authorities in metro Atlanta suburbs shut down shopping areas and closed public spaces to discourage mass gatherings, and demonstrations occurred in Gainesville and other some other Georgia towns.  The gatherings were sparked after the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after an officer kneeled on his neck while handcuffed.  Bottoms and other leaders say the violence risks overshadowing meaningful calls for racial justice and protests against police brutality.  “What happens when we have these valid protests and uprisings in our streets is, we get distracted from what the real issue is,” she said Sunday on CNN. “We need to get back to what the problem is, and that’s the killing of unarmed black people in America.”
  • Spasms of violence shook Atlanta overnight Friday as a peaceful march against police violence transformed into chaos that left parts of the city in flames and shops and restaurants ransacked by looters. Gov. Brian Kemp announced early Saturday that he’d deployed the National Guard to restore calm. Friday’s chaos gave way to order on Saturday as clean-up efforts began. Andrew Song and his family spent Saturday morning cleaning up Kwan's Deli and Korean Kitchen, which was broken into and looted Friday night, its front windows shattered. Song, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Korea and started the business next to Centennial Park in 2002, said the destruction was a “huge shock,” though he is relieved the damage wasn’t worse. “We’ll get this cleaned up and then we’ll see how tomorrow works,” he said. >> RELATED: Violence rocks Atlanta as peaceful protest ends in flames >> PHOTOS: Atlanta rally against police violence draws hundreds, turns violent Outside the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, Fred Turner of Grove Park helped sweep up glass. He wore a sign around his neck stating that “two wrongs don’t make it right.” “Tearing up our city doesn’t make sense,” said Turner, who added that he agrees with the message behind the original protest. The sign outside the CNN Center, defaced with graffiti on Friday, had been cleaned by Saturday morning. Kimberly Beaudin, CEO of the heavily damaged College Football Hall of Fame, was also outside sweeping up broken glass Saturday morning and cleaning up the ransacked gift shop. She said there is a “level of disbelief” following the destruction and no estimate yet on the cost of the damage. Rioters burned police cars and smashed their way into stores in downtown Atlanta and Buckhead despite pleas by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and civil rights activists who urged demonstrators to stay home and seek meaningful ways to honor the death of George Floyd. >> MORE: Hip-hop stars T.I., Killer Mike and others try reason amid the chaos Stunned city officials, long used to peaceful protests in the cradle of the civil rights movement, were left to reassess their strategy after masses of demonstrators defaced the CNN Center, torched a visitors center in Centennial Olympic Park and stormed through Phipps Plaza, an upscale mall in Buckhead.  “This is not a protest,” Bottoms said during an emotional news conference late Friday. “This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city. You are disgracing our city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.” Nirav Bodiwala's liquor store on Baker Street was a disheveled mess Saturday morning. 'These guys were thugs,' he said, as workers swept up the broken glass from his storefront. When he got to the store Saturday he found the interior strewn with blood and debris, his best liquor bottles gone, and his cash register raided. They even hauled off his safe, which had been bolted down. Worse, Bodiwala said, They tossed lighted cardboard into his store, apparently attempting to set it ablaze. Peachtree Liquor Store sits at the base of a 23-story building, the floors above filled with hundreds of apartments. 'That would have burned the whole building because of the alcohol I have in there,' he said. They left behind a small white sign. Scribed in red: 'Justice for George Floyd.' City officials said police officers trying to maintain the peace were targeted with knives, eggs, firecrackers and other projectiles. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, who condemned the actions of Minneapolis officers involved in the call that left Floyd death, had said she would allow protesters to mass so long as they didn’t violate laws.  The demonstration started off as a peaceful march from Centennial Olympic Park to the state Capitol, and participants waved signs expressing outrage over Floyd's death and chanted demands of justice and equality.  But it took a dangerous turn as the night wore on and splinter groups gathered outside the park to engage in testy clashes with law enforcement officers, who at times fired tear gas into crowds that turned barricades into weapons.  >> FULL TEXT: Read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ plea for her city >> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests  At some damaged spots, Friday’s rioters were replaced with Saturday’s Good Samaritans. Samuel Harden and his wife usually celebrate Valentine’s Day at McCormick & Schmick’s, a restaurant in CNN Center ransacked Friday night. On Saturday morning, the Hardens were there to help clean up. “We hate that the frustration tuned into damage of property,' said Harden, who grew up in the city and now lives in Douglas County. 'I understand the anger, but you’ve got to go peacefully.” Recent Georgia State University Devin Mitchell also pitched in. He said he understands the community is “grieving” due to racial injustice, but the protest “escalated into something it wasn’t.” 'As far as tearing our own community up, I don’t think that’s the right thing, I don’t think that’s what anybody from the past would’ve wanted us to do,” said Mitchell, who played basketball at GSU. “It was just really tough to watch everybody going crazy … I had to come do my part.” The last time a major protest rocked Atlanta, when Black Lives Matters protesters massed outside the Governor’s Mansion in 2016, it was defused by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed when he promised a sit-down with demonstrators.  But the outrage over Floyd's death presents a different challenge, as demonstrations spread widely across the nation to protest police brutality.  Bottoms turned to aging civil rights activists and young hip-hop stars to plead for calm and end to the looting, staging a press conference just blocks away from where the largest group of demonstrators had gathered. “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy,” said a tearful Killer Mike, also known as Michael Render. “It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.” The violence that shuddered through this city threatened restaurants, retail stores and businesses already reeling from a coronavirus pandemic. Amir McRae, who owns the ATL Cruzers downtown Segway tour business, was awoken early Saturday by an ADT alarm call. He’d hoped his “black owned” signs would spare his building, but his windows were smashed in nonetheless.  “I’m just feeling hurt,” he said. “Here we are with utter destruction of property.” As he spoke, he shooed away looters picking over a Circle K that was overrun. “We worked way too hard for this,” he said, as they slinked away. “Do what’s right. Keep it moving!” Sakeema Freeman, a 26-year-old student in a construction management master’s program, was cleaning graffiti from a placard outside Centennial Olympic Park that read: “Black Lives Matter.” She said she took part in the peaceful part of the protest early Friday before peeling off when it grew more raucous. She followed the events from her downtown apartment on social media and out her window, and helped to watch younger demonstrators who wanted to steer clear of the violence. “I tried to do my part,” said Freeman, who saw the damage in the morning and got out a rag and soap and went to work with her father, Veree. She wasn’t mad Saturday — just matter of fact. “You’ve got to clean up your family’s mess.” Across the street, Katie Labgold and Yvanna Pantner were busily wiping away graffiti as well. Labgold, a doctoral student in epidemiology, said it “seemed like an immediate action to start the healing process and, long-term, to help to end racist actions and fight white silence.” Pantner, who is about to start a social work program, described it in a similar vein. “Our goal is to recognize that being anti-racist starts with the individual. My job is to look within myself and say, ‘What can I do to be anti-racist today?’ And to listen to people of color in my community and ask what my role is in all of this. This is really a systemic issue. It has to be viewed that way.” The scene was far different Friday night. Just as police officers seemed to contain the violence in downtown Atlanta, large crowds moved north to the affluent Buckhead area. Big-box stores were ransacked and video showed trespassers trying to empty luxury retailers at Phipps Plaza. Atlanta Fire Rescue responded to reports of blazes at the historic Tabernacle downtown and Del Frisco's Grille in Buckhead. Firefighters were unable to respond immediately to Del Frisco’s because of the large protester presence. Once they were able to extinguish the flames, crews returned to trucks that had been set upon by vandals. The beleaguered local authorities and Georgia State Patrol officers were reinforced shortly after midnight by Kemp’s order, which activated as many as 500 Georgia National Guard troops.  A contingent of 100 soldiers was immediately deployed to the Lenox Square Mall area, and authorized to make arrests.  Early Saturday morning, Atlanta police reported gunshots outside Phipps Plaza and downtown Atlanta, and widespread looting at stores across the city. Rioters smashed windows of firetrucks and ruined police cars; a WSB-TV news truck was also targeted.   As police strained to control the damage, civic leaders stepped up their pleas for calm. T.I. urged protesters to stay home – “this city doesn’t deserve this” – and bright-red digital billboards lit up with a message: “If you love Atlanta, PLEASE GO HOME!”  “We have to be better than this moment. We have to be better than burning down our own homes,” said Killer Mike. “Because if we lose Atlanta what else do we have?”  Staff Writers Alexis Stevens, Raisa Habersham, Christian Boone and Ernie Suggs contributed to this report. You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had a blunt message to protesters who turned the streets of downtown Atlanta into scenes of violence and destruction late Friday: “Go home.”  In an emotional press conference, flanked by hip-hop stars and civil rights leaders, the mayor said that demonstrators outraged at systemic racism and police violence are defying the city’s legacy of nonviolent protest by destroying police cars and smashing windows.  “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos,” she said. “A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.”  She added: “If you care about this city, then go home.”  >> FULL TEXT: Read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ plea for her city >> PHOTOS: Atlanta rally against police violence draws hundreds, turns violent >> PROFILE: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in spotlight Bottoms’ remarks came as what started as a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned violent, with some demonstrators assaulting Atlanta Police Department cars and looting at the CNN Center.  She was echoed by several prominent activists, including a tearful Killer Mike. He said he “woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday because I’m tired of seeing black men die” but said violent demonstrations weren’t the way to effect change. “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. Now is the time to plot, plan, strategize and organize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth.”  Summing up his remarks, he asked: “If we lose Atlanta what else do we got?” The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the slain civil rights leader, also urged calm.  “We can’t keep doing things like we’ve been doing in this nation. We’ve got to deal with systemic racism and white supremacy,” King said. “The only pathway to doing this is through non-violent means.” >> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests  >> RELATED: Violence rocks Atlanta as peaceful protest ends in flames The last time a major protest rocked Atlanta, it was defused by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed when he promised a sit-down with Black Lives Matters demonstrators.  That compromise gave demonstrators in 2016 a way to declare a “win” and the protest, outside the Governor’s Mansion, was quickly dispersed. Bottoms is faced with a different sort of struggle with these demonstrators, and she pleaded with those who want to press for meaningful reforms to avoid the violence marring the city’s streets.  >> RELATED: Buckhead stores, restaurants clean up after a night of riots and looting >>MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: Peaceful protest turns violent “If you care about a peaceful protest, you’re not in the middle of one anymore,” she said. “So if you want a peaceful protest, go home. Organize and come back on a peaceful day. This is not a peaceful night.” 
  • Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard received an additional $25,000 in salary supplements from the city of Atlanta that he funneled through a nonprofit he heads as CEO, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have learned. That means Howard padded his pay with $195,000 of the $250,000 in grant money the city signed over to the DA’s Office in two checks in 2014 and 2016. The final $25,000 in payments were disclosed in a recent letter from the state ethics commission that notified Howard he will face two more allegations of violating state campaign finance laws. In April, after the AJC and Channel 2 reported the unusual financial arrangement, the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission filed a dozen allegations against Howard, many for failing to disclose his secondary employment as the CEO for People Partnering for Progress. The nonprofit, set up about a decade ago, says its mission is to reduce youth violence. The disclosures also led the GBI to conduct a criminal investigation of Howard at the request of Attorney General Chris Carr. In prior statements, Howard has strongly denied any wrongdoing. His office did not respond this week for a request for comment. Atlanta lawyer Frank Strickland, who represents Howard before the ethics commission, declined to comment. Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor who has reviewed documents in the case, called on Howard to immediately address the accusations in public and open up the books for his People Partnering for Progress nonprofit to show he did nothing wrong. “It’s hard to see a non-criminal reason for his conduct, so I think the voters need to hear from him an explanation that is well documented and supported,” Cunningham said. “I can’t see any legal justification for doing it. It looks like theft by conversion, which is a felony under Georgia law.” Howard initially approached the city in 2014 and asked for a $70,000 salary supplement to the $158,000 he was receiving at the time from the state and a county supplement. (He makes roughly $175,000 today.) When the city declined that request, then-Mayor Kasim Reed arranged for the city to write a $125,000 check to the DA’s Office in 2014 and another $125,000 check in 2016. After he learned the city had approved the first payment, Howard wrote a thank-you letter to Reed on Aug. 22, 2014. In that note, he said the funds would be used to augment his community prosecution program. They also would “aid in crime reduction and improved quality of life within the city of Atlanta as well as provide additional compensation to the community prosecution staff and the district attorney,” Howard wrote. The letter made no mention of Howard’s plan to divert almost 80 percent of the city’s funds to himself. The AJC and Channel 2 previously reported that People Partnering for Progress used the city funds to pay Howard $170,000 from 2014 through 2017. Attached to the recent ethics commission letter were copies of four $5,000 checks that the nonprofit paid Howard in 2018 and another $5,000 check in 2019. Howard is being challenged in the upcoming Democratic primary by attorneys Christian Wise Smith and Fani Willis. On Tuesday, during a forum hosted by the Georgia Justice Reform Partnership, the two challengers criticized Howard for getting caught up in the controversy. In response, Howard said, “I would ask people to kind of ask themselves the question: Well, I wonder why is it all of a sudden during this election season that we now start to see allegations against Mr. Howard?” Then, referring to the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he added, “I’m reminded of something that has happened throughout our history with people like Dr. King, and I’m not comparing myself to Dr. King. But always allegations were placed against him.” Such attacks have happened before, he said. “And I can tell you with those allegations, whatever process they take, I can tell you that I will be fully exonerated.” After the initial charges were filed against him in April, Howard amended his 2015-2019 financial statements to disclose his position as CEO at the nonprofit, said David Emadi, executive director of the state ethics commission. “That complaint and investigation remains open at this time.” You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s office has confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has closed an investigation into recent stock trades made on her behalf. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Loeffler is among the senators who are no longer under scrutiny. The others are Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Dianne Feinstein of California. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina remains under investigation, according to that report. Loeffler’s portfolio came under scrutiny when a large amount of stocks that she or her husband owned were sold off shortly after she attended a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus and during the time that the virus began to spread across the country. She said that the Jan. 24 meeting included no private information and all stocking trading on her behalf is handled by financial advisers who act independently and without her input.  Loeffler denied that any trading on her behalf had broken laws or U.S. Senate rules. A campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the investigation has shown that the criticism was fueled by politics. “Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along– she did nothing wrong,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians.” A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the investigation. Loeffler initially refused to admit she was under investigation. Earlier this month, she said  she had turned over documents to federal investigators. But she would not say if she had volunteered or was asked to supply information or if she had been questioned.  Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, have already taken steps to address the controversy about stock trading on their behalf during the COVID-19 pandemic. They directed their consultants to sell off stocks they own in individual companies. The only company’s shares they still own are Intercontinental Exchange, the conglomerate that Sprecher founded and now leads.  Loeffler worked for the company until she was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Although the threat of an investigation seems to be over, Loeffler should still expect to face questions about her portfolio on the campaign trail, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said. Collins is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat in November’s special election. 'Her expensive lawyers might keep her from going to prison,” Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said, “but she's not going back to the U.S. Senate because we all know what she did.” This article was originally published on the ajc.com
  • They teach philosophy and math, counsel college students, help run campuses, tend to the grounds of state facilities, enforce standards for police officers, keep farmers markets open, staff efforts to help addicts and the mentally ill, do farm work for agriculture research sites and investigate possible tax fraud. And they’re all in jobs that will be eliminated under budget cut plans submitted last week to meet the state’s goal of slashing budgets 14% because of the revenue decline brought on by the coronavirus recession. More than 1,000 people in jobs - some part-time, many full-time - would see their livelihoods vanish at a time of record unemployment.  The tsunami of unemployment swept over Georgia when businesses closed because of the pandemic. But many of the state employees would lose their jobs at a time when the need for government services will likely increase. In addition, tens of thousands of state employees who keep their jobs would see their salaries cut - in some cases dramatically. The Georgia State Patrol said it would furlough officers and other staffers 12 to 24 days next fiscal year. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would furlough some staffers two days a month. The agency that oversees the District Attorneys program listed 44 days, or almost almost nine weeks. >>More on this story from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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  • Charges have been filed against all four Minneapolis police officers involved in the situation that led last week to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis. Former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was previously charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, has been charged with second-degree murder. The other officers involved in the situation, Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Floyd, 46, died May 25 after he was detained for questioning regarding a possible forgery in progress. Video of his death caught by bystanders showed Chauvin holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd pleaded for air, sparking outrage. Live updates for Thursday, June 4 continue below: Portland, other cities rethink school police amid protests Update 8 p.m. EDT June 4: Oregon’s largest school district will no longer have police officers in its schools and joins a handful of urban districts from Minneapolis to Denver that are rethinking their school resource officer programs amid national outrage over the death of George Floyd. Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said Thursday that Portland Public Schools needed to “re-examine our relationship” with the police in light of protests over the death of Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. The district of more than 49,000 students joins Minneapolis, which severed ties with its school resource officers on Tuesday. Districts in St. Paul, Minnesota and Denver are considering doing the same. Protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, have made the end of the school resource officer program in their district one of their demands. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Thursday that he would also discontinue using school resource officers in two smaller metropolitan districts under a program that costs the city $1.6 million a year. The move is in response to the demands of thousands of protesters, many of them young, who have filled the streets of Oregon’s largest city for six consecutive nights. Having the officers in high schools has been a touchy topic for several years in this liberal city. Students have protested in recent years for an end to the program, at one point even overwhelming a school board meeting. “Leaders must listen and respond to community. We must disrupt the patterns of racism and injustice,” Wheeler said Thursday of the most recent demonstrations. “I am pulling police officers from schools.” The presence of armed police officers in schools is a contentious one. While many Portland residents applauded the decision, others raised immediate concerns about student safety in the event of a school shooting or other emergency. Wheeler said the city would make sure officers could respond rapidly in an emergency. The move is “a knee-jerk reaction,” and the decision by a few districts to stop their programs could snowball — to the detriment of students nationwide, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, whose association represents about 10,000 dues-paying officers. There are an estimated 25,000 school resource officers nationwide, he said. Headlines, op-ed prompt staff protests at NY Times, Inquirer Update 6:45 p.m. EDT June 4: Some staffers at The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer called in sick Thursday to protest decisions at each newspaper they believe were insensitive in the midst of nationwide protests about police mistreatment of black Americans. At the Times, an opinion column by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton supporting use of the military to quell demonstrations prompted a rare public rebuke from dozens of staffers and the paper’s guild. Times management didn’t back down from the decision to publish it. The Inquirer apologized for a “horribly wrong” decision to use the headline “Buildings Matter, Too” on an article. The twin uprisings illustrated raw feelings unleashed by the video of George Floyd dying last week after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck, along with long-time concerns about whether newspaper staffs reflect the makeup of their communities. In his column, headlined “Send in the Troops,” Cotton condemned “nihilist criminals” out for loot and the thrill of destruction and “left-wing radicals” who want to exploit Floyd’s death to create anarchy. The Arkansas Republican, supporting President Donald Trump, said it was time to supplement local law enforcement with federal troops. Pentagon-Trump clash breaks open over military and protests Update 5:40 p.m. EDT June 4: President Donald Trump is not only drawing criticism from his usual political foes but also facing backtalk from his defense secretary, his former Pentagon chief and a growing number of fellow Republicans. A day after Defense Secretary Mark Esper shot down Trump’s idea of using active-duty troops to quell protests across the United States, retired four-star Gen. John Allen joined the chorus of former military leaders going after the president. And Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Esper’s remarks were “overdue” and she didn’t know if she would support Trump in November. Although Esper’s declaration was followed by the Pentagon reversing course on pulling part of the 82nd Airborne Division off standby outside Washington, the rising criticism underscored an extraordinary clash between the U.S. military and its commander in chief. On Thursday, an official said the troops in question from the 82nd were going home to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after all. Both Trump and Esper also drew stinging, rare public criticism from Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, in the most public pushback of Trump’s presidency from the men he put at the helm of the world’s most powerful military. 3 ex-officers charged in George Floyd’s death ordered held on $750,000 bail Update 3:25 p.m. EDT June 4: Court records from Hennepin County, Minnesota, show three former police officers charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd have each been ordered held on bails of $750,000. Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao made their first court appearances Thursday, according to court records. They were fired last week from Minneapolis Police Department after Floyd died on May 25. In video captured by passersby, the trio could be seen standing by or holding Floyd down as then-Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The three are scheduled to next appear in court on June 29. Chauvin is scheduled to make his first court appearance on charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on June 8. First of three memorial services for George Floyd set to begin in Minneapolis Update 3 p.m. EDT June 4: A memorial for George Floyd, who died last week in an encounter with Minneapolis police, is set to begin at 1 p.m. local time Thursday. President of North Central University announces George Floyd memorial scholarship Update 2:55 p.m. EDT June 4: The president of North Central University in Minneapolis announced that university officials have launched a memorial scholarship in honor of George Floyd, who was killed last week in an encounter with Minneapolis police. University President Scott Hagan announced the establishment of the fund during a memorial held Thursday for Floyd in Minneapolis. “Even before announcing this scholarship, yesterday, unsolicited, over $53,000 was handed to me to contribute toward the educational promise of aspiring young Black American leaders,” Hagan said. “I am now challenging every university president in the United States in America to establish your own George Floyd memorial scholarship fund.” Pelosi asks Trump for full list of agencies involved in response to DC protests  Update 2:20 p.m. EDT June 4: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday asked President Donald Trump to name the agencies involved in the response to protests against police brutality in Washington D.C. and clarify their roles and responsibilities. The California Democrat wrote to the president days after peaceful protesters were tear-gassed to clear them from a park near the White House to allow for Trump to walk across the street for a photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church. “We are concerned about the increased militarization and lack of clarity that may increase chaos,” Pelosi said in the letter. “Congress and the American people need to know who is in charge, what is the chain of command, what is the mission, and by what authority is the National Guard from other state operating in the capital.' Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has been critical of the decision to allow out-of-state National Guard officials and military troops into the city, shared Pelosi’s letter on Twitter. “If it can happen in DC, what jurisdiction is next?” Bowser wrote. Los Angeles mayor lifts city’s curfew Update 2:05 p.m. EDT June 4: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday lifted a curfew enacted over the city as protests against police brutality and the death of Black Americans including George Floyd erupted nationwide. “I have lifted the curfew in the City of Los Angeles,” Garcetti said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We remain strongly committed to protecting the right of Angelenos to make their voices heard and ensuring the safety of our community.” University of Central Florida reviewing comments by professor who tweeted about ‘black privilege’ Update 1:50 p.m. EDT June 4: The University of Central Florida is reviewing a professor’s tweets after a hashtag calling for his removal began to trend Thursday morning on social media, WFTV reported. A Change.org petition was launched asking for an investigation into psychology professor Charles Negy, who in recent days compared African-Americans to Asian-Americans and claimed “black privilege” exists, according to WFTV and the Miami Herald. >> Read more on WFTV.com Ohio governor calls for moment of silence to remember George Floyd Update 1:35 p.m. EDT June 4: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday requested that state residents observe a moment of silence at 2 p.m. to remember George Floyd, who authorities said was killed last week in police custody. WHIO-TV reported DeWine cancelled a planned news conference scheduled Thursday afternoon because it was set to begin at the same time as a memorial service for Floyd in Minneapolis. Los Angeles County sheriff says deputies will no longer enforce county’s curfew Update 12:25 p.m. EDT June 4: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday that deputies will no longer enforce a curfew amid protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. “Based upon current situational awareness and the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer enforce a curfew,” Villanueva said in a statement. “Other jurisdictions are free to make their own decisions.” Virginia governor announces plans to take down statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee Update 11:35 a.m. EDT June 4: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced plans to take down a large statute of Gen. Robert E. Lee along Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue. “Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now,” Northam wrote in a series of Twitter posts announcing the decision. “So we’re taking it down.” The move comes amid protests nationwide over police brutality, racism and the deaths of Black Americans like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of police and vigilantes. Officials in Richmond, one of the former capitals of the Confederacy, have resisted calls to remove the statue for years. Massachusetts man accused of bringing Molotov cocktails to protest Update 11:15 a.m. EDT June 4: Authorities have charged a Worcester, Massachusetts, man with civil disorder and possession of several Molotov cocktails during a demonstration in the city over the death of George Floyd, WFXT reported. In a news release obtained by WFXT, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said 18-year-old Vincent Eovacious “attempted to obstruct or interfere with law enforcement officers” by bringing the Molotov cocktails to a peaceful protest on June 1. Eovacious was arrested Wednesday after being released on bond following state charges, including possession of an incendiary device, WFXT reported. >> Read more on Boston25News.com Washington State Patrol apologizes after trooper says, ‘Don’t kill them but hit them hard’ during protests Update 10:55 a.m. EDT June 4: Officials with Washington State Patrol apologized after video surfaced on social media showing a trooper saying, “Don’t kill them, but hit them hard” during protests in Seattle on Tuesday night, KIRO-TV reported. “Using that language ... which gives the impression of over-aggression and physicality and hurting people and harming people by law enforcement by intent was totally out of line, totally inappropriate, hurtful, confusing,” WSP Communications Director Chris Loftis said, according to KIRO-TV. He implored the public to understand the context of the situation. “(The trooper) was preparing his troops for what would be a physically confrontational situation,' Loftis said, according to KIRO-TV. “He was letting them know there were limits to what we could do.” The woman who caught the trooper’s comments on video, Krystal Marx, told KIRO-TV that WSP’s apology and explanation are not enough. “I would encourage WSP -- any other law enforcement agency -- if you are there to protect the peace, keep the peace and to listen and learn from communities that are hurting,' Marx said. “Make sure you use your language appropriately.” >> Read more on KIRO7.com Some Minneapolis police take knee as hearse for George Floyd passes by Update 10:40 a.m. EDT June 4: Some Minneapolis police officers were seen kneeling Thursday morning as the hearse carrying the body of George Floyd passed them, Twin Cities PBS reported. Ben Crump, an attorney representing Floyd’s family, said a memorial for the 46-year-old will be held at 1 p.m. local time Thursday at North Central University in Minneapolis. Senate Democrats hold moment of silence to remember George Floyd, victims of police brutality Update 10:30 a.m. EDT June 4: Senate Democrats on Thursday stayed silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in remembrance of George Floyd, the man who died last week as a Minneapolis police officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Drew Brees apologizes after saying protests during national anthem disrespect the flag Update 8:55 a.m. EDT June 4: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday after saying in an interview with Yahoo! that he thought protests during the national anthem were disrespectful to the flag. “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday,” Brees said in a statement posted Thursday morning on Instagram. He acknowledged that while speaking Wednesday with Yahoo! he “made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.” “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy,” Brees wrote. “Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.” Asked a question Wednesday about players protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, Brees told Yahoo! that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” Brees was heavily criticized on social media for his comments. “WOW MAN!!” LeBron James said in a tweet Thursday. “Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of (the flag) and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free.” Beyoncé urges fans to stay ‘focused’ in fight for justice  Update 8:10 a.m. June 4: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is urging her fans to stay “focused” in fighting for justice for George Floyd. The Grammy-winning artist shared a message on Instagram, which featured an aerial photo of of Black Lives Matter demonstrators filling the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The caption framing the photo read: “The world came together for George Floyd. We know there is a long road ahead. Let’s remain aligned and focused in our call for real justice.” Friend in car says George Floyd did not resist arrest Update 6:17 a.m. June 4: A friend who was in the passenger seat of George Floyd’s car when he had a fatal encounter with a police officer said the Minneapolis man tried to defuse the situation and did not try to resist arrest. Maurice Lester Hall, 42, was arrested on outstanding warrants Wednesday in Houston and was interviewed by investigators in Minnesota, The New York Times reported. “He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” Hall told the newspaper. “I could hear him pleading, ‘Please, officer, what’s all this for?’” Hall called Floyd a mentor and said the two Houston natives spent time together May 25 before the incident with Minneapolis. Hall said he will not forget what he saw as Derek Chauvin placed a knee against Floyd’s neck and held it there for nearly nine minutes. “He was just crying out at that time for anyone to help because he was dying,” Hall told the Times. “I’m going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd’s face because he’s such a king. That’s what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die.” LA police arrest protesters who broke curfew Update 5:18 a.m. June 4: Police in Los Angeles arrested nearly 100 protesters who broke the city’s curfew, with some staying outside more than 90 minutes past the 9 p.m. deadline, The Washington Post reported. The rally occurred outside City Hall on Wednesday night and many of the 1,000 attendees obeyed the curfew and went home, the newspaper reported. Those who did not were handcuffed by police in riot gear. “When I first got here it was really scary, because when I came here I saw the National Guard and I was not myself,” Ashley, a 22-year-old protester from Pasadena, California, who declined to give her last name, told the Post. “So seeing that made me fear what was going to happen.” Most observers said that despite the arrests, the rally was peaceful, the newspaper reported. Georgia police: 3 protesters torched squad cars Update 5:08 a.m. June 4: Three protesters in Georgia are accused of setting police cars on fire, WSB-TV reported. According to police, the protesters tracked the officers down at their homes and torched the cars. Ebuka Chike-Morah, Alvin Joseph and Lakaila Mack all face charges for lighting two Gwinnett police cars on fire, according to WSB-TV. Meghan Markle speaks out against George Floyd’s death Update 3:37 a.m. June 4: Meghan Markle spoke out about the death of George Floyd, calling it “absolutely devastating.” The Duchess of Sussex made her comments in a video to the graduating class of Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles “George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people’s names we know and names we don’t know,' Markle said. “You’re going to use your voice in a stronger way than you have ever been able to because most of you are 18, or you’re turning 18, so you’re going to vote. You’re going to have empathy for those who don’t see the world through the same lens that you do.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says arrests ‘a step toward justice’  Update 3:20 a.m. June 4: Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar told CNN the decision to charge all four former Minneapolis police officers was “a step toward justice.” The NBA legend, who wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday and observed that “racism in America is like dust in the air,” praised Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis MayorJacob Frey for their fast actions. “It’s like, you know, the United States is this wonderful bus with great seats in the front of the bus,' Abdul-Jabbar told CNN. “But as you go further to the back of the bus, the seats get worse and the fumes from the exhaust leak in and really wreck with people’s health and their lives. But the people at the front of the bus, they have no complaints. It’s kind of like that. “That dust accumulates in the lives of black Americans, and it eliminates all the mechanics of democracy. Democracy doesn’t work for us.” The former Los Angeles Lakers center said nothing had changed in terms of systematic racism since the Rodney King incident and riots in Los Angeles in 1992. “Something has to be done,” Abdul-Jabbar told CNN. “It’s not enough to say, ‘That was terrible and my thoughts and prayers are with you.’ That’s not getting anything done.” National Guard to assist authorities in San Diego County Update 2:59 a.m. June 4: Two hundred members of the National Guard have been deployed in San Diego County to prevent looting, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office said in a tweet. The Guardsmen will work with local law enforcement agencies to provide security to “critical infrastructures” during protests to prevent looting and arson, the department tweeted. Police use tear gas when protesters try to block Iowa interstate Update 2:33 a.m. June 4: Hundreds of protesters attempting to block an Iowa interstate were met by state troopers and Iowa City police, who fired tear gas, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. The crowd attempted to skirt the line of officials who were blocking their path, the newspaper reported. “Disperse immediately,” said a speaker, who was identified as an Iowa State Patrol officer. The voice added that failure to do so would result in the deployment of chemical deterrents. “Quit your job,” the crowd chanted back, the Press-Citizen reported. Huntsville police arrest more than 20 protesters, use tear gas Update 2:13 a.m. June 4: Police in Huntsville, Alabama, arrested more than 20 protesters and used tear gas at the Madison County Courthouse square, WHNT reported. Protests began peacefully earlier Wednesday in a march sponsored by the NAACP and ended around 6:30 p.m. The majority of the crowd stayed and marched from Big Spring Park East to the courthouse, the television station reported. Around 8 p.m., authorities used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd, WHNT reported. The area was cleared within an hour, according to WHNT. Police said more arrests could be pending. New Orleans police fire tear gas at protesters Update 1:33 a.m. June 4: Police in New Orleans fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters near the Crescent City Connection late Wednesday, NOLA.com reported. Police said the action was taken after protesters refused to comply with three orders not to walk across the CCC. “The NOPD deployed tear gas tonight to disperse protesters after the crowd refused to comply with three orders not to attempt to walk across the CCC,” the department said in a statement. “Escalation and confrontation hurts us all. NOPD is committed to respectful protection of our residents’ First Amendment rights. However, tonight we were compelled to deploy gas on the CCC in response to escalating, physical confrontation with our officers.” 3 Minneapolis officers charged Wednesday to appear in court Thursday Update 1:15 a.m. June 4: The three former Minneapolis police officers who were arrested Wednesday on charges of aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will have their first court appearances Thursday afternoon. The former officers -- J. Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao -- are set to appear before the judicial officer at 1:45 p.m. EDT, CNN reported. The hearings were pushed up by 45 minutes from their original schedule, according to court records.
  • More than 6.4 million people worldwide – including more than 1.8 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Thursday, June 4, continue below:  Seattle to offer free citywide coronavirus testing Update 9:30 p.m. EDT June 4: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday that the city will offer free citywide coronavirus testing in partnership with the University of Washington Medicine. Testing will be performed at two locations. Drive-up sites will be located in north and south Seattle. Those sites are former emissions testing sites, which will allow for up to 1,600 tests per day, officials said. However, the testing will only be for those who drive through and book ahead. Outbreak reported at Tyson food plant in North Carolina A COVID-19 outbreak was reported at the Tyson Food plant in Claremont, where town leaders said more than 700 people work. Tyson sent WSOC-TV an email saying it doesn’t plan on doing widespread testing there because the number of COVID-19 cases is less than 2%. Family members of the plant workers said that 10 workers have been infected with the virus. The company makes frozen prepacked sandwiches and biscuits. The news comes after 570 people tested positive at the Tyson chicken plants in Wilkesboro, NC. California Gov. says protests may lead to spike in virus cases Update 7:30 p.m. EDT June 4: California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday he’s concerned about the spread of coronavirus as thousands of people gather for protests across the state, and he said the state should prepare for higher rates of positive tests because of both the protests and the reopening of businesses that’s underway. “If you’re not (concerned), you’re not paying attention to the epidemiology, to the virulence of this disease,” he said during a visit to Stockton, California, where he met with Mayor Michael Tubbs and business owners to discuss systemic racism and injustices. Newsom added he’s particularly concerned about the disproportionate deaths from the virus among black Californians. Still, California has no plans to halt its reopening efforts, though Newsom hasn’t announced any new guidance for businesses this week. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services agency, said the state is in a “range of stability” on cases and hospitalizations and is “working hard” on more guidance. California has already allowed most counties to reopen restaurants, nail salons, churches and other businesses with restrictions. But highly anticipated guidance on schools has not been released, nor have details on the resumption of professional sports, possibly without fans. Ghaly acknowledged it will be weeks before the effects of the protest on public health are fully known. He highlighted the “importance of the freedom and liberty to protest” but added, “it does create infectious disease concern that we weren’t contending with before.” Telehealth expansion could become permanent after pandemic Update 6:50 p.m. EDT June 4: The temporary expansion of telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic would become permanent under a bill endorsed Thursday by a Senate committee. As passed by the House in March, the bill would allow reimbursement for medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders conducted via telehealth. But an amendment recommended by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee would also make permanent the provisions of Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency order on telehealth, which allowed all health care providers to offer services remotely and required insurers to cover them. Officials representing hospitals, community health centers, dentists and mental health providers all told the committee that telehealth has been a valuable tool during the pandemic and should continue. “As many experts have predicted, telehealth is here to stay, which is why this legislation is so important to ensure patients are able to get the right care at the right time in the right setting, which ultimately may be in the safety of their own homes,” said Paula Minnehan of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. Ken Norton, director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said telehealth has greatly expanded access to mental health treatment. “We can’t go back,” he said. Study on safety of malaria drugs for coronavirus retracted Update 4:50 p.m. EDT June 4: Several authors of a large study that raised safety concerns about malaria drugs for coronavirus patients have retracted the report, saying independent reviewers were not able to verify information that’s been widely questioned by other scientists. Thursday’s retraction in the journal Lancet involved a May 22 report on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs long used for preventing or treating malaria but whose safety and effectiveness for COVID-19 are unknown. The study leaders also retracted an earlier report using the same company’s database on blood pressure drugs published by the New England Journal of Medicine. That study suggested that widely used blood pressure medicines were safe for coronavirus patients, a conclusion some other studies and heart doctor groups also have reached. Even though the Lancet report was not a rigorous test, the observational study had huge impact because of its size, reportedly involving more than 96,000 patients and 671 hospitals on six continents. Its conclusion that the drugs were tied to a higher risk of death and heart problems in people hospitalized with COVID-19 led the World Health Organization to temporarily stop use of hydroxychloroquine in a study it is leading, and for French officials to stop allowing its use in hospitals there. “Not only is there no benefit, but we saw a very consistent signal of harm,” study leader Dr. Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told The Associated Press when the work was published. The drugs have been controversial because President Donald Trump repeatedly promoted their use and took hydroxychloroquine himself to try to prevent infection after some White House staffers tested positive for the virus. The drugs are known to have potential side effects, especially heart rhythm problems. The Lancet study relied on a database from a Chicago company, Surgisphere. Its founder, Dr. Sapan Desai, is one of the authors. Dozens of scientists questioned irregularities and improbable findings in the numbers, and the other authors besides Desai said earlier this week that an independent audit would be done. In the retraction notice, those authors say Surgisphere would not give the reviewers the full data, citing confidentiality and client agreements. Cases, testing hit single-day highs in NC Update 3:45 p.m. EDT June 4: Health officials in North Carolina reported the state’s highest single-day number of new coronavirus infections and daily testing figures on Thursday, WSOC-TV reported. Officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said 1,189 new COVID-19 cases have been reported statewide. WSOC-TV reported that the previous highest one-day increase in cases was 1,185. State officials also reported having conducted 19,039 tests, the highest number reported in a single day so far and well over the state’s goal of 5,000 to 7,000 tests per day. Officials have reported 31,966 cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina. At least 960 people statewide have died of coronavirus infections. >> Read more on WSOCTV.com 1,805 new coronavirus infections reported in the UK Update 2:45 p.m. EDT June 4: Officials in the United Kingdom reported 1,805 new coronavirus infections Thursday, raising the country’s total number of infections to 281,661. Officials said that as of 5 p.m. local time Wednesday, the most recent date for which data was available, 39,904 people had died nationwide of COVID-19. NBA season to resume from Orlando in late July, reports say Update 2:35 p.m. EDT June 4: The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved a plan to restart the season after it was suspended three months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press and other media outlets reported. The 2019-2020 season will be played in Orlando at Walt Disney World’s ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex starting in late July, the AP reported. 603 new cases of COVID-19 reported in New Jersey Update 2:05 p.m. EDT June 4: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said Thursday that 603 new coronavirus infections have been reported, raising the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 162,530. “We still have work to do,” Murphy said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Let’s keep pushing these numbers down. When we do, (we’ll) get through Stage 2 that much sooner.” Officials also reported 92 more deaths associated with the coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday, 11,970 people have died statewide of COVID-19. CDC chief urges Americans to be vigilant on coronavirus Update 1:20 p.m. EDT June 4: Worried by photos of large gatherings of people which could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases, the head of the Centers for Disease Control used testimony before Congress on Thursday to plead with Americans to wear masks in public and continue to engage in social distancing measures to stop the spread of the virus. “We’re very concerned that our public health message is not resonating,” Redfield told a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee. 104 new cases of COVID-19 reported in DC Update 12:20 p.m. EDT June 4: Health officials in Washington D.C. said Thursday that 104 new coronavirus infections have been reported in the area, raising the total number of cases in the area to 9,120. Officials also announced that two more people, aged 76 and 89, had died of COVID-19 in Washington D.C., bringing the total number of deaths in the District to 475. 52 new fatal COVID-19 cases reported in New York Update 11:55 p.m. EDT June 4: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Thursday that 52 more people have died of COVID-19 in the state. The number is slightly higher than the 49 new fatal coronavirus infections reported one day before and lower than the 58 deaths reported Tuesday and the 54 deaths reported on Monday. Ohio State University to resume in-person classes in fall Update 11:10 a.m. EDT June 4: Officials with Ohio State University announced plans Wednesday to reopen its campus in Columbus, Ohio come the fall, WHIO-TV reported. University President Michael V. Drake announced the decision at a board of trustees meeting and in a message to the university community, according to WHIO-TV. Specific guidelines will be announced in the coming weeks based on guidance from state and local health authorities and recommendations of the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup of the university’s COVID-19 Transition Task Force. >> Read more on WHIO.com Stocks open slightly lower after 4 straight days of gains Update 10:05 a.m. EDT June 4: Stocks eased back in early trading Thursday on Wall Street as a four-day market rally cooled off. The stretch of gains had brought the S&P 500 back to where it was just one week after reaching an all-time high in February. The index fell 0.4%. In more grim news on the economy, nearly 1.9 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, but that marked the ninth straight decline since applications spiked in mid-March. European markets were mostly lower after the European Central Bank said it now expects the region’s economy to shrink by 8.7% this year and increased its stimulus program. RNC to meet Thursday with officials in NC to discuss future of convention Update 10 a.m. EDT June 4: Officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, plan to meet Thursday with members of the Republican National Committee to discuss plans for the Republican National Convention, WSOC-TV reported. The meeting comes after President Donald Trump said he was looking into moving the convention, which is scheduled for August, from Charlotte due to the safety precautions put in place statewide to try to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. >> Read more on WSOCTV.com 1.9 million seek jobless aid even as reopenings slow layoffs Update 8:40 a.m. EDT June 4: Nearly 1.9 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, the ninth straight decline since applications spiked in mid-March, a sign that the gradual reopening of businesses has slowed the loss of jobs. The diminishing pace suggests that the job market meltdown that was triggered by the coronavirus may have bottomed out as more companies call at least some of their former employees back to work. The total number of people who are now receiving jobless aid rose only slightly to 21.5 million, suggesting that rehiring is offsetting some of the ongoing layoffs. Though applications for benefits are slowing, the latest weekly number is still more than double the record high that prevailed before the viral outbreak. It shows that there are limits to how much a partial reopening of the economy can restore a depressed job market mired in a recession. Prince Charles says he was ‘lucky’ symptoms were mild Update 7:45 a.m. EDT June 4: Britain’s Prince Charles said he considered himself “lucky” after he contracted mild symptoms of the coronavirus, and had “got away with it quite lightly.” The prince told UK broadcaster Sky News that his brush with COVID-19 increased his commitment to advocating environmental causes. “It makes me even more determined to push and shove and shout and prod, if you see what I mean. Whatever I can do behind the scenes sometimes ... I suppose it did partly, I mean I was lucky in my case and got away with it quite lightly,” he told Sky News in a video call from Scotland. “But I’ve had it, and I can so understand what other people have gone through. And I feel particularly for those, for instance, who have lost their loved ones but were unable to be with them at the time. That to me is the most ghastly thing.” Civil unrest forces at least 70 testing sites to close Update 5:33 a.m. EDT June 4: Looting and civil unrest nationwide have forced at least 70 coronavirus testing sites to close, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told The Washington Post. Agency officials said most of the sites were located in private pharmacies in “socially vulnerable” neighborhoods, the newspaper reported. “We shouldn’t feel comforted if we don’t see an uptick,” Leana S. Wen, Baltimore’s former health commissioner, told the Post. “There may be a reason why the numbers aren’t being captured.” South Korea confirms 39 new cases Update 4:56 a.m. EDT June 4: South Korea health officials confirmed 39 new cases of COVID-19onn Thursday -- 33 of which are locally transmitted. According to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the news cases are related to several clusters in Seoul and surrounding areas. Yoon Tae-ho, an official with the South Korean Health Ministry, warned that locally transmitted cases may become tougher to trace, CNN reported. Confirmed cases top 6.5 million worldwide Update 4:10 a.m. EDT June 4: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases worldwide topped 6.5 million early Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the tally kept by the university, there are at least 6,514,639 confirmed cases of the virus, and there are at least 386,111 deaths. The United States remains the leader in confirmed cases with 1,851,520 and 107,175 deaths. Pakistan has more confirmed cases than China Update 2:50 a.m. EDT June 4: Pakistan has passed China in confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday, Pakistan had 85,264 confirmed cases and 1,770 virus-related deaths. China has reported 84,160 coronavirus cases and 4,638 deaths. US coronavirus cases climb past 1.85M, deaths top 107K Update 12:50 a.m. EDT June 4: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States continued to climb past 1.85 million early Thursday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,851,520 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 107,175 deaths. The hardest-hit states remain New York with 374,085 cases and 30,019 deaths and New Jersey with 162,068 cases and 11,880 deaths. Massachusetts, with 101,592 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 7,152, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 123,830. Six other states have now confirmed at least 54,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 117,215 cases, resulting in 4,305 deaths • Pennsylvania: 77,225 cases, resulting in 5,667 deaths • Texas: 67,310 cases, resulting in 1,716 deaths • Michigan: 57,731 cases, resulting in 5,553 deaths • Florida: 57,447 cases, resulting in 2,530 deaths • Maryland: 54,175 cases, resulting in 2,597 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut and Louisiana each has confirmed at least 40,000 cases; Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina each has confirmed at least 30,000 cases; Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington, Arizona and Iowa each has confirmed at least 20,000 cases; Alabama and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 18,000 cases, followed by Mississippi with 16,041 and Rhode Island with 15,112; Nebraska and Missouri each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases, followed by South Carolina with 12,415; Utah and Kentucky each has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Kansas and Delaware each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; the District of Columbia, Nevada and New Mexico each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases; Arkansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Social service providers knew this would be a busy spring. Isolation, anxiety and economic uncertainty over the pandemic have especially led, to an unprecedented demand for psychological counseling and help with substance abuse issues. “We actually were hyperfocused on overdoses,” said Jennifer Levine, executive director of the S.A.F.E. Coalition in Franklin, Massachusetts. “That is something that we were getting ready for, so we created a video for Narcan use... we ordered more Narcan ... we created a platform for that online.” And the organization did see that increase in overdoses. But then COVID-19 seemed to throw mental health professionals a curveball. “We’re seeing a huge increase in drinking in particular,” said Jaclyn Winer, LICSW, director of Holliston Youth and Family Services. “You know, if you’re stressed out, have a glass of wine and unwind. That’s perfectly normal and healthy. But if you are someone who struggles with substance use, that can really lead to worsening use.” Liquor stores never closed during the pandemic. They were deemed as essential as grocery stores and pharmacies -- and there were serious health reasons for that, said Levine. “The biggest concern was folks that use alcohol on a daily basis and were told they couldn’t use that alcohol would either withdrawal on their own at home, which is a huge concern, or they would find other means to use alcohol,” she said, citing examples such as ingesting isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. The fear was that either because of withdrawal symptoms or poisoning these chronic alcohol users would wind up in hospitals focused on dealing with COVID-19. But Levine said there appears to have been an unintended consequence of making alcohol available to the legions suddenly forced to work or study from home -- no matter what level of drinker they started out as. “There’s just more access to alcohol,” she said. “So many stores are delivering. There are alcohol delivery services.” Unfortunately, Levine said some of the alcohol is winding up in the hands of kids. “A lot of parents are recognizing that their child -- their middle school, high school, college-age child are increasing their alcohol use -- which is a huge concern for them.” Another big concern: Those in recovery who have had no access to “live” support meetings for months. That has taken a terrible toll, Winer said. “Unfortunately, folks who were relying on certain services have, unfortunately, relapsed,” she said. “For those that are occasional drinkers or drink socially, you might not think twice about a liquor store being open,” she added. “But when we think about the messages that are getting sent to our youth and our recovery community, I think that can definitely persuade somebody who maybe had been in recovery to start drinking again.” Although the pandemic is easing, there's no way to know when a vaccine will be available and/or the virus will have infected enough Americans (assuming they become immune as a result) to become a negligible threat. That gnawing anxiety of “no end in sight” means the need for counseling and other social services will likely continue to rise. “We will emerge from this in a healthy and safe way,” Winer said. “I think anxiety is bound to be there. But as long as we can lean into the anxiety and not dismiss it, I think we’ll be able to get through this.” In other words, if you need help, it’s there. Don’t be afraid to get it.
  • The cases against three murder suspects have been bound over to Superior Court after an all-day hearing in Glynn County. The three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are scheduled for probable cause hearings in Brunswick today amid nationwide protests over the killing of another unarmed black man — George Floyd — in Minneapolis.  Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan have each been charged with felony murder in the Arbery case, which has drawn national attention and sparked demonstrations. Because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the McMichaels and Bryan will appear by video for their hearings from the Glynn County Detention Center.  Read more on this story at www.ajc.com. 
  • Hoods could fly open on certain Nissan vehicles because of a faulty latch prompting the carmaker to recall thousands of cars for the fourth time.  A coating can flake off the secondary hood latch, leaving bare metal that, over time, can cause rust and cause it to stay open on Altimas built from 2013 to 2018 model years, The Associated Press reported.  If the main latch is not closed, the secondary might not be able to hold down the hood. The first recall for this problem was in 2014. Another was in 2015. Both times, the repair was made by fixing a lever and adjusting the secondary latch. A 2016 recall replaced the latches with new ones.  Nissan does not have a fix yet for the latest recall. Owners will get letters with instructions on how to inspect and maintain the latch. Owners will get another letter when a repair is developed.  A link to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where people could check if their vehicle is affected: https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A North Carolina girl has died after a fight with the coronavirus. Aurea Soto Morales, a second grader at Creekside Elementary School, died Monday after she was hospitalized at UNC Hospital for severe complications from the coronavirus. In a GoFundMe, which has raised more than $12,600, organizers said COVID-19 caused swelling in her brain. She later went into a coma and died. Her father, mother and sister have also contracted the virus, according to the GoFundMe. Creekside Elementary School released the following statement: “Our whole Creekside community’s heart is broken over the loss of one of our wonderful students, who was a shining light wherever she went. Even though we must remain physically distant due to COVID-19, we are still reaching out to support our children, families, and staff during this difficult time. We ask that the family and our Creekside community be given privacy so that we may have the space and time to grieve.”