‘I’m all for it’: Governor Newsom, state Assembly support removing Trump

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO  — California Gov. Gavin Newsom added his support Monday for removing President Donald Trump from office through impeachment or the 25th Amendment.

“I’m all for it,” the Democratic governor said in response to a question about his stance on both options, before quickly changing the subject.

“That’s not my focus right now. My focus, candidly, is on you and your family, as it relates to issues associated with getting us through this very challenging wave in this pandemic,” he said, referencing the effort to vaccinate California’s nearly 40 million residents against the coronavirus.

Newsom’s approval of removing Trump put him in line with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. The House will begin debate Wednesday on an impeachment resolution charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”

While California has been at odds with the Trump administration since the Republican took office in 2017, Newsom has carefully chosen his words during the pandemic to avoid Trump’s ire, often praising his administration for providing resources. He originally declined to answer a question about removing Trump when asked last week.

Meanwhile, the California Assembly passed a resolution calling for Trump’s resignation or removal. Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a former Republican leader who left the party in 2019 to become an independent, introduced the resolution.

“This American carnage lays at the feet of only one person,” he said. Mayes said reconciliation and healing must come after “accountability and repentance.”

The Democratic-led chamber approved the measure by a vote of 51-6. All six people voting against it were Republicans. But the majority of Republicans, including Republican Leader Marie Waldron, did not vote.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Republican who voted against the measure, said “the 25th Amendment timeline simply is not there.” He criticized his colleagues for focusing on Trump and said their attention should be on the pandemic and other state issues.

“The first thing we do on the floor in California is throw a political punch at a lame duck. I think that’s lame,” he said.

Powered by WPeMatico

Citing suicide risk, UK judge refuses extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to U.S.

By JILL LAWLESS | The Associated Press

LONDON  — A British judge on Monday rejected the United States’ request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges, saying he was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected allegations that Assange is being prosecuted for political reasons or would not receive a fair trial in the United States. But she said his precarious mental health would likely deteriorate further under the conditions of “near total isolation” he would face in U.S. prison.

“I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” the judge said.

She said Assange was “a depressed and sometimes despairing man” who had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent any suicide prevention measures taken by American prison authorities.

The U.S. government said it would appeal the decision. Assange’s lawyers said they would ask for his release from a London prison where he has been held for more than a year-and-a-half at a bail hearing on Wednesday.

Assange, who sat in the dock at London’s Central Criminal Court for the ruling, wiped his brow as the decision was announced. His partner Stella Moris, with whom he has two young sons, wept.

Assange’s American lawyer, Barry Pollack, said the legal team was “enormously gratified by the U.K. court’s decision denying extradition.”

“The effort by the United States to prosecute Julian Assange and seek his extradition was ill-advised from the start,” he said. “We hope that after consideration of the U.K. court’s ruling, the United States will decide not to pursue the case further.”

The ruling marks a dramatic moment in Assange’s years-long legal battles in Britain — though likely not its final chapter.

U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked military and diplomatic documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

Lawyers for the 49-year-old Australian argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing leaked documents that exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The judge, however, said Assange’s actions, if proven, would “amount to offenses in this jurisdiction that would not be protected by his right to freedom of speech.”

The defense also argued during a three-week hearing in the fall that extradition threatens Assange’s human rights because he risks “a grossly disproportionate sentence” and detention in “draconian and inhumane conditions” that would exacerbate his severe depression and other mental health problems.

The judge agreed that U.S. prison conditions would be oppressive. She accepted evidence from expert witnesses that Assange had a depressive disorder and an autism spectrum disorder.

“I accept that oppression as a bar to extradition requires a high threshold. … However, I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single minded determination’ of his autism spectrum disorder,” the judge said in her ruling.

Lawyers for the U.S. government deny that Assange is being prosecuted merely for publishing the leaked documents, saying the case “is in large part based upon his unlawful involvement” in the theft of the diplomatic cables and military files by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The prosecution of Assange has been condemned by journalists and human rights groups, who say it undermines free speech around the world.

They welcomed the judge’s decision, even though it was not made on free-speech grounds.

“This is a huge relief to anyone who cares about the rights of journalists,” The Freedom of the Press Foundation tweeted:

“The extradition request was not decided on press freedom grounds; rather, the judge essentially ruled the U.S. prison system was too repressive to extradite. However, the result will protect journalists everywhere.”

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, to avoid being sent to Sweden, Assange sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he was beyond the reach of U.K. and Swedish authorities — but also effectively a prisoner, unable to leave the tiny diplomatic mission in London’s tony Knightsbridge area.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested him for jumping bail in 2012.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed, but Assange remains in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, brought to court in a prison van throughout his extradition hearing.

Powered by WPeMatico

Shooting at Illinois bowling alley leaves 3 dead, 3 injured

ROCKFORD, Ill. — A gunman opened fire inside an Illinois bowling alley, killing three people and injuring three others Saturday night in what authorities believe was a random attack.

A 37-year-old male suspect was in custody after the shooting at Don Carter Lanes, Rockford police said in a social media  post.

Two of those who were shot were teenagers, police Chief Dan O’Shea said during a news conference.

O’Shea did not immediately release additional information about the victims. He described the scene as contained and said he did not think any officers fired their weapons while apprehending the suspected gunman.

Rockford is about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.

Mayor Tom McNamara released a statement saying he was “angered and saddened” about the shooting.

“My thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones,” McNamara said. “I’m also thinking of those who were injured and my hopes are with them for a quick and full recovery.”

The Rockford Register Star reported that 2020 has been the city’s deadliest year for homicides, according to records that date back to 1965. Thirty-five people have been killed in the city this year, breaking the previous record of 31 in 1996.

Read more about Shooting at Illinois bowling alley leaves 3 dead, 3 injured This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Congress approves $900B COVID-19 relief bill, sending to Trump

By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress passed a $900 billion pandemic relief package Monday night that would finally deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Lawmakers tacked on a $1.4 trillion catchall spending bill and thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a massive bundle of bipartisan legislation as Capitol Hill prepared to close the books on the year. The bill goes to President Donald Trump for his signature, which is expected in the coming days.

The relief package, unveiled Monday afternoon, sped through the House and Senate in a matter of hours. The Senate cleared the massive package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved the COVID-19 package by another lopsided vote, 359-53. The six Republican senators voting against the bill were Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rick Scott of Florida, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The tallies were a bipartisan coda to months of partisanship and politicking as lawmakers wrangled over the relief question, a logjam that broke after President-elect Joe Biden urged his party to accept a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have liked.

The bill combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses. It would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants, and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

The 5,593-page legislation — by far the longest bill ever — came together Sunday after months of battling, posturing and postelection negotiating that reined in a number of Democratic demands as the end of the congressional session approached. Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted in the fall.

“This deal is not everything I want — not by a long shot,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a longstanding voice in the party’s old-school liberal wing. “The choice before us is simple. It’s about whether we help families or not. It’s about whether we help small businesses and restaurants or not. It’s about whether we boost (food stamp) benefits and strengthen anti-hunger programs or not. And whether we help those dealing with a job loss or not. To me, this is not a tough call.”

The Senate, meanwhile, was also on track to pass a one-week stopgap spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight and give Trump time to sign the sweeping legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a key negotiator, said on CNBC Monday morning that the direct payments would begin arriving in bank accounts next week.

Democrats promised more aid to come once Biden takes office, but Republicans were signaling a wait-and-see approach.

The measure would fund the government through September, wrapping a year’s worth of action on annual spending bills into a single package that never saw Senate committee or floor debate.

The legislation followed a tortured path. Democrats played hardball up until Election Day, amid accusations that they wanted to deny Trump a victory that might help him prevail. Democrats denied that, but their demands indeed became more realistic after Trump’s loss and as Biden made it clear that half a loaf was better than none.

The final bill bore ample resemblance to a $1 trillion package put together by Senate Republican leaders in July, a proposal that at the time was scoffed at by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as way too little.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took a victory lap after blocking far more ambitious legislation from reaching the Senate floor. He said the pragmatic approach of Biden was key.

“The president-elect suggesting that we needed to do something now was helpful in moving both Pelosi and Schumer into a better place,” McConnell told The Associated Press. “My view about what comes next is let’s take a look at it. Happy to evaluate that based upon the needs that we confront in February and March.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came to the Senate to cast her vote for the bill. “The American people need relief and I want to be able to do what I can to help them,” she said.

On direct payments, the bill provides $600 to individuals making up to $75,000 per year and $1,200 to couples making up to $150,000, with payments phased out for higher incomes. An additional $600 payment will be made per dependent child, similar to the last round of relief payments in the spring.

“I expect we’ll get the money out by the beginning of next week — $2,400 for a family of four,” Mnuchin said. “So much needed relief just in time for the holidays.”

The $300 per week bonus jobless benefit was half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 billion CARES Act in March. That more generous benefit and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct $600 stimulus payment was also half the March payment.

The CARES Act was credited with keeping the economy from falling off a cliff during widespread lockdowns in the spring, but Republicans controlling the Senate cited debt concerns in pushing against Democratic demands.

“Anyone who thinks this bill is enough hasn’t heard the desperation in the voices of their constituents, has not looked into the eyes of the small-business owner on the brink of ruin,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a lifelong New Yorker who pushed hard for money helping his city’s transit systems, renters, theaters and restaurants.

Progress came after a bipartisan group of pragmatists and moderates devised a $908 billion plan that built a middle-ground position that the top four leaders of Congress — the GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate — used as the basis for their talks. The lawmakers urged leaders on both sides to back off of hardline positions.

“At times we felt like we were in the wilderness because people on all sides of the aisle didn’t want to give, in order to give the other side a win,” said freshman Rep. Elssa Slotkin, D-Mich. “And it was gross to watch, frankly.”

Republicans were most intent on reviving the Paycheck Protection Program with $284 billion, which would cover a second round of PPP grants to especially hard-hit businesses. Democrats won set-asides for low-income and minority communities.

The sweeping bill also contains $25 billion in rental assistance, $15 billion for theaters and other live venues, $82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities, and $10 billion for child care.

The governmentwide appropriations bill was likely to provide a last $1.4 billion installment for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall as a condition of winning his signature. The Pentagon would receive $696 billion. Democrats and Senate Republicans prevailed in a bid to use bookkeeping maneuvers to squeeze $12.5 billion more for domestic programs into the legislation.

The bill was an engine to carry much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including an almost 400-page water resources bill that targets $10 billion for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects. Another addition would extend a batch of soon-to-expire tax breaks, such as one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.

It also would carry numerous clean-energy provisions sought by Democrats with fossil fuel incentives favored by Republicans, $7 billion to increase access to broadband, $4 billion to help other nations vaccinate their people, $14 billion for cash-starved transit systems, $1 billion for Amtrak and $2 billion for airports and concessionaires. Food stamp benefits would temporarily be increased by 15%.

The Senate Historical Office said the previous record for the length of legislation was the 2,847-page tax reform bill of 1986 — about one-half the size of Monday’s behemoth.

Powered by WPeMatico

Trump wants Supreme Court involved in election

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is vowing to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on the inconclusive election. The Associated Press has not declared a winner in the presidential race.

See the latest election results

Trump appeared before supporters at the White House early Wednesday morning and cried foul over the election results, calling the process “a major fraud on our nation.” But there’s no evidence of foul play in the cliffhanger.

The night ended with hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted, and the outcome still unclear in key states he needs if he is to win against Democrat Joe Biden.

Nevertheless, he has cast the night as a disenfranchisement of his voters. He said: “We will win this and as far as I’m concerned we already have won it.”

Trump says: “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop.” In fact, there is no more voting — just counting.

Read more about Trump wants Supreme Court involved in election This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Second Trump-Biden debate to be virtual due to Trump’s COVID-19

By ZEKE MILLER | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will take place virtually amid the fallout from the president’s diagnosis of COVID-19.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates debates made the announcement Thursday morning, a week before the two were scheduled to face off in Miami, “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.”

The candidates will “participate from separate remote locations,” while the participants and moderator remain in Miami, the commission said.

Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus a week ago and but in a Tuesday tweet said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.

Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.

Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”

Trump fell ill with the virus last Thursday, just 48 hours after debating Biden in person for the first time in Cleveland. While the two candidates remained a dozen feet apart during the debate, Trump’s infection sparked health concerns for Biden and sent him to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests before returning to the campaign trail.

Trump was still contagious with the virus when he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday but his doctors have not provided any detailed update on his status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 can be contagious for as many as — and should isolate for at least — 10 days.

Powered by WPeMatico

Coronavirus state tracker: Hospitalizations down 17% in last 14 days in California on August 24

According to the California COVID-19 dashboard there are 5,618 patients hospitalized in California on Monday, Aug. 24. This is a decrease of 1,152 patients (17%) over the last 14 days.

The state is reporting that 31% of its ICU beds are available, 65% of its ventilators are available and ICUs occupancy has declined by 17.6% in the last 14 days.

The state had conducted 1,654,133 tests in the last 14 days with a 6.5% test positivity rate. There have been more than 10.65 million tests in the state since March.

Orange County and San Diego County were dropped from the state’s monitoring list as of Sunday. They are the only two counties in Southern California to attain that status.

All data on the state tracker is preliminary and subject to change.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the California Department of Public Health, The Associated Press, reporting counties and news sources

Read more about Coronavirus state tracker: Hospitalizations down 17% in last 14 days in California on August 24 This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

Powered by WPeMatico

Jill Biden’s path from reluctant politico to possible FLOTUS

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE | Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. — Jill Biden is a prankster.

It’s the first thing most of her friends and former aides say when asked about her character. She once sneaked into a close aide’s birthday party dressed as catering staff and surprised him with a drink. She has dressed up as the Grinch to toy with colleagues during Christmas. And she likes to put on a red wig with a bob to pop up unnoticed at events or make her husband, Joe Biden, laugh.

That sense of humor has helped Joe Biden navigate decades in public life that have been marked by achievements, defeats and considerable personal loss. As she prepares to speak Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, those who have worked closely with Jill Biden say her warmth will appeal to Americans confronting tough times of their own.

“She has a very good sense of, especially in these times, that bringing a little smile, some joy, some levity into moments is important,” said Courtney O’Donnell, who served as Jill Biden’s communications director during her husband’s first term as vice president.

Jill Biden married the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 1977, more than four years after his first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident. She helped raise his surviving sons, Beau and Hunter, before giving birth to daughter Ashley in 1981.

As Joe Biden commuted from Delaware to Washington while serving as a senator, Jill Biden built a career as a teacher, ultimately earning two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007.

Along the way, former coworkers say, Jill Biden, 69, became one of her husband’s most valuable political advisers, someone whose opinion was paramount in most of his biggest decisions, both political and personal. She was skeptical of his 1988 presidential campaign, but pushed him to run again in 2008, according to her memoir.

After Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee this year, she played a prominent role in auditioning many of the vice presidential candidates, appearing with them at various events. During a recent interview on CBS, Jill Biden acknowledged that she and her husband “talked about the different woman candidates.”

“But it’s gotta be Joe’s decision,” she added.

But those who know Jill Biden best say she’s slightly perplexed at being called one of her husband’s most significant “advisers,” insisting that her relationship with her husband is far deeper and more nuanced than such a label would suggest.

“He’s got plenty of political advisers. That’s not what she is,” said Cathy Russell, who was Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration and is now a vice chair on the campaign. “She is his spouse, and she loves him and she talks to him about all sorts of things, but she has a unique role, and it’s not being a political adviser. That’s not her thing.”

Jill Biden does remain one of her husband’s closest confidantes — particularly now, at a time when both Bidens are largely confined to their Wilmington home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Aides say the Bidens often pass each other in the halls during the day as they head from a briefing to a virtual event to a fundraiser.

“They see each other a lot, but there’s a lot of passing and crossing each other. In the evening they try to sit together and just kind of regroup and chat about things,” Russell said. “They’ve got grandkids and kids and two dogs. They’ve got family and lives that are sort of spinning around them, and I think they just try to always find time for each other.”

A self-described introvert, Jill Biden was initially a reluctant political wife. In her memoir, she writes of giving her first political speech and having no desire to “give any speeches, anytime, anywhere — just the thought of doing so made me so nervous I felt sick.”

But after eight years as the vice president’s wife and then giving speeches and appearing at events after her husband left office, Jill Biden has become one of her husband’s most prominent surrogates. She has appeared in virtual events in more than 17 cities since May, and is one one of the campaign’s primary surrogates to Latino voters, headlining town halls and holding frequent calls with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In one week this month, Jill Biden appeared at everything from a science-focused fundraiser to an event with Joe Biden’s faith coalition to one focused on LGBTQ youth, speaking with emotion and fluency about her husband’s plans for each constituency.

She’s also one of his most protective surrogates, a quality she writes about in her memoir — and one that was on full display during a Super Tuesday speech Joe Biden gave in March when a handful of protesters rushed the stage. Jill moved between the protesters and her husband, pushing a protester away.

But the resistance to being called an “adviser” on Biden’s team reflects Jill Biden’s persistent and successful efforts to carve out her own career and identity independent of her husband’s political ambitions, something she prioritized even during his time in the Senate.

“They lived in Delaware always, through all those Senate campaigns, and she had her own life. She was raising her children, she was teaching, she was going to school at night at different times,” said Russell. “She was never a part of the Washington scene. That political life just wasn’t her life.”

Jill Biden continued to teach at a community college while her husband was vice president, against the advice of multiple aides at the time.

“Being a teacher is not what I do but who I am,” she wrote in her memoir, and described “scrambling into a cocktail dress and heels” in the bathroom at her school to make it to a White House reception, or grading papers on Air Force Two, with relish.

Indeed, she has said she plans to continue teaching if she becomes first lady.

As longtime friend and teaching colleague Mary Doody described it, the classroom offers Jill Biden a bit of an escape.

“When you’re in a classroom, for an hour and a half or two hours or however long you’re with those students, it’s just you and them, and you build this rapport. It’s like you build a little family,” Doody said. “And I think that’s why it’s so important for her to teach.”

Aides say she’ll continue to advocate for many of the same issues she championed as the vice president’s wife if she returns to the White House as first lady. During her eight years in the Obama administration, she focused on military spouses and families, advocated for community colleges and sought to raise awareness around breast cancer prevention.

All the while, Doody notes, Jill Biden is known for being impeccably dressed, always offering up a good book recommendation, writing small notes or sending flowers to friends, family and staff who need a pick me up, and making sure to get to all her grandkids’ sports games. Doody expects her to continue it all.

“If I could figure out how she does all that, I would have a really good secret to share,” Doody said.

Powered by WPeMatico

U.S., Oregon in talks about pulling federal agents from Portland

By GILLIAN FLACCUS and ANDREW SELSKY and JONATHAN LEMIRE

PORTLAND, Ore.  — The Trump administration has started talks with the Oregon governor’s office and indicated that it would begin to draw down the presence of federal agents sent to quell two months of chaotic protests in Portland if the state stepped up its own enforcement, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

The official stressed to The Associated Press that the talks with the office of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown are in the early stages and there is no agreement. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Brown didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office also didn’t immediately respond to an email.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers again used tear gas to disperse protesters early Wednesday on the streets of Portland as loud booms filled the air.

Just a day earlier, the U.S. Marshals Service and Department of Homeland Security were weighing whether to send in more agents. The marshals were taking steps to identify up to 100 additional personnel who could go in case they were needed to relieve or supplement the deputy marshals who work in Oregon, spokesman Drew Wade said.

Homeland Security was considering a similar measure with Customs and Border Protection agents, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump did not let up on criticizing local authorities in their handling of the protests that began after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and have grown to include the presence of federal agents in Portland and other Democratic cities.

The nightly protests often spiral into violence as demonstrators target the U.S. courthouse in Oregon’s largest city with rocks, fireworks and laser pointers and federal agents respond with tear gas, less-lethal ammunition and arrests.

“We, as you know, have done an excellent job of watching over Portland and watching our courthouse where they wanted to burn it down, they’re anarchists, nothing short of anarchist agitators,” Trump said Tuesday. “And we have protected it very powerfully. And if we didn’t go there, I will tell you, you wouldn’t have a courthouse. You’d have a billion-dollar burned-out building.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that she had received confirmation that U.S. agents had left her city after being sent to Seattle last week to protect federal buildings amid lingering unrest.

The developments came as the American Civil Liberties Union in Oregon filed a motion alleging that the militarized U.S. agents are attacking journalists and legal observers with riot-control munitions, despite a federal court ordering them to stop.

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Portland — located in the same federal court building that’s been the focus of protests — temporarily blocked federal officers from targeting journalists and legal observers at the protests.

The ACLU asked the court to sanction and hold in contempt federal agents for violating the temporary restraining order. It also asked the court to order Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli to personally appear and show why they should not be sanctioned for contempt.

The organization cited numerous instances in which agents have violated the order by firing impact munitions and using pepper spray against people clearly marked as journalists or legal observers.

The motion was filed after U.S. Attorney General William Barr defended the aggressive federal response to Congress, saying “violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests” sparked by Floyd’s death.

The ACLU accused federal agents of acting unlawfully in Portland.

“This administration claims to be defending the federal courthouse, but won’t obey the orders coming out of it. What purpose are these agents actually serving then?” said Kelly Simon, interim legal director of the ACLU of Oregon.

One journalist, Jonathan Levinson of Oregon Public Broadcasting, said in a statement to the court that while he was trying to take a photograph Friday, he saw a federal agent raise his weapon, aim it at him and fire several rounds.

“My camera and lens were splattered with paint,” Levinson said. “Based on my position and the position of people around me, there is almost no chance the agent was aiming at anyone other than me.”

Levinson, who has covered conflicts worldwide and was deployed to Iraq as an Army officer, said he was wearing a press pass and a helmet that says “PRESS” in big letters on the front and back.

Kat Mahoney, a legal observer with the ACLU, said a federal agent fired a paintball at her, hitting her in the head Friday. The next night, an agent sprayed her and three other observers in the face as they told him they were legal observers and pointed to their credentials.

There was no immediate comment from the federal agencies on the motion and accusations.

Two groups also have sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging it violated the Constitution by sending federal law enforcement to disperse crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit from the Wall of Moms — a group of self-described mothers — and the Don’t Shoot Portland group.

Members of the group of mothers have “been tear-gassed night after night, left vomiting and unable to eat or sleep because of the toxic poison blasted at them,” the lawsuit said.

Wheeler and City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty had asked Wolf on Monday for a meeting to discuss a cease-fire and their desire for the removal of the extra federal agents deployed to Portland.

The same day, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams insisted that the agents will remain as long as protesters keep attacking the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse.

Protesters have tried almost every night to tear down a fence erected to protect the building, set fires in the street and hurled fireworks, Molotov cocktails and bricks, rocks and bottles at the agents inside.

On the 60th night of protests, demonstrators near the courthouse were met with tear gas, pepper balls and stun grenades fired by agents early Tuesday.

Lemire reported from Washington. Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo and Colleen Long in Washington and Suman Naishadham in Atlanta also contributed to this report.

 

Powered by WPeMatico

Powerful quake jolts Alaska towns, produces small tsunami

By MARK THIESSEN

ANCHORAGE, Alaska  — A powerful earthquake located off Alaska’s southern coast jolted some coastal communities late Tuesday, and some residents briefly scrambled for higher ground over fears of a tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of damage in the sparsely populated area of the state, and tsunami warning was canceled after the magnitude 7.8 quake off the Alaska Peninsula produced a wave of a less than a foot.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake struck Tuesday at 10:12 p.m. local time, centered in waters 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southeast of Perryville, Alaska at a depth of 17 miles (28 km).

Because of its location, nearby communities along the Alaska Peninsula did not experience shaking that would normally be associated with that magnitude of a quake, said Michael West, Alaska State Seismologist.

However, that doesn’t mean they slept through it: West said residents in small towns within a hundred miles of the quake reported very strong shaking, and was also felt more than 500 miles away in the Anchorage area, West said.

“No reports of any damage,” Kodiak Police Sgt. Mike Sorter told The Associated Press early Wednesday morning. “No injuries were reported. Everything is nominal.”

Kodiak is about 200 miles northeast of where the earthquake was centered.

The tsunami warning had coastal residents evacuating for higher ground. Social media posts showed long lines of people fleeing towns like Homer and Kodiak while tsunami sirens wailed in the background.

On Kodiak Island, the local high school opened its doors for evacuees, as did the local Catholic school, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

“We’ve got a high school full of people,” said Larry LeDoux, superintendent of the Kodiak School District. “I’ve been passing out masks since the first siren sounded,” he told the Daily News.

“Everything’s as calm as can be. We’ve got probably 300, 400 people all wearing masks,” he said before the warning was canceled.

Tsunami warnings are commonplace for people who grew up in Kodiak.

”I’ve been doing these since I was a little kid,” LeDoux told the newspaper. “Old news.”

Officials at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, began calling off tsunami advisories and warnings after a wave of only 25 centimeters (.8 foot) was recorded in the community of Sand Point.

“I might have expected a little bit more water, but I’m happy that there wasn’t,” said David Hale, the senior duty scientist at the tsunami center.

Tuesday’s quake was more powerful than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused damage in the Anchorage area in November 2018.

“This earthquake released about 15 times as much energy as that earthquake, said West, the state seismologist.

More than a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or higher were reported immediately after the earthquake, he said by telephone from the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

”We got people here who are going be working all night,” West said early Wednesday morning. ”These aftershocks will go and go and go and go.”

The Alaska-Aleutian Trench was also where a magnitude 9.2 quake in 1964 was centered. That remains the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The temblor and ensuing tsunami caused widespread damage and killed 131 people, some as far away as Oregon and California. Alaska is the most actively seismic state. Nearly 25,000 earthquakes have been recorded in Alaska since Jan. 1, according to the center.

Powered by WPeMatico