Police chief: Kneeling on Floyd's neck violated policy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis police chief testified Monday that now-fired Officer Derek Chauvin violated departmental policy — and went against “our principles and the values that we have” — in pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck and keeping him down after Floyd had stopped resisting and was in distress.

Continuing to kneel on Floyd's neck once he was handcuffed behind his back and lying on his stomach was “in no way, shape or form” part of department policy or training, "and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said on Day Six of Chauvin's murder trial.

Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s death last May, and in June called it “murder.”

While police have long been accused of closing ranks to protect fellow members of the force charged with wrongdoing — the “blue wall of silence,” as it’s known — some of the most experienced officers in the Minneapolis department have taken the stand to openly condemn Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd.

As jurors watched in rapt attention and scribbled notes, Arradondo testified not only that Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the force, should have let Floyd up sooner, but that the pressure on Floyd’s neck did not appear to be light to moderate, as called for under the department's neck-restraint policy; that Chauvin failed in his duty to render first aid before the ambulance arrived; and that he violated policy requiring officers to de-escalate tense situations with no or minimal force if they can.


Eating our lunch: Biden points to China in development push

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pushing for trillions of dollars in development spending, President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are directing Americans’ eyes to the rear-view mirror, pointing to a booming, ambitious China they say is threatening to quickly overtake the United States in global clout and capacity.

It's a national security pitch for a domestic spending program: that the $2 trillion proposal for investments in U.S. transport and energy, manufacturing, internet and other sectors will make the United States more competitive in the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure-building campaign.

The argument is that competition today with China is more about economic and technological gains than arms — and its outcome will impact the United States' financial growth and influence, its ability to defend U.S. security alliances and interests abroad, and the daily lives of Americans.

China under Xi has "an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world,” Biden said before launching his proposal last week. “That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States are going to continue to grow and expand.”

That pitch hasn't won over Republicans. They say his proposal has been loaded down with unnecessary spending projects and that raising taxes will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy.


European countries scramble to tamp down latest virus surge

BOCHNIA, Poland (AP) — European countries scrambled Monday to tamp down a surge in COVID-19 cases and ramp up vaccinations, hoping to spare hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by the pandemic's latest deadly wave of infections.

The crush of coronavirus patients has been relentless for hospitals in Poland, where daily new infections hit records of over 35,000 on two recent days and the government ordered new restrictions to prevent large gatherings over the long Easter weekend. France’s health minister warned that the number of intensive care unit patients could match levels from a year ago.

But in a sign of the disparities from one country to the next, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that barbers, gyms and outdoor bar and restaurant patios would be able to open next week after the country reported progress with vaccines and its recent lockdown. Meanwhile, the U.S. vaccination campaign kept accelerating, with 40 percent of the nation's adult population receiving at least one dose.

On Sunday, coronavirus patients filled almost all of the 120 beds at the County Hospital of Bochnia, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the southern city of Krakow. One patient, 82-year-old Edward Szumanski, voiced concern that some people still refuse to see the virus that has killed over 2.8 million people worldwide as a threat. About 55,000 of those deaths have occurred in Poland.

“The disease is certainly there, and it is very serious. Those who have not been through it, those who do not have it in their family, may be deluding themselves, but the reality is different,” he said.


A year after pandemic hit, Haiti awaits vaccines amid apathy

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people over a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that the well-being of Haitians is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.

So far, Haiti is slated to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through a United Nations program aimed at ensuring the neediest countries get COVID-19 shots. The free doses were scheduled to arrive in May at the latest, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing an increase in domestic demand.

“Haiti has only recently completed some of the essential documentation that are prerequisites for processing of a shipping order,” said Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a Geneva-based public-private partnership that is co-managing the U.N.-backed COVAX effort.

The country also didn’t apply for a pilot program in which it would have received some of its allotted doses early, according to the Pan American Health Organization. However, a spokeswoman commended its other pandemic efforts, including reinforcing hospital preparedness.

Meanwhile, a human rights research center cited in a new U.S. State Department report found Haiti’s government misappropriated more than $1 million worth of coronavirus aid. The report also accused government officials of spending $34 million in the “greatest opacity,” bypassing an agency charged with approving state contracts.


After new law, McConnell warns CEOs: 'Stay out of politics'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says it's a “big lie” to call the new voting law in Georgia racist and he warned big business to “stay out of politics" after major corporations and even Major League Baseball distanced themselves from the state amid vast public pressure.

McConnell particularly slammed President Joe Biden's criticism that the Georgia bill was restrictive and a return to Jim Crow-era restrictions in the Southern states aimed limiting ballot access for Black Americans.

“It’s simply not true,” McConnell told reporters Monday.

The choice by the GOP leader to dive into voting politics lends heft to efforts nationwide to install strict new voting laws after Donald Trump's false claims of fraud that cost him the election to Biden. The new laws are aimed at scaling back early voting and other options that became wildly popular during the pandemic.

Even more, McConnell's warning to big business not to get involved shows the scramble Republicans face as progressive groups are shining a spotlight on corporate America to live up to its brands and values as Congress takes on voting rights, gun violence and other issues Republicans have resisted.


Vaccine skepticism runs deep among white evangelicals in US

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical denomination, posted a photo on Facebook last week of him getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It drew more than 1,100 comments — many of them voicing admiration for the Rev. J.D. Greear, and many others assailing him.

Some of the critics wondered if worshippers would now need “vaccine passports” to enter The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, where Greear is pastor. Others depicted the vaccines as satanic or unsafe, or suggested Greear was complicit in government propaganda.

The divided reaction highlighted a phenomenon that has become increasingly apparent in recent polls and surveys: Vaccine skepticism is more widespread among white evangelicals than almost any other major bloc of Americans.

In a March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 40% of white evangelical Protestants said they likely won’t get vaccinated, compared with 25% of all Americans, 28% of white mainline Protestants and 27% of nonwhite Protestants.

The findings have aroused concern even within evangelical circles. The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local churches, is part of a new coalition that will host events, work with media outlets and distribute various public messages to build trust among wary evangelicals.


North Korea says it won't participate in Tokyo Olympics

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A website run by the North's sports ministry said the decision was made during a national Olympic Committee meeting on March 25 where members prioritized protecting athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

South Korea's Unification Ministry on Tuesday expressed regret over the North's decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters she was still confirming details and couldn’t immediately comment on the matter. Japan's Olympic Committee said North Korea has not yet notified it that it wouldn't participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.


For 7 New Yorkers, a pandemic year's fight for the future

NEW YORK (AP) — It was the eve of the deadliest day of the coronavirus spike that brought New York City to a trembling standstill. They were a handful of people doing what they could in the city’s fight for survival, and their own.

A year ago, The Associated Press told the story of a day in the life of a stricken city through the eyes of New Yorkers on the front lines and in quarantine as they faced fear, tragedy, isolation and upheaval.

As the United States’ most populous city turned into its most lethal coronavirus hot spot, some of these New Yorkers saw the virus' toll up close in an emergency room, an ambulance and a funeral home.

Others were suddenly looking from what felt like far away at the city and the lives they knew — a Broadway actor wondering when the curtain would go up again, a rabbi no longer able to hold the hands of dying people. A taxi driver and a woman running a local meals-on-wheels program who contended with the risks and challenges of jobs that were suddenly recognized as essential.

The AP recently returned to these New Yorkers to look at a full year of living through the pandemic in a city that has regrouped but not fully recovered.


EXPLAINER: Was officer's knee on Floyd's neck authorized?

CHICAGO (AP) — A critical factor for jurors to consider at a former Minneapolis police officer's trial in George Floyd's death is whether he violated the department's policy on neck restraints when he knelt on Floyd's neck.

The Minneapolis Police Department banned all forms of neck restraints and chokeholds weeks after Floyd's death, but at the time of his May 25 arrest by Derek Chauvin and other officers, certain neck restraints were permitted — provided certain guidelines and conditions were followed.

Here is a look at the policy, which was a focus of testimony Monday, and how it could factor into a verdict for Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter:

WHAT NECK RESTRAINTS DID MINNEAPOLIS POLICE AUTHORIZE?

The department policy, in place for at least eight years at the time, divided permissible neck restraints into two categories, according to court filings and testimony Monday by the city police chief, Medaria Arradondo. Neck restraints were defined in the policy as a “non-deadly force option.”


Hikers scramble as new fissure opens up at Icelandic volcano

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Steam and lava spurted Monday from a new fissure at an Icelandic volcano that began erupting last month, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of hikers who had come to see the spectacle.

The new fissure, first spotted by a sightseeing helicopter, was about 500 meters (550 yards) long and about a kilometer (around a half-mile) from the original eruption site in the Geldinga Valley.

The Icelandic Department of Emergency Management announced an immediate evacuation of the area. It said there was no imminent danger to life due to the site’s distance form popular hiking paths.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office said the new volcanic activity wasn't expected to affect traffic at nearby Keflavik Airport.

The long-dormant volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland flared to life March 20 after tens of thousands of earthquakes were recorded in the area in the past three weeks. It was the area’s first volcanic eruption in nearly 800 years.

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