Day: July 5, 2020

Cosby citing systemic racism as he fights assault conviction

PHILADELPHIA — In a nearly empty Philadelphia courtroom in June 2015, a lawyer for Bill Cosby implored a federal judge to keep the comedian’s testimony in an old sexual battery lawsuit under wraps. It was sensitive. Embarrassing. Private.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno had another word for it.

The conduct Cosby detailed in his deposition was “perhaps criminal,” Robreno wrote five years ago Monday, in a momentous decision that released the case files to The Associated Press, reopened the police investigation, and helped give rise to the #MeToo movement.

Cosby, the Hollywood paragon of Black family values, was convicted of sexual assault in 2018 as the movement exploded and women across the globe shared personal histories of sexual harassment and abuse. He is serving up to 10 years in prison.

And now in the midst of another historic reckoning — this time addressing the treatment of African Americans and other people of colour by police and the criminal justice system — the 82-year-old Cosby has won the right to an appeal.

He hopes to use the moment to his advantage.

“The false conviction of Bill Cosby is so much bigger than him — it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and people of colour in America,” Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said when the court accepted the appeal late last month.

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Cosby, who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, has a complicated relationship with the Black community. He earned acclaim for his groundbreaking (and intentionally race-blind) performances on television in the 1950s; mingled, but rarely marched, with civil rights leaders and the Black elite in the 1960s; and solidified his wealth and power with his star turn as “America’s Dad,” on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s.

All the while, he promoted education and gave millions to historically Black universities.

But his increasingly jarring comments on poverty, parenthood and personal responsibility offended younger Blacks in his later years, most famously in his 2004 “Pound Cake” speech — which he gave just months after the sexual encounter that would prove his downfall.

As he toured the country, Cosby argued that “the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities,” as the essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates noted.

“Cosby’s gospel of discipline, moral reform, and self-reliance offers a way out — a promise that one need not cure America of its original sin in order to succeed,” Coates wrote in his 2008 piece in The Atlantic, “‘This Is How We Lost to the White Man’: The audacity of Bill Cosby’s Black conservatism.”

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The appeal issues the court accepted don’t directly include racial bias, which Cosby’s legal team raised more often on the courthouse steps in Montgomery County than inside the courtroom. His defenders, however, say race permeates the case.

Cosby’s celebrity “does not change his status as a Black man,” said appellate lawyer Jennifer Bonjean, the latest of more than a dozen criminal lawyers on the case.

“It would be naïve to assume that his prosecution was not tainted by the same racial bias that pervades the criminal justice process in both explicit and insidious ways,” she said last week.

Cosby’s wife of 56 years has been more blunt.

In an interview last month with ABC-TV, Camille Cosby said the #MeToo movement ignores “the history of particular white women” who have “accused Black males of sexual assault without any proof.”

“We know how women can lie,” said Camille Cosby, who made only brief appearances at her husband’s trials, for defence closing arguments, and has not visited him in prison. She declined to speak to the AP last week.

The appeal hinges on two questions that have shaped the case from the start:

— Did Cosby have an ironclad deal with District Attorney Bruce Castor that Cosby could never be charged after Castor declined to arrest Cosby in 2005? Defence lawyers say Cosby relied on such a promise when he gave the 2006 deposition later unsealed in accuser Andrea Constand’s lawsuit — and used against him at trial.

Castor agrees they did. But it was never put in writing, and Castor’s top deputy at the time, Risa Ferman, who helped run the initial investigation and reopened it in 2015 when she was district attorney, seemed not to know about it.

— And, how many other accusers should be allowed to testify before the scales of justice tip against the accused?

Cosby’s trial judge allowed just one other accuser in the first trial when the jury deadlocked, but five at the retrial a year later. The jury convicted Cosby on all three sex assault counts.

The state’s intermediate appeals court seemed unimpressed by either issue, rejecting Cosby’s first appeal.

“The reality of it is, he gives them drugs and then he sexually assaults them,” Superior Court Judge John T. Bender said at the arguments. “That’s the pattern, is it not?”

But Cosby appealed again, setting up the state Supreme Court arguments expected sometime next year.

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Constand knew Cosby from her job at Temple University, where Cosby was a booster, alumnus and longtime trustee twice her age.

Her trial testimony matched his deposition in many respects, the key distinction being her consent to what happened at his suburban Philadelphia estate. Both say that Cosby gave her three pills for stress before Cosby, in his words, engaged in “digital penetration.”

Constand, a former professional basketball player, who is white, said she was left semi-conscious and could not fight him off. (She thought she was taking a homeopathic supplement; Cosby later said it was Benadryl, while acknowledging he once gave a 19-year-old Quaaludes before sex.)

More than 60 women, mostly white but a few women of colour, have made similar accusations against Cosby.

Cosby lawyer Bonjean, though, believes the #MeToo movement is fading, and that Cosby, if he wins a new trial, might avoid what she called “the mob-justice standards of a hashtag movement.”

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Not long after the encounter with Constand, Cosby gave the “Pound Cake” speech to the NAACP, riffing about a scenario in which the Black community complains when someone is shot by police over a stolen piece of cake.

“Then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?” Cosby asked.

A decade later, Black comedian Hannibal Buress took Cosby to task for his scolding.

“You rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches,” he said onstage in 2014.

Former prosecutor Kristen Gibbons Feden, who gave closing arguments at Cosby’s retrial, recognizes the good Cosby did for the Black community. She also believes that racial bias exists in the criminal justice system.

“It doesn’t make Cosby innocent,” said Feden, who is Black. “It means we need to fix the criminal justice system.”

Wake Forest University Dean Jonathan L. Walton, who teaches about African American social movements, said that Cosby undeniably boosted the representation of Blacks in American culture. Yet Walton said Cosby might not be the best messenger for today’s moment.

“One should agree with him as it relates to systemic racism and the injustices of the ‘justice system,’” said Walton, the divinity school dean, “while also being suspicious of what seems to be a pattern of his, of only identifying problems when they personally benefit him.”

___ This story has been corrected to reflect that the federal court hearing with Judge Eduardo Robreno was in June 2015, not July 2015.

Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press






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Rocket fired toward US Embassy in Iraq injures child

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military said Sunday that a rocket aimed at Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, home of the U.S. embassy, struck a residential house and injured a child.

Iraqi officials said the embassy’s recently installed C-RAM air defence system may have attempted to intercept the rocket as the system was operational late Saturday. A recent spate of rocket attacks have struck close to the U.S. embassy and targeted American troops in Iraqi bases. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The rocket was launched from the Ali Al-Saleh area of Baghdad and landed next to a house close to a local TV channel late Saturday, the military statement said. A child suffered head injuries and the house was damaged.

Iraqi security forces say they also thwarted another attack in the Umm al-Azam area aiming to hit Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, a training base used by U.S.-led coalition forces.

In March, two Americans and one British soldier were killed following a barrage of rockets on Camp Taji.

The latest uptick in attacks comes shortly before Iraq embarks on strategic talks with the U.S. in which the presence of American forces in the country is expected to top the agenda.

The U.S. has criticized the federal government for being unable to reign in Iran-backed militia groups it believes are orchestrating the attacks. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has pledged to protect American installations from attacks, U.S. officials said.

Iraqi security forces last week raided the headquarters of the powerful Iran-backed paramilitary Kataib Hezbollah and detained 14 men suspected of being responsible for rocket attacks targeting the Green Zone. Thirteen detainees were later released and one remains in custody.

The move drew praise from the U.S. but condemnation from Iran-backed political factions in Iraq.

The U.S. embassy began testing the new air defence system late Saturday, the Iraqi officials said. It drew condemnation from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi, who called on the government to take action against the “illegal” move which would “provoke the Iraqi people,” according to a government statement.

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Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Samya Kullab, The Associated Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

For nation’s birthday, Trump stokes the divisions within US

WASHINGTON (AP) — On a day meant for unity and celebration, President Donald Trump vowed to “safeguard our values” from enemies within — leftists, looters, agitators, he said — in a Fourth of July speech packed with all the grievances and combativeness of his political rallies.

Trump watched paratroopers float to the ground in a tribute to America, greeted his audience of front-line medical workers and others central in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and opened up on those who “slander” him and disrespect the country’s past.

“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he said. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.

“And we will defend, protect and preserve (the) American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America.”

He did not mention the dead from the pandemic. Nearly 130,000 are known to have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

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The Latest: S Korea has 60-plus new virus cases for 3rd day

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded 60-plus COVID-19 cases for a third consecutive day, a continuation of a virus spread beyond the greater Seoul area.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday it has confirmed 61 additional cases, bringing the national total to 13,091. It says the death toll remained at 283.

The agency says 43 of the newly reported cases were locally infected patients. All but two of those cases were either from the Seoul metropolitan area or two central cities, Gwangju and Daejeon. The remaining 18 cases were linked to international arrivals.

South Korea has been grappling with an uptick in new infections since it eased social distancing rules in early May. South Korea recorded 63 new cases on both Saturday and Friday.

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US holiday weekend adds to virus worries as case counts grow

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Florida and Texas reported record daily increases in confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday, the latest sign that the virus is surging in many parts of the United States, casting a pall over Fourth of July celebrations.

Officials and health authorities warned people to take precautions or simply stay home on Independence Day, as confirmed cases are climbing in dozens of states. The U.S. reported more than 50,000 confirmed cases on Saturday for the third day in a row, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. has more than 2.8 million confirmed cases — about a quarter of the 11 million worldwide infections, according to the tally, which is widely thought to understate the true toll, partially because of asymptomatic cases and limited testing. More than 525,000 people have died around the globe.

While the rise in cases in the U.S. partly reflects expanded testing, experts say there is evidence that the virus is also spreading more as states reopen their economies.

Deaths have begun to rise in some states that have seen a surge in cases — including Texas, Arizona and Florida — and the coming weeks will be telling. Still, some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will ever return to the peak of around 2,200 deaths per day, hit in mid-April, because of advances in treatment and because more young adults who are less vulnerable to serious complications are among those diagnosed recently.

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Amid furor over monuments, Trump seeks `garden’ of US heroes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has a vision for his second term, if he wins one, of establishing a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will pay tribute to some of the most prominent figures in U.S. history, a collection of “the greatest Americans to ever live.”

His idea, conveyed in a speech Friday night at Mount Rushmore and expanded on in an executive order, comes as elected officials and institutions are reckoning with whether it is appropriate to continue to honour people, including past presidents, who benefited from slavery or espoused racist views, with monuments or buildings and streets named after them.

The group of 30-plus features Founding Fathers and presidents, civil rights pioneers and aviation innovators, explorers and generals.

Absent from Trump’s initial list are any Native American, Hispanic or Asian-American individuals. The White House and Interior Department declined to comment on how the list was assembled.

Trump on Saturday spoke glowingly about his selections as an “incredible group,” but also noted they “are just a few of the people” he is considering and “are subject to change.”

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Columbus statue toppled by Baltimore protesters

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore protesters pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it into the city’s Inner Harbor on Saturday night.

Demonstrators used ropes to topple the monument near the Little Italy neighbourhood, news outlets reported.

Protesters mobilized by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, Confederate figures and others. They say the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the statue was owned by the city and dedicated in 1984 by former Mayor William Donald Schaefer and President Ronald Reagan.

A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young told The Sun the toppling of the statue is a part of a national and global reexamination over monuments “that may represent different things to different people.”

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As monuments fall, Confederate carving has size on its side

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) — Some statues of figures from America’s slave-owning past have been yanked down by protesters, others dismantled by order of governors or city leaders. But the largest Confederate monument ever crafted — colossal figures carved into the solid rock of a Georgia mountainside — may outlast them all.

Stone Mountain’s supersized sculpture depicting Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson mounted on horseback has special protection enshrined in Georgia law.

Even if its demolition were sanctioned, the monument’s sheer size poses serious challenges. The carving measures 190 feet (58 metres) across and 90 feet (27 metres) tall. An old photo shows a worker on scaffolding just below Lee’s chin barely reaching his nose.

Numerous Confederate statues and monuments to American slave owners have come down across the South amid recent protests against racial injustice. Stone Mountain hasn’t escaped notice.

After organizing a protest where thousands marched in neighbouring Atlanta, 19-year-old Zoe Bambara held a demonstration June 4 with a much smaller group — her permit allowed no more than 25 — inside the state park where the sculpture has drawn millions of tourists for decades.

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Japan floods leave some 20 dead, many in nursing homes

TOKYO (AP) — Deep floodwaters and the risk of more mudslides that left about 20 people confirmed or presumed dead hampered search and rescue operations on Sunday in southern Japan, including at elderly home facilities where more than a dozen perished and scores are still stranded.

Rescue helicopters plucked more people from their homes in the Kumamoto region. Up to 10,000 defence troops, the coast guard and fire brigades are taking part in the operation.

Large areas along the Kuma River were swallowed by floodwaters with many houses, buildings and vehicles submerged almost up to their roofs. Mudslides smashed into houses, sending people atop rooftops waiving at rescuers.

At a flooded elderly care home in Kuma Village, 14 residents were presumed dead after rescuers reached them on Saturday, officials said. Three others had hypothermia.

The rescue continued Sunday for dozens of other residents and caregivers who were still at the riverside care facility Senjuen, where about 60 people were trapped when floodwaters and mud gushed in, officials said.

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Kansas newspaper’s post equates mask mandate with Holocaust

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A weekly Kansas newspaper whose publisher is a county Republican Party chairman posted a cartoon on its Facebook page likening the Democratic governor’s order requiring people to wear masks in public to the roundup and murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

The cartoon on the Anderson County Review’s Facebook page depicts Gov. Laura Kelly wearing a mask with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to a drawing of people being loaded onto train cars. Its caption is, “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.”

The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day that Kelly’s mask order aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus took effect. It’s drawn several hundred comments, many of them strongly critical. Dane Hicks, the paper’s owner and publisher, said in an email to The Associated Press that he plans to publish the cartoon in the newspaper’s next edition Tuesday.

Kelly, who is Catholic, issued a statement saying, “Mr. Hicks’ decision to publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately.”

But Hicks said in an email that political cartoons are “gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate” and “fodder for the marketplace of ideas.”

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Man in famous 9-11 photo dies from COVID-19 in Florida

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A man photographed fleeing smoke and debris as the south tower of the World Trade Center crumbled just a block away on Sept. 11, 2001, has died from coronavirus, his family said.

The Palm Beach Post reported that Stephen Cooper, an electrical engineer from New York who lived part-time in the Delray Beach, Florida area, died March 28 at Delray Medical Center due to COVID-19. He was 78.

The photo, captured by an Associated Press photographer, was published in newspapers and magazines around the world and is featured at the 9-11 Memorial Museum in New York.

“He didn’t even know the photograph was taken,” said Janet Rashes, Cooper’s partner for 33 years. “All of a sudden, he’s looking in Time magazine one day and he sees himself and says, ‘Oh my God. That’s me.’ He was amazed. Couldn’t believe it.”

Rashes said Cooper was delivering documents near the World Trade Center, unaware of exactly what had happened that morning, when he heard a police officer yell, “You have to run.”

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Police: 2 women hit by car on Seattle highway amid protest

SEATTLE (AP) — A 27-year-old man drove a car onto a closed freeway in Seattle early Saturday and barrelled through a panicked crowd of protesters, critically injuring two women, officials said.

Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking Interstate 5 and sped into the crowd about 1:40 a.m., according to a police report released by the Washington State Patrol. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle, was in critical condition while Diaz Love, 32, of Portland, Oregon, was upgraded to serious condition in the intensive care unit, Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.

Love was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly; with about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tires and the sound of impact are heard.

A graphic video posted on social media showed the white Jaguar racing toward a group of protesters who are standing behind several parked cars, set up for protection. The car swerves around the other vehicles and slams into the two women, sending them flying into the air.

The Associated Press

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Amid furor over monuments, Trump seeks `garden’ of US heroes

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has a vision for his second term, if he wins one, of establishing a “National Garden of American Heroes” that will pay tribute to some of the most prominent figures in U.S. history, a collection of “the greatest Americans to ever live.”

His idea, conveyed in a speech Friday night at Mount Rushmore and expanded on in an executive order, comes as elected officials and institutions are reckoning with whether it is appropriate to continue to honour people, including past presidents, who benefited from slavery or espoused racist views, with monuments or buildings and streets named after them.

Absent from Trump’s initial list are any Native American or Hispanic individuals. The White House and Interior Department declined to comment on how the list was assembled.

To be certain, the monument is far from a done deal and Trump’s plan could be dashed if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden denies him a second term in November.

It includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., all already represented on or near the National Mall in Washington, along with Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Billy Graham, Douglas MacArthur, Christa McAuliffe, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

But Trump also is looking to put an ideological stamp on the idea of American greatness with the inclusion of conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court Justice.

The group of 30-plus features Founding Fathers and presidents, civil rights pioneers and aviation innovators, explorers and generals.

Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly condemned the desecration and toppling of historic statues by demonstrators during protests over racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We will raise the next generation of American patriots,” Trump said at Mount Rushmore. “We will write the next thrilling chapter of the American adventure. And we will teach our children to know that they live in a land of legends, that nothing can stop them, and that no one can hold them down.”

His executive order says the garden should open before July 4, 2024, and he leaves it up to a federal task force to make recommendations about the use of federal money and a proposed site. The order specifies “a site of natural beauty” that is near at least one major population centre.

The order says priority should be given to monuments to former presidents, to individuals and events relating to the discovery of America, the founding of the United States, and the abolition of slavery. “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honouring, remembering, and studying,” according to the order.

The order includes language to make clear that non-U.S. citizens who played significant roles in American history also could be honoured in the garden.

As examples of individuals who made substantive contributions to America’s public life or otherwise had a substantive effect on America’s history, it cites: Italian explorer Christopher Columbus; Junipero Serra, a Roman Catholic priest who established Spanish missions in California; and the Marquis de La Fayette, a French officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

A statue of Columbus, who has been criticized for brutal treatment of Native Americans, was removed this past week from outside the city hall in Columbus, Ohio. Last month, protesters toppled a statue of Serra in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Some historians say that Serra, who was canonized by the Catholic Church, had a mixed history that included him acting as an agent of the Spanish Empire’s colonization efforts in the 18th Century.

Trump on Friday again lashed out against a “left-wing cultural revolution” that he says is teaching American children “that the men and women who built” the country “were not heroes, but that were villains.”

“The radical view of American history is a web of lies — all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition,” Trump said.

Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press






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