Day: July 10, 2020

Funeral next week for girl shot near Atlanta protest site

ATLANTA — A funeral is scheduled next week for an 8-year-old girl who was shot on the Fourth of July near one of Atlanta’s flash points for protests against police brutality.

The private, invitation-only service for Secoriea Turner will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at New Calvary Missionary Church in Atlanta, her family’s lawyers said in an emailed statement Friday. A public viewing is to be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Murray Brothers Funeral Home in Atlanta.

Secoriea was riding in a Jeep Cherokee with her mother and another adult on Saturday night when they encountered a roadblock manned by numerous people with guns, police have said. When the driver tried to go around the roadblock, shots were fired and the girl was fatally hit.

Police have released a short surveillance camera video of an armed man who they described as a person of interest in the girl’s shooting. It shows a Black man in a white shirt and dark pants carrying an AR-15 rifle with a tan stock and grip.

A reward of up to $20,000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the case.

The girl was shot near the Wendy’s restaurant where a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by a white police officer June 12. The fast food outlet was later burned, and the area has since become a site for frequent demonstrations against police brutality.

A representative for Tyler Perry has confirmed that the actor and filmmaker has offered to pay for Secoriea’s funeral.

A team of lawyers has been hired “to represent this family in its time of need and will investigate the circumstances surrounding Secoriea’s death,” attorney Robert Bozeman said in the statement.

The Associated Press

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Church singing ban strikes sour note with California pastor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Crossroads Community Church Senior Pastor Jim Clark wants to keep his 1,500 parishioners safe during the coronavirus pandemic but he’s drawing the line at a new California ban on singing or chanting at religious services.

“I said enough’s enough,” Clark said. “We will be singing and praising the Lord. … We don’t chant, but if we did chant, we’d be chanting too.”

The California ban was one of a number of restrictions on indoor businesses and gatherings put in place last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom amid fast-rising virus cases and hospitalizations. It”s unclear if any similar prohibition on singing exists in the United States, though there is one in England.

The virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases minuscule droplets that can carry the disease. The ban may well end up in court as there are differing opinions on its legality, with some conservative groups arguing it infringes on religious freedom while others believe it’s constitutional, especially during a pandemic.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a religious freedom law firm with ties to President Donald Trump, says it will sue.

“We can’t stand by and watch as California strips its believers of their God-given right to raise their voices in worship and praise,” executive director Jordan Sekulow said on the centre’s website. The centre, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, did not say how quickly it would sue.

Sekulow was a member of Trump’s defence team, and his father, Jay Sekulow, the centre’s chief legal counsel, was one of Trump’s lead attorneys during the impeachment trial.

Another conservative-leaning legal group, The Pacific Justice Institute, told faith leaders in a letter that Newsom’s guidance is advisory because it does not say it is an order, cites no legal authority, isn’t signed by any official and includes no reference to penalties.

Institute president Brad Dacus said after the letter went out attorneys there fielded dozens of subsequent calls from relieved religious leaders who allowed singing last Sunday and intend to keep doing so.

“These churches are just glad to know they will not be criminally prosecuted for singing worship songs on Sunday morning,” said Dacus, whose institute has filed pandemic unequal treatment lawsuits against state officials in Oregon and Washington.

But Ali Bay, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Services, said the guidance by the state Department of Public Health and Division of Occupational Safety and Health must be followed.

It “has the same authority as all of CDPH’s other guidance, directives, and orders, which the governor has ordered residents to heed,” she said.

Newsom earlier faced criticism for not more quickly allowing religious organizations to resume offering inside services. He relented last month but imposed many restrictions, including limiting crowds to 100 people. He added the order on singing to the state’s 14-page guidance, which reasons that “activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, said the ban is legally enforceable.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear, as have the lower courts, that restrictions on assemblies, including for religious purposes, are constitutional,” he said in an email. “I think this restriction surely is constitutional, especially as cases of COVID-19 are surging. There can be enforcement of this, as with other businesses.”

The California Catholic Conference said it would comply.

“You could have a respectful worship service, a quiet one — in fact a lot of people kind of seek that out anyway,” Catholic Conference spokesman Steve Pehanich said. He said some have choir members participate remotely or take other steps to safely provide music.

“The churches are just trying to keep people safe and are working within those guidelines to do so,” Pehanich said.

But others like Clark said they will ignore the ban.

He has spent nearly 30 years growing his Yuba City church north of Sacramento, and said he is intent on protecting his flock with social distancing and other safety measures. He has masks available, with gloves and hand sanitizer, but they are not required.

Clark won’t cancel indoor services or end singing by the roughly 500 who attend one of three weekly services.

Clark said there has been no effort to crack down, and no criticism of him flouting Newsom’s restrictions. To the contrary, he said feedback has been positive.

“Most of them have been calls, ‘Thank you for standing up for what you believe,’” he said.

About 200 state inspectors fanned out over the long Independence Day to check businesses for violations of new state health orders. But Greg Burt, spokesman for the conservative California Family Council, said he’d heard of no effort to enforce the singing ban during the first weekend it applied.

“As soon as they try to enforce it, it’s going to make national news,” he said.

“This seems to be a little more extreme than telling them they can’t meet, because you’re telling them how to worship,” Burt said. “That seems to be a little more over the line involving the government directly violating the First Amendment.”

Harmeet Dhillon, a lawyer and Republican Party official who has unsuccessfully sued Newsom over several health orders during the pandemic, said she is considering a lawsuit over the singing restriction.

Dhillon and other critics including Advocates for Faith & Freedom and the National Center for Law and Policy said the church restrictions constitute unequal treatment when compared to recent crowds of demonstrators protesting police violence after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“If you’re allowed to chant ‘Hey hey, ho ho, racism’s got to go’ but you can’t chant the liturgy, that’s obviously discriminatory,” she said.

Don Thompson, The Associated Press

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Ex-Trump fixer Cohen transferred from NYC jail to Otisville

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was transferred to the same federal lockup in Otisville where he was serving time for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes before the coronavirus pandemic prompted his early release, his attorney said Friday.

The move late Thursday came hours after federal authorities said Cohen refused to accept the conditions of his home confinement, specifically that he submit to wearing an ankle monitor. He had briefly been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

Cohen attorney Jeffrey Levine said Cohen never refused to wear an ankle monitor but raised concerns about conditions of his home confinement that forbade him from using social media, speaking with the press and publishing a tell-all book he wrote in federal prison. Cohen had been planning to publish the book in the coming months.

“I was not notified and his family was not notified” of the transfer to Otisville, Levine told The Associated Press. “He is in solitary confinement under the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 for a period of two weeks.”

Cohen, 53, had been furloughed in May as part of an attempt to slow the spread of the virus in federal prisons.

He returned to custody Thursday after authorities presented him with new restrictions associated with his home confinement — a different level of supervision that includes electronic monitoring.

Cohen is completing a three-year term and is scheduled for release in November 2021, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons. His attorneys, however, were preparing new legal action, having attempted to file an emergency appeal within hours of his latest arrest.

Records obtained by the AP said Cohen was remanded after he “failed to agree to the terms of Federal Location Monitoring.” But Cohen’s lawyers said he ultimately agreed to accept all the requirements of home confinement and was taken into custody nevertheless.

“We were engaged in a dialogue,” Levine said. “Everything was professional and pleasant.”

The federal prison in Otisville is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) from New York City, tucked in the lush countryside south of the Catskill Mountains.

Jim Mustian, The Associated Press

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Foreign students weigh studying in person vs. losing visas

PHOENIX — International students worried about a new immigration policy that could potentially cost them their visas say they feel stuck between being unnecessarily exposed during the coronavirus pandemic and being able to finish their studies in America.

The students from countries as diverse as India, China and Brazil say they are scrambling to devise plans after federal immigration authorities notified colleges this week that international students must leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall. Some say they are thinking about returning home or moving to nearby Canada.

“I’m generating research, I’m doing work in a great economy,” said Batuhan Mekiker, a Ph.D. student from Turkey studying computer science at Montana State University in Bozeman. He’s in the third year of a five-year program.

”If I go to Turkey, I would not have that,” he said. “I would like to be somewhere where my talent is appreciated.”

Mathias, a Seattle-based student who spoke on condition his last name not be used for fear of losing his immigration status, said he is set to sell his car, break his lease, and get his cat Louis permission to fly back to his home in Paris in the next two weeks.

“Everyone’s very worried,” he said. “We have our whole lives here.”

Many American universities have come to depend on the revenue from more than 1 million international students, who typically pay higher tuition. President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible — and some universities have accused the administration of issuing the guidelines to force the schools into reopening. Trump has alleged that schools are being kept closed for political reasons.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a lawsuit this week to block the decision. The guidance was released the same day Harvard announced it would keep all undergraduate classes online this fall and several graduate schools have said they would as well. The university says the directive would prevent many of its 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.

The University of Southern California sent a letter to students and faculty, saying it is “deeply troubled” by the decision.

“The policy could negatively impact countless international students,” it said.

Like other universities, USC said it was pushing back and working to ensure students’ academic careers aren’t harmed, while exploring ways they can study in person safely if they wish.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the directive could inflict “significant harm” on colleges, students, the business community and the economy.

The U.S. State Department said in a release that international students are welcome in the U.S., but the policy “provides greater flexibility for non-immigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses.”

A day after Harvard sued to block the policy, the university notified the court that immigration authorities appear to be already enforcing the guidance. A lawyer for Harvard said at a preliminary conference Thursday that a first-year student from Belarus was turned away from his flight at a Minsk airport and urged the judge to suspend the rule. There is another hearing Friday.

“This is very dangerous and cruel,” said Jessie Peng, a Chinese graduate student in analytics at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

“We have nowhere to go,” said Peng, 27. “Either risk our lives and go to school or we risk our lives flying back to China.”

Jasdeep Mandia, a doctoral candidate from India studying economics at Arizona State University, is also worried.

Mandia, 35, said he has breathing problems that could exacerbate his symptoms if he contracted COVID-19.

Mandia originally planned to conduct all his fall studies online.

While the university has showed concern for international students, Mandia said the directive underscores their shaky standing.

“It has never been a level playing field,” he said. “But this makes it more apparent.”

At Indiana University, American scholar Dakota Murray wrote in the school newspaper about his uncertainty over how the guidance would affect him and his wife, a fellow doctoral candidate who is from South Korea.

Murray, 27, said he and his wife had discussed the possibility of going to live in South Korea or maybe Canada, where she has relatives. He spoke on condition that his wife’s name not be used because she is trying to obtain a green card that will let her work and reside in the U.S. after she finishes her studies.

Vanderbilt University student Safa Shahzad went home to Manchester, England, for a visit in March but got stuck there when the U.S. imposed travel restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

Still in England, the 19-year-old, who is double majoring in politics and computer science, completed her freshman year from afar after the university transitioned online.

Although Vanderbilt has said courses will be a hybrid of online and in person this fall, Shahzad cannot travel to the U.S. until the Trump administration lifts the travel restrictions.

“I’m just kind of waiting,” she said.

Computer science student Vivian Degasperi, 23, from Brazil, said the new guidelines “are going to make my life harder” at Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York.

Degasperi said the college has announced most all classes will be taught remotely, and is examining how to keep international students from losing their visa status.

Because she lives near the northern U.S. border, Degasperi said she would consider moving to Canada.

“My family is worried,” she said. “Everyone is calling me all the time.”

Natalia Afonso, a Brooklyn College student, also from Brazil, said she hopes the school will adopt a hybrid model of remote and in-person classes — but she fears riding the subway to campus could increase her chances of catching the virus.

“I don’t see myself moving back to Brazil at this point,” said the 27-year-old, who is studying education and just finished her first semester. “It’s very unfair.”


Naishadham reported from Atlanta and Powell from Washington. AP writers Collin Binkley in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Anita Snow in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Suman Naishadham, Cheyanne Mumphrey And Hilary Powell, The Associated Press

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Nick Cordero’s Widow Amanda Kloots Shares Touching Tribute To Her Late Husband

On Sunday, at 38 years old, Amanda Kloots, the mother of a one-year-old son, became a widow.

Her husband, the Canadian-born Broadway actor Nick Cordero, died over the weekend at age 41. He got sick in late March and tested positive for COVID-19 in April.

At the time of death, he had recovered from the virus, but was dealing with a host of post-COVID complications. He was hospitalized for 95 days, during which time he went through a leg amputation, a medically-induced coma, weight loss, septic shock, two “mini strokes,” kidney dialysis, and the insertion of a temporary pacemaker. Before Cordero contracted the virus he was in good shape and didn’t have any underlying health conditions, Kloots said.

The couple’s son, Elvis, was born last June, after Kloots went through a 52-hour labour. By the time doctors starting performing a C-section, she was exhausted. But when the baby finally emerged, crying, Cordero told her to treasure the sound.

“They pulled Elvis out and he starts crying and Nick says, ‘Honey listen to our baby cry,’” Kloots said in an Instagram story. ”‘That cry will never sound as sweet as it does right now.’”

In May, when Cordero was in the hospital, Kloots said she recorded Elvis crying to play for her husband. She would film videos for him every day, she wrote on Instagram, “so that when he wakes up, he can watch them and feel like he’s been with Elvis and I.” 

Because of COVID-19 restrictions at the hospital where he was being treated, she wasn’t able to see him for 79 days, but when he was lucid enough, they were able to communicate on FaceTime.

She had hoped Cordero would be out of the hospital by Elvis’s first birthday on June 10. But when he wasn’t, Kloots threw a birthday party on her own. Friends and family drove by with signs and balloons wishing the toddler a happy birthday, and she and Cordero sang to their son, via FaceTime. 

“My husband was a very special man. He was everyone’s friend,” Kloots, an actor and fitness instructor. told People. “We taught each other things, challenging each other to grow. We loved to sing and dance wherever we were. Just looking at him doing the simplest things would bring a smile to my face.”

She said Cordero was a loving and affectionate spouse.

“As a husband I don’t think a day went by that he didn’t say to me, ‘I’m the luckiest.’ Words can’t describe how much I will miss him, his presence, his voice. I’m heartbroken.”

During Cordero’s hospitalization, Kloots had been sharing updates about his health and posting singalongs on Instagram Live, which she encouraged fans to join.

“You have no idea how much you lifted my spirits at 3pm everyday as the world sang Nick’s song, ‘Live Your Life,’” she wrote on Instagram on Monday, after announcing her husband’s death.

She said she sang the song, an original of his, to her husband before he died. Both she and his mother were in his room when he passed.

“As I sang the last line to him, ‘They’ll give you hell but don’t you let them kill your light / Not without a fight / Live your life,’ I smiled because he definitely put up a fight,” Kloots wrote. “I will love you forever and always my sweet man.”

Kloots and her son Elvis are currently staying with family friend Zach Braff, who has a guest house. 

Nick Cordero and Zach Braff at the Broadway production of

“We obviously stay social distanced from them, but we bring them food and wine and flowers,” Braff told E! News before Cordero’s death. “There’s just a non-stop stream of people dropping things off.”

It was exceedingly hard not to be able to comfort Kloots with a hug, Braff said on his podcast. “This is how f―king tragic it was: [Amanda] would be 10 feet away from us…sobbing. And we couldn’t go hug her. We would literally stand 10 feet away from her and watch our friend sobbing.”

Braff said on Instagram that the last text Cordero sent him asked him to look out for his wife and son.

“I have honestly never known a kinder person,” he wrote under a picture of Kloots and Coredero. “But Covid doesn’t care about the purity of your soul, or the goodness in your heart.”

Cordero’s social media accounts are full of photos of his wife and son, and references to how special they are to him.

In a photo of last spring, of a heavily pregnant Kloots on a beach, he wrote “What a view.” Beneath a photo of a newborn Elvis, he wrote “Long live the King.” Last year at Christmas, he captioned a photo of his family with “We have so much to be thankful for this year.” 

Another, of Kloots holding both their baby and a phone, is simply captioned “boss.”

His last Instagram post, from March, was also a tribute to Kloots on her birthday. He posted a photo of her in front a cake, with Elvis on her lap. 

“These days I’m counting my blessings,” he wrote. “This one is top of the list.”


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