Nation and World briefs for July 17

Police officer in ‘I can’t breathe’ death won’t be charged

NEW YORK — After years of silence, federal prosecutors said Tuesday that they won’t bring criminal charges against a white New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man whose dying words — “I can’t breathe” — became a national rallying cry against police brutality.

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The decision to end a yearslong civil rights investigation without charges was made by Attorney General William Barr and was announced the day before the five-year anniversary of the deadly Staten Island encounter, just as the statute of limitations was set to expire.

Civil rights prosecutors in Washington had favored filing criminal charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, but ultimately Barr sided with other federal prosecutors based in Brooklyn who said evidence, including a bystander’s widely viewed cellphone video, wasn’t sufficient to make a case, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press.

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, said at a news conference that while Garner’s death was tragic, there was insufficient evidence to prove that Pantaleo or any other officers involved in the confrontation on a Staten Island sidewalk had willfully violated his civil rights.

“Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo’s hold of Mr. Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted willfully in violation of the law,” Donoghue said.

Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad 50 years later

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returned Tuesday to the exact spot where he flew to the moon 50 years ago with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Collins had the spotlight to himself this time — Armstrong has been gone for seven years and Aldrin canceled. Collins said he wished his two moonwalking colleagues could have shared the moment at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the departure point for humanity’s first moon landing.

“Wonderful feeling to be back,” the 88-year-old command module pilot said on NASA TV. “There’s a difference this time. I want to turn and ask Neil a question and maybe tell Buzz Aldrin something, and of course, I’m here by myself.”

At NASA’s invitation, Collins marked the precise moment — 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 — that the Saturn V rocket blasted off. He was seated at the base of the pad alongside Kennedy’s director, Robert Cabana, a former space shuttle commander.

Collins recalled the tension surrounding the crew that day.

Trump’s new asylum rules go into effect, and opponents sue

TIJUANA, Mexico — Hundreds of immigrants showed up at border crossings Tuesday in hopes of getting into the U.S. but faced the likelihood of being turned away under a new Trump administration asylum rule that upends long-standing protections for people fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands.

The policy went into effect Tuesday but drew a swift lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is the Trump administration’s most extreme run at an asylum ban yet,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt. “It clearly violates domestic and international law and cannot stand.”

The policy represents the most forceful attempt to date by President Donald Trump to slash the number of people seeking asylum in America. It comes at a time when Trump’s recent tweets telling four members of Congress to “go back” to other countries have set off an uproar.

Trump did not mention the new practices rules Tuesday during a White House meeting.

US fears Iran seized UAE-based tanker in Strait of Hormuz

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A small oil tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker two days ago, leading the U.S. to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region, an American defense official said Tuesday.

Iran offered no immediate comment on what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late Saturday night, though an Emirati official acknowledged the vessel sent out no distress call. Oil tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The concern about the Riah comes as Iran continues its own high-pressure campaign over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago.

Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude oil abroad.

However, those tensions also have seen the U.S. send thousands of additional troops, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets into the Mideast. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone has added to the fears of an armed conflict breaking out.

Trump administration blasts WTO ruling on China

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration blasted a World Trade Organization decision Tuesday that could let China levy sanctions on the United States.

The 2-1 decision by the WTO’s appellate body was actually a mixed verdict in a case that dates back to 2007 and is unrelated to the tariffs the administration has slapped on $250 billion in Chinese goods. In its final decision, the WTO agreed with the U.S. that China lets state-owned enterprises (SOEs) subsidize Chinese firms by providing components at unfairly low costs.

But it said the U.S. wrongly calculated the tariffs imposed to punish China for the subsidies. If the U.S. doesn’t recalculate them, China can retaliate with its own sanctions.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the ruling “undermines WTO rules, making them less effective to counteract Chinese SOE subsidies that are harming U.S. workers and businesses and distorting markets worldwide.”

Separately, the U.S.-China are locked in a yearlong standoff over U.S. allegations that China uses predatory tactics — including outright theft of trade secrets — in an aggressive push to challenge American technological dominance.

Judge orders R. Kelly held in jail without bond in sex case

CHICAGO — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered R. Kelly held in jail without bond after a prosecutor warned that the singer accused of having sex with minors and trying to cover up the crimes would pose an extreme danger to young girls if set free.

“If he was attracted to middle school girls in 1999 then he’s still attracted to middle school girls,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Krull told U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber. “That’s who the defendant is and that, your honor, makes him a danger today.”

Leinenweber said that under federal law Kelly would have to prove that he was not a danger to the public and Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, had failed to do so.

Kelly faces an array of sex-related charges in Chicago and New York. Appearing in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and shacked at the ankles, he said only two words, “Yes, sir,” when the judge asked him if he understood the charges.

The ruling Tuesday means that Kelly, who pleaded not guilty to the charges contained in the Chicago indictment , will remain in custody to face a separate indictment in New York. He is charged there with racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor and the sexual exploitation of a child.

Planned Parenthood to defy Trump abortion referral rule

WASHINGTON — Federally funded family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood, are defying the Trump administration’s ban on referring women for abortions, drawing a line against what they say amounts to keeping patients in the dark about legitimate health care options.

“We are not going to comply with a regulation that would require health care providers to not give full information to their patients,” Jacqueline Ayers, the group’s top lobbyist, said in an interview Tuesday. “We believe as a health care provider it is wrong to withhold health care information from patients.”

The fallout from the confrontation between the Trump administration and the clinics remains to be seen, but groups like the American Medical Association have been warning that many low-income women could lose access to basic services like contraception. Planned Parenthood’s announcement came on a day when it also replaced its president, although it’s unclear if there was any connection.

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The Department of Health and Human Services formally notified the clinics Monday that it will begin enforcing the new regulation banning abortion referrals, along with a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. The rule is being challenged in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it.

It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to remake government policy on reproductive health.

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