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Wary U.S. embarks on Memorial Day weekend amid rain at COVID-19 epicenter

Evan Lewis

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Wary U.S. embarks on Memorial Day weekend amid rain at COVID-19 epicenter

FILE PHOTO: People walk by a closed restaurant on the boardwalk at Coney Island beach ahead of the Memorial Day weekend following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Memorial Day weekend, which culminates in ceremonies to honor U.S. military dead, got off to a cautious start on Saturday, especially in rain-soaked New York, epicenter of the coronavirus crisis that has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

A day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed up to 10 people to attend gatherings honoring America’s military veterans, he took time at his news briefing on Saturday to warn that social distancing and face masks should be part of any get-together’s plans.

“It depends on how people act. You can have a safe gathering of 10 people. You can also have a wholly unsafe gathering of 10 people,” Cuomo said.

While the official Memorial Day holiday is Monday, the weekend leading up to it marks the unofficial start of summer, with Americans traditionally flocking to beaches, gathering at backyard barbecues and unfurling picnic blankets in parks.

Heavy rain kept crowds down at state beaches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which were re-opened with governors urging outdoor enthusiasts to maintain at least the recommended six-foot distance apart to stop the virus spread.

Some town and county beaches on Long Island and Westchester County or along the Jersey Shore’s 130-mile coastline remained closed to anyone but local residents, with some local officials concerned about being flooded by New Yorkers after Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to keep city beaches closed for swimming.

Surprise openings of other outdoor sites thrilled Americans cooped up at home by pandemic lockdown rules. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota welcomed visitors again starting on Saturday, earlier than expected, inviting in admirers of the 60-foot-high granite sculptures of the faces of U.S. Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

COVID-19, which has killed more than 338,000 people worldwide, has left more than 96,400 dead in the United States. That is more than the Vietnam and Korean wars combined, with 58,220 American lives lost in Vietnam and 36,574 American killed in hostile actions in the Korean War theater, according to the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Diane Craft

With a knack for storytelling, Evan started News Brig about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the Sports,, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.

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U.S. officials block police ‘extreme tactics’ as protests enter 12th day

Evan Lewis

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U.S. officials block police 'extreme tactics' as protests enter 12th day

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Officials across the United States are moving to rein in police following accusations of excessive force being used against demonstrators, with protests over the killing of a black man in custody set to enter their 12th day on Saturday.

George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday in honor of Floyd, who was originally from the state’s Fayetteville city.

On Friday, marches and gatherings took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver, among other places, while protesters massed again, in the rain, in front of the White House. The night-time protests were largely peaceful but tension remains high even as authorities in several places take steps to reform police procedures.

A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades, with his ruling citing examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police. [nL1N2DJ02U]

“These are peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and medics who have been targeted with extreme tactics meant to suppress riots, not to suppress demonstrations,” U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling.

In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke-holds, where pressure is applied to the neck, while California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would end state police training of carotid restraints similar to the technique used on Floyd. [nL1N2DI1SM]

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available as well as banning choke-holds.

“Mr Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement. “People are saying enough is enough, we must change.”

Several men stand at the locked gates of Jackson Square, where a statue of Andrew Jackson resides, and had brief heated words with demonstra tors who had gathered around the square during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., June 5, 2020. Picture taken June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn

NFL: WE WERE WRONG

Black Lives Matter activists have called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed increasing law enforcement funding, this week reversed course and said he would seek some $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department.

In another sign of how attitudes have changed, National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video denouncing racism in the United States. [nL1N2DI2IC]

The NFL has been locked in a debate with players over kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem.

Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, were suspended without pay on Thursday and placed under investigation after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground. [nL1N2DI06H]

But the decision was met with pushback from the officers’ colleagues, with all 57 members of the police tactical unit quitting in protest at their treatment. [nL1N2DI2IQ]

The demonstrations have erupted as the public and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Disease experts have said the protests could spark new outbreaks.

Slideshow (32 Images)

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with U.S. President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation’s capital, had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.

After nightfall, Bowser had light projections spelling out the words beamed onto nearby buildings, which she said on Twitter was a “night light” aimed at Trump.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Alexandra Alper, Andy Sullivan, Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart, Nathan Layne, Sharon Bernstein, Dan Whitcomb, Matt Spetalnick, Raphael Satter, Keith Coffman,Rich McKay; Writing by Dan Whitcomb, Matt Spetalnick and Robert Birsel; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Pravin Char

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France tells China it still backs ‘one country, two systems’ for Hong Kong

Evan Lewis

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France tells China it still backs 'one country, two systems' for Hong Kong

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping after a joint news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron has told Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping he is following events in Hong Kong closely and continues to back the “one country, two systems” principle for Beijing’s rule over the city, an Elysee official said.

“The President said he was monitoring the (Hong Kong) situation closely and reiterated France’s support for the principle of ‘one country, two systems’,” the official told Reuters on Saturday.

China has approved security legislation for Hong Kong that democracy activists, diplomats and some in business fear will jeopardise its semi-autonomous status and its role as a global financial hub.

The legislation has reignited tensions between Washington and Beijing, and led the European Union to express “grave concern” last week.

Hong Kong was discussed during an hour and a half phone call on Friday between Macron and Xi, the official said.

The Elysee had reported the call in a statement late on Friday without mentioning Hong Kong.

The statement also referred to cooperation in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, saying Macron stressed the essential role of the World Health Organization, blamed by Washington for mishandling the crisis.

Reporting by Michel Rose, writing by Gus Trompiz, editing by Mark Potter

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Malaysia reports 38 new coronavirus cases, one new death

Evan Lewis

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Malaysia reports 38 new coronavirus cases, one new death

FILE PHOTO: A health worker wearing a protective suit arranges hospital bed at Emergency Department in the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian health officials reported 38 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the cumulative total to 8,304.

The health ministry also reported one new death, raising total fatalities to 117.

Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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