In Brief: October 30, 2020

New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia but not marijuana

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealanders voted to legalize euthanasia in a binding referendum, but preliminary results released Friday showed they likely would not legalize recreational marijuana use.

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With about 83% of votes counted, New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the euthanasia measure with 65% voting in favor and 34% voting against.

The “No” vote on marijuana was much closer, with 53% voting against legalizing the drug for recreational use and 46% voting in favor. That left open a slight chance the measure could still pass once all special votes were counted next week, although it would require a huge swing.

The two referendums represented significant potential changes to New Zealand’s social fabric, although the campaigns for each ended up getting overshadowed somewhat by the coronavirus pandemic and a parallel political race, in which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her liberal Labour Party won a second term in a landslide.

In past elections, special votes — which include those cast by overseas voters — have tended to track more liberal than general votes, giving proponents of marijuana legalization some hope the measure could still pass.

Tunisian carrying Quran fatally stabs 3 in French church

NICE, France — A young Tunisian man armed with a knife and carrying a copy of the Quran attacked worshippers in a French church and killed three Thursday, prompting the government to raise its security alert to the maximum level hours before a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The attack in Mediterranean city of Nice was the third in less than two months that French authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class after the images were re-published by a satirical newspaper targeted in a 2015 attack.

From wire sources

Thursday’s attacker was seriously wounded by police and hospitalized in life-threatening condition after the killings at the Notre Dame Basilica. The imposing edifice is located half a mile (less than a kilometer) from the site where another attacker plowed a truck into a crowd on France’s national day in 2016, killing dozens.

President Emmanuel Macron said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 to 7,000.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said the suspect is a Tunisian born in 1999 who reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key landing point for migrants crossing in boats from North Africa, on Sept. 20 and traveled to Bari, a port city in southern Italy, on Oct. 9. Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard did not specify when he arrived in Nice.

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Trump tests limits as Cabinet members fan out to key states

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos planned a “Moms for Trump” rally in her home state of Michigan. The Department of Homeland Security’s top official was in Texas to celebrate completion of a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency headed to North Carolina after visiting Georgia the day before.

That was just Thursday.

Members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet are logging extra miles as mostly unofficial campaign surrogates in crucial states in the final days before Tuesday’s election, blending politics and policy in ways that critics say skirt established norms and may even violate the law.

It’s long been one of the benefits of incumbency that a president can enlist his Cabinet to promote administration accomplishments. But only to a point, with a law on the books since 1939 requiring a division between political and official activities for all federal employees except the president and vice president.

“The Trump administration has completely obliterated that line,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, which describes itself as a nonpartisan watchdog organization. “The White House is now the seat of government, where the president lives, and one of his chief campaign props. And that erosion of norms has spread throughout the entire administration.”

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Harris target of more misinformation than Pence, data shows

CHICAGO — Long before Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced her as his running mate, Kamala Harris was the target of widespread online misinformation.

Social media posts included racist claims that she was ineligible to serve in the White House or that she was lying about her Black and Indian heritage. Her mother is from India and her father from Jamaica.

Since being named to the presidential ticket, Harris has been at the center of online misinformation campaigns four times as much as the white men who campaigned for the job in the last four years, according to a report from media intelligence firm Zignal Labs shared exclusively with The Associated Press.

“The narratives related to Kamala Harris zeroed in much more on her personal identity, especially as a woman of color,” said Jennifer Granston, head of insights at Zignal Labs.

The firm identified more than 1 million mentions since June on Twitter of Harris with hashtags or terms associated with misinformation about her. The mentions include fact checks that rebuffed the falsehoods, but those made up only a small portion of that conversation.

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Police who shot Wallace were improperly trained, family says

PHILADELPHIA — The footage from body-worn cameras that was taken as police responded to a call about Walter Wallace Jr. shows him emerging from a house with a knife as relatives shout at officers about his mental health condition, a lawyer for the man’s family said Thursday.

The video also shows Wallace became incapacitated after the first shot of 14 that two officers fired at him, said lawyer Shaka Johnson, describing footage he said police showed him and other members of Wallace’s family before a plan to release it and 911 calls publicly.

“I understand he had a knife, but that does not give you carte blanche to execute a man, quite frankly,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference outside Philadelphia City Hall. “What other than death did you intend when you shoot a man — each officer — seven times apiece?”

The family does not want the officers, who have not yet been publicly identified, to be charged with murder, Johnson said, because they were improperly trained and didn’t have the right equipment to do their job.

The video shows “instant panic” from officers whose training taught them only how to open fire, he said, noting he saw no viable attempt from officers to deescalate the situation.

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Zeta soaks Southeast after swamping Gulf Coast; 6 dead

ATLANTA — Millions of people were without power and at least six were dead Thursday after Hurricane Zeta slammed into Louisiana and made a beeline across the South, leaving shattered buildings, thousands of downed trees and fresh anguish over a record-setting hurricane season.

From the bayous of the Gulf Coast to Atlanta and beyond, Southerners used to dealing with dangerous weather were left to pick up the pieces once again just days ahead of an election in which early voting continued despite the storm.

In Atlanta and New Orleans, drivers dodged trees in roads and navigated intersections without traffic signals. In Lakeshore, Mississippi, Ray Garcia returned home to find a shrimp boat washed up and resting against its pilings

“I don’t even know if insurance is going to pay for this,” Garcia said. “I don’t know what this boat has done.”

As many as 2.6 million homes and businesses lost power across seven states, but the lights were coming back on slowly. The sun came out and temperatures cooled, but trees were still swaying as the storm’s remnants blew through.

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AP PHOTOS: Teachers improvise to make hybrid learning work

NEW YORK — When New York schools reopened in September it was anything but business as usual. With state guidelines for social distancing making it impossible for all students to attend classes in person at the same time, educators prepared for a hybrid model of instruction.

Besides preparing lesson plans and decorating classrooms with the usual “Welcome Back” posters and inspirational quotes, teachers and IT personnel set up computers, cameras, and document readers to be able to reach students who are learning remotely.

Educators now deliver their lessons to half empty classrooms as well as computer screens filled with faces of children logged in from home. As they move from desk to desk helping students with their lessons, they also remind those at home to unmute their computers so they can be heard responding to questions.

Everywhere, teachers are improvising. Classes are held outdoors. Physical education instructors demonstrate exercise techniques in front of a camera in empty gymnasiums. In some cases, hallways are used for one-on-one instruction or remote learning classrooms. Auditoriums, previously used for school assemblies, are storing furniture and equipment.

One thing that hasn’t changed is teachers’ dedication to their students and the pride they put into their work. Teachers are making the most of the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Paris Jackson mines her heartache for solo debut album

NEW YORK — It started in her bedroom with just a guitar, but Paris Jackson has turned coping with the heartache after a recent breakup into her debut solo album.

Jackson, 22, has been a devoted music fan all her life and dabbled in making her own, but has been hesitant to call herself a singer-songwriter until now.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever experienced,” Jackson told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview this week.

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She describes her ethereal acoustic sound as alternative folk — a far cry from the genre of her father, Michael Jackson. Being the daughter of the King of Pop adds an extra layer of scrutiny to the vulnerability required to put personal songs out into the world.

“I’m excited, I’m nervous, but I feel confident that the people that are supposed to hear this record are going to hear it. It’s going to reach them. And with regards to critics and stuff, I don’t really think they’re going to know how to critique it,” Jackson says.

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