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Dakota Access Pipeline: Judge suspends use of key oil link

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Protesters fought the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline has been ordered to suspend production by a US judge, amid concerns over its environmental impact.

The order is a major win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has led the fight against the pipeline.

The ruling demands the pipeline is emptied within 30 days so another environmental review can take place.

Separately, the Supreme Court blocked another controversial oil pipeline from continuing construction.

Judges sided with environmental groups, requiring the Keystone XL Pipeline – which would stretch from Canada’s Alberta province to Texas in the US – to undergo an arduous review before construction can resume.

Both projects were backed by US President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election after they were blocked by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

The $3.7bn (£2.8bn) 1,200 mile-(1,900km) long pipeline, completed in 2017, can transport some 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day across four states, from North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois, where it can be shipped to refineries.

Supporters of the pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer, argue it provides a more cost-effective, efficient means of transporting crude, rather than shipping barrels by train.

But the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters argued the project – which passed just north of the tribe’s reservation – would contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites.

What did the judge say?

Federal judge James E. Boasberg, sitting at the District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that the construction of the pipeline had fallen short of environmental standards.

It therefore needed to undergo a more thorough environmental review than had been conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers before it could be allowed to continue working, he said. The process is expected to take 13 months, according to the Financial Times.

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Media captionNine arrests were made after some demonstrators failed to leave the camp before the deadline

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ Nepa (National Environmental Policy Act) error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” Judge Boasberg’s ruling concluded.

What has the response been?

Chairman Mike Faith, of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said it was a “historic day” for all those who had fought the pipeline.

“This pipeline should have never been built here,” he said. “We told them that from the beginning.”

But Energy Transfer said it did not believe the ruling was “supported by the law or the facts of the case”.

Spokeswoman Lisa Coleman told news agency AFP they believed “Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority in ordering the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been safely operating for more than three years”.

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Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania Trump’s former aide to publish book

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Melania and Me is due out on 1 September.

A former aide to Melania Trump has written a memoir about her 15-year friendship with the US first lady.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me, is due out on 1 September.

In 2018, Ms Winston Wolkoff was reportedly forced out of the White House, amid allegations that she had been profiteering from President Trump’s inauguration.

But the former aide has said she was “thrown under the bus”.

She denied claims her company received $26 million (£20 million) in payments to help plan the 2017 ceremony and surrounding events, saying her firm “retained a total of $1.62 million”.

“In her memoir, Wolkoff chronicles her journey from their friendship that started in New York to her role as the First Lady’s trusted advisor to her abrupt and very public departure, to life after Washington,” according to a description of the book published by Vanity Fair.

The book, which will be on sale ahead of the November presidential election – when Mr Trump will take on Democrat nominee Joe Biden, is the latest controversial memoir involving the Trumps.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book, The Room Where It Happened, portrays a president ignorant of basic geopolitical facts and whose decisions were frequently driven by a desire for re-election.

He accuses Mr Trump of wanting help from China to win re-election, while offering approval for China’s plan to build forced-labour camps for its Muslim Uighur minority. He also backs up Democrat allegations that sparked impeachment efforts against the president.

Meanwhile, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, is due to publish Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man later this month.

An Amazon blurb for the book says the author will set out how her uncle “became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security and social fabric”.

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Media captionTrump voter: ‘These people here are genuine Americans’

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Coronavirus: Disease detectives track an invisible culprit

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Disease detectives are trying desperately to beat the clock and find those who have been exposed to the virus. Can they move fast enough to stop the pandemic?

As a public-health director in Savannah, Georgia, Cristina Pasa Gibson spent her time in an office filled with calorie counters and yoga mats and the scent of jasmine tea. Then she started working on contact tracing, a no-holds-barred effort to stop the pandemic, and her office and her life were turned upside down. “I felt like I was in a Vegas casino,” she says. “I didn’t know what time it was, what day it was, who I was.”

She and her colleagues in Savannah and her counterparts in other cities across the country have been working frantically to trace the path of the infection and to find those who may have been exposed to the virus. They talk to patients, asking for names of individuals they have spent time with, and chase down those individuals and to tell them to remain isolated so they do not infect others.

The pressure on investigators and contact tracers has been intense. “I basically lived in my office,” says Gibson, describing the early days. “It was Groundhog Day over and over.”

Today their role is even more important. The US now has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.

Red State, Blue State

Gibson is grappling with the pandemic, and she and her colleagues are trying to use contact tracing as a way to contain the virus. Her counterparts in New Haven, Connecticut, a city that lies almost 900 miles to the north, are also working feverishly to track the disease. Yale University student Tyler Shelby, 26, the son of a Kansas police detective and a fan of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch in a BBC version), helped to organise an investigative squad and coordinates dozens of volunteers.

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Tyler Shelby, shown above at the Connecticut shore, helped put together a contact-tracing team

Cristina Pasa Gibson of Savannah and Tyler Shelby of New Haven are struggling with life-or-death matters in a country where people are deeply divided in their views of the pandemic and how the government should manage the health crisis.

The number of cases has shot up in Georgia, Florida, Texas and other states where governors tried to reinforce Trump’s message about the nation’s economic comeback. Meanwhile the number of cases in Connecticut, New York and other northern states, places initially hit hard by the virus, has gone down.

The contact-tracing initiatives in New Haven and Savannah are far from perfect. But they have been recognised by experts in the field as programmes that were started early and run with vigour. Taken together, these two programmes offer a snapshot of the high-stakes drama of contact tracing and show how the system is being put in place in both the northern and the southern parts of the country.

Uncovering secret lives

Gibson spoke recently on the phone in her Savannah office with someone who had tested positive: “He asked me: ‘Am I going to die?’ That’s a terrible question to be faced with because so much is unknown. I could not give that person a definite answer.” Talking to people on the phone when they are scared and anxious is hard. In addition, the people who work in contact tracing have to find out key information from those who have gotten sick.

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Cristina Pasa Gibson, shown at her parents’ house in Gainesville, Virginia, beats drumsticks in a workout class to reduce pandemic stress

Investigators and contact tracers try to find out whom the patients spoke to during a two-day period before they became ill and for the period of time beyond that – until they isolated themselves from others. That means recalling anyone they saw for more than 15 minutes and who stood or sat within six feet of them. Did you see a movie, take an Uber or go to church? If so – did you stop for donuts? an investigator may ask, according to a government report on contact-tracing programmes.

The challenges are immense: “You’re asking people to think back,” says Yale student Tyler Shelby. This raises the possibility for potentially awkward conversations: “You don’t necessarily need to specify who they slept with. It’s really just anybody that meets that criteria”, or the guidelines that define close contact as anyone within six feet of you.

The conversations with a patient on the phone can be tough, with long silences. “Definitely people can have hesitation,” Shelby says.

“My first call – I was really nervous,” says Yale student Paulina Luna Martinez, who is 27. She soon found it easy to speak with the people, though, and spends about a half-hour with each: “They talk about their lives.” She and the other volunteers send back the lists of contacts they have compiled, and a separate group of people tracks down the individuals on these lists, men and women who have been exposed to the virus.

One of the most important aspects of contact tracing is helping those who are struggling. People who test positive need to stay separated from others, but they may need help. Those who have been exposed to the virus but remain healthy may not have enough money to see them through two weeks of isolation.

As Columbia University’s Patrick Kachur, explains, offering help to those who are sick and trying to protect others from the virus is one of the most important aspects of contact tracing. “People think: ‘This has to work because this is a key to getting back our lives,” he says. “But it’s more than just counting cases and closing investigations. It’s putting people in touch with the services they need.”

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“My first call – I was really nervous.” says Paulina Luna Martinez, shown above on the left, with housemate Elsie Gonzalez in New Haven

In New Haven and Savannah, the investigators and contact tracers help people contact officials with social-service agencies if they need a place to stay during quarantine or would like someone to deliver groceries. In Nevada, says Adriane Casalotti, a spokeswoman for the National Association of County and City Health Officials, they feed their horses.

Running against the clock

Contact tracing has a long history – the system was used to stop the spread of syphilis in the US in the 1930s. More recently, tracers ferreted out cases of Ebola in West Africa and other countries and helped beat back the disease. Yet contact tracing has never been used on a virus as ferocious as Covid-19, on such a broad scale, and these factors have helped to expose shortcomings in the tracing system.

In England, the inefficiencies of the NHS Test and Trace, as the contact tracing programme is known, have been exposed by the BBC and other media.

Analysts at the Center for Health Security say that the cost of the contact tracing, if done properly across the nation, would be steep: $3.6b USD. Yet only some of the resources are available. According to NPR, about 37,000 tracers have so far been assigned to the task

New Haven and Savannah are both about the same size. New Haven has a population of about 130,000, and Savannah has a population of 145,000. But Cristina Pasa Gibson and Tyler Shelby and others who live in these two cities have experienced the pandemic in different ways.

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DataHaven’s Mark Abraham, right, with his son in New Haven during a stay-at-home order, maps areas where the virus has struck

New Haven, a city once known for its manufacturing industry and now for its university, Yale, is close to the New York epicentre. For many New Yorkers, New Haven is the end of the line, the place where they step off the train. In April, New Haven officials were reporting 20-35 new cases each week per 10,000 people, according to DataHaven, a nonprofit organisation, a spike that was caused partly by people from New York. By late June, more than 1,070 people had died of the disease in New Haven and the surrounding county.

Savannah is a port city far from the coronavirus hotspots. In April, while Cristina Pasa Gibson and her colleagues were organising their team, they had fewer cases to manage. Officials in Savannah and the surrounding Chatham County reported only one or two new cases each week per 10,000 people, according to DataHaven. By late June, 37 people in Chatham County had died.

The number of cases in New Haven started to drop in the springtime. Slowly, though, cases in Savannah and Chatham County began to climb. The explanation for the disparity in infection rates between New Haven and Savannah are varied and complex. Geography plays a role, but so do decisions made by political leaders.

The Republican governor of Georgia and the leaders of other states in the southern part of the country rushed to restart their economies. The Democratic governor of Connecticut and leaders of other northern states waited.

New Haven embodies the northern model – investigators and tracers were quickly deployed in large numbers (more than 150 were put in rotation, and they have since merged with a statewide group of several hundred). Savannah reflects the southern model of contact tracing and review of cases: their 49-member team is leaner.

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Activists in Texas protest against contact tracing programmes

Albert Ko, a professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health who serves on a state board, the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, says the New Haven team is doing an above-average job. Experts have also praised the efforts in Savannah.

In both cities, though, investigators are struggling to contact people fast enough. They are floundering in other ways too. The Savannah team members often find themselves without a Spanish speaker and rely on a Spanish-language phone line. In New Haven, they only managed to conduct interviews with 64% of the individuals they tried to contact, according to an epidemiologist with the New Haven health department.

Investigators and tracers should be able to contact 90% of patients within a day of hearing that they have the virus, according to the industry standard.

Still, says Patrick Kachur, a Columbia University professor who used to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a programme like the one in New Haven has value. “It’s two-thirds of the way to 90%,” Kachur says. “Even if it can’t be done perfectly, it’s still worth doing.”

Looking for clues

Last winter Tyler Shelby, who is studying for both a Yale medical degree and a public-health doctorate, was working at a cubicle decorated with potted vines and getting ready to go to Uganda on a Fulbright scholarship. Then he started seeing news about Covid-19 on Reddit. “I thought: I’m needed right here,” he says. He began working with his colleagues on a contact-tracing programme. Soon the number of cases shot up.

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Public-health experts say 180,000 more people are needed for contact tracing, and US national guard members are being trained

Shelby and others on his team dug in and became specialists in US-based “shoe-leather epidemiology”, as a Vermont health official, Daniel Daltry, puts it. Their heroes are amateur sleuths on true-crime podcasts and legendary figures such as Watson, the sidekick to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Watson could always “go with the flow”, says Shelby: “He puts up with Holmes, but he’s observant himself.”

The disease detectives are a diverse lot: working with Shelby, Yale medical student Paulina Luna Martinez began calling patients from her group house in New Haven. Maritza Bond, the city’s public-health director, studied a heat map of her old neighbourhood, Fair Haven, an area filled with Puerto Rican families that became a Covid hot spot, and epidemiologist Brian Weeks tracked data (“I like to make sense of things,” he says).

Savannah epidemiologist Meredith Avery started working in a small-town pharmacy at 16, and Cristina Pasa Gibson used to take care of laboratory monkeys. The successes or failures of the disease detectives in the two cities hold lessons for those around the world.

During her morning commute from Statesboro, a town that is about an hour’s drive from Savannah, Avery listens to Crime Junkie. She has a keen interest in investigations, both criminal and epidemiological, and says that she felt uneasy in the early days of the pandemic and a bit excited too. “You learn about these things in school,” says 30-year-old Avery. “And you think it’s never going to happen here.”

Contact tracers in Singapore used CCTV footage to track down people who were exposed to the virus. South Korean authorities constructed “virtual nets” around individuals to protect others from the virus, according to the Hill.

But most people in the US baulk at contact-tracing apps, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, because of privacy concerns.

Thurmond Neill Tillman, a pastor at First African Baptist Church in Savannah, says he understands the need for contact tracing: three people in his congregation have become ill with the virus. But he is concerned about the system’s invasive nature. “I can see how it would be very troubling,” he says. “I probably would have hated it as a teenager.”

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Pastor Thurmond Neill Tillman supports contact tracing but says the system raises privacy issues

Empathy lessons

Detectives are good listeners. They try to win the trust of people, and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is helpful. Cristina Pasa Gibson, 50, says she learned about cultural differences as a five-year-old while visiting her cousin in Manila. They came across an illustration of an egg basket in a colouring book, and her cousin painted one of the eggs dark, making it look like an egg soaked in slaked lime, a snack in the Philippines. “I said: ‘There’s no such thing as a purple egg,’ and I hit her,” Gibson says. “I was such a spoiled brat. That began my introspective journey.”

Outside of Manila, Gibson saw families living in poverty, with ramshackle huts as homes, and decided in college to work in public health. The experience she had as a child have helped her in her work fighting the pandemic: she understands that not everyone sees the world in the same way, and they are fighting the virus in different ways too.

Disease detectives are now settling into their roles. Yet the future of the nation and the trajectory of the disease remains unclear. The president is planning to hold rallies this summer, and activists are continuing to protest against policy brutality. These mass gatherings pose problems for investigators and contact tracers, who struggle to get in touch with people who have joined the gatherings and may be infected.

Disease detectives are now settling into their roles. Yet the future of the nation and the trajectory of the disease remains unclear. The president is planning to hold rallies this summer, and activists are continuing to protest against policy brutality. These mass gatherings pose problems for investigators and contact tracers, who struggle to get in touch with people who have joined the gatherings and may be infected.

The people who are working on the contact-tracing programmes are honest about their limitations. “From the beginning one of our mantras was: ‘We’ll do as much as we can for as long as we can,'” says Yale student Tyler Shelby: “Everything was unclear and nobody knew what was around the corner. We just accepted that uncertainty. We figured that we’re not going to be able to resolve everything, but we’re going to do what we can.”

In Savannah, Cristina Pasa Gibson has been calling people to tell them about their Covid-19 test results, a departure from the traditional purview of contact tracing but part of the larger fight against the pandemic. She jokes with her colleagues about setting up metal bells in the office so they can ding them whenever someone on the phone calls out: “Thank you, Jesus.”

The person on the phone has escaped the virus, marking a victory for them and for the disease detectives too, and she wants to mark the occasion.

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US to withdraw visas for foreign students if classes moved fully online

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Students could face deportation if they do not comply with the rules

Foreign students will not be allowed to stay in the US this autumn if their universities have moved classes fully online, unless they switch to a course with in-person tuition.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said people could face deportation if they do not comply with the rules.

Many universities are moving classes online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is not clear how many students will be affected.

Large numbers of foreign students travel to the US to study every year and are a significant source of revenue for universities as many pay full tuition.

Harvard has announced all course instruction will be delivered online when students return for the new academic year, including those living at the university.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is run by ICE, had permitted foreign students to continue with their spring and summer 2020 courses online while remaining in the country.

But Monday’s announcement said foreign students who remain in the US while enrolled in online courses and fail to switch to in-person courses could face “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings”.

The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in the fiscal year 2019, according to the agency’s data.

According to the US Commerce Department, international students contributed $45 billion (£36 billion) to the country’s economy in 2018.

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Bubba Wallace: Nascar driver’s defiant tweet over Trump’s ‘hate’

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Bubba Wallace (C) with his crew at the Pocono Organics 325 race last month

African-American Nascar driver Bubba Wallace has sent out a tweet condemning words of “hate from the president of the United States”.

Wallace is the sole full-time black driver in the US racing organisation and was instrumental in it banning the Confederate flag from races.

A noose was later found in his garage but an FBI inquiry determined “no federal crime was committed”.

President Trump called the story a hoax and suggested Wallace should apologise.

Wallace has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has come to the fore since the death in police custody of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

The movement has sparked a campaign to remove symbols associated with slavery, imperialism and the Confederacy. President Trump has strongly defended the monuments as part of US history.

The noose is a particularly evocative symbol of hate connected to lynching.

One was found in the garage assigned to Wallace at the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Wallace, 26, received messages of solidarity from fellow Nascar drivers and sports stars around the world after the discovery and an inquiry was begun.

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Wallace rejected suggestions the noose was a door handle

The FBI investigation found that the noose was in that garage as early as October 2019 and “nobody could have known Mr Wallace would be assigned the garage… last week”.

Wallace rejected suggestions the noose was a door handle, saying “what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull”.

But President Trump on Monday tweeted: “Has Bubba Wallace apologized to all of those great Nascar drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX.”

He did not elaborate on his allegation.

He said the noose incident and the removal of the flag had caused Nascar’s “lowest ratings ever”.

Later, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said the president was making “a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts before the facts are out is not acceptable”.

In his tweet, which he said was being sent to “the next generation and little ones following my foot steps”, Wallace wrote: “You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal. I encourage you to keep your head high and walk proudly on the path you have chosen.”

He added: “Always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE!… Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS.”

In a statement, Nascar said: “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the Nascar family and we commend his courage and leadership. Nascar continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”

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Charlie Daniels: Country and southern rock legend dies at age 83

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Charlie Daniels toured with his country band constantly, sometimes 250 shows per year

Country Music Hall of Fame musician Charlie Daniels died on Monday at the age of 83.

The prolific singer, songwriter and instrumentalist died in a Nashville hospital after a haemorrhagic stroke, his publicist said in a statement.

His hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, is an American classic and won his only Grammy Award in 1979.

He was best known for his fiddle playing, as well as his outspoken brand of conservative patriotism.

News of Daniels’ death was met with a flood of tributes.

Sharing a photo of him and Daniels performing together, country star Luke Bryan paid tribute to a “great man” and “hero”.

“A true patriot, and country music icon,” Bryan wrote. “Thank you for all your contributions on and off the stage. God bless you Charlie Daniels.”

“I am heartbroken to hear that Charlie Daniels passed away,” country singer Jason Aldean wrote on Twitter. “He was one of the nicest/kindest people I have ever met.”

The singer, guitarist and fiddler started his career playing bluegrass in his native North Carolina before moving to Nashville in 1967. As a session musician, Daniels played on three of Bob Dylan’s records, including the Nashville Skyline album, as well as recordings for Leonard Cohen and Ringo Starr.

Though a Southern country rock musician, he bilked being easily labelled as such, pointing out that he had played with the likes of the Rolling Stones as well as Willy Nelson.

Starting in the early 1970s, his five-piece eponymous band toured constantly, sometimes doing 250 shows in a year.

“I have never played those notes perfectly. I’ve never sung every song perfectly,” Daniels said in 1998 of his frequent shows. “I’m in competition to be better tonight than I was last night and to be better tomorrow than tonight”.

Through his decades long career, Daniels played at the White House, the Super Bowl, and for US troops stationed in the Middle East.

His favourite place to perform, he said, was “anywhere with a good crowd and a good paycheque”.

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He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Daniels was a vocal advocate of veterans’ causes and an ardent supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA), calling former-President Obama a “fresh-faced flower-child president and his weak-kneed, Ivy League friends” in an advert for the organisation.

Last month, criticising the anti-racist protesters taking to the streets, Daniels wrote on his website that the demonstrations “against the unjust killing of a black man” were not simple protests, “but a revolutionary street battle against America and everything we stand for”.

“Gun sales are through the roof and America is locked and loaded to protect their families and their neighbourhoods,” he said

Daniels had previously suffered from a mild stroke in January 2010. He had a pacemaker implanted in 2013 but continued to take the stage to perform.

He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son, Charlie Daniels, Jr.

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Charge filed against woman who called police on black birdwatcher

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Christian Cooper

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Christian Cooper filmed Amy Cooper after she refused to stop her dog running through woodland

A white woman in New York is facing a criminal charge for calling 911 on a black man after he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park.

Amy Cooper, who was shown calling police in a viral video, is accused of filing a false report, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Ms Cooper lost her job and dog after the incident, and publicly apologised.

Video of the exchange shows Ms Cooper claiming that the black man, who was bird watching, threatened her.

Woman sacked after calling police on black man

The incident occurred on 25 May, the same day that unarmed African-American man George Floyd died in police custody, triggering weeks of national and global anti-racism protests.

“Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Monday.

“We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable,” Mr Vance said. He also encouraged “anyone who has been the target of false reporting” to contact the district attorney’s office.

Christian Cooper, who is prominent in the New York bird watching community, filmed his encounter with Ms Cooper, 41, after he asked her to leash her dog to keep it from scaring away birds. Mr Cooper, 57, said he offered the dog treats, as a way to convince Ms Cooper, who is not related to him, to contain her dog.

In response, Ms Cooper called emergency services. She told them: “I’m in the Ramble,” – a wooded area in Central Park – “there is a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog,” as her tone rose in apparent distress.

“I am being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!” she said.

Ms Cooper’s actions were widely condemned as racist. She was fired by the investment firm where she managed an insurance portfolio. The pet adoption agency that gave her the dog seen in the video took it back after criticism that the way she held it’s collar seemed to strangle it.

She is due to appear before a judge on 14 October.

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Frederick Douglass: Historic US black activist’s statue toppled

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Frederick Douglass, a former slave, was an American social reformer and abolitionist

A statue of the 19th Century US black activist Frederick Douglass has been toppled in New York state.

It appears to have been vandalised on 5 July – the anniversary of a famous speech the former slave gave in 1852.

In it he said Independence Day celebrations were a sham in a nation that still enslaved its black citizens.

His statue, in the city of Rochester, could have been targeted in retaliation for attacks on monuments linked to slavery, activists said.

The leader of the group that erected the statue, Carvi Eison, said a new statue of Douglass would take its place.

No-one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack on the statue.

In recent weeks, statues of Confederate leaders and the explorer Christopher Columbus have been torn down in the US, as pressure grows on authorities to remove monuments connected to slavery and colonialism.

The movement has been sparked by the death in police custody of African American George Floyd.

His death in Minneapolis in May has led to protests in the US and internationally against police brutality and racial inequality.

US President Donald Trump last week ordered the creation of a “National Garden of American Heroes” to defend what he called “our great national story” against those who vandalised statues.

His executive order gave a new task force 60 days to present plans, including a location, for the garden.

Mr Trump insisted the new statues must be lifelike, “not abstract or modernist”.

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Media captionProtesters across America toppled statues associated with slavery

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EU threatens escalation in tariff fight over Boeing and Airbus subsidies

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The EU says it will act “decisively” if the US goes ahead with a threat to put new tariffs on its goods.

It is latest twist in a long-running row with Washington over subsidies granted to the planemaker Airbus.

For more than a decade, the EU and US have accused each other of propping up their home aviation markets with tax breaks, research grants and other aid.

Last month, the US threatened duties on EU goods such as beer, gin and olives, escalating the row.

On Monday, Europe’s trade commissioner Phil Hogan said Washington had rejected moves to settle the dispute.

“I want to reassure people that we are ready to act decisively and strongly on the European Union side if we don’t get the type of outcome that we expect from the United States in relationship to finalising this 15-year-old dispute,” he told the European Parliament’s trade committee.

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European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said the EU will act “decisively and strongly”

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has already ruled that subsidies given by the EU to Airbus in 2004 were illegal.

However, it is also considering a parallel case involving illegal support for US aerospace firm Boeing, which could see the EU impose duties on Washington later this year.

In line with the WTO ruling, the US has already imposed tariffs of 15-25% on $7.5bn (£6bn) worth of European goods.

But last month, the US said it was considering new taxes on additional EU trade worth $3.1bn annually – a move described as excessive by Brussels.

On Monday, Mr Hogan also criticised recent national security investigations launched by the US against EU goods, which are also considered to be further retaliation.

The investigations, known as 232 investigations, cover products from transformers and mobile cranes to steel nails.

“It’s not appreciated the number of 232 investigations that have been launched in recent weeks, perhaps this is political, perhaps it’s more real,” Mr Hogan said.

“This is totally unacceptable,” he said. “If these investigations go further, the European Union will have to stand together and act as well.”

The US is also involved in other trade spats with the EU.

Before last year’s tariffs over Airbus, the Trump administration had imposed duties on EU steel and aluminium – spurring Brussels to tax iconic US products such as denim jeans and motorcycles.

Mr Trump has also threatened duties on European cars, a particular concern to Germany.

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Nick Cordero: Broadway actor dies aged 41 of coronavirus complications

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Cordero pictured in December 2019

Nick Cordero, a Broadway and TV actor who spent months in intensive care after suffering complications from coronavirus, has died aged 41.

“My heart is broken as I cannot imagine our lives without him,” wrote his wife Amanda Kloots on Instagram.

Cordero was nominated for a Tony for his role in Bullets Over Broadway and appeared in Waitress and A Bronx Tale.

While in hospital he suffered sepsis infections and mini-strokes and had his right leg amputated.

In May, his wife revealed he had woken from a medically induced coma but remained “extremely weak“.

In a post confirming his death, Kloots said: “God has another angel in heaven now. My darling husband passed away this morning. He was surrounded in love by his family, singing and praying as he gently left this earth.”

Kloots remembered her husband as “a bright light” who was “was everyone’s friend”.

She paid tribute to his “extraordinary” doctor and thanked everyone for “the outpour of love, support and help we’ve received”.

While Cordero was in hospital, Kloots regularly sent him videos of her and their one-year-old son, Elvis, and encouraged fans to take part in a daily sing-a-long.

A fundraising page to help pay for medical expenses raised more than $600,000 (£480,000).

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Actress Viola Davis led the tributes to Cordero on social media

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis led the tributes on Twitter writing: “My condolences to you Amanda who fought and loved so hard… so sorry for his little one. My heart is with you.”

“My heart is broken,” added actor Josh Gad. “I feel ill. Along with the entire Broadway community and the entire world, I mourn the loss of the incredible Nick Cordero.”

Priscilla Presley tweeted: “I’m so shocked to see the news today that Nick has passed. My heart and soul goes out to Nick Cordero’s beautiful wife and family. Rest In Peace, Nick.”

“I can honesty tell you I have never met a kinder human being,” said Scrubs star Zach Braff. “Don’t believe that Covid only claims the elderly and infirm.”

“It is so shocking and devastating to see one of your own come down as hard as he did,” wrote Little Women star Florence Pugh on Instagram.

Cordero’s TV credits included Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and he had a role in the 2017 film Going in Style, which starred Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin.

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