In our news wrap Friday, a trial is underway in Istanbul for 20 Saudis charged in the October 2018 slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. None of the accused were in court, as Saudi Arabia rejected demands for their extradition. Also, Ethiopia’s prime minister called out protesters for refusing to end a week of violent unrest following the shooting death of singer Hachalu Hundessa.
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COVID-19 infections are climbing in 40 states now, as Americans brace for a Fourth of July weekend that threatens to lead to even more.
Arizona reported its hospital intensive care unit capacity is already at an all-time high of 91 percent. In spite of the country's surge, President Trump headed to South Dakota today for a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore. It is expected to draw as many as 7,500, but attendees won't be required to wear masks or to social distance.
We will talk to local leaders in Texas and Florida about curbing the spread in their communities after the news summary.
Also today, the head of Homeland Security warned protesters against vandalizing or removing statues and monuments this weekend. In an opinion article, Chad Wolf said his department will — quote — "leverage every tool and authority" to protect those landmarks. That comes two days after he announced a new task force to coordinate such a response.
The Supreme Court last night blocked a lower court ruling that would have allowed curbside voting in Alabama during the pandemic. Local officials there planned to offer that option and to loosen absentee ballot restrictions in three of the state's largest counties, ahead of this month's run-off elections. The high court will now decide whether to hear Alabama's appeal.
The Aurora, Colorado, police officers who took photos of themselves smiling as they reenacted a choke hold at a memorial site for Elijah McClain have now been fired. One of the four officers had already resigned.
Last August, officers stopped McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed black man, on the street for what they deemed was suspicious behavior. They placed him in a choke hold, sedated him, and he later died.
In Turkey, a trial in absentia got under way in Istanbul for the 20 Saudis charged in the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate there in 2018 while he was trying to get marriage documents.
Today, his fiancee voiced hope that justice will be served.
Hatice Cengiz (through translator):
This has become a responsibility, emotionally and spiritually, put on our shoulders at the Saudi consulate on October 2, 2018.
I thank you all on behalf of Jamal. May he rest in peace. We trust in Turkish justice. The judiciary process has begun.
None of the accused was in court, since Saudi Arabia rejected demands for their extradition. A Saudi court previously sentenced five people to death and three to jail for the killing last December. But Khashoggi's family later forgave his murderers, effectively granting them clemency under Saudi law.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called out protesters today for refusing to end a week of deadly unrest. More than 80 people have died amid outrage over the shooting death of a popular singer, Hachalu Hundessa. He was a prominent anti-government activist whose music gave a voice to Ethiopia's largest ethnic group. The government also shut down Internet service during the protests.
And officials in Botswana have launched an investigation into the mysterious deaths of some 275 elephants in recent weeks. Their bodies were first found in the northern Okavango Panhandle region, where authorities are working to determine what caused them to die. They have ruled out poaching, since the carcasses were intact, and now they are focusing on other possibilities.
If this was a disease, or virus, or a bacterial outbreak that was to spread, as I mentioned earlier, if a smaller, less genetically diverse population were affected, then it could have devastating consequences for the elephant population.
Botswana is home to the world's largest population of elephants, more than 156,000.