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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST
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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

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3 men charged in Ahmaud Arbery's death convicted of murder

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Three men were convicted of murder Wednesday in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was running empty-handed through a Georgia subdivision when the white strangers chased him, trapped him on a quiet street and blasted him with a shotgun.

The February 2020 slaying drew limited attention at first. But when video of the shooting leaked online, Arbery's death quickly became another example in the nation's reckoning of racial injustice in the way Black people are treated in their everyday lives.

Now the men all face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge will decide whether their sentences are served with or without the possibility of parole.

As the first of 23 guilty verdicts were read, Arbery’s father had to leave the courtroom after leaping up and shouting. At the reading of the last criminal count, Arbery’s mother dropped her head and quietly pumped her fists.

“He didn’t do nothing but run and dream,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said of his son. Outside the courthouse, dozens of Black supporters hugged and cried.


On the road again: Travelers emerge in time for Thanksgiving

DALLAS (AP) — Determined to reclaim Thanksgiving traditions that were put on pause last year by the pandemic, millions of Americans will be loading up their cars or piling onto planes to gather again with friends and family.

The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million over last year despite sharply higher gasoline prices.

Many feel emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. But it also means brushing aside concerns about a resurgent virus at a time when the U.S. is now averaging nearly 100,000 new infections a day and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.

The seven-day daily average of new reported cases up nearly 30% in the last two weeks through Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people should not travel, although it is unclear whether that recommendation is having any effect.

More than 2.2 million travelers streamed through airport checkpoints last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic devastated travel early last year. From Friday through Tuesday, the number of people flying in the U.S. was more than double the same days last year and less than 9% lower than the same days in 2019.


Legal experts see case for intent in Waukesha parade crash

The man accused of plowing his SUV into a parade of Christmas marchers could have turned down a side street but didn’t. Once he passed it, he never touched the brakes — barreling through and leaving bodies in his wake, according to a criminal complaint.

No motive has been given for Darrell Brooks Jr., the suspect in the suburban Milwaukee crash Sunday that killed six people and injured more than 60 others, but it may not matter if he goes to trial. Legal experts say the evidence strongly supports intentional homicide charges that would mean life in prison.

Former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said it might be difficult to prove intent with the first person Brooks struck, “but when he kept going and knowing what he had done to the first person and didn’t stop, then it was all intentional.”

Brooks, 39, is charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide and is expected to face a sixth count after an 8-year-old boy died Tuesday. Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper has also said additional charges are likely.

Brooks' attorneys, Jeremy Perri and Anna Kees, cautioned people not to judge the case before all facts are known.


Collecting $26M award vs. white nationalists may be tough

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Nine people who sued white nationalist leaders and organizations over the violence at a deadly rally in Charlottesville in 2017 won a $26 million judgment for the injuries and trauma they endured. But whether they will be able to collect a significant chunk of that money remains to be seen.

Many of the defendants are in prison, in hiding or have dropped out of the white nationalist movement. At least three of the far-right extremist groups named as defendants have dissolved. And most of the defendants claim they will never have the money needed to pay off the judgments against them.

“I have no assets. I have no property. You can't get blood from a stone,” said Matthew Heimbach, who co-founded the far-right Traditionalist Worker Party with fellow defendant Matthew Parrott. Their neo-Nazi group fell apart after Heimbach was arrested in 2018 on charges that he assaulted Parrott, his wife’s stepfather. The men had argued over Heimbach’s alleged affair with Parrott’s wife, according to court documents.

Heimbach said he is a single father to two young sons, works at a factory and lives paycheck to paycheck. He said the plaintiffs’ lawyers who sued him “just wasted $20 million to try and play Whac-A-Mole with public figureheads.”

Months before the trial, Richard Spencer, one of the most well-known white nationalists in the country, told a judge his notoriety has made it difficult for him to raise money for his defense against the “financially crippling” lawsuit. He said the case has been “extremely expensive” and a “huge burden” for him.


2 trials, 1 theme: White men taking law into their own hands

The trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery had vastly different outcomes. But coming just days apart, they laid bare a dangerous and long-running current in the fight for racial equality: The move by some white Americans to grab guns and take their own stand against perceptions of lawlessness, particularly by Black people.

The two cases, which ended with an acquittal for Rittenhouse last week and guilty verdicts for Arbery's killers on Wednesday, highlighted polarizing issues about gun and self-defense laws, and racial injustice.

They also forced the questions: Who or what is being protected? And from whom? Should peace of mind for white Americans come at the expense of the protection and safety of Black Americans?

“So much of this issue about protection and safety is about the safety and the protection of whites or white property,” said Carol Anderson, historian and professor of African American studies at Emory University. “There is a hubris of whiteness. The sense that it is on me to put Black lives back into their proper place.”

Arbery, a Black man, was chased and shot to death by white men suspicious of an outsider in their predominantly white Georgia neighborhood. In Wisconsin, while both Rittenhouse and the three men he shot were white, the encounter was triggered by the 17-year-old’s decision to travel from his Illinois home to Kenosha and arm himself with an AR-15 rifle, bent on protecting local businesses from Black Lives Matter protesters.


Houston highway project sparks debate over racial equity

HOUSTON (AP) — A $9 billion highway widening project being proposed in the Houston area could become an important test of the Biden administration’s commitment to addressing what it has said is a history of racial inequity with infrastructure projects in the U.S.

The project’s critics, including community groups and some residents, say it won’t improve the area’s traffic woes and would subject mostly Black and Latino residents to increased pollution, displacement and flooding while not improving public transportation options.

Its supporters counter the proposed 10-year construction project that would remake 24 miles along Interstate 45 and several other roadways would enhance driver safety, help reduce traffic congestion and address flood mitigation and disaster evacuation needs.

The project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, has remained on hold since March as the Federal Highway Administration reviews civil rights and environmental justice concerns raised about the proposal. Harris County, where Houston is located, has also filed a federal lawsuit alleging state officials ignored the project’s impacts on neighborhoods.

The dispute over the project comes as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged to make racial equity a top priority at his department.


Americans are spending but inflation casts pall over economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are doing the main thing that drives the U.S. economy — spending — but accelerating inflation is casting a pall.

A raft of economic data issued Wednesday showed the economy on solid footing, with Americans’ incomes rising and jobless claims falling to a level not seen since the Beatles were still together.

The spike in prices for everything from gas to rent, however, will likely be the chief economic indicator Americans discuss over Thanksgiving Day dinner.

The Commerce Department reported that U.S. consumer spending rebounded by 1.3% in October. That was despite inflation that over the past year has accelerated faster than it has at any point in more than three decades.

The jump in consumer spending last month was double the 0.6% gain in September.


Scholz seals deal to crown career as German chancellor

BERLIN (AP) — Olaf Scholz is set to become post-World War II Germany's ninth chancellor, crowning a career that has seen him serve in a string of top government posts, after leading his party to an election comeback that appeared hugely unlikely just a few months ago.

The 63-year-old on Wednesday sealed a deal for his center-left Social Democrats to lead Germany's next government in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The agreement followed relatively quick talks that were disciplined and discreet, qualities that reflect Scholz's own image.

Scholz has a terse, no-nonsense approach typical of his home city of Hamburg, where he once worked as a lawyer — an even more sober style than that of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel. He joined the Social Democratic Party at 17 and was first elected to parliament in 1998.

He is unflappable and unshakably self-confident, but no master of rhetoric. During a turbulent stint as the Social Democrats' general secretary in the early 2000s, he earned the nickname “Scholzomat” for what critics said was a habit of constantly repeating the same phrases in support of then-Chancellor Gehard Schroeder's welfare-state trims and economic reforms, which faced dissent within the party.

Scholz's experience, attention to detail and sometimes technocratic image became an asset during this year's election campaign, in which he led the long-struggling Social Democrats from third place in polls to a narrow win in the Sept. 26 election.


Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel; at least 31 dead

CALAIS, France (AP) — At least 31 migrants bound for Britain died Wednesday when their boat sank in the English Channel, in what France’s interior minister called the biggest migration tragedy on the dangerous crossing to date.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people were believed to have been on the boat. Authorities found 31 bodies — including those of five women and a young girl — and two survivors, he said. One person appeared to still be missing. The nationalities of the travelers was not immediately known.

The regional maritime authority, which oversees rescue operations, later said 27 bodies were found, two people survived and four others were missing and presumed drowned. The discrepancy in the numbers was not immediately explained.

Ever-increasing numbers of people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea or elsewhere are risking the perilous journey in small, unseaworthy craft from France, hoping to win asylum or find better opportunities in Britain. The crossings have tripled this year compared to 2020, and another 106 migrants were rescued in French waters on Wednesday alone.

A joint French-British search operation for survivors of the sinking was called off late Wednesday. Both countries cooperate to stem migration across the Channel but also accuse each other of not doing enough — and the issue is often used by politicians on both sides pushing an anti-migration agenda.


College Football Picks: Big stakes from ACC to Mountain West

There is still so much to be decided heading into this week's Thanksgiving college football feast.

Let's sort it out, conference by conference.

Atlantic Coast Conference: No. 20 Pitt is locked into the conference championship game and will face No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 24 North Carolina State or Clemson. Wake is in with a win. N.C. State takes the Atlantic Division with a win and a Wake loss. If both lose, Clemson gets to the ACC championship for a seventh straight season.

American Athletic Conference: No. 4 Cincinnati will play No. 19 Houston. Where the game will be played will be determined by whether the Bearcats win Friday at East Carolina.

Big Ten: The winner of Michigan-Ohio State takes the East. Wisconsin takes the West with a victory and Iowa takes it if the Badgers lose and the Hawkeyes win. If both lose, that opens the door for Minnesota and also makes Purdue's result relevant, though the Boilermakers can't win the division.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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