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    The city of Mobile, Alabama removed a Confederate statue early Friday, without making any public announcements about it beforehand. The bronze figure of Admiral Raphael Semmes had become a flashpoint for protest in the city. AL.com reported that it was removed from its pedestal after being vandalized this week, and before demonstrations announced for Sunday calling for it to be taken down. The removal of the 120-year-old figure follows days of protests in Alabama and across the nation over killings by police of African Americans. Some other Confederate symbols are coming down around the South. The city of Birmingham removed a towering obelisk after another statue was toppled by protesters. Virginia's governor has decided to remove a huge statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, after city authorities said they'll remove other Confederate monuments from Monument Avenue. Semmes was a Confederate commerce raider, sinking Union-allied ships during the Civil War. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, he was jailed on treason charges in New York City before returning South after the war, and was later prohibited by U.S. authorities from taking office as an elected judge in Mobile. He devoted his later years to writing his memoirs and became a “Lost Cause” hero to Southerners who lamented the end of the Confederacy. Semmes, Alabama, a city of several thousand people outside Mobile, was incorporated in 2010 and named in his honor.
  • Various conflicts involving armed groups and government forces in Congo have killed more than 1,300 civilians in the past eight months and violence has surged in recent weeks in eastern provinces, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Friday. Michelle Bachelet said some incidents may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes, with armed groups committing massacres and security forces also responsible for grave human rights violations. “I am appalled by the increase in brutal attacks on innocent civilians by armed groups, and by the reaction of the military and security forces who have also committed grave violations, including killings and sexual violence,' she said. “These are not only reprehensible and criminal acts, but they also break the trust between people and the state representatives.” The recent violence in Ituri province has also displaced more than 200,000 people, according to medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Multiple armed groups have been present in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern provinces for decades, attacking civilians and fighting for control of the territory and its valuable resources. The U.N. said the principal armed group staging attacks in Ituri province is known as CODECO and is comprised mainly of fighters from the Lendu community. Its main leader was killed in March. “The attacks and the nature of the violence committed by the armed groups have grown increasingly more gruesome, including sexual violence, beheadings and mutilation of corpses,” according to a statement by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office of Congo. Since October more than 531 civilians have been killed by armed groups in Ituri province, the U.N. said, including 375 since March. In North Kivu province, the main armed group known as the Allied Democratic Forces has been staging retaliatory attacks since the military launched major operations against it in November. ADF rebels have abducted children, attacked schools and hospitals and used machetes, axes and heavy weapons, according to the U.N. A local rights group, the Center for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, called on Congo's government to reassess its operations after attacks by ADF and an Islamic State-linked group on several villages last month killed at least 40 people. According to the rights group, more than 627 civilians have been killed since Oct. 30. The U.N. on Friday called on Congolese authorities to establish state authority in conflict regions by increasing the presence of security forces and ensuring civilian protection. “When the state leaves a vacuum, others tend to fill it,” the statement said. The U.N. said more than 110,000 civilians also have been displaced in South Kivu province, where 74 people have been killed since October and at least 36 women and children have been raped in a resurgence of ethnic violence. That conflict between the Banyamulenge and the Bafuliro, Babembe, and Banyindu communities has been “fuelled by hate speech disseminated through the media, social media and in public discourse,” according to the U.N. Soldiers have also been responsible for rights violations there, it said. Doctors Without Borders this week called on international and national organizations to step up assistance in Ituri province. It said children have been killed in the attacks, including a 15-month-old who was shot while strapped to his mother’s back during an attack in Drodro on May 17. Health centers are also being targeted, with at least four attacked in May. This is a major concern as neighboring North Kivu province combats an Ebola outbreak and as COVID-19 spreads. “The violence is systematically targeting villages and health centers in order to prevent the people who fled from returning,” said the organization’s field coordinator, Benjamin Courlet. “Some people are too terrified to go the health centers that are still functioning in the villages or in the camps. Instead they stay in the bush, so we have set up mobile clinics to reach them there.”
  • Churning U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd have revived anger in France over police violence, systemic racism and the complicated case of Adama Traore, a black Frenchman who died in police custody in July 2016. For Traore’s family, the Floyd protests have also revived their hopes for change. “During the coronavirus, people had a pause in their lives. They filmed scenes of police violence and they realized they were living in a country where there is violence every day against people of color,” his sister, Assa Traore, said. Over 20,000 people flouted a police ban and protested vociferously Tuesday in Paris to call for justice for both Traore and Floyd, and similar protests are planned around France this weekend. “As long as police aren’t convicted, we will keep coming out in the streets,” Traore’s sister told The Associated Press. Traore's family believe three police officers piled on top of him and pinned him to the ground on his stomach after his arrest, and he asphyxiated. Lawyers for the officers deny police were at fault, and it remains unclear exactly at what moment, or where, he died. Unlike with Floyd, there is no video or recording, which has made judging the case harder. Four years later, no one has been charged. French researchers have documented how police disproportionately target minorities for ID checks, and Traore’s supporters are not the only ones to accuse police of overstepping their authority. Three days after Floyd died, another black man writhed on the tarmac of a Paris street as a white police officer pressed a knee to his neck during an arrest, this time captured on video. Outrage is growing. But while in Paris some demonstrators clashed with police, Traore’s sister focused on the peaceful majority. She encouraged those who “have the luck not to be victims of this violence” to denounce it. “Don’t remain spectators.” After four years of back-and-forth autopsies and grassroots activism for her brother’s cause, she described the pain and power of seeing video of police kneeling on Floyd. He died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. “These images that chilled the planet give the world an image of what happened to my brother,” she said. Traore’s family says the same thing happened to him, and that he, too, repeated: “I can’t breathe.” On that hot July night in 2016, Adama Traore, a 24-year-old construction worker of Malian origin, was walking with his brother Bagui in Beaumont-sur-Oise, about 25 kilometers north of Paris, where their large family grew up. They were approached by plainclothes police officers who had identified Bagui in relation to another case, according to news reports at the time citing classified investigation documents. Adama tried to run because he had no ID on him. He was later detained by the three gendarmes, put in a police car and taken to a police station. Within three hours of his arrest he was dead, according to the reports. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived. The officers involved claimed they respected “necessary use of force.” Local authorities were accused of a coverup after claiming Traore suffered a heart attack linked to a pre-existing infection. Local prosecuctor Yves Jannier was quoted by Le Monde at the time as saying that Traore “fainted during the trip” to the police station and emergency workers couldn’t revive him. Jannier also said that Traore had a “very serious” infection that had “impacted multiple organs.” A second autopsy was completed shortly afterward that contradicted the first and determined his death was caused by asphyxiation. Since then there have been multiple expert reports that disagree on the basic facts of the case. Yet another expert report was released last week exonerating the police officers — but it was then quickly contradicted by another medical expert assessing the case on behalf of Traore’s family. Last week’s medical report “confirms that the death of Adama Traore is not linked with the conditions of his arrest,” Rodolphe Bosselut, the gendarmes’ lawyer, told the AP. He said he is confident that the three police officers “have no responsibility” in Traore’s death and that the causes were linked to pre-existing medical conditions, stress, hot weather and cannabis use. Traore's sister said three gendarmes weighing a total of 250 kilograms (550 pounds) pressed on her brother, though there is no indication that police used the same technique as they did with Floyd. She describes the official medical reports as obfuscation by a “war machine” of police, medical experts and a judicial system stacked up against descendants of France’s former colonial empire living in low-income neighborhoods on the periphery of French cities. She has led the family’s fight for clarity and justice, and described going to schools and universities to raise awareness and donations and gradually learning from climate activists and other protest movements about how to make their voice heard. This week, she said, she’s been in contact with Black Lives Matter activists in the U.S. and other countries. “The combat for Adama is for all the Adamas, all the black and Arab youth who are targeted by police,” she said. “The police don’t have the right to decide if they live or die.” Tuesday’s protest, she said, “was just a foretaste” of what’s to come. ___ Adamson reported from Leeds, England. Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.
  • German prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether a 43-year-old who has emerged as a possible suspect in the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann in Portugal may have been involved in a similar crime in Germany. Prosecutors in the northern town of Stendal, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Berlin, told the dpa news agency Friday they had opened a preliminary investigation to determine whether there was anything to link the suspect to the 2015 disappearance of a 5-year-old girl from a nearby forest. Authorities have not released the suspect's name, but he has been widely identified by the German media as Christian B. He reportedly had a property 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Stendal in the town of Neuwegersleben when the girl disappeared. McCann was 3 at the time of her 2007 disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region. German authorities this week said they had identified the 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the McCann case and are investigating him on suspicion of murder. The suspect, who is currently in prison in Germany, spent many years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz around the time of McCann’s disappearance, and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls,” authorities said. The suspect’s description fits that of a 43-year-old man who was convicted in December in the city of Braunschweig of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in her apartment in Portugal, based largely on DNA evidence. The suspect denied the charges during his trial and has appealed his conviction. According to a copy of the rape verdict — which has all names redacted — sent by the Braunschweig court in response to a question by The Associated Press about the McCann suspect’s December conviction, the German man was a career criminal who was in and out of jail. His crimes included the sexual abuse of a child in 1994 when he would have been around 17 and was tried in youth court, as well as a 2016 case in which he was convicted abusing another child and of possession of child pornography. Other convictions include drug trafficking, burglary and weapons violations.
  • The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world: ___ Chelsea has been declared Women’s Super League champion after the season was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic. The English Football Association’s board decided to determine the final standings on a points-per-game basis. Manchester City was a point ahead of Chelsea but had played an extra game when the season was suspended in March. Chelsea had seven games remaining. City will still qualify for the Champions League with Chelsea. Liverpool has been relegated. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Twitter has blocked a Trump campaign video tribute to George Floyd over a copyright claim, in a move that adds to tensions between the social media platform and the U.S. president, one of its most widely followed users. The company put a label on a video posted by the @TeamTrump account that said, “This media has been disabled in response to a claim by the copyright owner.” The video was still up on President Donald Trump’s YouTube channel and includes pictures of Floyd, whose death sparked widespread protests, at the start. “Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” Twitter said in a statement. It did not say who made the complaint. The three minute and 45 second clip is a montage of photos and videos of peaceful marches and police officers hugging protesters interspersed with some scenes of burning buildings and vandalism, set to gentle piano music and Trump speaking. Last month, Twitter placed fact-check warnings on two tweets from Trump's own account that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted problems with the November U.S. elections. Under the tweets, there is now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a Twitter “moments” page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims. It also demoted and placed a stronger warning on a third Trump tweet about Minneapolis protests that read, in part, that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said that the tweet had violated the platform’s rules by glorifying violence. Trump responded by threatening to retaliate against social media companies. Last year, Twitter also removed a Trump tweet that featured a doctored Nickelback music video clip that took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, after receiving copyright complaints.
  • Sweden’s former ambassador to China went on trial Friday charged with unauthorized contacts with a foreign power for organizing a meeting in Stockholm between the daughter of a Swedish publisher detained in China, Beijing’s ambassador and two Chinese businessmen about the possible release of the publisher. Broadcaster SVT said it was the first time since 1794 that a Swedish diplomat has gone on trial for such accusation. At that time, Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, Sweden’s envoy to Naples, Italy, was tried for secretly communicating with Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Sweden's Foreign Ministry said it had no advance knowledge of the January 2019 meeting arranged by former Swedish Ambassador to China Anna Lindstedt, who was summoned home for an investigation the following month. “An ambassador has incredibly far-reaching powers, but even for them there is a limit, and we mean she has crossed that limit,” Prosecutor Henrik Olin told Swedish radio before the trial started at Stockholm District Court. Lindstedt who could face up to two years in jail, has denied breaking the law and says she told the Foreign Ministry about the meeting. The prosecution claimed that China wanted to influence Sweden’s democratic freedoms by trying to influence Angela Gui — the daughter of publisher Gui Minhai — and get her to stop criticizing how China handled the consular case concerning her father. The publisher, who was born in China, had since become a Swedish citizen. Lindstedt allegedly told Angela Gui that she should fly to Stockholm on Jan. 24, 2019 to meet with her contacts regarding her father’s case. Gui said she met with the businessmen and Lindstedt, during which the men told her they could arrange a Chinese visa and job for her and that they had connections within China’s ruling Communist Party. She said the men told her that her father could be released if she stopped talking to the media about his case, but she says when she questioned the plan, the mood “became really threatening.” Her father co-owned a Hong Kong store that sold books about Chinese leaders. He went missing in 2015 from his seaside home in Thailand and turned up months later on Chinese television saying he had turned himself in for an alleged 2003 drunken driving accident in which a female college student was killed. The publisher is still detained.
  • (NEW YORK) -- Since the first COVID-19 case was first reported in the U.S., the virus has devastated the economy and the American work force.  On Thursday, an additional 1.9 million workers filed for unemployment and pushed the total job loss to 42 million.  The country began shedding jobs around mid-March.  This is the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.   A May jobs report is due out today, which will provide a broader picture of the economic impact of COVID-19.   Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao explained why economists are dreading this report. 'The steady drumbeat of UI claims in May is likely enough to push the unemployment rate in Friday’s jobs report into the high teens, if not over 20 percent,' he said. 'But there is growing disagreement among economists about whether May will represent the worst of the crisis for the job market.' 'While UI claims have acted as a useful real-time indicator thus far, we may soon enter a phase where UI claims understate the health of the labor market as claims remain elevated but hiring picks up,' Zhao added. However, the world is cautiously reopening, with airlines now adding summer flights to their schedules now that air travel is slowly recovering. Reopening the economy has been a staunch goal for President Donald Trump, who is eager to return to the campaign trail.  He has not held any rallies for three months. The president will resume in-person campaigning next week for a 'summer kick off,' as said by Trump Victory, the joint effort between the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee. RNC National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt said, 'Starting next week, Trump Victory field teams will resume in person volunteer activities and campaigning where states allow. Just as Trump Victory was able to transition to virtual campaigning in less than 24 hours, our teams across the country will seamlessly adapt again just as efficiently.' Currently, President Trump is lagging in the polls in a matchup against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.  Biden currently leads by 10 points, according to a new Monmouth national poll.  Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
  • A quarter of Venice has been submerged by a near-record high tide for June, a time of year when such flooding is rare. The water level in Italy's lagoon city reached 116 centimeters (3 feet, 9.7 inches) late Thursday, the third-highest mark for June. That level indicates that around a quarter of Venice has been flooded. Venice’s sea monitoring agency blamed the unusually high late spring tide on a storm in the Atlantic that brought heavy winds and rain to northern Italy. Another unseasonably high tide is expected Friday night. The highest June high tide was registered in 2002, when the water mark hit 121 centimeters, followed by 117 centimeters in June of 2016. Venice authorities on Friday didn’t put out pedestrian bridges, which are usually only used in the peak “acqua alta” season from September to April. Venice and the rest of Italy are still closed to cruise ships but Italy relaxed travel restrictions for Italians and most Europeans on Wednesday. ___ Read all AP coverage of climate change issues at https://apnews.com/Climate.
  • Factory orders in Germany plunged even more than anticipated in April, underlining the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on Europe's largest economy. The Economy Ministry said Friday that industrial orders dropped 25.8% in April over the previous month, in figures adjusted for seasonal and calendar effects. Economists had been predicting a 19.9% drop for April, which is thought to have been the worst month of the economic deterioration ascribed to the pandemic and lockdown measures meant to slow its spread. The decline followed a 15% drop already in March, and suggests lean times ahead for German industry. Germany is already in a recession and the government's economic advisers are predicting a contraction of between 6% and 7% in 2020. Germany this week agreed on 130 billion euros ($148 billion) in stimulus measures, including tax breaks and subsidies for buying electric vehicles, which comes on top of 540 billion euros in financial aid from eurozone governments that includes credit lines from the euro bailout fund, as well as a longer-term EU recovery fund of 750 billion euros that is still being worked out. The European Central Bank additionally on Thursday boosted its pandemic emergency support program to 1.35 trillion euros as it sought to keep affordable credit flowing.