AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST News Staff

Top Dems call on Cuomo to resign amid harassment allegations

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo confronted a stunning series of defections Friday amid allegations of sexual harassment that left the high-profile Democrat fighting for his political survival, angry and alone.

By day’s end, the three-term governor had lost the support of almost the entire 29-member New York congressional delegation and a majority of Democrats in the state legislature. None of the desertions hurt more than those of New York’s two U.S. senators, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

“Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York,” the Democratic senators wrote in a joint statement. “Governor Cuomo should resign.”

The escalating political crisis has spawned an impeachment inquiry in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and threatens to cast a cloud over President Joe Biden’s early days in office. Republicans have seized on the scandal to try to distract from Biden’s success tackling the coronavirus pandemic and challenge his party’s well-established advantage with female voters.

Biden, a longtime ally of Cuomo and his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, has avoided directly addressing the controversy, although it’s becoming increasingly difficult.

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Floyd family agrees to $27M settlement amidst ex-cop’s trial

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The city of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a civil lawsuit from George Floyd’s family over the Black man’s death in police custody, as jury selection continued in a former officer’s murder trial.

Council members met privately to discuss the settlement, then returned to public session for a unanimous vote in support of the massive payout. It easily surpassed the $20 million the city approved two years ago to the family of a white woman killed by a police officer.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump called it the largest pretrial settlement ever for a civil rights claim, and thanked city leaders for “showing you care about George Floyd.”

“It’s going to be a long journey to justice. This is just one step on the journey to justice,” Crump said. “This makes a statement that George Floyd deserved better than what we witnessed on May 25, 2020, that George Floyd’s life mattered, and that by extension, Black lives matter.”

“Even though my brother is not here, he’s here with me in my heart,” Philonise Floyd said. “If I could get him back, I would give all this back.”

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Conflict grows between US and allies over vaccine supply

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration is stockpiling tens of millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine whose authorization in the U.S. remains uncertain, frustrating U.S. allies who say those doses should be used now to save lives overseas.

The standoff is part of a growing global debate over who should have access to hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine that pharmaceutical companies are churning out in the U.S. Besides generating ill will, Biden’s insistence on an excess supply for America is potentially creating new openings for geopolitical rivals Russia and China.

A two-dose vaccine from AstraZeneca has received emergency clearance from the European Union and World Health Organization but not from the U.S. Now America’s partners are prodding Biden to release his supply, noting that the administration has lined up enough doses of three already-authorized vaccines to cover every American adult by the end of May and the entire U.S. population by the end of July.

AstraZeneca says that the U.S.-produced vaccines are “owned” by the U.S. government and that sending them overseas would require White House approval.

“We understand other governments may have reached out to the U.S. government about donation of AstraZeneca doses, and we’ve asked the U.S. government to give thoughtful consideration to these requests,” Gonzalo Viña, a spokesman for AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

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COVID-19 deaths falling but Americans ‘must remain vigilant’

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are falling again as the nation continues to recover from the devastating winter surge, a trend that experts are cautiously hopeful will accelerate as more vulnerable people are vaccinated.

While new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have plummeted, the decline in deaths from a January peak of about 4,500 hasn’t been quite as steep. But, now, after weeks of hovering around 2,000 daily deaths, that figure has dropped to about 1,400 U.S. lives lost each day to coronavirus.

“I am encouraged by these data but we must remain vigilant,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at Friday’s White House briefing.

Public health experts say it’s too soon to say, definitively, what’s driving declines since the surge — but they suspect a post-holiday drop in travelling and indoor gatherings, widespread mask wearing and the vaccine rollout have all contributed.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Harvard Medical School researcher Jagpreet Chhatwal. “I think a message of optimism is fair.”

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Stay or go? Fence, Guard pose Capitol security questions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nobody, it seems, wants to keep the security fence around the U.S. Capitol anymore — except the police who fought off the horrific attack on Jan. 6.

Lawmakers call the razor-topped fencing “ghastly,” too militarized and, with the armed National Guard troops still stationed at the Capitol since a pro-Trump mob laid siege, not at all representative of the world’s leading icon of democracy.

“All you have to do is to see the fencing around the Capitol to be shocked,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said in an interview Friday.

How to protect lawmakers, while keeping the bucolic Capitol grounds open to visitors has emerged as one of the more daunting, wrenching questions from deadly riot. Not since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has security been so elevated, and the next steps so uncertain, for the Capitol complex.

Five people died after the mob stormed the building trying to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election over Republican Donald Trump. The former president was impeached by the House, and acquitted by the Senate, for inciting the insurrection.

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IRS says new round of COVID relief payments on the way

WASHINGTON (AP) — Along with daylight saving time, this weekend could bring some Americans fatter bank balances.

Officials at the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said Friday that processing of the new round of stimulus payments has already begun, with the aim of having the first payments start showing up in bank accounts this weekend.

President Joe Biden signed the new $1.9 trillion rescue package on Thursday, the day after it won final passage in the House. The measure provides for payments to qualifying individuals of up to $1,400, with payments to a qualifying family of four of $5,600.

“The payments will be delivered automatically to taxpayers even as the IRS continues delivering regular tax refunds,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.

It is estimated that 85% of Americans will be eligible for the payments and the goal is to have millions of the payments disbursed in the next few weeks.

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‘Gonna be sore:’ La. troopers boasted of beating Black man

Louisiana State Police troopers joked in a group text about beating a Black man after a high-speed chase last year, saying the “whoopin” would give the man “nightmares for a long time,” according to new court filings.

“He gonna be sore tomorrow for sure,” Trooper Jacob Brown, who was charged in the case and resigned Wednesday, texted three of his colleagues. “Warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man.”

The May arrest of 29-year-old Antonio Harris — who authorities say was beaten by troopers even after he “immediately surrendered” — bears a strong resemblance to the State Police pursuit a year earlier that ended in the still-unexplained death of another Black motorist, Ronald Greene.

Greene’s death was captured on body-worn camera footage the agency refuses to release and remains the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

Brown, 30, who faces charges in two other excessive-force cases, had pulled Harris over for a minor traffic violation on Interstate 20 in Richland Parish when Harris reentered his vehicle and fled, State Police said.

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US resumes aid to Yemen’s rebel north as famine threatens

The United States announced a resumption of aid to Yemen’s rebel-held north on Friday to fight a looming famine as the country’s nearly six-year-old war grinds on. U.N. officials warned that a blockade of fuel deliveries to a main port was heightening the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The aid concern came as President Joe Biden’s envoy to Yemen expressed frustration at the country’s Houthi rebels, saying they were focusing on fighting to capture more territory while an international and regional diplomatic push was underway to end the conflict.

“Tragically, and somewhat confusingly for me, it appears that the Houthis are prioritizing a military campaign” to seize central Marib province, envoy Tim Lenderking said. He spoke in an online event sponsored by the Atlantic Council think-tank , after his more than two-week trip in the region to push for a cease-fire and ultimately a peace deal.

The developments deepen the challenges for the Biden administration as it goes out on a limb to try to end the Yemen war through diplomacy, reversing previous U.S. administrations’ support for an inconclusive Saudi-led military offensive that tried to roll back the Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The rebels have shown no sign of relenting despite Biden’s diplomatic overtures, adding to tensions between the U.S. and its strategic partner Saudi Arabia.

Lenderking said the Houthis have had a cease-fire proposal before them for a “number of days” and urged them to respond positively.

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J-Rod done: Lopez, Rodriguez call off 2-year engagement

LOS ANGELES (AP) — J-Rod has split.

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez called off their two-year engagement, according to multiple reports based on anonymous sources. The former slugger proposed to the actor a couple years ago after the celebrity couple started dating in early 2017.

The New York Post’s Page Six was the first to report on the couple’s breakup. A representative for Lopez did not return an email request for comment.

The last time Lopez and Rodriguez posted a photo together was last month in the Dominican Republic.

The couple was given the nickname, J-Rod, three years ago after they landed on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

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AP study: Nearly 90% of esports scholarships going to men

Colleges and universities rushing to invest in the booming arena of varsity esports are overwhelmingly committing opportunities and scholarships to male players, according to data collected by The Associated Press.

Male gamers held 90.4% of roster spots and received 88.5% of scholarship funds in a sample of 27 public American schools surveyed by the AP during this school year. The glaring gender disparity exists even though 41% of U.S. gamers are female, according to the Entertainment Software Association, and in a realm where — unlike traditional sports — there are no physical barriers separating male and female competitors.

“It’s tremendously sad and tremendously not surprising,” said Grace Collins, an expert on gaming, education and gender.

The AP requested roster and scholarship data from 56 public U.S. schools identified among the 192 participants in the National Association of Collegiate Esports, relying largely on public records requests.

Several schools responded that although their programs compete at the varsity level, they had not been sanctioned varsity status by the school. Their roster data was often incomplete, and those programs were held out of the sample. A handful of other schools either denied the AP’s request or did not respond to repeated messages.

The Associated Press

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