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US will act to deny China access to Americans' data, says Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The Trump administration will take steps to ensure the Chinese government does not gain any access to the private information of American citizens through telecommunications and social media, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, when asked if the US was planning to ban Chinese-owned app TikTok.

Pompeo also praised US technology giants Google, Twitter and Facebook for “refusing to surrender” user data to the Hong Kong government and urged other companies to follow suit, after China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

Speaking two days after he said Washington was “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, Pompeo said the US evaluation was not focused on a particular company but that it was a matter of national security.

“The comments that I made about a particular company earlier this week fall in the context of us evaluating the threat from the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.

He added that Washington was working to ensure that Beijing does not gain access to any private data or health records of Americans.

“So what you’ll see the administration do is take actions that preserve and protect that information and deny the Chinese Communist Party access to private information that belongs to Americans,” he said.

US lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

On Monday, TikTok told Reuters it has never provided user data to China. The app, which is not available in China, has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience.

Pompeo’s remarks also come amid increasing US-China tensions over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s actions in the former British colony of Hong Kong and a nearly two-year trade dispute between the US and China.

Pompeo reiterated the need for allies and the international community to help shape the global telecoms infrastructure free of the Chinese government’s influence.

“The infrastructure of this next hundred years must be a communications infrastructure that is based on a Western ideal,” he said.

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Mexican president meets Trump for first time with business on the menu

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met his US counterpart Donald Trump for the first time on Wednesday (July 8), in a potentially tricky encounter that may broach tensions over Mexico’s treatment of US energy sector investors.

The leftist leader has brushed off criticism at home to push ahead with plans to meet Trump, a Republican widely disliked in Mexico because of his incendiary remarks about its people.

The meeting ostensibly aims to celebrate the start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal, but disputes over energy sector contracts in Mexico could arise as the two men got together in the afternoon.

Mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, which is still surging in Mexico and the United States, the two did not shake hands as they met outside the White House.

Neither wore face masks.

The USMCA was crafted in long negotiations headed by US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer.

Two people familiar with preparations for the meeting said the private sector was eager for Trump to raise concerns about Lopez Obrador’s attempts to renegotiate billions of dollars worth of contracts in energy infrastructure.

One said the issue had been put high on Lighthizer’s agenda for the meeting, though despite promptings from his own ambassador in Mexico, Trump has made little of it so far.

Lighthizer’s office did not reply to a request for comment.

Lopez Obrador’s government is slowly rolling back a 2013-14 opening of the energy industry in favour of a state-led model, and has called a number of major contracts into question.

A senior US official said on Monday evening Mexico’s government had pledged to uphold those contracts.

“So, we are certainly hoping that they will keep their word,” the official told reporters.

Mexican-US cooperation over Trump’s immigration policies could feature prominently, although one source familiar with the matter said the talks aimed to prioritise business.

The summit was pitched to mark the start of USMCA, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump long lambasted. But the two-day gathering was scaled back to a single day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted out amid new US threats of tariffs on Canadian goods.

Lopez Obrador is being joined by a delegation of business officials, including Mexico’s richest man, telecoms magnate Carlos Slim. They will dine on Wednesday evening with Trump and American business executives at the White House.

Lopez Obrador’s critics and some US Democrats say Trump wants to use the meeting to drum up support among Hispanic voters ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election.

Opinion polls show Hispanic voters favour Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Lopez Obrador will not meet Biden on the trip.

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US, Kenya formally launch trade deal talks

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Kenya and the United States formally launched negotiations on Wednesday (July 8) for a bilateral trade pact that the two economies hope could serve as a model for additional agreements across the African continent.

In a joint statement, trade ministers for the two countries, Betty Maina and Robert Lighthizer, said they were holding an initial round of talks virtually over the next two weeks due to the coronavirus.

Kenya wants to do a deal with Washington before the expiry of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows sub-Saharan African states to export thousands of products to the United States without tariffs or quotas until 2025.

“We believe this agreement with Kenya will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area…” Maina and Lighthizer said.

Two-way goods trade between the United States and Kenya totalled US$1.1 billion (S$1.5 billion) in 2019, up 4.9 per cent from 2018.

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Trump says Harvard move to online courses due to coronavirus 'ridiculous'

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump lashed out at Harvard University on Tuesday (July 7), calling its decision to move all its courses online in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic “ridiculous.”

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s an easy way out. And I think they ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Trump said at a White House roundtable discussion, during which he called for schools and universities to reopen for the next semester.

Trump, who is campaigning for reelection in November, has taken a bullish approach to reopening the country even as virus infections continue to spike, particularly the south and west.

“SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” he tweeted on Monday.

That same day, his administration said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online because of the Covid-19 crisis.

A number of schools are looking at a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction but some, including Harvard, have said all classes will be conducted online.

Harvard said 40 per cent of undergraduates would be allowed to return to campus – but their instruction would be conducted remotely.

With more than 130,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, the United States is the hardest-hit country in the global pandemic.

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Millions of Americans have moved due to coronavirus

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has infected nearly three million Americans and killed over 130,000, has also caused millions to uproot themselves from their homes.

Three per cent of US adults have moved either temporarily or permanently and 6 per cent say that someone has moved into their home because of Covid-19, according to new Pew Research Centre data.

In total, more than one in five adults either moved themselves, had someone move into their home, or knew someone who did due to the virus.

The most kinetic group by far was young people.

Nearly one in 10 Americans aged 18 to 29 said they had moved because of the pandemic, and many of them have returned home.

“One of the more striking findings is that young adults really are more affected than other groups across the board,” said Ms D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer and editor at Pew.

Generation Z is feeling the full force of the pandemic’s economic effects and many college students scrambled to arrange new housing in March as campuses closed en masse.

Reducing the risk of contracting the virus was the most common reason respondents said they moved (28 per cent), followed by the closure of college campuses (23 per cent) and to be with family (20 per cent).

The majority of those who moved (61 per cent) said they’re now living with a family member.

Pew did not specifically ask respondents if their move was permanent or temporary, but only 9 per cent said they had bought or rented a permanent new home, indicating that most of those who have been displaced don’t plan to stay in their new locations for the long term.

The new data comes from Pew’s American Trends Panel survey of 9,654 adults conducted between June 4 and 10.

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Coronavirus, protests, Trump's angry words darken US July 4th independence weekend

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States marked its Independence Day on Saturday (July 4) in a sombre mood, as a record surge in coronavirus cases, anti-racism protests and an angry speech from President Donald Trump have cast a shadow over what normally are festive celebrations.

Popular beaches on both coasts – normally packed on July 4th – were closed as California and Florida suffer alarming surges in Covid-19 infections.

“You should assume everyone around you is infectious,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned.

Across the country, Main Street parades have been canceled, backyard barbecues scaled down, and family reunions put off amid worries about spreading the virus on a day when Americans typically celebrate their 1776 declaration of independence from Britain.

Florida said on Saturday it had marked a new daily high in confirmed virus cases at 11,458 – far more than any other state – and Miami Beach imposed a curfew and made mask-wearing mandatory in public.

Yet some Florida beaches remained open.

The US virus death toll is fast approaching 130,000, roughly one-quarter the world’s total.

FIREWORKS CANCELLED

Fireworks displays are typically a high point of the holiday, but an estimated 80 per cent of the events, including in cities like Indianapolis, Atlanta and Nashville, have been cancelled this year.

Some locales are urging people to watch fireworks from their cars.

But other Americans, weary of lockdowns or simply defiant, carry on as if the deadly pandemic were a thing of the past.

Continuing a year of confusingly mixed signals, local officials in Washington have discouraged residents from massing on the National Mall for the capital’s fireworks display.

Trump, fresh from his appearance on Friday before the monumental sculpture of four presidents on Mount Rushmore, plans to take in Saturday’s “Salute to America” in Washington, complete with military music and flyovers, from a White House balcony.

He and his wife, Melania, released a video message wishing Americans “a very, very happy Fourth of July.”

Trump was optimistic on virus trends that have health officials deeply concerned.

“We got hit with this terrible plague from China,” he said, “and now we are getting close to fighting our way out of it.”

Trump’s address at the Washington festivities will pay tribute to health care workers, police and the military, White House spokesman Judd Deere told AFP.

Social distancing would be observed, he added – in contrast to the practice at Mount Rushmore.

‘VIOLENT MAYHEM’

While presidents’ July 4th speeches traditionally are uplifting affairs that emphasise patriotism and national unity, Trump in South Dakota angrily lashed out at protests that have erupted since unarmed African American George Floyd was killed by police.

Facing a tough re-election battle in November and eager to mobilise his political base, Trump denounced “violent mayhem” on US streets, though most demonstrations have been peaceful, and accused protesters of waging “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”

Trump’s presumptive opponent in the fall, Democrat Joe Biden, struck a sharply different tone, tweeting on Saturday: “Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We’re all created equal. We’ve never lived up to it – but we’ve never stopped trying. This Independence Day, let’s not just celebrate those words, let’s commit to finally fulfil them.”

Protests have continued in many US cities since Floyd’s killing in May, and more than a score of demonstrations were taking place on Saturday in Washington, including a George Floyd Memorial March and a Black Lives Matter protest.

All the demonstrations, in theory, should be over before the night’s celebration on the Mall, set to start at 6.40pm (6.40am on Sunday, Singapore time).

Health officials have been bracing for a new spike in virus cases after this weekend.

Some link the latest flareup to the delayed result of widespread celebrations during the Memorial Day holiday in late May, and to the reopening of some states’ economies starting around that time.

And they see this weekend as a potential tipping point – in the worst case, a replay of the post-Memorial Day resurgence.

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'Free again': New Yorkers, virus in mind, head back to their beaches

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – After more than a month of closed beaches – and pitched battles over access to the ocean – Rachel Thompson, a schoolteacher, finally frolicked in the surf at Rockaway Beach in Queens.

“Yay!” she said. “It feels fantastic to have Rockaway open, to have lifeguards so kids can swim safe.”

New York, transformed by the coronavirus and the protests in support of Black Lives Matter, has been cooped up, and a good, old-fashioned swim “takes the edge off,” Ms Thompson, 45, said.

She was at Rockaway on Wednesday (July 1) as New York City opened its beaches for swimming – just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, when even more people are expected to pack the sand.

Still, several beachgoers that morning, Ms Thompson included, were feeling a bit jittery about the city’s gradual reopening.

An hour after the ban on swimming was lifted, the mayor announced that indoor dining at restaurants would not resume Monday as anticipated, citing the virus’s rapid spread in other large states.

Even as Ms Thompson shed her face mask, she called it sensible to slow down indoor dining.

“Out here, there is a breeze,” she said. “You know, there’s air moving.” Mayor Bill de Blasio, worried that large crowds might risk transmission of the coronavirus, had kept the city’s 14 miles (approximately 22km) of beaches closed even as temperatures rose – along with frustration from long-quarantined New Yorkers.

“This is something people have been waiting patiently for – maybe not always patiently for – but it’s here,” Mr de Blasio said at his Wednesday news briefing.

The mayor also said that in late July the city would open 15 of its 53 free outdoor pools in communities “hit hardest” by the virus and furthest from beaches.

It was a partial reversal of his announcement in April that the pools, a vital cooling option in many lower-income neighbourhoods, would not open.

Even as suburban beaches opened for swimming on Memorial Day weekend, Mr de Blasio emphasised that the city’s beaches – which include such well-known spots as Coney Island in Brooklyn and Orchard Beach in the Bronx – were uniquely vulnerable to virus transmission.

With an estimated one million visitors total on a hot day, they are some of the country’s most crowded shorelines, and people largely access them via subways and buses.

The beaches at Coney Island were only partially full Friday morning, and the water was even less crowded.

Ms Olga Vlasenko, 35, a home health aide, splashed around in a black swimsuit and a pink New York Yankees hat.

“It’s wonderful, I feel that I’m cooling off, refreshed, that I have a little more freedom,” she said.

However, the spectre of the coronavirus kept her, “a little bit nervous,” she said.

“But we keep distance,” she said. “You can see we don’t crowd each other.”

Brighton Beach was more crowded with sunbathers and swimmers than Coney Island on Friday, which made it more challenging for Mr Paul Hirschorn to swim with his 4-year-old daughter, who asked him repeatedly about sharks.

“There’s no sharks, sweetheart,” he said as she played in the surf. The horror movie was not “Jaws” but “Contagion.” “It’s not as comfortable as it would be without Covid,” said Mr Hirschorn, 38, a chief technical officer who lives in Brighton Beach.

“It feels just quasi-normal.”

On Wednesday at Rockaway Beach, the air smelled of sea salt and suntan lotion before thunderstorms rolled in.

Mr Ed Westley, 76, of Queens, took his first swim of the season and saw a pod of dolphins breach and frolic in the water.

Mr Kasey Gustaveson, 18, a surfer from Queens, said that being in the water,

“You feel like corona never happened.”

Still, worries lingered about a possible backslide in New York state, where, after reining in the virus, there have been a few alarming outbreaks, such as those at a house party and graduation party in the suburbs just north of the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is requiring visitors from more than a dozen states, including the nation’s three largest – California, Florida and Texas – to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New York.

“I just hope it’s safe. We’ll see how it plays out,” said Mr Dragan Jenovac, 53, a crane operator from Queens visiting Rockaway Beach on Wednesday.

“I’m a little concerned it’s coming back.”

Nearby, Mr Sal Cirone, 38, a baker from Queens, said the beach afforded him the opportunity to shed his mask and gloves and feel “somewhat normal.”

“We’re in the open,” he said. “We’re not really next to anybody.”

Still, he said of the pandemic, “It’s always in the back of your mind.”

As the first deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Parks, Mr Liam Kavanagh put it, “The beaches are going to look different from what they normally do.”

Lifeguards will patrol the shoreline in masks and carry waist packs containing a face mask, gloves and hand sanitiser.

Hundreds of city workers, deployed as social distancing ambassadors, will hand out masks, keep space between beachgoers, tally beachgoers to prevent overcrowding, tend beach entrances to limit capacity and, if necessary, direct people to less crowded sections.

Beachgoers must keep at least 6ft apart and wear face coverings when on the sand or the boardwalk.

“We don’t want it to turn into heavy-handed enforcement,” Mr Kavanagh said, adding that education, not discipline, was the goal.

Restrooms will operate at half-capacity, and boardwalk concessions must offer to-go service only.

In May, when the city was an epicentre of the outbreak and still under lockdown, Mr de Blasio, citing concerns that crowds could lead to the spread of the virus, said beaches would not open for bathing but would be available for limited visits by local residents.

Once the mayor hinted, around Memorial Day, that beaches might open late, “It turned into a sprint” to open the beaches, Mr Kavanagh said, and city officials began working furiously behind the scenes to prepare for a possible opening.

Beach preparations typically begin in January with the recruitment, training and certification of lifeguards, and expand in March with beach preparations.

“All that was thrown up in the air because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Kavanagh said.

A main challenge was coming up with enough lifeguards to open beaches before the Fourth of July, said Mr Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, the union that represents parks workers.

“You don’t just flip a switch and open the beaches,” he said.

Finally, the city certified 512 lifeguards.

More than 600 are usually employed, Mr Garrido said, and this season’s shortage could mean a reduction in swimming areas.

But Mr Kavanagh said: “There’s plenty of space for everyone. There’s plenty of ocean and there’s room to spread out.”

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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US, China left out as England slashes coronavirus quarantine list

LONDON (AFP) – Travellers from more than 70 “low-risk” countries and territories will no longer have to self-isolate when arriving in England, the British government said on Friday (July 3) in a major easing of its coronavirus quarantine scheme.

The list of exemptions mostly covers Europe – but not Portugal – and the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, although the United States and mainland China are notably omitted.

The changes, which come into effect on July 10, represent a significant lifting of the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine imposed one month ago to stop new infections from abroad.

Britain has suffered Europe’s deadliest outbreak of Covid-19, with 44,000 deaths among confirmed cases, but is now slowly coming out of lockdown.

“Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Airlines, who had warned the quarantine would cripple an industry already on its knees due to global coronavirus shutdowns, welcomed the easing and three of them dropped a legal challenge.

But the exemptions will only apply to arrivals into England, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so far sticking to the blanket ban.

British ministers had suggested the delay in announcing the list – it had been due earlier in the week – was down to a lack of cooperation from the devolved government in Scotland.

But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied this, and blasted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in London for a “shambolic” effort.

She said the list her government was shown on Thursday had changed by Friday, while adding that Edinburgh would likely publish its own list in the coming days.

AIRLINES WITHDRAW CHALLENGE

Under the new rules, a traffic-light system – red, amber and green – would be used for different countries depending on their prevalence of the coronavirus, Shapps said.

Travellers from the green and amber countries will no longer have to self-isolate on arrival.

The amber countries will have reciprocal arrangements in place with England, while the green countries are deemed to be safer than England, such as New Zealand.

The amber countries include France, Italy and Spain, which are among the most popular summer holiday destinations for Britons, although not Portugal.

The United States will be designated with a red light, requiring mandatory self-quarantine, because “they have got very high numbers of infections”, Shapps said.

British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair had taken legal action over the scheme they said would have a “severe impact on the travel and tourism industry”, which was “already running on fumes”.

But their lawyer told the High Court of England and Wales in London on Friday that they had now agreed to withdraw the claim.

In a statement, budget airline easyJet said the list of exemptions was “an important move in the reopening of aviation, to support the wider UK recovery”.

Patricia Yates, director of tourism body VisitBritain, said allowing easier entry for overseas visitors would provide “a timely boost”.

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Dry lightning risk rises in US, thanks to tardy monsoon

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The annual monsoon that drenches the US South-west is late this year, raising the risk of wildfires sparked by another of the region’s meteorological quirks: dry lightning.

While heavy rain isn’t expected in the normally arid area until mid-July, thunderstorms continue to form high above the Earth. But the air below is so parched that raindrops can evaporate on their way down. The only things that strikes the ground are lightning bolts – dry lighting.

The phenomenon, which also occurs in Australia, is blamed for many of the wildfires that charred more than 3 million acres in the US West last year.

The threat is particularly severe in Arizona, Nevada and parts of Southern California, where utilities plan to cut power during high-risk conditions. And the strikes are notoriously difficult to forecast because they just need a storm to pass over a sliver of dry air.

“The difference between a wet strike and a dry strike can be 500 feet (152m),” said Mr Heath Hockenberry, national fire weather programme manager for the National Weather Service.

Dry lightning can occur in any desert or semi-arid region that draws in moisture from nearby oceans. The dry air that makes rain drops evaporate also dries out plants, making it easier for lightning to start fires.

One storm in 2008 sparked hundreds of fires across California in a single night that took weeks to tame.

“As global warming causes temperatures to rise, evaporation rates are increasing, causing increased drying of vegetation,” said Mr Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections. “The risk of lightning-sparked wildfires will increase.”

Dry strikes are hard to forecast because they require finding a arid pocket in the atmosphere that can be just 500 feet thick, Mr Hockenberry said. A typical thunderstorm can rise to 50,000 feet above the Earth. So a dry layer that can cause all the trouble is just 1 per cent of a raindrop’s journey to the ground.

The monsoon that typically starts soaking Arizona and New Mexico this time of year may not arrive until mid-July. Across 11 western states almost 67 per cent of the land is abnormally dry and 46 per cent is locked in some form of drought as of June 23, according to the US Drought Monitor. Almost half of California is in drought.

While the monsoon may ease threats in the South-west, “July is the entry point into the core of the western fire season,” according to the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook issued Wednesday (July 1). This means the threats will rise throughout California, the Pacific North-west and the central and northern Rocky Mountains.

The fire threat eases for much of the West in mid-September, but for California the severity creeps up with the start of the fall gusts, marked by the Diablo and Santa Ana winds.

The fire threat comes as PG&E Corp, which serves Northern California, has emerged from bankruptcy after its equipment sparked devastating blazes in 2017 and 2018 and left it facing US$30 billion (S$41.84 billion) in liabilities.

There are 44 large fires burning now in 9 states, and the threat of dry lightning is increasing the risk. The National Weather Service issued warnings this week across the West.

There have been more than 24,000 wildfires so far this year, burning 1.4 million acres, compared with about 19,700 blazes for the first half of 2019 that consumed about 1,10,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho.

There’s hope that the risk of fires from dry lightning will diminish in the next few weeks. Some forecasts show a large high-pressure system emerging across the Four Corners region where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet, Mr Hockenberry said.

That may draw moisture off the ocean and trigger the monsoon that will soak the ground and bring rain to accompany the lightning.

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Ex-officers in George Floyd case may seek venue change, raising questions of bias

WILMINGTON (REUTERS) – The former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd will likely seek to relocate their trials in hopes of finding sympathetic jurors, but legal experts said doing so could reinforce claims of systemic racism in the justice system.

While trials are rarely moved in Minnesota, legal experts said the Floyd cases might be exceptions because the Minneapolis police chief and other officials spoke publicly about the episode and called Floyd’s death a murder, a departure from norms that defendants may argue prejudiced jurors.

A video of the May arrest and death of Floyd, who was Black, showed officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he went lifeless, sparking protests globally and igniting a national discussion on race.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, and the three other former officers, who are white, Black and Asian American, are charged with aiding Chauvin.

In addition, while it might be hard to find jurors anywhere who have not seen the video, demonstrations in Minneapolis against police brutality could arguably intimidate local jurors, experts said.

In a Minneapolis court on Monday (June 29), Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he might consider in September arguments to move the case, which goes to trial in March. If the cases were moved, the new venue would be another Minnesota county as the charges are under state law.

In several high-profile, racially charged cases in the past juries were more lenient with defendants of the same race as the majority of jurors.

“If you go to a less diverse place, what that would mean for the diversity of the jury pool and the question of bias?” asked Justin Hansford, director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center and professor at Howard University School of Law.

When defence attorneys have convinced judges to move trials from the jurisdictions of the crimes, those rare cases usually were marked by frenzied media coverage that judges agreed made finding an impartial local jury impossible.

Former football star O.J. Simpson, who is Black, was acquitted on double murder charges in 1995 by a downtown Los Angeles jury, comprised of nine Blacks, two whites, and one Hispanic person, after the case was moved from nearby Santa Monica, where the crime occurred and the population is majority white.

“The (OJ) Simpson case teaches us that venue can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction,” said defence attorney Brian McMonagle, who defended comedian Bill Cosby in his first sexual assault trial.

Earl Gray, a lawyer for Thomas Lane, one of the former officers charged in Floyd’s death, told Reuters that if Minneapolis officials continued to describe the case as a murder he expected the judge to move the trial.

Lawyers for the other officers and the Minnesota attorney general who is prosecuting the case declined to comment or did not respond to a request for comment.

“They have got to get this moved,” said Paul Applebaum, a Minnesota attorney, referring to the defence team. He said if they get a jury with mostly minority jurors, “they are cooked.”

While ordering a new venue may be necessary to protect the defendants’ rights of due process and impartial jury, moving trials involving police defendants to less diverse areas has stirred allegations of injustice in the past.

Four white New York City police officers were charged in the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo, a Black man. The shooting touched off days of protests.

The trial was moved to Albany County, New York by an appellate court that ruled Bronx jurors would be “under enormous pressure to reach the verdict demanded by public opinion.” The officers were acquitted by a jury of four Blacks and eight whites. Albany County is almost three-quarters white while whites and Blacks are about equal in Bronx County, both around 44 per cent of the population.

The 1992 trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of using excessive force in the arrest of Black motorist Rodney King, which like Floyd’s arrest was caught on video, was moved to suburban Ventura County from Los Angeles.

None were found guilty by the mostly white jury, sparking widespread protests.

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