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A&E Axes “Live PD” After Protests and Controversy Over Deleted Footage of a Black Man’s Death

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  • A&E canceled “Live PD” on Wednesday, following the ongoing George Floyd protests and controversy over the fact that it recorded, then deleted, footage of a black man’s fatal encounter with police.
  • The footage shows Javier Ambler, who was reportedly tased four times during the 2019 arrest, saying “I can’t breathe” and “Save me” before dying.
  • “Live PD” host Dan Abrams said footage is routinely deleted to keep the show from becoming “an arm of law enforcement,” and in this case, it was deleted after an investigation cleared officers of any wrongdoing.
  • Abrams also said, in retrospect, he wishes that footage would have been preserved.

A&E Cancels “Live PD

After pulling new episodes last week, A&E officially announced Wednesday that it had canceled the series “Live PD.” Calls for the show to end grew amid ongoing protests since the killing of George Floyd. Those calls then escalated when it was discovered that the show deleted footage of a different black man’s death while being arrested by police in 2019.

During that incident, Javier Ambler told deputies in Williamson County, Texas that he couldn’t breathe before asking them to save him. The phrase “I can’t breathe” has also been associated with Eric Garner and Floyd, as well as other unarmed black men who died after being arrested by police. 

“Live PD” is the latest in a list of shows and films being re-examined since Floyd’s death. On Tuesday, Paramount canceled “Cops,” HBO temporarily removed “Gone with the Wind,” and Netflix pulled the British sketch show “Little Britain” for blackface. 

Last week, A&E cut short a marathon of “Live PDand pulled new episodes that had been set to air. At the time, the network was said to have been re-evaluating the survival of the show. 

“Shocked & beyond disappointed about this,” the show’s host Dan Abrams said on Twitter following the news of its cancellation. “To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on. . More to come. .  .”

In a post on his site, lawandcrime.com, Abrams explained why the footage of Ambler’s death was deleted and not handed over to law enforcement or prosecutors. This is because the show is allowed to destroy unaired footage within 30 days unless a court order or other state or federal law requires it to be retained.

Abrams, however, said they held onto the footage of Ambler’s death for three months but no authorities ever asked them to hand over the footage. 

On Tuesday, A&E also made a similar statement, saying neither the network nor the show’s producers “were asked for the footage or an interview by investigators from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office.”

After the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office concluded an internal affairs investigation into its officers—where it found no wrongdoing—”Live PD” deleted the video. 

In his post, Abrams said the show deletes footage so that it doesn’t “become an arm of law enforcement attempting to use ‘Live PD’ videos to prosecute citizens seen on the footage,” Still, he admitted that he wishes those tapes had been preserved and that the show’s policy should have had an exception to such a situation.

Abrams also went on to distance “Live PDfrom shows like “Cops,” saying it instead follows officers in real-time and is more than just a “crazy highlight reel.”

Because of the nature of the show, A&E has also said the incident didn’t happen while the show was filming live and that the footage wasn’t aired later, either. 

Javier Ambler Dies

On March 28, 2019, a Williamson County deputy noticed that Ambler was driving with his high beams on and that he had failed to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. 

That officer then reportedly flipped on his flashing lights, but instead of pulling over, Ambler then sped across highways and onto neighborhood streets for 22 minutes as the officer chased him. According to reports, Ambler also smashed into four stationary objects before crashing a final time. 

While dashcam footage of that chase hasn’t been released, local news outlets were able to obtain bodycam footage.

In it, an officer arrives several minutes after Ambler crashes his SUV. He runs up to Ambler, who is already surrounded by deputies. Another officer tells Ambler to put his hands behind his back or he will tase him again, implying that he already had at least once. According to information later released by the Williamson County’s Sheriff’s Office, he had been tased three times by this point.

From there, the video shows Ambler on the ground with police over him. All the while, he’s telling them that he has congestive heart failure. He then says, “I can’t breathe.” Ambler repeats that phrase as police grab his arms and try to handcuff him.

Deputies tell him to stop resisting. He says he’s not resisting. 

“Save me!” he cries out before being tased again.

During this, the officers keep trying to force his hands behind his back. At one point, an officer says he thinks he just broke Ambler’s finger.

From there, they eventually handcuff him; however, Ambler becomes unresponsive. Deputies search for a pulse but don’t find one. They then reportedly perform CPR for four minutes. 

Ambler ultimately died after being handed off to medics and doctors, who spent 50 minutes trying to save his life.

An autopsy later determined that Ambler had, in fact, died of congestive heart failure as well as hypertensive cardiovascular disease “in combination with forcible restraint.”

Report Finds No Wrongdoing From Officers

A death-in-custody report was later filed with the attorney general’s office, where Ambler’s manner of death was listed as a homicide, That report also noted that his homicide could have been “justifiable.” 

Notably, that report said Ambler did not attempt to nor did he assault deputies. It also said he didn’t verbally threaten others or attempt to get control of any officers’ weapons.

Alongside this report, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department conducted its internal affairs investigation, where those officers involved were cleared of violating the agency’s pursuit or use-of-force policies. 

Because of that, they haven’t faced any repercussions. 

Still, for 15 months, little was publicly known about Ambler’s death. In fact, his own parents said until last week, they didn’t know anything more than that he died in police custody. It was actually reporters who told them that he had died after a chase for a minor traffic violation.

On Tuesday, after the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained the body cam footage, three of the four Williamson County commissioners called for Sheriff Robert Chody to resign.

Still, another investigation is being conducted by Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore. In a statement to the American-Statesman, she said her civil rights division plans to present the case to a grand jury.

“It is of very serious concern to any of us who are in law enforcement that the decision to engage in that chase was driven by more of a need to provide entertainment than to keep Williamson County citizens safe,” she said. 

Moore has criticized the show for existing in the first place, saying it puts police in the mindset of dramatizing their interactions with people.

Moore has also accused Chody of stonewalling and refusing to provide evidence, but Chody has dismissed those accusations as “misleading” and denounced the calls for his resignation as politically motivated. Chody also said his department is ready and willing to help Moore’s office. 

Invariably, part of the investigation into Ambler’s death will result in the question: Why did Ambler run if he just had his brights on?

It is possible that answer will never be learned, but according to Yale University psychology professor John Dovidio:

“[Black people] tend to see police as occupiers, as oppressors, as people who have mistreated them in the past.This is not just being paranoid; there’s enough historical evidence to make that credible.”

See what others are saying: (American-Statesman) (USA Today) (KVUE)

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China Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on US Officials Over Xinjiang Criticisms

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  • The U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials last week over the treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
  • The decision was the latest escalation during a time of heightened tensions between the two nations over policies in Hong Kong, the trade war, and questions about sovereignty in the South China Sea, among other matters.
  • In response, China announced retaliatory sanctions against U.S. officials, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
  • However, what exactly the Chinese sanctions will do is currently unclear as officials haven’t given specifics yet.

Sanctions and Counter Sanctions

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were sanctioned by China on Monday over their involvement in criticizing the nation’s actions in Xinjiang. Two other American officials faced sanctions as well for interfering in “China’s internal affairs,” as characterized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The Chinese sanctions were in retaliation over earlier sanctions the U.S. placed on Chinese officials last Thursday. The U.S. was able to do this following the passage of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act last month. That law allows the U.S. to place sanctions, in line with the Global Magnitsky Act, on officials who are involved in the ongoing repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

When the law was passed in mid-June, China warned that if the U.S. actually imposed any sanctions they would do the same in retaliation. after Thursday’s announcement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, “We urge the US to immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests. The Chinese side will firmly fight back if the US obstinately pursues such agenda.”

Zhao Lijian, Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry speaking to reporters about US-imposed Sanctions. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

Despite China’s threat, the U.S. imposed sanctions on certain Chinese officials and organizations involved in Xinjiang on July 9. The sanctions include freezing the assets these officials hold in the U.S., as well as restricting the ability of the officials and their immediate family members’ to enter the U.S.

In a statement on July 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”

Out of the four named individuals in the sanctions, one stands out: Chen Quanguo. Chen is the Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang and part of the Politburo and the highest-ranking Chinese official to ever be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. He first received infamy for his actions while doing the same job in Tibet from 2011-2016.

The Treasury Department named three other individuals who would have their assets frozen for helping Chen set up the surveillance and detention families in Xinjiang.

Additionally, the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department, and the State Department added that officials who worked with the XPSB were also liable to have themselves and their families denied entry into the U.S.

When speaking about the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.”

Tit-for-Tat Hostilities

However, these sanctions will likely end up being largely symbolic because these officials don’t travel to the U.S. in the first place. It’s also believed that their assets aren’t based in America but in China.

Even as a symbolic act, it still made China upset. On Monday, the country imposed its own sanctions against the four U.S. officials in retaliation, including the aforementioned Senators Cruz and Rubio.

Cruz was likely placed on this list for his work as part of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Two other officials part of that committee were also named, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Sam Brownback, a lawyer who also serves as the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.,

Rubio was likely named over his co-sponsorship of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act. Interestingly though, China avoided issuing sanctions on the other co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Menedez (D-NJ).

As far as what these sanctions will actually do, that’s a little unclear. So far, China hasn’t given any specifics as to what the penalties would be.

These recent sanctions are just the next step in ongoing tit-for-tats between the two countries. There’s an ongoing trade war, tensions over how Hong Kong is being treated by the mainland Chinese, issues over the sovereignty of the South China Sea, and major problems with how the Chinese are treating ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The problems in Xinjiang are so bad, that there are pundits and experts calling it a cultural genocide.

Even outside of the US, China has increasingly been pressured to change course over Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Al Jazeera) (NPR)

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San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal

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  • San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced an ordinance this week called the CAREN Act, which would make false, racially discriminatory 911 calls illegal.
  • The acronym stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It is named after “Karens,” a nickname for white women who throw unwarranted fits in public.
  • These fits often appear racially motivated and have led to “Karens” calling the police on people of color.
  • California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has also introduced a similar piece of legislation that would outlaw these calls throughout the state.

Why the “CAREN” Act?

A lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced an ordinance that would outlaw making false, racially discriminatory 911 calls, dubbed the CAREN Act.

City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the ordinance. In a tweet announcing the act on Tuesday, he called racist 911 calls “unacceptable.”

The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, but its name bears much more weight. A “Karen” is an Internet nickname for white women whose privilege and entitlement leads to loud complaints, threats of legal action, calling supervisors, and often, calling the police. The unjustified outrage of Karens has been documented in countless viral incidents, and in many cases, they show a clear prejudice against people of color. 

One video that went viral in May has been pointed to as a prime example of this. In that clip, Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York, called the police on a Black man named Christian Cooper. Both were in Central park at the time when the man asked her to put her dog on a leash, as she was required to do in that area.

However, that confrontation escalated when she desperately told a 911 operator that she was being threatened when she was not. Many felt her instinct to weaponize her white privilege and make a false claim could have had serious consequences considering the fact that Black Americans are more likely to face police brutality and die in police custody. She has since been charged with filing a false report after much public outrage.

While videos of this nature have often gone viral, this incident came at a cultural tipping point. Not long after it made its way across the Internet, another story received national attention: a video of George Floyd being killed by police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked a movement of people confronting systemic racism and police brutality, and since then, more “Karen” videos have spread online in an effort to hold people accountable for their racist behavior.

What the Ordinance Does

While filing a false police report is already illegal, Walton is pushing for more to be done to stop people from calling the authorities on people of color for no real reason. The CAREN Act would make it illegal to fabricate a report based on racial and other kinds of discrimination. 

“Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” he said in a statement. 

This is not the only proposal of its kind. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a similar ordinance. His proposed legislation, AB 1150, would make state that “discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.”

“AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others,” Bonta said in a statement. “This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”

See what others are saying: (SFist) (The Hill) (CNN)

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Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans

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  • An analysis from the Associated Press found that the Catholic Church received at least between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.
  • The report identified 3,500 loans the Church received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but leaders have previously stated that as many as 9,000 bodies of the Church received funding.
  • However, government data only shared who received loans over $150,000. Smaller churches that received under that amount were not on the list, meaning the Catholic Church could have collected even more than records show.
  • Usually, religious groups would not be eligible for funding from the Small Business Administration, but the Church allegedly spent a good chunk of money lobbying so that there would be an exception for the PPP.

Catholic Church Receives Billions in PPP Funds

The Catholic Church received between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, according to a Friday analysis from the Associated Press.

While houses of worship and religious organizations are usually ineligible for federal aid from the Small Business Administration, an exception was made for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to keep American businesses afloat as the pandemic shut the country down.

The AP found records of 3,500 forgivable loans for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other ministries. That number, however, is likely higher.

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference has claimed that 9,000 Catholic bodies received loans. Government data only shared loans over $150,000, so smaller churches who got less were not on the list, meaning the Church may have pocketed even more than $3.5 billion. 

“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”

According to the AP, the Archdiocese of New York received $28 million just for executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City received $1 million. Diocesan officials in Orange County, California received four loans worth $3 million. The AP’s analysis suggests that the Catholic Church and its entities were able to retain 407,900 jobs with this loan money.

“These loans are an essential lifeline to help faith-based organizations to stay afloat and continue serving those in need during this crisis,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told the AP.

How Did the Church Get Aid?

Like many businesses throughout the country, churches had to shut their doors as large gatherings became unsafe as the coronavirus’ spread continued. Masses were canceled or moved online and celebrations for the Easter holidays were dropped, causing the Church to to fall behind financially. 

While its global net worth is not known, the Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest religious organization in the world. It is also one of the most powerful groups of any kind, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers all over the planet. According to the AP, its deep pockets and far-reaching influence helped it receive federal aid. 

The Catholic Church lobbied heavily to make sure religious groups were allowed to receive money from the PPP, the AP says. Their report found that the Los Angeles archdiocese spent $20,000 lobbying Congress to include “eligibility for non-profits” in the CARES Act, the legislation that formed the PPP. Records also show that Catholic Charities USA spent another $30,000 in CARES Act lobbying.

With its wealth and power, the Catholic Church is also plagued with controversy and scandal. For years, there have been reports that the Church has covered up for priests and other leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. Many entities of the church have had to shell out large sums of money in legal fees and settlements. 

The AP found that around 40 of the dioceses that have paid out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to related compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings received loans. These loans totaled at least $200 million.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Business Insider) (Market Watch)

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