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Nation & World Briefs


Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Media face challenges in rush to sexual misconduct reckoning

NEW YORK — Talk-show host Tavis Smiley isn’t just upset with PBS for firing him on sexual misconduct charges. He’s upset about his depiction in the media.

Smiley believes that if he hadn’t talked publicly about romantic relationships with subordinates at his company, the behavior that led to his downfall, the public would make little distinction between him and those who have been accused of sexual assault or rape.

Conflation of different forms of misbehavior — the idea itself is controversial — is one of the issues facing media organizations covering the fast-moving story of sexual misconduct that went into overdrive with investigations into Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s behavior.

“The media is painting with too broad a brush,” Smiley said. “We have lost all sense of nuance and proportionality in how we cover these stories.”

Actor Matt Damon was torched for broaching the topic recently. He told ABC News that all accused men shouldn’t be lumped together because there’s a spectrum of behavior. There’s a difference between a pat on the rear and child molestation, he said.

Kremlin: Russia election boycott campaign may be illegal

MOSCOW — The Kremlin hinted Tuesday at possible legal repercussions for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny over his calls for a boycott of the March presidential election.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, wouldn’t comment on the Election Commission’s decision to bar Navalny from running but said the “calls for boycott ought to be carefully studied to see if they are breaking the law.”

As expected, Russia’s top election body on Monday formally barred Navalny from a presidential run. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s most prominent rival, promptly put out a video statement saying that the ban shows “Putin is terribly scared and is afraid of running against me.” He called on supporters to stay away from the vote in protest.

Meanwhile, Putin’s backers convened Tuesday afternoon to formally nominate him for presidency after he announced that he will run as an independent candidate.

Prominent lawmakers, film actors, musicians and athletes gathered at a Soviet-era exhibition hall to endorse him. Putin did not attend because of other engagements, Peskov said.

Ex-trooper charged had other Taser misconduct

DETROIT — Michigan State Police tried but failed to suspend a trooper for his use of a stun gun months before he fired a Taser at a teenager who crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Mark Bessner is charged with murder in the death of Damon Grimes, but it wasn’t his only incident involving a Taser. Details are in personnel documents released to the AP through a public records request.

State police wanted to suspend Bessner for 10 days for firing his Taser twice at a handcuffed man who was running away in 2016. But an arbitrator said there was no “just cause” for discipline.

In 2014, Bessner fired his Taser at a suspect who was handcuffed. He agreed to a five-day suspension, records show, but four days were eventually dropped. It apparently was his first case of misconduct.

Bessner, 43, now faces serious legal trouble. He was charged last week with second-degree murder in the August death of Damon Grimes of Detroit, who was joyriding on an all-terrain vehicle when the trooper fired his stun gun. The 15-year-old crashed and died.

Crime victims’ rights campaign faces fresh local backlash

OKLAHOMA CITY — After his sister was slain and his mother ran into the accused killer, out on bail, in a grocery store a week later, California billionaire Henry Nicholas became a fierce advocate for the rights of crime victims.

He donated millions from his fortune as co-founder of tech giant Broadcom to create a so-called “crime victims’ bill of rights“— dubbed Marsy’s Law after his slain sister Marsalee — and add it to the state’s constitution in 2008.

Now Nicholas is taking his crusade nationwide, with teams of lobbyists, public relations firms and high-powered political strategists converging on other state capitols for a similar push. But while the idea of standing up for crime victims is an easy sell politically, complaints are mounting that the initiative is becoming a testament to the danger of unintended consequences.

Not just defense lawyers, but some local prosecutors, police and victims’ advocates are concerned that the law’s extensive victim-notification requirements could impose crippling costs and administrative burdens on smaller towns and counties with limited resources.

Supporters maintain those complaints are exaggerated and that any increased workload is worth the benefit of helping crime victims.

Still, law enforcement and victims’ advocates in some places are calling for its defeat or reversal.

US jury acquits Peruvian defendant in FIFA bribery case

NEW YORK — A former South American soccer official was acquitted in the FIFA bribery scandal on Tuesday and walked out of the courtroom saying he’s finished with the world’s most popular sport.

The verdict clearing Manuel Burga, former president of Peru’s soccer federation, of a single racketeering conspiracy charge came days after prosecutors won guilty verdicts on multiple charges against two other former soccer officials.

“God bless America. That’s all I can say,” the 60-year-old Burga said with eyes still wet from tears minutes after the verdict was delivered in Brooklyn federal court.

Burga was the first person to be acquitted among over 40 people and entities in the world of global soccer charged in the U.S. with a scheme to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. Of those, 24 pleaded guilty.

The case against Burga was always thin. He faced a single count while two co-defendants — Juan Napout, of Paraguay, and Jose Maria Marin, of Brazil — were convicted of heftier charges Friday in a prosecution that exposed a culture of greed and corruption in soccer’s executive suites.

From Associated Press