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Trump pardons ex-strategist Steve Bannon, dozens of others

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump pardoned former chief strategist Steve Bannon as part of a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of his White House term that benefited more than 140 people, including rap performers, ex-members of Congress and other allies of him and his family.
The last-minute clemency, announced Wednesday morning, follows separate waves of pardons over the past month for Trump associates convicted in the FBI’s Russia investigation as well as for the father of his son-in-law. Taken together, the actions underscore the president’s willingness, all the way through his four years in the White House, to flex his constitutional powers in ways that defy convention and explicitly aid his friends and supporters.
To be sure, the latest list was heavily populated by more conventional candidates whose cases had been championed by criminal justice activists. One man who has spent nearly 24 years in prison on drug and weapons charges but had shown exemplary behavior behind bars had his sentence commuted, as did a former Marine sentenced in 2000 in connection with a cocaine conviction.
But the names of prominent Trump allies nonetheless stood out.
Besides Bannon, other pardon recipients included Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser who pleaded guilty last fall in a scheme to lobby the Trump administration to drop an investigation into the looting of a Malaysian wealth fund, and Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner who was charged last October with cyberstalking during a heated divorce.
Bannon’s pardon was especially notable given that the prosecution was still in its early stages and any trial was months away. Whereas pardon recipients are conventionally thought of as defendants who have faced justice, often by having served at least some prison time, the pardon nullifies the prosecution and effectively eliminates any prospect for punishment.
“Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump’s own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on Twitter. “And if that all sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.”
And while other presidents have issued controversial pardons at the ends of their administration, perhaps no commander in chief has so enjoyed using the clemency authority to benefit not only friends and acquaintances but also celebrity defendants and those championed by allies.
Wednesday’s list includes its share of high-profile defendants. Among them were rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black, both convicted in Florida on weapons charges. Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter, has frequently expressed support for Trump and recently met with the president on criminal justice issues. Others on the list included Death Row Records co-founder Michael Harris and New York art dealer and collector Hillel Nahmad.
Other pardon recipients include former Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican who served three years for corruption, money laundering and other charges, and former Rep. Duke Cunningham of California, who was convicted of accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham, who was released from prison in 2013, received a conditional pardon.
Trump also commuted the prison sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who has served about seven years behind bars for a racketeering and bribery scheme.
Bannon has been charged with duping thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, he allegedly diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.
Bannon did not respond to questions Tuesday.
Trump has already pardoned a slew of longtime associates and supporters, including his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law; his longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone; and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
A voice of nationalist, outsider conservatism, Bannon — who served in the Navy and worked at Goldman Sachs and as a Hollywood producer before turning to politics — led the conservative Breitbart News before being tapped to serve as chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 campaign in its critical final months.
He later served as chief strategist to the president during the turbulent early days of Trump’s administration and was at the forefront of many of its most contentious policies, including its travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries.
But Bannon, who clashed with other top advisers, was pushed out after less than a year. And his split with Trump deepened after he was quoted in a 2018 book making critical remarks about some of Trump’s adult children. Bannon apologized and soon stepped down as chairman of Breitbart. He and Trump have recently reconciled.
In August, he was pulled from a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut and brought before a judge in Manhattan, where he pleaded not guilty. When he emerged from the courthouse, Bannon tore off his mask, smiled and waved to news cameras. As he went to a waiting vehicle, he shouted, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”
The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a “big beautiful” barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project.
But according to the criminal charges, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon.

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Rainbow Wahine return from long layoff, fall to CS Bakersfield 64-57

The Maui News

Playing for the first time in nearly a month, the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team came up short against Cal State Bakersfield 64-57 on Friday in Bakersfield, Calif.

The Rainbow Wahine (1-2), who hadn’t played since Dec. 20 after having four games canceled due to COVID-19 issues with their opponents and then within the UH program, were playing their Big West Conference opener. The teams play again today.

Bakersfield jumped out to a 10-0 lead and eventually led by 20 points in the second quarter. The Roadrunners led 35-18 at halftime.

Hawaii still trailed by 14 points a couple minutes into the fourth quarter before going on a 12-2 run to close to 54-50 with 3:55 remaining. But a pair of 3-pointers by Lexus Green helped Bakersfield (3-4, 1-0 Big West) pull away.

Jadynn Alexander scored 12 points and Daejah Phillips added 11 for the Rainbow Wahine. Green finished with five 3-pointers and 19 points.

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Minnesota high school bans Steinbeck, Watson novellas

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota high school has ordered instructors to stop teaching students about two novellas in the wake of complaints that their content is racist and anti-Native American.
Administrators at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights have ordered staff to stop teaching John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and Larry Watson’s “Montana 1948,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.
They said families and staff had complained about racist stereotypes and slurs in “Of Mice and Men,” which was first published in 1937. The novella last made the American Library Association’s most-challenged books list in 2004.
“Montana 1948” was first published in 1993. Sibley administrators said the Native American community is upset with the book because the protagonist’s uncle sexually assaults and murders a Sioux housekeeper. The book has been censored elsewhere.
The two books have been part of the school’s curriculum for several years. Students have been reassigned a series of short stories to replace the books.
The school district’s spokeswoman, Carrie Ardito, said the complaints have highlighted a need for a policy that reconsiders instructional materials.
Watson, who grew up in North Dakota, told the newspaper by email on Monday that any attempt to defend “Montana 1948” would seem self-serving. He didn’t have adolescents in mind when he wrote the book and never thought many people would read it, let alone use it in classrooms.
The school district voted earlier this month to drop Henry Sibley from the high school’s name following complaints that he mistreated Minnesota’s Dakota people.
Sibley commanded troops in the U.S.-Dakota War and established the military commission that in 1862 sentenced 303 Dakota men to death. Thirty-eight of them were victims of a mass hanging.

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Man killed after argument at Minneapolis light rail station

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities say one man was shot and killed Thursday afternoon after a confrontation at a light rail station in Minneapolis.
Police said in a release that officers arrived at the scene to find an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. Officers provided immediate assistance until they were relieved by paramedics. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, the release said.
The statement said a preliminary investigation shows that an argument between two men turned physical and one man pulled out a gun and shot the other.
The investigation is ongoing.

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No. 3 Ohio St. runs past No. 15 Wildcats for Big Ten crown

By MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ohio State running back Trey Sermon got the message Saturday.
He’d heard coach Ryan Day preach about everything the Buckeyes overcame to reach this season’s Big Ten championship game. He also heard Day urging players to overcome more obstacles in the second half.
So Sermon delivered — with a record-breaking performance.
He ran for 331 yards and scored two second-half touchdowns, helping No. 3 Ohio State rally past No. 15 Northwestern 22-10 for its fourth straight conference crown and a likely spot in the College Football Playoff.
“I’m aware of my ability and I know I’m more than capable of playing my game, which is making guys miss and playing at the second level,” the Big Ten championship game MVP said. “When I’m in the zone, I feel like the game just really slows down and I can see everything develop, make the right reads and make the right cuts.”
Sermon used the combination of vision and speed to average 11.4 yards on 29 carries against one of the nation’s top defenses, breaking Eddie George’s single-game school record and the Big Ten championship game mark.
The former Oklahoma back did it all when the Buckeyes (6-0) needed him most, too.
Quarterback Justin Fields said he couldn’t throw the ball late in the game because of a sprained right thumb. Starting running back Master Teague left in the first half with an undisclosed injury, and star receiver Chris Olave was inactive and didn’t make the trip.
With Ohio State struggling and down 10-6 at halftime, it had a familiar feel to Day.
“This game was a microcosm of what this whole season has been,” Day said. “These guys, they’ve been gritty, they’re tough. They’ve been through so much and they just don’t flinch.”
For Northwestern (6-2) it was agonizing.
The Wildcats led from the moment Cam Porter scored on a 9-yard with 4:03 left in the first quarter until the moment Sermon answered with a 9-yard run to give the Buckeyes a 13-10 lead with 2:41 left in the third.
In between, Northwestern settled for a field goal on one drive and blew another scoring chance when Peyton Ramsey was picked off in the end zone to open the second half.
Ramsey was 24 of 37 with 224 yards and ran effectively, too. But he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble — all in the final two quarters.
“I’m just hurting for our seniors,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t come down here to play hard, we came down here to win, and not to get the job done is bitterly disappointing.”
Ohio State added a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and Sermon, fittingly, sealed the win with a 3-yard scoring run with 4:03 to go.
“We wanted to throw early, wear them out and run in the second half,” Day said. “That’s how it kind of played out.”
THE TAKEAWAY
Northwestern: For the second time in three years, the Wildcats played better than most expected in the title game. But again Northwestern wore down late and went home as the runner-up.
Ohio State: League officials waived the six-game eligibility requirement and the Buckeyes took full advantage of their chance. They didn’t earn many style points, but they are undefeated.
POLL IMPLICATIONS
Northwestern: The Wildcats may slide in the polls but this loss shouldn’t hurt their bowl resume much.
Ohio State: Whatever happens in the polls this week, the Buckeyes really only care about one thing — making the playoff.
COMMITTEE QUESTIONS
The CFP selection committee might want some answers from Ohio State before releasing the brackets Sunday.
Ohio State had nearly two dozen players on its inactive list for the second straight game and Olave wasn’t the only big name missing. Linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Tyler Friday and punter Drue Chrisman were inactive, too.
Day said only “a few” of Saturday’s inactives might have to sit out the mandated 21 days for testing positive for COVID-19.
Starting safety Marcus Hooker didn’t dress, either. And injuries to Fields and Teague could further complicate matters.
Fitzgerald still believes the Buckeyes belong.
“No. 1, they’re undefeated,” he said. “No. 2, they have an incredibly talented team. They’ve overcome a bunch of adversity through COVID and run the gamut of the Big Ten season. With the ups and downs, I don’t think everyone understands the emotion that goes into the challenges they’ve been through.”
FAMILIES FIRST
Day said he supported the lobbying efforts of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney to allow players’ families at playoff games, though he acknowledged he hadn’t given it or the logistics much thought this week.
“I did see the comments that were made and I also agree that families need to be there,” Day said. “These guys have been away from their families for a long time.”
UP NEXT
Northwestern: Will find out Sunday where its headed for bowl season.
Ohio State: Must wait to see if it will be included in the national championship shootout.
___
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Walz delays announcement on business limits until Wednesday

By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that while he’s encouraged by some coronavirus trends in Minnesota, he’s holding off until next week on deciding whether to dial back restrictions in time for the Christmas holiday because he wants to see more data on whether a feared spike in cases due to Thanksgiving really fizzled.
The governor plans an announcement next Wednesday on whether he’ll extend or relax any of the restrictions he imposed last month for a four-week “pause” that expires next Friday. They included the closure of bars, restaurants, fitness centers and other places where people gather, as well as high school and other organized youth sports.
The announcement was originally set for Monday, but Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said the governor pushed it back until Wednesday because he wants to have the most up-to-date data before deciding.
Walz said at a briefing for reporters that it looks like Minnesotans have been following pleas to follow the official coronavirus safety guidance, which includes wearing masks, social distancing, staying home when sick and avoiding indoor gatherings. The “pause” order took effect three weeks ago while Thanksgiving was two weeks ago, he noted.
“Now the question still out there is, ‘What did Thanksgiving do?’ And at this time, Minnesotans, I think that so many of you made those hard decisions. You did the Zoom Thanksgiving, and you talked from a distance. It looks like we’re making a difference,” Walz said.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday reported 94 new COVID-19 deaths, the state’s second-highest one-day death toll for the pandemic, but some important metrics such as the positivity rate, new cases and hospitalizations have been trending downward recently. The trend in deaths tends to lag those other indicators because critically ill patients who succumb to COVID-19 don’t necessarily die right away. The new deaths raised the state’s total to 4,292, while the 3,773 new coronavirus cases reported Friday lifted the state’s cumulative count to 370,968.
On the more hopeful side, Minnesota had 1,461 patients hospitalized as of Thursday, down from a peak of 1,864 on Nov. 29. And the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Minnesota has fallen from 5,628 new cases per day on Nov. 26 to 4,799 as of Thursday, according to The Covid Tracking Project.
Walz said he’s trying to strike the proper balance between mitigation efforts and getting businesses back open and students back to school and playing sports. He said he wants to to see some more post-Thanksgiving data first.
Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Friday that his office had obtained a temporary restraining order to prohibit the Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks from remaining open for in-person in defiance of the governor’s order, which allows only takeout and delivery service through Friday.
The attorney general’s office said the lawsuit was only the second enforcement action it has brought under the “pause” order. But a Facebook group called the ReOpen Minnesota Coalition has been urging bars, restaurants and other businesses to defy the order and reopen next week. It says more than 50 already plan to do so, though it hasn’t posted a list.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections on Friday said two more state prisoners have died of COVID-19. The department said the inmates — a 66-year-old from the prison at Faribault and a 63-year old man from the Moose Lake facility — died Thursday. They were the seventh and eighth inmates in the state prison system to die from COVID-19.

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Brooklyn Park charter school principal dies of coronavirus

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The principal and founder of a Hmong cultural language charter school in Brooklyn Park has died of the coronavirus.
The family of Choua Yang says she died Friday at age 53 after battling COVID-19 for four weeks, including three weeks on a ventilator.
Yang and her husband started Prairie Seeds Academy. Staff say Yang was a passionate educator and caring principal who took the threat of the coronavirus seriously. Students at the school have been distance learning since the start of the academic year.
“Of all people, she was very careful about social distancing, about making smart and wise decisions, about not letting her guard down,” Tou Ger Xiong, a staff member at the school, said.
A refugee herself, she built a school that embraced students of all cultural backgrounds, KMSP-TV reported.
“Some principals, they lock themselves in their office and get caught up with the administrative work. She’s very hands on and very interactive with the students so a lot of the students see her as a mother or grandmother figure,” Xiong said.
Staff have been at the school in a limited capacity leading up to the school year, but students have not been in the building.
The school issued a statement which said there was nothing more important to her than her students.
“She celebrated their successes, cared deeply when they were troubled and needed help, and was devoted to making things better for every student, family, and staff member at PSA,” the school said.

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Crash kills girl, 2, who was sitting on driver’s lap

WILLMAR, Minn. (AP) — A 2-year-old girl who was sitting in a driver’s lap died after a crash in Kandiyohi County.
Sheriff’s officials say the crash happened Thursday in Roseland Townshiop. The driver, a 23-year-old woman from Clara City, was driving with the toddler in her lap when she lost control on loose gravel and the vehicle rolled into a ditch.
Sheriff’s officials say the woman was wearing a seatbelt. She was seriously injured and taken to the Willmar hospital. The girl was airlifted to a Twin Cities hospital but died of her injuries on the way, the Star Tribune reported.

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Sheriff: Deputy suspended after handcuffing elderly woman

BONITA SPRINGS (AP) — A Florida deputy has been suspended after placing an elderly woman who ran a stop sign in handcuffs, officials said this week.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced during a news conference Wednesday that the deputy had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
Dorothy Friedenreich, 91, told news outlets her arms were badly bruised and cut when she was handcuffed in the driveway of her Bonita Springs home Aug. 17. She ended up going to the emergency room for her injuries.
Friedenreich said she did not realized she had rolled through the stop sign less than a minute from her house, leading the deputy to believe she was trying get away when she did not immediately pull over.
Marceno said the deputy failed to use common sense and compassion. Friedenreich said she felt safer after the sheriff personally apologized to her.
Officials did not name the deputy.

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Sport-by-sport snapshot of racial injustice protests

By ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports Writer
Moved by the videotaped shooting of Jacob Blake, many professional athletes — some who had previously donned Black Lives Matter T-Shirts and knelt for the national anthem to protest racial injustice — made a more dramatic statement.
They refused to play.
NBA players led the way Wednesday and Thursday by sitting out of scheduled playoff games in the “bubble” in Florida, the league’s answer to finishing up the season amid the coronavirus pandemic. The movement quickly spread to the other professional sports.
“We are scared as Black people in America,” LeBron James said. “Black men, Black women, Black kids. We are terrified.”
Athletes similarly came together after the death of George Floyd, another Black man who died when an officer pressed his knee into his neck for more than seven minutes. Some players knelt during the national anthem or stood in silence, fists raised, while others wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts or had names of Black people killed by police on their jerseys.
But then the cellphone video of Blake getting shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, emerged.
Athletes say the moment has forced them to act. Here’s a look at what they are doing across the major professional sports to call for an end to racial injustice:
NBA: The Milwaukee Bucks set off a wave of postponements in professional sports Wednesday, when players refused to take the court for a playoff game against Orlando. The two other playoff games for that day were also postponed, as were the three games set for Thursday.
NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass issued a statement that said: “We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday,” and added that a group of players and representatives from the teams in the bubble were going to hold a video conference call with the league’s front office and union officials about the next step.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Seven games were postponed Thursday, a day after three games were called off.
“In this world, I’ve always believed, there’s two things you can’t live without. It has nothing to do with food and water. It’s love and hope. And I don’t think we’re doing a good job in our country giving that to everyone and I think that needs to be the focus here,” Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.
NFL: Nine teams canceled practice Thursday. The league is set to start its season on Sept. 10.
NHL: Announced Thursday that it postponed two days of playoff games. The league’s games went on as scheduled Wednesday. San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, who is Black, was vocal about the issue on Twitter, saying it would send “a clear message that human rights take priority over sports.”
GOLF: The PGA Tour event at Olympia Fields outside Chicago — less than 100 miles from Kenosha, Wisconsin — went on as scheduled Thursday. Cameron Champ, who has a Black father and a white mother, wore a black shoe and a white shoe. On the white shoe he wrote: “Jacob Blake BLM.” The LPGA Tour is set to begin play Friday in Rogers, Arkansas.
TENNIS: Naomi Osaka will play in the Western & Southern Open semifinals, after all. A day after saying she would withdraw from the hard-court event to protest the “continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police” — prompting the tournament to call off all of Thursday’s matches — the two-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player changed course. Her agent confirmed that Osaka will face No. 14 Elise Mertens when play resumes at the tournament Friday with the semifinals. The finals were shifted from Friday to Saturday.
WNBA: The six WNBA games set for Wednesday and Thursday were postponed in the league’s bubble in Bradenton, Florida. Players from the Washington Mystics wore T-shirts that had Blake’s name on the front and seven holes in the back. Later, players held a candlelight vigil. The league had just passed its halfway mark of the 22-game season.
MLS: Five of six scheduled matches Wednesday were postponed. Players for the other game, between Nashville SC and Orlando City, said they had already taken the field in preparation for their game before a collective decision was made. The MLS had no games scheduled for Thursday.
“We don’t want lip service anymore,” said San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, who is of Native American descent. “It’s time for actual actions to be made, and time for a change.”