Nation and world news briefs

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NOAA hurricane forecast predicts busy 2020 hurricane season

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The federal government’s hurricane season forecast, released Thursday, predicts an above-average season, offering little hope of a break from strong storms in an already challenging year.

The forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for six to 10 hurricanes, of which three to six could achieve major hurricane strength. A major hurricane is one that reaches at least Category 3 status, which requires winds of at least 111 mph.

“NOAA’s analysis of current and seasonal atmospheric conditions reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year,” said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.

An average season produces six Atlantic hurricanes, three of which attain major hurricane strength. Last year saw six hurricanes, including Hurricane Dorian, a storm that grew into one of the most powerful on record and brought catastrophic damage to the Bahamas.

NOAA said there’s a 60% chance of an above-average season, a 30% chance of an average season and 0% chance of a below-average season.

—South Florida Sun Sentinel


Man who filmed Ahmaud Arbery video is charged with murder

ATLANTA — William “Roddie” Bryan, who shot the video capturing the final seconds of Ahmaud Arbery’s life, has been arrested and charged with his murder, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Thursday.

Bryan, 50, has maintained his innocence. On Monday, his attorney, Kevin Gough, insisted his client had no communication with Greg and Travis McMichaels the day of the shooting.

“If there was a lynch mob or posse, Mr. Bryan was unaware of it,” Gough said.

But that appears to contradict what Greg McMichael — charged, along with his son Travis, with felony murder and aggravated assault for Arbery’s death — told a Glynn police officer on Feb. 23.

The McMichaelses said they believed Arbery was connected to an alleged string of break-ins inside Satilla Shores, the neighborhood where they and Bryan lived. Greg McMichael said Bryan had tried to block Arbery “but was unsuccessful.”

Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and Chris Stewart — the attorneys representing Arbery’s family — welcomed the news.

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ on contaminated surfaces, CDC says

The uncertainty surrounding coronavirus has been a huge source of anxiety throughout this pandemic, as scientists have struggled to uncover not just a treatment for the disease, but also basic facts about its existence.

Though many have been concerned about infection through items like groceries or mail deliveries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently issued updated guidance saying that coronavirus “does not spread easily” from touching surfaces or objects.

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC says. “This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.”

The CDC still notes, however, that the virus spreads ‘very easily and sustainably’ from person to person.

—New York Daily News


Putin, amid crisis, seeks quick public approval of power play

MOSCOW — Thrown off course by the coronavirus pandemic, Vladimir Putin is moving to regain the political initiative for his plan to remain as Russia’s president potentially until 2036.

Putin may announce a snap ballot within weeks on proposed changes to the constitution that allow him to sidestep term limits, said four people familiar with Kremlin discussions on the matter. Electronic voting will be used as well as polling stations to boost turnout and the result, the people said.

Putin delayed the referendum on constitutional amendments originally scheduled for April 22 when the coronavirus crisis erupted in the spring. What had seemed a formality then now looks a harder sell. Like millions around the world, Russians were thrust into hardship and uncertainty about their jobs after Putin in late March ordered a nationwide lockdown that sparked a 33% plunge in economic activity in the country.

“Putin is in a real hurry to get the constitutional reform through,” said Sergei Markov, a political consultant to the Kremlin. “He wants to get it done as quickly as possible.”

—Bloomberg News