Nation and world news briefs

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Coronavirus outbreak tied to fraternity parties imperils fall semester at UC Berkeley

SAN FRANCISCO — An outbreak of coronavirus infections tied to parties connected to fraternities at the University of California, Berkeley is imperiling the prospect of in-person fall semester classes, university officials warned.

In just one week, there have been 47 COVID-19 cases confirmed by the campus’s University Health Services system, the university said in a letter to the campus community.

Most of the 47 new cases “stem from a series of recent parties connected to the CalGreek system, which included students both within the CalGreek community and others, and led to some secondary spread within households and within other smaller gatherings,” said a letter written by Anna Harte, medical director of the campus’ health clinic, and Guy Nicolette, an assistant vice chancellor.

“Generally, these infections are directly related to social events where students have not followed basic safety measures such as physical distancing, wearing face coverings, limiting event size, and gathering outside,” the letter said.

With the rate of increase in disease, the campus officials wrote, “it’s becoming harder to imagine bringing our campus community back in the way we are envisioning.”

Before the 47 new cases were reported, there had been just 23 cumulative COVID-19 cases on campus confirmed since the start of the pandemic.

The officials said UC Berkeley can only move forward with a fall semester on campus if COVID-19 case numbers remain low.

—Los Angeles Times


Milley: We need a clear distinction between police and military

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday stressed the importance of a “visual distinction” between members of the police and the military, an issue that has surfaced anew during recent protests.

“You want a clear definition between that which is military, and that which is police in my view,” Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee.

He referred to camouflage uniforms giving local and state police officers the appearance of military.

“When you start introducing the military you’re talking about a different level of effort there,” continued Milley.

He spoke at a hearing that examined the Department of Defense’s role in recent protests.

Milley was responding to a question on a Pentagon program created to offload surplus military equipment to the benefit of local police departments, though uniforms are not part of that program.

An issue Milley’s response touched on — law enforcement or military members at the protests whose attire left unclear what organization they were with — was also discussed at the hearing.

—CQ-Roll Call


Death of Black man found hanging from tree in Palmdale, Calif., is ruled a suicide

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have concluded that Robert Fuller, whose body was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale last month, died by suicide, saying a thorough investigation found no signs of foul play and showed the 24-year-old had previously expressed suicidal behavior.

The findings upheld a preliminary determination of suicide that Fuller’s family and many residents of the Antelope Valley had called into question. Citing the region’s history of racism toward Black people and the backdrop of unrest prompted by George Floyd’s death, they voiced a suspicion that Fuller had been lynched and demanded a more thorough investigation, monitored by outside agencies.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva complied, and on Thursday, Cmdr. Chris Marks laid out his detectives’ findings, culled from medical records and interviews with family and social workers. Fuller, Marks said, had a documented history of mental illness and self-harm, having been admitted to hospitals in California, Arizona and Nevada after expressing a desire to kill himself — and on at least one occasion attempting it.

Fuller’s body was found by a passerby hanging from a thin tree outside Palmdale City Hall at 3:39 a.m. on June 10. The tree stands at the edge of a 2-acre courtyard known as Poncitlan Square. The weekend after Fuller’s death, thousands gathered there to memorialize him.

Fuller died one week after another Black man, 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch, was discovered hanging from a tree in Victorville. Although Fuller’s death was initially listed as suicide, questions and demands for an investigation into his death emerged amid Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Harsch died from an apparent suicide, his family said after police discovery of video evidence. Detectives had obtained surveillance video from a nearby vacant building that confirmed the absence of foul play, authorities said.

—Los Angeles Times


6 more counts of sex assault, battery filed against former USC gynecologist

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County prosecutors have filed six more counts of sexual assault and battery against disgraced University of Southern California gynecologist George Tyndall, who was arrested last year after he was accused of sexual misconduct by hundreds of former students.

Tyndall, 73, was charged with five counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious person and one count of sexual battery by fraud in an amended complaint made public Thursday, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

The longtime physician was arrested in June 2019 and charged with 29 felonies based on allegations of sexual misconduct made by 16 women regarding incidents between 2009 and 2016. Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division presented 145 cases to prosecutors concerning the alleged sexual abuse of Tyndall’s former patients, but many were outside the statute of limitations.

The new charges relate to attacks that took place between 2011 and 2015 at a USC health center, prosecutors said. If convicted of all charges, Tyndall faces up to 64 years in prison. He is due back in court in late July.

A 2018 Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that Tyndall had been the subject of complaints of sexual misconduct at USC dating back to the 1990s, with students repeatedly accusing him of engaging in sexual harassment during pelvic exams. But it wasn’t until 2016, when a nurse reported him to a rape crisis center, that he was suspended. He was allowed to quietly resign with a hefty payout the following year.

Tyndall has denied all wrongdoing. An email to his attorney, Leonard Levine, seeking comment Thursday was not immediately returned.

—Los Angeles Times