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Human trafficking charges novel approach in gymnastics case

The human trafficking case brought against a former U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics coach hours before he killed himself could signal a new approach to policing a sport already dogged by a far-reaching sexual abuse scandal involving a one-time team doctor. John Geddert killed himself Thursday just hours after prosecutors charged him with human trafficking by coercing girls to train there and sexually abusing one of the young gymnasts. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says that although a gymnastics coach might not often be thought of as someone engaging in human trafficking, the charge makes sense because the young gymnasts were vulnerable and “open to trafficking crimes.”


How the Larry Nassar scandal has affected others

A former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach’s apparent suicide after being charged with crimes, including sexual assault, human trafficking and running a criminal enterprise is the latest fallout from the sexual abuse scandal involving former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar. John Geddert died hours after he was accused of injuring people for years through forced labor and recruiting minors for forced labor, according to court documents. Nassar is serving decades in prison. Numerous people have been charged, fired or forced out of their jobs during the investigations into the once-renowned physician.


Coronavirus outbreak hits Detroit Whole Foods Market

DETROIT (AP) — A Whole Foods Market store in Detroit is receiving rapid COVID-19 testing for all of its 196 employees after 23 of them initially tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Detroit public health officer Denise Fair said Thursday that the outbreak hit the store in the city’s Midtown. She says has made a commitment that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result. A Whole Foods spokesman says some of the positive tests turned out to be false positives. 


Man admits coordinating neo-Nazi plot to deface synagogues

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey man has admitted coordinating a neo-Nazi group’s plot to vandalize two Midwestern synagogues and cause other damage across the country. Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said Tobin pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy against rights. The 19-year-old Brooklawn man faces up to 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced June 28. Tobin admitted communicating online in September 2019 with other members of The Base, a neo-Nazi group, and directed them to vandalize synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin. At the time, he told investigators that he had launched “Operation Kristallnacht,” a reference to the deadly pogrom in 1938 when Nazis looted and burned synagogues and Jewish-owned homes and stores in Germany.


Senate OKs $2B in virus aid, targets vaccine distribution

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans who control the Michigan Senate have moved to stop the state from distributing additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to more vulnerable communities, saying race and socioeconomic status should not be factors. Democrats say the provision, included in a $2 billion coronavirus relief funding plan approved Thursday, is “unconscionable.” The state health department is adjusting populated-based allocations of doses with a “social vulnerability index” multiplier — which includes indicators such as poverty, unemployment, minority status, lack of transportation and crowded housing. The $2 billion funding legislation was sent to the Republican-controlled House.


Once the mainstream model, Michigan GOP embraces right wing

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Republicans, once the national model for the party’s mainstream, have lurched sharply rightward in the past decade. The party once defined by Gerald Ford and George Romney has elevated the state’s most vocal defender of Donald Trump’s debunked claims of 2020 voter fraud to the state GOP’s leadership, while the state Senate’s GOP leader has met with and encouraged right-wing militia after they brandished rifles in the state Capitol last spring. Decades in the making, and punctuated loudly by Trump’s 2016 win, Michigan’s drift from the GOP’s center has prompted departures from traditional conservatives and retribution against moderates.


Some local GOP leaders fire up base with conspiracies, lies

A faction of local, county and state Republican officials across the country is pushing lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories online that echo those that helped inspire the U.S. Capitol insurrection. These GOP officials’ posts are being amplified by algorithms that boost extreme content, allowing the officials to grow their bases on social media and exert outsize sway on their communities, city councils, county boards and state assemblies. The Associated Press reviewed social media accounts of nearly 1,000 federal, state and local elected and appointed Republican officials. The rhetoric exposes the GOP’s internal struggle over whether it can include traditional conservative politicians, conspiracy theorists and militias.


Former Michigan Gov. Granholm confirmed as energy secretary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has won Senate confirmation to be energy secretary. She’ll be a key Cabinet member trying to fulfill President Joe Biden’s commitment for a green economy as the United States fights to slow climate change. The vote was 64-35, with 14 Republicans, including GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, voting yes. Granholm served two terms as governor in a state dominated by the auto industry and devastated by the 2008 recession. Separately, Senate committees also heard from Biden’s nominees for surgeon general and trade representative.


Suburban Detroit officer on leave after Floyd Facebook post

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — A suburban Detroit police department has placed one of its officers on unpaid leave after a social media post making light of the death of George Floyd was shared. WXYZ-TV reports that a photo of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck, along with the statement “When you gotta change a tire but don’t wanna get your trousers dirty,” was shared by the Sterling Heights officer on Facebook. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and saying he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin, who was fired, is awaiting trial. Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis, Detroit and other cities and led to a nationwide reckoning on race.


Grand Rapids to turn parking enforcement over to civilians

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Parking enforcement in Grand Rapids is being turned over from officers to civilian employees. City officials say Thursday that the move will start July 1 and is designed to free up officers for calls for service and duties requiring their police powers. Parking calls to the Grand Rapids police communications center also will transition to civilian employees. The initiative aligns with recommendations from a 2019 staffing and deployment report commissioned by the city and meets priorities highlighted in both the police department’s and the city’s strategic plans.