Officer charged in George Floyd's death argues drug overdose killed him, not knee on neck

PHOTO: In an image made from video posted to Facebook, a Minneapolis police officer kneels on the neck of a man identified by a family attorney as George Floyd, May 25, 2020. Floyd died shortly after the incident.

A defense attorney for the fired Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in connection with the death of George Floyd is asking a judge to drop all charges, arguing the 46-year-old man's death was allegedly from a drug overdose and not caused by the officer planting his knee in the back of Floyd's neck.

Defense attorney Eric J. Nelson filed the motion in Hennepin County, Minnesota, District Court on Friday, claiming prosecutors have failed to show probable cause for charging Derek Chauvin with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Nelson contends Chauvin acted on his training from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in the use of a "Maximal Restraint Technique" and did so out of concern that Floyd might harm himself or the officers struggling to arrest him.

The Minneapolis Police Department policy on "Maximal Restraint Technique" says it "shall only be used in situations where handcuffed subjects are combative and still pose a threat to themselves, officers or others, or could cause significant damage to property if not properly restrained."

Nelson also included Minneapolis Police Department training materials on the proper use of the "Maximal Restraint Technique," in which photos show demonstrations of officers simulating putting their knee on a handcuffed subject's neck. Nelson argued the training material appeared to contradict a statement made shortly after the incident by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo that he had not seen "anything that says you place your knee on someone's neck when they're facedown, handcuffed."

"Thus, any risk created by Mr. Chauvin's conduct lies largely with those who train MPD officers and those who approve such training," Nelson wrote in the motion filed on Friday.

Nelson also cited the autopsy conducted on Floyd that found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, a combination of drugs Nelson says is known as a speedball. He noted that the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's post-mortem report showed Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, hypertension and sickle cell trait. Floyd also purportedly told the officers that he had contracted COVID-19 and was still positive for the virus at the time of his death, a claim confirmed by his autopsy.

"Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl and, possibly, a speedball. Combined with sickle cell trait, his pre-existing heart conditions, Mr. Floyd's use of fentanyl and methamphetamine most likely killed him," Nelson argued. "Adding fentanyl and methamphetamine to Mr. Floyd's existing health issues was tantamount to lighting a fuse on a bomb."

Nelson added a footnote quoting Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker saying, "If [Mr. Floyd] were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD."

A Sept. 11 court hearing before Judge Peter Cahill has been scheduled on the motion filed by Nelson.

The attorney for Floyd's family, Benjamin Crump, did not respond to an ABC News request for comment on the motions. Previously, Crump stated regarding the drugs in Floyd's system, "The cause of death was that he was starving for air. It was lack of oxygen. And so everything else is a red herring to try to throw us off."

An independent autopsy ordered by Floyd's family found his death was a "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain."

A viral cellphone video of Floyd's fatal arrest on May 25 showed Chauvin with his knee on the back of Floyd's neck while he was handcuffed and prone on the ground next to a police patrol vehicle. Two other officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, are seen in the footage helping Chauvin restrain Floyd, whom they initially confronted when they responded to a 911 complaint that Floyd had allegedly used a phony $20 bill to purchase cigarettes at the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis.

The footage of Floyd's arrest showed him repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" and calling out for his dead mother before his body went listless. Floyd was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Floyd's death sparked nationwide outcry and massive protests across the U.S. and around the world against racial injustice. The episode, the latest in a string of police killings of unarmed Black people in the United States, has become a rallying cry against police brutality and part of a call to defund law enforcement agencies.

Lane, Kueng and Officer Tou Thao, who arrived at the scene with Chauvin when back-up was requested, have all been terminated from the Minneapolis Police Department and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder in the death of Floyd.

Lane, Kueng, and Thao have not yet entered pleas -- in court documents, attorneys for Thao and Kueng said their clients intend to plead not guilty to the charges.

Attorneys for Lane, Kueng and Thao have also asked that charges against them be dropped. Cahill has yet to render a decision on those motions.

Prosecutors in the case filed a notice on Friday saying they intend to seek an "upward sentencing departure" from state judicial guidelines if the defendants are found guilty at trial, tentatively scheduled for March 2021.

"Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty," prosecutors wrote in their notice. "Despite Mr. Floyd's pleas that he could not breathe and was going to die, as well as the pleas of eyewitnesses to get off Mr. Floyd and help him, Defendant and his co-defendants continued to restrain Mr. Floyd."

But Nelson argued in court papers that Chauvin and the other officers were trying to protect Floyd, who he alleged was acting erratically and resisting arrest, from injuring himself by "falling and hitting his head on the sidewalk, being struck by an oncoming vehicle, or in his struggles, injuring himself against the squad car."

"Mr. Chauvin demonstrated a concern for Mr. Floyd's well-being -- not an intent to inflict harm," Nelson wrote in the motion.

He said Chauvin was "clearly being cautious about the amount of pressure he used to restrain Mr. Floyd" and pointed out that in the video Floyd was able to raise his head several times while he was prone on the ground.

"If Mr. Chauvin's knee had been on the structure of Mr. Floyd's neck, he would not have been able to lift his head," Nelson wrote.

He also claimed that as the officers were restraining Floyd they requested a "code 3" response from emergency medical services requiring an ambulance responding to the scene to use lights and sirens, and that the officers together decided against the using a hobble restraint device on Floyd "which would have significantly delayed the transfer of Mr. Floyd into the ambulance and also have required an MPD sergeant to respond to the scene."

Nelson again cited the autopsy report that found no bruising or evidence of trauma on the back of Floyd's neck, his neck muscles or his back.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office ruled Floyd's death a homicide, finding he perished as the result of "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression."

Floyd's death has been roundly condemned by law enforcement, politicians and protesters nationwide and has been held up as an exhibit of excessive use of force by police.

Just days after the incident, President Donald Trump expressed the "nation's deepest condolences and most heartfelt sympathies to the family of George Floyd."

"Terrible, terrible thing that happened," Trump said on May 29, adding that he had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to expedite a federal investigation into the death. "We all saw what we saw and it's very hard to even conceive of anything other than what we did see. It should never happen. It should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that. But we're determined that justice be served."

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RIP King: Fans, Friends, Celebrities Mourn Loss of ‘Black Panther’ Star Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman AoA

The “real-life superhero” played icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown. And he was “Black Panther’s” beloved king, T’Challa.

A heartbroken world grieved the loss Friday of actor Chadwick Boseman far too young to cancer at the age of 43.

Twitter overflowed with homages, movie clips and Boseman’s scenes on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show.”

The “Black Panther” and “42” star was remembered for his compelling talent and huge heart. He continued to give to his craft and to others everything he could, even as he faced his own formidable health challenge.

“This broke me,” tweeted “Insecure” actress Issa Rae.

Marvel, the studio behind “Black Panther,” posted a memorial photo on Instagram.

On Saturday, former President Barack Obama honored Boseman in a tweet recalling a time when the actor visited the White House.

Numerous other public figures, celebrities and institutions paid tribute on social media.

Report: Obama encouraged LeBron to resume season

President Barack Obama and LeBron James
Former President Barack Obama praised the Milwaukee Bucks for their decision to stage a walkout in response to the Jacob Blake shooting earlier this week.

It appears he played a hand in the players’ decision to return to the court days later, too.

Obama spoke with LeBron James, Chris Paul and a small group of players late on Wednesday night and advised them to return to the court to finish the postseason, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania

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Moving forward with the rest of the season, Obama reportedly told them, was an important opportunity that they could use to contextualize action they wanted to see taken in the country.

Obama tweeted out his support for the walkouts on Wednesday, and included an emotional interview of Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers speaking about the shooting and being Black in America.

Rivers has been among the most outspoken coaches about the issue over the past week, and reportedly made an impassioned speech to players in the meeting on Wednesday night urging them to register to vote. He believes that only about 20 percent of players are actually registered voters, and wants that number to hit at least 80 percent, per Charania

The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team to stage the walkout on Wednesday afternoon in response to the Blake shooting on Sunday. Kenosha, Wisconsin, police shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back as he tried to get into his car — which left him paralyzed from the waist down and sparked widespread condemnation and protests. 

The NBA and NBPA announced Friday that the postseason will resume on Saturday, and that several specific social initiatives would be implemented. NBA owners have agreed to work with local election officials so that each arena can be used as a polling place for November’s elections. The Bucks’ conversation with Wisconsin’s Attorney General and Lt. Governor resulted in the call for a vote on a police reform bill in the state, too

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Kentucky AG Has Time To Speak At RNC But Not To Charge Breonna Taylor’s Killers

Daniel Cameron and President Trump meeting in the Oval Office (Photo: Cameron for Kentucky)

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron had the audacity to speak at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday after it’s been over 150 days since Breonna Taylor‘s death and her killers have yet to be charged by his office. According to the Courier Journal, Cameron also had time to come after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in his speech. The fact that Cameron even showed up to the convention when his office is facing major public scrutiny caused backlash.

“I am Black…And you can’t tell me how to vote because of the color of my skin,” Cameron said during his Tuesday speech.

“I think often about my ancestors who struggled for freedom. And as I think of those giants and their broad shoulders, I also think about Joe Biden, who says: If you aren’t voting for me, ‘you ain’t Black,'” Cameron said, referencing a comment Biden made during a May interview with The Breakfast Club radio show. Biden later apologized for his words after facing backlash.

Cameron also referenced other times Biden has made sweeping general statements, including the time he said, “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things.” Biden later insisted that he didn’t mean to “suggest the African American community is a monolith.”

Cameron slammed Biden’s comments on Tuesday night.

“Mr. Vice President, look at me: I am Black. We are not all the same, sir,” he said. “My mind is my own. And you can’t tell me how to vote because of the color of my skin.”

“Joe Biden is a backwards thinker in a world that is craving forward-looking leadership. There’s no wisdom in his record or plan, just a trail of discredited ideas and offensive statements.,” Cameron continued. “Joe Biden would destroy jobs, raise our taxes and throw away the lives of countless unborn children.”

Cameron joins the disconcerting list of Black Republicans showing their allegiance to Donald Trump, who’s running for reelection as president in the 2020 elections.

Cameron went on to say “Republicans trust you to think for yourself” and he accused Biden of being “captive to the radical left,” which he described as a movement “committed to cancel culture” that believes “your skin color must dictate your politics.”

Clearly, thinking “for yourself” is more important to Cameron than seeking justice for Black people who were unnecessarily killed in their own homes by the police.

Cameron then had the nerve to mention Breonna Taylor’s name, although he didn’t go into details about the investigation.

“Even as anarchists mindlessly tear up American cities while attacking police and innocent bystanders, we Republicans do recognize those who work in good faith towards peace, justice and equality,” Cameron said on Tuesday night. “Whether you are the family of Breonna Taylor or David Dorn, these are the ideals that will heal our nation’s wounds.”

“Republicans will never turn a blind eye to unjust acts, but neither will we accept an all-out assault on western civilization,” he added.

Cameron has risen to the spotlight as a Republican in Kentucky, becoming the state’s first Black attorney general in November 2019. He also has a work history and close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

His office has been leading the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death and they have the power to bring criminal charges against the officers involved at the state level. Taylor, a 26-year-old ER technician, was shot and killed back in March after Louisville cops entered her home on a no-knock warrant.

At first it seemed hopeful that Cameron would announce charges after he met with Taylor’s family and their lawyers over a week ago. However, days have gone by and still no charges.

Protests for Breonna Taylor are just a fraction of the many demonstrations occurring nationwide over police violence and systematic racism. Demands have ranged from seeking charges for officers who’ve summarily killed Black people, to defunding the police, to abolishing systems that harm Black people altogether.

Despite Cameron putting the spotlight on people who “mindlessly tear up American cities,” many protests have been peaceful. Cameron got a taste of what peaceful direct action protests feels like when demonstrators occupied his property demanding justice for Taylor.

Despite the outcries, Cameron still made time to go to the RNC and folks were not happy. Check out some Twitter responses below.

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AP FACT CHECK: GOP taps distortions to heap praise on Trump

Eric Trump, son of President Donald Trump, attends a ceremony for US golfer Tiger Woods in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, on May 6, 2019.

Eric Trump echoed falsehoods of his father, Melania Trump credited her husband with a dubious religious first, and the president's economic adviser wholly distorted the conditions Donald Trump inherited as Republicans stepped up to praise him at their national convention Tuesday.

Crucial context was missing at various parts of the evening, as when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed Trump's jousting with China and North Korea and others weighed in on Trump's judgment in world affairs.

A look at rhetoric from the second night of the virtual Republican National Convention:

RELIGION

MELANIA TRUMP: “He’s the first president to address a special session of the United Nations General Assembly to call upon countries across the world to end religious persecution and honor the right of every person to worship as they choose.”

CISSIE GRAHAM LYNCH, evangelist and granddaughter of Billy Graham: “On the world stage, President Trump became the first president to talk about the importance of religious freedom at the United Nations, giving hope to people of faith around the world.”

THE FACTS: No, Trump is certainly not the first U.S. president to address the United Nations General Assembly about religious freedom. President Barack Obama did so, discussing religious tolerance and liberty during a speech to the assembly Sept. 25, 2012. Several predecessors did so as well.

“We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe,” Obama said in his remarks, which focused on an anti-Muslim film that had touched off violent protests in the Middle East. “Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.”

Last year Trump was host for a U.N. meeting devoted to religious freedom, and boasted at the time that he was the first to convene such a meeting at the U.N. But contrary to the impression created by the first lady and the evangelist, he was not at all the first American president to make a case for religious liberty to the General Assembly.

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LARRY KUDLOW, Trump economic adviser: Trump was ”inheriting a stagnant economy on the front end of recession,” and under the president, “the economy was rebuilt in three years.”

THE FACTS: This is false. The economy was healthy when Trump arrived at the White House.

Even if the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis was agonizingly slow, Trump took office with unemployment at a low 4.7%, steady job growth and a falling federal budget deficit. The longest expansion in U.S. history began in the middle of 2009 and continued until the start of the year, spanning both the Barack Obama and Trump presidencies.

The U.S. economy did benefit from Trump’s 2017 tax cuts with a jump in growth in 2018, but the budget deficit began to climb as a result of the tax breaks that favored companies and the wealthy in hopes of permanently expanding the economy.

Annual growth during Obama’s second term averaged about 2.3%. Trump notched a slightly better 2.5% during his first three years, but the country swung into recession this year because of the coronavirus and will probably leave Trump with an inferior track record to his predecessor over four years.

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SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO

CHINA

POMPEO: “The president has held China accountable for covering up the China virus and allowing it to spread death and economic destruction in America and around the world.”

THE FACTS: That’s misleading. In his videotaped remarks from Israel, Pompeo failed to mention Trump’s initial personal affinity and repeated praise for Chinese leader Xi Jinping as he publicly extolled the country’s handling of the coronavirus early on.

In a CNBC interview on Jan. 22, for instance, Trump was asked if he trusted information from China about the coronavirus. “I do,” Trump said. “I have a great relationship with President Xi.”

Two days later, he was even more effusive. “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” he tweeted. “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. ...I want to thank President Xi!”

Trump kept up the compliments when asked several times in February about whether data from China, where the virus originated, can be trusted. He called Xi “extremely capable” and said he’s “doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.”

His praise only faded when the pandemic hit hard in the U.S. and his administration’s response stumbled. He then became quick to blame China for what he started calling the “China virus.”

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TRADE

POMPEO: “He has ended ridiculously unfair trade deals with China that punched a hole in our economy.”

THE FACTS: That, too, is misleading. Whatever the weaknesses of the trade deals Trump inherited, it’s become clear that what he negotiated instead is not a gamechanger.

The trade war that Trump escalated with China caused several self-inflicted wounds. Farmers and factories were part of the collateral damage from the volley of tariffs as the two largest countries in the world jockeyed for an edge.

It’s still too soon to judge the limited agreement reached by Trump as a triumph or a flop.

China committed to buy an additional $200 billion in American goods above 2017 levels by the end of 2021 in what was initially a truce against further aggression. Yet the deal lacked meaningful progress on support that China gives its state-owned companies, a key problem for the United States. The global pandemic also means that trade volumes have fallen, making it harder for China to meet its target for American-made goods. “It appears that President Trump accepted an IOU as a declaration of victory,” analysts at the Brookings Institution concluded.

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SEN. RAND PAUL: “Joe Biden voted for the Iraq war, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation.”

THE FACTS: Trump had no more foresight on this matter than Biden. Neither was against it when it started.

When asked during a Sept. 11, 2002, radio interview if he would support an Iraq invasion, Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.” The next month, Biden as a senator voted to authorize George W. Bush to use force in Iraq.

The next March, just days after the U.S. launched its invasion, Trump said it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”

It wasn’t until September 2003 that Trump first publicly raised doubts about the invasion, saying “a lot of people (are) questioning the whole concept of going in in the first place.” In November 2005, Biden called his Senate vote to authorize force a mistake.

MILITARY

ERIC TRUMP: “My father rebuilt the mighty American military — added new jets, aircraft carriers.”

THE FACTS: That’s an exaggeration.

It’s true that his administration has accelerated a sharp buildup in defense spending, including a respite from what the U.S. military considered to be crippling spending limits under budget sequestration.

But a number of new Pentagon weapons programs, such as the F-35 fighter jet, were started years before the Trump administration. And it will take years for freshly ordered tanks, planes and other weapons to be built, delivered and put to use.

The Air Force’s Minuteman 3 missiles, a key part of the U.S. nuclear force, for instance, have been operating since the early 1970s and the modernization was begun under the Obama administration. They are due to be replaced with a new version, but not until later this decade.

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ERIC TRUMP, on his father: “He increased wages for our incredible men and women in uniform.”

THE FACTS: Yes, but military pay has been raised every year for decades, and the raises under Trump have been smaller compared with past years.

POLICE

ERIC TRUMP: “Biden has pledged to defund the police.”

THE FACTS: False. Biden has made no such pledge.

He’s rejected calls from some on the left to defund the police, proposing more money for departments to improve their practices. His agenda includes federal money for training to “avert tragic, unjustifiable deaths” and hiring more officers to ensure police departments reflect the populations they serve. He’s proposed $300 million in federal community policing grants.

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RACIAL INEQUALITY

KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL DANIEL CAMERON: “On the economy: Joe Biden couldn’t do it, but President Trump did build an economy that worked for everyone, especially minorities.”

THE FACTS: Not accurate.

Republicans can talk successfully about the decline in unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic workers. But that’s just one gauge — and plenty of troubles and inequalities abound for minorities. Minority groups still lagged behind white people with regard to incomes, wealth and home ownership before the pandemic. But when the disease struck, it became clear that the economy did not work well for everybody as the job losses and infections disproportionately hit minorities.

Black unemployment now stands at 14.6%. Hispanic unemployment is 12.9%. The white unemployment rate is 9.2%. For every dollar of total wealth held by white households, Blacks have just 5 cents, according to the Federal Reserve. It’s 4 cents for Hispanics.

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TAXES

ERIC TRUMP: The president slashed taxes and “wages went through the roof.”

THE FACTS: Not quite. Wage growth did improve, but there is clearly still a roof on workers’ incomes.

The 2017 tax cuts appear unlikely to deliver on their promised pay increases. White House economists argued that incomes would surge by at least $4,000 because of the lower corporate tax rate. That has yet to occur and seems unlikely given the current recession.

But average hourly wages did improve to a 3.5% annual gain by February 2019, much better than the 2.7% annual gain in December 2016 before Trump became president. The problem was that wage growth then began to slip through the end of last year despite the steady hiring. Wage gains only accelerated again with the pandemic and layoffs of millions of poor workers that artificially raised average wages.

What workers have yet to see is a meaningful change in the distribution of income. More than half of total household income goes to the top 20% of earners, according to the Census Bureau. Their share has increased slightly under Trump with data that is current through 2018. The bottom 20% of earners get just 3.1% of total income, just as they did before Trump’s presidency.

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NORTH KOREA

POMPEO: “The president lowered the temperature and, against all odds, got North Korean leadership to the table. No nuclear tests, no long range missile tests and Americans held captive in North Korea came home to their families, as did the precious remains of scores of our heroes who fought in Korea.”

THE FACTS: This statement leaves out the fact that Trump helped raise the temperature before he helped lower it.

Trump has often told the story that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, warned him North Korea was the gravest immediate threat to the country. Indeed in the early months of Trump’s presidency, North Korea was heightening tensions with nuclear and long-range missile tests. Trump responded by dialing up belligerent rhetoric, threatening North Korea with “fire and fury” and nicknaming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “little rocket man.”

Tensions grew to such extremes that at points some experts were actually concerned about tit-for-tat nuclear strikes if not all-out war.

The temperature began to cool when Pompeo became secretary of state, the North released three American prisoners, agreed to repatriate the remains of U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean war and the first of Trump’s three meetings with Kim was held in Singapore.

But while the North has not resumed nuclear or long-range missile tests, it has stepped up activity at its atomic facilities. Negotiations with the U.S. on its weapons programs have been stalled since October.

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ISLAMIC STATE

POMPEO: “Today, because of the president’s determination and leadership, the ISIS caliphate is wiped out.”

THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State group still poses a threat.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March 2019, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate. Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The recent resurgence of attacks is a sign that the militant group is taking advantage of governments otherwise focused on the pandemic and the ensuing slide into economic chaos. The virus is compounding longtime concerns among security and U.N. experts that the group will stage a comeback.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the U.S. fight against the group was continuing.

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FARMING

CRIS PETERSON, from a Wisconsin dairy family: “Our entire economy and dairy farming are once again roaring back. One person deserves the credit and our vote, President Donald J. Trump.”

THE FACTS: Not everyone in the dairy industry views it as booming, especially as larger operations are putting smaller family farms out of business.

The Agriculture Department reported this summer that “dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019, even as milk production continued to grow.”

Part of the problem is that smaller farms face higher production costs. Farms with more than 2,000 cattle are more likely for their sales to exceed their total costs, while smaller farms are more likely to operate at a loss by this metric, according to government figures.

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