Friday morning news – May 22, 2020

North Carolina, Michigan, Nashville among areas taking new steps toward reopening » North Carolina is moving to Phase 2 today—allowing restaurants, salons and other businesses to reopen at limited capacity.

Governor Roy Cooper announced…

COOPER: While I am lifting the stay-at-home order, we are shifting to a safer at home recommendation. 

Cooper said he’s encouraging citizens to remain at home as much as possible, especially those at high risk for COVID-19 complications. 

Bars, nightclubs, gyms, and indoor entertainment venues remain closed in the state. 

In Tennessee, live music is back in music city as of Monday. Nashville Mayor John Cooper Thursday announced further easing of restrictions. Live music venues can reopen with new social distancing standards. Cooper tweeted…”We are not going back to normal; we are learning to live and work with Covid-19.”

And in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that more businesses can reopen as of Tuesday under heavy restrictions. Among them…

WHITMER: The statewide reopening of auto showrooms will be permitted by appointment only; allowing retail statewide but on an appointment-only basis. 

The governor said new Michigan jobs numbers show the coronavirus has “devastated” the state’s economy. 

Much of Midland County, MI still underwater after dam failures » Whitmer also said that she traveled to flood-ravaged Midland County Thursday. Flood waters overtook two dams, causing the Tittabawassee River to push beyond its banks—cresting at a record high of more than 35 feet. 

WHITMER: I can tell you, I’ve used the phrase many times over the last 10 weeks, but this is unlike anything we’ve seen before.  The damage is truly devastating to see how high the water levels are, to see roofs barely visible. 

The governor said she’s working closely with emergency departments, the state’s National Guard and FEMA on relief efforts. 

No deaths have been reported, but the flooding forced thousands from their homes and caused severe destruction in central Michigan. 

China to impose “national security” law in Hong Kong » The Chinese Communist Party is planning to impose a sweeping new so-called national security law in Hong Kong. 

The move would sidestep the semi-autonomous territory’s own lawmaking body, enforcing the law by fiat. It would criminalize what it calls “foreign interference” and allow the communist government to crack down on any behavior it considers subversive to the state. 

Already, non-governmental groups like Hong Kong Watch and others that question the Chinese government are sounding alarms that their organizations may soon be outlawed.  

Ho-Fung Hung is a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University. He said “It will show the world that ‘one country, two systems’ is, if not already over, almost over.”

More than 80 dead after Cyclone Amphan slams India, Bangladesh » More than 80 people are dead after Cyclone Amphan cut a path of destruction along the coast of India and Bangladesh. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Wide swaths of the region remained flooded on Thursday and millions were without power.

Amphan was the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than a decade.

Many parts of the Indian city of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, were under water. And roads were littered with uprooted trees, lamp posts and fallen power lines.

Officials in both countries say they do not yet know the full extent of the damage because the storm cut off communications in many places. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated ahead of the storm, a process complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Amphan came ashore Wednesday with heavy rain, a battering storm surge, and sustained winds of more than 100 miles per hour. Relief groups warn the combination of the cyclone and the pandemic could create a  humanitarian crisis. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Senate confirms Rep. Ratcliffe as dir. of national intelligence » The Senate on Thursday confirmed Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence.

AUDIO: The ayes are 49. The nays are 44 and the nomination is confirmed. 

Ratcliffe seemed unlikely to get the position when he was nominated in February. He had already been nominated for the job last year and then withdrew after Republicans questioned his experience. 

But senators warmed to him as they grew concerned about upheaval in the intelligence community and wanted a permanent, confirmed director.

The Texas Republican will replace Richard Grenell, the current acting director. 

Democrats allowed a quick vote on the nomination this week, dropping their usual procedural delays in a signal that they prefer Ratcliffe over Grenell. But most Democrats still opposed his nomination.

Loughlin, husband agree to jail time in college admissions scandal plea deal » “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve prison time, along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. WORLD’s Anna Johnansen reports.

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The jail time is part of a plea deal in the college admissions bribery case.

The 55-year-old Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars and 56-year-old Giannulli agreed to a five-month sentence. They would also pay fines and perform community service. A judge still has to sign off on the deal. 

They are accused of paying a half-million dollars in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits even though neither of them played the sport. 

The couple was among 50 people arrested last year in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Georgia authorities arrest, charge man who took video of Arbery shooting » The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested the man who video recorded the final moments of Ahmaud Arbery’s life. 

The GBI announced Thursday that 50-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan has been charged with murder. 

Bryan’s video footage showed Travis and Greg McMichael chasing down Arbery before fatally shooting him. The father and son say they believed Arbery to be a burglary suspect, and Travis McMichael insists the shooting was self-defense. 

Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, says his client is innocent and had no communication with the McMichaels on February 23rd, the day of the shooting. 

But Greg McMichael had told police that Bryan tried to block Arbery “but was unsuccessful.”

(AP Photo) A man walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall, at Bhadrak district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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