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Qantas backs legal action against will.i.am over racism claim

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Australia’s Qantas on Monday rejected accusations of in-flight racism from US performer will.i.am, with the airline saying it would back legal action against the Black Eyed Peas frontman.

The multiple Grammy-winning artist had lashed out at a Qantas flight attendant and named her on Twitter after she called the police over an altercation during a flight from Brisbane to Sydney.

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In his tweets, the star said the crew member had been “overly aggressive” and unnecessarily escalated the situation after he didn’t hear an on-board safety briefing because he was wearing headphones.

Using the hashtag #RacistFlightAttendant, he said she was “beyond rude” and “took it to the next level by calling the police”, five of whom were waiting for him when the 90-minute flight landed on Saturday.

“Thank god the other passengers testified that SHE was out of control,” tweeted William Adams, better known by his stage name will.i.am, adding that the police had “finally” let him go.

He said he had complied “quickly & politely” with instructions from the woman to put his laptop away.

“I don’t want to believe she racist. But she has clearly aimed all her frustrations only at the people of colour,” he wrote.

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A spokesman for the Australian flag carrier said Qantas “completely” rejected the suggestion that race was a factor in the incident.

“There was a misunderstanding on board, which seems to have been exacerbated by will.i.am wearing noise-cancelling headphones and not being able to hear instructions from crew,” he said.

The airline initially said over the weekend that it would be “following up with will.i.am and wish him well for the rest of the tour”.

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But on Monday a spokesman said the airline would be willing to support legal action against the star.

“Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this,” he said.

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Australia has extremely strict defamation laws and courts routinely rule in favour of those claiming reputational damage.

Black Eyed Peas ended a five-city Australia tour with a concert in Sydney on Saturday.

The incident came two months after Australian twin-sister pop duo The Veronicas were removed from a Qantas flight by police after a disagreement with staff over luggage.

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COVID-19

He was supposed to be in prison less than a year. Instead, he died after catching the coronavirus.

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At least 84 Texas state prisoners have died after contracting the coronavirus, including men who were serving short sentences or set to soon go home. As the death count rose, advocates unsuccessfully called on the governor and parole board for early release.

James Allen Smith was only supposed to be at a Texas prison for a matter of months, sentenced to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program after he pled guilty to a repeat DWI offense in January.

But in May, while in a Huntsville prison where Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials halted almost all movement as inmates and employees fell ill with the new coronavirus, the 73-year-old retired teacher from Bastrop also contracted the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Instead of coming home to his family after completing a short program, Smith died in prison custody on June 11.

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2020 Election

Trump’s obsession with wrecking Obamacare is pushing him into a political buzzsaw: report

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President Donald Trump's administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act at a time when the United States is suffering from a deadly pandemic.

An Axios analysis written by Drew Altman of the Kaiser Family Foundation argues that Trump's insistence on demolishing all of Obamacare puts him at odds not just with Democratic and independent voters, but also a majority of Republican voters.

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2020 Election

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urges Texas GOP to cancel its convention

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner encouraged the Republican Party of Texas on Monday to cancel its in-person convention in Houston next week and warned that should the event continue, health inspectors would have the authority to shut down the gathering if certain guidelines are not followed.

Turner said that he planned to send a letter to members of the State Republican Executive Committee, the state party’s governing board, outlining conditions the party must follow in order to hold the convention.

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