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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How are Americans responding to a verdict in Brunswick, Ga.?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A jury found three men guilty of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Travis McMichael, who chased down and shot Arbery as he ran through a neighborhood, was convicted of the highest charge - malice murder. That means it was intentional. The jury disregarded his claim of self-defense. Those who spoke at the courthouse included the Reverend Al Sharpton.

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AL SHARPTON: There will be an empty chair at Wanda's table.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yes.

SHARPTON: Ahmaud will not be at Thanksgiving, but she can look at that chair and say to Ahmaud, I fought a good fight.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah, come on.

SHARPTON: And I got you some justice.

INSKEEP: NPR's Debbie Elliott has been covering the trial. Debbie, good morning.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Sharpton, when he said Wanda, was referring there to Arbery's mother. This is a man who was killed at the age of 25. How did his family respond to the verdict?

ELLIOTT: Well, his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was sitting in the gallery and wept seemingly uncontrollably as the judge read the verdicts. And his father, Marcus Arbery, stood up and cheered right there in the courtroom when he heard that first guilty for Travis McMichael. The bailiffs had to escort him from the courtroom before the rest of the verdicts came. Afterward, they both expressed gratitude, as did just the scores of people who had come out in support of the family. There was this real sense of jubilation on the lawn of the Glynn County Courthouse. People were crying and hugging. Ahmaud Arbery's aunt, Theawanza Brooks, she's been organizing the local community to demand justice for Ahmaud ever since he was killed last year. And for her, the verdict was both a relief and a turning point of sorts.

THEAWANZA BROOKS: It means that people now around the world will know that they can't do these type of things and get away with it, and that it's not OK to just racially profile someone because of the color of their skin. We're sending a message to anybody else who felt like them that it's over now. It has to stop.

ELLIOTT: It has to stop, she says. And she says, now, you know, it's time to move forward and continue working on some of the reforms that activists here in Brunswick have been pushing for. You know, they've already been successful, for one, in getting Georgia's citizen's arrest law repealed. And that was the law that the defendants were trying to use in this case.

INSKEEP: In chasing him down because they said he was acting suspiciously. It's hard for people not to draw wider conclusions from a single case. They certainly did that last week when Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted in Wisconsin on a self-defense claim. What are people saying about this very different verdict in Georgia?

ELLIOTT: You know, that it shows what's possible, right? And it did not go unnoticed that this verdict came from a jury that was made up of mostly white people. There was only one Black man on the panel. They talked a lot about the American justice system being able to achieve a just verdict in a racially charged case when the pieces are put in place. Now, it did take a little bit for that to happen here. Initially, local authorities did not charge these men, and it wasn't until a video was released months later that they were arrested when the state investigators took over from the local folks. But a lot of people here talked about accountability, showing that the justice system can work even if it's a long time coming, as Marcus Arbery said. I talked to Jason Artiste, who drove up from Jacksonville, Fla., for the day. He caught my attention because he was kneeling on the grass in prayer right after the verdict. He told me he was moved by the strength of Arbery's family to keep fighting.

JASON ARTISTE: Really, the most important part to me was to see some of the relief on the face of the family, the grieving family. I think that gets missed is that in this whole situation, it's not just a trial about race or culture or ideology. It's a family that lost someone.

ELLIOTT: So next for the family - sentencing. These men face a mandatory life sentence. The judge will decide whether or not it will be life with or without parole.

INSKEEP: Debbie, thanks for your reporting on this.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Debbie Elliott.

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INSKEEP: All right. Millions of Americans pull up a chair for a Thanksgiving feast today.

MARTIN: Some who serve in the U.S. military may be struggling to pay for the food on the table. Advocacy groups looked into this. They estimate that about 160,000 military service members have trouble feeding their families. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked about this a week ago.

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LLOYD AUSTIN: Our men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about. Basic necessities like food and housing shouldn't be among them.

INSKEEP: NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is covering this story. Tom, good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: And happy Thanksgiving to you and everybody working on this Thanksgiving.

BOWMAN: Happy Thanksgiving.

INSKEEP: How much of the military is 160,000 troops and their families?

BOWMAN: Well, Steve, it's about 14% of the U.S. military and - get this - one-third of junior enlisted ranks, so those, like, privates and corporals. And it seems to be getting a bit worse. COVID is a big reason. Many troops live off base, and rents have started going up during the pandemic. Also during the pandemic, there were job losses. So a spouse losing or having trouble finding work meant you had a one-income family trying to make ends meet.

INSKEEP: What does the Pentagon plan to do about that?

BOWMAN: Well, Secretary Austin has said he will temporarily increase the housing allowance troops get in more than 50 high-cost areas around the country to help troops make ends meet. We talked about that housing issue with Colonel Scott Pence. He's a garrison commander at Fort Bragg, N.C. Let's listen.

SCOTT PENCE: It's toughest in those parts of the country that are high income - the Navy station in San Diego, our Joint Base Lewis-McChord right outside of Seattle. They deal with different problems that we at Fort Bragg right outside of Fayetteville, N.C., don't deal with at such a high level. But we're also seeing rent levels go through the roof off-post during this summer, which is forcing people into some short-term food insecurity situations.

BOWMAN: And Secretary Austin also said in places with housing shortages, the Pentagon will extend temporary lodging expense reimbursements, so families who are moving from one base to another will have more time to find a home. He wants commanders also to keep an eye on service members who need support programs, whether it's food bank or just basic help with family finances. Remember, Steve, these are mostly very young service members in their first job. He also wants a long-term road map to strengthen food security, and he wants answers in 90 days.

INSKEEP: Tom, I'm just thinking about the way the economy has changed in recent decades. Many, maybe even most, people need two incomes in the family to pay the bills. The military income might only be $21,000 if they're newly in the military or $30,000 or $40,000. Is it hard for a military family to have two incomes?

BOWMAN: You know, it is. Military families, of course, move every three years, so for such a short a period of time, it's hard for a spouse, let's say, to get and keep a decent job. Secretary Austin is talking about extending a service member's time at a base to provide more stability.

INSKEEP: Tom, thanks for the update, really appreciate it.

BOWMAN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.

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INSKEEP: Let's go overseas now because protesters plan to return to the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, demanding a real return to civilian rule.

MARTIN: Yeah. Last month, a military coup ousted a civilian transitional government. After protests, the military reinstated the civilian prime minister, but the military did not also give up power. So they're sharing it now, and protesters are rejecting that.

INSKEEP: NPR's Africa correspondent Eyder Peralta is in Khartoum. Hey there, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: What are you watching for?

PERALTA: So, look, there's a ton of expectation here. Protest organizers have called people to the streets. They're calling for a million-man march. So schools announced that they are closed today. Most businesses are shut down. And protesters have begun building barricades. And, you know, that means that they have taken cobblestones from the medians and made these huge walls in the middle of the streets to keep the military out of their neighborhoods. And this is going to be a big test. A huge showing will tell the military and the civilian prime minister that the masses are unhappy with the military retaining power. If people stay home, it may mean that the protesters are willing to give this power-sharing agreement a second chance.

INSKEEP: I feel that we have to get into the details here of what civilian rule means and what the details are in Sudan. Because you have protesters who said bring back the civilian prime minister. The military said, OK, we've brought back the civilian prime minister. Here's your civilian prime minister. What exactly is it about that arrangement that the protesters find completely insufficient?

PERALTA: We still don't have a clear idea of what the details of that deal are. But there was one huge promise made in this deal, and that was that all civilian leaders who were arrested would be released. And some of them have been released, but a lot are still under detention. So protesters on the street are asking themselves, why should we trust the military? And why should we trust this civilian leader who they loved, who has now signed this deal with the military? And, you know, one of the big organizers of these protests, the Forces of Freedom and Change, have said that if the civilian prime minister continues to allow the military to rule, they will come after him as well.

INSKEEP: What is he saying?

PERALTA: He is trying to sell this deal. He is saying that this is, you know, the pragmatic route, that this keeps some of the progress that Sudan has made toward a democracy. Sudan has not had a civilian-led government since 1989. And even then, it was overthrown by the military very quickly. So, you know, what civilians want is they want no deal with the military. They want the military out of the business of running a government - period, full stop.

INSKEEP: There have to be civilians in Sudan, ordinary citizens, who are just saying, I want peace, I want calm, I want this thing to be over, I'm not too worried about the details. What are the chances that the protesters who are unhappy who do not see the right details can prevail here?

PERALTA: I have been talking to a lot of people since I got here. And yesterday, I was sitting with a group of women in their 20s who have led these protests. And a lot of them are just disillusioned with this country. One of them told me, I just hate Sudan at this point, and I want to leave. And - but yet when I told them, will you be protesting tomorrow, they said, absolutely. We will be there. We will try to make change in Sudan.

INSKEEP: Eyder, thanks for your travels and your work on the American holiday, really appreciate it.

PERALTA: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eyder Peralta is in Khartoum, Sudan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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