Headlines: March 29, 2021
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Opening arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin opened on Monday as the prosecution presented opening arguments and brought in witnesses to make the case that the police officer murdered George Floyd. The 12 jurors who will decide whether or not to hold Chauvin accountable were seated at the start of the trial and shown the entire video of Floyd’s last moments of life as Officer Chauvin held him face down on the street with his body weight pressing down on his knee as it wedged over Floyd’s neck. Floyd said “I can’t breathe” 27 times before dying. Jena Scurry, a witness brought by the prosecution, explained how she, as a 9-11 dispatcher, watched police officers on a surveillance camera and became increasingly concerned. The Washington Post expressed the significance of the case saying, “The jurors are charged with deciding one of the highest-profile cases in recent memory, set to begin Monday in a downtown courtroom a few miles from where Floyd was filmed facedown on a Minneapolis street. Their decision will reverberate across the country, setting off renewed debates about race, policing and accountability.” The night before the trial, Floyd’s family members and others held a vigil at a church in Minneapolis at which activist Al Sharpton and attorney Benjamin Crump spoke.
In other news thousands of people marched in cities across the U.S. over the weekend for “Stop Asian Hate” rallies. In Los Angeles, home to a very significant Asian American population, people gathered in Koreatown and marched down Olympic Boulevard chanting and drumming. The rallies drew attention to the recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia where a white gunman is suspected of killing 6 Asian women and two others at three different spas.
In other news, President Joe Biden plans to roll out two infrastructure spending bills this week with the first one focusing on green energy and the second one on child care and healthcare. Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the powerful Budget Committee, plans to push through his healthcare agenda through the second bill. Politico reports that Sanders is, “urging Democrats to force Medicare to enter into negotiations with drug companies and use that revenue to pay for a huge expansion” of Medicare that involves lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55 and expanding it to include dental and vision coverage. Sanders wrote an op-ed in The Guardian on Monday called, “The rich-poor gap in America is obscene. So let’s fix it.” In it, he explained the importance of raising the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to join unions, and enacting fairer taxation among other things.
President Biden will give an address at the White House on Monday updating his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as cases of infection begin to surge upward once more. The Biden Health and Human Services Department is reportedly working with private companies on creating a “vaccine passport” which vaccinated Americans could use to show they are not a risk as they begin resuming economic activity. Underscoring the importance of vaccines, federal health scientists reported on Monday that the two early vaccines approved for use, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are highly effective at preventing both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections. The New York Times explained that, “There has been debate over whether vaccinated people can still get asymptomatic infections and transmit the virus to others. The study, by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested that since infections were so rare, transmission is likely rare, too.” Two doctors, Jeremy Samuel Faust and Angela L. Rasmussen, wrote an op-ed on Monday explaining that that pandemic cannot truly end without vaccinating children. They wrote that, “even a small number of critical Covid-19 cases among children is worth vaccinating against,” but more importantly, “is the possibility that the virus will continue to spread and mutate into more dangerous variants, including ones that could harm both children and adults.”
A leaked report from the World Health Organization about the origins of COVID-19 has concluded that the virus most likely emerged in bats before spreading to humans. The report is the result of research by a team of WHO scientists who traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus is thought to have originated. When the virus first emerged, the U.S. government, then headed by Donald Trump, responded in such a disorganized manner that government scientists are now admitting that hundreds of thousands of deaths might have been preventable. Dr. Deborah Birx, who had refrained from criticizing the government last year, gave this in an interview with CNN that aired on Sunday. In response, California Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted, “The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers. And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”
Nearly 6,000 warehouse workers at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, have had seven weeks to cast ballots to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Monday was the last day to file ballots but the results may take days or even weeks to tally. If the workforce, which is more than 80% Black, decides to join the union, they will be the first group of Amazon workers in the United States to do so. Vox reported that recent critical tweets from Amazon’s official account and those of some of its executives, aimed at Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can be traced back to Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos who has reportedly directed his company to fight hard in the information war over the union.