Headlines: March 31, 2021
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Day 3 of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota brought more eyewitnesses from the prosecution’s side onto the stand who described their view of George Floyd’s last moments. Among them was 19-year old Christopher Martin who worked at Cup Foods, the convenience store outside where Floyd was accosted by police. Martin, who was the one who called the police after Floyd used a counterfeit bill, said he regretted it and told jurors, “I was standing there on the curb, and I was just like, ‘They’re not going to help him. This is what we have to deal with.’” Forty five-year old Christopher Belfrey who was a customer at Cup Foods was also called in. The first witness of the day was Genevieve Hansen, a firefighter and emergency medical technician who testified on Tuesday but was called back on Wednesday for a few minutes. Hansen had stumbled onto the scene of Floyd’s arrest by accident while off duty. Her testimony on Tuesday was lengthy and compelling. Here is Hansen describing how she offered the officers help with treating Floyd. Chauvin’s attorneys attempted to paint Hansen as emotional but her responses (here, here, and here) appeared to boost the prosecution instead. Later the judge scolded Ms. Hansen saying he would decide when her answer was complete and that she was not to argue with the lawyers.
Also testifying off camera on Tuesday was Darnella Frazier, the teenager whose videotape of the entire incident helped the world see Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he died. Frazier, who was clearly traumatized at seeing a man who looked like her own family members die in front of her eyes described the guilt she lives with. Frazier’s 9-year old cousin was with her when Floyd died and also testified on Tuesday. Meanwhile Chauvin’s defense team is attempting to portray the situation as one where police officers including Chauvin, were distracted by the numerous witnesses who watched what was happening and who grew increasingly vocal as Floyd’s life seeped out of him. But Frazier testified that Chauvin gave the crowd a “cold” and “heartless” stare as they yelled at him and that, “he didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying.” Outside the courtroom in Minneapolis where the trial is taking place, the Washington Post describes how, “National Guard troops, clad in desert camo and carrying assault rifles, walk beside Humvees near the concrete barriers, fencing and razor wire separating the trial from the tribulations outside.” Activists, members of Floyd’s family, and journalists are thronging to express their frustrations and expectations of what is unfolding in the court.
In other news, a New York man who was captured on camera brutalizing a 65-year old Pilipino-American woman while yelling racist slurs, has been arrested. Thirty eight-year old Brandon Elliot has been charged with felony assault as a hate crime. He had been convicted in 2002 of murdering his own mother with a kitchen knife to the heart and was on parole for life. President Joe Biden signed a memo authorizing an initiative aimed at tackling the anti-Asian hate crimes sweeping across the nation and has ordered the FBI to begin keeping track of incidents.
A new study about health care in the United States conducted by West Health and Gallup has found that 35% of low-income Americans were unable to afford health care this past year. About 18% of the entire population of the United States—that’s 46 million people—would not be able to afford care if they needed it now. There is a clear racial breakdown as the surveyors report how, “healthcare unaffordability runs considerably higher among Black adults (29%) and somewhat higher for Hispanic adults (21%) than for White adults (16%).” In other healthcare news, the Trump administration’s an 11th-hour giveaway in January to the prescription drug industry is now facing criticism from Democrats who want to roll it back.
The White House on Wednesday unveiled its $2 trillion infrastructure and climate plan called the American Jobs Plan which aims to rebuild and upgrade failing infrastructure with an eye toward energy efficiency and job creation, and tax wealthy corporations to pay for it. But some centrist Democrats including Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) say they won’t back the bill unless Congress reinstates a state and local tax deduction that benefits wealthy residents in their states.
In news from the pandemic, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears to work very well in protecting children aged 12 to 15 according to preliminary results from clinical trials and may be even more effective than in adults. According to the New York Times, “The adolescents who received the vaccine produced nearly twice the levels of antibodies on average, compared with participants 16 to 25 years of age in an earlier trial of adults.” The company has not yet released the data from the trial but the press is reporting that of the 2,260 children who received the vaccine, none developed any infections, let alone hospitalizations or deaths. There were 18 cases of infection in a placebo group. Meanwhile a new poll found that more than half of all Americans still feel uncomfortable attending large sporting events in person.
Trump loyalist and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz has been revealed to be the focus of a federal investigation that began under the Trump administration involving a sexual relationship with a minor. Because Gaetz may have paid for the teenager to travel across state lines he may be facing federal charges of sex trafficking. The encounters allegedly took place about 2 years ago. Gaetz is denying the charges and claiming that he is the victim of “organized criminal extortion.” In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson on Tuesday Gaetz appeared to try to draw Carlson into the fray reminding him of a dinner they had together. Carlson said this after the interview. The Washington Post reminded readers of Gaetz’s close ties with another Florida GOP figure Joel Greenberg, a former Seminole County tax collector who was arrested last year on federal charges of stalking and child sex trafficking. QAnon, the Trump-supporting conspiracy cult that is obsessed with wild theories of Democrats supposedly engaged in child sex trafficking has been stymied by these stories of Republicans.