The World Watches
March 30, 2021
The Good News
- India’s Modi gifts Bangladesh 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine (Reuters)
- Coronavirus pandemic slowdown has made the oceans quieter, which has been good for whales (NBC)
“… no matter the call—the loud party next door, the permit for a parade, the expired car tags, the escort for a funeral procession, the elderly welfare check, the frolickers barbecuing in the park, the schoolyard fight, the opioid overdose, the homeless person outside in the cold, the stray dog—the state’s answer is to respond with armed agents blessed with the near unimpeachable right to kill” — Josie Duffy Rice
A Long-Awaited Trial
(Christopher Mark Juhn via Getty Images)
The criminal trial of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began Monday. Chauvin, white, stands trial for murdering an unarmed black man, George Floyd, 10 months ago. The racially charged trial is being live-streamed from the heavily-guarded courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.
The prosecutor spoke for nearly an hour in his opening statement, explaining how the state would prove Chauvin purposefully killed Floyd by pressing his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for over nine minutes. He showed the viral cellphone video that captured bystanders’ increasingly agitated calls for intervention while Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd said repeatedly, a phrase that echoed Eric Garner’s last words while being choked by police six years ago.
When it was the defense attorney’s turn, he declared Chauvin wasn’t responsible because he’d acted precisely as his training taught him. He said Floyd used counterfeit money to buy cigarettes in a store, resisted arrest, and ingested drugs to conceal them from police. He argued that Floyd was taller and heavier than Chauvin, that he wasn’t gasping for breath, and that he’d actually died from heart disease and drug addiction.
The jury then heard from three prosecution witnesses: the 911 dispatcher who handled the call that resulted in Chauvin and the other officers responding; a Speedway gas station attendant who recorded seven brief videos of the arrest; and Donald Williams II, a mixed martial arts fighter.
William’s voice was the strongest heard in the now-famous bystander video of Floyd’s arrest. He testified his training had familiarized him with how Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement It was a “blood choke” that can lead to someone falling unconscious. He said Floyd repeatedly pleaded with Chauvin, saying he couldn’t breathe and that he thought he was dying. Williams implored Chauvin to let the handcuffed Floyd get up.
The 911 dispatcher testified she became troubled by seeing on wall-mounted dispatch screens how Floyd’s arrest was playing out. She said “something was not right. It was an extended period of time. … It was a gut instinct, now we can be concerned.” She called a supervisory sergeant and reported what she saw.
The young woman who worked at the Speedway gas station at the intersection testified she recorded several brief video clips of Floyd’s arrest and turned them over to police. She said she made the videos because “police is always messing with people … and it’s not right.”
The 45-year-old Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The trial, which is expected to last four weeks, will hinge on legal questions like whether Chauvin is protected under usual legal protections for police, whether the lethal force he used could be considered “reasonable,” and which, if any, of the three charges the Jury will agree on. (Minneapolis Star Tribune, NPR)
Dirty Deals For Doses
(Peter Lazar via Getty Images)
- The 27-nation European Union hasn’t yet authorized the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. That explains why it became a political crisis when a secret deal came to light three weeks ago involving the Slovakian prime minister’s agreement to buy two million doses of the vaccine.
- Two rival parties in Prime Minister Igor Matovic’s coalition government demanded his resignation as a condition for the coalition to survive. Matovic agreed to resign if the leaders from those two parties also resigned, which they agreed to do. On Sunday, Matovic announced he will step down as Prime Minister to clear the way for a Cabinet reshuffle, and proposed swapping posts with Finance Minister Eduard Heger from his Ordinary People party.
- Heger accepted the challenge and said he would open talks with coalition partners on a possible new government. Heger planned to meet with Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova on Monday for consultations. (AP)
Military Vessels? Go Fish.
- On March 7, a Philippines government task force reported spotting what it believed were some 220 Chinese military vessels moored at Whitsun Reef in a disputed region of the South China sea. The Philippines ordered China to recall the vessels, describing their presence as an incursion into its sovereign territory.
- But China, which claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, said the flotilla was made up of fishing vessels sheltering from bad weather. The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said the reef is well within the Philippines exclusive economic zone, and it “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources” there. The Philippine foreign ministry has filed a diplomatic protest.
- Meanwhile, Philippine navy and coast guard ships have been deployed to the area, and its air force has been conducting daily aerial patrols to monitor the situation. “We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the marine resources of the Philippines,” the defense secretary said Saturday. Several countries — including the US and Australia — have expressed concern over the renewed tension in the region. (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- As Militants Seize Mozambique Gas Hub, a Dash for Safety Turns Deadly (NYT, $)
- China attacks Western nations, firms over Xinjiang cotton boycott (Al Jazeera). It’s all fun and games until someone’s profits get hurt.
- Amid Myriad Crises, Lebanon Now Confronts An Ecological Disaster On Its Shores (NPR)
- Testing, One, Two. Fans Flock to an Experimental Indoor Rock Concert (NYT, $)
- Shanna Swan: ‘Most couples may have to use assisted reproduction by 2045’ (Guardian)
- The UK professor and the fake Russian agent (BBC)
- His Plane Crashed in the Amazon. Then Came the Hard Part. (NYT, $)
- Thousands flee into Thailand following Myanmar air strikes (AP)
- Why are social media platforms silencing Kashmiri voices? (Al Jazeera)
- Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez: Before the Ever Given, A look at the crises that closed Suez (AP)
- How Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Became the Hot Shot (NY Mag)
- This is the #1 Sign Your COVID Vaccine is Working (Eat This Not That)
- Happy Monday? England embarks on major easing of lockdown (AP)
- Democracies Keep Vaccines for Themselves (Atlantic)
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Big Time Blood Money
- More than 450,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses since drug companies began making, distributing, and selling large quantities of prescription painkillers. Many firms now face a flood of opioid lawsuits, have filed for bankruptcy, or find themselves owing billions of dollars in settlements. Regardless, CEOs and other top executives continue to be rewarded.
- For example, there’s the case of Steve Collis, AmerisourceBergen’s CEO. In 2020, the health services giant reached a tentative opioid settlement with state and local governments of $6.6 billion. However, the firm also agreed to pay Collis $14.3 million for his work in 2020, a 26% raise.
- CardinalHealth, also on the hook for an opioid settlement worth roughly $6.5 billion, gave CEO Michael Kaufman a $2.5 million bonus in 2020. (NPR)
Freedom Of Choice For Businesses (To Discriminate)
- On Friday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that allows health care workers and institutions the right to refuse non-emergency treatment to anyone if they have religious or moral objections. Opponents say the move gives providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others.
- Hutchinson opposed a similar measure in 2017, but said this law was narrower and limits the objections to particular health care services, not treating specific types of people. “I support this right of conscience so long as emergency care is exempted and conscience objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office.
- Opponents have said types of health care that could be cut off include maintaining hormone treatments for transgender patients needing in-patient care for an infection, or grief counseling for a same-sex couple. It could be used to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control, or by physicians’ assistants to override patient directives on end-of-life care.
- The current law, which takes effect late this summer, is one of several measures targeting transgender people that have easily advanced through the Republican-controlled legislature this year. On Thursday, Hutchinson signed a bill that prohibits transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. A final vote is scheduled Monday on another proposal that would prohibit gender confirming treatments and surgery for minors. (PBS)
Additional USA News
- As Some States Limit Voting Rights, New Jersey Will Expand Them (NYT, $)
- Claws are out: In Montana, Bears and Wolves Become Part of the Culture Wars (NYT, $)
- Nashville Floods Leave Behind Rising Rivers, Submerged Roads And Multiple Deaths (NPR)
- The Crimson Klan (Crimson)
- Historic Amazon Union Vote Count Begins This Week For Alabama Warehouse (NPR)
- Read up: Libraries Are Key Tools For People Getting Out Of Prison, Even During A Pandemic (NPR)
- Pete Buttigieg has a bridge to sell you (Politico)
- ‘Children Under Fire’ excerpt: A boy shoots himself with his father’s gun (WaPo, $)
- Biden mulls giving farmers billions to fight climate change. Even farmers are unsure about the plan. (Politico)
- The Abolition Movement (Vanity Fair)
In Taiwan, Pet Mediums At Large
- Taiwan is home to one of the world’s most active communities of pet psychics — or “animal communicators” as they like to be called. The cottage industry is fueled by residents’ growing devotion to their animals — increasingly a replacement for children— and desire for companionship during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Every few months the Taiwan Animal Communication Center graduates a new class of students; they keep a roster of more than 80 certified professionals for hire. Hundreds have been trained by other teachers at home or overseas, including the US and Britain, where the idea of pet telepathy emerged earlier but has not been as popular as in Taiwan. The most popular communicators are booked months in advance.
- Taiwan has seen a steady rise in pet ownership in the last decade. “There are more communicators per capita in Taiwan than anywhere else I’ve seen,” said a British-American animal communicator who has run workshops for students in Taiwan for seven years.
- While pet ownership has increased, enthusiasm for having children has waned — the result of rising living expenses, stagnant wages, and living in densely packed cities. For the first time on record, Taiwan’s population shrank in 2020. “People want company, but they don’t necessarily want to raise a child,” said a communicator who teaches courses on how to talk to animals. “The cost of owning a pet is a lot less than raising a child.”
- The executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) says her organization is evidence-based, and promotes the best practices in animal behavior and training. “While we understand that belief-based practices inspire passion and conviction in some people, there is no scientifically verified evidence that these methods are based on anything more than faith,” she says.
- Dr. Aleda Cheng, a New Jersey-based veterinarian, agrees that you shouldn’t substitute spirituality for science. However, she says she’s seen enough evidence in the last few years of her 24-year practice to convince her that the idea of pet psychics shouldn’t be dismissed outright. There have been several occasions when the animal communicator’s advice has proved eerily accurate.
- “I had a cat who was having a breathing problem and the owner spoke to an animal communicator, who said the cat needed acupuncture,” she said. The animal communicator pointed out the areas where the cat needed acupuncture on a chart, and it turned out that targeting those areas helped. Cheng says she hadn’t thought about focusing on those areas before because they weren’t related to asthma. (WaPo, $; Guardian)
- Agar Art: See A Microbiology Masterpiece In A Petri Dish (NPR)
- The real reason humans are the dominant species (BBC)
- Andrew Steele Ageless book: Tips to fight aging, live healthier (CNBC)
- Boston Dynamics’ New Robot Doesn’t Dance. It Has a Warehouse Job (Wired). Not all robots are built to follow their dreams.
- Czech Billionaire Is Among 5 Killed in Heli-Skiing Crash Near Alaska Glacier (NYT, $)
- Billions (Yes, Billions) of Brood X Cicadas Will Soon Emerge (NYT, $)
- This AI Can Generate Convincing Text—and Anyone Can Use It (Wired)
- Why the Paint Job on Your Car Is Crucial to Its Resale Value (NYT, $)
- How mRNA Technology Could Change the World (Atlantic)
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