Jurors in Minneapolis have heard another day of testimony in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is on trial for killing George Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. One of the most dramatic moments of the trial on Wednesday occurred when Charles McMillian, who witnessed George Floyd’s death last year, rewatched a police bodycam clip of George Floyd begging for his life after he was handcuffed by police. McMillian broke down in tears and was unable to speak for several moments. Jurors were also shown police bodycam footage of the bystanders who attempted to save George Floyd’s life as officer Chauvin kneeled on his neck.
In California, four people were killed and a fifth seriously wounded Wednesday evening when a gunman opened fire on an Orange County office complex. A child was among the dead. Police say the gunman was wounded during an exchange of fire with officers and taken into custody. Wednesday’s massacre follows recent mass shootings at three Atlanta spas that killed eight people, including six Asian women, and a killing spree at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket that killed 10.
President Joe Biden is defending his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan against progressive critics who say it doesn’t go nearly far enough toward combating climate change. Biden promoted his plan during a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden: “It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.”
Biden’s plan includes hundreds of billions of dollars for investments in energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicles, better public transit and R&D into new technologies to combat the climate crisis.
In response, the youth-led Sunrise Movement called on lawmakers to support Biden’s infrastructure plan as a step toward a Green New Deal, but added in a tweet, “Joe Biden — this is unacceptable. Your proposal needs to include at least $10 trillion on infrastructure if you want meet the scale of this moment.”
The United States recorded more than 67,000 new coronavirus infections Wednesday and over 1,000 deaths. COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in a majority of states, despite one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts.
On Wednesday, conservative justices on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down a statewide mask mandate ordered by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.
Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for at least six months after a second dose. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday vaccinated people do not appear to be able to carry or transmit the coronavirus to others.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson says 15 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine were contaminated and will have to be thrown out, delaying shipments of J&J’s one-dose vaccine across the United States. The company blamed human error at an Emergent BioSolutions manufacturing plant in Baltimore, Maryland.
In Brazil, cemeteries around the city of São Paulo are holding funerals into the night to handle a record surge of coronavirus deaths. About 66,000 Brazilians died of COVID-19 in March, with epidemiologists warning the worst is yet to come.
In India, public health officials are warning a Hindu religious festival in the Ganges River city of Haridwar will become a massive superspreader event. More than a million people a day are expected to pack the festival despite a recent massive surge of COVID-19 cases across India.
Turkey has reimposed weekend lockdowns and will limit gatherings during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan amid a third wave of coronavirus cases.
French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered a third nationwide lockdown, with schools ordered shut for three weeks.
In the U.K., health officials say half of the population now has antibodies against COVID-19, either from an infection or vaccination. Britain has one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts.
Yemen received its first shipment of 360,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses on Wednesday. Officially, Yemen has recorded 4,000 coronavirus cases and less than 900 deaths, but doctors say a silent surge is underway. Yemen is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis more than six years after the start of the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war. This is a doctor at a COVID-19 treatment center in Aden.
Dr. Zainab al-Qaisi: “The center is overwhelmed. We need oxygen and to expand intensive care across all provinces. The two most important things are funding and more staff. We need more staff, because the rise in cases is not normal.”
The World Resources Institute is warning global deforestation jumped 12% last year in a blow to efforts to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. The group estimates about 10 million acres of tropical forest were destroyed in 2020 — that’s an area roughly the size of Switzerland. Most of the destruction occurred in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Deforestation also spiked in Cameroon and Colombia.
A federal court in New York has sentenced Tony Hernández, the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, to life in prison for drug trafficking. Tony Hernández, a former member of congress in Honduras, was convicted in 2019 on wide-ranging charges, including massive bribing schemes. U.S. prosecutors say he was also involved in at least two murders and that Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was a co-conspirator in the “state-sponsored drug trafficking.”
In Hong Kong, a court convicted media tycoon Jimmy Lai, veteran politician Martin Lee and five other notable pro-democracy activists for participating in an unauthorized peaceful protest in 2019. They could face up to five years behind bars. Hong Kong politician Cyd Ho is another one of the convicted activists.
Cyd Ho: “Too bad the freedom of information, the freedom of expression are now banned in Hong Kong. And that does nobody any good. It is only a deterrent of our progress.”
Here in the U.S., the Biden administration has reaffirmed the position taken by the Trump administration that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China and should not benefit from preferential trade terms.
In media news, the BBC’s China correspondent John Sudworth has left Beijing for Taiwan after describing increasing threats, surveillance and obstruction from Chinese authorities. Sudworth has won awards for his reporting on the plight of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Microsoft has won a Pentagon contract worth nearly $22 billion to produce 120,000 augmented reality headsets for U.S. Army soldiers. Microsoft’s “HoloLens” headsets were first developed for video gamers, combining virtual images with real-world views. The headsets provide a real-time heads-up display that uses artificial intelligence to suggest targets for soldiers’ weapons. In 2019, more than 100 Microsoft engineers wrote in an open letter, “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the US Military, helping one country’s government 'increase lethality' using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill barring jails and prisons from holding people in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days. It also prohibits solitary confinement for children and people with disabilities. The new law is set to take effect in 2022.
Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam signed major voting rights legislation Wednesday, expanding access to the ballot box and enshrining protections against voter suppression, discrimination and intimidation. The move comes amid ongoing Republican voter suppression efforts around the country and eight years after the Supreme Court gutted the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Over 70 Black executives signed an open letter calling on companies to speak out against dozens of voter suppression bills like the one passed in Georgia last week. Published as a full-page ad in The New York Times, the business leaders write, “When it comes to protecting the rights of all Americans to vote, there can be no middle ground.”
President Biden says he would strongly support Major League Baseball players if they decide to move the upcoming All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new voter suppression laws. Meanwhile, the CEOs for Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola finally came out in opposition to Georgia’s clampdown on voting rights, nearly a week after the legislation was signed and amid mounting public scrutiny and threats to boycott the companies over their inaction.
Texas’s Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to review the case of Crystal Mason, a Black resident and mother who was sentenced to five years in prison for filling out a provisional ballot in 2016. Mason had no idea she was not allowed to vote due to her criminal record, and her ballot was never counted. She spoke with Democracy Now! in 2018.
Crystal Mason: “I just feel right now that the system failed me. You get out, you rehabilitate yourself, you get a good job, you go to school, you graduate from school, you’re doing everything right — so, why would I go and vote, to go back to prison? Why would I do something like that to lose my kids again, to start all over again?”