President Biden has vowed to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In a speech Wednesday, Biden said it is time to end what he described as the “forever war.”
President Joe Biden: “We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we’ve stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since. Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan have become increasingly unclear.”
Despite Biden’s remarks, The New York Times reports the United States is expected to keep relying on a “shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives” inside Afghanistan after September. Following his speech, Biden traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of soldiers lost in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Tony Blinken has just arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced trip.
In Minnesota, the Brooklyn Center police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop Sunday has been arrested on a charge of second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, Kimberly Potter faces up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. Potter was released from jail after posting a $100,000 bond. Bodycam video shows Potter pointing her 9-millimeter pistol at Wright, repeatedly shouting “Taser!” before firing a single bullet into Wright’s chest.
The Taser remained holstered beside Potter’s nondominant hand; the weapon is a bright yellow color and has a different grip. Potter is a 26-year police veteran who was training other officers when she shot Wright. She will be charged in Washington County, east of the Twin Cities. Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman said the change in jurisdiction was to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
For a fourth straight night, protesters surrounded the Brooklyn Center Police Department demanding justice. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and pepper spray at protesters — once again violating a prohibition on the use of such force passed by the City Council on Monday. The Minnesota State Patrol said 24 people were arrested overnight.
A few miles south of Brooklyn Center, the murder trial of Derek Chauvin continues today with speculation growing over whether the former Minneapolis police officer will take the stand in his own defense. On Wednesday, a forensic pathologist called by Chauvin’s lawyers testified that George Floyd died of heart trouble — rather than a lack of oxygen. Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland, dismissed an official autopsy report that found Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest due to restraint and neck compression.
Video of Floyd’s death shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes — including for several minutes after Floyd stopped responding. But Dr. Fowler claimed Floyd died from a combination of heart disease, drug use and tailpipe emissions from a police cruiser.
Dr. David Fowler: “There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Under cross-examination, Dr. Fowler admitted there was no evidence of carbon monoxide in George Floyd’s blood. He also conceded that George Floyd should have been given medical attention — and might have survived if officers had rendered aid.
Dr. David Fowler is being sued by the family of 19-year-old Anton Black, an African American teenager from Maryland who died in 2018 after he was electrocuted with a Taser, pinned in a prone position and crushed under the weight of three white police officers and a white civilian as he struggled to breathe and lost consciousness. Black died on the front porch of his mother’s home as she was forced to stand by, watching. After an autopsy, Dr. Fowler ruled Black’s death an accident, and no one was charged with a crime. The wrongful death lawsuit says Dr. Fowler delayed release of an autopsy report for months and covered up police responsibility for Black’s death.
Black’s sister, LaToya Holley, said this week, “It’s surreal that you have two men on the opposite sides of the country that experienced almost the same treatment by two different police officers. The medical examiner, in my opinion, was egregious in the way he finalized Anton’s autopsy results. Now, he’s being called to be an expert witness for another police officer.”
The New York Police Department is under fire after officers were spotted once again deploying a high-tech surveillance robot — this time during an arrest at a Manhattan public housing complex. On Monday, a bystander filmed as members of NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit escorted a four-legged robot studded with sensors, lights and cameras out of a high-rise apartment. The robot, produced by Boston Dynamics, is as large as a medium-sized dog and can navigate autonomously. New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman blasted the city’s use of police robots in a video posted on Twitter.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman: “Now not only do I feel physically occupied in my community by too many police, now y’all bringing robot police to occupy my community? So, you can’t give me a living wage. You can’t raise the minimum wage. You can’t give me affordable housing. I’m working hard. I can’t get paid leave. I can’t get affordable child care. Instead, we got money, taxpayer money, going towards robot police dogs.”
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey has ordered the release of documents related to former Boston police union chief Patrick Rose, who was first accused of child sexual abuse in 1995, yet was allowed to remain on the force for over 20 more years, abusing other children. The Boston Globe found the Boston Police Department concluded that Rose likely was guilty of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1995 but took no action. Last year, a teenage girl reported she was abused by Rose from the ages of 7 through 12, leading to at least five more survivors coming forward.
In Maryland, 16-year-old Peyton Alexander Ham died Tuesday after he was fatally shot by a state trooper in St. Mary’s County. Few details of Ham’s killing have emerged, but police cited a witness who said Ham appeared to be pointing a gun toward a trooper, who then shot and wounded him. Another witness told investigators the boy then got up, pulled out a knife and was shot a second time by the trooper. Police released photos of an airsoft plastic pellet gun and a small knife recovered from the scene.
In Washington, D.C., gun control advocates placed 40,000 silk flowers on the National Mall Wednesday to mark the number of U.S. residents who die by shootings each year. The memorial was unveiled by Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a gunshot to the head during a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011.
Gabby Giffords: “Today I struggle to speak, but I’ve not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out. … We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue, or we can act. We can protect our families, our future.”
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’s husband is the new senator from Arizona, Mark Kelly. As the Gun Violence Memorial was unveiled Wednesday, Virginia’s state Senate voted to reject Governor Ralph Northam’s amendment to a bill that would bar anyone convicted of assaulting a family member or housemate from owning or transporting firearms for three years. The governor wanted to raise the probationary period to five years.
The United States recorded more than 75,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and nearly 1,000 deaths from COVID-19. Hospitalizations continue to rise in many states, led by Michigan, even though 124 million U.S. residents are at least partially vaccinated.
On Wednesday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel delayed its decision on whether to resume use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of extremely rare blood clots in seven women and one man who received doses. It’s not yet known if the vaccine caused the rare condition.
Several Southeast Asian countries that successfully contained the coronavirus over the past year are seeing outbreaks. Cambodia ordered a strict two-week lockdown of its capital Phnom Penh after reporting hundreds of infections per day for the first time. Fewer than a million-and-a-half Cambodians — or less than 5% of the population — have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Thailand’s cases have risen exponentially throughout April. Meanwhile, scattered outbreaks in Vietnam are threatening one of the most successful public health campaigns of the pandemic.
One hundred seventy-five former heads of state and Nobel laureates are calling on President Biden to back a waiver on World Trade Organization intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic. Nine out of 10 people in most poor countries likely will not receive a vaccine this year, according to the open letter, but an IP waiver would “expand global manufacturing capacity, unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access.” Signatories include former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and economist Joseph Stiglitz. Separately, a coalition of 250 organizations, including Amnesty International, Public Citizen and Doctors Without Borders, issued a similar plea to the head of the World Trade Organization. The fate of the international efforts could be decided on May 5 at the next major meeting between WTO members.
The House Oversight Committee has advanced a bill that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state. The Washington, D.C. Admission Act passed out of committee on a party-line vote, over unanimous Republican opposition. The full House is set to vote on the bill next week. The District of Columbia has one of the highest per capita populations of African Americans of any major U.S. city and is home to over 700,000 people — more than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. Yet residents have no representation in the Senate and send only a single, nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed legislation to phase out for-profit prisons and immigration jails. Under House Bill 1090, companies that contract with local, state and federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be barred from renewing their existing contracts. That means one of the largest privately run immigration jails — the GEO Group’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma — must shut down by 2025. Asylum seekers at the nearly 1,600-bed jail have repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest squalid and dangerous conditions, including several outbreaks of COVID-19.
Texas’s top criminal court has thrown out the death sentence of the state’s longest-serving death row prisoner. Seventy-year-old Raymond Riles, who is African American, was sentenced to die for murdering a Houston used car salesman in 1974. Riles suffers from mental illness and has been repeatedly deemed too mentally incompetent to be put to death.
In Pennsylvania, imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal is scheduled to have heart surgery today after he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains. Abu-Jamal suffers from several preexisting conditions and lost over 30 pounds in March, after becoming ill with COVID-19 in the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution.
The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the creation of a committee to consider reparations for slavery. The reparations bill was first proposed over 30 years ago but never received a committee vote — until this week. This is the bill’s sponsor, Texas Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: “Do not ignore the pain, the history and the reasonableness of this commission. This is a governmental commission, a commission that establishes the parameters of a study that provide the roadmap for the truth of the brutality and the onerous and terrible burden placed on African Americans and this nation by slavery.”
In the Senate, lawmakers advanced a bill addressing hate crimes against Asian Americans. A final vote is expected this week. Meanwhile, President Biden named Erika Moritsugu as liaison to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Moritsugu, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, previously worked for the Obama administration and is currently the vice president at National Partnership for Women and Families, a women’s health and equity nonprofit.