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The ex-trial cop’s in Floyd’s death has been scheduled to begin on Monday.

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The ex-trial cop's in Floyd's death has been scheduled to begin on Monday.
The ex-trial cop's in Floyd's death has been scheduled to begin on Monday.

The ex-trial cop’s in Floyd’s death has been scheduled to begin on Monday.

 

The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd has begun, with opening statements scheduled for Monday in a case that triggered weeks of demonstrations and a national reckoning about racial justice.

Even before the city of Minneapolis reached a $27 million payout to Floyd’s family on the fourth day of jury selection, the final juror was selected Tuesday, bringing an end to a process that lasted more than two weeks and was complicated by worldwide exposure to Floyd’s death.

About 100 witnesses were interviewed by attorneys and the judge, with the majority being dismissed because they expressed strong feelings about an incident recorded on bystander video.

There are currently 15 jurors on the jury. Twelve jurors will deliberate, with two alternates; Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill has said that if the 14 other jurors are still willing to participate when opening statements begin on Monday, he will excuse the extra juror.

Derek Chauvin is accused of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25. Since Chauvin, a white man, jammed his knee against the Black man’s neck for about nine minutes while handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe, the Black man was pronounced dead. The widely circulated video sparked violent street demonstrations in Minneapolis, which spread throughout the United States and around the world.

The final juror, a white man in his twenties, is a married accountant who expressed reservations about Chauvin, claiming that the duration of his restraint on Floyd was unnecessarily long. He said, however, that he would be able to put that aside and weigh the case on the facts alone.

Floyd’s death, he said, ignited conversations about racism at work, prompting him to educate himself by reading a book on the topic. He said he loves cops and has a favorable opinion of Black Lives Matter. He did claim, however, that some of the tensions spilled over and may have contributed to the violent unrest in Minneapolis.

He also said that he understands why professional players kneel during the national anthem in order to start a debate about race, but that “I would prefer if everyone articulated their views in a different way.”

Earlier in the day, several other possible jurors were disqualified, including a retired truck driver who called a campaign to defund the police “lunacy” and said he would trust police officers over civilians.

The prosecution repeatedly hit people who told the court they already had deep feelings about Chauvin’s guilt during jury selection. The prosecution regularly used its allotted challenges against prospective jurors who were not only supportive of the police but also claimed that their evidence would be favoured over that of others. They also attempted to disqualify prospective jurors who were critical of or skeptical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Monday, both sides will make their opening remarks. Legal analysts have said that while the bystander video – which has already been viewed by nearly everyone on the jury – is convincing, a conviction is not a foregone conclusion for prosecutors.

The prosecution has made it clear that they would focus on Floyd swallowing drugs prior to his arrest in order to persuade the jury that he was at least partly to blame for his death. When Cahill said he would accept some evidence from Floyd’s 2019 arrest in Minneapolis, where he also swallowed drugs, defense attorney Eric Nelson gained a partial victory. Paramedics were called to the scene in the 2019 case and observed Floyd’s dangerously elevated blood pressure.

Cahill stated that he will accept medical proof of Floyd’s physical reactions as well as a brief clip from an officer’s body camera footage from the arrest in 2019. Floyd’s “emotional acts,” such as calling out to his mother, he said, would not be tolerated.

Floyd’s death was initially reported as a homicide by the county medical examiner, who said that he “had a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police.” Floyd was pronounced dead 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from where he was detained at a hospital.

He died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” according to the full study. Fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use were classified as “other serious conditions” but not as “cause of death” in a summary study.
Complete Coverage: George Floyd passed away.

Nelson had tried to postpone or reschedule Chauvin’s trial, citing fears that the jury pool had been compromised by the city’s settlement with Floyd’s kin. Cahill denied the request last week, calling the timing “unfortunate,” but believing that a delay would do little to address the issue of pre-trial publicity, which he said affects every part of Minnesota.

According to the court, nine of the 15 jurors are white, four are black, and two are multiracial. They are nine women and six men, ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties.

In the event that more alternates are required, the judge said he would keep the jury pool in place before opening statements begin. Despite social distancing, mask-wearing, and plastic shields in the courtroom, Chauvin’s trial is taking place in the midst of the pandemic, putting jurors at risk of becoming ill.

It’s unknown who will serve as substitute jurors. Legal scholars say it’s almost always the last people selected, but the court says that won’t be the case in Chauvin’s case.

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Hunger-Free Vermont aims to make free school lunches the norm

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Hunger-Free Vermont aims to make free school lunches the norm

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermonters are working to make free, universal school meals permanent in the state.

“It’s just a basic equity issue when it comes to education,” says Teddy Waszazak, campaign manager with Hunger-Free Vermont. “Kids cannot learn well if they cannot eat well.”

During the pandemic, the need for universal school meals grew, prompting the USDA to issue temporary waivers for free breakfast and lunch regardless of families’ incomes. But Waszazak says these waivers are set to expire at the end of the school year. “The campaign is advocating to make the universal school meal system permanent in Vermont,” he says.

Since 2011, he and his colleagues have tried to make universal school meals the norm in Vermont. Last year, their bill made it through the Senate. In January, they plan to meet with lawmakers again to get it passed.

“I remember as a kid buying lunch tickets, and ‘Did I bring my money?’” said Burlington resident Jessica Savage. “And, ‘Oh shoot, I didn’t!’”

Savage is a mother of two young children. She says she’s glad to see her daughter’s school work to reduce the stigma around school meals. “It’s part of what being in the classroom is for these children, she says. “My kid especially, she needs that in order to focus on anything.”

Wazazak says he remembers the challenges he faced at lunchtime and is determined to change that narrative for Vermont’s students. “I’ve been on my own since I was 15. I often did not eat in school because I didn’t have parents to fill out the paperwork and could not afford to buy the meals on my own,” he says. “We need to be providing for them, because I know personally what it’s like to have to go without those things, and then also be expected to perform well in school. And it’s frankly impossible.”

He encourages Vermonters to get involved in the campaign and sign the support card.

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Pregnant mom with COVID pneumonia feared docs would save baby, not her

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Pregnant mom with COVID pneumonia feared docs would save baby, not her

BREWSTER, N.Y. (PIX11) — New York City mother Cecilia Vega-Britez, 36, was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia in mid-September, six and a half months pregnant with her fifth son. She says she started to worry when she didn’t get a second dose of the anti-viral remdesivir.

Vega-Britez did a Facebook Live from her hospital bed in Westchester, demanding to know what her treatment regimen was, even as she had difficulty breathing. She said her treatment plan was to get Remdesivir every 24 hours. “I’ve been untreated for 26 hours,” she said through her oxygen mask.

“I am very scared for my life.”

Vega-Britez had chosen not to get the COVID vaccine in the early stages of pregnancy and the hospital was actually giving her multiple treatments for the virus, including an effective steroid to build up her lungs and those of her unborn baby. “Phone calls were not getting through,” she said. “They were not communicating with my husband.”

When she did the Facebook Live on September 15, after she’d been moved to the labor and delivery unit at a larger hospital, her perception was that the baby’s health was the doctors’ only concern. “They’re getting the baby ready and they’re not treating my pneumonia,” she said. “I’m making the video as evidence that I’m afraid for my life,” she continued, “that they’re going to come and say we have to take your baby and put you on a ventilator.”

As it turned out, the mother’s health improved and, as a result, an emergency C-section was not required. Vega-Britez returned home to her family this week after eight days in the hospital.

The crisis made Vega-Britez reflect on her decision not to get vaccinated: “Why would I give this vaccine to an unborn child that doesn’t have its organs fully developed yet?” Vega-Britez wondered. But she explains that she now regrets initially resisting vaccination. “I ended up getting so many other chemicals into my body, and into my baby.”

Fertility and infectious disease experts explained that many studies have shown the COVID vaccine doesn’t harm an unborn child and works well to prevent serious illness in the pregnant mother. “You are more susceptible to respiratory illness,” says Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn of Emory University said about pregnant women, whose immune systems are sometimes compromised. “You get the jab. You get the immunity. That saves you.”

Dr. Anate Brauer, a specialist with Shady Grove Fertility in Manhattan, pointed to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that 35,000 pregnant women had no change in their outcomes after getting the vaccine. “The vaccine itself does not cross the placenta,” Brauer said. “But your bodies make antibodies against the virus that do cross the placenta and, therefore, protect the fetus.”

The two doctors also expressed concern about well-known personalities on social media who make negative claims about the vaccine. Superstar Nicki Minaj recently tweeted “My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent.”

On public figures with large followings: “It behooves them to back up their statements with data,” Brauer said. “The vaccine does not impact either short term or long term sperm parameters.”

Vega-Britez says that now, she has a much more positive view of the vaccine. Each of her four sons got sick with COVID, beginning with her oldest, a 16-year-old. He had not yet made an appointment to get vaccinated, and visited a friend in Queens. “He went to his friend’s house, and he said he would do it after that, and then it all started,” said Arnaldo Britez, Vega-Britez’ husband.

Britez, a New York City employee, was the only person in the household who was vaccinated, and the only one who didn’t get sick. His wife is now advising pregnant women to get the vaccine to ward off complications from COVID. “If you end up in the hospital, it’s not going to be pretty,” Vega-Britez said.  “If you can, get the vaccine.”

Vega-Britez noted that communications between the doctors and herself improved dramatically after she did the Facebook Live. Even though she was initially upset with what she called bad communication, Vega-Britez knows the doctors brought her through the COVID crisis with her pregnancy intact. “Whatever happened in the hospital, they ended up saving my life,” she says.

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Reeling Rockies lose to Nationals, drop fifth straight at Coors Field

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Reeling Rockies lose to Nationals, drop fifth straight at Coors Field

The Rockies are limping toward the finish line and it ain’t pretty.

The rebuilding Washington Nationals (65-91) beat the Rockies 5-4 on Monday night at Coors Field, extending Colorado’s losing streak to five games as all-star pitcher German Marquez’s second-half slump continued.

At one point, the Rockies owned one of the best home records in the majors, but they are 1-6 on their final homestand of the season and 3-13 over their last 16 games at Coors.

The Nationals threatened to blow the game wide open in the ninth against closer Carlos Estevez. With one run already in, they loaded the base with no outs but Estevez got the dangerous Juan Soto to pop out to shallow left field and got Josh Bell to ground into a one-two-three double play.

That set the stage for Colorado’s mini-rally in the bottom of the frame. Trevor Story drew a two-out walk and scored on C.J. Cron’s double into the left-field corner off Tanner Rainey, but Ryan McMahon grounded out to second for the final out.

Nationals right-hander Josiah Gray, making his 12th big-league start, blanked the Rockies for five innings, allowing just two singles. He hit the wall in Colorado’s three-run sixth, but still picked up his second win of the season.

Garrett Hampson led off the sixth with a single, Charlie Blackmon and Story walked, and McMahon hit a three-run double off the center-field wall, missing a grand slam by a few feet. McMahon has hit a career-high 30 doubles, easily surpassing the 22 he hit in 2019.

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Lane closures near roundabout at Route 4 and Route 151 in East Greenbush

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Lane closures near roundabout at Route 4 and Route 151 in East Greenbush

EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — One of two Route 4 lanes approaching the roundabout in both directions at the intersection of Route 151 in East Greenbush will be closed starting September 27. The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) says crews are constructing additional lanes exiting the roundabout to enhance traffic flow.

Motorists should watch for flaggers and workers weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lanes will be reduced around the clock until the work is completed by early November. 

DOT reminds motorists to obey flaggers’ directions and slow down significantly whenever encountering construction vehicles. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone.

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NY senator pushes remote learning bill: ‘City Hall has utterly failed’

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NY senator pushes remote learning bill: ‘City Hall has utterly failed’

NEW YORK (PIX11) — A New York state senator introduced legislation that requires municipalities and school districts to offer a remote learning option if their area meets certain COVID transmission criteria from the CDC

Sen. John Liu, who represents parts of Queens, says the bill is the best long-term solution to the constantly changing information and guidance from New York City’s Department of Education. “City Hall has utterly failed,” he said on Sunday night. “The Department of Education (DOE) has been deaf to thousands of parents who are afraid to send their kids into buildings.”

The proposed bill would force the city’s DOE to offer remote learning within an area if the CDC deems it as a high rate of transmission area. If the proposed bill were already enshrined in law to start this week, the entire New York City public school system would be forced to offer a remote option. The CDC’s map shows all five boroughs with a high virus transmission rate—more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.

Currently, only medically fragile students with certain conditions are allowed a full-remote learning option. But according to a survey commissioned by the student advocacy group Education Trust New York, 79% of New York City parents would like the option for their children to learn remotely.

Liu said his legislation would at least give parents the option of remote learning when COVID transmission is at a dangerously high level. “It’s just an option,” he said. “When things are not totally safe—we are not out of this crisis yet—the city is responsible for providing a remote option.”

The state Legislature does not convene again until a new session begins in January, which is when lawmakers could vote on the bill. However, he suggested lawmakers could be called back to Albany for an emergency session before January. “If it requires an emergency session,” Sen. Liu says, “I will be fighting for that.”

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Adirondack Film Festival takes hybrid approach for return in October

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Adirondack Film Festival takes hybrid approach for return in October

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A recent tradition for the Adirondack Theatre Festival that has brought hundreds of films and thousands of new visitors to the area is returning this year. The hop from stage to screen for the Adirondack Film Festival is happening again.

It was announced on Monday that this year’s festival will be doing things a little differently when it returns on Oct. 14-17, taking a hybrid approach that combines both in-person and virtual attendance, with all films available both ways to facilitate COVID-related social distancing concerns.

“We are pleased to provide Adirondack Film Festival audiences with options to enjoy this great event in whichever way they feel most comfortable,” said Adirondack Theatre Festival Managing Director Tracey Sullivan.

The film festival’s catalogue of showings will be split between Charles R. Wood Theater and the Park Theatre, both in downtown Glens Falls and both past hosts for the festival. Although most showings will be the same whether seen in-person or not, some will vary.

The full lineup features over 70 films, with a lineup set to release on the Adirondack Film Festival website soon.

That list includes full-length feature films, documentaries, short films and music videos, among others. Some featured films include “Language Lessons,” starring Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass, which won an audience award at SxSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas; and “Lie Hard,” a comedy starring Catherine Curtin and Melanie Chandra.

Passes for the Adirondack Film Festival will range from $55 for an individual virtual pass to $140 for an all-access family option, and can be found online. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for all in-person events.

“The range and caliber of this year’s films are very exciting,” said festival Producing Artistic Director Miriam Weisfeld. “One of these features will screen at the Chelsea Film Festival in New York City right after AFF. You can see it first in Glens Falls.” 

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Police take Mechanicville man into custody

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Police take Mechanicville man into custody

MECHANICVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Mechanicville police posted on their Facebook page saying a large police presence was on the corner of Chestnut and 4th Monday as officers from the department helped members of the ATF catching Scott Phillips, 36, of Mechanicville.

Police say Phillips was wanted on charges stemming from an incident in Vermont. At the time of his arrest, Phillips was found to be in possession of a number of narcotics and will face additional charges in Mechanicville City Court, according to police.

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Connecticut vaccine mandate begins Monday

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Connecticut vaccine mandate begins Monday

ENFIELD, Conn. (WWLP) — The first deadline for Connecticut state workers and teachers to get vaccinated against COVID under an executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont begins Monday.

Governor Lamont’s executive order requires vaccination for all state employees, kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and staff, and all child care workers. Those who have chosen not to get the vaccine must have an approved medical or religious exemption, and those with approved exemptions must submit to weekly testing.

After Monday, state agencies may no longer employ people who do not have the vaccine or an approved exemption. As many as 350 bus drivers across Connecticut are expected to not show up to work, according to the School Transportation Association, in response to the mandate. Currently, 1,500 drivers across the state are unvaccinated. 1,300 have agreed to weekly testing instead of getting the vaccine. The remaining are refusing to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Connecticut officials encouraged parents to drive their own children to school Monday in anticipation of a massive bus driver walkout in response to the mandate.

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Part of Route 21 in Whitehall closed due to flooding

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Part of Route 21 in Whitehall closed due to flooding

WHITEHALL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — County Route 21 in Whitehall is closed between Winters Road and Baker Road due to flooding from a beaver dam break. The Washington County Department of Public Safety (DPS) says the road will need significant repairs and will remain closed for about a week.

A single residence was affected, causing damage to the driveway. DPS says there was no damage to the house and no one was injured.

Personnel from the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company Inc., New York State Police, Washington County Department of Public Works and Washington County Department of Public Safety responded to the area Monday morning and are continuing mitigation efforts.

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Ford to add 10,800 jobs making electric vehicles, batteries

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Ford to add 10,800 jobs making electric vehicles, batteries

GLENDALE, Ky. — Ford and a partner company say they plan to build three major electric-vehicle battery factories and an auto assembly plant by 2025 — a dramatic investment in the future of EV technology that will create an estimated 10,800 jobs and shift the automaker’s future manufacturing footprint toward the South.

The factories, to be built on sites in Kentucky and Tennessee, will make batteries for the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles that will be produced in North America. Combined, they mark the single largest manufacturing investment the 118-year-old company has ever made and are among the largest factory outlays in the world.

Notably, the new factories will provide a vast new supply of jobs that will likely pay solid wages. Most of the new jobs will be full time, with a relatively small percentage having temporary status to fill in for vacations and absent workers.

Together with its battery partner, SK Innovation of South Korea, Ford says it will spend $5.6 billion in rural Stanton, Tennessee, where it will build a factory to produce electric F-Series pickups. A joint venture called BlueOvalSK will construct a battery factory on the same site near Memphis, plus twin battery plants in Glendale, Kentucky, near Louisville. Ford estimated the Kentucky investment at $5.8 billion and said its share of the total would be $7 billion.

With the new spending, Ford is making a significant bet on a future that envisions most drivers eventually making the shift to battery power from internal combustion engines, which have powered vehicles in the United States for more than a century. Should that transition run into disruptions or delays, the gamble could hit the company’s bottom line. Ford predicts 40% to 50% of its U.S. sales will be electric by 2030. For now, only about 1% of vehicles on America’s roads are powered by electricity.

In an interview Monday, CEO Jim Farley said it would be up to the workers at the new plants to decide whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. That question could set up an epic battle with union leaders, who want employees of the future to join the union and earn top UAW production wages of around $32 per hour. It represents a high-stakes test for the UAW, which will need jobs for thousands of members who will lose work in the transition away engines and transmissions for petroleum-powered vehicles.

Ford’s move also could put the company at odds with President Joe Biden’s quest to create “good-paying union jobs” in a new, greener economy.

Farley said it’s too early to talk about pay or unionization at the new factories. He stressed that Ford will maintain a geographic manufacturing balance once the company’s investments in Ohio and Michigan are included. Ford and General Motors have UAW-represented plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, states where it is common for political leaders to actively campaign against unionization.

“We love our UAW partners,” Farley said. “They’ve been incredible on this journey of electrification so far. But it’s up to the employees to decide.”

Just four months ago, Ford said it would build two new battery plants in North America. But Farley said demand for the electric Mustang Mach E SUV and over 150,000 orders for the F-150 electric pickup convinced the company to increase battery output.

The Kentucky and Tennessee sites were picked in part because of lower electricity costs, Farley said, as well being less exposed to flooding and hurricanes than other states. Battery factories use five times the electricity of a typical assembly plant to make cells and assemble them into packs, so energy costs were a big factor, Farley said.

The company also needed huge tracts of land for the plants that weren’t available in other states, Farley said.

Both Southern states also have skilled labor forces and are willing to train workers for the new jobs, he said.

“These jobs are very different than the jobs we’ve had in the past,” Farley said. “We want to work with states who are really excited about doing that training and giving you access to that low energy cost.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves the Memphis-area site, sells industrial electricity at a price that’s lower than 93% of competitors nationwide, said CEO Jeff Lyash. Rates have stayed flat for the past decade and are planned to stay flat for the next 10 years, he said.

Combined, the three new battery plants will be able to supply enough batteries to power 1 million vehicles per year, about 129 gigawatts of power, Ford Chief Operating Officer Lisa Drake said.

Reaction from the union was tempered Monday, with officials seemingly optimistic about organizing the factories.

“We look forward to reaching out and helping develop this new workforce to build these world-class vehicles and battery components,” union President Ray Curry said in a statement.

Kristin Dziczek, a senior vice president at the Center for Automotive Research who follows labor issues, said the union’s future depends largely on organizing the new plants.

“It’s imperative that the UAW organize these if they’re going to have a stake in the electrification of this industry,” she said.

Union representation of the plants could become a contentious issue in the next round of national contract talks with the union in two years.

When General Motors first announced joint venture battery factories over the past few years, its executives said workers would decide on unionization. UAW officials howled in protest. In May, GM said it would support union organizing at the plants.

The Kentucky site is only about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Louisville, where Ford has plants that make SUVs and trucks now powered by internal combustion engines. Ford wouldn’t comment on whether those plants would eventually would make electric vehicles, but Dziczek said converting at least one would make sense. One plant makes the Ford Escape small SUV, in the most popular segment of the U.S market, she said.

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