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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 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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A digital divide haunts schools adapting to COVID-19 hurdles



A digital divide haunts schools adapting to COVID-19 hurdles

By Annie Ma, The Associated Press

When April Schneider’s children returned to in-person classrooms this year, she thought they were leaving behind the struggles from more than a year of remote learning. No more problems with borrowed tablets. No more days of missed lessons because her kids couldn’t connect to their virtual schooling.

But coronavirus cases in her children’s New York City classrooms, and the subsequent quarantines, sent her kids back to learning from home. Without personal devices for each child, Schneider said they were largely left to do nothing while stuck at home.

“So there you go again, with no computer, and you’re back to square one as if COVID just begun all over again in a smaller form,” Schneider said.

As more families pivot back to remote learning amid quarantines and school closures, reliable, consistent access to devices and home internet remains elusive for many students who need them to keep up with their schoolwork. Home internet access for students has improved since the onset of the pandemic with help from philanthropy, federal relief funding and other efforts — but obstacles linger, including a lack of devices, slow speeds and financial hurdles.

Concerns around the digital divide have shifted toward families that are “underconnected” and able to access the internet only sporadically, said Vikki Katz, a communication professor at Rutgers University.

“It’s about whether or not you can withstand the disruptions of these quick pivots in ways that don’t derail your learning,” she said.

In two studies — one conducted in 2015 and another in 2021 — Katz and other researchers surveyed low-income families with young children. While rates of home internet access and computer ownership are up significantly, the proportion of lower-income families whose internet access is unreliable or insufficient remained roughly the same.

A year into the pandemic, more than half the families Katz surveyed reported that their children’s ability to tune into online classes had been disrupted in some way.

Racial and income divides persist in home internet access, according to data from the Pew Research Center. One survey conducted in April 2020 found that during the initial school closures, 59% of lower-income families faced digital barriers, such as having to log on from a smartphone, not having a device or having to use a public network because their home network was not reliable enough.

About 34% of households making less than $30,000 reported having trouble paying for their home internet bill, as did 25% of those making between $30,000 and $50,000. Compared to white households, Black and Latino families were less likely to have access to broadband and a computer at home.

For Schneider’s children, not having enough working devices at home during the previous school year for remote learning meant missing assignments and classes. The kids struggled to focus on their work, even if they received paper assignments. During quarantine periods this year, she said, they were largely unable to participate in any instruction at all.

“Without the equipment … their experience was that they were more off than on,” Schneider said. “As soon as they said school was going to back up … I just had to take my chances and send them. They needed not to be out of school any longer.”

Even before the pandemic sent most schools to some form of remote learning, classrooms have increasingly embraced the role of technology in teaching, creating a “homework gap” between those who do and do not have access to internet and devices at home. Roughly 2.9 million school children lived in households without internet access, according to pre-pandemic Census data, and about 2.1 million lived in households without a laptop or desktop computer.

Some families are frustrated more hasn’t been done to close the gap.

When her grandchildren’s Pittsburgh school moved to online learning in March 2020, Janice Myers and her four grandchildren shared a single laptop. One month, she struggled to afford the internet bill on her fixed retirement income. She tried to access the company’s $10 monthly rate designed to keep low-income kids connected during the pandemic, but said she was told she did not qualify because she was an existing customer.

This school year, the children were adjusting well to in-person learning until a quarantine sent them home for a week, Myers said. Around Thanksgiving, the school shut down in-person classes again, this time for nearly three weeks. Both times, the school did not send the children home with tablets, leaving them with little instruction except a thin packet of worksheets, she said.

“To my mind, you had an entire school year to learn how to be better prepared, and how to be proactive and how to incorporate a Plan B at the drop of a hat,” she said. “There was no reason why every student, when they returned to school, didn’t receive or keep their laptop.”

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With Friday’s deal, King Soopers labor dispute now in workers’ hands



With Friday’s deal, King Soopers labor dispute now in workers’ hands

Soon after King Soopers and the union announced a tentative agreement Friday in a 10-day labor dispute, the picket lines were gone and parking lots at the grocery stores around the Denver area were once again filling up.

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 will decide Monday if the agreement struck between union and company negotiators will be permanent. The strike that began Jan. 12 covered more than 8,000 King Soopers employees at 78 stores in Boulder, Parker and across the metro area.

The strike was the first among Colorado grocery store employees since 1996 when union members walked off the job at King Soopers. Safeway and Albertsons eventually locked out workers. That strike lasted 42 days.

This time, workers’ complaints that the company hasn’t adequately supported or protected them during the coronavirus pandemic fueled anger over other issues, including wages, the outsourcing of jobs and workplace safety in the face of rising crime.

Labor shortages plaguing industries nationwide in an economy still recovering from the pandemic were seen as giving workers some leverage. Before the strike, Cindi Fukami, a professor of management in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, said she wondered where King Soopers would find replacement workers.

“I was very surprised when it did go to a strike because of that,” Fukami added.

She said she was also surprised by the amount of support the community showed the striking workers. “People really did honor the picket lines, and I think that was part of the speed with which things were settled.”

In a statement announcing the tentative agreement, UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova thanked the union’s allies and the people who supported the workers by not crossing the picket line.

Joe Kelley, president of King Soopers and City Market, also owned by Kroger, said in a separate statement that the company looks forward to welcoming back its employees and customers.

The company and union didn’t release details of the agreement Friday. Cordova said the final terms of the three-year contract would be made public following the vote.

“We’re pretty hopeful. It sounds like a good deal from what we understand, but we don’t know the fine details right now,” said Kenny Sanchez, a 10-year King Soopers employee who runs a wellness center at a Broomfield store.

Sanchez said he was on the picket lines every day of the strike, putting in 18 hours one day last week. “It was a knock-out, drag-out just every day.”

However, support from the community was strong, Sanchez said. People brought workers food and drinks and many customers didn’t patronize the store.

Marcey Goldis, a 29-year King Soopers employee, said Friday that she was happy to be off the picket line but was frustrated by not knowing more about the agreement.

“I’m hearing little bits of pieces about the agreement, but they’re not going to tell anybody what it is until five minutes before we go there on Monday (to vote). I don’t like that,” Goldis said.

It will be important for union members, especially the young ones, to sit down and read carefully through the agreement, Goldis said. She thinks people didn’t pay close enough attention to a contract in 2005 that created a two-tier structure that starts people hired after then at lower pay.

“I’m really hoping for the best,” Goldis said.

Shortly before the 10-day strike, the union filed a lawsuit against King Soopers that accused the company of unfair labor practices by using third-party staffing agencies to do union-covered work. The company filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that accused the union of unfair labor practices.

On Tuesday, a Denver District Court approved part of King Soopers’ request for a temporary restraining order. The company said some of the striking workers had blocked customers’ access to stores, obstructed deliveries and threatened and intimidated customers, employees and vendors.

The UFCW Local 7 said the accusations were baseless.

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“New eyes”: Gamers greet Microsoft’s Activision deal with guarded optimism



“New eyes”: Gamers greet Microsoft’s Activision deal with guarded optimism

By Erin Woo and Kellen Browning, The New York Times Company

When Drew Bienusa began playing Call of Duty, a first-person shooter game published by Activision Blizzard, he was immediately smitten. He loved how immersive having a digital avatar was, and the game was a favorite among his friends.

Bienusa was so dazzled that in 2016, he began livestreaming himself playing Call of Duty on the Twitch platform. He gave himself the gamer name Frozone and amassed 114,000 Twitch followers. In January, he became a professional Call of Duty: Warzone player for the esports organization XSET.

But by then, Bienusa’s feelings about Call of Duty had changed. Bugs in the game went unfixed for months, he said. Activision’s communications with competitive players fell off. And he was turned off by a recent sexual harassment lawsuit against the company that exposed its toxic workplace culture.

So on Tuesday, when Bienusa, 26, woke up to the news that Microsoft planned to buy Activision for nearly $70 billion, he was jubilant. “New eyes, new people, new owners, new management — it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s almost at a point where it can’t get worse.”

Bienusa was one of many gamers who expressed cautious optimism about the biggest-ever deal in the $175 billion games industry. The acquisition of Activision, if approved by regulators, will help bolster Microsoft’s video game ambitions with a library of popular titles, including Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Crash Bandicoot and Overwatch. Microsoft also positioned the deal as one that would help it delve into the futuristic digital world of the metaverse.

Yet ultimately, the deal’s success will hinge on how it is received by gamers. Historically, many players have expressed alarm about how acquisitions might affect the quality of online games. When Microsoft bought the maker of Minecraft in 2014, for instance, some gamers were concerned.

This time, the reaction has been more positive, partly because of how much Activision — with more than 400 million players worldwide — has appeared to stumble with its core users in recent years. In interviews, gamers said they saw Microsoft as a potential life raft for Activision Blizzard and as a welcome chance to bring new people into gaming.

In an email to employees, Activision’s chief executive, Bobby Kotick, said the purpose of the deal was to continue strengthening Activision’s games and its company culture. Activision declined to comment further. Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Activision’s decline with gamers has unfolded over the last few years. Many said they had been down on the publisher for some time, concerned that Activision put too much pressure on some divisions — such as Blizzard, which it merged with in 2008 — to deliver frequent hits, rather than giving developers the time to create iconic games. Then last year, Activision became embroiled in a lawsuit over workplace harassment brought by a California employment agency, raising questions about its conduct.

Activision’s track record with some of its games also became spottier. In November, it delayed new versions of Diablo and Overwatch. That same month, the newly released Call of Duty: Vanguard was widely panned as being boring and full of glitches.

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