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Detective: Brothers detailed how Jussie Smollett staged hoax

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Detective: Brothers detailed how Jussie Smollett staged hoax

CHICAGO — Two brothers arrested for an alleged attack on Jussie Smollett recounted for Chicago police how the ex-“Empire” actor orchestrated the hoax, telling them via text message to meet him “on the low,” paying for supplies and holding a “dry run” in downtown Chicago, a lead investigator testified Tuesday.

Taking the stand as prosecutors began their case against Smollett, former police detective Michael Theis said he initially viewed the actor as a victim of a homophobic and racist attack and that police “absolutely” didn’t rush to judgment as Smollett’s defense attorney alleged during opening statements Monday.

Theis, who now is assistant director for research and development for the Chicago Police Department, said roughly two dozen detectives clocked some 3,000 hours on what they thought was a “horrible hate crime” in January 2019. He said they were excited when they were able to track the movements of two suspected attackers using surveillance video and cellphone and records from ride-sharing services.

“The crime was a hate crime, a horrible hate crime,” Theis said, noting Smollett — who is Black and gay — reported that his attackers put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. He said the case had become national and international news and that “everybody from the mayor on down” wanted it solved, a reference to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Smollett is charged with felony disorderly conduct for making what prosecutors say was a false police report about the alleged attack. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is convicted he likely would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

After police arrested Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo — brothers who also worked on the set of “Empire” in Chicago — as they returned to Chicago from Nigeria, the men said Smollett wanted to stage the attack because he was unhappy about how the TV studio handled hate mail the actor had received, Theis said. He said investigators checked out the brothers’ account — including that the actor picked them up days before the attack and drove them around the downtown neighborhood where he lived and talked about what would happen — and corroborated their version of events using GPS, cellphone records and video evidence. Police found no instance where they concluded the men were lying, he added.

“At the end of the investigation, we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event,” Theis said, and the Osundairo brothers were released.

Jurors were shown surveillance video of the brothers buying supplies, including a red hat they told police Smollett wanted them to wear to resemble supporters of then-President Donald Trump, and a piece of clothesline police said was later fashioned into the noose. Jurors also saw a still image from a video that Theis said showed Smollett returning home the night of the alleged attack, with the clothesline draped around his shoulders. The clothesline was wrapped around his neck when officers arrived, Theis said, leading detectives to believe Smollett may have retied it.

Muhammad Baig, the first officer on the scene after Smollett’s manager reported the attack, said he asked Smollett if he wanted to take the rope off his neck and “he responded by saying that he’d like to take it off but he wanted us to see it first.” He also said Smollett asked officers to turn off their body-worn cameras, which they did.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche said during opening statements Monday that Smollett “is a real victim” and that the brothers attacked Smollett because they didn’t like him “because of who he is.”

On Tuesday, Uche suggested the brothers were homophobic, asking Theis on cross-examination about a homophobic word one of the brothers used. Theis said there was a message containing a slur but that he doesn’t know if that makes the man homophobic. Uche also asked Theis if he was aware one of the brothers attacked someone at the TV studio because he was gay.

“One individual said it happened, but I don’t know that it happened,” Theis said.

Uche also sought to discredit the police investigation, suggesting detectives ignored possible leads. And he said a $3,500 check the actor paid the brothers was for personal training so he could prepare for an upcoming music video, not for carrying out the hoax, as prosecutors allege. Theis said Tuesday that the memo on the check said it was for “nutrition” and “training.”

The brothers will testify during the trial, but it’s unknown if Smollett will.

Uche has portrayed the siblings as unreliable, and said when police searched their home they found heroin and guns.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb told jurors that Smollett told police he was attacked by Trump supporters, inflaming political divisions nationwide.

Webb said Smollett thought the TV studio didn’t take hate mail he received seriously. Police haven’t determined who wrote the letter, which included a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree and “MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan. Webb said Smollett told the brothers to shout racial and homophobic slurs and “MAGA” during the staged attack.

Uche also suggested that a third attacker was involved. One area resident said she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night, according to police reports. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Uche referenced the woman during his cross-examination of Theis on Tuesday, and Theis acknowledged that he saw that statement but did not send a detective to re-interview her. He said the woman had seen the man a few hours before the alleged attack and that “the rope was a different color.”

Outside the courtroom, Smollett’s brother said it has been “incredibly painful” for the family to watch Smollett be accused of something he “did not do.”

“We’re confident in his legal team, and we look forward to people hearing the actual facts of this case,” Jojo Smollett said.

Judge James Linn expects the trial to last about one week.

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197,244 COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted in Massachusetts

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197,244 COVID-19 vaccine doses wasted in Massachusetts

Don’t skip that vaccine appointment, updated data on wasted doses shows.

As of this week, 197,244 COVID-19 vax doses have been reported as wasted to the Massachusetts Immunization Information System, health officials report.

Of the 7.57 million total doses shipped to date so far during the pandemic, it represents a vaccine wastage percentage of 2.6%.

“In general, there are a number of reasons why vaccination sites may have to mark doses as wasted, from a cracked vial or an error diluting the vaccine to a freezer malfunction, to name a few,” health officials added.

Thursday’s vaccine report states 5.16 million people in Massachusetts have been fully vaccinated. A further breakdown shows a total of 13.3 million vaccines have been used, and 2.5 million booster shots given.

When is comes to booster shots, Hampshire out west leads the way percentage-wise with 58% of the population boosted up. Cape Cod is close behind, after lagging early in the vax race, at 55% boosted. Suffolk County stands at 45%, state health officials report.

In total, 86% of the Bay State population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

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Elon Musk Reacts to Tesla Competitor’s Sunday NYT Ad Smearing Full Self-Driving

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Elon Musk Reacts to Tesla Competitor’s Sunday NYT Ad Smearing Full Self-Driving
The Dawn Project’s full-page advertisement in Sunday’s New York Times. @andyjayhawk/Twitter

Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system is (again) stirring up a storm of controversy on the internet. The EV maker on Monday released the newest (version 10.9) updates of its FSD Beta to a select group of Tesla owners. The day before, a software safety advocacy organization called “The Dawn Project” placed a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s New York Times, calling Tesla FSD “the worst software ever sold by a Fortune 500 company” and urging the public to not be “crash test dummies for thousands of Tesla cars” with FSD.

The ad was paid for by The Dawn Project’s founder Dan O’Dowd, who is also the CEO of Green Hills Software, a company that provides operating systems to automakers, as well as the aerospace industry.

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After reviewing “many hours” of YouTube videos of drivers testing FSD, O’Dowd arrived at the conclusions that the system commits a “critical driving error,” as defined by the California DMV Driving Performance Evaluation, every eight minutes and that, if the system was used in every passenger vehicle in the U.S., “millions would die every day.”

To prove his point, O’Dowd is offering a $10,000 reward “to the first person who can name another commercial product from a Fortune 500 company that has a critical malfunction every 8 minutes.”

Under O’Dowd’s share of his NYT ad on Twitter, a Tesla investor named Dave Lee suggested in a comment that Green Hills had taken money from Tesla competitors, to which Elon Musk responded, “Green Hills software is a pile of trash.”

According to Green Hills website, the company most recently worked with BMW on its iX electric sports utility vehicle.

O’Dowd argued that nobody knows a product’s flaws better than its competitors. “They tear them apart, they figure out what they do right, they figure out what they do wrong,” he told Fox Business Monday. “They know better, and they’ll tell you. The salesman is never going to tell you those things.”

Tesla has been testing Full Self-Driving Beta for over a year with a small group of Tesla owners who have high “safety scores.” A less advanced driver assistance system called Autopilot is available on all Tesla vehicles.

O’Dowd said the original version of Autopilot was built using Green Hills Software but he later backed away from the project because he didn’t believe it was going to work. Tesla hasn’t confirmed this information.

The latest FSD Beta allows a Tesla vehicle to drive itself to a destination entered in its navigation system. But the driver is required to stay alert and be ready to take control at any time.

FSD is the most expensive driver assistance system in the EV market right now. And it’s getting even pricier with each new iteration. Last week, Tesla announced that the price was scheduled to jump from $10,000 to $12,000 on January 17 with the 10.9 release and that additional increases can be expected as the technology improves.

Musk has recently claimed that there hasn’t been any accident or injury caused by FSD since its launch. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the process of investigating whether FSD was involved in a Model Y crash that occurred in Brea, California, on November 3.

Elon Musk Reacts to Tesla Competitor’s Sunday NYT Ad Smearing Full Self-Driving

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Guregian: The lowdown on the NFL’s divisional round matchups

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Guregian: The lowdown on the NFL’s divisional round matchups

The AFC and NFC’s semifinalists are set to hit the big stage this weekend in divisional round action.

While the Patriots might be done for the season, searching for answers to improve for next year, there’s still a few more weeks of playoff football left, and interesting matchups all around.

Among the remaining eight teams, there’s plenty of star power at quarterback. At age 44, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316), and touchdowns (43). The former Patriots great also tops everyone in championship rings with seven.

Is he headed for No. 8?

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes are also ring-owners. So is San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who has two rings from his time in New England, but didn’t play in any of the playoff games.

Beyond the jewelry, Pro Football Focus has seven of the remaining quarterbacks ranked in their Top 15 based on performance this season, led by Cincy’s Joe Burrow, who sits in the top spot. After Burrow, Brady (2), Rodgers (4), and Buffalo’s Josh Allen (5) round out the Top 5.

How do the games shape up? Let’s take a look.

Bengals at Titans

When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Where: Nissan Stadium

Biggest concern for Bengals: Joe Burrow was sacked a league-leading 51 times during the year. Can the offensive line keep Burrow upright against the Titans, who were among the league leaders in sacks (43)?

Biggest concern for Titans: The expectation is for star running back Derrick Henry to play. He’s been sidelined since Week 9 with a Jones fracture in his right foot. It remains to be seen how much of an impact he’ll have coming off that type of injury.

Bengals stat of note: The first team ever with a 4,000-yard passer (Burrow), a 1,000-yard rusher (Joe Mixon) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Ja’Marr Chase & Tee Higgins).

Titans stat of note: Henry is the only player in the NFL with 10-plus rushing touchdowns in each of the past four seasons.

Lowdown: The Titans, as the AFC’s top seed, are seeing their first action in the 2021 playoffs. They should have all of their key players on offense (A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Henry) together for the first time since November. They’ll need all hands on deck to compete with the firepower of the Bengals offense.

Burrow’s connection with Chase (13 TDs) is frightening for any defense. If the Titans manage to contain that threat, there’s still Higgins, Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah, who had six catches last week in the Wild Card round. Mixon, who rushed for over 1,000 yards, offers some balance to the attack.

While the Titans defense has improved, it has on occasion proved vulnerable in the secondary.

Overall, however, the Bengals defense has surrendered more points per game (27.1) and yards per game (350.8) than the Titans.

The Bengals also lost starting defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to a season-ending foot injury in Saturday’s win. Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson was in concussion protocol, but was back at practice.

This game certainly has the potential for an upset. Just not totally sold on the Bengals defense, or offensive line. The Bengals have the edge at quarterback, with Burrow over Ryan Tannehill, but the Titans get the checkmark on defense and at head coach. Mike Vrabel should come up with a game plan to slow Burrow & Co. for the Titans to advance.

Prediction: Titans 28, Bengals 24

49ers at Packers

When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (FOX, FOX Deportes)

Where: Lambeau Field

Biggest concern for 49ers: Whether Jimmy Garoppolo can deliver with thumb and shoulder injuries.

Biggest concern for Packers: Stopping the run. The Packers were 30th overall during the regular season, allowing 4.7 yards per carry. The last three games, the number climbed to 5.6 yards per rush.

49ers stat of note: Defensive end Nick Bosa (21) tied with Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt for the most tackles for loss in 2021.

Packers stat of note: They’re the only team with an undefeated record (8-0) at home during the 2021 regular season.

Skinny: In the strange but true department, Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 against the 49ers in the playoffs. Will that have any bearing in this game?

Doubt it.

The Packers are the NFC’s top seed, and record-wise (13-4), the best team in football. Rodgers has put together an MVP-type season. He’s been in total command of the Packers offense, with 37 TD passes and just four INTs.

The Niners have a decent pass rush to try and rattle Rodgers. Bosa, however, suffered a head injury in Sunday’s win over Dallas. He has advanced through the NFL’s concussion protocol, practicing in a limited fashion Wednesday and has a decent chance to play. Linebacker Fred Warner suffered an ankle injury, but he took to social media to tell fans he was a go.

As for Jimmy G., all he seems to do is win, whether he plays well or not. His thumb injury is going to be tougher to overcome, especially in the cold. Niners receiver Deebo Samuel is a stud, but so is Davante Adams for the Packers, who had 12 catches for 132 yards during the two teams’ regular season meeting, won by the Packers.

Bottom line, it’s going to be tough to knock Rodgers out, especially at Lambeau.

Prediction: Packers 31, 49ers 21

Rams at Buccaneers

When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (NBC, Peacock Universo)

Where: Raymond James Stadium

Biggest concern for Rams: Which team will show up? The one that blew a 17-point lead to the Niners in Week 18, or the one that just blew out the Cardinals in the Wild Card round?

Biggest concern for Bucs: Injuries to key players on offense finally catching up. WR Chris Godwin suffered a season-ending knee injury, while RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and RB Ronald Jones (ankle) weren’t healthy enough to play in the Wild Card round. Center Ryan Jensen and All-Pro RT Tristan Wirfs are also battling injuries.

Key Rams stat: Cooper Kupp became the 4th player since 1970 to lead the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and receiving touchdowns (16) in the same season.

Key Bucs stat: Tom Brady is the All-Time NFL postseason leader in games played (46), wins (35), passing TDs (85), Super Bowl titles (7) and Super Bowl MVPs (5).

Skinny: The Rams took down the Bucs Week 3, 34-24. Brady, of course, will be looking to avenge that loss and advance to the NFC Championship game. This time around, however, he’ll have to do it with a lot of missing parts.

Brady, of course, looked great against the Eagles in the Wild Card game playing with a cast of backups, but took a beating in the process with Jensen hobbled, and Wirfs eventually leaving the game with an ankle injury. The Rams, Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller in particular, will be looking to tee off on the GOAT and make his life miserable.

Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, threw a few too many picks down the stretch, but cleaned up his act against Arizona throwing two TDs, with a 154.5 rating. In the meeting earlier in the year against the Bucs, he passed for 343 yards with 4 TDs and no picks. And after many years of frustration in Detroit, Stafford won his first playoff game last week against the Cardinals.

The head says go with the Rams over the depleted Bucs.

But in the end, it’s never a good idea to bet against Brady. If there’s a way to win, he’ll find it. He’ll certainly be handicapped with a makeshift offensive line, and several of his key weapons likely not playing. It doesn’t make sense for a 44-year-old to overcome such obstacles. But then again, Brady’s made a living proving all the doubters wrong.

Prediction: Bucs 30, Rams 27

Bills at Chiefs

When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

Where: Arrowhead Stadium

Biggest concern for Bills: Can Josh Allen duplicate his other-worldly performances against the Patriots, or will he come back to earth?

Biggest concern for Chiefs: The defense. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has been up and down much of the year. Of late, they’ve put up a few stinkers.

Key Bills stat: Only team in the NFL to rank in the Top 5 in total offense (381.9 yards per game) and total defense (272.8 yards allowed per game).

Key Chiefs stat: Patrick Mahomes is second behind Dan Marino (168) with the most TD passes his first five seasons (151).

Skinny: Naturally, the NFL is saving the best for last. This is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. The Chiefs were the superior team last year, and the Bills spent the entire offseason vowing to improve and take down Mahomes & Co. this time around. They did so earlier in the year in a rout, 38-20, at Arrowhead.

The playoffs, however, are a different animal.

Can the Bills do it again? If Allen plays as well as he did against Bill Belichick’s team the last two games, never punting, while scoring every time he touched the ball, the Bills are going to be tough to beat.

Both the Chiefs and Bills have had impressive wins, but also a few head-scratching losses along the ride. At this stage, though, it’s hard to believe the game won’t live up to the hype. Both Mahomes and Allen took it up a notch last week. This one’s a heavyweight fight all the way. It’s hard to believe Mahomes vs. Allen won’t be a great duel. Predicting a slight upset in this one.

Prediction: Bills 35, Chiefs 31

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