Two Men Arrested In Killing of Ahmaud Arbery

 

 

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Two months after the February shooting death of 25 year old Ahmaud Arbery, and just two days after video of the shooting was released to the public, the two men who gunned him down while he was jogging were arrested and charged for murder. The men, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were each charged with murder and aggravated assault and booked into a jail in coastal Glynn County, Ga., where the killing took place. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in a news release, stated that it was Travis McMichael who shot and killed Mr. Arbery on Feb. 23.
The details of Mr. Arbery’s killing — and the fact that no one had been arrested in the months since it happened — led to a wave of outrage nationwide. Public pressure for an arrest intensified with the release of the video. The video of the shooting, taken from inside a vehicle, shows Mr. Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he comes upon a white truck, with a man, Travis McMichael, standing beside its open driver’s-side door with a rifle in his hand. Gregory McMichael is standing in the bed of the pickup. Mr. Arbery runs around the other side of the truck to avoid Travis McMichael. As Travis approaches the front of his truck, muffled shouting can be heard before Arbery emerges, tussling with the man outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.
It’s during this struggle that Arbery was shot a point blank range by Travis McMichael. Arbery then attempts to run away but collapses face down in the street. Gregory, a retired Glynn County police officer, and his son Travis both claim they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest when they followed Arbery after seeing him enter a home under construction 2 doors down from their home. They said he fit the description of a suspect in break-ins and burglaries in the area despite no reports of any in the neighborhood.
The owner of the home said nothing has ever been taken from the property but people have entered before. He released dozens of surveillance videos of people entering the property including one of Arbery from minutes before he was shot. Arbery was inside the home for less than 3 minutes looking around before he exits to continue his run. The additional videos show many other people entering the property to look around, including neighborhood kids and a couple who entered the same day Arbery was killed but no other trespassers were confronted.
The Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr formally requested the intervention of the FBI in the case to investigate the killing after there were reports that Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson said that no arrests should be made in the case and recused herself from further involvement in the case because Gregory McMichael had previously worked as an investigator in her office. The GBI found probable cause to charge Gregory and Travis McMichael within 36 hours of taking the case, and, on May 7, arrested the pair on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels were booked into the Glynn County Jail and were denied bond the following day.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced he asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities to look into how local prosecutors possibly held crucial evidence of Arbery’s killing and refused to make arrests, as more than two months passed before the attackers were arrested. The Brunswick police reportedly had a copy of the shocking video but no arrests were made until 2 days after it was released to the public by a lawyer the McMichaels consulted with but did not retain.

Meat Processing Plants Close Due to Covid 19

 

 

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The coronavirus outbreak has hit workers in the food processing industry hard, with meatpacking plants reporting explosions in coronavirus cases. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant that employs 3, 700 people closed down indefinitely after the mayor put pressure on the CEOs to shut down for two weeks as the virus continued to spread through the plant.

The mayor spent two weeks asking them to shut down to no avail with daily reports of more workers becoming infected.  He finally forced their hand by releasing a letter, signed by the governor, requesting that the plant shut down and released it to the press.  At the time of the closure, the plant had 238 workers that tested positive.  Now, just 3 weeks after their first worker tested positive, there are more than 700 workers who are confirmed to have Covid 19 and another 143 infections that were traced to them.  The number of confirmed cases from the Smithfield plant represent 55% of the states’ cases.

Cargill Meat Solutions, a 900-worker plant in Hazleton, Pa., that packages meat in plastic for supermarket shelves in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, shut down temporarily as 130 hourly workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and a rash of employees called out sick.  Three other Pennsylvania plants closed due to the virus.  According to a union rep, JBS Beef in Souderton, CTI Foods hamburger-grinding plant in King of Prussia and Empire Kosher Poultry Inc. in Mifflintown are all closed amid outbreaks among employees.  A 70-year-old union steward at the JBS Beef slaughterhouse in Souderton died on April 3 from respiratory failure brought on by the pandemic virus.

Meat-processing plants across several other states including Colorado, Iowa, and Nebraska are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks. A federal food inspector in New York died from the disease last month.   Some companies are temporarily closing to sanitize facilities while also boosting hourly pay and offering bonuses to workers in an “essential” industry. Cargill said it would reopen its Hazleton plant as soon as it is safe. In late March, Cargill and the United Food and Commercial Workers negotiated a $2 per hour raise for shifts worked between March 23 and May 3. JBS Beef employees will be eligible for a one-time $500 bonus on May 15.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say COVID-19 cannot be spread through food.  It’s an “unstable virus” that is mostly spread through sneezing and person-to-person contact. Stomach acids also mostly neutralize the virus if it’s eaten as well.

 

France Extends Stay At Home Order to May 11

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France extended its coronavirus lockdown another four weeks until May 11. President Emmanuel Macron announced the extension in a televised address.  France has reported over 140,000 cases and over 17,000 coronavirus deaths.  From May 11 onward, he said, quarantine will be “gradually” lifted, starting with nurseries, K-12 schools, and some shops.

Macron’s address was his third since March 17, when the government ordered 67 million French people to stay home, allowing them out just once a day to exercise, buy food or medicine, or seek medical care.  In the sobering televised address, Macron was apologetic, admitting he thought they were ready for the crisis but they clearly were not.  He acknowledged state failures in rolling out testing and supporting healthcare workers, and admitted that he didn’t have all the answers.  Macron said they have faced up to that and have had to make very difficult decisions that required them to adapt constantly as fragmentary information continued to change.  “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

France has seen progress with slowing the spread but Macron urged that that is no reason to lift the order.  “I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation, adding that the current rules were working.  “When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said.

“Over the next four weeks, the rules must be respected,” he explained.  Macron said the four-week extension will give France the ability to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms, which will allow for better containment of the virus.  He said that by May 11, France would be able to test every citizen presenting COVID-19 symptoms which is why the orders have to be extended.

He offered a rough timeline for how the country may reopen, starting with schools and shops in May and ending with restaurants, hotels, cafés and cinemas in July.  International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice.  “We’ll end up winning,” Macron said. “But we’ll need to live with the virus for a few months.”

After a steady increase in cases until the first week of April, the number of patients in French hospitals’ intensive care units has started to decline, prompting health authorities to call a plateau in the epidemic.  French hospitals are just about coping, while nursing homes are still overwhelmed.  Some of that pressure has been eased by a massive effort to transfer patients by plane, helicopter or even high-speed train from hospitals in the east and Paris to the west.

 

 

Stay At Home Orders in the US

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Millions of U.S. residents are now under some sort of stay-at-home order in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.  There are now over 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — more than one-quarter of the reported total cases worldwide, though the actual numbers both in the U.S. and around the world are likely much higher due to limited testing.  Governors that were originally against stay-at-home orders finally succumbed last week after COVID-19 cases in their states increased rapidly.

There are still a few states that have not issued stay at home orders.  Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have yet to issue any state-wide orders but they have a number of local directives suggesting residents stay indoors or have stay at home orders in place only in their harder hit counties.

For the other 95% of Americans, the states they call home slowly joined the majority to issue stay at home orders for all non-essential activities.  Just as governors issued stay-at-home orders on a rolling, piecemeal basis, they have done the same on the backend, with each governor setting his or her own time frame for lifting the order. Consequently, we have end dates spanning two months, from April 15 to June 10.  More than half of the states have already extended the end date of their original order and the new end date could be pushed back again as the pandemic unfolds.

Three Pacific coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — have formed an alliance called the “Western States Pact” that will reopen at the same time. They announced that they “have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.”  California was the first to issue its order but within 3 days, Oregon and Washington followed suit.  All three states orders were issued with no set end date so their orders stay in place until further notice.

On the east coast, seven states — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — have formed the “Multi-State Council” that will also reopen at the same time. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the council “will come up with a framework based on science and data to gradually ease the stay at home restrictions and get our economy back up and running.”  Many of these states with an end date on their original order issued extensions with new dates in May.

Two states have stay-at-home orders that are set to expire soon; Idaho (April 15) and Kansas (April 19). Both Idaho Governor Brad Little and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly have indicated that they will extend the orders.  Eight states’ orders are due to expire between April 20 and April 26. Indiana, Mississippi, Alaska, District of Columbia, Missouri, Montana, Wisconsin and Colorado are fast approaching their end dates.  Four governors — half of this group — have already issued one extension and several have stated they are planning another.

For the last week of April, 19 states are due to lift their stay-at-home mandates.  South Carolina, New York, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas have end dates at the end of April but again, more than half of the governors in this group have already extended the end dates for their orders once.

Nine states have stay-at-home orders that end May 4 or later. Notably, seven of them have already bumped back their end dates once, from April to May. If the trend continues, we can expect more states to be extending their mandates into May.

 

Supplies Depleting Fast For New York Healthcare Systems

 

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In New York City, the epicenter of the US crisis, the death toll from COVID-19 is over 4,500 and continuing to climb.  There have been more than 140,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus discovered in New York, including more than 76,876 in New York City.  Thirty-five percent of the confirmed cases in the US are in the state of New York.  Governor Andrew Cuomo warned state residents to expect a high death rate through July.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is dispatching more than 250 ambulances and 85 refrigerated trucks to New York to serve as temporary morgues.  In Central Park, an emergency field hospital began operations to treat spillover patients from nearby Mount Sinai Hospital.  Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly warned city hospitals are in dire need of millions of masks, hundreds of thousands of gowns and hundreds of ventilators, and are on the brink of running out of supplies.

Following complaints by health care workers about their inability to get tested for the coronavirus despite a colleague recently dying from COVID-19, the Mount Sinai hospital system in New York City will begin providing tests on Tuesday for any employee who shows symptoms of the disease. Mount Sinai will use PCR tests for anyone showing symptoms.  They will also administer a serum antibody test to anyone who was symptomatic.

The Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services announced that hundreds of thousands of masks and other pieces of medical equipment seized from a Brooklyn man have been distributed to medical workers on the front lines treating novel coronavirus patients in New York and New Jersey.  According to the DOJ, the equipment seized and distributed includes roughly 192,000 N95 respirator masks, nearly 600,000 medical gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.  Prosecutors say 43-year-old Baruch Feldheim hoarded the supplies in order to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and was selling them to doctors and nurses at prices as much as 700% above market value.

Governor Cuomo said it’s unclear what will happen after New York hits its peak. Cases could begin dropping off or there could be more of a plateau effect, in which new cases and death rates remain flat.  Cuomo said the falling rate of infection will not be met with a slackening of social-distancing measures. Schools and nonessential business will remain closed at least until April 29 and there will be higher fines for people violating social-distancing rules. The maximum fine is now $1,000.

Covid-19 Spread Causes More Restrictions

 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union”, offered his prognosis as the federal government weighs rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been as hard-hit by the outbreak at the conclusion of the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.  The U.S. government’s foremost infection disease expert says the United States could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the coronavirus pandemic.

The US has become the epicenter with about 125,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and over 2,100 dead as of March 29, 2020.  Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.

The US president has suggested that a target date for reopening the U.S economy, which has been battered by the coronavirus outbreak, is April 12, Easter. But public health officials warn that lifting restrictions too soon could lead to more deaths and further damage the economy.  To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued social distancing guidelines and called for gatherings of more than 10 people to be canceled, while governors have ordered residents in their states to remain in their homes and ordered nonessential businesses to close.

The CDC has issued a domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  “Due to extensive community transmission of COVID -19 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately,” the CDC said in a statement. “This Domestic Travel Advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.”  The CDC also noted that the governors of the three states would “have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory.”

With more than 124,000 cases and 2,046 deaths nationwide, the three states make up more than half of the cases and nearly half of the deaths.  New York State has over 55,000 confirmed cases and over 2,000 deaths.  New Jersey has over 11,000 confirmed cases and 140 deaths.  Connecticut has over 1,200 confirmed cases and 33 deaths.  Most of the Connecticut cases are in Fairfield County where many residents commute into New York City for work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet Provider Covid-19 Responses

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As homebound Americans are online for work and to keep in touch with friends and family, some internet providers have lifted data caps without significant interruptions to service from the increased bandwidth. The crisis has renewed calls for the FCC to regulate the internet as a utility and for a reversal of a repeal of net neutrality protections.  Many are also adhering to the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge (PDF), which asks the signees not to terminate a customer’s service for non-payment. Below are the providers and what they have pledged.

AT&T – All AT&T home Internet Wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet customers, can use unlimited data. AT&T will continue to offer $10/mo Access from AT&T service for qualifying customers. They will also not terminate the service of any customer who can’t pay their bill, and will waive the fees associated with late payments within the next 60 days.  All their public Wi-Fi hotspots will be open to everyone. 

CenturyLink- CenturyLink said it has committed to waive late fees and to not terminate a residential or small business customer’s service due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19 for the next 60 days. They are also suspending data usage limits for customers during this time period and hav committed to the FCC’s Keeping Americans Connected Pledge.

Comcast- Comcast has paused enforcement of its data caps for 60 days, giving all of its customers unlimited data for that period. (Comcast normally gives its Xfinity customers two “grace” months for every 12, allowing them to exceed their data cap without penalty.) New subscribers to Comcast’s $9.95/month Internet Essentials plan will receive two months free, and speeds were increased to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.  Comcast is also making its Xfinity WiFi service free for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a Comcast subscriber or not. 

Cox- Cox is eliminating data usage overages for the next 60 days. Customers with a 500GB or existing Unlimited plan will receive credits. They also will not terminate service for any residential or small business customers, and would open its Cox WiFi hotspot network to keep the public connected. 

Cox is offering free support calls and the first month free to its low-cost Internet service, Connect2Compete. Customers on its Essential plan will see their speeds increased from 30Mbps to 50Mbps.

Charter (Spectrum)-Charter Communications’ Spectrum services does not have data caps. They will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days if that household has K-12 students or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. Charter said it will open its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.

Mediacom Communications- Mediacom has paused monthly data allowances through May 15 across all broadband service tiers.  New customers who sign up for Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service can do so for $19.99/mo for 12 months, rather than $29.99/mo. It has also made its Wi-Fi hotspot network publicly accessible, for free, for 60 days. They also will not disconnect service or assess late fees for the next 60 days to any customer who calls and informs the company that they cannot pay their bill.

Sprint- Sprint has extended its network to include T-Mobile’s network as well for the next 60 days. Sprint has also signed the Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will waive fees and not terminate services if customers are unable to pay because of the coronavirus for the next 60 days. Customers with metered data plans will now receive unlimited data for 60 days. They will also receive an additional 20GB of hotspot data for the same period. 

Starry- Wireless broadband ISP Starry has made Starry Connect, a broadband program for public and affordable housing owners, free through May. Normally, the program, which provides 30Mbps symmetrical speeds, is $15/mo. Starry has also agreed to suspend cancellation of service due to nonpayment due to the coronavirus. It already does not charge additional fees or late fees. Starry’s service does not include data caps, either.

Verizon- Verizon will waive late fees and keep residential and small business customers connected if negatively impacted by the global crisis.  It is also upgrading the data plan on its Verizon Innovative Learning program for Title 1 middle schools from 10GB/month to 30GB/month for the next two months and removed data caps on Verizon home Internet subscribers.  They will also waive overage charges in addition to pledging to not terminate service and waive late fees.