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Deadly Memphis Shooting Prompts Protest

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  • A protest broke out in Memphis after U.S. Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old who they claim was wanted on felony warrants.
  • The protest escalated quickly, as rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, and vehicles and property were vandalized.
  • According to Memphis Police, 25 officers were injured.
  • The city’s Mayor said that the “aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”
  • While a Shelby County Commissioner said, “Don’t judge Frayser without asking a community how it feels to mourn their youth over and over again.”

Marshals Kill Man in Memphis

After United States Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old man in Memphis, protests broke out in the city, resulting in 25 officers being injured.

On Wednesday evening, officers in the U.S. Marshal Service encountered a man, who reports have identified as Brandon Webber. Officers claim the man was wanted on several felony warrants. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the officers tried to stop him as he entered a vehicle.

In a statement, the bureau said that Webber “reportedly rammed his vehicle into the officers’ vehicles multiple times before exiting with a weapon.  The officers fired striking and killing the individual. No officers were injured.”

According to his family, who were allegedly witnesses to the shooting, Webber was shot nearly 20 times. No authorities have confirmed this.

Protests Break Out

Word of the shooting ended up spreading through the Frayser neighborhood, which is where the incident occurred. This prompted unrest in the area and led to a protest around a nearby convenience store late Wednesday night.

The protest escalated. According to reports, protesters threw rocks and other objects at police, vandalized a squad car, broke the windows of a fire station, and tore down a concrete wall. Reports also say that police used tear gas to control the crowds.

According to CNN, there were over 100 people at the protest. However, numbers from people who attended say there could have been as many as 300.

Memphis Police said that at least 25 officers were injured, as well as two journalists. According to a post that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland made on Facebook, six people were hospitalized. However, Memphis Police tweeted that most of the injuries were minor.

Memphis Police say that three arrests were made.

Community Leaders Respond

“As I monitored tonight’s fatal shooting involving the US Marshal’s, I was proud of our first responders,” Mayor Strickland wrote on Facebook. “I’m impressed by their professionalism and incredible restraint as they endured concrete rocks being thrown at them and people spitting at them.”

“Let me be clear—the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted,” he later added.

Memphis police director, Michael Rallings spoke to reporters in a news conference about the protests and said he did not condone the violence.

“We’ve been very supportive of protests, but we will not allow any acts of violence,” he said. “We will not allow destruction of property. We will not allow acts of vandalism to occur.”

Tami Sawyer, a Commissioner for Shelby County who is also a mayoral candidate for the City of Memphis responded to the news on Twitter, saying she attended the protests herself because she stands “with her people.”

“Every life lost should matter,” she added.

TBI is still investigating the circumstances around Webber’s death. The NAACP also said they would be monitoring the situation.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Fox 13)(Daily Memphian)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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