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Amber Guyger Hugged by Judge and Victim’s Brother

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  • Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years after being found guilty of murdering Botham Jean.
  • Guyger thought she was entering her own apartment in 2018 when she shot and killed Jean, whom she believed to be an intruder. She was actually entering Jean’s apartment, which was on the floor above.
  • Jean’s brother, Brandt, spoke at her sentencing and said he forgives her and wishes no ill towards her. He then got up and hugged her. 
  • The judge in the case, Tammy Kemp, also hugged Guyger and gave her a Bible. 

Guyger Sentenced

Amber Guyger was convicted of murdering Brandt Jean’s brother, Botham Jean. During her sentencing, he asked to give Guyger a hug, igniting an online debate about the criminal justice system and forgiveness. 

Guyger, an ex-Dallas Police Officer, was sentenced on Wednesday to ten years with a possibility of parole after five for killing Botham Jean in 2018. Guyger thought she was entering her own apartment, believing Jean to be an intruder when she shot him. She was actually at the apartment above, which belonged to Jean. He was sitting on his couch eating ice cream at the time. 

Judge Kemp and Brandt Jean Hug Guyger

The maximum sentencing Guyger could have faced was 99 years behind bars, so many thought 10 years was lenient. On Wednesday night, some even protested in downtown Dallas. Brandt Jean, however, said he does not want Guyger to go to jail at all.

“I forgive you,” Botham Jean’s 18-year-old brother said at the sentencing, “and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”

“I personally want the best for you,” he added. “And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail.”

He then requested to hug Guyger, who met him with open arms. Brandt Jean was not the only one to hug her during her sentencing. Judge Tammy Kemp, who oversaw the case, also hugged Guyger and gave her a bible. 

People Praise Hug

These actions of radical sympathy generated a massive online conversation. “Forgiveness” trended on Twitter, and many were impressed by Brandt Jean’s words and actions. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called it a “powerful example of Christian love.”

Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said, “grace prevailed.” 

The Dallas Police Department said it showed “a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust.”

Others Criticize the Moment

There were others, however, who thought that Brandt Jean requesting a hug was okay, but Judge Kemp giving one was more shocking. 

“This family is amazing,” reporter Brooke Thomas said about Brandt Jean, before switching topics to the judge. “This part made my jaw drop…None of this has been the ending I expected after a racist killer was convicted and sentenced to prison.”

Thomas also mentioned text messages that prosecutors brought up during Guyger’s sentencing. In the messages, Guyger made a joke about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and other disrespectful comments about black police officers. 

Reporter Jemele Hill said that Brandt Jean can choose to grieve on his terms, but said the judge’s hug was “unacceptable.” 

While others thought the whole situation sent a troubling message about the way people of color are treated in comparison to white people. 

CNN commentator and author Keith Boykin said it sent the idea that “white women’s lives are valuable. Black men’s lives are not.”

Activist Deray Mckesson said he would not want his family to “forgive or hug anyone in these circumstances.” 

Others questioned if the criminal justice system would have treated Bothman Jean differently if the tables were turned. 

See what others are saying: (Dallas Morning Star) (NPR) (NBC Dallas-Fort Worth)

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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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