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Protests Over Death of George Floyd Escalate

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Photos by Eric Miller for Reuters and Richard Tsong-Taatarii for the Star Tribune

  • Ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis surged on Wednesday.
  • Demonstrators looted, set fires, and clashed with police, who responded with flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
  • One man was shot and killed after a pawn shop owner allegedly suspected him of trying to loot his store.
  • Local leaders and Floyd’s family called for peace. Meanwhile, protests also took place in Los Angeles and Memphis.

Protests Escalate

Protests raged on in Minneapolis Wednesday night over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.

The demonstrations, which have been ongoing since Tuesday, reportedly started out peacefully when protestors gathered in the afternoon outside the third precinct police headquarters.

But according to reports, by the early evening, officers began trying to disperse the crowds with flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Protestors responded by throwing objects at the precinct building and the officers.

The clashes reportedly continued on throughout the night as protestors set fires and looted stores.

The looting started at a Target across the street from the precinct before spreading to other parts of the city, the Star Tribune reported. Numerous videos shared on social media showed people taking items out of the store, smashing windows, and destroying other pieces of property.

Local outlets also reported that a grocery store and several small businesses were also looted. A man was shot and killed by a pawn shop owner, marking the first and only reported fatality from these protests. According to the Tribune, the shop owner opened fire on the man, who he believed was trying to loot his store.

The Tribune also reported that at least four other people were shot, though it is unclear if the shootings were connected or separate instances.

Police allegedly did not do anything to stop the looters, prompting at least one group of armed men to stand outside a strip mall.

In a now-viral, one of the armed men told a reporter that the group was going around the city helping store owners because police were not, but added that they also supported the protestors.

“Basically you see the records that cops keep,” the man said. “And cops are a lot less likely to try and tread on people’s rights when there’s other armed Americans with them.” 

“It’s goddamn time that some heavily armed rednecks stood with fellow citizens,” he added. “So bottom line, justice for Floyd and I hope they stop looting at some point.” 

Meanwhile, multiple fires were set all across the city. Some of the biggest blazes took place at an AutoZone store and an affordable-housing building that was under construction.

The AutoZone fire was put out by firefighters then reignited by protestors, who reportedly threw rocks and other objects at them.

Those protests went on through the night and continued into Thursday morning.

Videos and pictures circulated online Thursday showed some fires still smoldering and police officers in riot gear still standing off against people still protesting in the streets.

According to reports, the National Guard has been ordered to the third precinct to help relieve the police.

Response from Leaders & Other Protests

Amid the escalations, numerous local leaders and other individuals took to social media to call for peace. 

“Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wrote on Twitter.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who represents Minneapolis in Congress, also made similar remarks on Twitter.

“Violence only begets violence,” she said. “More force is only going to lead to more lives lost and more devastation.”

Ben Crump, the lawyer for George Floyd’s family, also made a similar argument, writing on Twitter that Floyd’s family thanks the protestors for standing for justice, but adding, “George Floyd’s family wants peace in #Minneapolis — but knows that Black people want peace in their souls — and until we get #JusticeForFloyd there will be no peace.”

“We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors and endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage,” he continued. “Looting and violence distract from strength of our collective voice.”

In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, also echoed Crump’s remarks.

“I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing black men die constantly, over and over again,” he said.

Other protests over Floyd’s death also look place in Los Angeles and Memphis.

In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of City Hall and then blocked traffic on the 101 freeway. The protest was mostly peaceful, though some demonstrators broke the windows of California Highway Patrol cars.

In Memphis, a group of people marched in protest before gathering outside a police building. A small group of counter-protesters showed up, and both sides began yelling, prompting police to step in.

According to reports, the officers stood in the middle of the two groups, allowing both sides to protest without coming in contact. Some demonstrators were reportedly taken into custody.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (The Star Tribune)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

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

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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