- The Louisville city council unanimously voted Thursday to ban law enforcement in the city from implementing “no-knock” warrant strategies.
- Mayor Greg Fischer has said he will sign the law immediately once it hits his desk.
- The law, known as “Breonna’s Law,” comes after 26-year-old EMT Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her own home after they served a search warrant by allegedly entering her apartment unannounced.
- Also on Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced he would be proposing a similar bill federally to ban the use of “no-knock” warrants across the country.
Louisville Bans “No-Knock” Warrants
The Louisville city council unanimously voted Thursday night to ban law enforcement from engaging in “no-knock” warrants following unrest over the death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, died on March 13 when police entered her home in the middle of the night to serve a warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, reportedly mistook the police as robbers because they allegedly failed to announce themselves. He then grabbed his gun and fired at police who returned fire, killing Taylor.
Walker, who survived, was originally charged with attempted murder of an officer, but that charge was later dropped in May. None of the three officers involved in the incident have faced any charges for Taylor’s death, but they have been placed on administrative leave.
Under the new law, known as “Breonna’s Law,” Louisville Metro Police will be required to announce themselves when entering homes. They will also be required to wear body cameras while serving warrants, with cameras being turned on for five minutes before and turned off no sooner than five minutes after the search. Notably, the officers who killed Taylor did not wear body cameras.
Breonna’s Law comes after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer temporarily banned no-knock warrants on May 29. Following the city’s decision on Thursday, he said he would sign Breonna’s Law as soon as it hit his desk.
“[I] wholeheartedly agree with Council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit,” Fischer said on Twitter. “This is one of many critical steps on police reform that we’ve taken to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate and equitable community.”
Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, remembered her daughter on Thursday as she spoke to reporters about the bill’s passage.
“Breonna, that’s all she wanted to do was to save lives,” Palmer said. “So with this law, she’ll get to continue to do that. So we’re grateful for that. She would be so happy.”
Outside of the chamber, crowds cheered for the bill’s passage through city council.
Rand Paul Announces Similar Federal Bill
Also on Thursday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill in Congress that would effectively outlaw the use of no-knock warrants throughout the country. Paul said he proposed that law, known as the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, after conversations with Taylor’s family.
Under that law, all federal law enforcement, as well as state and local law enforcement receiving funds from the Justice Department, would be affected.
Palmer praised Paul’s bill on Thursday, telling the Courier Journal, “I think it’s just the beginning, but I’m definitely satisfied.”
“I definitely think it will help families after mine,” she added.
Breonna Taylor’s Death and Fallout
The night Taylor died, police were engaging in a narcotics investigation.
While neither Taylor nor Walker had any prior drug arrests or convictions, a judge granted officers’ request for a “no-knock” warrant to search Taylor’s apartment. This is because police believed a primary suspect in their investigation had received packages at her address.
No drugs were ever uncovered at Taylor’s apartment, and the primary suspects in the investigation were said to have been more than 10 miles away from her location.
The police involved have claimed that despite being allowed to enter Taylor’s apartment unannounced, they still knocked on the door before using a battering ram.
“‘Police! Please come to the door. Police! We have a search warrant,'” Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly said while recounting the events of that night during a police interview.
Both Taylor’s family and multiple neighbors have disputed this claim. Similarly, Walker’s attorney said Walker only fired a shot because he did not know police were the ones breaking down the door.
Walker told investigators that he believed the person on the other side of the door was a former boyfriend of Taylor’s and that Taylor twice asked “Who is it?” but heard no answer. As police continued to batter down the door, Walker said both he and Taylor continued to ask who was there, with Taylor asking “at the top of her lungs.”
Taylor’s family, who’s sued the Louisville Metro Police Department, has called her death an execution.
Strong outcry following her death has led to a number of protests across the country. After the subsequent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in rural Georgia and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Taylor’s death became one of the major rallying points at protests calling for an end to police brutality and institutionalized racism within law enforcement.
There have also been widespread calls to fire and charge the three officers who entered Taylor’s apartment that night— Sgt. Mattingly, Officer Brett Hankison, and Officer Myles Cosgrove. Fischer has said the city cannot terminate the officers while investigations are ongoing.
On May 21, the FBI launched a federal investigation into Taylor’s death.
New Incident Report Is Nearly Blank
On Wednesday, Louisville police released the incident report from the night Taylor died—nearly three months after it took place. Notably, that report was almost entirely blank.
The four-page report lists Taylor’s injuries as “none,” even though she was reportedly shot at least eight times.
Under charges, it lists “death investigation — LMPD involved;” however, it also checks “no” in the box marked as “forced entry.”
The narrative of the report, which is meant to recount the events of that night, only contains two words: “PIU investigation,” for Public Integrity Unit.
“This is unacceptable,” Fischer said on Twitter. “It’s issues like these that erode public confidence in LMPD’s ability to do its job, and that’s why I’ve ordered an external top-to-bottom review of the department.”
Following criticism, the police department claimed errors in the report were a result stemming from when the reporting program created a paper file.
“Inaccuracies in the report are unacceptable to us, and we are taking immediate steps to correct the report and to ensure the accuracy of incident reports going forward,” the department said in a statement.
See what others are saying: (Courier Journal) (CBS News) (WKLY)
Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices
A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.
As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits
American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.
In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers.
To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.
But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.
ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.
According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above — earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.
“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.
Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.
Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices
To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.
In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.”
The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.
The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.
During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.
“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”
“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.