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Louisville Bans “No-Knock” Warrants With Breonna’s Law, Rand Paul Introduces Similar Bill in Congress

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  • 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)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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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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