- 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)
College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War
As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.
College Board Rolls Out Curriculum
The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.
The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.
In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.”
Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.
Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.
According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.
Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”
It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism.
The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”
DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War
DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.
Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”
Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.”
To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.
Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too.
Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May
The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.
Emergency Declarations at an End
In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.
The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.
Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.
Lapses in Coverage and Care
Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.
One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.
Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.
Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.
Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid.
Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.
Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.
“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”
When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.
The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.
There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.
Other Possible Outcomes
Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.
Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.
Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut.
As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates
The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.
Same War, New Battlefield
Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.
Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.
Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.
Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources.
Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.
According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.
Xbox Under Fire
To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture.
While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.
“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.
“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,” Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.
Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”
The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.” That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want
Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).
“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.
The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.
“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.