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Judge Reinstates Third-Degree Murder Charge Against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd Case

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  • Judge Peter Cahill reinstated a third-degree murder charge Thursday against Derek Chauvin, the former police officers on trial for his role in the death of George Floyd.
  • Cahill initially rejected the charge in October, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled last week that he must reconsider it.
  • Chauvin’s defense lawyer asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision. The request was rejected Wednesday, prompting Cahill to restore the charge.
  • If convicted on the added charge, Chauvin could serve up to 25 years in prison. He was already facing two other charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter, which carry maximum sentences of 40 years and 10 years respectively.

Charge Against Chauvin Reinstated 

The judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, officially reinstated a third charge against him for third-degree murder on Thursday.

Prosecutors had initially filed the charge against Chauvin along with two other counts of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. However, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the third charge in October, arguing at the time that it required proof Chauvin was “eminently dangerous to others,” not just to Floyd.

Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered Cahill to reconsider the charge, citing precedent from a recent ruling they made in a case involving another former Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor.

Noor had been convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter for fatally shooting a woman who approached his squad car after she had called 911 about a possible sexual assault behind her home in 2017.

The court of appeals rejected Noor’s attempt to have that conviction thrown out last month, thus establishing the precedent that third-degree murder charges can apply to acts directed at a single person.

Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects Review Request

Chauvin’s lawyer asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision, which denied that request on Wednesday.

The defense continued to argue in court Thursday morning that Chauvin’s case was fundamentally different than Noor’s, but Cahill said that he was now bound by the ruling.

“The court of appeals has said in a precidential opinion specifying the single person rule applies to third-degree murder,” he said. “I feel it would be an abuse of discretion not to grant the motion.”

Notably, Cahill did tell Chauvin’s attorney that he has the right to ask for more time to prepare a defense, but the lawyer said he was ready to move forward with jury selection. As of Thursday morning, six members of the jury had been selected so far for the trial, which will have a panel of 12 jurors and up to four alternates.

Currently, everything appears to be on pace for opening arguments to begin on March 29 as scheduled. 

Now, jurors will have another option for conviction, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. That is on top of the second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter charges, which are punishable by up to 40 years and 10 years respectively.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

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

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