News Headlines 4/8/21

U.K. CORONAVIRUS VARIANT NOW DOMINANT STRAIN IN U.S.: The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said yesterday (April 7th) that the U.K. variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious, is now the dominant strain in the U.S., something experts had predicted would happen. That news came as case numbers and hospitalizations are increasing in the U.S. despite nearly three million people getting vaccinated a day, with Walensky saying the uptick in infections seems to be driven by young people. She said, “Hospitals are seeing more and more younger adults — those in their 30s and 40s — admitted with severe disease.” Deaths, however, are decreasing, which Walensky said is likely a result of the elderly being vaccinated. Studies have suggested the current vaccines offer strong protection against the U.K. variant.

  • Meanwhile, British authorities recommended yesterday that the AstraZeneca vaccine not be given to adults under  age 30 where possible because of growing evidence it may be linked to rare blood clots, particularly in younger people.

EXPERT TESTIFIES CHAUVIN PRESSED DOWN WITH KNEE ON FLOYD’S NECK AREA FOR ENTIRE TIME: A Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force expert testified in former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin‘s murder and manslaughter trial in the death of George Floyd yesterday (April 7th), saying Chauvin bore down with most of his weight on Floyd’s neck area for the entire nine-and-a-half minutes that Floyd was facedown on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. Sergeant Jody Stiger based his analysis on the video evidence of the incident, saying the force used against Floyd was excessive. When Chauvin’s attorney pointed to moments in the video when he said the officer’s knee appeared to be on Floyd’s shoulder blade area or the base of his neck, Stiger agreed his weight may have shifted at times, but said his knee still seemed to be near Floyd’s neck.

Stiger did agree with the defense attorney when he said an officer’s actions must be judged from the point of view of a reasonable officer on the scene, not in hindsight. Stiger further said that as Floyd was on the ground, Chauvin squeezed Floyd’s fingers and pulled one of his wrists toward his handcuffs, which uses pain to get someone to comply. But Stiger said Chauvin didn’t appear to stop even as Floyd had been subdued, saying, “Then at that point it’s just pain.”

In other testimony, state forensic scientist Breahna Giles said pills found in the SUV Floyd was driving contained methamphetamine and fentanyl, and forensic chemist Susan Meith said remnants of a pill found in the back of the police car also contained meth and fentanyl.  That pill had been found to have DNA from Floyd’s saliva. The medical examiner’s autopsy had found both drugs in Floyd’s system. The lead state investigator in the case, James Ryerson, initially said yesterday that Floyd seemed to say in body-cam video of his arrest, “I ate too many drugs.” But when a prosecutor played a longer clip, Reyerson said he believed what Floyd actually said was, “I ain’t do no drugs.”

BIDEN SAYS OPEN TO COMPROMISE ON HOW TO PAY FOR $2.3 TRILLION INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: President Biden said yesterday (April 7th) that he’s open to compromise on how to pay for his ambitious $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, saying, “We’ll be open to good ideas in good faith negotiations.” However, Biden said not acting isn’t an option, stating, “But here’s what we won’t be open to: We will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction, simply, is not an option.” He said America needs to move forward on modern infrastructure, and that we’ll lose out to China if we don’t, saying, “You think China is waiting around to invest in this digital infrastructure or on research and development? I promise you. They are not waiting. But they’re counting on American democracy, to be too slow, too limited and too divided to keep pace.” Biden has proposed that corporate tax increases pay for the plan, reversing some of the cuts they got in former President Donald Trump‘s 2017 tax bill, which has drawn criticism from Republicans and business groups. There’s also been criticism because the infrastructure proposal goes beyond the traditional focus on just roads and bridges.

NAVY MEDIC WHO SHOT TWO U.S. SAILORS WAS LAB TECH AT ARMY BASE: The 38-year-old Navy medic who shot and wounded two U.S. sailors on Tuesday before being killed by police at nearby Fort Detrick was a lab technician assigned to a Naval medical research center on the Army base, AP reported Wednesday (April 7th). Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet‘s two victims, who he shot at a government-leased military warehouse, were also assigned to Fort Detrick. Officials haven’t given a possible motive for the shooting. One of the sailors, 26-year-old Navy Hospitalman Casey Nutt, was released from the hospital on Tuesday evening, and the other, 36-year-old Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Carlos Portugal, remained hospitalized yesterday in critical condition.