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South Carolina among leaders in economic recovery – coladaily.com

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… claims in South Carolina decreased by 77 … claims in South Carolina decreased by 90 … the pandemic.
South Carolina was one of … others were New Jersey, Vermont, Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, Missouri, South Dakota, and Iowa.
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Watchdog Group Wants FDA Leaders Removed for Okaying Aducanumab

Watchdog Group Wants FDA Leaders Removed for Okaying Aducanumab

A high-profile, Washington-based consumer advocacy group is calling for the removal of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) acting commissioner and two other top officials, saying that the agency’s approval of the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab (Aduhelm, Biogen) was “reckless.”

In a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Michael A. Carome, MD, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said: “The FDA’s decision to approve aducanumab for anyone with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of severity, showed a stunning disregard for science, eviscerated the agency’s standards for approving new drugs, and ranks as one of the most irresponsible and egregious decisions in the history of the agency.”

Public Citizen urged Becerra to seek the resignations or the removal of the three FDA officials it said were most responsible for the approval — Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD; Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Director Patrizia Cavazzoni, MD; and CDER’s Office of Neuroscience Director Billy Dunn, MD.

“This decision is a disastrous blow to the agency’s credibility, public health and the financial sustainability of the Medicare program,” writes Carome, noting that Biogen said it would charge $ 56,000 annually for the infusion.

Aaron Kesselheim, MD, one of three FDA Peripheral and Central Nervous System Drugs advisory committee members who resigned in the wake of the approval, agreed with Public Citizen that the agency’s credibility is suffering.

“The aducanumab decision is the worst example yet of the FDA’s movement away from its high standards,” Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Harvard colleague Jerry Avorn, MD, wrote in the New York Times on June 15.

“As physicians, we know well that Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible condition,” they wrote. However, they added, “approving a drug that has such poor evidence that it works and causes such worrisome side effects is not the solution.”

In his resignation letter, Kesselheim said he had also been dismayed by the agency’s 2016 approval of eteplirsen (Exondys 51, Sarepta Therapeutics) for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In both the eteplirsen and aducanumab approvals, the agency went against its advisers’ recommendations, Kesselheim said.

Advocates Who Backed Approval Decry Cost

Aducanumab had a rocky road to approval but had unwavering backing from the Alzheimer’s Association and at least one other organization, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association was particularly outspoken in its support, and, as reported by Medscape Medical News in March, was accused of potential conflict of interest by Public Citizen and several neurologists because the association accepted at least $ 1.4 million from Biogen and its partner Eisai since fiscal year 2018.

The association applauded the FDA approval but, a few days later, expressed outrage over the $ 56,000-a-year price tag.

“This price is simply unacceptable,” the Alzheimer’s Association said in the statement. “For many, this price will pose an insurmountable barrier to access, it complicates and jeopardizes sustainable access to this treatment, and may further deepen issues of health equity,” the association said, adding, “We call on Biogen to change this price.”

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s also expressed concerns about access, even before it knew aducanumab’s price.  

“Shockingly, Medicare does not reimburse patients for the expensive PET scans important to determine whether someone is appropriate for this drug,” noted George Vradenburg, chairman and cofounder of the group, in a June 7 statement. “We intend to work with Biogen and Medicare to make access to this drug affordable for every American who needs it,” Vradenburg said.

Public Citizen’s Carome said the advocates’ complaints were hard to fathom.

“This should not have come as a surprise to anyone,” Carome told Medscape Medical News, adding, “it’s essentially the ballpark figure the company threw out weeks ago.”

“Fifty-six-thousand-dollars is particularly egregiously overpriced for a drug that doesn’t work,” Carome said. “If the [Alzheimer’s Association] truly finds this objectionable, hopefully they’ll stop accepting money from Biogen and its partner Eisai,” he added.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is recognizing that the genie is out of the bottle and that they are going to have trouble reining in the inevitable run-away costs,” said Mike Greicius, MD, MPH, associate professor of neurology at Stanford University’s Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford, California.

“In addition to the eye-popping annual cost that Biogen has invented, I hope the Alzheimer’s Association is also concerned about the dangerously loose and broad FDA labeling which does not require screening for amyloid-positivity and does not restrict use to the milder forms of disease studied in the Phase 3 trials,” Greicius told Medscape Medical News.

Another advocacy group, Patients For Affordable Drugs, commended the Alzheimer’s Association. Its statement “was nothing short of courageous, especially in light of the Alzheimer’s Association’s reliance on funding from drug corporations, including Biogen,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs, in a statement.

Mitchell said his members “stand with the Alzheimer’s Association in its denunciation of the price set by Biogen” and called for a new law that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Alicia Ault is a Lutherville, Maryland-based freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications including Smithsonian.com, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.

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This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines

G7 Leaders Offer United Front as Summit Ends, but Cracks Are Clear

G7 Leaders Offer United Front as Summit Ends, but Cracks Are Clear

BRUSSELS — President Biden and fellow Western leaders issued a confrontational declaration about Russian and Chinese government behavior on Sunday, castigating Beijing over its internal repression, vowing to investigate the pandemic’s origins, and excoriating Moscow for using nerve agents and cyberweapons.

Concluding the first in-person summit meeting since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders tried to present a unified front against a range of threats. But they disagreed about a crucial issues, from timelines for halting the burning of coal to committing tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to challenge Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, China’s overseas investment and lending push.

Still, as they left Cornwall, where they had met at a resort overlooking rocky outcroppings in England’s far west, almost all the participants welcomed a new tone as they began to repair the breaches from four years of dealing with Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

“It is great to have a U.S. president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate,’’ President Emmanuel Macron of France said after meeting Mr. Biden — praise that many Americans will welcome but those who embrace Mr. Trump’s “America First” worldview might consider a betrayal of U.S. interests.

The difference in tone was indeed striking: The last time the Group of 7 met in person, in Canada in 2018, its final communiqué never mentioned China and the United States dissented from all the commitments to confront the climate crisis. Then Mr. Trump withdrew American support from the gathering’s final statement.

This time, however, the session had distinctly Cold War overtones — a reflection of the deepening sense that a declining Russia and rising China are forming their own adversarial bloc to challenge the West.

The group’s final communiqué called on China to restore the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when Britain was returned it to Chinese control, and condemned Mr. Putin’s “destabilizing behavior and malign activities,” including interfering with elections and a “systematic crackdown” on dissidents and the media.

It cast the West as the ideological rival of a growing number of autocracies, offering a democratic alternative that Mr. Biden conceded they had to prove would be more attractive around the world.

“Everyone at the table understood and understands both the seriousness and the challenges that we are up against and the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and deliver to the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said, returning to what has become the central doctrine of his foreign policy: A struggle between dissonant, often unruly democracies and brutally efficient but repressive autocrats.

Even before the meeting broke up, the Chinese Embassy in London, which had been almost trolling the pronouncements of the Group of 7 nations — the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom — delivered a bitter denunciation.

“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,’’ the Chinese government said in a statement.

China is a member of the larger and more contentious Group of 20, whose member nations will meet in Italy in late October, which could be the first time in more than a decade for Mr. Biden to sit face to face with President Xi Jinping.

Even as Mr. Biden successfully pushed his counterparts in England to embrace a more aggressive posture against autocracies, the group failed to reach agreement on key parts of the president’s early foreign policy agenda.

It did not settle on a timeline to eliminate the use of coal for generating electric power, and climate activists said that signaled a lack of resolve to confront one of the world’s leading causes of global warming.

And while the leaders called on China to respect “fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang,” there was no agreement on banning Western participation in projects that benefited from forced labor.

Instead, the effort to confront Beijing’s human rights abuses ended with a vague declaration that the allies were setting up a working group to “identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains.”

Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Air Force One on the way from London to Brussels on Sunday evening that the question was: “Can we turn the commitments on forced labor and ending overseas financing of coal into genuine outcomes by the end of this year.”

And to counter China’s Belt and Road development push, the G7 leaders pledged to set up yet another working group to design what they called Build Back Better for the World, playing off Mr. Biden’s campaign theme.

Mr. Biden’s aides argued that he had never expected to persuade the allies to adapt his entire agenda. But they said he had pushed them toward concrete agreements, starting with a 15 percent minimum corporate tax, to prevent corporations from seeking the cheapest tax haven to locate their headquarters and operations.

His aides also cited the commitment to provide upward of a billion doses of vaccines to the developing world by the end of 2022. Half would come from the United States, though Mr. Biden, in an aside to reporters on Sunday, said that vaccine distribution would be a “constant project for a long time” and that the U.S. could eventually donate another billion doses.

The leaders unanimously promised to cut their collective emissions in half by 2030, a striking contrast with the statement issued by the same group three years ago in Charlevoix, Canada, where the United States refused to sign onto the pledge to combat climate change.

That year, President Trump joined the overall summit agreement but angrily withdrew his support in a tweet from Air Force One as he left the summit, accusing Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, of being “very dishonest and weak.”

Speaking to reporters at a news conference before he visited the queen at Windsor Castle, Mr. Biden told reporters he was “satisfied” with how the joint statement addressed China.

“I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency,” Mr. Biden said. “Transparency matters across the board.”

Mr. Sullivan said that G7 leaders had divergent views about the “the depth of the challenge” from China and how to calibrate cooperation with confrontation in dealing with Beijing. He said the discussion would spill into a meeting of NATO allies on Monday.

The strategy, Mr. Sullivan argued, is “don’t try to push towards confrontation or conflict, but be prepared to try to rally allies and partners toward what is going to be tough competition in the years ahead — and that’s in the security domain as it is in the economic and technological domains.”

On Russia, Mr. Biden told reporters he agreed with Mr. Putin’s assessment, in an NBC interview, that relations between Washington and Moscow were at a “low point,” and committed to being “very straightforward” with Mr. Putin during their planned meeting on Wednesday in Geneva.

Topping a list of concerns for that meeting are the SolarWinds cyberattack, a sophisticated effort by Russia’s most elite intelligence agency to undercut confidence in American computer networks by infiltrating the network-management software used by government agencies and most of corporate America. He is also expected to take up Russia’s willingness to harbor criminal groups that conduct ransomware attacks.

But Mr. Biden also raised areas for potential compromise, including providing food and humanitarian assistance to people in Syria. “Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms, but they have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on,” he said.

Mr. Biden indicated openness to Mr. Putin’s proposal to extradite Russian cybercriminals to the United States, on the condition that the Biden administration agree to extradite criminals to Russia. But the last time Mr. Putin proposed that — to President Trump — it turned out he wanted the United States to send dissidents back and allow for the questioning of Michael D. McFaul, the American ambassador to Moscow under President Barack Obama.

On climate, energy experts said the inability of G7 nations, which together produce about a quarter of the world’s climate pollution, to agree on a specific end date on the use of coal weakens their ability to lean on China to curb its own coal use.

The Group of 7 did promise that their nations would end by 2022 international funding for coal projects that do not include technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. They also promised an “overwhelmingly decarbonized” electricity sector by decade’s end. And they promised accelerated efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the host of the meeting, hailed the summit’s results, he was battling a diplomatic flare-up over Northern Ireland, over which Britain and the European Union have been in a tense negotiations over post-Brexit trading rules.

British newspapers reported that France’s president suggested to Mr. Johnson in a meeting on Saturday that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom. On Sunday, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, described Mr. Macron’s reported comments as “offensive.”

But Mr. Johnson himself tried to play down the dispute, declining at a news conference to discuss the exchange and insisting that Northern Ireland had occupied very little of the leaders’ time during the meeting.

“What I’m saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the U.K.,” Mr. Johnson said.

Mark Landler, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.

Author: David E. Sanger and Michael D. Shear
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Cornwall holidays: A look inside Carbis Bay hotel where G7 leaders will stay this weekend

Cornwall holidays: A look inside Carbis Bay hotel where G7 leaders will stay this weekend

Adventure seekers, though, might want to make use of the Ocean Sports Hire Centre, offering kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing and sea safaris.

If the rain cloud do make an appearance, guests can tuck themselves away in the hotel’s private cinema room.

Of course, there are also a number of business meeting rooms and even a boardroom where it is likely the world leaders will spend plenty of time throughout the summit.

When it comes to dining, visitors could be stuck for choice thanks to an array of cuisines on offer.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Travel Feed

After stunning withdrawal, tennis leaders pledge to address Naomi Osaka's concerns

After stunning withdrawal, tennis leaders pledge to address Naomi Osaka's concerns

The pledge came from the same tennis administrators who threatened disqualification or suspension for Osaka on Sunday if she continued to skip news conferences.

The leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments reacted Tuesday to tennis star Naomi Osaka’s stunning withdrawal from the French Open by promising to address players’ concerns about mental health.

The pledge came in a statement signed by the same four tennis administrators who threatened the possibility of disqualification or suspension for Osaka on Sunday if she continued to skip news conferences.

The four-time major champion and No. 2-ranked player was fined $ 15,000 when she didn’t speak to reporters after her first-round victory at Roland Garros on Sunday. The next day, Osaka pulled out of the tournament entirely, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and revealing she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”

Osaka, a 23-year-old who was born in Japan and moved with her family to the U.S. at age 3, said she would “take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans.”

Tennis players are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so; Grand Slam rules allow for fines up to $ 20,000 if they don’t show up.

“On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate,” Tuesday’s statement from those in charge of the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open said. “Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face.”

French tennis federation President Gilles Moretton, All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt, U.S. Tennis Association President Mike McNulty and Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka pledged to work with players, the tours and media “to improve the player experience at our tournaments” while making sure the athletes all are on a “fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status.”

In a separate statement issued Tuesday to the AP via email, International Tennis Federation official Heather Bowler the sport will “review what needs to evolve” after Osaka “shone a light on mental health issues.”

“It’s in all our interests to ensure that we continue to provide a respectful and qualitative environment that enables all stakeholders to do their job to their best ability, without impacting their health, and for the good of the sport,” Bowler wrote.

Various tennis players, including Serena Williams, offered support for Osaka and praised her for being forthcoming in her statement on social media Monday.

“It’s hard. Nobody really knows what anyone is going through, no matter how much they choose to show on the outside. I had no idea about her. But I respect her openness,” 20-year-old American pro Ann Li said after winning her first-round match Tuesday at Roland Garros. “Our generation is becoming more open and open, which can be a good thing and also a bad thing sometimes. I hope she’s doing OK.”

Gael Monfils, a 34-year-old from France who also won Tuesday in Paris, said he could relate to Osaka’s concerns to an extent.

“It’s a very tough situation for her. I feel for her, because I have been struggling quite a lot as well,” Monfils said. “What she’s dealing is even tough for me to even judge, because I think she has massive pressure from many things. I think she’s quite young. She’s handling it quite well. Sometime we want maybe too much from her … so sometime, for sure, she is going to do some mistake.”

And then Monfils offered a sentiment surely shared by many around tennis, from tournament and tour officials to athletes to the sport’s fans.

“We need Naomi. We need her definitely to be 100%,” Monfils said. “We need her back on the court, back (at) the press conference — and back happy.”

AP Sports Writer Sam Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

House GOP leaders condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene

House GOP leaders condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders forcefully condemned GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Tuesday, calling her comments comparing House COVID-19 safety rules like mask-wearing to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany “appalling.”

The freshman Georgia congresswoman’s comments belittled “the greatest atrocity committed in history,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” McCarthy said in a statement. “The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling.”

Greene, a conservative firebrand and ally of former President Donald Trump, has thrived on stirring controversy, pushing conspiracy theories and forcefully confronting her colleagues since taking her seat in the House in January. But, until now, Republican leaders have proven hesitant to criticize her and refused to join with Democrats earlier this year when they voted to strip her of committee assignments.

Their rebuke of her Tuesday came after Greene made an appearance on a conservative podcast, “The Water Cooler with David Brody,” released last Thursday. In her interview, Greene excoriated safety protocols adopted by House Democrats, including a requirement that masks be worn on the House floor. She also called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “mentally ill” while suggesting that the rules were comparable to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.

“You know, we can look back in a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star. And they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said on the podcast. “This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”

After her remarks sparked a firestorm of online criticism, Greene leaned in to the comparison further.

On Tuesday, she tweeted out a news story about a grocery store chain that plans to allow vaccinated employees go maskless. Those who do would have a logo on their nametags indicating they had been vaccinated.

“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” Greene tweeted.

Several members of the House Republican leadership also criticized her words.

“Equating mask wearing and vaccines to the Holocaust belittles the most significant human atrocities ever committed,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 GOP leader.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author: AP

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

EU army row: Von der Leyen warned as leaders split over Turkey ‘Trojan horse’ demands

Turkey cut off water to Chinese embassy claims expert

The EU’s military structured cooperation (PESCO) of 46 military projects is being eyed by Turkey after the bloc invited Canada, Norway and the US to join forces. The project, aimed at improving EU-NATO cooperation was opened by Brussels to third countries for the first time this month.

Von der Leyen warned as leaders split over Turkey

The bloc agreed on a set of political, legal and “substantive” conditions to allow non-EU countries to participate in joint defence projects.

Under the plan, political conditions for third countries limit their participation to cases where they provide “substantial added value” to the military project and share “the values on which the EU is founded”.

Many EU diplomats agreed that the set of political conditions effectively excluded Russia, China, but also Turkey, especially after relations between Brussels and Ankara have deteriorated in the past few years.

But the Turkish Government has now formally sent a request to join.

A Dutch spokesperson confirmed: “Turkey has indeed informed us of its desire to participate in the military mobility project. As project coordinator, we carefully follow the application process established by the Council.”

The request followed a warning launched by Turkey to the EU in November over threats it would not be allowed to apply until the dispute with Cyprus and Greece were resolved.

Turkish officials then warned that “if PESCO starts on the wrong footing and creates new division lines, it will be neither be successful nor contribute to the transatlantic security architecture”.

EU foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano told EURACTIV that “the Netherlands, as project coordinator, has indicated that the request will be assessed by the project members, in line with the established procedures, as it did with previous requests”.

READ MORE: EU warning: Crisis looms as bloc set to lose £675billion

“This internal process is ongoing,” Stano added.

Asked the same question, the Dutch spokesperson said “non-EU countries are free to apply for participation in PESCO projects”.

“After such a request, all project members must unanimously decide if that country meets the conditions,” the spokesperson added.

However, neither of the two officials did comment on whether Turkey’s application would fulfil the political conditions.

A total of 24 EU countries are currently participating in the PESCO alliance.

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eu army turkey pesco nato

EU army: Turkey has officially requested to join PESCO (Image: GETTY)

Officials warn that Greece and Cyprus, both PESCO members, will see Turkey’s participation as a “Trojan horse” and will oppose its membership.

Cyprus, which is not a NATO member, does not have a security agreement with NATO on the exchange of classified documents, because Turkey has vetoed the proposal.

It is expected that the Mediterranean country would therefore exercise its veto powers to exclude Turkey from PESCO in return.

The issue is likely to spark a diplomatic row between member states who see Turkey’s participation in PESCO as a way of improving cooperation between the EU and NATO as well as normalising relations between Turkey and Cyprus and Greece.

The EU project on military mobility is designed to facilitate the movement of troops across Europe, something NATO deems as crucial in the event of a conflict with Russia.

It comes as some within the bloc have demanded closer military cooperation, or EU army, within the bloc and a defence union.

While NATO has spearheaded efforts to reduce conflicting regulations across 27 EU countries for transfers of US troops, the EU has a budget to back the reconstruction of bridges too weak for tanks and has more power over changing bloc-wide rules.

The pact was agreed by EU leaders in December 2017 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The bloc has since earmarked 1.7 billion euros from its joint budget until 2028 to improve so-called military mobility in support of NATO. The NATO alliance has 30 allies, many of whom are also EU members.

Military mobility aims at improving the exchange of information between EU countries and cutting red tape at borders, including harmonising customs rules to allow for swift deployments and easier transport of military equipment.

The so-called EU army does not exist at the moment, with military powers organised individually by the 27 EU member states.

In March, the EU approved a €5 billion defence project that will open the door for the bloc to deliver military aid to countries across the world, sparking a row in the European Parliament.

The plan has been called European Peace Facility (EPF) and will “better help partner countries” by supporting their peace-keeping operations and by helping them to “increase the capability of their armed forces to ensure peace and security on their national territory”, the EU has claimed.

The bloc plans to use the money to finance its missions and operations under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, as well as infrastructure and military equipment for partner countries.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Williamson County leaders give the go ahead to gather for live music events

Williamson County leaders give the go ahead to gather for live music events

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texans are celebrating live music events that are beginning to pop up.

In Williamson County, where just under 60% of people have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, city leaders are giving the go ahead to gather again outside in public areas.

Starting Wednesday, the City of Round Rock is launching its sound of summer concert series.  

Starting May 5, Music on Main 2021 will have live music from 6 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday on the Prete Main Street Plaza.

At Louisiana Longhorn Cafe, not only is it crawfish season, but managers are looking forward to the increase in foot traffic every Wednesday for the next couple of months.

“We’re all ready to get back to normal, and this is a great start,” said Kelly Hinkle, Louisiana Longhorn Cafe manager. “As long as enough people are vaccinated, and we can get out and have a great time. It worries me that some people aren’t choosing to get vaccinated, but I hope they at least still wear a mask.”

The City of Round Rock made the call to bring back the weekly event in part because of vaccination totals.

In Hutto, KOKEFest is also a go. The two-day event organized by KOKE FM starts in August and features several country artists.

In Pflugerville, plans are in the works to resume music in the park this summer. The city hasn’t announced official dates for the event as it’s still waiting to confirm artists.

No word yet as to whether or not we’ll see blankets scattered throughout Zilker Park for Blues on the Green. Parks and Recreation for the City of Austin said it’s still working with the health department to get the green light.

Since Austin is still under Stage 3 guidelines, the health department does not advise holding large events.

Author: Kaitlyn Karmout
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

After Nearly a Year of Unrest, Portland Leaders Pursue a Crackdown

Author: Mike Baker
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

After Nearly a Year of Unrest, Portland Leaders Pursue a Crackdown

“There would not be protests if police didn’t continue to murder people,” Ms. Raiford said. “I wish we cared about life as much as we care about property.”

Protests erupted in thousands of communities around the country after Mr. Floyd’s death, but most gradually petered out. Portland, by contrast, had nightly protests for months, with a broad swath of the community demanding changes to confront racism and inequality in the criminal justice system. The Police Bureau exacerbated tensions, using force and tear gas in ways that have drawn the ire of judges and the Justice Department.

But the crowd sizes have waned, and figures such as Terry Porter, the former Portland Trail Blazers player, have called for an end to destructive demonstrations. Mr. Wheeler seemed to use last week’s conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered Mr. Floyd, as an opportunity to bring the most raucous of the protests to a close.

As people around the country went into the streets to cheer the conviction, some businesses in Portland boarded up their windows once again. That night, a small group of activists wearing black approached a group of journalists, threatening to smash the cameras of those who remained on scene. The group later shattered windows at two Starbucks stores. One man was arrested after throwing a punch at a police officer.

The crowds the city has seen are often made up of amorphous groups of people who come for different reasons. Chris Davis, the deputy police chief, estimated there were 150 to 200 people among the regular protesters who were prone to engage in property destruction, although the demonstrations often feature smaller numbers.

Those protesters often seen in identity-concealing black apparel and engaging in vandalism are a mix of anarchists and police abolitionists, said David Myers, an activist who has joined many of the city’s protests. He said that while he was OK with those who engaged in property damage to apply pressure on city officials unwilling to impose change, he bemoaned that some of those demonstrators seemed to be sidelining the original Black Lives Matter message and harming the cause. In some cases, he said, businesses owned by Black people or which support the Black community have been attacked.

“I think everybody in that mix wants to say they are B.L.M., but their actions show otherwise,” Mr. Myers said.

Chauvin trial reactions: Texas leaders share what the guilty verdict means to them

Author Russell Falcon
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Chauvin trial reactions: Texas leaders share what the guilty verdict means to them

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sen. Royce West stood in his office in the Texas Capitol, eyes glued to the television screen as the judge in Derek Chauvin’s trial read out the verdict: guilty on all three counts in the death of George Floyd.

“What’s crossing my mind is the system actually worked for a change, and I think that maybe, and hopefully this will lower the temperature some in this country and in this state as it relates to these types of issues,” said the Democratic senator who introduced a bill this legislative session called the “George Floyd Act” which, among other things, would ban police officers’ use of chokeholds.

The jury determined former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin’s actions during the arrest of Floyd led to his death. It convicted him on second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

West said the “surge of evidence” made it clear to both him and the jury that Chauvin didn’t follow police procedures and policies.

“You can’t sit up and tell me that a person puts his knee on someone’s neck for nine minutes and not know what he’s doing. It was real clear that the jury felt the same way, because they came back after what — 11 hours. It was real clear on all the different counts,” West said.

Chauvin will be sentenced in about eight weeks.

As the news of the conviction on all counts for Chauvin was announced, state and local leaders’ reactions began pouring in.

The Texas Democrats’ statement focused on the sense of solace the verdict provides and reflected on the millions of people who protested “in collective grief and outrage” at Floyd’s death last summer. But, it also called out the deep need to keep addressing inequalities of the justice system.

“Today’s verdict is a small step towards the dismantling of the gargantuan barrier that has prevented justice for so many families and communities affected by this national epidemic of senseless killing of Black Americans. It is a small step towards healing,” Texas Democratic Party Bice Chair Dr. Carla Brailey said.

Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn haven’t shared a specific reaction to the verdict as of an hour after it was read. Neither has Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Meanwhile, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump immediately tweeted:

“GUILTY! Painfully earned justice has finally arrived for George Floyd’s family. This verdict is a turning point in history and sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement. Justice for Black America is justice for all of America!”

Crump said President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden called Floyd’s family after the verdict was read.