Floyd Judge: Congresswoman’s statements may “overturn” trial – National & International News – TUE 20Apr2021

Floyd Judge: Rep. Maxine Waters' (D-CA) call for protesters to be "more confrontational" may "overturn" trial verdict on appeal.

Minneapolis awaits Floyd verdict. Union: Amazon interfered in AL vote. US warns against travel to 80% of countries. EU OK’s J&J jab despite clot link.


Minneapolis awaits Floyd verdict

The city of Minneapolis is on edge as it awaits the verdict in the trial against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. City police are on high alert and the National Guard is already on hand in anticipation of unrest, whatever the verdict. There’s no way to know when the jury will reach a verdict or what the verdict might be. But whatever the verdict, it will not be an end to the story.

Judge condemns Congresswoman’s comments

Over the weekend, Congresswoman Maxine Waters visited Brooklyn Center, the Minneapolis suburb where a police officer killed another black man last week. Waters’ rhetoric did little to allay simmering tensions. Waters said: “We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business”.

Based on Water’s comments, which came before yesterday’s closing arguments in the Floyd trial, Chauvin’s defense attorney called on Judge Peter Cahill to declare a mistrial. Cahill declined to do so, but admitted, “Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned”.

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Union: Amazon interfered in Alabama vote

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has filed a complaint with the Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that Amazon illegally interfered in a vote that took place earlier this month to decide whether warehouse workers in Bessemer, AL, would join a union. Of the 6000 warehouse workers, 3,117 cast ballots. The union was defeated with 1,798 “no” votes versus 738 “yes” votes. By filing the complaint, the RWDSU requests that the board investigate its allegations, conduct hearings and decide whether to overturn the vote.

Worker intimidation

The filing lists several allegations of worker intimidation by Amazon ahead of the vote, including:

  • threats to layoff workers or close the warehouse altogether if employees unionized;
  • bombarding workers with anti-union texts;
  • holding mandatory “information sessions”, telling workers they would lose benefits if they unionized;
  • firing one pro-union employee and disciplining others that spoke out during the information sessions;
  • pressuring the USPS to install a mailbox on warehouse premises to collect votes.

The RWDSU claims that by arranging the installation of the mailbox, Amazon violated NLRB rules. The box was in full view of warehouse surveillance and gave workers the impression that Amazon was monitoring the vote.

What’s next?

A spokesperson for Amazon denied the allegations, claiming there had been no threats of layoffs or closures. The spokesperson also denied the installation of the mailbox was an intimidation tactic and said that only the USPS could access the ballots in the box.

If the Labor Relations Board decides to follow up, the investigation may take months. A decision might take a year or more. Even if the board determines that Amazon was at fault, penalties for employers in such cases are usually minimal. If the board throws out the vote and calls for another, high turnover at the warehouse will make it difficult for the union to organize another.

Nevertheless, the vote did force Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos to acknowledge that, “I think we need to do a better job for our employees”.

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US advises against travel to 80% of world’s countries

The US State Department has issued “do no travel” warnings for 80% of the world’s countries due to the prevalence of COVID-19. The department also discouraged travel to the other 20%, saying Americans should “reconsider” travel plans to those countries. A statement from the agency underlines the concerns: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented risks to travelers. In light of those risks, the Department of State strongly recommends U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad”.

The department has not yet revealed which countries fall into which category. Revised advisories for each country will be issued in the coming week.

The department clarified that changes in countries’ advisory status doesn’t necessarily reflect changes in the health statuses of those countries. Rather it reflects changes in the criteria the department has adopted for its advisories.

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EU finds clot link with Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The European Medicines Agency has found a possible link between the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine and the rare formation of blood clots 2-3 weeks after vaccination. Regardless, the agency OK’ed the vaccine for widespread use in Europe, believing the benefits outweigh the risks. The agency advised the addition of a warning to the product information. The EMA stated that, “Healthcare professionals and people who will receive the vaccine should be aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within three weeks of vaccination”.

The EMA reviewed evidence from the US, where there have been eight cases of unusual clot formation (including one fatality) associated with the shot. However, this seems to be an exceedingly rare complication, as 7 million Americans have already received the one-dose vaccine. The vast majority reported no complications whatsoever.

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