The impact of a minute
Ahmaud Arbery’s killers are sentenced. Plus: Kamala Harris’s new top aide is already under fire and when you can expect to order a free COVID test from the government.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Saturday morning.
I work on a perpetual deadline so time feels often feels fleeting. But for one minute on Friday, during Georgia Superior Judge Timothy Walmsley’s statement before sentencing the three men who killed 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Feb. 2020, everything slowed down.
“I do want to put that time period in context and the only way to do so may be a little theatrical, but I think it’s appropriate,” Walmsley, who was appointed to oversee the trial, to protect the integrity of the case, said before sitting silently for one minute. “And that one minute represents a fraction of the time that Ahmaud Arbery was running in [the coastal Georgia neighborhood] Satilla Shores. I thought from a lot of different angles and I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man.”
Walmsley acknowledged that many people — including Ahmaud’s mom Wanda Cooper-Jones, dad Marcus, members of the community and in parts of the nation — were seeking closure. But he said that closure is hard to define and a granular concept because we interpret it based on our perspective and lived experience. So he reframed the sentencing through the lens of accountability. “We are all accountable for our own actions. Sometimes, in today’s day and age, that statement is lost upon many,” Walmsley said. “Today the defendants are being held accountable for their actions here in superior court. Today demonstrates that everybody is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
The judge also used the defendant’s words against them in his pre-sentencing statement.
66-year-old Greg McMichael, Walmsley said, effectively admitted that he wasn’t sure exactly what Ahmaud had done wrong, but told another person at the scene: “This guy ain’t no shuffler. This guy is an asshole.” The judge said that although Travis McMichael, Greg’s 36-year-old son, called the day he and his father gunned down Ahmaud “the worst day of his life,” there were other individuals, including Ahmaud’s family, who were impacted by the day. 52-year-old William “Roddie” Bryant, the third co-defendant, claimed he didn’t know what was going but obviously didn’t want to know if Ahmaud had been caught in some way while adding if Ahmaud would have stopped, he would still be alive. “All of these quotes give context to the video that we saw during the case,” Walmsley said. “And Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones made a statement that I think when you look at the statements and you see the videos that is very true. She said, ‘When they could not scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.’”
Remorse — or lack thereof — from the convicted murderers was a common theme of the sentencing hearing. The prosecution argued that the three men should receive the maximum sentence in part due to the absence of regret or guilt for their actions. Defense attorneys countered that their clients couldn’t show remorse because they face charges in federal civil trials.
“Remorse isn’t something that is simply a statement of regret. Remorse can be determined by looking at someone’s reaction to difficult circumstances and the reality of the situation that they’re in,” Walmsley said. “Remorse is something that is felt and demonstrated. In this case, getting back to the video again, after Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their backs. And they walked away. This was a killing. It was callous. And it occurred, as far as the court is concerned based on the evidence, because confrontation was being sought.”
Walmsley closed his statement by saying Ahmaud’s death should force us to expand our definition of what a neighbor is and how to treat them. “I argue maybe a neighbor is more than just the people who just own property around your house. I also believe that in assuming the worst in others, we show our worst character,” he said. “Assuming the best in others is always the best course of action. And maybe those are the grand lessons from this case.”
The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bryant received life with the possibility of parole in 30 years.
Tweets from the grave: Jamal Simmons, Vice President Kamala Harris‘s new communications director, was under fire yesterday after a 2010 tweet resurfaced of him expressing what are characterized as anti-immigrant sentiments.
“As a pundit for much of my career I have tweeted a lot and spoken out on public issues. Sometimes I have been sarcastic, unclear, or just plainly missed the mark,” the 50-year-old said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending those who care as much as I do about making America the best, multi-ethnic, diverse democracy it can be.”
In a tweet on Friday, Simmons reiterated his support for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who entered the US as minors — and DACA, an Obama-era immigration policy that allows them to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and a work permit. “Frankly, it's depressing [people] can forget about every other thing I've said in public on this [because] of bad tweets.”
The vice president’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
This should make my colleagues happy: At the end of a media availability en route to Colorado with President Joe Biden to view damage from recent wildfires, Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden may hold more formal press conferences this year. “[2021 was] the first year, and this has been an unprecedented [year],” Jean-Pierre said. “If we're going to look at this in a full lens, this has not been a normal year. And so there will be more to come.”
The White House says the president is accessible to reporters because he answers questions several times a week — sometimes at the end of prepared statements and often before or after traveling. But the Washington press corps argues that formal press conferences are meaningful to the public because they show how the president responds when he’s pressed during follow-up questions.
You get a test, you get a test, everyone gets a test: Last month President Biden announced his administration would purchase 500 million free COVID-19 tests for Americans to request from a to-be-launched website. This builds on the policies that enable people with private insurance to be reimbursed for their tests and people without insurance to get tests at local sites.
But there’s been some confusion about the status of the process as Omicron surges throughout the nation. Earlier this week, the White House told reporters that the bidding for contracts had closed. Jean-Pierre on Friday said that the first contract went out, which left reporters wondering about the significance of this step. A White House official followed up: “Awarding a letter is awarding a contract. The first one is for [Alaska-based products distribution and logistics company] Goldbelt [Security]. We should know more about when you’ll be able to order a test from the new website next week.
The White House and the US Postal Service are in talks to begin shipping coronavirus testing kits to American households starting in mid-January, with a formal announcement of the deal coming as soon as next week as well. Mike Murphy at MarketWatch has that story.
Well, well, well: I wrote in Friday’s newsletter about Ted Cruz’s embarrassing interview on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Show the night before when he walked back comments from earlier this week in which he called the Jan. 6. Capitol insurrection “a terrorist attack.”
“The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” the Republican senator from Texas said after he was asked why he told the truth about the insurrection.
Turns out: “Cruz's use of ‘terrorist attack’ was not some sort of one-time accident,” CNN’s resident fact-checker Daniel Dale reports. “In fact, he had described the Capitol riot as a terrorist attack or broadly described rioters as terrorists over and over for months — at least 17 previous times in official written statements, in tweets, in remarks at Senate hearings and in interviews.” Read Dale’s timeline of past Cruz comments in which he described the Capitol riot as a terrorist attack or referred broadly to rioters as terrorists.
Save the date: Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Biden to deliver the State of the Union address on Mar. 1. Read the letter.
Today in Politics
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are in Las Vegas for the memorial service honoring former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Biden will deliver remarks. Former President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will also speak. The president and first lady will then travel to Camp David for the weekend.
Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: email@example.com.
In The Know
800,000 to 1 million COVID tests in Florida’s stockpile recently expired without being used. [Allan Smith / NBC News]
State officials said the tests expired due to inadequate demand. The state requested a three-month extension from the federal government when they were last set to expire in Sep., only for the tests to remain unused.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has been firmly against state lockdowns and vaccine requirements during the pandemic even in the face of Omicron. “We are not in Florida going to allow any media-driven hysteria to do anything to infringe people's individual freedoms when it comes to any type of COVID variants,” he said. No wonder his constituents are lukewarm on testing?
New York City Mayor Eric Adams hired his younger brother as the city’s deputy police commissioner. [Craig McCarthy / The New York Post]
Bernard Adams, a 56-year-old retired New York Police Department sergeant, will oversee governmental affairs but the full scope of his responsibilities was not immediately clear.
Related: The New York City Conflict of Interest Board declined to comment on if the hire violates the city’s charter. [Jeff Coltin / City & State New York]
The Adams brothers may escape noncompliance based on technicality: Deputy police commissioners are appointed by the NYPD commissioner, not the mayor. (But the mayor appoints the NYPD commissioner.)
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio gave First Lady Chirlane McCray a significant role in his administration.
Whole Foods has claimed a constitutional right to prohibit workers from wearing “Black Lives Matters” masks.[Josh Edelson / Bloomberg]
A Whole Foods spokesperson declined to comment Friday on the filing, according to Edelson. The company said last month that its dress code policy doesn’t single out specific slogans but prohibits any messages unrelated to its business. The case is slated to be heard by an agency judge at a trial in March.
Read All About It
Ed Yong on hospitals:
COVID’s burden is additive. It isn’t reflected just in the number of occupied hospital beds, but also in the faltering resolve and thinning ranks of the people who attend those beds. “This just feels like one wave too many,” Ranney said. The health-care system will continue to pay these costs long after COVID hospitalizations fall. Health-care workers will know, but most other people will be oblivious—until they need medical care and can’t get it.
Jill Filipovic on the lost girls of COVID:
The extent of the indirect damage Covid has brought is difficult to measure. What’s known so far, though, suggests that it could outweigh the disease’s direct effects in Kenya and many other African nations. The economic and social fallout of shutdowns is concentrated among the young, and almost a quarter of Kenya’s population is between 10 and 19. Purity, Lucy, and their peers have been hit by a shadow epidemic ripping through developing countries—pushing girls out of school, decreasing their earning potential, putting them at greater risk of violence, and potentially shortening their lives and those of their children.
Anna North on America’s teacher crisis:
You might not hear about it as much as disruptions in restaurants, retail, or shipping, but schools are facing a pandemic labor shortage, one that hampers their ability to respond to any crisis, let alone one as widespread as omicron. This one has been years in the making: public schools were under-resourced for decades before Covid-19 hit, with decrepit buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and underpaid teachers. Now that is coming back to haunt school districts as they struggle to stay open amid yet another virus surge.
Angie Schmitt on why she soured on the Democrats:
Generally speaking, the left-leaning rhetorical response to the pandemic seems out of line with stated Democratic values. Even when my kids returned to school, for example, I had no option for paid sick leave to care for them when they got sick. Why did I hear so little about that immense social problem and so much shaming of the women who dared to complain about having their kids stuck at home? All in all, the party that supposedly focused on “systemic” issues was obsessed with demanding personal sacrifice. And the burden fell most heavily on mothers of young children, essential workers, and low-income children. (Conversely, they fell lightly on one very vocal, core Democratic constituency: college-educated office workers.)
Many liberals and institutional leaders thought that no one could fault them for being too cautious, especially when it came to children. But I can, and I do. The University of Oxford medical ethicist Euzebiusz Jamrozik said recently on a podcast that ethical public-health responses must rely on a few key principles. One of those is “proportionality,” meaning that the intervention must be proportionate to the risk. A Bloomberg article noted in March that children in the U.S. were about 10 times as likely to be killed in a car crash as by COVID-19. Closing school for more than a year was disproportionate the same way that forbidding parents to drive would have been.
Jacob Biba on how police informants with a history of drug use are at extra risk of relapse or overdose:
As law enforcement around the country cracks down on an opioid and fentanyl epidemic of tragic proportions, informants who are users are particularly vulnerable. Working with police on drug cases puts them in a situation where relapse or deadly overdose is not just possible, but likely.
One of the “great sins” of the informant market is how it treats vulnerable people, Natapoff told me, noting the lack of a “protective ethos” not just for informants themselves, but also for victims of informants threatened by wrongful conviction. From informants with substance use disorder to immigrants, young people, and people struggling with mental health issues, “all these people are put at risk by the cavalier attitude towards informant safety,” she said.
Karen J. Wu on America’s COVID rules:
A pause for some charitableness here. Obviously, we’re in crisis right now, and the CDC has been tasked with an extraordinarily difficult job—debuting new guidance that’s simple, scientific, equitable, and also palatable, based on evidence that’s both limited and rapidly evolving by the day. People have been bandying about the idea of a shortened isolation period for many, many months; such a move could have a hefty social and economic impact right now, as infection rates surge and workplaces, hospitals, and schools across the nation empty out. Briefer isolations, if managed safely, could help keep the country afloat. The new guidelines are meant to do that, Jade Fulce, a public-affairs specialist at the CDC, told me. They “focus on the period when a person is most infectious,” and “facilitate individual and societal needs, return to work, and maintenance of critical infrastructure.” The recommendations are also accompanied by a “consumer-friendly summary,” she said, of how to interpret them.
Kevin T. Dugan on why full employment doesn’t mean what it used to:
What’s changed since then, especially after the 2008 financial crisis, economists tell me, is even though the number of jobs may be outstanding, the quality of those jobs have been eroding. This has been the case since Barack Obama’s second term, when the unemployment rate fell to a low of 4.7 percent, but the weakness of the jobs market left an opening for Donald Trump to win support on his anti-free trade platform, betting on disaffected Midwesterners who’d seen their manufacturing jobs outsourced to countries with lower wages such as Mexico and China. When Trump became president, unemployment continued to slide to 3.5 percent, a 50-year low, even though he did very little to actually bring any of those manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. And these unemployment rates are all based on a shrinking workforce, largely because of the number of Boomers aging out of their jobs, though that’s accelerated during the pandemic as people stayed home to do childcare or protect their health. When you factor in those people, and those who’d like to work even more than they are now, it makes for a wide cross-section of discontent.
Karly Quadros on the mental health crisis hotline workers who are unionizing for the first time:
The Lines for Life union is part of a wave of labor organizing happening in health care in response to the pandemic, reaching far beyond Oregon. Telehealth has experienced a massive boom in recent years, which has only intensified since Covid-19 struck. Remote health care promises flexibility and safe distance for both the patient and the worker, but at the same time, there aren’t very many guaranteed protections for either party. App-based mental health care providers like AbleTo and BetterHelp have been criticized for unstable employment practices; several San Francisco-based AbleTo caregivers, for instance, reported being abruptly fired in late 2020, only to be reoffered their previous jobs—part-time, with no benefits. This is obviously bad for caregivers, but their patients also suffer from the abrupt separations that result. Meanwhile, crisis line specialists like those at Lines for Life have struggled with a lack of technical assistance and insufficient emotional support to address the second-hand traumas of the job.
Daniela Morosini on recycled hair:
The way hair is usually disposed of in salons is part of the problem, says Amy Goei, director of education at Green Circle Salons. “Typically speaking, salons just sweep hair up and put it in the trash, and then it goes straight to landfill in a trash bag,” Goei explains. “Because all the hair is stuffed into a bag with the top closed, it’s not exposed to light and oxygen and everything it needs to break down, and so not only does it not really biodegrade, it actually releases methane.” Green Circle Salons, founded in 2009 in Toronto by Shane Price, is a sustainability partner for salons, specializing in recycling and safe disposal of beauty waste. The company collects clippings of natural and synthetic hair, as well as excess hair dye, foils, color tubes, aerosol bottles, and other plastics, to ensure safe recycling. “We collect over 154,000 pounds of hair and a total of over 1 million pounds of beauty waste from our 4,100 partner salons every year,” says Goei.
Craig Jenkins on The Weeknd’s new album:
Dawn FM is arranged like a radio playlist DJ-ed by Jim Carrey, a slow slide from up-tempo love songs to brooding ballads and back that’s punctuated by chipper commercials for imaginary products, taking a cue from Lopatin’s last album in its search for a perfect FM radio hour of the mind.
The new songs trace the singer’s trip from a lonely place and the roller-coaster ride of hookups, betrayals, and new contenders in his love life. Dawn takes inspiration from the saccharine lyricism and robot funk of ’80s soul but keeps its gaze trained further afield.
Dawn FM isn’t so much a nostalgia trip as an exercise in dislodging oneself from time. There’s too much joyful anachronism happening to plop it in with the unsubtle ’80s revival washing through pop right now.
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