First Thing: George Floyd killer pleads guilty to civil rights charges | US news


Good morning.

The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has pleaded guilty to violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that killed Floyd in May 2020 and that sparked mass racial justice protests across the US and beyond.

Chauvin appeared in federal court in person yesterday morning to change his plea to guilty. It means he will not face a federal trial in January, though he could end up spending more years behind bars when a judge sentences him at a later date. As part of the plea deal, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the rights of a then 14-year-old boy during a 2017 arrest.

Chauvin is charged with two counts of depriving Floyd of his rights for pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck as the Black man was handcuffed and not resisting, and for failing to provide medical care to Floyd during the 25 May 2020 arrest that resulted in Floyd’s death.

  • Hasn’t he already been found guilty of Floyd’s murder? Yes, he has has already been convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges and is serving a sentence of 22 and a half years. A federal grand jury indicted Chauvin for this additional charge in May this year.

  • What about the other officers? A federal trial for the other three men still appears to be scheduled for January. They also face state trial on aiding and abetting counts in March.

Biden pledges aid on Kentucky trip: ‘I’ve not seen this much damage from a tornado’

Joe BidenPresident Joe Biden meets with people as he surveys storm damage from tornadoes and extreme weather in Mayfield, Ky., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Joe Biden meets residents of Mayfield, Kentucky, which was flattened by tornadoes. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Joe Biden said he had never seen “this much damage” from a tornado as he walked past debris piled shoulder-high, furniture torn to pieces and homes without roofs or walls during a visit yesterday to a Kentucky town rendered unrecognizable by tornadoes.

Red brick dust swirled through Mayfield’s streets when Biden spoke to local officials and viewed the storm damage in one of the dozens of communities ravaged by the storms. More than 30 tornadoes tore through Kentucky and seven other states, killing at least 88 people. Thousands of residents have lost their houses or are without power.

Biden held hands with Graves county executive Jesse Perry and a church pastor in prayer and spoke to a family gathered in front of a destroyed home. He told reporters he was “impressed how everybody is working together” on the recovery.

Bruce Springsteen sells song catalogue to Sony for $500m

15th Annual Stand Up For Heroes Benefit Presented By Bob Woodruff Foundation And NY Comedy Festival - InsideNEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 08: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Bruce Springsteen performs onstage during the 15th Annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit at Alice Tully Hall presented by Bob Woodruff Foundation and NY Comedy Festival on November 08, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SUFH)
Springsteen performing in November. Photograph: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SUFH

Bruce Springsteen has sold his entire song catalogue to Sony Music in a deal worth $500m, according to anonymous sources speaking to Billboard and the New York Times.

The sale, which encompasses his recorded work and his songwriting, will give Sony ownership of one of the most admired bodies of work in pop and rock: more than 300 songs spanning 20 studio albums plus other releases.

The huge sum dwarfs even the reported $300m paid by Universal for Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalogue in December 2020, and the reported $150m paid for a 50% share of Neil Young’s catalogue to the UK investment fund Hipgnosis in January 2021.

  • Is it common to sell off song rights? Numerous other artists have sold off the rights to their work in the last couple of years, including Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon and Tina Turner.

  • Why do artists sell their song catalogues? While the musicians could potentially stand to make more money in the long term by holding on to their song rights, a huge cash payout while they are still alive is an attractive prospect, giving them and their estate a simple asset to deal with.

In other news …

01/20/99 Black feminist Bell Hooks during interview for her new book. Said the feminist writer who argues against all racial, class or gender stereotyping, ‘Don’t take my picture so close up. That’s what White photographers do.’ CREDIT: Margaret Thomas TWP. (Photo by Margaret Thomas/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Black feminist bell hooks during an interview in 1999. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images
  • Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name, bell hooks, has died aged 69. The author, professor and activist published more than 30 books in her lifetime, covering topics including race, feminism, capitalism and intersectionality.

  • Joe Biden has nominated Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F Kennedy, to be the US ambassador to Australia. Kennedy, 63, a member of one of the US’s most famous political families, has long been considered a leading candidate for a high-profile envoy position.

  • The British public do not share the government’s appetite for perpetual conflict with the EU and more people see the bloc as a key future partner than have that view of the US, according to a report on post-Brexit foreign policy.

  • Five children have died and three remain critically injured after they fell about 10 metres from a jumping castle that was blown into the air in north-west Tasmania, in Australia. The premier Peter Gutwein said the tragedy was “devastating and heartbreaking”.

Stat of the day: 9,915 more calls to suicide helpline following release of US rapper Logic’s song

Logic
Logic’s song is titled after the number for the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

A song by the rapper Logic that references the name of a suicide prevention helpline led to a “notable increase” in the number of calls to the service and may have reduced the number of suicides, research has found. Titled 1-800-273-8255 – the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – the song generated strong public attention upon its release and following two notable performances. Following these events an additional 9,915 calls were recorded and there was evidence of a reduction in the number of US suicides.

Don’t miss this: America’s death penalty divide

Protesters Call For End To Death Penalty Outside Supreme CourtWASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 29: Sunny Neelam of Catholic Worker House holds a sign that reads “Execute Justice Not People!” as he participates in a vigil against the death penalty in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Death Penalty Action and The Abolitionist Action Committee are hosting daily vigils through July 2 to mark the anniversaries of “the historic 1972 Furman and 1976 Gregg Supreme Court decisions on the death penalty.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Sunny Neelam takes part in a vigil against the death penalty in June. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In March, Virginia became the first southern state to scrap capital punishment. Virginia’s seismic shift away from judicial killings has created a death penalty-free zone on the north-east seaboard of the US that runs from Maine’s border with Canada down to the edge of the Carolinas. But there is a powerful sting in the tail. As the support for judicial killings generally recedes, those states that are sticking with capital punishment are displaying grotesque aberrations in its application. Here’s why capital punishment is getting better – and worse.

… or this: what Covid taught us about racism – and what we need to do now

longread — Gary young — racism after covid
‘In the US, the sight of Floyd being killed in real time was shocking, but news of it was not. Illustration: Gary young/klawe rzeczy

If ever there was an illustration of how the inequalities of race and class work together, the pandemic was it. We were told coronavirus didn’t discriminate, but it didn’t need to – society had already done that for us. For at the very moment when consciousness was raised to the issue of racism through Black Lives Matter, we were presented with a clear example of how racism operates through Covid. But there is a path to a fairer future if we want it, argues Gary Younge.

Climate check: how crypto mining became the oil industry’s new hope

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‘At the end of the day, they’re still burning natural gas.’ Illustration: Kat Morris/The Guardian

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, the most popular decentralized digital currency, have a notoriously large carbon footprint. So to leverage a cheap source of energy to run their bitcoin mining operations, two graduates found themselves partnering with oil companies to repurpose a byproduct, primarily methane, that’s typically vented or burned off in flares. But climate experts warn that plans to repurpose waste gas is not a solution, but more like placing a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.

Last Thing: what’s it like to star in a flop play?

Stephen Fry in Michael Frayn’s Look, Look at London’s Aldwych theatre in 1990.
Stephen Fry in Michael Frayn’s Look Look at London’s Aldwych theatre in 1990. Photograph: Alastair Muir/Shutterstock

Movies, TV shows and books can all get terrible reviews and small audiences, but the difference when this happens in theatre is that the actors have to go back on stage and remake the work just after critics have declared it disastrous. “If I had to articulate what it feels like to be in the middle of a play you feel is dying on its arse, it’s a cold sense of dread, like battery acid in your stomach,” says the actor Michael Simkins. “The first thing you do is tell all your friends who have booked tickets to cancel.”



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