Toxicologist testifies that drugs did not kill George Floyd

Toxicologist testifies that drugs did not kill George Floyd
A woman holds a placard depicting George Floyd during a demonstration on the first anniversary of his death, in Brooklyn, New York City, US. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 10 February 2022

Toxicologist testifies that drugs did not kill George Floyd

Toxicologist testifies that drugs did not kill George Floyd
  • Bebarta said Floyd did not die from the low levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, nor from his heart disease and high blood pressure

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: A toxicologist testified Wednesday at the federal trial of three former officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights that it wasn’t drug use, heart disease nor an agitated state known as “excited delirium” that caused Floyd’s death after officers pinned him to the pavement in May 2020.
Dr. Vik Bebarta, an emergency physician and toxicologist and professor at the University of Colorado in suburban Denver, bolstered the prosecution’s contention that Floyd died because of how Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee down on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as he pleaded “I can’t breathe.” He also backed up other experts who have faulted officers for failing to roll Floyd on his side, as they had been trained, so that he could have breathed freely.
Former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are accused of depriving Floyd, 46, of his civil rights by failing to give him medical aid while he was handcuffed, facedown outside a convenience store where he allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene in the killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.
As court began Wednesday, US District Judge Paul Magnuson dismissed a juror whose son was ill and replaced him with an alternate. Magnuson, concerned about COVID-19, ordered the selection of six alternates instead of the usual two in case any of the 12 original jurors had to drop out. The trial was interrupted for three days last week because one defendant tested positive.
Bebarta said he concluded that Floyd “died from a lack of oxygen to his brain” and that he had suffocated because his airway had been closed off. That was consistent with testimony Monday from a lung specialist who said Floyd could have been saved if officers had moved him into a position to breathe more easily.
Bebarta said Floyd did not die from the low levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, nor from his heart disease and high blood pressure. He said that on video from inside a convenience store before his fatal encounter with police, Floyd did not appear to be seriously intoxicated or experiencing an overdose. But he did not dispute a store clerk’s earlier testimony that Floyd seemed high.
“He was awake, walking, communicating, walking quickly at times,” Bebarta said.
Both prosecutor Manda Sertich and Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, questioned the doctor about excited delirium. Medical examiners in recent decades have attributed some in-custody deaths to the disputed condition, often in cases where the person became extremely agitated after taking drugs or having a mental health episode or other health problem.
Bebarta said Floyd did not display any symptoms typically associated with the condition, such as high pain tolerance, superhuman strength and endurance. He said he’s probably seen at least 1,000 such patients over the years.
“He did not die from what would be referred to as excited delirium,” Bebarta testified.
Under questioning from Paule, Bebarta acknowledged the medical community has had trouble defining the condition. Paule suggested that a police officer’s ability to recognize the condition isn’t as good as Bebarta’s.
Previous testimony also has established that Chauvin — the most senior officer on the scene — told his fellow officers after Floyd became unresponsive, and they couldn’t find a pulse, to wait for an ambulance that was on its way. Officers kept restraining Floyd until the ambulance got there, according to testimony and video footage.
Bebarta said he believed the officers could have revived Floyd if they had started CPR when they lost his pulse — and that they would have been his best chance for survival.
“Every minute that lifesaving measures are not given, like CPR or chest compressions, they have a 10 percent lower chance of survival,” the doctor said, citing American Heart Association guidelines.
Under cross-examination by Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, Bebarta acknowledged that videos he reviewed show Lane was the first person to begin performing chest compressions, after offering to paramedics to go along in the ambulance. The doctor also acknowledged that Lane expressed concern about Floyd’s condition and tried to check Floyd’s pulse.
Later in the day, McKenzie Anderson, a scientist with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab who oversaw the processing of Lane and Kueng’s squad car and the Mercedes SUV that Floyd was driving, took the stand. She testified that pills and pill fragments found in the car tested positive for methamphetamine. She said one also tested positive for Floyd’s DNA.
Anderson is expected to undergo cross-examination from defense attorneys Thursday.
Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. The charges allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years. He pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.


Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition
Updated 7 sec ago

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition
  • Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years
KUALA LUMPUR: Two drug traffickers were hanged in Singapore on Thursday, bringing the number of executions this year in the city-state to four despite growing calls to abolish its death penalty.
Activists said the prison department handed the belongings and death certificates for Malaysian national Kalwant Singh and Singaporean Norasharee Gous to their families after their execution Thursday morning.
Amnesty International said Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years, going against a global trend toward abolishing the death penalty.
“Singapore has once again executed people convicted of drug-related offenses in violation of international law, callously disregarding public outcry,” said Emerlynne Gill, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for research.
“The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime,” Gill said in a statement.
Kalwant, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, was the second Malaysian to be executed in less than three months. In late April, the hanging of another Malaysian sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.
Kalwant filed a last-minute appeal on the eve of his execution on grounds that he was a mere courier and that he had cooperated with police, but it was rejected by Singapore’s top court, activists said.
Critics say that Singapore’s death penalty has mostly snared low-level mules and done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates. But Singapore’s government defends it as necessary to protect its citizens.
“We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward ending this shameful and inhuman punishment,” Amnesty said.
Four others drug traffickers, including two more Malaysians, were scheduled to be hanged earlier but their executions were delayed pending legal challenges.

Shanghai chases karaoke COVID-19 cluster as China looks to curb outbreaks

Shanghai chases karaoke COVID-19 cluster as China looks to curb outbreaks
Updated 4 min 3 sec ago

Shanghai chases karaoke COVID-19 cluster as China looks to curb outbreaks

Shanghai chases karaoke COVID-19 cluster as China looks to curb outbreaks
  • Shanghai wants to prevent a repeat of the two-month lockdown that caused great economic loss and mental stress to its 25 million residents
SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Millions in Shanghai queued up for a third day of mass COVID-19 testing on Thursday as authorities in several Chinese cities scrambled to stamp out new outbreaks that have rekindled worries about growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Local government officials across China were under pressure to prevent the disease from spreading to such degree that, under the country’s “dynamic zero COVID” strategy, would require major restrictions for a prolonged period of time.
Shanghai in particular wanted to prevent a repeat of the two-month lockdown that caused great economic loss and mental stress to its 25 million residents and disrupted global supply chains and international trade in April and May.
“A resurgence of omicron is not an issue in most other countries, but it remains a predominant issue for the Chinese economy,” Nomura analysts wrote in a note, referring to the highly transmissible COVID variant.
As China is “by far the largest manufacturing center in the world, any new waves of omicron are likely to have a non-negligible impact,” they added.
The latest outbreaks in China have weighed on global asset prices this week.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, is racing to track and isolate infections linked to a building in which a karaoke lounge had re-opened illegally and a food-serving venue offered karaoke services without a license.
Authorities have revoked the licenses of the two businesses and fined them, the city government said on Wednesday. Two local officials were under investigation for failing to conduct proper supervision, it said.
Residents in many of Shanghai’s 16 districts had to comply with two compulsory tests between Tuesday and Thursday. But people need to take frequent tests on their own anyway if they want to enter shopping malls or use public transport.
Shanghai reported 54 new locally transmitted COVID cases for Wednesday, versus 24 the previous day.
Another 50 compounds and venues were locked down on Thursday in the commercial hub, taking the total to 81.
Overall, mainland China reported 338 new local COVID cases for Wednesday, down from 353, with no new deaths, numbers which most countries would now consider insignificant.
Most cases, 167 of them, were in the eastern Anhui province where more than 1 million people in small towns are locked down.
Beijing reported four new infections, down from six.
The capital for the first time on Wednesday mandated COVID vaccinations for most people to enter crowded venues such as libraries, cinemas and gyms, starting from July 11.
The town of Xinjiang in the northern Shanxi province, after finding one case arriving from Shanghai, has tested almost its entire 280,000 population, suspended taxis, ride hailing and bus services, and closed various entertainment venues.
In a different province, Shaanxi, which reported 4 new cases, the cultural and tourism authority requested travel agencies to cancel any group tours into parts of its capital Xian, famed for its Terracota Army.
The eastern Jiangsu province, which has canceled a major sporting event scheduled for November, reported 61 infections.
China has said its uncompromising COVID-19 policy, as opposed to a global trend of co-existing with the virus, was saving lives and the “temporary” economic costs were worth bearing.
Officials have pointed to the millions of COVID-linked deaths around the world, versus the 5,226 reported in China.
Analysts warn, however, that some costs may become permanent if China’s debt burden increases and if curbs lead to investors and talent reconsidering their presence in the country.
China is planning to set up a 500 billion yuan ($75 billion)state infrastructure fund to revive the economy, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Inspired by Ukraine, civilians study urban warfare in Taiwan

Inspired by Ukraine, civilians study urban warfare in Taiwan
Updated 07 July 2022

Inspired by Ukraine, civilians study urban warfare in Taiwan

Inspired by Ukraine, civilians study urban warfare in Taiwan
  • Disquiet over China had been brewing in Taiwan long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine

NEW TAIPEI CITY: Dressed in military camouflage with an assault rifle at the ready, “Prof” Yeh peers from behind a vehicle in a parking lot outside Taipei, scanning his surroundings and waiting for a signal to advance.
Yeh actually works in marketing, and his weapon is a replica — but he is spending the weekend attending an urban warfare workshop to prepare for what he sees as the very real threat of a Chinese invasion.
“The Russia-Ukraine war is a big reason why I came to this workshop,” 47-year-old Yeh, whose call sign during training is “Prof,” tells AFP during a break between sessions.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine at the end of February, he gave shape to the darkest fears of many Taiwanese.
The self-governed democracy lives under constant threat from authoritarian China, which views the island as part of its territory and has pledged to take it one day.
But the war in Ukraine has also inspired Yeh.
The resilience of Ukrainian forces has given him hope that with the right tactics, Taiwan too might have a chance defending itself against its much mightier neighbor.
He is not alone — the organizers of the urban combat course say their students have nearly quadrupled since February. Firearms and first aid courses have also seen increased enrolment.

Disquiet over China was brewing in Taiwan long before the Russian invasion.
Max Chiang, CEO of the company that organizes the workshops, says there has been “a heightened sense of crisis” among Taiwanese people since 2020, when Chinese warplanes began making regular incursions into the island’s air identification zone.
Roughly 380 sorties were recorded that year — a number that more than doubled in 2021, and is on track to do so again this year, according to an AFP database.
China comprehensively outnumbers Taiwan militarily, with over one million ground force personnel to Taiwan’s 88,000, 6,300 tanks compared with 800, and 1,600 fighter jets to 400, according to the US Department of Defense.
But Ukraine has provided a practical blueprint for how to make that disparity matter less.
It has vividly demonstrated how fighting for control of cities can be difficult and costly for attacking forces — and most of Taiwan’s 23 million people live in urban areas.
As Yeh and his 15 teammates run in staggered column formation across the parking lot, stooping behind dilapidated buildings and vehicles to simulate attacks on enemy positions, they are trying to put some of the lessons learned in Ukraine’s devastated cities into practice.
“The best defense is offense,” Yeh emphasises, as instructors in bright reflective vests stand nearby taking notes.
“To put it bluntly, annihilate the enemy and stop any enemy advances.”

In a warehouse beside the parking lot, 34-year-old Ruth Lam is learning to fire a handgun for the first time.
Lam, who works at an emergency vehicle lights manufacturer, said that most of her European clients had told her there would not be a war in Ukraine.
“But it happened,” she says.
She is hoping that knowing how to handle a gun might protect her and her family if there is war, and is planning to continue target practice with friends.
“Prepare your umbrella before it rains,” she says. “We don’t know when things are going to happen.”
In a survey conducted in May, 61.4 percent of respondents said they were willing to take up arms in the event of an invasion.
“The will of the Ukrainian people to fight against aggressors has increased the resolve of Taiwanese to safeguard their homeland,” Chen Kuan-ting, CEO of Taiwan think-tank NextGen Foundation, tells AFP.
Lin Ping-yu, a former paratrooper who came to the urban warfare class “to brush up on his combat skills,” concurs.
“Only when a country’s citizens have the strong will and determination to protect their land can they convince the international community to come help them,” the 38-year-old says.
Yeh believes it is a question of when, not if, they will be called to put their new skills into action.
Citing the example of Hong Kong, where Beijing has moved to consolidate its grip in the last few years, he says simply: “Taiwan is next.”
 


MI5, FBI chiefs warn over intensified China commercial espionage

MI5, FBI chiefs warn over intensified China commercial espionage
Updated 07 July 2022

MI5, FBI chiefs warn over intensified China commercial espionage

MI5, FBI chiefs warn over intensified China commercial espionage
  • China is “set on stealing your technology ... and using it to undercut your business,” says FBI Director Chris Wray
  • Beijing's response: “They spread all kinds of lies about China in order to smear China’s political system"

LONDON: The heads of MI5 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Wednesday about China’s commercial espionage thrust in the West, in a rare joint address at the British intelligence service’s London headquarters.
Speaking to an audience of officials and business executives in Thames House, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum and FBI Director Chris Wray said the threat from Chinese spies is paramount in both countries and only continues to grow.
McCallum said MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, had sharply expanded its China-focused operations.
“Today we’re running seven times as many investigations as we were in 2018,” he said.
“We plan to grow as much again, while also maintaining significant effort against Russian and Iranian covert threats.”
He said Chinese intelligence takes a slow and patient approach to developing sources and gaining access to information, and few of those targeted recognized themselves as such.
“Hostile activity is happening on UK soil right now,” he said.
“By volume, most of what is at risk from Chinese Communist Party aggression is not, so to speak, my stuff. It’s yours — the world-leading expertise, technology, research and commercial advantage developed and held by people in this room, and others like you.”
Wray said China’s threat was a “complex, enduring and pervasive danger” to both the United States and Britain, as well as other allies.
China is “set on stealing your technology, whatever it is that makes your industry tick, and using it to undercut your business and dominate your market,” he added.
The two also warned that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing views as its territory, would cause a massive disruption to global commerce and industry.
They urged businesses to stay alert and report possible threats.
“The Chinese Communist Party is interested in our democratic, media and legal systems. Not to emulate them, sadly, but to use them for its gain,” said McCallum.
Beijing rejected the accusations, describing them as “completely groundless.”
“The so-called cases they listed are pure shadow chasing,” the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Britain said in a statement posted on the mission’s website.
“They spread all kinds of lies about China in order to smear China’s political system, stoke anti-China and exclusion sentiment, and divert public attention in order to cover up their own infamous deeds.”


Migrant trafficking network in Europe smashed

Migrant trafficking network in Europe smashed
Updated 07 July 2022

Migrant trafficking network in Europe smashed

Migrant trafficking network in Europe smashed

LONDON: A 26-year-old Iranian-Kurdish people trafficker and 38 members of his gang were behind bars on Wednesday after police in five European countries smashed a major cross-border network that smuggled migrants into the UK.

The gang leader was arrested in Britain along with five other people smugglers. Germany arrested 18 gang members, French police nine and Dutch police six.
Police also seized more than 1,200 life-jackets, about 150 rubber boats and 50 engines, and tens of thousands of euros in cash, firearms and drugs.

The EU law enforcement agency Europol said the trafficking network could have smuggled as many as 10,000 illegal migrants to Britain over the past year and a half and netted as much as €15 million. Police officials said the gang was one of the most active criminal networks smuggling people from France and Belgium to Britain in small boats.

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“This is the most significant operation ever mounted against smuggling operations across the English Channel, especially with this phenomenon of small boats,” Europol deputy executive director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said.
More than 28,500 people arrived in England illegally last year, mostly from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, after making the dangerous cross-Channel journey in often flimsy and dangerous vessels.

“Given the number of boats we seized yesterday ... we can expect a fall in the number of crossings in the immediate future,” Matt Rivers of the UK National Crime Agency said.
The British government hopes to start sending some of the illegal migrants to Rwanda but that plan — widely criticised in the UK and internationally — is being held up by legal challenges.