Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 2, 2021

George Floyd's girlfriend and a paramedic testify at Chauvin's trial, Biden holds his first Cabinet meeting, and more 


George Floyd's girlfriend, paramedic testify in Chauvin trial

George Floyd's girlfriend, Courtenay Ross, testified Thursday at former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, describing through tears how she and Floyd met at a Salvation Army Harbor Light shelter where he was working security. She said she and Floyd, who died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine minutes, struggled to overcome opioid addiction. Hennepin EMS paramedic Seth Bravinder told jurors that Floyd was in full cardiac arrest when he arrived, and never regained a pulse. Bravinder said "there were multiple officers on top of the patient, we assumed — I assumed — there was potentially some struggle still because they were still on top of him." Former Minneapolis police sergeant David Pleoger said when Floyd stopped struggling Chauvin should have stopped kneeling on his neck.


Biden holds 1st Cabinet meeting, announces 'jobs Cabinet'

President Biden held his first Cabinet meeting on Thursday, and announced he was assigning a five member "jobs Cabinet" to rally Americans behind the more than $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan he unveiled a day earlier. Biden said those five — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo — would "represent me in dealings with Congress, engage the public in selling the plan, and help organize the details as we refine it and move forward." Getting the plan through Congress won't be easy, as Republicans oppose corporate tax hikes Biden proposed to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would oppose the plan "every step of the way."


Report: Gaetz investigation focuses on payments to women

The Justice Department investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) concerns payments he and an indicted Florida politician made to women allegedly recruited online for sex, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing people close to the investigation as well as text messages and payment receipts the newspaper reviewed. Investigators suspect the other politician, former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, of initiating contact with the women through websites used to arrange dates in exchange for gifts and allowances. Greenberg was indicted last year on several federal charges, including sex trafficking. One of the women said she had sex with both men after Greenberg met her online and introduced her to the Republican congressman. Gaetz, an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, has denied ever paying a woman for sex.


Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine is still highly effective after 6 months

Ongoing trials indicate that the COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer developed with BioNTech remains highly effective for six months after the second dose, according to a new study released on Thursday. An analysis of Pfizer's phase 3 study, which included 927 symptomatic COVID-19 cases, found that the vaccine was 91.3 percent effective from one week "through up to six months after the second dose." It was also 100 percent effective against severe disease as defined by the CDC, and 95.3 percent effective against severe disease as defined by the FDA, the companies said. There were no serious safety concerns. Pfizer and BioNTech also said the vaccine was 100 percent effective against COVID-19 cases in South Africa, where a concerning variant has been spreading. Pfizer previously said a trial showed its vaccine to be 100 percent effective in adolescents aged 12 to 15.


At least 48 people killed in Taiwan train accident

At least 48 people died in Taiwan after a vehicle rolled down a hill and hit a passing train on Friday, causing it to partially derail outside a tunnel. Dozens of people were injured. The train had partially emerged from the tunnel, with many cars remaining inside. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that emergency services "have been fully mobilized to rescue & assist the passengers & railway staff affected. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident." The accident occurred on the first day of the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a four-day religious festival when people return to their hometowns for family gatherings and to pay respects at their ancestors' graves. Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said the Railways Administration would conduct checks on track lines to "prevent this from happening again."


Weekly jobless claims rise despite signs of strengthening hiring

Weekly jobless claims came in higher than expected on Thursday despite signs of labor market improvement. The Labor Department reported that 719,000 peopled filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, higher than the 675,000 Dow Jones estimate and up 61,000 from the previous week's 658,000, which was the lowest since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Hiring has been picking up as many states lift some coronavirus restrictions. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect to Friday's monthly employment report to show that the economy added 675,000 jobs in March as more businesses reopened and vaccinations picked up. The unemployment rate is forecast to drop to 6 percent from 6.2 percent a month earlier. "When it comes to the economy, things are looking up," said Shawn Snyder, head of investment strategy at Citi U.S. Wealth Management.


UNC coach Roy Williams announces retirement

University of North Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams announced Thursday that he is retiring after 33 seasons at Kansas and UNC. He has led the Tar Heels to three national championships. "It has been a thrill. It has been unbelievable. I've loved it," Williams, 70, said at the campus' Smith Center court that bears his name. "It's coaching. And that's all I've ever wanted to do since the summer after my ninth-grade year of high school. No one has ever enjoyed coaching like I have for 48 years." Mike Krzyzewski, the coach at nearby rival Duke, said the news took him by surprise. "College basketball is losing one of its greatest coaches and a man who genuinely cares about the game of basketball, and more importantly, the people who play it," Krzyzewski said in a statement.


S&P 500 closes above 4000 for the first time

The S&P 500 gained 1.2 percent on Thursday to close above 4000 for the first time, with a boost from Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet. The surge on the first day of the second quarter came as many other technology stocks rebounded, lifting the tech-heavy Nasdaq by 1.8 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.5 percent. "There's always some excitement starting a new quarter," said Lindsey Bell, the chief investment strategist at Ally Invest, adding that it might take a while for the S&P 500 to rise much more above the milestone. Many investors are hopeful that stocks will continue to rise as widespread coronavirus vaccinations help more businesses fully reopen. The stock market is closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.


Nationals, Mets Opening Day game postponed over coronavirus case

Major League Baseball's Opening Day game between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets was postponed Thursday after a Nationals player tested positive for the coronavirus, and four more players and a staff member were quarantined after contact tracing. The Nationals said they would not play on Thursday or Friday as a precaution. Players, coaches, and staff all were tested earlier in the week. The player's infection was detected with a test administered Monday at the team's spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Nationals also were affected by the coronavirus pandemic on Opening Day last July, when Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo announced that outfielder Juan Soto had tested positive.


Godzilla vs. Kong scores best opening day during pandemic

Godzilla vs. Kong grossed $9.6 million at the U.S. box office on Wednesday, the best opening day for any film released in theaters since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The monster movie from Warner Bros., which was also released to stream on HBO Max, played in about 2,400 theaters and is set to expand to additional locations on Friday. Previously, the record for best opening day for a movie during the pandemic was held by Wonder Woman 1984, which grossed $7.5 million on Dec. 25 while it also streamed on HBO Max. Godzilla vs. Kong is projected to gross between $20 million and $30 million over the long weekend, if not more, and it could set the record for biggest opening weekend during the pandemic.


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