Daily Briefing

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

Tim O'Donnell
Andrew Baker.
Court TV via AP, Pool

1.

Medical examiner: George Floyd's primary cause of death was neck compression

Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who performed George Floyd's autopsy, testified in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Friday, telling jurors that the primary cause of Floyd's death was the restraint of his body and pressure on his neck. Chauvin's defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that Floyd's underlying health issues and drug use were to blame for his death while Chauvin was arresting him in May 2020. Baker testified that while Floyd's heart disease and drug use were "contributing conditions," compression of his neck was the primary cause of death. Baker said medical examiners are allowed to classify the manner of death as "undetermined" if circumstances are unclear, but in this case, he classified Floyd's death as "homicide." [The New York Times]

2.

House Ethics Committee will investigate Matt Gaetz

The House Ethics Committee announced on Friday it would launch an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and the allegations that he violated sex trafficking laws. The committee will examine whether Gaetz was engaged in illegal conduct and therefore violated House rules. The Justice Department is also investigating Gaetz, 38, and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) called on Gaetz to resign on Thursday night, pointing to a new Daily Beast article about the allegations against Gaetz and Joel Greenberg, a Gaetz associate and the former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing and his office reiterated on Friday that Gaetz calls the allegations "blatantly false." [CNN]

3.

Amazon defeats union drive at Alabama warehouse

Employees at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union. The final tally, announced Friday, was 1,798 "no" votes and 738 "yes" votes. The labor drive was the most significant in Amazon's history, and would have had a far-reaching ripple effect if it had succeeded, likely encouraging other Amazon workers to organize, as well as employees of other major competitors, like Walmart. Even though Amazon managed to squash this particular drive, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union says it has heard from hundreds of Amazon workers across the country since the Alabama warehouse drive began. Union leaders accused Amazon of "blatantly illegal conduct," which Amazon denies, arguing the company engaged in illegal union-busting tactics like intimidating employees and harvesting ballots. [The Hill, The New York Times]

4.

Pfizer asks FDA to authorize vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15

Pfizer announced Friday it has submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech for use among adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15. The request came after the companies last week said a phase 3 study showed the vaccine, which has already been approved for those 16 and over, to be 100 percent effective in this age group. The companies also said the vaccine demonstrated "robust antibody responses, exceeding those recorded earlier in vaccinated participants aged 16 to 25 years old, and was well tolerated." Pfizer's goal, it said, is to make the vaccine available to adolescents between 12 and 15 before the start of the next school year. [NBC News]

5.

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died at 99. The Duke of Edinburgh "passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle," Buckingham Palace said Friday. Further information about Philip's death was not disclosed. Earlier this year, he was hospitalized for a month, during which time he was treated for an infection and underwent a "procedure for a pre-existing heart condition," Buckingham Palace previously said. Philip married Elizabeth in 1947, and he was "the longest serving consort in history and one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in World War II," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted. "The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss," Buckingham Palace said. [NBC News, The Associated Press]

6.

Biden orders commission to study Supreme Court expansion, term limits

President Biden on Friday created a 36-member bipartisan commission to spend the next six months examining the possibility of adding seats to the Supreme Court and imposing term limits for justices, among other reforms. The commission has not been charged with making a recommendation under the White House order. Biden has traditionally expressed opposition to "court packing," but his stance appeared to soften during his presidential campaign amid pressure from Democrats, particularly progressives, in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination and confirmation, which gave the high court a 6-3 conservative majority. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement Friday that calls to expand the court reveal an "open disdain for judicial independence." He described Biden's commission as a "faux-academic study of a nonexistent problem." [The Guardian, The Hill]

7.

Chinese government slaps Alibaba with record $2.8 billion fine

China's antitrust regulator doled out a record 18.2 billion yuan fine to e-commerce giant Alibaba on Saturday. The figure is equivalent to $2.8 billion and 4 percent of the company's domestic annual sales. The move comes as Beijing looks to curb the power of China's tech sector and its billionaire leaders, like Alibaba founder Jack Ma, who has criticized the government for hampering innovation with its regulatory restrictions. Alibaba used its platform rules and technical methods like data and algorithms "to maintain and strengthen its own market power and obtain improper competitive advantage," the regulator said, per Bloomberg. In addition to the fine, the company will have to revamp its operations and submit a "self-examination compliance report" within three years, The Wall Street Journal reports. In a statement, Alibaba said it "accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination." [The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg]

8.

White House reveals first 2022 budget request

President Biden on Friday sent his first discretionary federal spending proposal to Congress, asking lawmakers to authorize $1.5 trillion to boost education and public health, expand affordable housing, and fight climate change in 2022. The proposal is separate from the White House's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus, which has already been passed by Congress, and another $2.3 trillion proposal to revamp U.S. infrastructure and other sectors. The request is a precursor to the full annual budget Biden will release later this spring, The Washington Post notes. That will reportedly address programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Friday's outline appears to be in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump's budget proposals, which prioritized defense spending. Biden's plan calls for a less than 2 percent increase for the military, though some Democrats felt that was still too high. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

9.

At least 60 civilians killed overnight in Myanmar

An estimated 60 civilians were killed Friday night and into Saturday morning outside of Yangon, Myanmar, as protests against the military's Feb. 1 coup continue across the country. More than 600 people have been killed by security forces since the demonstrations began. Local media has also reported that an unprecedented alliance of ethnic armies that oppose the military junta and its crackdown on protesters attacked a police station in Myanmar's east, killing at least 10 officers. The escalating violence has drawn international concern. Myanmar's Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun, who has rejected the coup, called for further action — including a no-fly zone to "avoid further bloodshed caused by military strikes on civilians" — during a Friday meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The United States and several European nations issued similar pleas. China, the junta's top international ally, wields veto power on the council, but is reportedly growing concerned by its neighbor's instability. [Al Jazeera]

10.

Rapper DMX dies at 50

Rapper DMX has died at 50, his family confirmed in a statement Friday. The Grammy-nominated rapper last week had been "rushed to the hospital after collapsing" at his home in White Plains, New York, his representative previously confirmed. TMZ reported that he suffered a drug overdose, which triggered a heart attack. DMX's lawyer has not confirmed the reports of a drug overdose, but the White Plains hospital where he died said he suffered "catastrophic cardiac arrest," The Associated Press reports. The rapper's work included the albums It's Dark and Hell is Hot and ...And Then There Was X, and his first five albums all debuted at No. 1 on Billboard charts. He also starred in films like Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave. [Pitchfork, The Associated Press]