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'One giant leap': Harris says Biden's American Jobs Plan aims high, will reach higher

GREENSBORO — Vice President Kamala Harris came to the Triad on Monday to promote the Biden Administration’s ambitious American Jobs Plan.

The trip, with its high-speed motorcade, speech, plant tour and carefully-staged photo opportunities, had all the trappings of a campaign outing with the president’s first-term agenda at stake.

The full day of activity was not without moments of drama.

In the closing moments of a visit from the first African-American and Asian-American woman to be vice president, Harris made a surprise stop to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum to pay homage to the four N.C. A&T students who refused to leave an F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro more than 60 years ago, providing a spark to the civil rights movement.

But for most of the day, Harris saluted job training and green manufacturing with an intensive tour of some of the Triad’s educational and business landmarks.

After touchdown at Piedmont Triad International Airport at about 10:30 a.m., Harris’ motorcade took her south to Jamestown. She met with a group of about 40 elected officials, community leaders and students who greeted her at GTCC’s Advanced Manufacturing campus.

She delivered her keynote speech of the day in a massive machine shop full of equipment, where students learn manufacturing skills for high-demand jobs.

Her message: America always reaches for the highest goals, and the Biden Administration will not let challenges stop the American Jobs Plan.

The plan is a historic and costly initiative whose aim is to rebuild the country’s ailing infrastructure and, in the process, create millions of jobs designed to lift up Americans struggling to make ends meet.

With comparisons to the New Deal, it’s the most expansive jobs program since World War II.

“The president and I are ready to keep going, and we are not going to take it slow. We are not going to take it one step at a time. We are going to take one giant leap,” she told the group, which included U.S. Reps. Alma Adams and Kathy Manning as well as Gov. Roy Cooper.

Harris said President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan consists of three major components: jobs, education and infrastructure.

It was the first time Harris was in North Carolina to build support for the plan, which must be approved by Congress and faces challenges in the Senate.

Harris said the nation needs more than just jobs, it needs “good jobs.”

“I believe you shouldn’t have to work more than one job to pay your bills and feed your family,” Harris said. “One good job should be enough. At a good job, you shouldn’t have to worry about your safety at work. At a good job, you shouldn’t have to go into debt for a diploma that promises a decent paycheck.”

Additionally, education should be available for all types of students who graduate high school, whether they want technical training or conventional college, she said.

“Let’s create a variety of educational opportunities after high school,” Harris said.

To her left, a big blue “American Jobs Plan” banner hung in the warehouse-size room.

Behind her, the silent machines stood in rows with the promise of the future.

The infrastructure component of the plan, Harris said, is designed to affect whole communities. After all, America built the Transcontinental Railway, put electricity in every home and went to the moon.

“The president and I,” Harris said, “are determined to get this done.”

By early afternoon, Harris was on her way to High Point to see a very special kind of school bus at Thomas Built Buses.

At this Thomas plant, the company builds its all-electric Jouley buses to save school systems money, reduce emissions and even lower noise pollution.

Harris spent about an hour at the plant where she met with officials in charge of the production process as buses in various stages of construction loomed behind her.

At the end of the tour, she walked out into the blinding afternoon sun to see a row of finished Jouley buses charging outside the plant.

Harris told Cooper and other officials gathered around one bus that 25 million children will be spared the danger of diesel fumes, the climate will be improved and the country will invest in its future by school systems transitioning to electric vehicles.

Part of the Biden Administration’s plan would invest $174 billion creating jobs to build electric vehicles, including $20 billion devoted to electric school buses.

“It’s not only a model for the country, it’s a model for the world,” Harris said beside a bus with its power plug attached.

Harris took time after her tour to answer questions from the traveling national media and several local reporters gathered around her.

A few minutes later, Harris was off to Greensboro for her final, surprise stop of the day.

As police stopped traffic at every intersection along Freeman Mill Road, Harris made her way into the heart of downtown as her black SUV pulled up outside the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

Melvin “Skip” Alston, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and a museum co-founder, greeted Harris and guided her to the lunch counter where four Black N.C. A&T students staged their historic 1960 sit-in.

Alston also showed a clearly-fascinated Harris where civil rights icon Rosa Parks sat when she paid the downtown institution a visit.

Taking the chair, Harris said, “I want to sit where Rosa Parks sat.”


Crime-and-courts
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What are charges against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death and what happens if he's convicted?

MINNEAPOLIS — The 12 jurors deliberating the case against Derek Chauvin will have three counts to consider as they weigh whether he is responsible for the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He could be convicted on all of the charges, some or none. The case comes down to two key questions — whether Chauvin caused Floyd’s death and whether his actions were reasonable — and each charge requires a different element of proof as to Chauvin’s state of mind.

Here’s an explanation of the charges:

How do the charges against Chauvin compare?

For all three charges, prosecutors had to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death and that his use of force was unreasonable.

Prosecutors didn’t have to prove Chauvin’s restraint was the sole cause of Floyd’s death, but only that his conduct was a “substantial causal factor.” Chauvin is authorized to use force as a police officer, as long as that force is reasonable.

To convict on any of these counts, jurors must find that Chauvin used a level of force that would be considered unreasonable to an objective officer in his position. Hindsight can’t be a factor.

The charges differ when it comes to Chauvin’s state of mind — with second-degree murder requiring some level of intent — not an intent to kill but that Chauvin intended to apply unlawful force to Floyd — all the way down to manslaughter, which requires proof of culpable negligence.

What’s second-degree unintentional murder?

It’s also called felony murder. To prove this count, prosecutors had to show that Chauvin killed Floyd while committing or trying to commit a felony — in this case, third-degree assault. They didn’t have to prove Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, only that he intended to apply unlawful force that caused bodily harm.

Prosecutors called several medical experts who testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of the way he was restrained. A use of force expert said it was unreasonable to hold Floyd in the prone position for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, handcuffed and face-down on the pavement.

“No reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force,” prosecution witness Seth Stoughton testified.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to raise doubts about Floyd’s cause of death — saying underlying heart issues and drug use were to blame. He also argued that Chauvin’s actions were reasonable, saying Floyd was big, under the influence of something, could start fighting and that nearby bystanders presented a threat.

“It’s easy to sit and judge ... an officer’s conduct,” defense witness Barry Brodd testified. “It’s more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in the officer’s shoes to try to make an evaluation through what they’re feeling, what they’re sensing, the fear they have, and then make a determination.”

What about third-degree murder?

For this count, jurors must find Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through an action that was “eminently dangerous” and carried out with a reckless disregard for and conscious indifference to the loss of life.

Mark Osler, a professor at University of St. Thomas School of Law, said prosecutors tried to prove the elements of this count through testimony about the dangers of subduing a handcuffed person in the prone position.

Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist, testified for the prosecution that any healthy person subjected to this restraint would have died. Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor, testified that officers are trained to “stay away from the neck when possible.” Osler said Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was also effective in showing that Chauvin was not trained to use such a hold.

“They wanted to have a lot of evidence showing that what Chauvin did is not what he was trained to do and that the reason they don’t train people to do that is because it’s eminently dangerous,” Osler said.

And second-degree manslaughter?

Prosecutors had to show that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through culpable negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and that he consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death.

Testimony that revealed Chauvin should have known to put Floyd in a side recovery position, that he should have provided medical care before paramedics arrived and that he stayed in his position after he was told Floyd didn’t have a pulse could all point to negligence, said former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.

What does Chauvin face if convicted?

Each count carries a different maximum sentence: 40 years for second-degree unintentional murder, 25 years for third-degree murder, and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

But under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, for a person with no criminal history, each murder charge carries a presumptive sentence of 12½ in prison, while manslaughter has a presumptive sentence of four years.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence that goes above the guideline range. They cited several aggravating factors, including that Floyd was particularly vulnerable, that Chauvin was a uniformed police officer acting in a position of authority, and his alleged crime was witnessed by multiple children — including a 9-year-old girl who testified that watching the restraint made her “sad and kind of mad.”

Chauvin has waived his right to have a jury decide if aggravating factors exist. So if he is convicted, Judge Peter Cahill will make that decision and would sentence Chauvin at a later date. In Minnesota, defendants typically serve two-thirds of their penalty in prison, with the rest on parole.


top story
Second Harvest's new Greensboro distribution center is massive, much needed

GREENSBORO — Soon local programs feeding the needy will get a chance to pull from the freezers of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina’s new satellite office in the city.

Second Harvest, which focuses on the connection between hunger and health, is one of a handful of regional food banks in the state. Now, its Greensboro Distribution and Nutrition Education Center at the Renaissance Shops on Phillips Avenue is stocking its shelves and will be a pivotal part of the venerable agency’s outreach to the region.

The 10,650-square-foot building includes 2,200 square feet of freezer/cooler storage lining the walls that will supply community pantries, kitchens and shelters. Yet to be filled, it is a largely open area with space set aside for classes on healthy eating and food preparation. Agencies can pull up to a loading dock at the rear of the building to pick up orders set aside on pallets.

The agency and its “Everyone Deserves to Eat” campaign also chose one of the city’s food deserts — so-named because residents living in these areas have limited access to fresh fruit and produce — to base its operation.

While Second Harvest serves communities throughout 18 North Carolina counties, the satellite distribution center will create a hub in the service area for Guilford, Alamance, Randolph, Rockingham and Caswell counties.

“Fortunately we have many partners in this area,” said Eric Aft, the CEO of Second Harvest, during a tour on Monday morning.

While the pandemic pushed up the timetable to open, the agency had for years been looking to expand.

For some nonprofits, a steady stream of goods from Second Harvest is what fuels their ability to serve their clientele and, in some ways, provides a lifeline to keep them going. The Winston-Salem-based operation moves tons of donated food to nonprofit organizations that help the hungry, ranging from Greensboro Urban Ministry to the N.C. A&T Aggie Food Pantry.

City Councilwoman Goldie Wells, whose district encompasses the new Second Harvest site, called the agency an ally and advocate for area families.

“We want to get rid of that phrase ‘food desert,’” Wells said.

Nearly 100 of the more than 430 food-assistance programs Second Harvest serves are in Greensboro and High Point. Collectively these programs rely on Second Harvest for more than 80% of the food they provide for people in their communities.

For Second Harvest’s fiscal year, which ended in June 30, 2020, this equated to 10.8 million pounds of food — or 8.4 million meals — in Guilford County alone.

A capital campaign led by co-chairs Jim and Marianne Bennett raised about $2.5 million to renovate and operate the Renaissance Shops site for three years. With this location, local agencies won’t have to send volunteers and others to Winston-Salem to retrieve food for distribution. The distance prevented some from being able to more frequently pick up produce and other perishable items.

“They spend a lot of travel time right now,” Jim Bennett said before a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which included Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson in attendance as well as other local dignitaries.


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