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VIRUS OUTBREAK

More virus rules fall as CDC hints at better times ahead

The nation’s top federal health official says the United States is getting closer to the point where COVID-19 is no longer a “constant crisis” as more cities, businesses and sites athletes began lifting pandemic restrictions across the country. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Wednesday that the government plans to change its mask guidelines in the coming weeks. Walensky noted recent declines in COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths and acknowledged that “people are so impatient” for health officials to relax masking rules and other measures. With the decline of the omicron variant and Americans eager to move beyond the virus, government and business leaders moved ahead of the CDC to end virus measures.

AP-US-FEDERAL-RESERVE-MINUTES

Fed: Faster rate hikes likely if inflation stays high

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve policymakers concluded last month that they would step up their credit tightening if inflation does not ease in the coming months. Most officials agreed that faster interest rate hikes would be needed “if inflation does not decline” as the Fed’s policy committee predicts, according to the minutes of the Fed’s monetary policy meeting. the central bank at the end of January. The minutes underscore the urgency the Fed feels to rein in a sharp surge in inflation, which has persisted longer and spread to more industries than policymakers had anticipated. As recently as December, Fed officials forecast inflation, based on their preferred measure, to fall to an annual rate of 2.6%.

BC- FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks end mixed as traders weigh Fed’s next rate move

Stocks shook off an early tumble and ended mixed on Wall Street on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting showed policymakers were still poised to act decisively to fight inflation. The S&P 500 ended with a 0.1% gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% and weakness in some big tech companies sent the Nasdaq down 0.1%. Stocks of small companies rose. Treasury yields rebounded as traders tried to analyze the Fed’s latest update. The 10-year Treasury yield closed at 2.03%, just slightly below where it was on Tuesday night. Crude oil prices have increased.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-PROTESTS

Tension rises in Ottawa as police warn truckers to leave

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Police in Canada’s capital are telling truckers who have crippled the city for more than two weeks that it’s time to go. Meanwhile, the last truck blockade at the US-Canada border has come to an end. Authorities say the last blockers have left Emerson, Manitoba, and the crossing to North Dakota has reopened. Now all the attention in protests against the country’s COVID-19 restrictions has shifted to Canada’s capital, where hundreds of trucks remain parked downtown. Ottawa authorities are warning protesters that they are at risk of arrest.

TRIAL OF OFFICER DAUNTE WRIGHT

Prosecutors reduce sentence sought for ex-cop Kim Potter

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota prosecutors have apparently dropped their pursuit of a longer-than-usual sentence for the suburban Minneapolis police officer who said he mistook his handgun for his Taser when she killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black motorist. Kim Potter is expected to be sentenced on Friday following her December conviction of first-degree manslaughter. In a filing this week, prosecutors said a sentence of just over seven years — which is the presumptive sentence under state guidelines — would be appropriate. Potter’s lawyers are asking for a less than normal sentence or a probation-only sentence.

GEORGE FLOYD-OFFICERS-CIVIL RIGHTS

2 officers testify at federal trial in George Floyd murder

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Two former Minneapolis police officers charged with the murder of George Floyd took the witness stand Wednesday to challenge prosecutors’ claim that they violated their training and should have intervened to restrain Officer Derek Chauvin to kneel on the black man’s neck. J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are charged along with Thomas Lane with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao held back passers-by while Floyd was handcuffed, face down in the street. Thao spoke for a second day, testifying that he knew Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe were getting weaker, but still didn’t realize Floyd was in danger even as bystanders became increasingly louder. Kueng began his testimony by describing his training.

THE VIOLENCE OF CHICAGO

Man admits inciting 2020 Chicago riots with online posts

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man who posted online urging others to join the massive mobs looting downtown businesses in the summer of 2020 has pleaded guilty to inciting and participating in a riot. James Massey, 23, entered a plea in federal court on Tuesday. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that he will likely be sentenced to two years in prison when he returns to court on May 10. Massey was arrested last year after an investigation revealed he had posted several videos on Facebook urging people to join in the violence. Prosecutors say surveillance video shows Massey taking part in the looting.

AHMAUD ARBERY-HATE CRIMES

FBI: Arbery murder defendants used repeated racial slurs

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — An FBI intelligence analyst is sifting through dozens of text messages and social media posts in which two of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery repeatedly used racial slurs. FBI analyst Amy Vaughan led the jury through the evidence Wednesday at the defendants’ federal hate crimes trial. Vaughan detailed conversations Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan had with others identified only by their initials. Vaughan said the FBI could not access Greg McMichael’s phone because it was encrypted. The second trial in the young black man’s murder began this week, with prosecutors saying they will show the 25-year-old black man was prosecuted and shot in February 2020 because of his skin color.

JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS-FIRE

Feds: Man obstructed investigation into brother’s anti-Semitic arson

The brother of a man who was the prime suspect in four fires that hit Jewish organizations and a Jewish-affiliated business in the Boston area in 2019 has been charged with obstructing the investigation. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Alexander Giannakakis has been arrested in Sweden and is awaiting extradition proceedings. He faces charges of obstruction and tampering. Authorities say her younger brother, now deceased, was the prime suspect in two fires at the Chabad Center in Arlington, one at the Chabad Center in Needham and one at a Chelsea business in May 2019. An email seeking comments was sent to his lawyer.

AP-US-TEXAS-SYNAGOGUE-STANDOFF

FBI: Texas synagogue hostage taker searched for ‘submachine gun’

DALLAS (AP) — An FBI agent says the man who took hostages at a Texas synagogue sought to buy drugs and a “submachine gun” before last month’s standoff that ended in the escape of the hostages and the death of the shooter. The officer’s testimony came Wednesday during a detention hearing for the Dallas man accused of selling Malik Faisal Akram the handgun he used in his attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. A federal magistrate has ordered the detention of the alleged seller, Henry “Michael” Williams, on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Williams’ attorney says his client could not have known what Akram actually planned to do with the weapon.

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