Enjoy good journalism?
… then let us make a small request. The COVID crisis has slashed advertising rates, and we need your help. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.
Raw Story is independent. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.
We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.
Value Raw Story?
… then let us make a small request. The COVID crisis has slashed advertising rates, and we need your help. Like you, we believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We need your support to do what we do.
Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.
A "teeny-tiny" red carpet, no invitations for Hollywood's most powerful moguls, and a "central" role for masks -- next weekend's in-person Oscars are taking no risks when it comes to Covid-19, but the event still would have been "impossible" to hold just weeks earlier, producers said Saturday.
The 93rd Academy Awards will mark the first time Tinseltown's finest have assembled in over a year, for a three-hour show that co-producer Steven Soderbergh said is "not going to be like anything that's been done before."
The delayed April 25 ceremony takes place barely a week after California opened vaccinations to all over-16s, with infection rates plummeting after a massive winter surge ripped through the state. Movie theaters are even reopening.
Asked by AFP about the impact of the show's two-month postponement, Soderbergh said: "It would have been impossible for us to do what we're gonna do... I don't know how we would have done it."
"This is the working definition of trying to build an airplane while it's in the air," the director told a virtual press conference, adding that his experience of making films during the pandemic -- and his 2011 thriller "Contagion" -- had proven invaluable.
The ceremony will take place amid the "physical grandeur" of Los Angeles's cavernous Union Station, with nominees mingling outdoors and then rotated in and out of the venue during the show.
The traditional red carpet will be dramatically downsized, and the guest list will be so limited that even powerful Disney boss Bob Iger "won't be there," said Soderbergh.
Speaking from the venue's courtyard -- where only nominees, their plus ones, and a handful of presenters will chat and drink -- Soderbergh said he hopes the Oscars will present the world "a glimpse of what's going to be possible when most people are vaccinated, and rapid, accurate, cheap testing is the norm."
"Masks are going to play a very important role in the story of this evening," he added. "If that's cryptic, it's meant to be -- but that topic is very central to the narrative."
- 'Snapshot of movies' -
Soderbergh and fellow producers Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher are keeping many details under wraps, but said the unusual and "hopefully unique" nature of a pandemic-era Oscars "certainly opened up an opportunity to try some things that haven't been tried before."
The ceremony will have "the aesthetic of a film as opposed to a TV show," including use of movie-like "over-the-shoulder shots from within the audience" and high-resolution, widescreen formats, said Soderbergh.
Most nominees are expected to attend in person, with hubs in London and Paris set up allowing Europeans unable to travel due to restrictions to dial in -- but only via slick, industry-standard satellite hookups, not Zoom.
Recent awards shows have been slammed for their heavy use of remote calling for nominees, particularly after Daniel Kaluuya briefly lost audio as he accepted his Golden Globe for best supporting actor in "Judas and the Black Messiah."
"Zoom has been a great thing, we're on it constantly," said Soderbergh. "It's just in the context of this show... that doesn't really fit."
Following the awards-show-as-a-movie concept, no host has been announced, but presenters -- billed as the ceremony's "cast" -- will be "playing themselves, or... a version of themselves."
Previously announced A-list presenters include Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon, with more set to be unveiled before the show.
Nominees will be asked to share personal stories, in a show set to make extensive use of interviews.
"The stories have been incredible, so helpful to us," said Soderbergh. "And a wonderful archive -- a snapshot of movies in 2020."
A jury is to hear closing arguments on Monday in the trial of the white ex-police officer accused of murdering African-American George Floyd, a case that laid bare racial wounds in the United States and has come to be seen as a pivotal test of police accountability.
Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, faces a maximum of 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge -- second-degree murder.
Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man lay handcuffed facedown in the street complaining he "can't breathe."
The harrowing video, which was shown repeatedly to the jury during Chauvin's three-week trial, sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, said at the opening of the trial that there was "no political or social cause" in the courtroom, but it has coincided with rising tensions from two other high-profile police killings.
Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot dead in a Minneapolis suburb on April 11 by a white policewoman who apparently mistook her gun for her Taser, and a 13-year-old boy was killed by police in Chicago.
Wright's killing triggered several nights of protests in Minneapolis, and ahead of a verdict in Chauvin's case National Guard troops have been deployed in the Minnesota city where shop windows have been boarded up as a precaution.
With tensions high as a possible verdict nears, two guard members were slightly injured after at least one person opened fire from a car on a team of troops and police early on Sunday in Minneapolis, authorities said.
"The outcome that we pray for in Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd," said Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd and Wright families.
"Killing unarmed Black people is unacceptable," Crump told ABC News on Sunday. "We have to send that message to the police.
"Hold police officers accountable."
'It wasn't right'
Among the 38 witnesses who testified for the prosecution were some of the bystanders who watched Floyd's May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Darnella Frazier, the teenager who took the video that went viral, said Floyd was "scared" and "begging for his life."
"It wasn't right. He was suffering," Frazier said.
Genevieve Hansen, 27, an off-duty firefighter, said Chauvin and other officers rebuffed her offers to provide medical attention to Floyd.
Donald Williams, 33, said he called 911 to report a "murder" after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance.
Chauvin attended every day of the trial, dressed in a suit and taking notes on a yellow legal pad.
He spoke only once -- and that was out of the presence of the jury -- when he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in his own defense.
David Schultz, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University, said he was not surprised by Chauvin's decision.
"The chances of him helping himself probably weren't going to be too good," Schultz said.
"I could imagine a scenario where the prosecution would play that nine minute and 29 second tape and ask Derek Chauvin what he was thinking when George Floyd said he can't breathe."
Much of the evidence phase of the trial involved testimony from medical experts about Floyd's cause of death and whether Chauvin had engaged in reasonable or excessive use of force.
A retired forensic pathologist put on the stand by the defense said Floyd died of cardiac arrest brought on by heart disease and the illegal drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Medical experts called by the prosecution said Floyd died from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen, from Chauvin's knee on his neck and that drugs were not a factor.
'Strong legal authority'
The defense also called a retired police officer who said Chauvin's use of force against Floyd was "justified."
Police officers testifying for the prosecution -- including the city police chief -- said it was excessive and unnecessary.
Schultz, the law professor, said the state had presented a strong case.
"They had to overcome the barrier of being able to prosecute police officers," he said. "Police officers have strong legal authority to use force."
A conviction on any of the charges -- second-degree murder, third-degree murder or manslaughter -- will require the jury to return a unanimous verdict.
Shultz said the defense, which called only seven witnesses, "may be hoping to persuade just one juror to get a hung jury."
The racially diverse jury is made up of six white women, three Black men, three white men, two mixed race women and one Black woman.
Two members of the jury will be excused by Judge Peter Cahill after closing arguments and the other 12 will be sequestered for deliberations.
Three other former police officers -- Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng -- also face charges in connection with Floyd's death.
They are to be tried separately later in the year.
Imagine if one of the speakers at Donald Trump's January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally had said the following:
"We've got to stay on the street, and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."
What a buzzkill that would have been. Someone using language so lame, tame and mundane would have had Trump fanatics shaking their riots helmets in disgust. They might have gotten booed.
Get more confrontational? Why that hardly would suit a rally that Trump had promoted in a December 20 tweet with this MAGA flair:
"Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"
Trump demanded far more than to "show we mean business." He wanted an election overturned at the U.S. Capitol. He demanded his followers march down to that building and as the New York Times recounted, he wasn't about to settle for just being "more active."
"We are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women," Trump said, "and we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them — because you will never take back our country with weakness."
"Trump exhorted his supporters "to fight. We will never give up, we will never concede," Trump said, delighting the crowd by calling Democratic victories the product of what he called "explosions of bullshit."
"'Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!' people chanted in reply."
You don't get that sort of guttural response from some soft talk about confrontations. In other words, you've got to be a lot meaner and nastier than Rep. Maxine Waters was Saturday night in Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Aunty Maxine, as she proudly calls herself, had showed up there fresh off her epic "shut your mouth" takedown of Rep. Jim Jordan at a House hearing Thursday. Waters had come to show solidarity with protesters outraged at yet another death of an unarmed Black man at the hands of police, in this case 20-year-Daunte Wright.
Waters told the protesters she "could not sleep" due to continued police killings. Waters said Officer Kim Potter should be tried for murder rather than manslaughter for shooting Wright.
But the big news came out of what she said in front of the media, as reported by Yahoo News:
"I'm going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice," Waters told reporters at the demonstration. "We've got to get justice in this country, and we cannot allow these killings to continue.
"When asked what protesters should do moving forward, Waters said "We've got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational.
"'We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business.' Waters told reporters, 'I hope we're going to get a verdict that will say guilty, guilty, guilty,' in the Chauvin trial. "And if we don't, we cannot go away.'"
Recognize those words? Yes, Waters used language that would have flopped in Trump world.
But the Republicans went wild anyway.
Enraged at the grave threat posed by this 82-year-old Black lady not comporting herself at all in keeping with the nation's Anglo-Saxon traditions, the Trumpers were besides themselves with the threat she posed to the Republic.
"Impeach and Remove Maxine Waters," declared the New York Post Editorial Board in a Sunday afternoon online screed.
"MAD MAXINE THREAT: CHAUVIN GUILTY OR WE TAKE TO STREETS," blared Breitbart.com.
"Republicans slam Maxine Waters for telling protesters to 'get more confrontational over Chauvin trial," proclaimed FoxNews.com.
Waters caused heads to explode on Twitter, as some of the nation's most noted race-baiters weighed in.
From Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: "Maxine Waters told BLM terrorists to "stay on the streets" and "get more confrontational." BLM terrorists took her orders and took action. She should be expelled from Congress."
From Rep. Lauren Boebert -- retweeted by Rep. Matt Gaetz -- "Why is Maxine Waters traveling to a different state trying to incite a riot? What good can come from this?" Boebert added, "She would already be expelled if she were a Republican.'
From Senator Ted Cruz: "Democrats actively encouraging riots & violence. They want to tear us apart."
From the Arizona Republican Party: "She is a domestic terrorist and a danger of society."
The list goes on. But with each overheated response raging at Waters' words, Republican hypocrisy has become more exposed as to their definition of riot incitement.
In this warped worldview, Water's speech to racial-justice demonstrators was far more dangerous than, say, the January 6 rally. You know, the one at which Trump-- to borrow Cruz's words -- "certainly contributed to the violence that occurred."
Even by Trump's bottom-feeder standards, trying to equate Waters speech to racial-justice protesters with a raging mob trying to overthrow American democracy was a bit of a stretch. Remember some of these greatest hits from the "Stop the Steal" rally?
Trump's son, Donald Jr., warned "we're coming for you" to those Republicans who didn't favor overturning the presidential election.
Rudy Guiliani called for "trial by combat" with Democrats to wrest away the election.
Rep. Mo Brooks told the crowd, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."
Close your eyes and picture Waters having said, "we're coming for you" to white people?" Or calling for "trial by combat" should the "trial by jury" not convict Officer Derek Chauvin. Just imagine Waters saying BLM protesters should be "taking down names and kicking ass."
Funny thing, though. The same right-wingers so distraught over Waters were strangely calm about this whole riot-incitement thing as it pertained to the Capitol insurrection. They parsed every word for its technical context and meaning. They got downright scholarly.
Take the New York Post, please:
"At The Wall Street Journal, former Washington federal prosecutor Jeffrey Scott Shapiro argues that whatever he did, President Trump "didn't commit incitement or any other crime." Under the relevant Supreme Court precedent, "mere advocacy" of violence, not "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action . . . likely to incite or produce such action," is protected speech under the US Constitution. Last week, "the president didn't mention violence on Wednesday, much less provoke or incite it. He said, 'I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.' " Nor did any "public disturbance" occur when Trump spoke. Bottom line: Inflaming public sentiment "does not satisfy the elements of any criminal offense."
Wow. This is the same newspaper that today is saying "Maxine Waters is trying to create a Civil War and her irresponsible rhetoric is inciting violence."
What an interesting contrast to the aforementioned Journal piece about Trump's riot, which appeared under this headline:
"No, Trump Isn't Guilty of Incitement: Inflaming emotions isn't a crime. The president didn't mention violence, much less provoke it."
But Waters is guilty? Really?
Doesn't Water have "protected speech" What "public disturbance" occurred when she spoke? What never mentioned violence, much less did she provoke it. Yes, she suggested confrontation. So did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in pretty much the same context.
And don't forget, as the Journal noted, inflaming emotions isn't a crime, at least not when white people do it. Still, don't try telling that to the Post as it readies itself for civil war.
The right-wing mob, to coin a phrase, wants Waters punished right now. Forget about the fact that the violence they say she caused hasn't happened yet.
She'd never make the grade at a Trump rally.
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month