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News Brief: Nov. 5 – Nov. 12

  • International 

The US Reopens to International Travel 

On Nov. 8, the United States fully reopened its borders to vaccinated international travelers. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions closed the U.S. borders for 20 months. Travelers coming in must have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.  

American citizens and permanent residents were never restricted to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists. After the reopening, families and friends separated abroad were reunited, with many emotional moments going viral on the internet. 

Portugal makes it illegal for bosses to text employers after work 

On Nov. 5, Portugal passed labor laws to regulate working from home. The idea is to protect employees who do their job away from company premises. 

Among the new rules, there are new penalties for companies who disturb the privacy of staff or their families, and some rules obligate employers to compensate staff for work-related expenses incurred at home such as electricity and internet. 

Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s Minister of Labor and Social Security, said in a Web Summit conference in Lisbon that Portugal is one of the best places in the world for “digital nomads” and remote workers to live in. 

Godinho said after the COVID-19 pandemic, the way people work changed, and so should the laws. 

“The pandemic has accelerated the need to regulate what needs to be regulated,” Godinho said.

  • National 

Eight people died at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Concert 

On Nov. 5, eight people died and 25 were injured after a crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas, during rapper Travis Scott’s performance. 

According to Samuel Peña, a Houston fire chief, more than 300 people were treated at a field hospital at the festival. Among the people who died, the age range was from 14 to 27 years old. 

 Peña said the problem started when the crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage. 

“That caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” Peña said. “People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.” 

Videos posted on social media show a chaotic scene and some of the public yelling for help as the music continues. Executives and security officials have raised questions about how the event was designed and if Scott and his team should have moved faster to end the show. 

Scott’s lawyers said he could not see or hear what was happening in the crowd. They said he only found out the severity of the situation after the show. 

Kyle Rittenhouse takes the stand on trial

On Nov. 10, Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defense and his attorneys requested a mistrial

Rittenhouse, 18, fatally shot two people and wounded a third during a Wisconsin protest against police brutality in August 2020.  He claims he acted in self-defense. 

He began to cry when his attorneys questioned him about why he fatally shot the first victim.

“I didn’t do anything wrong; I was defending myself,” Rittenhouse said.

At the time of the incident, Rittenhouse was 17 and illegally possessing an AR-15 style rifle. He was charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide. He also faces charges of recklessly endangering the safety of two other victims and possessing a weapon while under the age of 18.

The trial will continue the next few days. 

  • Local 

Oklahoma jail officers played ‘Baby Shark’ on repeat as a torture tactic

On Nov. 9, according to a lawsuit, inmates at the Oklahoma County Detention Center were subjected to torture by hearing “Baby Shark” on repeat while in “standing stress positions” for hours. 

The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Oklahoma on behalf of Ja’Lee Foreman Jr., Daniel Hedrick, Joseph Mitchell and John Basco, who were pre-trial detainees at the Oklahoma County jail in late 2019.

The federal civil rights lawsuit also alleged excessive force, describing the discipline tactics as “torture events.” 

“[They were] forced to listen to the song over and over while physically restrained in the attorney visitation room. The volume of the song was so loud that it was reverberating down the hallways,” the lawsuit said.

Six OKC teachers were fired for refusing to wear masks 

Six teachers were fired for not complying with a school’s mask policy. 

The Oklahoma City Public School Board voted unanimously last week to fire six teachers after they refused to follow their school’s mask mandate intended to protect staff and students against COVID-19. 

The Oklahoma Secretary of Education, Ryan Walters, said the situation is “outrageous.” 

“In the middle of a teacher shortage, to take this kind of extreme measure on teachers that haven’t been shown to be low quality…we feel like it’s outrageous,” Walters said.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill in May prohibiting school boards from implementing face mask mandates. However, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent, Sean McDaniel, said the mandate was issued by his office, not the school board, so it is not in violation of the law.

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