She said that she and her husband would not feel comfortable getting a coronavirus vaccine for their children right away, and would want to make sure that any risk of side effects did not outweigh the benefits.

For Ms. Schulte, whose two young children participated in the Pfizer vaccine trial, the promise of a new vaccine has given way to more waiting.

“They’ve already told us that we’ll need to come back for a third dose because it didn’t generate enough of an immune response,” she said.

“We had hoped that by now we would learn that one of our children was fully vaccinated and we could move on,” she said. “It would have been nice, but a trial is a trial.”

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Philadelphia Fire Started When Boy, 5, Ignited Christmas Tree

In the news conference on Tuesday, Commissioner Thiel said investigators found seven smoke alarms in the unit after the fire. Four were found in drawers; one was found on the floor, its battery removed; and another was attached to a ceiling, its battery removed as well. The seventh alarm, which was in a basement shared by the two units, had activated, but its alerts came too late, given how quickly the fire spread in the upper floors.

The city also released the names of the dead on Tuesday. The three adults who died were Rosalee McDonald, Virginia Thomas and Quinsha White. The children were Dekwan Robinson, Destiny McDonald, Janiyah Roberts, J’Kwan Robinson, Natasha Wayne, Quientien Tate-McDonald, Shaniece Wayne, Taniesha Robinson and Tiffany Robinson. All died of smoke inhalation, according to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office.

The tragedy brought renewed attention to a dire shortage of quality low-income housing in the city and across the country. The waiting list for new public housing units in Philadelphia, a city with a large population under the poverty line, runs to 40,000 households and has been closed for nearly a decade.

The extended family had moved into the rowhouse apartment in 2011, having outgrown a smaller home elsewhere in public housing. Since moving in, the number of occupants on the lease had grown from six to 14 as the families grew. While some members of the family had told friends and social workers that they wanted to move, officials with the housing authority say that no one in the apartment had formally requested a new place.

City officials emphasized that Philadelphia’s housing stock was old and needed to be updated to modern safety standards, such as smoke alarms wired directly into the building. That requires a significant amount of spending, said Kelvin Jeremiah, the director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, money that the agency does not have.

“This incident,” he said on Tuesday, “highlights the fundamental truth that there is, in fact, an affordable housing crisis in the city.”

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Another 6 New California Laws You Should Know

But a new California law aimed at easing our housing crisis is essentially ending single-family zoning. As of Jan. 1, property owners can build up to three additional units on their land, allowing single-family homes to be transformed into as many as four units.

Read more from The New York Times.

All containers of olive oil marketed as being from California must include on the label the percentage of the product derived from olives grown in the state. The new law is an effort to protect consumers from misleading advertising and to support local farmers.

This new law eliminates the mandatory prison and jail sentences for certain drug offenses and allows judges to order probation instead. The state had adopted mandatory minimums during the height of the war on drugs.

“If we are serious about ending the war on drugs, which has been a racist policy failure, then we must start by expanding alternatives to incarceration for those who commit nonviolent drug offenses,” Scott Wiener, a state senator from San Francisco, who proposed the change, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s simple: Judges should not be forced to send someone to jail.”

Public colleges in California must now update diplomas and transcripts for transgender students who have changed their names or gender. California is believed to be the first state to ban colleges from “deadnaming,” or using the name that someone was assigned at birth but no longer identifies with.

Read more from CalMatters.

California is now the first state to require that employers pay garment factory workers by the hour, instead of per piece of clothing. Piece-rate compensation often meant that workers were earning below minimum wage.

In 2016, California became one of a small number of states to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription from a doctor. The concept was controversial, and numerous safeguards were written into the law.

But now, given increased public acceptance, lawmakers are streamlining the process. Instead of requiring that the patient make two separate requests for the fatal medicines 15 days apart, the new law says the wait between requests must be only two days. It also eliminates the need for a written statement from the patient.


died as a prisoner in Stockton.

  • Pilot rescued: The pilot of a plane that had crashed onto a Los Angeles train track was pulled from the wreckage just seconds before a train smashed into it.

  • Police officers fired: A court ruled that it was appropriate for two Los Angeles police officers to be fired in 2017 for playing a video game instead of responding to a call, The Associated Press reports.

  • CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

    NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

    • Elizabeth Holmes trial: If you wondered what it was like to serve as a juror in Silicon Valley’s trial of the decade, Susanna Stefanek can tell you.

    • Treasure hunt: A 21-year-old college student disappeared while hiding the prize for a family treasure hunt, The Guardian reports.


    Three $1.4 million homes in California.


    CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

    CAtoday@nytimes.com with your traditions, recommendations and opinions.


    As a wildfire roared toward South Lake Tahoe last summer, a man suffered his own kind of tragedy: His dog went missing.

    Russ, a pit bull-terrier mix, ran away from his owner’s vehicle and couldn’t be found anywhere. Russ had been lost for good, his owner thought.

    But then on Dec. 16, a man skiing west of Tahoe spotted a dog and posted photos of the animal online.

    Leona Allen, an experienced animal tracker who volunteers with a rescue group, strapped on snowshoes and followed what she hoped were dog tracks, The Associated Press reports.

    today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Something that a Zoom meeting, Airbnb and “S.N.L.” each have (4 letters).

    Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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    Lawsuit Says 16 Elite Colleges Are Part of Price-Fixing Cartel

    A lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday accused 16 of the nation’s leading private universities and colleges of conspiring to reduce the financial aid they award to admitted students through a price-fixing cartel.

    The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago on behalf of five former undergraduates who attended some of the universities named in the suit, takes aim at a decades-old antitrust exemption granted to these universities for financial aid decisions and claims that the colleges have overcharged an estimated 170,000 students who were eligible for financial aid over nearly two decades.

    The universities accused of wrongdoing are Brown, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Georgetown, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice, Vanderbilt and Yale.

    The allegations hinge on a methodology for calculating financial need. The 16 schools collaborate in an organization called the 568 Presidents Group that uses a consensus approach to evaluating a student’s ability to pay, according to the lawsuit.

    Under federal antitrust law, these universities are permitted to collaborate on financial aid formulas if they do not consider a student’s ability to pay in the admissions process, a status called “need blind.” The group’s name is derived from a section of federal law permitting such collaborations: Section 568 of the Higher Education Act.

    The suit claims that nine of the schools are not actually need blind because for many years, they have found ways to consider some applicants’ ability to pay.

    The University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt, for example, have considered the financial needs of wait-listed applicants, the lawsuit says. Other schools, the lawsuit says, award “special treatment to the children of wealthy” donors, which, given the limited number of spots, hurts students needing financial aid.

    The lawsuit claims that the actions of these nine schools — Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, M.I.T., Northwestern, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt — render the actions of all 16 universities unlawful, turning it into what the suit calls “the 568 Cartel.”

    “Privileging the wealthy and disadvantaging the financially needy are inextricably linked,” the suit said. “They are two sides of the same coin.”

    Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, an industry organization whose 2,000 college and university president members include leaders of the 16 schools, said the case was similar to antitrust litigation the Justice Department filed against Ivy League schools and M.I.T. in the 1990s.

    Ultimately, he said, M.I.T. obtained a favorable federal appeals court ruling and the Justice Department settled its claims.

    “I’d be surprised to ultimately find that there’s fire where this smoke is being sent up today,” Mr. McDonough said, noting that the schools named in the complaint were “very antitrust aware and particularly sophisticated. They have good advice provided to them.”

    Several institutions, including Columbia, Duke and Rice, declined to comment on the pending litigation. Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for Yale, said the university’s “financial aid policy is 100 percent compliant with all applicable laws.”

    Neither university is named in the financial aid lawsuit.

    But the lawsuit stated that Harvard, among other universities, declined to join the 568 group because it “would have yielded financial-aid packages that were smaller than what Harvard wanted to award.”

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    Disruption, Dismay, Dissent: Americans Grapple With Omicron’s Rise

    CHICAGO — With infection rates mounting, the Omicron variant has ushered in a new and disorienting phase of the pandemic, leaving Americans frustrated and dismayed that the basic elements they thought they understood about the coronavirus are shifting faster than ever.

    There were reasons for heightened concern and reasons for consolation: Omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, yet it appears to cause milder symptoms in many people. Hospitalizations have soared to new highs in some states, but “incidental patients” — people who test positive for Covid-19 after being admitted for another reason — make up close to half of their cases in some hospitals.

    Public health officials, in response to the new variant, have halved the recommended isolation period for people with positive tests to five days from 10 days, while also suggesting people upgrade their masks from cloth to medical-grade when possible.

    “Omicron has turned, quickly, into something that is just different,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s top health official.

    President Biden’s own former transition team has called on the president to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely, not to wiping it out.

    And Americans, confronted with these new sets of facts, warnings and advisories, have responded with a mix of confusion, vigilance and indifference. Left mainly to navigate it all on their own, they must sort through an array of uncertain risks — ride a bus? visit friends? eat inside? — hour by hour.

    India, bracing for a tidal wave of infections with only half its population vaccinated, has set up makeshift Covid wards in convention halls. In Argentina recently, the test positivity rate rose to a staggering 30 percent.

    But with signs that the wave of Omicron in South Africa is receding, without bringing a huge new surge of deaths, many countries have moved to a strategy of living with the virus, opting to keep businesses and schools open rather than risk the economic havoc of more lockdowns.

    Health officials in the United States, weary from two years of repeating similar pleas to the public, have tried to emphasize that the Omicron variant is like no other phase of the pandemic.

    Daily case reports have roughly quintupled over the last month as Omicron has taken hold. About 650,000 new cases are being identified each day, more than twice as many as at last winter’s peak — a number that is certainly an undercount, since it does not include many results from at-home antigen tests.

    say, a smaller proportion of Covid patients are landing in intensive care units or requiring mechanical ventilation, but the sheer number of patients is raising alarms.

    Deaths, which are a lagging indicator, have not yet increased as significantly. About 1,500 deaths from Covid-19 are being announced every day in the United States. It could be weeks, officials said, before they will know whether the Omicron variant will result in another large wave of deaths in the United States, where more than 830,000 people have died from the coronavirus.

    Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine, said that the Omicron variant has been “legitimately complicated” for many Americans to comprehend, since it clearly differs from previous variants.

    “Omicron is milder than Delta, but it’s more transmissible,” he said. “It’s changing two things at once.”

    Shifting advice on isolation and quarantines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also left Americans with questions about the seriousness of the variant. Many employers, acting on guidance from public health officials, have encouraged sick workers to return to their jobs after only five days, even without a test showing that they are negative for the virus.

    “The confusion is compounded,” said Dr. Gill Wright, the city health director in Nashville. “People are saying, this is supposed to get really bad, but we can go back to work quicker?”

    In rural Michigan, people with coronavirus symptoms have arrived at hospitals in recent weeks repeating the conventional wisdom that once you have had Covid, you are unlikely to contract it again quickly.

    “A lot of them say, ‘It can’t be Covid, I just had it a few months ago,’” said Dr. Mark Hamed, an emergency room physician in Sandusky, Mich. “Lo and behold, they test positive.”

    Roughly 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, a number that has barely budged in recent weeks. Even fully vaccinated and boosted individuals have become infected with the Omicron variant, though health officials say that their infections appear less severe than in the unvaccinated.

    Across the country, record numbers of public employees have been off the job as a result of surging coronavirus infections, leaving officials scrambling to reassure residents that if they call 911, someone will show up — if a little later than normal.

    In Dallas, 204 of the roughly 2,100 employees of the city’s fire and rescue department were in quarantine on Thursday because of positive Covid-19 tests — the most since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Jason Evans, the department’s spokesman. He said that approximately one-quarter of the department’s total positive tests since March 2020 were from the last two weeks.

    Los Angeles city officials said at a news conference on Thursday that almost 300 firefighters were off duty because of the virus, the most the department had seen at any one time. Jeff Cretan, a spokesman for Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, said that 140 employees of the fire department and 188 employees of the city police department had tested positive or were out because of quarantine protocols; so were 110 workers at the city’s transit agency.

    Schools and colleges were facing the uncertainty of whether to conduct classes in person or virtually, sometimes while balancing competing arguments from parents, teachers and students.

    In Chicago last week, the powerful teachers union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot clashed over coronavirus safety and testing in a dispute that has closed schools for several days in the nation’s third-largest school district.

    At Rhodes College, a small liberal arts school in Memphis, officials announced over the holiday break that the start of in-person classes was being delayed two weeks — a disappointment for students exasperated with online classes and eager for the kind of college experience they had hoped for.

    “Every semester, it feels like we’re almost back to normal and then it gets revoked one more time,” said John Howell, a senior political economy and philosophy major starting his final semester. “It feels like every routine is going to be broken and you should just expect that.”

    Bishop James Dixon, the senior pastor at the Community of Faith Church in Houston, said that he and his fellow church leaders have found themselves struggling to strike the right balance as Omicron spreads.

    “No one has a set answer,” he said. “It’s trial and error. It’s trepidatious. And we’re supposed to be people of faith and make a decision and take a direction.”

    Mr. Dixon said the virus had caused a scare among many congregants because they know so many people now who have gotten it.

    “Things are better than they were,” he said, “but simultaneously they’re worse than they were because numbers are soaring.”

    Shashank Bengali contributed reporting from London, Jill Cowan from Los Angeles, J. David Goodman from Houston, Rick Rojas from Nashville and Mitch Smith from Chicago.

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    As More Teachers’ Unions Push for Remote Schooling, Parents Worry. So Do Democrats.

    Few American cities have labor politics as fraught as Chicago’s, where the nation’s third-largest school system shut down this week after teachers’ union members refused to work in person, arguing that classrooms were unsafe amid the Omicron surge.

    But in a number of other places, the tenuous labor peace that has allowed most schools to operate normally this year is in danger of collapsing.

    While not yet threatening to walk off the job, unions are back at negotiating tables, pushing in some cases for a return to remote learning. They frequently cite understaffing because of illness, and shortages of rapid tests and medical-grade masks. Some teachers, in a rear-guard action, have staged sick outs.

    In Milwaukee, schools are remote until Jan. 18, because of staffing issues. But the teachers’ union president, Amy Mizialko, doubts that the situation will significantly improve and worries that the school board will resist extending online classes.

    Polling showed that school disruptions were an important issue for swing voters who broke Republican — particularly suburban white women.

    “It’s a big deal in most state polling we do,” said Brian Stryker, a partner at the polling firm ALG Research whose work in Virginia indicated that school closures hurt Democrats.

    “Anyone who thinks this is a political problem that stops at the Chicago city line is kidding themselves,” added Mr. Stryker, whose firm polled for President Biden’s 2020 campaign. “This is going to resonate all across Illinois, across the country.”

    More than one million of the country’s 50 million public school students were affected by districtwide shutdowns in the first week of January, many of which were announced abruptly and triggered a wave of frustration among parents.

    “The kids are not the ones that are seriously ill by and large, but we know kids are the ones suffering from remote learning,” said Dan Kirk, whose son attends Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, which was closed amid the district’s standoff this week.

    Several nonunion charter-school networks and districts temporarily transitioned to remote learning after the holidays. But as has been true throughout the pandemic, most of the temporary districtwide closures — including in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee — are taking place in liberal-leaning areas with powerful unions and a more cautious approach to the coronavirus.

    the reassuring knowledge that in-school transmission of the virus has been limited. The Omicron variant, while highly contagious, appears to cause less severe illness than previous iterations of Covid-19.

    academically and emotionally, and widen income and racial disparities.

    But some local union officials are far warier of packed classrooms. In Newark, schools began 2022 with an unexpected stretch of remote learning, set to end on Jan. 18. John Abeigon, the Newark Teachers Union president, said he was hopeful about the return to buildings but that he remained unsure if every school could operate safely. Student vaccination is far from universal, and most parents have not consented to their children taking regular virus tests.

    Mr. Abeigon said that if tests remain scarce, he might ask for remote learning at specific schools with low vaccination rates and high case counts. He agreed that online learning was a burden to working parents but argued that educators should not be sacrificed for the good of the economy.

    “I’d see the entire city of Newark unemployed before I allowed one single teacher’s aide to die needlessly,” he said.

    In Los Angeles, the district has worked closely with the union to keep classrooms open after one of the longest pandemic shutdowns in the country last school year. The vaccination rate for students 12 and older is about 90 percent, with a student vaccine mandate set to kick in this fall. All students and staff are tested for the virus weekly.

    one large school district have said they need the flexibility to go remote amid escalating infection rates.

    But the Republican-controlled state legislature has granted no more than 10 days for such instruction districtwide, and unions there worry that may be inadequate. Jeni Ward Bolander, a leader of a statewide union, said that teachers may have to walk off the job.

    “Frustration is building on teachers,” Ms. Ward Bolander said. “I hate to say we’d walk out at that point, but it’s absolutely possible.”

    National teachers’ unions continue to call for classrooms to remain open, but local affiliates hold the most power in negotiations over whether individual districts will close schools.

    And over the last decade, some locals, including those in Los Angeles and Chicago, were taken over by activist leaders whose tactics can be more aggressive than those of national leaders like Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Becky Pringle of the National Education Association, both close allies of President Biden.

    In the Bay Area, splinter groups of teachers in both Oakland and San Francisco have planned sick outs, and demanded N95 masks, more virus testing and other safety measures.

    Rori Abernethy, a middle-school teacher in San Francisco, organized a sick out there on Thursday. She said the Chicago action had prompted some teachers to ask, “Why isn’t our union doing this?”

    In Chicago and San Francisco, working-class parents of color disproportionately send their children to the public schools, and they have often supported strict safety measures during the pandemic, including periods of remote learning. And in New York, the nation’s largest school district, schools are operating in person with increased virus testing, with limited dissent from teachers.

    But the politics become more complicated in suburbs, where union leaders may find themselves at odds with public officials at pains to preserve in-person schooling.

    In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest district, the superintendent has a plan for switching individual schools to remote learning in the event of many absent teachers.

    Kimberly Adams, the president of the local education association, said her union may want stricter measures. And she said that districts should be planning for virus surges by distributing devices for potential short bursts of online schooling.

    But Dan Helmer, a Democratic state delegate whose swing district includes part of Fairfax County, said there was little support among his constituents for a return to online education.

    polls conducted by researchers skeptical of teachers’ unions.

    And if it turns out that Democratic candidates pay a political price for unions’ assertiveness, local labor officials do not consider it to be among their top concerns.

    If periods of remote learning this winter hurt the Democratic Party, “that’s a question for the consultants and the brain trusts to figure out,” said Mr. Abeigon, the Newark union president. “But that it’s the right thing to do? There’s no question in my mind.”

    Holly Secon contributed reporting from San Francisco.

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    Three Men Sentenced to Life in Prison in Arbery Killing

    The chase ended when Mr. Arbery, blocked in by the trucks, clashed physically with Travis McMichael, who shot Mr. Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun. Mr. Bryan captured the slaying on his cellphone camera, and when the footage was widely distributed online, it stirred national outrage.

    On Friday, Mr. Arbery’s family members gave a series of wrenching statements to the judge, arguing that the men should receive the maximum possible sentences. His sister, Jasmine Arbery, said the men mistakenly deemed Mr. Arbery to be a “dangerous criminal” because of his dark skin and curly hair.

    Mr. Arbery was a jogging enthusiast, and his family has said that he had jogged into the neighborhood on the day of his death. Marcus Arbery Sr., his father, told the court, “Not only did they lynch my son in broad daylight, but they killed him while he was doing what he loved” more than anything: “running.”

    Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, noted that her son never spoke to his pursuers during the chase. “He never said a word to them, he never threatened them — he just wanted to be left alone,” she said. “They were fully committed to their crimes. Let them be fully committed for their consequences.”

    The case is likely to be appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. But in an interview this week, Ms. Cooper-Jones said she was bracing herself for the next trial, in federal court, where the three men are charged with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and also face potential life sentences. Jury selection in that case is scheduled to begin on Feb. 7.

    “I’ll be there every day,” she said. “They need to answer to those charges as well.”

    Ms. Cooper-Jones said federal prosecutors had contacted her recently and asked if she would be comfortable with a plea deal. She said she told them that she preferred to see the federal case go to trial.

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    Three white men sentenced to life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery’s murder

    A judge in Georgia sentenced Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan to life in prison on Friday for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was running through their mostly white neighborhood in February 2020 when they chased him down and killed him.

    Under Georgia law, murder carries a mandatory life sentence unless prosecutors seek the death penalty. For the judge, Timothy Walmsley, the main decision was whether to grant father and son Greg McMichael, 66, and Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, Bryan, 52, a chance to earn parole.

    Arbery’s family had made powerful statements, asking Walmsley to show no leniency.

    Before sentencing, Walmsley said: “Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in the courtroom took the law into their own hands.”

    Walmsley said Arbery left his home for a jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as the men chased him in pickup trucks then cornered him. The judge paused for a minute, to help drive home a sense of what that time must have been like for Arbery.

    “When I thought about this,” he said, “I thought from a lot of different angles. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.”

    The McMichaels will spend the rest of their lives in prison. Walmsley ruled that Bryan could seek parole after 30 years, the minimum sentence allowed.

    'Devastated': family members pay tribute to Ahmaud Arbery at sentencing of killers – video
    ‘Devastated’: family members pay tribute to Ahmaud Arbery at sentencing of killers – video

    Arbery’s mother said she suffered an intense loss made worse by a trial where the men’s defense was that Arbery made bad choices.

    “This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact,” Wanda Cooper-Jones said.

    “They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community. And when they couldn’t sufficiently scare or intimidate him, they killed him.”

    Cooper-Jones rebutted a point made by a defense lawyer that caused outrage. During the trial in November, Laura Hogue made a reference to Ahmaud Arbery’s appearance many found egregious and racist.

    Hogue said: “Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts, with no socks, to cover his long dirty toenails.”

    On Friday, Cooper-Jones said her son was sometimes messy.

    “He sometimes refused to wear socks or take good care of his good clothing. I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out for that jog that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would be murdered.”

    Marcus Arbery Sr, Ahmaud’s father, also addressed the court. He said: “When I close my eyes, I see his execution in my mind, over and over. I will see that for the rest of my life.

    “Not only did they lynch my son in broad daylight, they killed him while he was doing what he loved more than anything: running. That’s when he felt most alive, most free, and they took all that from him.”

    Arbery’s sister, Jasmine Arbery, described her brother as a positive thinker with a big personality. Weeping, she told the judge her brother had dark skin “that glistened in the sunlight” and “thick, curly hair and an athletic build”.

    “These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn,” she said. “To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved.”

    Ahmaud Arbery's mother responds to defence lawyer remarks about 'long dirty toenails' – video
    Ahmaud Arbery’s mother responds to defence lawyer remarks about ‘long dirty toenails’ – video

    Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the judge for life without parole for the McMichaels and the possibility of parole for Bryan. But she said all deserved that mandatory life sentence.

    The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a truck to chase Arbery, 25, after spotting him running on 23 February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit and recorded video of Travis McMichael firing close-range shotgun blasts.

    The killing went largely unnoticed until two months later, when video was leaked, touching off a national outcry. The Georgia bureau of investigation arrested all three men.

    The attorney Robert Rubin argued that Travis McMichael deserved the possibility of parole as he fired only after “Mr Arbery came at him and grabbed the gun”.

    “This was not a planned murder,” Rubin said. “This was a fight over a gun.”

    Hogue, for Greg McMichael, said her client “did not view his son firing that shotgun with anything other than fear and sadness”.

    Bryan’s lawyer said he showed remorse and cooperated with police.

    Next month, the McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial on federal hate crime charges. Prosecutors will argue that the men targeted Arbery because he was Black.

    On Friday, Ben Crump, a leading civil rights attorney, said: “These brutal crimes nearly went unpunished because of the deep corruption that pervades so many of our systems.”

    He added: “The tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery must not be in vain. America, we are showing progress. Now is not the time to retreat. We must continue to demand better from law enforcement, from our justice system and from our society as a whole.”

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    Hundreds Gather to Remember 12 Victims of Philadelphia Fire

    PHILADELPHIA — Family members of the 12 people who died in a fire at a Philadelphia rowhouse gathered on Thursday for a brief vigil on the steps of a local elementary school, sobbing and holding one another in the evening cold. Hundreds stood in silence as one of the family members gave an accounting of the death toll: three sisters and nine of their sons and daughters.

    Investigators examining the fire are looking into the possibility that it was caused by a child playing with a lighter near a Christmas tree, according to a warrant application that was filed in state court.

    The warrant application, which was earlier reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer and confirmed by a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, was necessary for police investigators to gain access to the apartment. Officials on Thursday emphasized that the investigation was just beginning and that no conclusions had been made.

    Much remained unknown about the fire, which burned through the upper floors of a three-story rowhouse in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood on Wednesday morning, just before sunrise. Investigators said very little, beyond announcing that several agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were investigating.

    Officials with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which owns the building, did talk to reporters on Thursday about why 18 people were in the four-bedroom upper apartment when the fire broke out.

    When the family moved into the apartment in 2011, said Kelvin Jeremiah, president and chief executive of the housing authority, they numbered six. A decade later, Mr. Jeremiah said, the family had grown to 14, which was the number of people authorized to live there under the current lease.

    He attributed the fact that there were apparently four more people than that in the apartment at the time of the fire to the holiday season. “This is the time of year when family gathers,” Mr. Jeremiah said. “We are not going to be critical of families who have suffered this unimaginable loss.”

    Around the streets of the neighborhood on Thursday, the people who had watched the comings and goings of residents for years remembered the families, and particularly all of the children.

    “They were No. 1 people,” said Ramon Antonio Correa, who owns the Papy Deli Grocery where some combination of the children would stop by almost every day, often buying meat and cheese to bring home to their mothers.

    Donald Dennison, who worked for decades as a cashier at the closest subway station to the rowhouse, remembered the children announcing their arrival with shouting and hollering.

    “One would come in and pay and hit the button, one of the adults. And then all of the sudden the kids would run in,” he said. “When I heard this, I was just devastated because I knew — I said, ‘Hold it, that’s the group!’”

    But within that group, of course, there were children and adults with different stories and personalities. While the city medical examiner had not released the names of the dead, many in the neighborhood already knew.

    One of the children was Destiny McDonald, who was quieter and more reserved than the others, said Andre Wright, who coached her in basketball.

    “To know her was to love her, and a lot of people didn’t really get to know her — she kind of shut herself off from a lot of people,” he said. But for those who she let in, she was a “beacon of light.”

    Ms. McDonald’s father would often come to basketball games and cheer her on, shaking Mr. Wright’s hand afterward. “He would always thank us and say how grateful he was that it was two brothers from the neighborhood,” he said. “He was very adamant about the fact that we were from the neighborhood helping kids from the neighborhood.”

    Since the fire, the Bache-Martin elementary school has served as the center of the community — where families have gathered in grief, where officials have spoken and where the hundreds came together for Thursday night’s vigil. Quintien Tate-McDonald, 16, one of the victims, went to school there and came back after he graduated, working a part-time job cleaning up in the yard. He kept up with his teachers, including Kristin Luebbert, who taught him in seventh grade.

    “As much as you love all of your kids, he was one of those really memorable kids that you would never forget,” she said.

    Ms. Luebbert, who started teaching at Bache-Martin in 2001 and has since left, said that many of her students’ families struggled to remain in the neighborhood as the cost of living went up. Over the decades she has lived there, she has watched corner stores close and families reluctantly move to more affordable parts of the city.

    She wondered if the affection for the neighborhood is why Mr. Tate-McDonald’s family had decided to crowd into that one apartment rather than seeking to move to a larger unit elsewhere. “I’m sure they loved this neighborhood,” she said, “and realized how easy it was as a place to be for kids and for families.”

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