What we’re reading: Officers plead not guilty in Tyre Nichols death, U.S. sanitation firm fined for child labor and more

By Delaney Vega, Staff Writer

Officers involved in Tyre Nichols death plead ‘not guilty’

Five former officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols pled not guilty to second-degree murder charges on Friday, according to the New York Times.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was pulled over for a traffic stop. Traffic cameras caught video of officers punching, kicking and hitting Nichols with a police baton. Now, the officers are undergoing a lengthy court case.

Tadarrius Bean entering the courtroom for his arraignment on Friday, Feb. 17. (Patrick Lantrip/ Daily Memphian via AP Photo)

“They didn’t even have the courage to look at me in the face after what they did to my son,” said Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells. “They’re going to see me at every court date – every one – until we get justice for my son.”

Additional charges include official misconduct, aggravated kidnapping and official oppression for the five men, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, according to NBC News.

Judge James Jones said “this case may take some time” and asked for patience.

The officers’ next appearance in court is set for May 1.

U.S. sanitation firm pays $1.5 million fine for children working overnight

Packers Sanitation Services paid a fine of $1.5 million for illegally employing over 100 children for overnight shifts, according to The Washington Post.

Minors as young as 13 had been tasked to use dangerous chemicals to clean saws and other hazardous equipment in eight states, mostly in the Midwest and South.

JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colo. where Packers Sanitation provides their services. (David Zalubowski/ AP Photo)

Investigators found that at least three of these workers suffered injuries while cleaning through the night, including a chemical burn on one child’s face, according to BBC News.

Supervisors of Packers Sanitation Services who hired the minors “tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices,” said Michael Lazzeri, a Labor Department administrator in Chicago.

After hiring a third-party law firm, an audit confirmed that the government identified minors no longer work for the company, according to The Washington Post.

The investigation began in August and the fine was paid on Feb. 16 for civil penalties.


YouTube CEO steps down after nine years

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced Thursday she is stepping down from her position, according to Fox Business.

Wojcicki was involved with Google for almost 25 years along with her nine years at YouTube and. She said it’s time to “start a new chapter focused on my family, health and personal projects I’m passionate about.”

Susan Wojcicki as YouTube’s CEO on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles for the introduction of YouTube TV. (Reed Saxon/ AP Photo) (AP)

Neal Mohan, who previously served as YouTube’s chief product officer, will be the new head of the company, Wojcicki said.

As one of the most influential women at YouTube, Google and all of Silicon Valley, Wojcicki was CEO during YouTube’s climb to one of the top media platforms in the world, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Wojcicki also stated how she plans to help with the transition of roles as well as take on an advisory position across Google and Alphabet, Google’s parent company.



Genetically modified trees planted in a U.S. forest for the first time

A start-up called Living Carbon planted the first genetically modified trees in a U.S. forest in the hopes it will contribute positively to combating climate change, according to The New York Times.

These trees had photosynthesis-enhanced poplar seeds to help offset carbon in the atmosphere and move toward the company’s net-zero emission goals. 

Steven Strauss, a forest biotechnology expert, began working on this project four years ago as the Living Carbon start-up raised $30 million and established a goal of planting between four million and five million poplar trees by the spring of 2024. Strauss is also a professor of forest biotechnology at Oregon State University where one of the field trials will be conducted, according to the Scientific American.

Lisa Coca, a partner for the Toyota Ventures Climate Fund said, “Living Carbon’s synthetic biology platform has the potential to fill the gap between supply and demand by leveraging the powerful combination of proven nature-based solutions as a carbon sink and genetic engineering to deliver high-quality credits to the market.”

Maddie Hall, co-founder and CEO of Living Carbon, has high hopes for the continuing project.