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Here’s why a unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Marathon

Here’s why a unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

“It’s probably one of our most frequently asked questions.”

Ever wondered why a unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Marathon? John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

The unicorn, with its horn pointed upward and majestic mane, has graced the Boston Marathon finish line for decades.

The mythical creature, which started as the symbol for the Boston Athletic Association, has become synonymous with the historic race, gracing runner’s jackets, medals, and trophies.

“It’s probably one of our most frequently asked questions,” Jack Fleming, the BAA’s chief operating officer, said of the unicorn’s origin with the athletic association, which organizes the marathon. “People pause on it, they think about it.”

He said the common belief is that the unicorn was on the family crest of one of the BAA’s founding members.


“That hasn’t been proven,” Fleming said. “But with the rich heritage up here — between the Scots and the English and the Irish, it’s a pretty good likelihood.”

The athletic club was founded in 1887 (the first Boston Marathon took place in 1897), and the unicorn was associated with all the organization’s sports.

Even if it once belonged to family that had a coat of arms, the unicorn’s meaning and significance has since broadened.

“The unicorn is a mythological figure that is meant to be pursued, but, in that pursuit, you never catch [it],” Fleming said. “So it inspires you to continue to try — to race harder in the case of running — and though it may be elusive, it really is the pursuit of the unicorn that makes you better and better and better.”


Fleming noted that the style of the unicorn has been “stylized” a few times over the decades, but he said “Spike” — the name that has been affectionately given to the unicorn by BAA staff — has largely remained the same.

“We’re really so proud of it,” he said.

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2 boys, both 15, fatally shot hours apart Tuesday on Chicago’s South Side

“Instead of getting used to it, it actually just multiplies the pain,” he said of two members of one family being fatally shot. “I think that more people need to realize the importance of each and every person killed by gun violence, not just get used to it like, ‘Oh another one’,” he said.

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France, Striving for Global Power, Still Struggles to Get It

Though often seen as vanity or pique, France’s assertiveness abroad is calibrated to manage a quandary it has faced since World War II: how to act as an independent power while depending on allies.

For France, this week’s geopolitical drama — its nixed submarine sale to Australia, and its furious response to the United States’ jumping the deal — encapsulates a problem the once-mighty nation has struggled with for decades: how to assert itself as an independent power, which French leaders see as essential, while maintaining the alliances on which they know France relies.

Reconciling that dilemma between independence and reliance has animated and bedeviled French strategy ever since World War II left most of Europe subjugated to foreign superpowers.

Though Americans sometimes see French willfulness as animated by vanity or a desire to reclaim long-lost imperial pride, French leaders are keenly aware that they lead a medium-sized power in a world dominated by larger ones.

The planned submarine sale follows a long line of moves calibrated to project French power, maintaining the country’s ability to steer its own fate, while aligning with the allies whose help Paris knows it needs, paradoxically, to stand on its own.

But losing the contract highlighted the difficulty of achieving both. So did France’s response. Recalling its ambassador to Washington was meant to show that it was not afraid to stand up even to allies. At the same time, in seeking European support against the perceived American betrayal, Paris demonstrated that it feels compelled to seek outside support even in this.

Nicolas Tucat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“For the French, independence has always meant autonomy,” said Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

“But that has never been 100 percent independent. What matters is that it’s 99 percent independent,” he said, but he added that this brings “fundamental tensions” that cannot be resolved so much as managed.

The history behind why French leaders feel they must try anyway, and the challenges they have faced ever since, both underscore why this week’s events so infuriated Paris.

The war and its aftermath, which left Europe divided between American and Soviet forces and saw Washington exerting new pressure on its now-junior allies, many of which it also militarily occupied, convinced the French that accepting a future as one of many in an American-led alliance, as the British and West Germans had, would mean subjugation.

The arrival of the nuclear era, with its threat of total annihilation, convinced the French that they would have to secure their own way in the world, even if it would sometimes upset the allies whose help they would need to do it.

Charles de Gaulle, president from 1959 to 1969, sought Washington’s help in unifying Western Europe against the Soviets. But he also undermined U.S. influence at every turn, the better to assert French leadership instead.

He oversaw France’s emergence as a nuclear power, ejected American troops from France, withdrew from NATO, and tried to persuade West Germany to loosen its ties to that same alliance.

Popperfoto via Getty Images

“The fact that he did this while expecting continued protection of the NATO alliance only added to the Americans’ exasperation,” the historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote.

In 1967, de Gaulle commissioned a report exploring a nuclear strategy called “defense in all directions” capable of “intervening anywhere in the world.” It was a bold statement of global ambition, built on a wholly self-made deterrent.

But in practice, France’s nuclear posture was simultaneously “national” — designed to deter the Soviets with no outside help — and grudgingly “recognized, if tacitly, the relationship between the decried American deterrent and the French one,” the scholar Philip H. Gordon wrote.

Nuclear strikes were designed to support an expected American intervention and, if necessary, to compel it through escalation — a fitting summary of France’s ambition to simultaneously support, act apart from and coerce the Americans.

It is a formulation more complex than independence: It acknowledges and even exploits reliance on the United States. And it is a pattern that France has followed ever since, with no less a sense of existential stakes, up through this week’s events.

As the era of nuclear standoffs has faded, France has shifted to more contemporary tools. It leverages its United Nations Security Council seat to act as diplomatic peer to the major powers. It sends peacekeepers to global hot spots. And it sells sophisticated weapons abroad.

“That independent streak, the Gaullist streak that has led to nuclear weapons independence, is true in the commercial realm, also,” said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist.

“Their fingerprints were all over every country of concern during the Cold War,” he added, referring to new nuclear states like Israel and India.

Arms exports bring France a direct military relationship to strategically placed states and independently minded powers, particularly in Asia, including India and Vietnam.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has sought a more supportive approach than de Gaulle. Though he signed on to an E.U. trade deal with China, he has otherwise aligned with the U.S.-led push to contain it, exerting pressure within Europe and supply arms to like-minded countries abroad.

Pool photo by Stefano Rellandini

“We tried, from our point of view, with the submarine contract, to develop an autonomous but not disconnected contribution to security in the Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Tertrais said. “It was meant as a positive contribution by two medium powers for a common agenda.”

But Mr. Macron has maintained that independent streak, pushing for the European Union, for example, to take over regional military duties from Washington-led NATO.

And France has learned that Washington is not above acting independently itself.

“The French have been ruthless in their arms dealings in the past,” Mr. Narang said. While he understood Paris’s rage, he added, “When somebody else plays this same game, the French get upset.”

The withdrawal of France’s ambassador might seem like a diplomatic tantrum. But it follows that same longstanding strategy. As de Gaulle reasoned, few things demonstrate a willingness to assert interests independent from Washington’s like a diplomatic thumb in the Americans’ eye.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, has sought to muster a wider backlash, telling a French news station that European nations must unite to defend their collective interests, even from the Americans.

But Mr. Macron is so far struggling to land a major blow against the Americans.

It highlights the challenge in his 21st-century update on Gaullism: cultivating a unified Europe that can stand as peer to the U.S. or China. This was supposed to bring France, as informal leader, a vehicle for its ambitions and, for all Europe, escape from American dominance.

“France’s ask is a big one: It wants these countries to switch to seeing it and not the U.S. as their protector,” Ben Judah, a British-French analyst at the Atlantic Council, tweeted.

And this mission is complicated by the same independent streak and global ambitions that motivate it in the first place. French insistence on approaching Russia as a fellow major power and U.N. Security Council member, for instance, rankles European states and undercuts hopes of unity.

“That tension is very hard to resolve,” Mr. Tertrais acknowledged. “I’m not sure it can be resolved.”

Europe’s so-far muted response to French appeals for unity, like so many moments in the past week, is a reminder that the contradictions within France’s reliant-but-independent, European-but-global, first-among-peers strategy will inevitably come bursting out.

The struggle to manage those contradictions anyway is not a new one, for Paris or Washington.

In 1992, Mr. Gordon, the scholar of French politics, wrote that disputes amid the First Gulf War showed “the limits to its supposed independence.”

Both capitals had come away desiring greater alignment on global matters, if only for their shared values and agendas.

But doing so would not be possible unless “both sides go out of their way to reassure the other,” wrote Mr. Gordon, who is discovering exactly how difficult that can be in his current job, as deputy national security adviser at the White House.

Alex Edelman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Covid live: transmission in England highest among 12- to 15-year-olds; Germany quarantine pay to end for unvaccinated

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‘It’s Become Increasingly Hard for Them to Feel Good About Themselves’

Is there a whole class of men who no longer fit into the social order?

A decade ago, Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, economists at the University of Chicago and the National University of Singapore, concluded in their paper “The Trouble With Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior”:

Family structure is an important correlate of boys’ behavioral deficit. Boys that are raised outside of a traditional family (with two biological parents present) fare especially poorly. For example, the gender gap in externalizing problems when the children are in fifth grade is nearly twice as large for children raised by single mothers compared to children raised in traditional families. By eighth grade, the gender gap in school suspension is close to 25 percentage points among children raised by single mothers, while only 10 percentage points among children in intact families. Boys raised by teenage mothers also appear to be much more likely to act out.

Bertrand and Pan focus on the crucial role of noncognitive skills, on how “factors such as study habits, industriousness and perseverance matter as much as cognitive skills in explaining occupational achievement.” Noncognitive skills, they write, “are not fixed but are in fact quite malleable, and can be shaped by early intervention programs.”

The effects on boys of being raised in a single-parent household are particularly acute in the development of noncognitive skills, according to Bertrand and Pan:

Most striking are our findings regarding gender differences in the noncognitive returns to parental inputs. Across all family structures, we observe that boys’ likelihood to act out is sharply reduced when faced with larger and better parental inputs. For girls, the relationship between parental inputs and behavioral outcomes appear to be much weaker. As these parental inputs are typically higher and of better quality in intact families, this largely contributes to why boys with single mothers are so much more disruptive and eventually face school suspension.

There are a number of research projects that illuminate the ongoing controversy on the subject of men and their role in contemporary America.

First, an excerpt from a 2016 paper by David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., and four colleagues:

In the United States in 2016, the female high school graduation rate exceeded the male rate by five percentage points, and the female college graduation rate exceeded the male rate by seven percentage points. What explains these gender gaps in educational attainment? Recent evidence indicates that boys and girls are differently affected by the quantity and quality of inputs received in childhood.

Second, part of a 2015 paper by Francesca Gino, Caroline Ashley Wilmuth and Alison Wood Brooks, who were all at the Harvard Business School at the time of writing:

We find that, compared to men, women have a higher number of life goals, place less importance on power-related goals, associate more negative outcomes (e.g., time constraints and trade-offs) with high-power positions, perceive power as less desirable, and are less likely to take advantage of opportunities for professional advancement.

Third, a passage from an article by Colleen Flaherty, a reporter at Inside Higher Ed:

The study suggests that men are overrepresented in elite Ph.D. programs, especially in those fields heavy on math skills, making for segregation by discipline and prestige.

And fourth, a quote from a 2013 paper, “Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education,” by Autor and Melanie Wasserman, an economist at U.C.L.A.:

Although a significant minority of males continues to reach the highest echelons of achievement in education and labor markets, the median male is moving in the opposite direction. Over the last three decades, the labor market trajectory of males in the U.S. has turned downward along four dimensions: skills acquisition; employment rates; occupational stature; and real wage levels.

I sent the four references above to Arlie Hochschild, a professor of sociology at Berkeley and the author of “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” for her views. She emailed back:

Since the 1970s offshoring and automation have hit blue collar men especially hard. Oil, coal — automating, manufacturing, off-shorting, and truck-driving about to go down. Non-B.A. males are in an especially vulnerable place. I saw it in Louisiana, and again where I’m interviewing in Appalachia. It’s become increasingly hard for them to feel good about themselves.

In a 2018 essay in The New York Review of Books, “Male Trouble,” Hochschild described the predicament of less well educated men:

Compared to women, a shrinking proportion of men are earning B.A.s, even though more jobs than ever require a college degree, including many entry-level positions that used to require only a high school diploma. Among men between twenty-five and thirty-four, 30 percent now have a B.A. or more, while 38 percent of women in that age range do. The cost of this disadvantage has only grown with time: of the new jobs created between the end of the recession and 2016, 73 percent went to candidates with a B.A. or more. A shrinking proportion of men are even counted as part of the labor force; between 1970 and 2010, the percentage of adult men in a job or looking for work dropped from 80 to 70 while that of adult women rose from 43 to 58. Most of the men slipping out lack B.A.s.

While many of the men Hochschild writes about see a future of diminished, if not disappearing, prospects, men in elite professions continue to dominate the ranks of chief executives, top politicians and the highest-paying professorships.

Frances E. Jensen, chair of the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, taking a different tack, argues that boys’ brains mature more slowly than girls’ brains do, a difference that is particularly striking in the adolescent years. In a 2017 interview with the School Superintendents Association, Jensen stressed the crucial role the still maturing brain plays in the lives of teenagers:

Teens go through a period of increased emotional fluctuation and are like a Ferrari with weak brakes. The emotional center of the brain, the limbic system, which controls emotions, is fully connected, but the frontal lobe that sharpens critical thinking isn’t well-connected. That means the part of the brain that makes them pause and say to themselves, “Bad idea. Don’t post that on Facebook because it might hurt my chances of getting a job in the future” or “Don’t jump in the lake, there may be a rock,” isn’t mature.

The brain also becomes more efficient, Jensen said,

during a process called myelination. This is when a fatty substance called myelin grows slowly and wraps itself around miles of brain cells to better insulate them. Insulation makes the brain more efficient at sending and receiving signals. Myelination is a slow process that finishes in the mid-20s. Our brains have thousands of miles of networks and to insulate all of them with myelin takes over two and a half decades to finish.

Using M.R.I. images, Jensen continued,

you can actually see the brain is laying down a layer of myelin over time when looked at year over year. You can measure those layers and see a dynamic process where the insulation is sharpening the rapidity of our signaling from one part of our brain to another.

And then she added a crucial point:

In adolescence, on average girls are more developed by about two to three years in terms of the peak of their synapses and in their connectivity processes.

A major 2015 study, “The Emergence of Sex Differences in Personality Traits in Early Adolescence: A Cross-Sectional, Cross-Cultural Study,” on which Marleen De Bolle, then of Ghent University, was the lead author — with contributions from 48 additional scholars — described some of the consequences of differing rates of maturity and development:

Our findings demonstrate that adolescent girls consistently score higher than boys on personality traits that are found to facilitate academic achievement, at least within the current school climate. Stated differently, the current school environment or climate might be in general more attuned to feminine-typed personalities, which make it — in general — easier for girls to achieve better grades at school.

What are some of the other factors contributing to the differing academic performance of boys and girls?

In a 2019 paper, “Family Disadvantage and the Gender Gap in Behavioral and Educational Outcomes,” Autor and Wasserman, along with David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth, conclude that:

Family disadvantage disproportionately negatively affects the behavioral and academic outcomes of school-age boys relative to girls. The differential effect of family disadvantage on the outcomes of boys relative to girls is already evident by the time of kindergarten entry, is further manifested in behavioral and educational gaps in elementary and middle school performance, and crystallizes into sharp differences in high school graduations by age 18.

“Parental investments in boys versus girls,” they write,

differ systematically according to family disadvantage. For example, parents in low-SES households, which are disproportionately female-headed, may spend relatively more time mentoring and interacting with daughters than sons.

In an email, Autor wrote that the downward trajectory of boys and men from single-parent homes should not mask the continuation of a very different trend at elite levels:

Even as one laments boys falling behind, one should not for a moment think that all is well with women’s status in higher education or the professions. In terms of major fields, fast-track careers, leadership positions, and prestigious branches of high-paid specialties, women are still not close to parity.

The consequences are depressing:

The stagnation of male educational attainment bodes ill for the well-being of recent cohorts of U.S. males, particularly minorities and those from low-income households. Recent cohorts of males are likely to face diminished employment and earnings opportunities and other attendant maladies, including poorer health, higher probability of incarceration, and generally lower life satisfaction.

I am quoting at greater length than usual from Autor and Wasserman because they have done the most thorough job of bringing meticulously compiled and compelling evidence to bear on male disadvantage. They warn that “a vicious cycle” may be emerging, “with the poor economic prospects of less-educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.”

With the onset of

lower marriage rates of less-educated males, their children face comparatively low odds of living in economically secure households with two parents present. Unsurprisingly, children born into such households also face poorer educational and earnings prospects over the long term. Even more concerning is that male children born into low-income, single-parent-headed households — which in the vast majority of cases are female-headed households — appear to fare particularly poorly on numerous social and educational outcomes.

There are other forces driving the vicious cycle, Autor and Wasserman write:

A growing body of evidence supports the hypothesis that the erosion of labor market opportunities for low-skill workers in general — and non-college males in particular — has catalyzed a fall in employment and earnings among less-educated males and a decline in the marriage rates of less-educated males and females. These developments in turn diminish family stability, reduce household financial resources, and subtract from the stock of parental time and attention that should play a critical role in fomenting the educational achievement and economic advancement of the next generation.

Why are boys falling farther behind than their sisters? Autor and Wasserman reply:

The absence of stable fathers from children’s lives has particularly significant adverse consequences for boys’ psychosocial development and educational achievement.

More specifically:

On a wide variety of self-control, acting-out, and disciplinary measures (including eighth-grade suspension), the gap between boys and girls is substantially greater for children reared in single-mother-headed households than in households with two biological parents.

Another reflection of this pattern, according to Autor and Wasserman, “is the growing divergence in high school girls’ and boys’ expectations of obtaining a four-year college degree.” Among cohorts of high school seniors interviewed between 1976 and 2006, “a gap opens between boys’ and girls’ expectations for B.A. attainment starting in the early 1980s and cumulates thereafter.” They add that “growing up in a single-parent home appears to significantly decrease the probability of college attendance for boys, yet has no similar effect for girls.”

It is not just fatherlessness, the two economists write. A key factor is that single parents — disproportionately female — are “more limited in the amount of time they can devote to child care activities.” If, then, “boys are more responsive to parental inputs (or the absence thereof) than are girls, it is possible that the gender gradient in behavioral and academic development could be magnified in single-parent households.” They cite a study demonstrating that single mothers “report feeling more emotionally distant from their sons and engage in disciplinary action such as spanking more frequently with their sons. These disparities in parenting are largely absent from dual-parent homes.”

Adam Enders, a professor of political science at the University of Louisville, sees the troubles of young white men in particular as an outcome of their partisan resentments.

“My take is that lower-class white males likely have lower trust in institutions of higher education over time. This bears out in the aggregate,” he wrote, citing a Pew Research Survey.

Part of the reason for this — at least among some conservative males — is the perception that colleges are tools for leftist indoctrination — a perception increasingly fueled by the right, including top Republican and conservative leaders. Indeed, there is a hefty split between Democrats and Republicans in their orientations toward the education system. Republicans became more negative than positive about education since around 2016.

Shelly Lundberg, a professor of economics at the University of California-Santa Barbara, does not dispute the data showing large gender differences in educational outcomes, but she has a different take on the underlying causes, focusing on “the concept of fragile or precarious masculinity, in which manhood (unlike womanhood) is seen as a social state that requires continual proof and validation.”

In a 2020 article, “Educational Gender Gaps,” Lundberg argues:

Social and cultural forces linked to gender identity are important drivers of educational goals and performance. A peer-driven search for masculine identity drives some boys toward risk-taking and noncompliance with school demands that hampers school achievement, relative to girls. Aspirations are linked to social identities — what you want and expect depends on who you think you are — and profound differences in the norms defining masculinity and femininity create a gender gap in educational trajectories.

Lundberg’s position that different norms define masculinity and femininity, Enders’s political take and the argument of Autor and other scholars that boys suffer more than girls in dysfunctional homes are most likely more complementary than conflicting.

The bigger question is how the country should deal with the legions of left-behind men, often angry at the cataclysmic social changes, including family breakdown, that have obliterated much that was familiar. In 2020, white men voted for Donald Trump 61 percent to 38 percent. Many of these men have now become the frontline troops in a reactionary political movement that has launched an assault on democracy. What’s next?

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Willie Garson dies at 57; actor was best known for role on ‘Sex and the City’

Taylor Jewell/Invision via Associated Press

Willie Garson, seen here at the Sundance Film Festival, has died. He was 57. The actor was best known for his co-starring role on HBO’s “Sex and the City.”

Actor Willie Garson, known for his role on the “Sex and the City” series and films, has died, according to his son, Nathen Garson. He was 57.

“I love you so much papa. Rest In Peace and I’m so glad you got to share all your adventures with me and were able to accomplish so much,” his son wrote on Instagram. “I’m so proud of you.”

A HBO/HBO Max spokesperson also confirmed Garson’s passing, and the network honored his contributions to one of its most iconic shows in a statement.

“Willie Garson was in life, as on screen, a devoted friend and a bright light for everyone in his universe,” the statement read. “He created one of the most beloved characters from the HBO pantheon and was a member of our family for nearly twenty-five years. We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing and extend our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Sarah Jessica Parker, right, and Willie Garson appear at the MTV Movie Awards in 2008. Garson played Stanford, a friend and confidante to Parker’s character, Carrie. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press Archives)

On “Sex and the City” Garson played Stanford Blatch, friend and confidant of protagonist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). He appeared regularly in the series throughout its run and in both films.

Garson, who was born in New Jersey, started training as an actor at age 13 and went on to study at Wesleyan University, according to a bio posted on the university’s website.

His first break in Hollywood was in guest roles on TV shows like “Cheers” and “Family Ties.”

It was on television that Garson would go on to make a reputation for himself as a beloved character actor. In addition to his role in “Sex and the City,” he had recurring memorable parts on USA Network’s “White Collar,” ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” and CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0.”

He was most recently slated to appear in the reboot of the series, “And Just Like That,” which is set to premiere on HBO Max later this year.

Garson was a proud parent of one child, his son Nathen. He was also an advocate for organizations that help children find homes through adoption.

In January, Garson marked his son’s Adoption Day in an Instagram post, saying, “Best day of my life. Always. It’s an honor @nathen_garson, today and every day.”

In the wake of his passing, Garson’s many friends and former colleagues expressed their love for the actor.

Mario Cantone, who played Garson’s on-screen husband in “Sex and the City,” called Garson a “brilliant TV partner” in a heartfelt post.

“I’m devastated and just overwhelmed with Sadness. Taken away from all of us way soon. You were a gift from the gods,” he wrote. “Rest my sweet friend. I love you.”

Cynthia Nixon also paid tribute, writing that Garson was “adored” by his colleagues.

“So deeply, deeply sad we have lost @WillieGarson. We all loved him and adored working with him,” Nixon wrote. “He was endlessly funny on-screen and and in real life. He was a source of light, friendship and show business lore. He was a consummate professional— always.”

Matt Bomer, Garson’s co-star on “White Collar,” which ran for six seasons, remembered his friend by saying Garson “taught me so much about courage and resilience and love.”

“I still haven’t wrapped my head around a world without you in it- where I can’t call you when I need to laugh, or be inspired. The last thing you did when we said goodbye was pull down your mask (I hate covid), smile, and wink at me,” he wrote. “I know that it wasn’t reflective of the pain you were going through, but it was indicative of everything you were and are to me: some one who lifted me up, who made me better, and who always, always made me smile.”

He added: “You live on in our hearts and minds always: and your White Collar family is always here for Nathen. Save a place for me, because you know I want to be at your table up there.”

Garson’s friend, “Modern Family” actress Julie Bowen, wrote: “This breaks my heart. Willie Garson, a friend who loved me at my worst, (and always let me know it) is gone. Goodbye, Fatty. I love you always.”

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Murder conviction, sentences dropped for 2000 house fire that killed 5 kids

Oakland County Circuit Court
Oakland County Circuit Court

An Oakland County judge has nullified a several-count homicide conviction and life sentence for a man jailed for the past 15 years for a house fire that killed five children in Royal Oak Township.

Juwan Deering (Image date 2.10.21)

At a court hearing on Tuesday, Judge Jeffery Matis ruled that Juwan Deering, 50, was denied due process and a fair trial that resulted in a jury finding him guilty in 2006 of five counts of homicide-felony murder and arson in connection with the April 6, 2000 fire.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald had pushed for the conviction to be vacated, citing evidence that wasn’t presented at the trial and alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

In asking the court to toss out the conviction and sentence, McDonald cited the United States Constitution as her “guiding principle.”

“The Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment is our absolute truth that we live by as attorneys and judges,” McDonald told the court. “It is the reason we are all standing in this courtroom and has shaped our criminal justice system: ‘No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws.’ ”

The case came to McDonald’s attention earlier this year when she was contacted by the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan’s law school, which was seeking a new trial for Deering. McDonald reviewed the case as well as findings from an investigation and report by special prosecutor Beth Greenberg Morrow, which uncovered evidence that wasn’t presented to the jury or the defense. That evidence included a police video of an interview with one of the fire’s survivors, Timmothy Dean, who was 13 at the time and upon reviewing a photo lineup, told investigators Deering wasn’t the one who started the fire. McDonald also said additional evidence showed that jailhouse informants had been promised favors for testifying against Deering, such as greatly reduced sentences and charges being dropped.

Juwan Deering, shown at his 2006 sentencing.

Deering had appealed at the state and federal levels but those courts upheld his convictions.

“Mr. Deering did not get a fair trial, and none of that was, or even could have been, corrected on appeal, because the critical evidence was buried in files in my office, and on a videotape and photo lineup in the investigators’ files,” McDonald said.

The case was tried by assistant prosecutor Gregory Townsend, who went on to work as an assistant attorney general for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Townsend was part of the team handling an alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. He was reassigned last spring when the Deering case made headlines again and retired in July.

Presiding judge was Wendy Potts, who retired in 2018.

It had been alleged that Deering started a fire on the home’s porch, using an accelerant, as payback for a drug debt. Killed in the fire were four siblings, who lived with their mother, Marie Dean, at the house, and another child, whose father, Rapalla Frame, also lived there. Four children survived the fire.

Deering remains in the Michigan Department of Corrections’ custody. It hasn’t yet been determined if he will be retried. The parties are expected to return to Oakland County Circuit Court next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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US to donate an additional 500m Covid vaccines to poorer countries, says Biden

US to donate an additional 500m Covid vaccines to poorer countries, says Biden

US president outlines plan at Covid summit, bringing America’s global donation to over 1.1bn doses amid backlash over boosters

Joe Biden listens as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, speaks during a virtual Covid summit.
Global development is supported by
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

About this content

in Washington

First published on Wed 22 Sep 2021 03.00 EDT

Joe Biden has announced that the US will donate an additional 500m Covid-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries around the world, bringing America’s total global donation to more than 1.1bn doses.

The US president outlined the plan on Wednesday at a virtual coronavirus summit where he urged world leaders to “go big” in tackling the pandemic and closing the vaccination gap with poorer nations.

The meeting on the margins of the UN general assembly offers Biden a chance to exercise soft power and gain an edge on rivals such as China in “vaccine diplomacy”.

In June Biden announced that the US would buy and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union through Covax, the global vaccine initiative. These have begun to ship, though the logistical challenges of distribution and storage are considerable.

On Wednesday Biden promised more and urged other countries to step up. “The United States is buying another half-billion doses of Pfizer to donate to low and middle income countries around the world,” he said. “This is another half-billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year.

“And it brings our total commitment of donated vaccines to over 1.1bn vaccines. Put another way, for every one shot we’ve administered to date in America we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.”

Biden reiterated his pledge that “America will become the arsenal of vaccines, as we were the arsenal for democracy during World War II”.

But he added pointedly: “We need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges.”

He announced a new EU-US partnership to work more closely together on expanding global vaccinations. He said the participants should commit to “donating, not selling” vaccines to low-income countries “with no political strings attached”.

Virtual attendees included the UN secretary general, António Guterres, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, and the WTO director general, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Biden told them the summit was about “supercharging” efforts to dramatically increase vaccine production and deal with logistical challenges, addressing the “oxygen crisis” in many hospitals around the world, improving access to testing and personal protective equipment, and making the global health security infrastructure more resilient.

The US alone has lost more than 670,000 people to the coronavirus, he noted, and the worldwide death toll is above 4.5m. “We’re not going to solve this crisis with half-measures or middle of the road ambitions. We need to go big and we need to do our part – governments, the private sector, civil society leaders, philanthropists. This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis.”

Biden was hosting the virtual summit amid scrutiny over why he is promoting a third vaccine dose for US citizens at a moment when less than 2% of people in developing countries have had their first shot.

Ahead of the meeting, a group of Democratic senators including Tina Smith, Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren wrote to Biden urging him to make firm commitments to expand global Covid-19 vaccine access and lead the world out of the pandemic.

“According to experts, 11bn Covid-19 vaccine doses are needed to vaccinate 70% of the global population and significantly reduce the spread of the virus,” the senators, joined by two representatives, wrote in the letter. “So far, 5.82bn doses have been administered globally, but less than 2% of the population living in low-income countries received even one dose.

“Clearly, there is an inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccine doses, and it is getting worse. Despite promises and pledges from some wealthy countries to donate nearly 1bn doses to the global effort, only 15% of those donations have actually been distributed.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urged the US and other high income countries to immediately redistribute their excess vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries via the Covax facility and regional procurement mechanisms.

MSF also said the US government must demand that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna share Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology and knowhow so other manufacturers can make additional mRNA vaccines and meet the global needs.

Dr Maria Guevara, MSF international medical secretary, said: “The longer the world is divided into Covid-19 haves and have-nots, the longer the pandemic will drag on, the more variants can develop, and the more deaths and suffering will occur.”

The summit underscores Biden’s attempt to put the US back in a global leadership role after the “America first” nationalism of the Donald Trump era. China announced this week that it has delivered 1.1bn vaccine doses to more than a hundred countries, although experts have questioned the effectiveness of these vaccines.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network and a UN finance expert, who is attending the summit, said in an interview: “It’s amazing that the Biden administration is filling a leadership void but we cannot move quickly enough from our perspective for two reasons. There’s the moral case that developing countries are experiencing a fourth wave of the pandemic and people are dying in the streets. We have to save lives.

“But there’s also something that is equally important: if we are not focused on getting shots in arms in the developing world, more variants are going to come to the United States and we will face a continuing health crisis. Perhaps even more significantly, we’ll continue to experience severe economic shocks all over the world in the years to come.”

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