From Houston to Upstate New York, here are 7 US destinations to visit to learn about Black history

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Baltimore experience african american billie holiday mural

  • One of the first steps to combating racial injustice is learning and understanding Black history.
  • We’re highlighting great US destinations to learn about the contributions of Black Americans.
  • From museums and cultural sites to Black-owned hotels, here’s what to see and where to stay.

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President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring all persons held as slaves are henceforth free.

But it wasn’t until a full two and half years after this that all slaves in the United States were considered free in the eyes of the federal government, as this proclamation depended on the advancement of the Union troops.

The holiday Juneteenth, short for June 19, is a celebration of that freedom marking June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read a Proclamation to the people of Galveston, Texas, announcing their freedom. Commemorative celebrations date back to 1866 and, as of 2019, 47 states and DC have recognized Juneteenth.

This Juneteenth is a great opportunity to kick off your summer travels and learn about Black Americans’ contributions to the United States while celebrating a fun holiday.

We’re rounding out our recommendations for places to visit to learn about Black history with Black-owned hotels, shops, and eateries not to miss.

Here are some of the best destinations in the US to learn about Black history

Houston, Texas

best us destinations black history houston

Begin your summer tour at Houston’s Emancipation Park for Juneteenth. The park was established in 1872 when former slaves formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association for 10 acres in Houston.

Houston, Texas is one of the country’s most diverse cities and has included a large Black population of freemen and majority slaves since its founding in the 1830s. Post slavery, African Americans from other Southern cities migrated to Houston for job opportunities. Houston also attracted Buffalo Soldiers (Black cavalry during the Indian Wars and American Civil War). They protected mail, escorted stagecoaches, and even guarded the Mexican-American border. Learn more about them and Black cowboys at Houston’s Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and Taylor-Stevenson Ranch.

While spending time in Third Ward, the Black heart of Houston, know that you’re in the home of some of Houston’s most important hometown heroes, including Beyonce, Solange, Phylicia Rashad, and Debbie Allen. Though currently still closed due to COVID-19, during non-pandemic times a visit to Project Row Houses is well worth it. The shotgun houses of newly freed slaves have been converted into art installations primarily designed by African American artists.

Nicknamed Space City, check out the recent movie “Hidden Figures” before visiting the Houston Space Center for historical context on Black contributions to the US space program. After, sink your teeth into some of that famed Texas barbecue at Black-owned Ray’s BBQ. Co-owner and official pitmaster Ray Busch is a native Houstonian who started his own barbecue food truck in 1985 before eventually joining forces with his longtime friend Maxine Davis and opening Ray’s BBQ Shack, the brick and mortar location specializing in hickory-smoked meats and plenty of soul food with Cajun influences.

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

best destinations for black history oak bluffs

If you’re planning a visit to Massachusetts’ beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard, be sure to explore the well-known summer destination’s deep African American roots. Photos of the Obamas vacationing there may have announced Martha’s Vineyard as a playground for the country’s Black elite to those who weren’t already in the know. But long before that, Martin Luther King Jr. vacationed in Oak Bluffs, as did Joe Louis, Harry Belafonte, and Dorothy West. Maya Angelou also once described Oak Bluffs as “a safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

Located on the north shore of the island, the town of Oak Bluffs and its eye-catching gingerbread houses have been attracting tourists for generations. Since the 1920s, it’s been a safe haven for Black Americans in search of sea, sun, and respite from beaches that were historically deemed “Whites Only.”

The first Black Americans on Martha’s Vineyard came before that though. They were freemen whalers, indentured slaves, and runaways that sought a livelihood in Martha’s Vineyard whale oil economy. By the 1950s, Oak Bluffs was attracting Black doctors, lawyers, and executives, along with storied figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Places like Shearer Cottage, founded by Charles and Henrietta Shearer in 1912 as a summer inn, were one of the first of these establishments that catered specifically to African Americans.

Visit beautiful and lively Inkwell Beach, the Oak Bluffs town beach. Origin stories of the name differ on if it was a pejorative by nearby segregated white beachgoers in reference to the Black population or — the story I like to go with — it was a reference to the Harlem Renaissance writers and poets that found inspiration and camaraderie in the Oak Bluffs community. Washington DC’s National Museum of African American History includes Oak Bluffs in their permanent exhibition, “Power of Place,” such is its place of importance to the Black American community. Enjoy film festivals, book clubs, historical Black churches, and The African-American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard for more in-depth history during your visit.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore experience african american billie holiday mural

The port city of Baltimore is in the middle of a rebirth. And with colorful row houses, murals depicting legends, and historical sites like the Royal Theatre, Baltimore’s nickname of Charm City is quite fitting.

With a population that is 60% Black, Baltimore’s African American history runs deep. Famed sons and daughters of Baltimore include Jazz great Billie Holiday, the first Black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and US Congressman and Civil Rights activist Elijah E. Cummings.

The city was also once home to abolitionist and adviser to President Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, who spent his youth an enslaved young man in the shipyards of Baltimore. Later, he returned to Baltimore, now as a free man and the highest-ranking Black man in the US, and built five homes on Strawberry Alley (now known as Dallas Street).

You can learn more about his legacy at Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum, and there are several sites throughout the city of Baltimore that pay homage to Douglass’ journey. Stop by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, a Smithsonian affiliate, to see an autographed photograph of Frederick Douglass and a first edition of his autobiography. 

It would not be a trip to Baltimore without trying crabs or crab cakes, and checking out Baltimore’s Black culinary scene is a must. Head to Ida B’s Table for a culinary trip through Black history. Ida B. Wells was an activist and journalist in the south covering Southern issues of race and politics in the reconstruction period. As forward-thinking and boundary-pushing as its namesake, Ida B’s Table serves modern, farm-to-table soul food. Chef Thomas even sources from one of the few African American farms remaining in the country: Gaithers Gardens, which dates back 138 years and is family run.

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond Black History Museum

If you’ve already been on the classic historical family trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, consider a visit to the state’s capital. Richmond is a destination deeply important to Black American history as it was once the center of the domestic slave trade in North America. One of America’s oldest cities, this spot on the James River has a history that is at times painful. However, that only cements the vital importance of a visit here.

The Richmond Slave Trail is a walking trail that chronicles the history of the trade of enslaved Africans from Africa to Virginia until 1775, and away from Virginia to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The route begins at the Manchester Docks and goes through sites like the slave market of Richmond and the First African Baptist Church, a center of African American life in pre-Civil War Richmond.

Richmond also served as the home of Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy and Richmond’s American Civil War Museum & The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia explores the Black Virginian experience from the Emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.

In more recent times, you may have seen Richmond and the captivating photos of the Black Lives Matter Movement in the city, as well as the reclaiming of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Activists have transformed the base of the sculpture, covering it with names of victims of police violence, calls for peace, as well as light projections, murals, and other artworks, transforming it into an influential work of art. Additionally, many public spaces, including the Marcus-David Peters Circle, are dedicated to art that highlights Black history and culture in Richmond.

Don’t miss the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia in Richmond’s historic African American Jackson Ward. While you’re there, have a taste of diverse Richmond at the Black-owned Soul Taco, a restaurant blending traditional Latin American flavors with soul food.

Charleston, South Carolina

McLeod Plantation historic site, Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is another old American city that is rich with Black history. African heritage helped shape the low country culture. In 2018, the city of Charleston finally passed a resolution acknowledging that the city profited greatly from slave labor and extended an apology.

Start your day with a delicious Lowcountry breakfast from Hannibal’s Kitchen, which has been serving Charleston unique dishes like shark and grits for over 40 years. The Africans brought to the Carolina Colony used the similarities between the agricultural environments of the Lowcountry and Africa’s West Coast, and you will see this same tasty tradition in Gullah cuisine.

The Gullah/Geechees have been said to have preserved their history more than any African American community in the United States. They are descendants of Central and West Africans and were enslaved together on the isolated islands which stretch along the US coastline from North Carolina down to St. Johns, Florida. To learn more about this history, book a tour of the Black history of Charleston with native Gullah Charlestonian Alphonso Brown of Gullah Tours.

A visit to the McLeod Plantation Historic site is also in order. The plantation is a 37-acre Gullah-Geechee heritage site that pays tribute to the enslaved Africans who lived and worked on the sea-island cotton plantation from the 1800s. Guests can learn about daily plantation life and tour the preserved dwellings of both the owners and enslaved families. The grounds include a riverside outdoor pavilion, a sweeping oak allée, and the McLeod Oak, which is thought to be more than 600 years old.

An equally important place to spend an afternoon is the Slave Mart Museum. At one point, 40% of the slaves in the United States came through the port of Charleston and this museum stands on the site of one of the last existing slave “showrooms” in the city in Charleston’s French Quarter. Many of the museum’s docents can trace their family history to slaves from the area.

Opera fan? Head over to Cabbage Row on Charleston’s Church Street where you’ll find Revolutionary War-era houses once home to the families of freed slaves. Black residents would sell cabbages from their window at one point, giving the area its name. Charleston native Dubose Heyward used Cabbage Row as his setting for his 1925 novel “Porgy” which was the basis of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy & Bess.”

Round out the day with a stop at the Mother Emanuel AME Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South, founded in 1816. This is the church’s third incarnation. The first was burned by local whites in 1822 and the second was destroyed in an earthquake. The church has hosted notable Civil Rights figures like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Booker T. Washington. Pay your respects and acknowledge recent turbulent history at the Emanuel 9 Memorial, which was constructed following the devastating murders of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverand Celementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Reverand Daniel Simmons, Reverand Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson on June 17, 2015.

Coastal Mississippi

exterior front view of The Almanett Hotel & Bistro, mississippi

To many, Mississippi conjures up ideas of the deep South at its worst and most racist (see the recent debacle over Martin Luther King Day just a few years ago in Biloxi, Mississippi). But it would be wrong to ignore the great influence and continued presence of Black Americans in the state.

Explore the Biloxi Visitors Center to learn about the African American cultural influence in the state, but more importantly, venture across the street to the beach. A commemorative plaque will tell you that this was the site of the Biloxi wade-ins, which were conducted by local African Americans from 1959 to 1963 to desegregate the beaches of coastal Mississippi. Following what The New York Times described as the worst racial riot in Mississippi history and protests following the assassination of the NAACP field secretary of Mississippi Medgar Evers, the 26-mile long beachfront was finally opened to all races.

For blues fans, a visit to The 100 Men Hall is a must. A longtime center of African American social life and entertainment since it was built in 1922, it has brought in countless blues, rhythm & blues, and jazz acts. Local residents have been treated to performances by Etta James, Big Joe Turner, Guitar Slim, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Deacon John, Earl King, and numerous others here.

Upstate New York

John Brown Farm State Historic Site

With a renewed interest in the wine scene and thriving arts community, the Hudson River Valley and upstate New York have attracted major tourism in the last few years. During vineyard crawls and fall foliage getaways, take some time to learn about the Black history of the region. New York state played an important role in the Underground Railroad, which helped tens of thousands of freedom seekers escape enslavement.

Opened in 2018, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center tells the stories of freedom seekers who risked their lives to escape slavery and oppression by journeying north to Niagara Falls as one of their final stops and border crossing to Canada. Virtual Freedom Conversation Tours are also available twice a week. John Brown, known for his raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, maintained a home near Lake Placid that was a key stop on the Underground Railroad, which is now also a site you can visit. You can also stop at the home of Harriet Tubman in the Finger Lakes region of Auburn, New York.

Honor the role Black soldiers played in the Revolutionary war with a visit to Saratoga National Historical Park. At the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, 400 Black soldiers fought along white soldiers in a pivotal battle during the Revolutionary war that resulted in the British Army’s first surrender.

The history of Black people in this area can be traced pre-Revolutionary War though. The two biggest slave markets in the country before the American Revolution were in New York City and Albany. Fans of Hamilton can visit the St. Agnes Cemetery, an African burial site discovered on the grounds of Schuyler Mansion, where they’ll learn that yes, Eliiiiiiiiiza’s father was a slaveholder.

In Buffalo, grab a drink and listen to live music at The Colored Musicians Club. Formed in 1917 due to discrimination from an all-white club, the Colored Musicians Club was the only operating African American jazz club in the United States and was a place where Black musicians were welcomed to socialize, play music, and rehearse. Famous musicians who have performed here include Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. The first floor of the building serves as a multimedia museum where guests can interact and listen to jazz and enjoy historic memorabilia.  

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A federal judge just ruled against over 100 Houston hospital workers who will be fired if they don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine

houston methodist hospital
Medical workers and pedestrians cross an intersection outside of the Houston Methodist Hospital on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

  • A federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by over 100 Houston Methodist employees.
  • The workers alleged the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate forced them to be “human guinea pigs.”
  • The judge said the workers were not being forced or coerced to take a vaccine.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit from more than 100 hospital employees who sued Houston Methodist over its policy requiring all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The workers alleged in their lawsuit that the hospital was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” They also accused the hospital of violating the Nuremberg Code of 1947, likening the vaccine mandate to Nazi medical experimentation on concentration camp prisoners.

US District Judge Lynn Hughes was not sympathetic to either argument, writing in his order of dismissal Saturday evening that none of the employees were forced or coerced to take the vaccine. He also noted that the hospital cannot violate the Nuremberg Code because it is a private employer, not a government.

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote. “Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death.”

He added that the workers were free to accept or reject a vaccine and that they would “simply need to work elsewhere” if they chose the latter.

“If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration,” Hughes wrote. “That is all part of the bargain.”

The lawyer representing the hospital staff, Jared Woodfill, told Insider in a statement he intends to appeal the ruling to a federal appeals court and to the US Supreme Court if necessary.

“This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment,” Woodfill said. “Employment should not be conditioned upon whether you will agree to serve as a human guinea pig.”

The hospital has already suspended 178 workers who have missed the vaccine deadline

houston methodist
The exterior of the Houston Methodist Hospital is seen on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Houston Methodist made national headlines earlier this year when it announced it would require its 26,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by June 7.

“Those who are not vaccinated by that date face suspension and eventual termination,” the hospital said in a FAQ page published in April.

The hospital’s policy also contained exemptions for workers with sincerely held religious beliefs and certain medical conditions, including pregnancy.

Since then, the hospital system has suspended 178 workers who didn’t meet the vaccination deadline. They will be fired if they aren’t vaccinated by June 21.

The lawsuit called the COVID-19 vaccines “experimental,” and noted that none have been granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA has granted “emergency use authorization” to the three major vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Each of the vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. Pfizer and BioNTech have already applied for full approval of their vaccine and Moderna has announced plans to apply soon.

In a statement to Insider, Houston Methodist’s president and CEO, Dr. Marc Boom, praised the hospital system’s 26,000 employees who received the vaccine.

“Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do,” he said. “We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

How big-city suburbs won the 2020 migration boom

suburban houston city
The suburbs of Houston, Texas.

  • Large-city suburbs saw the biggest gain in residents during the pandemic migration, per Jefferies.
  • This will give nearby cities a needed economic boost, but it’s making the suburbs a cutthroat place.
  • Most urbanites moved to these suburbs or temporarily, making the migration more of a reshuffle.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

2020 was the year urbanites took flight. But many of them didn’t go very far.

The pandemic’s great migration boom mostly consisted of urban dwellers leaving big cities for its directly outlying suburbs, according to a recent Jefferies note that analyzed the latest USPS data. “Large central metro” areas like New York City and Houston saw the biggest exodus, while “large fringe metro” areas saw the biggest influx of residents.

The trend is evidence that city dwellers sought more space during the pandemic but still wanted to remain close to cities – where employers and entertainment are – when the economy began to reopen, Jefferies states. Consider the San Franciscans who headed out to Sacramento or Oakland, or the New Yorkers who moved east to Long Island.

They’re all areas still within short traveling time to major cities, which Bloomberg has described as a reflection of an expanding regional labor market. Through spending as visitors rather than residents, it’s likely that these urban movers will help boost big cities, which stand to see an estimated 10% drop in spending due to a remote economy.

While fewer big-city residents have moved this year amid an economic reopening and rising vaccination rates, migration into the suburbs of large cities has still remained strong during the first few months of the year. It stands to reason, then, that big cities could also get a spending hit from suburbanites new to the area in addition to its former residents.

Big cities may still reap benefits from outlying populations, but the suburban scene itself is getting cutthroat. Jefferies anticipates the trend will continue to fuel the demand for suburban, single-family homes, which heated up a real estate market to the point of a historic housing shortage and record-high prices.

The reshuffling of America

To be sure, big-city suburbs aren’t a hot spot for everyone.

Some urbanites kissed their metro areas goodbye for good, preferring a life in the countryside or a more removed suburb. And others left for a new state entirely. About 9,000 Manhattanites who moved to Florida plan to stay there permanently, per USPS data. But it’s also likely that, considering the continued strength of migration to big city suburbs while migration from big cities stabilizes, state movers are also choosing suburbs in large metro areas.

There are also the migrants who moved only temporarily, intending to return to big city life. As a Bank of America Research report from May puts it, the urban flight is “more myth than reality.” It argued that economic reopening will spark a return to big cities like New York City and San Francisco.

Read more: The urban exodus out of New York City and San Francisco is more myth than reality

“Both have the potential for some recovery in the near term,” the note reads. “NYC and SF remain premier cities for young renters given their status as economic, financial, and cultural centers, and the pullback in rents over the past year helps affordability.”

In NYC, some of those who left for the suburbs are already returning. And the 10,000 other Manhattanites who moved to Florida, according to USPS data, plan to move back.

Whether urbanites moved temporarily or to the suburbs, one thing is clear: The migration of 2020 is more of an urban reshuffle than anything.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Over 100 employees sued a Houston hospital for requiring COVID-19 vaccines, saying they were forced to be ‘human guinea pigs’

covid vaccine
A child receives a Covid-19 vaccine on May 13, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

  • More than 100 workers are suing Houston Methodist Hospital over its vaccine mandate.
  • The staffers allege the hospital is violating the Nuremberg Code against human experimentation.
  • The hospital says the vaccines are not “experimental” and have been shown to be safe and effective.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dozens of workers at Houston Methodist Hospital have sued their employer over a policy requiring them to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, includes the names of more than 100 staffers and alleged that the hospital was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

Houston Methodist made national headlines earlier this year when it announced it would require its 26,000 employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by June 7.

“Those who are not vaccinated by that date face suspension and eventual termination,” the hospital said in a FAQ page published in April. The hospital’s policy also contained exemptions for workers with sincerely held religious beliefs, and certain medical conditions, including pregnancy.

The lawsuit called the COVID-19 vaccines “experimental,” and noted that none have been granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. Instead, the FDA has granted “emergency use authorization” to the three major vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

Each of the vaccines have undergone rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. Pfizer and BioNTech have already applied for full approval of their vaccine and Moderna has announced plans to apply soon.

The workers allege the hospital is violating the Nuremberg Code against human experimentation

moderna vaccine
A container of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 21, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist cited the Nuremberg Code of 1947, regarding medical ethics around consent and experimentation, saying workers had a “right to avoid the imposition of human experimentation.”

“Shockingly, [Houston Methodist’s] policy memo fails to recognize, appreciate, or identify that the ‘mandatory immunization’ and ‘vaccination program’ requires the employee to be injected with an experimental vaccine that has not been approved by the FDA.” the lawsuit said.

A Houston Methodist spokesperson told Insider in a statement that 99% of the network’s employees have already been fully vaccinated and that the hospital is “extremely proud of our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from this deadly virus.”

The statement also noted that there’s precedent for a mandatory vaccination policy at the hospital.

“It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way,” the statement said. “It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009. The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental.”

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday released updated guidance on vaccine mandates, noting that federal laws allow employers to require COVID-19 vaccines for workers who are physically present at the workplace – so long as the employers also include accommodations such as religious and medical exemptions.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist alleged that the hospital has “arbitrarily denied” some employees’ requests for religious and medical exemptions.

The lawsuit requested that a judge order a temporary injunction to prevent the hospital from taking action against non-compliant employees while the case is litigated.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Los Angeles to Tokyo in an hour – a Texas startup is building a Mach 12 hypersonic plane that could dramatically reduce travel times

earth
  • Venus Aerospace, a Houston startup, said its working on a Mach 12 hypersonic aircraft.
  • Travel between Los Angeles and Tokyo could take a hour, the company said.
  • Prime Movers Lab led Venus Aerospace’s $3 million seed funding round in March.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Venus Aerospace, a Houston startup, said it’s working on a Mach 12 hypersonic aircraft that would cut travel time from Los Angeles to Tokyo to one hour.

“This is for regular people,” CEO Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby told Bloomberg Businessweek.

At top speed, the aircraft would be moving about 12 times the speed of sound, The Houston Chronicle reported. Most commercial flights between Los Angeles and Tokyo make the trip in about 12 hours.

The company said on its website that it’s made breakthroughs in engine efficiency, aircraft shape, and edge cooling technology. That tech would make “one-hour global transport cost-effective,” the company said.

Venus Aerospace in early March announced a $3 million seed fundraising round led by Prime Movers Lab.

“This futuristic concept that was once a dream is now reality, and watching it physically unfold with a team of talented scientists and engineers is just incredible,” Duggleby said in a press statement at the time.

The company’s aircraft would travel at an altitude of about 150,000 feet, or about 28.4 miles, almost four times higher than most passenger jets, according to reports.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic last week completed its third flight to the edge of space, hitting Mach 3 and an altitude of 55.45 miles. Space begins about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to NASA and the US military.

Venus Aerospace relocated to Texas from California to be closer to the Houston Spaceport, said Brandon Simmons, of Prime Movers Lab, in a blog post.

Simmons wrote that Duggleby previously worked at Virgin Orbit. Cofounder and CTO Andrew Duggleby held positions at both Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic. The startup has about 15 employees.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tesla said it’s likely somebody was in the driver’s seat during a deadly Model S crash in Texas, contradicting local law enforcement

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk again denied that the Tesla that crashed in Texas on April 17, killing two people, was on Autopilot.
  • A Tesla exec added it was likely that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.
  • This contradicts statements made by local law enforcement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Monday that the Model S that crashed just outside Houston, Texas, earlier this month, killing two people, wasn’t on Autopilot – and that any suggestion otherwise was “completely false.”

Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, added that he thought it was likely someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the deadly crash, contradicting local law enforcement.

On April 17, a Tesla Model S skipped over a curb, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames, killing two people.

A Harris County constable told local TV station KHOU on April 18 that investigators were “100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact.” A senior Harris County officer said on April 19 that witnesses had suggested nobody was driving the vehicle earlier in its journey.

Tesla’s electric vehicles come with Autopilot, a feature that allows the cars to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. Tesla tells drivers using Autopilot to remain in the driver’s seat with their hands on the steering wheel – but earlier this month, Consumer Reports showed it was possible to turn on Autopilot with nobody in the driver’s seat.

Musk previously said that Autopilot was not being used at the time of the crash. Two days after the crash, he tweeted: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled.”

Read more: The electric car boom is coming to wipe out auto dealer profits. Consolidating into ‘super dealers’ may be their only way to survive.

During Tesla’s earnings call Monday, Musk said that “there were really just extremely deceptive media practices where it was claimed to be Autopilot but this is completely false.” He didn’t reference any specific media reports.

Moravy said that Tesla had been working with local authorities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the crash.

“The steering wheel was indeed deformed so we’re leaning to the likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Moravy said.

“All seatbelts post-crash were found to be unbuckled,” he added. Tesla’s Autopilot only works when seatbelts are buckled in.

Moravy said that Tesla was unable to recover the data from the vehicle’s SD card at the time of impact, but that the local authorities were working on that.

“We continue to hold safety in a higher regard and look to improve products in the future through this kind of data and other information from the field,” he added.

Tesla also sells its full self-driving software (FSD) as a $10,000 one-off add-on, which it plans to release widely in 2021. FSD allows cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify both stop signs and traffic lights.

Neither Autopilot nor FSD makes a Tesla car fully autonomous.

At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A major Texas highway expansion project has been paused to examine possible violation of 1964 Civil Rights Act

Houston
People drive on Interstate 45 toward downtown Houston.

  • The Department of Transportation has paused a Houston-area highway widening project.
  • In the past, highways were constructed with no regard for minority communities.
  • The Biden administration is seeking to address past racial inequities in planning decisions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Transportation is using a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pause construction on a highway widening project near Houston, an uncommon move that could be an early test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to addressing past racial inequities, according to Politico.

As the populous region continues to grow, the Interstate 45 highway project has been heralded as a way to reduce congestion and improve commute times, but the additional lanes would also impact several heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents, businesses, and houses of worship in the path to relocate.

The construction plan, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, would widen the highway into three segments.

Local resistance to the I-45 project had been brewing for years, with many hearkening back to the 1950s when freeway routes were deliberately drawn to impact Black communities and divide people by race and class.

The I-45 project has at least been temporarily halted, with Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg now at the helm of the sprawling federal department.

Federal transportation authorities in March sent a letter asking Texas to pause contracts on the widening project while they reviewed racial justice complaints covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, along with environmental concerns.

The provision states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

In a letter written to the Texas Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration cited community opposition in reviewing the I-45 widening project, mentioning Houston-area Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Air Alliance Houston, and the community organization Texas Housers.

“I think [Buttigieg] was engaged, interested and fair,” Jackson Lee told Politico after speaking with the secretary. “I think he was chagrined at federal dollars being used with such disregard of community views.”

The congresswoman feels that the Texas Department of Transportation “blatantly violated” the Title VI provision.

The project’s pause, which is being driven by civil rights laws, has thrilled grassroots activists and Washington figures.

Fred Wagner, an attorney and former chief counsel at the Federal Highway Administration under the Obama administration, told Politico that taking such a step was a big change.

“It just doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “For DOT to step in, potentially, and say ‘We don’t think it’s an appropriate solution,’ would be a really huge deal.”

Buttigieg, who is seeking to reimagine the country’s transportation system, also hopes to dismantle old processes that disenfranchised Americans of color from past planning conversations, especially when entire neighborhoods were destroyed by urban planners when the modern US highway network was first built in the 20th Century.

“This is not just a matter of halfway accidental neglect,” he said in a Politico interview last month. “We’re talking about some really intentional decisions that happened, and a lot of them happened with federal dollars.”

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A hospital in Houston said it could fire staff if they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making it potentially the first large US hospital to take such action

Vaccine
Nurse Robert Orallo administers the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Alaska.

  • Houston Methodist Hospital is mandating COVID-19 vaccines for its 26,000 employees.
  • Managers have until mid-April to get their first shot, otherwise they could be fired.
  • The hospital said that the policy is legal under state and federal employment law.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A hospital in Houston is mandating vaccines for all its staff, saying they could be fired if they refuse to get the jab without having reasonable exemptions.

This could make it the first large hospital in the US to make the move, a spokesperson for the hospital told Bloomberg.

Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, announced the policy in an email to managers Wednesday.

It is rolling out the policy to managers and new hires first, before expanding it to the hospital’s roughly 26,000 total workforce, per an FAQ sheet attached to the email.

“As part of Houston Methodist management, we must lead by example and get vaccinated ourselves,” Boom wrote in the email, per Click2Houston.

Read more: Here’s the simple 5-step COVID-19 questionnaire Wells Fargo is using to decide if it’s safe for employees to enter the office

He said that around 83% of employees have already been vaccinated, including 95% of management staff and all the company’s executives.

“As we move closer to announcing mandatory vaccinations for all employees, we need you to go first – to lead by example and show our employees how important getting vaccinated is,” Boom told managers.

He said that managers have until April 15 to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If not, we will follow HR policy on non-compliance,” he added.

The FAQ sheet said that staff would lose their jobs if they didn’t get the jab, but that the hospital would allow religious and medical exemptions “in very rare cases.”

“We don’t know yet if a booster [shot] will be required annually but if it is, that will also be mandatory,” the hospital wrote in the FAQ sheet.

Boom said that managers would soon receive a list of all the employees they manage who haven’t yet received a dose of the vaccine.

Staff vaccine mandates are legal, and CEOs are eyeing them up

As the vaccine rollout ramps up across the US, with President Joe Biden eyeing May 1 as the day all US adults will become eligible for the shot, some employers are mulling making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff.

Houston Methodist Hospital said it is legal for private companies under state and federal employment laws.

This is backed up by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which says employers can legally require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or ban them from the office if they don’t. Insider spoke to six labor and employment lawyers about what rights employees have.

In a West Munroe poll of 150 C-Suite executives in January, 51% of executives said they would require employees to receive the vaccine before returning to work. Executives from East and West Coast companies said they were more likely to mandate the vaccine than employers in the Midwest and south.

Some top UK firms also plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for staff through “no jab, no job” employment contracts, Insider’s Kate Duffy reported.

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The Texas Medical Board dropped its investigation into a Houston doctor who was fired and charged with giving away expiring COVID-19 vaccines

Dr. Hasan Gokal
Dr. Hasan Gokal

  • Dr. Hasan Gokal was fired after giving away 10 COVID-19 vaccine doses that were due to expire.
  • Gokal said he spent six hours trying to find people who wanted the shot.
  • The Houston DA’s office later charged him with theft.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On December 29, Dr. Hasan Gokal was getting ready to wrap up the first day of Houston’s COVID-19 vaccination drive when one last person drove up for a dose before the site was set to close.

It was about 6:30 p.m. and dark outside. The vaccination site was remote, about an hour outside of Houston in the suburb of Humble.

“There was no lights, no cars anywhere. So we had to wait another half-hour to wrap things up at 7:00 p.m. That’s when we were slated to stay till,” Gokal said. “At 6:45 p.m., about 15 minutes prior to shutting down, we had one more person drive through for the vaccine. This was the problem at that point was we were done with all the vaccines and we’d done all the vaccinations. Now, one more additional person comes up and we’ve got to open a new vial of the vaccine.”

Gokal says he had to puncture open a new vial of Moderna’s vaccine, which meant he had six hours to use all 11 doses before they would have to be discarded. However, with 15 minutes left before closing, no one else arrived.

An open vaccine vial and no time to waste

He asked the 20 people working on-site, all of whom said they were already vaccinated or were not interested, Gokal said. The emergency medical services crew on site had already left, and only a few police officers remained. They, too, either already got the vaccine or were not interested.

Gokal contacted the medical director of this program and a director at the Harris County Public Health Agency to let them know he was going to search for people to vaccinate. He said both gave him a green light.

“I asked her. I said: ‘Hey, look, I’ve got these doses left. Do you have anyone I can get them into? And she herself was considering her own family,’ Gokal told Insider of the Harris County Public Health Agency director whose name he did not disclose.

A week prior to the vaccine drive, Gokal said he was on a conference call where state health officials advised those working on vaccinations not to let the vaccine go to waste, and if a vial is opened they should seek out the next category of people eligible until the doses are used.

Gokal said it was stressed that no doses should go to waste.

Unfortunately, none of the Harris County Public Health Agency director’s family was eligible and Gokal began reaching out to acquaintances to see if he could find anyone who was qualified.

Gokal lived an hour away from the vaccination site. The acquaintances lived closer to him than they did to the vaccination site, so he prepared to drive home.

At that point, Gokal said, he had two options: leave the doses on-site where they would expire and be thrown out the next day, or spend the rest of his night trying to get them in people’s arms.

“So I decided to start trying to find people who might be eligible. And I remember I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m., out working all day. So I was beat and … I didn’t really want to do this, but I knew the importance of doing this. It wouldn’t sit well with me if I didn’t try to get it to the right people,” he told Insider.

Gokal began calling acquaintances “I called and I managed to get people that were known acquaintances and people who knew them and stuff. So I said, I’m basically looking for people that I thought might have — family members who are elderly or sick or may work in doctor’s offices or that kind of stuff, who would be eligible for the next tier, which would be 1B. So I managed to find 10 people who said, OK.”

House calls

When he arrived home, Gokal said two of the people he was supposed to vaccinate were waiting, one person in their 60s and the other in their 70s. He gave them the shot before driving off to another home.

At the next house, he says he vaccinated four people. Someone in their 90s and another in their 80s who had dementia. He also vaccinated their two caregivers, both of whom were in their 60s.

Then Gokal said he went to the home of an elderly woman whose neighbor had called him and said she would qualify for the vaccine. She took it.

With just three shots remaining, Gokal said he drove back home where he was expecting the final three people to meet him. Two of them were already there. One was in her 50s and worked in a medical office and therefore had greater exposure, and the other was an individual in their 40s who was taking care of a child with medical issues who was on a ventilator. Gokal gave them their shots.

“She was a sole caregiver. She didn’t allow anyone else in the house because of the fear of bringing COVID and she herself was terrified that if she got it, her kids wouldn’t survive this,” Gokal said of the woman in her 40s.

Now past midnight, the final individual, an elderly man, who was meant to get the vaccine called Gokal and said it was too late for him to drive out, and he would find another time to get vaccinated.

With a few minutes left before the dose was set to expire, Gokal turned to his wife, who has a pulmonary condition. She was wary about whether it was a good idea.

“The reason I asked my wife was because she has been in and out of the hospital for the last 18 months with pulmonary sarcoidosis, which has left her breathless all the time. She’s on medications for it. And our own physician had told her, look, if you got a chance to get the vaccine, you must do so because you’re extremely high-risk.” Gokal said.

He said he was working in a hospital at the start of the pandemic, but switched to the public health role so he would be less of a risk to her.

“When COVID first started and I was working in the emergency room at the time I didn’t come home for a whole month, I would go live in a hotel because I was afraid of bringing it home to her,” he said.

The next day, Gokal went into the office and submitted the 10 forms on the immunizations and told his team how he handled the leftover doses. He said no one said anything.

A swift turn of events

Eight days later, Gokal was called in and fired by the human resources department. Prior to then, he had heard nothing about the incident.

“What they told me was … they asked: ‘Did you take these and give them to friends and family?’ I said, ‘Well, guys, you know what I did, I took them and found people to give them to who was eligible so that it wouldn’t get wasted and my wife was one of them,'” Gokal recounted of his interactions with an unnamed public health official. “He said, ‘Oh, you admitted, you’re fired.'”

Gokal was told that he violated protocol, but according to his lawyer, Paul Doyle, those protocols were never made clear.

Doyle said he reached out to the district attorney’s office and asked what protocols they were referencing in their case against Dr. Gokal.

“They responded to me [and said] this was a rushed event and they didn’t have written protocols in place at the time, and they didn’t have a written waitlist,” Doyle said. “So naturally, my response was and this is all in an email: ‘Under what theory are you presenting this case to a grand jury? And is there something I’m missing?’ And the answer is no.”

Gokal said he was told he should have brought the doses back to the office or thrown them away. He said he was questioned by a public health official whose name he did not disclose about why the names of those vaccinated all sounded “Indian.” He said officials were concerned they could be accused of improperly administering the vaccine.

Two weeks after Gokal was fired, Harris County’s district attorney, Kim Ogg, said she was pressing theft charges against him.

“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”

Those charges were thrown out by criminal court judge Franklin Bynum for lack of probable cause. The Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society also released statements in support of Gokal, stressing that healthcare workers should not waste any doses of the vaccine.

Gokal said the DA’s office never tried to reach out to him to hear his version of the story. He said, at one point, he was accused of stealing more vaccine vials, but a recount of those on-hand proved none were missing.

“Basically they didn’t want to talk to him. They didn’t follow up on it until after they filed a sealed complaint along with the press release with all kinds of facts that were absolutely misrepresented,” Doyle said. “It was a bizarre sort of rush to fire him and then the follow-up rush to file charges on him, without anybody understanding what happened.”

The DA’s office has not responded to Insider’s requests for comment.

No regrets

While Gokal says he wouldn’t change what he did, the consequences of his firing and subsequent criminal charges have made their way around the world and have impacted his family.

“On a very personal level. I’m OK with being attacked and having to defend myself. I’m OK. That’s part of what happens, but when it started to hurt my loved ones, that’s the first time I found myself with tears in my eyes because I realized this wasn’t just me; this was having an impact on everybody. So it’s been really hard,” Gokal said, explaining family members in Singapore, Pakistan, Dubai, and various other places all started getting calls about the news.

Harris County Public Health also contacted the medical board to initiate an investigation for unethical behavior. The department said it had no comment in response to a call from Insider.

As of Tuesday, The Texas Medical Board dismissed the cases against Gokal. On March 9, the governing body sent him a letter that said he “appeared to have administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients that were properly consented, in the eligible patient category, and they were given doses that would have otherwise been wasted,” a press release said.

Gokal is without a job until all of this is sorted out. However, he’s spent his time volunteering at a charity clinic.

“I’m donating my time to go there and see patients and take care of them while I can,” Gokal said.

“It gives me joy to do that. That’s part of what I’ve always been about anyway.”

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The top 10 places Americans moved to at the height of the pandemic in 2020

moving to texas
Six of the 10 places on the list are located in Texas.

  • Millions of Americans have requested mail-forwarding services amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • MyMove, analyzing US Postal Service data, found that Americans moving between February and July 2020 mostly fled urban cores for more suburban areas.
  • The country’s largest winner of residents was Texas. Six of the 10 places on this list are Lone Star State suburbs.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic upended American life this past spring and summer, driving millions to move in search of more comfortable work-from-home locales and greener pastures.

Analyzing US Postal Service data, MyMove found that almost 16 million Americans moved between February and July. Mail-forwarding requests to USPS made in that time frame show that moving Americans mostly fled urban cores and relocated to more suburban areas.

Some moves were short-term. Temporary change-of-address requests to the US Post Office were up 27%  in 2020 versus 2019. Permanent change-of-address requests were up 2% from last year. 

Requests from the height of the pandemic largely show that Americans were moving away from cities and toward less densely populated suburbs. New York City lost over 110,000 residents from February to July, according to USPS. Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles lost thousands, too.

Texas, however, gained thousands of residents amid the pandemic.

Of the top 10 places that gained residents per USPS, six were located in Texas. All were suburbs of the state’s largest cities: Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

While it seems like everyone is moving to the Lone Star State, other locations in Florida and Idaho made the list, along with a tony Hamptons neighborhood in New York state.

Keep reading for a look at the most popular locales Americans decamped to this year:

10. Meridian, Idaho

Boise Idaho
Meridian is outside Boise, Idaho, pictured above.

Number of residents: 2,088

Population in 2019: 114,161

Metro area: Boise

Read more: The great migration of 2020: People from New York and California moved in droves this year — here are the states that benefited from the mass exodus, from Idaho to Texas

9. Riverview, Florida

Tampa Florida
Riverview is outside of Tampa, Florida, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,093

Population in 2019: 91,190

Metro area: Tampa

Read more: Hedge funds tour Florida office space ‘one to three times a day’ amid ‘torrential’ interest from out of state, broker says

8. Cumming, Georgia

Atlanta Georgia skyline
Cumming is just outside Atlanta, Georgia, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,128

Population in 2019: 6,547

Metro area: Atlanta

7. Cypress, Texas

Houston, Texas
Cypress is outside Houston, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,147

Population in 2019: 82,257

Metro area: Houston

6. Leander, Texas

austin texas
Leander is just outside of Austin, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,294

Population in 2019: 62,608

Metro area: Austin

5. Georgetown, Texas

Austin Texas
Georgetown is just north of outside of Austin, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,337

Population in 2019: 79,604

Metro area: Austin

Read more: Elon Musk and other tech powerhouses are flocking to Texas, pushing an already bonkers real-estate market to new heights. Take a look inside Austin, which is quickly becoming the next Silicon Valley.

4. East Hampton, New York

east hampton
Women crossing the street in East Hampton, New York on September 8, 2020.

Number of residents gained: 2,476

Population in 2019: 12,960

Metro area: New York City

Read more: The Post Office says 300,000 New Yorkers have fled the city — for places like the Hamptons and even Honolulu

3. Frisco, Texas

frisco football field
The Dallas Cowboys practice in Frisco, Texas.

Number of residents gained: 2,604

Population in 2019: 200,490

Metro area: Dallas

Read more: Frisco, Texas, is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. Here’s why so many people are moving there 

2. Richmond, Texas

Houston Texas
Richmond is outside of Houston, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 3,000

Population in 2019: 12,578

Metro area: Houston

1. Katy, Texas

Houston
Katy is just outside of Houston, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 4,414

Population in 2019: 21,729

Metro area: Houston

Read more: Elon Musk, like everyone else, is moving to Texas. Here are 12 Lone Star State cities America is in love with.

 

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