On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Renters rights in the face of climate change and natural disasters
Housing and Economy reporter Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy explains how they don’t have much protection. Plus, health reporter Elizabeth Weise updates us on omicron, opening statements are set in the trial of the police officer who killed Daunte Wright, President Joe Biden draws a clear line with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Supreme Court will hear arguments related to school choice.
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Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 8th of December 2021. Today renter’s rights, plus more developments on omicron and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
71% of Americans say they’re concerned about the omicron coronavirus variant, and an Axios-Ipsos poll also finds that most Americans don’t plan on canceling holiday travel because of it. One of Ghislaine Maxwell’s accusers testified yesterday that Maxwell sexually abused her when she was 14. The woman was the third witness to testify at the sex trafficking trial about being abused by Jeffrey Epstein in encounters organized by Maxwell. And Germany has a new chancellor. Angela Merkel’s tenure year of 16 years comes to an end today, with center-left Olaf Scholz being sworn in.
So many Americans live in their homes by renting, and as climate change increasingly brings a wave of new natural disasters and other challenges, tenants are wondering what their rights are. But as Housing and Economy reporter Swapna Venugopal tells us, they don’t have much protection.
Most states don’t have any regulations requiring landlords to make flood related disclosures, for instance. But when it comes to home buyers, 29 states require flood risk disclosures in real estate transactions. So I spoke to a lot of different experts and laws vary by state, but most of them say that in case property is fully damaged, that is considered uninhabitable, tenants can ask to break their lease and get their security deposit back. For some, it might be within three weeks, it’s spelled out in the law. For others it might just say that it needs to be returned and really don’t specify a timeframe. And if there’s limited damage, you can still live in the apartment, and you are still able to live in the apartment, you might be able to ask for a reduction in rent.
I would say that you should definitely reread your lease before a natural disaster strikes. You’ve signed on the dotted line. So it’s important to understand exactly what you are personally responsible for. That might also shed light on whether you could ask for a rent reduction, if the property’s damaged, and under what circumstance you can terminate the lease, when the deposit will be returned, and things like that. The other thing also you should keep in mind is, take a lot of pictures of all your belongings so you have a record, in case you need to claim anything from the insurance.
You can find the full story in today’s episode description.
As we talked about yesterday on the show, reports from South Africa seem to indicate that the omicron variant of COVID-19 is much more contagious than previous variants, but early data points to the variant possibly causing a form of the disease that’s more mild. As Health Reporter Elizabeth Weise tells us though, definitive data won’t be available for a few more weeks.
At this point globally, there are three kinds of people. There are people who have remarkably never, ever been exposed to COVID. There are people who’ve been exposed to COVID, got it, and survived. And there are people who’ve been vaccinated against COVID. And immunologically, there are all a little bit, they’re very different. So the thought is that omicron, if you’ve never been exposed to COVID in any form, you are much more likely to get omicron because it’s about three times more… looks like three to three and a half times more infectious than delta. The bad news for people who are relying on natural immunity – which is the idea that once you’ve had COVID you have antibodies against it because you’ve survived it, your body is now prepared to fight it should it show up again – again, really early info out of the UK and South Africa make it seem as if omicron is better at reinfecting people than delta was. So if you previously had COVID and survived it, with delta you were somewhat protected against getting it again. Omicron seems to have found ways to get around that protection.
When will we have information about omicron in the United States? It really depends on how quickly omicron spreads in the United States. We could start seeing data within two to three weeks just on, are you more likely to get infected if you were or were not immunized. To see hospitalizations, it takes a while. I mean, if you came down with COVID tomorrow, it’d probably be a week or two before you ended up in the hospital. And then a couple of days after that, before you popped up in anybody’s hospitalization records. So that takes a while. And, in sad circumstances, it takes a long time to die from COVID. It is not a very nice death and it takes weeks. And so we won’t see death rates for quite a while. So unfortunately, after Christmas, beginning of the new year, we should start to have some data presuming that omicron starts to spread a lot in the United States, which everybody is presuming, but you never know.
You can stay up on all things COVID-19 with our live COVID updates page every day.
Opening statements are set today in the manslaughter trial of former Minnesota Police Officer Kim Potter. She shot and killed Daunte Wright while yelling “Taser” in a Minneapolis suburb earlier this year.
I just shot him.
Responding Officer on Scene:
Prosecutors say she committed first and second degree manslaughter in Wright’s death. According to the complaint, she recklessly handled her firearm and was culpably negligent. Wright’s death set off protests in Minnesota and around the country in April.
Police Officer at Protest:
If you do not cease your unlawful behavior and disperse peacefully, you’ll be arrested. Ma’am, you need to leave the area.
His mom, Katie Wright, said she spoke with him right before the shooting.
And I said, “Well, why did you get pulled over?” He said they pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from the rear view mirror. I said, “Okay, take them down.” And he said, “Mom, they want to know about insurance.” I said, “I will… when the police officer comes back to the window, put him on the phone and I will give him the insurance information.” Then I heard the police officer come to the window and say, “Put the phone down and get out of the car.” And Dante said, “Why?” And he said, “We’ll explain to you when you get out of the car.” So I heard the phone get either put on the dashboard or dropped. And I heard scuffling and I heard the police officer say, “Daunte don’t run.” And then the other officer said, “Put the phone down,” and hung it up. And then like a minute later I called and his girlfriend answered, which was the passenger in the car, and said that he’d been shot and she put it on the driver’s side, and my son was laying there, lifeless.
Defense attorneys say the shooting was an innocent mistake, and that Potter immediately expressed remorse. They also say Potter will testify in her own defense. Attorney Paul Engh during jury selection.
If you’re selected, Officer Potter will testify and tell you what she remembered happened.
Daunte Wright was 20 years old.
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met virtually yesterday.
President Joe Biden:
Hello. Good to see you again. Last time we didn’t get to see one another at the G20. I hope next time we meet, we do it in person.
On the call, Biden and emphasized that he wanted a diplomatic solution to the situation at Ukraine’s border, where Russia has added troops and appears poised to possibly invade over the next year. But Biden also warned Putin that the US and its allies are prepared to slap tough economic sanctions on Russia if they escalate against Ukraine. The leaders’ call lasted about two hours and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “It was pretty straightforward.” He added that the US still believes that Putin has not made a decision on whether to invade Ukraine, but officials have stressed that Russia is putting in the capacity to do so if it chooses to go forward. Sullivan added that sanctions would be more intense than ones imposed back in 2014, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Russia from occupying Crimea. The US is also possibly threatening to cut off an undersea gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2, that runs from Russia to Germany.
Meanwhile, in its summary of yesterday’s call, the Kremlin said the conversation was candid and business-like. Russian officials added that it’s wrong to put responsibility on Russia since NATO has, “been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory, and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case about whether parents may use state education money to pay for sectarian schools. At issue is an unusual program in Maine that provides subsidies for education in rural districts that don’t have their own high school. Parents can then use that money to send their kids to other public or private schools, but not programs that offer religious instruction. The central question in the case deals with religious freedom versus separation of church and state, and the outcome could also have a major impact on more broad school choice issues, including voucher programs. Vouchers in some states allow parents to use taxpayer subsidies for private school tuition. And those states currently must let that money also flow to religious schools, but critics still often raise the threat of litigation against that rule. The case comes at a time when the court’s six to three conservative majority has looked favorably at religious freedom claims.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us on whatever your favorite podcast app is, including Apple Podcast, where we ask for a five star rating and review if you have a chance. Thanks as always to PJ Elliot for his great work on the show. And I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.