Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Monday, April 19, 2021, 2:07 PM

Lawyers delivered closing arguments in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin today. Afterward, the case will go to jury deliberation until a verdict is announced, reports the New York Times. In Minneapolis, residents are bracing for unrest in the event that the jury returns a decision that the public views as unjust: In anticipation of the verdict, business owners have started to board up their shops as community members anxiously await a ruling.

Facebook is also taking steps to prepare for the jury’s decision in the Chauvin trial, according to the Verge. The company has designated Minneapolis a “high-risk location” and stated that it will be taking additional moderation steps, including a promise to seek out and remove posts calling to bring weapons to events in the area. Facebook outlined their preparations in a blog post this morning, noting that the company wants “to strike the right balance between allowing people to speak about the trial and what the verdict means, while still doing our part to protect everyone’s safety”—meaning that the site’s users can “discuss, critique, and criticize the trial and the attorneys involved” but content violating Facebook’s Community Standards will be removed.

Brandon Hole, the 19-year-old attacker who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis on Thursday night, used two legally purchased rifles to conduct the attack. Law enforcement had deemed him too unstable to possess a weapon last year, but he was still able to purchase the firearms, writes the Times. In March 2020, Hole’s mother had raised alarm about his mental state, prompting police to seize a shotgun from his home that was never returned. In the days since the shooting, officials have struggled to explain how Hole was allowed to lawfully purchase the two rifles used at the FedEx facility following the seizure last March, given red-flag gun laws that are supposed to prevent individuals presenting “imminent risk” from possessing firearms.

Since President Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, some officials have warned that counterterrorism capabilities will be significantly reduced, reports the Washington Post. While announcing his decision, Biden stated that the U.S. will “not take our eye off the terrorist threat” as military and intelligence agencies are racing to refine plans for countering extremist groups in Afghanistan. During last week’s hearing on global threats, CIA Director William J. Burns told Congress that “there is a significant risk” regarding America’s lessened ability to detect and respond to extremist threats once the military has withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was hospitalized today after about three weeks on a hunger strike in prison, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, the U.S. warned that if Navalny died while incarcerated, there would be consequences. Reuters reports that following the U.S. warning, the Kremlin stated that Russia would continue with “the principle of reciprocity,” promising to respond in kind if further sanctions were imposed.

A new report commissioned by Kigali finds that France “bears significant responsibility” for enabling the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda, writes France 24. The report is the product of a years-long investigation by U.S. law firm Levy Firestone Muse which drew on millions of pages of documents and interviews with more than 250 witnesses. The report labels France a “collaborator” of the Hutu regime which orchestrated a massacre of an estimated 800,000 people, rejecting the position that Paris was “blind” to preparations for the genocide, as the French government has stated in the past. And it accuses France of trying to “bury its past in Rwanda,” stating that French authorities refused to cooperate with the inquiry or turn over documents related to the investigation.

The Covax initiative to supply free vaccines to low- and middle-income countries recently announced that it will deliver 145 million doses instead of the planned 240 million by May 1 due to supply shortages, according to the Journal. The decrease in doses will widen an already large vaccination gap between poor and rich countries—as the U.S. tops 200 million doses distributed, Covax has supplied just 41 million doses to lower-income countries.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic examined the new package of sanctions against Russia and discussed the Treasury Department’s allegation that Konstantin Kilimnik, a “known Russian Intelligence Services agent,” had shared polling data with the Kremlin after receiving it from Paul Manafort in 2016.

Carolyn Gallaher and Kimberly Cowell-Meyers explained how the latest unrest in Northern Ireland is driven by fallout from Brexit and the continuing influence of paramilitary groups in loyalist communities.

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