10 things you need to know today: April 20, 2021

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·7 min read
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1.

Jurors began deliberating Monday after hearing closing arguments by prosecutors and the defense in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher argued that Chauvin deprived Floyd of oxygen by pressing his knee onto Floyd's neck until the unarmed Black man died. Floyd, who was being arrested on suspicion of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, said "I can't breathe" 27 times in the first five minutes he was restrained, ultimately losing consciousness. "This wasn't policing, this was murder," Schleicher said. Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by saying Chauvin merely did what any "reasonable" officer would have done in a struggle with a suspect who is strong and possibly intoxicated. [Star Tribune, The Associated Press]

2.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale has died, his family announced Monday. He was 93. Mondale was the nation's 42nd vice president, serving under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Mondale was credited with transforming the vice presidency into a more influential office by serving as a genuine partner to the president. Carter said Monday that he considered Mondale, who used the nickname "Fritz," "the best vice president in our country's history." Mondale served as a senator before joining Carter's ticket. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for president in 1984, and made history by choosing Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making his presidential ticket the first one for a major party to include a woman. Mondale, challenging Ronald Reagan, lost in a landslide. [Time, NPR]

3.

Police in Texas and Wisconsin on Monday arrested suspects in the latest in a series of shootings across the United States. The sheriff's department in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, said one person had been detained and would be charged with first-degree intentional homicide for the fatal shooting of three men in a tavern in the village of Somers. Three others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Police in Austin, Texas, arrested former deputy Stephen Broderick, 41, on charges for a Sunday morning shooting that left two women and a man dead. Broderick was taken into custody following an overnight manhunt. The arrest came after a resident called 911 to report seeing Broderick. The recent flurry of shootings included one that left eight dead at an Indianapolis FedEx warehouse on Thursday, and another that left 10 dead at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. [The Wall Street Journal]

4.

Every adult in all U.S. states as of Monday was eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The final states to open eligibility to their entire adult population were Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. "It's truly historic that we have already reached this milestone," the University of Washington Medical Center's Dr. Nandita Mani said. President Biden announced in March he was directing states to make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccination by May 1. But as states increasingly moved to open vaccinations to all adults sooner, Biden moved the deadline up to April 19. According to the CDC, half of American adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 32.5 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. [The New York Times, Axios]

5.

Russian prison authorities said Monday that they had transferred jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a prison infirmary as his health deteriorated 20 days into a hunger strike. Prison officials said Navalny would get "vitamin therapy" in the prison medical ward. Navalny's personal physician, Dr. Yaroslav Ashikhmin, said over the weekend that tests indicated that Navalny, 44, could die "at any minute." Navalny was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was treated for nerve-agent poisoning he says Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered. He started his hunger strike on March 31 to protest the prison's failure to treat leg and back pain he said might be linked to the poisoning. [NPR]

6.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has launched an investigation into the alleged use of state resources by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the writing of his recent book about the state's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times reported Monday. The inquiry was prompted by reports that Cuomo, who got a seven-figure advance, had members of his staff work on the book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cuomo has said some of his aides volunteered to help, and Cuomo adviser Richard Azzopardi said "every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project." Azzopardi also called the investigation a "political pile-on." Cuomo also is under investigation for his administration's handling of data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. He also faces sexual harassment allegations, but has resisted calls to resign. [The New York Times]

7.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died from two strokes he suffered the day after he was sprayed with a strong chemical irritant during the assault on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, the District's chief medical examiner said in a ruling released Monday. The determination that Sicknick died of natural causes will make it harder for prosecutors to pursue homicide charges against the two men accused of assaulting Sicknick during the riot. The medical examiner, Francisco Diaz, said an autopsy uncovered no evidence that Sicknick, 42, had an allergic reaction that would have caused his throat to seize. There also were no signs of internal or external injuries, Diaz said. Sicknick collapsed after returning to his office during the assault. He died the next day. [The Washington Post]

8.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected requests to hear three challenges to a federal ban on gun ownership by people convicted of driving under the influence, making false statements on tax returns, and selling counterfeit cassette tapes. The high court gave no explanation for its refusal to hear the appeals of lower court rulings upholding the ban. It marked the latest in a series of cases in which the Supreme Court, despite its newly strengthened 6-3 conservative majority, has deflected cases addressing gun rights and disappointed Second Amendment advocates who had hoped the court would steadily erode restrictions on guns. "While we are disappointed the Supreme Court chose to allow grossly improper lower court rulings to stand, (we) will continue our aggressive litigation strategy," said Adam Kraut, senior director of legal operations at the Firearms Policy Coalition. [USA Today]

9.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday vowed to "immediately" investigate a fatal weekend crash in Spring, Texas, involving a Tesla vehicle that apparently had no driver. Two men reportedly were killed when the 2019 Tesla Model S electric car slammed into a tree and caught fire. One of the victims was in the front passenger seat; the other was in the rear passenger seat. The National Transportation Safety Board said it also was sending two investigators to analyze the vehicle's operation and the fire. Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology do not make the cars fully safe for operation without a driver. Tesla shares plunged by more than 3 percent Monday on the news of the case. [CNBC]

10.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory successfully flew its remote-controlled helicopter on Mars early Monday, marking humanity's first powered, controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity, a solar-powered helicopter that landed on Mars with NASA's Perseverance rover, flew 10 feet into the air, hovered for about 20 seconds, then landed, JPL confirmed Monday morning. MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL, called it her team's "Wright Brothers moment." Ingenuity's down-facing camera transmitted a photo of its shadow on the Martian surface and Perseverance beamed back video of the test flight. The proof-of-concept experiment proved that humans can fly aircraft remotely and on planets with a tiny fraction of the Earth's atmosphere. [NASA, CNN]

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