Current Events

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Current Events

DEFENSE RESTS

Here are the 3 main arguments made by the defense about why the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd should be acquitted.

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“Undetermined.”

Fmr. Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler answering a question on how he would categorize George Floyd’s “cause of death.” Fowler says Floyd suffered a heart attack due to pre-existing heart disease ~ other potential factors include drugs in his system and accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Fowler’s testimony contrasted with the medical examiner who determined Floyd’s cause of death to be “homicide” — not drug use or heart disease.
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“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis police department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interaction with Mr. Floyd.”

Fmr. police officer and use of force expert Barry Vance Brodd testified that Derek Chauvin acted appropriately - adding that when justified, the use of the restraining a suspect face-down is a "control technique," not "a use of force."
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“I was concerned for the officers’ safety, yes.”

Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang, one of the officers called to the scene on May 25, 2020, testified that he was concerned for the safety of the officers that day because "the crowd was becoming more loud and aggressive." One of the arguments made by the defense is that Derek Chauvin's actions were influenced by the surrounding crowd and bystanders, which he deemed as hostile.
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Derek Chauvin declined to take the stand, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the case against him. After both sides present their closing arguments on Monday, the judge will instruct the jury before they head into deliberations.

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Current Events

PROSECUTION RESTS

Here are the 3 main arguments made by the prosecution about why a former police officer charged with killing George Floyd is guilty of murder.

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“George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event and he did not die from drug overdose.”

Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Rich, who reviewed George Floyd's medical records, autopsy & videos of the incident, testified that Floyd’s "absolutely preventable" death was caused by low oxygen levels "induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation,” and unrelated to drug use or pre-existing conditions.
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“Both the knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and the prone restraint were unreasonable, excessive and contrary to generally accepted police practices.”

Law professor, fmr. police officer, & use of force expert Seth Stoughton testified that Derek Chauvin's use of force during the 9 min & 29 secs he held Floyd face down w/ his knee on Floyd's neck "had the foreseeable effect and a substantial likelihood of resulting in death or great bodily harm."
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“Once there was no longer any resistance … that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back – that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics…”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin's use of force and failure to render aid were not in line with the department's policies.
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The prosecution argued the use of force employed by Derek Chauvin against George Floyd was excessive, unreasonable, contrary to the law & police training / policy, and consequently resulted in Floyd's death. The defense will make the case that the opposite is true, and argue Floyd's death was caused by underlying health issues and / or drug use.

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Current Events

PAUSE

The U.S. has recommended a pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Here’s Why:

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The Basics

  • FDA & CDC report 6 cases of “rare and severe” blood clots in women ages 18-48, causing “severe stroke-like illness.”
  • Symptoms: 6-13 days after dose.
  • 1 case was fatal; 1 patient is in critical condition.
  • Condition “very similar” to “another vaccine in Europe.” Officials did not name AstraZeneca, but concerns *have* surfaced about blood clotting and the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.
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Why Is It Happening?

The FDA isn’t certain, but offered this:

  • A focus is the adenoviral vector vaccines. The J&J vaccine uses a shell of an adenovirus (called adenoviral vectors) as a “delivery vehicle” for the vaccine into your body. AstraZeneca uses a similar technology.
  • Doctors say that in some cases the body’s immune response to the adenovirus may lead to this very rare condition.
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The Risk

  • This condition occurred in 6 cases out of the more than 6.8 million J&J doses administered (remember, J&J is a single-dose vaccine).
  • If you received vaccine more than a month ago, health officials say risk of developing this condition is very low.
  • If you received it recently (last 3 weeks), be mindful of symptoms – such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, & shortness of breath.
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A Little Bit More

Right now, the condition doesn’t appear to be related to birth control (birth control pills can raise risk of blood clotting) but women under 50 remain the focus.

It’s not *just* blood clotting – it’s blood clotting WITH a condition of low platelets (thrombocytopenia – which can actually cause severe internal bleeding).

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Big Picture

“We are totally aware that this is a very rare event. We want to get this worked out as quickly as we possibly can. And that’s why you see the word ‘pause.'”

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on why the FDA & CDC is recommending (not mandating) the pause out of an "abundance of caution" while the FDA & CDC investigate and consider next steps.
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Typical treatment (i.e.: heparin) for blood clots can actually make this condition more dangerous. The govt. says over 122 million people have received at least one vaccine dose. Dr. Fauci says this particular type of clotting condition has not been detected in connection with the Moderna & Pfizer vaccines.

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Current Events

Historic Pace

Different storylines have swirled about what’s happening at the U.S. Southwest border – here’s what the numbers show.

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The Numbers: March 2021

  • “172,000 persons attempting entry along the Southwest border” – highest single-month number in modern data collection (2012). Perspective: second highest – 144,000+ in May 2019.
  • 71% increase over the previous month, February 2021.
  • U.S. govt. expelled 103,900 people (citing a provision re: public health safety during a pandemic); 28% had been expelled once before.
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100% Increase

18,890 unaccompanied children (17-and-younger without a guardian) – a 100% increase from February. 

Highest monthly number in recent data records (2010). Perspective: the second highest was in May 2019: 11,800+.

“Largest demographic group” in border patrol custody.

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CONTEXT

  • U.S. govt. has repeatedly stated border “encounters” have increased since last April. This is true but needs context.
  • Border encounters (for single adults, minors, etc.) dramatically dropped in March-April 2020 w/the border closing due to the pandemic. Since then, the numbers have increaseddata shows a significant increase in recent months.
  • Encounters last April: 17,100+. Dec. 2020: 74,000+. March 2021: 172,000+.
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The U.S. govt. says numbers have increased because of "violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America." According to available data, this is the largest monthly number of border encounters in history.

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Current Events

LEVEL UP?

A new study says ceiling ventilation may be more important than social distancing.

Why this matters for classrooms and beyond.

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The Study

  • University of Central Florida, Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.
  • Researchers built computer models of classrooms with a group of students sitting in rows and a teacher in the front – all wearing masks.
  • The models replicated different routes for airborne disease transmission.
  • Classrooms with ventilation (with a good air filter) reduced transmission by 40-50%.
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Why Does It Work?

  • The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets – the fewer infected droplets hanging out in your space, the better.
  • Ventilation keeps the air in the room circulating – it also pulls warm air droplets HIGHER.
  • Study co-author: With both ventilation & masks, droplets tend to go “up” and away from others, rather than “out” towards people.
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“The risk from airborne SARS-CoV-2 exposure does not appear to be strongly correlated with the distance, and many of the peak exposures were observed outside of physical-distancing guidelines.”

The study went on to say that "mask mandates, well designed HVAC systems, and the combination of exposure time with number of occupants are of increased importance compared to physical distancing."
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“We don’t want to relax mask usage. We want to relax social distancing…”

Dr. Michael Kinzel, one of the co-authors of the study, tells SmartHER News a surprising finding in his research: how much variation existed in a classroom between “safe” vs. “unsafe” areas without ventilation – some areas would have very little risk and others very high. Kinzel said he expected a difference but did not expect such a large discrepancy.
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Something To Consider:

  • So… do you need a new ventilation system? Maybe. Kinzel says masks ultimately help us get closer more safely, but the right ventilation system can help increase capacity and speed up our return to “normal.”
  • Why not open a window? YES! The whole point of any ventilation is to prevent buildup of contaminated droplets; cooler rooms are better than warmer rooms since warm air (your breath) rises.
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Why did aerospace engineers run this study? Professor Kinzel has an expertise in fluid mechanics (think of all that goes into making an engine work, as liquid gas is turned into mist and combined with air to ignite) so the team applied their knowledge of “fluids” to respiratory droplets.

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Current Events

“Vaccine Passport”

New York becomes the first state in America to unveil a COVID-19 “digital pass.”

What It Does.
Why It Matters.

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“Excelsior Pass”

  • A free app that reveals your COVID-19 vaccine or test status.
  • Where will it be used? “Theaters, Major Stadiums and Arenas, Weddings Receptions, Catered Events & Other Events in Accordance with New York State Guidelines.” The state *ALREADY* requires testing or vaccine records for specific events – this app centralizes the process.
  • Voluntary for NY’ers and businesses.
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“The reopening of key economic activities in New York State, such as arts and entertainment venues, stadiums and arenas, and weddings and catered events, will require proof of a vaccine or negative test for attendees.”

New York Forward website on how this app will be used. The app, developed with IBM, links your personal information with the state database to confirm "digital proof of a test result and/or vaccine."
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How Do You Qualify?

No positive COVID-19 test within the last ten days and:

  • at least two weeks since your final vaccine dose, OR
  • negative PCR test w/in the last 3 days, OR
  • negative antigen (rapid test) within the last 6 hours.
  • Tests must be administered in the state of New York.

 

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Something To Consider:

  • COVID-19 PCR tests have about a 20% false-negative rate.
  • The incubation period of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be upwards of 2 weeks. A negative test more than 24 hours before an event may not accurately represent one’s status.
  • Recent data shows promising results for COVID-19 vaccines – a recipient’s length of immunity and ability to transmit the virus remains TBD.
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“…vaccination passports could perpetuate existing inequities within countries if those who are vaccinated can enjoy the freedom to move about their community while others remain in lockdown.”

Yara Asi, University of Central Florida in Orlando, in a recent essay expressing concerns about "passports" exacerbating inequities from race, wealth, healthcare access and beyond - a class of people who have a vaccine vs. those who do not.
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“The busboy, the janitor, the waiter that works at a restaurant, wants to be surrounded by employees that are going back to work safely — and wants to have the patrons ideally be safe as well,”

Dr. Brian Anderson, Mitre – a nonprofit helping to lead an effort called the "Vaccine Credential Initiative" to help create software to support "verifiable" vaccination records. Microsoft and the Mayo Clinic also are part of this coalition.
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COVID-19 testing has long been floated as an important tool for re-opening because estimates remain that upwards of 50% of COVID-19 cases may come from asymptomatic spread. The Washington Post reports the Biden administration is working on a vaccine passport but has struggled for many reasons, including trying to coordinate with more than 17 different digital versions available. Challenges include: privacy, forgery, efficacy.

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Current Events

S-T-U-C-K

A traffic jam in the “world’s most important waterway” may have you running into delays and/or higher prices.

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What’s Going On?

A gigantic ship got stuck in Suez Canal.

  • Not just any ship: The Ever Given, one of the largest cargo ships in the world. Stand it up and it would be nearly as tall as the Empire State Building.
  • Not just any canal: This man-made canal is a link between the Middle East & Europe, from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Dozens of ships sail through daily, carrying everything from oil to electronics to shampoo.
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How Did This Happen?

TBD. Initial reports: bad weather (wind/dust/poor visibility) at a precarious spot in the canal.

The canal narrows at certain points which require single-direction travel.

The Ever Given is stuck in a narrow pass, almost perpendicular to the canal & touching or nearly touching each bank – effectively blocking the canal entirely.

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Why Does This Matter?

Global trade delays: About 50 ships move through this canal every day. Now 150+ are stuck, waiting for the waterway to clear.

Even if the ship is “free” by the time you read this report, the ripple effect of delays adds another variable to an already-stressed supply chain trying to get back on track during the pandemic.

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So what would it take to "go around" (Africa) and not use the canal? About 15 days, according to one estimate. And remember - it's not just manufactured goods that are potentially delayed, but also the parts used to make goods. Analysts say this event will have an effect; how BIG of an effect remains TBD.

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Current Events

The Case in Colorado

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The Victims:

Denny Stong, 20
Neven Stanisic, 23
Rikki Olds, 25
Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
Eric Talley, 51
Suzanne Fountain, 59
Teri Leiker, 51
Kevin Mahoney, 61
Lynn Murray, 62
Jodi Waters, 65

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“He loved his family more than anything. He wasn’t afraid of dying. He was afraid of putting them through it.”

Homer Talley, 74, whose son Eric Talley, 51, was among the ten victims killed in the shooting. Eric was a police officer with seven children, 7 - 20 years old.
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The Suspect:

  • Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21; resident of a Denver suburb.
  • Reportedly a naturalized U.S. citizen whose family emigrated from Syria.
  • Motive unknown. Charges include 10 counts of 1st degree murder.
  • Prior record: 2018 misdemeanor assault conviction. Police report “at least two interactions” with him in recent years.
  • Legally purchased a gun on March 16, similar to one found at the crime scene.
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The Crime:

  • March 22 (2:40 p.m.): Cops responded to calls of an active shooter at King Soopers, a local Boulder grocery store.
  • Witnesses described a chaotic scene, with a shooter wearing a “tactical vest,” targeting people in different settings: outside the grocery store, inside a vehicle, inside the store.
  • Alissa surrendered to SWAT team and asked to speak to his mother. Taken into custody at 3:28 p.m.
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“He always suspected someone was behind him, someone was chasing him.”

Ali Aliwi Alissa, the 34-year-old brother of the shooter, who said he "kept a close eye" on his brother in high school because of his increasing paranoia. Fmr. classmates described the shooter as "joyful" at times, but quick to enrage. There is no known mental health diagnosis of the shooting suspect at this time.
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“The suspect’s identity was previously known to the F.B.I. because he was linked to another individual under investigation by the bureau, according to law enforcement officials.”

The New York Times. The shooter was known to local law enforcement; this report suggests he was also known to federal authorities, raising questions about why and to what extent. How this figures into the investigation is TBD.
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The alleged shooter is expected to appear in a Colorado courtroom on Thursday. His brother added in an interview: "I never thought he would kill. I still can't believe it. I am really sad for the lives that he wasted, and I feel sorry for all those families. ... We lost a brother even if he is the killer."

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Clever or Creepy?

From free donuts to bonus pay, some companies offer incentives for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Smart policy or strange times?
(or a little bit of both)

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“Krispy Kreme is finding ways to be sweet as the U.S. continues to scale COVID-19 vaccinations.”

Krispy Kreme's latest incentive includes one free glazed doughnut to those who show their COVID-19 vaccination records. Those who qualify can receive one doughnut a day, no purchase necessary. Food for thought: the CDC says weight is a factor for incidence of severity with COVID-19; obesity may put people at triple the risk of hospitalization.
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“Generally, providing an incentive is a legal method for employers to encourage vaccination…”

The National Law Review writes that private businesses *can* legally require vaccinations (with exceptions for those who decline) – and advises incentives need exceptions, too. For example, Krispy Kreme is offering a free coffee and doughnut for anyone on Mondays during this campaign, even without a vaccination record.
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BIG PICTURE

  • Incentives for customers w/proof of the COVID-19 vaccine are rare *so far*: Krispy Kreme is the first major U.S. brand to offer something *to customers* on a national level.
  • Incentives for employees to receive the vaccine are on the rise: often in the form of bonus pay for stores like Kroger, Trader Joe’s, & Dollar General. Target’s includes bonus pay and $ for a ride to and from the vaccination site.
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Businesses are offering everything from gift cards, to discounts on purchases, and even "joints for jabs" - yes, you read that correctly: pre-rolled marijuana joints for those with proof of vaccination. Instead of quoting from the experts, we wanted to toss this question to YOU: Will these incentives be effective? What do you think of them?

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Current Events

PRICES AT THE PUMP

Since Thanksgiving, the price of gas has risen nationwide.

Where It’s Heading
& Why It Matters

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What To Know:

  • In the last month, the national gas price average rose by almost 40 cents.
  • As of the date of this publishing (March 18th) the national average is up 78 cents since Thanksgiving, according to AAA.
  • Gas prices have increased since Thanksgiving but have consistently risen for the last 10 weeks.
  • Gas prices vary depending on where you live, mostly because of the way different states tax gasoline sales.
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“As Americans turn optimistic on COVID-19 recovery, we’ve been seeing insatiable demand for gasoline, which continues to recover far faster than oil production.”

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, says large oil companies had to lay off employees and shutter some facilities in the last year due to the pandemic. Companies cannot adjust as quickly as consumers. Lower supply + higher demand = higher prices.
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Something to Consider:

Variables factoring into pricing:

  • Demand – The price for oil is increasing as the economy is heating up again.
  • Historic winter storm in Texas – Supply is down as demand is increasing; bad weather impacted 1/5 of all U.S. refineries.
  • Spring Switch – Refineries have to blend more efficient, less volatile, higher-priced fuel in spring/summer due to EPA regs.
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One More Thing:

“The heating up of what’s commonly understood as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen is just adding to the bullish oil price fever.”

Oil market analyst Louise Dickson, Rystad Energy. Tensions in the Middle East add to higher oil prices, which in turn impact prices of gasoline and other petroleum byproducts.
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Bottom Line: If you're paying more for gas, that means less money for other items. Higher gas prices, creeping up right as Americans are receiving stimulus checks, may slow the economic recovery. AAA says gas prices may reach $4 a gallon by this summer. GasBuddy.com helps you find the cheapest gas - check it out on our source page.

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Current Events

“Worst mass killing in the U.S. in almost two years.”

The latest on a Georgia shooting in the national spotlight.

The facts we know – the ones we don’t – and the context that matters.

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The Details:

Who: 8 people shot and killed (7 women, 1 man).  At least 6 of the victims were Asian women. 21-year-old Robert Long, a white man, has been arrested and is in custody.

What: 3 local massage parlors and spas.

Where: Atlanta area, Georgia.

When: Tuesday evening.

 

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“They’re very distraught, and they were very helpful in this apprehension.”

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds says Long's parents recognized his photo and aided in his arrest. Investigators report Long says he has a "sex addiction" and was targeting sites of temptation. A mass killing is defined as one resulting in the death of four or more people (not including the perpetrator), according to a database complied by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University tracking these crimes.
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Something To Consider:

  • Initial reports: Crime was racially motivated.
  • 24 hours after the attack investigators say it’s too early to confirm motive.
  • Broader context: The shooting comes amid reports of a wave of violent and verbal attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic. A new report details nearly 3,800 “hate incidents” in the last year against Asian Americans, the majority targeting women.
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“We’re not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people.”

Vice Pres. Kamala Harris, the nation's first VP of South Asian descent, joined Pres. Biden in condemning the shooting. Prior to Tuesday's shooting, Congress scheduled a hearing for tomorrow on the rise of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.
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What To Know:

  • Under federal law, a hate crime is one motivated in whole or in part by a bias against a disability, ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. The FBI’s 2020 hate crime report is not yet available.
  • Most states, including Georgia, have hate crime laws which add a penalty enhancement for crimes motivated by hate (what *qualifies* under that varies state to state).
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THIS IS A QUICKLY DEVELOPING STORY. Investigators say Long, who was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, planned to continue his crime spree in neighboring Florida to target “some type of porn industry.” The FBI is working alongside local law enforcement in the investigation.

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Current Events

Fight For Freedom

A military coup in Myanmar has grown more violent and deadly – as the resistance grows more resolute.

What’s Going On
Why It Matters

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Background: The Basics

  • Myanmar is also known as Burma.
  • After gaining independence from Britain in 1948, military rule has continued in varying degrees.
  • Site of the world’s longest civil war as military has battled ethnic minorities.
  • A move toward democracy with open elections was fleeting. After the pro-democracy party won overwhelmingly in the 2020 election, the military seized power, claiming election fraud.
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“The world is upside down in Myanmar. We must fight until we win. The regime must step down. There is no place for any dictator here in Myanmar.”

U Tin Tun, 46, to The New York Times. Locals have taken to the streets in nearly-constant protests since the Feb. 1 military coup. The military has met the opposition with violence; the United Nations estimates 149 protesters have been killed since the coup began. 50+ were killed this weekend – reportedly the deadliest exchange to date.
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“We have continued to consistently inquire about her health and safety, as well as the health and safety of all detained leaders and civil society actors …”

U.S. State Dept. spokesman Ned Price on Aung San Suu Kyi, the former civilian head of govt. Kyi was previously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work advocating for democracy in Myanmar. Two members of Kyi's National League for Democracy recently died in military custody; her condition and whereabouts are unknown.
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Why This Matters

Myanmar’s move toward democracy (even with a military role in govt.) was seen as a move toward the West and a free, open society – a “strategic victory for Washington in China’s backyard.” (The Wall Street Journal)

The military’s violent crackdown is getting worse – leading to more death and violence, *and* further alignment with China.

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The U.S. has issued sanctions on the regime, as well as an emergency order allowing Myanmar citizens to stay in the U.S. for up to 18 months instead of returning home to the violence. Critics say without a concerted effort by the international community, the sanctions will not pressure change.

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