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10 things you need to know today: April 22, 2021

1.

The Justice Department is launching a civil investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to determine whether it “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday. The announcement came a day after a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of George Floyd, a Black man suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. “Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said. The inquiry is separate from a previously announced federal criminal investigation into whether Chauvin violated Floyd’s civil rights. [The New York Times]

2.

India on Thursday confirmed a record 314,835 new COVID-19 cases nationwide over the previous 24 hours, the highest one-day case count any country has seen during the coronavirus pandemic. Another 2,104 people died from the disease, bringing India’s official total to 184,657 deaths, the health ministry said. India’s brutal second wave of COVID-19, fueled by new variants and loosened mitigation measures, has led to a shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen for COVID-19 patients. The previous one-day record of 300,669 cases was set in the U.S. on Jan. 8. While cases and deaths have declined in the U.S. and other wealthy countries, cases have been hitting new highs globally. India accounts for 40 percent of the new infections. [BBC News, The New York Times]

3.

Ohio state officials are investigating the fatal police shooting of a 16-year-old Black girl shown in body-camera video appearing to swing at two people with a knife. The girl, identified by relatives and Franklin County Children Services as Ma’Khia Bryant, was killed hours after a Minneapolis jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, and Bryant’s death in Columbus, Ohio, sparked street protests there. Bryant’s family said she was the one who called 911, requesting protection from other girls threatening to hurt her. “She was a good kid, she was loving,” Hazel Bryant, who identified herself as Ma’Khia’s aunt, told reporters. “She didn’t deserve to die like a dog on the street.” [Reuters, NPR]

4.

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Vanita Gupta to the No. 3 position in President Biden’s Justice Department. The vote was 51-49. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was the only Republican to break with the GOP in the party-line vote. Without Murkowski’s support, Gupta still would have been confirmed, with Vice President Kamala Harris backing her to break a 50-50 tie. Gupta will serve as the associated attorney general overseeing the department’s work on civil litigation and law enforcement matters, which likely will include the civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday. Gupta served as head of the DOJ civil rights division under former President Barack Obama. Republicans opposed her, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) saying she had a record of “extreme partisan advocacy.” [The Hill]

5.

Pfizer has confirmed the first cases of counterfeit versions of its coronavirus vaccine, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The fake doses of the vaccine Pfizer developed with BioNTech were found in Mexico and Poland. Pfizer tested the vials after authorities seized them in separate investigations. About 80 people paid roughly $1,000 per dose at a Mexican clinic for phony vaccine that turned out to be distilled water. The fake doses in Poland appeared to be anti-wrinkle cream. “Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,” said Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s world head of security. “We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.” [The Wall Street Journal]

6.

President Biden on Wednesday urged employers to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden said businesses with fewer than 500 employees will be able to get reimbursed for the cost of giving workers paid leave to get vaccinated. These businesses will be eligible for refundable tax credits under the American Rescue Plan. “No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated,” Biden said. The push to help workers at businesses and nonprofits get vaccinated comes as the U.S. hits Biden’s goal of 200 million vaccination shots before the end of April, and the challenge shifts from the nation’s supply of vaccine to demand, as some people resist getting the shots. [The Washington Post, CNBC]

7.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Russia Wednesday in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is on a prison hunger strike and in grave condition. The unauthorized rallies fell short of the 500,000 people Navalny’s team had hoped would participate. Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov called the turnout “unprecedented,” estimating the crowd in Moscow at 60,000. The Interior ministry put the number at 6,000. Security forces arrested more than 1,700 people. The protests came on the day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the nation. Putin did not mention Navalny, but he warned that anyone who “organizes any provocations that threaten our core security will regret this like they’ve never regretted anything before.” He also warned foreign powers not to cross any “red lines” in opposing Russia. [CNN, Reuters]

8.

The Biden administration plans to drop a legal fight between the federal government and California over the state’s motor-vehicle emissions standards, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people briefed on the plans. The announcement could come as early as Friday, the day after President Biden convenes a two-day virtual summit on addressing climate change. The Trump administration moved to relax Obama administration emissions standards, saying rolling back the regulations would boost auto sales and lower consumer costs. California has long imposed emissions standards exceeding federal targets, but the Trump administration ruled that California didn’t have authority to do that, sparking a legal challenge. The Biden administration is expected to say Friday that it will not defend the policy in court. [The Wall Street Journal]

9.

A significant majority of Americans expressed approval of the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd, according to a USA Today/Ipsos snap poll taken after the jury’s decision was announced. Most respondents had watched at least some coverage of the trial, and 71 percent agreed that Chauvin was guilty. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter for pinning Floyd to the ground and kneeling on the unarmed Black man’s neck for nine minutes. Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. “In the verdict, we find a rare moment of bipartisan consensus that George Floyd’s killing was a crime and, therefore, consequences are justified,” said Cliff Young, president at Ipsos. [USA Today]

10.

Gen. Arnold Bunch, the commander of the Air Force Material Command, announced Wednesday that Maj. Gen. William Cooley of the AFMC will be court-martialed on a sexual assault charge. Cooley will be the first Air Force general to face such a trial. Bunch said “this was not a decision made lightly,” but he believes it was the right call after reviewing “all of the evidence from the investigation” and a preliminary hearing. Cooley, the former head of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances, kissing and touching a female victim who was not a service member or Defense Department employee, according to Military.com. [Military.com]

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