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Sunday Briefing — April 25, 2021

Trigger Warning: This article covers sensitive topics including police brutality, Islamophobia, and white nationalism. Reader discretion is advised.


Bennington County Cases Worst in State

Bennington County is still listed as “Very High Risk” for the spread of COVID-19, with the most cases per capita compared to surrounding counties, and the highest infection rate statewide. The past week has seen a slight decrease in total cases, as county vaccination rates near 60%. 


J&J Vaccination Offers Hope and Fear for Reaching Herd Immunity

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) announced Friday that Vermonters will be able to get the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID vaccine as soon as April 27, citing the federal vaccine advisory council’s vote to resume J&J vaccinations. Marketed as a one-dose alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, J&J has faced an uphill PR and logistical challenge with reports of blood clots and poor distribution. State and national officials hope that with this new clearance, the J&J vaccine will serve as a bridge to underserved populations including people experiencing houselessness.

Vermont educators and child advocates this week celebrated the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture)’s decision to extend pandemic-era waivers to subsidize all public school meals for Vermont’s roughly 80,000 public school students until 2022. Supporters of this move say that this will allow the Vermont legislature more time to decide on universal school meals until the waivers expire.


Relief, Frustration, and Trepidation After Chauvin’s Guilty Verdict

On Tuesday (April 20), former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of the following three charges for the murder of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The trial and resulting verdict of Chauvin has been closely anticipated and watched since last June when the heavily circulated footage of Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes brought outrage and renewed calls for police reform. The conviction, while mostly lauded as a victory for police accountability by celebrities and politicians alike, has found critics both on the right and on the left politically. 

On the right, Fox personality Tucker Carlson (facing his share of criticism for purporting the white nationalist “replacement” conspiracy), decried the decision as trial-by-mob and outright suggesting that the jury had been swayed out of fear for retaliation from the Black Lives Matter movement (an unsubstantiated, baseless claim). On the left, critics (including New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez) have argued that the verdict alone is not enough to secure justice for George Floyd’s family and that more comprehensive policies must be enacted to support meaningful police accountability (or, as some on the left argue, abolition).

Hours before the final verdict was read, states away in Ohio, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer Nicholas Reardon. The Columbus Police Department has released body camera footage showing Reardon firing four shots at Ms. Bryant within minutes of arriving on the scene. This incident, along with the recent killings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 21-year-old Daunte Wright (just 10 miles from the Derek Chauvin trial) at the hands of police have sparked new outrage and calls for investigation and reform in policing practices.

International News

COVID and Coups Rampage Across Eastern European and South Asian countries  

A surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has shaken the world’s largest democratic nation: as of today (April 25), India has set daily records for hospitalizations for the fourth day in a row. Prime Minister Narendra Modi (a member of the Indian BJP political party) has called the second wave “the storm that has shaken the nation,” as cases climb to nearly 17 million and deaths to almost 200,000. Despite administering the third most vaccinations in the world (behind China and the U.S. in numbers), India has a lower per capita vaccination rate than other large countries.  Human rights advocates have cautioned against many top Indian officials blaming Indian Muslims for the spread of Coronavirus (perhaps sensing a backlash, the national health ministry released a statement condemning such rhetoric).

To the east of India,  Myanmar (the nation is also known as Burma) has seen a second full month of protests in response to the military’s coup back in February. Despite the minimal and limited reaction from the global community, peaceful demonstrations have progressed to “paramilitary operations” in response to the brutal crackdown by military leaders that has claimed the lives of 600 Burmese citizens (mostly younger residents and university students). The country’s deposed civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work to democratize Myanmar, has been charged by a secret court for “violating official state secrets”(CNN). The country has been without wireless internet since April 1, when the coup leaders directed the Ministry of Transportation and Communication to cut service through the telecom companies. The United Nations released a statement condemning “civilian deaths” by the military junta, falling short of imposing the council’s suggested sanctions. Critics note the strong relationship between Myanmar and China as a cause for the weakened language.

To the north, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has ended his 24-day long hunger strike at the recommendation of his doctors. The charismatic 44-year-old politician and lawyer has been Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic on the homefront in recent years and rose to international prominence following his return home to and subsequent arrest in Moscow on January 17

Lauren Yanase is a first-year student with a passion for strong coffee and environmental education. When not playing in the woods, Lauren enjoys studying the interplay between history and storytelling through a multi-medium platform. Her award-winning documentary, Shikata Ga Nai: An Inconvenient American, has been shown at cultural and historical events, awareness seminars, and in classrooms across the West Coast.

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