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  • Writer's pictureMahsa Forghani

Weekly News Blast | April 14 - 21

police outside Trump's trial in New York City keeping protestors at bay

On April 19, a protestor set himself on fire outside of Trump’s hush money trial in New York in an attempt to make a political statement (SWinxy/Wikimedia Commons)

Trump’s First Criminal Trial Begins with a Tragic Protest

Former president Donald Trump is currently facing his first criminal trial. Trump has been accused of falsifying business records and paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2006. Daniels alleged that Trump cheated on his wife, Melania Trump, with her and directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay her $130,000 in hush money. While hush money payments are not illegal, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is trying Trump for falsely claiming the $130,000 he reimbursed Cohen with was “a legal expense.” 

The trial will be overseen by Judge Juan Merchan, and a final jury of 12 was chosen on April 18. However, Trump and his legal team have made numerous efforts to halt or stall the trial. On April 19, the team motioned to put the trial on pause to relocate out of Manhattan, but the motion was denied. Many have questioned whether the trial will impact Trump’s 2024 presidential bid, especially as Trump is required to be present in court for the duration of the trial. It is unclear when the trial will end, but experts estimate it will take a minimum of six weeks. 

On April 19, a protester set himself on fire outside of the Trump trial. Max Azzarello, 37, was in a park across from the location of the Trump trial holding what many described as “conspiracy pamphlets” containing various political conspiracy theories. Witnesses claimed that he threw the pamphlets into the air before lighting himself on fire. He was rushed to the Cornell Burn Center immediately afterward, but he succumbed to his injuries and passed away on April 20. Later, it was found that Azzarello published a manifesto of his act of protest on Substack minutes before his immolation. 

Iran and Israel Clash in a Series of Aerial Assaults

Decades of animosity between Iran and Israel came to a head on April 14 when Iran launched an aerial assault of drones and missiles on Israel. Iran claims that this was a necessary response after Israel allegedly attacked an Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, on April 1, resulting in two Iranian casualties. According to Israel, 99 percent of the Iranian attack was intercepted by Israeli forces in airspace. However, a major air base was “lightly hit,” and Israel immediately voiced their plan to fight back. 

Tensions between Iran and Israel have long existed due to ideological and religious differences, but these tensions worsened in October 2023 with the start of the Israel-Hamas War. Iran notably denies Israel’s right to exist and has been a major backer of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. In fact, one of the two persons killed in the initial Israeli attack on the consulate in Damascus, Mohammad Reza Sahedi, was a senior commander who led an Iranian initiative to arm Hezbollah. To many, the resulting onslaught of militaristic attacks between the two nations was no surprise.

To make good on their promises of fighting back, Israel attacked an army base in Isfahan, Iran, on April 19. Very little is known about this attack, but it has been speculated that Israel launched either drones or missiles which were shot down by air defense systems. Biden has responded by imposing sanctions on Iran while urging its ally, Israel, to cease military aggression. 

The Long-Awaited 2024 WNBA Draft Sparks Dialogue

The long-awaited 2024 WNBA draft occurred on April 15. This year has been the first time women’s basketball overtook men’s basketball in viewership, and fans attribute it to the talent and aura of some key players, including the first pick of the draft, Caitlin Clark. Clark was momentously drafted by the Indiana Fever, with her colleagues Cameron Brinks and Kamilla Cardoso being drafted to the LA Sparks and the Chicago Sky, respectively. 

Despite the increase in viewership, fans of the WNBA have taken to expressing their concerns about the fair treatment of the players after the draft. After the contracts of players like Caitlin Clark’s were revealed, many have commented that the payment of the athletes is not nearly what it should be. Clark’s starting salary is reportedly set to be $76,000, which fans state does not compensate her for the exposure she brings to the sport. On the other hand, critics of this rhetoric make the argument that since the WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA, lower player salaries are to be expected. 


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