10 things you need to know today: April 15, 2017

North Korea parades military might for founder's birthday, Tax Day protests demand Trump's tax returns, and more

Military parade in Pyongyang
(Image credit: Ed Jones/Getty Images)

1. North Korea parades military might for founder's birthday

North Korea on Saturday celebrated the birthday of the regime's founding president, Kim Il Sung, with a massive parade in Pyongyang flaunting its intercontinental and submarine-based ballistic missiles, along with tanks, planes, and other equipment. The annual show of force appears to be scheduled in lieu of a rumored nuclear weapons test; unnamed senior U.S. officials reportedly told NBC News the U.S. is prepared to respond to such a test with a preemptive attack, a story "multiple senior defense officials" later categorically denied to Fox News. Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, considered North Korea's second-in-command, accused President Trump of "creating a war situation" while speaking at Saturday's parade, pledging Pyongyang "will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack."

The Associated Press Reuters

2. Tax Day protests demand Trump's tax returns

Tax Day protests demanding the release of President Trump's personal tax returns are scheduled Saturday in cities nationwide, including Washington, D.C., and West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Though the White House and Trump himself maintain Americans "don't care at all" about seeing the returns, polling shows three in four Americans believe the documents should be released for the sake of transparency. A White House petition demanding the returns accumulated more than 1 million signatures. The president is not legally required to release his tax returns, though a consistent tradition of doing so dates to President Nixon. Critics suggest the returns — which Trump says, contra the IRS, cannot be released while they are under audit — could reveal illegal conflicts of interest.

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3. White House to keep visitor logs private

The Trump White House announced Friday it will not make its visitor logs public, a decision breaking with former President Obama's release of six million visitor logs, a partial record excluding visitors the Obama White House vaguely deemed "personal." The Trump administration is using a 2013 federal court ruling to categorize the visitor logs as "presidential records" and thus shield them from the Freedom of Information Act. White House communications director Michael Dubke cited personal security as the administration's rationale, saying the change was made in consideration of "the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually."


4. MOAB strike death toll rises to 94, Afghan official says

The death toll of the United States' deployment of its largest non-nuclear weapon Thursday in Afghanistan has risen to 94 militants, an Afghan official said Saturday, growing the casualty count from a previous estimate of 36. Nicknamed the "mother of all bombs," the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon was used for the first time, targeting tunnels in the Nangarhar Province. Though no civilian deaths have been reported, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai slammed the MOAB strike, calling it an "inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons."

The Associated Press The New York Times

5. Arkansas judge blocks planned execution spree

An Arkansas judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from carrying out a planned eight executions before the end of April. One of the eight was previously stayed by a federal judge. The executions were scheduled to begin Monday and would have been the state's first in 12 years. Judge Wendell Griffen's ruling specifically prohibits the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, a drug used for lethal injection which the manufacturer says was purchased by Arkansas under false pretenses. The state allegedly said it wanted the drug for medical use, not capital punishment.

Fox News NPR

6. Trump administration drops North Carolina 'bathroom bill' lawsuit

The Trump administration filed a motion Friday to dismiss a federal lawsuit against North Carolina over the state's so-called "bathroom bill," which mandated individuals use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex regardless of their gender identity. The suit was originally brought by the Obama administration, which claimed the law discriminated against LGBT individuals. Last month, North Carolina lawmakers struck a deal to replace the law with a measure that removes the provision requiring people to use restrooms based on their biological sex while prohibiting local governments from implementing new nondiscrimination ordinances until December 2020. Separate litigation by civil rights groups, including the ACLU, is still pending.


7. 16 killed in Sri Lankan garbage mound fire and collapse

At least 16 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Saturday when a giant mound of garbage suddenly collapsed after catching on fire. Four people were rescued from the dump and search efforts are still underway. More than 600 people's homes were damaged or ruined by the collapse, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised the government will remove garbage from the area to protect local homes and eliminate health concerns caused by the rotting refuse.

The Associated Press Reuters

8. Former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez acquitted in murder trial

A jury on Friday acquitted former NFL player Aaron Hernandez of double first-degree murders prosecutors say he committed while drunk in 2012. Once a star tight end for the New England Patriots, Hernandez was found guilty of unlawful possession of a gun, for which he was sentenced to four to five years in prison on top of the life sentence without the possibility of parole he is currently serving for a separate murder conviction. "What won this case was a dearth of evidence that connected Hernandez to these shootings," said his attorney.

Reuters ESPN

9. Kendrick Lamar releases highly anticipated album Damn

Rapper Kendrick Lamar released his fourth studio album late Thursday night, a 14-track compilation titled Damn. The album follows 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly and last year's untitled unmastered, a collection of unreleased demos. Like Lamar's previous offerings, Damn features heavily political lyrics: The song "DNA" samples a rant from Fox News' Geraldo Rivera criticizing Lamar, while "Lust" chronicles the aftermath of last year's presidential election. Some sharp-eyed observers speculate Lamar will release another album Sunday, based on clues in Damn's lyrics and on his social media accounts.

Esquire The Verge

10. Disney releases first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Disney and Lucasfilm released the first official trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Friday, at the conclusion of a Star Wars Celebration panel in Orlando, Florida. The clip opens with a panting Rey, who appears to be on the same island where Luke Skywalker was seen in The Force Awakens. Also visible are an injured Finn and a menacing Kylo Ren, interspersed with sprawling landscape shots, quite a few explosions, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from the late Carrie Fisher. The Last Jedi is slated for release Dec. 15, 2017.

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of TheWeek.com. She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.