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The toll of the Chauvin trial, voting rights fight hits the airwaves and NASA launches Mars chopper

Luke Bryan won the top prize, but female artists stole the show at the country music awards.
Image: Demonstrators kneel for a moment of silence during a march from the Governor's Residence the weekend before closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial in St. Paul, Minn.
Demonstrators kneel for a moment of silence during a march from the Governor's Residence ahead of closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial in St. Paul, Minn., on Sunday. Nicholas Pfosi / Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Closing arguments are expected today in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a high-powered political coalition makes a major ad buy to fight restrictive voting bills and a Wright Brothers moment for NASA.

Here's what we're watching this Monday morning.

'It physically hurts': Black men are in mourning for George Floyd — and themselves

Illustration of Black men in a living room watching the Derek Chauvin trial on TV and comforting one another.
Jamiel Law / for NBC News

After three weeks of intense witness testimony and searing video in the Derek Chauvin trial, the jury is expected to hear closing arguments today before heading into sequestered deliberations.

The city of Minneapolis is on high alert ahead of the verdict, with windows boarded up and National Guard members already out on the street.

Regardless of the eventual verdict, for many Black men who have watched the court case, it has been an incredibly emotional journey.

Some found it difficult to watch. Some could not watch at all.

"It hurts me. It physically hurts. I can barely watch it," said Bob White, a 56-year-old engineer in Atlanta. "It brings home something that’s very disheartening in the broader context: that this trial is about white supremacy versus the humanity of Black men. And as a Black man, that’s a lot."

As the trial enters its final phase, a "lackluster performance" by Chauvin's defense team has left legal experts debating its outcome.

Many said they expected more defense witnesses, but acknowledged that the publicity surrounding the case may have left many unwilling to testify. Those potential witness fears may have been justified: A pig's head was thrown at the former home of one Chauvin defense witness.

As the trial concludes, watch NBC News, MSNBC and for complete coverage.

Monday's top stories

Protesters gather to protest HB 531, which would place tougher restrictions on voting in Georgia, in Atlanta on March 4, 2021.
Dustin Chambers / Reuters file

Exclusive: NAACP, teachers union part of group buying $1M ad spot in federal voting rights bill fight

"We represent millions of people who are directly impacted by what happens in Washington, and we just want to make sure those voices aren't lost in some of the wonky discussion," said an adviser for MoveOn, one of the major political organizations taking part in the ad buy. By Jane C. Timm | Read more

Luke Bryan wins top prize, but female acts own the night at country music awards

Though female country stars didn’t compete for the night’s top prize – Luke Bryan was named entertainer of the year – they owned Sunday’s ACM Awards. Read more | Watch video

Fauci says he doesn't believe health officials will 'just cancel' Johnson & Johnson vaccine

"My estimate is that we will continue to use it in some form," the nation's top health adviser told "Meet the Press." By Ben Kamisar | Read more

OPINION: The GOP is still Trump's party. The guest lists at his Florida properties prove it.

The GOP's fealty to the former president doesn't just inflate his ego, of course. It also pads his bottom line. By Zach Everson | Read more

Mars helicopter flight test promises Wright Brothers moment for NASA

By Reuters | Read more

NASA will attempt to send a miniature helicopter buzzing over the surface of Mars this morning in what would be the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Read more

BETTER: Pollster Frank Luntz reveals struggle to maintain weight loss: 'I can't be this miserable'

The political pollster's public confession about the challenges of maintaining his weight loss hit a nerve — and prompted lots of encouragement and advice. By A. Pawlowski | Read more

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Weighted hula hoops are the latest exercise trend on social media — experts weigh in on how to use one safely.

One cool thing

In Iceland, they’re trying a new cutting-edge experiment called direct air capture to help save the environment.

Billionaires like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have made substantial investments in carbon capture experiments like this, but the high cost remains the biggest drawback.

Watch this video to get an inside look at the experimental technology.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

Thanks to Patrick Smith for filling in for me last week so I could enjoy a little time off. If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — send me an email at:

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Thanks, Petra