August 10 Week in Review
Jake Conley | Seven Mile Satellite
Good morning Seven Mile Island, and welcome to the Week in Review where I’ll go over some of the biggest stories of the past week. In the last seven days, the Trump administration moved to shorten the Census Bureau’s window to finish its count, a pair of explosions sent Beirut into shambles and New York Gov. Cuomo made the call to allow the state’s millions of students to return to their classrooms.
Let’s talk about that.
1. Novavax shows promise in vaccine race
The Maryland-based company Novavax, which received a $1.6 billion contract from the U.S. government, has shown promising results in preliminary studies. In a first test, volunteers produced a significant amount of antibodies without dangerous side effects, and in a second, the vaccine strongly protected a set of monkeys from the virus.
Though the results are promising, scientists have said that any hope should be cautionary until Novavax gets through a large-scale trial comparing those who receive the vaccine to others who receive a placebo.
According to The New York Times, as of Sunday evening, U.S. deaths are at 162,252, and the number of cases has surpassed five million. Globally, cases have crossed 19.6 million, and there have been 727,357 deaths.
1. Hurricane Isaias batters eastern shore
After landing on the shores of North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane and subsequently downgrading to a tropical storm, Isaias quickly moved, pounding the Atlantic shore with rain, tornadoes and a loss of electricity for several million people across North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. As of the latest official count, according to The New York Times, four people have died as a direct result of the storm — two in North Carolina, one in Maryland and one in New York.
Though the storm proved itself to be no laughing matter, as noted by Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, “this storm got in, got out pretty quickly,” sparing much further damage that likely would’ve occurred had the storm remained inland for a longer period of time.
2. Census count ending early
Earlier this week, the Trump administration announced that it would be ending the 2020 census count four weeks early, making it much harder for the Census Bureau to reach an accurate count of “hard-to-reach residents,” according to The New York Times. In the middle of the pandemic, this decision makes the Bureau’s already difficult job even harder.
The Bureau has said its decision was necessitated by President Trump’s demand to see the census results before the end of the year — a very tall order for the Bureau.
The decision garnered immediate criticism, with four former Bureau directors submitting a joint statement urging the administration to reverse its decision. Additionally, according to The New York Times, a network of nonprofits and agencies who act as go-betweens between the Census Bureau and state governments issued a similar statement.
3. New York schools move to open
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced Friday that schools across the state can open for in-person instruction this fall semester — a stark contrast to most other school districts in the country, and all other major school districts. As the largest school district in the country, Gov. Cuomo’s announcement offers the chance for millions of students — many of them concentrated in New York City — to return to the classroom.
However, Gov. Cuomo’s decision doesn’t guarantee students of the state’s over 700 school districts will actually return to the classroom. The decision now lies with local school district leaders and politicians of whether they’ll choose to follow the liberal direction of Gov. Cuomo’s directive.
1. Explosion rocks Beirut
On Tuesday, a pair of massive explosions — the second larger than the first — in the port of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, destroyed a large section of the city and sent a shockwave throughout a country already in the midst of several economic and social crises. According to The New York Times, the explosions killed at least 154 people and injured over 5,000.
The current working theory behind the cause of Tuesday evening’s blast is a fire tearing through a port warehouse caused an initial, smaller explosion before igniting a 2,750-ton stockpile of Ammonium Nitrate, an intensely volatile chemical. The massive store of the chemical — which was originally taken from a Russian-owned ship that docked in Beirut’s port in November 2013 before being abandoned — was reported as having resided in the port for six years by the Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab.
In an episode of The New York Times’ podcast, “The Daily,” international correspondent Vivian Yee, who’s currently stationed in Beirut described a scene of intense chaos immediately following the blast, saying that the shockwave from the second explosion decimated buildings in the area, blowing out windows and flinging doors off their hinges. In addition, several Beirut hospitals were destroyed, leaving doctors to perform medical processes by flashlight in parking lots covered in rubble.
The explosions hit a country already neck-deep in political chaos and economic turmoil. Lebanon has become a temporary home for millions of refugees as a result of Syrian crisis, and the Lebanese government has long been roiled in instability and fiscal irresponsibility, making the blast all the more painful in the Middle Eastern country.
2. US keeps tabs on Saudi nuclear program
The U.S. has begun to keep detailed tabs on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program, which is currently in the process of developing nuclear fuel that could eventually be used to power weapons. According to The New York Times, in recent weeks, a classified report circulated that showed Chinese involvement in the Saudi nuclear program, prompting concern in the U.S. intelligence community that there may be a Chinese-Saudi initiative to develop raw uranium into a form that can be used to power nuclear weapons.
The official position of the intelligence community is that Saudi Arabia is still in the early stages of its program, but even still, the complex nature of Saudi Arabia’s political relations with Western governments gives the U.S. reason to keep an eye on the program, especially because Saudi Arabia has made its intention to keep up the Iranian government’s own nuclear program.
That’s all for last week. I’ll be back next Monday to cover some of the biggest stories of the coming week.
— Jake, Global News Editor