August 18 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, Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, Lebanon’s government resigned and Russia became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine.
Let’s talk about that.
1. Cases drop, numbers remain high and schools make plans for reopening
Though new cases per day have dropped since a peak in July, numbers have remained consistently high. As parts of the country have begun to open back up, new spikes have forced reclosures, especially in southern states, while many northern states — New York included — have seen success to contain and prevent new outbreaks.
Now halfway into August, the big question is school reopenings. Many of the nation’s largest school districts have either delayed reopenings or shifted to online formats, while many smaller districts have begun to attempt to reopen. However, several districts located in hotspots such as Georgia have already seen school-related outbreaks. Though much is unknown, it’s clear that this school year is a large-scale experiment.
According to The New York Times, as of Sunday evening, U.S. deaths are at 169,986, and the number of cases has surpassed 5.4 million. Globally, cases have crossed 21.7 million, and there have been 775,716 deaths.
1. Joe Biden chooses Kamala Harris as running mate
On Tuesday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. Harris is both the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated on the presidential ticket of a major political party.
As a prominent Democrat who represents diversity in the Democratic party, Harris was viewed as a safe pick for the vice presidential office in the run-up to Biden’s announcement. While Harris is in many ways a moderate, her progressive leanings have put her in a healthy position where liberal Democrats have never moved in force against her, as there’s hope she may be able to pull Biden in a more progressive policy direction.
While Harris is widely viewed as having a strong background in governance, her record as a California prosecutor could harm her reputation with the Left. Despite describing herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” her record of rarely prosecuting police officers involved in police killings could come back to bite her amid a national reckoning with American police violence.
2. E.P.A. removes major methane regulation
The Trump administration substantially weakened a major regulation on Methane production and release on Thursday, continuing a trend of reversal of Obama-era environmental policies that were — and still are, for those that remain — tough on big business, especially the oil and gas industries. The Methane rule was the last major Obama-era environmental policy left standing, and it, too, has now gone to the wayside.
The E.P.A. and Trump have billed the move as a removal of one of the last major restrictions on the power of the energy business — a goal that Trump has stood behind since the beginning of his presidency. However, the move has already been directly decried by supporters of environmental health, and even within the oil and gas industries, stances are divided.
Several major companies — including Exxon, Shell and BP, according to The New York Times — had urged the administration to keep the Methane regulation in place, as the companies have spent considerable money promoting natural gas as a healthier option for energy production than coal, and they’re now worried Methane leaks could damage the messaging they’ve been putting out. However, smaller, independent companies have widely commended the move, as the removal of the regulation has allowed the smaller companies to stay afloat amid one of the most catastrophic periods in U.S. economic history.
3. Trump announces possible bar of US citizens who may have COVID-19
President Trump recently announced the possibility of new immigration rules that would allow border officials to block the re-entry of American citizens into the country if the officials have reason to believe the citizens may have COVID-19.
This rule would be just one more in a long line of increasingly tight border regulations the Trump administration has passed in the name of keeping cross-border transmission of the coronavirus to a minimum. According to The New York Times, the new rule rests on authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep the country safe, which border officials can use to deny citizens re-entry on individual circumstances.
While The New York Times has reported that internal government documents about the policy have said it would only be used in the most extreme circumstances, the possibility still symbolizes an escalation of the increasingly tight border control enacted by the administration.
1. Lebanese government resigns following Beirut explosions
Following a pair of two explosions last week that destroyed a large part of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, the Lebanese prime minister and cabinet resigned on Monday, leaving the country in a place of widespread uncertainty.
The explosion — which killed over 150 people, wounded over 6,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands of Beirut residents — has left the country in shambles amid already existent political and economic crises that the explosions only exacerbated. Many people protesting the Lebanese government have said that the resignation wasn’t enough, as the protesters' demands call for the downfall of the country’s political elite class, which rose to power in the midst of a brutal 15-year war.
Hassan Diab, the now ex-prime minister, has tried to publicly identify himself with the populist side, saying his and his cabinet’s decision to step down is a symbol of their solidarity with the Lebanese citizens — a move that’s widely been declared as an empty public relations grab.
The resignations force Lebanon’s political parties to choose a new prime minister among a country whose structure is crumbling, leaving many uncertain of the Lebanese future.
2. Russia approves first COVID-19 vaccine
Amid a global race for the successful development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Russia has become the first country to approve one. However, according to The New York Times, the global medical community has said that Russia failed to complete late-stage clinical trials to verify safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, instead rushing to be the first major power with one.
Russia’s vaccine approval comes after accusations from the U.S., British and Canadian governments that Russia has been attempting to steal vaccine research and data to aid their own development processes. Additionally, Moscow was recently warned by the World Health Organization about the dangers of straying from the standard, regulated process of developing vaccines.
It’s yet to be seen how effective — or dangerous — the vaccine is or isn’t, as it hasn’t yet been distributed in mass. The Russian health minister, Mikhail Murashko, has announced that the country will begin a mass vaccine campaign in the fall, leaving the rest of the world to wait and see how the Russian experiment fares.
That’s all for last week, and with school starting back up, this marks the end of this summer's Week in Review newsletter. But be sure to keep up on all the biggest headlines during this incredible crucial time in global history, and I'll see you soon.
— Jake, Global News Editor