July 20 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, Trump weakened a major environmental law, hackers hijacked the Twitter accounts of many major public figures and Civil Rights giant John Lewis passed at 80.
Let’s talk about that.
1. US continues to set records for coronavirus spread rate
The U.S. is now the only high-income country in the world where the virus is still spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, in the face of quickly climbing case numbers and deaths, the Trump Administration is resisting a large-scale expenditure of $25 billion in funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, $10 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $15 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As I reported last week, areas where clusters have popped up — in states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida — have seen regressions in openings, and much of the country is starting to follow suit, especially with an increasingly growing worry of a second wave that the medical community is predicting will arrive with the fall.
According to The New York Times, as of Sunday afternoon, U.S. deaths are at 139,961, and the number of cases crossed 3.7 million. Globally, cases have crossed 14.2 million, and there have been 602,292 deaths.
1. Civil rights icon John Lewis dies
On Friday, lifelong racial equality advocate and Georgia Representative John Lewis died from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In his 80 years of life, Lewis became one of the leading proponents of civil rights.
Lewis grew up with the Civil Rights Movement and was right alongside it in its boldest moments. Among his accomplishments, Lewis was a member of the original Freedom Riders, and he served as a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a leading activist group.
On March 7, 1965 — Bloody Sunday — Lewis’ lifelong career of activism reached its searing peak. Along with 600 other protesters, the civil rights giant led a peaceful march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, where troopers severely beat him, leaving Lewis with a cracked skull. The bridge is still named after Pettus, an Alabama senator who also served as a notable leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
During his tenure as a Georgia Representative, Lewis was a powerful force for racial justice on the Congressional floor. And in his last days, Lewis unequivocally supported the Black Lives Matter movement, always crusading for justice and equality for all until the very end.
2. Trump weakens environmental protection mainstay policy
Since its passing 50 years ago, the National Environmental Policy Act has served as a foundation of environmental protection policy. However, Wednesday, the Trump Administration widely weakened the law by imposing tight restrictions on public review for federal infrastructure projects, speeding up the process of obtaining permission for the construction of pipelines, power plants and freeways.
The move is a major hit to climate change activists, including many members of the Democratic Party who have taken increasingly strong pro-environmental stances in response to actions by the Administration to dismantle environmental laws and regulations. The Trump Administration to date has rolled back or is working to roll back a total of 100 regulations, according to The New York Times.
If Joe Biden wins the presidential election, it’s expected that the Democratic party will attempt to reinstate many of the policies the Trump Administration has dismantled.
3. Hackers take control of several Twitter accounts belonging to notable public figures
On Wednesday, Twitter took a turn for the worst as several prominent individuals including Kanye West, Elon Musk and Joe Biden seemingly sent out tweets asking their followers to send money via Bitcoin, an encrypted online currency, with the promise of sending back double the amount given. The hackers ended up receiving over $100,000 in Bitcoin payments, according to The New York Times.
While Twitter quickly removed many of the messages, some of the accounts continued to post, suggesting that Twitter had indeed lost control of its network. As a brunt fix, Twitter administrators locked down verified accounts, preventing them from tweeting until the problem could be solved. As the investigation progressed, Twitter announced that the accounts of several of its personnel with access to high level control systems were compromised by a group of hackers.
Though the incident was quickly resolved, it has since raised questions about the security of the social media platform and symbolizes one of the biggest social media security breaches to have occurred in a long time — and it’s not the first time Twitter itself as fallen prey to an attack by hackers.
1. Poland reelects far right leader for second term
Monday, the votes were counted, and incumbent Polish President Andrzej Duda narrowly won reelection for the presidency over Rafal Trzaskowski, liberal mayor of Warsaw. The election was the closest Poland has seen since the fall of communist rule in 1989, according to The New York Times.
Duda is commonly known as a heavily conservative leader, often moving into far right categories with his policies. From the beginning of his tenure, Duda’s been in fierce contest with the European Union, with leaders of the bloc often quick to criticize the Polish government as moving further and further away from the democratic ideal the European Union contends to stand for. President Trump, for one, publicly complimented Duda days before the election, saying the Polish leader was doing a “terrific job,” according to The New York Times.
Duda’s harshest criticisms often surround his illiberal position on LGBTQ rights. His policies are often labeled as protections for “traditional families” — a strong argument in a largely Catholic country, especially outside of city centers. Critics have often commented that many of Duda’s policies are moving Poland backward and away from a liberal democratic model. But, in a country with a good amount of conservative support, his policies have support, even if there are significant pockets of dissent.
2. Russia attempts to steal coronavirus vaccine research
Thursday, the American, British and Canadian governments all announced that Russian hackers have been attempting to steal information on the development of a coronavirus vaccine. The U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA) has reported that it believes the same Russian hacking group that operates in tandem with the Kremlin — often referred to as “Cozy Bear” — that worked to infiltrate the 2016 Democratic Party is responsible for these new attacks on the medical community.
Though the U.S. government announced that the attacks caused little damage to global health, the move by Russia signifies an escalation of subterfuge that’s been happening under the surface for the past few years, often showing its head through proxy wars with the U.S. in the Middle East — notably in Syria and Afghanistan.
With recent reports of the Russian government paying bounties to mercenary fighters in Afghanistan for killing coalition soldiers — including U.S. military personnel — this sort of increasing aggression suggests a growing tension between the U.S. and Russia that will likely continue to play a major role in the global political sphere.
3. US-China relations continue to deteriorate
In a recent step-up of confrontation between the two countries, the U.S. has imposed strict sanctions on China in retaliation for policies out of Beijing over Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region that have widely been criticized as anti-democratic and — in some cases — harmful to human rights. Additionally, the Trump Administration recently limited China’s access to American technology and challenged Beijing’s claim to the South China Sea.
These rising tensions have brought comparisons to the months leading up the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia. Though neither the U.S. or China are in any position to declare war on the other, the coming months will most likely dictate the direction of long-term U.S.-China relations and how the two countries function around each other on the global stage.
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