July 27 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, protesters clashed with federal agents in Portland, mass uprisings continued in Russia and China launched a mission to Mars.
Let’s talk about that.
1. The fight to stop the coronavirus continues to stutter-step
Re-openings and Re-closings have become the never-ending cycle of 2020.
Across the country, as I reported last week, a pattern has emerged, clearer every day. The states that caught the brunt of the first wave are reopening cautiously and seeing case numbers holding or dropping, while the states that were relatively unaffected in March and April are now facing massive spikes as citizens continue to venture out with few restrictions in place by city or state governments.
Florida has continued to stand out as the hottest state in the country, with increasingly growing daily case numbers. However, in a sharp turn from last week, case numbers in Arizona have begun to drop, and Texas’ numbers have held even for the last few days. However, death rates in Arizona have continued to rise.
Nationally, cases and deaths have continued to steadily rise with no sign of turning a corner. With over 60,000 cases reported per day in the last week, the country appears to be on track to reach a level Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, described at a Senate hearing: 100,000 cases per day.
According to The New York Times, as of Sunday afternoon, U.S. deaths are at 146,314, and the number of cases crossed 4.1 million. Globally, cases have crossed 16 million, and there have been 644,925 deaths.
1. Tensions between citizens and government continue to rise in Portland
It’s been over 50 days since protests began in Portland, Oregon, and the city shows no signs of slowing down.
Portland has burst into national attention as of late due to the deployment of federal agents — many from the Department of Homeland Security — by the Trump administration to enforce the president’s “law and order” vision he often laudes in late-night tweets. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler himself — who has largely condemned the federal response in Portland — found himself on the receiving end of tear gas deployed against a group of protesters he had joined Wednesday night.
Reports from the city about the increased use of tear gas and physical violence by the federal agents have incensed many across the country and prompted large-scale outcries, but the federal agents continue to use such methods at the behest of DHS leadership and the White House.
Additionally, several reports have emerged from the city of officers who refuse to identify themselves grabbing protesters off the streets and taking them away in unmarked vehicles — something many have called a dangerous step toward the denial of constitutional rights afforded to American citizens.
The movement continues to grow even amid increasing federal crackdowns. Over the weekend, crowds of protesters topped 1,000 people.
2. House votes for Confederate statues removal in Capitol
Wednesday, a 305-113 vote passed in the House of Representatives to remove statues of Confederate leaders and other figures associated with white supremacy.
The bipartisan vote in favor of removing the statue comes amid a national reckoning with the history of white supremacy in the U.S., especially below the Mason-Dixon line. From the Northeast to the deep South, local politicians have grappled with communities crying out for the removal of Confederate statues as a part of widespread protests against racial inequality. In some cases, protesters have taken it upon themselves to topple statues, taking actions their local leaders failed to do.
The legislation that passed Wednesday mandates the removal of all statues of “individuals who voluntarily served” in the Confederacy. According to The New York Times, the legislation specifically names five statues, including one of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court justice who delivered the majority opinion in the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case, which decided that slaves didn’t count as American citizens and couldn’t sue in federal courts.
Amid a state of the nation where political division is at an all-time high, the bipartisan vote — with 72 Republicans voting in the affirmatory — represents a collectivist movement to acknowledge some of the ugliness built into American history.
3. U.S pledges two pharmaceutical companies nearly $2 billion for vaccine development
As the coronavirus continues to race across the continent, one word continues to come up: vaccine. Wednesday, the White House announced a $1.95 billion contract with Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical company, and BioNTech, a German biotechnology firm, for a development of a vaccine for the coronavirus by the end of 2020. The contract mandates that 100 million doses be delivered to the U.S. government by December.
Though the Trump Administration has poured money into several different vaccine development projects, this contract is the largest investment so far. Though the contract mandates an immediate 100 million doses, the White House also holds the rights to an additional 500 million doses. Before the vaccine is distributed, though, it must pass emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Though several companies have been accepting funding throughout their entire development process, Pfizer has held off until now, when it has entered medical trials. By doing so, the company said, it was able to avoid drawn out contractual negotiations that would’ve slowed down the vaccine’s development — a key factor in making a December deadline possible.
1. Popular unrest in Russia represents unprecedented pushback against Kremlin
After the arrest of Sergei Furgal, the popular mayor of Khabarovsk, Russia, was arrested and taken to Moscow several weeks ago, Russian citizens have been protesting in the thousands against what they see as blatant corruption and oppression by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
The arrest followed Furgal’s victory in the mayoral election over a political ally of Putin, prompting suggestions from Furgal’s supporters that the arrest was retributive in response to Furgal’s victory. The move by the Kremlin also comes shortly after Putin won a referendum described by The New York Times as “tightly scripted” that rewrote the Russian constitution to allow Putin to remain in power until 2036 — a referendum that many say was plagued by fraud and corruption.
The popular unrest signals a rare moment in Russia, as thousands pour into the streets to protest against a government often tyrannical in its dealings with people who dissent against national leadership. By the time 2036 rolls around, Putin will have held the Russian presidency for 24 years. For many of the Russian people, it’s time for him to go.
2. China joins the Mars race
On Thursday, China’s space program took a new step, launching a spacecraft that will — if all goes well — become the first Mars landing by the country. So far, only the U.S. and the Soviet Union have succeeded in piloting machinery to Mars.
The mission, titled Tianwen-1 — and also referred to as “Questions for Heaven” — is a major bound forward for the Chinese space program, which has stayed neck and neck with the U.S.’ own National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) program. Keeping the competition alive, NASA’s own “Perseverance” rover is slated to begin its journey to Mars this week. And on top of the Chinese and U.S. programs, the United Arab Emirates launched its own spacecraft, the Hope orbiter, on Monday. If all three missions are successful, the three will reach Mars in February.
It’s an exciting time for space exploration, as these missions come right on the heels of the success of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aerospace company. The company sent two NASA astronauts — Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — to space as a part of the ANASIS-II mission, the first manned space deployment by a private company.
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