July 6 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, Mississippi announced plans to change its flag, Tehran issued an arrest warrant for President Trump and Kanye announced his entrance into the presidential race.
Let’s talk about that.
1. Coronavirus continues to rock the US
In the U.S., case numbers have soared to new heights as the parts of the country have begun to reopen, prompting public worry by national epidemiologists and virologists.
As many states in the central U.S., largely unaffected by the initial shock that hit many coastal states, moved to fully reopen in the last two weeks, cases have soared, leading several state governors to roll back reopening plans. This includes Gov. Phil Murphy, who postponed plans to resume indoor dining “indefinitely.”
Across the U.S., a pattern is emerging. States which were initially hit hard and that locked down immediately are recovering and moving forward as planned with reopenings, while states that were missed by the first shock and, as such, didn’t impose as stringent restrictions are now facing skyrocketing cases, forcing them to enter or reenter states of lockdown, even as other parts of the country move to reopen.
According to The New York Times, as of Sunday afternoon, U.S. deaths are at 129,830, and the number of cases crossed 2.8 million. In the global sphere, cases have crossed 11.3 million, and there have been 530,959 deaths.
1. A third liberal ruling from the Supreme Court, this time on an abortion law
Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a proposed Louisiana law that would’ve required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, cutting the amount of eligible abortion centers in the state to one.
The 5-4 vote represents a major setback for the conservative party, which has made clear its intent to eventually overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that affirmed women’s constitutional right to an abortion. This decision is particularly sensitive for conservatives, however, because of the source of the fifth vote — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Monday’s decision marks the third time in the last three weeks that Chief Justice Roberts has voted with the 4-member liberal minority on the bench — on workplace discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, on a protection program for DACA recipients and now on an abortion law.
While Chief Justice Roberts was the fifth vote in blocking the law, he didn’t join the majority opinion. He instead said his decision was entirely based on a legal precedent set in the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case when a similar law was struck down — a case in which Chief Justice Roberts actually voted in the minority, supporting the law.
2. Mississippi relinquishes Confederate symbol flag
Last Sunday, Mississippi lawmakers approved a redesign of the state flag — a bastion of southern Confederate culture — which has featured the Confederate battle emblem for more than 100 years. The move by lawmakers is a landmark in the current era of Black Lives Matter movement, representing a state government bending to progressive demands to remove Confederate symbols from the U.S. political and social spheres.
However, the move didn’t come without concessions from progressives. While the Confederate emblem will not be featured in the new flag — still yet to be designed — the law to change the design mandates that the phrase “In God we trust,” signaling a softening of the lines of separation of church and state.
The commission established to draw up the new design has been instructed to present a design by September so that it can be put up on the November ballot for a vote.
3. Kanye West is running for president
After 9 albums, 255 award wins and several years in the public eye as both a musician and — increasingly — a conservative political figure, Kanye West has announced his bid for the presidency.
Though Saturday night’s announcement doesn’t come as a total surprise — as West has discussed his interest in running before — it throws a wrench into what is becoming one of the most contentious presidential elections in several years. West, who’s been vocal about his support for President Trump — often sporting “Make America Great Again” hats in public and meeting with the President several times — appears to have decided that supporting conservative politics and the Republican party as a public advocate isn’t enough.
While it’s unlikely that West will garner enough votes to challenge either Trump or Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, a public debate between the trio would be a spectacle to make the history books, to say the least.
1. Iran issues arrest warrant for Trump
Last Monday, the Iranian government issued an arrest warrant for President Trump and 35 others it says were involved in the January death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
The New York Times reports that Ali al-Qasimehr, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, has said that the arrest warrants are for individuals who had a hand in “directing the assassination” of Soleimani, who was killed by a drone strike while outside a Baghdad airport. The prosecutor also announced plans to pursue prosecution of Trump after his presidential term ends, according to The New York Times.
In its announcement, Tehran requested international assistance in making the arrests, but the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has announced that it won’t step in.
2. EU blocks entrance of US citizens
The European Union reopened its borders to foreigners on Wednesday, but only from 15 countries, and the U.S. didn’t make the cut.
Previously, the E.U. had announced that it would begin to allow foreign travelers into the bloc, but it would likely restrict entrance privileges to only countries who have been successful in beating back the coronavirus. Now, the list has been finalized, with countries such as Australia, Canada and Japan allowed in. Admittance of individuals arriving from China is contingent on reciprocity from the Chinese government.
The U.S. sits squarely among the list of countries not yet admitted, which also includes Russia, among others. Exempted from the restrictions are EU citizens and their family members, long-term EU residents and their family members, and other travelers with “essential functions,” according to the European Council.
The decision by Brussels to continue the restriction of influx from several major world powers further complicates an already complex web of foreign economic and social policy that the pandemic has put a major wrench in.
3. China passes major Hong Kong oversight law
Late Tuesday night, Beijing quietly released a national security law granting the Communist Party the ability to impose harsh prison sentences — including maximum life sentences — on Hong Kong citizens found guilty of political crimes such as “seperatism,” “terrorism” and “subversion,” according to The Washington Post.
The law represents a major move by the CCP against Hong Kong’s semiataunomy, established in the 1997 agreement between Britain and China. The original agreement allowed Hong Kong to maintain autonomy over much of its day-to-day affairs, while China remained in charge of its foreign relations and defense.
Following the pro-democracy movement that has inspired widespread protests against the CCP by Hong Kong citizens, the new law from Beijing is one more step toward establishing CCP leader Xi Jinping’s authoritarian control over Hong Kong. In recent months, Beijing has cracked down hard on protesters, using violence on numerous occasions, and now with the new law that brings extreme measures against anti-government protesters, Hong Kong is watching its freedom of speech get ripped away by Beijing.
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