June 29 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 coronavirus continued to uproot life around the globe, and the U.S. saw its own share of big stories.
Let’s talk about that.
1. The pandemic shows no signs of slowing down
As the weeks pass, the coronavirus’ presence in many places worldwide — including the U.S. — continues to grow. In the U.S., daily case increases are at an all-time high. According to data collected by The New York Times, cases nationwide are over 2.5 million, and the death toll is between 125,000 and 126,000. Worldwide, cases have crossed 10 million, and the death toll is quickly approaching 500,000.
While several areas initially hit hard by the virus — chief among them: New York City — have seen declines in the past couple of weeks, other areas such as Arizona, Florida and Texas that began opening up after an initially small impact have now become epicenters, prompting state officials to regress opening plans and re-implement restrictions.
The race continues for development of a successful vaccine that will allow for a safer and fuller return to normalcy, and several prominent candidates have reached clinical trial phases. The current hope in the industry is for a vaccine to reach the market by the end of 2020.
A portion of the American population has expressed feelings of uneasiness about the quick moves through the stages of vaccine development — a process which often takes upward of 10 years — but U.S. health officials have said it’s important to understand that corners aren’t being cut, and instead, steps in the process are being run concurrently instead of consecutively, allowing for a quicker pace of development. This also represents a rare moment in public health in which doctors, virologists and epidemiologists from countries all over the world are freely collaborating in an attempt to curb a threat that’s become entirely global in its reach.
1. The Black Lives Matter movement shows no signs of slowing down
It’s been 34 days since the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis
police officer Derek Chauvin ignited a flame in Minneapolis that’s quickly spread throughout all 50 states, and the movement isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Protests continue across the country, especially concentrated in large cities and other urban centers. Statues have been torn down, buildings have been renamed, and calls for policy reform in policing have grown only louder as police units continue to use various methods of physical force to combat oftentimes peaceful protesters. Several police chiefs around the country have stepped down from leadership positions as demands for internal reform continue.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a progressive police reform bill only a day after blocking a bill from the Senate that House representatives said didn’t go far enough to make an actual impact in solving the issues that have been brought to light in recent weeks. However, the bill will almost certainly fail to pass in the Republican-held Senate.
2. No word yet on Biden’s running mate
In recent weeks, much attention around Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic party nominee, has been on one thing — who he’ll choose as his running mate.
Kamala Harris, senator from California, and Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, are probably the two most well-known names in the game after Amy Klobuchar recused herself from the race, saying Biden should choose a woman of color as his running mate. But, there are several other women also in the running, including Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, and Susan Rice, the former national security advisor and U.N. ambassador under the Obama administration.
So far, only one thing is certain — as he’s pledged, Biden’s running mate will be a woman. If he wins the general election, his vice president will be the first woman to serve in the position. The Democratic National Convention begins August 17, so Biden has a little under two months to make his choice.
3. D.C. statehood approved by House in historic vote
In a landmark hearing on Friday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of Washington, D.C., statehood in a 232-180 split down on party lines, with all Republicans and one Democrat opposing the measure. While the measure is almost certainly going to be quashed in the Republican-held Senate, the vote in favor by the House marks a step up in a long-existing call for statehood for the majority democratic capital city of the nation.
The debate comes in the midst of an ongoing feud between President Trump and D.C.’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, over the use of force against protesters — just one piece in the national picture of large-scale movements against police brutality and racial discrimination toward the Black community.
4. Tensions fly around U.S. border policies in the wake of COVID-19
Following a report that several migrant children held in the U.S.’ three family detention centers have contracted the coronavirus, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has ordered the release of children who have been held for longer than 20 days from the centers by July 17. The New York Times reports that while other orders to release migrant children from detention centers have demanded “prompt” release, Judge Gee’s order is the first to set a firm timeframe within which the release must be completed.
Additionally, on Monday, President Trump temporarily suspended work visas for thousands of foreign workers seeking to work in the U.S. through the end of 2020. Beyond restricting the entrance of workers themselves, the order also blocks the ability of global-scale companies to bring employees to the U.S. — a consequence that’s garnered significant backlash from the business world. U.S. officials have said the suspension won’t impede current visa holders or seasonal agricultural workers, but it will still have a large-scale effect on companies seeking to hire foreign workers.
The Administration has said the suspension on work visas is designed to protect American workers and their ability to find work amid a large-scale crisis of the U.S. job market — appearing to be another piece of the Administration’s efforts to curb the influence of outside markets on American business.
1. E.U. bars travelers from countries still battling coronavirus
E.U. leadership announced Tuesday that the U.S. was an unlikely candidate for the list of outside countries from which travelers would be allowed to enter the bloc. The E.U. has said that countries not on the approved list have been excluded because of their failure to effectively control the spread of the coronavirus, with the U.S. included.
Though the move may be intelligent from a public health standpoint — as the bloc has largely curbed the pandemic within its borders — the move to block the entrance of foreigners from a host of outside countries could have major impacts on the economies of member countries.
The decisions out of Brussels around entrance by outside countries is complicated by the process of opening internal borders between member countries, which are in normal times akin to borders between U.S. states and facilitate free trade that contributes heavily to the economies of member countries. Though E.U. priority appears to be on fully opening internal borders, a blockade on entrance by outside countries will also heavily affect the tourism industry, which some member countries like Greece lean on heavily, and other global markets.
2. Reports of offense come amid calls for peace in Afghanistan
The New York Times revealed Friday that U.S. intelligence concluded that a Russian military unit offered bounties to militants linked to the Taliban for the killing of coalition forces in Afghanistan, including American military personnel. President Trump and the National Security Council were briefed on the situation in March, the Times reported, but no decisions about how to respond have yet been made.
Both the Kremlin and Taliban leadership deny the accusations of conspiracy against coalition forces. If the findings in the report by U.S. intelligence are true, they would illustrate a major offensive step-up by Russia in its multi-faceted operation against the U.S. in the Middle East.
The antagonistic move by Russia would also come amid a tense situation in Afghanistan surrounding peace talks between the Taliban and both the U.S. and Afghan governments. While various deals have been formed and broken, Afghanistan hangs in the middle as a wartorn country attempting to determine what it would look like in the absence of Taliban control and U.S. military presence.
3. Saudi Arabia majorly restricts Hajj
The Saudi Arabian government announced Monday that the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage would be restricted to only those within the kingdom this year to prevent unnecessary spread of the coronavirus, sending pangs of grief through the international Muslim community.
The Hajj is a major component of the Muslim faith, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca — the birthplace of Muhammad and the holiest site in the Islamic faith — at least once is one of the five pillars, or core tenets, of Islam. Many Muslims save up for years to be able to afford the pilgrimage, and for those outside Saudia Arabia who were planning on making the trip this year, any plans will now have to be put on hold.
However, the move hasn’t received much criticism, instead seeming to garner understanding about the health risks of allowing thousands of Muslims to come to Mecca at the same time.
The Hajj is also a major generator of revenue for Saudi Arabia, and the move to shut out foreigners could have a large-scale economic impact as revenue that’s expected to come in year to year halts.
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