What Happened Today: June 23, 2022
Senate set for historic gun bill; Supreme Court strikes New York’s gun restrictions; The Killing of Kensington: Life and Death in America's opioid capital
The Big Story
U.S. officials are expected to announce Thursday another $450 million in military aid for Ukraine, an additional tranche of money and weapons on top of the $40 billion security package that President Biden signed into law last month. The new aid package comes as the momentum in the war has started to turn decisively and favor the Russians. It will include several rocket systems, adding to the four High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems that the United States has already put on the ground in Ukraine. Further entangling the United States in the proxy war with Russia, the rocket systems will satisfy some of the extensive requests by Ukrainian officials to combat the Russian rocket offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region. There, the Ukrainian military has expressed concern that Russian troops are encircling its forces in a pincer move, threatening the Ukrainians with what could become their biggest single loss of territory and manpower since Russians took over the southern port city of Mariupol in May. Despite the surprising resilience of Ukraine’s defense thus far, it’s likely that the fighting in the Donbas region will soon reach what Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich described this week on Ukrainian television as its “fearsome climax,” adding that “the threat of a tactical Russian victory is there, but they haven’t done it yet.”
While Ukraine awaits the arrival of the U.S. arms, leaders from the European Union are meeting today and expected to grant Ukraine candidate status into the union. Largely a symbolic milestone, candidacy to join the other 27 nations of the bloc is the first step in what could take years if not a decade before Ukraine completes the arduous process of negotiations and domestic reforms that are the prerequisite for E.U. membership. With each nation in the bloc required to endorse a candidate, membership is far from guaranteed. Turkey’s candidacy has been ongoing for the past 21 years. Still, leaders of France, Germany, and Romania have backed Ukraine’s entry into the European Union; even the Netherlands public, which voted in a 2016 referendum to reject Ukraine’s membership, has become a stalwart supporter of Ukraine since the Russian invasion. The candidacy will no doubt anger Russian officials, who have pointed to Ukraine’s entry to the Western blocs of NATO and the European Union as a blatant provocation from a border country with a large ethnic Russian population.
In the Back Pages: The Killing of Kensington: Life and Death in America's opioid capital
→ Clearing the hurdle of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, 15 Republicans signed on with Senate Democrats for what is likely to be the penultimate vote on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first significant package of gun laws passed by lawmakers in three decades. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he could bring the bill to the floor for a final vote as early as the end of the day, where it would then proceed quickly through the House before receiving the promised signature from President Biden. The gun bill will bulk up background checks for new gun buyers, allocate funds for red-flag laws that allow courts to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, and close the so-called boyfriend loophole, barring domestic abusers from obtaining firearms. The new bill comes as the Supreme Court ruled today against the New York State law that limits the possession of a firearm outside of one’s home. With the liberal minority of the court dissenting in the 6-3 ruling, the majority found that the New York law contradicted the Second Amendment and infringed on “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion.
→ North Carolina’s Democratic leadership is under fire for considering several resolutions at its June 18 party convention that Jewish leaders in the state call anti-Israel and “potentially dangerous.” Of the seven foreign-policy resolutions the party considered, three were focused on Israel, decrying the country’s annexation policies in the occupied territories, calling for an investigation into the killing of the Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and recommending that May 15 be marked as a day to commemorate the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” the term Palestinians use for Israel’s founding. In a statement issued the day before the North Carolina’s Democratic Party met, the state’s Jewish Clergy Association called on party leaders to reject the resolutions. “Sadly, such party stances often lead to the demonization of Jews and Israelis, ignore Israel’s genuine security concerns, play upon age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes, and include language which implies that Israel should cease to exist as a sovereign state,” the statement read. “Furthermore, given the troubling rise in direct acts of anti-semitism against many North Carolina synagogues, we consider these resolutions to be potentially dangerous.”
→ NUMBER OF THE DAY: 800,000
The estimated number of American inmates who are all but forced to work for less than minimum wage, according to a recently published report by Global Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and the American Civil Liberties Union. Incarcerated workers who want to opt out of forced labor often do so at the risk of receiving solitary confinement or the loss of family visits. Seven states—Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina—allow this practice and pay pennies on the dollar for what that labor would cost if they were not exploiting carceral institutions. Texas Correctional Industries, which oversees and profits from much of this labor, sold roughly $77 million worth of prison-made goods and services in 2019 to several Texas government agencies, including “public schools, public and private institutions of higher education, public hospitals, and political subdivisions.”
→ For the first time since 1984, health officials in England are documenting a small but growing outbreak of polio, a virus that afflicts children under 5. Polio was all but eradicated after the invention of a vaccine in 1953 but has returned as parents have kept their kids home, missing their standard round of vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The initial decrease in vaccination may be associated with COVID-19 messaging about staying home, overwhelming the messaging that the routine immunisation programme was to remain operating as usual,” according to a statement from Public Health England last summer. Now the number of children vaccinated against diseases such as measles, hepatitis B, diphtheria, and polio has dropped in England considerably. Prior to this outbreak, England had been declared “Polio free” by the World Health Organization since 2003, and it is believed that this polio outbreak was started by a recently vaccinated traveler from Afghanistan or Pakistan, where polio remains endemic.
→ MAP OF THE DAY:
With much of the United States experiencing unprecedented levels of drought, the United States Drought Monitor has created an interactive map that details the spread of dangerous drought conditions over time. Click below to watch the red—which indicates “extreme drought” or "exceptional drought”—slowly creep across the western continent over the past 12 weeks.
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→ In an effort to further clamp down on speech in China, the country’s Cyberspace Administration of China published a potential policy change mandating that all comments on all social media sites—including comments on videos, news posts, or in group chats or forums—would need to be reviewed by the platforms’ censors prior to being published. Such a policy would cripple users’ abilities to comment or post on social media platforms, functionally marking the end of free speech online in China. This dramatic move from the Chinese authorities comes as commenters have commonly criticized the government in the chat or comment sections on platforms like Weibo, countering or critiquing the government’s statements or narratives. Weibo will now need to hire more censors to review all of those comments prior to their publication or otherwise risk being fined by the government. As it is, Chinese companies already employ countless censors. At ByteDance, for instance, which is the parent company of TikTok, censors make up a considerable percentage of the company’s employees.
→ With last year’s number of deaths in the United States from drug overdoses standing at a record high of 108,000, many suffering from addictions found a lifeline in telemedicine services that could prescribe life-saving medicine quickly and privately. Those lifelines, however, are poised to be yanked away as pandemic-era emergency rules that allow practitioners to meet with patients and prescribe them drugs via telehealth services are set to expire. “Telehealth for opioid-use disorder has been very effective in connecting people to care,” Yngvild Olsen, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA, told Politico. “Not only helping get people into care, but also helping them stay there.” Particularly crucial was practitioners’ ability to prescribe buprenorphine, which helps those dealing with opioid or heroin addiction to ease off their dependence. Telehealth also allows for people out of state to access such services, increasing the options for patients. The Drug Enforcement Agency, however, sees that telehealth has the potential to increase the risk of overprescription of medications like buprenorphine, which is an opioid.
→ The chronically understaffed and overcrowded lines in European airports are about to get a little more uncomfortable for travelers. With peak holiday season in full swing, union members of Heathrow’s British Airways are promising to walk off the job after the airline made a salary offer that the union’s leader said “doesn’t cut the mustard.” Heathrow passengers have already endured a rough weekend after a baggage backup led to hundreds of unreturned bags dumped in a pile outside the terminal. Elsewhere in Europe, more strikes are promised by airline unions that say their workers are being pushed to work too many hours and take on extra responsibilities without adequate compensation. Both pilots and flight crews have promised to walk off the job at the airport in Brussels, joining a similar strike effort planned for this weekend by Ryanair employees in Belgium.
→ QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I can’t read any more of this Rich Critical Prose,
he growled, broke wind, and scratched himself & left
that fragrant area.”
—The American poet John Berryman from “Dream Song 170,” one of nearly 400 “sonnet-like poems whose wrenched syntax, scrambled diction, extraordinary leaps of language and tone, and wild mixture of high lyricism and low comedy plumbed the extreme reaches of a human soul and psyche,” according to Poets.org.
→ France’s most famous tech incubator, The Family, which is estimated to have made 70 million Euros off of 23 million Euros in investments, is now suffering through an ugly and very public domestic squabble. Two of the startup’s co-founders have accused the third, Oussama Ammar, of embezzling millions of dollars meant for investment to build a house in Normandy. This comes after all three founders were publicly accused by investors of failing to disclose the status of their investments and pay back returns. Ammar, who has largely ignored the demands from his former partners for money or documents, built a new website where he announced his next ventures:
Moments of crisis are moments of questioning, of introspection. And finally, after having suffered a bit, I think that this excommunication from the French Tech and startup world is for the best. I have to say that since my former partners and I have been tearing each other apart in public, I haven’t felt much like being present online. This has allowed me to take a real break, travel, read and learn new things. In particular to dive into the world of Web3, to discover Dubai, and to spend some quality time with my friends.
Additional reporting and writing provided by The Scroll’s associate editor, David Sugarman
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The Killing of Kensington: Life and Death in America's opioid capital
There’s “No Price to Pay” for Crime in Philadelphia, Says Mayor and Victim’s Families
Another week in Philadelphia and another major real estate deal—with developers announcing yesterday a $22 million sale for business space and 73 residential units in the Spring Garden neighborhood. Recently redone with the kind of luxury finishes that have become standard on new development projects, the building offers high-end accommodations and nearby amenities like newly opened microbreweries and the city’s peaceful elevated rail park.
Days earlier, eight stops north of Spring Garden on the Broad Street subway line, a young woman named Alyssa Morales was attacked by a group of men in Hunting Park. Beaten and set on fire, she was discovered by others who came to the park assuming there was a trash fire. Because Morales was unable to speak her name at the ICU, it took two days before the staff learned who she was while they attended to the second- and third-degree burns that cover more than half her body.
Before and since the attack on Morales, a cruel, menacing wave of violence has washed over Philadelphia. Blocks from that same park, Loi Nguyen was out on his Monday morning walk, as had been the 76-year-old’s routine for years, when a man shot him dead with a bullet to the skull and ran off, leaving Nguyen’s family bereft and mystified about the cause of the violence. Days before, a man named Malcom White was arrested on charges of one rape and three separate assaults against women, including two attacks in the city’s bustling South Passyunk neighborhood. White had brutally beaten three women walking together, leaving one with a bloody nose, before coming upon another woman, Noelle Liquori, who was waiting on the sidewalk as her boyfriend finished his afternoon shift at work nearby. “The first hit came from behind. He hit me in the ear, put me down, and punched me in the face a couple of times,” Liquori said. “The last thing I remember, I was being dragged on my back. He had my feet, dragging me down the pavement. I kept kicking him and screaming to get someone’s attention.”
Two dozen people traveled to the capital city of Harrisburg on Monday because they, too, are asking for someone to help them. They were at the capitol building to bring attention to an effort to impeach Larry Krasner, the district attorney in Philadelphia serving his second term. Taking turns at the podium in the rotunda, family members of those who’ve been killed in the city described feeling that the crime in Philadelphia is ceaseless, with no one able to stop it. Since the start of this year, 830 people have been injured in shootings in Philadelphia, with another 200 killed in gun homicides.
“At what point do we hold those responsible to accountability? How many sons and daughters do we have to lose?” said Nakisha Billa, who’s son was murdered last spring while buying clothes for an upcoming job interview. Billa stood beside other parents who held up photos of their children, portraits from graduation days and school sports. The men who killed her son had several previous convictions between them. “The lawlessness that is going on in Philadelphia is beyond control.”
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