Welcome to the Ripcurrent! This is the Current’s weekly review of the biggest national and international stories, ranging from topics like race and gender politics to the Syrian humanitarian crisis and climate change. Scroll on for a quick, bite-sized read that will catch you up with all the latest news!
The Second Surge
While most countries around the world have seen a 'flattening of the curve' during July, the U.S. has recorded record highs in many states, some even outdoing the worst days in March. For example, on July 15, Arizona recorded an all time high of 101 deaths and 3,285 cases. A majority of these states are in the South and Southwest where cases during the initial surge were relatively low, leading to overconfidence and premature reopenings. This raises questions about hasty decisions as hospitals reach capacity and testing and PPE availability wears thin again. This calamity has exposed ever weaker spots in our healthcare system which includes rampant underfunding, chaotic responses, and disproportionate minority and migrant deaths.
The Black Lives Matter Movement Continues At Home and Abroad
Black Lives Matter is a movement that has recently gained nationwide attention and support after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25. Founded in 2013 after the murder of Trayvon Martin, BLM stands against police brutality, systemic racism and white supremacy. The call for racial justice has spread to every single continent except Antarctica. A majority of protests occurred in America and Europe, with thousands of people turning out with signs, ready to march. Two of the largest protests were in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Other controversial protests involved mass gatherings outside the White House and the infliction of violence against those peaceful protesters. Protesters in Dublin, Ireland managed to socially distance, standing six feet apart and reducing group size.
Activists have also painted murals and other tributes to those who lost their lives to police brutality and racist violence. In many cities—including Cincinnati, New York City and Washington D.C.—“Black Lives Matter” has been painted across streets. This began in Washington D.C., whose mayor commissioned the mural, and other cities soon followed suit. These murals have attracted controversy because of differences in opinion. Opponents to the movement defaced the BLM mural in front of Trump Tower with red paint; similar instances occurred in Cincinnati. In Palo Alto, California, painters of a Black Lives Matter mural parked cars over the artwork until the city agreed to put a protective coating over it. Along with the murals which are popping up all over the country, the Black Lives Matter Movement is still rapidly growing and could become the largest movement in U.S. history.
Understanding LGBTQ+ Panic Defense
What is LGBTQ+ panic defense? It is a completely legal strategy which blames the victims’ identity, sexual orientation and gender expression for the offence committed against them. It is an excuse for the lack of self control and anger management of the assaulter, purely based on the victims identity. This strategy implies that the victims’ inclusion in the LGBTQ+ community gives a “reason“ for their assault. Assault range from minor harassment to something as serious as murder.
This tactic is currently under debate in many parts of the United States such as the District of Columbia and states across the country. It has also been completely banned in eleven states, most recently being Colorado. Notable times which included the LGBTQ+ panic defense are the cases of Daniel Spencer (2015), Jennifer Laude (2014), Scott Amedure (1995) etc. In these cases, sentences for the offender were changed based on the victims’ inclusion in the LGBTQ+ community.
USA’s Sanctions on Syria: What will they do?
The Caesar Act, which takes effect Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020, is a new set of measures that are said to target anyone who aids Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his government, or industry which operates in territory belonging to the government. The goal of this act is to diminish the bombardment of the civil war in Syria, and the human rights abuses. But will these sanctions do more harm than good?
Even before these measurements go into effect, they already have troubled the already struggling economy of Syria. Syrians and non-Syrians alike are affected by the act, although Russian and Iranian allies are especially targeted. The impact that this will have on Syrian economy will come in the following days, good or bad, but for now it is looking like these measurements will be a continuation of the distraught Syrian economy, and it is unknown whether it will complete its premeditated goal of the halting of the struggles that have come with the nine-year long Syrian civil war.
Reopening Schools: White House v. Educators
As Labor Day nears, teachers, administrators, and government officials are all feeling increased pressure from the White House to reopen schools in-person this August. The president argues that it will boost the economy by giving parents more freedom to work in addition to reinstating the many jobs that rely on functioning schools. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos voiced her approval and vehement support during several television appearances. However, health officials warn that reopening schools as the nation struggles with a second surge would endanger students, teachers, and parents. Increasing amounts of research show that younger children can also contract and spread serious cases, and older high school students have even died. The White House has rebutted these fears with a threat to cut off funding to schools that do not fully reopen this fall. As these events unfold, the question remains: will schools reopen?