5 things to know for June 30: Coronavirus, SCOTUS, White House, China, social media


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1. Coronavirus


The Supreme Court has blocked a controversial Louisiana law that critics said would have effectively banned abortion in the state. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberal justices in the 5-4 decision, marking yet another time he has subverted an expected outcome from the conservative-majority court. The ruling is a big win for abortion rights advocates who claimed the law was not medically necessary and was simply a veiled attempt to restrict access to the procedure. The law would have barred doctors from performing abortions unless they had admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (the Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law four years ago). However, even those celebrating the ruling are concerned that the wording of a footnote by Roberts could leave the door open for states to try their luck at similar laws, thereby keeping the controversial issue front and center for the foreseeable future. Justice Clarence Thomas in his dissent to yesterday’s ruling wrote: “Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled.” In his rebuttal, Thomas said the landmark Roe v. Wade case that paved the way for legalized abortion in the US is “without a shred of support” from the Constitution.

3. White House

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States. This is according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations, in a report by CNN’s Carl Bernstein. We’re learning this at the same time a US official with direct knowledge of the latest information tells CNN that the intelligence that assessed there was an effort by a Russian military intelligence unit to pay the Taliban to kill US soldiers was included in one of President Trump’s daily briefings on intelligence matters sometime in the spring.

4. China

Beijing has reportedly passed that wide-reaching national security law for Hong Kong that critics say could erode the autonomous city’s civil and political freedoms. The law criminalizes activities like secession, subversion against the central Chinese government, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces. Human rights groups and global leaders worry the law could be used to target activists, journalists, political dissidents and basically anyone who opposes Beijing’s rule. The law is expected to fuel new rashes of protests in Hong Kong, which has already weathered months of unrest due to resistance over China’s tightening grip on the city. The US has also announced it will end exports of US-origin defense equipment to Hong Kong, citing the need to protect American security. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically mentioned the new Hong Kong law in announcing the decision.

5. Social media

More social media companies are making moves to curb the spread of hate speech and misinformation. YouTube has banned white supremacist Richard Spencer and former KKK leader David Duke a full year after the site first announced it would disallow supremacist content on its platform. Reddit has expanded its hate policy and banned about 2,000 forums (known as subreddits) that promote hate based on “identity or vulnerability.” This includes r/The_Donald, a massively popular subreddit for Trump supporters that was an incubator for bigoted memes, conspiracy theories and trolling campaigns. Trump-related accounts are getting the boot elsewhere as well. Twitch, the video game streaming platform, suspended an account belonging to the Trump campaign, saying it violated its policies on hate. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, said the campaign account recently rebroadcast a video of Trump’s 2016 campaign rally in which he disparaged Mexicans.


India has banned TikTok as tensions escalate with China

India says the app poses a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.”

Several MLB players are opting out of the upcoming season for health reasons

The boys of summer are making some tough choices.

Beavers are gnawing away at the Arctic permafrost, and that’s bad for the environment

Beavers, don’t betray us like this.

AMC is delaying US theater openings to wait for delayed summer blockbuster releases

Costco won’t sell its popular half-sheet cakes anymore



That’s how much a five-day course of the Covid-19 drug remdesivir will cost through US private insurance companies, according to the drug’s manufacturer Gilead Sciences. The cost comes out to about $520 a vial, with a full course consisting of six vials.



Creating a fish out of thin air

Watch a fish appear from layer upon layer of delicately painted resin. The talent! (Click here to view.)
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