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India Bans Tik Tok

June 30 - July 3, 2020 The easiest way to stay informed.

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Unemployment Rate Falls: The unemployment rate fell to 11.4% in June, surpassing predictions for the second month in a row. Employers added a record 4.8 million jobs in June. (read full report) Supreme Court on Religious Schools: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that excluding religious schools from receiving public student aid is unconstitutional, violating the free exercise of religion clause in the first amendment. The ruling marks a big win for supporters of school choice, who believe that school vouchers and other federal aid should be distributed to the school of a student’s choice, whether it be private or public. Public school unions, however, have said that it will degrade public education by diverting federal funds. The ruling is expected to affect at least 38 states which previously had constitutional provisions prohibiting tax-payer funds from going to parochial schools. Supreme Court on Abortion: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against a Louisiana law that if untouched, could have closed two of the three abortion clinics in the state. The law, in short, required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The ruling shocked some pro-life advocates who expected a different result after the appointment of President Trump’s two justices: Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote in the majority opinion that while he didn’t believe the law was unconstitutional, he argued it should be struck down in order to maintain precedent, the Supreme Court having struck down a similar Texas law in 2016. The End of CHOP: Seattle police have begun clearing the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone following multiple shootings in the area, as well as a lawsuit brought forward by residents and business owners against the city. 23 people have been arrested thus far. Mayor Durkin, who has been supportive of the occupied protest zone, had a change of tone on Wednesday, saying, “The deteriorating conditions and repeated gun violence required us to immediately address public safety concerns.”  Coronavirus Remedies Remain Unclear: Even after months of coronavirus data from around the world, remedies on treatment have become, in some cases, less clear. For example, ventilators, which at the beginning were considered the core need in treating patients,have not been nearly as effective as once thought, as most patients using them still die. In addition, physicians across the country are split as to the exact type of respiratory illness that Covid-19 causes, leading to different treatment strategies across the country and even within hospitals themselves.

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Arrests Begin in Hong Kong Under New Beijing Security Law

Context A British colony until 1997, Hong Kong is considered a semi-autonomous region of China. Under its own “Basic Law,” Hong Kong has greater political, judicial, and economic freedom than mainland China. In late May, the Chinese government proposed a new national security law (covering acts such as secession, treason, and subversion) intended to quell the anti-Beijing democracy protests that have taken place in Hong Kong since mid-2019. It makes acts defined as subversive against the Chinese Communist Party punishable by law. Shortly after Beijing’s decision, the U.S. officially removed Hong Kong’s autonomous designation What happened this week? On Tuesday (June 30), the full text of the new Beijing national security law was released and the law was officially approved. The law makes it a crime to provide practical support for what Beijing deems to be terrorist activities. The most severe penalties include lifetime imprisonment, and China reserves the right to override local Hong Kong authorities when disagreements arise. On Wednesday (July 1), police swiftly began making arrests as protesters gathered for large rallies. Almost 400 arrests were made on Wednesday alone, with at least 10 of them being classified under the new national security law, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Many outspoken individuals and businesses who have supported the democracy protests have started to censor what they say, with some business owners removing signs in their stores. International Support for Hong Kong Two pieces of bipartisan legislation, one in the Senate and one in the House, have been proposed that would grant special refugee status to groups of Hong Kongers that want to come to the U.S. The UK is offering Hong Kongers who currently hold an overseas British passport, as well as those who are eligible for one (in total roughly 3.5 million people), an expedited path to citizenship. Under the program, those eligible would be able to live and work in the UK for up to five years, and then have the chance to apply for citizenship after a sixth year.

India Bans Dozens of Chinese Social Media Apps

Context Late in the night of June 15, high in the Himalayan Mountains (in a historically disputed border territory between India and China), a clash broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers. The skirmish, which was fought using clubs, rocks, and batons, ultimately left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead (China did not report its casualty figures).  Relations between India and China have grown increasingly tense in recent years as China’s power and influence continue to expand. What happened this week? India announced on Monday that it will ban dozens of Chinese mobile applications, including popular apps such as TikTok and WeChat. TikTok has over 120 million users in India alone. In its announcement, India’s government said the apps were harmful to the “sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.” The Ministry of Information Technology in India said that the ban was in response to numerous complaints that accused such apps of "stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorized manner." Frustration and anger towards China has been elevated in India following the June 15 skirmish in the Himalayan Mountains. Many Indian citizens have been insisting that the government take retaliatory steps.  The move comes as more countries are treating Chinese technology companies with hesitation and skepticism. For example, the U.S. Justice Department is currently investigating whether TikTok poses a national security risk for the U.S. Multiple U.S. government agencies have already prohibited its employees from using the app.

U.S. Intelligence: Russia Offered the Taliban Bounties to Kill U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Context The U.S. has maintained some level of troop presence in Afghanistan since 2001 when the War in Afghanistan began. The Taliban is a military, political and U.S.-listed terrorist organization that has had varying levels of influence in Afghanistan over the past two decades. Russia has long been seen as friendly to the Taliban. Since 2018, the U.S. and the Taliban have been engaged in peace talks. Last Friday, June 26, the New York Times reported that Russia had offered bounties to Taliban members to kill U.S. soldiers and allied coalition troops. The report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies and certain lawmakers were aware of reports about the bounties in 2019. What happened this week? After the report from the Times, pressure began to mount as to how much President Trump knew about the bounty program and why he didn’t take retaliatory action. On Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted that he or VP Mike Pence had not been briefed "about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians.”  According to two officials speaking under a condition of anonymity, President Trump was given the information in late February/early March in a written brief. The president regularly receives a written brief with a summary of national security issues. However, the White House has said President Trump was not briefed about the matter in-person. In mid-March, the bounty program was discussed at the White House as part of an interagency national security meeting. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NSA differed from the CIA and other intelligence agencies in their assessment of certain aspects of the bounty program. What to look for moving forward It still remains unclear whether any of the twenty U.S. troops who were killed in Afghanistan in 2019 were connected to the Russian bounties. Select Democrat and Republican lawmakers were briefed at the White House this week regarding the unfolding situation. More information will likely emerge in the coming weeks.

Covid-19: Cases in the U.S. on the Rise

In the United States There are over 2,739,879 cases and 128,740 deaths in the U.S., up from 2,422,310 cases and 124,416 deaths a week ago today. Over 55,000 new cases were reported on Thursday alone, easily surpassing the previous high for a single-day increase. A number of states have taken steps to halt and or backtrack with parts of their reopening plans. Here are maps and charts showing hotspots across the U.S., as well as in which states the number of new cases are increasing, decreasing or staying the same. Below are the weekly changes in the absolute number of new cases and deaths in the United States:

In the World

  • Number of Cases: +10,889,434, up from 9,609,844 a week ago. 

  • Number of Deaths: +521,669, up from 489,318 a week ago.

Below are the weekly changes in the absolute number of new cases and deaths globally: 

Here is the John Hopkins Center map showing the number of cases and deaths by country. EU Opens Borders to 14 Countries, Remain Closed to American Travelers On Monday, the European Union announced its borders are now open for foreign travel from 14 countries in which case rates have remained low. Notably, however, the U.S., Brazil and Russia were left off the list due to elevated Covid-19 caseloads. The following countries are experiencing some of the greatest increases in cases:

  • U.S.

  • Brazil

  • Russia

  • India

  • South Africa

  • Mexico

  • Pakistan


🌎 The Vatican is the Smallest Country in the World

With 820 citizens and .20 miles of land, Vatican city, in Rome, is the smallest country in the world. (video tour)

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