Let's break down what happened in the news this week.
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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, which will transport two NASA astronauts to the international space station, is set for tomorrow afternoon (Sat, 3:22 PM EST; live stream here). It will mark the first space flight with humans aboard since 2011, and more notably, the first time a private commercial rocket is used for the task (SpaceX is Elon Musk’s private company). The mission stems from a public-private cooperative initiated by the U.S. government to increase space exploration. The launch was initially scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed due to bad weather.
Twitter added a fact-check link to one of President Trump’s tweets on Tuesday. The fact-check link stems from an effort by Twitter to counter what it deems as misleading or false information. It marks the first time it has been used on one of Trump’s tweets.
Social Media Executive Order: President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that aims to make it simpler for federal regulators to hold social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter liable if they curb users’ speech. The order comes just days after Twitter began marking President Trump's tweets with fact-check links. EU Recovery Fund: On Wednesday the European Union proposed a $825B coronavirus economic recovery fund for its 27 member nations. 75% of the fund would consist of grants, with the remaining 25% being loans. All member nations must agree to the package for it to become law. Unemployment: 2.1 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week (down from 2.4 million the week before) bringing the running total to roughly 41 million since mid-March (some 26% of the entire labor force). However, the number of Americans actually receiving unemployment benefits declined last week, suggesting a number of employees are beginning to return to work.
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George Floyd Killed By Police Officer In Minneapolis, Riots Follow
What happened? On Monday, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died while a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground for at least 8-minutes. Three other police officers assisted with the arrest and were present while Floyd was pushed to the ground and died. While on the ground, Floyd pleaded with the officers saying, “I can’t breathe,” and bystanders asked the police to remove pressure from his neck. By the time first responders arrived at the scene, Floyd showed no signs of life. (Read more about George Floyd here.) Video of Floyd’s Death: Please be advised, video contains GRAPHIC CONTENT. The Minneapolis Police Department said they were arresting Floyd on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Contrary to the initial police report, security footage and witness testimonies don’t appear to reveal that Floyd resisted the arrest (security video). In a press conference following the death of George Floyd, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense." Since Monday, all four officers involved have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. The FBI has begun an investigation into Floyd’s death. On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted, “At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd.” Riots Follow George Floyd’s Death What started out as a peaceful protest in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday became destructive on Wednesday and Thursday night. Over 170 local businesses were damaged, burned, or looted, including Minneapolis Police Department’s own 3rd precinct building which was burned down. Later in the night, 500 Minnesota National Guard soldiers were deployed to help bring order to the situation. As of Friday morning, there are reduced protests and signs of potential calm. Photos obtained by The News Memo captures some of the scenes following the riots:
President Trump responded to the riots late Thursday night with a set of tweets:
Twitter issued a warning at the top of the second tweet saying it “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” but decided to leave it available because it was in the “public’s interest” due to the gravity of the events in Minneapolis. What to watch moving forward Protestors are demanding justice for George Floyd and that all officers involved be held accountable. Governor Walz will hold a press conference sometime this morning in response to George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests. You can find the conference on Kare 11’s YouTube channel.
China Passes National Security Laws Aimed at Controlling Hong Kong Protests
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. Last week, the Chinese government proposed new national security laws (covering acts such as secession, treason, and subversion) for the region of Hong Kong. What happened this week? China’s legislative body approved the national security laws on Thursday, bypassing the local Hong Kong legislature. The legislation, intended to quell the anti-Beijing, democracy protests that have taken place in Hong Kong since mid-2019, will make acts defined as subversive against the Chinese Communist Party punishable by law. While the specific language of the laws is still to be made clear, they are expected to take effect within the coming weeks. In response to Beijing’s decision, the U.S. officially removed Hong Kong’s autonomous designation. In announcing the change, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “This decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policy-making requires a recognition of reality.” Continuing, “It is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.” The shift may lead to significant policy changes, including how the U.S. conducts trade with Hong Kong. President Trump is expected to announce countermeasures today (Friday) in response to China’s actions. The new laws from Beijing also drew rebukes from the U.K., Australia and Canada, who in a joint statement with the U.S. said the measures “dramatically erodes Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.” Hong Kong Executive Encourages Compliance with China On Friday, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam urged for “full understanding and staunch support” of the new Chinese security measures. Thus far, protests in Hong Kong have continued in the midst of the rapidly shifting landscape.
COVID-19: What You Should Know This Week
In the United States There are over 1,721,926 cases and 101,621 deaths in the U.S., up from 1,577,758 cases and 94,729 deaths a week ago. The curves for the number of new cases and deaths in the U.S. have been downward sloping for multiple weeks. Below are the weekly percentage changes in the number of new cases and deaths:
All 50 states have at least partially reopened areas of business and social life. To date, states that were first to reopen major swaths of society (principally Georgia, Texas, and Florida) have yet to see reported spikes in new cases. While virus hotspots are somewhat scattered throughout the country, the bulk of them are occurring in the southeast. Here are charts showing in which states new cases are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. A list of states’ reopening policies can be seen here. In the World
Number of Cases: +5,840,369, up from 5,127,125 last week.
Number of Deaths: +361,066, up from 333,398, last week
Here is the John Hopkins Center map showing the number of cases and deaths by country. The epicenter of the virus has shifted to South and Central America. The virus is growing fastest in the following countries: