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Happy Wednesday.

Today is National Scrabble Day. Break out the board game, because Wordle doesn’t count.

credit: giphy

In Case You Missed It. 

☔️ Heavy rains in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province left at least 45 people dead.

🌀 The death toll from tropical storm Megi in the Philippines has now reached 42.

🇵🇰 Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was voted in as Pakistan’s new prime minister Monday. He will serve until the next election, set for 2023.

🚊 At least 29 people were shot or injured by a gunman in a Brooklyn, New York, subway station. Police released photos of the 62-year-old suspect named Frank James. A nationwide manhunt is underway to capture him. 

👻 President Biden announced a crackdown on “ghost guns,” or untraceable guns that don’t have serial numbers. Background check not required. 

Coronavirus Update: 😷 

  • U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were fined by the police Tuesday for breaking Covid rules. Johnson is now the first sitting PM in living memory to break the law.
  • Shanghai announced a blueprint for limited easing of its Covid lockdown, despite rising cases. Zero-Covid doesn’t factor in the economy.
  • International airlines that lifted mask mandates have canceled hundreds of flights due to staff shortages caused by Covid. The mask mandate for U.S. airlines is set to expire next Monday, but it could be extended again. That would probably be good.

MARKETS

Bitcoin

$39,980.45

Ethereum

$3,047.11

Cardano

$0.9556

Dow

34,220.36

S&P

4,397.45

Nasdaq

13,371.57

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 5:00am ET. 

 

The Lead: The Talk of War Crimes

credit: getty

It looks like global intelligence was right: Russia was not pulling out of locations like Kyiv to go home for Easter. They were just regrouping in the Donbas region. President Putin said Tuesday that he will push this bloody war until Russia meets all of its goals.

The calls for Putin to be tried for war crimes are heating up, with President Biden telling reporters Monday, “You saw what happened in Bucha. We have to gather the information … and we have to get all the detail so this can be an actual, have a war crimes trial.” That is a verbatim quote.

Russia says they want a fully transparent investigation of what happened in Bucha because they maintain those bodies in the street were placed there after they pulled out of the town. But U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with Ukrainian officials have said "there's no need for an investigation." 

A war crimes trial would most likely take place at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court was established after 60 countries ratified the Rome Statute, a product of the UN’s Rome conference in 1998. But the ICC has several obstacles that make the prospects of an actual trial—especially while Putin is still in power—fairly low.

Those obstacles include:

  • The ICC only tries individuals, not nation-states.
  • The court has no enforcement mechanism. It can issue a warrant but it relies on others to execute it.
  • It does not try people in absentia. They must be present to win.
  • It has never tried a sitting head of state.
  • U.S. hypocrisy.

On that last one, the U.S. has been one of the loudest voices calling for a war crimes trial (see above). However, the U.S. is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, mainly because they don’t want to be tried for war crimes they’ve committed in the past. They’ve even passed legislation banning ICC funding. If the U.S. really wants a Putin war crimes trial to happen, it will have to make some changes.

And even then, those other obstacles seem pretty big.

The Abortion Battle

credit: nytimes

Texas might have just provided a glimpse of the U.S.’s Handmaid’s Tale future.

With Roe v. Wade on the chopping block in the country this summer, anxiety and questions about what will happen if/when abortion rights slip away are filling the headlines. And a recent arrest in Texas is that pro-choice nightmare realized.

26-year-old Lizelle Herrera was pregnant, and then she wasn’t. The details of how that happened are unclear (whether it was a self-induced abortion or a miscarriage or something in between), but it looks like the hospital she ended up in reported her to the police. She was then thrown in jail. 

She went in last Thursday and didn’t leave until Sunday, when charges were dropped. They were dropped because, as the DA said, “Ms Herrera did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the state of Texas.” 

The state’s controversial SB 8 specifically targets people doing abortions, not those having abortions. But it’s a slippery slope that brings up all sorts of bodily integrity and equal protection issues, as well as questions about how safe people who have miscarriages are.

People have strong opinions about abortions, but the U.S. is supposedly the land of the free, where individuals have a right to their own personhood under the 14th amendment. Maybe the chipping away of that right is part of how authoritarianism will take over.

Many people who fought hard for their bodily integrity rights when it came to wearing masks or getting vaccinated for Covid (a lack of which has the potential to kill people) seem to forget about it when it comes to abortion. Where will the restrictions stop? First abortion then contraception then… miscarriage? And then they’re coming for the vasectomies. 

No. That’s the end of the slope. No one is coming for vasectomies.

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Politics in Schools

credit: orbeez

Public education in the U.S. will probably have quotes around “public” soon. And it doesn’t stop at book-banning and “don’t say gay.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

Most people think “educational excellence” means teaching kids the facts, with no opinions attached. It’s not about hiding things or putting a positive spin on something to make it smell better. It is about the facts.

Hillsdale College is trying to fight facts, or what they call “leftist academics,” by spreading charter schools across the country. The conservative Christian college has helped open about 24 schools in 13 states since 2010, and it’s about to get 50 more in Tennessee, courtesy of Republican Governor Bill Lee.

Hillsdale’s “1776 Curriculum” (which will be all over Tennessee soon) has, according to the New York Times, “been criticized for its glossy spin on American history as well as its ideological tilt on topics like affirmative action. Educators and historians have also raised questions about other instruction at Hillsdale's charter schools, citing their negative take on the New Deal and the Great Society and cursory presentation of global warming."

Charter schools are publicly-funded private schools, which you can probably guess means they are controversial. Hillsdale seems to be explicitly spreading a blurry curriculum around the country, full of soft tones that avoid the sharp reality of cold, hard facts.

Can You Hear Me Now?

credit: shutterstock

As the body ages, it stops working. But it doesn’t have to!

MIT scientists at MIT spinoff biotechnology company Frequency Therapeutics think they’ve found a way to grow the little hairs inside the cochlea that allow us to hear. The same ones die off when we age or listen to music too loud.

This regenerative therapy could reverse that hearing loss without hearing aids and cochlear implants. And it’s coming soon. 

Frequency co-founder Jeff Karp said in a statement, “I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten or 15 years, because of the resources being put into this space and the incredible science being done, we can get to the point where [reversing hearing loss] would be similar to Lasik surgery, where you’re in and out in an hour or two and you can completely restore your vision. I think we’ll see the same thing for hearing loss.”

The end game here is that we will all live forever, right?

News By The Numbers

3. That is how many Kmart stores will still be operating in the U.S. after the Avenal, New Jersey, store closes this Saturday. There used to be over 2,000 Kmarts in the country.

8.5%. That is how far U.S. inflation rose in March, the highest leap in four decades.

10%. That is how much gonorrhea cases in the U.S. rose in 2020, according to new data from the CDC. Syphilis was up 7%. This has NOTHING to do with the lack of funding for testing from Congress.

What's Trending?

giphy.gif credit: giphy

Rihanna is trending. The Barbadian singer is on the May cover of Vogue (+ 1).

Stranger Things season 4 is trending because the official trailer for the hit Netflix series is out and Hawkins is going to war.

Brittney Griner is trending because the WNBA is working to free the U.S. basketball star from Russian prison. She has been held for almost two months and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Gilbert Gottfried is trending. The U.S. comedian passed away at age 67.

 

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