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May 25, 2021: New COVID Variant Spreading; Supreme Court Turns Down Firing Squad Request; One Year Since George Floyd

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A new coronavirus variant that has been ravaging India is now spreading throughout the UK and other European countries, and could pose problems in communities that haven’t yet received a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court turns down a request by a Mississippi inmate on death row who asked to be executed by a firing squad.

And lastly, George Floyd died one year ago today, and while activists have won some victories in the struggle since, police department funding is rising again as the status quo re asserts itself.


The new coronavirus variant that has been fueling India’s out of control epidemic has made its way to Europe, where researchers are starting to get a picture of what it represents for the future of the pandemic.

First, some good news: existing vaccines still offer pretty high levels of protection against this variant. But like others before it, there is evidence that it is more infectious, according to a report by the New York Times.

So far, the U.S. has only detected 800 cases of this specific variant, which is called B dot 1 dot 617 dot 2. You’d be forgiven for not keeping track of all these numbered variants -- there’s a simpler way to interpret this news. The newer variants of the virus are more infectious, which means they eventually slowly replace the older strains in places they make it to.

What this means is that they’ll be particularly dangerous to unvaccinated communities, and as both America and the general global vaccination efforts slow down, this is what we’re going to be dealing with.

The Times reports that people who have only gotten one shot of the vaccine should still be careful, as the more infectious strains are more resistant to the vaccine. In other words, like most of the scary news of new variants, the advice here is the same: keep track of your own risks and stay safe until you’re fully vaxxed.

Supreme Court Turns Down Firing Squad Request

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Mississippi death row inmate Ernest Johnson, who asked to be executed by firing squad.

The Court’s conservative majority voted to not hear the case, despite strong dissent from the bench’s liberals. Johnson suffers from epilepsy, and was requesting a firing squad as he fears that lethal injection will cause incredibly painful seizures.

The Court’s liberals fiercely argued for Johnson’s right to choose his death. While a firing squad may be unusual and barbaric, evidence suggests that it’s also a much quicker and less painful death than lethal injection or the electric chair.

Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that Johnson’s petition was simple. Quote:

“In other words, he asks that the courts decide between an execution that is ‘cruel’ and one that is ‘unusual.”

Johnson had previously petitioned to be executed with nitrogen gas rather than lethal injection, and was turned down by a lower federal court. He then tried to amend this petition to request the firing squad, which was the decision the Supreme Court decided not to hear.

One Year Since George Floyd

George Floyd died one year ago today. After months of protests, activists won some key reforms, but now the status quo is creeping back in.

The New York Times reports that major cities like Los Angeles are starting to funnel money back to their police departments after getting spooked by a rise in violent crime statistics. LA is hiring 250 more cops less than a year after city leaders promised to take $150 million away from the LAPD.

The right wing has leaned into the narrative of crime surges, and placed the blame squarely on movements like defunding the police. Research shows, of course, that surges in crime are often linked to gaps in social services and economic hardship, which have swept the country during the pandemic.

And some of the biggest changes activists seek do little to defund police, instead seeking to hold them accountable. New York City moved earlier this year to become the first city to end qualified immunity for its police forces, a major change that would let people file civil suits against cops who abuse their power.

But on a national level, even those small changes have stalled. On Monday, for instance, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case that would have challenged qualified immunity on a broader scale.

What this means is that this fight is far from over -- and we can only hope that elected officials feel just as much pressure from the people this summer as they did last.


After Belarus’s shocking abduction of a journalist on a civilian airliner this weekend, European officials agreed to level sanctions against the dictator Aleksadr Lukashenko’s regime, also moving to stop E.U. airlines from flying into Belarus’s airspace, which would be a significant blow to the country’s economy.

The Washington Post reports that the Biden administration is moving to let more government employees than ever to work from home even after the pandemic ends, continue the experiment in remote work that the federal government has been slow to adopt.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and other democrats reintroduced legislation on Monday to slash spending to the U.S.’s massive nuclear arsenal, dubbing it the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act, or SANE. They promise that it will save $73 billion over the next decade, if it passes.

And finally, New York City, once the epicenter of the U.S.’s coronavirus outbreak, has announced that it will not have any form of remote learning starting next school year, heralding that the city expects to be fully back open by that time.

AM QUICKIE - MAY 25, 2021

HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner

WRITER - Jack Crosbie

PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw