5 things for June 19: Immigration, North Korea, trade, opioids, gerrymandering
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The fury over the Trump administration's policy that effectively separates families seeking refuge at the border continued yesterday, with all eyes on Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. In a tumultuous White House press briefing, Nielsen defended the policy, saying she had not seen any of the many images circulating of distraught immigrant children and claiming such images only tell one narrative (the others, she said, are "narratives of crime, of the opioids, of the smugglers").
Nielsen's handling of the immigration situation has prompted some Democratic senators to call for her resignation. Jeff Merkley accused her of telling "a lot of whoppers" during the briefing and said she needs to step down to make room for "someone with integrity." Kamala Harris also called for her to resign, saying Nielsen's tenure has lacked "transparency and accountability."
Ordinary people around the country aren't ignoring this political maelstrom. At one point, about $4,000 per minute poured in to a Facebook fundraiser set up to help separated immigrant families.
2. North Korea
Kim Jong Un is on the move again. On the heels of his meeting with President Trump in Singapore, the North Korean leader is in China today and tomorrow, presumably to brief Chinese President Xi Jinping on his Trump summit. While the US-North Korean meeting was a first, Kim is a regular in China, and this will be his third trip there in three months. China is North Korea's only real ally and supports its seemingly thawed diplomatic relations with the US.
Speaking of China and the US and diplomatic relations, we're back to the trade threats, again. It's hard to keep up with which tariffs are real and which are just threats, but the US last week announced a new round of tariffs on Chinese goods, and China promised to retaliate. Now, Trump says that if China goes through with its promise, the US will impose tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The ongoing back-and-forth is taking stocks and businesses for a roller-coaster ride. Chinese stock markets fell sharply this morning after Trump's threat, and in the longer term, investors are worried about signs China's huge economy may be slowing down.
4. Opioid crisis
In the fight against opioids, some of the most crucial defenses are medication-assisted treatment drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, which can save people who have overdosed and put them on a path to recovery. But a recent study found the potentially life-changing treatments aren't being used nearly as often as they should be. In a survey of 18,000 adults who were treated for non-fatal drug overdose, only about 30% got any sort of FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. The number of fatal opioid overdoses in the US has risen over the past two decades, with nearly 50,000 opioid-related ODs estimated in 2017. To put it in perspective: Opioid overdoses kill more people every year than breast cancer.
Two major gerrymandering cases have been rejected by the Supreme Court, leaving the door open for all kinds of questions. Gerrymandering is a practice in which politicians draw oddly-shaped district lines to finagle voting bases and stay in power. These two cases featured accusations of Republican gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Democratic gerrymandering in Maryland. By refusing to consider them, the Supreme Court has effectively punted on a critical legal decision that would provide guidance on how to deal with similar alleged legislative overreaches.
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