all quick reads

Current Events

"America Counts"

You Win Some
You Lose Some

What to know about the 2020 U.S. Census and why it matters.

Current Events

"The Founders of our fledgling nation had a bold and ambitious plan to empower the people over their new government... to count every person living in the newly created United States of America, and to use that count to determine representation in the Congress.”

The U.S. Census Bureau on why the Founding Fathers included the census in the U.S. Constitution. The count of every U.S. resident has taken place every 10 years since the first census in 1790.

Current Events

BIG PICTURE

Census Results:
  • shape congressional & state districts.
  • distribute federal funds used to fund Medicaid, Medicare, and build schools, roads, etc.
  • allocate seats for each state in the House of Representatives.
  • allocate votes for each state in the Electoral College (used in presidential elections).

Current Events

What To Know

  • U.S. Population: 331.4M+ (April 2020).
  • The population growth rate from 2010 to 2020 (7.4%) is the second-lowest in history, trailing behind the 1940 census after the Great Depression.
  • States with the highest growth rates = Utah, Idaho & Texas.
  • States with the lowest growth rates = West Virginia, Mississippi & Illinois.
  • CA is still the most populous state but growth rate slowing.

Current Events

What It Means

To begin, each state gets one of the 435 House seats. The remaining 385 House seats are split among the states per the census population count, which includes military & federal employees overseas.

Based on the 2020 census results:

  • TX: Gained 2 seats
  • CO, FL, MT, NC & OR: Gained 1 seat
  • CA, IL, MI, NY, OH, PA, & WV: Lost 1 seat

Current Events

By determining number of seats in Congress, the U.S. Census on can impact legislation. But just a reminder, the Senate remains the steady legislative body where every state has two lawmakers no matter the size of the population.

Apr 28, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

"Stand in the middle ’cause that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens. It happens in the middle."

Tyler Perry

Quote of the Day

The billionaire actor and producer received a humanitarian award for his work during the pandemic at this year's Academy Awards. Perry, who says he remembers "being homeless and having one pair of shoes" spoke about his upbringing in his acceptance speech and the importance of respect, empathy and compassion (lessons learned from his mother). Click on our source page to read and watch his whole speech.

Apr 26, 2021

sources

Current Events

The Verdict

What to know as a jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd.

Current Events

"We the jury … find the defendant guilty."

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill reading the verdict from the jury, who found Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Judge Cahill will solely decide Chauvin's sentence when sentencing takes place in about 8 weeks. Exact dates TBD.

Current Events

"The state would move for the court to revoke the defendant's bail and remand him into custody."

A member of the prosecution team speaking off camera to the judge, who granted the request. Chauvin was handcuffed and taken into custody. The Associated Press reports Chauvin was taken to a maximum security prison, the same one where he was held due to security concerns after his arrest.

Current Events

“We believe there are aggravating factors and the sentence should exceed the sentencing guidelines.”

MN Attorney General Keith Ellison. The prosecution and the defense will prepare legal briefs for the judge's consideration in sentencing. The three guilty verdicts carry different *potential* sentences (ex: 2nd-degree murder is punishable by up to 40 yrs behind bars) but sentencing *guidelines* can be much lower (ex: 12.5 yrs for 2nd-degree murder for someone, like Chauvin, w/o a criminal history).

Current Events

“No one is above the law.”

Pres. Biden during a national address said the murder of George Floyd exposed systemic racism in America and systemic misconduct in police departments. Pres. Biden said that "most men and women who wear the badge serve their communities honorably. But those few who fail to meet that standard must be held accountable." VP Harris also spoke, similarly advocating for Congress to pass police reform legislation: "A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice."

Current Events

"To deny the progress we've made, is just as damaging as not making progress at all."

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) supports the verdict and said it should renew confidence in the justice system. Sen. Scott, the lone black Republican senator, proposed his own police reform legislation last year after Floyd's death. A separate bill was proposed by two black Democrat senators, Sen Booker (D-NJ) and then-Senator (now VP) Kamala Harris. Neither bill passed.

Current Events

From local Minneapolis station KARE: "Chauvin’s conviction marks only the second time a police officer has been convicted of murder in Minnesota, and the first time such a conviction has been won against a white officer who killed a Black man." Read more from that local station with leading reporting on our source page.

Apr 21, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."

Rachel Scott

Quote of the Day

17-yr-old Rachel Scott was the first out of 12 students & one staff member killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Excerpts of her posthumously-published journals recounted her journey of faith and inspired a film. An early intervention campaign called "Rachel's Challenge" has encouraged millions to connect and kick off a "chain reaction" through random acts of kindness.

Apr 21, 2021

sources

Current Events

"Breakthrough"

What we know about COVID-19 cases AFTER receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Current Events

What Is "Breakthrough?"

"Vaccine breakthrough" - a case when a person tests positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (either by a PCR or rapid antigen test) more than two weeks after receiving a full series of a COVID-19 vaccine (either one or two doses, depending on the vaccine).
A case represents a TEST that's positive, not necessarily someone who has symptoms.

Current Events

The Details In Data

As of April 13th, 2021: 5,814 reports of breakthrough infection (CDC).
  • 55% under age 60
  • 65% female
  • 29% asymptomatic
  • 7% hospitalized (396 patients with *some* hospitalized for *a reason other* than COVID)
  • 1% died (of 74 people who died, 9 died of reasons OTHER than COVID)

Current Events

"These vaccines are working."

CDC Director Dr. Walenksy says while the data is likely underestimating the number of breakthrough cases (in part because only 43 states and territories reported) she says the fact nearly 30% of the cases had no symptoms is "encouraging news," saying that this shows the vaccines are helpful in preventing severe disease. The CDC Dir. says rare breakthrough cases are expected with any vaccine.

Current Events

"If you're asymptomatic and you are vaccinated, you would not be likely to be presenting to get tested."

Associate professor of epidemiology Bill Hanage, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explaining another reason why the number of "breakthrough" infections is likely an underestimate. Epidemiologists say as community spread decreases, so too will instances of breakthrough infections - while also warning no COVID-19 vaccine has 100% efficacy.

Current Events

Unlike some other vaccines in use, such as the chickenpox vaccine, none of the vaccines approved for emergency use contain a LIVE coronavirus that would lead to a positive COVID-19 test. Questions remain over the rate at which a vaccinated individual potentially could still transmit the virus that causes COVID-19.

Apr 21, 2021

sources

Current Events

DEFENSE RESTS

Here are the 3 main arguments made by the defense about why the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd should be acquitted.

Current Events

"Undetermined."

Fmr. Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David Fowler answering a question on how he would categorize George Floyd’s “cause of death.” Fowler says Floyd suffered a heart attack due to pre-existing heart disease ~ other potential factors include drugs in his system and accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Fowler’s testimony contrasted with the medical examiner who determined Floyd’s cause of death to be “homicide” — not drug use or heart disease.

Current Events

"I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis police department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interaction with Mr. Floyd."

Fmr. police officer and use of force expert Barry Vance Brodd testified that Derek Chauvin acted appropriately - adding that when justified, the use of the restraining a suspect face-down is a "control technique," not "a use of force."

Current Events

"I was concerned for the officers' safety, yes."

Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang, one of the officers called to the scene on May 25, 2020, testified that he was concerned for the safety of the officers that day because "the crowd was becoming more loud and aggressive." One of the arguments made by the defense is that Derek Chauvin's actions were influenced by the surrounding crowd and bystanders, which he deemed as hostile.

Current Events

Derek Chauvin declined to take the stand, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the case against him. After both sides present their closing arguments on Monday, the judge will instruct the jury before they head into deliberations.

Apr 16, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

"Just because something bad happened to me, doesn’t mean it has to become who I am, and we can take what happened to us, and turn around and do good things for others.”

MICHELLE L’HEUREUX

Quote of the Day

L’Heureux is one of 260+ people injured during the 2013 terrorist attack at the iconic Boston Marathon. 3 people died, incl. an 8-year-old boy, and a MIT police officer murdered by the terrorists during the manhunt. Michelle shares what she's learned about resilience in an interview w/ SmartHER News, including how you can honor the day by random acts of kindness aka "One Boston Day."

Apr 15, 2021

sources

Health

PAUSE

The U.S. has recommended a pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Here’s Why:

Health

The Basics

  • FDA & CDC report 6 cases of “rare and severe” blood clots in women ages 18-48, causing “severe stroke-like illness.”
  • Symptoms: 6-13 days after dose.
  • 1 case was fatal; 1 patient is in critical condition.
  • Condition “very similar” to “another vaccine in Europe.”
  • Officials did not name AstraZeneca, but concerns *have* surfaced about blood clotting and the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.

Health

Why Is It Happening?

The FDA isn’t certain, but offered this:

  • A focus is the adenoviral vector vaccines. The J&J vaccine uses a shell of an adenovirus (called adenoviral vectors) as a “delivery vehicle” for the vaccine into your body. AstraZeneca uses a similar technology.
  • Doctors say that in some cases the body’s immune response to the adenovirus may lead to this very rare condition.

Health

The Risk

  • This condition occurred in 6 cases out of the more than 6.8 million J&J doses administered (remember, J&J is a single-dose vaccine).
  • If you received vaccine more than a month ago, health officials say risk of developing this condition is very low.
  • If you received it recently (last 3 weeks), be mindful of symptoms - such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, & shortness of breath.

Health

A Little Bit More

Right now, the condition doesn’t appear to be related to birth control (birth control pills can raise risk of blood clotting) but women under 50 remain the focus.
It’s not *just* blood clotting – it’s blood clotting WITH a condition of low platelets (thrombocytopenia – which can actually cause severe internal bleeding).

Health

Big Picture

“We are totally aware that this is a very rare event. We want to get this worked out as quickly as we possibly can. And that’s why you see the word ‘pause.'"

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on why the FDA & CDC is recommending (not mandating) the pause out of an "abundance of caution" while the FDA & CDC investigate and consider next steps.

Health

Typical treatment (i.e.: heparin) for blood clots can actually make this condition more dangerous. The govt. says over 122 million people have received at least one vaccine dose. Dr. Fauci says this particular type of clotting condition has not been detected in connection with the Moderna & Pfizer vaccines.

Apr 14, 2021

sources

Current Events

PROSECUTION RESTS

Here are the 3 main arguments made by the prosecution about why a former police officer charged with killing George Floyd is guilty of murder.

Current Events

"George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event and he did not die from drug overdose."

Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Rich, who reviewed George Floyd's medical records, autopsy & videos of the incident, testified that Floyd’s "absolutely preventable" death was caused by low oxygen levels "induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation,” and unrelated to drug use or pre-existing conditions.

Current Events

"Both the knee across Mr. Floyd's neck and the prone restraint were unreasonable, excessive and contrary to generally accepted police practices."

Law professor, fmr. police officer, & use of force expert Seth Stoughton testified that Derek Chauvin's use of force during the 9 min & 29 secs he held Floyd face down with his knee on Floyd's neck "had the foreseeable effect and a substantial likelihood of resulting in death or great bodily harm."

Current Events

“Once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive ... to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back – that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training ... our ethics or our values”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin's use of force and failure to render aid were not in line with the department's policies.

Current Events

The prosecution argued the use of force employed by Derek Chauvin against George Floyd was excessive, unreasonable, contrary to the law & police training / policy, and consequently resulted in Floyd's death. The defense will make the case that the opposite is true, and argue Floyd's death was caused by underlying health issues and / or drug use.

Apr 14, 2021

sources

Politics

THE VOTE

Georgia’s new election law sparks a debate over voter suppression vs. election security.

What To Know.

Why It Matters.

Politics

Why It Matters:

  • New: Georgia’s new election law is the first major state-level election law to pass after the heavily contested 2020 election. Hundreds of election bills are working through state houses nationwide.
  • Notable: Georgia’s election was particular close for both President & the Senate, with dems winning all three elections (the first presidential election by a democrat in GA in 3 decades).

Politics

What Happened:

“We quickly began working with the House and Senate on further reforms to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The bill I signed into law does just that.”

GA Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on the election law created after the November 2020 election by republicans and passed along party lines (republicans have the majority). The law includes many different provisions – we highlighted several.

Politics

ABSENTEE VOTING

  • Voters may request a ballot 78-11 days before an election. Previously, they could start requesting ballots 180 days before, and (in most counties) up until the Friday before Election Day.
  • Voters must verify their identity via their SSN or a # from a state-issued ID. Before, they could just sign their name.
  • The new law requires drop boxes for absentee voters to use, but limits the number, location & hours of operation.

Politics

EARLY VOTING

  • Counties are now required to offer in-person early voting for general elections on two Saturdays, with Sundays being optional. Previously, only one Saturday was required.
  • Early voting is prohibited before 7 a.m., and after 7 p.m. Previously, counties could set their own hours.
  • For runoff elections, early voting will take place for about a week. Previously, it took place for 3 weeks.

Politics

OTHER PROVISIONS

  • Voters who vote in-person, but outside their designated precinct will only have their vote counted if they vote after 5pm.
  • The legislature has more influence over the State Election Board, which has more power over county election officials and may intervene as they fit.
  • It’s now a crime to hand out water/food within 150 ft of a polling station and within 25 ft of a person in line to vote.

Politics

“I told him exactly how I felt: that these bills were not only voter suppression, but they were in fact racist, and they are an attempt to turn back time to Jim Crow."

Bishop Reginald Jackson leader of the African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia recalling his conversation with Georgia’s Lt. Gov. He argues the laws will deter voters, especially black voters in urban neighborhoods, and harken back to past laws put in place to purposefully prevent black voters.

Politics

“There’s a real — and bipartisan — misunderstanding about whether making it easier or harder to vote, especially by mail, has a significant effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. The evidence suggests it does not."

Correspondent Nate Cohn, New York Times, says research shows election laws don’t impact voters as much as headlines & political fights suggest. Inspired voters vote; uninspired voters do not.

Politics

Remember - States remain in charge of state/federal elections but Georgia’s law already faces a number of legal challenges by critics. Separately, the federal gov’t is also weighing establishing federal election standards. The “For the People Act” passed the Democrat-controlled House in March.

Apr 12, 2021

sources

Current Events

HISTORIC PACE

Different storylines have swirled about what's happening at the U.S. Southwest border - here's what the numbers show.

Current Events

The Numbers: March 2021

  • "172,000 persons attempting entry along the Southwest border" - highest single-month number in modern data collection (2012). Perspective: second highest - 144,000+ in May 2019.
  • 71% increase over the previous month, February 2021.
  • U.S. govt. expelled 103,900 people (citing a provision re: public health safety during a pandemic); 28% had been expelled once before.

Current Events

100% Increase

18,890 unaccompanied children (17-and-younger without a guardian) – a 100% increase from February.
Highest monthly number in recent data records (2010). Perspective: the second highest was in May 2019: 11,800+.
Largest demographic group” in border patrol custody.

Current Events

CONTEXT

  • U.S. govt. has repeatedly stated border “encounters” have increased since last April. This is true but needs context.
  • Border encounters (for single adults, minors, etc.) dramatically dropped in March-April 2020 w/the border closing due to the pandemic. Since then, the numbers have increaseddata shows a significant increase in recent months.
  • Encounters last April: 17,100+. Dec. 2020: 74,000+. March 2021: 172,000+

Current Events

The U.S. govt. says numbers have increased because of "violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America." According to available data, this is the largest monthly number of border encounters in history.

Apr 9, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

“I’m into making people happy. So, whenever I leave the house, I just try to do a good deed.”

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL

Quote of the Day

Shaq said he didn't intend for this story to get out, but someone captured him on camera picking up the tab for a young man who had put an engagement ring on layaway at Zales. Shaq, who has a jewelry line at Zales, talked about the power of random acts of kindness. Separately, food for thought: the president of Zales recently said the pandemic has boosted jewelry sales, specifically of engagement rings!

Apr 9, 2021

sources