Displaying items by tag: North America
As temperatures reached 106F (41C) in Montana and Arizona, animals scorched their paws on blistering asphalt. Texas residents must limit cooking and cleaning to preserve the power grid in one of the most excruciating heat waves to hit the USA this early in the year. 40 million people are experiencing 100F (38C) temperatures, and 50 million are under excessive heat warnings. Across the south-west wildfires have spread, with lightning and gusty winds threatening to spark more. The extreme heat and drought complicate firefighters’ efforts to contain the blazes. Arizona’s large aerial firefighting tankers couldn’t fly due to high temperatures and diminished water supplies. Cooling and hydration stations have opened across the American west and the hottest months of the year are yet to come. Scientists say, ‘Climate change is a human engineered change; fire suppression is a human thing too. It is a result of our activities and decisions.’
President Joe Biden is launching a renewed effort to tackle crime in the US, as a series of major cities experience spikes in violent offences. Police departments define violent crime in slightly different ways, but the data usually includes murder, robbery, assault and rape. There were 25% more murders recorded in 2020 than the previous year. Major US cities have tended to follow the national trend in becoming safer since the 1990s, but some have recently seen a sharp rise in murders. Spikes in the biggest cities are a considerable concern to Biden's administration, with Chicago having the worst records for murders and a continuing upward trend in 2021. A rise in the number of shootings in many major cities runs parallel with the president's attempts to strengthen firearm regulations to combat gun violence. The administration hopes strong action now can stem the violence and prevent murders increasing further this summer.
An international group of scientists has ditched ethical guidelines so that they can grow babies for forty days, for the sole purpose of killing them for research. The International Society for Stem Cell Research issued new guidelines that lift restrictions on certain types of unethical research that manipulate, alter, or destroy human embryos. It wants to remove a 14-day rule for research on human embryos, established in 1979, which stated scientists may only experiment on human embryos up to 14 days after fertilisation. This rule has been the current policy in the United States and generally a scientific standard throughout the world. The new guidelines have removed all restraint, creating the potential for ‘baby in a bottle’ experiments. It also wants to use three-parent human embryos (human embryo with DNA from three individuals), which is currently prohibited, and to allow creating a cell from animal and human cells, characteristic, or tissues.
At least 1,068 people have been killed by police since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota on 25 May 2020. His killing triggered worldwide protests demanding justice and an end to systemic racism. In April 2021 Floyd’s killer was found guilty of murder and manslaughter; sentencing is on 25 June. Between January 2013 and May 2021, US police killed at least 9,179 people, according to data compiled by Mapping Police Violence, a research and advocacy group. Since Floyd’s death, the group has recorded at least 1,068 police killings across the country – an average of three killings every day. Despite being 13% of the population, black Americans are three times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police. The group also found that ‘levels of violent crimes in US cities do not determine rates of police violence’.
6 May is the National Day of Prayer in the USA. It comes at a complex time in American history, with political division, racial tension and violence, and a global pandemic and its devastating consequences. The deep divisions feel insurmountable. The hurts and griefs seem unresolvable. Many Americans feel powerless. But we serve an all-powerful God. With one word from His mouth, America’s entire spiritual trajectory can be reversed. If a move of God is America’s only hope, then prayer is the most important thing we can do. Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit that replaces national indifference with widespread repentance. Pray for radical love for God and people to heal and unite a divided Church. Pray for godly men and women to take courageous and humble leadership. Pray for vast resources to be leveraged for God’s glory among all nations.
President Biden marked 100 days in office with a speech that put into focus his domestic agenda, the most dramatic shift in federal economic and social welfare policies since Ronald Reagan forty years ago. Reagan’s philosophy resulted in decades-long squeezes on domestic spending and tax policies that benefit the wealthiest. If Biden gets his way Reagan’s policies will be replaced by ones directly addressing long-standing economic, racial and gender inequities. His speech reflected his presidency to date, appealing for bold action by a leader whose demeanour is opposite to that of Donald Trump. Biden believes there is an urgent need to act, an opportunity to do so, but limited time to get it done. He said the nation needs ‘a once-in-generation investment in families and children.’ But because of the Democrats’ narrow majorities and a nation still divided over the president’s performance, Biden’s agenda represents a political gamble.
Authorities arrested 36-year-old Aditya Singh after he had spent three months living in the secure side of Chicago's O'Hare international airport, relying on the kindness of strangers for food, sleeping in terminals and using the bathroom facilities. He was caught by an airport employee asking for his ID. Singh is one of many individuals residing in terminals for weeks, months or years. Since 2018 there has been a rise in the number of homeless people in large airports. Officials try to provide aid and crisis intervention teams to connect homeless people to housing and other services. But most would prefer a solution where airports no longer operated as homeless shelters.
The Catholic-run welcome centre, the last stop for migrants before crossing the border into the USA, offers meals, clothing, medical and legal assistance. It has become a waiting room. The group running the welcome centre attributes lengthened stays (300+ days) to the pandemic and Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Many who get into America are ejected by Border Patrol after a few days - creating a revolving population, returning to the welcome centre on a weekly or daily basis. Women give birth, children miss two years of education, girls can’t have a quinceañera (celebration of a girl's 15th birthday). US authorities found 19,000 children traveling alone across the Mexican border in March. It is a major test for Joe Biden as he reverses many of his predecessor's hard-line immigration tactics.
Curtis Hayes, a community activist running for city council in Charlotte, said, ‘We have some of the most horrific mass murderers of our time in custody without a scratch, but this black man who allegedly uses a counterfeit $20 bill loses his life. They have got to convict the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd by sitting on his neck for over nine minutes. The officer came to a situation which he should have de-escalated and given out a ticket in the worst-case scenario. Are we going to hold him accountable for his actions? This is a chance for America to show exactly what it represents: giving everybody liberty and justice. If you don't convict him, you're simply telling black and minority Americans that we do not care for you: this is a white America and you're going to get down or lay down. Now people are fighting for equality, but they could soon be fighting for revenge.’
Hate crimes involving Asian-American victims soared in New York city last year. Officials are grappling with the problem as new incidents occur. ‘I’ve never cried like that before,’ Maggie Cheng said, after seeing security footage showing her mother being shoved to the ground on a crowded street. ‘To see my mother get thrown like that, she looks like a feather, a rag doll.’ The attack, which gained widespread attention on social media, was one of four attacks in a day against Asian-American women in New York. Concerns intensified after an Asian man was stabbed on Thursday night near Chinatown. Asian-Americans make up 16% of the population of the city: it is feared that the wave of racism and violence against them during the pandemic is surging again. The attacks are random, fast and furious, stoking a lot of fear and paranoia. Many Asians are not leaving their homes.