Title 42 Ends, Serbia Turns In Guns, & Plastic-Eating Microbes
May 12, 2023
One Wall Comes Down, Another Goes Back Up
Another year, another problem with the border. On Thursday night, Covid-era restrictions on the U.S.-Mexico border expired at midnight, prompting fears of chaos at the border. Title 42, as the restrictions are known, used the U.S.’s Covid-19 public health emergency to turn back migrants at the border without the possibility of requesting asylum. Previously, they were able to cross into the U.S., request asylum, and be allowed into the country, but that was lifted last night as the U.S.’s Covid-19 public health emergency came to an end.
While people on both sides of the aisle were worried about Title 42 lifting, the Biden administration has a plan for the incoming rush at the border. The new rule involves rushing the asylum process for many waiting at the border by speeding up interviews by border agents who decide if people have a strong enough case to go to court seeking asylum. Migrants will also be turned away at the border if they didn’t apply online or seek asylum in those countries they traveled through to get to the U.S. Finally, there will also be harsher punishments for people trying to get into the U.S. illegally – they could be deported and blocked from entering the U.S. for five years if they cross and are found ineligible for asylum.
House Republicans have also pushed their own “solution” to the situation at the border, though their measure is unlikely to make it through the Senate. The Secure the Border Act of 2023 would hire enough border agents to make border forces 22,000 agents strong, provide for technology upgrades for Customs and Border Protection, and resume construction of a Trump-like border wall. Two House Republicans voted against the bill, and it’s likely to die in the Democrat-held Senate.
Some Good News
- The US has approved $42 billion in loan forgiveness for public service workers. Here’s what to know (AP)
- Cornish farm launches project to triple UK’s temperate rainforest (Guardian)
- Brazil’s Lula recognises six new indigenous reserves (BBC)
You Khan’t Hold Me Down!
- On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled that the Tuesday arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan was illegal, determining that he should be released from police custody immediately. Khan was arrested on corruption charges while undergoing biometric testing at a courthouse and brought into police custody just three days ago, and was handed corruption charges at a makeshift courthouse set up in a police guesthouse on Wednesday.
- “Your arrest was invalid so the whole process needs to be backtracked,” said Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to Khan at Thursday’s hearing. Despite the acquittal, Khan will remain at the police guesthouse, though this time under the protection of the Supreme Court and with more freedom to invite guests.
- Khan was previously accused by the military of illegally buying land to build a university, though his Tuesday arrest was on charges of illegally selling gifts brought to him by diplomats when in office. His arrest has sparked widespread protests in Pakistan, with at least 10 people dead and 2,000 more arrested in clashes between his supporters and police.
Ensuring Serbia’s Safety
- In the wake of two mass shootings last week, Serbian citizens have begun handing over their guns to the government. The shootings, one of which took place in a school, claimed the lives of 17 people and left 21 more injured – many of them children. In the first three days of Serbia’s amnesty period allowing citizens to turn in guns and ammo with no questions asked, the state has collected almost 6,000 unregistered firearms, 300,000 rounds of ammo, and roughly 470 explosive devices.
- Serbia has taken quick action to address its gun problems. Outside of the government’s call for people to turn in their unregistered weapons by June 8 or face the possibility of prison sentences, the state has also enacted a ban on new gun licenses, tightened restrictions on gun owners and shooting ranges, and increased punishments for illegal gun ownership.
- Serbia has long been one of Europe’s most firearm-friendly nations in terms of guns per capita. Last Wednesday, a 13-year-old opened fire at an elementary school in Belgrade using his father’s gun, and the next day a 20-year-old fired off his automatic weapon in a rural area south of the city. Mass protests for increased gun control in response to the shootings began this week and are expected to continue today.
Additional World News
- White House national security adviser met with top Chinese official in highest US-China engagement since spy balloon incident (CNN)
- Rocket kills man in Israel as strikes target Gaza militant commanders (BBC)
- Vehicle explodes in central Milan, releasing plumes of smoke (ABC)
- Mercedes-Benz shooting: Two killed at factory in Germany (BBC)
- A year after Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing, her family pushes for justice (NBC)
- School children injured in Finland bridge collapse (Reuters)
- Britain moves first to supply Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles (Reuters)
“My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.” – Barack Obama
That’s Not Corruption, And By The Way, We’re Not Corrupt Either
- The Supreme Court threw out corruption convictions in two cases yesterday, narrowing the scope of anti-corruption laws. Joseph Percoco’s conviction for accepting the $35,000 payment when managing Cuomo’s re-election campaign in 2014 was tossed, and the other case involving a Buffalo real estate developer’s wire fraud conviction was also thrown out.
- Both votes were unanimous, a rarity amid such a far-right bench. It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court members themselves are currently facing immense scrutiny thanks to some ethically-questionable behavior (see: everything Clarence Thomas has ever done), so making it harder to pursue corruption cases isn’t exactly a great move.
Pulled Out Of Peru
- Officials in Peru announced that Joran van der Sloot, who has been detained in the South American country for the murder of a Peruvian woman, will be extradited to the U.S. to face extortion and fraud charges. Van der Sloot has long been the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, who was last seen with him and two other men in Aruba in 2005.
- Van der Sloot has been indicted in the US on federal charges after he offered up information on Holloway’s whereabouts in exchange for $250,000. Holloway’s mother sent him over $25,000 and van der Sloot showed her attorney where Holloway was supposedly buried, but the location was incorrect. He was convicted of murdering Stephany Flores and sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2012.
Additional USA News
- Supreme Court sides with transgender woman from Guatemala in asylum dispute (CNN)
- Biden announces new fund to help low-income housing get climate upgrades (WaPo, $)
- Bob Iger to Ron DeSantis: Does Florida want our jobs and taxes or not? (CNN)
- Chris Christie calls Trump a ‘puppet of Putin’ after CNN town hall (Politico)
- Marijuana banking bill heads to Senate Banking Committee (Reuters)
- Judge who presided over Parkland school shooting trial announces resignation (NBC)
- McCarthy blocks Tlaib event marking Palestinian displacement, known as Nakba (CNN)
It’s Cool To Eat Plastic In The Cold
- As the oceans continue to fill up with plastics, humanity is still on the search for a way to get rid of all that junk, which doesn’t decompose but instead disintegrates into ever-smaller particles, leaching its way into water supplies and food chains. Recently, researchers have honed in on one specific method for disposing of plastics – plastic-eating microbes.
- According to an article in Frontiers in Microbiology from researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL (the SFIFFSLRWSL doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue), some microbes found in the Alps and Arctic could play a key role in eating up our plastic waste. The microbes, which researchers discovered by just leaving pieces of plastic lying around in the snow, were able to grow on the plastics, digesting them (slowly) by secreting enzymes that broke down certain kinds of plastic.
- There’s a catch, though (isn’t there always?). The microbes were only able to digest biodegradable plastics, which make up a small percentage of total plastics used, but researchers are optimistic despite this speed bump for two reasons. First, the microbes are able to eat their plastics at lower temperatures than other plastic-eating microbes currently being studied – these can survive in temperatures as low as 59 degrees Fahrenheit, while others require temperatures above 86 F, making plastic disposal more energy-intensive. Second, scientists are hoping to farm the enzymes in large quantities and change their properties, possibly enabling key advances in future plastic-eating-enzyme technologies.
- Beyoncé Renaissance Tour: The Full Setlist From Opening Night (Variety)
- Disney will bring Hulu content into Disney Plus and raise its ad-free prices (The Verge)
- KeyBank named ‘worst lender for Black borrowers’ will undergo ‘racial equity audit’ (USA Today)
- At least 2 cases of drug-resistant ringworm infections found in the US, CDC says (NBC)
- Revamped US News law school rankings yield major shifts (Reuters)
- ChatGPT user in China detained for creating and spreading fake news, police say (AP)
- As Covid Emergency Ends, Surveillance Shifts to the Sewers (NYT, $)
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