The U.S. Supreme Court has gutted what’s left of the Voting Rights Act by upholding two racially discriminatory voter laws in Arizona. Thursday’s 6-3 ruling by the court’s conservative majority will make it harder to challenge new voter suppression laws being pushed by Republican state lawmakers across the country. In her dissent, Elena Kagan wrote, “What is tragic here is that the Court has yet again rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses. What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about 'the end of discrimination in voting.'”
In a second major ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring nonprofit organizations reveal the names of large donors to the state. The case was brought by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a right-wing organization founded by the Koch brothers. Election law experts predict the ruling could lead to challenges of campaign finance disclosure laws and a surge in dark money spending on elections.
The Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, surrendered to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Thursday, charged with grand larceny for avoiding taxes on $1.7 million in perks that he did not report as income. His arraignment came as District Attorney Cy Vance also filed criminal charges against the Trump Organization, accusing it of operating a 15-year tax fraud scheme. Weisselberg pleaded not guilty. He was ordered to surrender his passport and was released without bail. His lawyer said the case against him and the Trump Organization was politically motivated.
Alan Futerfas: “In 244 years, we have not had a local prosecutor go after a former president of the United States or his employees or his company. And that is a — that is a significant line to cross.”
Weisselberg could face up to a decade in prison if convicted. Many legal experts are speculating prosecutors targeted him with the hope he will flip and help investigators in other ongoing probes into the Trump family business and possibly former President Trump himself.
Venezuela has begun mass vaccinations using Cuba’s Abdala vaccine, which Cuban researchers say is more than 92% effective at preventing COVID-19. The Biden administration has refused to share vaccines with Venezuela, where officials blame harsh U.S.-led sanctions for delaying critical supplies needed for Venezuela’s vaccination drive.
Canada continues to bake under a heat dome that’s shattered all-time temperature records, with heat warnings in effect all the way from British Columbia to Ontario. Between Wednesday and Thursday, meteorologists logged an unprecedented 700,000 lightning events in western Canada, driven by pyrocumulonimbus clouds from wildfires. The lightning strikes, in turn, sparked new blazes. They followed Canada’s all-time record high of 121 degrees Fahrenheit, set in the town of Lytton on Tuesday. The town was almost completely destroyed on Wednesday by a wildfire.
In Greece, authorities closed the Acropolis to tourists on Thursday as a scorching heat wave brought temperatures of up to 110 degrees. And in Russia, a Siberian village known as the coldest inhabited place on Earth is baking in record heat, with a high temperature of 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Siberia’s heat wave is rapidly melting permafrost, releasing huge stores of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named Mississippi Congressmember Bennie Thompson to chair the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Six other Democrats will serve on it, including Trump impeachment managers Zoe Lofgren, Adam Schiff and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
Rep. Jamie Raskin: “We need to figure out who organized the violence on January 6th, how did they organize it, and why did they organize it. What were the purposes of the different critical actors who were present on that day?”
Speaker Pelosi also said Republican Congressmember Liz Cheney would serve on the January 6 committee. Cheney was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the mob that attacked Congress. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he was “shocked” that Cheney accepted Pelosi’s invitation, and suggested Republican leaders might strip her of her House committee assignments.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered a halt to all federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures on capital punishment. In a memo dated Thursday, Garland cites the “arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases.” Garland also ordered a review of the lethal injection drugs used to kill condemned prisoners. The Justice Department, however, has not changed its position that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should remain on death row.
Beginning in 2020, the former Trump administration carried out a killing spree of 13 death row prisoners, after then-Attorney General William Barr ordered the first federal executions since 2003.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. military has left Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years — a key center of command in America’s longest war. An Afghan official said U.S. forces did not coordinate the departure with local authorities, resulting in a period of looting at the airbase before Afghan forces took over control. As the U.S. winds down its withdrawal from Afghanistan, at least 650 troops are expected to remain to secure the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Meanwhile, Taliban forces have taken control of dozens of districts in recent weeks.
In Ivory Coast, a court sentenced 10 nationals of Burkina Faso to one decade in prison for trafficking children and forcing them to work on cocoa plantations. The group trafficked at least 40 children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. The Ivorian prosecutor said the conviction is part of a shift in how the legal system treats such crimes.
Edgar Damoi: “We want to say that Ivory Coast’s justice system is changing. We are breaking away from impunity for good, because our people need to understand that our children’s place is in school and not in the fields, not in quarries or in gold mines.”
But many international corporations continue to be shielded for their role in child trafficking and slave labor. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Nestlé and Cargill, dismissing a lawsuit because the abuses took place overseas. The case was brought by six men trafficked to the Ivory Coast from Mali as children to work on plantations.
In Turkey, thousands took to the streets as the government officially withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, a landmark international treaty aimed at preventing gender-based violence. Turkey was the very first country to sign the convention when it was ratified 10 years ago. This is a protester in Istanbul, where police deployed tear gas on some of the demonstrators.
Asli: “I am sure women are exposd to violence, rape and abuse elsewhere in the world. But in the end, they know that those people will be punished, there will be a deterrent punishment, and the state will protect women. But I cannot say this here. There is nobody to protect me, and this is really awful.”
At least 300 femicides were recorded in Turkey last year. More protests are planned this weekend.
The NFL has issued a $10 million fine to the Washington Football Team following a probe into widespread sexual harassment, which was perpetuated by the team’s managers and executives. The NFL found repeated instances of bullying and intimidation, with many women employees reporting harassment and a lack of respect while at work. The reports of misconduct date back as far as 2004.
The Boy Scouts of America has reached an $850 million settlement with tens of thousands of people who were sexually abused as scouts. It’s the largest settlement of a child sexual abuse case in U.S. history. More than 84,000 people have joined lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, with claims that sexual abuse was an “unspoken norm” within the organization since the 1960s.
In Canada, protests and vigils replaced many of the usual festivities marking Canada Day, following the recent discovery of graves and remains of First Nations children at government-run schools. In Saskatchewan, protesters laid backpacks covered in orange handprints on the steps of the Legislative Building, representing the unmarked graves of Indigenous children found near the Marieval Residential School in late June.
Protesters: “No pride in genocide! No pride in genocide!”
In Manitoba, protesters toppled a statue of Queen Victoria in front of the provincial Legislative Building. Many Indigenous people in Canada already long rejected the annual July 1 holiday. Lawyer Lori Idlout said on Twitter, “Today, I celebrate Canada’s failure to eradicate indigenous peoples, coast to coast to coast. We are here, we are strong.”