5 things to know for June 23: Voting rights, US violence, Covid-19, Hong Kong, Brexit

The Amazon rainforest may be headed for another devastating fire season. After a destructive 2020 and with drought conditions in Brazil, the forest has rarely been drier than it is right now.

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1. Voting rights

The sweeping voting rights bill championed by Democrats failed to advance in the Senate yesterday after a dead-even 50-50 vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move it forward. This wasn’t too much of a surprise, since Senate Republicans signaled they wouldn’t support it. Still, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Republicans’ united block of the bill “indefensible” and “ridiculous.” The bill aimed to counter efforts by GOP-led state legislatures to pass restrictive voting laws after the 2020 presidential election. Now, Democrats will take on the issue from other angles. The Senate Rules Committee plans to hold a series of hearings, including in Georgia, calling for passage of new legislation. Dems also may look to push the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a different bill that shores up provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

2. Violence & policing

Violent crime is on the rise in cities across the US, and the White House has listened with alarm as local authorities warn of an even deadlier summer. President Biden is due to address the spike in shootings, armed robberies and assaults today after a meeting with state and local officials, law enforcement representatives and other experts. The Biden administration hopes to come up with a comprehensive crime reduction plan to curtail any Republican efforts to use the spike as a reason to run to a “law and order” campaign during next year’s midterm elections. Major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year alone. Some police officers say they’re worried about increased scrutiny of their profession and how it will affect police responses to the predicted rise in violence.

3. Coronavirus

Experts now say that dangerous Delta variant could cause a full-on resurgence of coronavirus in the US in the coming months. The most recent model finds that a highly contagious variant, even coupled with 75% of eligible Americans getting vaccinated, could result in more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths per week at various points during the fall and winter — a huge increase over recent summer lows. And a 75% vaccination rate is a far-off dream right now. The country will likely fall short of Biden’s goal of a 70% partial vaccination rate among adults by July 4. College students and workers around the country are also starting to balk at vaccine requirements set by their schools or employers.

4. Hong Kong

Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper, has announced it will close after several of its journalists were arrested and millions of dollars in assets frozen. The closure is the latest consequence of the national security law imposed last year by Beijing, and it has sent a deep chill through Hong Kong’s media industry. The law punishes anything the authorities deem to be subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. While Hong Kong’s leaders assured that press freedom would be protected, for many journalists in the region, a closure like this seemed all but inevitable. Since the law took effect, Apple Daily’s founder has been arrested and charged with collusion, police officers have twice raided the publication’s newsroom and its bank accounts were recently frozen.

5. Brexit

It’s been five years since the UK’s Brexit vote sent shockwaves across the globe and put the country on a divisive and rocky path out of the European Union. Many of those divisions remain, including tensions with Northern Ireland and an ongoing independence push by Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly against Brexit. Meanwhile, the UK government has begun talks on joining a Pacific trade partnership that it sees as one of its biggest opportunities to forge economic alliances beyond Europe after Brexit. However, trade experts say such alliances will yield only modest economic benefits and won’t make up for the hit to Britain’s trade caused by its break from the European Union.

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Instead of “Actor” or “Actress,” they can choose, simply, “Performer.”

Avril Lavigne partners with real-life ‘Sk8er Boi’ Tony Hawk in TikTok debut

The year is 2002. Modern smartphones don’t exist. People wear ties with T-shirts. All is well. 

McDonald’s will launch its first-ever nationwide loyalty program July 8

Don’t lie, you probably assumed McDonald’s already had a loyalty program. It’s been around since 1955, after all!

TODAY’S NUMBER

4%

That’s how much the US birth rate fell last year, much of it likely due to the pandemic. It’s “the largest annual decline in the number of births since 1973,” CDC researchers said.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Students across all grade levels have experienced learning loss. And it’s not just the learning loss for this current year. Many of them have lost ground developmentally, particularly younger kids.”

Sandy Addis, chairperson of the National Dropout Prevention Center, who says education challenges brought on by the pandemic and remote learning will have long-term consequences on some students

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY

How the sound happens 

What, you think splashing water and footsteps in movies just sound like that? No way — thank a Foley artist! (Click here to view.)