☕ Cover: On Tuesday the federal government carried out its first execution in seventeen years.
Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know to start the day, along with perspective from both sides for calmer coffee conversations with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Plus, a bit of good news: Filmmaker Olly Ginelli spent 10 years secretly teaching himself jazz piano just so he could surprise his dad on his birthday.
📰 TOP STORY
The First Federal Execution in Seventeen Years: On Tuesday the federal government carried out its first execution in seventeen years, killing by lethal injection a man named Daniel Lewis Lee, a self-proclaimed White supremacist who tortured and killed an Arkansas family in 1996 – including an 8-year-old girl. The execution of Lee proceeded after a series of legal volleys that ended when the Supreme Court stepped in early Tuesday in a 5-4 ruling and allowed it to move forward. Here’s what both sides are saying:
Supporters of the death penalty generally view it through a retribution and cost perspective. In other words, supporters believe the death penalty gives closure to victims’ families and saves taxpayer funds. Supporters also believe it serves as a form of crime deterrent and gives prosecutors another card to play in the plea bargain process. As it relates to the current political landscape, Jess Bravin and Sadie Gurman of the Wall Street Journal point out that, “President Trump strongly supports capital punishment. His administration has made resumption of federal executions a priority, putting it at odds with national trends that have seen both use of and public support for capital punishment decline.” For example, Trump publicly called for the death penalty against Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in a deadly 2017 attack on a New York bike path that killed eight people. Attorney General William Barr has also echoed this sentiment, saying the Justice Department has a duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts, including the death penalty, and provide closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened. In a majority decision, the Conservative Supreme Justices sided with President Trump and AG Barr in allowing the execution to proceed.
Opponents of the death penalty believe it is a barbaric form of punishment and violates the “cruel and unusual” clause in the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. They say that the endless appeals process clogs our court system and that some jury members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death. More broadly, opponents say that life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent, and that we as a society have to move away from the “eye for an eye” revenge mentality if civilization is to advance. From a financial perspective, opponents also believe that the cost to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life. For example, in California, the death penalty has cost more than $4 billion since 1978. That includes the costs of trials, appeals, and incarceration on death row. In Florida, enforcing the death penalty costs $51 million a year more than it would have to give all first-degree murderers life in prison without parole. In North Carolina, death penalty cases cost $2.16 million per execution more than sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. As it relates to this specific case, critics argued the government was creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency for political gain and that it was “shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution during a pandemic,” according to one of Lee’s lawyers, Ruth Friedman. On Monday the execution was initially blocked so that Lee could present arguments that “pentobarbital,” the drug chosen for lethal injection, could cause “extreme pain and needless suffering during their executions.” This is another reason people oppose the death penalty, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma in 2014.
Flag This: As mentioned above and as pointed out by the Pew Research Center, “over the past two decades, public support for capital punishment has declined substantially in the U.S., as have death sentences and executions.” Numbers of state executions have fallen steadily since the 2003 federal execution, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. States put to death 59 people in 2004 and 22 in 2019. With that said, according to Pew’s most recent survey on the death penalty, support was up slightly. “A narrow majority of Americans (54%) said they favored the death penalty for people convicted of murder, up from 49% in 2016.” Interestingly enough, the relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 opposed the death penalty and argued Lee deserved life in prison.
🦅 US NEWS
U.S. public schools, focus of debate on reopening, are unsung economic force
“As the debate rages over how to safely reopen U.S. schools this autumn, one factor weighs heavily: the nation’s 98,000 public K-12 schools are a cornerstone of the economy, and a massive jobs engine,” David Lawder writes for Reuters. “Nearly 51 million American kids attend public elementary, middle and high schools, compared to about six million in private schools. The educated workforce and childcare the system creates have been key drivers of economic growth. With a total workforce of about eight million Americans before the pandemic, kindergarten through 12th grade public education is also one of the largest U.S. employment sectors, exceeding construction, hospitals, finance and insurance and transportation and warehousing.”
- Flag This: “Maintaining these jobs is particularly important for local communities because of the economic multiplier effect, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.” Without these jobs, tax revenues and budgets will wither. Keep reading.
Philadelphia protesters sue city over tear gas, use of force
“Three class-action lawsuits filed in Philadelphia on Tuesday accuse the city of using military-level force that injured protesters and bystanders alike during peaceful protests against racial inequality and police brutality,” Maryclaire Dale reports for the AP. Supporters of the lawsuits claim Philadelphia police lobbed tear gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters indiscriminately as they marched peacefully on a city highway. Opponents point to local coverage of the protests that turned violent in which groups of people loot stores in the city. Below is additional local coverage from across the country:
- Minneapolis: The final bill is in for taxpayer funded private security for three Minneapolis City Council members: $152,400. All three council members have been outspoken proponents of defunding the Minneapolis Police Department.
- New York City: The number of NYPD officers filing for retirement has soared and ‘could spell disaster for the city’
- Seattle: “Reckless”: Seattle Police Chief Rips 50% Budget Cut to Department
Plus: The Trump administration has walked back a policy that would have stripped international college students of their U.S. visas if their coursework was entirely online, ending a proposed plan that had thrown the higher education world into turmoil. Keep reading.
🌎 WORLD NEWS
“China’s ascent has reshaped security policies across the Asia-Pacific region,” Alastair Gale and Chieko Tsuneoka report for the Wall Street Journal. Australia is spending billions on high-tech defense systems, India is inching closer to the US, and South Korea is buying more fighter jets. “Nowhere has the impact been stronger than in Japan. Its military is now one of the world’s best-equipped and trained, increasingly visible on exercises around the globe. A close partner of the U.S., Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has moved the country away from its strict pacifism during his 8½ years in power over two stints. China’s military rise, along with the threat of North Korean missiles, has been a major catalyst.”
- Flag This: “The changes come amid a generational shift in sentiment about the pacifism Japan embraced in the wake of World War II. Concern about security is most acute among Japanese who didn’t experience the war years or their aftermath, with nearly 95% of those age 18 to 29 saying there is at least some risk of Japan getting drawn into a war. Many young people support Mr. Abe’s push for a strong military to face the challenge from China and North Korea.”
- Plus: China will sanction Lockheed Martin over arms sales to Taiwan
- Plus, plus: U.K. Bans Huawei From 5G Network, Raising Tensions With China
A second ISIS wave is lurking in the dark
“Today, Islamic State barely exists in Iraq and Syria, its leader is dead and its recruits are scattered, languishing in jail or hunted throughout the Middle East and Europe,” Faisal Al Yafai writes in an op-ed for the Asia Times. “But the threat of ISIS and of extremism has not gone away. Both on the battlefield of ideas and on the real battlefield, a second wave is certainly coming. That wave will crash first across West Africa, where clashes between militant groups and national armies are taking place in every country of the Sahel region.”
- Flag This: “It may have fallen off the front pages of Western media after losing its last sliver of territory in March 2019, but make no mistake, ISIS remains a potent force. In the past 15 months, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in places as far afield as Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nigeria – not as the inspiration for those attacks or as commanders issuing the orders from afar, but as actual perpetrators.”
Plus: They survived Ebola. Now they want to teach others to survive COVID-19: Ebola survivors across West Africa could be a very useful knowledge resource to governments in their pandemic response strategies. Will they take the opportunity?
🗞️ BIZ, SPORTS, & TECH
Three Big Banks Set Aside Billions to Cover Potential Virus Loan Losses
JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup set aside a combined $28 billion to cover soured loans, a sign they expect the pandemic to take a heavy toll on consumers and companies. Individually, JPMorgan shares jumped after record trading revenue drove stronger-than-expected second quarter profit. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo shares tumbled after posting $2.4 billion loss causing the bank to slash its dividend to 10 cents.
Patrick Mahomes Covers the August Issue of GQ
For the August issue of GQ, Patrick Mahomes opened up to Clay Skipper about the biggest contract in the history of sports and finding his voice amid pandemics and protests. Keep reading.
Amazon is rolling out grocery carts that let shoppers skip checkout lines, bag their groceries and walk out
Amazon is launching smart shopping carts at its Woodland Hills, California, grocery store in 2020. Dash Carts are embedded with cameras, sensors and a smart display that automatically track a shopper’s order. Similar to Amazon’s cashierless Go stores, Dash Carts allow shoppers to avoid checkout lines as they exit the store. Keep reading.
📢 PRESENTED BY KEYSMART
🗳️ FLAG POLLS
On This Day in 2006, the San Francisco-based podcasting company Odeo officially released Twttr—later changed to Twitter—its short messaging service (SMS) for groups, to the public.
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