In the News: Week of January 26th

What happened in the world from January 26th - February 1st

Happy Sunday morning everyone! It’s been a busy week in the news, with Kobe, coronavirus, impeachment, and Iowa all dominating the headlines. Let’s jump right in.

In the news this week

Former Los Angeles Laker and basketball great Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a fiery helicopter crash that also took the lives of his daughter and seven others. The cause of the crash is yet to be determined, but the helicopter was flying in heavy fog with very low visibility, which could have contributed to the crash. Kobe spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and basketball fans around the globe spent the week mourning his shocking and sudden departure.

Coronavirus continues to spread, both in China and overseas. The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Thursday afternoon, as the virus continues to spread in China and in isolated cases around the world. The first human transmission case was reported in the U.S. on Thursday as well. Countries are taking more extreme measures to slow the spread of the virus; several countries (including the U.S.) are no longer allowing visitors from China to enter the country. Airlines are also canceling flights to China due to low demand and concerns from passengers and pilots. The total number of infected stands at 14,514 as of Saturday evening and the death toll is at 304. No deaths have occurred outside of China so far.

Impeachment proceedings continued throughout the week. On Friday, the Senate rejected motions to hear from additional witnesses by a vote of 51-49. A final vote on impeachment charges is expected to come on Wednesday, February 5th. One witness that would have been called is the former national security advisor John Bolton, who came forward and said that President Trump did in fact tie Ukrainian aid to the inquiries he sought into Democrats and the Bidens.

The charges against Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are directly related to the President’s alleged threat to withhold military aid from Ukraine. Whether or not he did is up for debate, but the outcome of the impeachment trial is not. After closing arguments early next week, Trump is expected to be acquitted on Wednesday.

The life expectancy for Americans rose in 2018, the first increase in four years. The report also confirmed the first decline in deaths from drugs in 28 years. The rise was not significant, as it only rose from 78.6 to 78.7. It is, however, a sign that the U.S. may have reached the peak of opioid deaths. Lower mortality rates for cancer, drug overdoses, and car accidents all contributed to the improved life expectancy.

Britain officially left the European Union on Friday night, after the EU gave its final approval to Brexit on Thursday. Brexit has been an ongoing debacle for almost four years, and it’s finally coming to an end. January 31st, 2020 shall officially be remembered as Brexit Day.

The Democratic primaries kick off with the Iowa caucuses on Monday night. A Des Moines Register poll that was scheduled to release Saturday night was nixed due to one interviewer omitting Buttigieg from the list of candidates. In most polls, though, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are neck-to-neck. Iowa caucuses matter so much because they are the first to vote, and the winner in Iowa has the potential to gain enough momentum to carry them through the primaries to the nomination. Iowans unfortunately have a lot of influence on the presidential nomination process. The demographics of Iowa are not at all representative of the United States as a whole, and they really shouldn’t be the first to vote every single primary season.

I say this selfishly, as it’s a dream of mine to one day be swooned by hordes of presidential candidates because my vote is more special and more important than Americans living in other states. As someone that doesn’t live in a swing state and has never received an unsolicited phone call asking who I’m voting for, my vote has never felt less important. (You can rest assured that I’ll still be voting in the primary and general election, and you should be too. Every vote matters, even those not in swing states.)

The U.S. economy grew 2.3% last year, the slowest year of Trump’s presidency. The trade war with China had a lot to do with it, although the global economy as a whole is beginning to show signs of slowing down. Our long period of expansion may finally be coming to an end, or who knows - maybe it will go on for another 10 years.

Headline of the Week: PC gamers in China are getting free porn games to encourage them to stay inside

I’ve got to hand it to China, it seems like there isn’t anything they aren’t willing to do to slow the spread of coronavirus. If the threat of contracting a deadly illness wasn’t enough to keep people indoors, we’ve now got a Steam developer giving away their racy flagship video game to Chinese players. I hope that all Chinese affected by quarantines or who are just staying indoors for their own safety are able to find plenty of entertainment to keep them from succumbing to boredom. If there’s one thing worse than coronavirus, it’s being locked indoors with nothing to do.

Recommended Reading: The China Connection: How One D.E.A. Agent Cracked a Global Fentanyl Ring

We have a fentanyl epidemic in the United States. In the last five years, deaths from synthetic opioids, especially fentanyl, has increased 10-fold. Fentanyl is so dangerous because it is extremely potent; a small amount produces a long-lasting high, but that also means the risk of overdosing is much higher. Heroine is often cut with fentanyl (which is much cheaper than heroine) to increase the profits of drug dealers.

Much of the fentanyl in the U.S. comes from China, where the process for controlling such substances is slow and cumbersome and substances like fentanyl can remain legal long after they are banned in the U.S. and other countries. The drug can be easily ordered on the dark web, and delivered through the mail by the USPS. It’s almost impossible to find fentanyl in packages coming from China to the U.S.; 20.6 billion packages were shipped out of China in 2015, and the USPS alone processed 500 million international packages in 2017. 

This is the story of a global fentanyl ring, lives the drug has taken, and a DEA agent trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle. I really can’t recommend reading the full story enough. My short description doesn’t do it justice.

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