On the last night of his presidency, only a few hours after delivering an enervated farewell address, Donald Trump reminded us why he is one of the most bizarre characters in recent American political life by releasing his final list of pardons.
Trump pardoned some 73 persons on his way out the door and commuted the sentences of 70 others. Some of those on the receiving end of his clemency were famous. Most were not. There are not many lists on which Lil Wayne and Kodak Black will appear alongside Steve Bannon and various disgraced former Republican party officials. I was pleased that Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit whose sentence of 28 years in prison speaks more to the selective outrage of white suburban housewives in his home state than to the severity of his crimes, will be leaving prison soon.
Many of the comparatively unknown persons were obviously deserving: felons who had served their time honorably and devoted their lives to good works. Others, including the bird killer James E. Johnson, the Israeli spy Aviem Sella, three members of a clan of fraudulent South Dakota beef sellers, and many others guilty of financial crimes, seem more questionable. The strangest addition of all was that of Robert Bowker, who pled guilty three decades ago to the crime of illegally transporting 28 snakes owned by Rudy "Cobra King" Komarek to a reptile house in Miami. It appears that the aforementioned monarch offered Bowker a bribe of exactly 22 alligators, albeit one that he did not accept.
Perhaps even more interesting were those whose names did not appear on the list. Trump did not, as some expected, issue pardons to Republican members of Congress for the non-existent crime of challenging the Electoral College results in a handful of states, nor did he extend them to members of his family. Most important, he did not force the interesting constitutional question of a self-pardon, likely because the legal action to which he is most vulnerable will come either from state governments or from the United States Senate, from neither of which a pardon would have shielded him. Matthew Walther
The Chamber of Commerce on Friday also urged Congress to end the benefits before they expire in September. Other GOP governors are reinstating requirements that benefit applicants prove they are looking for jobs. "We absolutely can put more people to work," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Wednesday.
The White House and Democrats argue the supplemental benefits are helping Americans and not measurably hurting the economy. In fact, there are a host of reasons for April's hiring slowdown, The Associated Press reports. "Nearly 3 million people are reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus, according to government surveys. More women also dropped out of the workforce last month, likely to care for children," and supply-chain problems have throttled the construction and manufacturing sectors.
But there is data suggesting businesses are right about a labor shortage, AP says. For example, "average hourly pay rose 0.7 percent in April to $30.17," a sign companies are having to offer better wages to attract workers. "Unemployment benefits have been like collective bargaining," a restaurant worker named Marie M. told AP. "They made a union out of all of us." She isn't alone in being more selective about job offers now.
The hospitality industry raised hourly pay by an average of $1 during the pandemic, Heather Long writes at The Washington Post. But "warehouses have hiked wages by more than a dollar and now pay $26 an hour on average."
Wall Street shrugged off Friday's jobs report "as an anomaly," Long notes. "But another way to look at this is there is a great reassessment going on in the U.S. economy," with "growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic."
"And if the extended benefits mean some workers can take the time to find a job that's a better match for their skills, and pays them a better wage, that's a good thing, not a bad thing," Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, tells The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber
His hard work paid off, and now, Joshua Nelson wants to give a boost to another deserving student.
Nelson, 18, is a senior at St. Charles West High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He was one of just a handful of students to receive the President's Scholarship at Southeast Missouri State University — a $43,000 award that will cover tuition and boarding for four years, as long as Nelson meets the criteria for renewal. He had saved $1,000 for college, and is now using that as the foundation for the Joshua Nelson Leaders in Action Scholarship, which will be given to a well-rounded student active in community service.
"I really thought it was important to give back to my community that poured in so much to me," Nelson, who will study biomedical sciences, told KSDK. "Honestly, it makes me feel on top of the world. The fact that I can just help somebody a little bit makes me feel great and I really want to see other people succeed."
Nelson has a history of giving back: he is president of his school's Multicultural Achievement Council, which aims to prepare historically under-represented students for college and careers, and also tutors at a local Boys and Girls Club. On top of that, he is a varsity basketball player and member of the National Honor Society and National Society of Black Engineers.
It is Nelson's hope that other individuals and businesses in the community will donate to the scholarship fund, so multiple awards can be distributed to students for years to come. Catherine Garcia
Laos has recorded its first COVID-19 death, CNN reports, more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic began.
The state-run Vientiane Times said the person who died was a 53-year-old Vietnamese woman who worked at a karaoke club in the capital Vientiane. The woman had diabetes and other medical conditions, the Vientiane Times said.
A landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases since the Lao New Year holiday in mid-April — of the 1,233 cases reported in Laos since May 2020, 1,184 were recorded in the last month, Johns Hopkins University data shows. About 7.28 million people live in Laos, and so far, the government has administered 184,387 COVID-19 vaccine doses, CNN reports. Catherine Garcia
When his mother called to tell him she had been fired from her job as a hotel housekeeper, Sian-Pierre Regis knew it was time for her to stop worrying about taking care of everyone else and start focusing on herself.
His mom, Rebecca Danigelis, was fired in 2016, at the age of 75. By that point, she had been working hard for decades, and Regis was concerned that without a job, she would feel adrift. "She worked her hands to the bone," Regis told CBS Evening News. "She deserved to feel joy. And that's what I wanted to give her."
Regis, a freelance journalist, had his mom share with him her bucket list — things she had always wanted to do, but couldn't because of work. Soon, they were on the road, doing everything from milking cows in Vermont to dancing in a hop-hop class to jumping out of an airplane. Regis filmed their adventures and turned the footage into a documentary called Duty Free, which is about their journey, ageism, and financial insecurity. The documentary is now in theaters and available to stream online.Catherine Garcia
There are nearly a dozen countries that have yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine dose, including Chad, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea, and Tanzania.
"Delays and shortages of vaccine supplies are driving African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and the continent now accounts for only 1 percent of the vaccines administered worldwide," the World Health Organization said last week.
Chad, one of the world's least developed countries, has recorded 4,835 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 170 deaths. The government has expressed concerns over receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, over fears it won't protect as well against the coronavirus variant that first emerged in South Africa. The country routinely sees the temperature reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and could receive a shipment of Pfizer doses next month if the cold storage facilities necessary to hold the vials can be secured, The Associated Press reports.
Dr. Oumaima Djarma, an infectious disease doctor in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad, told AP it is "unfair and unjust" that no one in the country — not even a single health care worker — has been able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Djarma has been pleading for vaccines "to at least protect the health workers. Everyone dies from this disease, rich or poor. Everyone must have the opportunity, the chance to be vaccinated, especially those who are most exposed."
Burkina Faso was on track to receive vaccines from a manufacturer in India, but because that country is dealing with an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases, production has been scaled back. Chivanot Afavi, a nurse in Burkina Faso, told AP that health care workers there want COVID-19 vaccines just as much as their "colleagues around the world. No one really knows what this disease will do to us in the future." Catherine Garcia
A gunman walked into a birthday party in Colorado Springs, Colorado, early Sunday and opened fire, killing six adults and then himself, police said. One of the victims was the gunman's girlfriend, police said. None of the children at the party were shot, but they were "crying hysterically" when police drove them away to be placed with relatives, Yenifer Reyes, a neighbor at the trailer park where the shooting occurred, told The Denver Post.
Freddy Marquez, who attended the birthday party but left early with his wife and children, told the Post that everyone at the party was extended family. The party was for his wife and her brother, Marquez said, and his wife's mom, two brothers, and three other extended family members were killed by the gunman, who he said he did not know well.
"My heart breaks for the families who have lost someone they love and for the children who have lost their parents," Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski said in a statement. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said "the tragic shooting in Colorado Springs is devastating, especially as many of us are spending the day celebrating the women in our lives who have made us the people we are today." Peter Weber
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called his Israeli counterpart on Sunday to let him know the United States has "serious concerns" over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem, the White House said in a statement.
On Sunday night, clashes continued in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police, with the demonstrators, outraged over the evictions, throwing rocks and water bottles at officers, who responded with rubber bullets and stun grenades. Palestinian medics say hundreds of people have been injured in the violence.
During the call with Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, Sullivan "encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm" amid Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday marking Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Sullivan also made it clear that the Biden administration is committed to Israel's security and building peace and stability in the region, the White House said, with Sullivan and Ben-Shabbat both agreeing that "the launching of rocket attacks and incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel is unacceptable and must be condemned." Catherine Garcia