News·5 min read

Daily Skimm: Death Penalty, Automakers and Climate Change, and Betty Cooper

Bill Barr
Getty Images
Jul 26, 2019


The Story

The US federal government plans to execute death-row inmates for the first time since 2003.

Wait, what?

Executions can happen at the state or federal level. But states have been moving away from capital punishment in recent years. Earlier this year, New Hampshire became the 21st state to eliminate the death penalty.

Tell me about the federal level.

It's pretty rare – and has been used for crimes like rape and murder. In 2014, after a botched state execution in Oklahoma, then-President Barack Obama told the Justice Department to review how capital punishment happens in the US, including any problems with lethal injection drugs. It essentially hit pause on federal executions until that review was complete. Yesterday, AG William Barr said 'k, we've got our answer.'


Barr said executions can resume. And that the DOJ owes it "to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system." But the DOJ wants prisons to use a different form of lethal injections than the three-drug cocktail – which may be considered "cruel and unusual punishment."

So what's next?

Barr has asked the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the execution of five death-row inmates. All were convicted of murdering children. Barring legal challenges, the first executions will start in December.

What are people saying?

Many Democrats (and human rights groups) are against the death penalty – with many concerned about the possibility of wrongful convictions and racial disparities in the sentences. And though some Republicans are pushing to end the death penalty, others consider it justice and a deterrent for committing the most horrific crimes. President Trump has been a vocal supporter for years now. And this change in policy is reminding people of the ads he took out in New York City newspapers in 1989, calling for New York to bring back the death penalty after the rape of a jogger in Central Park.


There are at least 60 inmates on federal death row who could be affected by this. Expect this topic to come up as a flashpoint for the 2020 debates.


Who didn't include the Trump admin in the group chat…

California and automakers. The Golden State and four companies – Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW – reached an agreement to reduce emissions. Not just in California...across the US. The Trump admin is planning to hit 'reverse' on standards set by the Obama admin to reduce emissions. It wants Americans to be able to afford upgrading to newer, safer cars. But the transportation sector is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. And California wants to change that, because climate change. Now these companies reached a deal with California to set fuel efficiency standards across the US closer to levels planned by the Obama admin.

  • What does this mean for global warming?: The US is the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. And these companies represent about 30% of the US auto market. So this could be a big help to fight global warming – especially if more car companies sign on.

  • The Trump admin's not pleased: It says that the "federal government, not a single state" should set the country's fuel efficiency standards. It's also not buying that the standards make a big dent in climate change, saying the planet is set to warm by 7°F by the end of the century anyway. Uplifting.

$: What's money got to do with it? Here's how climate change can affect your wallet.

What is constantly lurking in the background...

Russia, apparently. Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee dropped a report that concluded all 50 states were targeted by Russia ahead of the 2016 election. And that "top election vulnerabilities" remained before the 2018 midterm elections. This came after former special counsel Robert Mueller said during his testimony earlier this week that Russia was moving to interfere "as we sit here." Comforting.

  • What are we gonna do about it?: If it's up to the Senate, very little. Senate Republicans voted twice within a day to block legislation aimed at strengthening election security. And said the states already have the allocated money in grants to update their election systems.  

Who's getting pardoned…

Baiq Nuril Maknun. The Indonesian bookkeeper had been sentenced to six months in jail and fined about $35,000 for recording her boss (a school principal) sexually harassing her. The courts said 'actually how about we convict you for that instead.' And charged Maknun with spreading indecent material. Yesterday, after outcry, Indonesia's parliament pardoned her. No, the boss still hasn't been charged with anything. Yes, this is part of a larger trend of discrimination against women in the country.

What people are watching…

Tunisia. Yesterday, the country's first democratically elected president died during his term at age 92. President Béji Caïd Essebsi was reportedly the only senior official in Tunisia who worked under both previous dictatorships and the new democracy. He steered the country after the 2010 revolution and was elected president in 2014. But he's also been criticized for his role in human rights violations in the '60s. Despite the criticism, the government reportedly called Essebsi one of Tunisia's "greatest men and one of those who contributed the most to building it.

Who's saying 'sorry'…

A Pennsylvania school district. It had recently warned parents that their kids may be placed in foster care if lunch debts weren't paid. After outcry, and offers from people to help pay the $22,000 that was owed, the district is now apologizing and accepting the donations. And said that students there will get free breakfasts and lunches for the next five years

Who to channel when you need to shut down rumors...

Betty Cooper.

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