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Daily Skimm: Emmett Till, Semiconductors, and WhatsApp

Emmett Till is shown lying on his bed.
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Aug 10, 2022

Emmett Till

The Story

Emmett Till’s accuser is walking free. Again.

What happened?

Yesterday, a grand jury in Mississippi declined to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham — the woman whose false accusations sparked Emmett Till’s lynching. In 1955, two men tortured and murdered the 14-year-old Black boy in Mississippi after Donham accused him of propositioning and grabbing her. The racist attack was brutal — and one of an estimated 500 lynchings that Black Americans had endured by that point in the state of Mississippi alone. The attack also in part fueled the civil rights movement. But the alleged attackers were acquitted of murder charges. Donham was never charged for her role.

What's the latest?

Back in June, researchers uncovered a 1955 warrant out for her arrest on kidnapping charges...but police never served it. Others — including her husband — were acquitted. And in a book, Donham is quoted acknowledging her allegations against Till are “not true.” Many have been calling for justice. And authorities pointed to probable cause. But now, a jury says there’s still not enough evidence to indict the 87-year-old woman on kidnapping and manslaughter charges. Till’s cousin — and last living witness to his abduction — called the announcement “unfortunate, but predictable.” And said the prosecutor alone can’t “undo hundreds of years of anti-black systems” that let Emmett Till’s killers go free.

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The lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till was one of the most brutal — and yet commonplace — moments in US history. Yesterday’s decision reaffirmed that no one will be held accountable for his death.

Facebook and Abortion Law

Yesterday, details emerged of one of the first known cases of Facebook cooperating with law enforcement to help incriminate someone for abortion. In April, a 17-year-old girl in Nebraska allegedly took abortion pills at about 23 weeks of pregnancy — past the 20 weeks the state allows. Police — investigating the girl and her mother — served Facebook with a warrant to access their messages. And Facebook complied. Now, the two have been charged with a variety of crimes, including performing an abortion and concealing a dead human body.

The case is shining a spotlight on how tech companies will react to abortion-related warrants from police — something that is expected to skyrocket as states restrict abortion rights post-Roe. In this case, a spokesperson from Facebook’s parent company says the warrant it received did not mention abortion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly said in the past that efforts to improve encryption will “keep people safe.”

PS: State abortion laws are changing all over the country. We tracked the abortion legal battle here.

And Also...This

What President Biden thinks is all that and a bag of chips...

The Chips and Science Act. Yesterday, President Biden signed the $280 billion law, ramping up competition with China. The bipartisan legislation directs money to domestically manufacture, research, and develop semiconductors. Aka the chips that are in things like your cars, smartphones, and laptops. It’s one of the products that have been in short supply during the pandemic. The goal is to ensure continuity of access to key tech...and also help reduce inflation by increasing supply. Oh, and help the US compete with East Asia, which produces 75% of global semiconductors compared to the US’s 10%. Now, Biden says the bill will ensure the US leads “the world in industries of the future” and also create tens of thousands of jobs and he’s going all in. Critics argue it’s handing a blank check to companies.

What's taking a shot at Lyme disease…

This vaccine. Earlier this week, Pfizer and French pharma company Valneva announced its VLA15 vaccine is starting the third phase of a clinical study in about 6,000 people. Lyme disease can be debilitating, with the tick-borne illness infecting nearly 35,000 people in the US in 2019. While life-threatening cases are rare, they can lead to severe headaches, arthritis, fatigue, and facial paralysis — among a wide range of symptoms. In the early 2000s, there was one vaccine available...but it went off the market because of poor sales. The companies had also reportedly pulled a protein that had been attributed to “adverse events.” Next up: once phase 3 trials wrap up, the pharma companies could potentially apply for FDA authorization by 2025.

Who’s serving up big news…

Serena Williams. Yesterday, the 23-time Grand Slam tennis star revealed she’s “evolving away from tennis” toward “other things that are important” to her. In a first-person essay for Vogue, Williams said she wants to focus on her venture capital firm and growing her family. The tennis star hinted that her last tournament could be the US Open, which begins Aug 29 in New York. Williams has been the face of tennis since winning her first US Open in 1999. Together with her older sister, Venus, the Williams sisters transformed the sport, making a regular habit of winning grand slams in both singles and doubles tennis. Over the span of her 30-year career, Serena has won 73 career singles titles, 23 doubles titles, and two mixed doubles titles which include 39 grand slam titles. Lots of love for the GOAT.

When trying to avoid your family group chat...

Enter: WhatsApp.

What we do in the shadows...

Wonder if Taika Waititi and Rita Ora got married.

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