First Thing: Record-shattering heatwave bakes western US amid mega-drought

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Norma Galeana/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Norma Galeana/Reuters

Good morning.

With summer yet to officially begin and temperatures soaring, a record-shattering heatwave in the US is raising fears over drought and fire.

This week, 40 million Americans from California to Montana experienced temperatures of 100F (38C) or hotter, while 50 million were under excessive heat warnings and heat advisories, reports Katharine Gammon.

More than 55% of the west is enduring “extreme” or “exceptional” drought conditions.

  • Researchers say the heatwave is being fuelled by climate breakdown and it is expected to worsen in the future.

  • A mega-drought is drying up rivers, threatening salmon stocks and reservoir levels. America’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, on Wednesday registered its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s.

  • ‘This is really, really bad’: Maanvi Singh speaks to climate researchers about the crisis.

  • Nasa says the Earth is trapping an “unprecedented” amount of heat, as a study has found that “energy imbalance approximately doubled” between 2005 and 2019.

  • Meanwhile, the US oil company Marathon Petroleum got $2.1bn in tax benefits last year – more than any other US oil company – while cutting nearly 2,000 jobs.

Experts warn that the Republican attack on voting rights could backfire

A rally to pass the For the People Act in Washington DC earlier this month.
A rally to pass the For the People Act in Washington DC earlier this month. Photograph: Allison Bailey/REX/Shutterstock

The Republican strategy to push hundreds of bills to limit voting rights could backfire, voting experts have warned, as they could block their own voters.

As Democrats tried to expand absentee and early-voting options during the pandemic, Donald Trump pushed back, fearing it would make it harder for him to win. But voting experts say the restrictions being approved in Republican-led states could in fact hinder their own supporters from voting, reports Joan E Greve.

  • What is the scale of the issue? In the last year, at least 389 bills with restrictive voting provisions were introduced across 48 states – 22 of which have so far been enacted.

  • A recent study found that while making in-voting easier increased voter turnout overall, it may actually improve outcomes for Republicans. Older voters, who lean Republican, are more likely to vote by mail. Nearly 54% of Americans aged 65+ cast their ballots by mail last year, according to census data.

  • An insight into the sychophantic inner circle egging on Trump. Adam Gabbatt reports.

  • Meanwhile, The US supreme court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in a 7-2 decision after Republicans tried to remove an important provision of the law during the Trump era.

  • But the court ruled against the rights of LGBTQ people to foster children in Philadelphia, raising fears it could next attempt to remove same-sex marriage rights.

‘We want our land back’: descendants of the 1919 Elaine race massacre say history is far from settled

The Elaine race massacre of 1919, when a group of white men with the backing of federal troops tortured and killed scores of Black residents, was one of the worst in US history but parts of the story are still in dispute.

Descendants of the massacre in Arkansas tell Noa Yachot their families’ stories. “Our people became poor overnight and are still poor. After 1919, there was no more wealth for African Americans here. We want our land back, the land our people once owned,” says James White, director of the Elaine Legacy Center.

  • The exact number is in dispute, but hundreds of Black people are estimated to have been killed in the massacre, which was at the end of what would be referred to as the “red summer”.

  • How America has tried to forget the story of the Elaine massacre, by Bayeté Ross Smith and Jimmie Briggs.

In other news…

  • Joe Biden has signed a bill that will officially recognize Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in America, as a federal holiday that will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day. At a White House ceremony on Thursday he said: “Great nations don’t ignore their most painful moments.” Kamala Harris, who is the first Black woman to serve as vice-president, said: “We have come far, and we have far to go, but today is a day of celebration.”

  • Kim Jong-un has said North Korea needs to prepare for “both dialogue and confrontation” with the US under Joe Biden, state media reported. The dictator outlined his strategy for relations with Washington at a meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ party on Thursday.

  • US safety regulators have opened 30 investigations into Tesla crashes involving 10 deaths since 2016 where an advanced driver assistance system was suspected to have been in use. The crashes are under review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • Strained and underfunded health systems, economics and misinformation have led to a surge of coronavirus deaths in Latin America. As the US and Europe begin to emerge from the pandemic, on Wednesday, Paraguay registered 18.09 deaths per million – compared with 1.01 in the US – and Suriname, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Brazil and Peru are also suffering.

Stat of the day: Philanthropic giving has risen almost tenfold in the past 40 years in the US – from about $48m a year in 1980 to $471bn in 2021

The figures equate to almost a million dollars being given per minute. But adjusted for inflation, it translates to a threefold increase. It comes as this week MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, donated $2.7bn.

Don’t miss this: American sprinter Noah Lyles’s quest to take Usain Bolt’s crown

The 23-year-old sprinter, set to be one of the stars of the Tokyo Olympics, tells Neil Duncanson about how he finds his sport “freeing”. “I don’t think about rivals a lot. I mean, honestly, in my head I don’t have any rivals. Track and field is one of those sports where you need to focus on yourself and your own lane,” he says.

Last Thing: What happens if you swallow an AirPod? A man from Massachusetts shares his experience

Bradford Gauthier accidentally swallowed one of his AirPods in the middle of the night last February. When he went for an X-ray, there was a “cartoon-clear image of my ribs and, parked between them at 45 degrees, the unmistakable shape of the missing AirPod”. After it was successfully removed, as soon as he got home he tested it out. “It works fine, although the microphone is less reliable than it was.”

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