The Week in Review: June 6th

Point In Time Count Finds 4 Percent Increase in People Experiencing Homelessness in King County
An annual homeless count reported a four percent increase in the total amount of homeless people in King County and an eight percent increase in unsheltered homeless people since 2017. The report found that 28 percent of the overall 12,112 homeless people in the county sleep in their vehicles and 12 percent sleep outside. The count also showed decreases in the number of homeless families and a 31 percent drop in the number of homeless veterans. The report said that “Homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color and people identifying as LGBTQ+,” with 15 percent of survey respondents identifying as LGBTQ+ despite only making up five percent of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region population. 27 percent of homeless people in the county identified as Black and 15 percent identified as Hispanic, though the two groups only make up six percent and nine percent of the King County population, respectively. 21 percent of respondents said that housing affordability was the primary cause of their homelessness and 25 percent cited job loss as the cause.

Volcanic Eruption in Guatemala Kills At Least 72 People
Volcán de Fuego erupted June 3, killing more than 70 people and leaving nearly 200 more missing. The volcano is located about 30 miles from Guatemala City and dispersed volcanic ash throughout a nine-mile radius. Residents did not receive an evacuation alert before the eruption. The eruption created pyroclastic flows—fast moving mixes of hot gas and volcanic matter—which swept through communities around the slopes, including El Rodeo and San Miguel Los Lotes. Flows from the eruption reached temperatures of about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Officials from Guatemala’s disaster agency Conred said that over 3,000 people had been evacuated from the surrounding areas and dozens more were hospitalized with severe burns. Another eruption the evening of June 5 halted rescue work, expelling gas and molten rock, but this time an alarm went off, giving people time to escape from its path.

Study Shows Final Death Count of Hurricane Maria 4,645, Not Government Toll of 64
A new report issued May 29 estimated the final count of those dead as a direct or indirect result of Hurricane Maria to be 4,645, according to independent research conducted by Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, had previously named 64 as the official toll of those dead. The report said that most died between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2017 and that about a third of those people died due to delayed or interrupted medical care. The researchers said that the numbers “underscore the inattention of the U.S. government to the frail infrastructure of Puerto Rico.” Puerto Rico additionally commissioned George Washington University to conduct an independent study of the death toll, which should be reported soon. The new study said that on average, households went 68 days without water, and 84 days without electricity.

Washington State to Prohibit Discussion of Medical Records in Most Harassment Cases
A new law banning the discussion in courtrooms of medical and mental health records in many discrimination cases involving noneconomic damages will go into effect June 7. The practice is currently employed during a litigation process called discovery. With the new law, sensitive medical information such as private therapy session records can no longer be used by the defense. Currently, private medical details of the plaintiff’s lives can be shared in court by their employer’s attorney in discrimination proceedings. Each judge presiding over a case has the power to decide the time period and kinds of medical records the plaintiff must submit. The sponsor of the incoming law said that this current practice deters many of her clients from continuing with or filing a discrimination lawsuit. However, critics of the new law say that there are legitimate reasons to present medical records in discrimination lawsuits to determine the cause and magnitude of alleged damages.

Supreme Court Sides With Baker Who Refused to Serve Gay Couple
In the June 4 ruling of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the side of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012. Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips denied the couple’s request for a custom cake after he learned that it was for their wedding, and the couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission ruled against the baker for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the decision was later upheld by an appeals court. In the latest case, Phillips’s lawyer defended his refusal to serve the couple as “a good faith difference of opinion.” The Supreme Court gave a 7-2 ruling, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor as the only dissenting opinions. Justice Ginsburg said that Phillips failed to provide the same service to the couple as he would to a staight couple. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority and said that the Colorado commission violated Phillips’s religious freedom protections, though he did reaffirm the importance of gay rights.

Jordanians Protest Against Economic Reforms
Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki tendered his resignation June 4 after demonstrators called for his removal. In protest of a new tax bill sent Parliment last month, the protests began May 30 in response to increased costs of living and a proposed income tax draft law. The new law would increase taxes on employees by at least five percent and would increase company taxes by 20 to 40 percent. This proposal comes as a part of a long series of economic reforms since Amman received a $723 three year million credit line in 2016 from the International Monetary Fund to address the country’s public debt. This year, prices for staples of living have increased with additional taxes charged on various goods. Fuel and electricity prices have also continued rising since the beginning of the year and official estimates show that 18.5 percent of Jordan’s population is unemployed.

The editor can be reached at
[email protected].