It has been one those weeks in America where you end up with whiplash from a flood of remarkable news.
So much news, in fact, we couldn’t cover it all in the depth we’d like to have done.
The main stories were all familiar American themes – guns, intelligence leaks, abortion, drugs. But within each, there has been much to absorb and many implications.
The week began with another mass shooting.
It was the 147th of the year. (There have now been 155 by the way.)
The location – Louisville, Kentucky, a bank. Five killed plus the “shooter” – the catch-all Americanism for a gunman.
American shootings have become so tragically common. With every one though, something always resonates – a tragic detail or peculiar fact.
This time it was the remarkable revelation was that the assault-style weapon the man used to kill his bank colleagues must, under Kentucky law, be auctioned back onto the open market.
By Tuesday, another story was the focus – the cycle moves on fast from the daily shootings in America.
My focus was the damage done by the massive intelligence leak; the impact was beginning to sink in globally.
I understood now why a diplomat I’d spoken to two days earlier was so alarmed. There are many revelations with geopolitical tremors.
From Asia to the Middle East to Europe and to the battlefields of Ukraine: implications.
Leaks always mean aligned spy agencies, globally, temporarily share less. America’s friends globally wonder now about the friendship and how safe their intelligence is with Washington.
Then we discovered the leaker was: allegedly, a 21-year-old air national guardsman.
The details of what Jack Teixeira is alleged to have done are remarkable and raise so many questions – many of which remain unanswered.
Plenty of extraordinary detail though in the FBI’s justification for arresting him.
Within the leak there was confirmation of something else, too. US dominance globally is really dwindling.
Countries once close to, reliant on, loyal to America no longer are to nearly the extent that they once were. Many don’t feel they can (or need to) rely on America.
Take Egypt: the leaked intel reveals the government there wanted to produce and ship rockets to Russia. Remarkable. One of many examples.
While we absorbed the leak, President Joe Biden (looking, honestly, very elderly) was on his personal pilgrimage to Ireland where he reflected on the US leadership which brokered the Good Friday Agreement.
Watching, it made me wonder: could, would today’s America be capable of brokering such a remarkable deal?
While Biden was in Ireland (where everything felt rather reflective), Brazil’s president was in Shanghai telling the developing world to ditch the dollar. “Why should the dollar be the global currency we’re all pegged to?” he asked, to applause. China loved it.
And in Saudi Arabia, Arab leaders met. Syria was a focus, as it edges back into their club. Assad’s rehabilitation after killing so many of his own, is closer to completion. America’s outrage doesn’t matter.
The test will be whether Arab nations will be deterred by US sanctions on investment.
Back in America, midweek, an unprecedented announcement on a problem that should be far more tangible to Americans than their place in the world – drugs and specifically, a cocktail called Tranq.
It is, announced the White House, “an emerging threat to the nation“.
It was a big announcement and recognition of the scale of the problem – a 1,000% increase in overdoses in southern states. That’s on top of already staggering numbers – fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans every year. Absorb that.
Then, related, on Friday, a massive announcement from the US Justice Department. It didn’t have a gripping headline: “Justice Department Announces Charges Against Sinaloa Cartel’s Global Operation.”
The Attorney General announced the administration’s attempts to deal with America’s addiction to opioids.
Within the announcement – which contained remarkable detail of the ruthlessness of the Mexican cartels (people fed to tigers) I sensed an almost panicked recognition of the seriousness of America’s drug problem.
Implicit too in the announcement was such a sense of how hard it is to stop Mexican drug cartels and hard too to stop China from shipping the raw materials for fentanyl, especially with the America/China relationship so bad. (See the points above about America’s influence.)
And then more news.
In the dead of night, on Thursday, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning abortion six weeks after conception. It is the last place in the South where abortions are accessible.
The move is the latest huge tremor from the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision last year.
The Florida news follows ongoing legal and real-world confusion over the legality of mifepristone.
There is so much politics wrapped up in the fast-moving, confusing and contradictory abortion developments.
The abortion story is such a hard one to tell too. Those whose experiences we’d like to hear and understand are hardly ready to sit down and chat.
They are urgently and privately trying to find ways to legally receive abortion healthcare, and now often many hundreds of miles from home.
Whiplash then from such a flurry of news out of America this week.
US intelligence leaks suspect ‘had more online friends than real friends’
Joe Biden brings his emotional tour of Ireland to a close
More than 18,000 cows die in Texas dairy farm explosion
Buckle up as the 2024 election cycle begins. And on that note, we can expect an announcement from President Biden that he’ll run any time now. This will prompt legitimate questions about his age.
There is no bigger test of a politician’s physical and mental stamina and agility than a US election campaign. It’s broken politicians half Biden’s age.
Next week – job one: a remarkable court case that exposes the inner workings of Fox News and a lie that consumed a nation. Stay tuned.