• Matthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | Jul. 10-17

A summary of notable events from the previous week.


1. LA County considers indoor mask mandate amid COVID spike.


This week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced it is considering reinstating the indoor mask mandate. This comes in the midst of a large spike in COVID cases primarily caused by the new BA.5 variant, which Dr. Erip Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, has called “the worst variant yet.”


Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the LA County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that, per CDC recommendations, the county should reinstate mask mandates if it remains in the “high COVID-19 community level” for another two weeks. Based on the current trajectory of cases, it’s likely that this will happen. Ferrer conceded that “this will feel like a step backward” for many, but she emphasized that requiring masks again is part of a toolkit of “sensible safety precautions” needed to address the new spike in cases. Still, how the mask mandate will be enforced remains unknown. There will undoubtedly be pushback as seen in Philadelphia, which tried to impose a mask mandate in April but repealed it days later amid fierce political and legal opposition. Still, the Public Health Department is holding firm. “Sensible safety precautions that can slow down the spread of the virus are warranted,” Ferrer said, “and that includes universal indoor masking.”


2. NASA releases the farthest reaching photos of space in history.


On July 12, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released images from the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Documenting light from 13 billion years ago, or just 600 million years after the Big Bang, these images represent the deepest view yet into our universe’s past. Because the JWST looks at the universe using infrared light, it can see much farther and in greater detail than optical or ultraviolet telescopes such as the Hubble.


JWST captured brilliant images of nebulas through clouds of gas and dust. (NASA/Flickr)


According to Priyamvada Natarajan, a black hole and primeval galaxy expert at Yale University, as the telescope “gathers more data in the coming years, we will see out to the edge of the universe like never before.” Scientists are hopeful that the Webb telescope will be able to study some of the first stars and galaxies that existed after the Big Bang. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added that the telescope could even help determine whether other planets are habitable.


Of course, the images released on Tuesday are just the beginning of the Webb telescope’s collection. According to Marcia Rieke, one of the lead builders of one of the telescope’s cameras, these images “will not hold the ‘deepest’ record for long, but clearly show the power of this telescope.”


3. Twitter sues Elon Musk to force him to go through with buyout.


In April, billionaire CEO Elon Musk announced he was going to buy the social media company Twitter for $44 billion, but he unexpectedly backed out of the deal on July 8. Last Tuesday, Twitter announced they would be suing Musk to force him to go through with the acquisition.


At the center of Musk’s decision to pull out of the acquisition is a supposed lack of transparency on Twitter’s part. Musk’s lawyers argued that they were told that only 5 percent of Twitter’s accounts were spam accounts, but when Musk sought to validate these claims, Twitter refused. They also argued that Twitter failed to report the firing of two executives to Musk in violation of their contract. However, Ann Lipton, a professor of corporate governance at Tulane Law School, said these arguments might not constitute a material breach of the deal, making them legally tenuous. “They’re only grounds to walk away if they are so overwhelmingly bad that it really just fundamentally jeopardizes the economics of the deal,” she explained.


Twitter, on the other hand, charges that Musk is not pulling out of the deal not because of a lack of transparency but rather because of changes in the stock market that could affect his wealth. “Musk refuses to honor his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests,” the company wrote in their filing. “Musk apparently believes that he—unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law—is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.” They added that Musk had also broken his agreement to not publicly insult Twitter executives and “covertly abandoned” his efforts to secure debt funding. Brian J.M. Quinn, a professor at Boston College Law School, said that Twitter’s legal arguments were strong, adding that Musk had made multiple incriminating Tweets that are already being brought into the case. However, the Delaware Court of Chancery (Delaware’s highest court of equity), where the case will take place, has a history of siding with the defendants in buyout lawsuits. Most legal scholars believe that Musk and Twitter will come to some sort of compromise that will allow both parties to save face.


 

Sources & Further Reading