Obamacare, Juneteenth, Comedies: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

Obamacare, Juneteenth, Comedies: Your Thursday Evening Briefing 1
Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

1. The Affordable Care Act survived its third major challenge at the Supreme Court.

In a 7-to-2 decision, the court upheld the law — President Barack Obama’s defining domestic legacy. But it sidestepped the larger issue: whether the 2010 health care act can stand without a provision that required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty.

Republicans have worked relentlessly to kill the law, which has gained popularity and is now woven into the fabric of the health care system. Its future now seems secure, but its opponents will pivot to different health care battles.

The Court also unanimously backed a Catholic agency in a case over whether it could refuse to work with same-sex couples in screening potential foster parents. In a third decision, the Court ruled in favor of two American corporations accused of complicity in child slavery on Ivory Coast cocoa farms.

Merck, via Getty Images

2. The U.S. is betting big on a new pill to treat Covid-19.

A new $3.2 billion federal program will support the development of antiviral pills, which would fight the virus early in the course of infection, potentially saving many lives in the years to come. The program will speed up the clinical trials of a few promising drug candidates. If all goes well, some of those first pills could be ready by the end of the year.

About 100,000 people have died of Covid in the U.S. since February, after vaccine distribution was well underway. We asked more than a dozen public health experts, economists and bioethicists to assess whether the American approach was as effective as it could have been, and what, if anything, could have been done differently.

Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

3. Juneteenth is now a national holiday.

President Biden signed legislation enshrining June 19 as the national day to commemorate the end of slavery. It goes into effect immediately, despite opposition from 14 House Republicans. Above, members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Federal workers will get a paid day off, but New York City’s workers will not this year, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promises.

The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when an officer in Galveston, Texas, announced that, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free,” before the 13th Amendment was ratified. Momentum to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday picked up steam last year during a summer defined by racial unrest and Black Lives Matter protests.

Ash Ponders for The New York Times

4. The American West is facing a two-front assault from climate change, as a record-breaking early heat wave combines with the worst drought in two decades.

Even before summer begins, wildfires are blazing in Arizona and Montana, where temperatures soared past 115 degrees Fahrenheit and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt. Above, a broiling sunset in Phoenix. Water levels have plunged in reservoirs, with some parts of California already considering rationing. In Texas, the electric power grid is under strain as demand for air-conditioning surges.

“And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control,” a climate scientist said.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

5. President Biden achieved two of the three tasks he wanted to accomplish on his Europe trip.

The president reassured European allies that America is back and rallied them to begin to counter China. But whether he succeeded in establishing red lines for President Vladimir Putin of Russia remains to be seen, our correspondents write.

In Russia, Biden rehabilitated his image. After months of ridiculing him as bumbling, confused and well past his prime, Russian state media changed its tune. Here is a man we can do business with, some in Moscow said.

Tailyr Irvine for The New York Times

6. A young Cheyenne leader was beaten and robbed last month. Fighting for justice was, perhaps, even more traumatic.

After her assault, Silver Little Eagle, 23, an elected tribal leader, said she was bullied and failed by the very tribal systems she had campaigned to change. To some, her story has become an example of the shame and indifference Indigenous women confront as victims of violence, even from their own communities.

And in New York City, another system designed to address violence is also broken. There, orders of protection against domestic violence can often harm the people they are meant to help.

Martin Bureau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

7. Injuries are forcing top athletes to withdraw from competition. Some are blaming hectic schedules.

In tennis, Rafael Nadal, above, said he needed to “recuperate” and blamed a tight schedule when announcing his decision to skip Wimbledon — just two weeks after the French Open — and the Olympics. Naomi Osaka said she will also skip Wimbledon, citing mental health issues, but plans to play in the Olympics.

And in basketball, eight of the N.B.A.’s All-Star players have missed at least one postseason game this year, a painful record. Many blame an abridged off season and the league’s tightened schedule.

After collapsing on the soccer field during a game, the Danish player Christian Eriksen will have a defibrillator implanted to help prevent future heart episodes.

Nancy Crampton, via Malcolm family

8. The journalist Janet Malcolm, who was known for her piercing judgments, died at 86.

A longtime writer for The New Yorker, Malcolm produced an avalanche of deeply reported, exquisitely crafted articles, essays and books.

Most famously, she trained her unflinching eye on reporting in “The Journalist and the Murderer.” The controversial essay, which examined the relationship between an author and an accused man, has one of the most famous first sentences in literary nonfiction: “Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”

Lionel Barriquand

9. Bats may be ruining prehistoric cave art with their droppings.

The paintings can endure for tens of thousands of years, but only if bats aren’t roosting nearby. Their feces, called guano, have corrosive properties that may erase the designs and scenes our ancestors left on walls, according to new research. That theory may explain instances when researchers cannot find prehistoric markings in some places where they expect to.

In other science news, researchers believe they have discovered a new family of brittle stars — an animal related to a starfish. This one has a ton of teeth and eight arms, while most have only five.


10. And finally, let the funny business begin.

Our TV critics compiled a list of their 21 favorite American comedies of the 21st century. In so doing, they reflected on just how much comedy has changed, as genres blur and jokes age badly. James Poniewozik, our chief TV critic, wondered: “Is there more to a great comedy than how many times it makes you laugh?”

Some creators and stars shared insights into their work. “TV Larry is me, but way more ballsy,” said Larry David, from “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Real Larry fights less, he claims, and is more conscientious.

Have a giggly evening.

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