- A 21-year-old male suspect was charged Wednesday for shooting and killing eight people at three spas. Six of the people were Asian women, prompting fears that the killings were hate crimes.
- In a press conference Thursday, law enforcement officials said the suspect admitted to the crimes but argued that it was too early to determine if the attack was racially motivated.
- Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker told reporters the alleged killer said his actions were not based on race, instead saying that he wanted to “eliminate” the spas as “temptations” for his sex addiction
- Many social media users condemned the police response, arguing that what they had described was inherently racial.
Law Enforcement Provide Details on Georgia Spa Shootings
Eight people were shot and killed in three different Atlanta-area spas Tuesday night, including six Asian women, raising concerns that the attacks could be the latest in a surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Police said Tuesday that they had arrested a 21-year-old white man from Woodstock, Georgia about 150 miles south of Atlanta after a brief manhunt. Authorities announced Wednesday that they had charged the man with eight counts of murder and homicide and one count of aggravated assault.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, law enforcement officials said the suspect did admit to the crimes while telling them he had a “sexual addiction” and was traveling to Florida when they arrested him.
The officers also said they believe he may have frequented the parlors in the past, and that he may have been aiming to commit similar violence at a business connected to the “porn industry” in Florida.
Notably, police have also not yet offered up a motive for the attack, and this morning, they said they are not able to determine if it can be considered a hate crime because it’s still too early in the investigation.
However, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker said that the suspect told officers his actions were not racially motivated.
“He does claim that it was not racially motivated,” he said. “He apparently has an issue with what he considers a sex addiction and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
When asked if there were any signs that the shootings were a hate crime, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds responded: “The indicators right now are that it may not be. It may be targets of opportunity. Again, we believe that he frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out.”
Reynold’s office also said in a separate statement to some media outlets that the suspect “told investigators that he blames the massage parlors for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex.”
Public Connects Shooting To Anti-Asian Hate
The remarks by law enforcement officials drew significant public backlash from people who argued what these officers had described was a hate crime.
“The fucking gall of a white male mass murderer to confidently tell on himself to police,” YouTuber Eugene Lee Yang tweeted. “The piece of shit said, ‘I’m not racist because I have a sex addiction that made me eliminate people and places I’m tempted by, which are Asian women at Asian spas.’ THAT’S A HATE CRIME.”
Others echoed that sentiment, emphasizing how Asian women are fetishized and commodified in western culture.
Some also said the fact that the suspect viewed these women as objects he could “eliminate” proved the racial nature of the crime.
“Asian people, especially women, are seen & treated as existing for the use, convenience, & enjoyment of white people,” one user wrote. “Now our lives are simply fodder for personal absolution to a white man with a gun. To suggest that race isn’t relevant is spitting in our faces. #StopAsianHate”
Others, like actor George Takei, argued that even if the crime was noy racially motivated, the intent cannot be divorced from the racial nature of the act.
Rise in Asian Hate Crimes
The point was also something that was hit on by politicians and celebrities who condemned the act using the trending hashtag #StopAsianHate, noting how crimes against Asian Americans have risen drastically in the last year.
Many specifically cited a statistic from the organization Stop AAPI Hate, which reported that there have been 3,800 anti-Asian incidents in the last year, most of which were against women.
Some people, including author and television host Padma Lakshmi, pointed to former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric around the coronavirus, arguing it directly contributed to the spike in incidents. Many also pointed out that as recently as Monday, Trump was on Fox using racist slurs that may have incited more violence.
Still, the director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Sung Yeon Choimorrow, said this is a problem that has existed before the pandemic.
“Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny,” she said. “Now, our community, particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.