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Murder rates spiked in 2020, and are still rising in 2021

After a year in which murders spiked in the U.S., homicides are already trending up in many cities, presaging whatis likely to be a violent summer.

Why it matters: The rise in homicides is a public health crisis that has multiple interlocking causes, which makes solving it that much more difficult. We're still a long way from the murderous days of the 1990s, but rising gun violence is destroying lives and complicating efforts to help cities recover from COVID-19.


Driving the news: From Washington to Louisville, Kentucky, New York to Oakland, California, and Kansas City to Atlanta, murder rates are trending up in U.S. cities large and small.

  • A sample of 37 cities with data available for the first three months of 2021 collected by the crime analyst Jeff Asher indicates murders are up 18% over the same period in 2020.
  • The continued increase comes after a year in which major U.S. cities experienced a 33% rise in homicides, and 63 of the 66 largest police jurisdictions saw an increase in at least one category of violent crime, according to a report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Between the lines: While it may be tempting to dismiss 2020 and the early indicators in 2021 as aberrations caused by the pandemic, murder rates were already ticking upward in the years before the pandemic.

The intrigue: Criminologists still haven't settled on a single explanation for why violent crime dropped drastically from the 1990s, and they're even less certain why it's risen so dramatically over the past 16 months.

Yes, but: Even if 2021 eclipses last year's murder numbers, America will remain a far safer country than it was during the most violent years of the 1990s.

What's next: A violent summer on America's streets appears likely, given that homicide already appears to be trending above last year's spike.

  • Homicide rates historically spike during the summer months, when the hotter weather puts more people on the streets, and while vaccination coverage is increasing, the pandemic and all its knock-on effects won't be finished by then.
  • "Summer 2021 is going to be abnormally violent," John Roman, a senior fellow at the economics, justice and society group at NORC at the University of Chicago, wrote this year. "It is the new normal."

The bottom line: The historic decline in murder over the past few decades was accompanied by mass incarcerations and increasingly brutal policing, leading to what the criminologist Patrick Sharkey termed "the uneasy peace."

  • As America reckons a new murder wave with policing in the post-George Floyd killing era, it needs to find a way to a lasting peace that features both safety and justice.

Massive California blaze levels town, threatens others as it burns out of control

The small Sierra town of Greenville, Calif., was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The big picture: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze and the sixth-largest wildfire in state history, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County.

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Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine "remains durable" with 93% efficacy through 6 months

Moderna said Thursday that its coronavirus vaccine was 93% effective against COVID-19 through six months after receiving the second dose.

Why it matters: The number shows that efficacy "remains durable" through that time, and hardly wanes from the 94.5% efficacy Moderna reported last November. But the clinical trial, which started in July 2020, was conducted before the Delta variant became the common strain in the U.S.

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U.S. women's soccer team beats Australia, wins Olympic bronze

The U.S. women's soccer team won the bronze medal on Thursday after beating ninth-ranked Australia 4-3.

Why it matters: Thursday's victory marks the U.S. team's first bronze in Olympic history, handing the team a medal after it failed to earn one during the Rio Games in 2016.

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Top Democratic operatives mapped out how to defend Kamala Harris at high-powered dinner

A group of the Democratic Party's most influential women met for dinner at a home in the nation’s capital last month to game out how to defend Vice President Kamala Harris and her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, against a torrent of bad press.

Why it matters: It's telling that so early in the Biden-Harris administration, such powerful operatives felt compelled to try to right the vice president's ship.

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In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 13 highlights

Day 13 of the Tokyo Olympic Games saw Team USA's men's basketball team beat Australia 97-78 on Thursday to advance to the gold medal game.

The big picture: Kevin Durant led the charge with 23 points to help the U.S. secure a final spot against either France or Slovenia on Saturday local time. Elsewhere, the U.S. added to its gold medals count, with shot putter Ryan Crouser and teenage canoeist Nevin Harrison both winning their events.

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Judge to Capitol rioter: Insurrection is "not patriotism"

A federal judge sentencing a Michigan man in D.C. Wednesday over his role in the U.S. Capitol riot dismissed any notion that he's a political prisoner.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that she wasn't sentencing Karl Dresch, of Calumet, "because he is a supporter" of former President Trump, noting that "millions of people" had voted for him "and did not heed his call to descend on the nation's Capitol," per the Detroit News.

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2 wildfires ravage Northern California homes as thousands evacuate

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the Greenville area of Plumas County Wednesday night, per AP. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes. Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for both fires.

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Landlords mount legal challenge to Biden administration's new eviction moratorium

A group of landlords and real-estate companies issued a legal challenge on Wednesday night in a D.C. district court to the Biden administration's new national eviction moratorium.

Driving the news: The Alabama and Georgia Associations of Realtors' emergency motion argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's order Tuesday barring evictions for most of the U.S. through Oct. 3 exceeds the CDC's powers, according to a statement from the National Association of Realtors.

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