Morning Update: Help Me, Kim Kardashian — You’re My Only Hope

Calls for commission into Maria deaths, Samantha Bee speaks out, "13 Reasons Why" renewed. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, June 7.

There are calls for a 9/11-style commission to investigate how many people really died in Puerto Rico

We’ve been closely following the story of the death toll of last year’s Hurricane Maria.

What’s this story about? The government’s official count still sits at 64, while there is evidence the death toll is much higher. A Harvard study last week estimated that nearly 6,000 people died as a result of the hurricane.

Was this the first time the number came into question? The government's count came under suspicion first by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Reporting and BuzzFeed News just days after the hurricane devastated the island.

Okay, so what’s new now? Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will introduce a bill to set up an independent commission examining the death toll and how it was handled.

Why would anyone want to misrepresent a death toll? Death tolls inform the way people and governments talk about past disasters, and also future preparedness. Keeping the number low might, for example, help bolster the argument that a government was properly prepared.

Right, but surely no one would deny that Maria was a catastrophe? When President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico after Maria, he said the hurricane wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina. He used the death toll at the time — 16 people — as evidence.

So what happens now? The bill to establish the independent commission has little chance of going anywhere as Republicans control Congress, and the CHC is made up entirely of Democrats.

CrossFit just fired its spokesperson after he said LGBT pride is a “sin”

Russell Berger served as the fitness giant’s chief knowledge officer and its de facto spokesperson. Now, he has been fired.

On Wednesday, Berger tweeted about an Indiana CrossFit gym that canceled a Pride Month event. He said he’d “like to personally encourage #CrossFitInfiltrate for standing by their convictions and refusing to host an @indypride workout.”

At first, after his comments drew outrage, Berger was placed on an unpaid leave of absence. In an interview, CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman said Berger “needs to take a big dose of ‘shut the fuck up' and hide out for a while.”

Later on Wednesday, CrossFit announced on Twitter that Berger had been fired.


Donald Trump’s first iftar dinner was criticized as a “sham” by Muslim American advocates. He declined to hold one last year, breaking with more than 20 years of White House tradition. This year, he kept the guest list mostly to ambassadors. In previous years, the invitees included prominent Muslim Americans, including religious leaders and young people.

Samantha Bee responded to the backlash over her calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” In the opening of her show Full Frontal, Bee said: “I’m really sorry that I said that word. But you know what? Civility is just nice words. Maybe we should all worry a little bit more about the niceness of our actions.”

The UK's Supreme Court has concluded that Northern Ireland's highly restrictive abortion laws are incompatible with human rights legislation. However, the court said it did not have the jurisdiction to strike down the law or make an official declaration of incompatibility — a ruling that UK law is in breach of human rights legislation.

13 Reasons Why was renewed for a third season by Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings explained his decision to bring back the show by saying, “it is controversial, but nobody has to watch it.” Production on Season 3 will start up later this year, and we can expect the new season to start streaming sometime in 2019.

Argentina has pulled out of a friendly soccer match against Israel, saying there were threats against star player Lionel Messi. Before the cancellation, pro-Palestine protesters had gathered outside the team's training session in Barcelona, some with blue-and-white striped jerseys covered in red paint. A warm-up game had been scheduled at the Teddy Kollek Stadium in West Jerusalem, which was built on land that once held a Palestinian village.

Kim Kardashian successfully lobbied Trump to grant clemency to Alice Johnson

Alice Johnson is a 63-year-old woman who was serving a life sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. President Trump’s decision to grant her clemency comes after he spoke with Kim Kardashian West at the White House last week.

While Johnson's sentence was commuted, she did not receive a full pardon.

Kardashian West went to Trump in person on Johnson’s behalf after learning of the case through a Mic Opinion video that showed up on her Twitter timeline.

Johnson was released from prison yesterday, and the video is quite emotional.

An important part of the conversation: The clemency decision has sparked a complicated discussion about the Kardashians and privilege. Some are praising Kardashian for helping to convince the president to grant a prisoner clemency, but others say black activists deserve the credit.

These thoughtful longreads are well worth your attention

Because this newsletter won’t be back tomorrow, I know a few of you might email in to say, “You’ve left me stranded without weekend longreads!” Well, fear not — I got you.

You should make time for Tommy Orange’s deeply moving piece about who gets to count as Native, protesting blood quantum and the idea that you can be a fraction of anything. “More often than not I’ve introduced myself as half Native,” he writes. ”I know what people want to know as soon as I say that I’m Native: How much?” The piece hits you with force. “What equations make sense to keep doing? How come math isn’t taught with stakes?”

I really loved Shannon Keating’s rousing defense of “unflattering clothes.” She reflects on the moment that oversized, shapeless clothing has been having lately. Keating writes, “The sack dress trend … has been such a relief to me because it’s lessened the competing signals blaring in my head about how I’m supposed to look and be.”

Twitter was riveted and thrilled by the story of Anna Delvey, the scammer who managed to trick New York City’s social scene into believing she was a wealthy European heiress. Tom Gara breaks down the collective fascination and concludes that “for an ambitious scammer in 2018, this is like being a sculptor in 1500s Florence — every major force at play in our world is like a wind at your back.”

Speak softly and say nice things,


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