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5 things to know for June 19: Juneteenth, Extreme weather, China, Climate, Ukraine

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

(CNN) — Many Americans have been reveling in optimism as back-to-back holidays and celebrations take place across the country. On Sunday, dads were honored for Father’s Day, and today, the focus shifts to Juneteenth parades and ceremonies. Additionally, women and space enthusiasts are recognizing the achievements of Sally Ride — 40 years after she shattered the glass ceiling on her historic journey to space.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

1. Juneteenth

Today is Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US. Many businesses, post offices and schools will be closed today as the nation celebrates the profound achievements of African Americans over the past 158 years. Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19 to remember the day when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they had been liberated on June 19, 1865 — nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the US. In honor, members of the Black community and allies will participate in joyful festivities today while vowing to continue the fight for equity and justice.

Looking for ways to celebrate? Tune in to CNN’s live Juneteenth concert featuring Kirk Franklin, Chlöe Bailey, and other Black artists at 8 p.m. ET. CNN will kick off pre-show coverage at 7 p.m. ET, highlighting Black advocates, trailblazers, and creators. You can also take CNN’s special edition Juneteenth Quiz and support these organizations that are striving to create a more just society for all.

2. Extreme weather

More than 50 million people across the Southeast face the threat of severe storms today as widespread power outages have left nearly half a million across the South in the dark, including some sweltering under record-breaking temperatures. A level 2 of 5 slight risk of severe weather is in place across parts of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The main threats are damaging wind gusts, large hail and isolated tornadoes. The same system spawned a reported tornado in Mississippi on Sunday that left multiple injuries and structural damage. Meanwhile, around 35 million people in the region are under heat alerts. The National Weather Service is advising residents across several states to limit time outside and stay hydrated.

3. China

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and top American diplomat Antony Blinken met in Beijing today, in a potentially crucial step toward mending US-China relations. Blinken is the first US Secretary of State to visit Beijing in five years, with the two global powers increasingly at odds over a host of issues. Earlier this year, a Chinese spy balloon — detected floating across the US and hovering over sensitive military sites — sent relations plunging to a new low. The countries have also been at loggerheads over Beijing’s close ties with Moscow to American efforts to limit the sale of advanced technologies to China. Both the US and China have played down expectations of a major breakthrough during Blinken’s visit, and it remains to be seen whether the countries’ bitterly cold relationship will show signs of warming.

4. Climate

President Joe Biden will announce new federal funding for climate resilience projects today, according to a White House official. It comes less than a week after four major environmental groups backed Biden’s campaign for a second term in a notable joint endorsement. In a speech in Washington after the endorsement, Biden called climate change “the only truly existential threat,” adding, “If we don’t meet the requirements that we’re looking at, we’re in real trouble.” Biden heavily courted climate and environmental justice groups during his 2020 campaign and has made combating climate change central to his governing agenda with announcements over the past few months on environmental justice initiatives and aggressive new rules to regulate planet-warming pollution from natural gas power plants.

5. Ukraine

The United Nations has condemned Russia for denying humanitarian aid access to occupied areas affected by the massive dam collapse that destroyed Odesa’s coastline earlier this month. The flood carried filthy water downstream and off the southern coast, posing serious health risks. Authorities have been raising the alarm about the declining water quality, saying that lab tests had “identified infectious agents over the past week.” Traces of salmonella, worm’s eggs and worm’s larvae were all found in the water which also “significantly” exceeded permitted levels of E. Coli. It still remains unclear whether the dam was deliberately targeted or if structural failure was behind its collapse.


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That’s about how many Pakistani nationals have been killed in the sinking of an overcrowded boat off the coast of Greece, the latest tragedy to expose the refugee crisis confronting the European Union. This comes as Pakistan is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades, with efforts to secure a financial lifeline from the International Monetary Fund complicated by political turmoil in the country.


“Gathering for a holiday celebration should be a joyful occasion, not a time where gunfire erupts and families are forced to run for safety.”

— Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, sharing condolences after a mass shooting in Willowbrook, Illinois, on Sunday at a Juneteenth celebration killed one person and injured at least 22 others. Also over the weekend, two people were killed in a shooting in Washington, and at least one juvenile was killed in a separate shooting in St. Louis. There have been more than 310 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.


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