Voting rights legislation, First Amendment case, Tonga aid delay: 5 things to know Tuesday

·5 min read

High court to hear First Amendment case involving a Christian flag

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a dispute centered around a group applying to hoist up a "Christian Flag" on an 83-foot pole outside of the Boston City Hall. For years the city of Boston rotated dozens of flags to celebrate veterans, paramedics, sports teams and LGBTQ pride as part of what it describes as an effort to promote diversity and civic engagement. But when a group applied in 2017 to hoist the Christian flag up, city officials said it wouldn't fly. The blue-and-white flag, with a red Latin cross in one corner, would violate the long-held principle of separation of church and state, they said. This dispute leads to a fundamental First Amendment question: Who is conveying a message when a third-party group's flag flies on a government flagpole? The group or the government?

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Senate to take up voting rights legislation

The Senate will take up House-passed voting rights legislation Tuesday, breaking Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's initial deadline to vote on a rule change by the Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Schumer cited a weekend winter storm and Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz's positive COVID-19 diagnosis for the delay in the vote. Without Schatz, Democrats don't have the 50 votes needed for a simple majority vote. The passage of a voting rights bill remains stymied by Republican opposition and Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who stand opposed to changing the Senate's rules to pass the law without GOP support. The upcoming vote comes after President Joe Biden's unsuccessful effort on Capitol Hill to persuade Senate Democrats to pass a voting rights bill.

Volcanic ash delays Tonga aid as scale of damage after eruption emerges

Thick ash on an airport runway was delaying aid deliveries to the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Tuesday, days after a huge undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami. New Zealand's military is sending much-needed drinking water and other supplies, but said the ash on the runway will delay the flight at least a day. A towering ash cloud since Saturday's eruption had prevented earlier flights. The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday occurred roughly 40 miles north of the capital of Nuku'alofa. The eruption cut the internet to Tonga, leaving friends and family members around the world anxiously trying to get in touch. UNICEF Pacific also said they are ready to send emergency supplies like water, hygiene kits and tents to the nation.

'Potentially hazardous' asteroid to fly past Earth

A "potentially hazardous" asteroid bigger than any building in the world will pass by Earth Tuesday. Not only is it the biggest known asteroid coming within 2.3 million miles of Earth this year, but it's so massive that you might be able to see it in the sky. The asteroid, named 1994 PC1, has an estimated width of 3,600 feet. It is one of several massive asteroids to pass by Earth in recent weeks. First discovered in Aug. 1994, if it were to hit Earth, it would cause "complete catastrophe" and destroy nearly everything within a 25 mile radius of the impact. While it sounds terrifying though, there's no need to expect a situation like in the "Don't Look Up" disaster movie, as it will still be 1.2 million miles away from Earth while traveling at 43,754 miles per hour.

Boston Bruins to retire jersey number of NHL's first Black player

The Boston Bruins will retire Willie O'Ree's No. 22 jersey on Tuesday night, the 64th anniversary of his becoming the National Hockey League's first Black player. O’Ree, 86, played two games in the 1957-58 season and 43 in 1960-61 before finishing his career in the minor leagues. He has been the NHL's diversity ambassador since 1988 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018. O'Ree will be the 12th Bruins player to have his number retired, though he will participate in the ceremony remotely from his San Diego home because of the pandemic. "To find out that my jersey is going to be retired and to hang in the rafters there with the local icons and legends that are up there at the present time – it's just simply amazing," he said. The ceremony had been scheduled for early 2021, but the NHL asked the Bruins to postpone to ensure fans could be in the building when it happened.

Former Boston Bruins player Willie O'Ree tips his hat as he is honored by the team in 2018.
Former Boston Bruins player Willie O'Ree tips his hat as he is honored by the team in 2018.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Voting rights bill, First Amendment case: 5 things to know Tuesday