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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Supreme Court is once again the focus of politics.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, yesterday, in a 6-3 opinion along ideological lines, the high court ruled that former President Donald Trump has broad immunity from prosecution, all but ensuring that his trial will be delayed until after the November election, if it happens at all. Last night at the White House, President Biden criticized the court's opinion.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: For all practical purposes, today's decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do. This is a fundamentally new principle and it's a dangerous precedent, because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States.

MARTÍNEZ: The court's opinions on this case and on abortion two years ago will likely be front and center in the upcoming election.

MARTIN: So joining us now to talk about all this is NPR senior editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So how will the Supreme Court factor into this election?

MONTANARO: Well, I mean, it's squarely in the center of it. You know, first, the timing of this decision comes about four months until Election Day. The court waiting as long as it did to address the immunity question without any real urgency, it seemed, then release the opinion on the last day of the term and send it back to the lower court means that there's no chance voters will have a verdict to consider in the January 6 case against former President Trump before the fall. The court had already become a lightning rod for the left. The Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe two years ago has fired up Democrats and hurt trust in the court.

Biden with his remarks last night was yet another indication really that Democrats are in many ways running against the Supreme Court now. But the court has really never been a top voting issue in presidential elections for Democrats the way it has for Republicans before. It was a major focus for Republicans for more than 50 years. You could argue that their political work and activism meant that they were ready for the moment when it came to reshape the court. Let's see if the threat of giving Trump broad immunity for official acts - essentially meaning he could use the powers of the office in whatever way he chooses - changes anything for the left, which has not been enthusiastic at all about voting for Biden.

MARTIN: Say more about how the Supreme Court's decisions in recent years has shaped the public's view of the court, which likes to see itself as above all this, as above politics.

MONTANARO: Sure. I mean, you know, they've been enormously consequential. You know, trust in the court has nosedived. Really 6 in 10 disapprove of the way the court is handling its job. Our polling with Marist has found that two-thirds have little to no confidence in the court. But it's not just because of these controversial decisions. There have been ethics issues with the court's conservatives. There were calls for two of them to recuse themselves from this case because of their ties to the MAGA movement. They did not.

There are really no checks on these justices who have lifetime appointments. They look increasingly out of touch, that rules don't apply to them and removed from society, which also is evidenced by how long it took them to make this decision. It comes in the middle of an election year and the case applies directly to one of the candidates on the ballot. It's why we've seen two-thirds saying that they are in favor of term limits for these justices and three-quarters saying they're in favor of age limits.

MARTIN: So the stakes for the court and for the country are high with this election. Does the next president have some power in nominating the next justices?

MONTANARO: Sure. I mean, you have three justices over 70 years old. Clarence Thomas is 76, Samuel Alito 74, Sonia Sotomayor 70. So the next president could potentially get another three nominees. And imagine if Trump wins and is able to appoint younger versions of Thomas and Alito, two conservatives. That could set Democrats back another 20 years at the court, and that's now already setting social policy, you know, for decades to come into the future.

MARTIN: That is NPR senior editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Hurricane Beryl strengthened to Category 5 status after making landfall yesterday in the Eastern Caribbean.

MARTIN: It brought 150 mph winds and dangerous storm surge to Grenada's Carriacou Island. It is an unusually strong storm for this time of year, in part because of record-high ocean temperatures.

MARTÍNEZ: Michael Copley joins us from NPR's climate desk to discuss. Beryl was Category 4 on Sunday then it got to a five late yesterday. I mean, it's the earliest in the year, Michael, we've had a hurricane reach that size in the Atlantic. What's going on?

MICHAEL COPLEY, BYLINE: It's early in the season, this is a big storm and it got big fast. And that's exactly the kind of thing climate scientists have been expecting. We're seeing record-high ocean temperatures, which fuel hurricanes, and those record temperatures are being driven by climate change. Burning fossil fuels releases gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat and make the air and oceans warmer. Andra Garner is a hurricane expert at Rowan University of New Jersey. She says warm water allowed Beryl to grow so quickly over the weekend that it shocked a lot of people.

ANDRA GARNER: It's startling because it's not something we've seen before. But in terms of the science, it's unfortunately kind of right in line with what we expect when we're warming the planet.

COPLEY: Garner published a study last year that found the odds of a storm quickly growing into a major hurricane have gone up in recent decades as climate change has gotten worse. That's still an area of active research, but it's clear that hotter temperatures are making hurricanes stronger.

MARTÍNEZ: So what's that look like for people on the ground?

COPLEY: I mean, we're talking about stronger winds and more water. Beryl hit parts of the Caribbean yesterday with catastrophic winds, life-threatening storm surge. Grenada's prime minister said the island of Carriacou was flattened, buildings were damaged and destroyed, communications were down. You know, when we talk about a Category 4 hurricane, we're talking about winds up to 156 mph. That can cause severe damage to homes, tear off roofs, knock down trees.

But the most dangerous threat is often water and flooding. For coastal communities, the big risk is from storm surge. It's essentially walls of water that get pushed onshore. Rain is also a growing threat. Warmer air can hold more moisture, so really big hurricanes can hold a lot of water vapor that comes down as torrential rain. That can threaten inland communities that might not be right in the path of the storm.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, forecasters are expecting an unusually high number of hurricanes this year. So what, if anything, can people do to prepare?

COPLEY: Yeah, we're expecting a really active season. In part, that's because of those really warm temperatures we talked about. And we've seen that these storms can grow really fast, so experts warn people need to take plans ahead of time. Jennifer Collins is a professor at the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida. She says the time to prepare is before the storm, not after a hurricane is announced.

JENNIFER COLLINS: Because as you can see, that can happen very quickly. So they need to be kind of thinking very early about all their preparations to be ready for a hurricane.

COPLEY: That means packing bags you can grab in a hurry and planning ahead of time how you'd evacuate and where you'd shelter. Beryl's expected to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday, where heavy rain and flash floods are possible.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Michael Copley from NPR's climate desk, Michael thanks.

COPLEY: Thanks, A.

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MARTIN: The Catholic Church is naming its first-ever millennial saint.

MARTÍNEZ: Carlo Acutis, effectually known as God's influencer, is now in the final stage of the canonization process. The teenager, who loved video games and died from leukemia at the age of 15, is redefining what sainthood looks like in the digital age.

MARTIN: With us now to tell us more about this Christopher White. He is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Thanks so much for being here.

CHRISTOPHER WHITE: Great to be with you.

MARTIN: So why do church leaders believe Carlo Acutis deserves sainthood?

WHITE: I think, you know, for Pope Francis, if we look back over his last 10 years as pope, he's been really concerned about technology and its ability to do tremendous good in the world, but also its tremendous harm. And also, he's been concerned about young people. And in a strange way, those two concerns have kind of melded together. And they see the life of Carlo Acutis as someone that they can elevate, who has encouraged young people to come back to the church and also use technology for good. And so that's why, yesterday, the pope and his cardinals greenlit this canonization.

MARTIN: How are people reacting to this news? And I'm interested in both inside the Vatican and outside of the Vatican.

WHITE: Well, ever since his death in 2006, there's been a huge following that sort of sprung up overnight, folks just from all around the world deeply attracted to the story of Carlo Acutis. When he died, he was put in a tomb in Assisi here in Italy. And, you know, there are just streams of people here in Assisi every day coming to see and pray at his body. And in a particularly fitting twist, they've installed a livestream camera. So no matter where you are in the world, you can go and look at his body. And it's a bit strange, you know, Catholics are used to thinking of saints as perhaps something from centuries ago. But I think the idea of a millennial, modern saint is something that inside the Vatican and around the world, there's been enthusiasm and momentum because it is such a break from the past.

MARTIN: Is there something about his life that merits this? I mean, can you just say more about who he was in life that causes him to be venerated in this way?

WHITE: Yeah. I think one major thing is accessibility. I mean, he was known as this teenager who had a deep spiritual devotion and a real love for gaming. You know, he played Super Mario and Pokemon and things like that that teenagers can relate to. But he also had this real gift for, you know, being technologically savvy, and so he put those talents in service to the church. He created church databases and websites and did all sorts of volunteer work in that space.

At the same time, he was also known for his, you know, personal piety, had a very prayerful life and wanted to visit the famous churches in Europe. And I think both his family and those that came to know him saw this as sort of a young man particularly devoted to God, and after his death, that's why they've decided to push this cause for canonization. Because I think for the family and those that were devoted to him, and now Pope Francis, they're trying to signal that sainthood is something that is accessible even in the modern age.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, what are the final steps toward canonization?

WHITE: It's a long process that typically takes decades and sometimes centuries. But the next thing that will happen after this vote that took place here at the Vatican yesterday is that there will be a mass at a time to be determined, either in the fall or in 2025, where Pope Francis will officially declare him a saint. And so from here on out, he will be known as St. Carlo Acutis.

MARTIN: That is Christopher White with the National Catholic Reporter. Christopher, thank you so much.

WHITE: Thanks, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.