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Watch John Oliver Slam Republicans for Attempting to Block Scalia and Access to the Ballot Box

Politics

HBO's John Oliver was back Sunday night with his first new episode of Last Week Tonight and he wasted no time going after the Republicans for refusing to consider any nominations to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and attempting to block access to the ballot box with restrictive voter ID laws.

John Oliver Oliver explains that voting is "the cornerstone of American democracy—the unshakeable principle that everyone should have an equal vote, even idiots."

Oliver called Scalia’s death “the end of an era on the Supreme Court,” and noted that “There is now a huge vacancy on the Supreme Court that needs to be filled, or if you listened to the Republicans in the last 24 hours—not.”

He shared a clip from Saturday night's GOP presidential debate showing Ted Cruz saying, "We're not gonna give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee," and Donald Trump spouting, "I think it's up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it, it's called delay, delay, delay."

Oliver's response was, “Well, that does not bode well because Mitch McConnell is actually pretty good at delaying things for people—whether it’s legislation, court appointments or orgasms.”

Oliver then discussed the “strange, unwritten rule of the Senate that is being cited to justify this behavior” known as the “Thurmond Rule.” In a clip, a newscaster explains that "There is a rule in the Senate, it's an informal rule, called the Thurmond Rule. The rule that Strom Thurmond put forward was no president in the last six months of their presidency should be able to appoint a judge that has a lifetime appointment."

Watch here to see what Oliver thinks of the Thurmond Rule:

Oliver then went on to his main story for the night, voting. Oliver explains that voting is "the cornerstone of American democracy—the unshakeable principle that everyone should have an equal vote, even idiots."

He explains that "in recent years some state have made voting easier ... but sadly others have gone in the opposite direction." And, that "depending on who you are and where you live, you might face new obstacles to voting this November thanks to, among other things, the Supreme Court decision to weaken the Voting Rights Act."

Watch this in-depth segment where Oliver explains which states are working the hardest to block access to the ballot box:

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.