Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 7, 2020

Coronavirus hospitalizations rise as U.S. death toll hits 130,000, the Supreme Court rules against "faithless electors," and more 


Coronavirus hospitalizations rise as death toll reaches 130,000

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rose above 130,000 on Monday after coronavirus hospitalizations increased by 5 percent or more in 23 states. Texas reported that it had more than 8,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on Sunday, a record for the state. Public health experts consider hospitalizations to be a better indication of the severity of local outbreaks, because they don't vary based on testing availability the way tallies of infections do. White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted Monday that the average age of new coronavirus patients had dropped by roughly 15 years as cases surged in the nation's Sun Belt, and warned the U.S. remained "knee-deep" in the virus' first wave. "It's a serious situation that we have to address immediately," he said.


Supreme Court unanimously rules against 'faithless electors'

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that the 538 people picked to cast votes in the Electoral College must vote according to their states' laws. The case involved four "faithless electors" from Colorado and Washington state who strayed from the popular vote and sued, arguing that states can control how electors are chosen but not what happens later. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the Constitution gives states broad authority over the selection of presidential electors, including "what the elector must do for the appointment to take effect." Under more than two centuries of tradition, Kagan wrote, "electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the state's voters have chosen." The ruling marked a defeat for advocates of Electoral College reform.


Atlanta mayor tests positive for coronavirus

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Monday that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. "COVID-19 has literally hit home," she posted on Twitter. "I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive." A day earlier, Bottoms hosted a news conference in a room with police, three Atlanta City Council members, reporters, and the parents of 8-year-old shooting victim Secoriea Turner. Bottoms wore a mask during the event, but removed it during her remarks on the shooting, which occurred in the area protesters, some of them armed, have occupied around the site where Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police. Bottoms said she had been diligent about wearing masks and washing her hands, and that she had "no idea when and where" her family was exposed.


Trump blasts Bubba Wallace, NASCAR over noose and Confederate flag ban

President Trump suggested in a tweet that NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, the racing series' only Black driver, should apologize for the controversy over a noose found in his garage at a racetrack. Trump said the incident was a hoax. Trump also complained in the Monday tweet about NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag from its events and racetracks, saying it contributed to NASCAR's "lowest ratings EVER," despite a ratings surge. The White House said Trump wasn't endorsing Confederate flags, but condemning the rush to see the rope as a sign of racism. FBI investigators determined the rope was there months before Wallace was assigned the garage. Wallace, who wasn't the one who reported the rope, responded by tweeting: "Love over hate every day ... Even when it's HATE from the POTUS."


Simon & Schuster moves up release of Mary Trump's book

Publisher Simon & Schuster said Monday that it would release a tell-all book by President Trump's niece, Mary Trump, next week, two weeks ahead of schedule. President Trump's younger brother, Robert Trump, is trying to block the book's publication, arguing that Mary Trump was not allowed to write it because of a privacy agreement she signed as part of the settlement of a family estate. In the book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Mary Trump portrays President Trump as a "damaged man" who "threatens the world's health, economic security, and social fabric," Simon & Schuster said on its website. The publisher said it decided to move up the release date "due to high demand and extraordinary interest in this book." The book already is the No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon.


Small Business Administration releases data on coronavirus relief loans

The Small Business Administration on Monday released the names of 660,000 small businesses and nonprofits that received loans of at least $150,000 under the federal $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program. Companies associated with President Trump and members of his administration were among the recipients. The program, launched in early April, was part of the package Congress approved to provide relief to businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus shutdowns. The data released Monday showed that the government distributed $521 billion in loans, with the average recipient getting $107,000. Officials from the SBA and the Treasury Department said information provided by the borrowers indicated that the loans helped support 51 million jobs, or about 84 percent of workers at small businesses.


Woman who called police on Black birdwatcher charged

The Manhattan district attorney announced Monday the filing of misdemeanor criminal charges against Amy Cooper, a white woman who called police to claim a Black birdwatcher who asked her to leash her dog was threatening her. Cooper is accused of filing a false report, District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said in a statement. The man involved in the incident, Christian Cooper, recorded the encounter in a cellphone video that went viral. The clip circulated at the same time as the video of George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis police custody, fueling the national conversation about mistreatment of Black Americans. Amy Cooper wound up losing her job at investment management company Franklin Templeton. She also had to forfeit her dog to the rescue operation where she had adopted it.


TikTok pulling out of Hong Kong

Beijing-based short-form video app TikTok said Monday that it would get out of the Hong Kong market following the enactment of China's new security law in the semi-autonomous former British colony. TikTok previously said it would not comply with requests from China for user data or censorship. Also on Monday, Facebook, Twitter, and Google said they would stop processing requests from Hong Kong authorities for user data, pending a review of China's newly imposed security law. The law, which lets Beijing crack down on government critics and reduces Hong Kong's autonomy, has had a chilling effect on free speech and internet use, as many Hong Kong residents deleted social media accounts and one upstart political party shut down.


Court orders shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline pending review

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday ordered the operator of the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down the controversial project pending a more thorough environmental review. The court gave Energy Transfer 30 days to empty the 570,000-barrel-per-day pipeline, the largest from the North Dakota shale fields, after finding that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers failed to provide an adequate environmental impact statement. The pipeline, which carries oil from the Bakken shale basin to the Midwest and Gulf Coast, has faced protests from environmental groups and Native American tribes. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith said it was a "historic day" for the tribe and its supporters. "This pipeline should have never been built here," he said.


'The Devil Went Down to Georgia' singer Charlie Daniels dies at 83

Country singer, songwriter, and musician Charlie Daniels died Monday after suffering a stroke. He was 83. Daniels was a powerhouse in country music for decades. He got his start by co-writing the Elvis Presley song "It Hurts Me" in 1964, and played guitar, fiddle, and banjo on other major artists' records early in his career. Daniels launched his own singing career in 1971 with a self-titled debut album, and was widely known for his trademark 1979 No. 1 hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Daniels and his eponymous band toured for decades. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.


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