Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 20, 2020

The Week Staff
Coronavirus testing in Florida
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

1.

Florida reports more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases for 5th consecutive day

Florida health officials announced Sunday that 12,523 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state Saturday — the fifth day in a row Florida hit more than 10,000 new infections. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) accused Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Sunday of doing Floridians a disservice by pushing to reopen the state too quickly and refusing to mandate face masks. "The residents here are terrified, and I'm terrified for the first time in my career, because there's a lack of leadership," Shalala said. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, President Trump said "we have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame-like, but it's going to be under control." At least 3.7 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in the United States, and the death toll has surpassed 140,000. [Reuters, CNBC]

2.

Trump hints he might not accept election results if he loses

During an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, President Trump said he is "not a good loser," and would not commit to accepting the results of November's presidential election if he were to lose. Because of safety concerns over in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic, some states are preparing to expand mail-in voting, and Trump made the baseless claim that this "is going to rig the election." Wallace asked Trump if this means he won't accept the election results, and Trump responded, "No. I have to see." When pressed, he added, "No, I'm not going to just say yes. I'm not going to say no, and I didn't last time either." [Fox News]

3.

Trump calls Fox's Chris Wallace 'fake news' in combative interview

During an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, President Trump called Wallace "fake news" after the two debated the U.S. coronavirus mortality rate. He repeated his argument that military bases honoring Confederate soldiers shouldn't be renamed, and when Wallace pointed out that the military itself is in favor of the move, Trump replied that he "doesn't care what the military says." When Wallace revealed the results of a Fox News poll showing former Vice President Joe Biden holding an eight-point lead over Trump, the president deemed the poll fake. When Wallace told Trump the poll showed voters have more confidence in Biden's "mental soundness" than Trump's, the president challenged Biden to take a cognitive test he recently passed. Wallace informed the president he took the test himself, and found it to be quite easy. Trump claimed Wallace wouldn't be able to answer many of the questions. [Fox News]

4.

NIH director says COVID-19 testing too slow in U.S. to be effective

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said COVID-19 tests are taking too long to be processed in the U.S., "and that really undercuts the value of the testing, because you do the testing to find out who's carrying the virus and then quickly get them isolated so they don't spread it around." Collins told NBC's Meet the Press that the federal government needs to "invest a lot of money" in promising new technologies that allow for quicker turnaround. Currently it takes an average of four to six days for test results to come back, and up to three weeks in states like Arizona. "If we'd had really strong guidance from local, state, and national leaders, maybe we could have sustained the determination to get the curve all the way down to zero," Collins told The Washington Post. "Now, we're on the upswing, and I don't quite see the top of the upswing yet." [CNN, The Washington Post]

5.

Federal judge's husband shot, son killed at New Jersey home

The son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas was shot and killed at their home in North Brunswick, New Jersey, on Sunday evening, and her husband, a criminal defense attorney, was shot and wounded. Salas was not hurt in the attack. North Brunswick Mayor Francis "Mac" Womack is friends with Salas, and told ABC News her son was a freshman at Catholic University. As a judge, Salas received "threats from time to time," Womack said, "but everyone is saying that recently there had not been any." Law enforcement officials said they believe someone dressed in a FedEx uniform arrived at the home at around 5 p.m., and authorities are now trying to determine the make of the vehicle the assailant was driving. [ABC News]

6.

Calls grow for investigations of federal agents Trump sent to Portland

Officials in Oregon are demanding that federal agents, including tactical teams from Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshals Service, leave Portland after several documented cases of unidentified agents in military outfits grabbing people off the street and putting them into unmarked vans. The leaders of the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Homeland Security Committees asked the inspectors general of the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department on Sunday to urgently investigate the deployment, joining a similar call from the top federal prosecutor in Oregon. Oregon's attorney general sued DHS and the Marshals Service on Friday, seeking an immediate halt to "unlawfully detaining Oregonians." President Trump and DHS officials defended the deployment as a necessary means to fight "violence" against federal agents, property, and U.S. citizens, and said they might use the same tactics in other cities. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]

7.

Congress returns to urgent coronavirus aid package negotiations

Congress returns to work Monday facing increasing pressure to pass a fifth coronavirus aid package before its next scheduled break in three weeks. The most urgent task is crafting an extension or replacement for $600 a week in expiring supplemental unemployment benefits, as 20-30 million workers remain unemployed. House Democrats already passed a $3.5 trillion package in May, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to release his $1 trillion proposal this week. His top priority is shielding companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits. President Trump has said he might not sign a bill if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, an idea unpopular on Capitol Hill. House Democrats want aid for state and local governments. There is broad agreement on some form of direct payments to households. [The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post]

8.

Disney, Facebook's top advertiser, reportedly slashes ad buys

Walt Disney Co. has dramatically but quietly cut its advertising on Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary, The Wall Street Journal reports. The entertainment giant was the biggest advertiser on Facebook for the first six months of 2020, spending about $120 million on ads for its Disney+ service alone, plus another $16 million for Hulu on Instagram. Disney joins several large companies pausing or slashing their ad spending with Facebook amid calls for a boycott over its handling of hate speech and divisive content. Disney is reportedly concerned specifically about Facebook's enforcement of its policies on objectionable content and whether it can prevent Disney ads from appearing along side it. Facebook earns about $70 billion in annual advertising revenue. [The Wall Street Journal]

9.

Kanye West slams Harriet Tubman in bizarre 1st presidential campaign rally

Rapper Kanye West held the first rally of his supposed 2020 presidential campaign in Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday, railing against abortion, saying "freedom comes from you not loading up the pornography," suggesting marijuana should be free, and proposing that everyone who gives birth to a child be given $1 million. Dressed in a military bulletproof vest, West also drew jeers when he disparaged Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the Underground Railway. "Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves," he claimed. "She just had the slaves work for other white people." He also cried at one point. As Reuters notes, the event "did little to clarify whether West is genuinely attempting to win the presidency." West has qualified for the ballot in Oklahoma but needs to gather signatures to get on the ballot in other states where the deadline hasn't yet passed. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

10.

UAE launches Mars mission

The United Arab Emirates launched the Arab world's first interplanetary mission Monday, firing a rocket to Mars from a launch center in Japan. The Amal (Hope) orbiter, built in collaboration with a handful of U.S. universities and launched aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket, is scheduled to enter orbit around Mars in February 2021. The UAE has embrace space exploration and its adjacent science and technology as one way to diversity from its oil-based economy. It has sent three observation satellites into space — two designed by South Korea and sent into orbit by Russia, and the third its own design — and sent an astronaut to the International Space Station last fall. It aims to found a human colony on Mars by 2117. China and the U.S. are also launching spacecraft headed for Mars this month. [Sky News, The Associated Press]