Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 23, 2021

Senate Republicans block Democrats' voting rights bill, the White House says U.S. will fall short of Biden vaccination goal, and more

1

GOP blocks Senate Democrats' voting rights bill

Senate Democrats on Tuesday failed to advance their voting rights bill designed to counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to add voting restrictions. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a centrist Democrat swing vote in the 50-50 chamber, backed a compromise proposal, but the legislation, called the For the People Act, failed to get the 60 votes needed to get past a Republican filibuster. The bill would include measures such as expanded early voting and same-day voter registration. Supporters of the proposal said it would counter GOP state regulations Democrats say will make it harder for some people, especially voters of color, to cast ballots. Republicans said Democrats were overreaching, and should leave election regulations to the states.

2

White House concedes U.S. won't meet Biden's July 4 vaccination goal

The White House publicly acknowledged Tuesday that the United States would likely fall short of President Biden's goal of having 70 percent of U.S. adults injected with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by July 4. The Biden administration said that the nation would reach the milestone only for those aged 27 or older. At the current pace, about 67 percent of adults will be partly vaccinated by Independence Day, according to a New York Times analysis. If the U.S. does fall short, it will mark the first time the nation has failed to meet one of Biden's vaccination targets. Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response coordinator, said missing the goal by a few percentage points is not cause for concern.

3

Hannah-Jones won't join UNC faculty without tenure

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will not take her position as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel on July 1, as scheduled, "without the protection and security of tenure," her legal team wrote in a letter to the university this week, according to NC Policy Watch. Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize winner and creator of The New York Times' 1619 Project, which explored the legacy of slavery in the United States. She was recruited by UNC but the university's board of trustees put off a vote on granting her tenure. The journalism school offered her a five-year contract. The school hasn't explained the board's actions, but critics said it was due to conservatives' objections to the 1619 Project.

4

Adams leads NYC's Democratic mayoral primary

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led the 13 Democratic candidates in New York City's mayoral primary, with 31 percent of the No. 1 votes in the ranked-choice system after 90 percent of the in-person ballots were counted. Finalizing the full count could take weeks, but Adams, a former police captain, said "New York City said our first choice is Eric Adams." Civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley was in second with 22 percent, followed by former city sanitation chief Kathryn Garcia with 20 percent. Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate, conceded on Tuesday night after coming in fourth. On the Republican side, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels patrol group, defeated businessman Fernando Mateo, but he will be an underdog against the Democratic nominee.

5

DOJ blocks websites suspected of Iranian disinformation

The Justice Department on Tuesday blocked several websites suspected of involvement in disinformation by the Iranian government, Reuters reported, citing a U.S. government source. Notices appeared on several Iran-affiliated websites saying the U.S. government had seized them in a law enforcement action. Iranian news agencies said the targets included several Iranian media websites, as well as sites linked to Yemen's Houthi movement and other groups with ties to Tehran. The sites reporting that they had been "seized" by the U.S. included one operated by the Arabic-language Masirah TV, which is run by the Houthis, and Iran's Arabic language Alalam TV. The notices appeared days after a hardliner, Ebrahim Raisi, won Iran's Friday presidential election.

6

Existing-home prices rise to record

Existing-home prices in May were up nearly 24 percent from a year ago, the largest yearly price increase the National Association of Realtors has recorded in 22 years. The median existing-home price rose above $350,000 for the first time. Sales prices have been rising since last summer, when the first wave of coronavirus cases eased and Americans forced by lockdowns to spend more time at home started looking for more space. Many people moved after they started working remotely, allowing them to relocate to less expensive areas. But sales have started declining because there aren't enough available homes to meet demand. "Affordability appears to be now squeezing away some buyers," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "There are so many people who have been outbid, frustrated they are unable to buy."

7

Hong Kong pro-democracy paper closing after raid

Apple Daily, Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy paper, announced Wednesday that it would shut down after police raided its offices last week. Police froze its accounts and arrested top editors and other executives, accusing the publication of publishing more than 30 articles calling on other nations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland China, an alleged violation of a security law imposed on Hong Kong by China last year. The paper's founder, Jimmy Lai, was already jailed on numerous charges. The paper's closure will silence one of Hong Kong's most aggressive media outlets, in a blow to press freedom in the former British colony, which was returned to Beijing's control in 1997 but maintains a dwindling degree of autonomy.

8

Fed chair says inflation spike likely temporary

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday that spiking inflation was likely to be temporary. Powell was responding to Republicans in Congress who blamed rising prices on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which lawmakers approved in March. Powell sidestepped the partisan clash over spending aimed at speeding the recovery from economic damage caused by the pandemic, but said that recent larger-than-expected increases in consumer prices were mostly due to supply bottlenecks that occurred when demand surged after the economy quickly reopened as coronavirus infections and deaths fell, and businesses from airlines to used car lots couldn't restart operations fast enough to keep up.

9

Haaland announces investigation of indigenous boarding schools

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Tuesday announced that she directed her department to investigate Indian boarding schools and "shed light on the unspoken traumas of the past, no matter how hard it will be." Hundreds of thousands of indigenous children were forced to attend these schools, which were focused on assimilation. In a memo, Haaland said the Interior Department would "address the inter-generational impact" of these institutions. The investigation will include a report detailing cemeteries and possible burial sites of students. The process will be "painful," said Haaland, a member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, but "only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we're all proud to embrace." 

10

Backpacker dies in Grand Canyon in 115-degree heat

A 53-year-old backpacker, Michelle Meder of Ohio, died after suffering heat illness while hiking in the Grand Canyon, the National Parks Service said Tuesday. Meder was hiking down the Hermit trail during a multi-day trip on a day when the temperature reached about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. She apparently became disoriented, and was later found unconscious. Responding rangers determined that she had died on Sunday, the parks service said in a press release. The cause of death was believed to be heat-related. Rangers called for Grand Canyon visitors, especially hikers and backpackers, to be prepared for extreme heat. Temperatures can rise above 120 degrees in the shade on parts of the hiking trail in summer, and hikers are advised to avoid the inner canyon between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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