Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 28, 2021

Biden orders airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups, key Republicans say the infrastructure deal is back on track, and more


Biden orders airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia groups

President Biden ordered precision airstrikes on Iran-backed militia facilities in the Iraq-Syria border region, the Defense Department said Sunday. "The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. The U.S. strikes targeted two sites in Syria and one in Iraq, including operational and weapons storage facilities. The airstrikes were meant to "disrupt and deter" attacks the militia groups have conducted against U.S. interests in Iraq. The first strikes Biden ordered as president, in February, hit another site used by Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria.


Key Republicans say infrastructure deal back on track

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Sunday that the bipartisan infrastructure deal would be able to move forward now that President Biden has clarified that he would sign the bill with or without another bill that only has Democratic support. "The waters have been calmed," Romney told CNN's State of the Union. Biden faced a backlash after saying that he wouldn't sign the infrastructure plan unless it was paired with the "American Families Plan" Democrats plan to push through with spending for child care, health care, education, and climate change. Biden said Saturday he wasn't making a "veto threat" and stood "firmly behind" the infrastructure deal. Republicans "were glad to see them disconnected," Portman said on ABC's This Week. "And now we can move forward." 


N.Y. prosecutors give Trump Org. lawyers until Monday to argue against filing charges

New York prosecutors gave former President Donald Trump's lawyers until Monday afternoon to present arguments against the filing of charges targeting the Trump Organization, The Washington Post reported Sunday, citing two people familiar with the matter. The deadline indicates that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and state Attorney General Letitia James are strongly considering filing criminal charges against Trump's company after more than two years of investigations. Vance convened a grand jury earlier this year, but nobody has been charged yet. Prosecutors have been looking into suspicions that Trump's company undervalued its properties to lower its taxes, and inflated their value to get better loans.


Analysis: India's real COVID death toll much higher than reported

India's true coronavirus death toll could be more than 1.1 million, nearly three times the official count of more than 390,000, according to modeling by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The institute's figures on India, reported Sunday in The Wall Street Journal, are similar to those in some countries in South America and Africa, said Christopher Murray, director of the institute. He said India probably has only identified 3 percent to 5 percent of all infections in the country, due to insufficient testing. India's spotty counting has hindered health experts' efforts to understand the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant that was first detected in India. 


France's far right loses big in regional elections

France's far right suffered a setback in the second round of regional elections on Sunday, failing in its bid to win control of one of the country's 12 regions for the first time. The right-wing, anti-immigration National Rally's leader, Marine Le Pen, conceded defeat, saying that next year's presidential election "appears more than ever to be the election that allows for changes of politics and politicians." The National Rally got no more than 20 percent of the vote nationally, according to the Ifop polling agency, less than the mainstream right and the left, including green candidates. Mainstream parties on the right retained control of seven regions, while the left kept hold of five, with none changing camps.


Families of missing visit site of Florida condo collapse

Families of people still missing following the collapse of a Florida condo building visited the site on Sunday as rescue crews continued digging through the rubble in hope of finding survivors. The death toll stood at nine, but more than 150 more people were still missing. Nobody has been pulled alive from the pile of concrete and metal since Thursday. "We are just waiting for answers. That's what we want," said Dianne Ohayon, whose parents, Myriam and Arnie Notkin, were in the building. "It's hard to go through these long days." Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai led a humanitarian delegation to the scene in Surfside, north of Miami Beach, accompanied by several Israeli search-and-rescue experts. "If you watch the scene, you know it's almost impossible to find someone alive," Shai said. "But you never know."


Author of forthcoming book says Barr clashed with Trump over fraud claim

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, author of a forthcoming book on the final days of the Trump administration, writes in The Atlantic that former Attorney General William Barr told him that he never believed former President Donald Trump's allegation that the election was stolen from him. "My attitude was: It was put-up or shut-up time," Karl said Barr told him. "If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bulls---t." Barr reportedly told Karl that Trump reacted angrily when Barr refused to back up the fraud allegations, and said, "You must hate Trump." Barr said he pushed back by telling Trump he had a narrow window to prove his claims, and needed a disciplined team of top lawyers to do it. "Instead, you have a clown show," Barr reportedly told Trump.


Heat wave continues to shatter records

With an intense heat dome pitched over the Pacific Northwest, cities from Eugene, Oregon, to Lytton in Canada's British Columbia saw their hottest temperatures in recorded history on Sunday. Eugene hit 111 degrees, topping its 1981 record of 108; Portland reached 112 degrees, beating its all-time high of 108 degrees from Saturday; and Seattle hit a record 104 degrees Sunday evening. For context, "in recorded history, Seattle has had 5 days of 100+ temperatures," The New York Times' Mike Baker noted. "Two were this weekend. Another may come Monday." Lytton, about 95 miles northeast of Vancouver, reached 116 degrees on Sunday — the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada.


North Korea highlights Kim's weight loss as food shortages mount

North Korea's propaganda apparatus has started commenting on leader Kim Jong Un's dramatic recent weight loss as food shortages mount. Kim was absent from public view in May and returned in June looking much thinner. In a rare acknowledgement of domestic problems, he warned the "food situation is now getting tense." A Pyongyang citizen told Korean Central Television on Friday that people "were most heartbroken" to see Kim's "emaciated figure." "It is hard to say what caused Kim's weight loss, or what his health conditions are, but right now they are using it for propaganda purposes, specifically to highlight his hard work and sacrifice to improve the people's living standards," said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a nonresident fellow with the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center.


Biles earns chance to repeat as Olympic champion

Reigning world and Olympic champion Simone Biles on Sunday clinched a spot on the U.S. women's gymnastics team headed to the Tokyo Olympics next month. She has a shot at becoming the first woman in more than a half-century to repeat as all-around champion at the Olympics. Biles had a few setbacks at the Olympic trials in St. Louis, including falling off the beam and stepping out of bounds on the floor exercise, but her two-day total of 118.098 put her more than two points ahead of Olympic teammate Sunisa Lee, who posted a higher all-around score in the finals. "Just go home, work harder," said Biles, who won a record seventh national women's all-around title earlier this month. "This is just the beginning of the journey."


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