Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 5, 2021

Biden celebrates COVID-19 progress at July 4 event, search resumes after remaining part of collapsed condo is demolished, and more

1

Bidens host July 4 event, celebrate COVID progress at White House

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted a July 4 celebration at the White House on Sunday, with a barbecue for military families and essential workers. Biden thanked both groups for their service through the coronavirus pandemic. The president said the country was celebrating "independence" from the coronavirus as cases fall and vaccinations rise. He urged people to get vaccinated, and recognized the more than 600,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19. The country fell short of Biden's goal to get 70 percent of adults at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Independence Day, with the figure at about 67 percent. Thousands of Americans gathered around the nation's capital to celebrate a nearly normal holiday after the pandemic prevented large gatherings last year.

2

Remaining portion of partially collapsed Florida condo tower demolished

Demolition experts tore down the rest of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, on Sunday. Search crews paused their efforts on Saturday as authorities shifted to a rushed demolition as Tropical Storm Elsa threatened to hit the area. Miami-Dade County officials had planned to have the building torn down later, but concerns that the storm could knock it down forced them to speed up the timetable. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said that with the storm approaching the "top priority is that the building come down as soon as possible ... and as safely as possible." Almost immediately after the demolition, cranes started moving again on the debris pile as rescue crews resumed their work. The June 24 collapse killed at least 24 people. More than 120 remain missing.

3

Tropical Storm Elsa heads toward Cuba and Florida

Tropical Storm Elsa struggled to reorganize on Sunday after weakening, with its top sustained winds at about 60 miles per hour. Elsa sideswiped the southern coast of Hispaniola, leaving two dead in the Dominican Republic over the weekend and hitting Haiti with high winds and heavy rains. Another person died on the island of St. Lucia when the storm crashed through the Lesser Antilles on Friday. The storm is expected to be near hurricane strength as it approaches Cuba on Monday. Cuba evacuated more than 180,000 people from areas threatened by possible flooding and other storm damage. The storm's track is expected to shift north in the coming days, with Elsa's outer bands forecast to reach into the Florida Keys on Monday and continue north toward a possible landfall near Tampa early Wednesday.

4

Fauci says despite vaccination he'd wear a mask in areas with low vaccine rates

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is fully vaccinated, but he said Sunday that he would continue wearing a mask in any place that has low coronavirus vaccination rates. Fauci told Chuck Todd, anchor of NBC's Meet the Press, that in parts of the country where cases are rising and vaccination levels are low, he would "go the extra mile to be cautious enough to make sure that I get the extra added level of protection" even though "vaccines themselves are highly effective." About 67 percent of Americans 18 or older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and nearly 60 percent are fully vaccinated. But in some places rates are far lower. In Mississippi, for example, only 36 percent of residents have had a vaccine dose. In Missouri, where cases have doubled recently, vaccinations are at about 45 percent.

5

Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO

Jeff Bezos formally steps down as CEO of Amazon on Monday. Bezos will transition into the role of executive chairman of the online retail giant he founded, handing over the chief executive job to Andy Jassy, who has been in charge of the company's fast-growing cloud computing business. Amazon has made Bezos the world's richest person. Forbes estimates his fortune at nearly $202 billion, up $196 billion since his first appearance on the magazine's list of the wealthiest Americans in 1998. Bezos' wealth has increased by 73 percent since 2019, even though during that period his former wife, MacKenzie Scott, got a quarter of his company stock in their divorce.

6

China orders app store operators to pull Didi app

China's internet watchdog on Sunday ordered app store operators in the country to remove ride-hailing giant Didi Global's app, citing allegedly illegal personal data collection. The Cyberspace Administration of China internet watchdog instructed Didi Chuxing, the company's China business, to fix the issues to "ensure the safety of the personal information of users." Two days earlier, Chinese regulators blocked Didi Chuxing from adding users pending a review of its cybersecurity policies. The crackdown came a day after Didi's vice president, Li Min, denied reports that Didi stored user data in the U.S. "Like many overseas-listed Chinese companies, Didi stores all domestic user data on servers in China," Li wrote on China's Twitter-like Weibo service. Didi made its U.S. stock market debut last week.

7

Philippines orders investigation as military plane death toll rises

Philippine authorities on Monday ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash of an Air Force plane on Sunday. Forty-seven soldiers who were on board and three civilians on the ground were killed when the Lockheed C-130 overshot a runway, crashed, and burst into flames. Some passengers were seen jumping out of the plane just before it crashed. Forty-nine other military personnel who were on the plane and four civilians on the ground survived with injuries, military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said. In a news conference, Arevalo said the plane had been deemed to be in "very good condition." "We are determined to find out what really transpired in this very tragic incident," he said.

8

Pope Francis recovering after intestinal surgery

Pope Francis had planned intestinal surgery at a Rome hospital on Sunday and "reacted well," the Vatican said. The procedure was necessary to address a diverticular stenosis, or abnormal narrowing, of the sigmoid portion of the colon, said Matteo Bruni, a Holy See spokesman. Few further details were immediately released, including how long the surgery lasted and how long the pope was unconscious under general anesthesia. The Vatican didn't say how long the pope would stay at the A. Gemelli Polyclinic, where he underwent the surgery. He was expected to spend several days recovering in a private 10th floor apartment suite reserved for popes.

9

Hackers demand $70 million to release companies' data

Hackers suspected in a ransomware attack that targeted hundreds of companies worldwide late Sunday demanded $70 million to restore their data, Reuters reported, citing a posting on a dark web site. The ransom demand was announced on a blog often used by the Russia-linked REvil cybercrime gang. The Friday ransomware attack started when hackers broke into the system of Miami-based information technology firm Kaseya, then breached some of Kaseya's clients. The attack quickly paralyzed hundreds of companies in a dozen countries. The White House said Sunday it was reaching out to victims "to provide assistance based upon an assessment of national risk."

10

Joey Chestnut wins 14th Nathan's hog dog eating contest in 15 years

Joey Chestnut won the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest for the 14th time in 15 years on Sunday, breaking his own record by downing 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Chestnut left second-place finisher Geoffrey Esper, who ate 50, in the dust early, knocking back 30 frankfurters in the first three minutes. "It just felt good," Chestnut, of Westfield, Indiana, told ESPN after his victory. "Even if I was uncomfortable, having everybody cheer me and push me, it made me feel good." Chestnut, known by the nickname "Jaws," took his first crown in 2007 when he beat six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi. His only loss since then was to Matt Stonie in 2015. "This is what I love," Chestnut told ESPN before the contest. "I love eating in front of people and they love pushing me."

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