Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 13, 2021

Democratic lawmakers leave Texas to block GOP voting bills, dozens arrested at Cuban protests as Biden mulls response, and more

1

Democratic lawmakers leave Texas to block GOP voting bills

More than 50 Democratic lawmakers from the Texas House of Representatives left the state Monday to forestall passage of Republican-backed voting restrictions that were expected to come to a vote in both houses of the state legislature this week. The Democrats flew to Washington, D.C., on two chartered jets and plan to stay there until the legislature's special session ends in 25 days. In their absence, the statehouse can't reach a quorum required by the Texas Constitution, though the Constitution also allows them to be legally compelled to return. The lawmakers are appealing to their federal counterparts to pass national election legislation; President Biden will speak on the issue Tuesday. The GOP proposal would ban drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, among other changes, which Democrats have argued is a voter suppression plan that will disproportionately affect voters of color.

2

Dozens arrested at Cuban protests as Biden mulls response

A heavy police presence was deployed in Havana on Monday after thousands of Cubans joined rare protests in the communist-run island nation Sunday. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested, while Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, whom the protesters told to resign, blamed Cuba's grave economic woes on an American "politics of economic asphyxiation." That claim, and the protests themselves, have forced the Biden administration to address U.S.-Cuba policy sooner than planned. The Trump administration designated Cuba a state sponsor of terror and imposed severe limits on trade, travel, and remittances from Cuban expatriates. As a candidate, Biden promised a turn away from former President Trump's aggressive approach, but his rhetoric Monday was reminiscent of it.

3

Haiti assassination suspects reportedly linked to U.S.

Christian Emmanuel Sanon, the man whose arrest in connection to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was announced Sunday, is a pastor with ties to Florida who is also a licensed physician in Haiti, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing both named and unnamed friends of Sanon. The AP sources say they believe Sanon to be a patsy in the assassination, insisting he would not have participated if he'd believed Moïse would be harmed. At least one other suspect of the nearly 30 allegedly involved also has ties to the United States. He was previously an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Some assassins reportedly claimed to be DEA agents during the attack; the DEA denied involvement.

4

FDA warns of possible autoimmune disorder link to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday issued a new warning about the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19. The shot could be linked to a higher occurrence of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder, the agency said. More than 12.8 million people have received this vaccine in the United States. Among those, around 100 cases of Guillain-Barré, including one death, have been reported. This is "insufficient to establish a causal relationship," the FDA said, but warrants further research. When links emerged between this disease and other vaccines in the past, illness typically occurred within two months of the shot.

5

Pro-Trump 'Kraken' lawyers face court sanctions over 2020 election lawsuits

Legal allies of former President Donald Trump, including lawyers Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, were grilled in a federal court hearing in Michigan on Monday about their involvement in the "kraken" lawsuits attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker questioned the lawyers at length about what steps they took to verify the accuracy of their claims of election fraud in court and appeared dissatisfied with their responses, some of which she dubbed "really fantastical." Parker will rule on a request to sanction the lawyers, who could ultimately be disbarred, in the next few weeks.

6

California governor can't run as a Democrat in recall election, court rules

A California court on Monday ruled the state's governor, Gavin Newsom, cannot run as a Democrat in his upcoming recall election. Newsom's campaign failed to meet a legal deadline to request the party designation on the recall ballots. He sued the state's secretary of state to correct the error and has now lost that case. Newsom's allies worry that some Democratic voters may not realize he is the Democratic candidate, despite his incumbency, so the lack of designation could harm his re-election chances.

7

California partially reverses controversial K-12 mask mandate

Several hours after the state of California issued guidance banning K-12 students from their campuses if they do not wear a mask, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, the California Department of Public Health partially backtracked. Instead of a statewide ban, the agency tweeted, the rules "will be clarified regarding masking enforcement" to allow schools to choose the mask enforcement method. While California is returning to in-person schooling, it is one of only 10 states still mandating masks for primary education, which federal guidelines no longer broadly recommend.

8

Dozens dead in fire at Iraqi COVID-19 ward

At least 64 people were killed in a fire at a COVID-19 isolation ward in a hospital in southern Iraq on Monday, local officials have said. Another 100 people were injured, and the death toll could continue to rise as the search for victims continues. The catastrophic blaze is thought to have been started by an oxygen tank explosion, a cause which, if correct, is the same as that of a previous fire in a Baghdad COVID-19 ward which left 82 dead in April. Iraq is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and daily infections rose last week to 9,000.  

9

Indicted Trump Organization executive removed from roles

The Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who was indicted for grand larceny and tax fraud charges earlier in July, has been removed as officer of record from about 40 Trump subsidiary companies in the United States and Scotland. Weisselberg has worked for the Trump family since 1973, and records show he was previously listed as treasurer, director, vice president, and secretary of the Trump Payroll Corp., which processes payroll for Trump Organization staff and is also facing charges in the same criminal case as Weisselberg. Now, Donald Trump Jr. is listed as executive vice president, director, secretary, treasurer, and vice president, while his younger brother, Eric Trump, is named president, director, and chairman. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Payroll Corp. have pleaded not guilty in their case. 

10

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards dies

Edwin Edwards, the former four-term governor of Louisiana who also spent eight years in federal prison, died Monday in hospice care at his home. He was 93. Known as the "Cajun king," Edwards dominated Louisiana politics for years. He was convicted in 2000 in a corruption case involving riverboat casino licenses but regained popularity in the state after his prison term. "I have lived a good life, had better breaks than most, had some bad breaks, too, but that's all part of it," Edwards said in some of his final moments. "I tried to help as many people as I could and I hope I did that, and I hope, if I did, that they will help others, too."

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