Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 16, 2021

Surgeon general warns about virus misinformation, deadly flooding hits central Europe, and more

1

Surgeon general warns coronavirus misinformation is 'a serious threat to public health'

Misinformation is "a serious threat to public health," Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned on Thursday, and he called on Americans to think before they post on social media. Murthy released an advisory urging Americans to "help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond." False information making the rounds can "cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people's health, and undermine public health efforts," he said. "Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort." Before posting or sharing something on social media, "take a moment to verify whether the information is accurate and whether the original source is trustworthy," Murthy suggested. "If we're not sure, we can choose not to share."

2

Extreme flooding leaves more than 100 people dead in Germany and Belgium

Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium on Thursday left more than 100 people dead, with hundreds missing. Most of the deaths were reported in Germany, including nine that occurred at an assisted living facility for people with disabilities. Heavy rains filled reservoirs and caused rivers to overflow, sending water surging down streets. Trees and other large pieces of debris came sweeping through villages like Schuld, Germany, where cars were seen floating down roads, several older houses collapsed, and people had to climb onto the roofs of their homes in order to be rescued by helicopters or inflatable boats. No deaths were reported in France, but heavy rains flooded vegetable fields, houses, and the World War I museum in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. The country's weather service said the equivalent of two months of rain has fallen over the last two days.

3

Biden sending Marines to protect U.S. Embassy in Haiti

President Biden said Thursday that he is sending U.S. Marines into Haiti to protect the U.S. Embassy amid unrest following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, but "the idea of sending American forces to Haiti is not on the agenda at this time." After Moïse was murdered last week, Haiti's interim government asked the U.S. and United Nations to send troops to protect key infrastructure. Haiti's elections minister, Mathias Pierre, said Biden left the door open a crack. "The evolution of the situation will determine the outcome," he told The Associated Press on Thursday. "In the meantime, the government is doing everything we can to stabilize the country, return to a normal environment, and organize elections while trying to come to a political agreement with most political parties." The last time a Haitian president was assassinated, in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson sent in the Marines, starting a two-decade military occupation of Haiti. 

4

Congressional Black Caucus chair Joyce Beatty among those arrested during Capitol voting rights protest

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was arrested on Thursday after she and other "national and state-based Black women leaders and allies" marched on the Hart Senate Office Building to call for the passage of the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. After entering the building, the protestors sang and chanted "freedom to vote" and "end the filibuster!" Nine people, including Beatty, were later arrested for "demonstrating in a prohibited area on Capitol grounds," the Capitol Police said. "Today, I stood in solidarity with Black women across the country in defense of our constitutional right to vote," Beatty said in a statement. "We have come too far and fought too hard to see everything systematically dismantled and restricted by those who wish to silence our voice."

5

Biden calls Cuba a 'failed state'

President Biden said Thursday that Cuba is "unfortunately, a failed state," and it is "repressing their citizens" after large anti-government protests on Sunday. "They've cut off access to the internet," he said. "We're considering where we have the technological ability to reinstate that access." Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican officials have been urging Biden to approve the deployment of experimental technologies to beam wireless internet to Cuba, pointing specifically to a shelved system that uses huge high-altitude hot air balloons. The Cuban government partially restored the internet on Wednesday, allowing protesters to circulate photos of purported harsh government crackdowns on demonstrators.

6

L.A. County reimposes indoor mask requirement as COVID cases surge

With coronavirus cases on the rise, Los Angeles County will once again make it mandatory for people — even those who have been vaccinated — to wear masks indoors. The requirement will go into effect on Saturday night. This comes one month after the county lifted most coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses. The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has been spreading in California, and over the last week, L.A. County has reported an alarming rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, with 1,077 new cases recorded every day, a 261 percent increase from two weeks earlier, the Los Angeles Times reports. Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis told reporters on Thursday that wearing a mask inside is one of the more effective ways to keep the virus from spreading while still allowing businesses to remain open, but "anything is on the table if things continue to get worse, which is why we want to take action now." 

7

Trudeau: Canada may open border to vaccinated Americans in August

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Canada could open its borders to fully vaccinated American making non-essential trips starting in August. Canada closed the land border between the two countries in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and has maintained strict entry rules for other foreign travelers. Trudeau suggested vaccinated visitors from all other countries will be permitted in September. The potential rule changes come as "case numbers and severe illness continue to decline as vaccinations continue to increase" in Canada, according to a statement from Trudeau's office. Canada has vaccinated more than half its eligible residents and is seeing several hundred new cases per day. Trudeau has been under pressure from Canadian business groups and U.S. lawmakers to loosen the border U.S. restrictions given the two countries' close economic ties. 

8

Biden, Merkel discuss controversial pipeline during White House meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday became the first European leader to meet President Biden at the White House, where they discussed the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that will go from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Biden has shared his concerns over the pipeline, which is nearly complete, saying it will make Europe more reliant on Russian gas and puts Russia in a position where it can place pressure on Ukraine. During their joint press conference, Merkel said the "idea is and remains that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas, that Ukraine just as any other country in the world has a right to territorial sovereignty." Germany, she added, will take action "should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country." They both agreed that Russia can't be allowed to weaponize energy. "We stand together and will continue to stand together to defend our eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression," Biden said. 

9

England's chief medical officer warns of 'scary' hospital numbers amid Delta surge

The United Kingdom's hospital admissions could hit "scary numbers" in the coming weeks, Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, said Thursday. England is set to remove most COVID-19 restrictions on July 19 amid a surge in new cases caused by the highly infectious Delta variant. The U.K. is seeing nearly 50,000 new cases every day even as more than half the eligible population is fully vaccinated. "I think saying the numbers in hospital are low now, that does not mean the numbers will be low in hospital in five, six, seven, eight weeks' time," Whitty said, urging people to ease out of lockdown slowly. While cases are soaring in the U.K., deaths remain relatively low. Britain is the first highly-vaccinated country to experience such a surge in Delta infections and will be watched closely by other nations for signs on how to move into the next stage of the pandemic.  

10

18-year-old will accompany Bezos to space after original bidder pulls out

Blue Origin announced Thursday that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, will accompany Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on his upcoming spaceflight, The Washington Post reports. Previously, Blue Origin auctioned off a seat on the July 20 flight for $28 million, but the winning bidder has "scheduling conflicts," so they've "chosen to fly on a future New Shepard mission." Also joining the flight on Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket will be Bezos' brother, Mark Bezos, as well as 82-year-old Wally Funk, and Blue Origin said Daemen and Funk will be "the youngest and oldest astronauts to travel to space" ever.  Daemen had also participated in the auction and "had secured a seat on the second flight," but he was moved up when the seat on the first one became available, a spokesperson told the Post

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