10 things you need to know today: July 20, 2021

Haitian leader to step down in bid to end power struggle, Florida man sentenced to 8 months over Capitol riot, and more

Haitian police
(Image credit: VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Haiti's interim prime minister to step down

Haiti's interim prime minister, Claude Joseph, agreed Monday to step down, in an apparent effort to resolve a power struggle that had heightened tensions in the Caribbean nation following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Joseph, who will become foreign minister, will be replaced by Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who was appointed by Moise and had been due to take office when the president was gunned down by foreign mercenaries in his home in a mountain suburb of Port-au-Prince on July 7. Following the assassination, Haitian politicians fought for control while foreign powers, including the United States, pushed for a resolution. "Haiti has become a baseball being thrown between foreign diplomats," said Haitian Senate President Joseph Lambert.

The New York Times

2. Florida man sentenced to 8 months for role in Capitol riot

A Florida man on Monday was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Paul Hodgkins, a crane operator who walked onto the Senate floor during the riot, also faces two years of supervised release. His sentencing was the first in a felony case related to the insurrection, which aimed to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's victory over Trump. Hodgkins, who pleaded guilty last month to obstructing an official proceeding, said he was "truly remorseful and regretful," not because he faced consequences but for "the damage that day's incident caused, the way this country that I love has been hurt."

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3. State Dept., CDC urge Americans to avoid U.K. due to COVID surge

The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday urged Americans to avoid traveling to the United Kingdom due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases there. Both returned their warnings to their highest point, Level Four, after lowering them to Level Three in May. "If you must travel to the United Kingdom, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel," the CDC said. The State Department said flatly: "Do not travel to the United Kingdom due to COVID-19." Since March 2020, the U.S. has barred entry to everyone who has been to Britain recently. The U.K. lets Americans in but makes them quarantine for 10 days, and undergo two COVID-19 tests.


4. Garland announces DOJ will stop accessing journalists' records in leak hunts

Attorney General Merrick Garland issued rules on Monday cutting back on when prosecutors can secretly obtain reporters' phone and email records. The Trump administration's Justice Department allowed secret orders and subpoenas to access journalists' communication records in efforts to catch leakers. In a memo formalizing a Biden administration decree ending the Trump-era policy, Garland said the DOJ "will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities." The Trump administration policies had been widely criticized by First Amendment advocates, journalists, and lawmakers.

The Washington Post

5. Dow drops by 2 percent as fears of economic slowdown mount

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 2.1 percent on Monday, its biggest drop since October, as concerns mounted over rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. The S&P 500 fell by 1.6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.06 percent. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.17 percent, a five-month low, as demand for safer assets increased. "You have two concerns coming together ... concerns about market technicals and concerns about growth," Allianz chief economic advisor Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC's Squawk Box. "That's what all the asset classes are telling you." Futures for the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all bounced back early Tuesday with gains of 0.5 percent or more.


6. Canada to open borders to vaccinated Americans

The Canadian government said Monday it would let fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents into the country starting Aug. 9. Canada has banned non-essential visits since March 2020 in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Its new policy for Americans permits entry to those who have completed their vaccination at least 14 days before arrival. The vaccines used must be those currently authorized by Canada, which include the ones manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. Travelers will have to prove they have been vaccinated. Unvaccinated minors younger than 12 entering Canada with vaccinated parents or guardians won't have to quarantine.


7. Judge upholds Indiana University's COVID vaccination requirement

A federal judge on Monday upheld Indiana University's right to require that its students get coronavirus vaccinations. A lawyer for eight students who challenged the policy argued that the school was violating their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that since coronavirus shots only have emergency-use authorizations they are different from other vaccinations schools require. In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, Judge Damon Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana said the Constitution doesn't prevent schools from imposing vaccination policies "in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff."

The New York Times

8. Wildfires continue to spread in the West

Dozens of wildfires continued to spread across the West on Monday, as a heat wave threatened the Northern Plains with record temperatures. Nearly 20,000 firefighters were trying to contain 80 large blazes, most of them in Montana, Idaho, California, and Oregon, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The Tamarack Fire near Lake Tahoe in Northern California remained completely uncontained on Monday, after scorching more than 23,000 acres. The Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon was 25 percent contained but still expanded to cover nearly 350,000 acres. The blazes were fueled by dry conditions and high winds.

The Wall Street Journal

9. Biden tones down criticism of Facebook over COVID misinformation

President Biden dialed back his criticism of Facebook on Monday, blaming bad actors, not the social network itself, for "killing people" by spreading "outrageous misinformation" about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines. Facebook got defensive after Biden last week accused Facebook of "killing people" by allowing the spreading of misinformation. "Look," Biden said Friday, "the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people." On Monday, he urged Facebook to do more to stamp out misinformation "instead of taking it personally." Facebook said it "permanently" bans pages, groups, and accounts that "repeatedly break our rules on COVID misinformation."

The Washington Post

10. Thousands of Afghans who helped American troops to be housed at Fort Lee

About 2,500 Afghans who have applied for special immigrant visas will be temporarily housed at Fort Lee in Virginia, U.S. officials said Monday. About 18,000 Afghans are eligible for special immigrant visas, after working as interpreters, translators, and contractors for the U.S. military during the war in Afghanistan. Since the U.S. announced it would withdraw all troops from the country later this summer, several Afghans who are waiting for their visa applications to go through have shared their concerns over the Taliban coming after them and their families as retribution for their work with the United States. The Biden administration has promised to get the visa applicants out of Afghanistan starting in late July.

The Washington Post

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.