Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 21, 2021

Pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics get underway, Trump ally charged with acting as unregistered foreign agent, and more

1

Pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics launch with first games 

Host Japan, which is ranked No.2, beat eighth-ranked Australia 8-1 in women's softball on Wednesday in the first game of the first event in the Tokyo Olympics, which were delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The top-ranked U.S. beat Italy in the second game of a triple-header. The U.S. women's soccer team also was among the first to play Wednesday morning, but lost 3-0 to Sweden, ending the team's 44-match winning streak. The International Olympic Committee pressed ahead with the Games despite questions about whether that was wise in a country struggling to contain the virus. Japanese authorities at the last minute scrapped plans to allow domestic spectators. International fans had already been banned to reduce coronavirus infection risk.

2

Trump ally charged with acting as unregistered foreign agent

Tom Barrack, who led former President Donald Trump's 2017 inaugural committee, was arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates. Barrack, a longtime Trump ally, also was accused of lying to federal investigators. The seven-count indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn, New York, says that Barrack, a former employee, and an Emirati businessman worked under the direction of senior Emirati officials to influence Trump policies and public opinion to advance the country's interests. A spokesperson said Barrack "is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty." Barrack this year stepped down as executive chairman of the investment firm he founded, Colony Capital. The company last month changed its name to DigitalBridge.

3

Bezos makes brief trip to space in first Blue Origin crewed flight

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, took a brief flight into suborbital space Tuesday in a spacecraft developed by his rocket company, Blue Origin. The flight marked the first time Blue Origin's spacecraft, dubbed New Shepard after American space pioneer Alan Shepard, had carried people, a big step toward the company's plans for space tourism. Three others joined Bezos in the capsule: Bezos' brother, Mark; Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student who was Blue Origin's first paying passenger and the youngest person to go to space; and aviator Mary Wallace "Wally" Funk, who at 82 was the oldest person to reach space. "Best day ever," Jeff Bezos said after the capsule had parachuted to the ground in Texas near the launch site.

4

Pandemic lowers U.S. life expectancy

Federal data released Wednesday showed that the pandemic reduced life expectancy in the U.S. by a year and half in 2020, with the loss doubled for Black and Hispanic Americans. The news came the morning after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a Senate health committee hearing that the highly infectious Delta variant is now responsible for 83 percent of new U.S. coronavirus cases. The proportion of cases stemming from the fast-spreading Delta variant surpassed 50 percent of new cases in early July. New coronavirus infections have been rising, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, although infections and deaths remain far below their winter peaks. "This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Walensky said.

5

McConnell makes strongest plea yet for people to get vaccinated

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. McConnell, a polio survivor, said it "never occurred" to him that after "three highly-effective vaccines were developed in under a year that we'd have difficulty getting Americans to take the shots. But that's obviously where we are." Some Republican politicians and conservative pundits have downplayed the importance of vaccines, falsely claiming that they were not effective or, worse, unsafe. McConnell said he wanted to emphasize as strongly as he could that "these shots need to get in everybody's arm as rapidly as possible, or we're gonna be back in a situation in the fall ... that we went through last year."

6

Smoke from Oregon wildfire reaches East Coast

Smoke from Oregon's vast Bootleg Fire reached as far as New York on Tuesday, as plumes of smoke rose so far into the atmosphere that they were carried thousands of miles by high-level winds. The blaze is continuing to expand, fueled by strong winds and high heat. Just 30 percent contained, the Bootleg Fire has burned an area larger than Los Angeles and started creating its own weather. "In areas where skies are 'clear,' thick smoke aloft is limiting sunshine, with no discernible sunrise visible at our office earlier this morning despite practically clear skies!" wrote the National Weather Service office in Albany, New York.

7

Stocks rebound from worst day of 2021

U.S. stocks bounced back Tuesday after Monday's drop, which was the steepest of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 550 points or 1.6 percent, regaining more than two-thirds of its 725-point Monday decline. The S&P 500 rose by 1.5 percent after dropping by 1.6 percent on Monday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped by 1.6 percent, after falling by nearly 1.1 percent the day before. Some strategists warn that the market is entering a volatile period due to fears of an economic downturn fueled by surging Delta variant coronavirus cases. Futures tied to the three main U.S. indexes made further gains before the opening bell Wednesday, with Dow futures up by nearly 200 points or 0.6 percent.

8

Antetokounmpo scores 50 points to lead Bucks to NBA title

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns, capping a stunning comeback to make the Bucks NBA champions. Milwaukee lost the first two games of the series, then took the next four to win the series. Antetokounmpo scored 41 points in Game 3, saved a Game 4 win with a block, and put away Game 5 with an alley-oop dunk. Antetokounmpo, 26, was drafted as a relative unknown in 2013 and has become a two-time regular-season MVP and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year. "This should make every person, every kid, everybody around the world believe in their dreams," said Antetokounmpo, a Greek national born to Nigerian parents.

9

Report: India's coronavirus death toll far higher than official estimate

India's excess deaths during the coronavirus pandemic could be between 3 million and 4.7 million, 10 times higher than the country's official COVID-19 death toll, according to a study by the U.S.-based Center for Global Development. The study looked at three sources of data to determine how many more people died than would have been expected between January 2020 and June 2021. "India's official COVID death count as of end-June 2021 is 400,000," the report said. "The reality is, of course, catastrophically worse … What is tragically clear is that too many people, in the millions rather than hundreds of thousands, may have died." The report conceded that finding a definitive toll cold "prove elusive."

10

DEA agent charged in Capitol riot

An off-duty Drug Enforcement Agency agent attended the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and carried his government-issued pistol and flashed his DEA credentials and badge, prosecutors say in court documents unsealed Tuesday. Mark Ibrahim of Orange County, California, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with making a false statement to investigators, and possession of a firearm on restricted grounds. Prosecutors allege that Ibrahim crossed police lines and entered the restricted grounds outside the Capitol, and shared photos of himself there to a group chat on WhatsApp. There were at least five other law enforcement officers in the chat, and one responded, "Question Mark, you are carrying your duty weapon and your badge/creds? I need to know this mark."

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