Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2021

Officers testify as House panel launches Jan. 6 investigation, the CDC recommends wearing masks indoors even if vaccinated, and more

1

House panel launches Jan. 6 investigation with officers' testimony

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters held its first hearing on Tuesday. Four police officers who defended Congress testified about their experiences. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said rioters wearing Trump paraphernalia called him the n-word. Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell, who underwent surgery to address his injuries from the insurrection, described the attack as "a medieval battle" his Army and police training didn't prepare him for. Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who was appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and dismissed as a "Pelosi Republican" by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said the committee's mission is "ensure accountability." Republicans opposed to the investigation called it a "sham."

2

CDC recommends wearing masks indoors, even if vaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a new guidance advising people to wear masks in public indoor settings, even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The recommendation marked a step back from the trend of easing restrictions intended to curb the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The change, which critics called unnecessary, came as the virulent Delta variant fuels a surge of new infections, especially in Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and other states with low vaccination rates. The CDC also urged schools to require that all students, teachers, and staff wear masks when schools reopen in the fall. "Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a press briefing.

3

Simone Biles drops out of Olympic gymnastics team final

Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympics team final on Tuesday after a disappointing vault performance, saying she was "still struggling" with stress and other emotional issues, and was not in the right place mentally for the final. "After the performance that I did, I didn't want to go into any of the other events second guessing myself, so I thought it was better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do the job and they did just that," Biles said. The U.S. team won a silver medal behind the Russian team. Biles cheered on her teammates from the sidelines. She later withdrew from the individual all-around competition to "focus on her mental health," USA Gymnastics said.

4

Biden set to announce vaccine requirement for federal workers

President Biden plans to announce Thursday that his administration will require all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing and mitigation, CNN reported Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Biden also is expected to announce incentives and other steps to get more Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus as the virulent Delta variant drives a new infection surge. Biden said those who have declined to get vaccinated were to blame for the need for vaccine requirements and renewed mask recommendations. "If those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world," Biden said.

5

Man sentenced to life in prison for 4 Asian spa murders

Robert Aaron Long, 22, pleaded guilty to four of the eight killings he was accused of committing at Atlanta-area massage businesses in March. Long was sentenced to life in prison. Cherokee County prosecutors worked out the plea deal instead of seeking the death penalty because they wanted swift justice without lengthy appeals because that was what victims and their families wanted, District Attorney Shannon Wallace said. Long still could face the death penalty for the other murders, which are being prosecuted in another county. Most of the victims were women of Asian descent. Investigators have said Long was motivated by a sex addiction, not racial hatred. Asian American community leaders disagreed, saying Long "intended to target Asian people, specifically Asian women."

6

Ex-Air Force analyst sentenced to 45 months for drone program leaks

Former Air Force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison on Tuesday for leaking top-secret information about deadly U.S. drone strikes. Hale, 33, once helped find drone targets. He told U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady that he felt he had to provide information on the program to a journalist because of the guilt he felt for civilian casualties in Afghanistan. "It is wrong to kill," Hale said in a statement. "It is especially wrong to kill the defenseless." O'Grady told Hale there were other ways he could have chosen to express his concerns, and imposed a sentence more severe than the 12 to 18 months Hale's attorneys sought but lighter than prosecutors wanted. "You could have resigned from the military," or told "your commanders you weren't going to do this anymore," O'Grady said.

7

State lawmaker upsets Trump-backed rival in Texas special election

Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R) won the special election runoff in Texas' 6th Congressional District on Tuesday despite former President Donald Trump's endorsement of Ellzey's rival, fellow Republican Susan Wright. Trump backed Wright before the first round of voting, which resulted in a runoff because no candidate secured a majority. Trump ramped up his support for Wright ahead of the second round, recording a robocall for Wright days before the runoff vote. Ellzey collected twice as much in campaign contributions from small donors than Wright, the widow of the late Rep. Ron Wright, who was fighting cancer and died in February after contracting COVID-19. Ellzey also was backed by several prominent Texas conservatives, including former Gov. Rick Perry, who served as Trump's first energy secretary.

8

Apple reports record spring-quarter profit 

Apple on Tuesday reported its biggest spring-quarter profit in its 45-year history, thanks partly to strong iPhone sales. Apple earned $21.7 billion in profit on better-than-expected revenue of $81.4 billion, which was up by 36 percent from a year earlier. Apple was not the only tech giant to reap record earnings despite the latest surge in coronavirus cases. Google-parent Alphabet said its quarterly profit more than doubled to $18.5 billion as pandemic-driven online shopping boosted its digital advertising business. Microsoft reported record sales thanks to an increase in customers for its could-computing business. Despite the strong earnings, Apple and Microsoft shares fell in after-hours trading.

9

Shkreli's one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album sold to cover debts

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that a one-of-a-kind album recorded by the Wu-Tang Clan purchased at auction by disgraced pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli had been sold to an anonymous buyer to cover Shkreli's debts. There is one known copy of the album, "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin." Prosecutors seized it three years ago. The identity of the buyer and the price were not immediately disclosed. Shkreli's lawyer, Brianne E. Murphy, said she was pleased that Shkreli was "closing this chapter" by covering the balance of his debts. Shkreli became notorious in 2015 after dramatically hiking the price of a drug used to treat a life-threatening parasitic infection.

10

Ledecky wins gold in 1st Olympic women's 1500-meter race

U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky won the gold medal in the Olympic debut of the women's 1500-meter freestyle race on Wednesday, about an hour after she fell short of a medal for the first time in her Olympic career. Ledecky led the 1500 for the whole race. Her teammate Erica Sullivan finished second, taking the silver medal. It was Ledecky's first gold of the Tokyo Olympics. Shortly before the 1500 race, she failed to make the medal podium in the 200-meter freestyle. Australia's Ariarne Titmus won that race. Titmus also narrowly beat Ledecky on Monday in the 400-meter freestyle. "It hasn't really set in," Titmus said when asked how it felt to win two golds. "Now that I have the afternoon off, it's going to be nice to kind of let it settle in a bit."

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