10 things you need to know today: August 2, 2021
Senators release $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, a Belarusian sprinter seeks refuge in Japan, and more
Senators release $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday unveiled the finalized $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill after weeks of negotiations. Schumer said he would immediately take steps to start debate on the proposal to upgrade the country's roads, bridges, pipes, ports, and internet connections. Schumer said that given "how bipartisan the bill is," the Senate should be able to "quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days." Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a lead negotiator along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), said the bill "takes our aging and outdated infrastructure in this country and modernizes it, and that's good for everybody." Schumer reiterated his plan to also pass a roughly $3.5 trillion budget resolution sought by Democrats before the August recess.
Belarusian sprinter seeks asylum in Poland
A Belarusian sprinter on Monday entered the Polish embassy in Tokyo and defected after refusing to board a flight home, saying she feared for her safety if she returned to Belarus. The runner, Kristina Timanovskaya, said she was kicked off the country's Olympic team and forcibly taken from the Olympic Village to the airport because "I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches." She said she was "afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail." The Belarusian National Olympic Committee said it had pulled Timanovskaya from the Games due to her "emotional and psychological state." The committee is run by Victor Lukashenko, the eldest son of Belarus' strongman leader, Aleksander Lukashenko, who is known for stifling dissent.
Fauci warns of more coronavirus 'pain and suffering' but not lockdowns
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned that the United States faces "pain and suffering" as new coronavirus infections climb, fueled by the rapid spread of the virulent Delta variant in regions with low vaccination rates. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said despite the surge, he doesn't expect a new round of lockdowns, because enough Americans are fully vaccinated to prevent a massive, deadly wave like the country experienced last winter. "So we're looking, not, I believe, to lockdown, but we're looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we're seeing the cases go up, which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again, the solution to this is get vaccinated and this would not be happening," Fauci said on ABC's This Week.
Florida faces record number of coronavirus hospitalizations
Florida on Sunday set a record for coronavirus hospitalizations, with 10,207 people confirmed to have COVID-19 receiving care in Sunshine State hospitals. The previous record was set on July 23, 2020, more than six months before coronavirus vaccines were made widely available. Just two days earlier, the state set a daily record for new coronavirus cases, with 21,683 infections confirmed in a 24-hour period. Florida now has more hospitalizations per capita than any other state. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has resisted mask and vaccine mandates, as has the state's GOP-controlled Legislature, and limited restrictions local governments can impose. DeSantis on Friday said school districts couldn't make students wear masks when classes resume next month as the highly infectious Delta variants spreads rapidly.
Taliban fighters expand military offensive to cities
Taliban fighters continued their military offensive over the weekend as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its last troops from the country next month. The Taliban pushed their offensive from rural areas and smaller cities into urban centers for the first time since they were driven from power nearly two decades ago, marking a potential turning in their fight to expand their areas of control. Taliban fighters on Saturday fired rockets at the airports in Kandahar and Herat, two of the country's largest cities and economic hubs. They briefly disrupted flights. In Kandahar, three rockets landed in rapid succession, damaging a runway. "There was a large blast and the whole room started shaking," said Massoud Ahmad Pashtun, the chief of Kandahar airport.
Firefighters make progress against Oregon's massive Bootleg Fire
Firefighters on Sunday made progress against southern Oregon's massive Bootleg Fire, the largest of the 91 large wildfires burning in the United States. As of Sunday, officials said the blaze — which was started nearly a month ago by a lightning strike — is now 74 percent contained, up from 56 percent on Saturday. Al Nash, spokesman for the firefighting effort, told reporters on Sunday that the result "reflects several good days of work on the ground where crews have been able to reinforce and build additional containment lines." In Northern California's Plumas National Forest, the Dixie Fire was just 32 percent contained on Sunday. That fire has destroyed 42 homes and other buildings. Scientists say because of climate change, the western U.S. is hotter and drier, making fires more destructive.
Myanmar general declares himself prime minister, promises 2023 election
Myanmar military leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Sunday declared that he was the country's prime minister, saying he would run the country for two years until elections in 2023. The announcement came six months after the military overthrew the elected government and cracked down on a wave of subsequent protests, killing nearly 1,000 people. The military claimed that the country's latest elections had been plagued with fraud. "We must create conditions to hold a free and fair multiparty general election," Min Aung Hlaing said. "We have to make preparations. I pledge to hold the multiparty general election without fail."
U.S. joins U.K., Israel in blaming Iran for drone attack on tanker
The United States on Sunday joined Britain and Israel in bluntly blaming Iran for a drone strike against an Israeli-linked tanker last week. The attack near the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea killed two crew members, one British and one Romanian. "Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. "We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming." The incident escalated tensions with Tehran as the Biden administration tries to revive the Iran nuclear deal following former President Donald Trump's withdrawal.
Former Colombia army chief to face charges for extrajudicial killings
Colombia's attorney general's office said Sunday it would charge former army commander General Mario Montoya in connection with 104 extrajudicial killings in 2007 and 2008. Prosecutors say Montoya, who is retired, was responsible for the killings, which were part of the "false positives" scandal in which soldiers murdered civilians and registered them as guerrillas killed in combat to receive benefits. Authorities say at least 6,402 people were killed this way from 2002 to 2008. Montoya, 72, is accused of failing to carry out orders from the defense ministry to prioritize captures, and instead continuing to offer incentives for combat deaths. "He continued to evaluate commanders by number of reported combat deaths," said an attorney general's office document seen by Reuters.
Jungle Cruise leads the weekend box office
Disney's Jungle Cruise led the weekend box office with $34.2 million in its opening weekend. The film, which stars Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, also made $30 million through Disney+ Premier Access, which offered subscribers the option of steaming the action movie for $30. A Disney spokesperson said the company was trying to offer "consumer choice during these unprecedented times" by letting moviegoers watch the new release in theaters or, if they want to avoid the risk of coronavirus infection, in their own living rooms. Jungle Cruise, inspired by a popular ride at Disney theme parks, also brought in about $30 million overseas for a global total of $90 million, significantly less than Black Widow's debut but more than Cruella's.