Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 6, 2021

Wildfire destroys historic California gold rush town, Biden signs bill awarding medal to police who defended Capitol, and more

1

Dixie Fire destroys historic California gold rush town

California's massive Dixie Fire destroyed the historic gold rush town of Greenville late Wednesday, with authorities estimating Thursday that 75 percent of the town's structures had been reduced to ashes. The areas that were burned included Main Street, with its 1880s buildings. "We lost Greenville tonight," Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) said in a Facebook video. "It's just completely devastating. We've lost our home, my business, our whole downtown area is gone," said Eva Gorman, one of the town's 1,000 residents. The overwhelmed fire crew "did everything we could," fire spokesman Mitch Matlow said. "Sometimes it's just not enough." The Dixie Fire as of Thursday had burned 361,812 acres, making it the sixth largest wildfire in California state history.

2

Biden approves medal for police who defended Capitol

President Biden signed a bill Thursday to award the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation's highest civilian honors, to police who defended the Capitol during the deadly Jan. 6 attack by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. In a solemn White House Rose Garden ceremony, Biden pushed back against efforts by some Republicans to frame the riot, which delayed the certification of Biden's election victory as officers restored order, as a patriotic protest. "It wasn't dissent," Biden said. "It was insurrection. It was riot and mayhem," and "fundamentally un-American." The Senate unanimously approved the legislation on Tuesday. The medals will be displayed at Capitol Police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian Institute.

3

Biden restores Obama-era mileage standards

President Biden on Thursday announced that he is restoring automobile mileage standards to levels that were established under former President Barack Obama but weakened by former President Donald Trump. The White House said the new rules for 2023 vehicles would reduce annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by one-third, and save 200 billion gallons of gasoline over the life of the vehicles. Biden also signed an executive order calling for making half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. electric by 2030. The measures are part of Biden's push to sharply reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. Biden said they also were necessary to help the U.S. auto industry compete with China, which makes about 70 percent of all electric vehicle batteries.

4

U.S. aims to offer vulnerable people COVID booster shots

The United States is taking steps to join Germany, France, and Israel in giving COVID-19 booster shots to fully vaccinated Americans with weak immune systems, top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday. Regulators are working to make the third doses available quickly, despite a plea this week from the World Health Organization for wealthy countries to delay booster shots until poorer nations can get vulnerable populations their first doses. Fauci said immunocompromised people need boosters because they might not be protected enough by their first round of vaccinations as the highly contagious Delta variant drives a jump in cases. "It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters and we are now working on that," Fauci said.

5

Texas governor calls special legislative session on voting restrictions

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) announced Thursday that he was calling a new legislative session to start Saturday so Republican lawmakers can try again to pass new voting restrictions. Democratic legislators have twice blocked attempts to pass the bill by walking out in May and leaving en masse for Washington, D.C., during a special session that ends Friday, leaving Republicans without enough lawmakers present to call a vote. Democrats now will have to decide whether to stay away or return to face possible arrest for breaking the chamber's quorum. "I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve," Abbott said.

6

CBO: Infrastructure deal would add $256 billion to deficit over decade

The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis Thursday estimating that the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal would increase the federal deficit by $256 billion over a decade. The CBO said the package would add $415 billion in discretionary spending over 10 years, while increasing revenues by $50 billion and cutting direct spending by $110 billion. The bipartisan group of senators who negotiated the proposed compromise with the White House says it would add $550 billion in new spending over current plans, which suggests that $294 billion of the new spending would be offset by other budget tweaks or "pay-fors." GOP critics of the plan said the analysis proved that pay-fors would not fully cover the cost. The CBO said its analysis didn't factor in the possibility that the infrastructure spending could boost the economy and increase tax revenue.

7

DOJ launches investigation of Phoenix police

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has opened an investigation into allegations that the Phoenix Police Department has used excessive force and discriminatory policing practices, including unfair treatment of homeless people. The Arizona Republic and other media outlets have reported that Phoenix has a high rate of police shootings and a disproportionate record of force against people of color. "The investigation will determine whether the Phoenix Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law," Attorney General Merrick Garland said. The announcement came three months after the department started investigations of alleged abuses in Minneapolis and Louisville. "Each time ... that these investigations aimed to promote transparency or accountability — this increases public trust which in turn increases public safety," Garland said.

8

Climate change disruption of ocean currents could trigger extreme weather 

Human-caused climate change has destabilized a large system of ocean currents in the Atlantic that includes the Gulf Stream, raising concerns that the system could collapse and dramatically change global weather patterns, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation carries warm, salty surface water north from the tropics, and cold water south along the ocean bottom. Researchers found it is losing strength as climbing temperatures warm ocean waters, and melting ice sheets dilute the North Atlantic's salinity. If the circulation stops, the Post reports, it could "bring extreme cold to Europe and parts of North America," raise East Coast sea levels, and disrupt monsoons that provide fresh water to much of the world. 

9

AFL-CIO union leader Richard Trumka dies at 72

AFL-CIO labor union chief Richard Trumka died unexpectedly on Thursday, the union's communications director, Tim Schlittner, confirmed. He was 72. Trumka was a longtime Democratic power broker. The United States "lost a legend today," Schlittner said, calling Trumka a "relentless champion of workers' rights." President Biden called Trumka "a very close personal friend," and said he died on a camping trip with his grandsons. Trumka was elected president of the union, which has 12.5 million members, in 2009. Before that, he served as its secretary-treasurer for 14 years. He grew up in a family of Pennsylvania coal miners, and became the youngest elected president of the United Mine Workers of America in 1982, when he was 33. 

10

Trump lashes out at U.S. women's soccer team

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at the U.S. women's soccer team after it won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, saying it would have won gold if it "wasn't woke." "Woke means you lose," said Trump, who lost the November 2020 election to President Biden. Trump singled out team leader Megan Rapinoe, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump and advocate of social justice causes. "​The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!​" Trump said. Rapinoe and forward Carli Lloyd each scored two of the U.S. team's four goals to beat Australia 4-3 and take the bronze medal. "May not have been the color we came for, but every medal means something," the USWNT said in an Instagram post. "Dug deep and got it done."

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