Daily briefing

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

Democrats tee up $3.5 trillion budget plan, debate over school mask mandates heats up, and more

1

Democrats tee up $3.5 trillion budget plan to follow infrastructure passage

The Senate is expected to approve a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Tuesday morning, then the chamber will begin considering a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint Senate Democrats released Monday. The budget blueprint, expected to pass with only Democratic votes, will unlock the reconciliation process, allowing the ambitious spending proposal to move out of the Senate with no Republican support. The budget package envisions two years of free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare coverage of dental and vision, and efforts to combat climate change and poverty, paid for mostly through higher taxes on profitable corporations and wealthy households. The $3.5 trillion price tag is a ceiling, and agreeing on the actual measures and funding mechanisms will pit moderate and progressive Democrats against each other.

2

Dallas and Austin school districts to require masks, defying governor

The superintendents of the Dallas Independent School District and Austin Independent School District announced Monday that staff, students, and visitors at Dallas and Austin public schools will be required to wear face masks, effective this week. The Houston Independent School District board will vote on a mask requirement later this week. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order in July barring public schools and other government entities from mandating masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised that all people in K-12 schools wear masks indoors. Texas is one of a half-dozen states that have ordered schools to disregard that advice, even as COVID-19's Delta variant has sent case numbers and hospitalizations rising sharply. Children under 12 aren't yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

3

Florida governor's office threatens school officials' salaries over mask mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) office on Monday said the Florida Department of Education could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members whose districts refuse to follow DeSantis' executive order banning mask mandates on campuses. Florida is seeing a record surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases, and several school districts have filed lawsuits against DeSantis' order or voted to have students wear masks. Florida Department of Health data shows that among kids 12 and younger, there were 13,596 new COVID-19 cases reported last week, up from 10,585 new cases the week before.

4

Biden welcomes DOJ commitment to review 9/11 documents previously under wraps

President Biden on Monday released a statement saying he welcomes the Justice Department's filing that "commits to conducting a fresh review of documents" related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "where the government has previously asserted privileges." The remarks come after more 1,600 people affected by 9/11, including victims' family members, signed a letter asking Biden not to attend a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks at Ground Zero in New York next month if the administration did not release related classified documents and information. One of the signees, Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed in the World Trade Center, specifically told CNN on Friday that the group wants to know whether the documents reveal any information on the alleged role of the Saudi Arabian government in the attacks. 

5

Woman sues Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexual assault when she was 17

Virginia Giuffre, one of the women who accused Jeffrey Epstein of trafficking her when she was a teenager, filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday alleging that Britain's Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her when she was 17. "I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me," Giuffre said in a statement. "The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions." The suit says Prince Andrew knew Giuffre was a minor when he allegedly forced her to have sex with him in London. She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. In 2019, Andrew told BBC's Newsnight that he had "no recollection" of ever meeting Giuffre, and he could "absolutely categorically tell you" he did not force her to have sex. 

6

Arkansas down to just 8 ICU beds amid COVID-19 surge

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arkansas rose by 103 patients Monday to 1,376, the state's largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, and intensive care units also saw sizable increases as the Delta variant spreads. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said that these "are very startling numbers. We saw the largest single-day increase in hospitalizations and have eclipsed our previous high of COVID hospitalizations. There are currently only eight ICU beds available in the state. Vaccinations reduce hospitalizations." There was an increase in vaccinations on Monday, with the number of first and second doses administered in the state up by 5,115. Last week, Hutchinson said he regrets signing a law banning the state and local governments from imposing mask mandates. 

7

Pentagon to require COVID-19 vaccination for military personnel

The Pentagon said Monday that members of the U.S. military will need to be vaccinated by mid-September, or earlier if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives full approval to the vaccines before then. About 65 percent of active-duty service members are fully vaccinated, ranging from 75 percent of Navy personnel to 59 percent of Marines, according to Pentagon data. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said vaccines are important to maintaining military readiness. "Mandating vaccines in the military is not new," he added. "Since the first days of basic training and throughout our service, we've received multiple vaccines."

8

NBC's Tokyo Olympics viewership hits new network low

U.S. athletes won more medals, 113, and more gold medals, 39, at the Tokyo Olympics than any other country, but fewer Americans tuned in to watch them than in previous years, NBCUniversal said Monday. The average prime-time viewership over the 17 days, 15.5 million households, was the lowest since NBC started broadcasting the Games in 1988 and represented a 42 percent drop from the Rio Olympics in 2016. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said NBC was "prepared for these numbers," adding, "For better or worse, I really do believe the pandemic and postponement impacted these Games," but they still "will be very, very profitable for NBCUniversal." NBC owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympics through 2032.

9

Time's Up head resigns after advising Cuomo in harassment scandal

Roberta Kaplan, chairwoman of the sexual abuse survivor advocacy group Time's Up, said Monday that she is resigning after being criticized for her involvement in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) response to his sexual harassment scandal. "Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that even our apparent allies in the fight to advance women can turn out to be abusers," Kaplan said in her resignation letter. "We have felt the raw, personal, and profound pain of that betrayal." The board of the LGBTQ rights group the Human Rights Campaign also launched an investigation into the role its president, Alphonso David, played in Cuomo's pushback against the same accuser, Lindsey Boylan. David and Kaplan's involvement was detailed in the New York attorney general's report on Cuomo's sexual harassment of 11 women. New York's state assembly leaders pledged to hold an impeachment vote on Cuomo within several weeks. 

10

'Jeopardy!' producer Mike Richards faces backlash over hosting rumors

Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy!, told the show's staff on Monday that he's "humbled and deeply honored" by reports he's in advanced negotiations to permanently replace the late Alex Trebek as host, but "the choice on this is not my decision and never has been." Before his name surfaced as frontrunner for the job, former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings was believed to be the top contender. Richards said several other candidates are also in discussions about taking over as host. He also addressed a 2010 discrimination lawsuit he was involved in at The Price is Right, saying his comments and actions have been mischaracterized.

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