Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 24, 2021

2020 Tokyo Games get underway, Firefighters turn over Surfside search to police as all but 1 victim identified, and more


2020 Tokyo Games get underway

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially began Friday following one of the strangest opening ceremonies in the history of the modern games. As the athletes walked through Tokyo's Olympic Stadium they were greeted by mostly empty stands, a result of fans being barred because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were spectators in the building, but the small crowd was mostly comprised of members of the media, dignitaries, and Olympic volunteers. Still, other traditions remained in tact, including the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, which was carried out by Japanese tennis star, Naomi Osaka. Meanwhile, outside the stadium, hundreds of people gathered to protest the International Olympic Committee for moving forward with the Games during the pandemic. The Games then got underway and several medals have already been won in events such as archery, cycling, judo, and fencing.


Firefighters turn over Surfside search to police as all but 1 victim identified

Firefighters are ending their search for bodies at the site of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Florida, and handing the job over to the Miami-Dade Police Department, officials said Friday. At least 97 people were killed in the incident last month, and one victim remains unaccounted for. The police department will continue to search the debris pile "both for human remains and for personal items until they have completed a full additional search of the debris," a news release from Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava's office said. Levine Cava called the firefighters who participated in the search "true superheroes who have stepped up to serve this community in the wake of unprecedented disaster."


California's Dixie Fire reaches "megafire" status

Northern California's Dixie Fire turned into a "megafire" late Thursday, officials said Friday. It has grown to more than 221 square miles, becoming the largest ongoing wildfire in California and forcing more mandatory evacuations in nearby communities. The fire is expected to "rapidly expand," Cal Fire said in a statement because it's "burning in a remote area with limited access." Subsequently, "extended travel times in steep terrain are hampering control efforts." Another California fire near Lake Tahoe, dubbed the Tamarack Fire, had burned through more than 78 square miles as of Friday morning and officials expected afternoon gusts and high temperatures to lead to extreme fire behavior. In Oregon on Friday, crews were making progress against the Bootleg Fire, the largest in the United States, which is now 40 percent contained. All told, there are 83 large, active fires in the U.S.


Biden approves $100 million to aid Afghan refugees

President Biden on Friday approved up to $100 million from an emergency fund to aid Afghan refugees, as well as the release of $200 million in services and articles from the inventories of U.S. government agencies to meet the same needs. The United States is gearing up to evacuate thousands of Afghans who are applying for special immigration visas because they worked with the U.S. government during the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan and now face potential retaliation from the Taliban as the U.S. military withdraws from the country. The first group of evacuees are expected to be flown to the U.S. by the end of the month. They're scheduled to arrive at Fort Lee, a military base in Virginia, where they'll wait for their applications to process.


Protesters gather outside Haitian president's funeral

Hundreds of protesters reportedly clashed with police outside the private funeral for Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated earlier this month, on Friday. Gunfire could reportedly be heard, and the United States delegation was among those to leave the ceremony early because of the potential violence, but there are no reports that anyone was hurt. The demonstrators reportedly directed their ire at officials, including Haiti's National Police Chief León Charles, whom they believe deserve blame for Moïse's death. Martine Moïse, the president's widow who was injured in the attack at their private residence and was later treated at a Miami hospital, was at the funeral with three of her children. She reportedly arrived to cries of "Justice! Justice!"


Tom Barrack released on $250 million bond

Tom Barrack, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump who was indicted last week on charges of illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, was released from jail Friday on a $250 billion bail bond, which was secured with $5 million in cash, more than $21 million in securities, and Barrack's California home. The federal judge who ordered the release mandated that Barrack wear a GPS location monitoring bracelet and barred him from transferring any funds overseas. Barrack's travel is restricted to parts of Southern California and New York. He has a mandatory court appearance in Brooklyn on Monday for his arraignment and is expected to plead not guilty.


Dozens killed after heavy rains hit India

Search and rescue teams are looking through mud and debris in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after unexpectedly heavy rains hit the region earlier this week, causing landslides, flooding, and a building collapse. The state government said Saturday that at least 76 people have been killed since Thursday, though Al Jazeera notes other reports indicate the death toll has exceeded 100. The rescue operation, which has been slowed by high water levels and landslides blocking roads, is being carried out by the Indian army, navy, and air force. Water levels in some areas rose to nearly 20 feet.


SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA's Europa mission

NASA on Friday announced that SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will be used to launch the space agency's mission to Jupiter's moon Europa in October 2024. The $4.25 billion exploratory endeavor, known as the Europa Clipper, will involve a spacecraft flying to Jupiter where it will conduct dozens of flybys of Europa, a particularly intriguing moon for NASA. Scientists believe Europa is home to a vast ocean beneath its icy surface, which could potentially harbor some form of aquatic life. SpaceX's launch services contract is worth around $178 million, which is considered a discount for NASA.


Anti-lockdown protests take place across Australia

Thousands of people gathered in Sydney, Melbourne, and other large Australian cities Saturday to protest lockdown measures, which were implemented several weeks ago in some areas due to the first continuous rise in COVID-19 cases in the country in nearly a year. Dozens of people were reportedly arrested, and a group in Sydney reportedly charged at mounted officers while throwing pots and bottles at them. In addition to the rising cases in Australia, which are still relatively low compared to other countries, just 11 percent of the population is fully vaccinated amid a slow rollout that has been blamed on the government for failing to provide adequate supply.


Cleveland Indians to change name to Cleveland Guardians

The Cleveland Indians announced Friday the Major League Baseball team will change its name to the Cleveland Guardians. The Indians moniker will remain in tact for the rest of the 2021 season, after which the Guardians branding will then take full effect. It was previously reported in December 2020 that the team would be changing its name, which dates back to 1915, after years of criticism that it was racially insensitive. The Cleveland organization reviewed more than a thousand potential new nicknames, but ultimately settled on Guardians, which is a reference to statues that line the city's Hope Memorial Bridge and are known as the "Guardians of Traffic."


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