Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 27, 2021

Biden clarifies support for bipartisan infrastructure plan, Miami-area condo had structural issues, and more


Biden clarifies he would sign bipartisan infrastructure bill

The White House late Saturday released a statement clarifying that President Biden will sign a bipartisan infrastructure deal even if it isn't paired with an "American Families Plan" Senate Democrats are working on. Biden and group of senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — announced the landmark $600 billion infrastructure deal on Thursday. Hours later, Biden told reporters if the infrastructure bill "is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it. It's in tandem." On Saturday, Biden said those comments "created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent." In fact, "I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that's what I intend to do," he added. "I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation." Biden has been personally calling Republicans with the same message, Politico reports.


Death toll rises, structural issues found in collapsed Florida condo

Search and rescue workers have discovered eight bodies while carefully excavating a 12-story condo in Surfside, Florida, that collapsed early Thursday, and a ninth victim died in the hospital, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Sunday. Four recovered bodies have been identified, and 156 residents of the Champlain Towers South are unaccounted for. It isn't yet clear what caused the deadly collapse, but a 2018 engineering report released by Surfside over the weekend warned of "major structural damage" in the condo tower's pool deck slab and "abundant cracking and spalling" of concrete columns, beams, and walls in the building's parking garage. Repairs were underway on the building's roof before the collapse, but "concrete restoration had not yet begun," the engineering firm that wrote the report, Morabito Consultants, said Saturday.


Brutal heat wave in Pacific Northwest shatters records

Portland, Oregon, and other parts of the Pacific Northwest broke all-time heat records on Saturday as residents of the typically mild region emptied stores of fans and portable air conditioners. Temperatures are forecast to rise even higher on Sunday and Monday. "If you're keeping a written list of the records that will fall," the National Weather Service in Seattle tweeted, "you might need a few pages by early next week." In Portland, where temperatures hit 108 degrees Saturday, topping the previous record of 107, the city has opened up three cooling shelters. The Dalles, Oregon, hit 112 degrees. The extended "heat dome" over the Northwest — a tall mass of hot air that sits over a region, keeping clouds and normal weather patterns at bay — is a byproduct of the changing climate, says Kristie Ebi at the University of Washington. "We're going to have to get used to this going forward."


UK health secretary resigns over video of him kissing aide during lockdown

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned Saturday following photos and videos released by the Sun tabloid of him passionately kissing an aide, Gina Coladangelo, at work. Both are married, but it wasn't the snogging or infidelity that prompted Hancock's departure. It was the bald hypocrisy of Hancock breaking social distancing rules he set and frequently urged Britons to follow during COVID-19 lockdowns. "Those of us who have made these rules have got to stick by them, and that's why I've got to resign," Hancock said in a video posted Saturday. There was also extensive political pressure for his ouster, including from members of the governing Conservative Party. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stood by Hancock on Friday, appointed former treasury secretary Sajid Javid as his replacement.


Sydney, other Australia areas lock down amid COVID-19 outbreak

Sydney and parts of Australia's Northern Territory entered lockdown on Saturday as the country battles outbreaks of COVID-19. Thirty more locally transmitted cases tied to the Delta variant were reported in New South Wales on Sunday, brining the outbreak to 110, and "given how contagious this strain of the virus is, we do anticipate that in the next few days, case numbers are likely to increase," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sunday. The Sydney cluster is believed to have started with a driver who transported overseas passengers from the airport. The Sydney-area lockdown affects some 5 million people and will stay in effect until July 9. The outbreak prompted New Zealand to suspend its travel bubble with Australia, which has a low vaccination rate but has been effective at containing the virus.


Trump holds large rally in Ohio

Former President Donald Trump held the first large rally of his post-presidency at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in rural Ohio on Saturday night. Trump picked the area to target Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him in February for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and back his GOP challenger. "But Trump's apparent laser focus on getting even for past slights was short-lived," Politico reports. He reiterated his false claims about the 2020 election, revived chants of "lock her up" in reference to his 2016 presidential rival, and recited the poem "The Snake." He did not indicate whether he intends to run again in 2024


Blinken, Israel's Lapid to meet in Rome

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are meeting in Rome on Sunday to work on repairing bilateral relations strained during the previous governments of Trump in the U.S. and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. The new government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Biden administration are focusing on areas of mutual agreement — a cease-fire with Hamas, restocking Israel's Iron Dome defense system — rather than working on more intractable problems or the Iran nuclear deal. "Nobody thinks it's a good idea to start charging through on a major new peace initiative," Ilan Goldenberg at the Center for a New American Security tells The Associated Press. "But there are things you can do quietly under the radar, on the ground, to improve the situation."


2 more Catholic churches burned in Canada

Two Catholic churches burned down Saturday in indigenous communities in British Columbia, Canada, in what officials are calling "suspicious" circumstances. The fires at the two churches, St Ann's Church and the Chopaka Church, began within an hour of each other, less than a week after two other Catholic churches were destroyed in British Columbia on Monday, or National Indigenous People's Day. The fires follow reports of nearly 1,000 unmarked graves found at two former boarding schools the Catholic Church ran for the Canadian government in the 19th and 20th centuries. Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow told CBC that many members of his community are Catholic and he's "angry" about the destruction of Chopaka Church. "I don't see any positive coming from this and it's going to be tough."


France votes in key regional elections, in test of far-right

French voters return to the polls Sunday for the second round of regional elections. The first round on June 20 had a record-low turnout of about 33 percent, and one big question in the runoff vote is whether the far-right anti-immigrant National Rally party of Marine Le Pen can win control of the one region where the party has a chance, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, after a disappointing first round. France's mainstream parties over-performed in the first round of the regional elections, seen as one bellwether before the 2022 presidential race. Le Pen's party did really well in the first round of voting in the last regional elections in 2015, but the National Rally candidates were blocked by coalitions of voters repulsed by the party.


Sign-carrying spectator causes huge crash at Tour de France

The 2021 Tour de France, which began Saturday morning in the western port city of Brest, became snarled in a huge pileup barely 28 miles into the 2,121-mile, 23-day race. The cause of the crash appears to have been a bystander who was trying to get a sign on TV. That did happen, but the sigh also hit German rider Tony Martin, causing what seems like half of the whole Tour to go down behind him. The race was held up for five minutes, and only one rider, Germany's Jasha Sutterlin of DSM, had to pull from the race due to the accident.


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