Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 17, 2021


Death toll from Europe floods surpasses 150

The death toll from floods caused by record rainfall in Belgium and western Germany has surpassed 150, local authorities said, per The Guardian. The number of fatalities could still rise as emergency services continue their search for missing people, officials warned. Around 1,300 people in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate remain unaccounted for, though damage to phone networks in the area have hindered efforts to contact them. Roads in the affected areas were badly damaged and more than 100,000 homes in Germany were without power. "Whole places are scarred by the disaster," German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference Saturday. "Many people have lost what they have built all their lives."


Federal judge rules DACA unlawful

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen on Friday ruled in favor of nine Republican-led states seeking to block the Biden administration from accepting new applicants to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that has protected many young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation. Hanen said former President Barack Obama exceeded the authority of the executive branch when he launched the program in 2012, but the judge added that current program recipients would not be affected immediately, writing that the federal government should not "take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action" against the Dreamers, as the recipients are commonly known, that it "would not otherwise take." The Biden administration is expected to appeal the ruling.


Biden calls out Facebook for vaccine misinformation

President Biden on Friday criticized social media platforms like Facebook for providing a space for people to push COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. "They're killing people," Biden said when asked to give a message to the companies. He added that "the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated" population, echoing sentiments made by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky earlier in the day. On Thursday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on Facebook to "move more quickly to remove violative posts," and make public information about who and how many people are interacting with misleading content.


Bootleg Fire spreads in Oregon

The Bootleg Fire in Oregon, the largest of dozens of blazes spreading across the western United States, has now burned more than 241,000 acres and remains mostly unchecked after forcing firefighters into retreat for a fourth straight day, forestry officials said Friday, per Reuters. The fire is reportedly the fifth biggest in Oregon in more than a century. Timber and brush in the area has been dry due to drought conditions, allowing the fire to spread more easily. It erupted on July 6, and the cause is still under investigation. At least 21 homes and 54 other structures have been destroyed, while more than 5,000 homes are considered under threat.


First positive COVID-19 case reported in Olympic Village

The Olympic Village in Tokyo registered its first positive COVID-19 test among the people staying there six days ahead of the games' Opening Ceremony. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said during a news conference that the infected person was not an athlete, but someone involved in organizing the games. The International Olympic Committee has maintained that there is "zero risk" of people who are staying in the sealed-off section of Tokyo infecting anyone outside, but many people in Japan are still anxious about holding the games amid an increase in cases in the country. 


Report: Few cases of voter fraud in Arizona

Arizona county election officials have identified only 182 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3 million ballots cast in last year's presidential election, an Associated Press investigation found. The low percentage further discredits former President Donald Trump's claim that the election was stolen, AP notes. Of the 182 cases referred for further review, only four have led to charges, though no one has been convicted. Per AP, two of the cases that resulted in criminal charges involved Democratic voters and two involved Republicans. 


6-year-old girl killed in D.C. shooting

A six-year-old girl was killed and five adults suffered non-life-threatening injuries in a shooting in Washington, D.C., on Friday night, officials said. Metropolitan Police Department Executive Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict said officers in the area responded to the scene after hearing gunshots, and a group of people directed them to the victims. The child was taken to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead. No arrests have been made so far, and there is little public information on potential suspects, though police urged people to be on the lookout for a "dark in color" vehicle.


U.S. diplomats in Vienna reportedly experienced symptoms similar to 'Havana Syndrome'

A slew of recent, mysterious health incidents affecting American diplomats and other government employees in Vienna, Austria, is under investigation, Biden administration officials said Friday. The symptoms appear to be similar to those reported by U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers in Havana, Cuba, in 2016 and 2017. The unexplained incidents have subsequently been dubbed the "Havana Syndrome." Some officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations have theorized that the injuries, which include brain damage, are deliberate attacks caused by microwave or radio wave weapons deployed by Russia's G.R.U intelligence service, but there's not yet any public consensus on the matter. The Vienna incidents were first reported by The New Yorker.


Health officials say monkeypox poses 'very little risk' to public

Dr. Philip Huang, the director of the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday that, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services, "we have determined that there is very little risk to the general public" after a traveler coming to Dallas from Nigeria flew while infected with a rare virus called monkeypox. Monkeypox is a relative of smallpox, but is both less transmissible and less deadly. The infected person is reportedly in stable condition at a Dallas hospital. The CDC is working to contact other passengers on the patient's flight, but the agency noted that it's unlikely anyone else was infected because they "were required to masks" due to COVID-19 health and safety measures. 


Rapper Biz Markie dies at 57

Biz Markie, the rapper perhaps best known for the song "Just a Friend", died on Friday, his manager confirmed. He was 57. The cause of death has not been made public. Biz Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in his late 40s, The New York Times notes. Hailing from New York, Biz Markie's first foray into music was in his teenage years when he was a beatboxer and freestyle rapper. His debut album "Goin' Off" was released in 1988. On it, "Biz Markie introduced himself as a bumbling upstart with a juvenile sense of humor … but his charm and his skills were undeniable," the Times writes. Later, "Just a Friend" went platinum, reaching No. 5 on Billboard's Hot Rap Singles Chart.


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Joe Biden and Jill Biden.
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