FBI firearm background checks set another record in June — almost 4 million in total. Looks like toilet paper and masks weren’t the only things people were buying.
Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.
(You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)
The recent rise in US coronavirus cases has hospitals bracing for another round of chaos and depleted resources. At least 12 states are seeing increased hospitalizations, including Florida and Texas, which are expected to see nearly 2,000 new hospitalizations per day by mid-July, CDC-published forecasts show. Arizona and California are expected to see about 1,500 new patients each day in the next two weeks. And new case clusters are popping up constantly — in Washington state fraternity houses, among sports teams and in the military, where cases have doubled in recent weeks. Yesterday marked a new single-day record in new cases reported nationwide. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services says it’s secured almost all of the world’s supply of remdesivir, the only drug that’s known to work directly against Covid-19.
There’s been a lot of movement in the nationwide push for police reform after high-profile instances of police violence against Black Americans. Three Democratic senators proposed a bill to end qualified immunity, which critics say shields law enforcement and government officials from legal accountability. Republicans say they’re not on board to eliminate it, but some say they’d consider revising it. Whatever happens, corporate America has signaled it’s in favor of more federal police reform dialogue. The Business Roundtable, a trade group representing the CEOs of some of the country’s biggest companies, is calling on Congress to commit to passing bipartisan policing reform before the August recess. Major cities have already taken steps, including New York City’s move to slash its 2021 police department budget by $1 billion, though some city lawmakers think the cuts aren’t enough.
A Pentagon report says Russia has been actively working with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan to expedite the withdrawal of US troops from the country. The US military has long suspected a link between Russia and the Taliban, and this new report comes as the Trump administration struggles to respond to intelligence indicating that Russian operatives offered bounties to Taliban linked-militants for killing US and UK service members. Former Trump administration officials told CNN the President’s disinterest in hearing intelligence warnings about Russia led his national security team to brief him verbally less often on Russia-related threats to the US. Trump continues to claim he wasn’t briefed on the Russian bounties intelligence.
4. Social media
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with civil rights organizers behind the boycott that’s resulted in large companies pulling their ads from the social media platform. The beginning of July marked a series of boycotts from big brands like Hershey’s, Pfizer and Levi Strauss. While some analysts doubt the boycott will significantly impact Facebook’s finances (plenty of small and medium businesses still rely on the platform, and most of its very top spenders aren’t involved in the boycott), it’s still rattled investors and caused a PR crisis for Facebook’s top brass. Now that the groups behind the boycott have Facebook’s attention, they’re promoting a series of changes, from which ads the platform allows to the makeup of its leadership team and its content moderation policies. The groups say they object to Facebook’s “repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.”
5. Confederate bases
The Department of Homeland Security announced a new task force to protect “American monuments, memorials and statues” as cities and states (and occasionally citizens acting on their own) continue to contemplate the removal of Confederate symbols and references. The Protecting American Communities Task Force will also be charged with coordinating the DHS response to any potential political unrest. President Trump has shown a direct interest in the issue. Last week, he signed an executive order on protecting monuments. This week, he threatened to veto a must-pass defense policy bill if it contains an amendment requiring the renaming of military bases named for Confederate leaders. GOP senators are downplaying his threat, saying they have plenty of time to address the amendment before the bill reaches the President’s desk.
Some consumer fireworks emit high levels of lead and other toxins
Another safety issue to consider if you’re planning on lighting up this Fourth of July.
Spitting won’t be allowed when the MLB returns in July
But why was it such a big part of the game in the first place?
Watchdogs say we won’t hit climate goals unless energy innovation is rapidly accelerated
Imagination is an infinite resource, so let’s get to it!
Surprise, John Bolton’s tell-all book is a massive bestseller
Who could have seen that coming?
Women’s flag football is the newest college sport
If all goes well, a new generation of female football stars will take to the field next spring.
That’s how many fires in the Amazon rainforest Brazil recorded in June, the highest number of fires tallied there in that month since 2007. Experts agree the climate crisis has contributed to the spike, but the country has also seen an increase in deforestation under President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected in October 2018.
“We were in that first wave of creative diarrhea.”
Actor Chris O’Dowd, who was involved in the much-mocked video featuring celebrities singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” O’Dowd says the video was a well-intentioned mistake.
Watch a mole named Princess Edna grow up and thrive
They may tear up yards, but wow, baby moles are actually really cute. (Click here to view.)