2 travelers to Canada gave false COVID vaccination information. They were each fined almost $20K.

Two travelers trying to enter Toronto from the U.S. were each fined nearly $20,000 after providing false information related to proof of vaccination and pre-departure COVID tests, according to Canadian officials.

The travelers tried to enter Toronto from the U.S. during the week of July 18, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a news release. They provided false information and were found noncompliant with the requirement to stay at a government-authorized accommodation and test upon arrival, according to the release.

They each received four fines totaling $19,720, officials said.

Travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans wanting to enter Canada are set to ease in August, but the country continues to enforce strict requirements for entry

Canadian citizens, permanent residents of Canada, people registered under the Indian Act and protected persons can enter Canada, but must show a negative COVID test. Most travelers must also quarantine 14 days upon arrival. Dual Canadian citizens can enter with a valid passport or special authorization.  

Travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans wanting to enter Canada are set to ease Aug. 9, but the country continues to enforce strict requirements for entry.

Ignoring quarantine instructions when entering the country can lead to a $5,000 fine each day of non-compliance, according to a Friday statement from the Public Health Agency. People who submit false information on their vaccination status can face a $750,000 fine, up to six months in prison or both. 

Starting Aug. 9, Canada is set to reopen its border to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Travelers must meet pre-entry COVID testing requirements and submit a quarantine plan to enter.  

Meanwhile, travel from Canada into the U.S. is still severely limited. U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada are set to remain closed through at least Aug. 21.

Canada border:Canada to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated Americans starting Aug. 9

US travel restrictions:US extends Mexico, Canada border restrictions through Aug. 21 

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz

DeSantis signs order to prohibit schools from imposing mask mandate

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed an order prohibiting schools in the state from mandating masks. 
  • Florida schools that implement a mask mandate run the risk of losing state funding.
  • The move came days after the CDC recommended that students and staff mask up when they return to classes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed an executive order Friday that prohibits schools in the state from requiring students to wear face masks when they return to classrooms in the fall.

The executive order, released Friday, is “effective immediately” and directs the Florida Departments of Health and Education to release emergency rules that stipulate that decisions over whether students will be masked in classrooms will be left up to parents rather than school officials.

According to the order, schools that do not comply with the directives from the Education and Health Departments run the risk of losing funding from the state.

“We think that’s the most fair way to do it,” DeSantis said Friday at an event at an Italian restaurant in Cape Coral, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a press release announcing the order.

“Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” he added.

DeSantis’ order Friday comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week recommended that students and staff at K-12 schools wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status, as Insider previously reported.

Read more: Internal CDC document warns ‘the war has changed’ with the more infectious Delta variant

The American Academy of Pediatrics also this month recommended that students and staff — regardless of vaccinations — mask up in schools this fall.

The CDC guidance came amid a broader shift at the agency, which this week recommended that fully vaccinated individuals mask up indoors in areas of the US with high levels of COVID-19 transmission. The CDC in May said that fully vaccinated individuals could ditch their masks in most settings.

The changes, the CDC said, were due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the disease, which is at least partially responsible for the ongoing surge of cases in the US.

“Information on the Delta variant from several states and other countries indicates that, on rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.”

The US on Friday reported more than 122,000 new cases of the disease, according to data analyzed by The New York Times — the highest single-day increase in more than five months. The state of Florida this week neared its worst COVID-19 week of all time, reporting more than 110,000 new infections over the past seven days, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

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Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal | TheHill

The Senate is holding an infrequent Saturday session as bipartisan negotiators work to finalize their $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. 

The by-and-large sleepy session comes as the Senate’s bipartisan gang is hoping to finish and formally unveil the text of its agreement sometime Saturday, though that could slip late into the night or even Sunday. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer’s moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.) announced shortly before 5:30 p.m. that the bipartisan deal wasn’t yet finalized, but suggested he was going to keep the chamber on standby heading into the evening so they could file the legislation when finished. 

“I’ve been informed the group is working hard to bring this negotiation to a conclusion, but they believe they need a little bit more time. I’m prepared to give it to them,” he said. 

“I’m fully committed to passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and so the Senate will remain in session today so they can bring this to a conclusion,” he added. 

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats warn shrinking Biden’s spending plan could backfire Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators say they have deal on ‘major issues’ in infrastructure talks MORE (D-Va.), a member of the bipartisan group, said the lawmakers are still finishing the “last couple pieces of legislative language.” 

“I think on a beautiful Saturday in the end of July, we all wish perhaps we were somewhere else other than on the floor of the Senate,” Warner said. 

“I hope that we will get that finished as soon as possible so we can get this bill on the floor, have amendments, have a debate,” he added. 

Sens. Warner, Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power CIA watchdog to review handling of ‘Havana syndrome’ cases MORE (D-N.H.), Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump’s tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge MORE (D-Ariz.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (D-Mont.)—four out of the five core Democratic negotiators—were spotted going into Schumer’s office on Saturday afternoon as talks continued off of the Senate floor. 

Members of the Senate’s bipartisan group had indicated on Friday that the bill was still being drafted but that they had hoped to have it finished by Saturday morning. But when the Senate convened on Saturday at 11 a.m., senators were still waiting on the final text. 

“Senators from the bipartisan group continue to finalize the text of the agreement,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor. 

The legislative purgatory comes after the bipartisan group announced on Wednesday that it had a deal among its members and with the White House on the “major issues.” But they continued negotiating final sticking points well into Friday.  

There was also an eleventh-hour drama on Friday that momentarily delayed the vote to formally kick off debate after Republicans worried that a version of the bill circulating around Capitol Hill was a back-door effort by Democrats to offer their preferred version of the legislation. 

The deal has already overcome two initial hurdles, and if the bipartisan group is able to formally unveil text on Saturday, the Senate could start voting on potential changes as soon as Sunday afternoon. No votes have been scheduled, and senators and aides have cautioned that when the upper chamber starts voting is directly tied to when the text of the bipartisan bill is filed.  

Some senators have bristled over the quick pace. 

“This coming week the Senate is supposed to pass a $1 trillion/ 3,000 page infrastructure bill and separately on three major spending bills So far almost no Senator has seen the text of any of these bills,” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioBreak glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (R-Fla.) tweeted on Saturday.  

But senators are hoping to wrap up their debate on the bill by the end of the next week, paving the way for Democrats to turn their attention to a budget resolution that greenlights passing a $3.5 trillion plan without GOP support.  

Schumer has vowed to hold votes on both the bipartisan bill and the budget resolution before he lets the Senate leave for a weeks-long summer break. The Senate had been expected to start that break on Aug. 9 but is likely to lose the first week to finish up the two-part infrastructure debate. 

“I have said for weeks that the Senate is going to move forward on both tracks of infrastructure before the beginning of the August recess. The longer it takes to finish, the longer we’ll be here, but we’re going to get the job done,” Schumer said. 

Updated 5:49 p.m.

Woman and her dog are fatally stabbed in Atlanta park, FBI investigating

Katherine Janness died early Wednesday at Piedmont Park.

A woman and her dog were brutally stabbed to death early Wednesday at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in what police described as a “gruesome” scene.

Katherine Janness, 40, was found dead at the park around 1 a.m., along with her slain dog Bowie. Police said that Janness had been stabbed multiple times.

Janess’ parter of seven years Emma Clark said that Janness went to walk Bowie after dinner but never returned, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When she didn’t come home, Clark tracked her phone’s location and went to the park, where she discovered her girlfriend dead.

The FBI confirmed with ABC News it is now joining the Atlanta Police Department’s investigation into her death, So far, no arrests have been made in the case.

Police have shared a surveillance image showing Janness crossing a street near the park before she was found dead.

On Thursday more than 100 people attended a vigil for Janness at the park, where her partner’s father described the killer as a “monster.”

“What they did to her is ridiculous. There is a monster on the loose in the city of Atlanta,” Joe Clark said according to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.

“It’s a gruesome scene,” deputy police Chief Charles Hampton said to the outlet on the murder.

Police have since added five mounted patrol units to the park, a popular area for locals and dog walkers. Police have combed the area this week and divers went in and out of the lake for hours Wednesday searching for potential evidence.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that could help lead to an arrest.

If you can help, please call the Atlanta Police Homicide Unit or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

TikTok star wounded in movie theater shooting has died from his injuries

Anthony Barajas, 19, died early Saturday morning, the Corona Police Department said in a news release.

“We extend our thoughts and condolences to his family and friends,” the release said.

Barajas and a friend, Rylee Goodrich, 18, were at a showing of “The Forever Purge” at the Regal Edwards Movie theater in Corona on Monday, police said. The teens were friends and went to watch the movie together, according to police. Theater staff found them with gunshot wounds after the movie, according to police.

Goodrich died at the scene and Barajas was taken to a hospital for treatment where he was on life support.

'The Forever Purge' really wants to be relevant but trips over its horror roots'The Forever Purge' really wants to be relevant but trips over its horror roots
Joseph Jimenez, 20, was arrested in connection with the shooting Tuesday and is being held on $2 million bail and charged with murder, attempted murder and robbery, according to an earlier CNN report. The police department said Saturday it is working with the Riverside County District Attorney’s office to add another count of first-degree murder against Jimenez for Barajas’ death.

CNN has reached out to the Riverside County public defender’s office to determine if Jimenez has retained legal representation and has not heard back.

Jimenez was located by police at his home in El Cerrito, an unincorporated area of Corona. Police searched Jimenez’ home and found a firearm and additional evidence related to the movie theater crime scene, they said.
“The Forever Purge,” which debuted in theaters earlier this month, is the fifth movie in the “Purge” franchise. Each sequel is based on the premise that a totalitarian government has created one night each year where everything, including murder, is legal.

An ‘unprovoked attack’

There were fewer than 10 people in the theater where Goodrich and Barajas were shot, Corona Police Capt. Paul Mercado told CNN earlier this week, yet it has not been determined if the shooting happened during or after the movie.

“They were shot in the head,” Corona Police Cpl. Tobias Kouroubacalis told CNN in an email. “We will not know how many times or the exact entry point of the bullet(s) until the coroner performs their autopsies and writes their reports.”

Joseph JimenezJoseph Jimenez

CNN has contacted the theater for comment but has not heard back.

Police believe that Jimenez, who had a movie ticket, acted alone and didn’t know the victims or have any prior contact with them.

“It’s an unfortunate turn of events here,” said Mercado. “The public here are really looking for a motive. Right now, there is no motive. It’s an unprovoked attack.”

Police said that items were taken and “robbery is part of what happened during that crime,” but that they are not calling it a motive in the shooting, Kouroubacalis said during a press conference held on Wednesday.

A TikTok enthusiast, a runner with a ‘great heart’

Barajas had nearly 930,000 followers on TikTok and recently posted video updates from a family vacation. During high school, he was a standout soccer player at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, according to CNN affiliate KABC.
Goodrich attended Corona High School, according to KABC, and played volleyball, ran track and was a cheerleader. After high school, she received a college scholarship for Grand Canyon University’s STEM program. She was in town visiting family for the summer.

Her cousin, Ashley Cole, told KABC she had a “great heart” and always willing to helping others.

Jimenez is expected to appear before a judge for arraignment in the next couple days, according to Kouroubacalis.

CNN’s Jessica Flynn and Brian Lowry contributed to this report.

Evictions loom after Biden and Congress fail to extend ban

WASHINGTON (AP) — A nationwide eviction moratorium is set to expire Saturday night after President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress worked furiously but ultimately failed to align on a long-shot strategy to prevent millions of Americans from being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 surge.

More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days, as nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments. The moratorium expires at midnight.

Tensions mounted late Friday as it became clear there was no resolution in sight. Hours before the ban was set to expire, Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. Evictions could begin as soon as Monday.

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.

“Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he said.

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The stunning outcome, as the White House and Congress each expected the other to act, exposed a rare divide between the president and his allies on Capitol Hill — one that could have lasting impact as the nation’s renters face widespread evictions.

Biden set off the scramble by announcing he would allow the eviction ban to expire instead of challenging a recent Supreme Court ruling signaling this would be the last deadline. He called on Congress on Thursday to swiftly pass legislation to extend the date.

Racing to respond Friday, Democrats strained to rally the votes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass legislation extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation.

Congress must “meet the needs of the American people: both the families unable to make rent and those to whom the rent is to be paid,” she said in an overnight letter late Thursday.

But after hours of behind-the-scenes wrangling throughout the day, Democratic lawmakers had questions and could not muster support to extend the ban even a few months. House Republicans objected to an attempt to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote. The Senate may try again Saturday.

Democratic lawmakers were livid at the prospect of evictions in the middle of a surging pandemic.

“Housing is a primary social indicator of health, in and of itself, even absent COVID,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “A mass eviction in the United States does represent a public health crisis unto itself.”

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Financial Services Committee chair who wrote the emergency bill, said House leaders should have held the vote, even if it failed, to show Americans they were trying to solve the problem.

“Is it emergency enough that you’re going to stop families from being put on the street?” Waters testified at a hearing Friday morning urging her colleagues to act. “What the hell is going to happen to these children?”

But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on another panel handling the issue, said the Democrats’ bill was rushed.

“This is not the way to legislate,” she said.

The ban was initially put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters.

Congress pushed nearly $47 billion to the states earlier in the COVID-19 crisis to shore up landlords and renters as workplaces shut down and many people were suddenly out of work.

But lawmakers said state governments have been slow to distribute the money. On Friday, they said only some $3 billion has been spent.

By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.

Biden said Thursday that the administration’s hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration backs the congressional effort “to extend the eviction moratorium to protect these vulnerable renters and their families.”

The White House has been clear that Biden would have liked to extend the federal eviction moratorium because of the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. But there were also concerns that challenging the court could lead to a ruling restricting the administration’s ability to respond to future public health crises.

The administration is trying to keep renters in place through other means. It released more than $1.5 billion in rental assistance in June, which helped nearly 300,000 households. Biden on Thursday asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs to extend their eviction moratoriums on households living in federally insured, single-family homes. In a statement late Friday, the agencies announced an extension of the foreclosure-related ban through the end of September.

On a 5-4 vote last month, the Supreme Court allowed the broad eviction ban to continue through the end of July. One of those in the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, made clear he would block any additional extensions unless there was “clear and specific congressional authorization.”

Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the chair of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the two were working on legislation to extend the moratorium and were asking Republicans not to block it.

“The public health necessity of extended protections for renters is obvious,” said Diane Yentel, executive director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “If federal court cases made a broad extension impossible, the Biden administration should implement all possible alternatives, including a more limited moratorium on federally backed properties.”

Landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it repeatedly in court, are against any extension. They, too, are arguing for speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.

The National Apartment Association and several others this week filed a federal lawsuit asking for $26 billion in damages because of the impact of the moratorium.

“Any extension of the eviction moratorium equates to an unfunded government mandate that forces housing providers to deliver a costly service without compensation and saddles renters with insurmountable debt,” association president and CEO Bob Pinnegar said, adding that the current crisis highlights a need for more affordable housing.

___

Casey reported from Boston. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Mark Sherman and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

——

This story has been corrected to say that the eviction moratorium expires at midnight Saturday, not that it has expired.

The two largest wildfires in the US have burned land nearly the size of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined

“There’s no human intervention that can save these forests if we don’t stop climate change,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told CNN on Friday. “All of us want more aerial assets, more bulldozers, more trained personnel, but it’s kind of like if there’s an arsonist at loose, and we have to corral the arsonist. We have to go on the offense.”

The Dixie Fire in California has scorched 240,795 acres and was 24% contained Friday, according to Cal Fire. It threatens more than 10,000 structures in the region with more than 60 already destroyed. More than 7,800 residents across Butte and Plumas counties were ordered to evacuate as of Monday morning.
The Bootleg Fire — the nation’s largest wildfire — is still raging in southern Oregon, burning 413,562 acres since igniting this month, according to InciWeb, the clearinghouse for fire information in the US. The fire has torn through more than 400 structures and at least 342 vehicles. It was 53% contained Friday.

And the warmer weather is only making the fight harder as the region faces triple-digit heat.

“When fuels, weather, and topography align, there is high potential for aggressive fire spread. Previous spot fires are contained and inactive, but concerns remain for potential out-flow winds associated with thunderstorms and impacts to open fire line,” fire officials said in a statement posted on InciWeb.

Drought conditions in the West got even worse this week, with areas in California and the Pacific Northwest seeing an expansion of drier conditions.

Drought worsens in California as region faces more triple-digit heat, making it tougher to control the wildfiresDrought worsens in California as region faces more triple-digit heat, making it tougher to control the wildfires
Nearly half of California is suffering exceptional drought — the worst category designated by the US Drought Monitor, which is produced through a partnership between US government agencies and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nearly 14.5 million people are enduring those conditions in California.

With 83 wildfires currently burning in the US, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday met with a group of Democratic and Republican governors whose states are struggling to fight the raging flames.

“We can’t ignore how the overlapping and intertwined factors— extreme heat, prolonged drought and supercharged wildfire conditions— are affecting the country. And so this is a challenge that demands our urgent, urgent action,” Biden said during the virtual meeting.

Firefighters from New Mexico work amidst heavy ash and dust to help contain the Bootleg Fire near Silver Lake, Oregon, on July 29, 2021. Firefighters from New Mexico work amidst heavy ash and dust to help contain the Bootleg Fire near Silver Lake, Oregon, on July 29, 2021.

Inslee said he was impressed with Biden’s outlook on human-induced climate change that’s been fueling the wildfires.

“The thing that I was most impressed with was the President’s recognition of the major issue— and that is whether or not we’re going to go on the offensive against climate change,” Inslee said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz expressed concern over the extreme drought his state has been suffering and poor air quality from fires burning in the West.

“Out here in Minnesota, the grey hairs are talking about the last time we’ve seen drought like this was ’88 and it’s probably more like 1961,” Walz told Biden at the meeting. “Large portions of my state that are in unprecedented drought, two years ago were in unprecedented flooding situations,” Walz said. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid this is our new norm.”

Minnesota set two record highs on Thursday for worst air quality, according to Nick Witcraft, a research scientist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Extreme weather is well on its way to being the new normal as the climate crisis makes wildfires and heatwaves a regular occurrence.

“Our resources are already being stretched to keep up. We need more help, particularly when we also factor in additional nationwide challenges, the pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and our ongoing efforts to fight Covid,” Biden said.

The Dixie Fire burns near Taylorsville, California, on July 29, 2021. The Dixie Fire burns near Taylorsville, California, on July 29, 2021.

California residents are reliving the trauma of wildfires

The Dixie Fire, was ignited 4 miles from the location of the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire, killing 85 people and destroying the town of Paradise in 2018.

it has revived grim memories for those who lost homes in the Camp Fire.

“Once you’re a fire victim of such magnitude, which I was and others have been, we watch these fires very closely,” said Jessica Roberts, who was forced to relocate to another part of the state after the fire. “It’s not something that we can get away from because of the post-traumatic stress of it all.”

California and Nevada officials are pleading for more federal resources to tame wildfires raging in the WestCalifornia and Nevada officials are pleading for more federal resources to tame wildfires raging in the West

In the last few days, the smoke, orange skies and firefighting helicopters flying over the remote town of Paradise reminded residents of the deadly disaster that scarred the region — physically and emotionally — not so long ago.

Roberts lived in Magalia, just north of Paradise, when the Camp Fire engulfed the region. Her then-husband was out of town, so she evacuated with her 1-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter and their three dogs.

“I remember my daughter asking if we were going to die,” Roberts told CNN in tears. “And we weren’t even anywhere like some folks that were trapped in the flames. But the fact that my daughter asked if we were going to die that day still resonates.”

Dixie Fire burns the trees near Taylorsville, California, on July 29, 2021.Dixie Fire burns the trees near Taylorsville, California, on July 29, 2021.

Wildfires rage in Lebanon and Turkey

As wildfires continue to destroy US lands, other countries are also on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

In the Middle East, there is an “environmental disaster” as large-scale wildfires spread in Lebanon, the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative warned Thursday. The country’s northern Akkar region is particularly suffering.

Heat wave, coupled with humidity, torments 70 million across US Heat wave, coupled with humidity, torments 70 million across US

The Lebanese Red Cross confirmed Thursday evening that eight people have been hospitalized because of the fires, while 25 people received treatment by on-site medical teams.

Meanwhile in Turkey, 14 forest fires are still ongoing at 1,100 different points along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised statement Friday.

So far, the forest fires have left at least four people dead.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez, Ella Nilsen, Kareem El Damanhoury, Kate Sullivan, and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.

Rep. Cori Bush: Dems went on vacation as eviction moratorium set to expire

  • Rep. Cori Bush on Saturday accused Democrats of leaving for vacation before passing legislation that would have renewed the eviction moratorium.
  • About 7.4 million Americans are at risk of eviction in the next two months after the moratorium ends July 31.
  • The House failed to pass a bill that would have extended the moratorium and members are now on recess until August. 

Rep. Cori Bush slammed Democrats, saying they decided to take a recess ahead of the upcoming eviction moratorium deadline, potentially plunging millions of renters into a state of disarray.

“We could have extended it yesterday, but some Democrats went on vacation instead,” Bush, a progressive representative from Missouri, said on Twitter Saturday morning. 

“We slept at the Capitol last night to ask them to come back and do their jobs. Today’s their last chance. We’re still here,” she added, tweeting out a picture of her and several activists outside the Capitol building.  

Hours after failing to pass a bill that would have extended the eviction moratorium, the House on Friday entered a recess that’ll last until August. 

The eviction moratorium, first set up in September 2020 in response to the financial devastation brought on by the coronavirus, was extended in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The White House encouraged Congress to extend the moratorium past July, giving guidance to do so at the last minute. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the Biden administration would have “strongly supported” the CDC in a decision to renew the moratorium. But a Supreme Court ruling specified that the decision to renew required congressional approval, the White House statement said.

Democrats unanimously voted to pass the bill, but Republican House members blocked the legislation. 

After the bill failed, top Democrats expressed their disappointment in a statement.

“It is extremely disappointing that House and Senate Republicans have refused to work with us on this issue,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Majority whip James Clyburn after the vote failed. “We strongly urge them to reconsider their opposition to helping millions of Americans and instead join with us to help renters and landlords hit hardest by the pandemic and prevent a nationwide eviction crisis.”

Bush told Insider she’s prepared to spend a second day sleeping outside the Capitol building in an attempt to get House democrats to reconvene.

“This is not the first time I’ve occupied in front of a government building. And this is not the first time I’ve had to sleep outside,” she said. 

“I am prepared to stand out here if need be. Do I want to? No. Is it fun? Absolutely not. Would I rather be in my bed? Absolutely,” she continued, adding that she had originally been scheduled to stump for congressional candidate Nina Turner.

“But this happened and I knew I could not leave without doing whatever I could to save lives,” Bush told Insider. 

During her Friday night stayover, the Missouri lawmaker said she only got an hour of sleep in the cold and had “just a chair” and “a sleeping bag that I used as a blanket.” Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar also spent the night outside with Bush. 

Once the moratorium expires on July 31, about 7.4 million Americans will risk eviction in the next two months. That translates to about 16% of all renters, according to Census Pulse Survey Data.

Meanwhile, landlords are poised to evict quickly, Business Insider’s Alex Nicoll reported. A New York lawyer told Insider that landlords want to be ready to serve eviction notices on August 1. These evictions could escalate the national homelessness crisis.

It sends a “very disturbing message” when the House, Senate, and White House are all Democrat-run but lawmakers can’t get legislation like this passed, Bush told Insider. 

So far, she hasn’t heard from her House colleagues about the potential of lawmakers returning to the floor.

But multiple members of Congress — like Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Maxine Waters, who introduced the bill to extend the moratorium on Friday — told Bush they’d return if called back. 

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Who Are the Unvaccinated in America? There’s No One Answer.

As coronavirus cases rise across the United States, the fight against the pandemic is focused on an estimated 93 million people who are eligible for shots but have chosen not to get them. These are the Americans who are most vulnerable to serious illness from the highly contagious Delta variant and most likely to carry the virus, spreading it further.

It turns out, though, that this is not a single set of Americans, but in many ways two.

In one group are those who say they are adamant in their refusal of the coronavirus vaccines; they include a mix of people but tend to be disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian and politically conservative, surveys show.

In the other are those who say they are open to getting a shot but have been putting it off or want to wait and see before making a decision; they are a broad range of people, but tend to be a more diverse and urban group, including many younger people, Black and Latino Americans, and Democrats.

With cases surging and hospitalizations rising, health officials are making progress in inoculating this second group, who surveys suggest account for less than half of all unvaccinated adults in the United States.

Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

“I heard a news story several weeks ago now, about the Epsilon variant, which is hitting one of the countries in South America. So, I don’t want to get a vaccine now, necessarily, if I don’t have to, and then get a different vaccine nine months from now.”

Steven Harris, 58, who said he believes that the antibodies he has from getting Covid-19 are sufficiently protective.

The problem is the same surveys show that the group firmly opposed to the vaccines outnumbers those willing to be swayed. And unless the nation finds a way to persuade the unwavering, escaping the virus’s grip will be a long way off, because they make up as much as 20 percent of the adult population.

Interviews this past week with dozens of people in 17 states presented a portrait of the unvaccinated in the United States, people driven by a wide mix of sometimes overlapping fears, conspiracy theories, concern about safety and generalized skepticism of powerful institutions tied to the vaccines, including the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government.

Myrna Patterson, 85, a Democrat from Rochester, N.Y., who works at a hospital, said she could not shake her worry that the vaccines were produced too quickly. “Is it really worth me taking it?” Ms. Patterson said. “How do they know that it will kill the virus, and if it’s really good for humans to be taking this vaccine?”

Hannah Reid, 30, a mother of four and a certified sommelier in Oregon who is an unaffiliated voter, said she had long been apprehensive about vaccines: Her young children get many but not all pediatric shots. She says her Christian faith has also made her comfortable with not yet getting a Covid-19 shot, which she thinks is too new, the conversation around it too noisy and bombastic.

Alex Garcia, 25, who is not tied to any political party and works in landscaping in Texas, said he believed he was too young and healthy to need a vaccine. “My immune system could fight it,” Mr. Garcia said. He said he did not worry about infecting his unvaccinated 86-year-old grandmother, either.

About 30 percent of the adult population in the United States has yet to receive a shot, and about 58 percent of those age 12 through 17 have yet to receive a shot.

Part of the challenge is that the unvaccinated live in communities dotted throughout the United States, in both lightly and densely populated counties. Though some states like Missouri and Arkansas have significantly lagged the nation in vaccination rates, unvaccinated Americans are, to varying degrees, everywhere: In Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, 51 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Los Angeles County is barely higher, at 53 percent. In Wake County, N.C., part of the liberal, high-tech Research Triangle area, the vaccination rate is 55 percent.

The rate of vaccinations across the country has slowed significantly since April, but there are signs in recent days of a new rise in shots being distributed, with upticks in vaccinations particularly in states like Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, where cases have grown. As of Friday, about 652,000 doses, on average, were being given each day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; that was up from recent weeks, when the country hovered just above 500,000 shots a day. Nationwide, about 97 percent of people hospitalized with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, federal data shows.

How many people eventually decide to get shots could help determine the course of the virus and severity of illnesses across the country, so efforts to convince the unvaccinated — both the group that is waiting and watching and the vehemently opposed — have gained steam with advertising campaigns, incentives and new mandates. Some experts have estimated that 90 percent or more of the total population — adults and children — would need to be fully vaccinated for the country to reach a possibly elusive herd immunity threshold of protection against the coronavirus.

So far excluded from the debate over vaccination are 48 million unvaccinated children under 12, who are too young to be eligible for a shot until at least fall. They make up 15 percent of the total population in the United States. Once they are eligible, it is uncertain how many will get shots; even some vaccinated parents are hesitant to inoculate their children, surveys show.

Doctors say they are working to convince reluctant Americans, sometimes in long conversations that unravel falsehoods about vaccines.

Dr. Laolu Fayanju, a family medicine doctor in Ohio, has encountered patients on both ends of the spectrum: those who are insistent in their refusal to be vaccinated, and others who agree to a shot after he painstakingly lays out facts.

Never did he expect that so many Americans would still be resisting a shot this many months into the vaccination effort.

“I vacillate between anguish and anger,” Dr. Fayanju said. “We live in an era of unprecedented scientific breakthroughs and expertise. But we’re also stymied by the forces of misinformation that undermine the true knowledge that is out there.”

In the first weeks of the nation’s vaccination effort, health officials could not distribute shots quickly enough to millions who rushed for them, beginning with health care employees, essential workers and older Americans, who were particularly at risk of dying from the coronavirus, which has killed more than 600,000 people across the country.

Over time, the people choosing vaccines shifted markedly, according to C.D.C. data, which captures race and ethnicity for about 60 percent of vaccine recipients.

White people, who were vaccinated at a higher rate than Black and Hispanic people earlier this year, make up a larger share of the vaccinated population than the overall population, but that share has been shrinking.

Credit…Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

“I hope this is just like the polio vaccine, where we can say, in a few years, praise God, what a gift to humanity–that this Covid vaccine saved so many people, and has proved long term to be such a good gift. So I hope that’s the case, but I think we kind of want to see it through.”

Hannah Reid, 30. If the F.D.A. approves the vaccines, she said she and her husband will feel somewhat less apprehensive but will continue to do their own research and pray.

The daily vaccination rate per capita among Asian Americans started out comparable to that among white people, then accelerated when availability opened to all age groups, and now slightly surpasses white people. Black and Hispanic people were being vaccinated at a lower per capita rate than other groups at the beginning, but since April, the vaccination rate for Hispanic people began to rise above other groups.

Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, who make up a smaller proportion of the overall population, have surpassed other groups in total percentage vaccinated, but still include large numbers of unvaccinated people.

Figuring out exactly who is not vaccinated is more complicated; federal authorities have mainly tracked the people getting shots — not those who have not gotten them. But several surveys of adults — from the Kaiser Family Foundation, AP-NORC, Morning Consult, Civis Analytics, the Ad Council and the Census Bureau — together present a sense of the range of who the unvaccinated are, an essential set of data as health officials seek to convince reluctant Americans.

About 10 percent of American adults have made it clear in interviews, discussions with family members and conversations with survey researchers that under certain circumstances, they are open to be convinced to get a vaccine.

With the help of a friend who is a nurse, Lakeshia Drew, 41, of Kansas City, Mo., has been on her own journey for weeks. Ms. Drew, who voted for President Biden but is unaffiliated with a political party, said she was learning all she could about the risks that the coronavirus carries, and how a vaccine could protect her from getting critically ill.

As the Delta variant has spiked case numbers in her area, she has decided that her family will need to get vaccinated before receiving every last answer to its questions.

“It’s gone from ‘We aren’t getting it’ to ‘OK, if I get more information I’m going to get it,” she said of the shot. “I would rather get it than to bury any one of my children or to have them bury me.”

Ms. Drew and other people in the so-called wait-and-see group tend to be younger and harbor more concerns about the safety of the vaccines. They may be worried that the vaccines are too new, or about what friends have told them about side effects.

In one Kaiser survey, 44 percent said they would be more likely to get a vaccine once it is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the three coronavirus vaccines being offered in the United States have only been granted an emergency use authorization, a step short of full approval.

“It’s kind of like the known versus the unknown for some of those people,” said Mollyann Brodie, an executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who runs the group’s survey research. “Fear is a hard thing to overcome, and there has been a lot of fearmongering with relation to the vaccine, and there is a lot of stuff that isn’t known about it.”

Some adults under 50, in particular, suggest that the risk of an unknown vaccine feels greater than the uncertainty of its benefits.

Don Driscoll, 38, who is from Pittsburgh and calls himself a socially liberal Republican, said he has opted for now against vaccination because of safety concerns.

“I don’t think there’s a conspiracy, I don’t think Bill Gates is shooting microchips into my veins,” he said. “I don’t think the Democrats want to kill half the population. I am just not an early adopter of anything, really.”

Some people who have yet to get vaccinated say they have encountered obstacles to obtaining shots, are worried about hidden costs or are waiting until they can get a shot from someone they trust. But the share of unvaccinated Americans who are held up because of issues of convenience is shrinking, survey research shows.

For some Latino immigrants, fear of immigration authorities has been a roadblock.

For instance, grass-roots organizers recently hosted a vaccine clinic at a supermarket in Merced, a city in California’s fertile Central Valley that draws farmworkers from Mexico. But some residents say they were turned away by the health care workers administering the vaccines because they did not have government-issued IDs — although officials have said that only proof of age should be required.

“For the undocumented, their fears are not the vaccine but the record keeping that goes along with it,” said Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and Democratic state senator in California who has gone into neighborhoods to knock on doors and urge people to get inoculated.

A substantial share of the wait-and-see group — more than 40 percent in the Kaiser survey — says it would be motivated by vaccine mandates.

But San Francisco became one of the first cities to impose a vaccine mandate for its nearly 35,000 city workers, and immediately encountered resistance from labor unions and other organizations.

“I don’t believe in mandates of any kind,” said Sherman Tillman, the president of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association, who described himself as a conservative Democrat. “I don’t believe that governments should force our workers to do anything about their bodies and health. I think it’s an individual choice.”

Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times

“If it was really a pandemic, we wouldn’t have to be reminded daily of it. If we were in a pandemic, we would know it automatically. We wouldn’t have to have it shoved down our throats 24/7.”

Reba Dilts, 28, who cited her history of health issues as part of her reason to not get vaccinated. She also had Covid-19 and said she believes that the pandemic was not the crisis others said it was.

Other people who have skipped vaccinations so far but said they might be persuaded said they planned to rely on advice from their own doctors — whenever their next checkup might be.

Candice Nelson, a personal assistant in Spartanburg, S.C., has suffered medical challenges before. She is a cancer survivor who endured chemotherapy. And she had Covid-19 several months ago, spending three days in a hospital to recover.

Yet she is in no hurry to receive a vaccine — until she can discuss it with the doctor who treated her cancer at their next appointment. Her employer has asked her to be vaccinated and is pressuring her for an answer.

“I’ll go with what my doctor says,” she said, adding that she would also be responsive to a requirement at her job.

The C.D.C. recommends vaccines even for people who have been infected with the virus. Some evidence suggests a prior infection offers less protection than a vaccine, particularly against variants like Delta.

For Troy Maturin, from Abbeville, La., the rapid spread of the Delta variant through his state does not make him more interested in getting the vaccine. To the contrary: He takes it as further evidence, he said, that the vaccines are a government plot.

“They’d have to Taser me, drag me out, and give it to me while I’m unaware of it,” Mr. Maturin, a 50-year-old auto parts salesman who described himself as conservative, said at the suggestion of a mandate.

Mr. Maturin belongs to the group of unvaccinated Americans who are unlikely to say they could be persuaded with improved convenience or even requirements. They are far less concerned about getting seriously ill with Covid-19, and much more likely to say they do not trust the government or the pharmaceutical companies that have developed the shots. They are not opposed to all vaccinations, but very few of them get annual flu shots.

Several studies have suggested that a Republican Party affiliation is among the best predictors of membership in this group. But the demographics of the group also overlap with key Republican constituencies. People who say they will never get a Covid-19 vaccine are disproportionately likely to be white and to live in rural areas. They are overrepresented in the South and the Midwest.

Pete Sims, 82, recalls ducking mandatory vaccines during his time in the Air Force in the late 1950s.

Servicemen would periodically line up, hold out a vaccination card, get it stamped and when their turn came, hold out their arms.

Moments before the injection, Mr. Sims always managed to take a bathroom break. He said he would emerge after his turn had passed.

Now he lives in Houston and identifies as more of a libertarian than a Republican, though he voted for Donald J. Trump in November. But Mr. Sims was emphatic that his politics have not shaped his near lifelong antipathy to vaccines.

“It has to do with my civil rights,” he said. “The United States government’s main job is to protect me from foreign and domestic enemies. Not my health. I’m in charge of my health.”

Angelique White, 28, a hairstylist in Romulus, Mich., is firm in her decision not to be vaccinated, despite pressure from her boyfriend to get the shot. Ms. White, who is a Jehovah’s Witness and does not vote, had several cousins who died from Covid-19. But she believes that years ago, when she and her twin sister became violently ill, they were reacting to a flu shot. They never got another vaccine.

“I wear my mask, I sanitize my hands and do it like that,” Ms. White said. “I think I’ll be fine.”

She has not spoken with her doctor or pastor about the vaccines. There is no need, she said: Her mind is made up and she has moved on.

Reporting was contributed by Sophie Kasakove, Rick Rojas, Albert Sun, Ashley Wu, Ana Facio-Krajcer, Danielle Ivory and Amy Schoenfeld Walker. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Trump defends his comments about election after release of DOJ notes | TheHill

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats ‘should give a little credit’ to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don’t get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate ‘not under consideration at this time’ MORE defended his comments to top Department of Justice (DOJ) officials about the 2020 election after notes from a call in December were released on Friday.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee released notes former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s deputy, Richard Donoghue, took during a Dec. 27 call between Donoghue, Rosen and Trump.

The notes showed Trump was pushing the officials to investigate election fraud claims with no evidence and allegedly told the officials to say the election was “corrupt.”

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me” and other congressional allies, Donoghue wrote that the former president said in the call.

Trump released a statement on Saturday slamming the Oversight and Reform Committee for releasing the documents and said it was wrong to describe him as attempting to “overturn the election.”

“The corrupt and highly partisan House Democrats who run the House Oversight Committee yesterday released documents—including court filings dealing with the rigged election of 2020—that they dishonestly described as attempting to overturn the election,” Trump said while repeating claims the election was “rigged” despite having no evidence for the assertion.

“In fact, it is just the opposite. The documents were meant to uphold the integrity and honesty of elections and the sanctity of our vote,” he added. “The American People want, and demand, that the President of the United States, its chief law enforcement officer in the country, stand with them to fight for Election Integrity and to investigate attempts to undermine our nation.”

The officials told Trump the DOJ could not investigate election fraud claims if there was no evidence of widespread election fraud, according to the notes in the documents.

Donoghue allegedly told Trump there were “dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews” conducted by the DOJ, and no evidence of widespread voter fraud was found. 

Trump has been asserting for months that the election was rigged and even called on Congress to investigate his claims in his statement Saturday, more than eight months after the election.