5 things to know for August 5: Beirut, coronavirus, election, airlines, Taiwan

Yes, members of Congress are still trying to see eye to eye on a new stimulus agreement. They’re hoping to reach a decision by next week, but at this point, no time line is guaranteed.

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1. Beirut

A catastrophic explosion in Lebanon’s capital city has left dozens dead, thousands injured, and lingering questions about its cause. The blast shook Beirut’s highly populated port and central district around 6 p.m. local time yesterday, shattering glass, flipping cars and damaging structures as far as six miles away. At least 100 people were killed and 4,000 injured, with hospitals rapidly filling to capacity. It’s still unclear what exactly caused the explosion. Lebanon’s Prime Minister said an investigation would focus on an estimated 2,750 metric tons of the explosive ammonium nitrate stored at a warehouse. There’s no indication that the blast was an attack. Beirut’s governor said it caused up to $5 billion in damage, but at this point, the full extent of the damage is yet to be known. Countries around the world have offered condolences and pledged aid for what the Lebanese Red Cross is calling an “unprecedented and very large” disaster.

2. Coronavirus

Another US drug company has released information that shows its coronavirus vaccine is safe and may be effective. That’s three companies with promising vaccine results so far: Moderna, Pfizer and now Novavax. Two other US trials will soon be underway for a possible antibody treatment for Covid-19 patients. Meanwhile, in the absence of a national testing plan, seven governors have banded together to pursue a deal for 3.5 million coronavirus antigen tests to create a coordinated strategy among their states. The US recorded nearly 1,400 new coronavirus fatalities yesterday, bringing the nationwide death toll to just under 157,000. When asked about the death toll during a recent interview, President Trump replied, “It is what it is.”

3. Election 2020

Another round of state primaries delivered some modest wins for the GOP establishment. In Michigan, Peter Meijer won his primary in the race to succeed the retiring Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party after criticizing Trump and his former GOP colleagues. If Meijer wins in the general election, he could help the party move on from the shadow of Amash’s departure. A pair of controversial conservatives, Kris Kobach and indicted Rep. Steve Watkins, lost their primary bids in Kansas, much to the relief of party members who saw them as liabilities to keeping the state’s Senate and House seats in GOP control. Meanwhile, in stunning upset in Missouri, a progressive activist named Cori Bush defeated 20-year incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay in that state’s Democratic primary.

4. Airline industry 

The hits keep coming for the airline industry. Virgin Australia announced it will cut around 3,000 jobs — about a third of its workforce — and focus on shorter flights to reduce costs. Virgin Atlantic has filed for bankruptcy in the United States as it scrambles to put together a $1.5 billion plan to bail itself out of a pandemic-related financial crisis. Southwest says it’s starting roll back some coronavirus precautions, like extended passenger cabin cleaning procedures, to speed up flight turnaround time. However, a union representing Southwest flight attendants said the airline should still make travel-wary passengers feel as comfortable as possible. The airline will continue to limit plane capacity through the end of October.

5. Taiwan

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is set to make a historic visit to Taiwan in the coming days, a move that is sure to rile up China. Azar will be the most senior official to visit the island since 1979, when Washington broke official ties with Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing. Remember, China considers the self-governing island to be part of its territory. Azar will meet with senior Taiwan counterparts and experts to discuss the global pandemic response and the future of US-Taiwan relations. The US doesn’t maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but still supports the island and acts as its primary arms supplier.


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“Tragically, thousands have died at the hands of law enforcement over the years, and the death toll continues to rise. Countless more have suffered from other forms of abuse and misconduct by police. Qualified immunity has served as a shield for these officers, protecting them from accountability.”

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