News Headlines 7/15/21

COVID-19 DEATHS, CASES AGAIN RISING GLOBALLY: The World Health Organization reported Wednesday (July 14th) that Covid-19 deaths and cases are again rising globally, with deaths increasing by three percent last week after falling for nine straight weeks. Cases also rose last week, up by 10 percent, with the highest numbers in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Britain. Driving the increases are low vaccination rates in many countries, the relaxations of mask rules and other Covid precautions, and the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant. However, deaths are at around 7,900 daily, which is less than half of what they were at their height in January of 18,000 a day, after vaccinations have been going on for seven months. Cases are also down by half since their peak, which was in late April.

FBI FOUND TO HAVE MISHANDLED USA GYMNASTICS DOCTOR NASSAR’S SEX ABUSE CASE: The Justice Department’s inspector general said yesterday (July 14th) that the FBI had mishandled the investigation of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, saying it made “fundamental” errors and didn’t treat the case with the, quote, “utmost seriousness and urgency.” The watchdog’s report highlights FBI missteps between when the allegations were first reported in 2015 and Nassar’s arrest the following year. It took months before the FBI opened a formal investigation, and at least 40 girls and women alleged abuse by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment over a 14-month period during that time. When the FBI did respond, the report found it made, quote, “numerous and fundamental errors,” and  when the Indianapolis field office’s handling of the case came under investigation, they made it look like they’d diligently pursued the case. The FBI acknowledged the conduct was, quote, “inexcusable and a discredit” to the law enforcement agency. Nasser is now serving decades in prison.

U.S TO START EVACUATING AFGHAN TRANSLATORS: The White House said Wednesday (July 14th) that the U.S. will start evacuating Afghan translators who worked for the U.S. military during the 20-year war in Afghanistan starting the last week of July. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said people who have already applied for special immigrant visas will be put on flights out of the country. Some 18,000 Afghans are eligible for the special visas, and about half have started the process. The U.S. wants to evacuate them because many have been getting death threats from the Taliban, and the concern is they could be hurt or killed after U.S. forces leave. Psaki said the administration’s, quote, “objective” is to get them out before the withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of August. The Pentagon’s press secretary said no final decision has been made yet on where the evacuated Afghans will be taken to stay as they wait for their visas to be approved.

CUBA’S PRESIDENT SAYS GOVERNMENT PARTLY TO BLAME FOR PROTESTS: In the wake of rare anti-government protests in Cuba over the weekend, President Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed Cuban-Americans in the U.S., saying they stirred up the protests on social media, and the U.S. government, but for the first time yesterday (July 14th), he said the Cuban government was partly to blame. Speaking in a televised address last night, Diaz-Canel the government’s shortcoming in dealing with shortages and other problems in the country played a role. He said, “We have to gain experience from the disturbances. We also have to carry out a critical analysis of our problems in order to act and overcome, and avoid their repetition.” Thousands of Cubans were protesting shortages of food and medicine as well as repeated electricity outages, while some also were calling for a faster rate of Covid-19 vaccinations. However, there were also calls for political change in the communist nation.

CONDO COLLAPSE DEATH TOLL AT 97, SMALL NUMBER STILL MISSING: The number of confirmed victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, is now up to 97, with two new victims identified Wednesday (July 14th). Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said eight people remain potentially unaccounted for. Also yesterday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman approved the sale of the oceanfront property, with proceeds intended to benefit the victims. He ordered that the process begin to sell the site, which could bring $100 million to $110 million.