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5 things to know for July 21: Covid-19, Congress, Trump ally, opioid trial, Olympics

By AJ Willingham, CNN

After successfully blasting off to the edge of space yesterday, Jeff Bezos announced he is donating $100 million apiece to chef and activist José Andrés and CNN contributor Van Jones.

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.)

1. Coronavirus

Life expectancy in the US fell by a year and a half in 2020 mostly due to the ravages of the pandemic, new CDC research shows. Another global study estimates 1.5 million children have lost a parent, a grandparent or another close caregiver to Covid-19. Now, the spreading Delta variant and vulnerability among the unvaccinated are getting so dire that some experts suggest much of the US needs to go back to widespread mask usage. Nearly 73 million Americans live in areas with high transmission. Vaccine hesitancy continues to be a huge hurdle in shoring up communal protection, and that challenge will loom large as President Biden holds a coronavirus-focused town hall tonight in Cincinnati. The event will air live at 8 p.m. ET on CNN. 

2. Congress

Congressional Republicans are preparing to push back on two top-priority items backed by Democrats. In the Senate, they are expected to block a vote today that would advance the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill because they say they have not yet struck a deal with Democrats to draft the legislation. Even if the vote fails, talks are expected to intensify, with hopes of advancing things by early next week. Meanwhile, Republicans on the House’s new investigative committee are gearing up for a protracted clash over the fallout from the January 6 Capitol riot. Rather than focus on former President Trump’s role in the attack, GOP committee members may try to turn the focus of the probe to the Capitol’s lack of preparedness.

3. Trump ally

Tom Barrack, a former Trump adviser, has been jailed on charges of acting as an agent of a foreign government. Barrack was charged with illegal foreign lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates for what federal prosecutors in New York described as an effort to influence the foreign policy positions of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and that incoming administration. The indictment cites several instances of Barrack and others’ alleged promotion of UAE’s agenda to the Trump campaign and alleged continuation of this work once Trump was in office. Barrack was chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, and while some of the charged conduct concerns the presidential transition, it appears unrelated to 2017’s inaugural festivities. A spokesperson for Barrack said he plans to plead not guilty.

4. Opioid trial

Three opioid distributors have reached a $1.1 billion settlement in a massive ongoing lawsuit sparked by the opioid epidemic. McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation all agreed to pay the money toward opioid abatement efforts in New York state in order to be removed from the suit. New York filed suit in 2019 against a long list of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Attorney General Letitia James accused companies of “years of deceptive marketing about the risks of opioids and (failure) to exercise their basic duty to report suspicious behavior.” Johnson & Johnson settled with the state last month for $230 million. Some other companies involved in the suit have declared bankruptcy.

5. Olympics

After a year’s postponement and months of uncertainty, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are finally underway. (No, that’s not a misprint — remember, this year’s games still carry last year’s branding.) Organizers in Japan spent months preparing for 11,000 athletes from 200 countries and thousands of journalists to arrive, even as the country struggles to rein in new coronavirus outbreaks. As a precaution, spectators won’t be allowed at Olympic events. One of Japan’s top CEOs says the economic loss from this concession will be “enormous.” The lack of domestic spectators could cost Japan’s economy $1.3 billion, according to an estimate from a Japanese economist. Meanwhile, a new Olympic host city has been announced: Brisbane, Australia, will be the home of the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games in 2032.


The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions for the first time in 50 years

A win like that is worth the wait.

Ice T’s look-alike baby girl has the internet telling (good-natured) jokes

“What happens when you order a small Ice T,” one person said.

Taco Bell is the latest fast food place to face a food shortage

Panic! At The Drive Thru. 

Covid-positive man disguises himself as wife in order to board plane

Yeah … don’t do that. 

6 Polish swimmers sent home from Tokyo following administrative error

The agony of defeat has nothing on the agony of an administrative error.



That’s how much the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm costs per person per year. Multiplied by even a small fraction of the 6 million or so Americans who live with Alzheimer’s, the drug’s steep cost could significantly alter the economics of Medicare.


“Sen. Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, responding to Rand Paul’s unfounded claims that the National Institutes of Health played a role in funding research that led to the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. The tense exchange unfolded during a hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill.


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Ahh, that’s the spot! 

You just know this Yukon grizzly is in heaven scratching himself on this scent pole. (Click here to view.)

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