1. Despite 2016 ‘Election’ Block, GOP Moves to Fill Court Seat
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday left a hole in the hearts of Americans — and a vacuum on the court that President Donald Trump vowed to fill quickly. He’s promised to nominate a woman to the seat, but two Senate Republicans have already said they won’t vote to confirm a justice before the Nov. 3 election. The GOP stymied Barack Obama’s 2016 pick, citing an election eight months off, but stopping 2020’s process will require four Republican defections. The scenario has catapulted abortion rights back onto the election agenda, as a 6-3 conservative court majority could easily reverse them.
Read OZY’s Sunday Magazine about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy here.
2. Massive Leak Exposes $2 Trillion in Shady Transactions
The release of the FinCEN Files, a leak of 2,657 bank documents reporting suspicious transactions, sent HSBC stock to a quarter-century low after the documents revealed that the bank knowingly allowed a Ponzi scheme to transfer money in an $80 million fraud, even after it had promised U.S. authorities to crack down on money laundering. HSBC has argued that the documents, which span 1999 to 2017, predate the conclusion of its deal with the Justice Department protecting it from prosecution. Several of the suspicious FinCEN transactions also involve former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
As winter approaches — and with it worries of new COVID-19 waves as northerners are forced indoors — virus cases are already seeing a worrying uptick in dozens of countries. The U.S. has now passed 200,000 deaths, and its top public health official says widespread vaccinations are unlikely before next year. President Trump disagrees, and an assistant health secretary says both are correct. Meanwhile, Russia is selling its controversial vaccine to at least 10 other countries, with distribution expected in November. The shot, Sputnik V, was approved after only small-scale tests, worrying experts who say larger trials are vital before vaccinating en masse.
An estimated 27 wildfires are still raging across California, with the Bobcat fire near L.A. only 15 percent contained Sunday after burning nearly 100,000 acres. It’s not expected to be fully under control for another 5 weeks. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Beta was named for a Greek letter because there are so many storms this year that officials ran out of designated names for only the second time ever. Churning over the Gulf of Mexico, it’s expected to make landfall in Texas this week, with local authorities advising residents to prepare for several days without electricity.
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The Commerce Department had ordered app stores to remove the popular messaging app WeChat and blockbuster video platform TikTok by last night over concerns the China-based companies shared data with Beijing. But on Saturday President Trump reprieved TikTok by virtue of its proposed partnership with U.S.-based Oracle and Walmart. Then a federal judge in California stopped the WeChat order Sunday, saying there’s little evidence a ban will address security concerns. WeChat is used by Chinese speakers to message, make transactions and read the news. After the ruling, the Commerce Department indicated it’s preparing for a long legal fight.
2. Woman Arrested Over Ricin Letter to White House
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have detained a Canadian woman trying to enter New York State from Canada on suspicion that she mailed a poisoned letter to President Trump last week. Two toxicology tests confirmed traces of ricin, a byproduct of castor oil production that can cause death in 36 hours and has no known antidote. It’s not the first instance of deadly presidential correspondence, though Oval Office mail is screened at a remote facility. Multiple letters containing ricin have been sent to both the Trump and Obama White Houses in recent years.
3. Kremlin Official Claims Venus Belongs to Russia
It is awash in poison. The head of Russia’s state space corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, says the country will send a mission to Venus within the next decade, in addition to a joint uncrewed venture with the U.S. that’s already planned. Rogozin called Venus a “Russian planet” because in 1970, the Soviet Union was the first nation to land a Venusian probe, which momentarily sent data before melting. New evidence of the gas phosphine in the planet’s atmosphere has some scientists hoping that Venus’s dense clouds are harboring living microbes despite the planet’s extreme heat and toxic environment.
The Pandemmys, as host Jimmy Kimmel called them, saw winners (still in formal dress) give speeches from their homes, some being handed their awards by people in hazmat suits. But that wasn’t the only unprecedented thing about the night: It also saw a record number of awards go to a single comedy series. Breaking 2019’s record, Schitt’s Creek — which ended its six-season run in April — won nine prizes, including all four acting categories. Creator and star Dan Levy urged viewers to vote during his acceptance speech, adding, “I’m so sorry to make this political.”
5. Tour de France Crowns Youngest Winner Since 1904
He’s the newest jersey boy. Tadej Pogacar, who turns 22 today, rode into Paris Sunday as the first Slovenian ever and first rookie since 1983 to win the iconic cycling race. Originally scheduled to begin in June, the three-week contest was postponed until late August due to the coronavirus — but despite regular screenings, not one rider tested positive during the race. Fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic had been in the lead for 11 days untilPogacar narrowly drew ahead in Saturday’s mountain time trial stage, leaving his countryman to claim second place yesterday.