1. Joe Biden Accepts Democratic Presidential Nomination
“This must be an American moment. It’s a moment that calls for hope, and light, and love.” That’s how the former vice president characterized his race for the presidency against incumbent Donald Trump — whom Biden never named in his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination — promising to comfort a grieving nation and lead it out of what 72 percent of Americans said this spring was the lowest moment they could remember in U.S. history. Biden currently is leading Trump, who will accept the Republican Party’s nomination next week, in polls of crucial battleground states.
2. Steve Bannon Charged in Massive ‘Wall-Building’ Fraud
Federal agents arrested President Trump’s former chief strategist — the seventh presidential associate to face federal charges — aboard a 150-foot yacht owned by a Chinese billionaire yesterday after postal inspectors uncovered evidence that he and his associates had defrauded hundreds of thousands of people who donated to help build a border wall. After promising not to take compensation from the $25 million We Build a Wall GoFundMe effort, Bannon, who was released on bond, allegedly spent nearly $1 million on personal expenses. Trump distanced himself from the project, first denying knowledge of it, then saying he didn’t like it.
3. Russian Doctors Refuse to Release Ailing Activist
After a career challenging President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny fell ill yesterday — his staff alleges that he was poisoned — and was taken to a Siberian hospital. Fearing for his safety, allies arranged a plane to evacuate him to Germany, but the head doctor in the Omsk facility said the patient’s condition precluded the move, then locked himself in his office. While doctors have refused to identify Navalny’s condition, a police official said a “deadly substance” in the activist’s blood required those near him to wear protective gear. The Kremlin said it would help with the transport and wished Navalny a “speedy recovery.”
That was a quick reverse. Uber and Lyft had threatened to shut down all operations in the Golden State by midnight last night if a ruling reclassifying their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors had stayed in place. But a state appeals court has now delayed the deadline at least to October, while giving the companies two weeks to submit transition plans in case their appeals fail. The ride-hailing app companies are likely banking on either a successful appeal or winning a November ballot initiative that would exempt them from state laws mandating benefits for core workers.
The CDC will start collecting COVID-19 data again after an attempt to shift that duty to the Department of Health and Human Services led to delays and bureaucratic snarls. Singer Taylor Swift has donated $30,000 to a Portuguese university student in the UK struggling to finance her math education. And Californians are fleeing to shelters amid deadly wildfires, but fear outbreaks of COVID-19 there.
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1. Thieves Who Will Regret This Burglarize Ninja Museum
What they lacked in stealth, they’ll make up in wealth. The Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in central Japan — dedicated to the history of the legendary feudal secret agents — says that earlier this week thieves broke in under cover of darkness and spirited away a 330-pound safe containing admission fees collected over the weekend, totaling about $9,500. The nocturnal break-in and successful escape are where the ninja channeling ended, however: These criminals set off the museum’s alarm after they used a crowbar to break open an office in the building, compounding the ignominy.
2. Vanuatu Sees Record Surplus From Passport Sales
With countries around the world struggling against pandemic hardships, Vanuatu, which also had to contend with an April cyclone, has a powerful hedge: Selling citizenship for $130,000 a pop. The tiny Pacific island nation, largely dependent upon tourism, saw a record budget surplus of $33.3 million between January and June — fed almost entirely by its cash-for-citizenship program, which has attracted an estimated 650 new Vanuatuans in 2020. Most don’t settle there, though: They’re just using the passport for its visa-free access to the EU, Britain and Russia, which might also help if you’re from a COVID-19 hotspot.
Stop the music. Airbnb banned social gatherings at its rentals worldwide yesterday, citing reports that properties rented via its platform have been standing in for the bars and clubs that are now restricted in many places trying to contain COVID-19. Almost three in four Airbnbs already explicitly ban having parties on the premises, but this blanket prohibition also builds on restrictions last month against people under 25 booking whole homes. People who break the rule could find themselves both banned from the platform and sued by Airbnb.
French film Cuties won a directing award at Sundance for its portrayal of 11-year-old Amy, who joins a twerking dance troupe and finds herself growing up too fast. But Netflix’s choice to roll out its Sept. 9 release of the film with a poster that many thought overtly sexualized the pre-teen characters was called out on social media as “disgusting.” The company offered an abject apology and changed the poster and film description, but some are still petitioning for the film to be deleted from Netflix’s lineup altogether.
5. Will the Next NBA Superstar Come From the Philippines?
While not traditionally thought of as a hoops hotspot, the Philippines has a long love affair with basketball, stretching all the way back to 1910 when American colonists introduced it into Philippine schools as an activity for girls. Now 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto is joining the G League, OZY reports, setting him up to become the first Philippine-born player in the NBA. That’s got the basketball-mad country, with more NBA followers on social media than any other nation but the U.S., exhibiting a mania for the league that might spread across Asia.