After months of railing against mail-in ballots, President Donald Trump explicitly said in an interview that he opposes a U.S. postal service bailout and states’ election aid because they will enable more people to vote by mail in the midst of a deadly pandemic. The recent installment of Trump donor Louis DeJoy as postmaster general preceded policy changes and increased delivery delays, which, presidential challenger Joe Biden noted, severs a lifeline to rural Americans who get medicines and other necessities via the USPS. Meanwhile, Trump requested an absentee ballot this week so he can vote in crucial swing state Florida.
The United Arab Emirates became the first Gulf state (and third Arab nation, after Jordan and Egypt) to formally establish diplomatic ties with Israel, an agreement two years in the making that was finalized via phone yesterday. It will officially suspend annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the pact as a betrayal and immediately recalled his ambassador to the UAE. The U.S.-facilitated pact is likely to lead to direct commercial flights between the two countries — and might even encourage other Gulf states to follow suit.
3. Racist ‘Birther’ Theory Returns, About Harris This Time
Before Barack Obama was elected to a second term, a racist conspiracy theory that he had been born in Kenya and thus was ineligible to serve as president was promoted by then-civilian Donald Trump. Now a similar idea is dogging the second person of color on a major party ticket, California-born Kamala Harris. One fringe theory, called “silly” and “racist” by legal experts, questions whether the child of immigrants lacking permanent residency gets automatic citizenship. President Trump yesterday stoked the “very serious” charge, telling reporters, “I just heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements.”
The House had already left, and yesterday the Senate packed up as well, leaving little hope for new coronavirus pandemic relief until September at the earliest. That’s of little import to America’s wealthy — the stock market and high-earning jobs have already rebounded to nearly pre-crisis levels — but is likely to leave the working class desperate. Jobs with wages below $14 are still 20 percent below January levels and close to half of Hispanic and Black tenants said they were not confident of being able to pay August rent. Also looming: an impending government shutdown Sept. 30 unless lawmakers can agree on a funding bill.
English schools used an algorithm to modify teens’ exam results — one many say disadvantaged talented kids from low-performing schools. Protesters in Belarus say government forces are using torture on demonstrators. And a CDC study on mental health during the pandemic found that more than one in 10 U.S. adults seriously contemplated suicide within the last 30 days.
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6. Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield joins The Carlos Watson Show today to discuss his wild moves (both on and off the field) and the competitive spirit that made him the player he is. Be sure to subscribe to the OZY Media YouTube channel to be notified when it’s live — and remember, new subscribers will be entered for a chance to win an invitation to a Zoom taping with a celebrity guest!
1. App Stores Ban Fortnite in Antitrust Battle Royale
Yesterday, Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, declared its financial independence from app stores by implementing an in-game payment system encouraging players to bypass paying via Apple and Android, which take a 30 percent cut. In response, the app was kicked out of the Apple and Google Play app stores — and now Epic has sued both tech giants, saying Apple has a “100 percent monopoly” and Google is using its size to “do evil upon competitors.” Meanwhile, iPhone owners can continue playing without new content, and Android users can download Fortnite via either Epic or Samsung stores.
Don’t bet the farm on a second term. While three million farmers voted for President Trump in 2016, his China policy has choked agricultural markets and the pandemic has spread to rural enclaves, exposing cracks in the healthcare system. That’s likely to reap $20 billion in farm losses this year, OZY reports — which may be why Vice President Mike Pence rushed yesterday to storm-ravaged Iowa, where half a million lost power during a massive storm that damaged 10 million acres of cropland. Trump won Iowa by nine points in 2016 — but it now looks like a swing state.
It was written in the stars all along. Late last year, sky-watchers noticed that red supergiant star Betelgeuse was dimming, eventually enough that it could be noticed without a telescope. Many wondered if that meant the (relatively) nearby neighbor was about to supernova, but new data from the Hubble telescope indicates it was actually a blast of hot material ejected from the star, which turned into a dust cloud in the atmosphere and blocked some of Betelgeuse’s light. Still, the star is expected to blow sometime in the next 100,000 years, and began to dim again this summer, so NASA will be doing closer observations later this month.
Patrons in Mexico’s capital are allowed to return to movie theaters, though cinemas can only operate at 30 percent capacity and no more than two people are allowed to sit together. Still, studios are holding back their blockbuster release dates as the pandemic continues to rage, so older films like Interstellar or classics like Rebel Without a Cause are screening in the globe’s fourth-largest movie market. Meanwhile, world’s biggest cinema chain AMC says it’ll reopen more than 100 theaters stateside on August 20, charging only 15 cents for tickets as it did when it first opened a century ago.
5. Sports Fans Overwhelmingly Support Athlete Activism
A change is already here. A new survey of sports fans over 18 found that 71 percent of them supported athletes speaking their minds about social and racial justice, and that almost half are more likely to support a mindful team than they were last year. The ESPN-commissioned poll also found that 64 percent supported NASCAR banning the Confederate flag and more than half said the NFL should apologize to Colin Kaepernick. Not everyone agrees: Fans at a Texas MLS match on Wednesday booed players taking a knee during the national anthem.