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Headlines: Wednesday, July 15, 11:35 PM
The United States imposed visa restrictions on certain employees of Chinese technology companies on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, becoming the latest move by the Trump administration to punish China over its human rights abuses. The measure is expected to further fray the already fraught relations between Washington and Beijing, which have worsened in recent months as the Trump administration has repeatedly accused China of conducting a cover-up of its initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic while the United States has passed legislation to punish it for committing human rights abuses against Hong Kong protesters and its Muslim minority Uyghur residents in Xinjiang -- allegations the Chinese Communist Party has staunchly denied. "The State Department will impose visa restrictions on certain employees of Chinese technology companies like Huawei that provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights violations and abuses globally," Pompeo said during a press availability in Washington, D.C. The visa restrictions were being imposed under the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits the United States to deny entry to any non-citizen the secretary of state believes would have "potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences." In a statement, the United States' top diplomat named only Huawei of the companies whose employees were affected by Wednesday's actions, describing it as "an arm of the CCP's surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China." "Certain Huawei employees provide material support to the CCP regime that commits human rights abuses," he said. The Chinese telecommunications giant has increasingly been the focus of the State Department, which has been lobbying countries to exclude it from participating in their development of fifth-generation mobile networks, better known as 5G, stating it poses a security risk. On Tuesday, Pompeo congratulated Britain for ordering Huawei from the nation's 5G network over security concerns, stating it had added its name to a growing list of so-called clean countries vowing to be free of questionable 5G vendors. "This isn't about commercial interests, this is about protecting information," he told reporters on Wednesday. "This information that transits across these untrusted networks that are of Chinese origin will almost certainly end up in the hand of the Chinese Communist Party." Last week, Pompeo vowed the United States would deny China access to the private data of Americans and said they were examining the possibility of banning Chinese smartphone applications, such as the TikTok social media app. In late June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese communications company, as national security threats. Pompeo said the visa restrictions should force other telecommunications companies around to world to take notice. "If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers," he said. The visa restrictions also came amid an extradition court case in Canada where police arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in 2018 at the behest of the United States over allegations she violated U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.
The Washington Mystics announced Wednesday that reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne will be paid her full salary throughout the season even if she doesn't play. With the decision, Delle Donne will no longer be in jeopardy of losing her 2020 salary after an independent group of doctors -- which was appointed by the league and players' union -- denied her request to medically opt out of the season. Delle Donne, who wanted to skip the season due to medical concerns, has Lyme disease and said her personal physician informed her that she is "at risk for contracting and having complications from COVID-19." Delle Donne is still recovering from off-season back surgery and won't be ready to return at the start of the season even if she opted to do so. Her surgery was for three herniated disks that she dealt with last season while guiding the Mystics to the WNBA title. "The fact of the matter is the Mystics organization will never put Elena's -- or any other of our players' -- health and well-being in jeopardy at any time," Mystics head coach Mike Thibault told reporters Wednesday. "As in the past, with her Lyme disease history and her on-court injuries, all decisions about her ability to play will be made jointly with Elena. "She is part of our roster, she is being paid, and is continuing to rehab from her off-season back surgery. If at some point, later in the season, we are all comfortable enough with both her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida, then we will make those arrangements. "If we don't feel that, then she will continue to do her workouts in D.C. and get herself ready for the following season. Her long-term care and health as a major foundation piece of the Mystics will always take precedence." Delle Donne's agent, Erin Kane, told ESPN that two major concerns still exist, with the first being whether the Mystics would require the six-time All-Star to rehab at the team's training facility in Washington, D.C., instead of at her home. The second is the risk associated with a possible return to the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fla. "That's still a risk she's not sure she's willing to take," Kane said. "And for her, the decision has never been about her back. It's about her Lyme disease, and what's safe." Kane said Delle Donne is appreciative that Thibault and Ted Leonsis -- the CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Mystics -- are attempting to do the right thing. "She really appreciates their support and that they're trying to find a happy medium, a way to kind of resolve this situation," Kane said. "We're trying to figure out with the team what the parameters are because Elena doesn't want to go to the facility full-stop, or work out somewhere else indoors where there's someone else around. "Because she feels like that's risky. None of that has been finalized. Elena is trying to mentally sort through this, and all of it is happening in pretty short order." Players who have a medical reason or are deemed to be high risk by the independent panel of doctors will receive their full salaries if they choose to skip the season. Players who opt out after the panel doesn't grant them a waiver won't receive their salary. Lyme disease isn't on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's list of conditions that could put someone at more risk for severe illness from the coronavirus. Delle Donne, 30, averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season. The Mystics open their season against the Indiana Fever on July 25 in Bradenton.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that he promoted Bill Stepien to serve as his campaign manager, replacing Brad Parscale. Trump announced the campaign shakeup on social media Wednesday night, elevating Stepien, who served as White House political director during Trump's first two years in office, while adding Parscale will remain on staff as a senior advisor to the campaign, continuing to lead digital and data strategies. "Both were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together," Trump said. Stepien previously worked as campaign chairman for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and had served as deputy press secretary for Trump's re-election campaign earlier this year. Parscale was appointed to run Trump's re-election bid in February 2018 and was tasked with leading "advanced planning" and building infrastructure for the 2020 race. He also worked as a digital marketing strategist for the Trump Organization, before working for Trump's presidential campaign in 2016 and then continuing to lead digital strategies for the campaign and the Republican National Committee.
The Buffalo Bills and New Era Cap Company released a joint statement Wednesday announcing the end of their stadium naming rights relationship. In the statement, the Buffalo-based apparel company asked the team to release it from the naming rights agreement, meaning the Bills' stadium will no longer be called New Era Field. The NFL franchise and New Era said they are currently negotiating the details of the separation. "The Buffalo Bills and New Era Cap Company jointly announce that New Era has asked to be released from their naming rights and sponsorship deal with the Bills," the team and New Era said in the statement. "The Bills and New Era are currently negotiating the details of this separation and the Bills are beginning the process of pursuing a new naming rights partner for the stadium." The Bills had been working with New Era to restructure their sponsorship deal for more than a year, according to the Buffalo News. The naming rights deal, which was to run through 2022, cost New Era an average of $4 million annually. Buffalo and New Era signed the seven-year deal in 2016. This will mark the third time the Bills' stadium name will change. It opened as Rich Stadium in 1973 and was renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium in 1997.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday made sweeping changes to a pivotal environmental law, limiting public review of federal infrastructure projects to speed up approval for projects such as highways and pipelines. Speaking at a UPS facility in Atlanta, Trump announced that his administration had completed a "top to bottom overhaul" of the National Environmental Policy Act, issuing a final rule he said would save hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade by reducing the time to complete reviews of infrastructure projects. "For decades the single biggest obstacle to building a modern transportation system has been the mountains and mountains of bureaucratic red tape in Washington, D.C.," Trump said. "All of that ends today." The final rule would establish a two-year limit to finish impact statements and a one-year limit for environmental assessments, according to the White House. Other provisions were not specifically outlined in the White House's announcement but in January Trump proposed eliminating a requirement for public agencies to consider the "cumulative" consequences of new projects, including how they impact climate change. Martin Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Energy Institute praised the final rule as "a big step forward and it's about our nation maintaining its global competitiveness." "This will modernize and rationalize the permitting process so that we can get these projects built at a state and local level," said Durbin. Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former EPA chief, said the move was a "clear attempt to silence and sideline people" and to make it easier for industries to pollute communities. "People have the right to weigh in before a highway project tears up their neighborhood or a pipeline goes through their backyard," said McCarthy. "Steamrolling their concerns will mean more polluted air, more contaminated water, more health threats and more environmental destruction." The announcement came a day after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden outlined a $2 trillion climate change plan. On Wednesday, Biden's campaign accused Trump of "cutting corners" with the rule change and ignoring calls for clean air and water from scientists and communities. "No one should be fooled that Donald Trump is attempting to destroy a bipartisan, cornerstone law to distract from the fact that 'Infrastructure Week' never happened and never will happen as long as he is president," said spokesman Matt Hill.
Former Pro Bowl linebacker David Lewis, who was a key member of the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that reached the NFC Championship Game, has died, the franchise announced Wednesday. He was 65. Lewis died Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., according to USC, where he played college football. The school said his cause of death wasn't immediately known, but he struggled with health issues in recent years. Lewis, an All-Conference outside linebacker at USC, was a three-year letterman (1974-76) at the school, having previously played at San Diego City College. After the Trojans won the national title in 1974, Lewis led the team in tackles (90) and fumble recoveries (four) during his junior season. He was on USC teams that won two Rose Bowls (1975, 1977) and the 1975 Liberty Bowl. The Buccaneers selected Lewis in the second round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He played for the franchise until 1981, making an appearance in the 1980 Pro Bowl. Lewis was among the defensive stars on the 1979 Bucs team that advanced to the NFC title game, which marked a significant turning point for the franchise. The Buccaneers won 10 games that year after winning only seven in the organization's previous three seasons. Lewis also had one-year stints with the then-San Diego Chargers (1982) and Los Angeles Rams (1983). After his time in the NFL, Lewis transitioned to coaching and had a long career at the prep level. He coached at Tampa Catholic High from 1986-90, compiling a 33-19 record and capturing a district title. He still served on the Crusaders' coaching staff at the time of his death. "David was a key member of our defense that played a major role in our success during that special 1979 season," the Buccaneers said in a statement Wednesday. "As talented as he was on the football field, David's legacy here in the Tampa Bay area will be remembered more for the impact he made on so many young men as a football coach at Tampa Catholic following his NFL career. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Bonnie, and the entire Lewis family." Lewis is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and a daughter, Brianna. He was predeceased by his son, Brian.
The Tennessee Titans signed star running back and 2019 rushing champion Derrick Henry to a multiyear contract, the team announced Wednesday. League sources told ESPN and NFL Media that Henry and the Titans reached an agreement on a four-year, $50 million deal. According to ESPN, the pact includes $25.5 million guaranteed. The Titans confirmed the long-term contract but didn't disclose financial terms of the agreement. The franchise has now signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Henry to new deals this off-season. Henry and the Titans got the deal done only hours before the NFL's deadline for extensions with franchise-tagged players. According to ESPN, the agreement marked a change in plans, as the sides weren't expected to reach a long-term deal by Wednesday's 4 p.m. EDT deadline. Earlier this off-season, Henry indicated that he wanted to remain with the organization. "I want to stay with the Tennessee Titans," Henry told the team's official website. "They are the ones that took a chance on me -- 31 teams passed on me in the draft and they selected me. I have a lot of love for Tennessee. I have a lot of love for everyone in that organization. "And we have grown from the time I got there. [In 2016] we just missed the playoffs, [in 2017] we got into the playoffs and went into the second round. This year we went to the AFC Championship. We have grown as an organization and as a team and I think that speaks volumes for the direction we're headed." Henry's contract -- which averages about $12.5 million per year -- makes him the league's fifth-highest-paid tailback, behind only the Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey ($16 million), the Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott ($15 million), the New York Jets' Le'Veon Bell ($13.1 million) and the Houston Texans' David Johnson ($13 million). Henry, 26, won the league's rushing title with 1,540 yards last season. Of all NFL running backs with at least 200 carries in 2019, his 5.1 yards per carry was the highest in the league. The Titans selected Henry -- the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner -- in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Alabama. The 2019 Pro Bowl selection has recorded 3,833 yards and 38 touchdowns on 804 carries in his career, with 57 receptions for 578 yards and three receiving scores.
The Twitter accounts of several high profile people including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Elon Musk tweeted out a cryptocurrency scam in an apparent hack on Wednesday. Twitter support tweeted that it was aware of the incident and was investigating and taking steps to fix it, adding that some accounts may be unable to tweet or reset their password while the incident is under review. The affected accounts, which also included rapper Kanye West, investor Warren Buffet and Apple's official account all sent out messages including the same bitcoin account promising to double any amount sent to it. "Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time," one form of the tweet read. "You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000." Biden's campaign said Twitter locked the Democratic presidential candidate's account and immediately removed the related tweet. "We remain in touch with Twitter on the matter," his campaign said. A representative for Gates also confirmed to The Verge that the Microsoft co-founder did not send the tweet. "This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing. Twitter is aware and working to restore the account," the representative said. The tweets began at about 3 p.m. and the bitcoin account associated with the messages has received about $100,000.
After missing three straight intrasquad games because of a stiff neck, New York Yankees star outfielder Aaron Judge returned to action Wednesday and blasted a towering home run to center field in his first at-bat. Judge, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, made his first appearance in the Yankees' lineup since Saturday and played in right field. He went deep on the second pitch he saw from starter James Paxton in Wednesday's intrasquad game. The two-time All-Star selection was involved in some light field activity Monday and Tuesday, taking part in batting practice and shagging fly balls in the outfield. Judge told the team Saturday that he woke up with a sore neck. Judge, who previously suffered a fractured first right rib and a punctured lung, has used the coronavirus hiatus to rehab from his injuries. The 28-year-old slugger was back at full strength before training camp resumed this summer at Yankee Stadium, participating in full practices and intrasquad matchups before his latest neck ailment. In 102 games last season, Judge had a .272 batting average with 27 home runs and 55 RBIs. His best MLB season came in 2017, when he recorded career highs in homers (52), RBIs (114) and batting average (.284). Since making his major league debut with the Yankees in 2016, Judge has appeared in 396 career games and notched 110 home runs, 246 RBIs and 387 total hits. The Yankees open the pandemic-shortened 2020 season against the Washington Nationals on July 23.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump to implement the Defense Production Act to provide equipment to reopen schools and businesses. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump should implement the measure to increase the production of personal protective equipment and testing equipment to allow schools and businesses to reopen safely. "If we want to open our economy and now if we want to open our schools, we have to have the testing, we have to have the judgment and therefore we need the equipment and we also need the PPE," she said. She also said the expansion of expiring unemployment benefits may depend on the size of direct payments sent to Americans in the next COVID-19 relief bill. Pelosi said Democrats would look to work with Republicans to determine how much they are willing to offer in direct payments, referring to the "three pillars" of the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House in May. "That pillar is about putting money into the pockets of the American people. One piece of it is unemployment insurance and the benefit you are talking about and another part of it is how we put direct payments into the families," said Pelosi. "So we'll see what the entire package looks like." The HEROES Act would provide a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for joint filers but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested only distributing the funds to people who earn less than $40,000 a year, which Pelosi has challenged. "I think there are many families depending on size of family and so many different things, that the $40,000 would have to be explained justified and the rest," she said last week. "But I think families making over $40,000 probably need assistance. Again, just depending on their family situation." McConnell on Wednesday said the next phase of coronavirus relief will focus on providing funding to schools as they prepare to open amid surging cases in some parts of the country. "There's going to be a heavy emphasis in the bill I'm going to unfold next week on education. I know it will be costly," he said. "We need to find a way to safely get back to work, and we feel, I feel, like the federal government will have to play a financial role in helping to make that possible." McConnell, like Trump and much of his administration, asserted that it is important for children to return to in-person instruction even though some school districts, including California's Los Angeles and San Diego districts, have already announced plans to begin with online-only instruction. "We can't have a normal country unless kids are in school," he said. "And of course, that has an impact on jobs because kids and school and jobs are interconnected in every single way. Because it affects both parents to get back to work if the kids are home."