CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 2,686,249 and the nation’s death toll stands at 128,062, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. The 50,203 new cases reported yesterday set a new one-day record. Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were among states that recorded record highs. California yesterday rolled back reopening efforts by banning indoor restaurant dining in 19 counties, closing bars and stepping up enforcement of the restrictions as COVID-19 infections surge. Meanwhile, the Health Department announced yesterday that it is buying nearly all the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment remdesivir from U.S. manufacturer Gilead. Tests have found that remdesivir cuts recovery times but it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates. A course of treatment in the U.S. will cost $2,340.
MIDDLEMAN IDENTIFIED IN RUSSIAN BOUNTY PAYMENTS… As President Trump continues to dismiss intelligence reports of Russia paying Taliban-linked militants bounties to kill U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, additional details are emerging. The New York Times yesterday identified Afghan contractor Rahmatullah Azizi as the middleman between a Russian military unit and Taliban militants. American and Afghan officials say he paid out bounties as high $100,000 per dead American soldier for at least five years. Intelligence files of him collecting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were among the materials provided to Congress this week.
BLOCK LIFTED ON TRUMP’S NIECE’S TELL-ALL BOOK… A New York Supreme Court judge yesterday removed a temporary restraining order that blocked Simon & Schuster’s publication of a tell-all book written by President Trump’s niece. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” by Mary Trump is set for release on July 28. Whether or not Mary Trump might have breached a confidentiality agreement signed in the settlement of Fred Trump’s estate is still pending litigation.
POLICE CLEAR SEATTLE PROTEST ZONE… Seattle police cleared the city’s protest zone yesterday morning following an executive order from Mayor Jenny Durkan calling for protesters to vacate the area. Officers reported arresting 32 people who did not leave the several-block area. Protesters had gathered in the area for weeks amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The gatherings were mostly peaceful until two recent fatal shootings prompted Durkan to clear the zone.
DHS TASK FORCE TO PROTECT MONUMENTS… The Department of Homeland Security announced plans yesterday to deploy a newly established task force to protect federal statues and other monuments over the Fourth of July weekend. The establishment of the Protecting American Communities Task Force follows recent toppling of monuments with links to slavery, racism or colonialism. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf says his department will monitor potential civil unrest or destruction, deploy resources to protect federal monuments and work with the Interior and Justice departments to share intelligence.
‘BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD’ RETURN… Comedy Central announced yesterday that it is bringing back the classic MTV animated series “Beavis and Butt-Head.” Creator Mike Judge has agreed to fill a two-season order at the network. “Beavis and Butt-Head” ran for seven seasons on MTV from 1993 to 1997. The show was revived in 2011 for one season and made into the 1996 film “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.”
CARL REINER TRIBUTE TOMORROW NIGHT… CBS will be paying tribute to the late Carl Reiner with a pair of colorized episodes of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” tomorrow night. Two episodes prominently featuring Reiner, who created and co-starred in the series, will air at 8 p.m. on CBS and streaming service CBS All Access. Reiner died Monday at the age of 98. The episodes “Coast to Coast Big Mouth” and “October Eve” were colorized under Reiner’s supervision. CBS said Reiner considered “October Eve” as one of his favorite episodes.
NFL AIMING AT 2 PRESEASON GAMES… ESPN reported yesterday that the NFL plans to shorten its 2020 preseason to two games. The move is part of a larger acclimatization plan for players amid a shutdown of workouts during the coronavirus pandemic. Most players are scheduled to report to training camps on July 28, but the first preseason games won’t be played until the third week of August. Each team will play one home game and one on the road in the preseason. Teams that travel will depart on the day before games.