June 30, 2020

China's National People's Congress Standing Committee unanimously approved a security bill Tuesday that will give Beijing authority to crack down on political dissent in Hong Kong, which has enjoyed significant legal and civil autonomy since being handed over by Britain in 1997, The New York Times and Chinese media in Hong Kong report. The U.S., Britain, and European Union have criticized the law and the U.S. placed limits on exports of U.S. defense equipment and some technology, stripping some of Hong Kong's special trade status.

The approval process in the elite arm of China's party-run legislature "drew criticism for its unusual secrecy," the Times reports. "Breaking from normal procedure, the committee did not release a draft of the law for public comment. Hong Kong's activists, legal scholars, and officials were left to debate or defend the bill based on details released by China's state news media earlier this month."

Beijing says the new law, which will allow the Communist Party central government to set up a security apparatus in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and investigate special cases, will make Hong Kong safer. But it is not popular in Hong Kong, and critics warn it will be used to quash protests, Hong Kong's limited democracy, and dissent among pro-democracy advocates directly and through intimidation.

Chinese President "Xi Jinping is looking at more comprehensive control over Hong Kong, and the national security law will go a long way to achieving that control," Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Times. "It will be a new ballgame, affecting schools, affecting the media, and many other arenas of Hong Kong life." Beijing passed the law one day before the anniversary of Britain's handover, and for the first time in decades, Hong Kong has banned the usual July 1 protest march. Peter Weber

2:01 a.m.

When he retired in 1995, Sherman Hirsch discovered something he could do with his newfound free time: donating his platelets.

Since then, the 89-year-old Nebraska resident has donated his platelets more than 700 times, joking with Good Morning America that he is "definitely on a first name basis" with the staff at his local Red Cross.

While still working as a teacher, Hirsch regularly donated blood after school. It takes longer to donate platelets, about three hours, and Hirsch comes in to do this every other Monday morning. "I decided this is something I can do to help out other people and I've always been blessed with good health," he told GMA. "It's easy to do and it doesn't cost me anything."

The Red Cross says that platelets, tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding, are needed every 15 seconds in the United States to help people fighting cancer, traumatic injuries, and chronic diseases. They can only be stored for up to five days, meaning new donors are constantly needed. Donating platelets has become "part of my life," Hirsch said, and he encourages "anyone to do it. If you don't have a lot of time, you can at least go in every eight weeks and donate blood." Catherine Garcia

1:49 a.m.

The World Health Organization updated its findings Thursday on how COVID-19 is transmitted, and there are two important changes. First, the WHO acknowledged growing evidence the new coronavirus may spread through aerosols, tiny droplets of saliva that linger in the air for hours, especially in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces. The second change involved the risk of transmission by people who don't have symptoms. Both issues have broad implications for how to contain the disease.

The WHO maintains that the main route of transmission involves infected people projecting saliva droplets into the eyes, mouth, or nose of people in close proximity, via coughing, sneezing, talking, or singing. The agency also said spread through infected surfaces, or formite transmission, is "likely" though not yet proven. Urine and feces have been shown to contain viable amount of the new coronavirus, too.

The virus can be spread by people who don't have COVID-19 symptoms, the WHO said, but there is an "important" distinction between people who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who have yet to develop symptoms (presymptomatic), and "the extent of truly asymptomatic infection in the community remains unknown." As a practical matter, Michael Barbaro noted on Thursday's The Daily podcast, the WHO is "making distinctions that don't mean all that much to people who are trying to decide whether to go to work, whether to go to a restaurant, whether to see friends."

The WHO has long dismissed aerosols as a means of transmission except during certain medical procedures, but it now says airborne spread "cannot be ruled out." There's evidence aerosols may have been responsible for "outbreaks of COVID-19 reported in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship, or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing," the WHO said, though larger droplets or contaminated surfaces might also have caused those outbreaks.

"Outdoors, any virus in small or large droplets may be diluted too quickly in the air to pose a risk," The New York Times reports. "But even a small possibility of airborne spread indoors has enormous implications for how people should protect themselves." The new brief mostly shows the WHO's experts interpret the data on aerosols differently, Oxford University's Dr. Trish Greenhalgh tells the Times. "The push-pull of that committee is palpable," she said. "As everyone knows, if you ask a committee to design a horse, you get a camel." Peter Weber

1:32 a.m.

By putting a banner that reads "Welcome to Clifton where Black Lives Matter" over its main street, a small Virginia town hoped this would be a first step in launching discussions on racial equality.

And while most people have been supportive of the message, the banner enraged one woman: conservative activist Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black member of the Supreme Court.

The city of Clifton shared with The Washington Post a note sent from Ginni Thomas' email account on June 24: "BLM is a bit of a dangerous Trojan Horse and they are catching well-meaning people into dangerous posturing that can invite mob rule and property looting. Let's not be tricked into joining cause with radical extremists seeking to foment a cultural revolution because they hate America." Ginni Thomas, who is white, did not respond to the Post's request for comment.

Clifton Mayor William R. Holloway told the Post the banner is "the biggest controversy we've seen in many years." Residents received an anonymous mailer that tried to link the Black Lives Matter movement to "international conspiracies," and there were angry comments posted on the Clifton Facebook page.

About 300 people live in Clifton, and the population is mostly white. During a town council meeting Tuesday, nearly all of the residents who got up to speak about the banner had nothing but good things to say. Mark Cherry, a Black resident, said he "never would have guessed that this community would come together ... to make such a clear message of welcome and openness." Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

12:31 a.m.

Jason Zgonc uses music to show his appreciation for the health care workers saving lives at Emory Decatur Hospital in Georgia.

Every night, the 12-year-old trumpet player stands outside the hospital during shift change and puts on a mini-concert, performing songs like "Danny Boy," "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." He was inspired by a New York Philharmonic trumpeter who stands on his balcony and plays in honor of healthcare workers.

Zgonc, who has been performing outside the hospital for more than two months, told CBS News he appreciates the doctors, nurses, and other staffers for "working so hard every day trying to save people's lives," and they can count on him to "be out here playing for them."

For many, it's the highlight of their day. The first time nurse Natalie Schmidts heard the sounds of Zgonc's trumpet, she was coming off a rough shift, and he helped change her perspective. "It gives you a sense of community," she said. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

President Trump praised his cognitive capabilities on Thursday, telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that he did such an "unbelievable" job during a recent assessment that it left his physicians stunned.

Trump said he took a cognitive test "very recently" at Walter Reed Medical Center, because the "radical left was saying, 'Is he all there, is he all there,' and I proved I was all there because I aced it, I aced the test." The doctors, he continued, were "very surprised. They said, 'That's an unbelievable thing, rarely does anybody do what you just did.'"

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said earlier this month that he has "constantly" been taking cognitive tests, and Trump told Hannity he is certain that Biden misspoke. "He didn't mean that, because you don't have tests that often ... he meant COVID," Trump declared. The president regularly accuses Biden of experiencing mental decline, and said he must have been "confused by the question and the words and everything else."

Trump challenged Biden to take the same test he did, but doesn't think doctors will be left slack-jawed in amazement. "He couldn't pass one," Trump said. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

A White House reporter who attended press briefings on Monday and Wednesday has tested positive for COVID-19.

The unnamed journalist "wore a mask the entire time they were on the White House complex," Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, told the New York Post in an email Thursday. "The individual is asymptomatic. We are contacting those who the individual recalled being in close contact."

Karl also said the reporter was only in the briefing room, "not elsewhere in our workspace." The White House is offering coronavirus tests to members of the press who were near the journalist. Catherine Garcia

July 9, 2020

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia and other U.S. adversaries have been supplying "training, money, weapons, propaganda ... and a lot of other things" to the Taliban for years, and the Trump administration was "perhaps" not doing "as much as we could or should" to stop this.

The military has delivered a ground response, he said, but "the issue is higher than that. The issue is at the strategic level. What should or could we be doing at the strategic level?" Options include making diplomatic protests and imposing sanctions, and Milley said "some of that is done. Are we doing as much as we could or should? Perhaps not. Not only to the Russians, but to others. But a lot of it is being done. Some of it's quiet. Some of it's not so quiet."

In late June, The New York Times reported, and other news outlets confirmed, there's significant U.S. intelligence indicating Russia paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. When asked, Milley said the military is "going to dig into this. We're going to get to the bottom of it, this bounty thing. If in fact there's bounties directed by the government of Russia or any of their institutions to kill American soldiers, that's a big deal. We don't have that level of fidelity yet." Catherine Garcia

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