Haiti's President Assassinated, NYC Mayoral Race, Delta Variant: News You Need To Start Your Day

The 2018 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2
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Haitian president Jovenel Moïse speaks onstage during the 2018 Concordia Annual Summit in New York. According to the country's acting prime minister, Moïse has been assassinated at his residence.

Good morning, hope everyone's well. These are the important stories we're tracking at the moment:

— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Emily Alfin Johnson, Rachel Treisman and William Jones)

Breaking News
International
Not The Typical Strongman: Haitian President Moïse's Political Legacy
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More information is still coming out about the death of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated in his residence overnight by a group of unidentified individuals.

For now, NPR's Carrie Khan looks back at his political legacy and the turbulence Haiti experienced under his tenure.

'The banana man'

Kahn first met Moïse in 2015, when he was campaigning for the presidency. She tells Morning Edition that his background was not in politics, but in agriculture; in fact, people called him "the banana man."

He positioned himself as a champion of the poor, but didn't have a clear path for Haiti, she says.

"He was not the typical strongman or the wily politician that Haiti is used to, and ever since he took office, from the get-go it was difficult. The elections were flawed, it was marred by controversy, it took more than a year for him to take office, so that complicated how long his rule was actually going to be," Kahn explains.

Instability in Haiti

His presidency marks only the most recent chapter in Haiti's long history of instability.

Kahn ticks through a list of challenges: It's the poorest country in the hemisphere, was left with a weak national police force after the U.N. pulled out as its major security force and is still dealing with the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and a cholera outbreak.

Plus, political struggles: The country's parliament had been dissolved because it couldn't hold elections, meaning Moïse had been ruling by decree for the last two years. But, as Kahn puts it, he wasn't able to pull the country together, and gangs are now ruling many important regions.

What's next?

She expects fallout from the assassination, predicting "a very difficult situation for Haiti to remain stable."

🎧 Listen to the full story

International
The Pentagon Is Defending Its Withdrawal From Bagram Airbase
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An Afghan National Army soldier stands guard at a gate of a hospital inside the Bagram Airbase after all U.S. troops left.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
An Afghan National Army soldier stands guard at a gate of a hospital inside the Bagram Airbase after all U.S. troops left.

Military officials say the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is now 90% complete. And while U.S. officials say they will continue to support the Afghan military, a spat has broken out about how U.S. forces withdrew from the Bagram Airfield last week.

As NPR's Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman reports:

The Afghan military commander at Bagram says that the U.S. forces flew out in the middle of the night without giving advanced notice. The commander said he heard rumors the Americans were leaving and then woke up in the morning to find them gone. Looters broke in and grabbed some equipment.

But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says senior Afghan and military personnel were informed a couple of days before. However, the Pentagon says for security reasons they didn't give the precise timing of the U.S. departure.

The next step of the withdrawal is some kind of a ceremony in the next couple of weeks. The U.S. commander, General Scott Miller, will turn over authority to the top American officer for the region, General Frank McKenzie.

General McKenzie would then have the power to authorize air strikes against al-Qaida or Islamic State targets, and possibly strike Taliban targets. There will still be some 650 U.S. troops remaining as a security force for the Embassy, as well as the airport in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

All the while, the Taliban are capturing more and more territory all over the country. They're threatening city centers and cutting off major roadways. Top Afghan generals have vowed to prevent that but so far things are only getting worse. There is concern that Kabul could fall.

Behind The Scenes
Movies
On The Ground At The First Cannes Film Festival In Two Years
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Movie stars, red carpets, vocal fans, flashing cameras — and face masks.

The Cannes Film Festival opened last night on the French Riviera with its usual hallmarks, plus a few new ones.

'We are back.'

After being canceled last year, and delayed due to France's lockdown this year, the festival is officially on, bringing with it star-studded films and a great sense of relief to the seaside town.

"We are back, and more important, the cinema is back," says Pierre Lescure, the festival's president.

NPR's Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley is in Cannes, getting a glimpse of the glamour firsthand.

🎧 Listen here to her recap of Night One

Gaga over Spike Lee

This year's festival is historic for a number of reasons.

It's the first time a Black filmmaker has presided over the jury, and the first time a jury head has been featured on the official festival poster: Spike Lee claims both honors.

There are also new COVID-19 requirements: Proof of either vaccination or a negative test result is required.

And for added safety some films are being screened at an outdoor theater on the beach, where hundreds of chairs are lined up in front of a massive screen.

The more things change...

But many beloved traditions remain, including fawning over celebrity guests.

Breaking News
International
Haitian President Jovenel Moïse Was Assassinated At His Home
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Haiti's president and first lady, both wearing face masks, stand flanked by five men, one of them saluting, outside of an airport.
Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse (C) and his wife, First Lady Martine Moïse, seen in Quito, Ecuador in May. The president was killed and the first lady wounded in an attack at their residence in the early morning hours.

Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home overnight, according to the country's acting prime minister.

In a statement in French, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph said that a “group of non-identified individuals, some of whom spoke Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and thus mortally wounded the Head of State.”

First Lady Martine Moïse was also wounded by a bullet in the attack and is getting care, he added. There have since been conflicting reports about the first lady's condition, with some saying she has succumbed to her injuries.

Joseph condemned the attack and called on the country to remain calm, saying measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the state, according to a translation of the statement.

He says he plans to address the public later today.

Moïse was elected as president in 2016. Calls to remove him from office in 2019 ballooned into nationwide protests.

Haiti has been in political and constitutional crisis — without a functioning parliament — since January 2020, and Moïse has been ruling by decree since then. The country has been wracked by violence and large parts of the country are effectively controlled by gangs, especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Earlier this week, Moïse tapped Ariel Henry, a respected neurosurgeon and the former minister of interior, to be his next prime minister — and seventh since 2016.

From The Science Desk
Coronavirus
The Delta Variant Is Officially Dominant In The U.S.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the highly contagious delta variant is causing more than 51% of new infections in the country, and more than 80% of infections in certain Midwestern states.

The vaccines available in the U.S. appear to offer protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death. But shots only work if they're going into arms, so officials are urging the remaining 140 to 150 million unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves.

Meanwhile, Israel's health ministry says it's seen a "marked decline" in the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine that appears to coincide with the spread of the delta variants, raising concerns about that vaccine as well as the similar shot made by Moderna.

🎧 As NPR health correspondent Rob Stein explains:

  • Public health experts don't know exactly what to make of the Israel report. Dr. Anthony Fauci says it could mean the country is testing more asymptomatically infected people and therefore seeing higher numbers. It could also mean that vaccine immunity is starting to wear off, but other research indicates that protection could be pretty long-lasting.
  • More research is needed. And even if the data out of Israel is confirmed, officials there say the vaccine looks to be extremely effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization — the most important metrics.
  • The best step the U.S. can take now is vaccinating more people, to protect them from the delta variant and keep more dangerous strains from evolving.

"It's not surprising that [the delta variant] has become the dominant one, when it's the most contagious it will eventually out-compete other variants," says Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University's School of Public Health. "It's significant because it does get a lot of people sick very quickly and we need to get people vaccinated. And the fact that it has moved this fast means there are a lot of communities and a lot of people who are still quite vulnerable to this virus."

Jha spoke to Morning Edition about the rise of the delta variant, the significance of the Israel report and how the U.S. can double down on its vaccination efforts. Listen to the full conversation here.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears' Lawyer Is Asking The Court To Let Him Resign
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The court-appointed lawyer who has represented Britney Spears in her conservatorship since 2008 is asking Los Angeles County Superior Court to be allowed to resign.

As NPR's Andrew Limbong reports, Spears expressed interest in picking her own lawyer in her public statements to the court in June.

The next hearing in her conservatorship case is set for July 14.

Politics
Four Things To Know About Eric Adams, Winner Of New York City's Democratic Mayoral Primary
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Eric Adams, wearing a white collared shirt, points a finger upward while speaking in a crowd behind a sign with his name on it.
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Eric Adams, pictured in the Bronx in May, is poised to become New York City's second Black mayor after winning its Democratic mayoral primary in July.

The Associated Press has called New York City's Democratic mayoral primary for Eric Adams, a former police captain who positioned himself as a centrist in the race.

If elected in November, Adams will become the city's second Black mayor. The odds are high, considering Democrats there outnumber Republicans by about 7-1.

WNYC's Brigid Bergen spoke to Morning Edition about Adams' background, his agenda and the Republican challenger he'll face — listen to that here.

  1. Adams was a unique candidate in a crowded field. He's been a New York City Police Department captain, a state senator and, most recently, the Brooklyn borough president. He branded himself as a centrist, blue-collar candidate. His campaign gained steam just as the city was emerging from the pandemic and seeing a spike in shooting incidents.
  2. Public safety is a key part of his platform. Adams has committed to combating gun violence, and says his law enforcement experience will enable him to deliver more just policing. He's a vocal opponent of the movement to defund the police, and has spoken about taking steps like increasing money for the NYPD division focused on gun violence.
  3. He's an outspoken and sometimes brash character. Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event last year, for example, Adams complained about gentrifiers moving into the city and told them to "Go back to Iowa."
  4. He will face off in November's general election against Curtis Sliwa. Sliwa is the Republican founder of the Guardian Angels, the New York City-based nonprofit that started unarmed civilian patrols of the subway system in the 1970s.
Arts
Meet The Artist Who First Drew Mickey Mouse (But Didn't Get Recognition He Deserved)
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Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statues stand at the
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images
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Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney statues stand at the Tokyo Disneyland. Walt Disney's friend and colleague, Ub Iwerks, never got the kind of recognition Disney did even though Iwerks was integral in the creation of Mickey Mouse.

50 years ago today, the world lost a prolific animator named Ub Iwerks. There's a good chance you won't know his name. But he's the person to thank for many of Walt Disney's greatest special effects. That includes the design of a certain cartoon mouse.

Walt Disney didn’t create Mickey Mouse alone. It was actually Iwerks who designed the iconic cartoon in 1928. Author Jeff Ryan has written about how Mickey Mouse came to be:

"[Iwerks] was the person who was doing most of the behind the scenes work. And when Walt was taking credit, Ub was the one who was denied credit. ... I think a lot of that has to do with the way that Disney over the years has controlled the Mickey Mouse narrative. They want people to think that Walt was responsible for more than he was actually responsible for."
Jeff Ryan - Author of 'A Mouse Divided: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten, and Walt Disney Became Uncle Walt'

That’s not to say Walt Disney didn't play a part in creating the beloved character.

In addition to defining Mickey’s personality, he literally voiced the character for years. But for decades, the collaboration between Disney and Iwerks was mostly kept a secret.

In his 30-year career at Disney, Iwerks developed iconic scenes in classics like Mary Poppins and Sleeping Beauty.

So why didn't Ub Iwerks get the kind of recognition that his work deserved and how did this prolific partnership come to be?

KCUR reporter Mackenzie Martin has the story. You can read her reporting or 🎧 listen to her piece here.

Florida Condo Collapse
36 Are Confirmed Dead In Florida Collapse. It's Unclear How Many Remain Missing
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Yesterday marked two weeks since the tragic condo collapse in Surfside, Fla.

As it stands, 36 people have been confirmed dead, and 109 names remain on the list of missing. Officials are now taking a closer look at that list of missing, to confirm who was in the building at the time of the collapse.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says detectives are going through the list, but so far they've only been able to confirm about 70 of those listed were in the building at the time of the collapse.

Despite countless hours of rescue efforts and searches for people and pets, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said they have not found signs of life.

Cominsky told the Associated Press that crews have moved over 124 tons of debris from the site.

Workers are still calling it a search-and-rescue operation, but Levine-Cava said they will soon transition to a recovery effort.

Crews had to pause yesterday afternoon when Tropical Storm (now a hurricane) Elsa brought lightning and high winds.

Must Listen
International
A Palestinian Village In Israel Sees Hope With New Arab Party In Government
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A waterfront cafe in Jisr al-Zarqa, a fishing village on Israel's Mediterranean coast.
Fatma Jones/NPR
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NPR
A waterfront cafe in Jisr al-Zarqa, a fishing village on Israel's Mediterranean coast.

Unlike Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian citizens of Israel are supposed to have the same rights as Jewish Israelis. They can vote, hold office, and start businesses.
Yet many consider themselves second-class citizens at best.

Look no further than Jisr al-Zarqa, a fishing village on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. In the town of 15,000, hemmed in by wealthier Jewish cities, residents complain of a lack of a post office and a bank. It only got a police station in 2017. It struggles to take full advantage of the local tourism economy.

“We have nothing in this village, nothing,” said Dr. Ayyat Rageh, who works in a Tel Aviv hospital but runs a clinic in Jisr al-Zarqa. “Jisr need land. Buildings. Streets. Money. Jobs.”

Residents there now see a glint of hope for Jisr al-Zarqa’s future, after the formation of a new Israeli government that includes the Arab political party the United Arab List. Mansour Abbas, who heads the United Arab List, secured billions of dollars for projects in Arab towns in Israel.

Ru’a Jorban, a local who says she’s studying to be a chemical engineer, hopes the development money promised to places like Jisr al-Zarqa actually arrives.

“It would be really good if we could study and work here,” she says, “so we can help develop our city."

🎧 For the voters here, it is a test to see if Arab politicians can deliver for their constituents the way that Jewish parties do for theirs.

Before You Go
It's Been A Minute
Comedian Tiffany Haddish On Her Career Trajectory And (Many) Goals
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Before you go today —

If you're looking for a conversation that's equal parts hilarious and inspiring, look no further than the most recent episode of It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders.

Sam talks to comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish about her amazing career so far, what's next and the wild celebrity encounters she's had along the way.

She reflects on her experience coming out of the foster care system, growing her support network and living in her car (and an hourly motel) as she pursued her dream of becoming a professional comedian.

Fast forward, and Haddish has more than a few accolades under her belt, from her roles in Eric Andre's film Bad Trip and the animated series Tuca & Bertie to her recent Grammy win for best comedy album (the first Black woman to win in that category since Whoopi Goldberg in 1986).

Haddish, who is 41, hopes to make 80 films by the time she turns 50. And she says that goal isn't just about developing her own career.

"[That] will create a lot of jobs for people. Every time you make a movie, the smallest crew could be 50, and the largest crew could be 500 people. That's, how many jobs are you creating? How much generational wealth are you creating when you get to tell and give other people the opportunity to tell that story with you?"
Tiffany Haddish

You can 🎧 listen to the full episode here or find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Plus, you can find more from their conversation on YouTube. 👀