Cuomo Says He Won't Resign, Gold Medals For Jan. 6 Officers, The Battle At The Bootleg Fire: News You Need To Start Your Day

Published August 4, 2021 at 7:10 AM EDT
Two firefighters move through smoke
Matheiu Lewis-Rolland
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AFP via Getty Images
A fire crew member does mop up work in Division Echo Echo of the Bootleg Fire on July 25, 2021, in the Fremont-Winema National Forest of Oregon.

Good morning.

Here's what we're watching this morning:

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, the largest city in the U.S., New York City, will soon require proof of vaccinations if you want to eat indoors or go to a show.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Nicole Hernandez, Casey Noenickx, Carol Ritchie and Scott Neuman

Before You Go
Recommended Reading

Soccer Icon Abby Wambach Recommends These Books On Leadership

Posted August 4, 2021 at 9:59 AM EDT
Image shows the book covers for three books.
NPR

A lot of top athletes turned sports icons have thoughts on leadership, including Abby Wambach.

The former soccer star is a two-time Olympic-gold medalist and a FIFA World Cup champion. She retired from professional play in 2015 but she went on to tell her own story in her memoir, Forward, and then later wrote WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game, based on a viral commencement speech she gave in 2018.

We asked her to share her favorite books by writers who are themselves inspiring leaders. She recommends three that turn traditional ideas of leadership on their head.

Her top picks:

  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford. NPR's podcast Code Switch also talked to Ford recently, you can listen to that conversation here.
  • Save Yourself by Cameron Esposito.
  • And Be All In by Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane

Listen to Abby Wambach’s conversation with A Martínez here or read more about the books here.

National

A New York Democrat Says She Thinks The Assembly Has Enough Votes To Impeach Cuomo

Posted August 4, 2021 at 9:57 AM EDT
New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in 2019.
Hans Pennink/AP
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FR58980 AP
New York Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou in 2019.

A day after a bombshell report of evidence that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, the state’s Assembly is considering articles of impeachment if he doesn’t quit.

Following the release of the 165-page report, Cuomo defended himself, claiming that "the facts are much different than what has been portrayed.”

President Biden has called on Cuomo to resign. Speaking to Morning Edition, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, a Democrat representing New York City’s Lower East Side and Chinatown, says she believes the judiciary committee is looking into impeachment.

She called Tuesday’s report “very damning” and said she believes the legislature has the votes to move ahead with impeachment, if necessary. If the Assembly charges Cuomo, he would be tried by the members of the state Senate.

“It’s very clear what happened here. A very powerful man used his power to harass, grope and intimidate women who worked for him,” Yuh-Line told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

After the report was made public, Cuomo said in a news conference that he had “never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances.”

Yuh-Line said the governor was “gaslighting New Yorkers now, the same way he gaslighted the women that he abused.”

She said it was up to the legislature to remove him.

“When voters are seeing behavior that was condemned when President Trump does it, but ignored or minimized when Gov. Cuomo does it, they are going to think that the system is rigged, and Gov. Cuomo has made clear that he will not leave on his own,” she said.

Coronavirus

In A First, New York Will Require Indoor Restaurant Diners Be Vaccinated

Posted August 4, 2021 at 9:25 AM EDT

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio says if you want to eat inside at a restaurant, go to the movies or work out at the gym, you’re going to need to prove you’ve got at least one jab of a coronavirus vaccine.

It’s a first for any big U.S. city and it comes as the country is in the grips of yet another COVID-19 wave – this time it’s the highly transmissible delta coronavirus variant.

“This is what’s going to turn the tide,” De Blasio said Tuesday.

Residents will have to show proof of at least one shot either using the city’s proprietary "Excelsior Card" or the CDC’s card. A single dose, “depending on your vaccine, may not be full immunization,” NPR’s Jasmine Garsd says.

Such mandates have been tried elsewhere – in places like France and Israel. However, in the U.S., the U.S., the idea has been controversial. Republican city council member Joseph Borelli, from Staten Island, where vaccination rates are particularly low, has said the requirement is “discriminatory in nature.”

City-wide, roughly half of adults are immunized, but fewer than a third of Black residents have been fully vaccinated. About 72% of recent cases in the city have been testing positive for delta variant.

The requirement goes into effect on Aug. 16 and will be phased in over several weeks.

In Case You Missed It
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

Belarusian Athlete's Defection Is No Surprise To Human Rights Experts

Posted August 4, 2021 at 9:05 AM EDT
A masked person waves from behind a wall.
Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Belarus athlete Kristina Timanovskaya waves goodbye as she boards her Vienna-bound flight at the airport outside Tokyo on Wednesday.

Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya refused to go home Sunday after being escorted to the airport by Belarusian officials. She said she feared for her safety after she criticized her coaches on social media.

Timanovskaya isn’t the first Belarusian to face punishment for speaking her mind, Last year, WNBA player Yelena Leuchanka was jailed after protesting the result of Belarus’s election. Earlier this week, a Belarusian activist was found dead in Ukraine, and local police have launched a murder case.

NPR’s A Martínez talked to Heather McGill, a researcher at Amnesty International, and she said these incidents are “quite common.”

“What happened to [Timanovskaya] is the tip of the iceberg in what’s happening in Belarus every day,” McGill said. “Thousands of people have been detained for taking part in peaceful protests.”

Timanovskaya left Tokyo for Vienna on Wednesday after obtaining a humanitarian visa from Poland.

For more on what’s happening in Belarus, click here.

NPR Newscast

Senate Unanimously Votes To Award Congressional Gold Medal To Jan. 6 Officers

Posted August 4, 2021 at 9:03 AM EDT

The Senate has approved legislation to bestow Congress's highest honor, the Congressional gold medal, to law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The House passed the measure earlier this summer, and the bill now heads to President Biden's desk.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer led the unanimous, bipartisan approval of the legislation on the Senate floor.

"I cannot imagine more worthy recipients than the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this temple of democracy," said Schumer.

Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar made a timely comparison to an honor reserved for the greatest and most dedicated athletes:

"Well, this is our Olympics, this is our gold medal," Klobuchar explained, "and it goes today to the Capitol Police officers and the MP officers and others that protected us that day."

The committee's ranking Republican, Roy Blunt, said the medal honors the sacrifices police officers and their families make.

From The Science Desk
Marine Life

To Save Sunflower Sea Stars From Extinction These Scientists Are Serving As Foster Parents

Posted August 4, 2021 at 8:51 AM EDT
An orange sea star with many arms eats mussels.
Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Sunflower sea stars are succumbing to a devastating wasting disease that is killing off their populations. Scientists are working to raise the sea stars in captivity in an effort to save the species.

When Jason Hodin reaches into the water and hauls up a Tupperware container of poppy seed-sized baby sea stars, it's act of desperation and hope. He and his colleagues at the University of Washington are working to save the once-common sea species, now decimated and facing extinction.

He needs the Tupperware container, the juvenile sea stars and the hope, because he and his team are trying to do something never done before: Raise large numbers of sunflower sea stars to adulthood in captivity. If they're successful, they could one day reintroduce the lab-grown sunflower sea stars into places in the wild where the species has disappeared.

As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, the predators can grow to be as big as manhole covers and have vibrantly colorful arms and bodies with five-sided radial symmetry. They once peppered the seafloor from Alaska to Baja California, gobbling up sea urchins and helping to protect vital kelp forests. But now, they're almost gone. Populations of the species have declined by 80% to 100% in just a few years. They're literally wasting away, their populations decimated by a mysterious disease with an unknown cause.

In California, "sunflower sea stars are more than 95% gone," says Hodin. "Some people think that they are entirely extinct in the wild down there. I've heard scattered reports of people maybe seeing a few."

A man in a face mask works in a research lab filled with tools and instruments, including a microscope.
Dennis Wise/University of Washington
Jason Hodin, research scientist at UW Friday Harbor Laboratories, works in the sea star captive rearing lab.

And as Greenfieldboyce found out when she visited their lab, for these researchers, raising the population means treating them a lot like a parent would: naming them, feeding them carefully, learning their personalities, and even dreaming about them.

"I didn't really anticipate how exuberant their behaviors are," says Hodin. "You get to know them, and you get to know them individually. We noticed early on that we could tell them apart by their color patterns. And we gave them names."

Click here to read the full story.

Return To Work

One Employer’s Argument For In-Person Work

Posted August 4, 2021 at 8:39 AM EDT

Even as the delta variant fuels a surge in COVID cases, many employers are hoping to get people back in the office. Some are even requiring it.

That’s the case for Houston-based law firm AZA. Co-founder and partner John Zavitsanos recently published a New York Timesop-ed explaining why (and how) his office reopened during the pandemic, and why he thinks it paid off.

Naturally, a piece titled “We’re Kidding Ourselves That Workers Perform Well From Home” is going to be divisive. Zavitsanos says he didn’t come up with that headline, but asserts that remaining in the office boosted his team’s performance as well as morale.

He discussed his experience inthis interview with Morning Edition

It’s not one-size-fits-all. Zavitsanos acknowledges that many professions and industries saw no dropoff in productivity or creativity while working from home, but says “we just happen to be on the other end of the spectrum.” His firm went to trial six times during 2020, and he says the collaboration and preparation required just wasn’t the same in a virtual setting.

Zoom didn’t cut it in his line of work. He points out that team discussions just aren’t organic when they’re on video chat. “When you’re in a room with other people, people are cutting people off, people are talking over each other, that’s just the way human beings interact,” he says. “We just find that it works better actually being there together.” Plus, he adds, there are “literally thousands of last-minute twists and turns” in the period before a trial, and having to set up multiple Zooms a day to discuss each new development just wasn’t feasible.

There were some exceptions. Employees with certain medical conditions or safety concerns were allowed to come, though Zavitsanos says most people wanted to come in (he acknowledges this statement may be one thing coming from the boss, but adds “we have very little turnover here.”)

The delta variant isn’t changing the plan. AZA required each of its workers to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, and gave them information to facilitate that: It brought an epidemiologist in for a guest lecture, and distributed videos and materials from pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines. “Because we are collaborative and we work in teams, our personal view is that you don’t have the right to risk someone else’s health because of certain political beliefs you have or whatever,” Zavitsanos says. But he doesn’t see hybrid work in his firm’s future.

Wildfires

The Bootleg Fire Is Still Burning. Crews From Around The Country Are Fighting To Keep It Under Control

Posted August 4, 2021 at 8:13 AM EDT
A fire warning sign is seen amid trees which smolder and burn in Division Echo Echo of the Bootleg Fire on July 25, 2021 in the Fremont National Forest of Oregon. - The "Bootleg Fire" in Oregon, which started on July 6, 2021 near Beatty, Oregon, has burned in the space of two weeks the equivalent of the city of Los Angeles in vegetation and forests. (Photo by Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / AFP) (Photo by MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/AFP
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AFP
A fire warning sign is seen amid trees which smolder and burn in the Bootleg Fire on July 25.

Fire crews in Oregon are working hard to contain the Bootleg Fire. There are firefighters on site from as far west as Alaska and as far south as Puerto Rico.

Every morning, outside a small town called Silver Lake, Emery Johnson and hundreds of her coworkers climb out of their tents and RVs and gather around a large map. It displays the 647 square miles in Oregon that are on fire.

Authorities warn current conditions are ideal for more fires. Officials say embers from the Bootleg Fire can travel long distances on the current 25 mph winds.

That’s why the crews won’t let up, and why they’re planning to be here until they see the first snow.

There's a long history of controlled fires and megafires in the West and plenty to learn from their impact as these record-setting fires become almost routine. OPB's Erin Ross has more.

Music

The Backlash To DaBaby’s Homophobic Comments Could Mean A Sea Change In Pop Culture

Posted August 4, 2021 at 8:01 AM EDT
Water splashes as a person performs on stage.
Rich Fury/Getty Images
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Getty Images
DaBaby performs on stage on July 25, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Whether or not you’ve heard of DaBaby, you’ve probably heard his music: His song "Rockstar" was one of the hits of last summer, and he’s currently in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 as a featured artist on Dua Lipa’s song "Levitating."

He’s also in the headlines for making homophobic comments at a recent performance in Miami, where he told audience members to put their cellphone lights in the air if they didn’t have HIV/AIDS or any "deadly sexually transmitted diseases that'll make you die in two or three weeks."

The backlash was swift. Five big-name music festivals (including two on Tuesday) dropped him from their lineups, and artists like Elton John and Madonna publicly denounced his comments. DaBaby has issued two apologies.

“There’s definitely a new moment,” says Tricia Rose, a Brown University professor and director of its Center of the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Still, she notes, the music industry has historically not just tolerated, but profited from, artists like DaBaby.

As NPR’s Elizabeth Blair reports, the fallout he’s facing may represent a significant change in cultural attitudes about sexuality in pop music -- but there’s still a long way to go.

More from Elizabeth Blair here.

International Dispatch
Lebanon

A Year After A Huge Chemical Explosion Killed Scores In Beirut, An Investigation Has Yet To Hold Anyone Accountable

Posted August 4, 2021 at 7:43 AM EDT
Monument built from debris of a year ago explosion in Beirut Port.
Anadolu Agency
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Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A view of a 25-meter-tall steel sculpture dubbed "The Gesture" by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam, made from debris resulting from the aftermath of the blast at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut that took place on August 4, 2020.

Residents of Beirut marking the date a year ago when a massive chemical explosion at the city’s port killed at least 214 people. Banks and other businesses have been closed in remembrance of the dead.

NPR’s Ruth Sherlock, reporting from the city today, says in some neighborhoods, “whole high rise buildings” are still uninhabitable after being damaged by the explosion at a port warehouse storing thousands of tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate.

“Downtown Beirut looks frozen in time, with many shop fronts still smashed up like they were the day of the blast,” she tells Morning Edition.

An investigation was launched shortly after the explosion but families of the dead are still waiting for answers -- and justice.

There were warnings about the danger posed by the chemicals, which had been stored at the port for years. But top politicians, including the country’s president and prime minister, did nothing.

Sherlock says the explosion reveals just how big the disconnect is between Lebanon’s leaders and its people.

Politics

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo Says He Won't Resign After Scathing Report On Sexual Harassment

Posted August 4, 2021 at 7:27 AM EDT
A person stands behind a podium.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
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Getty Images
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference at One World Trade Center in June.

Up to now, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pursued a simple strategy to keep his job: Just say no to calls that he resign, insisting that people wait for an investigation into claims of sexual harassment to be released. That report was released Tuesday (more on that here), and it accuses him of harassing 11 women.

President Biden and other Democrats say he should quit. Cuomo instead gave a slideshow presentation in his own defense, as state lawmakers talked of impeachment.

WNYC's Gwynne Hogan has been following this. Here's what we know ⤵

How much evidence backs up the accusations by the state attorney general?
This report basically affirms the stories of women who came forward earlier this year. Investigators interviewed 179 people and reviewed more than 74,000 texts, emails, audio files and pictures.

One of the allegations, involving an aide who said Cuomo groped her inside the executive mansion late last year, rises to a criminal offense and has been referred to Albany police.

There were also three new accounts that had not been previously reported: One was from a state trooper who was assigned to Cuomo’s security detail. She said Cuomo on two occasions rubbed his finger up and down and across her body, and made comments about her sex drive.

In his response, Cuomo showed images of himself kissing people on the cheek, on the forehead, on the hand. What did Cuomo say as those images played?

Cuomo's latest denial came in a pre-recorded response Tuesday. He again denied some of the most extreme allegations, while admitting to some of the other accusations about kissing or touching faces. But he says they were misconstrued and he insists he did nothing wrong: "I've been making the same gesture in public all my life," Cuomo said. "I actually learned it from my mother and from my father."

He released a report of his own from a personal attorney -- paid for by Cuomo's campaign funds -- to refute the state attorney general's conclusions.

Have any of the accusers responded yet to what Cuomo said?
Ana Liss was the third woman to publicly accuse Cuomo -- telling investigators what she said were her experiences while working in Cuomo's office between 2013 and 2015. She says the office was toxic. And she said she was treated like an “ornament.”

She says she couldn’t bring herself to watch Cuomo’s remarks:

"It's not up to him to decide if any damage done," Liss said. "His victims spoke up and said, 'My career was hurt by this behavior. I felt ashamed because this behavior. I felt targeted.' I was one of those women. I certainly paid a price then up until now."

Liss says she’s been harassed online since she came forward. But she says she feels relieved that the report verified what so many women described.

Cuomo has been adamant that he won't resign. So, what happens next?
New York's State Assembly has the power to start an impeachment proceeding, much like Congress. That would then go to the state Senate for a trial.

State legislators were already investigating Cuomo. The leader of the State Assembly, Democrat Carl Heastie, had resisted calling on Cuomo to resign, but last night he said Cuomo had lost the confidence of the Democratic majority and that he can no longer remain in office.

His remarks came after an hours-long conference with assembly members where many who were reluctant to vote for impeachment said they would consider it now. Although the timeline and exactly how that will play out are still not clear.

In Case You Missed It
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

U.S. Runners Sydney McLaughlin And Dalilah Muhammad Break Records In Women's 400-Meter Hurdles

Posted August 4, 2021 at 7:12 AM EDT
Two athletes hug.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Getty Images
Silver medalist Dalilah Muhammad (R) hugs gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin (L), after competing in the Women's 400m hurdles final at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

This year's women's 400-meter hurdles pitted the world record holder, Sydney McLaughlin, against the defending gold medalist, Dalilah Muhammad.

McLaughlin walked away with the gold, and Muhammad with the silver.

The teammates ended the race with a hug.

"I think that's really just iron sharpening iron," McLaughlin said of the two. "You know, you need somebody who's going to push you to be your best. And I think that's what we do so well."

The 400-meter hurdle event is having a moment at this year's Olympics. More on that here.

Just In
Coronavirus

A Moratorium On Evictions Prompted By The Pandemic Has Been Extended. Here’s What You Need To Know

Posted August 4, 2021 at 7:12 AM EDT

With a spike in new coronavirus cases linked to the highly infectious delta variant, the White House on Tuesday extended a federal moratorium on evictions after a previous one expired on Saturday.

The extension, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is aimed at keeping millions of Americans who’ve fallen behind on rent during the pandemic in their homes.

As NPR's Ayesha Rascoe explains,"the goal is to stop the spread of COVID among people who are less likely to be vaccinated. And a person who doesn’t have a home may not have a lot of options other than crowded, shared living situations.”

The latest order:

  • Covers parts of the U.S. experiencing what the CDC calls "substantial" and "high" spread of the coronavirus. Although the Biden administration is describing it as a partial ban, most U.S. counties are currently covered.
  • Applies to any tenant, lessee or resident earning no more than $99,000 (or $198,000 if filing jointly) who is unable to make a full rent or housing payment due to substantial loss of income or out of pocket medical expenses.
  • The person is using “best efforts” to pay as much as possible.
  • Expires Oct. 3

The extension could be the subject of new court challenges from landlords who’ve argued that the CDC doesn't have the authority to control their properties.

NPR’s Barbara Sprunt has more.