Iran's Got A New Leader, At Least 10 Are Dead After A Van Overturns, A New Push For Electric Cars: News You Need To Start Your Day

Published August 4, 2021 at 1:25 PM EDT
General Motors Installs Charging Stations For Cruise Self-Driving Fleet
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Bloomberg
A sign at a parking space in San Francisco.

Good Thursday morning.

These are the stories we're watching:

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, Iraq's new hard-line president, to be sworn in today, could put a bigger chill on relations with the U.S.

— The Morning Edition live blog team
Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Nicole Hernandez, Casey Noenickx, Scott Neuman and Carol Ritchie

CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

The FDA Needs To Speed Up Full Approval Of COVID-19 Vaccines, Physician Says

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Full FDA approval of the coronavirus vaccines would go a long way toward convincing the vaccine hesistant to get the shot, says Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University.

“But more importantly, I think it will convince some businesses that are currently on the fence about vaccine requirements to actually go that step and make the vaccines mandatory for employees,” Wen says in a conversation with Morning Edition’s A Martínez.

We’re already well past the six-month mark for collecting enough safety data to determine if full approval should go ahead, she says.

Besides reassuring the public that vaccines are safe, full approval would allow pharmaceutical companies to do marketing. That would help with public education, Wen notes.

The delay in fully greenlighting the vaccines has led to public confusion about the approval process, she says.

How to fix that? Outline the procedure, step by step, so that “people will know that it wasn’t just politics driving this process.” Listen to the full conversation here.

Just In
Climate Policy

Here's What We Know About The New Emissions Standards Biden's Announcing Today

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Four electric vehicle charging stations glow green in the evening light.
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AFP
An electric vehicle charging station lights up green in the parking lot of a Ralph's supermarket in Monterey Park, Calif. President Biden is expected to sign an executive order Thursday setting a schedule for vehicle standards in the years to come.

President Biden is expected to release a plan today that would set new emissions and fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

The new rules, which span "multiple thousands of pages" according to an official, are based off of a deal California made with automakers including Ford, BMW, Honda and Volkswagen. The agreement asked that automakers adopt a 3.7% annual improvement in fuel economy and emission standards through 2026.

Biden is expected to also sign an executive order setting a goal that by the end of the decade, half of all new cars sold will be zero-emission vehicles.

NPR's Asma Khalid and Roberta Rampton have all the details on Biden's new emission standards as well as early reaction from the auto industry.

International News

Iran Has A New President, But He’s Unlikely To Move The Needle On Relations With The U.S.

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The two leaders face each other while wearing face masks.
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Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) gives his official seal of approval to Iran's newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi (R) on August 3, 2021, in Tehran, Iran.

Iran today is inaugurating a new president -- hardliner Ebrahim Raisi. He was elected in June to succeed outgoing President Hassan Rouhani. Raisi, who is already under U.S. sanctions for his role in executing Iraqi prisoners of war in the late 1980s, will likely pursue sanctions relief, but otherwise isn’t keen on engaging the West.

NPR’s Peter Kenyon explains on Morning Edition that a Raisi administration in Tehran doesn’t bode well for improving U.S.-Iran relations. He’s close to Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, and the two “share the same kind of hardline views when it comes to defending the revolution [and] confronting the West,” says Kenyon.

“[Raisi's] top goal has to be getting American sanctions on Iran lifted. Iran desperately needs to sell more of its oil, get its economy back on its feet, because people are really suffering,” Kenyon reports. That likely means engaging the U.S. and the other signatories on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as it included sanctions relief. But beyond that, it doesn’t seem that Raisi will be particularly interested in going further to improve relations with Washington.

Listen to more of Kenyon's reporting on Iran's inauguration of Raisi here.

National

The Eviction Moratorium Extension Buys Time Before Legal Challenges Kick In

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Rep. Cori Bush Sleeps Outside Capitol Building In Push To Extend Federal Eviction Moratorium
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A sign is displayed at a rally in support of an extension of the federal eviction moratorium in Washington, D.C. on July 31.

President Biden says he’s not sure if the latest extension of a federal eviction moratorium will survive legal challenges, but he’s hoping that it will buy renters time while it wends its way through the courts.

On Tuesday, Biden said: “By the time it gets litigated, it will probably give some additional time, while we're getting that $45 billion out to people who are in fact behind in the rent and don't have the money.”

NPR’s Laurel Wamsley explains that while the latest 60-day extension to the ban on evictions is not much different than previous extensions, it only applies to counties with substantial transmission of COVID-19. But as of right now, that applies to most of the U.S.

Cashauna Hill, executive director of Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, tells NPR “people are worried. They’re terrified” about losing their homes. Part of the problem, Wamsley reports, is that “overwhelmed and understaffed” state and local governments have had to set up their own programs for distributing funds.

Case in point: Louisiana has gotten $550 million to help tenants and landlords, but Gov. John Bel Edwards says the state has only approved $61 million for distribution.

Click here for more on the new federal eviction moratorium.

The Pandemic

The WHO Wants Rich Countries To Not Give COVID Boosters Until Poorer Countries Get Vaccinated

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Three men in face masks, rubber boots, and yellow jackets spray a city street.
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Workers disinfect a street to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2020. Haiti received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in mid-July, which were donated through the COVAX vaccine sharing program.

The World Health Organization is calling for rich countries to hold off on giving booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine until more people in poorer countries are fully immunized.

The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Wednesday that it was unacceptable that “countries that have already used most of the global supply” are using “even more of it, while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected.”

As NPR’s Jason Beaubien tells Morning Edition, with more than 80% of vaccines administered so far to people in higher- and middle-income countries, the WHO is frustrated with the lack of global access to vaccines.

“Poorer countries continue to struggle just to get their hands on vaccines, and this is despite the WHO highlighting this problem for months now,” he says.

The WHO has argued that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe. That's because the longer large portions of the world go unvaccinated, the more chance there is for new, more infectious or more deadly variants to emerge.

Read more about the WHO's stance on COVID vaccine boosters here.

STEM

These Phenomenal Women Of Science Were Given Their Own One-Of-A-Kind Barbie Dolls

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Barbie can add another job to her (very lengthy) resume: Vaccinologist.

That's because there's now a Barbie modeled after British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, who co-led the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It won't be available in stores though. Mattel has made six one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls in the likeness of real-life women working to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the other dolls represent Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a Canadian psychiatry resident who advocated against systemic racism in healthcare, and Amy O’Sullivan, a Brooklyn front-line nurse who returned to treating COVID-19 patients after she fell ill herself and recovered.

Read more here from NPR's Xcaret Nuñez on the women the Barbie dolls were made to honor.

Our Changing Climate

A New Program Will Help People Get Affordable A/C Amid Record-Breaking Heat

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It’s another scorching summer, even in the parts of the country known for their frigid winters. And in New England, heat is generally seen as essential while cooling is more of a luxury.

This is despite record-setting summer highs, historic heat waves and thousands of premature U.S. deaths associated with hot weather annually.

Martha Bebinger of WBUR brings us the story of one Massachusetts community rethinking their approach.

That’s Chelsea, a predominantly low-income community outside of Boston. Officials got funding from a local nonprofit for 73 air conditioning units, and held a lottery to distribute them to residents based on income, illness and family size. Some 700 people applied.

One of the recipients is Josefa Mendez, who had her teenage son fill out the application because she cannot read or write. She lost work as a housekeeper during the pandemic and is two months behind on rent.

“These air conditioners, you can tell they’re expensive. They don’t look cheap,” she said. “People with jobs can buy them, but us who are sick and without jobs can’t.”

And that lack of access is a huge problem, say public health experts and health care providers.

For more on potential solutions, read the full story.

International Dispatch
Latin America

Illegal Guns Are Flooding Mexico. So The Country Is Suing U.S. Manufacturers

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There’s only one legal gun store in all of Mexico. But still, the country is littered with high-powered weapons. Most are smuggled in from the United States.

Both countries have failed to stop the trafficking, so the Mexican government is taking an unprecedented step: It’s suing arms manufacturers.

James Fredrick has been following the story from Mexico City and spoke with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.

What Mexico wants: Mexican officials claim that firearms companies are responsible for roughly 340,000 illegal guns smuggled into Mexico annually. They want an estimated $10 billion in damages — they say is the economic loss due to gun violence in Mexico.

And they want Americans to understand the scale of the damage U.S. guns cause in Mexico. From 2016 to 2020, there were 120,000 firearm homicides in Mexico. That's more than the number of firearm homicides in the U.S. during that same window — but Mexico has less than half the population of the U.S.

Plus, the drug cartels and other organized crime groups in Mexico are horrifyingly well-armed. "There have now been multiple cases of cartels shooting Mexican police or military helicopters out of the sky," Fredrick says. And "cartels regularly outgun police and military forces" in Mexico.

How they plan to prove U.S. gun makers are at fault: As Fredrick explains, "it's almost impossible to buy a gun in Mexico; there's one store in the entire country. So almost all the weapons are trafficked into Mexico — almost entirely from the U.S."

Plus, the lawsuit says Colt, an American firearms manufacturer, has been marketing to Mexican cartels with three specialty pistols: the El Jefe, El Grito and the Emiliano Zapata 1911. All three have become status symbols among cartel gunmen.

That said, U.S. law makes it incredibly hard to sue firearms manufacturers. However, just last week Remington Arms offered a $33 million settlement to some of the families of the victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Remington Arms made the rifles used in that shooting.

Just In
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

🥉 The U.S. Women's Soccer Team Wins Bronze In 4-3 Game Against Australia

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USA's forward Carli Lloyd (2nd L) is congratulated by teammates after scoring during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Thursday.

The U.S. Women's National Soccer team will be coming home with the Bronze medal — not the medal they'd hoped for going into the games as Women's World Cup champions — but an Olympic medal nevertheless.

NPR's Russell Lewis has a full play-by-play of the Bronze-medal match against Australia.

Just In
Texas

At Least 10 Dead And 20 Injured After Van Carrying Migrants Overturns In Texas

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As Texas Public Radio's Dan Katz and Carolina Cuellar are reporting, an overcrowded van carrying 29 people and the driver crashed Wednesday.

According the Texas Department of Public Safety, speed was a factor in the crash. The vehicle was only designed to carry 15 people, and tipped over while trying to drive around a curve in the road. The driver of the vehicle is among the 10 deceased. The 20 survivors were seriously injured.

This is just the latest in a string of major fatal crashes involving migrants this year. More from Texas Public Radio.

Tokyo Olympics 🥇

A Unofficial Sport At The Tokyo Olympics: Bus Spotting

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 Ryotaro Mori says he's been bus spotting for 30 years, since he was 12 years old. When he's not working as a commercial photographer, he snaps the buses using a camera with a long zoom lens.
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NPR
Ryotaro Mori says he's been bus spotting for 30 years, since he was 12 years old. When he's not working as a commercial photographer, he snaps the buses using a camera with a long zoom lens.

It's like train spotting, but nicer.

Outside event venues and the media center at the 2020 Olympics, amateur photographers are snapping pictures of the hundreds of buses shuttling foreign journalists, athletes and officials.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco explains that bus spotting is a popular pastime, not only in Japan but in Hong Kong, Singapore and other parts of the world too.

Click to read more about Olympic bus spotters.

Before You Go
Design

A Dutch Designer Uses AI To Create Fashion That Encourages Social Distancing

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Would you wear a dress that signals to people that they’re standing too close to you?

Or how about a shirt that changes color when it senses a change in your mood?

Those are actual creations Dutch fashion designer and engineer Anouk Wipprecht has been working on for 20 years.

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The "Pangolin Dress" by Anouk Wipprecht

Her distinctive 'fashion tech' designs combine couture, interactive technology and artificial intelligence.

“So, on a day I am coding and designing, I am sewing and anything and everything that has to do with the body and technology and electronics,” Wipprecht told Morning Edition.

Check it out ⤵

How it started

Growing up in the Netherlands, she was influenced by American culture after watching MTV in the 90s.

“I was really fascinated by the notion that the people really express themselves through basically the things that they wear,” she remembers.

When she was 14 years old, she started making women’s clothing. By 17, while in fashion school, she started to feel a bit unfulfilled.

"I started to notice that the garments that I was creating were 'analog'. They were not doing anything. They were not sensory. They were not changing. "

So, she decided to create something she’d never seen. She began designing with microcontrollers, robotics, and small motors.

“And that's really made it complete for me.”

How it's going

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Anouk Wipprecht modeling her "Spider Dress" which with the help of long, spider-like tentacles reacts to movement.

One of her most notable designs is aptly named “The Spider Dress.”

On the shoulders of the dress, there are long spider-like tentacles that move with the help of sensors. “It measures the intimate space, the personal space, the social space and the public space of the wearer,” she explains.

“Whenever somebody comes into the personal space, it's attacking because of the mechanical failure sense that the dress has.”

That 3D printed design, which now has several iterations, has been worn by models and displayed around the U.S and the world, including China, Russia and Amsterdam.

When COVID hit, Wipprecht borrowed some of the aesthetic from her Spider creation and designed the "Proximity Dress," which she hoped would help people better understand how to socially distance.

The "Proximity Dress", which expands to reinforce social distancing when someone gets too close.
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Courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht
The "Proximity Dress" which expands to reinforce social distancing when someone gets too close.

This white dress looks unassuming, but uses ultrasonic range finders that allow it to puff up or inflate when someone gets near. Wipprecht wore it at a park in Miami where she lives.

The interactive outfit, which she called a “very elegant way to use sensors,” helped people get the point — to give each other space.

The Proximity Dress in action

courtesy of Anouk Wipprecht

Her designs are conversation starters. And could even help people discuss tough topics.

Right now, she's being commissioned to work on several wearable prototypes that visually measure things like anxiety and depression.

“We live in a time and age that's sort of the negative emotions start to take over, Wipprecht explains. "A lot of people start getting into more depressive mode, maybe not wanting to speak about it and all of that stuff. So, it might even create a situation that these things become more discussable.”