You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

10 things you need to know today: May 24, 2020

The Week logo The Week 5/24/2020 Tim O'Donnell
a group of people walking on a city street: Venice Beach. © APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images Venice Beach.


Holiday travelers headed to the beach and elsewhere Saturday for Memorial Day weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the country nears 100,000 deaths related to the virus. Some places became so crowded they had to shut down, though there were also some surprise openings of outdoor sites like South Dakota's Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which wasn't expected to allow visitors so soon. In New York, which has achieved a sustained decline in new infections and deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he would allow up to 10 people to gather for nonessential activities, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. President Trump, meanwhile, took to the golf course for the first time in more than 70 days Saturday. [Reuters, USA Today]


The largest pro-democracy, anti-government protests since COVID-19 lockdowns began took place Sunday in Hong Kong, just days after China signaled it planned to directly impose national security laws on the city. The demonstrators believe Beijing's plan to bypass Hong Kong's local government and legislature violated the "one country, two systems" agreement it signed with the United Kingdom during a territorial exchange in 1997. China has denied the move will affect Hong Kong's autonomy, but many of the protesters now believe independence — considered a red line by Beijing — is the only way forward. During the rally, riot police fired tear gas on the crowd for the first time in weeks. [The Wall Street Journal, Reuters]


Wang Yanyi, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state media Sunday the lab was working on three live strains of bat coronavirus, but the closest genetic match to the virus that causes COVID-19 and sparked a global health crisis was only 79.8 percent. Therefore, Wang said, claims by the likes of President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus may have escaped from the facility are "pure fabrication." As tensions between the U.S. and China have heightened since the outbreak, Trump and Pompeo have leaned into the lab-origin theory. But the scientific consensus remains that the pathogen was passed from bats to humans through an intermediary species at a wet market in Wuhan last year, although it's becoming more challenging to pinpoint the animal. [The Guardian, Politico]


Spain is hoping to salvage as much of its tourism industry as possible as it emerges from coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Saturday that the country will reopen to overseas visitors starting July 2. He encouraged people to begin planning their vacations, though he said safety measures will be in place to protect both tourists and Spanish residents from infection. "We will guarantee that tourists will not run any risks, nor will they bring any risk to our country," he said. The prime minister also gave Spain's top professional soccer league, known as La Liga, permission to return June 8. There have been 235,290 confirmed coronavirus cases and 28,678 COVID-19 deaths in Spain, but the daily infection and fatality rates have steadily declined since the country went into a strict lockdown in March. [The Guardian, ESPN]


The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire with the Afghan government that will take effect when the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr begins Sunday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his country's soldiers would respect the truce. The two sides are mired in complicated negotiations to end their decades-long conflict, but direct talks have been delayed by a dispute over prisoner exchanges and an increase in fighting. There's hope the ceasefire — only the third since the conflict began — could lead to a longer-term reduction in violence, but the previous truces were unsuccessful in that regard. A similar ceasefire took place during Eid celebrations in 2018, and Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces were seen hugging each other and posing for selfies. But the Taliban has ordered their members not to enter government territory this time. [Al Jazeera, BBC]


Former Vice President Joe Biden won Hawaii's Democratic presidential primary Saturday, taking in 63 percent of the vote. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earned the remaining 37 percent. Sanders dropped out of the race in April, but has remained on primary ballots in an effort to keep picking up delegates and gain more influence over the party's policy platform going forward. After Hawaii, Biden has a total of 1,566 delegates, which puts him on pace to cross the threshold needed to secure the nomination by June. Hawaii's primary, which was delayed for weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, was held entirely by mail. [The Hill, Honolulu Star-Advertiser]


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has agreed to host a gathering of big money donors for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden, The New York Times reports. The event, which will take place online because of the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled for June 15, three people with knowledge of the plans told the Times on condition of anonymity. During Warren's own presidential campaign, which ended shortly after Super Tuesday in March, the senator, a progressive Democrat, vowed not to attend private events or call wealthy potential donors for contributions. Instead, she relied on grassroots donations. But Warren had previously built a network of high-dollar donors during her Senate campaigns and will reportedly turn to that group to aid Biden in his battle against President Trump. [The New York Times]


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust began Sunday in Jerusalem. It's the first time in the country's history a sitting prime minister has faced a criminal trial. Before entering the court house, Netanyahu called all three indictments "ludicrous" and said the investigations "were tained from day one." Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader, was sworn into office for a fourth consecutive term a week ago. After months of stalemate, he and his chief political rival Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, recently reached a power-sharing deal that will keep Netanyahu in power for the next 18 months even with the trial under way. Gantz will then take over for his own 18-month period. [Haaretz, Axios]


The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday rejected a California church's lawsuit claiming California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and other state officials violated its First Amendment rights with stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. The ruling said no violation occurred because the order, which was made in the interest of public health, "does not 'infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation.'" Newsom's four-stage reopening plan considers churches places where there's a high risk of spreading the virus, and therefore they won't open until the third stage. Currently, California is in its second phase. Earlier this week, more than 1,200 pastors in California signed a petition saying they will resume in-person services on May 31. [The Los Angeles Times, CNN]


Longtime college basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who learned two months ago he would be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in August, died Saturday of natural causes, his family said. He was 84. Sutton will enter the Hall of Fame posthumously in August, alongside the late Kobe Bryant. Sutton coached hoops for 50 years at six different colleges and one high school. Although he enjoyed success at most of his stops, his most prolific run was with Oklahoma State University, who he guided to two Final Fours in 1995 and 2004. During his 37 years at the Division I level, which include stints at Creighton University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Kentucky, and — briefly before retiting in 2008 — the University of San Francisco, he only had two losing seasons. His 806 career victories still ranks in the top 25 all-time. [Fox News, ESPN]


More from The Week

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon