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News Wrap: Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing new criminal charges

In our news wrap Wednesday, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing new criminal charges ahead of elections next month, crews in northern California encounter new flare-ups from the Dixie Fire, dozens of fires raging in Algeria have now claimed at least 65 lives, and New York state's incoming governor, Kathy Hochul, promised to change the culture in state government.

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  • William Brangham:

    The U.S. Senate has gone home for its summer recess, leaving a big spending fight for the fall.

    Early today, Democrats passed a blueprint for a $3.5 trillion bill to expand family, health and environmental programs. But, party moderate Joe Manchin of West Virginia warned the price tag has to come down when actual spending bills are voted on.

    And, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged there`s tough going ahead.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

    There are some in my caucus who might believe it`s too much, there are some in my caucus who believe it`s too little. In reconciliation, one, we are going to all come together to get something done. And, two, it will have every part of the Biden plan in big — in a big, bold, robust way.

  • William Brangham:

    The U.S. House will cut short its recess and return this month to try and pass the budget outline and a bipartisan infrastructure plan. We`ll return to all of this, after the news summary.

    On the pandemic, California today became the first state to require all public school teachers and school staff to get vaccinated, or get tested weekly.

    Also today, the CDC fully recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated. It said new research shows the vaccines do not increase miscarriages. Infections are rising among mothers-to-be, and their vaccination rates are low.

    Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing new criminal charges, as the Kremlin cracks down ahead of elections next month. Officials alleged today that Navalny`s anti-corruption group incited illegal protests, by highlighting government corruption. Navalny is already in prison for violating parole when he was treated in Germany for a poison attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.

    In Afghanistan, three more provincial capitals fell to the Taliban today, making nine so far. The latest are in northeastern and western provinces. Insurgents also seized an army headquarters in Kunduz. This lightning advance comes amid the U.S. withdrawal. But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby dismissed suggestions that officials underestimated the Taliban.

  • John Kirby, Pentagon Spokesman:

    We could revisit the past all you want but what matters really is today and where we are now. And again, we believe that Afghan forces have what they need to make a significant difference and it`s really going to come down to leadership.

  • William Brangham:

    Kirby would not confirm reports that U.S. intelligence now believes the Afghan capital, Kabul, could fall within weeks. We`ll explore why later in the program.

    Dozens of fires raging in Algeria have now claimed at least 65 lives, including 28 soldiers who were fighting the flames. The fires have scorched forests and villages across the North African country`s mountainous region, leaving a thick, smoky haze. Algeria will observe three days of national mourning, starting tomorrow.

    Crews in northern California are facing new flare-ups from the Dixie Fire. It`s already the state`s largest ever, and has burned more than 550 homes. Many were in Greenville, where before and after satellite images show the devastation, after the fire swept through last week.

    Making matters worse, a new heat wave moved into the Pacific Northwest, which could send temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical storm "Fred" formed in the Caribbean overnight, and crossed the Dominican Republic hours later. The storm is on track to pass north of Cuba on Friday before moving toward Florida this weekend. Downpours of up to six inches of rain could trigger flooding and mudslides.

    The incoming governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, promised today to change the culture in state government. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning over allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women.

    Hochul, who is also a Democrat, is now lieutenant governor. She said today she had not known about Cuomo`s alleged abuses.

  • Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D):

    I think it`s very clear that the governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise, in terms of much time. I`m going to stand right here. At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.

  • William Brangham:

    Hochul will be the first woman to serve as governor of New York. Consumer prices rose again in July. The pace was slower, but prices are still up nearly 5.5 percent from a year ago. President Biden today urged OPEC to pump more oil and bring down prices. He also asked regulators to investigate gasoline pricing.

    And, on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial Average gained 220 points to close near 35,485, a new record. The Nasdaq fell 23 points. But, the S&P 500 added 11, also hitting a record close.

    And, the venerable game show "Jeopardy!" has two new hosts after a highly publicized search. Executive producer Mike Richards was named today as the regular host. Actor Mayim Bialik will headline primetime specials and spinoffs. Longtime host Alex Trebek died of cancer last year.

    Still to come on the NewsHour: how the Taliban staged this push to take control of Afghanistan. The challenges of returning to in-person classes in a state spiking with COVID. Why Russia struggles against the delta variant and low vaccination rates. Plus, much more.

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