In our news wrap Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican leader Kevin McCarthy traded barbs over the House's reimposed masking requirements. McCarthy called them a bid for "control," and Pelosi referred to him as a "moron." Cooler weather and some rainfall brought momentary relief to firefighters in the Western U.S. The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy is still gaining strength.
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In the day's other news: The CDC reported that two-thirds of all U.S. counties are now COVID-19 hot spots, where even the vaccinated should resume wearing masks indoors.
In response, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security ordered all employees to mask up. The U.S. House of Representatives did likewise.
But Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy sharply criticized the move, and Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi was overheard reacting — quote — "He's such a moron."
The two party leaders kept up their war of words later at separate appearances.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):
To say that wearing a mask is not based on science, I think is not wise, and that was my comment. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):
This is just about more control. This is just the beginning of a set, because school is going to start coming back. They're going to shut school down again. This is about control.
Also today, Google rolled back plans for most of its workers to return to the office until mid-October.
On the vaccination front, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered state employees to get shots by Labor Day or face weekly testing. He singled out health care workers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY):
All patient-facing health care workers must get vaccinated. There will be no testing option for patient-facing health care workers. That is a point of contact. That could be a serious spreading event.
Meanwhile, Pfizer announced that testing shows its vaccine's effectiveness drops some, to 84 percent, over six months. That could lead to federal officials authorizing booster shots.
Cooler weather and spots of rainfall brought some momentary relief today to firefighters in the Western U.S. The weather helped crews working on the Dixie Fire in Northern California, the largest in that state. But officials warned that hotter, drier conditions could return by the weekend.
A Wisconsin judge has ordered that a former police officer be charged with killing a Black man in suburban Milwaukee in 2016. The judge rejected the man's claim that he found Jay Anderson Jr. his car and fired when Anderson reached for his gun. The former officer, who is also Black, later resigned.
Prosecutors had originally decided not to bring charges.
The Federal Reserve says the U.S. economy is still gaining strength. That assessment today could open the way to raising interest rates again later this year. Chairman Jerome Powell also said that the current spike in COVID cases doesn't seem to be a cause for alarm in terms of the economy.
Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman:
With successive waves of COVID over the past year and some months now, there has tended to be less economic — less in the way of economic implications from each wave. And we will see whether that is the case with the Delta variety, but it's certainly a — not an unreasonable expectation.
Powell said again that the latest rise in inflation appears to be only temporary.
In Russia, Moscow police raided the home of the chief editor at an online news outlet. The site has published stories about the Russian elite, and the government branded it a foreign agent. Today's raid is seen as part of a crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
The city of Tokyo topped 3,000 new COVID-19 cases today for the first time, as the Summer Olympics continued. At the Games, American Simone Biles withdrew from the all-around gymnastics competition, citing mental health reasons. She had pulled out of the team final yesterday. We will return to this later in the program.
And on Wall Street, stocks had a mixed day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 127 points to close below 34931. The Nasdaq rose 102 points. The S&P 500 slipped a fraction of a point.