In our news wrap Wednesday, dozens of wildfires are still burning across the Pacific Northwest and California. President Trump declared a federal disaster in Oregon, where several small towns have been razed. But improved weather is helping fire crews, some of whom stopped a blaze just 500 feet from the famed Mt. Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles. Also, jazz expert Stanley Crouch died at age 74.
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In the day's other news: Dozens of wildfires kept burning across the Pacific Northwest and California.
President Trump declared a federal disaster in Oregon, where several small towns have been razed. But improved weather is helping. In California today, crews stopped a fire just 500 feet from the famed Mount Wilson Observatory.
Federal health agencies and the Pentagon today outlined plans to make COVID-19 vaccines available for free to all Americans. The campaign would begin gradually late this year or early next year.
At a U.S. Senate hearing, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned that the supply will be very limited at first.
If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third — late second quarter, third quarter 2021.
Later, President Trump said that Director Redfield made a mistake in his estimate.
Redfield also defended his agency's scientific integrity, and he dismissed claims that CDC scientists are plotting against President Trump's reelection. That charge came from Trump appointee Michael Caputo at the Health and Human Services Department.
Today, the department announced that Caputo is taking a two-month leave of absence.
The Big Ten Conference has reversed field and will play college football after all this fall, with pandemic precautions. Officials today announced eight regular season games, starting next month, plus a conference title game. That would make the winner eligible for the national championship.
In the presidential campaign, Democrat Joe Biden blasted President Trump's latest statements on the pandemic. In a town hall last night, the president played down the need for masks and said he had done all that could be done.
Biden spoke today in Wilmington, Delaware.
Former Vice President Joseph Biden:
All the president had to offer last night, President Trump, was the same weak and feckless inaction.
Let me be clear: I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don't trust Donald Trump. And, at this moment, the American people can't either.
Biden also dismissed claims by the Trump campaign that he is trying to undermine public confidence in a potential vaccine for political gain.
A U.S. House committee has issued a scathing report on the Boeing 737 MAX. It blamed failed government oversight and Boeing's failure to fix problems for crashes that killed 346 people. It also calls for major reform.
We will discuss all of this after the news summary.
The State Department today defended the firing of Inspector General Steve Linick. He had been reviewing an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, among other things.
At a congressional hearing, department officials rejected Democrats' allegations of a cover-up led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.:
The fact that we had to drag you up here kicking and screaming itself makes me think that the department has been trying to hide the truth.
The I.G.'s removal was not about retaliation on any specific report or investigation. There have been a variety of unsubstantiated allegations in the media that the secretary recommended removal of the I.G. because of some awareness of these investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Linick is one of several officials who've been dismissed from oversight roles in the Trump administration.
The Parliament of Japan elected Yoshihide Suga today to be prime minister. He had long been the top aide to Shinzo Abe, who resigned as prime minister due to chronic illness. After his election, Suga promised to focus on the pandemic and economic troubles. He also called for even closer ties with the U.S.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with computer hacking more than 100 companies and organizations in the U.S. and worldwide. The five suspects remain at large. Investigators say they found no direct connection between the hackers and the Chinese government.
The Federal Reserve announced today that it has no plans to raise interest rates, at least through 2023, in order to boost economic growth. Chairman Jerome Powell said that the economy has recovered more quickly than expected, but he said the outlook is still uncertain.
The labor market has improved, but it's a long, long way from max employment. And it will be some time getting back there. I think that's the best way to think about it. In many parts of the economy, there's just a lot of disruption, and it's really hard to say precisely where we are.
Powell also urged Congress to do more, but lawmakers remain deadlocked on a new relief package.
On Wall Street, tech stocks led much of the market lower, despite the Fed's announcement. The Dow Jones industrial average managed to gain 36 points, to close at 28032. But the Nasdaq fell nearly 140 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 15.
And the well-known intellectual and jazz authority Stanley Crouch died today in New York. He gained notice in the 1970s as a highly original and highly confrontational writer and cultural critic. He championed jazz, he denounced rap music, and wrote extensively, including a biography of jazz great Charlie Parker.
Stanley Crouch was 74 years old.