Tuesday morning news – July 20, 2021

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kent Covington. 

Microsoft Exchange hack caused by China, US and allies say » The Biden administration and Western allies formally blamed China on Monday for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software.

President Biden said Monday…

BIDEN: My understanding is that the Chinese government, not unlike the Russia government, is not doing this themselves, but are protecting those who are doing it, and may even be accommodating them being able to do it.

Intelligence agencies say Chinese government-affiliated hackers have also targeted victims with ransomware—including in the United States—with demands for millions of dollars.

President Biden said the investigation is ongoing and the United States has not announced any new sanctions against China.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against four Chinese nationals.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman…

GROSSMAN: The indictment alleges that three of the four defendants were intelligence officers with the Ministry of State Security—or MSS. They implemented the alleged cyber attacks through front companies in order to conceal the government’s role in the illicit scheme.

The European Union and Britain also called out China. The EU said cybercrimes linked to Chinese hacking groups have targeted governments, political organizations, and key industries in the EU.

Biden releases first GITMO prisoner » The Biden administration took a step toward its goal of shutting down the Guantánamo Bay detention center for terror suspects Monday. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The administration released its first GITMO prisoner. U.S. officials sent Abdullatif Nasser back to his home country of Morocco. The U.S. government detained Nasser 19 years ago, but he was never formally charged.

The Obama administration launched the effort to shut down the detention center in Cuba. But it had trouble resolving the remaining few dozen cases, including finding secure sites to send some of the detainees.

In announcing Nasser’s transfer, the Pentagon cited a review board’s determination that holding Nasser was no longer necessary for U.S. national security.

Nasser arrived Monday in Morocco. Police took him into custody and said they would investigate him on suspicion of committing terrorist acts.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Biden on economy, COVID » Speaking at the White House on Monday, President Biden pushed back against Republican criticism of his massive spending plans.

Democrats are crafting a $3.5 trillion bill with new spending on social services, education and family programs.

That will be in addition to roughly $1 trillion in bipartisan spending on infrastructure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the plan is all the more irresponsible in light of rapidly rising costs in America.

MCCONNELL: Essentials like gas and groceries have gotten more and more expensive…

The president acknowledged growing concern over rising inflation, but he said it’s temporary. And argued that trillions in new spending will help.

BIDEN: These steps will enhance our productivity, raising wages without raising prices. That won’t increase inflation. It will take the pressure off of inflation, give a boost to our workforce, which leads to lower prices in the years ahead.

Republicans maintain that massive spending can only make inflation worse.

Democrats intend to push the new spending bill through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process without any GOP votes.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he’ll push to advance the bill later this week.

American athlete the latest to test positive for COVID at Olympic Village in Tokyo » More Olympic athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

Among the latest to test positive was Kara Eaker, an alternate on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. It was a so-called breakthrough infection, as the 18-year-old Eaker was vaccinated two months ago.

A growing list of athletes and others are testing positive ahead of the pandemic-delayed Olympics. Eaker is the first American on that list.

Dr. Brian McCloskey chairs an independent panel of medical experts for the Summer Olympic Games. He told reporters…

MCCLOSKEY: What we’re seeing is what we were expecting to see, essentially. If I thought that all the tests we did were going to be negative, then I wouldn’t bother doing the test in the first place.

The personal coach for both Eaker and fellow Olympic alternate Leanne Wong, confirmed the positive test on Monday. Eaker and Wong are now both isolating.

Largest wildfire in U.S. continues to expand » The nation’s largest wildfire torched more dry forest in Oregon Monday.

Marcus Kauffman is a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Forestry. He said the Bootleg Fire continues to spread.

KAUFFMAN: The eastern edge of the fire has been pretty much growing every day between 5, 10, 30, even 40,000 acres.

The destructive Bootleg Fire is burning in south-central Oregon just north of the California border. It grew this week to an area about the size of Los Angeles.

Firefighters Monday had to retreat from the flames for the ninth consecutive day due to erratic and dangerous fire behavior.

They pulled back as flames jumped containment lines and pushed into new territory.

At least 16 major fires are currently burning in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m Kent Covington. For more news, features, and analysis, visit us at wng.org. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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