The Rundown for June 29, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached
2,548,991 and the death toll stands at 125,803, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union” yesterday that the “window is closing” for the U.S. to control the pandemic. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that he is ordering seven counties across the state to close bars immediately. Newsom also recommended eight other counties to take the same action.

TRUMP DENIES KNOWLEDGE OF RUSSIA-TALIBAN DEAL… President Trump denies knowing anything about an arrangement in which Russian military officials reportedly offered to secretly pay Taliban fighters for killing American troops in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported that two U.S. officials learned months ago of a Russian intelligence unit offering the bounties. American spies and special forces commandos reportedly told their superiors about the plot as early as January after discovering a Taliban outpost rife with U.S. currency. According to the report, American intelligence officials told the president about the findings in March and offered a number of options for reprimanding Russia, but Trump sought no retaliation. The Washington Post reported that U.S. forces suffered 10 deaths in 2018, 16 in 2019 and two so far this year due to hostile gunfire or bombs but it is unknown how many of the deaths resulted from the Russian bounty program.

TRUMP SHARES ‘WHITE POWER!’ TWEET… President Trump drew widespread condemnation yesterday after retweeting a video in which a man driving a golf cart with a Trump 2020 sign and Trump flag yells “white power!” The video was shot at a large retirement community in Florida where Trump supporters clashed with supporters. South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott called the clip “terrible” and “inappropriate.” The president undid the retweet.

MISSISSIPPI TO CHANGE FLAG… Lawmakers in Mississippi voted yesterday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from their state flag. The removal comes more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design. Republican Governor Tate Reeves has vowed to sign the bill and if he does, a commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and that must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to approve the new design in the November 3 election.

GAS PRICES JUMP BY 6 CENTS A GALLON… The average price for a gallon of regular-grade gasoline increased by 6 cents over the past two weeks to $2.22 per gallon, according to a nationwide survey of gas stations released yesterday. The Lundberg Survey found that the most expensive gas was in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it cost $3.15 per gallon. The cheapest gas was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a gallon of gas cost $1.78.

… The Rolling Stones are threatening President Trump with legal action over his use of their songs at his rallies despite cease-and-desist directives. In a statement released yesterday, that band claims its legal team is working with music-rights organization BMI to stop use of their material in Trump’s re-election campaign events. BMI has notified the Trump campaign that if it plays Stones music again at an event, it will be in breach of its licensing agreement.

LIL BABY TOPS ALBUM CHART… Lil Baby’s “My Turn” topped the Billboard 200 chart for the fourth time after selling 70,000 copies. Bob Dylan’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways” opened in second place with 53,000 units sold. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s “Artist 2.0” leaped into third place on sales of 43,000 copies. DaBaby’s “Blame It On Baby” slipped into fourth place on sales of 37,000 equivalent album units. Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding” capped the top five with 36,000 copies sold.

… ESPN reported last night that former NFL MVP Cam Newton has agreed on a one-year deal with the New England Patriots. ‬‪Newton was released by the Carolina Panthers on March 24 after nine seasons with the team that picked him as the No. 1 overall selection in 2011. He joins Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer atop New England’s quarterback depth chart following Tom Brady’s free-agent signing with Tampa Bay… In other Patriots news, the team will lose a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and pay a $1.1 million fine with its video crew will not allowed to record games during the 2020 season. The sanctions are punishment for a the team employing a video crew that got caught filming from the Cincinnati Bengals’ press box during the Bengals’ home game against the Cleveland Browns last season.