Fourth of July, Florida Condo Collapse, Stanley Cup: Your Weekend Briefing


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Here are the week’s top stories, and a look ahead.

1. Americans are returning to their rituals for July 4 as Covid-19 cases hold steady.

New cases are at 12,000 a day, the lowest since testing became widely available. The average of fewer than 300 daily deaths is a decline of 23 percent over the past two weeks. Americans are riding a wave of optimism: Travel is expected to be up 40 percent over last year. The number of airline passengers is expected to be up 164 percent.

For parents whose children are too young to be vaccinated, the holiday is trickier. Here’s some perspective, and some basic advice.

President Biden has invited 1,000 military personnel and essential workers to an Independence Day bash on the South Lawn of the White House. But public health experts fear the gathering will send the wrong message as wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable.

In the bigger picture, some Americans are considering, or reconsidering, what the flag means to them.

2. Florida officials are rushing to demolish what remains of Champlain Towers South.

Worried that Tropical Storm Elsa could topple the partially collapsed structure, Mayor Charles Burkett of Surfside said demolition could begin as early as Sunday. The demolition would cause “the most minimal interruption” of search and rescue work, officials said.

In the wake of the collapse, engineers have been struck by a possible flaw in the building’s construction: Critical places near its base appeared to have less steel reinforcement than called for in the project’s original design drawings.

The bodies of six more victims were found on Friday, bringing the total to 24. As many as 124 people are still unaccounted for. Tumultuous conflict over how the building was run was an open secret in the years leading to its collapse.


3. U.S. combat troops are out of Afghanistan. But the White House is trying to convince Afghans that the U.S. is not abandoning the country.

The military will help Afghan forces by teleconference. Armed Air Force drones will hunt terrorists from bases eight hours away. The Biden administration still plans to provide the Afghan government more than $3 billion in security assistance.

In reality, much has changed. The U.S. departure from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan this past week was marked by little fanfare, and the new tenants are the Afghan security forces. The physical objects left behind are reminders of decades of loss.

Intelligence analysts estimate that Kabul could fall to the Taliban in as little as six months.


4. Hundreds of businesses around the world were hit by a cyberattack.

One of Sweden’s largest grocery chains, Coop, had to close at least 800 stores on Saturday. A Swedish railroad and a major pharmacy chain were also hit, according to a cybersecurity researcher. Some of the affected companies were asked for $5 million in ransom.

Security researchers said the attack might have been carried out by REvil, a Russian cybercriminal group that the F.B.I. has said was behind the hacking of JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, in May. The attack targeted a software provider, Kaseya, which provides services to more than 40,000 organizations.

At a congressional hearing in May, the chief executives of Wall Street’s six largest banks said the greatest threat to their companies and the wider financial system was cybersecurity. The Times’s DealBook newsletter examines the risks of such an attack.


5. Brazilians are protesting President Jair Bolsonaro over a vaccine scandal.

The attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into Bolsonaro’s role in a corruption scheme in which health ministry officials solicited bribes from vaccine dealers. The outrage drew tens of thousands of Brazilians to the streets in several cities on Saturday, the third large wave of demonstrations in recent weeks.

The inquiry is likely to pose a major threat to Bolsonaro’s re-election bid next year, and perhaps even his ability to serve out the remainder of his term.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems convinced that a high vaccination rate has broken the link between cases and hospitalizations and is gambling on reopening.


6. In the case against Donald Trump’s company, there are echoes of his father.

The details of the charges brought by a grand jury against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have a rather low-rent feel that one might associate with a scrappy real-estate operation.

Weisselberg is accused of receiving $1.76 million in tax-free benefits over 15 years, doled out in a strikingly small-bore and incremental way. The alleged scheme resembles an updated version of Fred Trump’s $16,135 boilers, which he bought from himself for his apartment buildings in the 1990s, inflating the bill and skimming off the extra money for his children to avoid gift and inheritance taxes.


7. Chinese millennials are chilling. Beijing isn’t happy.

Five years ago, Luo Huazhong quit his job in a factory, biked 1,300 miles to Tibet and started working odd jobs. He called his new lifestyle “lying flat,” or tangping in Mandarin. His blog post about it, “Lying Flat Is Justice,” went viral and became a broader statement about Chinese society for millennials who are defying the country’s prosperity narrative by refusing to participate in it: forgoing marriage, children, jobs, houses and cars.

The ruling Communist Party has targeted the idea as a threat to stability. The authorities barred posts on a tangping forum with more than 200,000 members and required e-commerce platforms to stop selling clothes, phone cases and other merchandise branded with “tangping.”

8. The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from a sweep — and a second straight N.H.L. championship.

The most scrutinized position in sports might be the starting goaltender in Montreal: Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and now Carey Price. He waited 14 years for his first finals appearance, but in a possible passing of the torch, he has been outplayed by his Lightning counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Game 4 is Monday night.

With a week left at Wimbledon, all eyes are on the top-seeded woman, Ashleigh Barty. She’s the one in the scalloped hemline — a tribute to Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won Wimbledon 50 years ago and, like Barty, is of Indigenous Australian ancestry. In the tournament’s final week, enjoy the squash shots: Roger Federer’s gift to tennis, spectacular to watch and fun to hit.


Shaminder Dulai compiled photos for this briefing.

Your Weekend Briefing is published Sundays at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.

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