Nearly 100 dead at Surfside condo collapse site, Biden to speak on voting rights: 5 Things podcast – USA TODAY

Taylor Wilson  |  USA TODAY

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: President Biden will speak in Philadelphia on Tuesday after Texas Democrats left the state to block a GOP voting bill. Plus, nearly 100 people are dead in the Miami condo collapse, severe heat lingers in the West, Cuban protesters are desperate amid COVID-19 and poverty and the MLB All-Star Game is back.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning, I’m Taylor Wilson. And this is 5 Things you need to know Tuesday, the 13th of July 2021. Today, the fight for voting rights, plus an update from the Miami collapse and more.

Taylor Wilson:

Here are some of the top headlines.

  1. Miles of beaches in Los Angeles have been temporarily closed after 17 million gallons of sewage from the city’s largest treatment plants spilled into Santa Monica Bay and mechanical failure at the plant caused the spill.
  2. A woman had to be restrained with tape and cuffs on an American Airlines flight last week. She allegedly tried to open the plane’s boarding door and assaulted a flight attendant.
  3. And the 2021 Emmy nominations are out Tuesday. They’ll recognize programming that aired during the 12 months before the end of May.

Taylor Wilson:

President Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia on Tuesday to talk about voting rights and to push back against Republican-led states passing laws that restrict voting access. At least 14 states have enacted laws that restrict voting access after last year’s presidential election. That includes in Texas where Republicans want to outlaw 24-hour polling places and ban ballot drop boxes. Democrats in the Texas House on Monday left the state to derail a special session of the legislature that Governor Greg Abbott called to consider the voting measure and other bills. In a joint statement, they wrote, “Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote.” Vice President Kamala Harris applauded the Democrats efforts.

Kamala Harris:

I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans and all Texans to express their voice through their vote unencumbered. They are leaders who are marching in the path that so many others before did when they fought and many died for our right to vote. And I’ll say this later in my comments, but I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie. It is so fundamental to fighting for the principles of our democracy.

Taylor Wilson:

But Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott is taking a hard line stance and threatening to arrest the lawmakers.

Greg Abbott:

I can and I will continue to call special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out, wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.

Taylor Wilson:

Texas Democrats move denies the GOP majority in the state, a quorum to pass bills. They previously walked out of the state house of representatives a few weeks ago. For his part, President Biden has stressed the importance of voting rights. He tasked Vice President Harris with leading the administration’s efforts to protect ballot access. Last week, she announced a $25 million expansion of a democratic initiative to strengthen voter education, voter protection, targeted voter registration, and new technology to increase voter access.

Taylor Wilson:

The death toll in the Surfside, Florida condo collapse has risen to 94. 83 of those victims have been identified and 22 people remain unaccounted for. It’s now been 19 days since Champlain Towers South collapsed. And while bodies are still being found every day, workers at the site are also focused on preserving the personal possessions of victims for their families. Officials are increasing security around the site to make sure it’s preserved. And Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said Monday that the site has become a kind of holy place.

Mayor Charles Burkett:

Given it is a very sort of holy site at this point because we’ve lost so many lives, we’re going to be tightening the security around that site. And it’s only going to be authorized personnel that will be allowed near that site. And I think Director Ramirez is handling that. And I support that decision. I think that’s the right thing to do because it’s obvious that this has become much more than a collapsed building site. It is a holy site for lack of a better word. I also wanted to share a poignant bit of information gleaned during my visit to the site about an hour ago for the benefit of our families, which is my primary concern. As I talked with the overnight search teams, they described how carefully they are consistently going through the debris pile.

Charles Burkett:

As you know, the other day I talked about intact wine bottles being found. So carefully in fact, that when they found a business card in the debris that listed the occupation of the cardholder as an artist, they as a result of that clue began looking around and found paintings in the area, which they were able to pull out of the rubble and preserve for their family. This type of professionalism and compassion is emblematic of the amazing work that is being done at the site. The work overnight was halted several times for bad weather as you heard, but the site and the debris pile compared to yesterday is nonetheless dramatically further reduced.

Taylor Wilson:

As for the ongoing question of why the building collapsed, investigations are ongoing, ranging from the local to federal level. Some hints might be found in the building’s sister, Champlain Towers North, which remained standing. That building went through a mandatory evacuation after the South Towers collapsed and has since been under a voluntary evacuation, but the two buildings are not exactly the same. Allyn Kilsheimer is the owner of Washington DC based KCE Structural Engineers. He was tasked by Surfside to figure out what caused the collapse. Kilsheimer told the USA TODAY Network that the two buildings actually had two different structural engineers who allowed for two different foundation materials. He said the North building called for precast concrete piles and the collapsed South building called for precast concrete piles or pressure injected footings. He said those different foundations can respond to environmental impacts differently. Kilsheimer has experienced investigating the Oklahoma city bombing in 1995 and the Pentagon after 9/11. He has not yet been given access to the collapsed building, but has been investigating the integrity of the North Towers.

Taylor Wilson:

He said his team has found nothing from that building that makes them concerned and added, “I would let my kids and grandkids stay in this building.” He next wants to find out what foundation was used at the South Towers and compare that to the North while also taking samples from the soil. Kilsheimer said he’s also looking for a trigger in the collapse and believes there could be multiple factors. It’s still not clear what role water played in bringing the building down. Videos and photos over the years and in the days leading up to the collapse from both engineers and residents in the building show major water entering the basement garage.

Taylor Wilson:

Record breaking heat around the West eased up a bit on Monday, but a so-called heat dome could keep temperatures well above average all week. The dome refers to a strong change in ocean temperatures from West to East in the tropical Pacific Ocean during the previous winter. Warm air from the Western part of the Pacific gets trapped in the jet stream as it approaches land. The atmosphere then traps the hot air when it arrives over land. The weather is similar to what the region saw two weeks ago when deadly heat set records and may have been responsible for hundreds of deaths. More than 13 million Americans in the West were under an excessive heat warning as of Monday afternoon. And the heat is also fueling wildfires across almost 500 square miles in six Western states. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon is still 0% contained and has burned across more than 200 square miles. And in California, according to the Los Angeles Times, wildfire season is outpacing last year’s, which was the worst on record.

Taylor Wilson:

Police are out in full force this week in Cuba, where protests have erupted amid a COVID-19 surge, food shortages, and power outages during the hottest part of the year. Demonstrations in several cities were some of the biggest displays of anti-government sentiment in years in Cuba. The tightly controlled country is struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades as a consequence of U.S. sanctions. And Cuban expats are protesting around the world, including in South Florida where Miami Mayor Francis Suarez called for U.S. action on Monday.

Mayor Francis Suarez:

We want to shine a light on what’s happening in Cuba right now. People are dying. People are getting beaten. And people are suffering and they’re starving. And this has been happening for far too long with the international community ignoring what’s happening in Cuba. The United States and the international community must do something now. They need to come together similarly to how they came together to condemn the acts in Venezuela. The government of Cuba is an illegitimate government. It’s not a democratic government. And the people of Cuba are starving. They’re in need of medicine. They’re in need of international help. And frankly, unless the Cuban military or the Cuban police turns on the Cuban government, the Cuban people will continue to be repressed without any hope of freedom in the future.

Taylor Wilson:

President Joe Biden said the U.S. stands with the Cuban people.

Joe Biden:

The Cuban people demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime. And I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this protest in a long time, if quite frankly ever. And the United States stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we’re calling the government of Cuba to refrain from violence or attempts to silence the voice of the people of Cuba.

Taylor Wilson:

But it’s not clear what the Biden administration plans to do about the ongoing embargo with the country. In Cuba, some protesters have been detained and police officers beat up an Associated Press journalist breaking his nose. Internet service has also been spotty, possibly showing an effort to prevent protesters from communicating with one another. And Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel blamed the recent unrest on a social media campaign from abroad.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel:

Taylor Wilson (translating):

We’ve seen in the last few weeks how the campaign against the Cuban revolution was growing in social media. That’s the way it’s done. Try to create non-conformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.

Taylor Wilson:

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is back after the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso repeated as Home Run Derby champion on Monday night. The league’s best will now battle it out as the American League takes on the National League. The AL has been dominant in the game for an entire generation winning 19 of the last 23 contests and seven in a row. Their starting pitcher will be the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, who will also bat lead-off just a day after competing in the Home Run Derby. For the NL, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer will take the mound. The game is taking place at Denver’s Coors Field and not Atlanta as originally planned. MLB moved the game in response to a new voting rights law in Georgia. You can tune in at 7:30 PM Eastern, 4:30 Pacific on Fox.

Taylor Wilson:

And you can find 5 Things as always wherever you get your audio, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thanks to Shannon Green and Claire Thornton for their work on the show. 5 Things is part of the USA TODAY Network.