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As NATO finalized upped its cyber defense plans, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will ready itself to respond jointly to any attacks against members in space.

Let’s decode today’s communique and NATO’s new draft 10-year strategy

Rym Momtaz, senior correspondent, France:

There’s a lot more on China in today’s communique compared to 2019 — it’s definitely a shift. There’s also a lot of concern about Turkey and their purchase of Russian military equipment.

Macron was forced to follow Biden’s lead on the NATO pivot to China, even while publicly saying, “NATO is a North Atlantic organization, China has nothing to do with the North Atlantic.” So, there’s a lot of personal love between Macron and Biden, but some battles, too.

Alex Wickham, London Playbook author:

There’s split between the European positions and U.S. line on China. Boris Johnson said he doesn’t want to start a new Cold War on China, even as he is under huge pressure to take a tougher line from the hawkish wing of his own Conservative party. It’ll be fascinating to see if Biden succeeds in getting the U.K. to take a tougher line.”

Hans von der Burchard, politics reporters, Brussels:

Angela Merkel added her weight to the dove side of the argument. “I think it is very important, similar to what we are doing with Russia, to always offer a political discussion, a political discourse, in order to find solutions,” when it comes to China, she said.

Has this summit given Biden a boost going into his Putin head-to-head?

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Ryan Heath, Global Translations author:

Yes. The communique leads with NATO’s commitment to unity. NATO allies also rubber-stamped the G-7 communique from the weekend, meaning there’s literal alignment between the two groupings as they get more organized in pushing back on autocrats. That’s all Biden could wish for.

Nahal Toosi, foreign affairs correspondenT:

Sure. Anytime you can get your allies on board with most of your priorities, even if it’s rhetoric for now, you’ve strengthened your relations with an adversary. But I have to wonder a couple things: First, what if Trump (or someone like Trump) runs and wins in 2024? What do these NATO allies falling over to praise Biden do then? Second, Putin intends to stay in office past Biden and these other NATO leaders. How does that affect his calculus?

Momtaz: Absolutely, yes, Biden did get that boost. It’s really very interesting the new ways G-7 and NATO are overlapping. Today the NATO allies even agreed to keep their military carbon emissions under control which is a direct overlap between the G-7 prioritizing climate and today’s defense focus.

Lili Bayer, political correspondent, Brussels:

Biden has rock solid support from the Baltics, which is no surprise. After leaders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met with Biden, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda tweeted: “During turbulent times, democracies must stick together,” adding that NATO members “agreed to strengthen” NATO’s presence on the alliance’s eastern flank, as well as its support for Ukraine and Georgia. “U.S. presence in the Baltics is crucial for the security of the whole alliance,” he said.

What happened regarding national defense and NATO funding?

Primer on how NATO financing works

David Herszenhorn, chief Brussels correspondent:

Today’s summit is a giant payday for Stoltenberg and the entire team that works here at NATO headquarters. Leaders are committing to increasing all three strands of the alliance’s common funding, i.e. the portion of the budget that goes to central operations, which is roughly $2.5 billion a year today. That’s only 0.3 percent of total allied defense spending, and it was not a given that the budget would be increased. Support from Biden made a critical difference.

Momtaz: France is back in the NATO central command system, but was really unhappy about the NATO common spending proposal by Stoltenberg. France had to concede the point, so Stoltenberg got what he wanted. French Defense Minister Florence Parly told me France’s worry isn’t the idea per se, it’s that NATO isn’t able to tell Paris what they will spend the money on.

Annabelle Dickson, political correspondent, London:

Tobias Ellwood, chair of the U.K. Parliament’s Defense Committee, is proposing the U.K. bump its defense spending up from 2.29 percent to 3 percent of GDP — well beyond the famous 2 percent target most NATO members still fail to reach.

Lara Seligman, defense correspondent, Washington:

NATO leaders committed to continue to provide training and financial support to the Afghan security forces. The announcement ends speculation over what will happen to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan once U.S. and NATO forces leave the country by September. Pentagon officials have said the United States will end its own training program after the withdrawal, although Washington will continue funding the Afghan forces.

Anything noteworthy in the side meetings and events?

Heath: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at pains to downplay tensions between Ankara and its NATO allies today. He called his talk with Biden “fruitful and sincere,” despite significant differences of opinion, and invited Biden to Turkey. Important to note here that Turkey hasn’t changed it’s position on buying Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, which had been a major concern for NATO allies. After speaking with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Erdoğan said he is looking to calm relations between the two countries and “will support a positive agenda” following a period of surging tension. Angela Merkel favors rewarding more cooperative behavior from Ankara in the eastern Mediterranean with benefits such as a modernization of the EU-Turkey customs union.

Dickson: Boris Johnson once again couldn’t escape Brexit. The protocol for handling the Northern Ireland border was on the agenda for Johnson’s meeting with Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez.

Momtaz: Speaking of Brexit, Emmanuel Macron clarified his Brexit comments from the G-7 summit, assuring that he would never question U.K. sovereignty over its territory.

Thanks for joining us for the NATO summit — tomorrow we move onto the EU-U.S. summit.



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CDC

Florida Governor DeSantis signs order letting parents decide if kids wear masks in schools

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Ron DeSantis Florida Governor signed an executive order on Friday to “protect parents’ freedom to choose” whether their children wear masks in schools. 

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”

The order bars school districts from forcing students to mask up, despite new guidance from the CDC, and as COVID-19 cases climb in the state like never before. This week, the CDC said masks should be required of everyone inside K-12 schools.

District school boards that are “unwilling or unable to comply” with DeSantis’ law, the executive order states, will be susceptible to losing state funding. 

In a notice about the executive order, the governor’s office said the action is in response to Florida school boards considering or implementing school mask mandates. The office also falsely claimed the Biden administration has issued “unscientific” recommendations about school-aged children wearing masks. 

The executive order states that “forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification” and that there is “no statistically-significant evidence” suggesting that counties with mask mandates fared better than those without in the previous school year. 

The CDC says, however,that mask wearing is a critical step people can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Studies have shown their effectiveness. In one recent study — a peer- reviewed study of mask adherence and COVID transmission across the U.S. that was published in April — researchers found that 14 of the 15 states that had no mask policy for the public from April to September 2020 had a high rate of COVID-19. Eight states had at least 75% mask adherence during that time frame, the study found, and of those, none reported a high rate of the virus. 

COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiration, which is why officials have pushed for people to wear masks. The U.S. is also now facing the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.

DeSantis argued in his executive order that masks could “inhibit breathing,” and lead to a buildup of “bacteria, parasites, fungi and other contaminants.” 

But the American lung Association says masks do not cause low oxygen levels, and that “there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.” 

“Proper laundering of cloth masks removes any viruses, bacteria or respiratory secretions that may build up on the mask,” johns Hopkins says.

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DeSantis’ order comes as Florida is experiencing its highest numbers of daily COVID cases to date. On July 30, the state had 110,724 new cases of COVID-19, a record high, and 409 deaths, according to John Hopkins university. 

More than 160 people in the state 29 years or younger have died from COVID-19, including seven children under the age of 16. The Florida Hospital Association said on Wednesday that the “average age of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 is younger than previous peaks.” 

“The virus has a new target: the unvaccinated and younger people,” said Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary C. Mayhew in a statement. “Previously healthy people from their teens to their 40s are now finding themselves in the hospital and on a ventilator…What you heard last year and last spring about this virus mostly targeting seniors and those with pre-existing conditions is not true today.”

More than 95% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida are people who are not fully vaccinated, the association said. As of July 30, there were 9,329 confirmed COVID hospitalizations in the state. 

Some of the most prominent supporters of DeSantis’ actions are Republican state legislators. State House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement Friday they “demonstrate his faith and trust in our fellow Floridians.” 

“While there are some public officials who will seek to use the power of government to compel uniformity and adherence to their preferred course of conduct, that approach is not in keeping with Florida values,” he said. 

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said, “I trust Florida parents to decide” if their children should wear a mask, adding that he’s “grateful” for DeSantis’ “steady leadership at every stage of this pandemic.” 

Many, however, have criticized the move, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union. 

“Schools should be the safest place in Florida. No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe, and for learning to continue uninterrupted for every child,” the union said in a statement. “…Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made it clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities.” 

On Thursday, the Florida Chapter of the American academy of paediatrics said it supports use of masks in schools. 

“Since children under 12 years of age are still not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine will most likely not be available for this age group until winter of 2021,” the group said, “most children are still at risk for Coronavirus infection and transmitting the infection to others.”

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[VIDEO] Dems, GOP call to replace Kamala Harris with Jeh Johnson as border czar

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Former acting DHS deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli criticizes the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis as the migrant surge grows.

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Mask mandate

[VIDEO] ‘Madam Speaker, Come And Get Me’: GOP Rep. Nancy Mace Flouts Pelosi’s Reinstated House Mask Mandate

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On Thursday following Speaker Pelosi’s reinstating of a mask mandate in the House of Representatives, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) recorded herself walking maskless and dared the Speaker to “come and get me.”

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