South China Sea, COVID-19 Updates, and A Pub's Electric Fence | Daily Skimm | theSkimm
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at press conferenceGetty Images

From Sea to South China Sea

The Story

Tensions are boiling over the South China Sea.

I'm gonna need some background.

The South China Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by places like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan. The area's rich in oil and is a major global shipping route (think: more than 30% of the world's oil trade in 2016). A UN convention gives neighboring countries and territories the right to use the South China Sea. But in recent years, China's refused to accept a 2016 ruling by an international court that rejected its claims to certain waters and has continued to claim 90% of the water as its own. Now, the US is getting involved.

How?

Yesterday, it backed the 2016 ruling and rejected nearly all of Beijing's claims in the highly contested waterway. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China was "bullying" its neighbors to try to control offshore resources and that the US supports its Southeast Asian allies. In the past, the US has sent warships to show that there are freedoms to navigate the area. But it has left maritime disputes in the area to be resolved peacefully through UN-backed negotiations.

Why the change?

The US has long opposed China's territorial claims in the area. China has created artificial islands – which some have said are used as military outposts – and held military drills in the water. But as the world's attention has turned to COVID-19, US officials say China may be taking advantage of the circumstances to pursue more aggressive action. And while it's not clear what impact the US's announcement could have, it's the first time the country has officially rejected China's overreach in the South China Sea. Some experts said it was a move to hold Beijing accountable, but it could escalate already heightened tensions. A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy accused the US of trying to "sabotage regional peace."

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In recent weeks, the US and China have been at odds over Beijing's handling of COVID-19, its national security law in Hong Kong, and its mass detention of Uighur Muslims. So while the US's latest shift is largely seen as a symbolic move, it could increase the pressure in a relationship that's already gotten pretty tense.

And Also...This

What's grappling with the effects of COVID-19…

California. Yesterday, the state's governor announced a massive rollback of reopening plans. All indoor activities for restaurants, wineries, and movie theaters have been shut down again. And the state's two largest public school districts – Los Angeles and San Diego – said classes this fall will start online only. California has seen a surge in coronavirus cases, topping an average of 8,000 new cases a day. And the LA school superintendent said he didn't want schools to be a "petri dish" of infection.

The US budget deficit. Yesterday, the Treasury Dept said the deficit hit a new monthly record high of $864 billion in June. The reason: the gov's response to the pandemic. Reminder: the budget deficit is the difference between what the gov spends and what it makes. So far, Uncle Sam has spent trillions on relief, and delayed the tax filing deadline (which affected the gov's revenue). And may soon spend more. Some experts say this could force cuts to US spending after the economy recovers, which could take months.

Psst...here's what a high federal deficit could mean for another stimulus package, your retirement, and more.

Who people are remembering...

Naya Rivera. Yesterday, authorities confirmed they found the 33-year-old actress's body in a Southern California lake, days after she went missing. Rivera disappeared after an afternoon out on a boat with her four-year-old son. Authorities believe she was able to save her son – who was found safe – before drowning. She'd made her acting debut at the age of four and had guest appearances on shows including "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Family Matters." She was best known for playing Santana Lopez – an LGBTQ+ teen – on "Glee." Family, friends, and co-stars expressed their heartbreak, remembering the "fierce talent with so much more to do." RIP.

Grant Imahara. Yesterday, the Discovery Channel confirmed that the electrical engineer and roboticist had passed away. He was 49. It was reported that he had died of a brain aneurysm. Imahara was best known for co-hosting "MythBusters" where he used his expertise to design and build robots and Netflix's "White Rabbit Project." His co-stars and Discovery said they were at a loss for words and referred to Imahara as a "generous, easygoing, and gentle" person. RIP.  

What's going to look different...

The Washington Redskins. Yesterday, the NFL team officially announced it will retire its name and logo. The 87-year-old team name is considered a racist slur against Native Americans and has been criticized for decades. But for years, its owner refused to change it. The reversal comes after weeks of protests against racial injustice and pressure from sponsors like FedEx. The team hasn't released the new name and logo, but hopes it'll honor both the military and Native Americans. The Navajo Nation said the announcement marked a "historic day for all Indigenous peoples."

What's Hope-fully lifting off...

The UAE. Today, the country is expected to launch its Hope spacecraft on a mission to Mars – a potential first for the Arab nation.