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New Jersey's beaches are full again, despite a government shutdown; Trump and Pope Francis weigh in on a UK life support debate; the Pentagon clarifies US strategy in Syria.
When you're Chris Christie, life's a beach
- By now, it’s impossible to escape the most ubiquitous photo of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ever — surrounded by his family, white sand, and blue water on what appears to be New Jersey’s largest private beach. [New Jersey Star-Ledger / Andrew Mills and Claude Brodesser-Akner]
- But the beach was not private; it was public, and it was deserted because Christie’s government closed it and all of the state’s other public beaches as part of New Jersey’s government shutdown ... right before the Fourth of July weekend. [NPR / Laurel Wamsley]
- After the New Jersey Star-Ledger flew a plane over the beach and snapped the pictures, Christie got caught up in a lie about whether he had gotten any sun on public property that weekend. It wasn’t the best look for the governor, who already has some of the lowest approval ratings in the country. [New Jersey Star-Ledger / Andrew Mills]
- (And in case you were wondering, after a public outcry, the beaches are now open.) [Chris Christie via Twitter]
- But New Jersey’s beach woes speak to a larger issue: Across the country, state governments in New Jersey, Illinois, and Maine are in a shutdown after state lawmakers and governors failed to pass a budget.
- Closed beaches, state parks, and public golf courses were the most obvious signs of an impasse in New Jersey, where Christie has said he will veto the $34.7 billion budget unless it includes legislation that would require the health insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to spend $300 million of its reserve funds on Christie’s signature plan to fight drug addiction. [NYT / Nick Corasanti]
- In Maine, a bloc of 60 Republican lawmakers keep vetoing state budget drafts because of proposed tax hikes. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has also promised to veto the budget over the increase. The continued fighting there has left state employees temporarily unemployed. [Portland Press Herald / Kevin Miller]
- If a couple of days seems bad, consider Illinois, which has operating with no budget for two whole years, as it deals with about $15 billion in unpaid bills, a whopping $251 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and cash reserves that are dwindling so much that the state may soon not be able to pay lottery winners. [CNN Money / Matt Egan]
- And there even are more states in budget showdowns, which come when there’s a mix of competing ideologies on how to spend state money, compounded by revenue coming in a lot lower than budget writers were forecasting. [AP / Jeffrey Collins]
Trump, pope weigh in on UK life support debate
- On Monday, President Trump weighed in on the ongoing battle over life support in the UK.
- The president tweeted his support for Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old boy on life support in a London hospital. Charlie was born with a rare disease and has a host of serious health issues; he is blind and deaf, and can only breathe with the assistance of machines. [Washington Post / Lindsey Bever]
- Doctors at the hospital where Charlie is right now says there is nothing more they can do to help him and have advocated pulling life support, a decision backed by three British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. [NYT / Dan Bilefsky and Sewell Chan]
- Trump reportedly recently learned of Gard’s situation and said on social media that he would be “delighted” to help, although he didn’t offer details on what that assistance might look like. [Donald Trump via Twitter]
- Pope Francis also weighed in on social media, offering to move Charlie from his current hospital to one in Rome owned by the Vatican. [The Guardian / Ben Jacobs and Helen Pidd]
- Charlie's case is becoming one of the most well-known battles over life support since the 2005 case of Florida woman Terri Schiavo, who suffered irreversible brain damage in the 1990s. She was in a vegetative state for years; her husband wanted to end life support, while her family did not. [NYT / Clyde Haberman]
- As courts sided with the husband, state and national politicians all the way up to then-President George W. Bush entered the fray, trying to help bolster the case of Schiavo’s family. Ultimately, they were not successful. [NYT / Clyde Haberman]
- The Gards told reporters they are preparing to say goodbye to their son, and it is unclear whether the statements by Trump and Pope Francis will do anything to change their mind. [The Guardian / Patrick Greenfield]
The battle for Raqqa continues
- US-backed forces in Syria are closing in on ISIS fighters in Raqqa, the capital city of the Islamist terrorist group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.
- The strategy of the Syrian Democratic Forces, as they are known, includes trapping the militants inside the city by destroying Raqqa’s bridges and targeting boats. [NYT / Michael Gordon]
- On Sunday, the SDF finally were able to enter the city from the south, seizing strategic territory and blocking the group’s last escape route. [Agence France-Presse]
- It’s been three years of fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, where US-backed forces are doing a final push on the terror group’s stronghold in Mosul. Although fighters battling ISIS believe they are close to being done with the fighting, there’s a big question mark hovering over what comes after. [LA Times / Tracy Wilkinson, W.J. Hennigan, and Michael A. Memoli]
- The Trump administration has struggled to articulate a long-term strategy for the region, avoiding answering questions about whether it will commit more troops and for how long. [LA Times / Tracy Wilkinson, W.J. Hennigan, and Michael A. Memoli]
- Right now there are two very different narratives on what happens next coming from the White House and the Pentagon.
- US military officials, including US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, say they plan to stay out of the ongoing civil war in Syria and are not going to intervene to try to prevent Assad or Iran-backed militia members from making land gains in Syria once ISIS has fallen. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung]
- That’s a different message from the one coming from some other Trump administration officials, who said the US should be more assertive in the region once ISIS is defeated, a move that could bring them more directly in conflict with Assad and his allies Iran and Russia. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe]
- For now, it appears the administration is going with the more restrained approach.
- Therapy animals seem to be everywhere, but researchers say there’s little to no science proving pets are actually helpful. [Washington Post / Karin Brulliard]
- Zhenghou used to be a tiny town in rural Chinese farmland. Then Apple started selling iPhones, and it turned into an exploding city and hub for technology manufacturing. [WSJ / Eva Dou]
- The Pentagon is planning to ditch a program where noncitizen recruits served the US military and were put on a fast track toward citizenship. If the program goes, the government could start to deport those who recently enlisted. [NPR / Richard Gonzales and Tom Bowman]
- Homes in San Francisco’s Mission District keep going up in flames, and people who live in the area are suspicious it’s arson motivated by some landlords who want gentrify the city faster. [Jon Ronson / GQ]
- After one California power plant closed, there's 1,800 tons of radioactive waste sitting right next to the ocean. In all likelihood, it’s going to remain there for a while, because there’s currently no place to safely store it. [LA Times / Ralph Vartabedian]
- “There, at a home on William Street, the roughly 60-year-old (Washington) would have sat before a sunlit window, opened his mouth wide, and had his last remaining tooth twisted out by a dentist who later turned it into a trinket." [Bod Tedeschi / Stat]
- "So in effect, the United States owes its existence to an impulsive dictator who ran his country into the ground so hard that he got himself beheaded." [Tristan Hopper / National Post]
- "I didn't. I didn't get any sun today." [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to New Jersey Star-Ledger / Andrew Mills and Claude Brodesser-Akner]
- “The neighborhood tried as best it could to help these families stay alive. If we had leftovers after supper, we would walk them across the street. One of my earliest impressions was taking that short journey with my father. You might think that these families were humiliated by the offerings, but there is no dignity in being hungry.” [Dan Rather / BuzzFeed]
- “His fellow long-distance hikers speak of him in mythical terms. They told me that, in order to avoid foot infections, he had chosen to have all 10 of his toenails surgically removed. He was said to never carry more than 10lbs on his back, and to have invented a tiny stove that ran on twigs and grass, so he wouldn’t have to carry fuel.” [Robert Moor / Guardian]
Watch this: Wildlife crossings stop roadkill. Why aren’t there more?
A better way for animals to cross the road. [YouTube / Mac Schneider]