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Stephen A. Smith ‘Sincerely Sorry’ for Xenophobic Comments About Asian Baseball Player

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ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith has issued an apology after receiving backlash for xenophobic comments about Major League Baseball player Shohei Ohtani.

What We Know:

  • Ohtani is a designated pitcher and hitter for the Los Angeles Angels and joined the MLB team back in December 2017. He leads the pack with 33 home runs this season and has a 3.49 ERA on the pitcher’s mound, prompting many to consider him the best two-way baseball player in decades. Ohtani was voted by fans to participate in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game as the American League’s starting designated hitter and was chosen to also be the team’s starting pitcher for the game.
  • The 27-year-old was born in Japan and moved to the country when he signed with the Angels. He tends to speak in his native language of Japanese and uses an interpreter when interviewing with reporters. According to USA Today, the baseball player knows how to speak English and Spanish, but isn’t fluent enough in English to confidently speak it at press conferences.
  • During Monday’s episode of Smith’s show “First Take,” he stated that Ohtani shouldn’t be the face of the league if he has to speak through an interpreter. Smith believes that the use of an interpreter in the MLB “compromises the ability for [foreign players] to ingratiate themselves with the American public.” He was asked if it was good for the MLB to have Ohtani as their “No. 1 attraction,” in which Smith responded no, it should be Bryce Harper or Mike Trout -both white players- due to Ohtani’s language barrier making it hard for the MLB to market him.

  • Smith received backlash on social media and from colleagues for the “xenophobic” comments. Pablo Torre, host of “ESPN Daily Podcast,” stated that Ohtani shouldn’t have to “cut up little English soundbites,” in order to communicate to the public. Mina Kimes, an NFL analyst for ESPN, brought up Ohtani’s skills on the baseball field and how his success translates in all languages. Former ESPN commentator Keith Olbermann wants Smith suspended because his comments contribute to the increase of “anti-Asian” violence that the country has seen since the start of the pandemic.
  • The opinionated sports analyst released an apology Monday night on his Twitter page voicing his “sincere apologies” for offending the Asian and Asian American communities. He admitted that he stereotyped Ohtani, and as a Black man, he knows the damage that stems from stereotyping individuals. Smith wrote that Ohtani is one of the “biggest stars in sports” and that he presents inclusiveness and leadership skills within the sport. He acknowledged that he screwed up and that his comments were insensitive, especially during a time of racial and social change. Smith also gave a verbal apology Tuesday on his show.

ESPN baseball reporter Jeff Passan and staff writer Joon Lee were brought onto Tuesday’s episode to speak on the subject with Smith and hold him accountable for his comments. Meanwhile, Ohtani went on to make history by being the first Japanese-born player to participate in the Home Run Derby and the first player to be starting pitcher and leadoff hitter in an MLB All-Star Game. He secured the American League’s win over the National League in Tuesday night’s game, 5-2.

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Senate Prepares to Move Forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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On Monday, the Senate pushed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after its legislative language was completed and unveiled. Senators who created the proposal expect it to clear the upper chamber in the following days.

What We Know:

  • Senate negotiators completed the 2,702-page bill on Sunday night. The bill, known as H.R. 3684, aims to provide $550 billion to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and public transit systems.
  • Since then, the Senate began taking up two amendments to the proposal. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed three bipartisan amendments for consideration. Currently, it is uncertain how many amendments the Senate will consider. However, Schumer wants to vote on amendments quickly; he also noted that the first three “constitute only the first tranche of potential amendments.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented that H.R. 3684’s text lays out “a good and important jumping point for what needs to be a robust and bipartisan process” on the Senate floor. McConnell added that an “artificial timetable” must not affect the Senate’s “full consideration” of the bill.
  • On July 28, the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House reached an agreement on H.R. 3684’s details. Officials also voted 66-28 on the deal, which opened the package to potential changes during the amendment process. After this, Senators worked throughout the weekend to hammer out the legislative language.
  • If the Senate passes H.R. 3684, it will be a significant victory for President Joe Biden. A key proposal in his economic agenda, Biden boasted on the impact H.R. 3684 will hold on the nation. On Sunday, he tweeted that the deal is the most important investment in America’s public transit history. He additionally stated the bill will impact the U.S. just as much as the invention of the Amtrak 50 years ago.

If Congress approves H.R. 3684, it will ensure that Democrats may begin work on a $3.5 trillion proposal that focuses on Biden’s plans for childcare, healthcare, education, the environment, and possibly immigration. Doing so will ensure another success on Pres. Biden’s behalf.

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Coronavirus

Florida Breaks Record for COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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Florida recently saw 10,207 hospitalizations caused by coronavirus cases, the highest number since July 23, 2020.

What We Know:

  • On July 23, 2020, Florida reached a high of 10,170 hospitalizations, just six months before the COVID-19 vaccine became available. The new record makes Florida the leader in per capita hospitalizations for the virus.
  • Most of the new cases come from the highly contagious Delta variant. On average, Florida sees 1,525 adult and 35 children hospitalizations daily. In addition, Saturday revealed a peak in positive numbers, as the stated reported  21,683 occurrences of COVID-19. The day prior, the Sunshine State saw 17,093 cases.
  • Many hospital employees believed the excess hospitalizations would end soon because of an increase in vaccinations. However, the Delta variant changed all this. The Associated Press wrote that several hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic Florida and the UF Health North emergency room, needed to operate overcapacity and put beds in hallways to treat patients; the Mayo Clinic will continue to do so until the current surge ends. In Tampa, some local ambulances already needed to divert ambulances to other locations because of capacity concerns.
  • The higher numbers also are a direct result of a loosening of restrictions and a governor’s stubbornness. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis actively declares he will not enact any more mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Along with the state Legislature, this makes it difficult for local officials to impose restrictions that will ease the positive numbers.
  • Medical officials scorned DeSantis for his adamance on the issue. Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based vascular cardiologist and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, commented that the state would not be in its position now if DeSantis focused more on lowering cases than proving Dr. Anthony Fauci wrong. Gainesville infectious disease expert Dr. Frederick Southwick agreed with Ashby’s statement, saying that DeSantis needed to stop acting like “Florida won the pandemic.”

DeSantis recently announced that Florida would resist any federal authorities’ campaigns to enforce mask mandates inside schools despite the criticism.

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NY Attorney General: Gov. Cuomo harassed women, tried to retaliate against accuser

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NEW YORK — Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the findings of her inquiry into accusations against Andrew Cuomo, concluding that the governor sexually harassed multiple women. James said victims included current and former employees, and that Cuomo tried to retaliate against at least one woman who came forward. Over 179 people were interviewed.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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