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July 22, 2019

So far in 2019, California's climate change-induced wildfires have burned far fewer acres than they did in the same period last year, but the state's officials are still on edge. The constant threat of flames has continued to drive up expenses, as well, reports The New York Times.

For example, Pacific Gas & Electric is requesting that regulators approve an additional charge to customers of $2 billion over the next three years to help pay for wildfire safety improvements. Customers will also be paying more than $10 billion in taxes on electricity bills, the Times writes, and some counties are spending hundreds of thousands to install generators in government buildings. But the rising costs are increasingly accepted as a necessary evil.

"It's a lot of money for us, but I really feel we don't have a choice," Dennis Darling, who owns a supermarket in the town of Clearlake, told the Times.

Darling, who is paying $100,000 to install a generator in the supermarket he owns, is among the residents taking matters into their own hands should the power grids continue to fail amid wildfires. There's reportedly been a spike in interest in energy storage systems throughout the state. "We're seeing more and more of that over the last three or four years now, because of the threat of wildfires, the threat of an earthquake," said Rainier de Ocampo, vice president for marketing at Solar Optimum, a solar power and storage contractor.

Resident Susanne Polos said she recalls her power going out 10 times in the last year, prompting her family to invest in an energy storage system; they have an electric car, which they can't afford to not have charged in case of a fire emergency.

All told, the prospect of fires remains on the minds of everyone in the state despite the assurance from Pacific Gas & Electric's chief executive officer Bill Johnson that "we are safer than we were yesterday." Johnson himself acknowledged "this risk exists and can't be eliminated." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

1:03 p.m.

The Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, received a surprise visitor on Sunday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in the French resort town for an unannounced visit to the gathering of world leaders. A senior French official said that, upon arrival, Zarif went straight into a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who invited his Iranian counterpart to attend the summit where the leaders of other invited countries are discussing how to handle Iran's nuclear ambitions.

American officials in Biarritz will reportedly not meet with Zarif. One French official said that France operates on its own terms when asked about Washington's knowledge of Zarif's attendance prior to his arrival.

Tensions, of course, are running high between Tehran and Washington, as they have been ever since the Trump administration last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear pact orchestrated by the Obama administration. French President Emmanuel Macron has since taken the lead in negotiations to preserve the pact for its remaining signatories, including France, Germany, and the U.K., all countries that are in attendance at the G-7 summit.

The White House was reportedly caught a bit off guard by Zarif's sudden appearance. Earlier on Sunday, before Zarif showed up, Trump reportedly said while he was content with Paris reaching out to Tehran, he would continue to approach the situation with Iran independently and as he saw fit. Tim O'Donnell

12:28 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) doesn't have a fundamental issue with tariffs — in fact, he's made it clear that he led the fight against "permanent, normal" trade relations with China, as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Democratic presidential candidate doesn't think President Trump is utilizing tariffs in the correct manner.

In an appearance on Sunday's edition of CNN's State of the Union, Sanders told host Brianna Keilar that tariffs are one tool that can be used to fight unfair trade, but added that Trump is handling the entire trade war irrationally. "You do not make trade policy by announcing today that you're going to raise tariffs 'x percent' and the next day by 'y percent'," he said.

In particular, Sanders took issue with Trump attacking Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as an enemy of the American people and denouncing Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sanders said he would use tariffs himself, but in a "rational way within the context of a broad, sensible trade policy." He did not, however, elaborate much more on what such a policy would look like. Tim O'Donnell

11:48 a.m.

The White House would like to clarify something.

Earlier on Sunday, while at the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump said he had second thoughts about how Washington's trade war with China has played out. Trump's comments were originally tempered by the fact that said he has "second thoughts about everything" and did not signal that he was considering reversing any tariffs on Chinese imports to the U.S. But they still created speculation that the president might regret escalating the trade war, which has stoked fears of a global recession, especially since he also toned down rhetoric about ordering U.S. businesses to cut off dealings with China.

His administration, however, was quick to suppress any doubt that Trump was open to a softer approach in trade negotiations with Beijing — in fact the White House says the opposite is actually true. "His answer has been greatly misinterpreted," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, referring to the question about Trump having second thoughts. "President Trump responded in the affirmative because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher."

So, really, Trump meant he hadn't escalated the trade war enough.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow backed up Grisham's correction. Read more at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

11:29 a.m.

President Trump apparently better invest in a facemask soon because former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Il.) is officially challenging him in the Republican primary.

Walsh, who recently said somebody needs to punch Trump "in the face every single day," unveiled his campaign on Sunday during an appearance on ABC's This Week.

"We've got a guy in the White House who is unfit, completely unfit to be president, and it stuns me that nobody stepped up, nobody in the Republican party stepped up," he told host George Stephanopoulos. "Because I'll tell you what, George, everybody believes in the Republican party, everybody believes that he's unfit."

Walsh was also self-critical during the interviewing, acknowledging that he regrets helping "create" Trump. "The personal, ugly politics. I regret that," Walsh said. "And I'm sorry for that. And now we've got a guy in the White House, that's all he does." Walsh is reportedly going to attack Trump from the right on moral grounds.

He also announced the launch of his campaign on Twitter, joining former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as Trump's GOP challengers. Tim O'Donnell

10:39 a.m.

Almost 200,000 Rohingya participated in a peaceful gathering that marked the second anniversary of the Muslim-majority ethnic group's exodus form Myanmar into Bangladesh, commemorating what they described as "Genocide Day." The refugees rallied and prayed as they demanded Myanmar grant them citizenship and other rights before they return.

In August 2017, nearly 740,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in the wake of a brutal crackdown by Myanmar's armed forces. Last year a United Nations investigation recommended the prosecution of Myanmar's top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; Myanmar dismissed the allegations. "I have come here to seek justice for the murder of my two sons," 50-year-old Tayaba Khatun, a participant in the rally, said. "I will continue to seek justice till my last breath."

Sunday's demonstration came days after a second failed attempt to repatriate the refugees — no Rohingya refugees showed up at the border to return to Myanmar, as their demands for rights and citizenship remained unmet.

Nearly 1 million refugees are living in "squalid" camps in Bangladesh. Al Jazeera reported the camps are akin to cities like Islamabad, Pakistan, or Oslo, Norway, in size, but lack the infrastructure to cope with the large populations. Read more at Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

8:04 a.m.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck stunned the NFL on Saturday evening when he abruptly announced his retirement from football at the age of 29.

The oft-injured Luck said the decision was the hardest in his life. "I've been stuck in this process," he said, referring to his fairly constant string of injuries over the last four years. "I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. It's taken the joy out of this game." Luck added that "the only way to move forward" was to leave football.

Colts fans caught wind of Luck's forthcoming announcement during the 4th quarter of the team's third preseason game against the Chicago Bears on Saturday, and several of them booed the quarterback — who was inactive due to an injured ankle — as he walked off the field. The negative reaction was likely a result of the shocking nature of Luck's announcement, as Colts fans have always held their signal caller in high regard. Regardless, Luck's fellow current and former players mostly backed him up, even if they were just as surprised as everyone else.

When Luck was healthy he was one of the game's elite passers, and the Colts were widely considered title contenders going into the season. That certainly seems to be in jeopardy now.

As for Luck, he reportedly plans to travel the world. Tim O'Donnell

7:44 a.m.

That's a first.

President Trump changed course slightly about the United States' trade war with China on Sunday while attending the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.

Trump, just days after hiking tariffs on Chinese imports and ordering (via Twitter) U.S. businesses to begin cutting ties with China, said he does indeed have second thoughts about how the trade war has played out. "Might as well," he said. "Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything." He also said he has no plans to invoke a 1977 law that would grant him more authority to intervene with U.S. business practices in China.

Still, Trump said he believed the other leaders at the summit "respect the trade war," adding that "it has to happen," signaling that he has no intention of reversing the tariffs despite his recent comments.

As for his fellow G-7 leaders respecting Washington's trade policy? That doesn't seem to be the case, at least not entirely. Almost immediately after Trump said so far no foreign leader had challenged him on trade, U.K. Prime Minister did just that. "Just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we're in favor of trade peace on the whole," Johnson said. "We think that on the whole the U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade." Read more about the G-7 summit at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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