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Huge rescue effort underway after Beirut blast: The Morning Rundown

Many in the capital saw their homes destroyed and family members injured, with daylight revealing scenes of destruction.
Image: LEBANON-BLAST
An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos on Wednesday after a mega-blast tore through the harbor in the heart of the Lebanese capital.- / AFP - Getty Images

At least 100 people were killed and 4,000 injured in the "colossal" explosion that swept through Beirut on Tuesday. Meanwhile, schools seeking alternatives to remote learning plan to move classes outside, and polarizing conservative Kris Kobach lost the GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas.

Here's what we're watching this morning.


Beirut in state of emergency after blast as death toll rises

A huge rescue effort was underway in Beirut on Wednesday after much of the city was buried by rubble from a massive explosion Tuesday afternoon.

At least 100 people were killed and 4,000 injured, the secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross said. Those figures look set to rise with hospitals overwhelmed and victims still trapped underneath debris.

It wasn't yet clear what ignited an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse at the port for six years without "preventive measures" to protect it. The chemical compound, which is commercially available, is used widely in fertilizers and explosives.

Many in the capital saw their homes destroyed and family members injured, with daylight revealing scenes of destruction not witnessed in the country since its devastating civil war, which ended in 1990.

Condolences and offers of aid poured in from nations around the world, with the pope offering prayers and France sending emergency equipment.


Coronavirus concerns push schools to move classes outside

With not long to go before the start of the new academic year, schools around the country have an unusual list of materials to get: carriage bolts, berry bushes, cedar wood, tree stumps, tents, and all-weather snowsuits.

They are laying the groundwork to move at least some instruction to outdoor classrooms and making a bet that the lower risk of disease transmission in the open air can make it safer for students, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.

"Schools need to figure out a new solution because the inside of the building doesn't work as the only solution and online learning doesn't work as the only solution," said Sharon Danks, the CEO of Green Schoolyards America.

Meanwhile, negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House on a further coronavirus aid package crawl forward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that he will rely on Democrats to pass a deal.

"It's not going to produce a kumbaya moment," McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday. "But the American people in the end need help."

Democrats are eager to restore the jobless payments, but Republicans have remained divided over how large they should be, as well as the level of deficit spending the federal government should undertake to finance them.

Here are some other coronavirus developments:

  • Track U.S. hot spots where COVID-19 infection rates are rising.

U.S.-China relations are under 'unprecedented' strain, says Chinese ambassador to the U.S.

Beijing does not want to see a Cold War break out between China and the U.S. and both countries need to work to repair relations that are under "unprecedented" strain, Beijing's envoy to Washington said Tuesday.

At the Aspen Security Conference, China's Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai accused the Trump administration of stoking tensions, and said he doesn’t think " a new Cold War would serve anybody's interest."

He also dismissed U.S. criticism of China's trade practices and accusations that Chinese technology companies such as TikTok pose a threat to consumer privacy in America and elsewhere.

Until two years ago, TikTok was a below-the-radar hit with young people. It's now become the international poster child for a rivalry between China and the U.S. that is increasingly playing out through technology.

In China, editorials in state media reflect the belief of many that Washington's policies are dictated by a desire to undermine the country's growing clout.


Kris Kobach loses Kansas Senate primary, easing Republican fears of an upset in November

Former secretary of state and polarizing conservative Kris Kobach lost the GOP primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas as Rep. Roger Marshall, backed by establishment Republicans, defeated him and several others.

Marshall and Kobach were among the 11 candidates in the GOP primary running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts.

Kobach, who lost his bid for governor in 2018, was running without the blessing of GOP party leaders.

In neighboring Missouri, Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay has apparently lost his primary to progressive Cori Bush, a onetime homeless woman. Clay, who was elected to his seat in 2000, defeated Bush in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Bush is an ordained pastor and community activist who was involved in the 2014 Ferguson protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.

The contest was seen as one of the biggest progressive vs. establishment Democrat clashes left on the primary calendar.


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Plus


THINK about it

The way that public opinion has has fractured along partisan divides on scientific questions reveals something rotten at the core of the national conversation. Here's how to separate science from partisanship, write professors Jevin West and Carl Bergstrom in an opinion piece.


Shopping

Bookended by back-to-school and Labor Day sales, August is full of deals from retailers such as Nordstrom, Walmart and Macy’s. We consulted a consumer analyst on what to shop this month — and what can wait.


One fun thing

With schools out for summer, parents are always on the look out for something that will keep kids busy and teach them at the same time.

A group of high school freshmen from California turned their school economics homework into a reality by publishing the Covid Coloring Book, complete with coloring and activity pages, and a story teaching kids how to stay safe during the pandemic.

The book took off and the girls have donated the proceeds to organizations across the country.

Kids can watch their story and also get a glimpse of some of the interesting animals at the San Diego Zoo in Nightly News with Lester Holt Kids Edition.


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

I’m filling in for Petra Cahill while she’s taking a break. If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — send me an email at: rachel.elbaum@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Rachel