Thursday morning news – July 23, 2020

U.S. orders closure of Chinese consulate in Houston » The U.S. government has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston … as tensions between the two countries continue to rise. 

Marco Rubio is acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He told Fox News …

RUBIO: So this consulate is basically a front—It’s kind of the central node of a massive spy operation, commercial espionage, defense espionage,  also influence agents to try to influence Congress. 

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the move was to “protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.”

Beijing on Wednesday called the closure an “unprecedented escalation” of recent tensions and warned of countermeasures. Those could include shutting down a U.S. diplomatic mission in China. 

Before the public announcement, local Houston media reported firefighters responded to calls of smoke billowing from the consulate … as staff burned documents in the courtyard.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration is sending another message to China. 

POMPEO: We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave. And when they don’t, we’re going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs. 

Pompeo reportedly says WHO chief “bought” by China » Pompeo also reportedly told British officials this week that the head of the World Health Organization … was effectively “bought by the Chinese government” in a deal to land the top job at the WHO. WORLD’s Leigh Jones reports. 

LJ: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the charge during a closed door meeting with British lawmakers this week. That according to several international news outlets. 

Pompeo reportedly said “When push came to shove, when it really mattered to us, when there was a pandemic in China, Dr. Tedros” Ghebreyesus was “hook, line and sinker bought by the Chinese government.” And he added … “I can’t say more but I can tell you I’m saying this on informed intelligence.” 

He also reportedly said Britons had died because of the deal that was made.

The White House sent a letter to the WHO earlier this month announcing its intent to cut funding and withdraw from the U-N health body next year. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones. 

U.S. government pays nearly $2 billion for COVID-19 vaccine » The U.S. government is paying nearly $2 billion dollars to buy large supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine that could be ready by the end of the year. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday … 

AZAR: We just signed a contract with global pharmaceutical leader Pfizer to produce 100 million doses of vaccine starting in December of this year, with an option to buy another half a billion doses.

He added that the vaccine “would, of course, have to be safe and effective.” Azar said the government is speeding up the process by working to secure FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine or one of several other candidates … while the vaccines are being manufactured. 

The agreement is part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program. It aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe vaccine by January.

If the Pfizer vaccine is proven safe and effective, the company says Americans will receive it free of charge. 

Gottlieb: 300,000 Americans could die if COVID-19 trends continue » But in the meantime, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb is warning that as many as 300,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 by year’s end if current trends continue. He told CNBC that “right now we have close to a thousand casualties a day.” But there is some good news … 

GOTTLIEB: Now, we are preserving more life in the hospital. In-hospital mortality has declined and it’s probably declined a lot, and when I talk to physicians who are treating these patients, they say it may have been cut in half. 

He added, the problem is that hospitalizations are up in many states. 

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown is tightening coronavirus restrictions once again. At a news conference Wednesday, she announced several new requirements. 

BROWN: All children ages 5 and older must wear face coverings in public indoor spaces and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

She’s also shrinking the cap on indoor gatherings from 250 people to 100. And beginning tomorrow, bars and restaurants will be required to stop serving food and alcohol at 10 p.m.  And Brown said she may announce new travel restrictions later this week. 

Baseball’s Blue Jays still homeless » Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays are still homeless. With Opening Day just one day away, the Jays still don’t know here they’ll play their home games this season. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg has that story. 

SS: After Canada denied the team a waiver from coronavirus rules to play at their home park in Toronto … the Jays thought it had a deal to share Pittsburgh’s PNC Park with the Pirates. But hours later, Pennsylvania health officials vetoed the arrangement.  

The state’s health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said … “To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams.” 

If the Blue Jays aren’t able to find a big league park to call home, they might play at the home field of their triple-A minor league team in Buffalo, New York. 

The team opens the shortened season on the road tomorrow in Tampa Bay. Their first home game is scheduled for next Wednesday. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: time capsules buried under Confederate statues.

Plus, Cal Thomas on our national debt.

This is The World and Everything in It.

The Chinese Consulate General is seen Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/John Mone)

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