Biden chooses a running mate and volunteers clean up Beirut

·6 min read

Joe Biden chooses a running mate, why experts are skeptical of Russia's vaccine announcement and Beirut volunteers get sweeping.

Here's what we're watching today.

'Smart, tough, and ready': Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate

Putting an end to weeks of speculation, Joe Biden named Kamala Harris, the prominent senator from California, as his VP pick.

Biden called Harris "smart, tough, and ready," and the two will appear in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday, the campaign said.

The only Black woman in the U.S. Senate, Harris was elected in 2016 after serving as California’s attorney general and, before that, San Francisco district attorney. She's a pragmatic progressive different from Biden in many ways.

If elected, she would be the nation’s first female, first Black and first Asian American vice president. Here are 10 things you may not know about her.

To win this election, Democrats need their most loyal voters and activists; this time, that meant putting a Black woman on the ticket, writes NBC News’ Jonathan Allen in an analysis.

"I don’t know if the vice president will ever know what he did for a group of women who stand in the shadows of America," said longtime Democratic political operative Minyon Moore.

However, for the Trump campaign, Biden’s pick of Harris has created a conundrum: How to run against her.

Why Russia's coronavirus vaccine has alarmed experts

Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia had approved a coronavirus vaccine has raised concerns that it has yet to complete clinical trials designed to test for safety and effectiveness.

Putin promoted the new vaccine — which Russia dubbed Sputnik V — by saying it works “effectively enough” and was “proven efficient.” Yet by skipping Phase 3 trials, which are crucial to showing that a vaccine candidate can successfully prevent infections and not produce serious side effects, it’s too soon to know if this or any potential vaccine is ready to be rolled out.

“The Russian vaccine gamble is reckless and foolish, whether ‘it works’ or not,” Francois Balloux, a systems biologist at University College London’s Genetics Institute in the U.K., wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

Here are other coronavirus developments:

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

Did Instagram copy me? After congressional hearing, a startup founder wonders

Andrew Cunningham thought he had a hit with a smartphone app to create short bursts of reversible video.

These days, if Cunningham wants to use his old app, it might be easier to pull up Instagram, owned by Facebook.

Cunningham has long suspected that Instagram copied Boomerang from his startup, and watched as members of a House antitrust subcommittee pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over his alleged swiping of ideas. For more than a year the House antitrust subcommittee led by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I. has been investigating the tech sector, including allegations of stifling innovation.

Cunningham has been reaching out to House members to share his story and find out whether any of the Facebook emails that congressional investigators have obtained mention Boomerang or his app.

His experience is an example of a new willingness among small competitors to speak out about industry practices now that lawmakers are listening.

Army of volunteers descends on Beirut to do job government won’t

Arriving on buses from all corners of the country and armed with brooms, thousands of volunteers packed the areas hit hardest by the explosion in Beirut and stayed all week.

This was the Lebanese people turning out en masse to do a job that, in most countries, would have been handled by the government.

“We have to come together, the government has done absolutely nothing, not even the municipality. It’s always up to us to rebuild our city when they destroy it like this,” Afif Ayad, the founder of “My People, My Responsibility,” a nongovernmental organization, said.

A week on from the blast, efforts have now turned to long-term recovery. Various NGOs are, between them, sending engineers to every affected house. And first aid, mental health support and food distribution points have sprung up to help the broken city.

Image: Volunteers set out to clean Beirut's devastated Gemmayzeh neighborhood on Tuesday. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images)
Image: Volunteers set out to clean Beirut's devastated Gemmayzeh neighborhood on Tuesday. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images)

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THINK about it

Once upon a time, the GOP stood on the three pillars of individual liberty, fiscal conservatism and a moral foreign policy. Since Trump’s election, some GOP senators have become part and parcel of his movement, one that is as dangerous as it is chaotic, writes Reed Galen, co-founder of The Lincoln Project in an opinion piece.

Live BETTER

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Shopping

Students across the country will be attending school partially or fully online this fall, emphasizing the importance of high-quality tech products — here are some of the best back-to-school tech sales right now.

TODAY All Day

What does the future of school look like for students across the country? On TODAY All Day, the anchors and experts walk parents and students through the new normal as schools open their doors.

One fun thing

A year ago, 10-year-old Chelsea Fair started a charity to donate art kits to kids in need. Since the pandemic hit, she's donated these kits to children in homeless shelters and foster homes across the country.

She had the idea for the charity on her birthday last year, asking people to donate art kits instead of presents. Now, 12 months later on her 11th birthday, she’s giving out 500 kits, bringing the total number donated to 4,000.

“The best part is learning about how I am inspiring other kids and how other kids are taking a stand and finding a need,” Fair said.

Learn more about Chelsea's efforts, how school might be different this year and many families’ new summer hobby in Nightly News 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