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Life is short

Laura L. Davis   | USA TODAY
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Life expectancy decreased during the pandemic – by quite a bit. Thick smoke from Western wildfires is clouding skies thousands of miles away. And the U.S. has extended border restrictions for another month.

👋 Hey, hey! Laura here, with Wednesday's news, just for you.

But first, bear with me. 🐻 Just hours before the first pitch in an Olympic softball game between Japan and Australia, a brown bear was spotted near the stadium. They're looking for it.

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Pandemic cut years off our lives

Life is short – and it's getting shorter. The United States saw the largest one-year drop in life expectancy since World War II during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hispanic and Black populations saw the largest declines, according to government data released Wednesday. Life expectancy at birth declined by 1.5 years in 2020 to 77.3 – the lowest level since 2003, the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found. "I really hope that this is a wake-up call for the U.S.," said Jennifer Karas Montez, a professor of sociology. "We're relying a lot on a medical fix – on vaccines. And I don't think that's enough." Between 1942 and 1943, during World War II, life expectancy in the U.S. declined 2.9 years. COVID-19 deaths contributed to about 74% of the decline in life expectancy among the general U.S. population, according to the data. Another 11% of the decline can be attributed to increases in deaths from accidents or unintentional injuries, including drug overdose deaths.

A lopsided loss

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Instead of getting revenge for their ouster at the Rio Olympics, the U.S. women's soccer team got embarrassed. "We got our asses kicked, didn’t we?" Megan Rapinoe said. Yes. The reigning World Cup champions were completely outclassed by old foe Sweden in their opener at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday in a 3-0 loss, the U.S. women's worst showing at a major international tournament since a 4-0 loss to Brazil at the 2007 World Cup. It also was the squad’s first loss since January 2019, snapping a 44-game unbeaten streak.

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What everyone's talking about

Infrastructure bill blocked

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the start of formal debate on bipartisan infrastructure legislation, a core part of President Joe Biden’s economic plan, because the bill text and cost weren't available as negotiations continue. The 51-49 vote against beginning debate, which needed to clear a 60-vote threshold to succeed, came after a series of late-night negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., changed his vote to help defeat the measure so that he could be on the prevailing side to call it up again for another vote in the future. Senators continue to haggle over details on transit and how to pay for the package. But senators from both parties called the setback temporary, with another vote expected as soon as Monday.

Smoke from wildfires seen across the country

The sun glowed red-orange as haze clouded parts of New York City for a second day Wednesday, as the effects of Western wildfires were felt across the country. Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston all saw similarly smoky conditions this week, prompting air quality alerts in much of the region. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon was by far the largest, burning more than 540 square miles about 300 miles southeast of Portland in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest. In all, 83 wildfires are burning across 13 states, most of them in the Western U.S., the National Interagency Fire Center said Tuesday, covering nearly 1.3 million acres of land. The smoke has traveled more than 2,700 miles to reach New York City.

Real quick

Borders stay closed another month

As new COVID-19 infections rise in every state, the U.S. has yet again extended border restrictions on nonessential travel. U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will remain closed through Aug. 21, according to documents to be published in the Federal Register. The previous U.S. border restrictions were set to end on Thursday. The extensions come on the heels of Canada's Monday announcement that it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents Aug. 9, with plans to allow fully vaccinated travelers from any country on Sept. 7.

A break from the news

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