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The Countdown: Ongoing Middle East crisis, AZ recount, Andrew Giuliani runs for NY governor

NEW YORK (WABC) — “The Countdown” is here to get you caught up with all of the day’s political news.

You can watch it online, on the ABC7NY app or on our Connected TV apps for Fire, Roku, Apple TV and Android TV. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, May 18

Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, announces run for New York governor
Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, announced Tuesday that he is running for governor, joining Lee Zeldin and Rob Astornio as Republican challengers to third term incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Giuliani, 35, told ABC News said last month that he was “strongly considering” a run and that he would be meeting with New York Republican county chairs in the coming weeks.

Biden announces US will share more COVID-19 vaccines globally
President Joe Biden said Monday that his administration will share millions more doses of COVID-19 vaccines with other countries in addition to the 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine he has already committed to sharing by July 4.

Biden said the US will share at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next month, totaling 80 million doses that are set to be sent abroad. Those additional 20 million doses will consist of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as AstraZeneca, which has to be approved by federal regulators before being shipped overseas. That effort is underway.

Strike from Gaza kills 2 as Israel topples 6-story building
A strike launched from Gaza killed two Thai workers in southern Israel on Tuesday, police said, hours after Israeli airstrikes toppled a six-story building in the Palestinian territory that housed bookstores and educational centers. With the war showing no sign of abating, Palestinians across the region went on a general strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies.

Violence erupted at protests in the occupied West Bank, including at one in the city of Ramallah. Hundreds of Palestinians burned tires and hurled stones toward an Israeli military checkpoint. Troops fired tear gas canisters at the crowd and protesters picked up some of them and threw them back.

Monday, May 17

Biden expresses ‘support’ for Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in Netanyahu call
President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the eighth day of air strikes and rocket barrages that have killed at least 200 people, most of them Palestinians in Gaza.

Biden stopped short of joining the growing demands from Democrats and others for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting. But the White House readout of the call showed increased White House concern that the fighting – including Israeli airstrikes aimed at weakening Hamas – come to an end, while still expressing support for Israel.

Cuomo set to earn $5M payday from memoir on COVID-19 crisis
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo disclosed Monday that he was paid a $3.1 million advance to write his COVID-19 leadership book last year and under his publishing contract will make another $2 million on the memoir over the next two years.

The Democrat had, for months, declined to say how much money he made from writing “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg pleads guilty to sex trafficking charges
A Florida politician who emerged as a central figure in the Justice Department’s sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty Monday to six federal charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal.

Joel Greenberg, a longtime associate of Gaetz, appeared in federal court in Orlando. He pleaded guilty to six of the nearly three dozen charges he faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and he admitted that he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.

Gov. Cuomo announces New York to adopt CDC mask guidelines for fully vaccinated
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York state will end mask mandates and adopt CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated effective Wednesday. Cuomo says following the CDC guidance, immunocompromised people and unvaccinated people should wear a mask and social distance.

Friday, May 14

Israel-Palestine conflict latest: Deaths rise as Palestinians flee heavy Israeli fire in Gaza
Thousands of Palestinians grabbed children and belongings and fled their homes Friday as Israel barraged the northern Gaza Strip with tank fire and airstrikes, killing a family of six in their house and heavily damaging other neighborhoods in what it said was an operation to clear militant tunnels.

As international efforts at a cease-fire stepped up, Israel appeared to be looking to inflict intensified damage on the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

House Republicans vote to replace Cheney with Trump defender Stefanik
Republicans vaulted Rep. Elise Stefanik into the ranks of House leadership Friday, electing an ardent Donald Trump defender in hopes of calming their searing civil war over the deposed Rep. Liz Cheney’s unremitting combat with the former president.

Stefanik, R-N.Y., a moderate turned Trump loyalist who’s given voice to many of his false claims about election fraud, was elected as expected to the No. 3 post that Cheney, R-Wyo., held for over two years.

House panel reaches agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection commission
The top Democratic and Republican members of the House Homeland Security Committee have reached an agreement on legislation to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The measure had stalled amid partisan differences.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Friday, the commission would have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, five from each party. It would have subpoena power and be charged with issuing a final report by Dec. 31, along with recommendations to prevent future attacks.

Mask-wearing update in NY, NJ and CT: What to know
The CDC announced new mask guidance Thursday that allows for fully vaccinated individual to safely discard their masks in most cases, but it leaves it up to states, cities, and businesses to dictate their own rules. So far, New York and New Jersey do not appear to be in a rush to make any changes in mask-wearing policies. But it’s a different story in Connecticut.

Thursday, May 13

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can ditch masks indoors – most of the time
In a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. “Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said during a Rose Garden address heralding the new guidance.

The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues – even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Biden signs executive order to beef up federal cyber defenses following pipeline hack
President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses in response to a series of headline-grabbing hacking incidents that highlight how vulnerable the country’s public and private sectors are to high-tech spies and criminals operating from half a world away.

The order will require all federal agencies to use basic cybersecurity measures, like multi-factor authentication, and require new security standards for software makers that contract with the federal government.

Israel threatens Gaza ground invasion despite truce efforts
Israel on Thursday said it was massing troops along the Gaza frontier and calling up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory, as the two bitter enemies plunged closer to all-out war. Egyptian mediators rushed to Israel for cease-fire efforts but showed no signs of progress.

The stepped-up fighting came as communal violence in Israel erupted for a fourth night, with Jewish and Arab mobs clashing in the flashpoint town of Lod. The fighting took place despite a bolstered police presence ordered by the nation’s leaders.

NYC mayoral race heats up with 6 weeks to go before primary
With less than six weeks to go, the Democratic primary that may decide the next mayor of New York City has reached a new stage of unpredictability. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang is clinging to front-runner status while City Comptroller Scott Stringer fights off a sexual misconduct allegation.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer and founder of a law enforcement reform group, has seen his standing rise amid concern over a spike in shootings during the coronavirus pandemic – including gunfire that injured three bystanders in Times Square.

Wednesday, May 12

Mideast violence bears hallmarks of 2014 Gaza war
Israeli airstrikes toppled a massive high-rise building in central Gaza City on Wednesday, in the latest escalation in Israel-Hamas fighting — the most severe outbreak of violence since a 2014 war.

Palls of gray smoke rose in Gaza, as Israeli airstrikes levelled two apartment towers and hammered the militant group’s multiple security installations, destroying the central police compound.

In Israel, barrages of hundreds of rockets fired by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other militants at times overwhelmed missile defenses and brought air raid sirens and explosions echoing across Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest metropolitan area, and other cities.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 48 Palestinians, including 14 children and three women, according to the Health Ministry. More than 300 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women. Six Israelis, including a soldier, three women and a child, were killed, and dozens of people were wounded.

Liz Cheney vows to prevent Trump from becoming president again after ousting
House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney from her post as the chamber’s No. 3 GOP leader on Wednesday, punishing her after she repeatedly rebuked former President Donald Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Meeting behind closed doors for less than 20 minutes, GOP lawmakers used a voice vote to remove the Wyoming congresswoman from her leadership post, the latest evidence that challenging Trump can be career-threatening.

She was Congress’ highest-ranking Republican woman, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and her removal marked a jarring turnabout to what’s been her fast rise within the party.

Hearing on Jan. 6 violence exposes stark partisan divisions
Republicans sought to rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 insurrection during a rancorous congressional hearing Wednesday, painting the Trump supporters who attacked the building as mostly peaceful patriots and downplaying repeatedly the violence of the day.

Democrats, meanwhile, clashed with Donald Trump’s former Pentagon chief about the unprepared government response to a riot that began when hundreds of Trump loyalists bent on overturning the election broke through police barriers, smashed windows and laid siege to the building.

The colliding lines of questioning, and a failure to settle on a universally agreed-upon set of facts, underscored the challenges Congress faces as it sets out to investigate the violence and government missteps. The House Oversight Committee hearing unfolded just after Republicans in the chamber voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for rebuking Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in inciting the attack.

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, testifying publicly for the first time about Jan. 6, defended their agencies’ responses to the chaos. But the hearing almost immediately devolved into partisan bickering about how that day unfolded, with at least one Republican brazenly stating there wasn’t an insurrection at all.

Colonial Pipeline restarts operations following hacking shutdown
The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations late Wednesday, “which means that all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations,” the company said in a statement. But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.

In the meantime, drivers have been finding gas stations with little or no gas in some Southeast states.

Tuesday, May 11

Israel, Hamas trade deadly fire as confrontation escalates
A confrontation between Israel and Hamas sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem escalated Tuesday as Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza while militants barraged Israel with hundreds of rockets. The exchange killed a number of militants and civilians in Gaza and at least three people in Israel.

The barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and airstrikes into the territory continued almost nonstop throughout the day, in what appeared to be some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since their 2014 war. The fire was so relentless that Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system seemed to be overwhelmed. Columns of smoke rose from many places in Gaza.

Colonial Pipeline officials hope most service will be back by weekend after ransomware hack
Hit by a cyberattack, the operator of a major U.S. fuel pipeline said it hopes to have services mostly restored by the end of the week as the FBI and administration officials identified the culprits as a gang of criminal hackers.

U.S. officials sought to soothe concerns about price spikes or damage to the economy by stressing that the fuel supply had so far not experienced widespread disruptions, and the company said Monday that it was working toward “substantially restoring operational service” by the weekend.

Kathryn Garcia making name for self in New York City mayoral race
The New York Times endorsement of Kathryn Garcia might just push her from unknown, to top tier in the race for New York City mayor. Her new television ad stresses experience — and lots of it.

Garcia was sanitation commissioner for the New York City Sanitation Department, making sure streets got plowed and the trash picked up.

Monday, May 10

Times Square shooting
New York City was once billed as the safest big city in the country, but as shootings are up, Mayor Bill de Blasio is walking a strange line of stopping the violence and also trying to drum up tourism.

After Saturday’s shooting in Times Square that left two women and a child injured, de Blasio increased security in the Crossroads of the World. However, at the same time, he doubted the brazen violence will hurt tourism. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the MTA strongly disagreed.

Crime has become a huge issue in the race for mayor, especially after the Times Square shooting.

Hamas targets Jerusalem after clashes at revered mosque
Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Monday, including a barrage that set off air raid sirens as far away as Jerusalem, after hundreds of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli police at a flashpoint religious site in the contested holy city.

The rocket fire drew heavy Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip. Health officials said at least 20 people, including nine children, were killed in fighting, making it one of the bloodiest days of battle between the bitter enemies in several years.

The fighting escalated already heightened tensions throughout the region following weeks of confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem. Those confrontations, focused around a disputed hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, have threatened to spark a wider conflict.

Fuel pipeline shutdown sparks worries of $3 gas
A cyberattack forced the largest US fuel pipeline to shut down Friday, and analysts are worried the disruption could result in a spike in gas prices.

The Colonial Pipeline system spans more than 5,500 miles and transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast. It transports 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil.

Colonial Pipeline Company said it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack that involved ransomware. In an update on Sunday, the company said that its four mainlines remain offline, but some smaller lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. The pipeline’s owners include Royal Dutch Shell.

FDA grants emergency use authorization for Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 12-15
The US Food and Drug Administration has expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to include people ages 12 to 15.

This is the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States authorized for use in younger teens and adolescents; the vaccine had previously been authorized for people age 16 and older. COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are authorized for use in people age 18 and older.

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