There is no “right moment” for American troops to leave Afghanistan, according to President Joe Biden in a Wednesday announcement that by Sept. 11 — 20 years after the attacks that sparked the so-called war on terror — the last GIs would come home. Biden also visited Arlington National Cemetery yesterday to honor more than 2,300 who died in America’s longest war. While Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney called a scheduled pullout a “huge propaganda victory” for the Taliban and al-Qaida, Biden noted that he was the war’s fourth president, saying, “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
Authorities yesterday arrested the former Minnesota police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Black man Daunte Wright near Minneapolis Sunday. Brooklyn Center Police officer Kimberly Potter, who resigned Tuesday, reportedly confused her taser with her handgun and was charged with second-degree manslaughter, then released on $100,000 bail. Coming amid the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, it’s further inflamed the debate over police violence against Black Americans. Chauvin’s lawyers are now presenting his defense, seeking to prove that George Floyd died from drug and health issues, not from nine minutes of Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
There’s no shot for fear. As Europe struggles to inoculate its citizens against COVID-19, the effort was further imperiled by Denmark completely shunning the AstraZeneca vaccine because of its suspected links to rare blood clots. Johnson & Johnson is also delaying its European deliveries over the same concern. The good news is that the European Union said Wednesday that 50 million Pfizer doses should arrive this month rather than the end of 2021. The red flags over vaccines have left health officials worried that in vulnerable places like Africa, more people are refusing immunization.
4. Bernie Madoff, History’s Costliest Con Man, Dies Behind Bars
Was it his last rip-off? Madoff still had 138 years left on his fraud sentence when he died Wednesday in a federal prison, reportedly of natural causes at age 82. The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market swindled thousands of investors, including actor Kevin Bacon and director Steven Spielberg, out of almost $65 billion in history’s largest Ponzi scheme. He was arrested after the 2008 financial crisis prompted investors to cash out money that existed only on paper in what his trial judge called “extraordinary evil” that cost one investor $1.4 billion.
The Biden administration is expected to announce sanctions against Russia today for hacking U.S. government systems and meddling in U.S. elections. Authorities in California alleged Wednesday that Paul Flores, 44, charged in the 1996 murder of college student Kristin Smart, tried to rape Smart in her dorm room before killing her. And Instagram says it has fixed an algorithm that was promoting posts with “appetite suppressant” and “fasting” to users with eating disorders.
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You have the right to remain speechless. “Digidog” strode out of a New York City public housing building this week, alongside a number of police officers who had been handling a suspected hostage situation. While the NYPD said the incident was resolved by humans, the uproar prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare Wednesday that the city should “rethink” using the AI-navigating surveillance rover if it’s “unsettling.” And the $74,000 Boston Dynamics device, whose coming out video went viral, certainly is — especially after a lookalike killing machine was featured in an episode of Black Mirror.
Coinbase. Write it down. The 10-year-old cryptocurrency marketplace went public yesterday, ending a volatile day of trading valued at $85 billion — rivaling oil company BP — while helping drive bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to new heights. Coinbase Global Inc. lists some 50 digital currencies. Even one unlisted currency was caught in the buying frenzy: Dogecoin, which began as a crypto-spoof with a Shiba Inu dog mascot, jumped 54 percent. While each coin is only worth 11 cents, the currency’s market capitalization reached $14.6 billion at the end of trading Wednesday.
Billy Eichner called it: “Maybe you’re the first gay Bachelor and we don’t even know.” At the time of the comic’s 2019 cameo, the comment was seen as ribbing The Bachelor’s reigning ladies’ man for being a virgin. But yesterday Colton Underwood told Good Morning America he is, in fact, gay. He'd recently been spotted filming a Netflix docuseries — not featuring Eichner, who originally quipped that Underwood should “look into” being gay, but “gay guide” Gus Kenworth, an Olympic freestyle skier. The “Bachelor Nation” has been supportive, but will it yield to calls for a same-sex competition?
Lionel Messi heard the call. In part by autographing his world-famous “10” shirts for makers of China’s Sinovac, he’s helped to send some 50,000 doses of the vaccine to South America. The idea is that athletes competing in the Copa América tournament, starting in June, will be protected from the virus. But just as in Australia, where Olympians are seeking preferential treatment, the Copa arrangement is being questioned in Uruguay, whose President Luis Lacalle Pou arranged the deal. With some of the highest infections per capita in the world, Uruguayans are desperate for a short supply of inoculations.
Ali Zaidi hails from conservative heartlands: Pakistan, his birthplace, and his eastern Pennsylvania hometown. But now he’s at the heart of a progressive leap in Washington’s environmental policy as President Biden’s deputy climate adviser, OZY reports. A veteran of the Obama administration’s climate push for awareness, Zaidi’s now translating that into trillions of dollars worth of action. And that’s not simply boosting sustainability, but tackling environmental justice issues by building sustainable infrastructure in historically disadvantaged communities. If it works, he says, it’ll mitigate global warming and “put people at the center.”