1. Andrew Cuomo Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations
He’s stepping down. Despite criticizing a “lack of fairness in the justice system,” the New York governor announced his resignation today after U.S. President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in the Democratic Party said he should quit. Cuomo, 63, denied he had “crossed the line” with any of the 11 women who accused him of inappropriate touching, and said that “the line has been redrawn.” Last week, the New York attorney general released a report from an investigation that found Cuomo had harassed the women. A former aide has also filed a criminal complaint. Cuomo, who was facing an impeachment probe, says he will step down in 14 days. His successor, Kathy Hochul, will become the Empire State’s first female governor. (Sources: The Guardian, NYT)
By mid-September all active-duty U.S. troops will have to get inoculated, officials said yesterday. The administration of President Joe Biden has held off on introducing a vaccine mandate pending Food and Drug Administration approval, expected in the coming weeks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said the September date could even be brought forward. Of the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops, about 64% have been vaccinated so far, making it difficult to deploy those who haven’t had their shots overseas. Military leaders said they don’t expect a fight from troops, who are used to getting mandatory vaccinations.(Sources: NYT, Washington Post)
After a slew of successes over the weekend, the Taliban announced yesterday it had captured its sixth provincial capital, Aybak, in the northern province of Samangan. This follows the fall of the key city of Kunduz Sunday. The Pentagon said it does not plan to step up air attacks, adding that the fate of the country is now in the hands of the Afghan government. “It’s their country to defend now. It’s their struggle,” said spokesman John Kirby. However, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, said he would “press” the group to abandon its military offensive at talks in Doha this week. (Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian, WSJ (sub))
4. Pacific Islands Risk ‘Extinction’ Due to Hotter Temperatures
Pacific island nations say they will be the worst affected after a shocking U.N. climate change report said global warming is inevitable. The 1.5-degree-Celsius increase predicted in the report would be “catastrophic,” Fiji’s ambassador to the U.N., Satyendra Prasad, said. The Pacific region is one of the lowest carbon emitters in the world but will be unduly affected by climate change given rising sea levels, with parts of Kiribati, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands at risk of becoming uninhabitable. The Maldives would also be devastated, with former President Mohamed Nasheed saying yesterday it would push the country to “the edge of extinction.” (Sources: The Guardian, BBC)
5. Biden’s Big Budget: Senate Democrats Unveil $3.5T Bill
President Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal is expected to pass the Senate today and includes funding for roads, bridges, the electricity grid, water systems and broadband internet. A blueprint for a separate $3.5 trillion anti-poverty bill that offers universal pre-kindergarten, free community college and expanded Medicare was unveiled by Senate Democrats yesterday. It would be the biggest boost to social security in some six decades. Republicans oppose the $3.5 trillion plan, citing the tax increases it would bring. To get it through the Democrats will have to be united. (Sources: NYT, WSJ (sub))
6. Also Important …
A Chinese court has upheld a death sentence against a Canadian citizen convicted of drug smuggling, while another court is expected to rule this week in the case against Michael Spavor, also Canadian, who’s accused of espionage. The U.S. has announced another $165 million in humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen which the U.N. warns faces a famine. And North Korea said today that the U.S. and South Korea should “pay a price” for going ahead with annual joint military drills.
Coronavirus Update: Schools in Dallas, Texas, have made masks mandatory in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott. And Bangladesh has begun vaccinating tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled across the border from Myanmar.
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Floods in Europe, fires in North America. And in Central Asia? Drought. Kazakhstan is experiencing mass deaths of animals, which don’t have enough water or grass to graze on. The country’s steppes are turning into a horse graveyard and the herders whose animals are dying face the loss of their livelihoods. It’s not the first mass animal die-off this summer of extremes has seen. In Canada and the Pacific Northwest, about one billion small sea creatures like clams and mussels died during the heatwave, baked in their shells. The UN says 75% of Kazakhstan faces ecological destabilization due to climate change. (Sources: Washington Post, Reuters)
2. Blame the Booze: Alibaba Under Fire After Rape Allegation
“An ugly forced drinking culture.” That’s part of what Chinese tech giant Alibaba says was to blame for a sexual assault allegation against one of its managers. The unnamed man will be fired, CEO Daniel Zhang said yesterday, after a female employee said she was made to drink and later sexually assaulted during a business trip. The case has gone viral on Weibo. Another alleged rape case, against Chinese-Canadian superstar Kris Wu, has also garnered attention recently. After the Alibaba employee’s first complaints to human resources were ignored, the company says it will now set up a special reporting channel for its staff (Sources: AFP, SCMP (sub))
3. Dementia Developments: A.I. Could Deliver Swift Diagnosis
Artificial intelligence just might be a game-changer for dementia diagnoses. Scientists are testing a system which would diagnose the disease in a single brain scan, instead of the multiple tests required now. It might also be able to tell whether those diagnosed with the condition will remain stable for many years, slowly decline or need urgent treatment. In pre-clinical tests the algorithm has been able to identify signs years before symptoms develop, neuroscientists at Cambridge University say. Now a 500-person trial in Britain will test whether the AI system works in a clinical setting. (Sources: BBC)
U.S. woman Virginia Roberts Giuffre says the disgraced financier and his girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, trafficked her and forced her to have sex with their friends, including the Duke of York, when she was 17. Buckingham Palace denied the allegations against the queen’s son at the time and Prince Andrew said he’d never met Giuffre, despite a photo showing the two of them together. Now Giuffre is seeking damages, having filed a lawsuit against the prince in Manhattan federal court. Maxwell, 59, is currently in prison, and her trial on sex trafficking charges begins in November. (Sources: CNN, AP)
5. To Vax or Not: Lamar Jackson Undecided After Two Cases
Having had coronavirus twice in eight months, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said yesterday that he’s still unsure about getting the vaccine. While the NFL has encouraged players to get vaccinated, and says 90% have now received at least one dose, it does not mandate it. Jackson first tested positive for COVID-19 in November, losing his sense of taste and smell, and then again in July, though he said this time he just felt fatigued. The 24-year-old said he will now “keep learning as much as I can about it and we’ll go from there.” (Sources: Washington Post, The Athletic)
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