Time’s up. Despite criticizing a “lack of fairness in the justice system,” the New York governor announced his resignation yesterday after fellow Democrats from the president on down insisted on it. Cuomo, 63, denied he had “crossed the line” with any of the 11 women who accused him of inappropriate comments and touching, and maintained that “the line has been redrawn.” Last week, a New York attorney general’s report concluded the governor had, in fact, harassed his accusers, and a former aide since filed a criminal complaint. Cuomo, who faced an impeachment probe, said he’d leave office in 14 days, and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will become the Empire State’s first female governor. (Sources: The Guardian, NYT, Washington Post)
They’re in trouble for playing hooky. After Texas state House Democrats failed to show up at a special session for the third time, House Speaker Dade Phelan signed arrest warrants for 52 lawmakers. The Texas Democrats first broke quorum by fleeing the state last month in an attempt to block the passage of new voting restrictions they charge will disenfranchise people of color. Although they would not be jailed, they could be brought into the capital by law enforcement. The warrants are set to be delivered today, but Democrats were defiant. When asked whether she would return to the house floor, State Rep. Celia Israel replied, “Hell no.” (Sources: Washington Post, The Texas Tribune)
3. Taliban Overrun Another City, Ghani Rallies Troops
A ninth Afghan city has fallen to the Taliban, with fears growing for the capital Kabul. The militants overtook Badakhshan province’s capital Faizabad today, meaning they’ve taken control of more than a quarter of the country’s provincial capitals in less than a week. In the key city of Kunduz, which fell on Sunday, the Taliban have now seized the airport after members of the Afghan army surrendered. Meanwhile President Ashraf Ghani has flown to Mazar-i-Sharif to try and rally the troops as the fall of the major northern city would be a huge blow to the government. Separately, it’s unclear how peace talks with the Taliban might proceed in Qatar. (Sources: Al Jazeera, NYT)
Yesterday the Senate passed the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, and in the early hours of this morning Senate Democrats independently adopted a $3.5 trillion budget resolution. The vote was 50-49 and now gives the Democrats a chance to enact major increases to America’s social safety net without the threat of a Republican filibuster. The bill, mainly written by Sen. Bernie Sanders, would expand Medicare and allow for universal pre-kindergarten among other measures. It still has a long road ahead, with some moderate Democrats concerned about the costs. The next step is passage in the House, where linkage of infrastructure and budget packages also divides lawmakers. (Sources: CNN, Washington Post)
5. Also Important …
A Chinese court has sentenced Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years jail for spying. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is today testifying before a commission looking into allegations of corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma. And German police have arrested a British embassy employee on suspicions he spied for Russia.
Coronavirus Update: Arkansas has set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, with only eight ICU beds available in the state. And the U.S. is sending more vaccines to Mexico which is also experiencing a spike in infections from the delta variant.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’: On the heels of her recent Oscar win, R&B wunderkind H.E.R. joined Carlos for an open conversation about her early success and meeting the moment, and she shares a shocking revelation about a band that could have been … featuring herself, Kehlani and Zendaya. Plus, she shares insights into her journey to stardom, and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in her music. Watch on YouTube.
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Protesters marched through London recently, not over coronavirus regulations, but another disease alleged to afflict Geronimo the alpaca. Even the British prime minister’s father has weighed in on the row, which comes after authorities said the grumpy camelid has tuberculosis and must be put down. Bovine TB is a significant health threat to U.K. cows and more than 27,000 have been culled since spring 2020. However some experts, including a veterinary surgeon, say the Andean animal’s TB test was flawed. Now Geronimo’s “alpaca angels” are keeping vigil at his owner’s Gloucestershire farm and vow to make a human chain to block authorities. (Sources: NYT, The Guardian)
2. FAA’s ‘Fight Club’ and Other Memes Tackle Inflight Clashes
Forget snakes on a plane, flight attendants have had bigger problems since the skies reopened to travelers: combative passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to tackle this — through memes. The agency said yesterday that there have been 3,810 incidents in 2021, most of which involve travelers refusing to wear masks, although there have also been cases of passengers assaulting airline staff. The new meme campaign seeks to shame the badly behaved, with one featuring Brad Pitt on a plane with the caption: “The second rule of Fight Club … is not to fight on a plane,” while another warns of a potential $35,000 fine. (Sources: Insider, Washington Post, FAA on Twitter)
3. The Sound of Silence: Seeking Quiet in a Noisy World
Do you ever long for some quiet? The kind of deep silence that you really only get these days away from our noise-polluted cities? Nonprofit Quiet Parks International is currently looking to identify the quietest refuges on the planet. It’s a difficult mission: In a 15-minute period there can’t be more than one sound from a human source. The group has so far certified two urban parks (where minor background noise is tolerated), London’s Hampstead Heath and Taiwan’s Yangmingshan National Park, and just one wilderness area, the Zabalo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The second might be Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota, but the jury is still quietly deliberating. (Sources: CNN)
4. Karaoke With Chinese Characteristics: Ministry Bans Illegal Songs
Speaking of quiet, it seems Beijing wants some too, though for different reasons. The Chinese government announced yesterday that it’s banning Karaoke songs with “illegal content,” including ones that harm the amorphous concepts of national unity or territorial integrity. Songs that incite ethnic hatred, obscenity, gambling or violence are also a no-no. Karaoke is a popular pastime and with more than 50,000 venues across the country, some of which have music libraries of more than 100,000 tunes, so it’s a tough ask. The Culture and Tourism Ministry is encouraging venue owners to use “healthy and uplifting” music instead, promising a whole new definition of fun. (Sources: BBC, The Guardian)
5. Lionel Messi says Bye-Bye Barca, Bonjour PSG
He always had Paris. The Barcelona star is moving to the City of Lights for a two-year contract with France’s Paris Saint-Germain, opening a new chapter in his storied career. Messi, 34, who’s won the prestigious French Ballon d’Or soccer trophy six times, will be paid about $41 million a year. “Everything about the club matches my football ambitions,” said the Argentine superstar, welcomed by new Brazilian teammate Neymar, who played with Messi at Barca, by a “back together” tweet. After bidding a tearful farewell to Barca earlier this week after salary negotiations broke down, Messi says he’s looking forward to playing at Paris’ Parc des Princes sporting a fresh No. 30 shirt. (Sources: AFP, Sky Sports)