Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Aug 27, 2021
President Joe Biden is vowing retribution for the deadly attack that killed scores at Kabul airport yesterday claimed by Islamic State. Texas Republicans are now able to pass new voting restrictions. And China has banned popularity listings of all celebrities not named “Xi Jinping.”
Two suicide bombers and gunmen killed 13 U.S. troops yesterday at Kabul’s airport, prompting President Joe Biden to vow retribution against the Islamic State group offshoot that claimed responsibility: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.” The attack killed 60 Afghans, many from families seeking evacuation from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Despite it being among the deadliest attacks in America’s longest war, evacuations resumed today. But there are doubts as to what America can do, as operations at the airport are already winding down ahead of Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline, with some allied nations already leaving the airport. (Sources: NYT, AP)
They won’t be accommodating. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 yesterday that the Biden administration couldn't legally extend a federal eviction moratorium until Oct. 3. President Biden acknowledged this possible outcome without the approval of a divided Congress, but hoped that last month’s extension would allow time for a slow-moving $47 billion to reach struggling renters via state and local agencies. The court wrote that if the moratorium is to be reinstated, “Congress must specifically authorize it.” Dissenting justices, along with the White House, argued that the decision would put families on the street and make them more vulnerable to COVID-19’s already surging delta variant. (Sources: WSJ [Sub], CNN)
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3 - Texas Voting Curbs OKed
With Quorum, GOP Lawmakers Pass Voting Restrictions
After struggling for months with Democrats who fled the state to deny them a quorum, the Republican-majority state House of Representatives passed a package of new voting rules opponents say disenfranchise minority voters. Senate Bill 1 would restrict voting methods, such as outlawing drive-through and 24-hour voting and making mail-in voting more difficult. Republicans, who’ve similarly legislated in other states they control, but where they’re losing voters, defended the changes as necessary to prevent ballot fraud, dovetailing with former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that tampering cost him the 2020 election. The bill needs additional votes in both legislative chambers before Gov. Greg Abbott can sign it. (Sources: Washington Post, NPR, Austin American-Statesman)
4 - Homing In
California Takes Radical Tack to Add Housing
Doubling down isn’t a metaphor in this case. Sacramento legislators are moving forward with a bill to alleviate the state’s housing crisis, which has resulted in housing prices so out-of-reach for most people that homelessness is skyrocketing. Senate Bill 9 would allow duplexes on single-family lots, effectively doubling their potential to accommodate Californians. While its author, Sen. Toni Atkins, calls it a “gentle density increase,” many disagree, charging that it will degrade the quality of their neighborhoods. But it’s part of a trend of cities upping densities to meet dire housing demand, with states looking at revamping the way localities control land use. (Sources: NYT, Quartz)
5 - Also Important …
Tina Tchen, CEO of the women’s rights group Times’s Up, resigned Thursday after the group reportedly advised accused serial sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo, who this week stepped down as New York’s governor. A new study of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has found that it does elevate the risk of blood clots and other side effects, but that those risks are much higher among people who contract the disease itself. And kidnappers who seized 136 children from a school in Nigeria in May have reportedly released the last group of hostages.
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They’re breaking the chains — of listicles. Beijing has put the kibosh on the ever-popular celebrity ranking list. The problem? A “chaotic” fan culture is running counter to regulators’ urgent mission of ensuring “online political and ideological security.” But there will still be lists: Favorite songs or other works are much more in keeping, officials insist, with a merit-based system of regulated adulation. Fawning over celebs might also run counter to elevating personalities like that of China’s president, whose widely published Xi Jinping Thought is now being promoted and taught in schools as something far more worthy of top-10 status. (Sources: Reuters, The World)
2 - God Beast
Meet the Whale That Walked
It had legs, and it knew how to use them. Phiomicetus anubis also possesses a skull reminiscent of the eponymous god of death in Egypt, where its 43-million-year-old fossil was discovered. Peer-reviewed research on this ungainly 10-foot-long beast of 1,300 pounds, published this week, says the hitherto unknown species split its time between land and sea. And this walking whale “was a god of death to most of the animals that lived in its area,” said the paper’s lead author, Abdullah Gohar. The discovery could help decode this critical phase in mammalian development, which traces deer-like land animals evolving into leviathans of the deep. (Sources: Insider, BBC)
3 - Cheaper Checkout
Apple to Pay $100M, Relax App Payment Rules
They’ve shaken the tree. App developers have agreed to settle a lawsuit with Apple now that the computing giant has relented on its strict payment controls. The deal permits apps made for Apple devices to inform users of payment options not exclusively linked to Apple, which charges high commissions. The 2019 class-action suit charged that Apple’s ban on steering users toward other payment methods was anticompetitive. The settlement will allow apps to use in-app data to contact users about alternate payment options. If a federal court OKs the settlement, the $100 million will be distributed to smaller developers as compensation. (Sources: Tech Crunch, The Verge)
4 - Fever Dream
Violent ‘Fortnite’ Teams Up With MLK Jr.
Has it become a dystopian nightmare? That’s what critics are wondering after Epic Games featured slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., a hero of nonviolent dissent, in its blockbuster shoot-em-up game Fortnite. It’s part of “A March Through Time,” providing players with an “immersive journey” to “DC 63” after the year of King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington. The incongruous effort was approved by the King Estate, which sees the game as another way to spread King’s “legacy of hope, peace, love and equality.” It could also, skeptics warn, be a chance for avatars to make disrespectful gestures toward such sentiment. (Sources: Gizmodo, Daily Beast)
5 - Real Deal
PSG May Be One Short of a Power Trio
Is soccer’s dream team up for sale? It would seem so, now that Paris Saint-Germain’s star forward, France’s own Kylian Mbappé, is being pulled away from the team by a sweetened, $212 million offer from Real Madrid (from $188 million). But it would mean separating him from superstars Neymar and Lionel Messi, who’s just arrived after a contentious breakup with Barcelona. And also just ahead of Tuesday’s summer transfer deadline, another big name, Cristiano Ronaldo, has reportedly asked his employers at Italy’s Juventus to be sold, with Manchester City expected to make a bid for the Portuguese striker. (Sources: SI, Eurosport, BBC)
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