👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ The CDC and the FDA recommended a “pause” in the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine after six women developed an “extremely rare” disorder involving blood clots and one died. More than 6.8 million people in the U.S. have received the vaccine without any other serious adverse reactions. In a statement, the two health agencies said that the move to temporarily halt administration of the shots was out of an “abundance of caution.” Scientists will examine possible links between the vaccine and the blood clot disorder and determine whether the FDA should continue to authorize the use of the vaccine or modify the authorization. The White House said the pause would “not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan” to administer 200 million shots by the end of April. White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients added that the “Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up less than 5% of the recorded shots in arms in the United States to date.” (New York Times / Associated Press / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico)
2/ Biden nominated Robert Santos to head the U.S. Census Bureau. If confirmed by the Senate, Santos would be the first person of color to permanently lead the agency. Santos, a third-generation native Mexican American, currently serves as the vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute and as the president of the American Statistical Association. (NPR / Washington Post)
3/ Biden will withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 – the 20th anniversary of the attacks that first drew the country’s into its longest war. In an agreement with the Taliban, the withdrawal extends the U.S. troop presence past the May 1 deadline set by the Trump administration. The 2021 threat assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies reported that a peace deal was unlikely and that “the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.” Since October 2001, more than 2,200 U.S. troops have died and another 20,000 have been wounded. There are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now, as well as an additional 7,000 foreign coalition forces. American troop levels reached a high of 100,000 troops in August 2010. (Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News / CNN)
4/ Biden called on Putin to “de-escalate tensions” following a Russian military buildup at Ukraine’s border, saying the U.S. would “act firmly in defense of its national interests.” Russia has stationed the highest number of troops along Ukraine’s border since 2014. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, said the U.S. would increase its military presence in Germany by about 500 soldiers. Biden also suggested meeting Putin “in a third country” in the coming months. (New York Times / Associated Press / NBC News / Politico / CNN)
5/ Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60% purity for the first time after an attack on one of its key nuclear facilities. Iran blamed Israel for the attack, which they said caused a blackout and damaged centrifuges. Israel has not publicly admitted or denied a role in the explosion, and the White House asserted that “the U.S. was not involved in any manner. We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts.” Iran’s foreign minister, however, warned that the attack could hurt ongoing negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. Weapons-grade levels requires uranium enriched to around 90% purity. (Associated Press / New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
6/ The police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright resigned. Kim Potter had been an officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department for 26 years. The city’s police chief, Tim Gannon, also resigned. Yesterday, Gannon said he believed that Potter was attempting to use a Taser on Wright, but instead pulled her firearm, fired a single, fatal shot into Wright’s chest after she repeatedly yelled “Taser!” (Washington Post / New York Times / USA Today / NPR / CNBC)
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