👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ The U.S. military vacated Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. The base was the epicenter of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, with fighter jets, drones, and cargo planes taking off from the twin runways day and night. The airfield was handed over to the Afghan National Security and Defense Force, effectively ending America’s longest foreign war. The U.S., however, will continue to pay nearly $4 billion annually until 2024 to finance the Afghan security forces. (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ Attorney General Merrick Garland suspended federal executions, saying he said serious concerns about the arbitrariness of capital punishment, its disparate impact on people of color, and “the troubling number of exonerations” in death penalty cases. Garland ordered a review of whether the drug approved for federal executions poses risks of pain and suffering, as well as the decision made late last year to allow other methods of execution besides lethal injection, including electrocution and firing squad. In 2019 – after 17 years without executions – then-Attorney General William Barr directed federal prison officials to begin executing 13 people on death row. (NBC News / Politico / Washington Post)
3/ Biden endorsed major changes to the military justice system that would remove investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases from the chain of command. The military justice system would instead hand sexual harassment and assault cases off to independent military lawyers. An independent review of how the military deals with sexual assault found that commanders need training in how to prevent what an official calls “daily acts of demeaning language and sexual harassment.” In a statement, Biden backed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s decision to work with Congress on overhauling the system, saying “sexual assault is an abuse of power and an affront to our shared humanity. And sexual assault in the military is doubly damaging because it also shreds the unity and cohesion that is essential to the functioning of the U.S. military and to our national defense. Yet for as long as we have abhorred this scourge, the statistics and the stories have grown worse.” Biden, however, stopped short of backing a congressional effort to strip commanders of oversight of all major crimes. (New York Times / NPR / USA Today / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
4/ The U.S. economy added 850,000 jobs in June – the largest number of jobs added in a month since last August. Biden responded to the June jobs numbers, saying the American Rescue Plan relief bill was “proving to the naysayers and the doubters that they were wrong.” He added: “Our economy is on the move, and we have Covid-19 on the run.” The unemployment rate, meanwhile, ticked up to 5.9% from 5.8%. (Washington Post / CNBC)
5/ About 11% of people in the U.S. have missed their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine – nearly 15 million people. Second doses are considered missed if more than 42 days has passed since the initial jab. (Washington Post)
poll/ 59% of Americans believe crime is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem in the U.S. 17% say crime in their area is extremely or very serious, up from 10% last fall. (Washington Post)
poll/ 56% of Americans say ensuring access to voting is more important than tamping down on voter fraud. Among Democrats, 85% said voting access was more important, while 72% of Republicans said making sure no one votes who isn’t eligible was more important. (NPR)
poll/ 67% of Americans believe democracy in the U.S. is under threat, while 29% say democracy in the U.S. is alive and well. (PBS NewsHour)
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