Ghost Guns, Vaccines, Prince: Your Thursday Evening Briefing

Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.,

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

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Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

1. President Biden took his first steps to address gun violence, saying, “We’ve got a long way to go.”

With legislation stalled by Republican opposition in Congress, the president ordered a crackdown on “ghost guns” — firearms assembled from kits — and said the epidemic of shootings in the U.S. was an “international embarrassment.”

His announcement came after two mass shootings, in Georgia and Colorado, that again focused public attention on the issue.

Mr. Biden said he would also require restrictions to be applied when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace transforms a pistol into a short barrel rifle. He added that the Justice Department would publish model “red flag” legislation for states, which would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.

The executive actions fell far short of the broad legislative changes long sought by proponents of making it harder to purchase guns.

“This is just a start,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

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Credit…Still image, via Court TV

2. A pulmonologist testified that George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen.”

The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer, moved into a new phase, with medical testimony addressing the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death — the most contested issue.

Dr. Martin J. Tobin, above, a lung expert, testified that Mr. Floyd died in part by Mr. Chauvin’s knees pressing against his neck and back, making it impossible for him to breathe.

The testimony challenged the suggestion from Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer that Mr. Floyd died from the fentanyl and methamphetamine that were found in his system.


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Credit…Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

3. More countries paused use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a day after European regulators described a possible link to blood clots.

Several countries are now using the shot only on older people who are most at risk of dying from the coronavirus. The Philippines, above, will temporarily stop administering it to people under 60.

Separately, the contamination of up to 15 million Johnson & Johnson shots has caused a shortage in supply, particularly affecting the U.S. military’s ability to vaccinate overseas troops and their families.

And scammers are offering false and stolen vaccine cards, as businesses and states weigh proof of vaccinations for getting people back to work and play.


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Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

4. An associate of Representative Matt Gaetz is expected to plead guilty to federal charges, including sex trafficking.

Joel Greenberg, a former elected official, could cooperate as a key witness against Mr. Gaetz, a Florida Republican. The plea by Mr. Greenberg, above, could significantly strengthen the Justice Department’s case against Mr. Gaetz and others, who are being scrutinized on potential sex trafficking violations.

Mr. Greenberg is said to have met women through a website, then introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, who along with Mr. Greenberg had sex with them. Mr. Gaetz has denied that he paid for sex.


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Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

5. Landlords are sweating as remote work keeps office spaces empty.

Across the country, the vacancy rate in office buildings has reached 16.4 percent, the highest level in decades. That number could climb further, despite vaccinations allowing some people to return, if companies turn more permanently to hybrid or fully remote work.

Some real estate professionals claim not to be worried and are expecting a comeback. But so far, on average, just a quarter of workers in the 10 biggest urban areas have returned to offices, a rate that has stayed mostly the same for months, according to Kastle Systems, a security company. Above, an office in Manhattan.

“We are just going to be bleeding lower for the next three to four years to find out what the new level of tenant demand is,” said Jonathan Litt, a chief investment officer.


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Credit…Abdulmonam Eassa/Barcroft Media, via Getty Images

6. Years into #MeToo, powerful men in France are accused of abuse.

Since the beginning of the year, men from some of France’s most prominent fields — politics, sports, the news media, academia and the arts — have faced accusations of sexual abuse in a reversal from mostly years of silence. Above, a protest at Paris city hall in July.

The accusations have also resulted in a rethinking of French masculinity and of the archetype of Frenchmen as irresistible seducers.

“Things are moving so fast that sometimes my head spins,” said the founder of a group against sexual violence.


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Credit…Nell Redmond/Associated Press

7. A former N.F.L. cornerback is suspected of killing five people in South Carolina.

Phillip Adams, who was on the rosters of six teams over six seasons in the N.F.L., was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in his Rock Hill home after a standoff with the police. Alonso Adams, the suspect’s father, said his son had committed the killings, then taken his own life. Above, a sheriff’s car outside a crime scene in Rock Hill.

A motive for the shooting was unknown. It was not clear if Mr. Adams’s brain would be sent to researchers who could determine whether he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head trauma.

Separately, Pavle Jovanovic, a former Olympic bobsledder who killed himself last year, had C.T.E., the first athlete in a sliding sport to have been found with it.


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Credit…Hannah Yoon

8. Meet Kati Kariko, a hero of Covid-19 vaccine development.

In 1989, she was hired as a low-level researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, migrating from lab to lab and never making more than $60,000 a year. But she was convinced messenger RNA could be used to instruct cells to make their own medicines, including vaccines.

First, Dr. Kariko inserted mRNA into cells, inducing them to make new proteins. Then she discovered how to get over a crucial roadblock: getting the mRNA past an animal’s immune system. Her work laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

“It is already transforming for Covid-19, but also for other vaccines. H.I.V. — people in the field are already excited. Influenza, malaria,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.


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Credit…Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

9. African locusts met their match: smartphones.

In 2020, billions of locusts descended on East African countries that had not seen them in decades. But as bad as it was, a groundbreaking approach proved so effective that it could transform management of other climate-related disasters. Above, a swarm of locusts in Meru, Kenya, in February.

An entomologist created a simple smartphone app that allowed anyone to collect data like an expert. The information was then used by aerial pesticide sprayers to seek out swarms and destroy them.

“The situation is still very, very serious,” said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “But if you compare now to a year ago, the countries are a thousand times more prepared.”


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Credit…Bertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

10. And finally, new music from Prince.

For the first time since his death, Prince’s estate announced a never-before-heard album, “Welcome 2 America,” to be released in July. Above, Prince performing in Paris in 2009.

Recorded in 2010, the album documents “Prince’s concerns, hopes and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation, and a renewed fight for racial justice,” his estate said.

Prince’s vault at Paisley Park, his studio complex outside of Minneapolis, is thought to contain hundreds — or potentially thousands — of unreleased songs.

Have a timeless evening.


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