Johnson & Johnson, Minnesota, Big Ben: Your Tuesday 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.
1. States across the country stopped administering Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine after the emergence of rare blood clotting.
Federal health agencies called for a pause in the vaccine’s use after six reports of blood clots in women age 18 to 48. One has died, and a second is hospitalized and in critical condition. As of Monday, nearly seven million people in the U.S. have received Johnson & Johnson shots.
Experts have yet to determine to what extent, if any, the vaccine is responsible for the clots, and say the benefits of the vaccine still far outweigh the risks. But the investigation follows actions by European regulators who have concluded that a vaccine made by AstraZeneca may also be the cause of a similar, extremely rare clotting disorder. Johnson & Johnson also said it would pause the rollout of its vaccine in Europe.
2. President Biden is expected to announce the full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 — the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that started the longest war in U.S. history.
The decision will keep more than 3,000 troops on the ground beyond the May 1 deadline set by former President Donald Trump. Officials said that by fixing a withdrawal date, Mr. Biden hoped to avoid an increase in violence threatened by the Taliban if the U.S. stayed beyond May 1. A new intelligence report released offered a grim assessment of Afghanistan and the prospects for peace.
Separately, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to a level of 60 percent purity, which is three times the current level, a move that appears to be in retaliation for an Israeli attack that knocked the Natanz plant offline.
3. The Minnesota officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright resigned, as did the chief of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, above right.
Kim Potter, above left, the veteran police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., had been placed on administrative leave after killing Mr. Wright, a Black man. The police said that Ms. Potter had intended to use a Taser on Mr. Wright during a traffic stop. But the weapons look and feel different, and most forces take precautions to prevent the mix-up.
Just miles from where Mr. Wright was shot, Derek Chauvin’s defense team began to present its case — that George Floyd died from heart disease and drug use. One witness, a former police officer and expert on the use of force, said that Mr. Chauvin’s tactic “was justified.” It is still unclear whether Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, will take the stand.
4. Consumer prices rose in March at their fastest pace in nearly nine years, an increase that may fuel concerns of inflation.
The Consumer Price Index, a closely watched inflation measure, rose by 0.6 percent in March, up from the 0.4 percent increase in February. Prices at the pump drove the increase: Gasoline prices rose by 9.1 percent in March.
Over all, prices were up 2.6 percent from a year ago. But to get a better sense of true inflation trends, it helps to look at percent change in prices since February 2020, our Upshot correspondent explains, which shows inflation running at 2.2 percent, close to the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.
5. Ramadan began for millions of Muslims around the world — the second time the religious holiday has occurred during the pandemic.
In many countries, the first day of the holy month offered the promise of a Ramadan with fewer restrictions than last year, when mosques around the world were closed because of the coronavirus. This Holy Month also has limits, but people are planning to gather for group prayer and with friends and family, too.
But with the rollout of vaccines uneven, the spread of the virus remained a danger. In Egypt, government officials warned of a third wave of infections in the run-up to Ramadan. Above, outside of Cairo.
6. “Any other mother would have done the same.”
The sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in Venezuela led to the arrests of her mother and a teacher who helped the girl end her pregnancy, prompting a national debate about legalizing abortion. Activists say it demonstrates how the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis has stripped away protections for young women and girls. The accused rapist remains free.
Back in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration will allow women to receive abortion pills by mail for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, reversing a Trump-era rule that required women to get the first of two pills in person at a medical clinic or hospital.
7. NFTs are selling for millions. They’re also warming the planet.
When an artist uploads a piece of art to create a nonfungible token — a new kind of digital collectible item that is stamped with a unique bit of code — it requires vast amounts of computing power and electricity.
Many small artists have been tempted to cash in on the NFT gold rush, which has led to eye-popping auctions worth millions of dollars. But the environmental downsides are vast, with an average NFT estimated to emit as much carbon as driving a car 500 miles.
“The numbers are just crushing,” said the artist Chris Precht, whose art is pictured above. He shelved plans to create and sell NFTs. “As much as it hurts financially and mentally, I can’t.”
8. Frank Gehry, 92, is working on the Los Angeles version of the High Line in New York, housing for homeless veterans and a scenic design for a jazz opera. He is way too busy to retire.
In his first studio tour since the pandemic began, Gehry, a Pritzker-winning architect, told our reporter that he has now reached a point in his career where he has the luxury of focusing on what matters to him most: projects that promote social justice. “I’m just free,” he said, “now that I don’t have to worry about fees.”
We also looked at the legacy of another master of his craft. After Anthony Bourdain’s death, his longtime assistant was left to finish his last book, “World Travel: An Irreverent Guide.” It comes out next week, and it’s “an enduring embodiment of Anthony Bourdain’s love for the whole world,” our Travel writer says.
9. What does it take to hear Big Ben again?
We checked in with Ian Westworth, above, a clock mechanic for the Houses of Parliament and one of 500 artisans working on a yearslong restoration project: For the first time since its installation in 1859, the Great Clock in the Palace of Westminster has been dismantled.
The clock’s restoration, done at a secret off-site location for security purposes, includes replacing the 1,296 pieces of shimmery, mouth-blown pot opal glass on its four dials, each about 23 feet in diameter. The most noticeable changes will be to the exterior: The clock dials are being restored to their original Victorian color scheme of Prussian blue. Big Ben won’t sound any different, but the repairs will improve the clock’s accuracy.
10. And finally, the world’s longest bunny is missing.
Four feet long and weighing 50 pounds, Darius the heavweight bunny should be easy to spot. But he vanished from an English garden last weekend, and the police are treating his disappearance as an abduction.
Anette Edwards, Darius’s owner, is a model turned rabbit breeder who has held four world-record titles for the size of her animals. She often appeared with Darius while dressed as the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. The bunny was reported to be insured for $1.6 million and traveled with a bodyguard, though he is now largely retired from public appearances.
Have a hoppy night.
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