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Biden, Vaccines, Marijuana: Your Thursday Evening Briefing 1
Doug Mills/The New York Times

1. Voting rights and immigration dominated President Biden’s first formal news conference.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden called attempts by Republicans to restrict voting “un-American” and vowed to use the power of the presidency to prevent states from making it harder for people to cast ballots.

“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” he said. “I mean, this is gigantic, what they’re trying to do. And it cannot be sustained.”

Mr. Biden was barraged with questions about his handling of the surge of migrants, especially children, at the U.S. border with Mexico. He insisted that officials in his government were doing everything they could to treat migrant children humanely, and he repeatedly blamed former President Donald Trump for the overcrowding in border facilities.

On foreign policy, Mr. Biden said that he could not imagine that U.S. troops would still be in Afghanistan a year from now.

During a question-and-answer session, Mr. Biden said it was his “expectation” that he would run for re-election in 2024, with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate.

We fact-checked his news conference here.

Rory Doyle for The New York Times

2. The new U.S. Covid-19 vaccination goal is 200 million shots in 100 days.

That’s what President Biden said at his news conference, and with 130 million doses already administered, the country is on track to meet it. He said that the pandemic remained the country’s “most urgent problem.” Above, a man in Mississippi receives a Covid shot.

California and Florida announced that more adults will be eligible for vaccines in the coming weeks. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to vaccinate workers in New York City’s theater industry to help Broadway reopen in the fall.

Separately, Pfizer began testing its vaccine on children under 12, following Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which have all tested vaccines on children in some capacity.

Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

3. The global Covid-19 vaccine rollouts are moving at a snail’s pace, and it isn’t only because of shortages.

In the European Union, bureaucratic inertia, strategic errors, a diffusion of responsibility and logistical problems have all seriously undercut vaccination efforts. Above, a vaccination site in Italy.

Hit by a new wave of infections, India is holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is produced in the country each day, reserving them for domestic needs.

But Britain’s quick rollout of coronavirus vaccines has boosted the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His allies hope it will vindicate Brexit.

Energy and Commerce Committee, via YouTube

4. The chief executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled by lawmakers about how disinformation spreads across their platforms.

During a congressional hearing, Democrats accused the executives of allowing disinformation to run rampant, while Republicans focused on the barring of right-wing figures from the platforms, including former President Donald Trump.

When the committee asked Jack Dorsey, above, Twitter’s chief executive, if he believed his company had played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he said, “Yes.” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, did not answer with a “yes” or “no.”

In other business news, jobless claims dropped to a pandemic low, but economists are concerned about the longer-term displacement of workers.


5. A giant ship blocking the Suez Canal may take days, even weeks, to free.

Dozens of ships are stranded in the canal in Egypt and the economic cost of the disruption grows with each passing hour. Attempts with tugboats and dredgers to dislodge the source of the jam — a ship that’s been wedged in the canal since running aground during a sandstorm on Tuesday — have failed.

Fully loaded with 20,000 containers, the ship “is a very heavy beached whale,” one expert said. So far, the oil market has largely shrugged off the interruption of traffic. Here’s why the Suez Canal is so important.

Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

6. New York reached a deal to legalize recreational marijuana, and become one of the largest markets in the country.

The move paves the way for a potential $4.2 billion industry, with millions of dollars in sales tax revenue reinvested in minority communities each year. Under the deal, deliveries of the drug would be allowed and permits given for marijuana “consumption sites.” New Yorkers would be free to cultivate up to six marijuana plants for personal use. Above, advocates of recreational marijuana in Albany.

Officials hope the measure, if approved, will help end years of racially disproportionate policing that resulted in Black and Hispanic people being arrested on low-level marijuana charges far more frequently than white people.

Veronica Penney/The New York Times

7. Take the bus. You’ll help the climate.

Public transit offers a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, but a year into the pandemic, a severe drop-off in riders has left the systems in many cities hanging by a thread. Above, how transit ridership has changed during the pandemic.

“We are facing maybe the most important crisis in the public transit sector in different parts of the world,” one expert said. If commuters shun public transit for cars as their cities recover, it will have huge implications for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

8. Elie Kligman, 18, has a shot at playing Major League Baseball, but his devotion to his faith could shatter that dream before it starts.

His strict observance of the Jewish sabbath means he cannot play from Friday night until the sun goes down on Saturday. The solution? Perhaps catching. Professional catchers are given regular days off during the week because of the physical and mental strain. Navigating his career will still be tricky, but Mr. Kligman’s coach thinks he has a chance.

“My goal is to become the first Shabbas observant player in Major League Baseball,” said Mr. Kligman, above during a game in Nevada.

Separately, Black figure skaters, who are both athletes and artists, are using their sport to speak out.

Thomas Trutschel/Photothek Via, Getty Images

9. Hate speech is rampant on Google Podcasts.

As social networks crack down on hate speech, podcasts are one of the last remaining online mediums for the de-platformed. But even in the world of podcasting, Google Podcasts stands alone for its tolerance of hate speech and other extremist content.

More than two dozen podcasts from white supremacists and pro-Nazi groups were found in a recent search. A Google spokeswoman said that the company did not want to “limit what people are able to find,” and that it only blocks content “in rare circumstances, largely guided by local law.”

“It seems like they’ve made a decision to embrace an audience that wants more offensive content rather than constrain that content for the sake of safety and respect,” ” said Jessica Fjeld, the assistant director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters

10. And finally, let’s get nonfungible.

Sophia, above, a robot known for interviewing Germany’s chancellor and performing on “The Tonight Show,” has made a splash in the art world with “Sophia Instantiation” — a 12-second video file of a digital self-portrait. It sold at auction for $688,888.

The sale was the latest in the frenzied market for ownership rights to digital art called NFTs, or “nonfungible tokens,” and possibly the first produced in part by artificial intelligence.

Sophia’s artwork outsold the digital item auctioned off by our tech columnist — his column about NFTs — which fetched over $560,000.

Have a creative evening.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.

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