Show an ad over header. AMP

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.


  • Avril Haines was confirmed as director of national intelligence on Wednesday, making her the first woman to serve as head of the U.S. intelligence community.
  • Biden has pledged to make his Cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history.

The big picture: Austin was the first Black general to command a theater of war in Iraq, first to serve as the commander of U.S. Central Command, and first to hold the title of vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

  • During his confirmation hearing, Austin pledged to address white supremacy and extremism within the military, saying he would "rid our ranks of racists" and ensure that military leaders understand that any sort of extremist behavior is unacceptable.
  • He also testified that he plans to ensure the Pentagon does "everything we can" to assist in vaccine distribution and guarantee that troops get inoculated, per AP.

Between the lines: Both chambers of Congress voted Thursday to grant Austin a waiver from a law that requires officers to be out of the military for seven years before taking on the job, as the four-star general only retired in 2016.

  • Austin is the third defense secretary to require a waiver from Congress to serve, NPR reports, following Gen. George Marshall, nominated in 1950 by President Harry Truman, and Gen. Jim Mattis, President Trump's first defense secretary.
  • Amid bipartisan concerns over abandoning the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon for a second consecutive administration, Austin acknowledged in his confirmation hearing that being a Cabinet secretary "requires a different perspective and unique duties from a career in uniform."

Go deeper: Biden finalizes full slate of Cabinet secretaries

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Keep reading... Show less

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to congressional leadership

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

Keep reading... Show less

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Italy tightens COVID restrictions for 5 regions amid warnings of a growing prevalence of variants

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

Keep reading... Show less

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories