Ayman al-Zawahiri, Taiwan, and Earth's Short Day Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Aug. 2, and we're covering the death of one of the world's most wanted terrorists, a top US official visiting Taiwan, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Al-Zawahri Killed

Ayman al-Zawahri, the current leader of al-Qaida, was killed in a US-led drone strike in recent days, according to multiple sources yesterday. Al-Zawahri, one of the world's most wanted men, was one of Osama bin Laden's top deputies and a key architect of the 9/11 attacks. 


The Egyptian-born terrorist assumed control of al-Qaida following bin Laden's death in 2011, helping oversee the expansion of the organization and becoming a leading figure among Islamic militants. Analysts portray the relationship (see retrospective from 2002, paywall, New Yorker) between bin Laden and al-Zawahri as one of funder and strategist, with al-Zawahri leading the planning of the group's operations while bin Laden played a public-facing role. 


Reports suggest the operation was carried out by the CIA in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, coming just under one year since the US withdrew forces from the country. Al-Zawahri had a $25M bounty offered by the US government, though there has been no word of whether it has been paid out. 

Pelosi to Visit Taiwan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taiwan tonight during her tour of Asia, despite warnings from China and the Biden administration. Viewing the trip as a provocation, China warned it would take action if the visit goes through, though no details on a potential retaliation were given. The trip would be the most high-profile visit by a US official to Taiwan since 1997—though Taiwan is not listed on the official itinerary.


The news comes a week after President Joe Biden told China that the US position on Taiwan remains unchanged. The island nation broke away following China’s Communist revolution. Beijing views Taiwan as under its control, while Taiwan maintains it is a sovereign nation. The US has long supported Taiwan’s independence but has adopted a neutral stance on the question of its sovereignty. See background here.


China scheduled military exercises in the South China Sea, with Pelosi's visit coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of China's People’s Liberation Army.

Deshaun Watson Suspended

An independent arbiter suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games yesterday for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct during massage treatments by at least 24 women, allegations he has denied. 

Accusations first arose against Watson last March (see timeline), with dozens of women bringing civil lawsuits. Earlier this year, two grand juries opted not to pursue criminal charges against Watson, while all but one of the 24 civil suits have been settled out of court. 


The NFL had been seeking a full season suspension and has three days to appeal. Regardless, Watson will keep his five-year, $230M contract minus six game checks, and will be required to use only club-approved massage therapists in authorized venues.


The suspension comes three months after the Houston Texans traded Watson to the Browns, opting to replace their former No. 1 draft pick and four-year starting QB Baker Mayfield, who ultimately signed with the Carolina Panthers. 


See a list of players disciplined under the NFL's personal conduct policy. 

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Beam

> Nearly 600 male showrunners join 400 of their female counterparts in demanding Hollywood studios create safety protocols for pregnant employees in states where abortion has been outlawed (More)


> Two-time Grammy-nominated rapper Mystikal arrested on charges including rape, robbery, and false imprisonment (More)


> Beyoncé changes song lyrics in new album amid criticism over use of ableist slur (More) | Mo Ostin, pioneering Warner Bros. record executive, dies at 95 (More)

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Science & Technology

> The Nuclear Regulatory Commission certifies plans for the first small modular nuclear reactor; system expected to go online at Idaho National Laboratory in 2029 (More) | What are SMRs? (More)


Comprehensive study of 21 billion social connections on Facebook suggests a primary driver of economic mobility in the US is childhood friendships between different economic classes (More) | See paper (More)


> Scientists uncover new method to measure stress levels in plants; concentration of reactive oxygen-containing chemicals linked to increased heat and drought stress (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets kick off August down (S&P 500 -0.3%, Dow -0.1%, Nasdaq -0.2%) after posting largest monthly gains since 2020 in July (More)


> PepsiCo to invest $550M into Celsius as part of distribution deal; shares of energy drink maker close up 11% to $7.5B market valuation (More)


> Securities and Exchange Commission charges 11 people for role in cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme that raised over $300M from retail investors (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Guy Reffitt, a leader of the Three Percenters militia group, sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol; Reffitt was initially reported to the FBI by his son (More


> First grain shipment departs the Ukrainian port city of Odesa; Russia agreed to allow ships through its Black Sea naval blockade under a Turkish-brokered deal (More) | Three captured British mercenaries to go on trial in Ukraine's separatist-controlled eastern region (More)


> Five states—Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, and Washington—hold primaries ahead of the 2022 elections; key races include Missouri GOP primary to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R) (More)



America's New Energy Crisis

WSJ | Christopher Matthews, Katherine Blunt. The US is grappling with its worst energy crisis in 50 years, with rising prices and limited supply. How did this happen, and what will it take to fix it? (Read)

Dawn of the Motor Age

MIT Press Reader | Peter Norton. For many urban Americans in the 1920s, cars and their divers were not only seen as a menace to life and limb, but also as aggressors to their rights to city streets. (Read)



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"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

- James Baldwin

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