Today's edition of The Scroll is edited by Armin Rosen\nThe Big StoryThe airlift from Afghanistan continues. In the 24-hour period ending 3 a.m. Monday, 28 U.S. military flights evacuated more than 10,000 people from the now Taliban-controlled country, amid reports that the Islamist hard-liners were beating and harassing Americans at checkpoints around the Kabul airport. Back in the United States, Joe Biden’s administration is continuing its strategy of treating the Afghanistan withdrawal as a dignified act of statesmanship at its most challenging: Axios reports that the president has no plans to fire anyone over the withdrawal’s implementation. Still, there are numerous signs that Washington is basically winging it at this point. Biden is likely to extend an August 31 deployment deadline for troops aiding in the evacuation of American citizens—although American soldiers staying past that date would require permission that Afghanistan’s new Taliban government doesn’t seem inclined to give. Biden said on Sunday that U.S. troops are expanding the safe zone around the Kabul airport to ensure that more Americans can make it to safety. Afghans who assisted the 20-year U.S. mission will also be vetted in foreign bases and then resettled in the United States.The real problems may begin once the airlift finishes. Initial U.S. intelligence assessments indicate the Taliban have captured over 200 military aircraft, including 20 A-29 Tucano attack planes. The New Yorker’s Robin Wright, who reported from the country earlier this year, argues that it’s only a matter of time before al-Qaeda re-establishes something approximating its former presence in Afghanistan. A rapid airlift bolsters the Biden administration’s argument that the Afghanistan pullout, however chaotic it may look from afar, did nothing to harm the United States’ core interests or its strategic standing. Whether reality meshes with these talking points is the kind of thing we might not know for a couple more decades.\n\nRead more: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/21/politics/us-weapons-arsenal-taliban-afghanistan/index.html and https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/afghanistan-again-becomes-a-cradle-for-jihadism-and-al-qaeda?utm_source=NYR_REG_GATEThe Rest\n-The FDA has given its full approval to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, the first of the vaccines to clear this final U.S. regulatory hurdle. The move may or may not reassure the vaccine hesitant that the Pfizer jab is safe for them—but it definitely opens the door, legally speaking, for much stricter vaccination mandates, as there are limits to how and whether employers, school districts, and the like can require people to take a drug that only has emergency FDA approval.\n\n-Meanwhile the Delta surge continues across the United States, with Florida becoming the “first U.S. state where the daily deaths in [the] current wave have exceeded previous waves.” Read more: https://twitter.com/VincentRK/status/1429489529275158531\n\n-In an immediate and almost uncannily perfect metaphor for the entire COVID-19 era, New York’s star-studded “Homecoming” concert celebrating the city’s supposed return to normality after the nightmare plague of the past 18 months was canceled amid heavy rains from the fringes of Hurricane Henri. Some 60,000 vaccinated concertgoers—a safe number to gather in one place, apparently—got to see Santana, LL Cool J, and Journey, though the mid-show cancellation wiped out scheduled performances from Paul Simon and Bruce Springstein. “Nature rules,” an ever-oracular Patti Smith, who didn’t get to perform, told CNN. “We have abused nature to the point where she is chaotic and unpredictable.” Read more: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/nyc-homecoming-show-evacuated-1215246/\n\n-After last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, U.S. companies earmarked $50 billion for racial-justice-related causes, a number equal to the annual GDP of oil- and gas-rich Azerbaijan. The Washington Post found that only $4.2 billion of this spending came in the form of direct grants. The other $45.2 billion, “more than 90 percent” of the announced giving, “is allocated as loans or investments [the companies] could stand to profit from, more than half in the form of mortgages.” Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/george-floyd-corporate-america-racial-justice/\n\n-More proof of just how little the May fighting between Israel and Hamas really resolved: On Saturday Palestinian militants shot a sniper from Israel’s border patrol during a protest at the barrier separating Hamas-controlled Gaza from Israeli territory, critically injuring him. Tensions between Egypt and Hamas also led to the closure of the Rafah border crossing on Monday. Read more: https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/breaking-idf-attacking-in-gaza-677359 and https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/officials-egypt-closes-gaza-border-amid-tensions-with-hamas/2021/08/23/11d2b4f8-03f0-11ec-b3c4-c462b1edcfc8_story.html-The United States’ return to some version of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal looked like a fait accompli for much of the first six months of Joe Biden’s term. But now, amid deadly regime-linked strikes on commercial ships in the Persian Gulf and the installation of a new hard-line president, Iran Special Envoy Robert Malley says the negotiations to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action are “one big question mark.” Read more: https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2021/08/19/exclusive-bidens-iran-envoy-calls-nuclear-deals-fate-one-big-question-mark-494049\n\n-Mayim Bialik, perhaps the most famous Orthodox Jewish woman in the United States, will be the temporary full-time host of Jeopardy! after the swift defenestration of Michael Richards, the short-lived replacement for Alex Trebek. Richards was felled by a combination of having naked ambition, making off-color remarks on years-old podcasts nobody listened to or cared about, and not being Levar Burton. Bialik will reportedly host the nightly edition of Jeopardy! while the venerable quiz show’s producers figure out how to clean up this mess. Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/23/business/mayim-bialik-jeopardy-host.html\n\n-Today marks the 10th anniversary of an unusually large earthquake striking the Washington, D.C., metro area. The quake, which measured 5.8 on the Richter scale, resulted in no real property or bodily damage, though it gave an unexpected and mind-boggling glimpse into the capabilities of various animals. According to the National Zoo, a range of residents at its Rock Creek Park flagship seemed to anticipate the quake ahead of time: The zoo’s howler monkeys sounded an alarm an astonishing 15 minutes before the ground shook. Read more: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/news/national-zoo-animals-react-earthquake\n\n-Drakeo the Ruler, a leading Los Angeles rapper who beat murder charges and was finally released from jail late last year, was arrested again, apparently for riding in an Uber whose windows were illegally tinted. It’s pretty thin stuff and furnishes additional proof that Drakeo and his associates have been the targets of a vendetta on the part of local authorities, as the rapper and his supporters have long alleged. In May of 2019, Jeff Weiss interviewed Drakeo from jail for Tablet. Read more: https://twitter.com/Passionweiss/status/1429523138090471424 and https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/drakeo-the-ruler-speaks-to-tablet-from-prisonThe Back Pages New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s farewell address began on time today, right at the stroke of noon. It began a little too on time—maybe even suspiciously on time. It was probably pre-recorded. Whatever: Our Emmy-winning governor, who will occupy the office of John Jay and Eliot Spitzer for another 18 hours or so, is a skilled communicator, adept at formulating complete thoughts and sentences without the aid of any pre-prepared statement. The man could give a farewell address in his sleep at this point, especially this one.The speech was an utterly predictable trough of self-glorification in which he admitted to no wrongdoing on any matter whatsoever. The attorney general’s investigation into Cuomo’s alleged spree of sexual harassment was a “firecracker,” a political strategem meant to generate outrage and produce a desired end, namely his removal from office. The scandal over Cuomo’s concealment of the number of deaths that might have resulted from a state policy of requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients who had been discharged from hospitals, still the subject of a federal investigation, warranted no mention. Per usual, Cuomo touted himself as the only man who solved the insoluble: “When the rest of the nation put their head in the sand and denied science and played politics, we faced up to the facts, and we made the tough but necessary decisions.”Cuomo continued that during his decade in office, “we have developed … a new paradigm of government in this state—a government that actually works and actually works for the people.” That’s probably news to a lot of New Yorkers, who live in a state where government has seemed like some combination of dysfunctional and openly predatory for much of Cuomo’s reign.Cuomo may be a sex pest or a liar or a killer of the old. But before he was any of those things—or before he was widely believed to be any of those things—he was the man willing to get into a public spat with the mayor of New York City over a deer. In December of 2016, months before #MeToo and long before COVID-19 was even a glimmer in a Wuhan petri dish, Cuomo announced that the state government was willing to help transport a white-tail buck that had somehow wandered into a Harlem park before trotting its way into a nearby housing project, then subsequently into police custody. The city government insisted that the deer had to be euthanized and that transporting the animal to another habitat or releasing it into a densely populated city weren’t practical or humane options.Soon the mayor and the governor were in an escalating spiral of public statements about The Deer, a creature which became the latest and stupidest front in a long-simmering feud between Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio. New York’s state government pursues various deer population control policies and licenses the killing of 200,000 of them by hunters every year. But those legions of dead ruminants couldn’t be used to needle the mayor of New York and were thus unworthy of any additional attention from the most powerful man in the state.The deer thing was the essence of Andrew Cuomo, the fullest display of the man’s character: He was a petty tyrant who harbored puzzling and counterproductive personal beefs and who never felt more alive than when he could act on them in theatrically public fashion. He couldn’t let a deer wander into NYPD custody without trying to play it to some sort of political advantage at someone else’s expense, even or maybe especially when that “someone else” governed the largest jurisdiction in his state.It once seemed strange that such a pathological character could wield so much power and responsibility within our democratic system. But it now seems inevitable. Cuomo was the slickest of the bullies in an era when the bullying sensibility was ascendent, concealing himself behind a veneer of center-left populism and a bluster that was widely mistaken for charisma.Whether people hated him or loved him, the positive or negative traits that they saw in Cuomo were what a totally different group of people saw in Donald Trump. Neither the bullying ex-president nor the bullying soon-to-be ex-governor has ruled out a future political career. Their next act could be the part where we find out what, if anything, we’ve really learned from having to live under them.