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The pope expressed confusion as to why some cardinals were refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

The United States announced a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines in the South China Sea; the deal entails Australia’s dropping out of an earlier agreement to purchase $60 billion in conventional attack submarines from France, a move that the French foreign minister likened to “a knife in the back.”1 2 In response, France recalled its ambassadors from both countries and canceled a gala in Washington to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Chesapeake, and China warned that the deal could make Australia the “target of a nuclear strike.”3 4 5 The Pentagon admitted that its final drone strike before withdrawing from Afghanistan killed an NGO worker and nine family members instead of Islamic State militants, as had previously been claimed, and that the targeted car likely contained bottled water rather than explosives.6 The headquarters of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs was repurposed as office space for the religious police, Taliban fighters were photographed riding paddleboats in Band-e Amir National Park, and a Taliban commander in Kabul reported that his men were having difficulty adjusting to their new roles as security officers.7 8 9 “Martyrdom seekers,” said the commander, “have different skills.”

A study confirmed that the Dutch are shrinking.8 Pfizer recalled its anti-smoking drug because it contained carcinogenic agents, and Philip Morris bought a company that manufactures asthma inhalers as part of a broader plan to invest in “inhaled therapeutics.”9 10 Hospital staff in Arkansas were asked to give up common medications such as Benadryl, Tums, Ex-Lax, and Preparation H in order to secure religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.11 12 An Oklahoma pastor was offering to verify religious exemptions for people who join his online church by attending streaming services and donating at least $1.13 “It’s beautiful,” said the pastor. “My phone and emails have blown up.” The pope expressed confusion as to why some cardinals were refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.14 “It’s a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines,” said the pontiff. The rapper Nicki Minaj was invited to speak with a White House doctor about the COVID-19 vaccine after she tweeted that it had resulted in swollen testicles and impotence for a friend of a cousin in Trinidad.15  “Nicki told the truth to me!” chanted demonstrators outside CDC headquarters.16 “Doctor Fauci lied to me!” State officials reported that more Alabamians died last year than were born.17

U.S. Army officials warned soldiers stationed at Camp Zama, in Japan, to prepare for an invasion of wild monkeys.18 The Latvian government apologized for alarming residents of Riga with urban combat drills in which troops fired blank rounds in the city’s streets; the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it would no longer attempt to safely detonate explosives in residential neighborhoods; and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommended the use of “Not-Reaching Pouches,” which store driver’s licenses and registration documents “in plain sight” to prevent officers from shooting unarmed motorists.19 20 21 Firefighters attempted to protect General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, from the KNP Complex wildfire by draping it in a giant flame-resistant blanket.22 A Kansas boy’s prize-winning science project featuring a dead spotted lanternfly prompted a USDA investigation into how the invasive species arrived in the Midwest, and butterflies that Finnish researchers reintroduced to a remote island were found to contain parasitic wasps that contained smaller parasitic wasps.23 24 Entrepreneurs announced the formation of Colossal, a company that aims to repopulate the Arctic with woolly mammoths, a goal that one of the founders said could take as little as six years to achieve.25 Scientists at the University of Manchester, in England, devised a method of crafting concrete bricks on Mars using a mixture of martian dust and human blood, but were unable to pursue a plan to create tools out of urine and feces “due to health and safety concerns.”27

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