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Pentagon decides no US troops will be punished over botched Kabul drone strike that killed 10 civilians

Jacob Scott

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Following a review of the strike, Austin instructed the heads of Central Command and Special Operations Command to make recommendations to improve Defense Department policies and procedures. But their recommendations did not include holding anyone accountable or punishing anyone involved in the strike, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday.

“The Secretary reviewed their recommendations. I won’t get into all of them. Some of them are understandably classified, but he approved their recommendations,” Kirby said. “So I do not anticipate there being issues of personal accountability to be had with respect to the August 29th airstrike.”

The decision means there will be no disciplinary action taken over the strike, which Pentagon officials initially defended before going on to call it a “tragic mistake” as a result of “execution errors.”

Two weeks after the strike, and only after CNN and other media outlets raised serious questions about the military’s official account, the Pentagon acknowledged the operation was a mistake. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, said the military had tracked the wrong vehicle for hours as it built up what it thought was the evidence of dangerous activity needed to conduct a strike.

On August 26, three days before the botched strike, an ISIS-K suicide bomber carried out a bombing at Abbey Gate, one of the primary entrances to Kabul’s international airport, killing 13 US service members and many more Afghans. The threat of another attack and the final days of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan compounded the pressure that led up to the drone strike.

But there was no imminent ISIS-K threat neutralized in the strike. Instead, the military killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an Afghan who worked for Nutrition and Education International, a non-profit focusing on combatting malnutrition, and was in the process of applying for a visa to relocate his family to the United States. The strike killed nine others as well, including members of Ahmadi’s family.

Steven Kwon, the president of NEI where Ahmadi worked, blasted the Defense Department’s decision.

“This decision is shocking. How can our military wrongly take the lives of 10 precious Afghan people, and hold no one accountable in any way? I’ve been beseeching the US government to evacuate directly-impacted family members and NEI employees for months because their security situation is so dire,” he said in a statement. “When the Pentagon absolves itself of accountability, it sends a dangerous and misleading message that its actions were somehow justified, increasing security risks and making evacuation even more urgent.”

The New York Times was first to report the defense secretary’s decision.
A comprehensive review of the strike ordered by Austin found there was no violation of law, including the law of war, in the mistaken airstrike.

“They all had a genuine belief based on the information they had that that was a threat to US forces, an imminent threat to US forces,” Lt. Gen. Sami Said told reporters in early November. “That’s a mistake. It’s a regrettable mistake. It’s an honest mistake. I understand the consequences, but it’s not criminal conduct, random conduct negligence.”

Said would not address the question of accountability, leaving that up to commanders.

“I didn’t eliminate the possibility of accountability. That is commander business,” Said remarked.

Austin’s decision not to punish those involved in the strike comes one month after he committed to “adjusting” Defense Department policies and procedures to better protect civilians.

At the time, Austin said he believed “leaders in this department should be held to account for high standards of conduct and leadership.”

“And for my part as secretary of Defense, I have every intent to uphold that standard,” Austin added.

When asked why Austin had not pushed harder for accountability in the case of the August 29 strike, Kirby said, “In this particular case, there was not a strong enough case to be made for personal accountability. But that doesn’t mean that the department is turning a blind eye to a high standard of conduct and leadership.”

In November Austin ordered a review of a March 2019 strike in Baghouz, Syria, that the Pentagon only recently acknowledged had killed civilians. The 90-day review will be led by Gen. Michael Garrett, the commander of US Army Forces Command.

The review will cover examine civilian casualties as a result of the strike, which targeted ISIS fighters, as well as compliance with the law of war and what accountability measures, if any, would be appropriate.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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