Court overturns Cosby sex conviction. Northwest heatwave kills dozens, buckles roads. Afghan civilians say “no choice” but to fight Taliban themselves.
Court overturns Cosby sex assault conviction
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned the 2018 sexual assault conviction against comedian Bill Cosby, now 83. The ruling allows for Cosby’s immediate release from prison, having served less than two years of his 10-year sentence. The conviction was for the 2004 drugging and assault of Andrea Constand, a Temple University athletic director. Philadelphia District Attorney Kevin Steele made the decision to charge Cosby in 2016, just days before the statute of limitations would have run out.
The Supreme Court’s decision in no way exonerates Cosby, nor does it cast any doubt on his guilt in the case. Rather, the ruling states that DA Steele should have adhered to his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby for the assault. This is despite there being no evidence that this promise was ever formalized or even written down.
The ruling contends that Cosby was relying on the decision of the previous DA not to prosecute him when he gave self-incriminating testimony in a civil case brought by Constand. Steele later used those statements against him in the criminal case.
Justice David Wecht said that overturning the conviction, and barring any further prosecution, “is the only remedy that comports with society’s reasonable expectations of its elected prosecutors and our criminal justice system”.
Neither Constand nor Steele’s office have yet issued a statement. It’s unclear what if any legal recourse they have to challenge the court’s decision.
West Coast heat wave kills dozens in US and Canada
A “heat dome” the Pacific northwest has killed dozens of people in the US and Canada this week. In Oregon and Washington state, temperatures have been over 100 degrees for several days in a row, as high as 116 in Portland. Across the border in British Columbia, temperatures reached 115 degrees, the highest since recordings began.
Hundreds in the area have also been hospitalized for heat-related illness. The area usually enjoys relatively mild summers and many homes do not have air conditioning. Local authorities have opened heat shelters in schools and large public venues to allow residents to escape the heat.
But people have not been the only casualties of the heatwave. The heat has also done damage to some infrastructure, buckling roads and melting electrical cables.
The entire west coast has been suffering severe drought conditions for weeks. The drought and heat dome have mutually intensified each other. Even as this particular heatwave begins to break, experts fear the country may be in for worse this summer. Predictions call for a particularly disastrous summer of heat and wildfires.
As US troops leave, Afghan civilians arm themselves against Taliban
Across Afghanistan, hundreds of civilians bearing outdated automatic rifles, pistols and grenade launchers are joining up to bolster the Afghan defense forces in their fight against the Taliban.
Many of the civilians are former mujahideen veterans, while others are young students. One such fighter, Dost Mohammad Salangi, 55, says, “If [the Taliban] impose war on us, oppress us and encroach on women and people’s property, even our seven-year-old children will be armed and will stand against them”.
One student who has joined up has said he and others like him have “no choice” now that foreign forces are leaving.
The departure of US troops has emboldened the Taliban, which has seized 50 of the country’s 370 administrative districts. The Taliban have signed a truce with the US, but not with the Afghan government. Deadly daily assaults on Afghan military positions have been escalating for weeks.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has appealed to the US for help. President Biden has pledged to end America’s longest and, arguably, most fruitless foreign war. Biden said he would support Afghanistan, but that the Afghans themselves must decide their own future.