Defense Secretary Austin Testifies Before Senate Armed Services On Afghanistan Withdrawal Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Top Pentagon officials will be pressed to explain whether they supported President Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan and why the U.S. didn't foresee the Afghan military's collapse to Taliban forces, forcing a hasty American withdrawal. Photographer: Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg / Contributor
Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images


Wednesday | September 29th, 2021

It’s Wednesday, September 29th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Military Leaders Testify Before The Senate 

The Topline: In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was questioned over two issues: the much-criticized Afghanistan withdrawal and controversial phone calls with China.

Quote Of The Day:

“I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them… And I think ‘damage’ is one word that could be used. Yes. Yes.”

– General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo/Bloomberg/Contributor/Getty Images


General Milley admitted the United States’ “credibility” was likely damaged by the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, but Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he felt differently and defended the decision and execution.

General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said he initially recommended the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, saying that not doing so would cause the Afghan army to collapse and open the door for the Taliban to take over. Milley agreed with this sentiment, but it appears President Biden did not follow their advice, although the president said in an interview that no advisors told him to keep troops in the country. 

Calls With China

Earlier this month, Bob Woodward published a book detailing claims about a phone call General Milley had made to his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng. According to Woodward, Milley was worried Trump would “go rogue” and spark a war with China, so he called his counterpart twice and assured him the U.S. would not strike. During the calls, Milley also allegedly said he would warn China if he learned Trump was planning to attack.

On Tuesday, Milley defended the calls and said they’d been coordinated with the Defense Secretary and Acting Defense Secretary at the time.

Milley also said he did not believe Trump would attack China, adding that there were witnesses to the calls and he briefed then-Secretary Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the second call. He also admitted to discussing the call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

FatCamera/Getty Images

2) Judges Approve NYC Teacher Vaccine Mandate 

The Topline: A panel of judges in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan put forward a brief order on Monday ruling the vaccine mandate for New York City public school teachers can go forward after it was temporarily blocked.

Quote Of The Day:

“… the mandate has already worked ‘cause it’s encouraged so many people to get vaccinated to protect each other and our kids.”

– Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) on Monday


In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials announced that all employees of the city’s Department of Education would need to have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 27th. 

The order applied to all public school staff — around 148,000 workers — and included school, central staff, and some DOE contractors. Cafeteria workers, safety personnel, and janitors are also included under the order. 

After some back-and-forth in the courts, the mandate was temporarily blocked and sent to a group of judges. On Monday, the judges said the mandate can go forward.

A Department of Education spokesperson said, “the mandate will go into effect on Friday end of day so that by Monday, October 4, 100% of educators and staff in our buildings will be vaccinated.”

Legal Challenge: An attorney who brought the lawsuit for the teachers said he and another lawyer are asking the Supreme Court to intervene. 


Union leaders are saying the mandate will lead to staff shortages because it will result in thousands of teachers and staff being fired.

As of Monday, Mayor de Blasio stated that 87% of all DOE workers had gotten at least one dose, including 90% of teachers and 97% of principals. 

Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/Contributor/LightRocket via Getty Images


3) Creators Sue For Marvel Stake

The Topline: Several comic book artists who helped create some of Marvel’s iconic characters now want a share of the studio’s earnings, but on Friday, Disney filed a countersuit to defend its sole ownership of the franchise. 

Financial Stakes

Collectively, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the rest of the studios’ superhero movies have earned around $23 billion. The biggest of them, 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” brought in $2.8 billion on its own.

The Case

Under the 1976 Copyright Act, authors or their estates can regain ownership of a creative work after a certain number of years, but it depends on the terms under which they created the material. 

This past spring, the heirs of several Marvel comic book writers filed a suit claiming they qualify to regain some of their rights, including Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, as well as Larry Lieber, Stan Lee’s younger brother who worked on Iron Man and Thor.

Black Widow, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, and several other superheroes are also involved.


In a countersuit filed Friday, Disney said the characters fall under the umbrella of “work made for hire.”  

The lawyer representing the creators told The New York Times they were all freelancers or independent contractors, “working piecemeal for carfare out of their basements.”

Big Picture: Intellectual property comes with hazards, and there can be risks with creating entertainment involving established characters.

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Contributor/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

R. Kelly

On Monday, multi-platinum R&B artist R. Kelly was found guilty of sex trafficking, bribery, racketeering, and the sexual exploitation of a child. The 54-year-old singer faces 10 years to life in prison.

Lancet Medical Journal

The prestigious medical journal The Lancet is being criticized for referring to women as “bodies with vaginas” on its latest cover. The quote in question comes from the featured article titled “Periods On Display.” 

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