They were some of 9/11's biggest names. Where are they now?

Rudolph Giuliani was a hero before he was a punchline. Lisa Beamer was a wife and mother before she became a symbol of Sept. 11 — and though her celebrity passed, her widowhood cannot. In the aftermath of the planes falling from the sky, America and the world were introduced to an array of personalities. Some we had known well, but came to see in different ways. Others were thrown into public consciousness by unhappy happenstance. Some, like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar, are dead. But others have gone on to lead lives that are postscripts to Sept. 11, 2001. Here are a few of the boldface names of that tumultuous time — what they were then, and what has happened to them since.

Texas GOP bets on hard right turn amid changing demographics

Republicans in America's largest conservative state for years racked up victories under the slogan “Keep Texas Red,” a pledge to quash a coming blue wave that Democrats argued was inevitable given shifting demographics. Now, those population transformations have arrived, with the 2020 census confirming that the state got bigger, more suburban and far more diverse. Yet a more apt state GOP rallying cry for today might be “Make Texas Even Redder." Faced with increasingly dire demographic threats to their party’s dominance, Texas Republicans have championed a bevy of boundary-pushing conservative policymaking that dramatically expands gun rights, curbs abortions and tightens election laws — steering a state that was already far to the right even more so. Far from tiptoeing toward the middle to appease the Democratic-leaning Texans driving population growth, the party is embracing its base and vowing to use a new round of redistricting to ensure things stay that way through 2030 — becoming a national model for staying on the offensive no matter how political winds may eventually shift.

US-built databases a potential tool of Taliban repression

Over two decades, the United States and its allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars building databases for the Afghan people. The nobly stated goal: Promote law and order and government accountability and modernize a war-ravaged land. But in the Taliban’s lightning seizure of power, most of that digital apparatus — including biometrics for verifying identities — apparently fell into Taliban hands. Built with few data-protection safeguards, it risks becoming the high-tech jackboots of a surveillance state. As the Taliban get their governing feet, there are worries it will be used for social control and to punish perceived foes. Putting such data to work constructively — boosting education, empowering women, battling corruption — requires democratic stability, and these systems were not architected for the prospect of defeat. Since Kabul fell Aug. 15, indications have emerged that government data may have been used in Taliban efforts to identify and intimidate Afghans who worked with the U.S. forces.

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