President Joe Biden says the U.S. military will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31 — nearly two weeks ahead of the previous September 11 deadline. Speaking from the White House Thursday, Biden said it would be up to Afghans to determine their own future — nearly two decades after the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.
President Joe Biden: “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country. … I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
A Taliban delegation in Moscow said Friday the group now controls over 85% of Afghan territory. The Taliban has surrounded population centers, captured a key Afghan border crossing with Iran, and holds more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan.
In Haiti, two Haitian Americans are among 17 suspects arrested over Wednesday’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Haitian authorities said a team of 28 heavily armed assailants, 26 of whom were Colombian, carried out the operation. They said at least three suspects were killed and eight remain at large. Colombia’s defense minister confirmed some of the men are former members of Colombia’s military. One of the two U.S. citizens arrested is Haitian American James Solages, the head of a maintenance and repair company in Florida. Little is known about the second Haitian American suspect, Joseph Vincent from the Miami area.
The World Health Organization says Africa suffered its worst week since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cases of the Delta coronavirus variant surging in countries where almost no one has had access to vaccines.
In Namibia, nine senior government officials have died of COVID-19 over the last two weeks as hospitals have been overrun by new cases. Namibia now has one of the world’s highest infection rates.
Tunisia’s healthcare system is collapsing as the North African nation logs nearly 10,000 positive tests a day.
Texas Republicans are doubling down in their efforts to suppress voting rights, as they unveiled a host of new restrictive measures during a special session Thursday. The bills include a ban on drive-thru voting and 24-hour or late-night voting options. They would penalize election officials who make voting easier by sending out unsolicited absentee applications. The measures would also impose stringent signature-matching requirements and increase the power of partisan poll observers, which can result in intimidation. The new restrictions, which disproportionately target voters of color, come after Texas Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout in late May to block the Republican-controlled Legislature from passing a sweeping voter suppression bill.
Fifteen states have agreed to abandon their fight to block the bankruptcy plan of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive OxyContin. In exchange, Purdue will release tens of millions of documents, pay a settlement expected to reach $4.5 billion, and the Sackler family will agree to cede ownership of Purdue. The deal, which includes the states of New York and Massachusetts, would shield the Sacklers from future opioid lawsuits. The Sackler family will not have to apologize or admit responsibility for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Nine other states and Washington, D.C., still oppose this week’s agreement and are expected to keep fighting the Sackler bankruptcy plan.
President Biden met with top cybersecurity advisers this week as the White House vowed to address mounting cyberattacks with Russian officials. Bloomberg reports Russian government hackers are behind a breach of a Republican National Committee contractor last week, though the source of the cyberattack has not been confirmed. The breach happened around the same time a massive global ransomware attack compromised hundreds of businesses and localities in the U.S. and around the world. Russia has denied responsibility for the hacks.
In Bangladesh, at least 52 people have been killed after a massive fire broke out at a food processing factory outside the capital Dhaka Thursday evening. Many workers jumped from the factory’s upper floors as the inferno blazed throughout the night and into the next day. It’s unclear how many people remained trapped inside. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but such disasters are not uncommon due to poor or unheeded safety regulations in factories and residential buildings.
Spanish police have arrested three suspects connected to the beating death of a young gay man whose killing set off massive protests in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities across Spain. Twenty-four-year-old nursing assistant Samuel Luiz died after he was beaten near a nightclub early Saturday in a town in northern Spain. One of his attackers was heard shouting a homophobic slur. The killing brought tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets, less than a week after Spain’s annual Pride celebrations.
Redan Evado: “The country still does not really accept that there are many different ways to love. It should not be possible that just because a person decides to live his life loving a person of the same gender, or loving whomever, he ends up losing his life.”
The European Parliament voted Thursday to suspend funding to Hungary over its new law banning the depiction of homosexuality to children, saying it violates “EU values, principles and law.” The vote came one day after the law equating homosexuality with pedophilia went into effect.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have destroyed homes in a Palestinian Bedouin community for the seventh time since November, claiming they were built without permits. A Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday’s demolition left dozens of people homeless, including 35 children.
Muataz Bsharat: “This is evidence that the occupation state is carrying out state-sponsored terrorism against the Palestinian existence. Now 63 Palestinians have become homeless. Eleven families had their homes demolished and confiscated. Even water tanks that a Palestinian citizen uses to provide water for their family and their livestock, they were confiscated and destroyed by the occupation.”
Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s military blew up the family home of a Palestinian American man accused of killing an Israeli teenager. Thursday’s explosions leveled the home of Sanaa Shalaby, who says her estranged husband rarely visited the property.
Israel’s home demolition drew a rare rebuke from the State Department, which said Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue with senior Israeli officials. Human rights groups have condemned Israel’s punitive home demolitions as collective punishment and a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
El Salvador’s government has expelled prominent Mexican journalist Daniel Lizárraga after he led investigations into government corruption at the Salvadoran online news source El Faro. In a video message recorded at the airport just before his expulsion to Mexico, Lizárraga promised El Faro would remain committed to independent journalism.
Daniel Lizárraga: “They will not silence us. It won’t happen. We won’t stop publishing. We’ll continue offering the best information possible, to the best of our abilities, as rigorously as possible.”
The Inter American Press Association and other press freedom groups have condemned the government of President Nayib Bukele for clamping down on dissent.
A new analysis by the World Weather Attribution network finds this summer’s record-shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest would have been “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” The study also warned that as the human-induced climate crisis continues to heat the planet, such events will become a lot less rare. The high temperature in Lytton, British Columbia, hit 121 degrees on June 29 — one day before a massive wildfire destroyed most of the town. The heat wave is blamed for up to 500 deaths in British Columbia, 78 deaths in Washington state and 116 in Oregon.
California’s governor has asked state residents to reduce their water use as he expanded a drought emergency declaration to areas home to nearly half of California’s population. Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement Thursday at Lopez Lake, a reservoir in San Luis Obispo County that’s at just 34% capacity.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “The hots are getting a lot hotter. The dries are getting a lot drier. And climate change is real, and it’s here. And if you don’t believe it because you don’t believe science, you’ve got to believe your own eyes.”
California just experienced its driest rainy season on record, with average statewide precipitation plummeting to a 126-year low.
Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde has become the first-ever African American winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Zaila Avant-garde: “Murraya, M-U-R-R-A-Y-A.”
Spelling bee judge: “That is correct!”
The New Orleans teen is also a basketball prodigy and holds three Guinness World Records in dribbling. Zaila Avant-garde entered the world of competitive spelling just two years ago.