The Taliban has seized control of Afghanistan. On Sunday, Taliban forces captured the capital Kabul, facing almost no resistance as the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. The U.S. and other foreign governments rushed to evacuate personnel, with the Pentagon sending in 6,000 troops to assist in the effort. The Taliban takeover of the country came at dizzying speed, causing panic and uncertainty after 20 years of U.S. occupation and war. Chaotic scenes are unfolding at Kabul airport as Afghans desperately try to flee. Some Afghans who were able to evacuate in recent days landed in nearby countries, including India.
Afghan national: “I can’t believe the world abandoned Afghanistan. Our friends are going to get killed. They’re going to kill us. Our women are not going to have any more rights. That’s all. I can talk another day.”
The U.N. and other aid groups are warning of a humanitarian crisis as more people attempt to leave Afghanistan, and are urging neighboring countries to keep their borders open. The U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting today. Meanwhile, rights groups said the Biden administration needs to move much faster to evacuate Afghans who worked for the U.S. military and could face reprisals from the Taliban.
In Haiti, the death toll from Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake has reached nearly 1,300, with thousands more injured, as search and rescue operations continue. Hundreds of homes were flattened, and hospitals were overwhelmed with trauma patients, with much of the damage in and around the southwestern city of Les Cayes. Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a one-month state of emergency Saturday. Henry also called for international aid to be controlled by Haiti, not foreign actors.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry: “In this crisis, we want more appropriate responses than those we received after the 2010 earthquake. All aid that will come from outside the country must go through Civil Protection.”
Saturday’s quake came a month after Haiti was plunged further into political turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and as many Haitians are still recovering from 2010’s devastating earthquake. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Grace is hurtling toward Haiti, threatening to bring more destruction with flooding and mudslides.
The director of the National Institutes of Health has warned the United States could soon see 200,000 COVID-19 cases per day again. The current daily average of nearly 130,000 cases is already 700% higher than the beginning of July. This comes as new data confirm younger people are being hit worse than ever before, with hospitalizations of children and adults under 50 at record highs. The vast majority of hospitalizations are of unvaccinated people.
In Texas, the Dallas Independent School District says it is keeping its mask mandate in place even after the Texas Supreme Court ordered Dallas and another county to put a break on such requirements, ruling in favor of Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking to ban mask mandates statewide.
In New York, incoming Governor Kathy Hochul said she supports a mask mandate in schools when classes resume in September.
In Los Angeles, a fight broke out at a right-wing, anti-vaccine rally Sunday, resulting in a man being stabbed and an attack on a reporter for KPCC radio while he was conducting an interview.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security warned Friday domestic terrorists may be planning attacks motivated by the imposition of new COVID restrictions.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called snap elections for next month, in the hopes of securing a parliamentary majority for his Liberal Party. Trudeau said the government is seeking a mandate from Canadians on how to handle the pandemic and eventual recovery.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “This is a moment where we’re going to be taking decisions that will last not just for the coming months, but for the coming decades. And Canadians deserve their say.”
The early election comes as Canada’s top public health officer recently declared the country is now in its fourth, Delta-fueled COVID wave.
In Malaysia, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet have resigned after just 17 months in power. Muhyiddin announced he’d be stepping down after losing his majority in Parliament, though he is expected to remain as caretaker prime minister for now. His government has been accused of mishandling Malaysia’s response to the pandemic, where infections are now surging. Malaysia is also facing an economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.
In Pakistan, at least 12 people — including four children — are dead after a grenade attack Saturday night in Karachi. At least eight others were wounded. A family was reportedly returning from a wedding reception when their vehicle was hit with a grenade. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Lebanon, at least 28 people were killed and dozens injured after a massive fuel tank exploded in the region of Akkar Sunday. Residents in the area had reportedly gathered to obtain gasoline that was being distributed by the army after it seized the tank to prevent it from being smuggled or sold on the black market. The cause of the explosion is still unknown. Lebanon’s catastrophic economic crisis has left most of the country without power as the government struggles to import enough fuel.
In Nicaragua, police raided the offices of the national newspaper La Prensa, arresting its top editor. The government of President Daniel Ortega accused the publication and its editor of fraud, money laundering and defamation. Ortega has ordered a wave of arrests targeting his critics and political challengers ahead of November elections. This is a reporter from La Prensa speaking after the raid.
Geovanny Shiffman: “The objective of this is to silence us, silencing independent journalism and closing this media that has so much history. It has been more than 90 years.”
In the occupied West Bank, at least four Palestinians were shot dead today after Israeli soldiers raided the Jenin refugee camp. Two of the bodies were reportedly taken by Israeli authorities, and two other Palestinians were arrested, including one who was taken from his home by Israeli authorities.
Ivory Coast has recorded its first case of Ebola in 25 years. Officials are tracking recent contacts of the patient, an 18-year-old woman from neighboring Guinea, who is being treated in intensive care. In June, Guinea declared the end of a four-month Ebola outbreak that killed 12 people. This comes as West Africa is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, and just days after Guinea confirmed its first deadly case of Marburg disease — a highly virulent disease similar to Ebola.
In Zambia, longtime opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been declared the winner of last week’s presidential election, with the support of younger voters giving him a decisive edge over incumbent President Edgar Lungu. Lungu was accused of strongarm election tactics but failed to overcome widespread dissatisfaction over Zambia’s high inflation rate, rising food prices and mass unemployment. He also faced allegations of human rights abuses and corruption.
In southern Nigeria, Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to pay $111 million to Ogoni communities whose land was ravaged by oil spills over a half-century ago. Shell’s payment caps decades of legal wrangling in a case that was first brought in 1991 — over a pipeline that ruptured in 1970. The $111 million penalty is just a small fraction of Shell’s annual profits, which totaled $16.5 billion in 2019.
In climate news, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes in Utah over the weekend as a scorching heat wave helped fuel a fast-growing wildfire near the mountain town of Park City.
In Northern California, the Dixie Fire grew to more than 550,000 acres. It’s now the largest single fire ever observed in U.S. history, surpassing the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which has burned over 410,000 acres since it began in July.
In northern Turkey, at least 70 people are dead after torrential rains set off massive floods in the Black Sea region. Nearly four dozen others are still missing. Survivors described a wall of water tossing cars down streets, washing away bridges, buildings and roads.
Elif: “Several dead bodies were washed away in front of my eyes. There was a dog there with her puppies. I cannot get the screams of her out of my head. I really cannot. It was awful. It was really awful. Right now I cannot be grateful that I am alive.”
July was the hottest month ever recorded in nearly a century and a half of recordkeeping. Land surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere last month averaged nearly 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above historical averages.
The Biden administration has approved the largest increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as SNAP — in the program’s history. Under the plan, monthly food assistance benefits will rise from $121 per person to $157 — a 25% increase. The Biden administration says the boost in benefits will improve people’s diets and will greatly reduce child hunger. About one in eight U.S. residents relies on food assistance.
The New York State Assembly announced it will suspend its impeachment investigation into disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo once he leaves office next week. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers condemned the decision. Cuomo is being investigated for sexual harassment of at least 11 women, covering up nursing home COVID-19 deaths, and misusing state resources to write his book on the pandemic. Assemblymember Ron Kim said he will continue to push for impeachment, as he highlighted the flawed reasoning behind the Assembly’s move.
Assemblymember Ron Kim: “If you stole from someone and then you’re about to be indicted for theft, you can’t avoid the indictment simply by returning what you stole once you learn what you’re about to be indicted — when you’re about to be indicted. That’s what’s happening right now with Andrew Cuomo.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that Cuomo confided to a labor lobbyist in 2018 that his reason for supporting Republican control of the New York Senate was because African American Democratic Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins would “give free breakfast to all Black people.”