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HeadlinesAugust 18, 2021

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Taliban Addresses Women’s Rights, Press Freedom in First Press Conference Since Takeover

Aug 18, 2021

The Taliban held its first press conference Tuesday, two days after it seized control of Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesperson said the group would respect women’s rights and press freedom, would not launch attacks on the U.S. and others from Afghan soil, and said it would grant amnesty to opposing forces.

Zabihullah Mujahid: “We forgive everyone, because it is in the interest of peace and stability in Afghanistan. All the groups that were confronting us are all forgiven.”

The U.N. and others expressed doubt the Taliban would carry through on their statements, as images emerged showing wounded Afghans, reportedly attacked by Taliban forces as they tried to make their way to the airport. There have also been reports of violence against anti-Taliban protests in Khost and Jalalabad, including fatalities. An activist for girls’ education, Pashtana Durrani, said the Taliban needs to take more concrete steps.

Pashtana Durrani: “The Taliban should give a statement out that all these girls should be going to all these public schools, and no foot soldiers are allowed to harass them or target them or stop them, and then they should continue the way they are studying, right? If they’re OK with all that, we’re good to go. Then I’m optimistic. But they have to walk the talk. Right now they’re not doing that.”

Top Taliban leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar returned to Afghanistan for the first time since 2001 on Tuesday.

U.S. Continues Evacuations as Top Dems Pledge to Investigate Biden’s Afghanistan Exit

Aug 18, 2021

The Pentagon is investigating after human remains were found in the wheel of one of its military jets that left Kabul Monday amid the chaos of the Taliban takeover. This comes as the U.S. and other countries continue evacuating their own citizens. The White House said Tuesday at least 11,000 Americans were awaiting evacuation. Calls are growing for the U.S. to accept more Afghan refugees.

The Washington Post is reporting the Biden administration has frozen billions of dollars in Afghan reserves held at U.S. banks, to cut off the Taliban’s cash flow.

Several top Democrats have vowed to look into Biden’s Afghanistan exit strategy, including Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, who blasted the administration for misleading Congress on the Afghan army’s readiness to fight the Taliban. Meanwhile, a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the U.S. “struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy” over the last 20 years.

Haiti Earthquake Death Toll Hits 2,000 as Survivors, Many Now Unhoused, Lashed by Tropical Storm

Aug 18, 2021

In Haiti, the death toll from Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake has jumped to nearly 2,000, with nearly 10,000 injured and some 30,000 people left without a home. In Les Cayes, near the epicenter of the quake, displaced residents were forced to huddle under tarpaulins as Tropical Storm Grace unleashed torrential downpours, further complicating recovery efforts.

Marimene Jouesil: “I am sick. I fell down when the earthquake happened. I am in a lot of pain. We have been promised medicine. I went to look for it, and I was told to wait. Yesterday they distributed aid, but I wasn’t able to get anything. It rained a lot at night. We could not sleep. We have nothing to eat. We have nothing.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Aug 18, 2021

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for coronavirus. Abbott’s office said he has been fully vaccinated and was not experiencing any symptoms. He is being treated with Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment, which is given to people with a high likelihood of developing severe COVID, though it’s unclear whether Abbott fits into that risk group. NBC News is also reporting he may have had a third booster dose of the vaccine. Abbott imposed a statewide ban on vaccine and mask mandates in July. Two school districts are challenging the ban in court. The day before his office announced his coronavirus diagnosis, Abbott attended a packed, indoor Republican Club event in Dallas, where he and most attendees were unmasked. In other news from Texas, health officials have requested mortuary trailers from FEMA as the rising number of COVID deaths could surpass the state’s capacity to hold the bodies.

Alabama Runs Out of ICU Beds; 3,000 NOLA Students and Staff in Quarantine

Aug 18, 2021

Alabama has run out of ICU beds amid the surge in hospitalizations. In Louisiana, over 3,000 students and school staff have gone into quarantine in the New Orleans Public School District after a number of positive COVID cases.

In other coronavirus news, the Transportation Security Administration is extending the federal mask mandate for airline, bus and trains into January 2022. This all comes as the United States topped 37 million cases, just eight days after it passed 36 million infections.

New Zealand Orders Lockdown After ID’ing One COVID Case

Aug 18, 2021

In international news, New Zealand is on a strict nationwide lockdown for at least three days after identifying its first COVID-19 case in six months. This is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “Delta has been called a game changer, and it is. It means we need to again go hard and early to stop the spread. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.”

Since the lockdown was ordered, at least nine new cases were confirmed in New Zealand.

Tokyo Extends State of Emergency; Thai Protesters Demand PM Step Down for Mishandling COVID

Aug 18, 2021

In Japan, authorities extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas in an effort to contain the ongoing surge in infections.

Meanwhile, protests continue in Thailand, calling for the prime minister to step down over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Songpon “Yajai” Sonthiorak: “We demand the prime minister’s resignation as over the past two years the government has proved that they can’t solve the COVID-19 situation.”

Police have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons during recent demonstrations, which are building on the anti-government and anti-monarchy protests that ignited in 2020.

India Bans Single-Use Plastics, But New Law Contains Major Loopholes

Aug 18, 2021

India is banning a range of single-use plastics starting in July 2022. The ban will cover items including plastic bags, cutlery and cups. But environmental groups called out the new policy for leaving out several other common items, such as plastic water bottles and many types of packaging. India generates some 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste each day, much of which ends up in landfills.

Caldor and Dixie Fires Rage in Northern California; French Wildfire Displaces Thousands

Aug 18, 2021

In Northern California, thousands of people have been evacuated after a new blaze ignited over the weekend and quickly tripled in size. The Caldor Fire has burned over 30,000 acres and was 0% contained as of Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the nearby Dixie Fire is less than a third contained as strong winds hamper firefighters’ efforts.

In southern France, hundreds of firefighters continue to fight a massive wildfire in the region of Var. Some 6,000 people, including tourists, were evacuated. The blaze started Monday evening and had burned some 12,000 acres of forest by Tuesday morning.

Rep. Terri Sewell Introduces John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Front of Edmund Pettus Bridge

Aug 18, 2021

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, like the more sweeping For the People Act, is nearly guaranteed to fail in Congress unless the Senate ends the filibuster. The new bill was announced by Democratic Alabama Congressmember Terri Sewell while standing in front of Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where the late Congressmember John Lewis and other civil rights icons marched for voting rights in 1965 and were brutalized by police.

Reproductive Rights Groups Challenge Abortion Laws in Arizona and Montana

Aug 18, 2021

Reproductive rights advocates in Arizona and Montana have filed lawsuits seeking to block new laws banning abortions in the two states. One of the laws in Arizona makes it a felony for doctors to terminate pregnancies because of a fetal genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. The other would classify fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs as people starting at the point of conception. Both go into effect in late September. Meanwhile, in Montana, four new laws are set to take place in October, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and restrictions to access abortion pills.

Nabisco Workers in Virginia, Oregon and Colorado Strike Against Long Hours, Outsourcing

Aug 18, 2021

Workers at the Nabisco factory in Richmond, Virginia, have joined hundreds of other Nabisco employees in Oregon and Colorado in a strike effort, demanding humane working hours, fair pay and an end to the outsourcing of jobs to Mexico, where wages are considerably lower.

Striking workers: “No contract, no snacks! No contract, no snacks!”

Nabisco produces Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Ritz crackers and other popular snacks. Nabisco workers say they have been forced to work 12- to 16-hour shifts during the pandemic, often including on weekends.

Philadelphia Ex-Cops Charged in Wrongful Conviction of Black Man Who Was Jailed for 25 Years

Aug 18, 2021

Three former Philadelphia homicide detectives have been charged in the wrongful 1993 conviction of Anthony Wright, an African American father who spent 25 years in prison on rape and murder charges. The three former police officers are accused of making false statements in the case. Wright was exonerated by DNA evidence after a retrial in 2016.

Sacklers Say They Won’t Pay $4.5 Billion Opioids Settlement Unless Shielded from Future Lawsuits

Aug 18, 2021

The billionaire Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, said it would abandon a pledge to pay a $4.5 billion settlement to help communities that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, unless they’re granted immunity for all current and future lawsuits. David Sackler, a former Purdue board member and the grandson of one of the founders, made the remarks as he testified at a hearing in federal bankruptcy court Tuesday.

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