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HeadlinesAugust 20, 2021

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Pentagon Boosts U.S. Troop Levels in Kabul as Chaotic Evacuations Follow Taliban Takeover

Aug 20, 2021

In Afghanistan, chaotic scenes continue to play out at Kabul’s airport as Afghans desperately try to escape Taliban rule. Thousands of people have lined the perimeter of the airport, with Taliban soldiers using rifle butts, whips and sticks to beat back crowds. The White House says about 9,000 people have been evacuated from the airport since Sunday, when the Taliban swept through Kabul. U.S. Army Major General William Taylor said the Pentagon was temporarily increasing its presence to facilitate the evacuation.

Major General William Taylor: “The U.S. military footprint in Kabul is now more than 5,200 total troops on the ground. Kabul airport remains secure and open for flight operations. … F-18s from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group flew armed overwatch flights over Kabul to ensure enhanced security.”

President Biden is delivering a national address on Afghanistan today at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.

Taliban Says It Executed Former Islamic State Leader Abu Omar Khorasani

Aug 20, 2021

The Afghan Taliban says it executed Abu Omar Khorasani, the imprisoned former head of the Islamic State in South Asia, shortly after it took full control of Afghanistan. Khorasani’s killing bolsters the Talbian’s claims that the group will not cooperate with the Islamic State and that it views the group as an adversary.

Afghan Youth Soccer Player Zaki Anwari Died in Fall from U.S. Plane Evacuating Kabul Airport

Aug 20, 2021

Afghanistan’s sports federation has identified one of at least two people who fell to their deaths from a U.S. military plane as it hastily evacuated Kabul’s airport on Monday. Seventeen-year-old Zaki Anwari was a member of Afghanistan’s national youth soccer team. He was among dozens of people filmed running alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 plane as it sped down a runway — some of them clinging to the plane’s sides and landing gear.

Afghan Immigrants in Greece Demand Sanctuary for Refugees Fleeing Afghanistan

Aug 20, 2021

In Greece, hundreds of Afghan immigrants protested outside of Athens Thursday, demanding support from the international community and the European Union. Their protest came after Greece’s migration minister warned Greece would not be a gateway for Afghan refugees.

Souhela: “I just heard that Greek government don’t want any refugees more. But why? If, like, your own people should be at this situation, what you will do? So, they have to stand with refugees, and they have to stand with the Afghan people, and they have to help them in this situation.”

In Geneva, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees called for Afghanistan’s neighbors to keep their borders open to allow asylum seekers to seek refuge abroad. The U.N. reports Taliban fighters are conducting door-to-door visits to the homes of Afghans who worked with the U.S. and NATO forces.

WHO Slams Rich Nations for Offering Booster Shots While Just 2% of Africa’s Population Is Vaccinated

Aug 20, 2021

The World Health Organization’s Africa director has condemned plans by the United States and other wealthy countries to offer third-dose COVID vaccine booster shots while only 2% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said the U.S. should give priority to poorer nations.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti: “Moves by some countries globally to introduce booster shots threaten the promise of a brighter tomorrow for Africa. As some richer countries hoard vaccines, they make a mockery, frankly, of vaccine equity.”

Texas Supreme Court to Allow Schools to Defy Gov. Abbott’s Ban on Mask Mandates

Aug 20, 2021

U.S. coronavirus cases continue to climb and are now averaging more than 140,000 cases and over 900 deaths per day. Nearly 99% of U.S. infections are from the Delta coronavirus variant.

In Pennsylvania, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has become the latest Catholic Church body to reject religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In Texas, the state Supreme Court on Thursday sided with school districts that are defying Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates. The ruling will allow Houston-area schools and several South Texas school districts to continue to require face coverings.

Meanwhile, three fully vaccinated U.S. senators have tested positive for coronavirus. Maine independent Senator Angus King, Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper and Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker all reported mild symptoms of COVID-19. Governor Abbott is also COVID-positive.

Major Hospital in Port-au-Prince Closes After Gangs Kidnap Doctors, Hampering Earthquake Relief

Aug 20, 2021

In Haiti, a major hospital in the capital Port-au-Prince shut its doors Thursday in protest, after two of its doctors were kidnapped by criminal gangs. One of the doctors is an orthopedic surgeon who had been treating survivors of Saturday’s massive earthquake, which left nearly 2,200 people dead and injured more than 12,000. On Thursday, humanitarian aid workers said shipments began flowing more quickly into Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, but there are still shortages of urgently needed food and medical supplies.

Rep. Mo Brooks Voices Sympathy for Man Behind Capitol Hill Bomb Threat

Aug 20, 2021

In Washington, D.C., police responding to a bomb threat arrested a North Carolina man on Thursday, capping an hours-long standoff near the U.S. Capitol. Forty-nine-year-old Floyd Ray Roseberry parked his truck on the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress, claiming he had explosives and calling on all Democrats to step down. Roseberry’s previous social media posts show he was an ardent Trump supporter.

Meanwhile, Alabama Republican Congressmember Mo Brooks voiced sympathy for Roseberry. Brooks said in a statement, “I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism.” Brooks’s statement drew condemnation from several lawmakers, including Virginia Congressmember Don Beyer, who tweeted, “It is astonishing that this needs to be said but no one who serves in Congress should be expressing public sympathy with the views of a terrorist who threatened to blow up the U.S. Capitol.” Roseberry said he had enough explosives to blow up two-and-a-half blocks around him and that other vehicles had explosives in them. None of that was true.

Texas House Reaches Quorum After Dems Return to Capitol as Fate of Voting Bill Hangs in Balance

Aug 20, 2021

The Texas House of Representatives reached a quorum Thursday for the first time since Democrats fled the state last month to block a voter suppression bill. Earlier this week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the absent Democratic lawmakers could be arrested and forced to return to the Capitol in Austin. The Republican-led House is set to consider the voting bill during its special session. The returning Democrats vowed to continue their fight from the House floor.

Movement for Black Lives Says Federal Government Worked to Undermine Protest Groups

Aug 20, 2021

A new report details how the U.S. government cracked down on racial justice activists as protests swept the country following the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. The study was published by the Movement for Black Lives and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility clinic. One of the report’s authors said, “The federalization of protest-related charges was a deliberate and cynical effort to target and discourage those who protested in defense of Black lives.”

FTC Asks Court to Compel Facebook to Divest from WhatsApp and Instagram

Aug 20, 2021

The Biden administration has revived an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission asked a U.S. district court to force Facebook to divest from WhatsApp and Instagram, arguing the social media giant had erected a monopoly that illegally crushed its competition. In June, the same court threw out a lawsuit by the FTC, ruling it failed to provide enough evidence to make a case that Facebook operated a monopoly.

Biden Admin Cancels Federal Student Loan Debt for Over 300,000 People with Disabilities

Aug 20, 2021

The Biden administration announced it is canceling over $5.8 billion in federal student loan debt for over 300,000 people who have what is known as a total and permanent disability. Advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers welcomed the news and renewed calls for Biden to use his executive authority to cancel the remaining $1.8 trillion in student debt for all borrowers.

R. Kelly’s Doctor Says He’s Had Genital Herpes for Years as Survivor Details Abuse Endured as a Teen

Aug 20, 2021

Here in New York, the trial for accused sexual predator R. Kelly is underway. The singer’s personal physician testified Thursday Kelly has had genital herpes since at least 2007, but potentially as early as 2000, as prosecutors say he knowingly infected multiple people. Jerhonda Pace, a survivor, testified the singer forced her to dress up as a Girl Scout, recorded their sexual activity, and that she had to ask for his permission to use the bathroom. Pace, who is now 28 but was just 16 at the time of the abuse, also said she contracted herpes from R. Kelly. The singer faces multiple federal criminal charges, including sexual exploitation of children, kidnapping and forced labor.

Rain Falls on Greenland’s Highest Peak for First Time on Record Amid Record Temperatures

Aug 20, 2021

In climate news, rain fell instead of snow on Greenland’s summit — which is nearly two miles above sea level — for the first time on record. The rain came down Saturday as temperatures rose to above freezing for the third time in a decade, during another major melt event.

This comes as wildfires continue to rage around the world. Scientists say blazes in Siberia have produced 800 megatons of carbon dioxide since early June, nearly double a record set just last year. The fires have released as much carbon as Germany emits in an entire year. In California, 11,000 firefighters continue to battle more than a dozen active fires, including the Dixie Fire, the largest single wildfire in the state’s history, which remains just one-third contained.

Meanwhile, government researchers say the historic drought covering much of the western U.S. is likely to last into the fall, if not longer. A new study this week found the number of deaths caused by extreme temperatures increased exponentially as the climate disaster has gotten worse. Between 1980 and 2016, deaths related to heat rose by 74%, while deaths caused by extreme cold increased by 31% since 1990.

Extinction Rebellion U.K. Stages Die-in, Blocks Entry to ExxonMobil Facility

Aug 20, 2021

In Britain, activists with Extinction Rebellion blockaded an entrance to an ExxonMobil facility in Hampshire to protest against the expansion of an oil refinery. Activists were dressed as Grim Reapers, as well as an Exxon executive who pumped fake blood from an oil barrel.

Extinction Rebellion activist: “I don’t know what more to do to bring attention to this catastrophe that we’re all heading for, not in this country, but all over the world. We’re seeing it now. We’re seeing the horrific weather conditions — heat, drought, wildfires — everywhere. That’s only going to get worse if we don’t immediately get a grip on bringing down our emissions.”

Immigrant Justice Groups Protest Reopening of Berks County ICE Jail

Aug 20, 2021

In Pennsylvania, human rights advocates protested Thursday against a vote to reopen a controversial jail for immigrant families.

Protesters: “Shut down Berks! Shut down Berks! Shut down Berks! Shut down Berks!”

The so-called Berks County Residential Center was closed in February when all of the immigrant families held there were freed. But Berks County commissioners voted Thursday to amend their contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and turn Berks into an “all women” immigration prison. One of those who spoke out against the vote was Adriana Zambrano with Aldea – The People’s Justice Center.

Adriana Zambrano: “Detaining immigrant women is just as wrong, unnecessary and dangerous as the detention of families. Immigrant detention, in every way, is also separation. Detention separates individuals from their families who are willing and able to take them into their home while their legal process moves along. It means separation from community, communities like ours, which are made better by the presence and by the investments of immigrants. Detention is also separation from access to critical services.”

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