President Biden says U.S. troops are on pace to leave Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline, despite pressure from allies in the G7 to stay longer to help more people flee the country. The United States has so far helped evacuate over 82,000 people from the Kabul airport, where there have been 19,000 evacuations in the past 24 hours. President Biden spoke on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden: “We are currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st. The sooner we can finish, the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops. But the completion by August 31st depends upon the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport.”
Amnesty International criticized Biden’s decision to halt evacuations in the coming days. The head of Amnesty’s U.S. office, Paul O’Brien, said, “The U.S. government should continue to negotiate to proceed with evacuations for as long as necessary to evacuate all of the country’s most vulnerable.”
It has become far harder for Afghans to reach the Kabul airport over the past 24 hours. The Taliban has blocked the main road to the airport and set up checkpoints to allow passage only to people with foreign passports or an invitation from the U.S. or one of its allies. At a press conference Tuesday, the Taliban said Afghans will no longer be allowed to go to the airport.
Zabihullah Mujahid: “Unfortunately, this problem has not been resolved yet. The Islamic Emirate is seriously trying to control the situation there. We have blocked the way that people go to the airport by it. Afghans are not allowed to use this road, and foreign nationals can use it. But domestic nationals cannot go this way because it is blocked.”
Despite the Taliban’s warning, there are reports some Afghans are still making it to the airport.
In other news on Afghanistan, the World Bank has joined the International Monetary Fund in cutting off funds for Afghanistan. This comes as aid groups are warning of a looming humanitarian catastrophe. The U.N. says 14 million Afghans — about a third of the country — are facing food insecurity.
On Capitol Hill, the Democratic-led House has approved a $3.5 trillion budget resolution to vastly expand the social safety net and combat the climate crisis. Not a single Republican voted to move the process forward. In a deal to win support from conservative Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to set a September 27 deadline to vote on a separate bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Many progressive lawmakers are demanding a vote on the $3.5 trillion plan prior to the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The House has also voted to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to restore key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court. Every Republican voted against the bill. The legislation is named after the civil rights icon John Lewis, who served in Congress for more than three decades. Georgia Congressmember Nikema Williams, who represents Lewis’s former district, praised the legislation.
Rep. Nikema Williams: “Congressman Lewis taught us that when you see something that is not fair, not just, not right, you have a moral obligation to find a way to get in the way. The voter suppression laws that have been enacted across the country, and what is happening in my home state of Georgia, is the very definition of the good trouble that John Lewis taught us to get into to push back against. We might not be counting jelly beans in a jar, but, make no mistake, they seek the same purpose: to stop people who look like me from accessing their right to vote.”
In immigration news, the Supreme Court has revived the contested Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program. Tuesday’s ruling comes after a federal judge in Texas and Trump appointee last week ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the 2019 policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. The program forced some 68,000 asylum seekers to wait in often extremely dangerous conditions in Mexico while their cases made their way through U.S. courts. Many reported kidnappings and facing brutal violence while waiting in Mexico. Immigrant justice advocates have vowed to continue fighting the policy. In related news, the group Human Rights First has tracked over 6,000 kidnappings, sexual assaults and other brutal violence against asylum seekers, who have been blocked from entering the United States at ports of entry or quickly expelled to Mexico since President Biden took office. The group is denouncing Biden’s continued use of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows immigration authorities to expel asylum seekers without due process, citing the pandemic as justification.
Social and environmental justice advocates are praising a federal judge’s ruling saying the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection broke the law by not properly looking into how increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border would harm the environment and wildlife. Monday’s ruling comes after a 2017 lawsuit filed by Democratic Arizona Congressmember Raúl Grijalva and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The United States recorded 1,400 new COVID-19 deaths and 150,000 new cases Tuesday as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread. Oregon has become the first state to reinstate an outdoor mask mandate in most public settings. Hawaii’s governor is begging tourists to stay away as the state deals with a surge in COVID cases. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association has called for broad vaccine mandates. In a statement, the group said, “Now is the time for the public and private sectors to come together, listen to the science, and mandate vaccination.” Here in New York, Kathy Hochul announced a new mask mandate in schools in her first address as governor.
Gov. Kathy Hochul: “New York is launching a back-to-school COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. I’m also immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools.”
A Minnesota appeals court has denied an appeal aimed at halting construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in northern Minnesota. In a 2-1 ruling, the court upheld the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the 340-mile pipeline. More than 700 people have been arrested since June in Indigenous-led protests against the pipeline. Indigenous lawyer Tara Houska of the Giniw Collective condemned Tuesday’s ruling.
Tara Houska: “Today’s ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court is yet another example of Minnesota not responding to the climate crisis, not respecting Indigenous sovereignty and continuing to ignore what’s happening in real time all around us, with smoky skies, the world burning, the rivers in drought and water protectors being brutalized by police that are being paid by Enbridge.”
In Colombia, advocates are demanding justice for 27-year-old Esteban Mosquera, a student leader who was shot dead in his hometown of Popayán Monday. Witnesses say two men on a motorcycle shot Mosquera near his home. In 2018, he lost an eye after Colombian riot police threw a stun grenade at him. He also participated in Colombia’s recent massive anti-government protests and had reportedly been detained by police at least twice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is urging the Colombian government to investigate Mosquera’s assassination. So far this year, over 100 human rights defenders and community leaders have been killed in Colombia.
Israeli forces have killed another Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank. On Tuesday, 15-year-old Imad Khaled Saleh Hashash was shot in the head while standing on the roof of his home. At the time, he was reportedly attempting to use his phone to document Israeli troops raiding the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. Imad is the 12th Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces with live ammunition this year, according to the group Defense for Children Palestine.
Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, has arrived in Washington, where he will meet with President Biden on Thursday. In a new interview with The New York Times, Bennett ruled out reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, vowed to expand illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and threatened to continue Israel’s covert attacks on Iran.
President Biden has approved a major disaster declaration for parts of Northern California to help areas devastated by the climate-fueled Dixie and River fires. Over 1.5 million acres of land have burned so far this year in California, and the number is growing as the Caldor Fire is less than 10% contained. It is now threatening communities near Lake Tahoe. Air quality alerts linked to smoke from the wildfires have been issued in seven states: California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Residents of Reno, Nevada, are being urged to stay home with their windows closed, because the air is so unsafe to breathe. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, more than 400 firefighters are battling a large blaze near the Canadian border. One official compared the Greenwood Fire to a freight train, saying, “Once it starts rolling, it starts to build up steam and feed off itself.”
Four Black police groups, including the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, are calling for former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli to be released from prison. The 84-year-old activist has been locked up for nearly 50 years. Acoli was convicted of killing a state trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Acoli has long said police ambushed his car, which was also carrying two fellow members of the Black Liberation Army: Zayd Malik Shakur, who was shot to death, and Assata Shakur. She was imprisoned over the incident but later escaped to Cuba, where she has political asylum. The Black police groups say Sundiata Acoli’s continued imprisonment after more than four decades is “an affront to racial justice.”
The former U.S.-backed dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, has died in prison at the age of 79. In 2016, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. Habré was accused of killing as many as 40,000 people during his eight-year reign in the 1980s, after coming to power with help from the Reagan administration.
The civil right activist Lucille Times has died at the age of 100. She has been credited with inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. Six months before a white bus driver in Montgomery ordered Rosa Parks be arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man, Lucille Times began her own boycott of the city’s bus system after the same bus driver tried to run her car off the road. Lucille Times died from complications of COVID-19.