President Biden defended his withdrawal from Afghanistan Tuesday as he addressed the nation for the first time after the final U.S. troops evacuated from Kabul airport, bringing an official end to the longest war in U.S. history.
President Joe Biden: “Leave Afghanistan or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war. That was the choice — the real choice — between leaving or escalating. I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit.”
Biden said the withdrawal also marks an end to war as a tool for nation-building. Meanwhile, the Taliban held its first press conference after the U.S. withdrawal, saying it was seeking good relations with all nations.
Zabihullah Mujahid: “Neighboring countries, Islamic countries, all countries: The Americans who were ousted from our country last night, we want good relations with them also, because we are part of the international community. We do not want our country to be a victim of war or interference. We are on the path of peace with all nations.”
With the Kabul airport now closed for evacuations, border crossings by land are expected to rise, triggering a possible refugee crisis in the region. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also warned Tuesday of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe” after the Taliban takeover, with services at risk of collapsing and nearly half the population in urgent need of aid.
In Louisiana, around 1 million customers still do not have power as some residents start the arduous path to recovery after Hurricane Ida. Officials say only “limited” parts of New Orleans could have their power restored by tonight. On Tuesday, Governor John Bel Edwards told evacuees it was still too early to consider returning home.
Gov. John Bel Edwards: “Many of the life-supporting infrastructure elements are not present. They’re not operating right now. So, if you have already evacuated, do not return here, or else we’re in southeast Louisiana, until the Office of Emergency Preparedness tells you it is ready to receive you. The schools are not open. The businesses are not open. The hospitals are slammed. There is not water in your home, and there’s not going to be electricity.”
In Texas, a near total ban on abortions went into effect today at midnight after the U.S. Supreme Court failed to rule on an emergency petition filed by abortion providers seeking to block the measure. The law bars abortions just six weeks into a pregnancy — before many people even know they’re pregnant. There is no exception for rape or incest. The law also allows anyone in Texas to sue patients, medical workers, or even a patient’s family or friends who “aid and abet” an abortion. Until now, no other six-week abortion ban has been allowed to go into effect. Reproductive justice advocates have vowed to keep fighting. The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted, “This is a racial and economic catastrophe. … This is a full-scale assault on patients, our health care providers, and our support systems.”
In other news from Texas, the Republican-controlled Legislature has passed a sweeping voter restriction bill. The measure bars drive-thru and 24-hour voting sites, adds new identification requirements for absentee ballots, bans unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and gives new authority to partisan poll watchers. State Democrats had successfully stalled the bill for several months by first staging a walkout, then fleeing Texas to deny the House a voting quorum. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill quickly.
Pennsylvania is the latest state to enact a statewide mask mandate in all schools as the Delta variant continues to fuel a surge in cases nationwide. In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul also announced new COVID measures for schools.
Gov. Kathy Hochul: “Our school staff, anybody who enters that building will have to be vaccinated or undergo mandatory testing. Mandatory testing. And we’re in the process of getting the legal clearance for that.”
Governor Hochul previously announced a mask mandate in schools. She also said New York may extend vaccine requirements for all staff in congregate and state-run facilities.
In more news from New York, the state Legislature has convened a last-minute session today where it is expected they will extend the moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, which was set to expire yesterday. On Tuesday, hundreds gathered outside the office of Governor Hochul to demand the eviction ban be extended.
Protester: “We’re out here not as a political issue. This is not a right-left — this is not a political issue. This is a moral issue.”
Meanwhile, pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire in less than a week — on September 6 — for millions of unemployed people across the country.
The European Union said Tuesday it has fully vaccinated 70% of all adults. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged unvaccinated people to get their shots as soon as possible to avoid a new wave in cases and stop the emergence of new variants. Despite the EU milestone, vaccination rates remain low, and infections are increasing in poorer, Eastern European nations.
Israel is now offering booster shots to all vaccinated people, which includes children aged 12 and older. The World Health Organization has repeatedly called on wealthy nations to hold off on booster shots until poorer countries receive their fair share of vaccines. Meanwhile, less than 10% of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are fully vaccinated, according to one tracker.
The Australian state of Victoria has extended its lockdown for three more weeks as cases continue to mount. The state’s leader said restrictions will only be eased after 70% of eligible residents receive their first vaccine dose. New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported its highest daily rise in cases this week.
In the Philippines, healthcare workers protested in Manila against government neglect and unpaid benefits. This is Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers.
Robert Mendoza: “It is sad that many of us have died, many of us became sick, and many have resigned or opted to retire early, yet we are still kneeling before the Department of Health to give us our benefits.”
Human rights advocates are urging Saudi Arabian officials to stop the mass firing of Yemeni workers — a move that puts them at risk of being deported to Yemen if they cannot find another employer to sponsor them. Saudi authorities in July reportedly announced new regulations requiring businesses to limit the number of Yemeni and other foreign employees on staff. Human Rights Watch says the policy could put hundreds of workers at risk of being sent back to the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war in Yemen, which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has granted posthumous pardons to seven Black men who were executed in 1951 after being convicted of allegedly raping a white woman. The men — who became known as the Martinsville Seven — were tried by juries made up of only white men, and advocates say they were coerced into confessing. Northam said the pardons don’t address whether the seven men were guilty or innocent but that they’re a recognition that they were tried without adequate due process and that the men received a “racially biased death sentence not similarly applied to white defendants.”
The federal trial for accused sexual predator and trafficker R. Kelly continues in New York. On Tuesday, his former assistant Suzette Mayweather testified the singer exerted extreme control over the women in his life, echoing accounts from the five survivors who have taken the stand over the past week and a half. On Monday, a woman named Addie testified that she was raped by R. Kelly in a dressing room when he invited her backstage after a show. She was just 17 at the time. Meanwhile, the first male accuser to testify said Kelly offered to help him with his musical career in exchange for sexual favors when he was 17.
The Biden administration announced it was creating a new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, which will deal with the health impacts of the climate crisis and its disproportionate effects on poor communities. Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine laid out the office’s main goals as building community resilience, reducing carbon emissions in healthcare, and recovery and infrastructure funding.
A group of Democratic lawmakers, including Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, are calling on President Biden to replace Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for neglecting to take on the climate crisis and weakening financial regulations. Earlier this year, 350.org joined other climate groups to demand a new Fed chair, accusing the agency under Powell of bailing out the fossil fuel industry rather than helping impacted communities during the pandemic. Powell was appointed as Fed chair by Trump. His term ends in February 2022, but Biden could soon announce whether he will reappoint him or replace him.