Friday, August 20, 2021

Wake-Up Call: U-S Trying To Pick-Up Pace Of Afghan Evacs

The U.S. is trying to increase the pace of evacuations from Afghanistan through the Kabul airport of Americans and at-risk Afghans who've helped the U.S. during the two-decade war. But they are facing problems including Taliban checkpoints blocking people from reaching the airport, as well as issues with paperwork. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that 6,000 people were cleared for evacuation Thursday, a major increase from the approximately 2,000 passengers that were flown out each day on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The goal is to be flying out 5,000 to 9,000 people per day. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said more consular officers are being added to verify papers of Americans and Afghans who get to the airport, and additional entry gates have been opened. Meanwhile, more U.S. troops continued to arrive, with about 5,200 at the airport as of yesterday.


➤COVID DEATHS IN U.S. HOSPITALS AT LEVELS NOT SEEN SINCE FEBRUARY: The number of Covid-19 patients dying in U.S. hospitals are now at levels not seen since February, Bloomberg reported yesterday, amid the nationwide surge being driven by the delta variant. The number of Covid deaths in hospitals rose to a seven-day average of 1,016 on Wednesday, the highest since February 22nd, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bloomberg said there are now more people in intensive care units statewide in Alabama than there are staffed beds available, and Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas are all at more than 90 percent of their ICU capacity. 

In more hopeful Covid news, more than one million Americans received a vaccine shot yesterday, a number we haven't had nationally in nearly seven weeks. White House Covid-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar also tweeted that there was a 31 percent week-over-week increase in the daily average of people becoming fully vaccinated.

➤MAN IN PICKUP TRUCK NEAR U.S. CAPITOL SURRENDERS AFTER CLAIMING TO HAVE BOMB: A 49-year-old North Carolina man who claimed to have a bomb while in a pickup truck near the U.S. Capitol surrendered to police after a standoff that lasted about five hours yesterday. Floyd Ray Roseberry drove onto the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress about 9:15 a.m. and made bomb threats to officers as he made anti-government rants during the episode that he livestreamed on Facebook. He spoke angrily about President Biden and said, "all Democrats need to step down," and also ranted about U.S. policy on Afghanistan, health care and the military, and warned about a, quote, "revolution." After Roseberry surrendered and arrested, police didn't find a bomb in the truck, but did find bomb-making materials. No information was released by police about a motive, but U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said Roseberry's mother had recently died and, quote, "There were other issues he was dealing with."

➤38-DAY LEGISLATIVE STANDOFF ENDS IN TEXAS WHEN SOME DEMOCRATS RETURN: A legislative standoff in Texas in which some Democratic state lawmakers fled the state to deny a quorum for a vote on new Republican-driven voting restrictions ended after 38 days yesterday when some of the lawmakers returned. Most of the more than 50 Democrats who left the state are still not back, but three Democrats showed up, who were blasted by some of their colleagues for breaking ranks, and that was enough for a quorum. The Democrats who returned said they'd successfully pushed Congress on voting rights legislation.

➤JUDGE GIVES CONDITIONAL APPROVAL OF BOY SCOUTS' $850 MILLION BANKRUPTCY DEAL: A bankruptcy judge yesterday approved a bankruptcy deal for the Boy Scouts of America that includes an $850 million fund to compensate some 70,000 men men who say they were sexually abused when they were boys by Scout leaders and others in the organization. However, Judge Laura Selber Silverstein also rejected two key provisions of the deal, and it wasn't immediately clear how that will affect the future of the bankruptcy case. But Paul Mones, an attorney representing hundreds of the abuse victims, said, "Basically, everybody’s going to have to go back to the drawing board. I think this is going to cause a reset."

➤THREE FULLY-VACCINATED SENATORS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19: Three U.S. senators have breakthrough cases of Covid-19, all three announcing yesterday that they'd tested positive despite being fully vaccinated. The three are Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Democratic Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado. King said, "While I am not feeling great, I’m definitely feeling much better than I would have without the vaccine." Wicker's staff said he is "in good health" and isolating, and Hickenlooper said, "I’m grateful for the vaccine (& the scientists behind it!) for limiting my symptoms."

➤AMERICAN AIRLINES' ALCOHOL BAN EXTENDED INTO JANUARY: American Airlines is extending its ban on serving alcohol during flights to January 18, 2022, NBC News reported yesterday, citing an internal memo it obtained. The memo said, "We are doing all we can to help create a safe environment for our crew and customers onboard our aircraft." The airline had already pushed back the suspension once, to September 13th. Airlines had been dealing with a spike in unruly or dangerous passenger behavior since the start of the year, as passengers began to return to the skies in big numbers following the huge decline in air travel to numbers not seen since the dawn of passenger air travel due to the pandemic.
OnlyFans made the stunning announcement yesterday that it will ban sexually explicit content starting in October, even though that's basically what the site has become known for. OnlyFans said the policy change came after requests from, "quote, "banking partners and payout providers," suggesting it was having trouble getting those companies to do business with them. Under the new policy, nudity will still be allowed, but not if it's sexually explicit. OnlyFans, which was founded in 2016, lets creators offer either free or paid content, including livestreams and videos, and while it presents itself as a place where creative types like photographers, musicians, make-up artists, and actors can earn part or even full-time income, it's best known for sex workers and influences promoting and selling access to adult content. 

Among the critics of the change were those who said it's the explicit content from sex workers and influencers that made OnlyFans the major platform it is today. The Verge suggested part of the reasoning behind the decision could be about the content that's making it on the site but shouldn't be. It cited a BBC investigation that set up accounts advertising themselves as being young teenagers with photos for sale and OnlyFans didn't not them until the BBC alerted them. The BBC also cited a U.S. Homeland Security agent talking about how many child abuse images originate on OnlyFans.

➤HOT DOGS SHORTEN YOUR LIFE BY 36 MINUTES: Every hot dog a person eats shortens their life by 36 minutes. The findings come from a University of Michigan study that created a standardized way of assessing the carbon footprint and nutritional impact of almost 6,000 foods. The researchers found that, “on average, .45 minutes are lost per gram of any processed meat that a person eats in the US.”

JUDGE DENIES RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST BAUER: A Los Angeles judge yesterday denied a 27-year-old woman a five-year restraining order against L.A. Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, finding that he doesn't present a future threat to her. The woman has accused Bauer of assaulting her during two sexual encounters, including choking her into unconsciousness and punching her repeatedly in the face and genitals. 

Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman said after the four-day hearing that Bauer honored the woman's boundaries when she set them, and he couldn't know the boundaries if she didn't express them. Bauer's attorneys had presented texts in which she spoke positively about being choked and wrote "gimme all the pain." But the woman's attorney said Bauer went far beyond what the woman consented to, especially in punching her in the face and vagina, and said he did things the woman couldn't consent to because she'd been choked unconscious, including, according to woman, having anal sex with her while she wasn't conscious. 

The criminal investigation by Pasadena, California, police and the MLB's own investigation are both still continuing. Hours after yesterday's ruling, the MLB extended Bauer's suspension through August 27th.

🏈RAMS-RAIDERS JOINT PRACTICE ENDS EARLY BECAUSE OF BRAWL: An L.A. Rams-Las Vegas Raiders joint practice ended early Thursday when the two NFL teams got into an extended brawl. The fight started and stopped several times before head coaches Sean McVay and Jon Gruden decided to end the practice 45 minutes early. Gruden said, "Just sickening, really, it’s just stupidity, but I’m done with that. It’s just child’s play to me." It was the second joint practice for the teams, after they had one Wednesday too. The Rams and Raiders will face off in a preseason game on Saturday.

 🏈JETS' LAWSON TO MISS SEASON AFTER RUPTURING ACHILLES TENDON: New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson, who was the team's biggest free-agent signing in the off-season, will miss the entire 2021-22 season after rupturing an Achilles tendon yesterday (August 19th) during practice. The Jets signed Lawson to three-year, $45 million deal in March. Jets safety Zane Lewis also had a season-ending injury during the practice, tearing a patella tendon and sprained an MCL.

🏌KORDA, SAGSTROM, KIM TIED FOR LEAD AFTER FIRST ROUND OF WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN: American Nelly Korda, Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden and South Korea's Sei Young Kim were tied for the lead at 5-under 67 after the first round of the Women's British Open yesterday at Carnoustie in Scotland. Korda won the women's golf gold medal two weeks ago at the Tokyo Olympics and the PGA Championship in June.

🎾OSAKA FALLS TO 76TH-RANKED TEICHMANN AT WESTERN & SOUTHERN: After bowing out of the French Open following the first round, skipping Wimbledon, and losing in the third round at the Tokyo Olympics, world second-ranked player Naomi Osaka was upset by Number 76 Jil Teichmann 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the third round of the Western & Southern Open yesterday (August 19th) in Ohio. Next up is the U.S. Open, which begins on August 30th.

The National Weather Service issued hurricane watches early Friday morning for portions of southeastern Massachusetts, as well as Rhode Island, as Tropical Storm Henri approaches New England. Nearly all track models now show Henri’s center reaching the coast of southern New England and strengthening over the next two days, likely to become a hurricane by Saturday, forecasters said.

Storm surge watches are also in effect for southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. Additional watches or warning may be issued later today, the weather service said. It also warned that swells from Henri will reach much of the eastern coast of the US and Canada by the end of the week, potentially causing life-threatening surf and rip currents. Henri is expected to strengthen Friday and Saturday and then weaken as it passes over cooler water. But it will still be a hurricane as it approaches Cape Cod Sunday afternoon, according to the center’s forecast.

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