Thursday, August 26, 2021

Wake-Up Call: 1,500+ Americans May Still Be Waiting To Evac

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that as many as 1,500 Americans may still be waiting for evacuation from Afghanistan, and giving for the first time an estimate of about 6,000 Americans having wanted to leave when the airlift began on August 14th as the Taliban moved into Kabul. Blinken said some 4,500 Americans have been evacuated, part of the 82,300 total that includes at-risk Afghans and others in the airlift so far, according to the White House. Additionally, Major General Hank Taylor, deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces had conducted another helicopter mission to pick up people and bring them to the Kabul airport.

The situation getting into the airport remains chaotic, with a security alert issued yesterday warning U.S. citizens to stay away from three specific airport gates due to threats from the ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. President Biden has cited security threats from ISIS-K in staying he's sticking to the August 31st deadline for withdrawal. However, he has asked for contingency plans in case he decides to extend the deadline. Blinken also emphasized yesterday that the U.S. and other countries will continue to help Americans and Afghans who want to leave after the deadline next Tuesday.

Prince to Charge $6,500 Per Seat on Flight Out of Kabul: Amid many organizations scrambling to try to evacuate at-risk Afghans in addition to the U.S. airlift, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that controversial defense contractor Erik Prince is planning to charge $6,500 per seat on a chartered flight out of Kabul. Prince, who founded the former military contractor Blackwater, met with advisers to then-President Donald Trump in 2017 about his proposal to privatize the US military operation in Afghanistan.

➤BIDEN AND ISRAELI PM BENNETT TO MEET AT WHITE HOUSE TODAY: President Biden and new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are set to meet today at the White House, their first in-person meeting since Bennett became Israel's leader. Bennett has said his top priority of his visit to Washington is to try to persuade Biden to stop trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. after it was negotiated under former President Barack Obama when Biden was his vice president.

🔥WILDFIRE GETTING CLOSE TO LAKE TAHOE: Firefighters were trying to hold back the Caldor Fire in northern California as it moved to within 20 miles of Lake Tahoe yesterday. As smoke from the fire put a blanket of haze over the region, South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City had the nation’s worst air pollution at midmorning yesterday. The Caldor Fire has burned more than 197 square miles and destroyed at least 461 homes since August 14th. It was only 11 percent contained as of yesterday.

➤APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS DEATH SENTENCE FOR RACE-DRIVEN CHURCH SHOOTER ROOF: A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the federal conviction of Dylan Roof and his death sentence for killing nine people at an historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 in a race-driven shooting. The three-judge panel rejected arguments that Roof, who is white, should have been ruled incompetent to stand trial. His attorneys also argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, when he was able to keep jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health. Roof in 2017 became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime, after he opened fire during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

➤MAN SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN PRISON FOR PLOT TO KIDNAP MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: A 25-year-old man was sentenced to just over six years in prison yesterday (August 24th) for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year because he was upset about state-ordered coronavirus restrictions. Ty Garbin is among six men charged in federal court in the plot, but he's the only one to plead guilty so far, after he quickly decided to admit his wrongdoing after his arrest. He's also cooperating in building cases against others. Garbin apologized before the judge yesterday, saying, "I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear [Whitmer's] family felt because of my actions. And for that I am truly sorry."

Dustin Wakefield
A 21-year-old tourist was shot and killed at a Miami Beach restaurant yesterday as he tried to protect his one-year-old son from a gunman who pointed his weapon at the infant. Dustin Wakefield of Colorado was on vacation with his family and they were eating at the La Cerveceria restaurant around 6:30 p.m. when a man with a gun walked in. Wakefield's uncle told the Miami Herald, "This guy came in with a gun waving it, saying it's time to die. He pointed the gun at his son and Dustin said, 'He's only a boy.' Dustin stood up between the gunman and the baby and he shot him." The gunman, identified as Tamarius Blair Davis Jr. of Georgia, fled, but he was captured by police in a nearby alley. The 22-year-old told police he shot Wakefield because he, quote, "was high on mushrooms, which made him feel empowered," according to a police arrest report, Fox News reported. He has been charged with murder.

➤DELTA TO CHARGE UNVAXXED EMPLOYEES $200 A MONTH: Delta Air Lines said yesterday that it will charge employees that are on the company health plan $200 a month if they don't get vaccinated against Covid-19. CEO Ed Bastian said the policy is necessary because the average hospital stay for an employee with Covid costs the airline $50,000. Delta also said it will stop extending pay protection to unvaccinated workers who contract Covid, and will also require unvaccinated employees to be tested weekly and wear masks indoors in company facilities. Even with these measures, Delta hasn't gone as far as United Airlines, which will require that employees be vaccinated starting on September 27th or face losing their jobs.

➤TEENS POLLED ON WHAT THEY CONSIDER THE BIGGEST THREATS TO THEIR GENBERATION: A new Washington Post-Ipsos poll asked 1,349 teenagers aged 14 to 18 about several issues, including what they consider the biggest threats to their generation, and the answers may not be what you'd expect. For instance, while climate change is something that it's often reported is of great concern to young people, it came in sixth in this poll, while they viewed the greatest threat to be from political divisions. 

Following is the ranking of nine potential threats:
  1. Political divisions -- 59% said major threat, 33 percent said minor threat, 8 percent said not a threat
  2. Cost of health care -- 57% major, 33% minor, 9 not a threat
  3. Racial discrimination -- 57% major, 28% minor, 14% not a threat
  4. Gun violence -- 57% major, 27% minor, 15% not a threat
  5. Terrorism -- 53% major, 40% minor, 7% not a threat
  6. Climate change -- 49% major, 31% minor, 20% not a threat
  7. Lack of career opportunities -- 34% major, 46% minor, 20% not a threat
  8. Immigration -- 30% major, 38% minor, 32% not a threat
  9. Access to education -- 28% major, 40% minor, 31% not a threat

Adult film star Ron Jeremy has been indicted on more than 30 counts of sexual assault. The charges involve 21 victims and date back more than twenty years. According to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s press release, Jeremy pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 12 counts of forcible rape, seven counts of forcible oral copulation, six counts of sexual battery by restraint, four counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, two counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious or asleep person, and one count each of lewd act upon a child under the age of 14 or 15, sodomy by use of force and assault with intent to commit rape. The indictment was returned by the grand jury on August 19th but was not unsealed until Wednesday.

➤STUDY...MEDITERRANEAN DIET LOW IN RED MEAT CAN IMPROVE ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION IN MEN:  It seems eating red meat isn’t the road to manliness that some expect. University of Athens researchers found that when men eat a Mediterranean diet that is low in red meat it can help improve erectile dysfunction. That’s because men with high blood pressure are twice as likely to struggle with erectile dysfunction, and the change in diet can help lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that men who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had better blood flow, higher testosterone levels and better erectile performance.

➤ONLYFANS REVERSES BAN ON SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT: Less than a week after saying it would ban sexually explicit content, leading to an outcry from creators of that type of content and sex worker advocates, OnlyFans reversed itself Wednesday. The subscription site said a ban was, quote, "no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators." OnlyFans had said in announcing the ban last week that the issue was the policies of banks and payment processors. A bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress called on the Justice Department to investigate OnlyFans earlier this month, calling it a, quote, "major marketplace" for sexual videos with children in them.

➤SALMONELLA OUTBREAK LINKED TO DELI MEATS: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday that three dozen people have been hospitalized or sickened in a salmonella outbreak in several states that's been linked to Italian-style deli meats like salami and prosciutto. The CDC said, "Until we identify which Italian-style meats are making people sick, heat all Italian-style meats to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot before eating if you are at higher risk." Those at higher risk include those 65 and older, younger than five years old, have a chronic health or immune-compromising condition, or take any medications that lower your immunity. 

🥛WHAT IS THE MILK CRATE CHALLENGE?:  The next dumb internet challenge is upon us. It’s called the “mill crate challenge” and can be seen circulating primarily on TikTok and YouTube. As of now, TikTok has banned the hashtag #MilkCrateChallenge, and if users search for the alternative #MilkCratesChallenge only a few videos come up and at least one includes automated disclaimer from TikTok that “the action in this video could result in serious injury.” The challenge involves stacking up a high number of milk crates to create a pyramid-like shape that can then be climbed like stairs—but many who took on the challenge have reportedly fallen from dangerous heights that could result in serious or fatal injuries. The FDA tweeted about the challenge, writing, “Although we regulate milk, we can’t recommend you try that. Perhaps enjoy a nice glass of 2% and return all those crates to the grocery store?”

⚾ORIOLES BEAT ANGELS TO END 19-GAME LOSING STREAK: The Baltimore Orioles finally got a win last night, beating the Los Angeles Angels 10-6 to end their 19-game losing streak, just two defeats away from the American League record for consecutive losses and four away from the MLB record. They did tie MLB's longest losing streak since 2005, when the Kansas City Royals lost 19 in a row.
🏈LAWRENCE TO BE JAGUARS STARTING QB: Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer announced yesterday that Trevor Lawrence, the top pick in the 2021 NFL draft, will be the team's starting quarterback. The move had been expected, however Meyer wanted to have Lawrence earn the job, as he's been competing to be starting QB with Gardner Minshew. Meyer said that Minshew is now in competition with with C.J. Beathard for the backup spot.

🎾SERENA, VENUS WILLIAMS TO BOTH MISS U.S. OPEN: Serena and Venus Williams both said Wednesday that they won't be competing in this year's U.S. Open, which begins next Monday. That will make this the first year since 2003 that neither of the sisters were in the Grand Slam tournament. Serena, who is 39, cited a still-healing torn hamstring, while 41-year-old Venus said she has a leg injury. They join other top names who are skipping the U.S. Open, including Roger Federer, who needs knee surgery, and Rafael Nadal, who has a foot injury. Additionally, fifth-ranked Sofia Kenin of the U.S. will also miss it after testing positive for Covid-19.

🏀LUKE WILSON RETIRING AFTER RE-SIGNING WITH SEAHAWKS: Veteran tight end Luke Wilson announced yesterday that he's retiring, one day after re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks. The 31-year-old wrote in a statement about spending several days in the hospital during the offseason with a buildup of fluid around his heart, saying, "That situation has really challenged me as an individual and changed my perspective on a lot of things . . . I have decided that it's time for me to begin with the next chapter of my life." Seattle had brought Wilson back Tuesday for a fourth stint with the team. He was a member of the 2013 team that won the Super Bowl.

⚾SOUTH DAKOTA LITTLE LEAGUER PITCHES SECOND NO-HITTER OF WORLD SERIES: South Dakota pitcher Gavin Weir pitched his second no-hitter of the Little League World Series yesterday, as his Sioux Falls team beat California 1-0 to advance to the finals of the Tom Seaver bracket. Weir struck out 14 hitters over six innings, five days after pitching in a combined no-hitter against Louisiana.

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