Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Wake-Up Call: Afghan Retreat Complete, Last Man Out

The U.S. completed its more than two-week evacuation of Americans and at-risk Afghans as well as its withdrawal of all U.S. forces yesterday afternoon, drawing the war in Afghanistan to a close after two decades. America's longest war, which was begun to go after Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, came to an end just before midnight going into August 31st in Kabul time, the deadline day that had been set by President Biden. General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, announced the news, saying that the last planes took off from the airport in Kabul at 3:29 p.m. Eastern time, one minute before midnight in the Afghan capital. He said some 123,000 people, including around 6,000 Americans, were evacuated during the airlift.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also delivered remarks yesterday evening -- with President Biden set to address the American people today -- saying that up to 200 Americans who want to leave are still in Afghanistan, although the number may be closer to 100, as are many at-risk Afghans. He said the U.S. will continue to try to get them out of the country. Blinken stated that now that the military mission is finished, diplomacy will take over, and it remains to be seen what that will mean with the Taliban back in charge of Afghanistan, saying, "The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned."

➤MANY IN LOUISIANA MAY BE WITHOUT POWER FOR WEEKS AFTER HURRICANE IDA: People in Louisiana were surveying the damage from Hurricane Ida on Monday, one day after it struck the state as a powerful Category 4 storm, and many faced the prospect of weeks without power due to Ida causing what Governor John Bel Edwards' office called "catastrophic damage" to the region's power grid. All of New Orleans and hundreds of thousands of other Louisiana residents had no power yesterday, and there was no clear time for when it would be back. The good news for New Orleans is that its levees held, after having been updated by the federal government following Hurricane Katrina. But some other areas outside of the city weren't so lucky, suffering major flooding and structural damage. Rescues were being carried out yesterday in those areas by boat, helicopter and high-water trucks of hundreds of people trapped by floodwaters.

➤HURRICANE IDA DESTROYS NEW ORLEANS JAZZ LANDMARK: Hurricane Ida destroyed a New Orleans jazz landmark where Louis Armstrong once worked when he was young, the Karnofsky Tailor Shop, which collapsed during the storm on Sunday. The National Park Service says that Armstrong would play a small tin horn as he worked on the coal and junk wagons at the business, which opened in 1913. The Karnofskys gave Armstrong a "second home," and lent him money to buy his first cornet. The family's son, Morris Karnofsky, who was Armstrong's childhood friend, opened New Orleans' first jazz record shop on the same street, and Armstrong would visit when he was back in town.

🔥RESORT CITY OF SOUTH LAKE TAHOE EVACUATED DUE TO WILDFIRE: The California resort city of South Lake Tahoe was ordered to evacuate yesterday due to an approaching wildfire, leaving people scrambling to get out and clogging roads. Communities just across the state line in Nevada were also warned to get ready to leave, as the massive Caldor Fire moved close to Lake Tahoe. The Caldor Fire is one of dozens that firefighters are battling in California, and the problem is so widespread that the U.S. Forest Service announced Monday that all national forests in the state would be closed until September 17th.

😷EDUCATION DEPT. OPENS CIVIL RIGHTS PROBES INTO STATES THAT HAVE BANNED, LIMITED SCHOOL MASK MANDATES: The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights announced yesterday that it has opened civil rights investigations into five states that have banned or limited mask mandates in schools, saying they could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions. The states, which are all Republican-led, are Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement, "The department will fight to protect every student’s right to access in-person learning safely." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask wearing for students and teachers.

NEW JERSEY LIFEGUARD KILLED BY LIGHTNING, SEVEN OTHERS INJURED: A young lifeguard was killed when lightning struck on a New Jersey beach yesterday afternoon and seven other people were injured, including three other lifeguards. Their injuries are not life-threatening. The deadly incident in Berkeley Township was the second death of a young lifeguard at the Jersey Shore in a little over a week. The earlier incident wasn't caused by lightning.

➤HATE CRIMES IN U.S. RISE TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN 12 YEARS: Hate crimes in the U.S. last year rose to their highest level in 12 years, according to the FBI's annual hate crime statistics report out yesterday. It found that more than 7,700 criminal hate crime incidents were reported to the FBI in 2020, an increase of about 450 incidents over 2019 and the highest number since 2008. The report says 62 percent of victims were targeted because of their race or ethnicity, up from 58 percent in 2019, with Black people targeted in 56 percent of those incidents. About 20 percent were victimized because of sexual orientation in 2020, and 13 percent because of religion.

🛫AIR TRAVEL DECLINES AGAIN AS PEOPLE SPOOKED BY COVD DELTA VARIANT:  Once the Covid-19 vaccines arrived and Americans started getting their shots, they started returning the skies -- and roads and rails -- to travel again, making up for all the trips and vacations they missed during a year of lockdowns and staying close to home. The number of Americans flying bounced back, but then the delta variant of the coronavirus arrived, and now air travel is declining again as people spooked by the highly-contagious variant are wary of flying. Domestic online flight bookings fell 13 percent in July from the previous month and was down 16 percent from the 2019 numbers, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index. For the first three weeks of August, the numbers were even worse, down 33 percent from the same period in 2019, and for Labor Day weekend, flight bookings are down 16 percent compared to 2019. A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. travelers by market research company Longwoods International found that almost two-thirds said they're changing their trip plans because of the coronavirus, up from 43 percent two months ago.

🚘WHY LABOR DAY WEEKEND TRAVEL IS TRICKIER THIS YEAR:  Apparently, it’s harder to guess how many Americans will be traveling over Labor Day weekend. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has not created a formal travel forecast for it in “many years” because they say the day has become so unpredictable. As a result, the organization says travelers who want to plan a road trip would benefit from planning their driving schedules like a standard three-day weekend. That means assuming Thursday (September 2nd) and Friday afternoons (September 3rd) from 3 to 6 p.m. will probably be the busiest times on the roads for most. They also warn that returning home on Tuesday (September 7th) could mean heavy traffic as well. The AAA also suggests Labor Day travelers research the location they’re driving to in order to learn the impact the coronavirus is having on their desired destination, and to check the weather forecasts before leaving, especially if their original plans involved visiting an area where recent hurricanes passed through.

➤CHINA RESTRICTS CHILDEN TO 3 HOURS OF ONELINE GAME PER WEEK:  China is coming between kids and online games, restricting children to playing online games to only three hours per work, continuing the Chinese government's tech industry crackdown. A notice from China's National Presss and Publication Adminstration says that starting September 1st, minors can only play online games between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays, weekends and public holidays. There actually already a limit in place that was set in 2019, but it was more generous, allowing minors to play online games for an hour and a half per day and three hours on public holidays. China's tech sector crackdown comes amid concerns that those companies may have an outsized influence on society.

🎾OSAKA WINS ON FIRST DAY OF U.S. OPEN: Naomi Osaka won her first-round match as the U.S. Open got underway on Monday, as she played in her first major since pulling out of the French Open in May after the first round, citing mental health concerns, and then skipping Wimbledon. Osaka, who is the reigning U.S. Open champion, defeated 87th-ranked Marie Bouzkova in straight sets. Other winners yesterday included Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Andy Murray, Daniil Medvedev, Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, and Americans Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff.

💰SAINTS OWNER BENSON DONATES $1 MILLION TO HURRICANE IDA RECOVERY: The New Orleans Saints announced Monday that owner Gayle Benson had donated $1 million to the Gulf Coast Renewal Fund to help Louisiana recover from Hurricane Ida. The Saints also said that the Caesars Superdome only suffered minor damage from Ida and will be able to host games, quote, "as soon as the city's infrastructure will allow." New Orleans is currently totally without power and it's not known when it will be restored. Meanwhile, the team practiced at the home of the Dallas Cowboys yesterday after evacuating from New Orleans, and will also practice there today and Wednesday.

🏈COLTS QB WENTZ, KELLY, PASCAL ON COVID LIST: The Indianapolis Colts announced yesterday that quarterback Carson Wentz, center Ryan Kelly and receiver Zach Pascal had all been put on the reserve/Covid-19 list after coming in close contact with a Colts staffer who tested positive. They can return in five days if they continue to have negative tests and remain asymptomatic. The fact that the three were put on the list as close contacts is an indication that they aren't vaccinated, according to the NFL's protocols. The Colts have had one of the lowest percentages of vaccinated players in the league.

⚾DODGERS' URIAS GETS MLB-LEADING 15TH WIN: L.A. Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias got his MLB-leading 15th win last night as the Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves 5-3. The victory ended the Braves' franchise-record 13-game road winning streak. The game also saw L.A.'s Mookie Betts hit a home run on his bobblehead night.

🏒U-S AND CANADA TO PLAY FOR WOMEN'S HOCKEY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE: The U.S. and Canada will play each other in the final of the women's hockey world championship today, the 19th time in 20 tournaments the two teams have played for the title. The U.S. reached the final by beating Finland 3-0 yesterday in their semifinal, while Canada beat Switzerland 4-0 in their semi. The five-time defending champion U.S. is trying to tie Canada with 10 titles, while Canada is vying for its first championship since 2012.

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