Monday, August 23, 2021

Wake-Up Call: Biden Suggests Kabul Airport Access Improved

President Biden said Sunday that the evacuation from the Kabul airport of Americans and at-risk Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war in Afghanistan sped up over the weekend. Biden said there have been 28,000 people evacuated via the airlift since August 14th, the day before the Taliban took Kabul, including 11,000 over 36 hours this weekend. He also said U.S. forces were able to improve access to the airport, suggesting the perimeter had been extended and that groups of Americans were being moved more efficiently and safely to the airport. However, there have been ongoing scenes of chaos outside the airport since Kabul fell, and the British military said yesterday that at least seven Afghans died in a panicked crush of people trying to enter the airport.

Meanwhile, a bottleneck in the evacuation operation is getting evacuees processed once they reach other countries, including Qatar, Bahrain and Germany, which are sometimes reaching capacity. New sites are being established, and the Pentagon yesterday activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to help fly evacuees from those waystations. There will be 18 planes from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines put into service, which won't be flying into Afghanistan. The civil airline reserve system was last activated in 2003 for the Iraq War.


➤AT LEAST 22 KILLED BY TENNESSEE FLOODING: At least 22 people were killed and dozens of others are missing after flooding in Tennessee Saturday caused by record-breaking rain, with rescue and emergency workers searching for those unaccounted for on Sunday. Up to 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County in less than 24 hours Saturday, breaking the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches, causing flooding strong enough to wash homes off their foundations. 

Among those who died were twin babies who were swept from their father's arms, according to AP, as well as a foreman at legendary country singer Loretta Lynn's ranch. Wayne Spears was pictured clinging to a beam before being swept to his death at Lynn's ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee on Saturday.

➤HENRI DRENCHING NORTHEAST WITH RAIN: The weather system that used to be Hurricane Henri has been drenching parts of the Northeast with rain as it's moved slowly through the region after making landfall Sunday afternoon near Westerly, Rhode Island, as a tropical storm. Henri moved northwest through Connecticut after making landfall, and the system has dumped rain as far southwest at New Jersey and northeast Pennsylvania. It's expected to stall for a while, but then head back east today across New England and eventually go out into the Atlantic Ocean. Parts of northern New Jersey into southern New York could see up to a foot of rain. Over 140,000 homes have lost power as of early this morning.

➤HARRIS BEGINS SOUTHEAST ASIA TRIP: Vice President Kamala Harris began her Southeast Asia trip in Singapore Monday, meeting with President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on her second foreign trip since taking office. After the meetings, the White House announced several new agreements with Singapore, including ones aimed at fighting cyberthreats, climate change, and the pandemic, and fostering cooperation on space exploration and defense issues. The trip, which will also include a visit to Vietnam, is part of the administration's efforts to counter Chinese influence in the region.

🚍THERE'S A SCHOOL BUS SHORTAGE: Amid the many issues facing schools across the country this fall because of the Covid-19 resurgence, an unexpected factor complicating the return to school is a shortage of school bus drivers. AP reports that 81 percent of school districts are having trouble finding enough school bus drivers, according to a survey by school ride-service company HopSkipDrive. There's been a shortage before, but it's gotten worse during the pandemic. To try to get drivers, school districts in Delaware and Montana have begun offering cash incentives, and other places have increased the salary and offered programs to help people get their commercial driving licenses.

➤REP. GAETZ, UNDER INVESTIGATION IN SEX TRAFFICKING PROBE, MARRIES GIRLFRIEND: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who is under investigation as part of a sex trafficking probe, married his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, on Saturday. The two eloped to California, where they had a small ceremony on Catalina Island. 

The 39-year-old congressman announced the news on his personal Twitter account. Luckey, who is 26, is employed by a company that works on extending the life of products made from plant-based materials. Gaetz is under investigation as part of a probe that led to the arrest and plea deal of his close friend, Joel Greenberg, a former county tax collector. The probe is looking into Gaetz's relationship with a 17-year-old girl he allegedly paid for sex. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.

 ➤JESSE JACKSON, WIFE REMAIN HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19: The Reverend Jesse Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, remained hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago with Covid-19 yesterday. The couple were under doctors' observation, with their son telling AP that they were, quote, "responding positively to treatments." The civil rights leader, who's 79, and Jacqueline, who's 77, were admitted a day earlier, and were being carefully monitored, according to son Jonathan Jackson, because of their ages. Jesse Jackson was publicly vaccinated in January as he urged others to get the vaccine. It's not known if his wife was also vaccinated. Jesse Jackson has Parkinson's disease, and family members said Jacqueline has an underlying health condition that wasn't revealed.

➤STUDY: PLASTIC SHIELDS, BARRIERS FOR COVID-19 PRECAUTION NOT LIKELY TO HELP: It turns out plastic shields put up in classrooms to reduce COVID-19 spread likely don’t offer much benefit, interrupting airflow and increasing risk of exposure. Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech tells the New York Times, “One way to think about plastic barriers is that they are good for blocking things like spitballs but ineffective for things like cigarette smoke…the smoke simply drifts around them.” So while the barriers might block larger particles from coughs and sneezes, growing evidence suggests smaller aerosol particles waft around the barrier—putting others at risk for exposure. One expert says the plastic barriers shouldn’t stir alarm, but people should not assume they offer full protection either, and recommends face masks in addition to the barriers to lower risk of infection.

➤SURVEY FINDS MOST TEENS, YOUNG ADULTS WANT TO GET COVID-19 VACCINE:   Most teens and young adults in the U.S. say they want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A survey by JAMA Health Forum found about 75 percent of Americans ages 14 to 24 said they would get the shot, and most agreed with the statement that vaccination was important to “help stop the spread [of the virus], as well as get back to normal as soon as possible.” Still, 42 percent of all respondents said they were concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine side effects, and 12 percent indicated they worried about the shot’s effectiveness. Also, nearly one-third reported they had no concerns about the vaccines, and 46 percent said though they would feel more “comfortable” after getting the shot, they would continue mask-wearing and social distancing afterwards, and 15 percent said they would discontinue these practices after getting the shot.

➤SURGEON GENERAL SAYS FACEBOOK, SOCIAL MEDIA NOT DOING ENOUGHT TO STOP MISINFORMATION:  U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy criticized Facebook and other social media yesterday for the part they play in spreading misinformation about Covid-19, saying that while they've taken some steps to combat it, it's, quote, "not nearly enough." Murthy said on CNN's State of the Union, "The speed, scale and sophistication with which [misinformation] is spreading and impacting our health is really unprecedented. "And it’s happening largely, in part, aided and abetted by social-media platforms." He stated, "These are things that companies can and must change. And I think they have a moral responsibility to do so quickly and transparently." Murthy's remarks came a day after Facebook quietly released a delayed report on its top-performing links from January to March that showed its most-viewed link in that first quarter was a news story casting doubt on the safety of the Covid vaccine by The Epoch Times, a newspaper that's spread right-wing conspiracy theories. The New York Times reported Friday that Facebook hadn't released the findings earlier this year because company executives were worried it would make Facebook look bad.

⚾CABRERA HITS 500TH HOME RUN: The Detroit Tiger's Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th career home run yesterday, becoming the 28th in MLB history to reach the milestone. The 38-year-old Cabrera hit the solo home run in the sixth inning of the Tigers' 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Fans in Toronto's Rogers Centre gave him a standing ovation as he rounded the bases. Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 and the first of back-to-back MVP awards.

⚾INDIANS BEAT ANGELS 3-0 IN LITTLE LEAGUE CLASSIC: The Cleveland Indians shut out the Los Angeles Angels 3-0 in the Little League Classic last night in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Kids in town to play in the Little League World Series were able to attend, seeing Cleveland's Cal Quantrill pitch a two-hitter over seven innings, and pitching and hitting Angels star Shohei Ohtani getting a single in his first at-bat.

🏌NORDQVIST WINS WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN: Sweden's Anna Nordqvist won the Women’s British Open on Sunday at Carnoustie in Scotland for her third major title. Nordqvist finished at 12-under 276, one shot ahead of three players tied in second place: fellow Swede Madelene Sagstrom; American Lizette Salas.; and England's Georgia Hall.

🏈TITANS HEAD COACH VRABEL POSITIVE FOR COVID: Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said Sunday that he'd tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining while awaiting the results of further testing. Vrabel told reporters he woke up with a sore throat and an earache and was tested and it came back positive. Another rapid test was also positive, so he took a PCR test, with the result expected today. This took place the day after the Titans beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-3 in a preseason game Saturday night.

🏒HOCKEY HALL OF FAMER ROD GILBERT DEAD AT 80: Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert, who spent his entire 18-year NHL career with the New York Rangers, died on Sunday. He was 80. Gilbert played in the 1960s and '70s, ending with 406 regular-season goals and 34 goals in the playoffs, and holds Rangers records for goals and points. Gilbert spent many years in the Rangers organization after the end of his player career, and his Number 7 jersey was the first number ever to be retired by the Rangers in 1979.

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