Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Wake-Up Call: Number of Afghan Evacuees Increases

The number of people that are being evacuated daily from Afghanistan has increased, with the biggest day by far on Monday. White House officials said the U.S. military flew out 10,400 Americans and at-risk Afghans over 24 hours that ended early Monday morning, and then another 6,600 people over the next 12 hours. The U.S. has evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of some 37,000 people since August 14th, the day before the Taliban took Kabul. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the increased pace was due in part to coordinating with the Taliban on getting the evacuees to the airport in Kabul, saying it, quote, "does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban." Despite that, access to the airport is still difficult, and the U.S. military carried out another helicopter pickup of Americans and brought the 16 of them to the airport, at least the second such mission. 

President Biden has said he wouldn't rule out extending the evacuation beyond August 31st, the date he'd set for completing the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and many are urging him to do so. But a Taliban spokesman said in a Sky News interview that August 31st is a, quote, "red line," and it would "provoke a reaction" if the U.S. presence remains beyond that.

➤FDA GIVES FULL APPROVAL TO PFIZER'S COVID-19 VACCINE: The Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine Monday, the first of the three Covid vaccines being used in the U.S. to get full approval after having been okayed under emergency provisions. After that news was announced, the military said it was going forward with plans to require military members to be vaccinated, New York City mandated that all public school teachers and staffers must be vaccinated, and the University of Minnesota and Louisiana's major public universities required students to be vaccinated. Other mandates from companies, universities and local governments are expected. President Biden again urged people to get vaccinated, saying to those who were hesitant to get the vaccine until it had full FDA approval, "the moment you’ve been waiting for is here." Pfizer's vaccine will be marketed under the brand name Comirnaty. Meanwhile, Moderna has also applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson hopes to do so later this year for theirs.

➤HOCHUL SWORN IN AS N.Y. GOVERNOR AS CUOMO STEPS DOWN: Two weeks after Andrew Cuomo said he would step down as governor of New York in the wake of a independent probe overseen by the state attorney general finding he sexually harassed 11 women, he did so at midnight last night, and the lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, was sworn in, becoming the state's first female governor. After the brief, private ceremony presided over by New York's chief judge, Janet DiFiore, Hochul is set to have a ceremonial swearing-in this morning at the state Capitol. Earlier in the day, Cuomo released a defiant, pre-record farewell message in which he defended his record over 11 years as governor, and said he was the victim of a, quote, "political and media stampede," saying the report that led to his resignation was designed to be, quote, "a political firecracker on an explosive topic."

Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, was sentenced to more than five months in jail yesterday for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from an historic Black church in Washington, D.C., last December, and bringing two high-capacity firearm magazines into D.C. two days before the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Tarrio, who is from Miami, said during the hearing, "What I did was wrong," and called it a "grave mistake," saying he was "profusely" sorry for his actions. But Judge Harold Cushenberry actually gave Tarrio, who pled guilty to the charges, more than the three months behind bars prosecutors had sought, saying, "Mr. Tarrio has clearly -- intentionally and proudly -- crossed the line from peaceful protest and assembly to dangerous and potentially violent criminal conduct."

🏫PARENTS WANT CAMERAS IN CLASSROOMS:  Amid growing conflict over what students are being taught in school, some parents are calling for there to be cameras in classrooms. Supporters say cameras could improve student safety, reinforce accountability, and let parents see and hear what their children are learning, while also potentially reducing cheating and other bad behavior, according to the Washington Examiner. But critics say cameras watching classrooms would undermine teachers, are an invasion of privacy, and could be hacked by people with bad intentions. Teachers' unions also contend they would lead to "nuisance lawsuits." A small number of states have passed laws that either allow or require cameras in specific classrooms, including Texas, West Virginia, and Georgia. Louisiana also just approved video cameras in classrooms, allowing any parent of a special needs child who wants a camera in the classroom to have one.

➤HAWAII GOVERNOR URGES TOURISTS TO STAY AWAY: You don't usually hear a governor telling tourists to stay away, but that's what Hawaii Governor David Ige is doing, urging visitors not to come through October due to a surge in Covid-19 cases that has left the state's hospitals at capacity. However, Ige hasn't changed entry requirements, and people can still go to Hawaii and present a negative Covid case to avoid the state's strict quarantine. Vaccinated travelers don't need to be tested. Tourists have returned to Hawaii in big numbers this summer after last year's plummeting travel due to the pandemic.


➤CHANGING OF THE GUARD RETURNS AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE: The Changing of the Guard ceremony returned outside Buckingham Palace Monday after being stopped back in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The ceremony is a tourist favorite, and lots of spectators watched yesterday as the British soldiers in their traditional scarlet tunics and bearskin hats paraded outside the palace. A military band played tunes saluting British success at the just-ended Tokyo Olympics, including the theme from Chariots of Fire.

➤NEW INFO RELEASED ABOUT 'PRINCESS AND THE FROG' REVAMP OF DISNEY'S SPLASH MOUNTAIN RIDE: Disney released new information yesterday about the revamp of the Splash Mountain flume ride at Disney World and Disneyland to a Princess and the Frog theme. Charita Carter, a senior creative producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, said Princess Tiana will lead riders on a bayou adventure, which will end with "the ultimate Mardi Gras party." Carter said that riders will see characters from the film as well as meet new ones, and that visual effects will create an "immersive environment" and cutting edge audio animatronic figures will, quote, "really just kind of change the game." No date has been released for when the attraction will debut or what it will be called.

➤STUDY..INTROVERTS UNDERSTAND PEOPLE BETTER THAN EXTROVERTS DO:  Extroverts may generally spend more time with others, but a new study finds introverts are actually better at understanding people in general. Yale researchers found that introverts were better at answering questions about human behaviors than extroverts were. Study co-author Anton Gollwitzer says, “It could be that the melancholic, introverted people are spending more time observing human nature than those who are busy interacting with others, or they are more accurate at introspection because they have fewer motivational biases. Either way, though, this demonstrates an unappreciated strength of introverts.” In other words, if you’ve spent a lot of time watching and wondering about others you probably have a better-than-average understanding of the human mind.

📺MAYIM BIALIK FILLING IN AMID 'JEOPARDY' VACUUM:  Big Bang Theory alum Mayim Bialik will serve as the first guest host of Jeopardy! following Mike Richard’s decision to step down. He departed as host after a serious backlash over resurfaced sexist comments on Richards’ part. There were other issues as well, most notably discrimination suits filed during his time as exec producer on The Price Is Right.

Additional hosts are expected to be announced. Richards remains on board of Jeopardy! as executive producer. Bialik was reportedly the top choice of host for the show, but she is having trouble squaring her schedule with her upcoming Call Me Kat production schedule. The Fox comedy is in its second season of shooting.

She will serve as host for Jeopardy!’s primetime specials, and has said that if Call Me Kat doesn’t get a season 3 order, that she would love to host Jeopardy! full time. Fan favorite Ken Jennings is also in consideration to replace the late Alex Trebek.

🐶WHAT THE HECK ARE DOG ZOOMIES?:  You may have heard the term “dog zoomies” before—it generally refers to your pet running around at full speed for no apparent reason. But experts say this behavior is completely normal. LiveScience says dogs of all ages, cats, rabbits, ferrets and even elephants have been known to get the zoomies. Felines often experience them after bathroom breaks, though they don’t tend to run as fast or for as long as canines. The American Kennel Club’s Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Jill Goldman says zoomies happen because your dog has pent up energy, and experts call the behavior FRAPs. To keep your pet safe during their zoomies you should let them run around in a hazard-free area if you can. Also, you can prepare for dog zoomies to happen around the same time each day, and you can take notes to help you spot patterns about when they might happen. If your dog gets zoomies constantly, it could be their way of showing you they need more time out and less time alone or crated.

⚾YANKEES WIN 10TH STRAIGHT, SNAPPING BRAVES' NINE-GAME STREAK: Someone was going to get their 10th straight win in last night's game between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves, as both teams entered the contest in Atlanta with nine-game winning streaks. The Yankees came away with the 5-1 win, driven by Giancarlo Stanton, who homered and drove in three runs, getting their 10th win in a row and snapping the Braves streak. It was the first regular-season matchup in almost 120 years between two teams that had each won at least nine in a row, according to AP.

🏈SAINTS GET 23-21 PRESEASON WIN OVER JAGUARS, WINSTON MAKES HIS CASE: The New Orleans Saints beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-21 last night in their Week 2 preseason game in New Orleans. Quarterback Jameis Winston of the Saints, making his first NFL start since 2019, completed nine of 10 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, helping make the case for him to be the team's new starter, succeeding Drew Brees, the NFL's all-time leading passer, who announced his retirement in March. Winston is competing for the job with Taysom Hill, who went 11 for 20 for 138 yards and a touchdown.

🏈NEWTON AWAY FROM PATRIOTS DUE TO 'MISUNDERSTANDING' ABOUT COVID TESTING: New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton will be away from the team until Thursday after what the team said Monday was a "misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities." The Patriots said Newton went to a team-approved appointment Saturday outside the New England area. He received daily Covid-19 tests, which were negative, but he still has to follow a five-day re-entry process before going back to the team's facility. The NFL Network noted that only unvaccinated players have to abide by the five-day re-entry. Newton is battling for the starting spot with Mac Jones, who was taken by the Pats with the Number 15 pick in the first round of the 2021 draft.

🏌FINAU WINS NORTHERN TRUST, FIRST PGA TOUR VICTORY IN OVER FIVE YEARS: American Tony Finau won The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey Monday, his first PGA Tour victory in more than five years. He beat Australia's Cameron Smith in a playoff for the win in the final round, which was played a day late after Hurricane Henri canceled play on Sunday. His previous lone victory had been in the Puerto Rico Open in the spring of 2016.

➤BIDEN WELCOMES WNBA CHAMPION STORM TO THE WHITE HOUSE: President Biden honored the 2020 WNBA champion Seattle Storm at the White House yesterday, celebrating not only their title victory, but their activism as well. Biden noted their efforts on issues including police brutality against Black people, voter registration, encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and violence against transgender people. Three members of the team -- Sue Bird, Jewell Lloyd and Breanna Stewart -- were part of the U.S. women's team that just won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, and those three presented a souvenir Storm jersey to Biden.

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