Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wake-up Call: Biden Praises Afghan Evac

One day after the U.S. ended the evacuation operation of American citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan and completed the military withdrawal, ending 20 years of war there, President Biden praised the evacuation and defended his decision, saying he'd kept his commitment to end the war. Speaking from the White House, Biden called the airlift that flew some 123,000 people out of the airport in Kabul in a little over two weeks an "extraordinary success," and defended getting out, stating, "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not going to extend a forever exit." He stated that it was inevitable that the final departure from Afghanistan would be difficult with likely violence no matter when it was planned and conducted, and also dismissed critics who've said the U.S. should have kept a small number of American forces in the country, saying, "There’s nothing low-grade or low-risk or low-cost about any war." Biden made clear the view he's long held about the two-decade conflict, stating, "It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan," and calling it "the best decision for America."

➤LARGE NUMBERS IN LOUISIANA WITHOUT POWER, WATER AFTER HURRICANE IDA: Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida without power, tap water, and little gasoline for their vehicles, all made worse by the sweltering summer heat. New Orleans has set up seven locations where people can sit in air conditioning and get a meal, as well as 70 buses being used a cooling sites. Mayor LaToya Cantrell said drive-through food, water and ice distribution locations would be set up by today, and state officials are working to set up distribution areas in other parts of the state. New Orleans was still entirely without power Tuesday, as were many other places, but Cantrell said she expects power company Entergy to be able to restore some electricity to the city by Wednesday evening. Governor John Bel Edwards' office has called the damage to the region's power grid from Ida "catastrophic." 

 Officials are saying it could take weeks to fully restore electricity. Nearly 450,000 people in 17 parishes had no water and another 319,000 were under boil-water advisories, due to water treatment plants being hit by power outages or floodwaters. Meanwhile, Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said at a news conference that every building is damaged on the barrier island of Grand Isle, what was hit full force by Ida, calling it "uninhabitable" right now.

➤MORE PEOPLE GETTING VACCINATED AGAINST COVID, OPPOSITION DOWN: More people are continuing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and opposition to doing so is down, amid the surge driven by the delta variant and the Food and Drug Administration recently giving full approval to Prizer's vaccine. Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, said Tuesday that the U.S. is now averaging 900,000 vaccinations per day, a big increase from 500,000 per day in mid-July. A new Axios-Ipsos poll was also released yesterday that found just one in five Americans now say they're not likely to get vaccinated, the lowest level ever in the index.

➤NAVY HELICOPTER CRASHES OFF SAN DIEGO, FIVE CREWMEMBERS MISSING: A U.S. Navy helicopter crashed off the coast of San Diego yesterday afternoon while conducting routine flight operations, according to officials. One crewmember was rescued and five others are missing, with a search and rescue operation ongoing. The helicopter was based on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.

An abortion ban at six weeks of pregnancy went into effect in Texas after midnight as the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to act as of early this morning on an emergency appeal to block it. While at least 12 other states have also passed early abortion bans, all of them have been blocked from going into effect, and if Texas' is allowed to remain, it would be the most extreme abortion rights restriction in the U.S. since 1973's Roe v. Wade decision. The Texas law not only bans abortion at six weeks, before most women know they're pregnant, it's enforced by allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions, such as some who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion, for at least $10,000.

➤VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH TEACHER WHO REFUSED TO USE TRANSGENDER PRONOUNS: The Virginia Supreme Court sided earlier this week with a teacher who said he refused to use transgender students' pronouns, upholding a lower court's decision requiring Loudon County Public Schools to reinstate the suspended physical education teacher. School officials put Tanner Cross on leave and barred him from school grounds after he said at a school board meeting in May that he wouldn't use transgender students' pronouns, citing his religious beliefs. Cross sued, charging that his free speech and free exercise of religion rights under the Virginia Constitution had been violated. A circuit court judge ruled in June that Cross must be reinstated while his lawsuit proceeds, saying his suspension was unconstitutional because it, quote, "silenced others from speaking publicly" on the issue of transgender rights. The school district had appealed to the state Supreme Court. The justices wrote, "Cross was opposing a policy that might burden his freedoms of expression and religion by requiring him to speak and interact with students in a way that affirms gender transition."

➤OREGON McDONALD'S GETS ATTENTION FOR LOOKING TO HIRE 14-15 YEAR-OLDS AMID LABOR SHORTAGE:  A McDonald's in Medford, Oregon, has gotten attention online for a banner it put up looking to hire 14- and 15-year-olds amid the labor shortage. The McDonald's operator, Heather Coleman, told Business Insider that the minimum wage raise to $15 an hour didn't bring in as many job applicants as she'd hoped, but she got about 25 applications in two weeks when they put the call out for 14- and 15-year-olds. She called the young workers "a blessing in disguise," saying, "They have the drive and work ethic. They get the technology. They catch on really quickly." Insider said other fast food chain restaurants are also looking to younger workers as they face a shortage of employees, with restaurant workers continuing to leave the industry at record rates. Although states have different labor laws, the federal minimum age for non-agricultural jobs is 14. Teens who are 14 and 15 are allowed to work in restaurants and quick-service businesses, with the number of hours and times of the week specified by law.

➤PANDEMIC-CAUSED RECESSION MOVED SOCIAL SECURITY INSOLVENCY ONE YEAR CLOSER: The abrupt recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic moved Social Security insolvency one year closer, according to the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees reports out yesterday. The projections said Social Security's trust fund will unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated date of 2035. Medicare's depletion date for its trust fund for inpatient care remained unchanged from last year, estimated in 2026. But Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen offered assurances about the programs, saying in a statement, "The Biden-Harris administration is committed to safeguarding these programs and ensuring they continue to deliver economic security and health care to older Americans."

šŸŽµBONNAROO FESTIVAL CANCELED DUE TO RAIN FROM HURRICANE IDA REMNANTS: The annual Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee was canceled yesterday due to heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. The festival was set to start Thursday in Manchester, but organizers said the grounds were soaked by so much rain over the previous 24 hours that they were unsafe for driving or camping. This year was supposed to mark the return of Bonnaroo after it was canceled last year due to the pandemic. Artists who were set to headline the festival included Tyler, the Creator, deadmau5, Lizzo, My Morning Jacket, Foo Fighters and Megan Thee Stallion.

➤WINDOWS 11 ROLLING OUT IN OCTOBER, EARLIER THAN EXPECTED: Microsoft will be rolling out Windows 11, its latest operating system, starting October 5th, which is earlier than had been expected, after the company had previously said it expected to release it next year. Microsoft said it will begin what it called a "phased and measured" approach to the free upgrades, with all eligible users to receive it by mid-2022. Windows 11 features visual improvements, Microsoft Teams integration and a new Microsoft store, among other previously-announced changes. Windows 11's launch comes six years after Microsoft debuted its previous operating system overhaul, Windows 10.

➤WHY BEING DIVORCED CAN ACTUALLY HELP YOUR DATING LIFE:  Being divorced might have a negative connotation, but it doesn’t mean your dating life is doomed. Dr. Kelly Campbell, a professor of psychology at California State University, says it’s normal for divorcĆ©s to worry about how potential matches and partners will perceive them based on their marital history, but those fears are largely unfounded or at least can be easily overcome. Campbell says, “The days of divorce stigma are long gone unless we’re talking within certain circles such as some religious communities.” Dating coach Joshua Pompey adds, “While nobody wants to be divorced, it communicates to a woman that a man is capable of lifelong commitment and is seeking a lifelong companion, but just hasn’t found ‘the one’ yet.” Another expert adds, “Life-changing events like divorce take courage, and the right person will find that admirable.” And Campbell notes, “The bigger question is whether a person has learned from their past experience, recognize[s] what went wrong, and accept[s] their role in creating the outcome. It’s a red flag when the divorced person blames their partner 100% for the relationship’s demise.”

šŸˆPATRIOTS CUT CAM NEWTON, ROOKIE MAC JONES TO BE QB: The New England Patriots stunningly cut veteran Cam Newton yesterday, having decided that rookie Mac Jones will be their starting quarterback. Newton posted on Instagram, "I really appreciate all the love and support during this time, but I must say please don’t feel sorry for me!! #imGOOD." Newton ended up only being with the Patriots for one season, going 7-8 as their starter last year, their first without Tom Brady in two decades. Jones, who won a national title last year at Alabama, was taken by New England with the 15th pick in the first round of April's NFL Draft.

⚾BOSTON'S BOGAERTS PULLED FROM GAME AFTER POSITVE COVID TEST: Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was pulled from last night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays after testing positive for Covid-19. He came out before the start of the bottom of the second inning, after hitting an RBI single in the first inning. Bogaerts is the latest player to test positive in Boston's outbreak. It was announced before the game that reliever Hirokazu Sawamura had tested positive, and reliever Josh Taylor was also put on the Covid list as a close contact. Four other Red Sox players have also been put on the list since Friday.

šŸ‘ŽMETS' BAEZ, LINDOR APOLOGIZE FOR THUMBS-DOWN GESTURE AT FANS: The New York Mets' Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor apologized before the first game of a doubleheader yesterday against the Miami Marlins for using a thumbs-down gesture after getting big hits in a dig a fans who'd booed the Mets during a tough stretch. Baez, who explained what the gesture meant on Sunday, said, "I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I offend anybody, we apologize." But after facing boos and fans doing the thumbs-down gesture when he came into the first game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, Baez he got back in their good graces as he ran from first to home on a single for the winning run in the 6-5 game.

šŸŽ¾DJOKOVIC WINS FIRST-ROUND GAME AT U.S. OPEN AS BEGINS CALENDAR-YEAR GRAND SLAM TRY: Novak Djokovic won his first-round game at the U.S. Open yesterday, as he began his attempt to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam that would be the first in men's tennis since 1961, as well as get a record-breaking 21st major championship. The top-ranked Djokovic got the win against Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune. Also winning yesterday was the top-seeded woman, Ash Barty.

šŸ’CANADA BEATS U.S. IN OT TO WIN WOMEN'S HOCKEY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Canada beat the five-time defending champion U.S. 3-2 in overtime last night to win the women's hockey world championship for the first time since 2012. Marie-Philip Poulin, the captain of the Canadian team, scored the winning goal in OT. The U.S. had won eight of the previous nine titles.

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