Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 13, 2021

2020 Census data shows U.S. is more diverse and urban, Taliban captures Kandahar and Herat, and more

1

2020 Census data shows U.S. population is more diverse and urban

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data from the 2020 Census on Thursday, showing for the first time ever a drop in the non-Hispanic white population. White people are still the largest racial or ethnic group in the United States, comprising 57.8 percent of the total population, but that's down from 63.7 percent in 2010. The data — which will be used to redraw congressional and legislative districts in the country just one year before the 2022 midterms — indicates growth among Latino, Asian, and multi-racial Americans. Latinos are the second largest group in the U.S., making up 18.7 percent of the population. The national population rose by 7.4 percent over the last decade, the second slowest rate of growth in U.S. history, and about 80 percent of urban areas saw population gains, as more people are leaving rural regions

2

Taliban captures Kandahar and Herat as Biden sends troops to evacuate U.S. personnel

In a major offensive on Thursday, the Taliban captured Kandahar and Herat — the two largest cities in Afghanistan after the capital Kabul. Witnesses told The Associated Press that in Herat, Taliban fighters once held in the city's prisons are now free and on the streets. Government officials and residents in both cities are fleeing from the militant group, with Kandahar's governor flying to Kabul for safety. The Taliban also seized the provincial capital Ghazni, cutting off an important highway connecting Kabul with Afghanistan's southern provinces. The Taliban is estimated to now control over two-thirds of Afghanistan. While Kabul is not yet under direct threat from the Taliban, the newest U.S. military intelligence suggests it could fall within 30 days. President Biden is sending 3,000 troops to Kabul to help evacuate some personnel from the embassy before the U.S. military mission officially ends in late August.

3

Britney Spears' father agrees to step down as conservator of her estate

Britney Spears scored a major win in her conservatorship battle Thursday, as her father, Jamie Spears, agreed to step down as conservator of her estate. The revelation was made in new court documents on Thursday, TMZ reports, with Jamie Spears' lawyer saying their client does "not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests." Britney Spears has been under the conservatorship since 2008, and in June told a judge it was "abusive" and she wanted her father removed. In a statement to Variety, Britney Spears' lawyer Mathew Rosengart called this a "vindication for Britney," adding that they both "look forward to continuing our vigorous investigation into the conduct of Mr. Spears, and others, over the past 13 years." 

4

6 killed in 'shocking' mass shooting in Plymouth, England

Six people were killed on Thursday evening during a mass shooting in Plymouth, England. One of the deceased is the suspected gunman, police said. A witness told The Times newspaper that she saw a man kick down the door to a house and shoot a woman and girl who looked to be around five years old. Later, after fleeing from the home, the gunman ran through a nearby park and shot two people walking their dogs, The Times reports. Mass shootings are rare in England, which has one of the world's lowest gun homicide rates. Home Secretary Priti Patel called the incident "shocking," adding, "my prayers are with those affected."

5

Supreme Court rejects request to block Indiana University's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected a request from eight Indiana University students trying to block the school's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. In May, Indiana University announced it was requiring all students, faculty, and staff members get vaccinated, with religious and medical exemptions. Of the eight students who sued, six have received a religious exemption and a seventh is qualified but has not yet applied, The Washington Post reports. Barrett oversees emergency petitions submitted from the school's region, and in her decision, did not give a reason for the rejection or mention referring the matter to her fellow justices. This was the first case related to vaccination requirements to make it to the Supreme Court, after a federal district judge and panel of the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rejected the students' request.

6

FDA approves COVID-19 booster shot for immunocompromised

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday night gave formal approval for severely immunocompromised Americans to get a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Studies have shown that transplant recipients and others with seriously weakened immune systems don't get the same level of protection against the coronavirus from the first two doses, but many mount a stronger immune response after a third dose. Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population will be approved for the booster shot. U.S. health officials are closely monitoring how long the vaccines protect people without suppressed immune systems, but Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a White House briefing Thursday that "apart from the immunocompromised, we do not believe that others, elderly or non-elderly, need a vaccine at this moment."

7

Supreme Court strikes down part of New York eviction moratorium

The Supreme Court issued an emergency order Thursday night that struck down a New York residential eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of August. The court was ruling on a request from a group of landlords who argued that the 2020 law violates their rights. The unsigned order did not identify which justices supported the decision, but the court's three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — dissented. The court's majority noted that other parts of New York's moratorium remain in place, offering some protection to tenants who "suffered a financial hardship" during the pandemic. The Biden administration has issued its own eviction moratorium for much of the country, and that order is also expected to be taken up by the Supreme Court.

8

Boeing's Starliner space capsule hits more launch delays

Boeing was scheduled to launch its Starliner space capsule to the International Space Station late last month, but now the launch could be delayed for several months as the aerospace giant fixes a dozen valves in the propulsion system that had failed to open as expected during prelaunch checks. Boeing has spent years developing its space capsule, which is supposed to eventually carry astronauts to and from the ISS, and a delay of months would be a significant setback to Boeing's space program. A software error in December 2019 sent the Starliner into the wrong orbit, making it miss the space station. NASA wants two U.S. companies capable of transporting astronauts to the ISS, and right now it has only Elon Musk's SpaceX. 

9

Coffee prices rising amid Brazil extreme weather, global turmoil

Coffee futures have been trading at seven-year highs since late July, buoyed by extreme weather events in Brazil, months of protests in Colombia, a lack of shipping containers in Vietnam, and other global turmoil and pandemic-related export bottlenecks. Smaller coffee roasters and retailers are deciding whether to raise prices, while coffee giants like Starbucks and Nestlé have enough coffee bean supply in storage or locked in that they won't face rising costs for more than a year. The big wild card is Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, which saw damage to its coffee trees during unusual below-freezing weather in July and is now entering its wildfire season after a historically bad drought. If Brazilian farmers have to cut down damaged trees after this year's harvest, it will take years for Brazil's coffee exports to recover, and even Starbucks will likely have to consider raising prices.

10

'Sherlock' actress Una Stubbs dies at 84

Una Stubbs, the actress known for roles including landlady Mrs. Hudson on the British series Sherlock, has died at 84. Stubbs' agent confirmed her death to BBC News on Thursday, and her sons said she "passed away quietly today with her family around her." Outside of Sherlock, Stubbs' long list of credits include Rita Rawlins on the sitcom Till Death Us Do Part and Caroline Bishop on EastEnders, and she also starred in the 1963 film Summer Holiday. She was known for work on stage, as well. The co-creators of Sherlock both paid tribute to Stubbs on Thursday, with Mark Gatiss writing that working with her was "one of the great joys of my life," adding that "she was a wonderful, wonderful woman and a great and serenely graceful actor." 

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