Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2021

Afghan resistance fighters challenge the Taliban, Tropical Storm Henri hits New England with heavy rains, and more

1

Afghan resistance fighters challenge Taliban

Former Afghan soldiers and other resistance fighters drove Taliban militants out of three mountain districts north of Kabul, former Afghan officials said Sunday. "The resistance is still alive," former acting defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi aid. The fighting reportedly occurred on Friday after Taliban forces, who took Kabul and seized power a week ago, started conducting house-to-house searches. The resistance fighters said they killed 30 Taliban militants, although a pro-Taliban Twitter account said the toll was half that. President Biden said Sunday that he was in "discussions" to extend the deadline for withdrawing the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 as a massive effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies fleeing the Taliban accelerates.

2

Henri downs power lines, drenches New England

Tropical Storm Henri made landfall in Rhode Island on Sunday, knocking out power to 74,000 customers in the state. Another 20,000 lost electricity in Connecticut. The storm was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm shortly before hitting the shore, but it still had 60-mile-per-hour sustained winds, with gusts up to 70 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. Henri drenched parts of New England with heavy rains and high tides as it pushed inland, flooding roads and forcing the closure of numerous bridges. President Biden on Sunday promised federal aid, declaring disasters in much of the Northeast to clear the way for emergency funds.

3

Biden job approval falls to low point

President Biden's approval rating has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency, according to an NBC poll released Sunday. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they approved of Biden's job performance, while 48 percent disapproved. The poll, taken from Aug. 14-17, showed that Biden took hits from disappointment over rising COVID-19 cases and chaos associated with the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the Taliban seized power a week ago. Biden's handling of the pandemic has long been a strong point for him. The poll found that only 53 percent approved of Biden's handling of the coronavirus crisis, down 16 points from April.

4

Harris touts discussions with Singapore on supply-chain resilience

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday sought to reassure allies in Asia about the U.S. commitment to the region despite concerns about the Afghanistan withdrawal, announcing that the U.S. and Singapore were working on boosting supply-chain resilience. At the start of a Southeast Asia trip, Harris also noted a series of agreements with Singapore on cybersecurity, climate, and public health. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered help with the U.S. evacuation effort in Afghanistan, and said the U.S. played a key role as "regional guarantor of security and support of prosperity" in Asia. "We are watching what's happening in Afghanistan on the TV screens today, but what will influence perceptions of U.S. resolve and commitment to the region will be what the U.S. does going forward," Lee said.

5

Tennessee flooding death toll rises

The death toll from severe flooding in central Tennessee rose to at least 22 on Sunday after some areas saw up to 17 inches of rain. Dozens of other people remained missing. "We are asking that residents please stay out of neighborhoods and roadways while the rescue effort is underway," Waverly Chief of Public Safety Grant Gillespie said in a statement. Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told CNN affiliate WSMV that up to seven children were among the missing. "They just went and got one of my best friends and recovered him. He drowned in this," the sheriff said. "It's tough, but we're going to move forward."

6

Egypt closes Gaza border crossing after violence

Egypt closed its border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Monday. The Palestinian group confirmed that Egypt said it would stop traffic across the border in both directions. The Jerusalem Post reported that Egyptian authorities said the decision was made for security reasons after cross-border clashes. Israeli aircraft struck targets in Gaza after a flurry of gunfire from Gaza into Israel, seriously wounding an Israeli border policeman. Another officer was shot by a Palestinian militant during a border riot. An Israeli-led blockade has long severely restricted the movement of people and goods through Rafah, the sole crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

7

Haitians hold funerals a week after earthquake

Grieving Haitians on Sunday buried many of the 2,200 people confirmed to have been killed in the Caribbean nation's recent 7.2-magnitude earthquake, which devastated areas still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew, a Category 5 storm that hit Haiti's southwest peninsula in 2016. At the Paroisse Saint-Joseph De Simon Roman Catholic Church on the edge of the devastated city of Les Cayes, about 200 worshippers gathered early for the first Sunday mass since the quake. "Everyone was crying today for what they had lost," said the priest, Marc Orel Saël. "And everyone is stressed because the earth is still shaking" with aftershocks. The earthquake hit as the country struggled with political tensions following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last month.

8

Maddow signs deal to stay at MSNBC

Rachel Maddow has signed a new contract with MSNBC that will keep her in the network's lineup for several years, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. Maddow's The Rachel Maddow Show is a prime-time flagship for the cable news channel. Maddow is expected to continue to host her show for MSNBC on weekdays, some of the Journal's sources said. She also will develop projects for a new partnership with NBCUniversal. The deal followed speculation that Maddow might leave the network to start her own media company.

9

Don Everly of the Everly Brothers dies at 84

Don Everly, half of the Everly Brothers duo, died over the weekend at his Nashville home, his daughter Erin Everly confirmed on Sunday. He was 84. Everly and his younger brother, Phil, nearly matched the popularity of Elvis Presley at the peak of their fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their first million-seller, "Bye Bye Love" established them as one of the biggest acts in country music in 1957. They went on to appear on TV's The Ed Sullivan Show and radio's The Grand Ole Opry, influencing a generation of musical acts with their fraternal harmony. They had 12 records hit the top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100.

10

France to re-bury Josephine Baker in Pantheon

France's presidential palace confirmed Sunday that Josephine Baker, a U.S.-born dancer and civil rights activist who became a French citizen in 1937, will be laid to rest in the Pantheon alongside other French heroes like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie. Baker, who died in Paris in 1975 and is currently buried in Monaco, joined the French Resistance during World War II, earning medals of honor for her work as an ambulance driver and intelligence agent. She will be the first Black woman and first entertainer buried in the Pantheon. She will be the fifth woman given that honor, alongside 72 men. The funeral, first reported by France's Le Parisien newspaper, will take place Nov. 30.

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