Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 25, 2021

The House passes $3.5 trillion budget proposal, the Taliban says no more Afghans will be allowed to flee Kabul, and more

1

House narrowly passes $3.5 trillion budget framework

The House on Tuesday advanced a $3.5 trillion budget plan seeking to expand social safety net and climate programs. The 220-212 vote along party lines came after Democratic leaders overcame objections from moderates who did not want to approve the budget before House action on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quelled the revolt by tying the two measures together in one vote that passed the budget and committed the House to addressing the infrastructure proposal by Sept. 27. The budget framework was approved by the Senate earlier this month. It will let Democrats move forward with a process known as reconciliation, which would allow Senate Democrats to avoid a filibuster and pass their plan without Republican votes. "Today is a great day of pride for our country and for Democrats," Pelosi said.

2

Taliban says no more Afghans can go to Kabul airport

The Taliban said Tuesday it would not let any more Afghans through to the airport to leave the country. It also said it was against extending evacuation flights beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for a full U.S. and coalition military withdrawal from the country. "We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. "They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline," he said. President Biden previously said the U.S. would stay as long as it takes to complete the evacuations, but he said Tuesday that the U.S. would honor the deadline.

3

Supreme Court upholds ruling calling for reinstating Remain in Mexico program

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block a lower court ruling ordering the Biden administration to revive former President Donald Trump's policy requiring people to wait in Mexico while U.S. authorities review their applications for asylum in the United States. The court's conservative majority, with three liberal justices dissenting, found that the administration likely violated the law by trying to end the Remain in Mexico policy. The lower court ruling called for the federal government to make a "good faith effort" to reinstate the program. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it regrets the ruling and would continue to challenge the order by a district court in Texas.

4

CDC report details unvaccinated people's elevated COVID risk

Unvaccinated people are roughly 29 times more likely than fully vaccinated to be hospitalized for COVID-19, according to a study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday. The study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, also concluded that the unvaccinated were nearly five times more likely to get infected, based on data recorded in Los Angeles county between May 1 and July 25. As of Monday, 171 million Americans, or 51.5 percent of the total U.S. population, were fully vaccinated. More than 201 million, or 60.8 percent of the total, had received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot. President Biden said Monday that "virtually all" U.S. COVID hospitalizations and deaths were among the unvaccinated.

5

Expanding Caldor Fire approaches Lake Tahoe basin

The rapidly expanding Caldor Fire is threatening the Lake Tahoe basin and has become the "No. 1 priority" for U.S. firefighting resources as dozens of wildfires spread in the West, Chief Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Tuesday. The blaze has destroyed 632 structures, including 450 homes, as it exploded to cover 123,000 acres since starting 10 days ago. It was just 11 percent contained late Tuesday. Fire officials said it was possible that evacuation orders would have to be extended closer to Lake Tahoe, a popular vacation spot straddling the California-Nevada state line. More than 2,100 people, including 50 fire crews, have been sent to battle the flames with 22 helicopters and 200 fire engines.

6

Airbnb promises temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees

Airbnb announced Tuesday that it would offer temporary housing for 20,000 Afghan refugees. The home-sharing company and its nonprofit Airbnb.org will work with resettlement agencies to determine the needs of refugees who have fled Afghanistan since the Taliban's takeover last week, and place them around the world. "The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time," tweeted Brian Chesky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airbnb. "We feel a responsibility to step up." The U.S. said Monday it had helped evacuate 48,000 people since Aug. 14. Airbnb said it had housed 165 Afghan refugees in the U.S. and was working with hosts to accommodate more.

7

Kathy Hochul sworn in as New York's 1st female governor

Kathy Hochul was sworn in as New York's 57th governor on Tuesday, hours after her fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo stepped down rather than face likely impeachment over sexual harassment allegations. Hochul, a 62-year-old former congresswoman from Buffalo, made history as the first woman to serve in the state's highest office. Hochul had served as lieutenant governor but ascended to the top job three weeks after a state attorney general investigation concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed several women. Hochul vowed to preside over a new era of civility and consensus, and to lead the state through the latest coronavirus surge. "I want people to believe in their government again," she said in a brief news conference shortly after being sworn in.

8

Iranian prison chief apologizes after hacked videos show abuse

The head of Iran's prison authority issued a rare official apology on Tuesday after hackers released footage showing guards beating inmates at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison for political detainees and foreigners. The video was distributed to news outlets and first reported by the Associated Press. The time stamps on the footage indicates it was from 2020 and 2021. The images include what appears to be a suicide attempt by a prisoner using glass from a smashed mirror. Other clips show guards repeatedly striking or kicking prisoners. "I take responsibility for these unacceptable behaviors," Mohammed Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, the head of Iran's Prisons Organization, said via Twitter. "I will commit to not letting these horrific incidents being repeated, and deal seriously with law breakers."

9

Giuliani associate Igor Fruman expected to plead guilty

Igor Fruman, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, is expected to plead guilty this week on campaign finance fraud charges, according to court records recently made public. Fruman, who helped Giuliani in his political support of former President Donald Trump, is scheduled to appear in federal court for a change-of-plea hearing on Wednesday, which often signals a plea deal. Fruman and co-defendant Lev Parnas, both Soviet-born Ukrainian emigres, were solicited by Giuliani for help finding information to damage President Biden's campaign ahead of the 2020 election. They have been charged with illegally funneling foreign funds into the U.S. political system. Both have entered not guilty pleas. Giuliani has not been accused of any crimes, but prosecutors are investigating his relationship with Fruman and Parnas.

10

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies at 80

Charlie Watts, longtime drummer for the Rolling Stones, died Tuesday at a London hospital. He was 80. His spokesperson said in a statement that Watts died surrounded by his family. "Charlie was a cherished husband, father, and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation," the statement said. The band had said earlier this month that Watts was unlikely to resume touring with his bandmates due to an undisclosed medical issue. Watts joined the Stones in 1963, a year after the band was formed, and was widely considered one of the most influential drummers in rock 'n' roll history. He underwent treatment for throat cancer in 2004. "Charlie Watts was the ultimate drummer," Elton John posted on Twitter. "The most stylish of men, and such brilliant company." 

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