Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 31, 2021

Last U.S. military plane leaves Afghanistan, Ida downgraded but leaves 1 million without power, and more


Last military plane leaves Afghanistan, ending longest U.S. war

The last U.S. military plane left Kabul on Monday, ending a 20-year presence in Afghanistan and the longest war in U.S. history. The aircraft carried all U.S. troops and diplomats who remained in the country as the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal arrived. "I'm here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan," said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command. Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, and acting American ambassador Ross Wilson were among the last Americans to leave. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. diplomatic mission to Afghanistan would continue working from Doha, Qatar, on its "relentless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals, and Afghans" who are at risk under Taliban rule to leave.


Ida downgraded to tropical depression after 1 million lose power

Former Hurricane Ida was downgraded to a tropical depression Monday night as it moved inland, crossing Mississippi with top sustained winds of 35 miles per hour after crashing into the Louisiana coast with winds as high as 150 mph. Ida knocked out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, including all of New Orleans, and left at least two people dead. The storm hit on the anniversary of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Officials said New Orleans was better prepared this time, partly due to the lessons learned from the devastation left by Katrina. One person drowned in his car after trying to drive through flooding on Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Some areas could be without power for six weeks after what Gov. John Bel Edwards called "one of the strongest storms to make landfall in modern times."


Pentagon acknowledges possibility of civilian casualties from drone strike

The Defense Department on Monday acknowledged the possibility that civilians were killed in a U.S. military drone strike against suspected Islamic State Khorasan suicide bombers believed to be targeting the Kabul airport. Survivors and neighbors said the strike killed 10 people, including seven children, a U.S. military contractor, and a worker for an American aid group. "At first I thought it was the Taliban," said the daughter of Zemari Ahmadi, the aid worker. "But the Americans themselves did it." New York Times journalists at the scene were unable to confirm the family's reports. A spokesman said the Pentagon was "not in a position to dispute" the report, but added that any civilian casualties were due to the explosives that were in the vehicle, not the drone strike itself.


Biden administration launches civil rights investigation of state mask-mandate bans

The Education Department on Monday opened civil rights investigations into attempts by Republican governors in five states to bar school districts from imposing mask mandates. The department sent letters announcing the policy to education officials in Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, informing them that their bans on local-district mask mandates might be preventing the districts from meeting the needs of students with disabilities who face elevated risk of severe illness from coronavirus infections. The Education Department did not start investigations into similar policies in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, or Arizona, which also have tried to prevent mandates but have been blocked by courts or other state actions.


Caldor Fire forces evacuation of entire city of South Lake Tahoe

California authorities on Monday evacuated all 22,000 residents of South Lake Tahoe due to the threat from the fast-spreading Caldor Fire, as fire risk forced national forests in the state to close. Residents also had to flee the surrounding areas along the lake's west and south shores. The wildfire has been edging closer to the Lake Tahoe area for two weeks. Nearly 30,000 residents had already been told to leave the eastern half of El Dorado County. Thom Porter, director of Cal Fire, said the fire exploded on Sunday, growing by more than 20,000 acres after an inversion layer lifted. "When air clears, it's taking the lid off your pot of boiling water; all of a sudden there's that plume of heat and steam that comes out," Porter said.


Ohio woman wins court order to treat husband's COVID with Ivermectin

A suburban Cincinnati woman on Monday won a court order for a hospital to treat her husband's COVID-19 infection with Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic treatment commonly used for livestock. The case is one of several nationwide in which people are trying to force doctors to use the drug, which has not been proven effective against COVID-19. Julie Smith asked Butler County Common Pleas Court for an emergency order to treat her husband, 51-year-old Jeffrey Smith, with Ivermectin. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not recommended Ivermectin for people infected with the coronavirus. Smith had found a doctor to prescribe the drug, but the hospital refused to administer it.


Texas abortion providers ask Supreme Court to block state law

Texas abortion providers on Monday asked the Supreme Court to block a state law seeking to ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law, which is scheduled to take effect on Wednesday, would let individuals sue any abortion provider, and largely end access to abortion in the state, the providers said. "In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the providers and other groups. The Texas law bars abortion once embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, which is typically around six weeks. Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from banning abortion before fetal viability, typically at about 22 to 24 weeks.


Giuliani communications director leaves as legal problems mount

Rudy Giuliani's communications director has resigned after two years on the job, as the former New York City mayor and one-time lawyer for former President Donald Trump faces deepening legal troubles. Christianné Allen started working for Giuliani Communication LLC in December 2019. She released a statement on Monday saying she was "proud of the accomplishments we achieved," including the launch of Giuliani's podcast. She said she was moving on to work for a "rising tech startup." Her departure comes as Giuliani is being targeted in a federal investigation into his foreign lobbying work. His law licenses have been suspended as he faces legal problems linked to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.


Ida nudges oil, gasoline prices higher

Oil and gasoline futures prices edged higher Monday after Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana and forced the temporary shutdown of a big part of U.S. oil production and refining operations. Nearly all oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was halted. Ida quickly weakened into a tropical depression after hitting as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, causing flooding and knocking out power to more than 1 million Louisiana utility customers. Energy companies were working to determine how quickly Louisiana refineries and Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production could be restarted. Oil prices rose slightly after surging by 10 percent last week. "The reaction is mixed because we avoided the worst-case scenario," Again Capital founding partner John Kilduff said. "But supplies are tight, and that could impact prices."


EU recommends banning non-essential travel by unvaccinated Americans

The European Union on Monday removed the United States from its list of safe countries for non-essential travel due to rising coronavirus infections fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. The European Council recommended reinstating travel restrictions against unvaccinated U.S. tourists, but did not call for its 27 member nations to turn away fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. In June, ahead of the summer travel season, the trading bloc recommended lifting restrictions on U.S. travelers. The EU guidance is not binding, so member countries are expected to adopt a mix of policies that could complicate European travel plans for Americans. The new restrictions threaten to cost European businesses billions in lost revenue.


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