Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 8, 2021

Olympics wrap up with closing ceremony, Taliban reportedly take key Afghan city, and more


Olympics wrap up with closing ceremony

The 2020 Olympics officially wrapped up on Sunday in Tokyo with the closing ceremonies. The Tokyo Games were under scrutiny for the past year as the world dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. There were concerns about whether the International Olympic Committee and Japan should have called the whole thing off, but the spectator-less two-week event appears to have gone more or less according to plan, with few COVID-19 infections reported within the Olympic bubble. In terms of the actual athletic events, the United States took home the most overall medals with 113, while also edging China for most golds at 39 thanks to late victories from the women's basketball and indoor volleyball teams.


Taliban reportedly take key Afghan city

The Taliban have seized the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, the group and city officials said Sunday. It's the third provincial capital overtaken by the Taliban in as many days, as a rapid offensive continues amid a U.S. troop withdrawal. Kunduz, which is home to 374,000 people, is considered a key city, militarily and politically. It was briefly captured by the Taliban in 2015 and 2016 before Afghan forces pushed the insurgents out with the aid of American airstrikes. On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan released a statement advising all American citizens in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately as the fighting intensifies.


Senate breaks filibuster on bipartisan infrastructure bill

The Senate on Saturday voted 67-27 to break a filibuster and advance the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to a final vote, with 18 present Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), joining the Democratic majority to surpass the 60-vote threshold. It's a sign the upper chamber will ultimately pass the bill, but a final vote may still be days away as lawmakers work their way through a series of proposed amendments.


Austin, Texas, down to single-digit ICU bids amid COVID-19 surge

As COVID-19 infections, fueled by the more contagious Delta variant, continue to increase across the United States, the pandemic has worsened substantially in Austin, Texas, where state health data show there are only six open ICU beds and 313 ventilators available. The metro area of almost 2.4 million people raised its risk level to the highest option this week. The situation is "dire," city officials said. Austin Mayor Steve Adler told The New York Times that the current scenario could have been avoided if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) hadn't barred local governments from issuing mask mandates. 


Authorities searching for 3 people as Dixie Fire rages in California

Authorities were searching for three missing people in the area threatened by California's Dixie Fire, the largest active blaze in the United States and the third-largest in the Golden State's history. The fire has burned through multiple Northern California communities, and evacuation orders were in effect for several towns. Of the missing people, two are from Greenville, California, and the third person is from Chester. The latter has been reported safe, but no official contact had been made with authorities as of late Saturday night. Elsewhere around the world, Athens, Greece, is surrounded by wildfires, with residents describing the scenes as "apocalyptic."


Protesters take to streets in Myanmar on anniversary of 1988 uprising

Protesters took to the streets in Myanmar on Sunday, the anniversary of a previous military junta's suppression of a 1988 popular uprising. The current junta seized power from Myanmar's democratically elected government in a February coup, and demonstrations have continued since then, although they've become more muted over time as the junta cracked down on protesters. But on Sunday, at least six separate protests were documented on Facebook pages of opposition groups throughout Myanmar, per Reuters, and the crowds reportedly referenced the "8-8-88" democracy uprising during their marches.


Aramco reports big increase in net income

Saudi state oil giant Aramco reported a net income of $25.5 billion in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 288 percent and the highest figure for the company since the end of 2018. Last year, in the same quarter, Aramco reported a $6.6 billion net income. The jump is the result of a big recovery in oil and chemical prices and demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aramco's president and CEO Amin Nasser said the company's expectation is that the global economic recovery will continue, adding that he remains "extremely positive about the second half of 2021 and beyond."


Alibaba under fire after sexual assault allegation

After an employee at Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba accused her supervisor of sexual assault while they were on a business trip and said the company initially failed to respond to her request for an investigation, Alibaba said in a statement on Sunday that it has suspended several employees and "established a special internal task force to investigate the issue." Police in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan, where the alleged assault took place, said they are also investigating the incident. The woman's allegations sparked widespread anger toward Alibaba, which is facing a regulatory crackdown from Beijing, on Chinese social media platforms.


Messi to leave Barcelona

Professional soccer star Lionel Messi gave a tearful press conference on Sunday during which he confirmed he's ending his 21-year association with Barcelona because of the club's financial problems. The 34-year-old Messi, who hails from Argentina and is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, said he did everything he could to stay with Barcelona, but it ultimately wasn't possible. Sources have said he's already reached an agreement with French side Paris Saint-Germain, but during the press conference Messi said that's just "one possibility."


FSU coach Bowden dies at 91

Former Florida State University head football coach Bobby Bowden has died, the school announced Sunday morning. He was 91. Bowden was diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, later revealed by his son Terry to be pancreatic cancer, in July. Bowden took over at Florida State in 1976 after a six-year stint at West Virginia, and he remained there until 2009 when he retired. Along the way, he picked up the second most career wins of any Division I head coach (behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno), two consensus national championships, 12 conference titles, and 28 consecutive bowl appearances from 1982 until Bowden's retirement.


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