Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 22, 2021

Taliban attempting to control crowds at Kabul airport, Biden administration activates civilian aircraft to aid Afghanistan evacuation, and more


Taliban attempting to control crowds at Kabul airport

The situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul reportedly remained chaotic and dangerous on Sunday as many Afghans continue to try to evacuate the country following the Taliban's takeover of the capital city. No major injuries have been reported on Sunday, even as the Taliban fired in the air and used batons to make people line up in orderly fashion outside the airport gates. But the British defense ministry said seven Afghans were killed in the crush around the airport on Saturday; a NATO official said at least 20 people have died in the past week. Some victims were shot, others were killed in stampedes, witnesses have said, per Reuters. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has sent signals suggesting U.S. troops, who to this point have remained at the airport, may stage operations beyond the gates to help get American citizens and Afghan civilians who aided the U.S. military out of the country.


Biden administration activates civilian aircraft to aid Afghanistan evacuation

The Biden administration on Sunday activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which means commercial airlines in the United States will provide flights to aid evacuation efforts in Afghanistan. Three aircraft each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines will be put into service. These planes won't fly into Afghanistan, however. Instead, they'll be used to transport the evacuees who have already left the country and are stranded at U.S. military bases in places like Germany, Qatar, and Bahrain. The CRAF program was created after the 1948-9 Berlin Airlift, an early Cold War crisis during which the Soviet Union blocked access to sectors of the divided city controlled by Western powers. It was previously activated ruing Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1990 and 1991, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002 and 2003.


Henri weakens to tropical storm ahead of Northeast landfall

More than 50 million people in the Northeast are on alert as Henri, which was downgraded from hurricane status to a tropical storm early Sunday, approaches the region. Despite weakening, the storm still poses a risk, with winds powerful enough to potentially bring down trees and power lines and enough rain to cause major flooding, CNN reports. Storm surge warnings are in place for much of New York's Long Island and the Massachusetts coastline. Henri is expected to make landfall either on Long Island or southern New England late Sunday morning or early in the afternoon. 


Jesse and Jacqueline Jackson hospitalized after positive COVID-19 tests

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and his wife Jacqueline Jackson have both been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a Chicago-based international human and civil rights organization founded by Jackson, said in a statement Saturday. The 79-year-old Jackson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2017, is vaccinated against COVID-19, having received his first dose in January, so the case is a breakthrough infection. RPC revealed little information about the Jacksons' current health status, saying only that "doctors are currently monitoring the condition of both" and that updates will be provided when they become available.


8 killed after Hurricane Grace hits Mexico

Hurricane Grace made landfall on Mexico's eastern coast Saturday, leaving at least eight people dead and three people missing. Few details about the fatalities were given aside from Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, the governor of the state of Veracruz, telling reporters they were the result of heavy rainfall, which caused mudslides and heavy flooding. After Grace made landfall it quickly weakened into a tropical storm and dissipated, the National Hurricane Center said. The Mexican government has since allowed all watches and warnings to expire. 


At least 10 killed, dozens missing amid Tennessee floods

At least 10 people are dead and an estimated 40 others are missing in Humphreys County, Tennessee, after 15 inches of rain fell in the area causing severe flooding. Local totals may approach 17 inches as more reports come in, the Tennessee Valley Authority said. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency declared a state of emergency and is coordinating a statewide effort to help Humphreys and several other counties that were affected by the downpour. Water rescue crews have been dispatched, and shelters have been opened. The search for missing people has been complicated by the lack of cell phone coverage from major carriers, Rob Edwards, the chief deputy of the Humphreys County Sheriff's Office, said. He called the situation the worst he's seen in 28 years on the job. 


Israel strikes Hamas weapons sites after violent border demonstrations

The Israeli military bombed four Hamas weapons and storage manufacturing sites in the Gaza Strip on Sunday following a demonstration that turned violent at a fortified border fence on Saturday. Hundreds of Palestinians attended the protest, which was organized by Hamas and aimed at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory. Dozens of the demonstrators approached the fence and threw rocks and explosives toward Israeli soldiers, the military said. At least 41 Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were injured after Israeli forces returned gunfire, the Gaza health ministry said, and an Israeli Border Police officer was shot and critically injured. 


Trump blasts Biden's Afghanistan exit during Alabama rally

Former President Donald Trump held a rally in support of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who is running for a Senate seat, in Cullman, Alabama, on Saturday. During his speech, Trump again took aim at President Biden for the strategy behind the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, an outcome that he pushed for heavily during his time in the White House. "This will go down as one of the great military defeats of all time and it did not have to happen that way," Trump told the crowd of his supporters, which reportedly numbered in the thousands. "This was not a withdrawal, this was a total surrender, for no reason." Trump said the exit makes the U.S. departure from Vietnam look like a "masterclass." He also defended his administration's deal with the Taliban — whom he described as "great negotiators" and "tough fighters" — arguing that it was a "conditions-based agreement." 


Richardson struggles in return from pre-Olympics suspension

American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson returned to the track after she was barred from competing in the Olympics earlier this month following a positive marijuana test. However, she finished last in a field of nine runners in the 100 meters at the prestigious Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, registering a time of 11.14 seconds. Instead, the day belonged to Elaine Thomoson-Herah, the Jamaican who won gold in both the 100 and 200 meters in Tokyo. Thompson-Herah clocked in at 10.54 seconds, the second-fastest women's time in history behind Florence Griffith Joyner's 10.49 seconds in 1988. 


Weather upends New York's 'homecoming' concert

The long-planned "We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert" on the Great Lawn of New York City's Central Park was upended by lighting and rain on Saturday night in the midst of a Barry Manilow performance. Mayor Bill de Blasio had made the mega-concert part of his plan to celebrate New York's comeback in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic (although the city, like most places in the U.S., has seen an uptick in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks because of the Delta variant), but the weather proved to be too much. Many of the headliners, such as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and Patti Smith, had yet to perform. 


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