10 things you need to know today: August 28, 2021
U.S. military says retaliatory airstrike likely killed ISIS leader in Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida strengthening quickly en route to Louisiana, and more
U.S. military says retaliatory airstrike likely killed ISIS leader in Afghanistan
The United States military said Friday that it conducted an airstrike against the Islamic State in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province in retaliation for a suicide bomb attack outside the gates of Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed nearly 200 Afghan civilians and 13 American service members on Thursday amid a chaotic evacuation process following the Taliban's takeover of the capital city. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said "initial indications" are that the strike killed an unnamed extremist leader whom the U.S. intelligence community believes was involved in the planning of the bombing, as well as potential future attacks. The U.S. has warned American citizens at certain airport gates to leave immediately as credible threats remain, though evacuation flights continued to leave Friday.
Hurricane Ida strengthening quickly en route to Louisiana
Hurricane Ida, which hit Cuba on Friday, is currently around 440 miles southeast of New Orleans and tracking northwards. The National Hurricane Center has predicted the Category 1 storm will strengthen into a Category 4 as it nears the Gulf Coast this weekend, threatening dangerous storm surge, flooding, and winds. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has urged residents to prepare for the storm, and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city that sits outside the levee system; a city-wide evacuation wasn't possible because the storm has intensified so rapidly over a such a short period of time, she said. Other areas across the coastal region faced both mandatory and voluntary evacuations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to send nearly 150 medical personnel and 50 ambulances to assist Gulf Coast hospitals already strained by the COVID-19 pandemic.
RFK assassin recommended for parole
Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) in Los Angeles in 1968, was recommended for parole Friday during his 16th appearance before a California parole board. The 77-year-old has served 53 years in prison. The two-person panel's ruling will be reviewed over the next several months, and it will then be sent to California's governor, who will have 30 days to sign off on the decision, reverse it, or modify it. Two of Kennedy's surviving sons, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, expressed support for Sirhan's potential release, though several of their siblings oppose it.
Powell indicates Fed may soon scale back support of U.S. economy
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday indicated that the central bank will begin scaling back its pandemic-related support of the United States economy, which Powell said has seen "more progress in the form of a strong employment report for July." Because of the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, he added that "we will be carefully assessing incoming data and evolving risks," but he still believes the "prospects are good for continued progress toward maximum employment." Powell also said he remains confident inflation, which rose more than 4 percent annually last month, is transitory.
U.S. intelligence review inconclusive on coronavirus origins
A United States intelligence report did not reach any firm conclusions on whether the coronavirus that sparked the COVID-19 pandemic first jumped to humans through contact with an infected animal or a lab leak. An unclassified summary of the report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence suggested both theories are plausible, but the intelligence community "remains divided." President Biden ordered U.S. agencies to review the matter, criticizing China — where the virus originated — for preventing international investigators from accessing "critical information" about the pathogen. The agencies involved in the review did reach "broad agreement" that the virus was "not developed as a biological weapon" and that Chinese officials "did not have foreknowledge of the virus" before the initial outbreak of COVID-19.
Florida judge rules DeSantis' mask mandate ban exceeds authority
A Florida judge on Friday ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) ban on school mask mandates exceeded his authority. DeSantis recently signed a controversial executive order allowing parents to decide if they want their children to wear masks to school rather than have local districts make the call, but Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said a new Florida law known as the "Parents' Bill of Rights" exempts government actions necessary to protect public health. A school district's mask mandate to prevent the spread of COVID-19 falls within that exemption, he said. DeSantis' office plans to appeal the ruling, which spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said was "made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts."
Biden meets with Israel's Bennett at White House
President Biden on Friday had his first in-person meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett since the latter assumed his post earlier this year. The pair met at the White House, where Biden said he looks "forward to us establishing a strong personal relationship." The meeting was aimed at demonstrating "an unshakable partnership between our two nations," Biden said. Although Bennett and Biden have different views on Iran — Biden made it clear he's seeking a deal with Tehran, while Bennett said he presented an alternative plan for Israel's rival — and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the former said he's determined to "bring a new spirit" to the U.S.-Israel relationship built on "good will … hope, decency and honesty … unity and bipartisanship." His predecessor, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was known for having a somewhat contentious relationship with American Democrats.
D.C., other cities prepare for voting rights marches
Thousands of people are expected to turn out for the March On for Voting Rights in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to both show support for congressional legislation that strengthens voting rights and protest potential laws in several states that critics say would make voting less accessible for many people. The movement's flagship event will take place in the nation's capital, but marches are also planned in other major cities, including Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, and Houston. The D.C. marchers will begin at the Lincoln Memorial, in front of which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 58 years ago.
Scientists discover world's northernmost island
A team of Danish scientists from Copenhagen University accidentally discovered the world's northernmost island off the coast of Greenland last month. The researchers thought they had arrived at Oodaaq, an island discovered by a Danish survey team in 1978, to collect samples, but they later checked their exact location and realized they were 850 yards northwest of that landmass. The newly-discovered island, which is only about 100 feet across, was revealed by shifting pack ice, and it's not known how long it will remain above sea level, Morten Rasch, the head of the mission, said. Rasch also said that the discovery isn't a "big deal" from a scientific perspective, but he did admit that it's "funny to be among those six people ever on earth who have had muddy boots at the most northerly point in the world."
Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United
Portuguese Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has left Italian side Juventus and is headed back to Manchester United, the English Premier League club he played for between 2003 and 2009. The surprising agreement is reportedly worth 15 million euro with the potential for a further 8 million euro in add-ons. Ronaldo, who is now 36, developed into one of the sport's iconic figures during his first run with Manchester United, scoring 118 goals in 292 games. The news comes just a couple of weeks after Ronaldo's contemporary Lionel Messi — the pair are often mentioned alongside each other as the game's two greatest players of their era — departed from his longtime soccer home at Barcelona to play for Paris Saint-Germain.