WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Taliban Turning Away Afghans At Airport

A crowd gathered in front of barbed wire
A man holds a certificate acknowledging his work for Americans as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Associated Press
A crowd gathered in front of barbed wire
A man holds a certificate acknowledging his work for Americans as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Associated Press

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Taliban Turning Away Afghans At Airport

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Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and here’s an actual picture of me filling in for Hunter. Here’s what you need to know today. (By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Taliban rejects extension of U.S. troop withdrawal, then blocks access to airport

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said today the group would block Afghans from leaving the country through the Kabul airport, although foreigners would still be allowed to pass through.

The Taliban have told the crowds gathering outside the airport they would “guarantee their security” if they go home. However, there have been reports of the militant group cracking down on protestors and seeking out Afghans who have worked alongside the U.S. and NATO.

Mujahid also said the Taliban would reject extending the U.S. troop withdrawal past the Aug. 31 deadline. Evacuation efforts have increased in recent days, with 21,600 people airlifted in the last 24 hours, but The New York Times reports that time is running out “to rescue people whom the administration has pledged to protect.” [New York Times]

President Joe Biden is holding firm to the Aug. 31 deadline, despite pushback from U.S. lawmakers and international allies, some of whom say he is caving to Taliban pressure. [AP]

In a closed-door meeting, Biden said the risk of a terrorist attack increases every day the troops stay in Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official. [New York Times]

2. COVID-19 pandemic reemerges as Amercans’ top concern

The coronavirus pandemic is the most important problem facing the U.S., according to a new Gallup poll. Americans ranked COVID-19 ahead of governmental issues, immigration, economy and race relations.

And the percentage of people concerned about COVID-19 has more than tripled over the summer — up from 8% in June to 26% — as the aggressive delta variant swept the country. [Washington Post]

Meanwhile, top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the crisis won’t be under control in the U.S. until spring 2022 — and only if most skeptics get vaccinated. That timeline is a setback for the Biden administration and the Democratic Party.

As CNN reports, the Party was “already facing historic headwinds in trying to keep control of Congress. They will now face the possibility of having to do so in a nation even more exhausted by a crisis that has already cost more than 620,000 lives and that has become more politically divided by the virus every month it rages on.” [CNN]

3. Watchdog finds ShotSpotter technology rarely leads to evidence of gun crimes

The acoustic gunshot detection system used by the Chicago Police Department — which came under renewed scrutiny after the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in March — rarely leads to evidence of gun crimes and can change the way officers interact with areas they’re patrolling, the city’s top watchdog announced today.

The harsh report published by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General found CPD data “does not support a conclusion that ShotSpotter is an effective tool in developing evidence of a gun-related crime.”

“If the Department is to continue to invest in technology which sends CPD members into potentially dangerous situations with little information — and about which there are important community concerns — it should be able to demonstrate the benefit of its use in [combating] violent crime,” Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg told the Chicago Sun-Times. [Sun-Times]

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown continue to defend the system, and the city extended its contract through August 2023. [Block Club Chicago]

ShotSpotter is increasingly being used as evidence in criminal cases across the U.S., despite “serious flaws in the technology,” an Associated Press investigation recently found. [AP]

4. House Democrats move Biden’s budget proposal over key hurdle

House leaders compromised today with moderate Democrats to advance President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget proposal after negotiations stalled overnight. The agreement also puts the Party’s domestic infrastructure agenda back on track.

Moderate lawmakers had threatened to withhold their votes, which are needed for passage, if the House did not first approve a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. House leader Nancy Pelosi has insisted the two bills move together and get passed by Oct. 1.

The drama within the narrowly divided chamber “showcased the power even a handful of voices can have in setting the agenda and signaled battles ahead,” writes The Associated Press. [AP]

5. The Paralympics open today amid virus spike

A second round of international competition kicks off in Tokyo today as the city is under a state of emergency until Sept. 12 due to a four-fold COVID-19 increase since July 23 — when the Olympics opened in the city.

Like the prior event, the Paralympics are being held without fans. Organizers say it was important for the games to go on due to the way they change “your attitude toward disability.”

“So many people told me that it was impossible to do fencing without any hands,” said wheelchair fencer Bebe Vivo, who contracted meningitis as a child and lost both her forearms and both her legs at the knees. “If you have a dream and you really want to achieve it, just go and take it.” [AP]

Despite a number of teams dropping out, the games set record numbers for both total number of athletes and women participating. [NPR]

And two new sports will debut: badminton and taekwondo. [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam was delayed after a likely case of the mysterious “Havana syndrome.” [AP]

  • The Biden administration declared Tennessee flooding a “major disaster.” [AP]

  • Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at age 80. [AP]

  • The next four INVEST South/West projects were announced in New City, Bronzeville, North Lawndale and South Chicago. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

Few flavors have more power to inspire spite or jubilee than a PSL — a pumpkin spice latte for those not in the know. Starbucks’ fall favorite hit stores early this year, along with a slew of other autumn-related food items.

But the flavor fueling thousands of Instagram posts was beat out by Dunkin’, which has been selling their version since Aug. 18.

The advent of PSL is always a welcome sign for me, but not for the reason you’re thinking. I’m waiting for peppermint mocha coffee creamer to hit grocery stores again. I stock up and sip on it all year. Cheers to Christmas — or fall — in August! [NPR]

Tell me something good …

I’d like to know: What was one of the best gifts you ever received?

Toni writes:

“The best gift I ever received came from my daughters on my 60th birthday. It is a gigantic framed collage with photos of my entire life! The fact that they took the time to go through old photo albums, scan the pictures and save them electronically meant the world to me. I proudly hung it on my study wall.”

And Beril writes:

“From a 4-year-old who said, ‘This is my b-day present for you, watch …’ then did a cartwheel! Absolutely the very best present.”

Feel free to email or tweet us, and your response might be shared here this week. Thanks for reading and have a nice night! We’ll see you tomorrow.