[guest post by Dana]
With 13 dead U.S. troops, another 11 injured, and around 170 Afghans killed in the bombings in Kabul, it has been a brutal week. Watching it unfold from the safety and comfort of one’s home was bad enough, so I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for those Americans and Afghan collaborators still stranded in Afghanistan today. An update today reports that 5,400 people are inside Kabul’s airport still waiting for flights out of Afghanistan. While the evacuations have been nothing less than incredible when considering the sheer number of evacuees, there will be those who won’t be getting out and those who will likely die at the hands of the Taliban. Officials are saying that there are currently 1,000 Americans still on the ground in Afghanistan. And for any number of Americans stranded in the country after the August 31 deadline, there is no guarantee that they will get out:
Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “I don’t think we can guarantee” Americans who want to get out will get out of Afghanistan after August 31 pic.twitter.com/pJn8m1fRZx
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 27, 2021
And as for the families of those U.S. troops killed, I feel like anything I say would be trite. But I think this says it all:
Nothing can be said to make today’s brand new Gold Star families less wrecked. I cannot imagine.
But those servicemembers were in harm’s way — willingly — to help Americans, Afghans, and others escape death and violence. That selflessness is their legacy.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 27, 2021
First news item
U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport, a choice that’s prompted outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials.
The move…was designed to expedite the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from Afghanistan as chaos erupted in Afghanistan’s capital city last week after the Taliban seized control of the country. It also came as the Biden administration has been relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport.
[T]he decision to provide specific names to the Taliban, which has a history of brutally murdering Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. and other coalition forces during the conflict, has angered lawmakers and military officials.
“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”
On July 8, President Biden said that he does not trust the Taliban, yet nonetheless handed over the list of names to the group:
Q Mr. President — do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President?
Q Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it is not.
THE PRESIDENT: Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.
Q Do you trust the Taliban, Mr. President? Do you trust the Taliban, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: You — is that a serious question?
Q It is absolutely a serious question. Do you trust the Taliban?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not.
Q Do you trust handing over the country to the Taliban?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not trust the Taliban.
Second news item
With the Taliban growing more violent and adding checkpoints near Kabul’s airport, an all-volunteer group of American veterans of the Afghan war launched a final daring mission on Wednesday night dubbed the “Pineapple Express” to shepherd hundreds of at-risk Afghan elite forces and their families to safety…
Moving after nightfall in near-pitch black darkness and extremely dangerous conditions, the group said it worked unofficially in tandem with the United States military and U.S. embassy to move people, sometimes one person at a time, or in pairs, but rarely more than a small bunch, inside the wire of the U.S. military-controlled side of Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The Pineapple Express’ mission was underway Thursday when the attack occurred in Kabul…
There were wounded among the Pineapple Express travelers from the blast, and members of the group said they were assessing whether unaccounted-for Afghans they were helping had been killed.
As of Thursday morning, the group said it had brought as many as 500 Afghan special operators, assets and enablers and their families into the airport in Kabul overnight, handing them each over to the protective custody of the U.S. military.
Third news item
When U.S. Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson started feeling sick last week, he went to the hospital in Bellville, Texas, outside Houston. His health problem wasn’t related to COVID-19, but Wilkinson needed advanced care, and with the coronavirus filling up intensive care beds, he couldn’t get it in time to save his life.
[Dr.] Kakli told Begnaud [CBS News] that if it weren’t for the COVID crisis, the procedure for Wilkinson would have taken 30 minutes, and he’d have been back out the door.
“I’ve never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever,” Kakli said. “We know what needs to be done and we know how to treat it, and we get them to where they need to go. I’m scared that the next patient that I see is someone that I can’t get to where they need to get to go.
“We are playing musical chairs, with 100 people and 10 chairs,” he said. “When the music stops, what happens? People from all over the world come to Houston to get medical care and, right now, Houston can’t take care of patients from the next town over. That’s the reality.”
Fourth news item
At least 10 school districts — including some in many of the largest cities — had been defying state rules set by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning mask mandates.
Judge John Cooper ruled on a lawsuit brought by parents who say DeSantis overstepped his authority when his administration said school districts couldn’t order students to wear masks. DeSantis had warned that “there will be consequences” for districts that defied the ban.
Ruling from the bench at the conclusion of a five-day trial, Cooper said that face mask mandates that follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “reasonable and consistent with the best scientific and medical opinion in this country.” He found that the DeSantis administration violated the law when it banned school districts from requiring masks.
In one instance, a parent physically grabbed the mask off of a teacher’s face. In a separate incident, a teacher was repeatedly yelled at by a parent who requested the teacher take off their mask, claiming they couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying. The events have made waves across the district that consists of nearly 8,000 students and is tucked in the wealthy suburban outskirts of Austin.
A Texas man who helped organize protests against pandemic restrictions is fighting for his life after being hospitalized for nearly a month with COVID-19, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported.
His wife, Jessica Wallace, wrote Wednesday on Facebook that she had a “heartbreaking update” about her husband, Caleb.
“He’s not doing good. It’s not looking in our favor,” she said. “His lungs are stiff due to the fibrosis. They called and said they’ve run out of options for him and asked if I would consent to a do not resuscitate. And it would be up to us when to stop treatments.”
Fifth news item
Vice President Kamala Harris has canceled a planned campaign appearance alongside California Gov. Gavin Newsom aimed at boosting Democratic turnout in the final weeks of the recall election that could force him out of his job.
The vice president’s decision to cancel her trip to her native state followed attacks in Afghanistan that killed at least 12 U.S. service members. She and Newsom were set to appear at a rally south of San Francisco.
Democrats have tried to nationalize the race, linking the recall effort to Republicans including former President Donald Trump, who has not publicly commented on the contest.
[Ed. I guess now Republicans should try to nationalize the race, linking the recall effort to Democrats including current President Joe Biden and the debacle in Afghanistan...]
Anyway, FiveThirtyEight reports that the latest polls make it too close to call for either side and are well within the margin of error:
The analysis says that 48.8% of California voters oppose the recall. Removal of first-term Gov. Gavin Newsom is backed by 47.6%.
And how is the governor feeling about things these days:
“I’m now feeling the weight of this decision, and a weight of responsibility to defeat this, and also the responsibility that if we fall short, I’m going to own that,” he said. He mentioned to me some of his recent initiatives, including the injection of billions of dollars of federal relief money into the state budget and signing a bill to expand health care to undocumented workers. “If I do fall short, I’ll regret every damn one of those decisions. And I don’t want to have any regrets for putting everything out there and doing … what I think is right and what I think is in the best interest of California.”
Oh, and about the people of California? Well, because of the Delta surge and the calamity in Afghanistan, he’s apparently now able to actually able to reach out to Californians outside of the Bay Area bubble:
He unfolded from his chair at the end of our interview, and buttoned his suit jacket for a picture with the café staff. He left the banana peel and the coffee, barely touched, on the little table beside him. He was supposed to go on a bus tour and hold rallies with Democratic stars such as his old San Francisco–politics rival Harris, but that plan was derailed by Delta too. (After several delays, she announced that she would campaign for him this week, before canceling the appearance hours after an attack in Afghanistan killed U.S. service members.) Still, he had to get moving—he was driving to Los Angeles, not flying, so that he could make stops along the way and talk with voters on his own. Flying over California his whole life, he had “never fully absorbed and appreciated it,” he told me. He’s hoping that the state cares enough to appreciate him, at least a little longer.
Sixth news item
The Waukesha school board opted out of a federal program giving all students free lunch this year.
It is the only district in the state to do so, and some parents are not happy about the decision.
The federal government offered free school lunches for all nationwide last year because of COVID-19.
The parents who are upset with the district said it helped students whose families are struggling financially and ended the stigma of signing up for free lunches…
The federal pandemic-era lunch program, the Seamless Summer Option, created a level playing field for students to get a free lunch for the whole school year despite family income.
It especially helped those families still suffering financial hardships.
But the Waukesha School District said, “When you compare last summer’s number of meals served to the current summer’s level of participation, it is down 40%. This indicates a lowering in the demand for this program. … When looking at the free breakfast program, especially at the high school level, each student was handed a meal as they walked in the door. This led to a significant amount of uneaten food and meal-related materials ending up in the trash.”
The district also said there’s been a more than 60% decrease in families taking advantage of the permanent free and reduced lunch program.
(IMO: If parents need the help because of financial hardship, pandemic related or not, they should be able to fill out any required paperwork for free meals because no kid should go hungry. But if parents are not suffering financial hardship or unemployment and have the means to feed their kids, then why wouldn’t they do so? I thought feeding our kids was a basic responsibility. No matter the reason, no kid should ever go hungry.)
Also, I don’t know for sure but it sounds like Waukesha School District doesn’t have a program in place in which leftover cafeteria meals are collected daily by local food banks or organizations to hand out to the public needing meals.
Seventh news item
The outbreak location was an elementary school in Marin County, California, which serves 205 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade and has 24 staff members. Each grade includes 20 to 25 students in single classrooms. Other than two teachers, one of whom was the index patient, all school staff members were vaccinated… The index patient became symptomatic on May 19 with nasal congestion and fatigue. This teacher reported attending social events during May 13–16 but did not report any known COVID-19 exposures and attributed symptoms to allergies. The teacher continued working during May 17–21, subsequently experiencing cough, subjective fever, and headache. The school required teachers and students to mask while indoors; interviews with parents of infected students suggested that students’ adherence to masking and distancing guidelines in line with CDC recommendations (3) was high in class. However, the teacher was reportedly unmasked on occasions when reading aloud in class. On May 23, the teacher notified the school that they received a positive result for a SARS-CoV-2 test performed on May 21 and self-isolated until May 30. The teacher did not receive a second COVID-19 test, but reported fully recovering during isolation.
The index patient’s students began experiencing symptoms on May 22. During May 23–26, among 24 students in this grade, 22 were tested. A COVID-19 case was defined as a positive SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or antigen test result.* Twelve (55%) of the 22 students received a positive test result, including eight who experienced symptom onset during May 22–26. Throughout this period, all desks were separated by 6 ft. Students were seated in five rows; the attack rate in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk was 80% (eight of 10) and was 28% (four of 14) in the three back rows
Eighth news item
Seth Moulton saw things during his trip to Afghanistan that were “truly out of this world.” He spent about 15 hours on Tuesday at the airport in the capital city of Kabul, the epicenter of America’s messy withdrawal from the nearly 20-year war there. The Massachusetts congressman described the scene as “the most visceral, raw view of humanity that I will probably ever see in my life,” with “thousands upon thousands” of refugees camped out and “desperate” to fly out of the country, which was overtaken by fundamentalist Taliban forces. The experience left Moulton more convinced than ever that President Joe Biden made grave mistakes in his handling of the exit.
Moulton was on his way back from Kabul in the wee hours of Thursday morning when he spoke to New York about the trip, during a layover in Madrid.
“The thing that everybody needs to understand, even if you completely agree with the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw, the way they have handled this has been a total fucking disaster,” said Moulton, who traveled to the country with Representative Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan. “It will be measured in bodies, because a lot of people are dying because they can’t get out.”
Have a good weekend.