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Headlines for August 27, 2021 – Democracy Now!

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-Amy Goodman
Please join us for a special virtual celebration of Democracy Now!’s 25th anniversary on December 7 with Angela Davis, Greta Thunberg, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Winona LaDuke, Martín Espada, Danny DeVito & many more! Your donation today will help keep this event free for our worldwide audience and will support our fearless, independent journalism throughout the year. Your donation of $10 would go a long way right now. If you can give $50 or more, you’ll get to choose from some great 25th anniversary gifts! Thank you so much and we look forward to celebrating with you on December 7 at 8 p.m. ET at democracynow.org.
-Amy Goodman
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In Afghanistan, a pair of suicide bombers struck near the crowded gates of Kabul’s airport Thursday, where thousands of Afghans had gathered in an attempt to flee the Taliban’s takeover. At least 110 people were killed, most of them Afghan civilians. Thirteen U.S. troops were among the dead. The Taliban reports 28 of its members were killed. Scores of people were wounded. The militant group ISIS-K — which is an archrival of the Taliban — claimed responsibility. President Biden addressed the nation on Thursday, vowing to take revenge.
President Joe Biden: “We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, in a moment of our choosing.”
Evacuations from Kabul’s airport were halted after Thursday’s attack but later resumed. The United States says it has helped over 100,000 people leave Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover on August 14.
The Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s temporary moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority and that only Congress had the power to order a pause on evictions. The court’s ruling puts an estimated 3.5 million people at risk of eviction in the next two months. In a dissenting opinion signed by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “These people may end up with relatives, in shelters, or seeking beds in other congregant facilities where the doubly contagious Delta variant threatens to spread quickly.” 
The United States recorded nearly 190,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday and over 1,200 deaths. In Illinois, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker has reinstated an indoor mask mandate for all residents, regardless of their vaccination status. In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has signed an executive order banning all government mandates on COVID-19 vaccines — even the Pfizer BioNTech shot, which was granted full FDA approval this week. Governor Abbott’s order came as Texas hospitalizations approached their highest levels of the pandemic, with half of all ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning against use of the drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19, after the unproven treatment was widely promoted on Fox News, prompting a surge of calls to poison control centers from people who’ve self-administered the drug. Ivermectin is most commonly used to treat parasites in horses and other large animals. There are no randomized controlled trials showing it benefits COVID patients. The Arkansas Medical Board is investigating one doctor who says he prescribed ivermectin thousands of times, including to Arkansas prisoners.
Texas’s House of Representatives has advanced sweeping voter suppression legislation, with the Republican majority poised to approve the measure today. The legislation would put strict limits on early voting hours, ban drive-thru voting and empower partisan poll watchers inside polling places — something critics say would open the door to racist voter intimidation. Texas Democrats said during Thursday’s debate the measures are designed to raise new barriers for voters of color, who tend to vote Democratic.
Rep. Rafael Anchía: “'Intentional discrimination against people of color.' These are not my words; these are three federal courts across this country making 10 findings of that intentional discrimination.”
Rep. Gina Hinojosa: “Intentional discrimination against people of a certain race, is that racism?”
Rep. Rafael Anchía: “That is” —
Speaker Dade Phelan: “Ms. Hinojosa.” 
Rep. Rafael Anchía: “Those words, 'intentional discrimination,' I think, can be fairly characterized in that manner.”
Speaker Dade Phelan: “We can talk about racial impacts of this legislation without accusing members of this body of being racist.”
Israel said it would ease commercial access to the occupied Gaza Strip, allowing imports of goods, equipment and vehicles, as well as granting more entry permits for certain Gazans into Israel. The announcement came after fresh protests at the separation barrier Wednesday demanding an end to the Israeli blockade. Israeli forces fired tear gas and live rounds on a crowd of hundreds, injuring at least nine people. Israel has also continued to bomb the Gaza Strip in response to incendiary balloons launched from the besieged territory.
President Biden is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for the first time today after postponing their Thursday meeting due to the attacks in Afghanistan. The heads of state will discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The Biden administration has been in talks about possibly reentering the Iran nuclear deal, which Israel staunchly opposes. 
In Venezuela, at least 20 people are dead following heavy rainfall, massive floods and mudslides in the western state of Mérida. Over a dozen people are still missing, and more than 1,200 homes have been destroyed. Parts of northern Colombia have also been hit by catastrophic floods and heavy rains that turned roads into rivers.
International aid groups are warning more than 12 million people in Iraq and Syria are losing access to water, food and electricity due to the climate crisis, with urgent action needed to combat a severe drought. This is an Iraqi farmer.
Haji Hassa: “My family and I worked on this farm. It’s my source of income, and our livelihood depends on it. Because of the drought, we didn’t get anything this year, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Meanwhile, UNICEF warns that without immediate action, over 4 million people in Lebanon, mostly already vulnerable families and children, could soon face critical water shortages.
In California, officials issued evacuation warnings around Lake Tahoe as the massive Caldor Fire continues to spread. Thick smoke blanketed the usually idyllic Tahoe Basin as firefighters struggled to tame the devastating blaze, which was just 12% contained as of Thursday. The Dixie Fire, the largest single wildfire in California’s history, remains around 45% contained.
Tropical Storm Ida formed over the Caribbean Sea Thursday, with forecasters warning it could strengthen to a powerful Category 3 hurricane ahead of landfall late Sunday or early Monday on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Louisiana has declared a state of emergency, including for New Orleans, and warned residents to be prepared.
Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers are suing former President Trump, members of far-right extremist groups and organizers of the so-called Stop the Steal rally over the deadly January 6 insurrection. The officers are accusing Trump and his far-right followers of spreading lies and using white supremacist rhetoric as they attempted to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.
A federal monitor overseeing New York City jails is sounding the alarm on the brutal conditions inside Rikers Island. In a letter, the monitor said violence at Rikers had skyrocketed this summer, and warned of a “high level of disorder and chaos,” as well as a shortage of staff and lack of basic services for incarcerated people, including access to medical care. The letter also reported at least four suicides since December 2020, neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating use of force by officers. 
In related news, the Justice Department has announced it plans to shut down New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center — the jail where convicted serial rapist Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in 2019 of an apparent suicide. The DOJ said the closure might be temporary while it addresses the squalid and dangerous conditions inside the jail.
The CEO of Time’s Up resigned Thursday amid the ongoing fallout over its leaders’ support for disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Washington Post reported this week Tina Tchen texted staffers to “stand down” from releasing a statement in support of Cuomo accuser Lindsey Boylan. Her resignation comes less than three weeks after prominent lawyer Roberta Kaplan resigned as the chair of Time’s Up over her role in advising Cuomo on how to respond to the sexual harassment allegations. Time’s Up was founded in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal to support survivors of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination.
Congressmember Ilhan Omar is calling on President Biden to pardon whistleblower Daniel Hale, a former member of the U.S. Air Force sentenced in July to 45 months in prison for leaking classified information exposing the U.S. drone and targeted assassination program. Hale pleaded guilty in March to one count of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. In a letter to Biden, Omar writes, “The legal question of Mr. Hale’s guilt is settled, but the moral question remains open. I strongly believe that a full pardon, or at least a commutation of his sentence, is warranted.” 

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