The Full Belmonte, 8/18/21
100% Pure News. Distilled.
“Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday and is receiving an antibody treatment, though he has no symptoms, the governor’s office announced.
An ardent opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, Mr. Abbott, a Republican, has taken his opposition to such requirements all the way to the State Supreme Court. Mr. Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, will now be isolated in the Governor’s Mansion while receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, which can help patients who are at risk of getting very sick….
The announcement came less than a day after Mr. Abbott appeared at a crowded indoor political event hosted by a Republican club in Collin County, a hotly contested area of the fast-growing suburbs north of Dallas.” Read more at New York Times
“As early as Wednesday, U.S. authorities are expected to recommend an extra dose of the vaccine for all Americans eight months after they get their second shot, according to two Associated Press sources. President Joe Biden's official schedule Wednesday includes Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receiving a briefing from members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team and Biden delivering remarks ‘on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program.’ The move is being driven by both the highly contagious delta variant and preliminary evidence that the vaccine's protective effect starts dropping within months. The move would be an about-face from the federal government's earlier recommendation that only the severely immunocompromised need boosters. Some experts say it's a reasonable response to emerging data. Others worry there's not enough real-world research to launch another huge vaccination push.” Read more at CNN
“Federal officials are extending into January a requirement that people on airline flights and public transportation wear face masks, a rule intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The Transportation Security Administration’s current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. An agency spokesman said Tuesday that the mandate will be extended until Jan. 18.
The TSA briefed airline industry representatives on its plan Tuesday and planned to discuss it with airline unions on Wednesday. The mask rule also applies to employees on planes and public transportation.
The mask mandate has been controversial and has led to many encounters between passengers who don’t want to wear a mask and flight attendants asked to enforce the rule. The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that airlines have reported 3,889 incidents involving unruly passengers this year, and 2,867 — or 74% — involved refusing to wear a mask.
Individual airlines declined to comment on the Biden administration’s decision, and their trade group, Airlines for America, said only that U.S. carriers will strictly enforce the rule. A broader group, the U.S. Travel Association, said the extension ‘has the travel industry’s full support.’ The largest union of flight attendants said the move will help keep passengers and aviation workers safe.
‘We have a responsibility in aviation to keep everyone safe and do our part to end the pandemic, rather than aid the continuation of it,’ said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. ‘We all look forward to the day masks are no longer required, but we’re not there yet.’
The mask order, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for responding to the pandemic, was first issued on Jan. 29, days after President Joe Biden took office. Before that, airlines had their own requirements for face coverings but former President Donald Trump’s administration had declined to make it a federal rule.
The extension was not surprising after a recent surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant of the virus. The seven-day average of new reported cases has topped 140,000, an increase of 64% from two weeks ago and the highest level in more than six months.” Read more at AP News
“New Zealand’s lockdown. New Zealand has entered a three-day nationwide lockdown—its strictest in over a year—after discovering a single case of COVID-19. Authorities have not been able to tie the case to international travel and do not yet know whether the infection was caused by the delta variant. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to ‘go hard and early’ to prevent the virus spreading further, while Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has warned that more cases are likely to emerge in the coming days.” Read more at Foreign Policy
“Child cases of coronavirus are still rising in the US, and experts say the return to schools will gravely complicate that. The numbers paint a dangerous picture: More than 121,000 child Covid-19 cases were reported last week, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says is a substantial increase. About 99% of new cases in the country are due to the Delta variant. And right now, only 50.9% of the population is fully vaccinated. School mask mandates would help, but some governors and local leaders are doing everything they can to stymie such precautions.” Read more at CNN
“Florida education officials determined Tuesday that the Broward and Alachua county school districts violated state law by requiring students without medical exemptions to wear masks and voted unanimously to consider penalties.
Penalties that could be imposed on the districts by the Florida Board of Education, appointed by the governor, would be the first since Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened to withhold money from districts that require face coverings, saying parents should decide whether their children wear masks at school. Advancing the fight between DeSantis and school districts, the board decided that the school officials should be investigated and possibly punished, after Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran argued that the districts were not complying with the law.” Read more at Washington Post
“The Justice Department on Tuesday charged a Chicago pharmacist with selling vaccine cards online — something that law enforcement and health authorities worry will become more widespread as more institutions demand proof of vaccination.
Tangtang Zhao, 34, was charged with stealing authentic cards and listing them on eBay for around $10 a card. He had 11 different buyers, the Justice Department alleged, and sold a total of 125 cards. Most of the buyers purchased between eight and 10 cards each, spending nearly $100 or more.
Anyone living in the United States can get vaccinated — and thus receive protection from the coronavirus and a card to prove it — free. Health and law enforcement authorities have worried the sale of cards to those who do not get vaccinated could undermine efforts to protect the population from the coronavirus.” Read more at Washington Post
“‘An act of love’: Pope Francis called on people to get vaccinated in a new public service ad.” Read more at New York Times
“The Atlanta Falcons became the first N.F.L. team to vaccinate all its players.” Read more at New York Times
“WASHINGTON — Classified assessments by American spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers said publicly that was unlikely to happen as quickly, according to current and former American government officials.
By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital. President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and that there would be no chaotic evacuations of Americans similar to the end of the Vietnam War.
The drumbeat of warnings over the summer raise questions about why Biden administration officials, and military planners in Afghanistan, seemed ill-prepared to deal with the Taliban’s final push into Kabul, including a failure to ensure security at the main airport and rushing thousands more troops back to the country to protect the United States’ final exit.” Read more at New York Times
“What will happen to women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule?
The Taliban are seeking to offer assurance that women’s rights will be respected ‘within the bounds of Sharia law.’ But critics say it’s a message that leaves plenty of room to return to past practices.
When they were in power from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban’s highly conservative interpretation of Sharia resulted in horrifying repression of women.
Then, girls were banned from going to school, while women were forced from the workplace and allowed to leave home only under male escort and dressed in the burqa that covers their full face and body. Those who failed to comply were stoned or executed.
Now, the Taliban are trying to convince Afghans their view of women’s place in the world has changed. A spokesman was interviewed by a female anchor on Afghanistan’s TOLO news channel, while another official said women could work ‘where they so choose’ in government, the private sector and elsewhere as long as they abide by Islamic regulations.
Yet a generation of women who’ve grown up on greater freedoms now faces the threat of violence and tyranny if they attempt to defend their rights. In provincial areas far from the capital, the burqa is returning and women in some regions have been told they can’t attend university.
As Eltaf Najafizada reports, the Taliban’s sudden professions of pragmatism likely reflect a realization they need to present a more moderate image if they hope to win international recognition.
That places responsibility on the U.S. and its allies to make the new Afghan regime’s protection of women’s rights central to any engagement — with measurable punishments for failure.
Amid the chaos and recriminations over their withdrawal, however, the risk is the U.S. and Europe will lack the will for the fight.” — Anthony Halpin Read more at Bloomberg
A woman holds the photo of her daughter whom she said was killed by the Taliban a month ago at a camp for displaced people in Kabul. Photographer: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
“WASHINGTON—The Biden administration last week canceled bulk shipments of dollars headed for Afghanistan as Taliban fighters were poised to take control of the capital city of Kabul, part of a continuing scramble to keep hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of the terrorist group, according to people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. is also blocking Taliban access to government accounts managed by the Federal Reserve and other U.S. banks and working to prevent the group’s access to nearly half-billion dollars-worth of reserves at the International Monetary Fund, according to those people.
The actions represent the last vestiges of diplomatic leverage Washington hopes will help prevent a deepening political and humanitarian crisis.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“Marine Corps veteran Peter James Kiernan has been helping his Afghan interpreter apply for a U.S. visa since 2015. On Monday, he urged the man to burn the trove of documents he had helped him painstakingly collect over a decade to prove he worked for the U.S., as the Taliban took over Kabul and reports came in that they were conducting house-by-house searches.
Mr. Kiernan is angry and frustrated. ‘I wish I knew who to blame,’ he said. ‘I can’t wait until we hold these people to account for this betrayal. There were definitely people in power who decided this was not a priority.’
The Afghan interpreter spent Monday hiding in Kabul with his wife and three children, said Mr. Kiernan, who now spends much of his day calling people, hoping to shake loose visas so that his old colleague can fly out before it is too late. He says he calls his friend in Afghanistan every 12 hours to check in.
Many military veterans say they forged lasting bonds with Afghan interpreters who ate meals with them, bunked alongside them and, on occasion, saved their lives. The Taliban’s victory over Afghan forces this week has left tens of thousands of American allies stuck and at risk, and is prompting frantic efforts by military vets to get their former colleagues out. It has brought feelings of bitterness and guilt to many veterans who feel bonded to their Afghan friends and has even left them embarrassed by how the U.S. has seemingly abandoned those who were so loyal.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“WASHINGTON—Islamist extremist social media lit up with celebratory messages as the Taliban cemented its control over Afghanistan this weekend, raising concerns that a weakened al Qaeda and other terrorist groups could stage a comeback in the wake of the chaotic U.S. military withdrawal.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, said they are likely to reassess their timeline for how rapidly al Qaeda’s core group, ravaged by years of U.S. counterterrorism operations, could reconstitute itself. The longstanding intelligence assessment had been 18 months to two years after an American military withdrawal, current and former U.S. officials said.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks conducted by al Qaeda, a counterterrorism mission that President Biden said was completed long ago.
But jihadist groups saw the stunningly rapid sweep to power of the Taliban—which harbored al Qaeda before 2001 and hasn’t publicly broken with it—as validating their strategy of patience, analysts who follow their online postings said.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“Top news organizations are continuing efforts to get their journalists out of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country, which put their employees and their families in potential peril.
The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal issued a joint statement to the Biden administration on Monday requesting safe passage for their journalists, including ‘facilitated air movement’ out of the country.
The Biden administration said today that Kabul’s airport was open for military and commercial flights, and that the Taliban had pledged to permit civilians to reach the airfield. But thousands of people trying to leave Afghanistan can’t get to the airport in the capital of Kabul, and Taliban fighters are searching the homes and offices of Afghans affiliated with Western governments and organizations.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“LES CAYES, Haiti — Tropical Storm Grace battered Haiti on Tuesday, triggering mudslides and hampering relief efforts as the country struggled to recover from an earthquake that killed more than 1,900 people and pulverized tens of thousands of homes.
Rescue workers in some areas were forced to suspend their efforts as the rains swept in. Grace strengthened from a tropical depression to a tropical storm early Tuesday, drenching Haiti with up to 10 inches of rain, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Isolated areas received 15 inches.” Read more at Washington Post
“A weakening Tropical Depression Fred is forecast to dissipate by Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service said. By Thursday, central Appalachia and parts of the mid-Atlantic could see 2 to 4 inches of rain, with some areas reaching half a foot. Fred left thousands of Florida Panhandle residents without power in the hours after its late Monday landfall. Fred also spawned several apparent tornadoes in Georgia and North Carolina. Meanwhile, the tail end of Tropical Storm Grace was forecast to bring up to 15 inches of rain to an already-damaged Haiti before departing and moving toward southeastern Cuba and Jamaica. Forecasters said it could be near hurricane strength as it approaches Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula late Wednesday or early Thursday. And a third storm swirling in the Atlantic, Henri, was, in the near term, expected to circle widely around the island of Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said.” Read more at CNN
“GRIZZLY FLATS, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire raged through a small Northern California forest town Tuesday, burning dozens of homes as dangerously dry and windy weather also continued to fuel other massive blazes and prompted the nation’s largest utility to begin shutting off power to 51,000 customers.
The Caldor fire in the northern Sierra Nevada had burned an estimated 50 homes in and around Grizzly Flats, a town of about 1,200 people, fire officials said at a community meeting.
Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency for El Dorado County because of the blaze, which tripled in size between Monday and Tuesday afternoon to nearly 50 square miles (129 square kilometers),
To the north the Dixie Fire — the largest of some 100 active wildfires in more than a dozen Western states — was advancing toward Susanville, population about 18,000.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it had begun shutting off power to some 51,000 customers in small portions of 18 northern counties to prevent winds from knocking down or fouling power lines and sparking new blazes.” Read more at AP News
“WASHINGTON—Top House Democrats said the chamber would move forward with voting on the budget blueprint for a $3.5 trillion healthcare, education and climate package next week, rebuffing demands from a group of centrist Democrats to first vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and urging their caucus to stay unified around President Biden’s agenda.
‘I would hope that none of us, that none of us, would do or say anything that would jeopardize passing these bills. These bills are critical for us maintaining our majority, and that must reign supreme,’ Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) told members on a Tuesday telephone call, according to a person listening to it.
Mrs. Pelosi in a letter on Tuesday night exhorted House Democrats to pass the budget measure next week, writing that ‘any delay in passing the budget resolution could threaten our ability to pass this essential legislation.’ Once the House adopts the budget resolution, lawmakers will begin crafting the details of the $3.5 trillion legislation.
In the narrowly divided House, Democrats can afford no more than three defections. None of the nine centrist Democrats who have demanded the infrastructure vote first spoke about the issue during the call, according to a lawmaker who participated.
After the call, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.), one of the moderates, said his position hadn’t changed. If the infrastructure bill was ‘good enough for Bernie Sanders and 50 Democratic senators, why can’t we just move forward?’ he said. ‘I’m hearing from local leaders—from the building tradespeople who build these tunnels, bridges and roads—they’ve got one message to me: Get it done now.’
The group of centrists had previously rejected an overture from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to pass a procedural motion encompassing both the infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion effort. The White House endorsed that procedural motion in a statement Tuesday.
Mrs. Pelosi and top House Democrats’ decision to wait to pass the infrastructure bill until Democrats finish the $3.5 trillion effort is a response to the demands of progressive Democrats.
‘I’m right where the progressives are when it comes to these two bills,’ Mr. Clyburn said in an interview later Tuesday. Mr. Clyburn said the infrastructure package falls short of what the nation needs, especially for minority communities and people who reside in U.S. territories, and it is important to supplement those needs in the other bill. He said he planned to have tough conversations with the centrists.
Dozens of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have indicated that they will oppose the bipartisan infrastructure package if it comes to the floor before the $3.5 trillion bill, and many progressives have been infuriated with the recent threat from centrists.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D., Calif.) said progressive opposition to a stand-alone infrastructure vote outweighs centrist support for it.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“Chinese President Xi Jinping has issued a bold new pledge to redistribute wealth in the country in the interest of ‘social fairness’ and ‘common prosperity’-- a socially significant phrase in China that calls to mind former Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong. It isn’t clear how Xi intends to carry this plan out, but a state news agency speculated the government could consider taxation or other ways of redistributing income and wealth. Meanwhile, Chinese state media have leveraged the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan to stoke the flames of nationalism, lauding what they see as the decline of American influence. They’re also using this opportunity to taunt Taiwan, a US ally, with renewed threats of invasion.” Read more at CNN
“A month after social media helped drive historic protests in Cuba, the Communist-ruled island is tightening the screws on Internet speech, making it an offense to spread false news or make comments that damage ‘the prestige of the country.’” Read more at Bloomberg
”U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing lawmaker questions today in parliament on the government’s decision to join the U.S. in pulling troops from Afghanistan. Countries must accept the reality of change in Kabul, he said.” Read more at Bloomberg
“Opening statements are set to begin Wednesday in New York in the first trial of R&B star R. Kelly , accused of multiple federal charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Prosecutors accuse Kelly, 54, of leading ‘a criminal enterprise’ of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him recruit women and underage girls for sex and pornography, and to cross state lines for that purpose. The trial is expected to last about a month. Kelly has been held since 2019 awaiting trials in four separate state and federal sex crimes cases.” Read more at USA Today
“‘We can’t wait to share more soon’: U.S. secretary of transportation and former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and his husband writer Chasten Buttigieg share that they've become parents.” Read more at USA Today