News Headlines 8/26/21

BLINKEN: UP TO 1,500 AMERICANS MAY STILL BE WAITING FOR EVACUATION FROM AFGHANISTAN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday (August 25th) that as many as 1,500 Americans may still be waiting for evacuation from Afghanistan, and giving for the first time an estimate of about 6,000 Americans having wanted to leave when the airlift began on August 14th as the Taliban moved into Kabul. Blinken said some 4,500 Americans have been evacuated, part of the 82,300 total that includes at-risk Afghans and others in the airlift so far, according to the White House. Additionally, Major General Hank Taylor, deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces had conducted another helicopter mission to pick up people and bring them to the Kabul airport.

The situation getting into the airport remains chaotic, with a security alert issued yesterday warning U.S. citizens to stay away from three specific airport gates due to threats from the ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. President Biden has cited security threats from ISIS-K in staying he’s sticking to the August 31st deadline for withdrawal. However, he has asked for contingency plans in case he decides to extend the deadline. Blinken also emphasized yesterday that the U.S. and other countries will continue to help Americans and Afghans who want to leave after the deadline next Tuesday.

Prince to Charge $6,500 Per Seat on Flight Out of Kabul: Amid many organizations scrambling to try to evacuate at-risk Afghans in addition to the U.S. airlift, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that controversial defense contractor Erik Prince is planning to charge $6,500 per seat on a chartered flight out of Kabul. Prince, who founded the former military contractor Blackwater, met with advisers to then-President Donald Trump in 2017 about his proposal to privatize the US military operation in Afghanistan.

BIDEN AND ISRAELI PM BENNETT TO MEET AT WHITE HOUSE TODAY: President Biden and new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett are set to meet today (August 26th) at the White House, their first in-person meeting since Bennett became Israel’s leader. Bennett has said his top priority of his visit to Washington is to try to persuade Biden to stop trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. after it was negotiated under former President Barack Obama when Biden was his vice president.

WILDFIRE GETTING CLOSE TO LAKE TAHOE: Firefighters were trying to hold back the Caldor Fire in northern California as it moved  to within 20 miles of Lake Tahoe yesterday (August 25th). As smoke from the fire put a blanket of haze over the region, South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City had the nation’s worst air pollution at midmorning yesterday. The Caldor Fire has burned more than 197 square miles and destroyed at least 461 homes since August 14th. It was only 11 percent contained as of yesterday.

APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS DEATH SENTENCE FOR RACE-DRIVEN CHURCH SHOOTER ROOF: A federal appeals court yesterday (August 25th) upheld the federal conviction of Dylan Roof and his death sentence for killing nine people at an historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 in a race-driven shooting. The three-judge panel rejected arguments that Roof, who is white, should have been ruled incompetent to stand trial. His attorneys also argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, when he was able to keep jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health. Roof in 2017 became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime, after he opened fire during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

MAN SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN PRISON FOR PLOT TO KIDNAP MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: A 25-year-old man was sentenced to just over six years in prison yesterday (August 24th) for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year because he was upset about state-ordered coronavirus restrictions. Ty Garbin is among six men charged in federal court in the plot, but he’s the only one to plead guilty so far, after he quickly decided to admit his wrongdoing after his arrest. He’s also cooperating in building cases against others. Garbin apologized before the judge yesterday, saying, “I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of stress and fear [Whitmer’s] family felt because of my actions. And for that I am truly sorry.”

TOURIST KILLED IN MIAMI BEACH WHILE PROTECTING INFANT SON FROM GUNMAN: A 21-year-old tourist was shot and killed at a Miami Beach restaurant yesterday (August 25th) as he tried to protect his one-year-old son from a gunman who pointed his weapon at the infant. Dustin Wakefield of Colorado was on vacation with his family and they were eating at the La Cerveceria restaurant around 6:30 p.m. when a man with a gun walked in. Wakefield’s uncle told the Miami Herald, “This guy came in with a gun waving it, saying it’s time to die. He pointed the gun at his son and Dustin said, ‘He’s only a boy.’ Dustin stood up between the gunman and the baby and he shot him.” The gunman, identified as Tamarius Blair Davis Jr. of  Georgia, fled, but he was captured by police in a nearby alley. The 22-year-old told police he shot Wakefield because he, quote, “was high on mushrooms, which made him feel empowered,” according to a police arrest report, Fox News reported. He has been charged with murder.