ONE LAST CHANCE BEFORE HE DUCKS OUT EARLY… WILL BIDEN FINALLY TAKE QUESTIONS? JOE CONCHA: President Biden and VP Harris will be in the East Room today. Biden to deliver remarks on Afghanistan. If both leave immediately without taking questions and call it a weekend at 2pm, there’s no going back in reversing the public perception that they’re in way over their heads.(SCREENGRAB OF SCHEDULE)
NICHOLAS FONDACARO: When pressed by @BretBaier, @
GUY BENSON: US officials say the most powerful nation on earth lacks capacity to extend operations into Kabul to collect stranded citizens & people we have a duty to protect. But the UK & French governments are reportedly doing exactly that. But we can’t? We can. We are choosing not to. Why?
WAPO: European forces cross Taliban lines for Kabul rescue, pressuring Biden to expand evacuation
The Biden administration is under pressure to expand its Afghanistan evacuation efforts beyond Kabul airport after European forces crossed Taliban lines and entered the city to rescue civilians. Access to the airport has been heavily restricted by Taliban fighters who have beaten people trying to flee the country.
Earlier this week, an elite team of French police officers entered the capital’s Green Zone, where French nationals and vulnerable Afghans were sheltering on the grounds of the country’s embassy. They transported the people to Kabul airport for evacuation, the police confirmed.
There have also been reports of British paratroopers leaving the airport to rescue British nationals and local allies, although it isn’t immediately clear whether these efforts continued after the Taliban takeover.
Critics of the Biden administration have asked why the more numerous U.S. forces have not followed suit. The United States has dedicated its 5,000-plus troops to maintaining security at the airport. “At this point, we don’t have the resources to go beyond the airport compound,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Thursday.
A FEE TO FLEE… Biden Administration Continues To Tell Fleeing Americans To Pay Their Way Out Of Afghanistan, Hours After Telling The Press Otherwise
The Biden administration continued to inform American citizens in Afghanistan as of Thursday evening they could have to pay more than $2,000 to board an evacuation flight out of the country, despite the State Department telling the press hours before that it had no intention of levying any such charges.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has stated in multiple security advisories since Monday that any U.S. citizen seeking to evacuate the country must complete an online form in order to secure their repatriation flight. “This form is the only way to communicate interest in flight options,” the embassy said in a security advisory Wednesday.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told the Daily Caller News Foundation and other news outlets late Thursday afternoon that the Biden administration has “no intention of seeking any reimbursement from those fleeing Afghanistan.”
However, the online form American citizens are directed to fill out to secure their evacuation from Afghanistan continued to state well into Thursday evening that travelers will have to pay their own way out of the country.
“Repatriation flights are not free,” Question 14 of the form stated when accessed by the DCNF around 10 p.m. Thursday, over two-and-a-half hours after Price issued his statement.
“All passengers will need to reimburse the U.S. Government for the flight. A promissory note for the full cost of the flight, which may exceed $2000 per person, must be signed by each adult passenger before boarding,” the form stated.
Evacuation Flights From Afghanistan Are Reportedly Leaving Below Full Capacity (VIDEO)
Planes evacuating Americans and Afghan refugees are reportedly departing Kabul Airport in Afghanistan below full capacity.
United States Air Force C-17 transport planes are being used to evacuate thousands of individuals, but flights departing Thursday were only at about 60% capacity, according to Fox News. Two thousand people were evacuated Thursday, falling well short of the Pentagon goal of evacuating 5,000 to 9,000 people per day.
Approximately 7,000 Americans and Afghan allies have been evacuated since Saturday, with as many as 15,000 American citizens still in Afghanistan as of Tuesday evening, according to NBC News. When asked how many Americans remain in Afghanistan, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby responded “I don’t know.”
WAPO: Chaos persists at Kabul airport, imperiling Afghanistan evacuation effort
KABUL — A chaotic and dangerous dynamic at Kabul’s airport showed few signs of relenting Thursday as thousands of people attempting to board flights faced beatings by Taliban guards, the crush of heaving crowds and interminable spells in the dust and heat while waiting to escape Afghanistan.
The daily mayhem at the airport — a fixture since the Taliban takeover Sunday — has stoked criticism that the Biden administration was slow to try to get Americans and their allies out, while underscoring fears about how the militants will rule the country.
Several people said Thursday they had received confusing signals from the United States about how exactly they were supposed to leave, citing emails from the State Department urging them to go the airport, only to find there was no one to receive them or to answer their questions on how to board flights.
“We arrived at 6 a.m.,” said a 39-year-old librarian, a dual U.S.-Afghan citizen, who came with his wife and two children after receiving an email invitation from the State Department. “From 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., the gate did not open, and there is no person to address our concerns.”
At one point as he waited, the man, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said he was whipped by a Taliban fighter.
ALEX PLITSAS: “A total of 12 people have been killed in and around the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Taliban and NATO officials said, since the Taliban seized the city on Sunday, triggering a rush of fearful people trying to leave.” (LINK)
LIZ SLY, WAPO: The Taliban are going door-to-door hunting down Afghans who worked for the Americans, NATO or the collapsed government, according to an intelligence document prepared for the UN. It warns of the possibility of “mass executions.” (LINK)
JON BROWN: Taliban Going Door To Door Seeking Christians, Searching Through Phones For Bible Apps: Report
Afghan Christians are reportedly fleeing to the mountains in a desperate attempt to escape the Taliban who is going door to door trying to kill them.
An underground church that partners with Frontier Alliance International (FAI) has reported that the Taliban are targeting Christians for death. According to FAI:
The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill. The US Embassy is defunct and there is no longer a safe place for believers to take refuge. All borders to neighboring countries are closed and all flights to and from have been halted, with the exception of private planes. People are fleeing into the mountains looking for asylum. They are fully reliant on God, who is the only One who can and will protect them.
The Taliban are going door-to-door taking women and children. The people must mark their house with an “X” if they have a girl over 12 years old, so that the Taliban can take them. If they find a young girl and the house was not marked they will execute the entire family. If a married woman 25 years or older has been found, the Taliban promptly kill her husband, do whatever they want to her, and then sell her as a sex slave.
Husbands and fathers have given their wives and daughters guns and told them that when the Taliban come, they can choose to kill them or kill themselves—it is their choice.
Taliban are also reportedly rifling through people’s phones to look for any apps that would give them away as Christians.
Taliban Seized 40 Aircraft, Thousands Of Armored Vehicles And Guns, DOD Officials Reportedly Say
The Taliban has seized dozens of aircraft and thousands of weapons, vehicles and pieces of high-tech equipment in Afghanistan that was funded by the U.S. government, Reuters reported.
Billions of dollars worth of military equipment that the U.S. gave to the now-defunct Afghan military has been obtained by Taliban insurgents, officials with knowledge of the situation told Reuters. The massive weapons stockpile left behind in the Middle Eastern nation includes valuable technology such as night-vision goggles, unmanned aerial vehicles and Black Hawk combat helicopters.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” an anonymous U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.
Current and former officials said the federal government is increasingly concerned the technology could be obtained or sold to U.S. enemies like Iran, China and Russia which have vowed to maintain a diplomatic relationship with the insurgents who now possess the weaponry, Reuters reported. The Taliban invaded Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul on Sunday, triggering the sudden collapse of the Western-supported Afghan government.
Officials estimated the Taliban, which controls the vast majority of the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, is in possession of 2,000 armored vehicles and up to 40 aircraft, including Black Hawks and pricey ScanEagle drones, according to Reuters. Since 2003, the U.S. has given more than 600,000 infantry weapons like rifles, 162,000 pieces of communications equipment and 16,000 night-vision goggles to the Afghan security forces.
JOSH KAPLAN: AXIOS: U.S. officials concerned weapons left in Afghanistan could be seized by ISIS or handed over to China or Russia
Biden And Milley Inflated Afghan Army Numbers, Pentagon Report Shows
President Joe Biden and Gen. Mark Milley drastically overstated the size of the Afghan army in recent weeks, claiming it had more than 300,000 soldiers at its disposal when it in fact had less than 200,000, according to a Pentagon Inspector General report.
The report, released July 31, details that the Afghan army had 182,071 soldiers as of April, far lower than the numbers Biden and Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, put forward publicly. Biden said as recently as Monday that the U.S. “trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong.”
Biden was combining the Afghan military and police forces, the latter of which numbered 118,628. Combining the two would have resulted in a total of 300,699 security personnel in April, but the report stipulated that force numbers had decreased significantly between April and its July release.
WSJ: Internal State Department Cable Warned of Kabul Collapse
WASHINGTON—An internal State Department memo last month warned top agency officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the U.S.’s Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official and a person familiar with the document.
The classified cable represents the clearest evidence yet that the administration had been warned by its own officials on the ground that the Taliban’s advance was imminent and Afghanistan’s military may be unable to stop it.
The cable, sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, the two people said.
The cable, dated July 13, also called for the State Department to use tougher language in describing the atrocities being committed by the Taliban, one of the people said.
CURTIS HOUCK: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to WH deputy national security advisor Jonathan Finer: “Why did [U.S. diplomats] feel ignored and why did they have to write this what they called dissent memo?” Finer’s defense? Hey, even that cable got it wrong! It collapsed even sooner! (VIDEO)
SEAN DAVIS: New Poll From The Federalist/Susquehanna Shows Joe Biden’s Approval Nose-Diving Following Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal
A new poll from The Federalist and Susquehanna Polling & Research contains troubling news for President Joe Biden and his policy agenda, with the 46th president’s approval rating falling to just 38 percent in the days following his administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. The full poll, which surveyed 800 likely voters on from August 12 through August 18, found that 49 percent of those surveyed approved of the job Biden is doing as president, while 45 percent disapproved.
However, a sub-sample of 327 likely voters polled between August 16 and August 18 when news of the fall of Afghanistan became public found that only 38 percent approved of Biden’s job, while 51 percent of those polled after Afghanistan fell disapproved of Biden’s job so far.
WAPO: U.S. officials reviewing possibility Moderna vaccine is linked to higher risk of uncommon side effect than previously thought
Federal health officials are investigating emerging reports that the Moderna coronavirus vaccine may be associated with a higher risk of a heart condition called myocarditis in younger adults than previously believed, according to two people familiar with the review who emphasized the side effect still probably remains uncommon.
The investigation, which involves the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is focusing on Canadian data that suggests the Moderna vaccine may carry a higher risk for young people than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, especially for males below the age of 30 or so. The authorities also are scrutinizing data from the United States to try to determine whether there is evidence of an increased risk from Moderna in the U.S. population.
The two people who described the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing review because they were not authorized to discuss it. […]
One individual said the Canadian data, which was provided by that country’s government, indicates that there might be a 2½ times higher incidence of myocarditis in those who get Moderna compared with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart.
KAMALA TO NEWSOM’S RESCUE? JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN: Scooplet: @VP Harris is expected to campaign for CA Dem Gov. Gavin Newsom the weekend of August 27th, as he looks to defend his seat in the upcoming recall election, a source familiar w/ scheduling discussions told CNN. President Biden’s visit is still being determined.
FEDERAL JUDGE RULES FELONY DEPORTATION IS ‘RACIST,’ UNCONSTITUTIONAL… AP: US judge in Nevada: Felony deportation law unconstitutional
LAS VEGAS (AP) — In a court ruling with potentially broad implications for U.S. immigration cases, a federal judge in Nevada found that a criminal law that dates to 1929 and makes it a felony for a person who has been deported to return to the United States is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno, in an order issued Wednesday, found the law widely known as Section 1326 is based on “racist, nativist roots” and discriminates against Mexican and Latinx people in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“Anybody who works in federal courts knows the statute,” Franny Forsman, retired longtime chief of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Nevada, said Thursday. “There really are a large number of cases that have been brought over the years under that section. They’re mostly public defender cases.”
Section 1326 of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes it a crime for a person to enter the U.S. if they have been denied admission, deported or removed. It was enacted in 1952 using language from the Undesirable Aliens Act passed by Congress in 1929. Penalties were stiffened five times between 1988 and 1996 to increase its deterrent value.
JAZZ SHAW: Judge rules felony deportation law unconstitutional. Yes, seriously
The judge’s only defense is to note that “the government does not dispute that Section 1326 bears more heavily on Mexican and Latinx individuals.” Pardon the casual language, but… ya think? Mexico is one of only two countries we share a land border with and not nearly as many people are trying to flee Canada for some reason. Also, swimming across the Atlantic or the Pacific is notoriously difficult.
The government already made that point to the judge, saying “the stated impact is a product of geography, not discrimination, and that the statistics are rather a feature of Mexico’s proximity to the United States, the history of Mexican employment patterns and the socio-political and economic factors that drive migration.” This explanation should be so obvious that it shouldn’t have needed to be explained, yet Judge Du wrote, “the court is not persuaded.”
TEXAS DEMS GO BACK TO WORK… FOR NOW… AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: Enough Texas Democrats return to Austin to grant quorum in House chamber
Three more Democrats returned to the Texas House late Thursday afternoon, giving the chamber just enough members to establish a quorum and begin work on an ambitious agenda chock full of conservative priorities. At the top of the list: a GOP bill that would rewrite Texas election laws.
Previous versions of the election bill had prompted Democratic walkouts, denying the House a quorum and bringing the Legislature to a standstill.
With just 17 days left in the second special session of the summer, House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, began the process of assigning bills to committees, which in turn set hearings for as soon as the weekend, the beginning of the legislative process.
There were 99 members present Thursday, including two Democrats who had been among the 57 lawmakers to leave Texas for Washington in July at the start of the first special session: Reps. Armando Walle and Ana Hernandez of Houston.
‘JIM CROW ON STEROIDS?’ … ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Almost all eligible Georgians are registered to vote, data show
Georgia now has one of the highest voter registration rates in the nation, with 95% of citizens over 18 years old signed up to vote, according to federal election data released this week.
The number of Georgia voters has jumped since 2016, when the state started automatically registering voters when they obtain driver’s licenses.
There were nearly 7.2 million active registrations in Georgia as of November’s election, leaving just 387,000 unregistered people in the citizen voting age population, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s biennial report published Monday.
Many of those who aren’t registered to vote are ineligible because they’re serving felony sentences.
PRADHEEP SHANKER: This would mean that Georgia has a FORTY POINT LEAD over the voter registration of deep blue Democrat state of California, 25% higher than New York, and 20% higher than Biden’s home state of Delaware.
FOX: Air Force Academy requires students to watch ‘inclusion’ training video promoting BLM
Incoming cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are required to watch a video that promotes support for the Black Lives Matter movement. […]
The video, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner, is part of the Academy’s “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion” training that is given to incoming students.
The Academy’s Chief of Media Relations Dean J. Miller told Fox News that the video is “required training for inbound cadets (appointees) ahead of their arrival to the U.S. Air Force Academy.”
“This is the first year this training has been used at the Academy, and it is used at universities and colleges across the country,” Miller added.
FREE BEACON: American Bar Association Poised To Mandate Diversity Training, Affirmative Action at Law Schools
The American Bar Association is poised to mandate diversity training and affirmative action at all of its accredited law schools, a move top legal scholars say could jeopardize academic freedom and force schools to violate federal law.
The association, which accredits nearly every law school in the United States, is mulling a plan that would require schools to “provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism,” including a mandatory ethics course instructing students that they have an obligation to fight “racism in the law.” Schools would also be required to “take effective actions” to “diversify” their student bodies—even when doing so risks violating a law that “purports to prohibit consideration of” race or ethnicity.
The proposal has sparked fierce blowback from legal scholars across the country, including 10 emeritus professors at Yale Law School, who called it a “problematic” and “disturbing” attempt to “institutionalize dogma” through the accreditation process. Violating federal law is “not legally defensible conduct for any institution,” they wrote in a public comment on the plan in June, nor is it “a legally defensible requirement by an organization certifying law schools.”
WSJ: Amazon Plans to Open Large Retail Locations Akin to Department Stores
Amazon.com Inc. AMZN -0.42% plans to open several large physical retail locations in the U.S. that will operate akin to department stores, a step to help the tech company extend its reach in sales of clothing, household items, electronics and other areas, people familiar with the matter said.
The plan to launch large stores will mark a new expansion for the online-shopping pioneer into bricks-and-mortar retail, an area Amazon has long disrupted.
Some of the first Amazon department stores are expected to be located in Ohio and California, the people said. The new retail spaces will be around 30,000 square feet, smaller than most department stores, which typically occupy about 100,000 square feet, and will offer items from top consumer brands. The Amazon stores will dwarf many of the company’s other physical retail spaces and will have a footprint similar to scaled-down formats that Bloomingdale’s Inc.,Nordstrom Inc. JWN 4.05% and other department-store chains have begun opening, the people said.
ELON MUSK UNVEILS PLAN TO ‘BUILD A ROBOT IN A HUMAN FORM’ … PROMISES HUMANS WILL ‘BE ABLE TO OUTRUN IT’ … WSJ: Elon Musk Doubles Down on Artificial Intelligence at Tesla Amid Scrutiny of Autopilot
Elon Musk doubled down on Tesla Inc.’s TSLA -2.25% embrace of artificial intelligence after a week of intensifying scrutiny of the advanced driver-assistance features sold by the electric-vehicle maker.
Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Tesla would build a robot in a human form that could perform repetitive tasks, with a prototype likely to be ready next year. It would draw on some of the technology Tesla has developed for vehicles, he said Thursday during an event in Palo Alto, Calif., around artificial intelligence, or technology designed to mimic the way humans think. […]
The deployment of such robots could fundamentally change the economy, potentially alleviating labor shortages, he said. “In the future, physical work will be a choice,” Mr. Musk said, adding that long-term, such a robot could make it necessary to provide a universal basic income, or a stipend to people without strings attached. […]
The new Tesla Bot—to be roughly 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 125 pounds and able to lift 150 pounds—is “intended to be friendly of course and navigate through a world built for humans,” Mr. Musk said. Humans, he said, would be able to outrun it.