New urgency to airlift after Kabul blasts kill more than 100
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed with new urgency on Friday, a day after two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban takeover and killed more than 100. The U.S. warned more attacks could come ahead of the Tuesday deadline for foreign troops to leave, ending America's longest war.
As the call to prayer echoed through Kabul along with the roar of departing planes, the anxious crowd outside the airport was as large as ever. Dozens of Taliban members carrying heavy weapons patrolled one area about 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the airport to prevent anyone from venturing beyond.
Thursday's bombings near Kabul's international airport killed at least 95 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, Afghan and U.S. officials said, in the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
Afghan officials warned that the true toll could be higher, with morgues stretched to capacity and the possibility that relatives are taking bodies away from the scene. One official said as many as 115 may have died. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
At least 10 bodies lay on the grounds outside Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, where relatives said the mortuary could take no more. Afghans said many of the dead are unclaimed because family members are travelling from distant provinces.
Biden vows to finish Kabul evacuation, avenge US deaths
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is vowing to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport. He promised to avenge the deaths of 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack, declaring to the extremists responsible: "We will hunt you down and make you pay."
Speaking with emotion from the White House, Biden said the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the Thursday attacks that killed the Americans and many more Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.
He asked for a moment of silence to honor the service members, bowing his head, and ordered U.S. flags to half-staff across the country.
As for the bombers and gunmen involved, he said, "We have some reason to believe we know who they are ... not certain." He said he had instructed military commanders to develop plans to strike IS "assets, leadership and facilities."
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the U.S. Central Command chief, said more attempted attacks were expected.
Supreme Court allows evictions to resume during pandemic
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court's conservative majority is allowing evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court's action late Thursday ends protections for roughly 3.5 million people in the United States who said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to Census Bureau data from early August.
The court said in an unsigned opinion that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reimposed the moratorium Aug. 3, lacked the authority to do so under federal law without explicit congressional authorization. The justices rejected the administration's arguments in support of the CDC's authority.
"If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it," the court wrote.
The three liberal justices dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the three, pointed to the increase in COVID-19 caused by the delta variant as one of the reasons the court should have left the moratorium in place. "The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC's judgment at this moment, when over 90% of counties are experiencing high transmission rates," Breyer wrote.
Tropical Storm Ida a hurricane menace to New Orleans
MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Ida prompted a hurricane watch for New Orleans and an emergency declaration for the state of Louisiana as it pushed across the Caribbean toward an anticipated strike on Cuba Friday.
Ida could be near major hurricane strength by the time it reaches the northern Gulf Coast, which forecasters predict may happen sometime late Sunday or early Monday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ida was expected to cross the tobacco-rich western stretch of Cuba as a tropical storm starting Friday afternoon, then strengthen over the southeastern and central Gulf of Mexico.
"Unfortunately, all of Louisiana's coastline is currently in the forecast cone for Tropical Storm Ida, which is strengthening and could come ashore in Louisiana as a major hurricane as Gulf conditions are conducive for rapid intensification," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
"By Saturday evening, everyone should be in the location where they intend to ride out the storm," the governor added.
US soldier loses 1 Afghan translator; fights to save another
BREMEN, Germany (AP) — The two men risked their lives together nearly a decade ago trying to eliminate the Taliban, dodging bullets and forever bonding in a way that can only be forged in war.
Now the American soldier and his Afghan translator were together again in Germany shopping for a suit. Abdulhaq Sodais's future hinges on an asylum hearing in a German court after he was denied a U.S. visa, and U.S. Army Veteran Spencer Sullivan was there to help him prepare.
Together, they watched videos from Sodais' hometown: The crackle of gunfire, dead bodies being carted off as black smoke billowed. Once U.S. troops withdrew, the fragile government built over years by people like Sodais and Sullivan collapsed in just days.
"I couldn't stop crying," Sodais said. "My father said the Taliban were knocking on every single door in Herat looking for guys who worked for the coalition forces."
Sullivan already lost another translator, Sayed Masoud, who was killed by the Taliban while waiting for a U.S. visa. It's a scar Sullivan carries deeply, the realization that the U.S. government is capable of the one thing he never believed: betrayal.
Explainer: How dangerous is Afghanistan's Islamic State?
The Islamic State offshoot that Americans blame for Thursday's deadly suicide attacks outside the Kabul airport coalesced in eastern Afghanistan six years ago, and rapidly grew into one of the more dangerous terror threats globally.
Despite years of military targeting by the U.S.-led coalition, the group known as Islamic State Khorasan has survived to launch a massive new assault as the United States and other NATO partners withdraw from Afghanistan, and as the Taliban return to power.
President Joe Biden cited the threat of Islamic State attacks in sticking with a Tuesday deadline for pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Biden blamed the group for Thursday's attacks, which included a suicide bomber who slipped into the crowds of Afghans outside airport gates controlled by U.S. service members.
The group has built a record of highly lethal attacks in the face of its own heavy losses. A look at a deadly group influencing the course of the Kabul airlifts and U.S. actions:
WHAT IS ISLAMIC STATE KHORASAN?
New Zealand wages high-stakes effort to halt virus outbreak
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — By early next week, New Zealanders should know if their government's strict new lockdown is working to stamp out its first coronavirus outbreak in six months.
A successful effort could again make the nation's virus response the envy of the world. A failure could expose flaws in its health system, including a shortage of hospital beds and a slow vaccine rollout.
The high-stakes campaign hinges on whether new infections, which have risen for the past 10 days, begin to drop.
Last week, the government put the nation into the full lockdown after only a single community case was detected in the city of Auckland..
"It's counterintuitive," said epidemiologist Michael Baker. "When there's a threat, you usually increase the response as it gets more dangerous. Here, we're doing the opposite, with the maximum response when the threat is tiny."
COVID-19 surge pummels Hawaii and its Native population
HONOLULU (AP) — Kuulei Perreira-Keawekane could barely breathe when she went to a Hawaii emergency room. Nausea made it difficult for her to stand and her body throbbed with pain.
Like many Native Hawaiians, she was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Perreira-Keawekane's situation highlights the COVID-19 crisis that is gripping Hawaii as hospitals are overflowing with a record number of patients, vaccinations are stagnating and Hawaiians are experiencing a disproportionate share of the suffering.
Hawaii was once seen as a beacon of safety during the pandemic because of stringent travel and quarantine restrictions and overall vaccine acceptance that made it one of the most inoculated states in the country. But the highly contagious delta variant exploited weaknesses as residents let down their guard and attended family gatherings after months of restrictions and vaccine hesitancy lingered in some Hawaiian communities.
Now, the governor is urging tourists to stay away and residents to limit travel, and leaders are re-imposing caps on sizes of social gatherings. And in an effort to address vaccine hesitancy, a group of businesses and nonprofits launched a public service campaign Thursday aimed at Native Hawaiians, many of whom harbor a deep distrust of the government dating back to the U.S.-supported overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.
Latino city in Arizona grew, but census says it shrank
SOMERTON, Ariz. (AP) — It's a Thursday evening in Somerton, Arizona, and parents and students packed inside a middle school gym are roaring for the school's wrestling team at decibels that test the eardrum.
The young wrestlers are seventh and eighth graders who will be among the first to attend this town's first public high school, which was approved just weeks ago after years of lobbying by local officials. The overwhelmingly Hispanic community has grown enough over the last decade that it's also building a new elementary school.
But the Census Bureau says Somerton actually lost 90 residents during the that time, putting its official population at 14,197 people, not the 20,000 that the mayor expected.
"So we're trying to make sense of where these numbers are coming from, because they do not make sense whatsoever," said City Manager Jerry Cabrera, who cited 853 new homes over the past decade as evidence of growth.
An accurate census is crucial for the distribution of hundreds of billions of federal dollars, and it determines how many congressional seats each state gets. But a review by The Associated Press found that in many places, the share of the Hispanic and Black populations in the latest census figures fell below recent estimates and an annual Census Bureau survey, suggesting that some areas were overlooked.
Alone in the sky, pilot and fiancee save 17 in Tenn. flood
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville-based helicopter pilot Joel Boyers had just finished helping his fiancee earn her pilot's license on Saturday morning, and they were heading home to celebrate, when he received a frantic call from a woman in Pennsylvania. Her brother's home in Waverly, Tennessee, was underwater and he was trapped on a roof with his daughters. Could Boyers help?
"I thought, 'How would I feel if I told her I'm not even going to try?'" he said in a Thursday interview. "She just so happened to call the right person, because I'm the only person crazy enough to even try to do that."
The weather was terrible and Boyers had to contend with hills and high-voltage power lines on the way to Waverly, a small city about 60 miles (96 kilometers) west of Nashville. Just before reaching the town, he set down in a field to get his bearings and realized the internet was down, making it impossible to pinpoint the house he was looking for. He flew on anyway.
"As soon as I popped over the ridge, it was nothing but tan raging water below me," he said. "There were two houses that were on fire. There were cars in trees. There was tons of debris. Any way debris could get caught, it was. I knew no one was going to be able to swim in that."
A few people were out in boats, rescuing the stranded, and one person was helping with a jet ski, but Boyers was alone in the sky. He started flying up and down the flooded creek, grabbing anyone he could.