5 things to know for August 20: Afghanistan, Covid, Capitol, policing, student debt

5 things to know for August 20: Afghanistan, Covid, Capitol, policing, student debt

Grace weakened to a tropical storm as it slammed into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. But it’s still predicted to strengthen into a hurricane again as it makes a second landfall along the country’s Gulf coast.

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

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1. Afghanistan

The Taliban regime is cracking down on opposition to its resurgent rule in Afghanistan. After protests broke out in the city of Khost, the militant group issued an indefinite curfew and banned movement within the city. Yesterday was Afghanistan’s Independence Day (marking the end of British rule in 1919), and Taliban militants clashed with citizens who waved national flags and gathered in defiance of the group’s rule. These incidents add to international suspicion that, despite portraying itself as more progressive and less reactionary in recent years, the Taliban group is still willing to resort to brutality to assert its power. Desperate Afghans are still trying to flee the country, and some have lost their lives in the process. The Biden Administration is trying to rapidly process the influx of Afghans headed for the US, but the already difficult visa process is barely keeping pace with demand. President Joe Biden said troops could remain on the ground in Afghanistan past the August 31 deadline to make sure all Americans are evacuated.

2. Coronavirus

More Americans made the decision to get vaccinated within the last six weeks, providing a small spot of hope as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. More than 1 million doses of the vaccine were reported administered Thursday, according to CDC data. That’s the first time since early July that the single-day change in reported doses has topped 1 million, and the average pace of new people getting vaccinated is more than 70% higher than it was one month ago. Meanwhile, other countries are cracking down even more in hopes of quashing outbreaks. New Zealand will extend a nationwide lockdown after uncovering several locally transmitted Covid-19 cases. In China, a “zero-Covid strategy,” supported by tight border closures and swift action on local infections, is being questioned by a prominent disease expert in the country.

3. Capitol incident

Police were involved in a tense standoff near the US Capitol yesterday after a man posted several real-time updates on social media saying he had a bomb and referencing a “revolution.” The incident prompted multiple buildings in the area to be evacuated. Police said they eventually recovered bomb-making materials from the man’s car, but no bomb. The man, who police say is a 49-year-old from North Carolina, is in police custody. Though no official motive has been named, the man repeatedly referenced President Biden and Democrats in social media posts, calling for them to step down and demanding to speak to the President. On his Facebook page, which has been taken down, he frequently made pro-Trump comments and posted videos from former President Donald Trump’s “Million MAGA March” on Nov. 14.

4. Policing

More than a dozen officers with the Torrance Police Department in California have been relieved of their duties because of an ongoing investigation into messages that Torrance Police Chief Jeremiah Hart characterized as “racism and hatred.” In addition, two other officers from the department have been charged with vandalism for allegedly spray-painting an impounded vehicle with a swastika in 2020. (They were both terminated two months after the incident.) Now, the local district attorney’s office is reviewing hundreds of cases in which the officers were involved to make sure no other misconduct occurred.

5. Student debt

The US Education Department has announced it will cancel $5.8 billion in outstanding student loans for borrowers who are unable to work because of permanent disabilities. About 320,000 people will benefit from the decision, and the relief process will become more or less automatic for those who qualify moving forward. The student loan program has been notoriously difficult for borrowers with disabilities, who must provide proof of their disabilities and be subject to three years of income monitoring. The Biden Administration has been under intense pressure from Democrats to enact broad student debt forgiveness.


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