Phone Addiction, Afghanistan Evacuation, Supreme Court Backs A College Vaccine Requirement: Today's Top Stories
Happy Friday the 13th.
Here's what we're keeping an eye on already this morning:
- The FDA has authorized another COVID vaccine dose for those with weakened immune systems.
- Lizzo's latest "Rumors" is here and it's everything you'd hoped it'd be. The radiant folks from the NPR Music #nowplaying blog have the details.
- Six people were killed Thursday in the UK's deadliest mass shooting in over a decade. Here's what we're learning now.
- The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops back into Afghanistan — to help evacuate diplomats and some civilians.Things are moving fast as the Taliban gains control of two more key cities.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Nicole Hernandez, Casey Noenickx, Carol Ritchie, Tori Dominguez and Rachel Treisman
Your Word Of The Day This Friday The 13th: Paraskevidekatriaphobia
Today's the only Friday the 13th of 2021 (any given calendar year can have up to three, but we only get one this time around).
Perhaps that thrills you. Or maybe it freaks you out.
If that's the case, you should know about paraskevidekatriaphobia — fear of Friday the 13th. And tell your friends! We'll teach you how.
"Break it down into syllables," says newscaster Korva Coleman, NPR's resident expert on pronunciations. "When you take a look at that middle 'i' after the 'v' ... it's pronounced like a double 'e.'"
Memo Reveals Staff In Afghanistan Have Been Told Destroy Sensitive Material, Evacuate Embassy
A memo obtained by NPR, lays out the emergency preparations being made at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to leave the country.
Most will be evacuated by 3,000 US troops on their way to Kabul to ensure a safe and orderly departure. The Embassy will be evacuated and a very small consular staff will work in Kabul.
The embassy staffers were instructed to destroy sensitive documents and desktop computers before they leave.
Staff without consular experience are being asked to depart by the end of this month. They are being instructed to destroy documents, computers and other sensitive equipment.
Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson, the acting ambassador, is also meeting his counterparts in other embassies and updating them on the situation.
The U.S. has also called on the Taliban not to attack the embassy and departing US diplomats. The Embassy also employs many Afghan workers. Their future was not immediately clear.
Afghan government control is rapidly shrinking limited mostly to Kabul and the eastern parts of the country.
Ethiopia's Civil War Is Dire And Seems To Be Getting Worse
The civil war in Ethiopia, marked by human rights abuses and war crimes, is now entering its ninth month — and new territory.
Tigrayan rebels are advancing and the government is leading a national conscription drive. And there's one thing everyone seems to agree on: There is no immediate political way out.
As NPR's Eyder Peralta explains, the rebels were once focused solely on their own region, but have now made it clear they want to topple the federal government. They've spilled into neighboring states and recently struck a deal to fight jointly with another big rebel group.
Listen to the story for more on how the conflict unfolded and what steps each side is taking now — including bringing back old war songs for a long fight.
The Pace Of Anti-Asian Incidents Isn't Slowing Down
The frequency of anti-Asian incidents reported in the U.S. so far this year appears on track to surpass last year's, even after months of political and social activism.
Violence and harassment against people of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent have increased dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which experts attribute in large part to xenophobic rhetoric (including from former President Donald Trump). Read more of NPR's coverage on anti-Asian racism here.
Over the last several months, social media campaigns, bystander trainings and public demonstrations have shed light on the issue, and President Biden signed the bipartisan COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law in May.
But a new report from the national coalition Stop AAPI Hate, released yesterday, indicates the data hasn't changed much. It recorded more than 9,000 incidents — spanning shunning, verbal harassment and physical assaults — that occurred between March 19, 2020 and this June.
Of those, 4,548 hate incidents took place in 2020, and 4,533 happened this year. The report notes several changes during that time in the types of incidents, where they happened and who reported them.
For instance, reports of verbal harassment and shunning decreased, while online hate incidents and vandalism increased. Physical assaults make up a larger share of the total hate incidents this year than last year, growing from 10.8% to 16.6%. More incidents occurred in public streets, private residences and public transit in 2021 too.
More on the report's findings and context here, and other takeaways below:
- Verbal harassment and shunning ("the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders") make up the two largest categories of reported incidents. The organization says a majority of them are "traumatic and harmful, but not hate crimes." Physical assault is the third-largest category.
- A majority of the reported incidents happened outside of the home and in spaces often open to the public, like streets and businesses.
- Hate incidents reported by women make up 63.3% of all reports.
- Chinese people have reported more hate incidents (43.5%) than all ethnic groups, followed by Koreans (16.8%), Filipinx (9.1%), Japanese (8.6%) and Vietnamese (8.2%).
- About 48% of the incidents reported included at least one hateful statement regarding anti-China and/or anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Another Major Heat Wave Is Bringing Triple-Digit Temps To The Pacific Northwest
Communities across the Pacific Northwest are bracing for their second major heat wave of the summer. Excessive heat warnings are up across the region.
As OPB's Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, triple-digit temperatures are unusual in cities like Portland, Ore., which has opened several emergency cooling centers.
But high-country towns like Pendleton, Ore., where it’s expected to reach 105 degrees, are more prepared for extreme heat — because they've prepared for extreme cold:
Police Chief Charles Byram says their winter warming station has been turned into a summer cooling center.
And locals are building small dams in the Umatilla River to create pools for the community to cool off.
"There’s one particular spot where there's a little falls, where a pool builds up a little bit," he adds. "We also have a waterpark and we’re just completing a splash-pad area in a park as well.”
The Forest Service is also warning that air quality is likely to deteriorate as wildfires continue to burn.
More resources for folks in the Pacific Northwest from OPB ⤵
'Reservation Dogs' Changes Everything When It Comes To Indigenous Representation On TV
If you’re looking for a comedy TV series that portrays Indigenous people without stereotype, created by Indigenous writers and actors and filmed on a reservation — we’d normally say, good luck finding that.
But a new comedy on FX, Reservation Dogs, changes everything.
The show follows a group of Indigenous kids living on a reservation in Oklahoma, and they’re desperate to get out. And it’s groundbreaking in that it was directed, written and stars Indigenous people.
Vincent Schilling, an associate editor at Indian Country Today and a Rotten Tomatoes critic, said he was pretty nervous to watch the show at first.
“I went into this show going, "Hmmmmm,' raising my eyebrows a little bit. But then I watched it — and this whole world opened up for me,” hetold NPR’s Morning Edition.
The fact that the show was filmed on a reservation was new — and significant.
“It's so authentic to me,” Schilling said, “You'd never know it was a big production. It's as if they walked out there, threw a camera on a tripod, and said, 'Go.’”
'Take it or leave it. If you don't like it, too damn bad.'
Reservation Dogs was created by Sterlin Harjo, who, Schilling says, essentially made the show as a tribute to his own life. Harjo grew up in Oklahoma and the risks he took making the show help flip the script on how Native people have long been siloed and stereotyped in film.
“In this show, he's throwing up a giant middle finger, saying 'Take it or leave it. And if you don't like it, too damn bad.'” Schilling said.
The Former U.S. Ambassador To Afghanistan Says The Decision To Withdraw Troops Was Wrong
The U.S. is supposed to be finishing a withdrawal from the country after 20 years, but as a result of the Taliban's gains, 3,000 American troops are going back into the country to secure the embassy and Kabul airport and evacuate the roughly 1,400 people stationed at the embassy.
Morning Edition's Noel King spoke to former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann earlier today about the situation on the ground.
“I think the decision to pull out the troops was a bad decision," Neumann notes. "We could have, we could have stabilized or held the situation stable with the same force that we now find necessary to put back in temporarily under adverse conditions."
But, he warned, "Reflecting on the past is a bad use of time when we have so many pressing issues in front of us."
Morning Edition's Noel King spoke to Neumann earlier today about what the U.S. and other major players in the region need to do now. ⤵
Neumann served as ambassador from 2005 to 2007. (His father, Robert G. Neumann, was ambassador to Afghanistan from 1967 to 1973, affording the younger Neumann the opportunity to spend a number of years in the region.)
Peace talks are underway between the Taliban and Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American envoy. But Neumann is skeptical of fruitful progress coming from those negotiations — at least in the short term.
"Khalilzad's process is absolutely busted," Neumann told King earlier today. "The [peace] agreement he negotiated helped us to keep the Afghans on the defensive for over a year, giving the Taliban the strategic initiative."
According to Neumann, those efforts also led to a release of 5,000 prisoners, "some of whom are back on the battlefield — one of them is apparently leading the now-successful attack in Kandahar."
So what will bring peace? Or at least progress?
Neumann says we need to get those citizens who supported the American vision and ideals in Afghanistan out of harm's way.
"The United States is now in a kind of panic— almost panic mode," Neumann says, "trying to protect our own people and get out the so-called SIV, the 'special immigrants.'"
But he says we have "a much larger moral debt" to the Afghans who have "bought into our values ... when we talk about democracy and about women's rights and justice."
This generation of people, Neumann notes, have been the target of attacks from the Taliban and are "in enormous danger now."
Neumann says we must get these people out of Afghanistan. If we leave them "in harm's way, we are chalking up an enormous black mark for ourselves, for our country and for the future."
Feel Like You’re Addicted to Your Phone? You’re Not Alone
As we head into the weekend, many of us will get a weekly notification on our phones showing how many hours a day we spend on our devices.
Have you ever gotten one of these reports and were shocked at how much time you spend on your phone?
If so, it’s not just you — the average American adult spends more than four hours a day on their phone. But at what point does it become an addiction?
NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money wanted to know, so they asked Lena Song, a behavioral economist. She set out to find the answer in a study with 2,000 volunteers. Here are her takeaways:
- Addiction has two parts: habit formation and self-control.
- Phone use is hard to control because it’s routine for many — like grabbing a morning cup of coffee.
- 31% of participants’ phone use was attributed to self-control problems. That’s nearly a third of the time they spent on their phones.
- Participants were willing to pay money to have their phone functions limited.
The Supreme Court Has Blocked Parts Of New York's Eviction Ban
With the three liberal justices dissenting, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday to block part of a ban on residential evictions in New York state. The ruling justices decided in favor of a group of landlords and agreed to pause parts of the ban — which would have expired at the end of the month — while a challenge to it moves through the lower courts.
The move comes a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a two-month moratorium on evictions for counties with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 — right now, that includes most of New York. That order may also face a challenge at the Supreme Court.
COVID-19 Cases In ICE Detention Facilities Are Rising, Putting Detainees And The Public At Risk
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has detained tens of thousands of people in the last year, amidst a raging pandemic and an influx of migrants across the southern border.
As Shalina Chatlani of the Gulf States Newsroom reports, the agency is under fire for failing to follow COVID-19 infection control protocols. In fact, ICE’s own data shows that the percentage of COVID-positive detainees has doubled since June.
An agency spokesperson denies the accusations, and says the COVID-19 vaccination rate across detention facilities nationwide is as high as 70%. Still, asylum seekers and immigration advocates say the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid locking up so many people in the first place.
Chatlani spoke with a Cuban asylum seeker named Raudel, who spent five months in detention centers in Mississippi and Louisiana before getting vaccinated and released on parole.
The Supreme Court Won't Stop Indiana University's Vaccine Requirement
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied a bid by students at Indiana University to block the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The decision was made without comment.
In May, the university mandated vaccines for students and faculty, with certain exceptions for medical, religious and other reasons.
Earlier this month, a group of students challenged the order in an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court. They urged the justices to block the mandate, which they said violated their constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment.
Barrett, who was appointed to the court in the Trump years, rejected their request without referring the matter to the full court.
At Least Six People Were Killed Thursday In Britain's Deadliest Mass Shooting In Over 10 Years
Six people are confirmed dead after a rare mass shooting in the city of Plymouth in southwest England, authorities said.
Devon & Cornwall Police said that officers responded to a "serious firearms incident" around 6 p.m. local time on Thursday.
They found two women and three male victims, including the suspect, dead at the scene. Another woman who was treated for gunshot wounds later died in a hospital.
Luke Pollard, a member of parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, later shared in a tweet that one of the victims was younger than 10 years old.
My thoughts are with the friends and family of those who lost their lives and with all those affected by the tragic incident in Plymouth last night. I thank the emergency services for their response.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 13, 2021
Authorities stressed that the incident was not related to terrorism.
Thursday's mass shooting is the first of its kind in the U.K. since 2010, when a shooting spree in Cumbria, northern England, claimed 12 lives.
This is a developing story. We'll update you hereas we learn more.
To Combat Misinformation, A News Literacy Class Will Be Required In Illinois High Schools
If a social media influencer has a huge following, does that make them trustworthy?
The answer, of course, is no, but many high school students don’t know that, according to the Stanford History Education Group.
In fact, the researchers found, being adept at digital devices and social media does not mean kids are skilled at making sense of that information,reports Peter Medlin, who covers education for Northern Public Radio.
Between the contentious 2020 presidential election and the pandemic, the past few years have been a perfect storm for misinformation on the internet.
Illinois is leading the charge to fight the onslaught: It just became the first state to require high schools to teach news literacy.
In one startling example, the Stanford researchers showed students in suburban Chicago a Facebook video that claimed to show people ballot-stuffing during the 2016 presidential primaries.
“Out of those more than 3,000 students, only three figured out that actually, the video came from Russia,” says Joel Breakstone, who heads the Stanford group.
🎧 More on teaching news literacy, including the one method researchers say best helps high school students identify disinformation.
What Does Biden Have In Common With These Yoga Instructors? They Want To Ban Non-Competes
President Biden wants to limit non-compete agreements, the employment clauses that prevent workers from taking a new job with a rival company or starting one of their own.
Many employers use non-competes, even in states where they’re restricted. And, according to the White House, tens of millions of workers in all sorts of sectors sign them.
But critics say they harm workers by deterring them from looking for better jobs with higher pay. Some cite non-competes as a source of considerable emotional and financial stress, leaving them feeling powerless.
To understand why certain businesses use non-competes — and why workers dislike them — NPR’s labor and workplace correspondent Andrea Hsu takes us into the yoga industry, where such agreements are throwing some instructors off balance.
The 'Unprecedented' New Migration Numbers, Explained
Immigration authorities are encountering an "unprecedented number of migrants" at the southern border, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Official numbers released yesterday show that authorities encountered migrants more than 212,000 times in July, including a record number of nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children and teens.
"The situation at the border is one of the toughest challenges we face," Mayorkas said during a visit to Brownsville, Texas yesterday. "It is complicated, changing and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic."
Joel Rose, who covers immigration for NPR, joined Morning Edition to unpack the dramatic new numbers. Listen or read more here.
What stands out about these numbers? The timing, Rose says. Usually migration peaks in the spring and declines in the hotter summer months. But this year numbers were high in the spring and kept on climbing.
How does this compare to previous situations? The number of encounters recorded last month was the highest we've seen in 21 years, but it's also bigger than the number of individuals actually crossing the border. A significant percentage of migrants are quickly expelled under a pandemic-era public health order called Title 42, then they cross again. Mayorkas put the number of "unique individuals" crossing the border in July at 154,288, which is a big number but closer to other recent peaks including in 2019.
What does this look like on the ground? "Well, in a word, it's a mess," Rose says. That's especially true in the Rio Grande Valley, where the numbers are highest. The border patrol is forced to process migrants under a bridge because its regular facilities are overcrowded. Border towns, and especially the local nonprofits who help care for migrants allowed into the U.S. to pursue asylum claims, are also overwhelmed.
For more on the political implications of the situation at the border, check out Rose's reporting.
New Orleans Will Require Proof Of Vaccination At Bars, Clubs And Restaurants
The mayor of New Orleans yesterday announced that starting Monday, people will be required to prove they've been vaccinated— or show a recent COVID-19 test — before entering venues in the city.
As WWNO's Bobbi-Jeanne Misick and Ryan Nelsen report, some establishments are choosing to require proof of vaccination over a negative test result.
Though the mandate starts Monday, the city will wait to begin "aggressive enforcement" until later this month. Head over to WWNO for details.
The FDA Approved Booster Shots For Immunocompromised Americans. What Happens Now?
The Food and Drug Administration now says people with weakened immune systems — either due to disease, medical treatments or organ transplants — should get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Overnight, the FDA amended the emergency use authorizations for the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to cover a third dose for immunocompromised Americans. That's a limited population — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates less than 3 percent of adults.
The FDA pointed to a small but growing body of evidence that some people who are immunocompromised will benefit from a third shot. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, told Morning Edition yesterday that this is not because their protection against the virus is waning but because they never fully had it in the first place.
It's not yet clear how the process of getting that third shot will work. The FDA did not spell out in its announcement how people can prove their immunocompromised status. The CDC's advisory committee on immunization practices is meeting today to consider recommending the additional dose for this population — and evaluate the potential need for a booster for the general public.
People who are not immunocompromised likely don't need another dose right now. We're waiting on more data: Some studies show lower levels of antibodies over time in vaccinated people, which may not tell the full story about a person's level of protection, while others show vaccine efficacy is dropping over time. As NPR's Will Stone and Jane Greenhalgh report, Fauci said yesterday that he believes the general public will likely need a booster "sooner or later," and that the government is preparing for that need.
3,000 U.S. Troops Are Going Back To Afghanistan — To Get Embassy Staff Out
Things are moving fast: The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops back into Afghanistan to help evacuate U.S. diplomats and some civilians.
In the last few hours, The Taliban have taken control of Kandahar and Herat, the second and third largest cities in Afghanistan. They now control at least 13 provincial capital cities. They've also cut off a key highway between Kabul and the southern provinces.
As Vanessa Romo reports, three infantry battalions are expected to arrive at Kabul's international airport in the next 24 to 48 hours.
NPR National Security Correspondent Greg Myre has been following this. Here's what he told us this morning ⤵
What these 3,000 troops are going in to do: They'll be based at the Kabul airport and their job will be to provide security as U.S. diplomats at the embassy and help them fly out of the country.
The second part of this mission will be to help with the evacuation of Afghan interpreters who have worked with the U.S. military and are applying for visas to come to the states.
The immediate danger: Until the past few days, the thinking was that the capital city of Kabul was safe for now. But the Taliban surge has been so rapid that President Biden and the Pentagon decided to act immediately. This is a clear signal that they now think Kabul is at risk and they don't want to wait until it's too late.
This move just adds to the sense that the Afghan government and military are starting to disintegrate and fuels the notion that a Taliban takeover is coming. The U.S. was planning to keep a sizeable staff at the embassy to help support the government — but with conditions changing by the day or even by the hour, these plans may have to be revised.
There have been talks between the U.S., the Taliban and other countries in Qatar. But the Taliban have no incentive to negotiate; they have all the momentum. The U.S. lost its leverage with the withdrawal of its 2,500 troops over the past couple of months.
Hear Lizzo’s New Track ‘Rumors’ Featuring Cardi B
All the rumors are true: Lizzo has returned with a bop.
“Rumors,” a masterful summer staple released early today, marks the Grammy Award-winning hitmaker’s first new single as a lead artist since 2019’s Cuz I Love You. An array of instrumentation, chiefly a groovy, deep-bass synth and triumphant horns, delivers an irresistibly fun earworm.
Lyrics come courtesy of the familiar Lizzo formula: in-your-face candor and resolute empowerment turn into tools of resistance as the Houston singer clears haters with a smile.