Start Your Day Here: How To Help Haiti, An Afghan Women's Advocate, Native American Fire Management

Published August 17, 2021 at 6:49 AM EDT
A "bathtub ring" is visible at sunset during low water levels the Lake Mead reservoir due to the western drought on July 19, 2021, as seen from the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at the Nevada and Arizona state border.
PATRICK T. FALLON
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AFP via Getty Images
A "bathtub ring" is visible at sunset during low water levels the Lake Mead reservoir due to the western drought on July 19, 2021, as seen from the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River at the Nevada and Arizona state border.

Good morning.

We're continuing to watch for developments out of Afghanistan this morning, as well as:

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, what the Taliban wantfor the future of Afghanistan.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

Nell Clark, Tori Dominguez, Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Nicole Hernandez, Emily Alfin Johnson, Casey Noenickx and Carol Ritchie

Must Listen
Afghanistan

A Veteran Says The Afghans She Served With Believe They're Going To Die

Posted August 17, 2021 at 11:34 AM EDT

U.S. Army Major Kristen Rouse deployed three times to Afghanistan and worked extensively with Afghan partners while she was there. Now, following the Taliban seizure of Kabul, Rouse is hearing from those same Afghan partners who she served shoulder-to-shoulder with — and they're terrified.

She's part of a group called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She says seeing images yesterday of the Taliban entering Kabul brought the story of the Titanic to her mind.

"But knowing that only the crew are getting the lifeboats. And then for all of our friends who are in the water about to die, they are reaching out to us on social media, telephone, in every way that they can, to beg us, to beg us for lifeboats."
Kristen Rouse

In 2020, Rouse spoke toMorning Edition's Noel King about the proposed U.S.-Taliban peace deal, and the hope she maintained for the future of her Afghan partners. Since the Taliban's rapid takeover of Afghanistan, Morning Edition spoke to her again about what she has been hearing from other U.S. veterans and from her former Afghan partners.

Audiogram8.17Rouse.mp4

Click here to listen to the full conversation between Rouse and NPR's Steve Inskeep. Continue below to read a transcript of their interview. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

On if she is hearing directly from people:

Yes. Some of them have been in a year-long process to get interpreter visas, the [Special Immigration Visas], which is just an agonizingly bureaucratic process. And there's been many delays, denials, and folks can't get visas at this point. They can't even get passports. And they are begging. They're begging for a way out.

On people who have been trying for years to get visas to come to the United States:

Yes. One interpreter, one of my interpreters, in particular, he's been trying different things for really the last, the last decade. And I've been messaging with him for many years, trying to figure out other options, other ways to help him. And there's just there's been just an endless series of dead ends, walls, attorneys telling me that they can't do anything. The Taliban are, they are, as I speak, going door to door to identify individuals who have worked at any time with the U.S. Yesterday, I got a final message saying 'I am about to die." I mean, "If something bad happens to me, I will ... I will see you in heaven," and I'm not the only veteran. I've spoken with other veterans who are getting goodbye messages like this. People believe they're going to die.

On whether she feels a personal responsibility:

Absolutely. I made promises to people, I said, "You are working with us, we will do all we can." And, you know, I'm one veteran connected with people. And I'm not, I'm not seeing where we have answers. Where we have answers or a way out for the people that did good work for us. We could not have done any of our missions, any of our missions in Afghanistan at all. We could not have done anything in Afghanistan without local interpreters, you know, other workers who sustained us, who worked on our bases, who worked with NGOs, who worked with, you know, these humanitarian aid organizations, who taught in schools, who worked in government and education and judicial structure. I mean, so many Afghans believed in what we were doing, we believed in what we were doing.

On if anyone who embraced the U.S.'s attempts to build a democracy in Afghanistan is at risk:

Yes. And they are at risk. They are at risk. And so many will be killed. I mean, we're talking about hundreds of thousands.

On whether she was surprised at the speed the country fell to the Taliban:

That is a hard question to answer. Afghan military, the Afghan National Army, Afghan police, they have been fighting and dying for 20 years. Americans paid a price in blood. Afghan military and police paid a vastly higher price. They went out with nowhere near the support, nowhere near the pay, nowhere near the equipment, nowhere near the ammo, even body armor. They didn't have armor on their trucks. The Afghan military, rode around in unarmored Ford Rangers that we gave them. If a roadside bomb was set for an up-armored United States MRAP, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle. If A and a Ford Ranger hid a bomb set for one of our vehicles, they were obliterated. They've been fighting all this time. And to say now: "They didn't resist, they didn't fight for their country." It is just, it's wrong.

On those who question whether Afghanistan has the political will to fight back against the Taliban:

I don't ... I mean, I can't speak directly to that. But I am just heartbroken that we are just, blaming people who've had their lives on the line and have been sacrificing with us for years. And suffering. It's unreal to me that we would suddenly walk away from intense partnerships. Saying, well, "You couldn't make it on your own. Too bad."

On what remains of these 20 years of effort in Afghanistan:

I believe that the investment we made was in people. We built friendships. We built relationships. We made promises. We helped to give structure and opportunity to so many Afghans who were able to have hope, who were able to build, who are able to do things on their own, and the Afghans were working very hard for all of those 20 years. I believe if we're going to preserve any of that investment, we need to preserve human life, we need to preserve the people. So that they can keep building.

On if she has hope, as she did in 2020:

It's really hard, Steve, and, you know, ultimately, while people are alive, we have to believe that we can keep them alive, we have to try. We owe it to them to try.

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Afghanistan

The White House Says They Evacuated More Than 700 People From Kabul Airport Yesterday

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:31 AM EDT

Today, 3,500 U.S. troops are expected to be back on the ground in Kabul to help Americans and Afghans who helped them -- out of the country. This morning, The White House shared an update on the situation at Kabul airport and status of evacuations:

The Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKAI) is open, and flights are able to land and depart, including on the civilian side. As of this morning, there are 3,500 troops on the ground at HKAI. Today, U.S. military flights are taking off from HKAI with American citizens and U.S. Embassy personnel on board. Yesterday, we evacuated more than 700 people, including 150 American citizens.

The Department of Defense is helping with that effort. NPR's A Martinez spoke with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby about the logistics of the evacuation and the U.S. military’s posture in Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover.

“Our role in this is to provide as much airlift as possible," Kirby says. "We think once we get up and running fully that we could be able to manage between 5,000 - 9,000 people a day.”


8 Paradoxes That Sum Up America's 20-Year Mission In Afghanistan
U.S. Media Groups Are Scrambling To Get Afghan Journalists To Safety
The Taliban Declare 'Amnesty' In Afghanistan And Urge Women To Join The Government

Afghanistan

What Kabul Looks Like Today

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:28 AM EDT
Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on Tuesday.
Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on Tuesday.

“Kabul was a bit better compared to yesterday,” says a journalist based in the city who sent a message to NPR on Tuesday.

For their protection, we are not naming the journalist, who said there were signs suggesting a gradual return to some semblance of normalcy two days after the Taliban launched a lightening assault on Kabul, forcing out the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

“I have seen some more traffic police out in duties. I have seen some clinics, small markets and shops inside Kabul were open,” the journalist said. “I saw a woman at the same time I saw young Afghans with Western style of clothes walking around in the city.”

Referencing the international airport in Kabul, where masses of people thronged departing airplanes on Monday in a desperate bid to get out of the country, the journalist said, “Still there was a bit of rush of people.”

The person said there were shots fired too — into the air. “I think it was just giving a message to the Afghans to go back home."

The White House said Tuesday that the airport is open and the flights are able to land and depart.

People gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday.
AP
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AP
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Food And Hunger

The Largest Single Increase In Food Stamp Benefits To Date Is Coming Oct. 1

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:23 AM EDT
A sign in a store window says it accepts food stamps and EBT cards.
Scott Heins/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
A sign alerts customers about SNAP food stamps benefits at a grocery store in New York City in Dec. 2019.

With all the developments in Afghanistan and Haiti, you may have missed this historic announcement out of Washington:

The Biden administration has approved updates to the program known as SNAP, giving families who currently receive food stamps the largest single increase in benefits to date.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday released a re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which is used to calculate SNAP benefits, based on changes to nutritional guidance, food prices and what Americans eat.

  • Its new calculations mean that the average SNAP benefit will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, beginning Oct. 1. The impact will be felt by many, as the USDA says the program helps feed more than 42 million Americans (or 1 in 8) each month.
  • The exact amount will vary by state — you can check on your state's estimated increase here.
  • Plus, check out this SNAP eligibility guide to see current maximum household benefit amounts and learn how they're calculated.

“A modernized Thrifty Food Plan is more than a commitment to good nutrition — it’s an investment in our nation’s health, economy, and security,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release. “Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”

The Biden administration is working to strengthen the country's social safety net, and has long aimed to increase food stamp benefits.

Click here to learn more about the Thrifty Food Plan and how it impacts food assistance.

Afghanistan

Why This Women's Advocate Is Staying In Afghanistan

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:19 AM EDT

From 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban previously held power in Afghanistan, women and girls were denied basic rights — like the ability to go to school, hold a job outside the home, or travel unescorted.

Many are concerned that with the Taliban once again in control, the rights of women in the country will once again be denied. For their part, the Taliban has encouraged women to join the new government and declared amnesty across the country. However, many Afghans remain skeptical.

Earlier, NPR's A Martínez spoke with Mahbooba Seraj, founder of the Afghan Women's Network. Seraj says there's "so much uncertainty that I honestly cannot tell you whether we are coming or going; what's going to happen; whether we're going to be alive tomorrow ... we have absolutely no idea what's happening."

Seraj stays in Afghanistan, she says, because she wants to protect the women and girls she's responsible for. But also because it is her country and "I don't want anybody to force me this time to get out of this land."

A row of women stand against a fence, shown from behind.
WAKIL KOHSAR
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AFP via Getty Images
Internally displaced Afghan women, who fled from the northern province due to battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces, gather to receive free food being distributed by Shiite men at Shahr-e-Naw Park in Kabul last week.

Seraj also shared with Martinez a message for Americans watching what's happening in Afghanistan. We've printed it here in full:

"Please, as Americans, you have a country that has laws, you are a democratic nation. Don't allow your government to use you, by taking you by the nose and directing [the country in] any direction that they want. Don't allow that to be done to you as people. Please don't allow it. You're much greater, much bigger, and much more powerful than that.

"Make sure that when you get involved in a country, when you do something for a country, when you get involved in a situation like Afghanistan, the way you went there — make sure that your government doesn't lie to you. Because your government has been lying to you from day one about this. All the way. They've been lying to you so much that they don't even know what is the truth anymore.

"So please tell them that, please. That's not who they are. American's are amazing people."

Below are excerpts from our conversation with Seraj, but this is one of those interviews you really need to listen to. 🎧You can do that here.

'I'm not going to hide'


"I am responsible for a group of women and girls in Afghanistan, belonging to a category of women that have been hurt, they have been abused and used all their lives," Seraj explains. "They have been under my protection for the longest time. And I am still around because I don't know what to do with them."

Seraj says because she can't get these women out of the country and won't put them on the street, she stays to "keep some law and order" in place.

She's been telling the women in her care to avoid worrying — "because there's nothing you can do by worrying." Instead, she urges them to keep calm, pray, breathe and "let us keep our heads high up and our senses around us."

What she can't say is what lies ahead for her, these women or for all the women of Afghanistan.

"I have been working in this country for the past 20 years, this is what we do, this is our job," Seraj says. "We look after the women, we look after the children. We dug wells, we teach people how to look after their health ... how to look after the health of their children. We try to have schools that can teach them. There is nothing that I am ashamed of doing for this country."

Seraj says she's "not going to hide anything from anyone."

"I was born and raised in this country," Seraj told us. "And I'm going to stay in this country and I don't want anybody to force me this time to get out of this land."

Two women walk in the foreground in front of a beauty salon window.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN
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AFP via Getty Images
Fully veiled women walk past a billboard put up on the wall of a beauty salon in Kabul on August 7, 2021.

'The world left us'

Seraj told A, she feels so abandoned by the U.S. and at the moment, she cannot talk about it without wanting to scream:

"I am sorry, I am like so, so upset because of the way it was done. I am not saying they should've stayed with us and hold our hands for eternity. No. But the way they did [this] was wrong."

She says she feels like "the world left us like a hot potato."

"They dropped us and we are where we are. So now, we should really stand up for what we believe. We should really work hard."

Before she can believe the Taliban's calls for a more inclusive government, Seraj says, she needs to see action.

"They have said these things quite often lately, but we want them to actually do it and see how they're going to be dealing with us," says Seraj. "What they're going to allow us to do, whether our girls can go to school, whether our women can go to work ... they have to allow us to do that. Then once I see it, then I will believe."


What Women's Advocacy Groups Worldwide Are Doing For Women In Afghanistan

Coronavirus

These 4 Countries Just Joined The CDC's 'Highest Risk' Travel Destination List

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:15 AM EDT
A colorful sign in a store window offers tours for Bosphorous and Golden Horn tours, including Hamam and Cappadocia. A sign on the sidewalk advertises COVID-19 PCR tests.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
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Getty Images Europe
A tourist shop in Istanbul, Turkey displays a sign offering PCR tests in May 2021.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added four new countries to its list of highest-risk travel destinations: Turkey, Montenegro, Dominica and Jersey.

As of Monday they are now designated as Level 4, or "very high" risk. The CDC recommends against traveling to these places, and advises would-be visitors that if they do come, they should be fully vaccinated.

In general, the CDC discourages international travel for people who are not fully vaccinated, and notes that "even fully vaccinated travelers might be at risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants." Here are some of its other recommendations:

  • Check the COVID-19 situation (and mask, testing or quarantine requirements) at your destination before departure.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth on planes and other forms of public transportation.
  • Get a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days before boarding a flight back to the U.S.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after your return home, and get a viral test 3-5 days after travel.

As the delta variant sends cases soaring, you may be wondering whether it's safe to book a flight or take that trip you arranged months ago. Here's a helpful FAQ for staying safe.

Wildfires

How Ancient Fire Management Methods May Have Saved A California Valley From Wildfire

Posted August 17, 2021 at 10:05 AM EDT

A year ago, the massive CZU Lightning Complex Fire burned its way through California's drought-parched Santa Cruz Mountains and surrounding areas. Flames consumed 86,000 acres and more than 900 homes.

Damage from the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire is seen in April in Boulder Creek, Calif.
Nic Coury/AP
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FR171100 AP
Damage from the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fire in April. A California parks official credits the Amah Mutson’s traditional fire management with keeping the nearby Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve safe from the flames.

When Valentin Lopez reflects on it, his mind leaps back over centuries, to the time before Europeans. Lopez heads the Amah Mutson Tribal band, which holds a land trust in these mountains. Before the Europeans invaded, these were the lands of the powerful Quiroste nation, going back thousands of years

"Our ancestors saw fire as being a gift from Creator to help in stewarding and managing landscapes. It also prevented the buildup of fuel loads that would result in catastrophic fires."

Independent producers Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson — the Kitchen Sisters — recorded Lopez and others intimately affected by the wildfire as a part of their project, What Fire Reveals.

They heard also from Mark Hylkema, a state parks official who credits the Amah Mutson’s traditional approach with keeping the Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve safe from the flames.

"Taking out the invasive Pampas grass, beating back the brush ... well, the fire raged through there too, but you know what? It did not burn the valley," Hylkema says. "It went around it.”

Listen to the Kitchen Sisters tell this story onMorning Edition, or on the Kitchen Sisters website.

Investigation

More Workers Are Dying From Heat, Especially On Hotter-Than-Average Days

Posted August 17, 2021 at 9:56 AM EDT

At least 384 workers in the U.S. have died from environmental heat exposure in the last decade, an investigation by NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations has found.

The victims include people toiling in essential jobs, including farm laborers, construction, trash collection and tree trimmers. Many of the workers were Black and brown. An analysis of federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the three-year average of worker heat deaths has doubled since the early 1990s.

NPR and CJI reviewed hundreds of pages of records and analyzed worker heat deaths recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, between 2010 and 2020, and compared each incident day’s high temperature to historic averages over 40 years. Most of the deaths happened on days that were unusually hot for that date. More than two-thirds occurred on days when the temperature reached at least 90 degrees.

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OSHA has known about the dangers of heat — and how to prevent deaths — for decades. But it has not implemented a national heat standard. Instead, it relies on a 50-year-old regulation guaranteeing workers a “hazard-free workplace.” The agency does require companies to provide adequate water, but not other heat-safety measures such as shade breaks or time for employees to adjust to the extreme heat.

This year, for the first time, OSHA is officially considering a heat standard by putting it on its regulatory agenda.

Read the full investigation on the impact of heat on workers here.

Haiti Earthquake

Here's How You Can Support Earthquake Relief Efforts In Haiti

Posted August 17, 2021 at 9:36 AM EDT
A group of people stand outside a grey truck, carrying white buckets and yellow containers of water.
Reginald Louissaint Jr./AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
People gather near bins of water in Camp-Perrin, Haiti, on Monday.

Days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the death toll has surpassed 1,400, and the number of people injured now tops 6,000.

Destroyed buildings, blocked roads, the pandemic and now a tropical storm are making it even more difficult for humanitarian organizations to assess the damage and deliver much-needed aid.

Margarett Lubin, Haiti's country representative from the aid organization CORE, spoke to NPR'sWeekend Edition from Port-au-Prince. She said that responders need to manage multiple overlapping crises at the same time in order to deliver emergency relief, and spoke about the role that the international community can play.

"I think the need really in Haiti is the funding," Lubin said. "We need the funding on the ground. It's essential so that we can respond to the need, in the midst of all the emergencies that we just described, so that we can really make an impact on the ground and get people out of suffering."

Looking to get involved but not sure how to help? Here are some resources to get you started.

  • Consult websites like Charity Navigator and GiveWell to determine charities' legitimacy and avoid scams. The Federal Trade Commission also offers these tips for doing your research. (Note: A 2015 investigation by NPR and ProPublica, five years after another devastating earthquake in Haiti, tried to find where its nearly $500 million in donations went and found "a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success.")
  • PBS NewsHour recommends these organizations: UNICEF, Project Hope, Hope for Haiti, Save the Children, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, The Greater Miami Jewish Federation's relief fund and Operation Helping Hands from The United Way and the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald.
  • These are some of the other organizations suggested by GiveWell: Direct Relief, Haitian Health Foundation, International Relief Teams, Medical Teams International, Project HOPE and Americares.
  • CNN's "Impact Your World" has compiled a list of organizations accepting donations for Haiti.
Haiti Earthquake

Naomi Osaka And Other Celebrities Are Calling For Help For Haiti

Posted August 17, 2021 at 9:17 AM EDT
A yellow bulldozer sits on top of a pile of rocky rubble, where a few people are bent over, searching.
Richard Pierrin/Getty Images
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Getty Images South America
People search for valuable metals among the debris of a collapsed building in Les Cayes, Haiti on Monday, in the wake of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

Celebrities including Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka are expressing their support for the Haitian people and calling on their followers to contribute to relief efforts.

Haiti — which is being drenched by a tropical storm — is still awaiting widespread assistance in the wake of the earthquake that killed more than 1,400 people and injured nearly 7,000.

Osaka, whose father is Haitian, has said she will give any prize money she wins at this week's Western & Southern Open tournament to support earthquake recovery efforts there.

Osaka is seeded second for this year's event in Cincinnati, and has a bye into the second round, notes The Washington Post. The women's singles champion will receive $255,220.

Osaka — who is ranked No. 2 in the world — has notably used her platform to advocate for causes like Black Lives Matter and mental health in the past.

And she's not the only public figure now rallying support for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Rapper Wyclef Jean, who is from Haiti (and once ran for president there), posted a video to Instagram calling on people to "please do your part so we can help the country."

Meanwhile, rapper Cardi B tweeted that she has a "soft spot" for Haiti and its people, and offered her prayers.

And chef José Andrés's World Central Kitchen is on the ground in Haiti, preparing food at multiple kitchens in Port-au-Prince, Jeremie and Les Cayes to distribute to hospital staff and patients. Chef Tim Kilcoyne, WCK's director of relief special ops, said in a video posted to Twitter on Monday, "Lots going on, our teams are here on the ground, we'll have more info to share later. But right now we're getting as many meals out to people that are in need as possible."

Writer Roxane Gay tweeted that she is donating to the microfinance institution Fonkoze as well as the nonprofit Hope for Haiti, and later shared a Google Doc listing other "trusted organizations" for emergency earthquake response.

Actor and Hamilton creator Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote that he is donating to Fonkoze and the global response organization CORE, and encouraged his social media followers to do the same.

Here are some other ways you can help.

    Afghanistan

    U.S. Media Groups Are Scrambling To Get Afghan Journalists To Safety

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 8:39 AM EDT
    An overhead view shows two intersecting streets full of cars and pedestrians.
    Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images
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    AFP
    People walk and drive in a marketplace at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

    American media executives are desperately appealing to the Biden administration to help get their Afghan colleagues to safety.

    "The plight of Afghan reporters there is like an intensified version of the dilemma confronting Afghans more generally," NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik explains. "The more educated they are, and the more closely tethered they are to the West — especially to the U.S. — the more dangerous their position is likely to be."

    The publishers of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post released a joint statement to President Biden yesterday asking for the safe passage of Afghan journalists — and their families — who have worked with them.

    In July, more than 20 news organizations — including NPRsigned letters to President Biden and Congress requesting urgent action: “Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lent their labor and skills to making certain the world knew what was going on in their country while U.S. troops were there for the past twenty years.”

    A senior state department official told NPR last night that their safety is a priority for the U.S. government.

    "Afghan journalists, particularly women journalists, face extreme dangers as the Taliban take over," according to a statement released Monday by the Society for Professional Journalists. "[We are] concerned that local reporters will be targeted for retaliation."

    The fear on the ground is palpable, Folkenflik reports. He connected with Ayesha Tanzeem, the Afghanistan-Pakistan bureau chief for U.S. government-owned broadcaster Voice of America. She's been in Kabul for 10 days, and went to the airport twice to return to Pakistan but couldn't get out.

    Another U.S. government-funded network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, released a video last night of one of its Afghan reporter saying "they are agreeing to search house-to-house in some places."

    Listen to Folkenflik's reporting here, and hear from an Afghan media executive below.

    Saad Mohseni is the CEO of Moby Media Group, which oversees TOLO News — a highly respected local news organization in Afghanistan and the country's first 24-hour television network.

    He spoke to NPR's Mary Louise Kelly yesterday about what the Taliban takeover means for journalism and social media in Afghanistan, and shared his two biggest concerns:

    "The safety of our people — that's one," he said. "And continuity — how do we continue our work? I mean, we have become this beacon of hope for so many Afghans. People go to our networks to find out what's going on. And how do we continue that work, whether we do it from Afghanistan or we do it from outside? And also, how do we get our journalists out? A clear majority are still inside of Afghanistan."

    Mohseni also discussed what Taliban control may mean for female journalists. Listen to the interview here.

    Afghanistan

    George W. Bush Urges Biden To Expedite The Evacuation Of Afghan Refugees

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 8:35 AM EDT

    Former President George W. Bush, who ordered the first U.S. troops into Afghanistan in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has weighed in on the sudden turn of events there.

    In a statement released by the Bush Center, the former president and former first lady Laura Bush expressed “deep sadness” over the events and urged President Biden to expedite the evacuation of refugees.

    “The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” the 43rd U.S. president said.

    “President Biden has promised to evacuate these Afghans, along with American citizens and our allies. The United States government has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises. And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay.”

    He said he and Laura “are confident that the evacuation efforts will be effective because they are being carried out by the remarkable men and women of the United States Armed Forces, diplomatic corps, and intelligence community.”

    “In times like these, it can be hard to remain optimistic. Laura and I will steadfastly remain so. Like our country, Afghanistan is also made up of resilient, vibrant people,” the former president said.

    In Case You Missed It
    Coronavirus

    Atlanta Falcons Become The First NFL Team To Reach 100% Vaccination Rate

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 8:28 AM EDT
    The Atlanta Falcons line up against the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The team is the first in the NFL to have the entire squad vaccinated for coronavirus.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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    Getty Images North America
    The Atlanta Falcons line up against the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The team is the first in the NFL to have the entire squad vaccinated for coronavirus.

    The Atlanta Falcons became the first team in the NFL to have all players vaccinated against COVID-19, the team announced yesterday.

    The team had reached a 92% vaccination rate on July 23, according to the team statement.

    "Each player will now enjoy the benefits of being able to work out and eat together. They won't have to test daily, won't have to wear masks around the facility and won't have to quarantine following a close contact with someone who tests positive."

    Climate Change

    A Historic Shortage On The Colorado River Is Triggering Water Cuts In Western States

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 8:20 AM EDT
    A landscape view of a blue reservoir flowing through rocky riverbanks with mountains and sky in the background. A pale white outline at the edge of the bank shows that the body of water is considerably below capacity.
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    Getty Images North America
    A tall bleached "bathtub ring" is visible on the rocky banks of Lake Powell -- one of the Colorado River Basin's two biggest reservoirs -- on June 24, 2021 in Lake Powell, Utah.

    Residents of several Western states and parts of Mexico will have to limit their water consumption starting next year after federal officials declared a first-ever water shortage on the Colorado River yesterday.

    As NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, the water shortage declaration is both monumental and widely expected. The megadrought on the river basin is now in its 22nd year, and the entire river reservoir system is now at just 40% of capacity.

    "We are seeing the effects of climate change in the Colorado River Basin through extended drought, extreme temperatures, expansive wildfires and in some places flooding and landslides. And now is the time to take action to respond to them," said Tanya Trujillo, the Department of the Interior assistant secretary for water and science.

    Some 40 million people — and countless farms — rely on the river and its tributaries. Most cities won't have their water supplies cut, but farmers will — especially in Arizona, which is losing almost a fifth of its entire river allotment.

    For more on what this declaration means for the region, listen to Siegler's reporting here.

    Plus: Luke Runyon, who covered the Colorado River Basin for member station KUNC, traversed the region in June to learn how people were coping with the megadrought and looming water shortage.

    Find more coverage of water issues in the West below.

    ICYMI
    Music News

    Bob Dylan Has Been Accused Of Sexually Abusing A Minor In The '60s

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 8:07 AM EDT
    Bob Dylan performs in 2009
    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI
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    Getty Images North America
    Musician Bob Dylan performs onstage in June 2009 in Culver City, Calif. Dylan has been accused of sexually abusing a minor when he was in his 20s.

    Bob Dylan has been accused of drugging and sexually abusing a minor in 1965, according to a complaint filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

    The complaint, as NPR’s Elizabeth Blair reports, alleges that the singer-songwriter gave drugs and alcohol to a 12-year-old in his New York apartment over the course of six weeks “to lower her inhibitions with the object of sexually abusing her, which he did ...” Dylan was in his early 20s at the time.

    The plaintiff, referred to as “J.C.” in court documents, is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

    A spokesman for Dylan told the New York Post, "This 56-year-old claim is untrue and will be vigorously defended."

    International Dispatch
    Germany

    German Military's First Flight Out Of Kabul Evacuated Only 7 People

    Updated August 17, 2021 at 8:02 AM EDT
    Posted August 17, 2021 at 7:57 AM EDT

    German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says the chaos at Kabul airport hindered the rescue effort. The first military plane from Germany to arrive in Kabul since the Taliban takeover only evacuated seven people.

    A second aircraft has just landed in Kabul this morning according to Kramp-Karrenbauer. Germany has vowed to rescue up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan, including many Afghan nationals who worked with NATO forces.

    Criticism of the German military’s first evacuation attempt is overshadowed by the frustration directed towards the U.S. for what is viewed across Europe as a poorly executed troop withdrawal.

    Armin Laschet — the Christian Democratic Union party candidate vying to replace outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel after the September election — said yesterday that the entire Afghanistan operation was “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding.”

    Laschet also made it clear that, should he become chancellor, Germany will not pursue Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, which led to a million mainly Syrian refugees coming to Germany in 2015. “2015 must not be repeated!” said Laschet.

    While Laschet’s candid comments are seen as electioneering, Merkel echoed his sentiments last night, pledging money for Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to help house refugees there, rather than in Europe — assuming they make it out of the country in the first place.

    Coronavirus

    The White House Is Likely To Recommend COVID Boosters For Most Americans

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 7:39 AM EDT
    A woman gives a vaccination to a man with a rolled up sleeve. People wait behind them wearing face masks.
    Mario Tama/Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Debbie Bonnett administers a COVID-19 vaccination dose to a person in a popup vaccination clinic at Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans last week.

    The Biden Administration reportedly is going to recommend all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines get booster shots after eight months.

    For some Americans, that would mean third doses of the vaccines would begin as early as next month, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. A source familiar with the discussion suggested the announcement from the White House could come as soon as this week. The preparations were first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

    NPR's science correspondent Joe Palca is covering the story. Click here to listen to the full report on Morning Edition. Here's what you need to know:

    Why are boosters needed?
    Lab data has shown antibody strength is waning among vaccinated people. Plus, real-world data from Israel seems to be showing the efficacy of the vaccine is declining as time goes on. That's leading health officials to look at the usefulness of booster shots, which could help protect against the ultra-contagious delta variant surging across the U.S. Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that they submitted initial data to the FDA to show a third dose of their vaccine boosts antibody response.

    Who would the recommendations affect?
    Right now, the recommendations are expected to be aimed only at people who got the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. And like the original vaccine rollout, those most vulnerable will probably be first in line. Expect nursing home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers and elderly people to be among the first groups recommended for a third shot.

    Why now?
    A meeting of health officials over the weekend likely came to the conclusion that boosters were needed to best protect people. According to Palca, despite conflicting signals, the Biden administration has been preparing for this possibility for a while.

    What about people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
    People who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely need booster shots as well, but the government isn't expected to recommend it just yet. That's because officials are waiting on some results from the company's two-dose clinical trial.


    Haiti

    Reeling From An Earthquake, Haiti's Newly Homeless Are Drenched By A Tropical Storm

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 7:14 AM EDT
    Two women take shelter after being hit by Tropical Storm Grace at an improvised refugee camp Tuesday at in Les Cayes, Haiti.
    Richard Pierrin/Getty Images
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    Getty Images South America
    Two women take shelter after being hit by Tropical Storm Grace at an improvised refugee camp Tuesday at in Les Cayes, Haiti.

    Topical Storm Grace is adding to Haiti's misery this morning.

    More than 1,400 people died in Saturday’s earthquake. Nearly than 7,000 are injured — more than the nation's doctors can handle, as NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from the hard-hit city of Les Cayes.

    The earthquake left tens of thousands more without homes or shelter. Even those with homes left intact have been sleeping outside for fear of further damage.

    Aid has been slow to arrive, Beaubien says. Some government workers are working with heavy equipment to knock down some dangerously listing buildings. But we are not seeing widespread assistance yet.

    Residents stand on a street at sunset in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Monday.
    Matias Delacroix/AP
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    AP
    Residents stand on a street at sunset in Les Cayes, Haiti, on Monday.


    Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised on Twitter yesterday to speed up assistance: “We are going to increase our energies tenfold to get assistance to the maximum number of victims possible.”

    Henry, who took office just last month, also promised to coordinate the aid response through the Haitian government to avoid the waste and problems that occurred after the 2010 earthquake, when billions of dollars were promised — but many Haitians now wonder where that money went.

    More on the ongoing search and rescue efforts.

    Afghanistan

    The Buck Stops With Biden, And He's Sticking With His Afghanistan Plan

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 7:11 AM EDT
    President Biden gives remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on Monday.
    Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
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    Getty Images North America
    President Biden gives remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House on Monday.

    President Biden is undeterred in his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country. In a speech Monday afternoon, he argued, "I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.”

    As the U.S. government airlifted Americans, dual citizens and allies out of the country Monday, Afghans flooded the international airport in Kabul, running onto the tarmac and clinging to planes in desperate attempts to leave the country.

    Tuesday morning in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul tweeted that it was helping U.S. citizens leave the country and warned, “Please do NOT come to the airport until you are notified by the Embassy.”

    Criticism of the administration’s handling of the situation has been bipartisan — and the political consequences could be dramatic.

    International Dispatch
    From Jerusalem

    Hamas Congratulates Taliban For 'Defeat Of The American Occupation'

    Posted August 17, 2021 at 6:25 AM EDT
    Hamas' political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, seen here addressing supporters in Doha on May 15, 2021.
    KARIM JAAFAR
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    AFP via Getty Images
    Hamas' political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh, seen here addressing supporters in Doha on May 15, 2021.

    The leader of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has telephoned the Taliban’s top political leader to congratulate him for taking over Afghanistan.

    Hamas says its leader Ismail Haniyeh called Taliban co-founder and political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader. He congratulated the Taliban leader for "defeat of the American occupation in Afghanistan" and said he hoped it would lead to an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

    Hamas says the Taliban leader expressed his support for Palestinians and their "jihad and valiant resistance" to liberate "Jerusalem and all the land of Palestine."

    There are some parallels between Afghanistan now and the Gaza Strip in 2007. Just as the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan has led to the Taliban takeover, Israel’s retreat from Gaza in 2005 resulted in the Hamas takeover of Gaza two years later.

    After Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of Gaza, it led to a Palestinian power struggle. Hamas militants wrested control of Gaza, driving out the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

    Hamas is still in control of Gaza today.

    The Israeli government has not commented on the events in Afghanistan, but Israeli commentators have argued the Taliban takeover could embolden militant groups around the Mideast. They argue the West Bank would face a similar fate if Israel ceded control there.

    The U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist group.