Start Your Day Here: Kabul Explosion, Texas' Ban On Vaccine Mandates, Nabisco Strike

Published August 26, 2021 at 7:42 AM EDT
A person wearing military fatigues and a face shield prepares to administer a vaccine to a man seated in a folding chair in a tent, wearing an army green t-shirt and camouflaged pants.
Carl Court/Getty Images
Getty Images AsiaPac
A U.S. Marine receives a coronavirus vaccine at Camp Foster in Ginowan, Japan on April 28, 2021.

Good morning,

The Pentagon has confirmed reports of an explosion outside Kabul's international airport. Casualties are unclear at this point. We'll update here as we learn more.

Here are more stories we're following today:

Vaccines in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott is digging in on the state's ban on vaccine mandates despite full FDA approval for the Pfizer shot.

Nabisco strike: Workers at the company that makes Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz crackers are on strike in five states. They say the company is making unfair demands while business is up.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, Haiti is struggling to recover two weeks after a deadly earthquake.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Joe Hernandez, Nell Clark and Casey Noenickx)

Kabul Explosion

Here's How You Can Keep Up With The Latest In Afghanistan

Posted August 26, 2021 at 11:11 AM EDT

Click here for the latest updates on the explosions in Kabul.

Here's an update from NPR's White House team at 10:55 a.m. ET:

President Biden was in the White House Situation Room with his top national security aides discussing the situation in Afghanistan when the explosion at the airport happened. Biden was briefed on the explosion, a White House official told NPR’s Franco Ordoñez.

Pentagon confirms a second explosion and unspecified number of causalities at 10:57 a.m. ET:

"We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby tweeted. "We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate."

Just In
Kabul Explosion

U.S. Official Says Marines Were Wounded In Kabul Airport Explosion

Posted August 26, 2021 at 10:51 AM EDT

Three U.S. Marines were wounded in the explosion at the airport gate, a U.S. official tells NPR. A dozen or more others are likely wounded (their nationalities are unclear).

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a security alert that a "large explosion" took place at the Abbey Gate of the international airport. It’s one of the entrances that the embassy had specifically asked U.S. citizens to avoid due to a heightened fears of an attack.

The embassy statement says there are reports of ongoing gunfire.

It adds that U.S. citizens “should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time.” Those who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate or North Gate should leave immediately.

Just In

An Explosion Has Been Reported Outside Kabul's Airport

Updated August 26, 2021 at 10:35 AM EDT
Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:57 AM EDT

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has just confirmed reports of an explosion in Kabul outside the airport. Casualties are unclear at this time.

The White House, State Department, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Kabul have all been warning of heightened threat from ISIS-K militants in Afghanistan to the ongoing evacuation effort there.

This is a developing story. We will update with details as they become available.


In Honor Of National Dog Day, Please Enjoy These Adorable Pups

Posted August 26, 2021 at 11:12 AM EDT

Happy National Dog Day!

Especially during the pandemic our pets have valiantly served as our work-from-home supervisors, jogging buddies,occasional zoom guest stars (😅) and all-around best friends.

So in celebration of National Dog Day, let us introduce you to our radiant pups for your enjoyment (and let's be honest, ours too!) ⤵

Baxter, 4 months

Baxter is riveted by NPR. He also likes ice cubes, cats and mommy’s socks.
Barry Gordemer
Baxter is riveted by NPR. He also likes ice cubes, cats and mommy’s socks.

Drew, 8

Drew loves cheese, and does not love thunderstorms.
Bo Hamby
Drew loves cheese, and does not love thunderstorms.

Jason, 👼

Jason (R) enjoys gnawing on socks (ideally as soon as they came off feet.)
Phil Harrell
Jason (R) enjoys gnawing on socks (ideally as soon as they came off feet.)

Gugli, 15 months

Gugli is often EXHAUSTED. He likes chicken, chaising squirrels, unearned treats and stepping up to much bigger dogs.
Noel King
Gugli is often EXHAUSTED. He likes chicken, chaising squirrels, unearned treats and stepping up to much bigger dogs.

Oscar, 14

Oscar enjoys naps.
Kelley Dickens
Oscar enjoys naps.

Ghost, 9

Ghost likes her pineapple toy and sniffing open-window smells. She does not stand for nonsense.
Dalia Mortada
Ghost likes her pineapple toy and sniffing open-window smells. She does not stand for nonsense.

Roxi, 1 & Echo, 15

Roxi (L) loves tennis balls and baking in the sun. Echo (R) loves sleeping and tricking Roxi into getting food off the counter for her.
Emily Alfin Johnson
Roxi (L) loves tennis balls and baking in the sun. Echo (R) loves sleeping and tricking Roxi into getting food off the counter for her.

Ginger, 😇

Chad Campbell
Ginger, 'the sweetest dog there ever was." A Polish Hound from West Virginia.

Teddy, 11

Teddy is happiest by (or preferably in!) the water.
Rachel Treisman
Teddy is happiest by (or preferably in!) the water.

Bello, 3 & Izzy, 8

Bello (L) loves staring out the sliding door at deer and bunnies (and whimpering to be let out so he can play with them.) Izzy (R) prefers napping. "Basically, she's a cat trapped in a dog's body."
Saeed Ahmed
Bello (L) loves staring out the sliding door at deer and bunnies (and whimpering to be let out so he can play with them.) Izzy (R) prefers napping. "Basically, she's a cat trapped in a dog's body."

Mak, 5

Mak loves ripping apart packing material when left alone and dislikes garbage trucks and WMATA buses.
Lisa Weiner
Mak loves ripping apart packing material when left alone and dislikes garbage trucks and WMATA buses.

Bradley, 5

Bradley and Lamb Chop (IYKYK). Bradley loves toys and dislikes deer.
Avery Keatley
Bradley and Lamb Chop (IYKYK). Bradley loves toys and dislikes deer.

Podrick, 2

Jill Craig
Podrick likes peanut butter, hanging out with his cat friend, and ignoring his extensive obedience training to jump on house guests. He dislikes car rides, squeaky toys, and being forced to undergo obedience training.

Ruby, 8 months

Ruby loves belly rubs and posing for pictures for her forthcoming campaign website (Ruby 2022!)
Nina Kravinsky
Ruby loves belly rubs and posing for pictures for her forthcoming campaign website (Ruby 2022!)

Honorary Mention:

Nipper, ~ 50 years young

Nipper loves radio and dislikes everyone working from home.
Jennifer Kerr
Nipper loves radio and dislikes everyone working from home (fewer treats.)

Nipper is NPR's unofficial mascot, "goodest boy", news hound and office pet. Nipper likes to frequent the dog park next to NPR's Washington, D.C. HQ. Here's a video from one of his (pre-pandemic) visits.

And in case this is not enough adorable public radio pups — our friends at NPR Extra have an extensive thread featuring NPR doggos that is sure to bring you joy!

Cat people: National Cat Day is Oct. 29. Mark your calendars!


A Baby Born To Mom Fleeing Afghanistan Is Named After The Evacuation Flight

Posted August 26, 2021 at 10:45 AM EDT

A baby Afghan girl born during a U.S. evacuation flight has a unique name to match her unique birth story: She's been named 'Reach', after the aircraft's call sign, Reach 828.

Reach was born Aug. 21 in the cargo bay of a C-17 Globemaster plane en route to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. The family evacuated from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

According to the U.S. Air Mobility Command, the baby's mother went into labor during the flight and began experiencing life-threatening complications from low blood pressure. In response, the pilot reduced the jet's altitude, which lowered the plane's air pressure and stabilized the mother.

Once the plane landed in Germany, the mother safely delivered the child in the cargo bay of the aircraft. Military Times reports other evacuees shielded the mother with scarves to give her some privacy.

Gen. Tod Wolters told reporters the baby is actually one of three born during the evacuations.

Only Reach was born on the cargo plane itself, though, the other two babies were delivered at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Wolters reports all babies are doing well.


How These Veterans Feel Watching Afghanistan Fall

Posted August 26, 2021 at 10:07 AM EDT
A person wearing U.S. military gear hands a bottle of water to a man in blue clothing, standing in a line of people against a brown exterior wall.
Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps via Getty Images/U.S. Central Command Public Affairs
Getty Images Europe
A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit passes out water to evacuees at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has been an especially fraught situation to witness for the many U.S. veterans who served there.

Paige Pfleger of member station WPLN in Nashville spoke to several of them about what they're thinking about in this moment. Read and listen to the full story here.

U.S. Veterans struggling with the news out of Afghanistan can talk to a counselor at the Veterans Crisis hotline. The number is 1-800-273-8255.

Timothy Griffin did a tour in Afghanistan under an Obama-era program, where he learned Pashto to help Americans and Afghans better communicate.

He believes it's time for the U.S. withdraw, but wishes it had done more for the people being left behind. He says he hasn't slept in days, staying up at night to bridge the time difference with the translators he working alongside.

"Some of them are trapped in Kabul trying to get on one of those planes," Griffin says. "Some of them are, unfortunately, too far away from Kabul to even attempt to get out." He's trying to get their names in front of politicians and the State Department.

Alex Dudley spent six months in Zabul Province in 2010.

When Dudley heard the news, he immediately thought of one of his friends and fellow soldiers who died by suicide years ago.

"If we hadn't been over there, he'd still be alive," Dudley says. "It's kind of hard to talk about."

Ross Schambon served in Afghanistan, where he was a military sniper in his brigade combat team.

He's critical of how President Biden handled the withdrawal, but prefers not to revisit his memories of the war now.

"I've got my kids to think about," he explains. They are 6 years old and 10 months old — and, he says, his future.

Local Hero

A Man Drowns In Lake Michigan Trying To Save Two Children

Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:50 AM EDT

A man drowned in Lake Michigan while trying to save two children struggling in the water, officials said.

The man, identified as Thomas J. Walker, was at the lake with his relatives over the weekend, visiting from Missouri.

When two boys, who were playing in the waters by some large rocks, began struggling, he jumped in, the sheriff's office in Wisconsin's Racine County said in a Facebook post.

The man was able to pull the children out of the water, but he did not emerge, the post said.

About an hour later, rescue crews recovered the man's body and he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

In a subsequent post, the sheriff's office shared a message from the man's family in which they described the 40-year-old Walker as a “kind soul” who was “an amazing uncle to his niece and nephews.”

“[H]ow we lost him is a testament to how great an uncle and all-around guy he was. [We] never met a person who didn't like him. He is missed greatly,” the statement said.


We're Expecting A Ruling Tomorrow On The Fate Of The Company Behind Oxycontin

Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:38 AM EDT
A sign with a Purdue logo and "One Stamford Forum" stands in front of an office building with many grey and silver windows, against a blue sky with several clouds.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn., is pictured in 2019.

A federal bankruptcy judge says he will issue a ruling tomorrow in the case of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.

Members of the Sackler family, who own the company, maintain that they've done nothing wrong but will pay some $4.3 billion and give up ownership of the bankrupt firm — in exchange for immunity from civil lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, for themselves and a long list of their associates.

Supporters of the bankruptcy plan (which include many state and local governments) say it will provide billions of dollars in aid to addiction treatment and health care programs in the years ahead. Critics (including the U.S. Justice Department) say it doesn't do enough to hold the Sacklers accountable or allow victims to seek justice. Here's more on what victims and their family members have to say.

Judge Robert Drain indicated yesterday that he's likely to approve the plan, but also demanded last-minute changes to limit the legal protections that would be granted to the Sacklers.

NPR's addiction correspondent Brian Mann has been following all of the twists and turns of this case, as well as the important context behind it. Read his latest for more on why the judge is pushing back. Plus, follow along with his live tweets of yesterday's closing arguments here:


New Weekly Unemployment Claims Rise Slightly

Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:27 AM EDT

The number of people filing new unemployment claims rose 4,000 to 353,000 in the week ended Aug. 21. The numbers for the previous week were revised up by 1,000 to 349,000.

Still, despite the rise, the longer-term trend still continues to show an improving labor market. The so-called four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility over a longer period of time, fell 11,500 to 366,500, marking the lowest since the pandemic began last year.

The report comes a day before Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is due to give a virtual speech to an annual Fed conference that usually takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyo., but is taking place online this year.

Powell is expected to discuss the economy in the highly anticipated speech as the delta variant, supply chain issues and difficulties in recruiting workers threaten a strong economic recovery earlier this year.

As of Aug. 7, 12 million people were getting some kind of help, up 182,000 from the previous week. That includes 8.8 million on pandemic programs that are set to expire soon.

NPR Newscast

Workers At Nabisco (Of Oreo And Ritz Cracker Fame) Are Now On Strike In 5 States

Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT
A shelf holds two stacks of blue boxes with "Oreo" and a large image of the black and white cookie on them.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Employees of Nabisco, the company behind Oreos and other snack foods, are on strike in Oregon, Illinois, Colorado, Virginia and Georgia.

Hundreds of unionized workers at Nabisco — maker of Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz crackers — are on strike across Oregon, Illinois, Colorado, Virginia and Georgia.

Their union — the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International — is negotiating a new contract with Nabisco's owner, Mondelez International, and workers say the company is asking for concessions at a time when Nabisco snacks are in huge demand.

Workers say the company is making unfair demands, citing one proposal that could mean some shifts of up to 12 hours without overtime pay, but fewer days a week.

Another would make new hires pay more for health insurance than other staff.

Workers also want Nabisco to restore their pensions, which switched to 401(k) plans a few years ago.

Mondelez International says it wants to bargain in good faith but also modernize decades-old language in the contract.

Here & Now from NPR and member station WBUR has more on the growing strike here.


Veterans Can Train, Adopt Service Dogs Under New Law Signed By Biden

Posted August 26, 2021 at 9:10 AM EDT
Morgan, a military service dog, stands on her hind legs for her handler before press conference for H.R. 1448, Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act outside the U.S. Capitol Building on May 13, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Morgan, a military service dog, stands on her hind legs for her handler before press conference for H.R. 1448, Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act outside the U.S. Capitol Building on May 13.

A new program through the Department of Veterans Affairs aims to connect service dogs in training with veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The effort was years in the making and became a reality on Wednesday when President Biden signed the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act into law during a ceremony attended by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

“We know service dogs are a proven life-changing and life-saving form of therapy for our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., in a statement.

“With this new law, we are addressing the high-cost barrier that prevents many from accessing these incredible dogs,” Sherrill, a Navy veteran, added.

Under the law, the VA will partner with nonprofit organizations for a pilot program in which veterans will be able to train aspiring service dogs. The dogs will learn how to shield a veteran from an overwhelming crowd or wake them up if they're having a nightmare, lawmakers said.

At the end of the program, the veteran trainers may adopt their canine pupils.

As many as 30% of veterans who served in conflicts over the last several decades suffer from PTSD, and an average of 20 veterans die by suicide each day, the lawmakers said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Press 1 if you're a veteran.

Haiti Earthquake

What It's Like To Deliver Aid In Haiti After The Devastating Quake

Posted August 26, 2021 at 8:59 AM EDT
Men in U.S. military fatigues unload cardboard boxes from a helicopter in a field of grass and dirt.
Octavio Jones for NPR
A U.S. Army helicopter unit unloaded boxes of humanitarian aid to the remote town of Baraderes, Haiti on Wednesday.

Isolated communities in Haiti are still struggling to get help more than 10 days after a deadly earthquake shook the country. Sometimes the only way to rural areas is by helicopter; roads that were already in poor condition are now blocked by landslides and cracks from the quake.

NPR’s Carrie Kahn and producer Christina Cala flew on a U.S. Army helicopter yesterday to see how aid delivery works. The pilot told her the biggest challenge is takeoff and landing. Here’s how Kahn describes the trip to NPR’s Morning Edition:

We are flying in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter — one of the heaviest lifting aircraft. We are wedged in there with a six-person crew and nearly 10,000 pounds of rice.

“The crew is heading out of the capital's international airport for the south. It's a 30-minute ride by air, but hours by land on a good day. Plans are to drop the rice in two different communities cut off by the quake. One along the coast, but the other, Baraderes, is tucked in a small valley surrounded by steep mountains."

People gather near a collapsed house in Las Cayes, Haiti, on Aug. 20.
Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright via Getty Images
Getty Images South America
People gather near collapsed houses on Aug. 20 in Les Cayes, Haiti. Rescue efforts continue among destroyed homes since the quake struck on Aug. 14 and killed more than 2,000 people.

“[The pilot] says the town's houses, made of concrete blocks with tin roofs, are very close to the edge of the soccer field — his landing target. He says they are no match for the hurricane-force winds the Chinook's rotors stir up."

“As he eases the aircraft down, no homes are hurt. Hundreds of residents rush to the edges of the field as five soldiers toss out the boxes filled with rice.”

🎧 Listen to the story here. Plus, check out this story from Kahn and NPR's Becky Sullivan — it has more details on the efforts, and a ton of photos.


This Tennessee Mom Is Giving Back To Her Community By Braiding Kids' Hair For Free

Posted August 26, 2021 at 8:27 AM EDT
Side-by-side photos showing aerial views of three girls with braided hair.
Brittany Starks
Three girls pose for photos after getting their hair braided by Brittany Starks and other volunteers.

When Brittany Starks posted in a Nashville-area Facebook group offering to braid children's hair for free, she thought she'd be helping just a handful of families cross an item off their back-to-school checklist.

"As anyone who's ever gotten their hair braided can tell you, it's an amazing deal: typically, getting your hair braided can cost hundreds of dollars and involve spending around five to six hours at a braiding salon, if not longer," NPR's Sharon Pruitt-Young writes. Plus, it greatly cuts down on styling time in the morning.

The five or seven customers she expected turned out to be 35 — and counting. She and a growing group of volunteers have done hair at churches, in braiding shops and in house calls.

Their services aren't just saving grateful parents a lot of time and stress. They're also providing a much-needed confidence boost for students heading back into classrooms as the pandemic rages.

As Pruitt-Young reports, Stark — a single mom of two who works three jobs — was inspired to make her offer after experiencing an unexpected act of generosity herself.

Read the touching story here.


What To Expect From Biden's First Meeting With Israel's New Prime Minister

Posted August 26, 2021 at 8:02 AM EDT
Two men wearing suits sit in chairs on either side of a small table, in front of an alternating row of American and Israeli flags.
Olivier Douliery/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is meeting with President Biden today.

Both Bennett and Biden are seeking a fresh start after years of troubled relations between U.S. Democratic leadership and former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. But that won't be without its challenges: Bennett's first official foreign trip takes him to a U.S. marked by new foreign policy priorities and changing public opinion of Israel over its occupation of the West Bank.

NPR's Daniel Estrin flew to the U.S. with Bennett, and walks us through what we need to know ahead of the high-stakes meeting. Click here for his analysis, and scroll on to read what he told Morning Edition.

What approach are the two leaders taking? Bennett has made it clear he aims to bring "a new spirit of cooperation" — in fact, Estrin says, "he has repeated that phrase so many times on this trip I've lost count." While Bennett's stance on issues like Iran and Palestinians are actually similar to those of his predecessor, he sounds eager to find ways to work together with the U.S. As Estrin points out, that's exactly what Bennett's own government is all about: a narrow coalition of the left wing and right wing trying to work together to keep Netanyahu from returning to power. Biden has the same agenda, Estrin adds, and wants to keep any disagreements to private conversation, not public confrontation.

Where do they stand on addressing the occupation of Palestinian territories? "Whenever we reporters ask Bennett's staff about the Palestinians, it feels like it's the elephant in the room and they kind of sigh," Estrin says. Bennett does not believe in a Palestinian state (Biden does), and has said he will allow Israeli settlements in the West Bank to grow (which the U.S. opposes). He says peace talks with Palestinians will not happen on his watch, but that he's willing to work to stabilize the Palestinian economy and prevent violence — and Biden is on board with all of that.

What about reviving the Iran nuclear deal? Biden wants the U.S. to get back in, while Bennett is more skeptical. He would prefer an arrangement where Israel and the U.S. work together on how to curb Iran's uranium enrichment, which has grown since the U.S. pulled out of the deal in 2018. Bennett sees this as a time to pressure Iran, Estrin says, not make deals with it.

🎧 Hear more from Estrin.

Member Station Reports
Colorado Public Radio

What Some Service Members In Colorado Are Saying About The Military's Vaccine Mandate

Posted August 26, 2021 at 7:48 AM EDT

Now that the Pfizer vaccine has the Food and Drug Administration's full approval, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made the Pentagon's stance on vaccinationscrystal clear: All service members are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine immediately.

"Our vaccination of the Force will save lives," Austin wrote in the memorandum, noting the mandate "is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people."

When it comes to opinions on the COVID-19 vaccine, some troops from Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado agree with Austin, but others are still hesitant, even as the vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious complications from the coronavirus — and the vast majority of people who are hospitalized now are unvaccinated.

Dan Boyce from Colorado Public Radio caught up with some service members near the base.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dave Silva is full-on pro-COVID-19 vaccine. “Well, I think it’s absolutely essential for the safety of our force," Silva said.

Jeanie is a 25-year-old mechanic on the base, who doesn't want her last name used for fear of punishment from supervisors for speaking out. “I just feel like something’s wrong with this vaccine if they’re trying to shove it down everyone’s throats,” she said. “I feel as if I’m healthy already, so why would I want to put that bad stuff in my body, ya know?”

She hasn’t had the COVID shot yet, but says she will soon now that the vaccine mandate is in place.

“I mean, I kinda belong to the government, so I’m gonna have to get it, unless I can figure something else out."
Jeanie, a service member on the COVID-19 vaccine

Listen to the full story.

You can read more from CPR's Dan Boyce here. And learn more about the persistence of disinformation around the vaccines here.


Gov. Abbott Keeps Texas’ Ban On Vaccine Mandates Despite Full FDA Approval Of Pfizer Shot

Posted August 26, 2021 at 7:42 AM EDT
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pictured on June 8, announced Wednesday that he would maintain the state's ban on governmental vaccine mandates. Abbott, a Republican, said he would refer the issue to the Texas legislature.
Montinique Monroe/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, pictured on June 8, announced Wednesday that he would maintain the state's ban on governmental vaccine mandates. Abbott, a Republican, said he would refer the issue to the Texas legislature.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced his decision to maintain a state ban on vaccine mandates just days after the Food and Drug Administration gave its full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

An executive order Abbott signed on Wednesday bars any governmental entity in Texas from mandating that people receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Two days earlier, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, replacing the emergency use authorization it had had for months. The move is expected to clear the way for more vaccine mandates across the country.

Texas is also in the midst of another surge of coronavirus cases, with hospital ICUs nearing full capacity.

Abbott, a Republican, said he added the issue of governmental vaccine mandates to the Texas Legislature’s special agenda.

"Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas," Gov. Abbott said in a statement.

Humanitarian Aid

Afghanistan's Existing Food Crisis Is Set To Worsen

Posted August 26, 2021 at 7:36 AM EDT

Afghanistan has a population of 40 million, and 1 in 3 are going hungry. That’s 14 million people, including 2 million children who are malnourished, according to the World Food Programme, a food-assistance branch of the United Nations.

The WFP has been in Afghanistan for 60 years. Country director Mary Ellen McGroarty warns that this "beautiful, tormented country" stands on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

"The combined effects of drought and the coronavirus pandemic, on top of years of conflict, look set to worsen the food security situation," she told NPR's Morning Edition.

Afghans stand next to food donations from the World Food Programme in Jalalabad in April.
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images
Afghans receive food donations from the World Food Programme for displaced people during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Jalalabad in April. The food crisis threatens to get worse with the withdrawal of foreign troops and the Taliban takeover of the country.

The outlook is even bleaker after the Taliban took control of major cities including Kabul, the capital.

"We knew things were going to change with the withdrawal of foreign troops, but the pace at which everything happened took us all by surprise," McGroarty said.

The WFP has access to most of the country and has operated in Taliban-controlled areas for years, navigating conflicts. McGroarty said the Taliban have assured them their work will continue, because they understand Afghans are in a desperate situation.

At the same time, there are still many unknowns. And the harsh Afghan winter is coming. "Uncertainty casts a long shadow on our ability to continue our life-saving work," McGroarty said.

The organization hopes to raise $200 million.

"The people of Afghanistan have a continuity that precedes war — and so they will continue through this period, too. But to do so, they need us to stand with them. Perhaps more than ever," McGroarty said.