Morning Wire: U.S. Veterans Take Afghanistan Evacuation Into Their Own Hands, Texas House Passes Election Integrity Law, Mississippi Threatens New COVID Restrictions

It’s Monday, August 30th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast here.

1) U.S. Veterans Take Afghanistan Evacuation Into Their Own Hands

The Topline: As the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan draws to a close, the concern over American citizens and Afghan allies being left behind is growing. In response, some Americans have taken the evacuation effort into their own hands.

Quote Of The Day:  

“After August 31st, we believe that we have substantial leverage to hold the Taliban to its commitments to allow safe passage for American citizens, legal permanent residents, and the Afghan allies…”

– National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

Evacuation Efforts

If needed, the United States will continue evacuations up until President Joe Biden’s deadline of August 31st, with the Pentagon saying they will prioritize the removal of U.S. troops and military equipment in the final days.

According to the State Department, there are still hundreds of U.S. citizens trying to leave Afghanistan. 

John Moore/Staff/Getty Images

Operation Pineapple Express

A group of U.S. special forces soldiers, including retired Green Berets and SEAL team commanders, secretly rescued hundreds of members of Afghanistan’s Special Forces and their families. 

After one of the Afghan commandos they had served with told them he was on the run from the Taliban, and his visa had not been approved when the Taliban took over on August 14th, the soldiers took action.

The group, using the codeword “pineapple,” began operating outside the U.S. military perimeter around the Kabul airport, defying the Biden administration’s restrictions.

During night-time operations, they unofficially worked with U.S. military personnel and the U.S. embassy to transport people to safety at the airport. As of Thursday last week, the group said they had rescued as many as 500 Afghan allies and their families.

Tamir Kalifa/Stringer/Getty Images

2) Texas House Passes Election Integrity Law

The Topline:  Last week, the Texas House passed an election integrity bill after a lengthy showdown between the state’s Democrats and Republicans. 

The Background

In May, Democrats staged a walkout in an attempt to block votes on certain bills before the legislative session ended. After Republican Governor Greg Abbott called a special session to force a vote, Democrats fled the state, boarding private planes headed for Washington, D.C., to keep the Republicans from having enough members to approve the bills. 

They were gone for almost six weeks, but two weeks ago, enough Democrats came back to the state house for business to resume. The legislature passed the election integrity bill last Thursday night after twelve hours of debate and gave it final approval on Friday.

What’s In The Bill?

The bill is aimed at preventing fraud in state election conduct. It increases criminal penalties for acting in a way that goes against election law and also essentially bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, which one county in the state used last year. 

The bill also extends early voting time periods and ensures that those in line to vote when a polling place closes will still be allowed to vote.

Now the bill heads to the Senate where it’s expected to pass and later be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.

Big Picture

After the 2020 presidential election, numerous Republican state legislatures — and members of Congress in D.C.— have looked to pass legislation addressing the nation’s concerns about election security. 

At the same time, Democrats have tried to federalize election laws, in an effort to remove what they call “barriers” to voting, including requiring ID at the polls. Under the Democrat plans, states would have to receive “preclearance,” or pre-approval, from the federal government to change their voting laws. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled against parts of this preclearance method. 

Nenad Stojnev via Getty Images

3) Mississippi Threatens New COVID Restrictions

The Topline: The Mississippi State Health Department recently issued an alert telling people who have tested positive for Covid to isolate for 10 days or face severe consequences.

Quote Of The Day:

 “None of their interventions can really affect the trajectory of this virus, but they seem to think that by issuing threats, they look as though they’re doing something about it.”

– Douglas Carswel, President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Mississippi COVID Numbers

Only 45% of Mississippians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and just 37% are fully vaccinated. The state’s hospitals currently have more COVID-19 patients than at any other point in the pandemic. 

As of last week, the state had 1,660 patients in the hospital. Of those, 457 were in the ICU and 324 were on ventilators.

New Warnings

Mississippi had a law on the books criminalizing willfully failing to quarantine if one has a life-threatening communicable disease, but the state is now being more aggressive. 

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told Mississippi residents last week if they don’t isolate after testing positive, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. 

He told people if they test positive, they must isolate for 10 days and confine themselves to a “specific room away from others in your home.” He suggested using a separate bathroom if possible and wearing a mask around family members.

Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Hurricane Ida

On Sunday, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana. The Category 4 storm is the most powerful on record to hit the state, matching the strength of Hurricane Laura last year.

Australia COVID Restrictions

Beginning September 13th, fully vaccinated Australians are permitted to spend up to one hour of leisure time outside their home in groups of up to five fully vaccinated people, including children. Masks must be worn at all times and gatherings must be within 5 kilometers of home. This extra hour of outdoor time is in addition to the single hour the government allows for outdoor exercise. 

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