WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Monday expanded its efforts to assist at-risk Afghan citizens flee Taliban violence as fighting intensifies ahead of the U.S. military pullout at the end of the month.
The State Department said it is widening the scope of Afghans eligible for refugee status in United States to include current and former employees of U.S.-based news organizations, U.S.-based aid and development agencies and other relief groups that receive U.S. funding. Current and former employees of the U.S. government and the NATO military operation who don't meet the criteria for a dedicated program for such workers are also covered.
However, the move comes with a major caveat that may severely limit the number of people who can benefit: applicants must leave Afghanistan to begin the adjudication process that may take 12-14 months in a third country, and the U.S. does not intend to support their departures or stays there.
Wildfire danger eases in Hawaii
Firefighters have gotten more control over a wildfire in Hawaii that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend and destroyed at least two homes on the Big Island, but officials warned strong winds Monday could raise the danger again.
Authorities have lifted evacuation orders but warned they could be reinstated at any time and that people should be ready to go. “It's the biggest (fire) we've ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of the more than 62-square-mile blaze.
Fires in Hawaii are unlike many of those burning in the U.S. West. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires.
302 dead, 50 missing in China flooding
More than 300 people died in recent flooding in central China, authorities said Monday, three times the previously announced toll.
The Henan provincial government said 302 people died and 50 remain missing. The vast majority of the victims were in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, where 292 died and 47 are missing. Ten others died in three other cities, officials said at a news conference in Zhengzhou.
Record rainfall inundated the city July 20, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line. Video posted online showed vehicles being washed away and desperate people trapped in subway cars as the waters rose. Fourteen people died in the subway flooding.
Democrats want McCarthy apology
Several House Democrats have called on House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to apologize to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or resign after audio surfaced of him saying at a weekend fundraiser that it would be “hard not to hit her” with a gavel if he's sworn in as speaker after the 2022 midterm elections.
“Threatening violence against the Speaker of the House is no joke,” tweeted New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “This is the kind of reckless language that led to a violent insurrection.”