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12:35 PM ET, August 20, 2021


 Top Items: 
‘This Is Actually Happening’  —  President Joe Biden and his inner circle were in an ebullient mood.  —  It was Wednesday morning, Aug. 11, and they were basking in the glow of back-to-back legislative wins.  The day before, the Senate had passed a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
David Ignatius / Washington Post:
The Best and Brightest never recovered from Vietnam.  Will Biden's team fare better?  —  The Afghanistan disaster has rocked the Biden administration's foreign policy team, which may need months to regain its sense of balance and momentum.  —  Senior officials don't have time or emotional bandwidth …
Relative of DW journalist killed by the Taliban  —  Journalists and their families are in grave danger in Afghanistan.  The Taliban have no compunction about carrying out targeted killings as the case of a DW journalist shows.  —  Taliban fighters hunting a DW journalist have shot dead …
Vivian Salama / Wall Street Journal:
Confidential State Department Cable in July Warned of Afghanistan's Collapse  —  About two dozen State Department officials in Kabul sent an internal memo to Secretary of State Antony Blinken  —  WASHINGTON — About two dozen State Department officials serving at the embassy in Kabul sent …
Michael Crowley / New York Times:
Trump's Deal With the Taliban Draws Fire From His Former Allies  —  The former president and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are attacking President Biden over Afghanistan even as their own policy faces harsh criticism.  —  WASHINGTON — Days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 …
Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times:
Encounter with the Taliban: Punched, detained — then offered an energy drink  —  FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT AND PHOTOGRAPHER  —  When I headed out to work, it had been five days since the Taliban took over Kabul.  And it was Independence Day, a national holiday, when Afghans celebrate their country's independence from Britain in 1919.
Discussion: The Daily Beast and Insider
Ed Morrissey / HotAir:
CNN's Ward: Getting inside the Kabul airport “one of the more harrowing things I have experienced”  —  The good news: CNN's Clarissa Ward and her crew have finally made it into the airport in Kabul.  The bad news: It's not a heck of a lot better inside.  “There isn't a coherent mechanism yet …
Biden's Afghanistan policy counts on issue fading in importance for war-weary voters
Patrick Reilly / New York Post:
Oklahoma mom of 11 rescues members of Afghan all-girls robotics team
The Taliban's mask slips further after militants kill journalist's relative
Discussion: Just Security
Facing backlash, foreign powers try to speed Afghanistan exodus
Discussion: Amnesty International
New York Times:
How News Organizations Got Afghan Colleagues Out of Kabul
Kate Storey / Esquire:
Inside Clarissa Ward's 19-Hour Days Reporting From Kabul
EXCLUSIVE FBI finds scant evidence U.S. Capitol attack was coordinated-sources  —  The FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result, according to four current and former law enforcement officials.
New York Times:
The new ‘Jeopardy!’ host, Mike Richards, quits.  —  Mike Richards, who was named the new host of “Jeopardy!” last week, is abruptly leaving the role as the beloved game show confronts a roiling controversy over offensive and sexist comments he made on a podcast several years ago.
Paul Krugman / New York Times:
The Quiet Rage of the Responsible  —  Let's talk for a minute about Lollapalooza.  After canceling in-person events last year, a few weeks ago Chicago once again hosted the long-running music festival, drawing more than 385,000 people.  Many feared that the huge, raucous crowds could produce a coronavirus superspreader event.
Michael Gerson / Washington Post:   Govs. DeSantis and Abbott, in denial and risking lives, have betrayed the public trust
Nick Visser / HuffPost:
Texas Stops Enforcing Ban On Mask Mandates In Schools Amid Lawsuits
Mac Stipanovich / Tampa Bay Times:
Ron DeSantis has ‘made a monumental mess of masking in public schools’ | Column
Discussion: Raw Story
Star Tribune:
Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan forced out amid scandal  —  She casts deciding vote to give herself $38K in severance  —  Minnesota Republican leaders forced Jennifer Carnahan out as head of the state party on Thursday, turning a page on a scandal that threatened to consume GOP politics ahead of a pivotal election year.
J. Patrick Coolican / Minnesota Reformer:
Carnahan resigns as chair of Minnesota Republican Party
Discussion: Raw Story and WCCO | CBS Minnesota
EXCLUSIVE: Logically Identifies GhostEzra, Florida Man Behind World's ‘Largest Antisemitic Internet Forum’  —  Logically, as part of our mission to understand and counter harmful online misinformation, conducts continuous research into the networks, channels, and actors that play an outsized role …
Anne Applebaum / The Atlantic:
Liberal Democracy Is Worth a Fight  —  Of all the empty, pointless statements that are periodically repeated by Western politicians, none is more empty and pointless than this one: “There can be no military solution to this conflict.”  That was what Ban Ki-moon, then the UN secretary-general …
Stuart / The Roanoke Star News:
Roanoke College Poll: McAuliffe Holds Lead in Race for Governor: Economy / COVID Most Important Issues  —  Former Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe holds an 8-percentage point lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin (46%-38%) with 13% undecided in race for Virginia governor, according to The Roanoke College Poll.
Discussion: Blue Virginia
Bob Christie / Associated Press:
Appeals court orders Arizona Senate audit records released  —  PHOENIX (AP) — An appeals court on Thursday rejected an effort by the Arizona Senate to keep secret records of its ongoing review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County that are in the possession of the contractors conducting the recount.
Ryan Randazzo / Arizona Republic:
Arizona Senate must turn over Cyber Ninjas records related to election audit, Appeals Court says
Jim Swift / The Bulwark:
Josh Mandel Lets the Mask Slip, a Little  —  He doesn't believe what he's saying, at least not all of it.  And that's sad.  —  When I watched this interview with Josh Mandel by Josh Rultenberg, a local reporter for Spectrum News 1 in Ohio, it made me a little sad.  Here's the clip:
Sam Karlin / The Advocate:
‘Locate us a ring’: Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins challenges Facebook user to a fight  —  Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins has once again threatened someone on Facebook with violence.  —  The Lafayette Republican, who has a long history of bizarre social media antics …
Discussion: Talking Points Memo
Daily Mail:
Fox News' Greg Gutfeld is crowned new king of late night television after he scores 220K MORE viewers than Colbert's Late Show on CBS  — Comedian Greg Gutfeld's show pulled in the most viewers during Tuesday's late night time slot with about 2.12 million  — Gutfeld! debuted in April …
As Cullman prepares for Trump rally, city declares COVID state of emergency  —  With Cullman Regional experiencing overcrowding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Cullman will be providing more first responders to this weekend's Alabama GOP rally.  —  The Cullman City Council passed …
Discussion: The Hill, POLITICUSUSA and Raw Story
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 More Items: 
Robin Bravender / Insider:
Ted Cruz has been doling out jobs to his cousins. His office hurls ‘political slime job’ complaint when asked about it.
Defense One:
It Really Was 800+ Afghans on That Plane. They Forgot to Count the Kids.
Roger Sollenberger / The Daily Beast:
Newest House GOP Star Teams Up With Nutty MAGA Conspiracy Theorist
Discussion: Raw Story
Katherine Tully-McManus / Politico:
Capitol rattled by standoff ahead of House's return next week
Emma Green / The Atlantic:
Why America's Largest Teachers' Union Refuses to Support Vaccine Mandates
 Earlier Items: 
Adam Serwer / The Atlantic:
Demography Is Not Destiny  —  In the more racist corners of the mainstream right …
New York Times:
China's Vaccine Diplomacy Stumbles in Southeast Asia
Brooks Barnes / New York Times:
Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?
Discussion: Gawker and HuffPost UK