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Texas High School Valedictorian Ditches Approved Speech To Slam State’s Strict New Abortion Law

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The controversial law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks after conception, before many women learn they are pregnant.


Viral Valedictorian Speech

This year’s valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas, is receiving widespread praise on social media for defending abortion rights in a now-viral graduation address.

Paxton Smith had previously submitted a speech to school officials that talked about the effects of media on young minds. When it came time to give that speech, however, she scrapped it and instead chose to go after the state’s heartbeat bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed last month.

“I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. We cannot stay silent,” she said n her remarks Sunday.

The bill Smith is referring to goes into effect this September and bans any abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can happen as early as six weeks after conception — when many women are unaware they’re even pregnant.

The controversial legislation makes no exceptions for rape or incest, only medical emergencies. It also allows anyone to sue an abortion provider for as much as $10,000, along with anyone else who helped someone get an abortion.

“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us,” Smith continued.

“I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is, I hope that you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you.”

Reactions From High Profile Figures and School

Smith later told the AP that she expected her microphone to be cut off after ditching her original speech, but it wasn’t.

She also feared her diploma would be withheld, and it wasn’t either, though officials considered it.

Still, the Richardson Independent School District was less than enthusiastic about what she did and issued a statement saying it would review student speech protocols in advance of next year’s ceremonies.

“The content of each student speaker’s message is the private, voluntary expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District or its employees,” it added.

The reaction across social media was far more supportive, with Smith earning applause from celebrities like Sarah Silverman and Olivia Wilde.

“Paxton, thank you for having the courage of your convictions and inspiring Texas with your refusal to accept injustice as the price of participation in civic life. May we all use our place in this democracy to fight for what we believe to be right and follow your example!,” wrote Beto O’Rourke, a former U.S. Representative from Texas.

“This took guts,” Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tweeted.

See what others are saying: (AP News) (CBS News) (Refinery29)

U.S.

Alabama Man Dies After Being Turned Away From 43 Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID Patients, Family Says

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Alabama currently has the second-highest COVID hospitalization average and fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the country.


Full ICUs Allegedly Delay Care for Emergent Cardiac Patient 

The family of an Alabama man who died of heart issues is calling on people to get vaccinated after he was turned away by 43 hospitals in three states while having a cardiac emergency because all of their Intensive Care Units were at maximum capacity with COVID patients.

The man, 73-year-old Ray DeMonia, was taken to Cullman Regional hospital in Alabama on Aug. 23. The next morning — around 12 hours after he was admitted — his daughter said her mother got a call saying that hospital workers were unable to find him a specialized cardiac ICU bed in the area. 

He was eventually transferred to a hospital in Mississippi about 200 miles away and died on Sept. 1, just three days before his birthday.

In DeMonia’s obituary, his family pleaded with people to get the vaccine.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” they wrote. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Rising Hospitalizations

Officials and healthcare providers in Alabama have said DeMonia’s case is not a one-off incident. 

Jennifer Malone, a spokesperson for Cullman Regional, told The Washington Post that situations like this have been an “ongoing problem” reported by doctors at the hospital and others throughout the state.

“When patients are transported to other facilities to receive care that they need, that’s becoming increasingly more difficult because all hospitals are experiencing an increased lack of bed space,” she said.

On Friday, Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that the state’s spike in ICU patients has stabilized some. Still, he added there are not enough ICU beds for the number of patients that need intensive care, many of whom are unvaccinated.

Even with the spikes “stabilizing,” Alabama still has the second-highest COVID hospitalizations in the U.S., according to The Post tracker

The calls from DeMonia’s family for people to get vaccinated also come as Alabama struggles with the country’s fourth-lowest vaccination rate. Despite those figures, top officials in the state are doing little to address the issue.

Last week, after President Joe Biden rolled out a sweeping vaccine mandate for 100 million people and promised he would use his power to circumvent Republican leaders “undermining” relief efforts, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told the president to “bring it on.”

Ivey then doubled down on her refusal to mandate vaccines in her state, where people are being refused emergency hospital care because so many unvaccinated people are in ICU beds.

“You bet I’m standing in the way. And if he thinks he’s going to move me out of the way, he’s got another thing coming,” she said, referring to the mandates as “outrageous” and “overreaching” policies that will “no doubt be challenged in the courts.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (NPR)

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Afghanistan Has Fallen to the Taliban. Here’s What You Need To Know

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In a shocking turn of events, the Taliban have taken the vast majority of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, in just over a week and are now the de facto government.


Lightning Offensive

Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban on Sunday after an offensive that lasted a little over a week saw the group capture every major city and provincial capital.

Taliban leadership posed for interviews from the presidential palace, and in a later statement to Al Jazeera, spokesperson Mohammad Naeem said, “Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen [Taliban]. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years.”

“Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.”

Just before the Taliban arrived, Afghanistan’s former President fled and resigned to avoid “a flood of bloodshed,” and he is reported to have taken massive amounts of cash and luxury vehicles with him. For many, the move serves as an example of why some Afghans didn’t mind the Taliban over the central government due to the latter’s rampant corruption. President Ashraf Ghani first tried to land in Tajikistan but was denied. He is now in Oma with the possibility of counting onto the United States.

In the meantime, there won’t be any kind of interim government, according to the Taliban, which instead opted to become the government with little input from those governed.

While the Taliban control the vast majority of the country and are now the de facto government, there are still small pockets held by Afghan National Army troops, including one just 100 miles northwest of Kabul. It’s believed that Vice President Amrullah Saleh fled there. He announced on Twitter that he would continue the fight for the country and that he was the “legitimate caretaker President.”

How successful that fight will be is unclear, as most encounters over the last month between National Army troops and the Taliban have ended quickly with a Taliban victory.

Airport Chaos

For many Afghans, that’s a minor issue right now because they’re trying to flee the country. Thousands rushed to Kabul airport Monday morning, the last lifeline out of the country after border crossings were closed. In various videos from the scene, gunshots can be heard either from Taliban fighters taking aim at fleeing aircraft or from American forces at the airport shooting over the crowds to slow them.

People are desperately trying to get on flights, which has led to scenes of some waiting in lines or forcefully making their way onto planes. In some of the most dramatic and tragic footage, people are seen attempting to hold onto the wheels and exterior of a plane, only to fall off once it takes off.

At least seven deaths were reported at the airport, most likely from stampeding, people falling off of planes, or possibly even from gunfire by Taliban or security forces.

Currently, American forces have taken over the airport, along with air traffic control, and are directing flights to and from Kabul’s airport. Throughout Monday, evacuations were halted amid the chaos, but they have since resumed. Multiple outlets report that all 10,000 members of the U.S. embassy staff have been evacuated and that 6,000 troops in total will be deployed to secure the location. Yet, the Taliban hasn’t made any serious efforts to interfere with the evacuations.

American authorities plan to evacuate at least 5,000 people a day, including not just Americans but also Afghans who are eligible for a special visa because they worked with U.S. forces. Around 88,000 Afghans qualify for the Special Immigrant Visa, though it’s unclear how many will be able to get out or how long the U.S. will be able to maintain control at the airport. The Pentagon is preparing plans to relocate 30,000 applicants to the U.S. despite not having their paperwork done or vetted, something President Joe Biden said was against the law just a month ago before seemingly reversing course as the situation deteriorated.

The Future

What happens next in Afghanistan remains a mystery. There are fears that the Taliban will return to their strict adherence to Sharia Law as they did before being ousted in 2001. However, the group has made claims to say that they’ve softened their views.

Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters on Monday via a press conference that women in the country “are going to be working with us, shoulder to shoulder with us, and the international community – if they have concerns – we would like to assure them that there is not going to be any discrimination against women, but of course within the frameworks that we have.” 

While they may say that, there are mixed reports that say some areas under Taliban control have already returned to its more strict interpretation of Islamic law and scripture, which probits such behaviors.

Mujahid also went on to urge government officials to return to work, as they will be given a general amnesty.

American Response

For many, there was one statement that was keenly missing for over 36 hours, that of President Biden. By Monday afternoon he finally addressed the public about the situation in Afghanistan and assured the world that the decision for American troops to pull out of the country was the correct one, adding that he didn’t want to pass the problem onto the next president.

The U.S. has also moved to block billions in Afghan reserve funds, effectively cutting off the Taliban from liquid assets. The Biden administration hasn’t closed the possibility of recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, depending on how the group acts in the coming months.

However, the Taliban will likely receive some international recognition from major powers such as Russia and China, neither of which abandoned their embassies and have continued their diplomatic missions in the nation.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (Politico)

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What This Michael B. Jordan Backlash Exposed, Logan Paul, Mark Milley on “White Rage” & Today’s News

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