Today’s Headlines: Taliban takes over Afghanistan

A U.S. helicopter flies over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.
(Rahmat Gul / Associated Press)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Taliban floods Kabul, president flees and Afghan government collapses; U.S. rapidly evacuates

Their takeover of Afghanistan complete, Taliban militants moved into the capital, Kabul, on Sunday and demanded the unconditional surrender of the Afghanistan government against a steady thrum of helicopters ferrying Americans and others attempting to escape the country.

Now that the Taliban has regained power after nearly two decades in the Afghan hinterlands, the average Afghan will face a radically different government, and lifestyle, from the one they have known since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.


How will the Taliban rule? Have they changed?

The rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s government to the Taliban has left American officials increasingly concerned about the potential for a rise in terrorist threats against the United States.

L.A. County coronavirus surge continues as schools prepare to reopen

The Department of Public Health on Sunday recorded 3,356 new cases of the virus and eight related deaths but said the real number is likely higher due to weekend reporting delays.

Officials said last week that the surge fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant is showing some signs of slowing in L.A. County, but that cases are likely to continue rising in the weeks ahead, in part due to ramped-up testing as schools, colleges and universities welcome students back for the new term.

Reporter Emily Alpert Reyes and photographer Francine Orr spent time at a Torrance hospital and found it felt too much like the grim winter that the staff had endured: the surging numbers of patients, the pressure on “real estate” in the hospital, the agonizing talks with relatives. Just like January or February.


Dr. Anita Sircar called it an “existential” kind of sadness and exhaustion, that humanity seemed not to have learned anything after so much death.

More top coronavirus headlines

— Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez denounced the violence that erupted at an anti-vaccination rally in front of City Hall over the weekend resulting in one man being stabbed and a journalist being attacked.

Children are being newly hospitalized for COVID-19 at a record rate in the United States, with numbers surging since the beginning of July as the Delta variant has overtaken the nation.

— The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance recommending that all children wear masks indoors in schools, regardless of vaccination status. But eight mostly Republican-controlled states have enacted laws or issued executive orders prohibiting school districts from requiring students to wear masks.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.


California recall campaign in high gear as Newsom tries to rally Democratic base

With voters beginning to receive ballots and election day less than a month away, California’s historic recall campaign kicked into high gear with Gov. Gavin Newsom rallying the crucial labor and Latino vote and his Republican challengers stepping up their attacks. The ground campaign is expected to be crucial in the coming weeks, with Democrats acknowledging they need a big turnout in the special election to blunt motivated Republicans.

More politics

— Larry Elder, the leading contender vying to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he is recalled, appears to have not properly listed business holdings on a financial disclosure statement designed to reveal a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest, The Times has found.

— James Hormel, the first U.S. ambassador to have come out as gay, and a philanthropist who funded organizations to fight AIDS and promote human rights, has died. He was 88.

Sign up early for our California Politics newsletter, coming in August, to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting, including full coverage of the recall election and the latest action in Sacramento.


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— Eight and a half years ago, Paul Salopek set out on a long walk: 21,000 miles across four continents. He’s still walking. His aim was to replicate, as far as possible, the migration route that carried early humans from Africa through Asia and to the Americas. He’s in China now, roughly halfway. He estimates he’ll need six more years to reach his goal: Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America. Salopek may be among the world’s most devoted practitioners of “slow journalism.”

— For the few Black Americans who live in the California desert, it takes willpower to feel at ease in these playgrounds, and imagination to make them feel like home. But despite isolation and racism, Black Americans feel at home in the colorful barren landscape.

— Op-Ed: What happened at Guantanamo the night Obama was elected. On the big night, he banged and kicked his door and called out to guards. “It’s the Black House! It’s the Black House! Who’s your boss now? It’s the Black House!” He woke everyone up on the block.


— Over the 11 days of the Watts riot coverage and initial follow-up, The Times’ perspective evolved from objectivity to alarm to befuddlement as reporters struggled to comprehend a threat to their city from the sort of racial conflict that until then had largely been limited to America’s southern and northeastern states. The Times’ coverage of the Watts riots had shortcomings, but a later series was a powerful counterweight. Doug Smith looked back at the 1965 riots.

— On Aug. 16, 1964, The Times reviewed “Mary Poppins,” calling it amazing and delightful “even for grownups and squares.” But the critic, Philip K. Scheuer, added that it was not very realistic.



— More than a month after it ignited near a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power station in Feather River Canyon, the relentless Dixie fire shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to threaten homes and strain firefighting resources.

— State prosecutors told an Orange County Superior Court judge that they plan to move forward with a case against a Newport Beach surgeon and his girlfriend, centering it on sexual assault allegations lodged by two women.

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— The death toll from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Haiti soared to at least 1,297 Sunday as rescuers raced to find survivors amid the rubble ahead of a potential deluge from an approaching tropical storm. The devastation could soon worsen with the coming of Tropical Depression Grace, which is predicted to reach Haiti on Monday night.

— A warehouse where fuel was illegally stored exploded in northern Lebanon early Sunday, killing 20 people and burning dozens more in the latest tragedy to hit the Mediterranean country in the throes of a devastating economic and political crisis.


— Against the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement around Britney Spears raising public consciousness about conservatorships, Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” series, is in the middle of a three-way fight over the finances and care of the beloved TV star.


— Producer Carl “Chucky” Thompson, who died Aug. 9 from COVID-19 complications at age 53, produced classic records by the Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige for Bad Boy Records, and his fingerprints are all over some of the greatest hip-hop/R&B records of the ‘90s and 2000s.

“Free Guy,” an action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a background character in a video game, opened better than expected over the weekend, collecting an estimated $28.4 million in ticket sales despite a marketplace challenged by COVID-19.

— If the heat has you feeling like a spent dishrag, then get on up by streaming the absolutely joyous “Summer of Soul” on Hulu. It’s got music. It’s got moves. It’s got mounds of late ‘60s polyester.


— The sobering United Nations-backed report on global warming last week prompted a lot of hand wringing from governments and the general public about fossil fuels. The response from investors in the oil and gas industry? A big shrug.

— Do you love to take photos with a digital camera or smartphone? You may be able to make money with photography. There are dozens of online platforms that could help you sell your photos online.


— On Saturday, after the Washington Post reported that an Ohio woman had obtained a temporary order of protection against him last year, Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer complained on Twitter that the Post had “spent the last six weeks digging into my life … in an effort to create a false narrative.” Bauer’s baseball career is at stake, but that convenient framing obscures the larger story.


— The first fans to see a game at SoFi Stadium were enchanted. With the indoor-outdoor feel and enormous 4D videoboard, you have to be there to take it all in. But the traffic and parking are another story.

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— Donald Trump’s attempt to rebrand Ashli Babbit was in line with his continuing efforts to stoke support for his lie that the election was stolen. But what made his statements particularly disturbing — even for him — was his characterizing the law enforcement officer who pulled the trigger as a murderer, writes LZ Granderson.

— Recently, a dramatic, but inaccurate “public safety” video was released by the San Diego County’s Sheriff Department. And it went viral. The video purported to show a deputy overdosing on fentanyl from brief contact with a white powder at the scene of an arrest.  The reality is you can’t overdose from fentanyl in this way.

— As far as I’m concerned, this whole recall is a big, unpleasant joke, writes columnist Nicholas Goldberg. Set in motion by a group of Trump-loving malcontents, it offers us an extra, unscheduled opportunity to vote against Gov. Gavin Newsom — in the middle of his first term no less — even though he hasn’t done anything particularly wrong. Here’s why I didn’t vote for any of the candidates in California’s joke of a recall election.


— An altercation between a parent of a student and staff members at Sutter Creek Elementary School over the wearing of a face covering marred the first day of the 2021-2022 school year in the Amador County Unified School District. The father, angry over mask mandates, confronted the principal when he saw his daughter walking out of school with a mask. A teacher who intervened was reportedly assaulted and sent to the hospital with injuries. (Ledger Dispatch)


— Smoke from last year’s wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington contributed to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in those states, according to a new study. (National Geographic)

— Billions have been spent to protect the New Jersey Shore. But inch by inch, water is winning the war. (New York Times)


Federal officials arrested a 33-year-old actor in Burbank last week on suspicion of being in the mob that swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Michael Aaron Carico, who has also lived in Florida, was taken into custody Wednesday and charged with entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct, according to federal officials.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Seth Liss. Comments or ideas? Email us at