On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: US kills top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri
He was hidng in Kabul. Plus, national correspondent Deborah Berry reports on people of color winning Congressional races in mostly white districts, 37 people are now dead in Kentucky flooding, the MLB trade deadline is here and travel reporter Zach Wichter says the FAA is looking for the public’s opinion on airplane seat sizes.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.
Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Tuesday, the 2nd of August, 2022. Today, the US killing of al-Qaeda’s leader, plus a rising death toll in Kentucky flooding, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- The uncontrolled McKinney fire continues to burn in Northern California and grew to 86 square miles yesterday. Two people were found dead inside a burned vehicle.
- A Texas militia member was sentenced to more than seven years in prison yesterday for his role in the Capitol riot. It’s the most severe punishment yet in a case related to January 6th.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan. There’s been no official announcement, but local media there are reporting she’ll arrive tonight. She’d become the highest ranking elected US official to visit the self-ruled island in more than 25 years.
President Joe Biden said yesterday that a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend killed top al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the successor of Osama bin Laden. He was bin Laden’s top deputy during 9/11 attacks and helped carry out the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The drone strike came Saturday night in downtown Kabul while he was standing on a balcony at a house. It’s the first known US attack in Afghanistan since Biden ended the 20-year war there last year.
My fellow Americans, on Saturday at my direction, the United States successfully concluded an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed the Amir of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri was bin Laden’s leader. He was with him the whole time. He was his number two man, his deputy at the time the terrorists attacked 9/11. Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer. The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.
We continue to mourn every innocent life that was stolen on 9/11 and honor their memories. To the families who lost fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers on that searing September day, it is my hope that this decisive action will bring one more measure of closure. No day shall erase them from the memory of time.
US intelligence says no one else was killed in the attack. Officials said they learned of al-Zawahiri’s location in April, and Biden first learned of the proposed operation on July 1st. Al-Zawahiri had been the most senior leader of al-Qaeda since 2011. US officials say his death gives a major blow to the organization’s ability to operate, including against the US homeland. Biden said al-Zawahiri was continuing to give strategic direction to the terrorist network and made videos calling for future attacks against the US.
The Egyptian-born doctor was originally bin Laden’s mentor when the two met in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Before that, he served as the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terror group responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat. He also spoke better English than bin Laden and worked behind the scenes to unite various al-Qaeda factions. But some longtime US counter-terrorism officials downplayed the strike’s significance saying that al-Zawahiri, over the past decade, never really filled the void left by bin Laden’s killing. At least five al-Qaeda affiliates now operate mostly independent of one another around the world. Still, al-Zawahiri played a major role in planning 9/11. He led a large group of Egyptians who went to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda. Lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta, was Egyptian along with many of the organization’s top commanders. US officials said Taliban commanders were aware of al-Zawahiri’s location despite previously telling the US they would not give safe haven to al-Qaeda terrorists.
Experts say that more people of color are running for Congress in mostly white districts, and they’re winning. National correspondent, Deborah Berry, has more.
This story focuses on candidates of color or what we’ve learned and reported and found, that there seems to be a growing trend of more candidates of color running in diverse districts and several of them in predominantly white districts. It pointed to particularly in 2018 where we saw an increase in those representatives – well, particularly like Representative Lauren Underwood and Jahana Hayes and Lucy McBath – but it also is continuing, at least experts expect it to continue. Many of the candidates that have come about were kind of after the George Floyd death when there was this big push for more social justice, more diversity. More of those candidates tended to fare well in diverse districts, including Representative Jamaal Bowman out of New York.
Some of the experts, particularly over at the Center for Women and Politics in New Jersey and other experts, say that they expect that the trend will continue. Not just on the Democratic side, let me be clear, they’re saying on both sides of the aisle. Both sides are looking to increase their pool of candidates of color. We could look from Georgia to New York to Illinois and Ohio where we see more candidates of color running in these diverse districts. So they expect that that will be the case. Again, just to be clear, it’s Republicans and Democrats who are recruiting more candidates of color and supporting these candidates, and they’re winning. At least they’re winning in the primaries.
What we also found and reported, and we’ve covered over the years, is that many times many of the candidates who have been elected to Congress have come from communities that particularly were majority-minority districts. That has been the record in the past. But as the demographics change across the country and as the push goes beyond just those districts, that’s where we were seeing more candidates winning, for example again, Lauren Underwood winning in a suburban district in Illinois where it’s 3% African American, not winning once but twice and running again. So the experts and lawmakers are pointing to examples like her and others in showing that not only do they plan to still win in those majority districts, but they’re going to go outside those districts and that they have to, and that it’s doable. People are more receptive to accepting a good candidate no matter what his or her race or ethnicity is.
To read the full article from Deborah and Mabinty Quarshie, find the link in today’s show description.
37 people are now dead in Kentucky flooding, and Governor Andy Beshear said yesterday that hundreds remain unaccounted for. He’s urging residents to stay away from flooded areas and take shelter on higher ground when possible. But more severe storms are expected in the eastern part of the state today, including high winds and more flash flooding. There are also concerns about high temperatures once storms leave, especially for residents who have not found stable shelter yet. Governor Beshear is asking for donation help.
Give us some prayers that the weather that we’re seeing right now doesn’t end up being too bad and that the wind doesn’t knock down too much. Remember, these folks are going to need our help for the days, the weeks, the months and the years to come. You can help by donating to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund.
Many residents have been rescued by helicopter, the National Guard estimates as many as 400. Chief of the US National Guard Bureau General Daniel Hokanson.
When you look at the outset, obviously we use a lot of our rotary-wing helicopters to rescue people, to get to areas that are maybe isolated or cut off. If the weather is really bad, sometimes that limits our ability to get into there. But our air crews have done amazing work to get in there. In fact, they’ve rescued over 400 people by helicopter.
You can find a link to donate and help eastern Kentuckians in today’s show description.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is today at 6:00 PM Eastern Time, but some big deals have already been made. The Seattle Mariners, trying to make the post-season for the first time since 2001, got All-Star pitcher Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds for prospects. The New York Yankees dealt for All-Star outfielder, Andrew Benintendi, from the Kansas City Royals before adding starting pitcher, Frankie Montas, and reliever, Lou Trivino. The Milwaukee Brewers traded away closer, Josh Hader, to the San Diego Padres despite being in first place in their division. But with the deadline approaching, all eyes are on the Washington Nationals and superstar, Juan Soto. They’re reportedly listening to trade offers after being unable to sign him to a contract extension. For updates all day ahead of the deadline, stay with USA TODAY Sports.
Do you think airplane seats are too small? Well, your opinion might be heard. Travel reporter, Zach Wichter, says the FAA is soliciting comments from the public on seat size minimums.
Right now they are soliciting public comments from folks to see what the public thinks about the size of plane seats. Basically, in 2018 when Congress reauthorized the FAA’s funding, which Congress has to do every five years, the Congress ordered the FAA to establish minimum dimensions for airplane seats within a year. Obviously, the FAA has not done that, but as part of this charge from Congress, the FAA was supposed to study it, solicit public comments, and eventually make a rule. They’re obviously kind of behind the eight ball.
Like I said, they were supposed to do this within a year of the 2018 funding package, but they have made some steps towards making this rule. They’ve already conducted some new evacuation tests. To be fair, critics say that the tests that the FAA has conducted are not really sufficient to the problem of densifying airplane cabins. They did not use a real airplane in those tests. They used a mock-up facility that they have in Oklahoma City, and they only had test subjects who were between the ages of 18 and 60, I believe, no one who was disabled. As far as I know, no bags were involved in those. So it wasn’t exactly the same as a real airplane evacuation.
Following those tests, they also, according to the FAA, analyzed nearly 300 real-world evacuations and used the data from that to supplement the results from the tests, which they acknowledged were not representative of a cross-section of the American traveling public. But that was a few years ago now, and this issue has just been languishing since then. The announcement that did come out on Friday is showing that this is still a live issue for the FAA. From here, there’s no guarantee that they’re actually going to make a rule. They still need to solicit public comments. That takes 90 days, and there’s no definite timeline after that for what happens next. They may, at the end of all of this, say, “Well, it’s fine. We don’t actually need a rule. Airplanes are safe.” But the fact that they, after many years of delays, are still soliciting public comments seems to indicate that they are moving in the direction of creating some new policy.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us right here wherever you’re listening every day of the year. If you’re on Apple Podcast, please drop us a rating and review if you have a chance. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.