MORNING WIRE: Taliban Reportedly Holding Evacuation Flights ‘Hostage’, Majority Of Americans Did Not Pay Taxes In 2020, Theranos Trial Begins

1) Taliban Reportedly Holding Evacuation Flights ‘Hostage’

The Topline: According to multiple reports, six evacuation flights full of Afghans who’d worked with the U.S. during the war are being held up by the Taliban at an airport in Northern Afghanistan. 

Quote of the day: “The Taliban will not let them leave the airport… They’re going to demand more and more, whether it be cash or legitimacy as the government of Afghanistan.” 

Rep. Michael McCaul, Member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee 

Background 

Following the U.S. departure from Afghanistan, a growing number of NGO’s and other private organizations have stepped up their efforts to evacuate Americans, green card holders, and vulnerable Afghans. 

One group, PlanB, had reportedly organized six charter flights out of Mazar-e Sharif airport in the northern part of the country. However, shortly before the planes were set to depart, the Taliban intervened and held them up. 

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 02: Taliban members set checkpoints around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghan capital Kabul on September 02, 2021.

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Who’s to blame?

The Taliban has denied reports that they’re holding the planes hostage, calling such accusations “propaganda.” However, sources involved in the situation told the Daily Wire the Taliban is in fact responsible, and is seeking payment of “tens of millions of dollars,” among other things. 

In an email sent to members of Congress, the State Department acknowledged that flights had been detained by the Taliban, but implied there wasn’t much they could do because all American personnel had been ordered out of the country by the Biden administration. 

One State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon that without an on-the-ground presence, they’re unable to verify whether the planes have Americans on board, making any rescue efforts increasingly difficult. 

Remember: The United States no longer controls the airspace in Afghanistan, making evacuation flights risky.

2) Report: Majority Of Americans Did Not Pay Taxes In 2020

The Topline: According to a recent report, an estimated 107 million Americans paid no income tax to the federal government in 2020, representing a substantial increase in the number of citizens who are no longer taxpayers. 

The Report

In 2020, 61% of all Americans paid no federal income tax, according to an estimate from the Tax Policy Center – a 40% increase in one year.

The biggest factor in this change was unemployment, as COVID-19 lockdowns put tens of millions of Americans out of work, meaning they had no income to tax. 

Recent changes in the tax code also reduced Americans’ tax liability. The three rounds of stimulus checks – up to $3,200 a person – were refundable tax credits. 

The government also expanded tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and tax write-offs for childcare. 

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 1: Current federal tax forms are distributed at the offices of the Internal Revenue Service November 1, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. A presidential panel today recommended a complete overhaul of virtually every tax law for individuals and businesses. (Photo Illustration by

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Will This Change?

Many economists expect the tax picture to return to normal as soon as some of these temporary tax changes expire next year. In 2022, the share of families paying no federal income tax is projected to fall back to the typical 48%.

Taxpayers By Income 

The top earners pay almost all of the taxes despite claims that the wealthiest Americans don’t “pay their fair share.”

The most recent IRS data from 2018 shows the top 1% of income earners paid more than the bottom 90% percent combined. The top 1% paid 40% of all federal income taxes, while the top 10% paid 71%, and the bottom 50% of taxpayers paid less than 3%. 

Taxes And Political Views

The Pew Research Center found that 60% of families who made less than $30,000 a year favor a bigger government with more spending; 62% of families making more than $75,000 a year favor a smaller government with less spending. 

Remember: Most Americans pay many other taxes. In 2020, Americans paid $1.3 trillion in federal withholding taxes for Social Security and Medicare; $43 billion in gasoline and diesel taxes; $10 billion in taxes on alcohol; $1 a pack in cigarette taxes, which doesn’t include taxes, tolls, and fees from the state and local government, down to the township and school district level. 

3) Theranos Trial Begins

The Topline: The trial of former billionaire and Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes began last week after Holmes was indicted on multiple charges of federal fraud and conspiracy. 

The Theranos Case

For years, Holmes portrayed Theranos and their blood testing machines as breakthrough devices that would revolutionize the medical industry. She claimed her machines could run hundreds of tests with just a finger prick, eliminating the need for painful needles. She also said these tests could help people detect potential future health problems and save lives. 

However, her claims were untrue. Theranos’ machines didn’t work properly and could only run a small number of tests and the tests were highly inaccurate, leading some patients to believe they had serious illnesses when they didn’t. 

Theranos was using traditional blood analyzers to come up with many of its results to make it look like their machines were accurate. 

The company had a high turnover rate for employees. Many reportedly left because they realized what the company was doing and found it unethical and dangerous, but were unable to speak openly about the situation due to nondisclosure agreements. 

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and chief executive officer of Theranos Inc., speaks during the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elizabeth Holmes

Holmes was persuasive and charming. She was able to get powerful people like Henry Kissinger and James Mattis to join her board, and she convinced Rupert Murdoch to invest over $100 million in the company. 

Holmes Charged

Holmes was charged with fraud, and court documents unsealed on August 28th show she is planning to accuse former Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani – with whom she had a romantic relationship – of physical and sexual abuse. She plans to claim Sunny controlled how she ate and dressed, monitored her communications, and threw things at her, which she says impaired her judgment.

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Public opinion of Biden tumbles

President Biden’s approval ratings have dipped in the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal. As of this week, aggregate pollster RealClearPolitics logged President Biden’s average approval at 45% with 49% disapproving. Pollster FiveThirtyEight logged the president’s approval at 46% with 48% disapproving. 

New Zealand cracks down on people skirting quarantine rules

New Zealand authorities recently announced that they arrested a man who escaped a quarantine hotel after testing positive for Covid, and that he could face a fine or jail time. The man was arrested about six miles from the hotel, which he left so he could return home. Officials say he was “on the run” for 12 hours. He’s been returned to a quarantine facility. 

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