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A teen spring ritual returns
Siouxland students go vintage for prom
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SERGEANT BLUFF -- When Cale Clausen started looking for his senior prom outfit, he didn’t want a regular rental suit from a store. He preferred something more special.

"I don't like how everybody looks the same," he said. "I like to be my own person."

Clausen likes to wears clothes that he finds cool or interesting. He doesn’t want to just be another person in a suit, he wants individuality.

A '90s Comme Des Garcons pleated blazer and a Japanese embroidered blazer were two prior prom outfits. But the then-junior never got the chance to wear the Comme Des Garcons blazer he picked out for Sergeant Bluff-Luton's 2020 prom.

Across Siouxland, proms were canceled or postponed last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy of Cale Clausen 

Grace Emory and Cale Clausen wore unique, vintage attire for the Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School prom on April 10. Clausen wore a vintage pair of Gucci by Tom Ford bell bottom pants, and Emory wore a 1940s Japanese silk kimono. 

This spring, with cases of the virus dramatically dropping, most area high schools moved forward with their proms, though with some precautions. South Sioux City High School, for example, will host a grand march for seniors and their dates on April 24 at the Mini Dome, but canceled the traditional dance. An After Prom party will take place that evening though.  

In the weeks before Sergeant Bluff-Luton's prom last Saturday, Clausen still wanted a unique look, but hadn’t found something he liked and was running out of time.

Courtesy of Cale Clausen 

Grace Emory and Cale Clausen wore unique, vintage attire for the Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School prom on April 10. Clausen wore a vintage pair of Gucci by Tom Ford bell bottom pants, and Emory wore a 1940s Japanese silk kimono. 

He searched a website called Grailed. The site allows people to shop or sell a variety of brands, including Alexander Wang, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and more. He said Grailed provides access to higher end fashion with a lower cost.

He also spent time on an app called Gem. The app allows users to search thousands of online vintage stores to find items. The users then buy the items directly through the original vendor. Users can also filter for a certain size, price, decade or gender.

Nothing was catching his interest.

“I’m not going to buy something I don’t enjoy,” he said.

Finally, he found his pants. The Gucci by Tom Ford bell bottoms from the spring/summer 2000 collection were found on Gem and listed for sale on eBay. Clausen said he loves the Tom Ford Gucci line because it “revolutionized Gucci and made it what it is today.”

He said it was perfect because he is currently interested in '70s fashion.

The rest of the outfit was made of clothes he already had. A green button up, a white '70s Starcrest Sears blazer and a yellow bandana completed the outfit.

When trying to find a date, Clausen said he wanted to find someone with similar fashion taste. His friend, Grace Emory, from Sioux City North High School, was a perfect fit.

“She matched my vibe,” he said.

He said the two outfits worked well together.

For Emory, they found a 1940s Japanese silk kimono, a handmade vintage dress and blue suede Donald J Pliner shoes.

On Saturday, the overall reaction to the outfits was positive. Clausen said they received many compliments, especially Emory. 

But there were people who were thrown off by the outfits, he said. 

"There were obviously people who were like 'What the heck are they wearing,''' he said.

Clausen said prom was a fun night to remember and he appreciated the parents and school for putting it together.

Prom is not the only time Clausen expresses himself through clothing, and his fashion sense didn’t develop overnight.

One day, he realized he wanted to spend more time picking out his own clothes, instead of just wearing what his mom, Lea Greathouse, bought.

Cale Clausen started shopping on his own and followed accounts on Instagram. Instagram propelled him forward and he started seeking more high-fashion clothes.

“I was exposed to more,” he said. “It pushed me forward and got me into the deeper end of fashion.”

Almost 90 percent of his wardrobe is from thrift stores. He said being around a variety of different clothes and styles he learned what he wanted. Clausen said buying second-hand is more sustainable and cost-efficient. He said people do not need to buy the most expensive items to have an interesting outfit.

“If you’re trying to get into fashion, try to buy your things second-hand.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated Cale's last name, and Lea Greathouse's first name.

US to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America that were coordinated from that country, several U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The decision defies a May 1 deadline for full withdrawal under a peace agreement the Trump administration reached with the Taliban last year, but leaves no room for additional extensions. A senior administration official called the September date an absolute deadline that won't be affected by security conditions in the country.

While Biden's decision keeps U.S. troops in Afghanistan four months longer than initially planned, it sets a firm end to two decades of war that killed more than 2,200 U.S. troops, wounded 20,000, and cost as much as $1 trillion. The conflict largely crippled al-Qaida and led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks. But an American withdrawal also risks many of the gains made in democracy, women's rights and governance, while ensuring that the Taliban, who provided al-Qaida's safe haven, remain strong and in control of large swaths of the country.

Biden has been hinting for weeks that he was going to let the May deadline lapse, and as the days went by it became clear that an orderly withdrawal of the roughly 2,500 remaining troops would be difficult and was unlikely. The administration official said the drawdown would begin by May 1.

Biden's choice of the 9/11 date underscores the reason that American troops were in Afghanistan to begin with — to prevent extremist groups like al-Qaida from establishing a foothold again that could be used to launch attacks against the U.S.

The administration official said Biden decided that the withdrawal deadline had to be absolute, rather than based on conditions on the ground. “We’re committing today to going to zero” U.S. forces by Sept. 11, and possibly well before, the official said, adding that Biden concluded that a conditioned withdrawal would be “a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”

Defense officials and commanders had argued against the May 1 deadline, saying the U.S. troop withdrawal should be based on security conditions in Afghanistan, including Taliban attacks and violence.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will deliver remarks on Wednesday “on the way forward in Afghanistan, including his plans and timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops.” She didn't provide details, but said during a White House briefing that Biden "has been consistent in his view that there is not a military solution to Afghanistan, that we have been there for far too long.”

Several U.S. officials confirmed Biden’s withdrawal decision to The Associated Press, and an administration official provided details to reporters on condition of anonymity, speaking ahead of the announcement.

According to the administration official, the only U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan will be those needed to protect diplomats there. No exact number was provided, but American troop totals in Afghanistan have been understated by U.S. administrations for years. Officials have quietly acknowledged that there are hundreds more in Afghanistan than the official 2,500 number, and likely would include special operations forces conducting covert or counterterrorism missions, often working with intelligence agency personnel.

Biden's new, extended timeline will allow a safe and orderly withdrawal of American troops in coordination with NATO allies, the administration official added.

The president's decision, however, risks retaliation by the Taliban on U.S. and Afghan forces, possibly escalating the 20-year war. And it will reignite political division over America’s involvement in what many have called the endless war.

An intelligence community report issued Tuesday about global challenges for the next year said prospects for a peace deal in Afghanistan are “low” and warned that “the Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield. If the coalition withdraws support, the report says, the Afghan government will struggle to control the Taliban.

Congressional reaction to the new deadline was mixed.

“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "It is retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed it as a “reckless and dangerous decision.” He said any withdrawal should be conditions-based, adding that arbitrary deadlines could put troops in danger, create a breeding ground for terrorists and lead to civil war in Afghanistan.

Democrats were generally more supportive. Sen. Jack Reed, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s May 1 deadline limited Biden’s options. “We still have vital interests in protecting against terrorist attacks that could be emanating from that part of the world, but there are other areas, too, we have to be conscious of,” Reed said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said troops should come home, and the U.S. must refocus American national security on more pressing challenges.

But at least one senior Democrat expressed disappointment. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said in a tweet that the U.S. “has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave w/o verifiable assurances of a secure future.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press that the religious militia is waiting for a formal announcement to issue its reaction. The Taliban previously warned the U.S. of “consequences” if it reneged on the May 1 deadline.

In a February 2020 agreement with the administration of President Donald Trump, the Taliban agreed to halt attacks and hold peace talks with the Afghan government, in exchange for a U.S. commitment to a complete withdrawal by May 2021.

Over the past year, U.S. military commanders and defense officials have said that attacks on U.S. troops have largely paused, but that Taliban attacks on the Afghans increased. Commanders have argued that the Taliban have failed to meet the conditions of the peace agreement by continuing attacks on the Afghans and failing to totally cut ties with al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

When Biden entered the White House in January, he was keenly aware of the looming deadline and had time to meet it if he had chosen to do so. He began a review of the February 2020 agreement shortly after taking office, and has been consulting at length with his defense advisers and allies.

In recent weeks, it became increasingly clear that he was leaning toward defying the deadline.

“It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said in March. “Just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out.” He added, “And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

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Woodbury County health officials switch COVID vaccine brands amid J&J pause

SIOUX CITY -- A Woodbury County health official said Tuesday that local COVID-19 vaccination clinics that were scheduled to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have either been postponed or switched vaccine brands, as reports of potentially dangerous blood clots are being investigated. 

Tyler Brock, Siouxland District Health Department deputy director, said Tuesday that District Health has between 800 and 900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine currently on hand. 

"We'll hold onto the vaccine until we have instructions to do otherwise," Brock said in an email. 

A vaccination clinic at Morningside College Tuesday was one of the events that was postponed due to the pause.  

Chris Spicer, vice president for academic affairs, said in an email to students that Drilling Pharmacy regularly has appointments for the Pfizer vaccine at the Morningside Library, across the street from campus. 

"For those who had appointments for today, nothing more needs to be done on your part," he wrote. "... We will update you more regarding potential future vaccine clinics on campus."

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots were observed in the sinuses of the brain along with reduced platelet counts — making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially "dangerous."

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a statement that it has advised the state's vaccine providers to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, noting that "these adverse events appear to be extremely rare."

Dakota County Health Department and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) also announced in a statement that they are pausing administration of the vaccine in accordance with CDC and FDA recommendations. DHHS is communicating the pause to local health departments, health care providers and pharmacies across the state, according to the statement. 

"Vaccine safety is closely monitored by health care providers and local, state, and federal partners. While only six instances of this severe clotting event have been identified among approximately 6.8 million who have received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine across the U.S., the pause is a transparent and deliberate decision to allow time for a thorough review and investigation," the statement said. 

On Monday, before the pause was recommended, Siouxland District Health Director Kevin Grieme told the Sioux City Council that the health department was hoping to be allocated 400 doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on a weekly basis, but, he said that was suspended in the wake of a manufacturing "snafu." Johnson & Johnson has been plagued by production delays and manufacturing errors at the Baltimore plant of a contractor.

Brock said the J&J vaccine represents only a small percentage of vaccine given in Woodbury County and that he is not worried about the supply of other vaccine brands keeping about with local demand. 

"We have plenty of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine available currently and I see no reason why issues with JJ vaccine should have a large impact on vaccine efforts in the county," he said. 

As of Tuesday morning, 19,331 people in Woodbury County had received both shots of a two-dose vaccine, while another 2,702 had received the single-dose J&J vaccine, according to state statistics. That's just over 21 percent of the county's population.

Brock said the blood clot issues being associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have occurred in less than 1 per 1 million doses of vaccine given, so concern should be proportionate to the risk. He said those who have received the J&J vaccine should contact their health care provider if they experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of inoculation. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.