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HeadlinesOctober 13, 2021

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U.S. Reopens Borders with Canada and Mexico for Vaccinated Travelers; FDA Considers Moderna Booster

Oct 13, 2021

The U.S. will open its land borders with Canada and Mexico next month for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The borders have been closed since March 2020 for nonessential travel.

A Food and Drug Administration panel is meeting this week to consider booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines. Moderna said an additional half-dose shot provided a significant immune boost, but FDA scientists indicated Moderna data has not met all criteria for a third dose.

Southwest, American Airlines Rebuff TX Vaccine Mandate Ban; WI Moms Sue Schools for Endangering Kids

Oct 13, 2021

Two Texas-based airlines — Southwest Airlines and American Airlines — said they will still require their workers to get vaccinated despite Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s new order banning vaccine mandates by any entity, including private businesses. The airlines will continue to abide by the proposed federal mandate on vaccines for private companies, which could be finalized soon. The order would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees and require workers to be vaccinated or get tested regularly.

In Wisconsin, two mothers whose children contracted COVID-19 have sued their local school districts for neglecting to implement safety measures including mask mandates. Both the parents’ children wore masks, but many other students, including actively sick ones, did not.

In New York, a federal judge ruled Tuesday health workers could be granted a religious exemption to the state’s vaccine mandate while a legal challenge plays out in court.

In economic news, the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast and warned of inflation due to the summer’s Delta coronavirus surge and disruptions to supply chains.

House Votes to Temporarily Raise Debt Ceiling

Oct 13, 2021

The House of Representatives approved legislation Tuesday evening to raise the debt limit until early December. Not a single Republican voted to raise the debt ceiling, even temporarily. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed her Republican colleagues ahead of the vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “What do you have against our own economy, where this catastrophe of unbelievable proportions could have impacts for over 100 years?”

The measure, which the Senate approved last week, is expected to be swiftly signed by President Biden.

Progressive Dems Say Reconciliation Package Must Not Sacrifice Urgently Needed Social Programs

Oct 13, 2021

In other legislative news, a group of New York congressmembers wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to keep the current funding for housing, transportation and immigration reform in the Build Back Better Act. “We can’t negotiate the reconciliation bill down to nothing,” tweeted Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The White House has conceded the $3.5 trillion package will have to be slashed in order to appease conservative Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Tuesday, instead of cutting the plan’s provisions, progressive lawmakers are open to reducing the time the programs are in place in order to lower the topline price tag. Jayapal and Senator Bernie Sanders also said Medicare expansion is not up for negotiation in the reconciliation package.

155 Activists Arrested as Climate Actions Continue in D.C.; Indigenous Leaders March in Latin America

Oct 13, 2021

In Washington, D.C., at least 155 Indigenous leaders and climate justice advocates were arrested outside the White House Tuesday as this week’s climate actions continue. Demonstrators are demanding the Biden administration divest from fossil fuels and declare a climate emergency. Activists also delivered a petition with over 1 million signatures to the Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday to stop the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline.

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a virtual address to the National Congress of American Indians yesterday.

Vice President Kamala Harris: “Explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetrating violence, stealing land and spreading disease. We must not shy away from this shameful past. And we must shed light on it and do everything we can to address the impact of the past on Native communities today.”

Across Latin America, thousands of Indigenous leaders and supporters took to the streets to mark 529 years of Indigenous resistance. In Guatemala City, a colonial statue of a former president was stained with red paint, toppled and beheaded, as protesters denounced a racist state. Protesters also attempted to topple a statue of Christopher Columbus. In Bolivia, hundreds took to the streets of the capital La Paz to commemorate the Day of Decolonization.

Angélica Ponce: “Women are here to fight. We won’t rest from defending our homeland. We’ll stay together. More than ever, we tell the U.S. interference, the right-wingers in Bolivia: We’ll keep on fighting, and they shall respect us.”

Nonprofit Pursues Jair Bolsonaro at ICC for “Crimes Against Humanity” for Destroying the Amazon

Oct 13, 2021

An Austrian legal organization is urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for “crimes against humanity” over his destruction of the Amazon. The landmark complaint filed by the group AllRise said Bolsonaro’s actions have led to a “widespread attack on the Amazon, its dependents and its defenders that not only result in the persecution, murder and inhumane suffering in the region, but also upon the global population.”

EU Pledges $1.15 Billion in Aid for Afghanistan as European and U.S. Delegates Meet with Taliban

Oct 13, 2021

The European Union pledged a $1.15 billion aid package for Afghanistan at a virtual G20 summit Tuesday. That amount includes $346 million previously pledged to address urgent humanitarian needs in the region. The funds will go to organizations working in Afghanistan, not directly to the Taliban government, which is not officially recognized by the EU. Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the situation in Afghanistan Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel: “To watch 40 million people fall into chaos, so to speak, because neither electricity can be supplied nor a financial system exists, that cannot and must not be the aim of the international community.”

The Taliban held their first in-person talks with both U.S. and European representatives in Qatar Tuesday.

Decaying Oil Tanker Off Yemen Coast Could Cut Off Access to Water and Food for 9 Million People

Oct 13, 2021

A new report in the journal Nature Sustainability warns of an “increasingly likely” massive oil spill from an abandoned, decaying oil tanker off the coast of Yemen. Such a spill could further disrupt access to food and clean water to some 9 million people — and trigger an environmental catastrophe that would impact the entire region. The vessel has been deserted in the Red Sea for over six years and is loaded with more than a million barrels of crude oil — four times as much oil as spilled from the Exxon Valdez in 1989. Yemenis are already facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, triggered by a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war.

New Tunisan Gov’t, First Woman Prime Minister Sworn In Amid Political Crisis

Oct 13, 2021

In Tunisia, a new government was sworn in this week, including the country’s first woman prime minister, Najla Bouden. Bouden appointed a record number of women to her Cabinet, filling a political void left since President Kais Saied suspended parliament and ousted the former prime minister 11 weeks ago. Critics have decried the “power grab” by Saied, who has also diminished the authority of the prime minister’s office. During her swearing-in, Bouden vowed to raise living standards and fight corruption.

Prime Minister Najla Bouden: “One of the most important goals ever is to combat corruption, which is increasingly spreading, day by day, and leads to a loss of confidence in any radical and real reform attempt.”

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Ethiopia Launched Attacks Against Tigray Amid Mounting Humanitarian Disaster

Oct 13, 2021

Tigray forces say the Ethiopian government has launched massive, coordinated military assaults across the region in an attempt to end the year-long war. The latest round of attacks violates a ceasefire that was declared by Ethiopia’s government in June. The United Nations recently said more than 5 million people in the Tigray region are now in need of humanitarian assistance in order to survive, but that Ethiopia’s government is blocking the movement of medicine, food and fuel into Tigray.

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Military and Police Crack Down on Student Protests in Eswatini

Oct 13, 2021

In Eswatini, soldiers and police have been deployed in schools across the southern African nation to repress ongoing student-led, anti-government protests. Students have been boycotting classes and engaging in other actions demanding political reforms, better learning conditions and free education. Students are also calling for the release of two lawmakers who were arrested during pro-democracy mobilizations earlier this year. It was reported that at least 17 students were recently arrested, including a 7-year-old. Protests erupted months ago against King Mswati III as Eswatini — formerly known as Swaziland and Africa’s last absolute monarchy — is facing an economic crisis with shortages of food and other resources.

Michigan Officials Say Lead-Contaminated Water in City of Benton Harbor Not Safe to Consume

Oct 13, 2021

Back in the U.S., Michigan officials have warned residents in the city of Benton Harbor not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth due to lead contamination. The city’s tap water was found to contain lead levels up to 60 times the federal limit as early as 2018. That’s higher than the contamination of Flint’s tap during its water crisis. Advocates are calling for officials to declare a state of emergency and for the EPA to intervene. The population of Benton Harbor is 85% Black, and nearly half of its residents are poor.

Consumer Protections Advocate Rohit Chopra Sworn In to Lead CFPB

Oct 13, 2021

In Washington, D.C., Rohit Chopra was sworn in Tuesday as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chopra was involved in setting up the CFPB alongside Senator Elizabeth Warren and is known as a tough critic and regulator of Big Tech and Wall Street. Senator Warren called him “a terrific champion for consumers.”

DHS Orders ICE to Halt Massive Workplace Raids

Oct 13, 2021

The Biden administration has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop conducting massive raids at job sites known to employ undocumented workers, and vowed to establish a more effective strategy to target employers who engage in exploitative labor practices. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urged ICE to review its enforcement policies in the next 60 days and ordered the agency to enact rules that would better protect undocumented workers who report their employers for abuse or substandard wages from deportation.

Jury Finds Two Parents Guilty in “Varsity Blues” College Admissions Scandal

Oct 13, 2021

A federal jury found two parents guilty Friday in the college admissions scandal known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” Jurors convicted John Wilson and Gamal Abdelaziz on all charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery, in order to gain spots for their children at the University of Southern California under the guise of athletic recruitment. Wilson is a private equity financier and former Staples and Gap executive, and Abdelaziz is a former Wynn casino executive. They face up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in February.

Amazon and Google Workers Condemn Project Nimbus Contract with Israeli Military

Oct 13, 2021

Anonymous workers at Google and Amazon are speaking out against their employers’ contracts with the Israeli government. Known as Project Nimbus, the $1.2 billion agreement will provide cloud services to the Israeli military and other government agencies. The unnamed workers write, “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” As of Tuesday, over 90 workers at Google and over 300 at Amazon signed on to the letter.

Novelist Sally Rooney Denies Translation Rights to Israeli Company in Show of Support for BDS

Oct 13, 2021

Palestinian rights groups are applauding the decision by acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney to deny translation rights to an Israel-based publishing house for her latest book. Rooney said the move is spurred by her support for Palestinian rights and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Rooney, known for her novels “Conversations with Friends” and “Normal People,” said she would be honored to have her book published in Hebrew but could not sign a deal with a company that “does not publicly distance itself from apartheid.”

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