President Biden has announced plans to keep the Port of Los Angeles open around the clock in order to battle a global supply chain crisis that’s idled container ships off the coast, driving up prices on food, fuel and consumer goods. The move will double the number of hours the port will remain open to relieve unprecedented supply chain bottlenecks.
President Joe Biden: “This is across-the-board commitment to going to 24/7. This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods through our supply chain. But now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up, as well.”
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index rose by 5.4% in September compared to one year prior, partly driven by supply chain problems caused by the pandemic. To keep pace with inflation, the Social Security Administration said Wednesday it would boost benefits by nearly 6% next year.
The World Health Organization has announced a new expert panel that will investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The advisory body will include 26 scientists from around the world, including one expert from the U.S. and one from China. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the panel will also investigate the origins of future outbreaks.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature. And while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last.”
In South Africa, protesters gathered outside the embassies of the United States and several European countries, demanding they break a stalemate at the World Trade Organization and suspend patent rights on COVID vaccines. The so-called TRIPS waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa over a year ago and is primarily opposed by the U.K., Germany and Switzerland. The group Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, which joined the protests, says a handful of European governments with strong ties to pharmaceutical corporations are choosing to put shareholder interests over the lives of people across the globe. MSF added, “The U.S. made a big, bold decision to support this groundbreaking TRIPS waiver, but is now largely absent from the global effort to make it a reality.”
Meanwhile, a dozen Democratic U.S. lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to share Moderna’s COVID vaccine technology with other countries to expand global vaccine production. The lawmakers note that a contract between Moderna and the federal government grants the U.S. unlimited rights to vaccine data, including all key information needed to produce Moderna’s vaccine. The lawmakers add, “Despite receiving huge sums of public funding from American taxpayers, Moderna has refused calls to share its technology, including from the U.S. government.”
The United States reported nearly 1,900 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. More than 62,000 people remain hospitalized with the disease.
In Florida, the Department of Health has levied a $3.5 million fine on Leon County after officials there required employees to show proof of vaccination. Several other county governments, school districts and businesses are under scrutiny for defying a ban on vaccine mandates imposed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
This comes as a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds the U.S. could have prevented 90,000 deaths over the last four months if more adults had been vaccinated.
The Biden administration has announced plans to build large-scale wind farms along most of the continental U.S. coastline. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday the U.S. will auction off leases to wind energy developers in waters off the coasts of California, Oregon, the Carolinas, as well as in the Central Atlantic, Gulf of Maine and Gulf of Mexico. The Biden administration hopes to see the U.S. produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms by 2030.
A new report by the International Energy Agency finds that commitments by world governments to cut carbon emissions are nowhere near what’s needed to avert climate catastrophe. The IEA is calling on governments to move decisively to cut emissions in half by 2030 — far faster than what countries have pledged under the Paris Climate Agreement.
In Washington, D.C., another 90 climate activists were arrested outside the White House Wednesday demanding President Biden take real action to halt the climate crisis. This is Anthony Lorenzo Green, a Washington, D.C., community organizer and city council candidate.
Anthony Lorenzo Green: “We must repair the harm caused by environmental racism. That means we must have a world that no longer bows to the coal, oil and gas industries, that have a long history of poisoning our land and rivers. I know climate change is real because I live in a community where homes flood every year.”
Texas’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives has approved a heavily gerrymandered redistricting map that severely diminishes the voting power of Black and Latinx communities while giving a disproportionate share of power to white voters. Final passage came on Wednesday at around 3:30 a.m. local time in Austin, capping 14 hours of debate. Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman tweeted in response, “Democracy is quite literally dying in the dark.”
The conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court appeared in favor of reinstating the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after hearing arguments in the case Wednesday. A federal appeals court overturned the execution last year, but Biden’s Justice Department is arguing to bring back his death sentence. Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned the motivations of the federal government during the hearing.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett: “I’m wondering what the government’s end game is here. So, the government has declared a moratorium on executions, but you’re here defending his death sentences. And if you win, presumably that means that he is relegated to living under threat of a death sentence that the government doesn’t plan to carry out.”
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to work toward eliminating federal capital punishment.
In Lebanon, heavy gunfights are ongoing in some of the worst violence Beirut has seen in a decade. Earlier today, at least five people were killed and multiple others injured after gunfire erupted during a Hezbollah-led protest calling for the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation into last August’s devastating blast at the Port of Beirut. The explosion killed more than 250 people. Critics accuse the judge of bias. It’s unclear who fired the shots at protesters.
In the Czech Republic, voters have defeated strongman populist Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in weekend elections, after opposition parties formed alliances that received a majority of parliamentary seats. The scandal-ridden billionaire Babiš has attacked refugees and more recently appeared in the Pandora Papers, which exposed the covert financial dealings of politicians and other elites.
In Norway, a 37-year-old Danish man used a bow and arrow to attack people in a small town west of Oslo Wednesday, killing five people and wounding two others. Police described the suspect as a Muslim convert who had previously been flagged for “radicalization,” but authorities say the motivation for the attack is still unknown and that he is thought to have acted alone. Wednesday’s attack prompted police across Norway to carry firearms. Norwegian police are usually unarmed. It was Norway’s worst attack since a far-right white supremacist killed 77 people a decade ago.
Over 10,000 workers at John Deere farm equipment plants across the Midwest went on strike at midnight to fight for fair wages, pension benefits for all workers and good working conditions. Members of the United Auto Workers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract and say they will continue bargaining with the company until all their demands are met. In other labor news, tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente employees in California and Oregon have voted to authorize a strike amid stalled contract negotiations over pay and working conditions. Health workers say the pandemic had led to mental health concerns and severe staff shortages. This comes as some 60,000 film and TV workers with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, IATSE, could go on strike starting Monday if no deal is reached in the coming days to address the industry’s low wages and overworking of crews. This is Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, of which IATSE is a member union.
Liz Shuler: “We’re fighting for the weekends, as I said earlier. I mean, it’s 2021, and yet… And these people are working overtime. They’re, you know, answering the call, and yet the companies now, who are making pretty tidy profits, suddenly can’t pay overtime. And suddenly you can’t have a meal break, and you’re ending your shift on a Friday night and are being called back Saturday morning with less than eight hours of time in between.”
Many are referring to this month as “Striketober” due to the massive wave of work stoppages that are expected or already underway.
Meanwhile, workers at a Dollar Store in Connecticut and multiple Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York, are organizing to form the first unions at their respective workplaces. This week Starbucks announced it is closing two of the Buffalo stores being unionized. The company called the move a “coincidence.”