All 50 Republican senators voted Wednesday to block debate on a federal voting rights bill that would rein in voter suppression laws passed by Republican-led state legislatures. It’s the third time this year that Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to block voting rights legislation. The Freedom to Vote Act was already a compromise that scaled back voter protections under the For the People Act, after conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would oppose that bill. The latest move by Republicans to stonewall voting rights renewed calls to abolish the Senate filibuster.
Senator Manchin on Wednesday dismissed a report published by Mother Jones that claimed the West Virginian was considering dropping out of the Democratic Party, calling the report “bullshit.” On Wednesday, the White House signaled President Biden was removing many of his top legislative priorities from the Build Back Better Act and would offer a massively slimmed-down bill amid opposition from Republicans and Democratic Senators Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Despite the cuts, President Biden touted his plan during a trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania, Wednesday.
President Joe Biden: “You all never believed, from the beginning, I’d ever get anything done. I think we’ll get a deal.”
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday granted emergency use authorization to booster shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccines. The FDA also approved a mix-and-match strategy for people to get a booster shot that wasn’t in their primary series.
Meanwhile, the White House on Wednesday laid out its plan to vaccinate millions of children between 5 and 11 years old, once the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for emergency use in younger children. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said the Biden administration was ready to move quickly to distribute children’s doses and smaller-sized syringes to pharmacies and pediatricians’ offices.
Jeffrey Zients: “We have more than enough vaccine for every child aged 5 through 11 — that’s 28 million in total — as soon as the vaccine is authorized by the FDA.”
The White House anticipates younger children could receive their first shots of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine in early November.
Here in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that nearly all municipal workers must get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the month. New York City’s police and firefighter unions promised legal action to stop the vaccine mandate. This comes after a viral video showed a pair of NYPD officers forcibly ejecting a subway rider from a station after he asked the officers to comply with a city ordinance requiring them to wear masks. NYPD’s commissioner on Wednesday called the incident “absolutely inexcusable” and said the two officers would be disciplined.
In Chicago, a judge has rejected a bid by the Fraternal Order of Police to temporarily halt Chicago’s vaccine mandate. The same judge has ordered union president John Catanzara to stop talking about the mandate on social media, after he urged officers to defy Chicago’s vaccination rules.
John Catanzara: “Do not fill out the portal information. You are under no obligation to do that, other than the city’s demand. … I’ve made my status very clear as far as the vaccine, but I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history.”
In August, officer Catanzara came under fire for comparing Chicago’s vaccine mandate to the actions of Nazi Germany.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing Wednesday for Rahm Emanuel, President Biden’s nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Emanuel served as President Obama’s chief of staff and was mayor of Chicago during the police killing of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American who was murdered by white police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014.
Emanuel’s nomination drew fire from progressives. Missouri Congressmember Cori Bush tweeted, “In case you’re wondering how much the Senate values Black lives: They’re holding the confirmation hearing for Rahm Emanuel on the 7-year-anniversary of the police’s murder of Laquan McDonald. A murder that he helped cover up as Mayor. A disgusting disregard for Black lives.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Emanuel stopped short of an apology but said he was regretful over McDonald’s murder.
Rahm Emanuel: “I said then, ’I’m the mayor, and I’m responsible and accountable for fixing this so this never happens again.’ And to be honest, there’s not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven’t thought about this and thought about the what-ifs and the changes and what could have been.”
In Syria, at least 11 people were killed in a shelling by the Syrian Army in Idlib’s rebel-held city of Ariha. Four children and a teacher were reported among the victims. The shelling followed a roadside bomb attack in Damascus which killed at least 14 military members, according to state TV.
Amid the ongoing conflict, Human Rights Watch is urging countries not to return refugees to the war-torn nation due to ongoing human rights abuses by the Syrian government. This is HRW researcher Sara Kayyali.
Sara Kayyali: “People who are stopped at checkpoints, who are kidnapped from their homes, who are subjected to extensive torture and even alleged sexual violence in detention facilities, only for returning to Syria. The stories that we heard really showed how the issue of security, the issue of arbitrary detention and the issue of torture are still front and center in government-held Syria.”
The Ethiopian government launched two airstrikes in Tigray Wednesday. Multiple civilians were treated for injuries. The strikes were not the first to hit the northern region this week as the conflict stretches toward one full year. Thousands have been killed, and more than 2 million displaced, amid a mounting humanitarian crisis.
A federal court has ruled the detainment of a Guantánamo Bay prisoner is unlawful, a week after he was cleared for release by six U.S. security agencies. The court granted Asadullah Haroon Gul’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He is the first Guantánamo prisoner in 10 years to win such a case. Asadullah is represented by the group Reprieve, which says he has suffered severe physical and mental torture during his 14 years behind bars without charge or trial. One of his lawyers said, “This is a landmark ruling. For 20 years, successive U.S. administrations have asserted their right to imprison people indefinitely, without charge or trial. Guantánamo was built on the shakiest of legal foundations.”
In Nigeria, demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday to mark one year since 2020’s historic and deadly “End SARS” protests against police brutality. The march passed over the highway on the outskirts of Lagos, where last year soldiers and police opened fire on demonstrators. Twelve protesters were killed that night. This is civil rights advocate Yemi Adamolekun speaking Wednesday.
Yemi Adamolekun: “Who ordered the shooting? Look, we’re peaceful. Nothing is happening. All we want is justice. The police cannot continue to kill Nigerian citizens and it will be OK. It can never — it can never be OK. That’s all we are asking.”
Back in the U.S., Republican Congressmember Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska stepped down from his House committee assignments Wednesday, one day after a federal grand jury in California indicted him for lying to FBI agents who were investigating alleged illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign. Fortenberry pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment Wednesday and was released on $50,000 bond.
In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of the Netflix headquarters as a group of employees from the streaming giant staged a walkout Wednesday amid the ongoing controversy over comedian Dave Chappelle’s new special, “The Closer”, which features anti-trans jokes. In the stand-up show, Chapelle likens being trans to blackface and jokes about killing a woman. Trans employees have issued a list of demands to Netflix, including the recruitment of more trans workers into leadership roles, the creation of a fund to develop trans and nonbinary talent, and the addition of disclaimers before transphobic and other hateful content. This is television personality David Huggard, also known as Eureka.
David Huggard: “We as trans people and nonbinary people aren’t getting visibility or respect in the entertainment industry to begin with. And to have something like Dave Chappelle’s special not be noted that it’s promoting discrimination and hate conversation is very hurtful to the activism and the cause that we’re trying to progress ourselves in the industry.”