Hundreds of rallies took place across the United States Saturday amid a mounting assault on reproductive rights. The protests and marches came one month after Texas’s near-total ban on abortions went into effect. This is a demonstrator in Austin, Texas.
Protester: “They’ve been trying to fight Roe v. Wade for nearly 50 years now. And I’ll be honest: When it happened, I thought, 'Ah, the Supreme Court is going to have to knock it down again.' And when they didn’t, it was — we have to fight. It just goes to show why elections matter. And so, we have to get back out in the streets, and we have to march, and we have to organize, and we have to fight.”
A federal judge in Texas is now considering arguments from the Justice Department over whether to suspend the Texas ban while courts consider its legality.
The U.S. has surpassed 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The official death toll is by far the highest in the world, even though the U.S. has had widespread access to life-saving vaccines for months. In brighter news, the summer’s devastating surge fueled by the Delta variant is slowing down, though some Northern states are still reporting rising cases.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the first-in-the-nation COVID vaccine mandate for K-12 students. The mandate will take effect as early as next fall, and after regulators approve its use in all affected age groups.
Meanwhile, the New York City teacher vaccine mandate goes into effect today. The city said 93% of teachers have now received at least one dose. On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied an emergency appeal by a group of educators who were seeking to halt the vaccine mandate while their lawsuit against the order plays out in court.
In Southern California, an oil pipeline ruptured off the coast of Huntington Beach Saturday, causing a massive spill that fouled beaches and wetlands with more than 125,000 gallons of oil. Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr called the disaster one of the most devastating situations faced by the community in decades.
Mayor Kim Carr: “The company responsible for this oil spill, which we understand to be Beta Offshore, a California subsidiary of Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation, is working on the cleanup effort, as well. In the coming days and weeks, we challenge the responsible parties to do everything possible to rectify this environmental catastrophe.”
Dead birds and marine animals have begun washing ashore on Huntington Beach. The affected area includes an ecological reserve that’s home to dozens of bird species.
A massive coordinated leak of nearly 12 million secret documents is giving an unprecedented look at the covert financial dealings of hundreds of politicians, billionaires, religious leaders, drug lords and celebrities. Thirty-five current and former world leaders are featured in the documents, known as the Pandora Papers. One of them is Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who is secretly holding millions of dollars in offshore tax havens and has spent some of his fortune on lavish homes around the world. The documents also implicate current presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former associates of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More than 600 journalists contributed to the reporting from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which was compiled over two years. The materials come from 14 global financial services firms dating as far back as the 1970s, though most of the files are from the past 25 years.
The whistleblower who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents has come forward. Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen spoke publicly for the first time on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Frances Haugen: “Facebook has demonstrated they cannot act independently. Facebook over and over again has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits, with our safety. I am hoping that this will have had a big enough impact on the world that they get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations into place.”
Haugen’s revelations, which were behind a sweeping investigation by The Wall Street Journal, showed Facebook executives had significant understanding of the way its products are implicated in issues including child safety, political misinformation and human trafficking. Haugen is testifying before a Senate panel Tuesday. Lawmakers are also pursuing Facebook as part of a federal antitrust case and over its role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
In Afghanistan, at least five people were killed Sunday in an explosion outside a mosque in Kabul. A funeral service for the mother of a Taliban spokesman was underway at the time of the attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but attacks by ISIS-K have increased since the Taliban takeover in August.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Refugee Council warns Afghanistan’s economy is on the brink of collapse as the humanitarian crisis continues to grow. Over 18 million people rely on aid to survive, with one in three Afghans facing acute hunger, according to the World Food Programme.
In India, at least eight people were killed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh Sunday after a vehicle plowed into a demonstration led by farmers. The car was owned by a federal minister whose son was arrested in connection with the attack. Farmers have been resisting three pro-corporate agricultural laws enacted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for about a year. They’ve vowed to intensify pressure on Modi’s government to repeal the laws, which deregulate agricultural markets and roll back key labor and income protections. Millions of farmers and opponents of the reforms have staged multiple strikes across India since last November.
Doctors Without Borders warns over 3 million people in northern Syria are facing shortages of water as crucial sanitation infrastructure has been destroyed after a decade of war. The humanitarian group says that even when water is accessible, it is at times contaminated and unsafe to drink, making Syrians vulnerable to contracting waterborne diseases and other health issues, including hepatitis.
Qatar held its first-ever legislative elections Saturday to select two-thirds of the advisory Shura Council. Qatar does not allow political parties, but the council has legislative authority over general state policies and the country’s budget. Hoping to make history, a handful of women ran in the elections, but none won their seats. This is candidate Aisha Hamam Al-Jasim.
Aisha Hamam al-Jasim: “I just say I’m strong. I’m capable. I see myself I am same fit like you as a man. I don’t see myself I am weaker. If you want to see me as weak, that is up to you, but I am not weak. I am in administrations.”
In the run-up to the vote, Qatari authorities detained at least 21 citizens who were peacefully protesting laws around the elections that bar certain people from running and voting.
In the Canary Islands, Spanish scientists warned Sunday a volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma is becoming more aggressive and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. A new crater was also discovered in the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which has been gushing out lava for weeks, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents. Officials lifted a stay-at-home order, citing improving air quality, after the eruption triggered the release of toxic gas clouds.
Taiwan’s military scrambled fighter jets over the weekend in response to two major incursions by the Chinese Air Force. Over 75 Chinese planes flew into airspace designated by Taiwan as an “air defense identification zone” on Friday and Saturday. This follows joint U.S., Japanese and Australian military exercises in the South China Sea, and after the U.S., U.K. and Australia announced a new strategic military alliance in the Asia-Pacific, known as AUKUS.
Back in the U.S., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a new target date of October 31 to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, after delaying last week’s vote amid fractures within the Democratic Party. Progressive Democrats have said they will not vote on the $1 trillion bill without a firm commitment to also vote on the larger, 10-year reconciliation package that would expand the social safety net and combat the climate crisis. President Biden met with Democratic lawmakers Friday and reportedly told them that after talks with conservative Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, the proposed topline budget of $3.5 trillion would likely need to be slashed to between $1.9 and $2.3 trillion. But in a boost to progressives, Biden said he supports passing both bills in tandem and believes Democrats can gather the support to do so. He spoke after meeting with lawmakers Friday.
President Joe Biden: “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re going to get it done.”
The House passed a bill last week that would end sentencing disparities between offenses linked to crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The policy, dating back to the war on drugs in the 1980s, has disproportionately locked up Black Americans at a rate of 18 to 1 compared to whites. Advocates say the accompanying Senate bill, which has at least three Republican co-sponsors, has a chance of getting the 60 votes it needs to pass there.
Here in New York, a judge sentenced environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to the maximum penalty of six months in prison for contempt of court. The misdemeanor charges were linked to a lawsuit brought by Chevron, which has been targeting Donziger ever since he successfully sued the oil giant in Ecuador on behalf of Indigenous people whose land was contaminated by the oil giant. Donziger has already spent over two years under house arrest, and the U.N. and other rights groups have called for his release. This is Donziger in a social media video posted after his Friday sentence.
Steven Donziger: “It’s very clear Judge Preska wants me to serve my six-month sentence immediately, so that even if I get exonerated on appeal, I still will have served a sentence for a crime I never committed. And again, another example, I think, of the punitive nature of what’s happening. It’s almost unheard of for someone convicted of a misdemeanor in the United States not to be let out pending his or her appeal.”
In other news from New York, a statue honoring George Floyd was vandalized Sunday — just two days after its unveiling ceremony. Police footage shows an unidentified white man on a skateboard throwing gray paint on the bronze statue. Floyd’s sculpture is being displayed at Union Square alongside two others honoring late Congressmember John Lewis and Breonna Taylor. Busts of the three were created by artist Chris Carnabuci. The statue of Floyd had previously been vandalized just five days after it was first unveiled on Juneteenth in Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was marked with a logo linked to the white supremacist group Patriot Front.