In Texas, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the state’s near-total ban on abortions, granting the Justice Department’s emergency request to halt the law while courts consider its legality. In his ruling, Judge Robert Pitman slammed the Texas ban’s unconstitutionality, writing, “This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
The World Health Organization has endorsed a first-of-its-kind vaccine against malaria for children in sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO said the vaccine proved to be safe and reduced severe malaria by 30% in children enrolled in a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the vaccine a major victory in the fight against one of the world’s worst infectious diseases.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “This long-awaited malaria vaccine is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control. Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
It’s the first vaccine ever approved for use against a parasitic disease. Malaria claims the lives of about a half a million people each year, half of whom are children in Africa.
The United States reported more than 2,500 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, even as new cases continue to fall from a summer peak. With the latest deaths, the U.S. has now recorded more COVID fatalities in 2021 than in all of 2020.
The White House said Wednesday it would spend $1 billion to purchase at-home rapid antigen tests in response to an ongoing nationwide shortage.
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a measure requiring people entering indoor public spaces — and large outdoor gatherings — to provide proof of vaccination.
In Colorado, the UCHealth hospital system says it will deny organ transplants to patients who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Most transplant centers already require patients to receive other vaccinations — like for hepatitis and measles — and routinely make organ recipients pledge to abstain from tobacco and alcohol.
In Afghanistan, a U.N. agency will start paying to keep the country’s fragile healthcare infrastructure afloat after the flow of international aid dollars, which the health sector relied upon, dried up following the Taliban takeover in August. This includes paying the salaries of at least 25,000 health workers. Last month, the Biden administration granted special licenses to some organizations, including the U.N., to engage in transactions with the Taliban, which is under U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is becoming increasingly dire. This is Afghanistan Director of the World Food Programme Mary-Ellen McGroarty.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty: “The 38 million Afghans who still live in the country are adjusting to a new reality. It is incredibly sad. And over the weeks, a humanitarian crisis has just escalated and magnified at an incredible pace. It’s a crisis that has its roots in decades of conflict and the increasing pressures of climate change.”
The United Nations secretary-general has appointed Staffan de Mistura of Italy as his personal envoy for Western Sahara. The appointment comes after the post went vacant for over two years. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975 in defiance of the United Nations and international law. Over the past four decades, thousands of Western Sahara’s indigenous people — the Sahrawi — have been tortured, imprisoned, killed and disappeared while resisting the Moroccan occupation. Click here to see our exclusive documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”
Back in the United States, the Education Department is temporarily expanding student loan forgiveness for public service workers. The move is expected to benefit 550,000 people including teachers, social workers, military members and others who were previously not included in the public service loan forgiveness program.
In Texas, a crude oil spill Wednesday at the Marathon Galveston Bay refinery near Houston is prompting even more calls to break free from fossil fuel dependence. This comes as Southern California confronts one of its worst-ever oil spills from an underwater pipeline. Meanwhile, a recent study by the International Monetary Fund found the fossil fuel industry receives subsidies of $11 million per minute despite pledges by world leaders to fight the climate catastrophe.
The Biden administration is restoring several key provisions to the National Environmental Policy Act related to the review process of infrastructure projects. The environmental and community safeguards were gutted last year under the Trump administration.
A federal appeals court has blocked a California law banning private prisons, arguing it infringes on federal authority over immigration policy. The California law, which went into effect last year, bans new and renewed contracts with private prisons and phases out all private facilities by 2028, including immigration jails run on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The state of California says it will appeal the latest ruling.
A school shooting in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday left four people injured. The suspect, an 18-year-old student, has been taken into custody. The attack sparked renewed calls to tighten Texas’s gun laws. Last month, the state’s permitless gun law went into effect, which allows people to carry firearms without a license as long as they have no priors with state or federal law.
In Colorado, workers at five Amazon warehouses are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit alleging the retail giant refused to pay them for time spent at employee-mandated COVID-19 screenings before the start of their shifts. The workers say that, beginning in March 2020, they routinely waited in long lines for up to one hour to answer questions about their symptoms and have their temperatures checked. More than 10,000 workers were affected. Under Colorado law, workers must be paid when they are required to be on their employer’s premises or on duty.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing back against Senator Joe Manchin after the West Virginia Democrat said he would oppose much of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion, 10-year budget reconciliation package, known as the Build Back Better Act. Manchin told reporters last week he doesn’t want to create an “entitlement society.” On Wednesday, Senator Sanders said U.S. working families should be entitled to child care, universal pre-K, affordable prescription drugs, dental and vision benefits, free community college and a world free from catastrophic climate change. Sanders called on Manchin to make it clear which of these proposals he wants to cut.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The time is long overdue for him to tell us, with specificity, not generalities — we’re beyond generalities — with specificity, what he wants and what he does not want, and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America.”
This week immigrants and their supporters began a four-day, round-the-clock “sleep-out” protest outside the Brooklyn home of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. They’re demanding the Senate majority leader overrule the Senate parliamentarian and include an immigration policy in the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package. This is Alejandra Marin, an undocumented essential worker and member of the group New Immigrant Community Empowerment.
Alejandra Marin: “We need a change in the laws in this country. We need Congress, President Biden, Kamala — Schumer, we are here in front of your house asking for immigration reform for the 11 million undocumented. We are the backbone, the foundation of this economy. We deserve justice. We deserve equality. We deserve human respect as people, as human beings, as essential workers of this country. For that reason, I am here with all of you today to fight for a just immigration reform for all immigrants and essential workers of this country.”