The White House said Wednesday it will expand U.S. vaccine manufacturing to produce an additional 1 billion doses a year. Critics called the plan a good first step but said much more needs to be done to end the current pandemic — and to stop future outbreaks. Oxfam America said in a statement, “manufacturing should be spread around the world, especially Africa, not limited to the U.S.” Fewer than 5% of people in low-income countries have received even a single dose of a vaccine.
Meanwhile, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday about 10% of U.S. children aged 5 to 11 have gotten their first COVID shots, and he announced another vaccine milestone.
Jeffrey Zients: “And today we reached the milestone of 80% of Americans 12 and older with at least one shot.”
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to climb across the U.S., with cases rising in 36 states. Nearly 1,100 U.S. residents are dying of the disease, on average, each day.
The House has voted to censure Republican Congressmember Paul Gosar for posting an animated video on social media in which he murders Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Biden. Gosar has refused to apologize and retweeted the video just minutes after the House censured him; he then deleted the post less than an hour later. Gosar is the first lawmaker to be censured in more than a decade. He was also stripped of his committee assignments. Just two Republicans voted in favor of censure: Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
A man whose horned fur hat, face paint and six-foot spear made him one of the more recognizable rioters at the deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection was sentenced to 41 months in prison on Wednesday. Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman,” had pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding. Chansley was among a group that broke into the Senate chamber and left a threatening note to Vice President Mike Pence that he penned, reading, “It’s Only A Matter of Time. Justice Is Coming!”
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury deliberations continue for a third day in the homicide trial of white teenage gunman Kyle Rittenhouse. On Wednesday, Rittenhouse’s attorneys again asked for a mistrial, arguing the defense received a lower-quality drone video of the night Rittenhouse shot and killed two protesters and injured one other. The defense said it may have changed its arguments if it had originally viewed the same higher-quality footage that was shown in court during the trial. Judge Bruce Schroeder has yet to rule on either mistrial request from the defense but said he may still do so, even after a potential guilty verdict is delivered.
In Brunswick, Georgia, Travis McMichael took the stand Wednesday in his own murder trial and claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery after chasing him down in his truck.
Travis McMichael: “I shot him.”
Jason Sheffield: “Why?”
Travis McMichael: “He had my gun. He struck me. It was obvious that he was — it was obvious that he was attacking me, that if he would have got the shotgun from me, then it was a life-or-death situation.”
Travis McMichael’s father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan are also accused of hunting down and killing Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, while he was out for a jog.
Hundreds of pastors and clergy members are expected to gather outside of the Glynn County Courthouse today in support of Ahmaud Arbery’s family. Their rally comes after defense attorneys repeatedly objected to the presence of Rev. Jesse Jackson and other religious leaders in the courtroom’s gallery.
In Oklahoma, the clock is ticking to save the life of death row prisoner Julius Jones, who is scheduled to be executed today at 4 p.m. Central Time unless Governor Kevin Stitt grants him clemency. Julius Jones, a Black man, has long maintained his innocence in a 1999 murder, and three people have said in sworn affidavits that Jones’s co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, admitted he was responsible for the killing. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board has twice voted in favor of commuting Jones’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. On Wednesday, students across Oklahoma City walked out of class in support of Julius Jones.
Two of the three men convicted of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X are being exonerated today. This comes after decades of advocacy on behalf of the men and after a two-year investigation by the Manhattan D.A.’s Office and the Innocence Project found that prosecutors, the FBI and the New York Police Department omitted key evidence around the murder. Muhammad Aziz is 83. He was released on parole in 1985 and has been fighting to clear his name. The other man, Khalil Islam, was released in 1987 and died in 2009. Tune in to Democracy Now! on Friday for much more on this story.
Climate activists have condemned the Biden administration for proceeding with an auction of over 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction. It’s the largest-ever sale of drilling leases in the Gulf and comes just days after the U.N. global climate summit wrapped. An attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said, “It’s hard to imagine a more hypocritical and dangerous thing for the administration to do. It’s incredibly reckless and we think unlawful too.”
President Biden meets the leaders of Canada and Mexico at the White House today for a face-to-face meeting informally known as the “Three Amigos” summit. Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador will announce the redistribution of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses originally “loaned” to them by the United States to other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Also on the agenda: The aging Line 5 pipeline, which is operated by the Canadian company Enbridge under the Straits of Mackinac. Prime Minister Trudeau is pushing to keep the pipeline open, after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered it shut down in May over concerns that a spill could devastate the Great Lakes.
Meanwhile, Trudeau and Mexican President AMLO are opposing a provision of Biden’s proposed Build Back Better Act that would create tax credits for electric vehicles produced by union workers in the U.S.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is calling on lawmakers to reject a proposed $778 billion Pentagon budget. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act calls for a $37 billion increase in military spending compared to President Trump’s record Pentagon budget. This is Bernie Sanders speaking from the Senate floor Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “At a time when the scientists are telling us that we face an existential threat in terms of climate change, we are told that we just don’t have enough money to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and create a planet that will be healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations. Just don’t have enough money. Yet today the U.S. Senate will begin consideration of an annual defense budget that costs $778 billion.”
In Sudan, soldiers fired tear gas at anti-coup protesters who braved a deadly crackdown on demonstrations to return to the streets Thursday. The protests came a day after security forces opened fire with live ammunition on marchers in the capital Khartoum, killing 15 people and wounding dozens of others. That brings the death toll to at least 39 since Sudan’s military seized power in an October 25 coup.
In Washington, D.C., more than 200 protesters were arrested outside the White House Wednesday as they held a nonviolent demonstration calling on President Biden to prioritize federal voting rights protections. It was the second straight day of large-scale protests in Washington. One of those arrested was Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way and former president of the NAACP. Click here to see our interview with Ben Jealous, hours before he was detained.
Some 10,000 union workers who produce farm equipment for the John Deere company have voted to ratify a new six-year contract and will end their month-long strike. Sixty-one percent of the United Auto Workers members at John Deere voted in favor of the deal, which brings an immediate 10% raise, an $8,500 signing bonus, two future 5% raises, and bonuses to workers who meet production targets.
Meanwhile, some 40,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals across Northern California were poised to begin a sympathy strike this morning in solidarity with hundreds of engineers who’ve been on picket lines for two months demanding better pay.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the United States saw more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths over a 12-month period ending in April, a nearly 30% increase over the previous year. It’s the first time annual U.S. overdose deaths reached six figures. Advocates say that isolation and stress brought on by the pandemic led to higher rates of drug abuse. Opioids, including the powerful drug fentanyl, accounted for about three-quarters of all overdose deaths.
The winners of the 2021 National Book Awards have been announced. North Carolina writer Jason Mott won the fiction prize for his novel titled “Hell of a Book.” Mott’s story was inspired by police killings of African Americans in recent years.
Harvard University historian Tiya Miles won the 2021 nonfiction prize for “All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.” It’s the story of a family torn apart by slavery in the mid-19th century.
Martín Espada won an award for his book of poetry, “Floaters,” which honors asylum seekers who’ve drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas. Espada read a passage on Democracy Now! in January 2020.
Martín Espada: “Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry,
like the shard of a Styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river,
like the plank of a fishing boat broken in half by the river, the dead float.
And the dead have a name: floaters, say the men of the Border Patrol,
keeping watch all night by the river, hearts pumping coffee as they say
the word floaters, soft as a bubble, hard as a shoe as it nudges the body,
to see if it breathes, to see if it moans, to see if it sits up and speaks.”