More than 120 world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday for the opening of a crucial United Nations climate summit, the outcome of which could determine the future habitability of the planet. The COP26 climate change conference opened with this dire warning from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.”
As COP26 got underway, leaders from over 100 countries pledged to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. India also unveiled its plan to reduce carbon emissions to net zero — but only by 2070. And the United States is announcing a new plan today to reduce methane emissions.
Speaking to the assembled leaders, President Joe Biden apologized for former President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Biden said the U.S. and other nations who’ve contributed the most to the climate crisis have “overwhelming obligations” to help poorer countries contend with the climate emergency. Biden’s comments came just days after he called on OPEC to increase oil production to lower fuel costs.
Thousands of protesters have assembled outside the climate summit demanding meaningful action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is 19-year-old Mexican climate activist Maria Reyes.
Maria Reyes: “My message for world leaders is that they cannot have a climate negotiation without the people most impacted by the climate crisis present. If we allow them to do that, COP26 is going to be a rich people’s conversation. And rich people are not most affected by the climate crisis. We are.”
President Biden’s domestic agenda was dealt a serious blow Monday when conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin refused to commit to supporting the pared-down Build Back Better Act, a 10-year, $1.75 trillion program to mitigate the climate crisis while expanding social programs. Among other things, the bill would expand clean energy programs, provide universal preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds, and expand Medicaid and Medicare. Manchin’s opposition has idled a $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate in August, with progressives refusing to approve the bill until they have assurances that senators will pass the larger climate and social spending package. On Monday, Senator Manchin said he needed more time to weigh the Build Back Better Act’s impact on the national debt and the U.S. economy — even as he urged House Democrats to immediately vote on the infrastructure bill.
Sen. Joe Manchin: “For the sake of the country, I urge the House to vote and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Holding this bill hostage is not going to work in getting my support for the reconciliation bill.”
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday on whether to uphold Texas’s ban on abortions after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. The law, known as S.B. 8, also allows private citizens — anywhere in the United States — to sue healthcare workers and others for facilitating an abortion in Texas. It’s the most serious challenge yet to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion. The court’s three liberal justices asked if allowing the Texas law to stand would invite other state legislatures to pass laws invalidating other constitutional rights. This is Justice Elena Kagan.
Justice Elena Kagan: “We would live in a very different world from the world we live in today. Essentially, we would be inviting states, all 50 of them, with respect to their unpreferred constitutional rights, to try to nullify the law of — that this court has laid down as to the content of those rights.”
Today is Election Day in the United States. In Virginia, a record number of registered voters cast early ballots ahead of today’s highly watched governor’s race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former CEO of a private equity firm who’s backed by former President Donald Trump. Terry McAuliffe is close to Bill and Hillary Clinton and is one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific fundraisers. He previously served one term as Virginia’s governor and was chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meet today to discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 5. The FDA has already approved shots for 5- to 11-year-olds, saying the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risks to kids. The Biden administration says millions of pediatric vaccine doses have already begun shipping around the country and that inoculations could begin later this week, once CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gives the final greenlight.
New York City has placed about 9,000 municipal workers who defied a vaccine mandate on unpaid leave. Mayor Bill de Blasio says 91% of New York employees got at least one shot ahead of Monday’s deadline.
In Illinois, a Cook County judge has blocked the city of Chicago’s mandate for police officers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 31, saying the issue should be settled in arbitration. Some 1,700 Chicago police officers report they are unvaccinated, and a further 3,000 have refused to report their vaccination status to the city.
The U.N. Security Council has extended the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara for another year. The resolution, approved Friday, calls for a resumption of U.N.-brokered talks between Morocco, which has occupied the northwest African territory since 1975, and the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi liberation movement seeking independence. Morocco’s invasion set off decades of torture, disappearances, killings and repression against pro-independence Sahrawis living in occupied Western Sahara. Last November, Morocco violated a 29-year ceasefire with the Polisario Front, and war returned to the territory for the first time since 1991. Click here to see our documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”
In Burma, local media is reporting military forces shelled a restive town in northwestern Chin state, destroying some 160 structures, including at least two churches. The U.N. and human rights groups recently warned the military junta, which overthrew the civilian government in February, has been planning attacks in the region. Meanwhile, a new report from the Associated Press finds the Burmese military has been guilty of torturing prisoners since the February takeover. Over 1,200 have been killed, and thousands arrested, in the aftermath of the coup.
In Afghanistan, at least 15 people were killed, and dozens more injured, after two explosions and gunfire hit a major military hospital in the capital, Kabul. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but witnesses described fighters with the Islamic State clashing with Taliban forces. The latest violence comes after the United Nations warned that without urgent action, Afghanistan is poised to become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Families displaced by fighting have been living in tents as the winter cold sets in, with food remaining scarce. This is Halima, a displaced woman in Kabul.
Halima: “So far around four to five babies were born here, and then they died due to the cold. Yesterday, an elder man and a child, who went on the streets to earn money for buying food, had a car accident, and both died. We are in very tough situations.”
Back in the United States, some 10,000 John Deere workers vote today on a tentative contract that could end the strike they began on October 14. If approved, the agreement would bring the unionized workers an immediate 10% raise, plus 5% raises in the contract’s third and fifth years. The deal would also improve on employee pension plans and would pay workers an $8,500 signing bonus. It’s a significant improvement from John Deere’s final offer before workers went out on strike.
In Wisconsin, opening arguments begin today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who faces seven charges, including homicide, for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third amid anti-police brutality protests in Kenosha last year. There is only one person of color on the jury. Rittenhouse was just 17 years old in August 2020 when he brought an illegally obtained AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle across state lines from Illinois and joined other armed white vigilantes in the streets of Kenosha during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The judge overseeing the trial has ruled the three protesters shot by Rittenhouse cannot be labeled “victims” during the trial but can be called “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists,” if the defense can provide evidence to justify such terms.
The Senate voted Monday to confirm Beth Robinson to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, representing Connecticut, New York and Vermont. Robinson is a longtime LGBTQ leader who in 1999 argued a landmark case in Vermont that won broad legal protections for same-sex couples. She becomes the first out LGBTQ+ person ever to serve on a federal circuit court. Just two Republican senators voted to confirm Robinson: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
In Washington, D.C., civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized Monday after he fell and hit his head while visiting Howard University. Jackson had been visiting with students at Howard — one of the nation’s preeminent historically Black universities — who began a sit-in last month to protest terrible housing conditions, including toxic mold, rodents and roaches in campus dormitories. Students took over Howard’s Blackburn University Center and have been camping out in tents since October 12. Before his accident, Jesse Jackson reportedly secured a promise from Howard administrators that students would not be expelled or suspended over their nonviolent protests.