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HeadlinesDecember 09, 2021

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As Coronavirus Cases Surge, Study Finds World Dangerously Unprepared for Next Pandemic

Dec 09, 2021

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Europe, North America and South Africa, a new report finds the world is dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic. Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Global Health Security Index scored every country on its ability to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies; no country scored above 76 on a scale of one to 100. This is Sarah Gilbert, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. 

Sarah Gilbert: “The truth is the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious or more lethal, or both. We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness.”

On Wednesday, UNICEF warned the coronavirus pandemic has posed the greatest threat to children in 75 years, reversing progress on education, hunger, healthcare, poverty, abuse and forced marriage.

Senate Approves Bill to Reverse Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers

Dec 09, 2021

Here in the United States, the Senate has voted to reverse President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses. Two Democrats — Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — sided with all 50 Republican senators to pass the measure. The bill faces an uphill path in the House. If approved, the measure would reverse Biden’s order that all businesses with at least 100 employees require their workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing by January 4.

This comes as the number of U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 topped 200 million. That’s just over 60% of the population.

Olaf Scholz Sworn In as German Chancellor, Ending Angela Merkel Era

Dec 09, 2021

Longtime German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially handed over the reins to Olaf Scholz Wednesday. Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, formed a three-way coalition with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats after September’s election. Scholz vowed continuity with the popular leadership of Merkel.

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Canada, U.K. and Australia Join U.S. Diplomatic Boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Dec 09, 2021

Canada, Britain and Australia have joined the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, citing human rights concerns. This follows confirmation from the White House Monday it would not send any U.S. officials to the games, though athletes will still participate. The Beijing Olympics kick off on February 4.

Western Sahara Activists Accuse Moroccan Authorities of Brutality and Sexual Assault

Dec 09, 2021

In Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, renowned Sahrawi human rights defender Sultana Khaya and her sister Luara were attacked and sexually assaulted during a night raid on December 5 by dozens of masked agents belonging to the Moroccan security forces, who have held the family under house arrest for over one year in the city of Boujdour. Sultana Khaya says agents stole mobile phones, threw trash, urine and a noxious black liquid into her family’s drinking water storage tank and destroyed what was left of the family’s belongings.

Sultana Khaya: “We have been subjected to all kinds of injustices by Moroccan occupation: raped, tortured, poisoned and killed. We urge all free men and women from around the world to intervene in order to save this family and people who have been under occupation since 1975.”

Morocco has not issued an arrest warrant for Sultana and Luara, who have been detained since November of 2020 and have suffered multiple sexual assaults and raids to their home. Their arrest has been condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. Click here to see our interview with Sultana Khaya, for our exclusive documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”

India’s Military Chief Among 13 Killed in Helicopter Crash

Dec 09, 2021

In India, authorities are investigating a helicopter crash Wednesday that killed India’s Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat and 12 others. One survivor is in critical condition. The crash occurred in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Biden Orders Transition to Renewable Energy for Federal Buildings and Vehicles

Dec 09, 2021

President Biden ordered federal vehicles and buildings to start transitioning to renewable energy, with a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The executive order affects 300,000 buildings and 600,000 cars and trucks.

Lawmakers Grill Instagram Head over App’s Damaging Effects on Children

Dec 09, 2021

On Capitol Hill, senators grilled Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri Wednesday amid damning reports the social app causes widespread mental harm to children and teenagers. Mosseri said Congress should create a body to regulate social media, placing the responsibility for its dangers on the industry at large. Instagram recently halted plans for an app geared toward children, but, under questioning, Mosseri would not commit to never developing such an app, saying instead, if created, it would require parental consent. This is Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I think that we are in diametrically opposed goals: the goals of parents out there and the goals of your company. Our kids aren’t cash cows, and that is exactly what’s been going on, because when you look at the marketing budget and you look at what your company has done, it’s to try to get more and more of them on board.”

Instagram is owned by Facebook’s recently-renamed parent company, Meta.

Mark Meadows Sues Jan. 6 House Cmte.; “Stop the Steal” Rally Organizer Cooperating with Panel 

Dec 09, 2021

The former chief of staff for President Trump on Wednesday asked a federal judge to block subpoenas from the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Mark Meadows’s lawsuit came just hours after he refused to appear for a scheduled deposition. Just last week, Meadows had pledged to cooperate with the congressional probe. Committee members said in response they’re preparing criminal contempt charges.

Meanwhile, a key organizer of the January 6 rally that preceded the assault on the Capitol has agreed to cooperate with congressional investigators. Ali Alexander pledged to deliver a trove of documents about the so-called Stop the Steal rallies when he’s deposed by the January 6 committee today. Lawmakers are especially interested in Alexander’s communications with members of Trump’s White House and Republican lawmakers.

“She Showed Him How to Kill Someone”: Manslaughter Trial of Kim Potter Gets Underway

Dec 09, 2021

In Minnesota, opening arguments got underway Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of former police officer Kim Potter, who says she mistakenly drew her gun instead of her Taser when she fatally shot Black motorist Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April. During opening remarks, prosecutor Erin Eldridge said Potter betrayed her badge, failed Daunte Wright and failed in her role as the ranking officer at the scene.

Erin Eldridge: “Officer Luckey was her trainee, and she was the FTO, so she was the one who determined how the stop would go. She was the 26-year veteran. She was the officer in charge. And it was her job to show officer Luckey how it’s done. And what did she show him? She showed him how to kill someone.”

Daunte Wright’s killing in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center last April came during the murder trial of George Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, and set off a fresh wave of protests against police brutality. 

CA Justice Dept. Probing Torrance Police After Revelation of Racist, Homophobic Text Messages

Dec 09, 2021

California’s attorney general said Wednesday he will investigate the Torrance Police Department, after the Los Angeles Times obtained a trove of racist and homophobic text messages exchanged by more than a dozen current and former police officers and recruits. One message contained a caption reading “hanging with the homies,” under a picture showing several Black men who had been lynched. Another message joked about breaking the tail lights on the car of a Black motorist so police could pull him over and shoot him. The L.A. Times reports the officers exchanged racist messages for years, a revelation that could affect hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests.

Labor Board Counts Votes in Starbucks’ First U.S. Union Elections; Kellogg’s Workers Continue Strike

Dec 09, 2021

Three Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York, could soon be the company’s first unionized U.S. shops as votes are counted today in a highly anticipated election. Three other Starbucks stores in Buffalo and one in Mesa, Arizona, have also filed petitions for their own union elections.

Meanwhile, Kellogg’s workers remain on strike after rejecting a tentative agreement that included a 3% raise. Kellogg’s said it will start replacing striking workers with permanent hires.

In more labor news, members of the United Auto Workers recently voted in favor of the “one member, one vote” system, which will allow workers to directly elect their president and other leadership. The election reform came after a federal corruption probe which found UAW leaders were using union funds to make luxury purchases and support lavish lifestyles.

Sen. Warren Blames Big Tech for Price Hikes as Amazon Employee Shares Inhumane Working Conditions

Dec 09, 2021

The Senate held a hearing this week focused on Amazon and Big Tech’s role in driving up consumer costs. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who led the hearing, says supply chain issues alone do not give the full picture of the current price surge, blaming corporate anti-competitive practices. Amazon worker Courtenay Brown testified about the horrendous worker conditions at her New Jersey warehouse.

Courtenay Brown: “Amazon’s multibillion-dollar wealth is made possible by offering same-day delivery, anywhere from same-day delivery to two-day delivery. And the corporation has achieved this speed and scale through their sheer brutality, watching, timing and punishing associates like me and my co-workers. … We are living in a country where machines are getting better treatment than people. The machines at my facility undergo routine maintenance checks to ensure that they don’t burn out.”

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