President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva Wednesday for a three-hour summit. The two leaders of the world’s largest nuclear powers agreed to set up working groups to deal with nuclear arms control, as well as cyberattacks. They also agreed to send ambassadors back to their posts. Biden said after the brief summit that both parties had agreed not to renew the tensions of the Cold War.
President Joe Biden: “It’s clearly not in anybody’s interest, your country’s or mine, for us to be in a situation where we’re in a new Cold War. And I truly believe he thinks that.”
The German drugmaker CureVac says its COVID-19 vaccine showed an efficacy of just 47% in a large clinical trial. The disappointing result is just below the 50% threshold set by the World Health Organization and far below the roughly 95% effectiveness shown by other mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
In the United States, Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order this week barring public universities and community colleges from requiring students to show proof of vaccination to attend class. Ducey’s order came just days after the University of California system said COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for students, faculty and staff beginning this fall.
A new report warns the Earth is trapping about twice as much heat as it did just 16 years ago, largely due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The study by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration finds human activity is at least partly to blame for the increase in Earth’s energy imbalance.
Meanwhile, record heat continues to bake the western United States, with Salt Lake City this week tying its all-time record high of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature in Death Valley, California, on Wednesday reached 129 degrees Fahrenheit — or 54 degrees Celsius — just a few degrees shy of the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill enshrining Juneteenth as a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery. The celebration marks June 19, the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned of the Emancipation Proclamation — signed by Abraham Lincoln more than two years prior — and that the Civil War had ended. Texas Democratic Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee, who is African American, called the roll.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: “On this vote, the yeas are 415, and the nays are 14. The bill is passed.”
Since the Senate passed the bill this week, the bill now heads to President Biden for his signature. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke in favor of the federal Juneteenth holiday, including New Jersey Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman: “Juneteenth is a day, for me, of commemoration, not of celebration, because it reminds us of something that was delayed in happening. It also reminds me of what we don’t have today, and that is full access to justice, freedom and equality. All of these are often in short supply as it relates to the Black community, and it is still delayed.”
The Justice Department has overturned Trump-era rules that prevented survivors of domestic violence and families targeted by violent gangs from receiving asylum in the United States. Immigration rights group Al Otro Lado said, “This is going to make the difference between life or death for so many people fleeing danger.”
The Biden administration has restored protections for trans students against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The move reverses the Trump administration’s exclusion of trans students from protections under Title IX, a 1972 federal law barring discrimination on the basis of sex.
In a victory for reproductive rights, a federal court ruled Wednesday that North Carolina’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks is unconstitutional and creates a credible threat of prosecution for providers. A lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights, who argued the case, celebrated the ruling, saying, “Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will is a violation of their basic humanity, their rights, and their freedom.”
In related news, in Missouri, a federal court last week blocked a ban on abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
In Mexico, authorities have identified remains belonging to one of the 43 disappeared and likely massacred students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. The student has been named as Jhosivani Guerrero. He is just the third person in the group to have been found and identified. The 2014 disappearance led to intense public outrage and protests. Families of the disappeared students have long maintained the military was involved in the mass abduction.
In Peru, socialist presidential candidate Pedro Castillo has declared victory after a final count showed him with a 44,000-vote lead over right-wing politician Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s imprisoned former dictator. Fujimori has claimed voter fraud, without evidence, and has promised to challenge certification of Castillo’s win. On Tuesday, Castillo tweeted an image of himself with his arms raised in victory over the words “President” and his campaign slogan, “No more poor in a rich country.” Castillo has promised to raise taxes on Peru’s lucrative copper mining industry to fund healthcare and education initiatives and to reduce Peru’s vast income inequality.
Democratic Massachusetts Congressmember Jim McGovern is calling on President Biden to end deadly U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, suggesting they amount to collective punishment. McGovern, who is chair of the House Human Rights Commission, says sanctions aimed at forcing President Nicolás Maduro from power instead pushed millions of people into poverty and hunger, while denying them healthcare and other basic services during the pandemic. This is Congressmember McGovern speaking to peace activists earlier this year.
Rep. Jim McGovern: “It has resulted in needless death. It has resulted in people not getting the medical supplies that, quite frankly, could keep them alive. It has resulted in food shortages. It has resulted in a lot of suffering.”
China’s military sent 28 warplanes into airspace controlled by Taiwan on Tuesday — a record number since it began flying sorties off the coast of Taiwan on a near-daily basis last year. In response, Taiwan scrambled jet fighters, activated missile defense systems and issued warnings to the Chinese pilots. The tensions came a day after President Biden successfully pushed NATO leaders to declare China to be a security risk for the first time. China has repeatedly warned the U.S. against intervening in Taiwan, which China claims as its sovereign territory.
China has launched three astronauts on a three-month mission to its new space station in low-Earth orbit. China built its own station after the U.S. banned Chinese astronauts — known as taikonauts — from the International Space Station. It’s China’s first crewed mission since 2016 and follows two other recent successes: a sample-return mission from the moon and the deployment of a rover on Mars. China is just the second nation, after the U.S., to operate a rover on the Red Planet.
Saudi Arabia has beheaded a man accused of taking part in anti-government riots when he was a teenager. Tuesday’s execution of 26-year-old Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish came despite international outcry. He was imprisoned in 2015 for allegedly participating in a protest of minority Shia Muslim youth demanding jobs and an end to discrimination at the height of the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012. Al-Darwish was just 17 or 18 years old at the time of the uprising. Human rights groups say Saudi Arabia has carried out at least 26 executions this year.
In Hawaii, three Honolulu police officers are facing murder charges after the fatal shooting of a teenage boy in April. Geoffrey Thom, the officer who shot the boy, initially claimed 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap, who was driving at the time of the killing, rammed his car into him. But prosecutors say bodycam footage does not match the officer’s account.
In another case of police violence from Honolulu, the family and lawyers of a Black South African man are demanding answers and justice for Lindani Myeni, who was shot dead by police in April. Surveillance video from a doorbell shows Myeni removed his shoes and entered a house immediately behind a couple, but shortly thereafter exited and apologized multiple times. The woman who entered the home ahead of Myeni called 911 to report a burglary. When police arrived on the scene, they did not announce themselves before confronting and eventually shooting Myeni dead. Lawyers for Myeni’s family say he confused the home with a neighboring house, which acts as a place of worship and is open to the public. Myeni’s wife has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing the police of racial discrimination.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill allowing people to carry guns without a permit if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm. Abbott signed the bill privately Wednesday and is holding a ceremonial signing this morning at the Alamo in San Antonio. Texas joins 20 other states with similar laws.
Meanwhile, in California, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to require gun shops to record firearm purchases. The ordinance follows last month’s mass shooting at a San Jose rail yard, when a gunman with a history of sexual assault killed nine people before turning the gun on himself.
Jack Weinstein, a Brooklyn federal judge who sat on the bench for over half a century and oversaw landmark class-action lawsuits, died in New York at the age of 99. In 1984, he approved a $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. He also ruled on key cases against gun manufacturers and Big Tobacco.
In Puerto Rico, another power failure left hundreds of thousands of homes in the dark across the island late Wednesday. This is the second major outage following the recent takeover of the electric grid by U.S. and Canadian company LUMA Energy. Labor unions and others have been protesting against the privatization of Puerto Rico’s energy network.
In Greece, the conservative-led Parliament has passed a bill that allows employees to work more hours in a day in exchange for time off. The bill was condemned by opposition lawmakers and labor unions, which organized strikes and demonstrations in response. This is a protester speaking from Athens Wednesday.
Veta Panoutsakou: “Workers are determined not to allow our rights to be destroyed, not to go back to previous centuries. We will protect the eight-hour workday, which was won with blood. And we will not allow anyone to profit on our backs.”