The World Health Organization warns the Delta coronavirus variant, first identified in India, is fast becoming the dominant source of new COVID-19 cases globally. Delta is surging across Europe and recently delayed Britain’s planned reopening. It’s now the most common variant in Moscow, where cases are on the rise. Here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Delta is more transmissible than other variants and is likely to become the dominant source of infections this summer. President Biden urged unvaccinated people to get shots to protect themselves and their communities.
President Joe Biden: “The Delta variant can cause more people to die in areas where people have not been vaccinated. Where people have gotten the two shots, the Delta variant is highly unlikely to result in anything.”
Cuba’s Soberana 02 vaccine has shown a promising 62% efficacy after two of its three doses, as Cuba sees its worst surge since the beginning of the pandemic. Mexico City is suspending in-person classes again amid mounting COVID-19 infections. The U.S. has extended restrictions on non-essential travel with Mexico and Canada. As Brazil topped half a million COVID deaths, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for anti-government protests Saturday.
Aline Rabelo: “We are protesting against the genocidal Bolsonaro government that did not buy the vaccines and has done nothing to take care of its people in the last year.”
Experts warn the situation in Brazil could get even worse as the coronavirus continues to spread and a severe drought threatens water supply, farming and a devastating fire season in the Amazon.
In Japan, the governor of Tokyo canceled public viewing sites for next month’s contested Summer Olympics, with some sites to be used as vaccination centers instead.
Uganda has imposed strict new COVID restrictions, including banning both public and private transportation, as Uganda and other African nations face mounting outbreaks.
In Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, the conservative head of the judiciary, won an expected landslide victory in Friday’s presidential election. The vote was marked by a historically low turnout after Iran’s Guardian Council disqualified many potential candidates. Raisi, who enjoys the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was targeted by U.S. sanctions in 2019. He is accused of being involved in thousands of executions of prisoners in the late 1980s. Amnesty International has called for the hard-line cleric to be investigated for crimes against humanity. Raisi’s win comes as talks continue to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which the U.S. unilaterally withdrew in 2018 under President Trump. Analysts say they expect negotiations to conclude before the transfer of power. On Saturday, outgoing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the talks are progressing but challenges remain.
Mohammad Javad Zarif: “The problem is, the United States has to come to the recognition that it was the United States that left the deal with an objective, and that objective was not achieved. Now it is coming back to the deal, so it cannot dictate the objectives that it couldn’t achieve through economic war on the negotiating table.”
Incoming President Raisi has expressed support for the deal but on Monday told reporters he is not willing to meet with President Biden or negotiate Iran’s ballistic missile program or its support of regional militias.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are pressing a military offensive as U.S. troops continue to withdraw ahead of a September 11 deadline. On Sunday, Taliban fighters seized control of the provincial capitals of Kunduz and Faryab, taking Afghan soldiers prisoner and seizing military equipment. In total, the Taliban have seized more than 50 districts across Afghanistan in recent weeks. In response, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fired and replaced his defense and interior ministers. Ghani is scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., for talks with President Biden at the White House on Friday.
In Syria, aid agencies are warning of a looming humanitarian catastrophe if the United Nations Security Council doesn’t renew its mandate for an aid corridor from Turkey to Syria’s Idlib province. Doctors Without Borders warns more than 4 million people will lose access to desperately needed food, medical and humanitarian aid if the Bab al-Hawa border crossing is closed. It’s the last lifeline into rebel-held parts of northwestern Syria, after Russia and China vetoed Security Council resolutions in 2019 and 2020 that would have reauthorized three other aid corridors.
Ethiopian voters are casting ballots in national and regional elections marred by war and famine. The election was already delayed twice, and millions of Ethiopians will have to wait until a second phase of voting in September to cast ballots. Meanwhile, some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election to protest the jailing of their leaders. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is looking to extend his mandate, after he pressed a military offensive in the northern Tigray region marked by widespread reports of war crimes, including sexual violence. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, displaced more than 2 million people and led to massive food shortages, with aid groups warning 350,000 people in Tigray are on the brink of famine.
The U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the February 1 military coup in Burma and to “prevent the flow of arms” into Burma amid the months-long deadly crackdown on protests. The international body stopped short, however, of calling for a global arms embargo against the Burmese military. Burma’s U.N. representative Kyaw Moe Tun responded to the resolution.
Kyaw Moe Tun: “We are so disappointed that it took almost three months to adopt this watered-down resolution, even though it does not include many important points to save lives of the people in Myanmar.”
Kyaw Moe Tun, who has remained in his official U.N. post despite his sharp criticism of the coup and the military junta, also warned time was running out to reverse the military takeover and prevent a full-blown civil war. A local rights group estimates at least 872 people have been killed by the military junta since the coup, and hundreds of thousands have had to flee, particularly ethnic minorities from the states of Kayah and Kayin.
A U.N. Refugee Agency report said over 82 million people around the world were forcibly displaced by war, persecution and the climate crisis by the end of 2020 — a record high. The highest number of refugees came from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Burma. The U.N. said the crisis could get even worse in 2021 with possible famines threatening displaced people. The report came ahead of World Refugee Day, Sunday.
Two more prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay have been cleared for release after 17 years behind bars without charge. Eleven prisoners have been cleared to leave the military prison, but the U.S. government has yet to negotiate for their transfers with other countries. This week, activists with the group Witness Against Torture are holding a solidarity fast and vigil with the 40 remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.
Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday he will remove over 100,000 names from state voter rolls. Raffensperger said most of the names were linked to a change of address or from residences where election mail had been returned to sender. Voting rights group Fair Fight Action warns the last time Georgia carried out a purge of voter rolls, Raffensperger was forced to admit errors that nearly disenfranchised 22,000 people. This follows Georgia’s passage of a sweeping voting law in March that critics call the worst voter suppression legislation since the Jim Crow era. Since then, Republican officials have removed at least 10 county election officials across Georgia — most of them Democrats and about half of them people of color. In related news, the U.S. Senate is set to vote Tuesday on the sweeping For the People Act, which Republicans are expected to oppose.
Ten mass shootings were reported across the U.S. this weekend, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens. At least two of the victims were children. The Gun Violence Archive reports there have been nearly 300 mass shootings so far in 2021.
In Portland, Oregon, an entire police crowd-control squad has resigned from their unit after a grand jury indicted one of its members. The mass resignation of about 50 officers came after officer Corey Budworth was charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor assault charge for repeatedly striking a woman in the head with his club and knocking her to the ground at a protest last August.
At least 13 people have died after Tropical Depression Claudette battered the southeast U.S. with torrential rains, triggering massive floods and tornadoes. Among the dead are nine children, including a baby, who were killed Saturday in a 15-vehicle crash on an interstate south of Montgomery, Alabama. Local authorities said the vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads.
Nearly 200 separated families met along the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday for the eighth annual “Hugs Not Walls.” The event allows Mexican nationals with irregular immigration status the opportunity to briefly leave the U.S. to embrace their family members in Mexico. Jaqueline Sosa had not seen her sister and nephew for three years.
Jacqueline Sosa: “I didn’t tell her much. I just hugged her, and that’s all. I hugged her and told her that I loved her very much and loved them very much.”
The groups Border Network for Human Rights and Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance host the annual action, which highlights the ongoing devastation caused by inhumane immigration policies.