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HeadlinesJune 22, 2021

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South African President Blasts Big Pharma for Refusing to Share COVID-19 Vaccine Technology

Jun 22, 2021

The World Health Organization said Monday it’s setting up a hub in South Africa to help poor and middle-income countries produce their own COVID-19 vaccines using the mRNA technology behind the world’s most effective shots. The WHO said its plan could see new vaccine production begin in South Africa in as little as nine to 12 months. The U.N. agency called on Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to share their technology to make the plan successful.

This came as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blasted wealthy nations and pharmaceutical companies that have refused to transfer life-saving technology to the Global South. On Monday, Ramaphosa repeated his call for a three-year waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

President Cyril Ramaphosa: “We are facing an emergency that is affecting the entire world. And it is wholly unfair and wholly unjust that pharmaceutical companies, as well as certain countries, are refusing to allow this provision to be waived so that there can be mass production of these vaccines, so that we can save lives.”

Ramaphosa’s remarks came as COVID-19 cases and deaths across the African continent surged by more than 40% over the past week.

Cuba Says Abdala Vaccine Shows 92% Efficacy Against COVID-19

Jun 22, 2021

Cuba’s Health Ministry says its three-shot Abdala vaccine showed over 92% efficacy against COVID-19 in a late-stage clinical trial. The announcement came days after promising initial results from another Cuban vaccine candidate, Soberana 02.

Coronavirus Surges in Indonesia; Colombia Death Toll Passes 100,000

Jun 22, 2021

Health officials in Indonesia are tightening public health measures as the world’s fourth most populous nation recorded a record number of new COVID-19 cases Monday. Authorities are blaming the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant, though the explosion of new cases follows a surge of travel at the end of the month of Ramadan when many Indonesians ignored travel restrictions to visit their hometowns.

In Colombia, COVID-19 deaths have passed the 100,000 mark amid a devastating third wave of cases. This is Colombian epidemiologist Andrea Ramírez.

Andrea Ramírez Varela: “Certainly, this is the worst moment of the pandemic. From the perspective of positive cases, we are seeing 40% positivity, four out of 10 people infected. Also, the collapse of the ICUs. It is the first time that Bogotá has had such a prolonged hospital collapse, and we have had this alarming figure for several days now.”

White House Falls Behind Goal of Donating 80 Million Vaccine Doses by End of June

Jun 22, 2021

The Biden administration admitted Monday it has fallen behind on its goal of sending 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine abroad by the end of June. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it was a matter of distribution, not supply.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “We have plenty of doses to share with the world, but this is a Herculean logistical challenge, and we’ve seen that as we’ve begun to implement.”

Deaths Soared by 32% in U.S. Nursing Homes, Where 4 in 10 Had COVID-19 in 2020

Jun 22, 2021

A new report finds deaths among Medicare patients in U.S. nursing homes surged by 32% last year. The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found four in 10 Medicare recipients in nursing homes tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020, or had symptoms consistent with the disease.

Meanwhile, new cases continue to fall in most parts of the United States but are on the rise in some areas with low vaccination rates. In Florida, six people contracted COVID-19 in an outbreak at a government building in Manatee County — five of whom were hospitalized, and two of whom died. The only employee who was exposed who did not become infected had been vaccinated.

Senate GOP to Filibuster Restoration of Voting Rights Protections

Jun 22, 2021

Senate Republicans are expected to use the filibuster today to block the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would restore protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled the first procedural vote on the legislation today even though Democrats don’t have the votes to move it forward. That’s because two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — oppose eliminating the filibuster. We’ll have more on this story after headlines with Ari Berman of Mother Jones.

Belarus Hit with New Sanctions as U.N. Rights Chief Decries Torture and Other Abuses

Jun 22, 2021

The United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Canada have imposed new sanctions on Belarus after its military diverted a Ryanair passenger jet to Minsk in May in order to arrest a journalist. The new sanctions came as U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the government of President Alexander Lukashenko was guilty of torture and other abuses.

Michelle Bachelet: “The situation in Belarus also continues to deteriorate, with severe restrictions on civic space, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association; raids against civil society and independent media; and the judicial persecution of human rights activists and journalists. We continue to receive numerous allegations of arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill treatment.”

Zapatistas Arrive in Spain, Marking 500 Years Since Cortés’s Conquest of Mexico

Jun 22, 2021

In more international news, a group of Indigenous leaders and members of Mexico’s Zapatista movement have arrived in Spain to mark 500 years of Indigenous resistance after Spanish colonizers settled in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, which later became Mexico City. The Zapatistas sailed across the Atlantic Ocean for over a month, after departing Mexico in early May. Their boat depicted a big white sign with the phrase “Wake up!” written in red letters in Spanish. During their trip, the Indigenous leaders planned to tour Europe and share their plans to fight the inequities triggered by capitalism.

U.S. Bishops Seek to Deny Communion to Joe Biden over His Support for Reproductive Rights

Jun 22, 2021

Back in the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is seeking to prohibit President Biden and other Catholic politicians from receiving communion over their support for reproductive and abortion rights. The bishops’ move came despite advice from the Vatican not to push for such measures. Biden is the second Roman Catholic president after John F. Kennedy.

California to Pay Off All Past-Due Rent Accumulated During the Pandemic

Jun 22, 2021

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom is set to announce his state will pay off all the past-due rent that accumulated during the pandemic. California will use its unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus money to finance the $5.2 billion program. However, it is still unclear whether California will ban evictions of people with unpaid rent past June 30. Across the U.S., over 11 million people are behind on their rent and could face eviction from their homes when the federal eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month.

Dozens of Incarcerated Texans Died in Prison After They Were Cleared for Parole

Jun 22, 2021

In Texas, a new report on the impacts of the pandemic inside prisons reveals at least 18 people who had been cleared for parole last year died of COVID-19 — and some two dozen others died of chronic health issues — before their scheduled release. That follows at least 26 Texas prisoners who died in 2019 after they were approved for parole. The report, published by the University of Texas at Austin, highlights a pattern of delaying the release of incarcerated people who’ve been paroled for as much as one year.

In related news, The Marshall Project reports some 31,000 federal prisoners have sought compassionate release since the start of the pandemic. The Bureau of Prisons approved just 36 of those appeals.

Lawsuit Accuses Smithfield Foods of Stoking Fears over Meat Shortages as Workers Died of COVID-19

Jun 22, 2021

A new lawsuit filed in a Washington, D.C., court alleges meat giant Smithfield lied to the U.S. public throughout the pandemic in order to protect corporate profits. Food & Water Watch, which brought the suit, says in a statement, “[Smithfield] utterly failed to protect its workers as the coronavirus spread like wildfire throughout its meat processing facilities, and its fearmongering about meat shortages was designed to exploit consumer panic and boost sales.” More than 58,000 U.S. meatpacking and slaughterhouse workers have contracted COVID-19, and 293 have died.

Tornado Devastates Chicago Suburbs; Record Heat Wave Sparks Fires in Western States

Jun 22, 2021

In Illinois, cleanup is continuing from a massive tornado that swept through the suburbs west of Chicago late Sunday night, damaging over a hundred homes and injuring several people, including a woman left in critical condition.

The storm came as a record-breaking late-spring heat wave exacerbated a devastating drought in the western U.S. The extreme weather fueled wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon.

In Northern California, smoke from the Willow Fire in Monterey County continues to bring hazy skies and poor air quality to the San Francisco Bay Area. Seven million people in six states were under red flag warnings, with meteorologists forecasting another heat wave next week.

400-Mile Youth Climate March Ends with Protest at Houston Home of Sen. Ted Cruz

Jun 22, 2021

Climate youth activists and members of the Sunrise Movement ended their 400-mile march from New Orleans to Texas Monday outside the Houston home of Republican Senator Ted Cruz — a committed climate change denier. At least eight protesters were arrested. Nineteen-year-old climate activist Ishan Gupta said in a statement, “Biden, I voted for you because I thought I was securing my future, but every day since inauguration I’ve woken up with the same fears. … Deliver on your promises so I can have a future doing meaningful work like fixing our power grid.”

In February, millions of Texas residents faced a massive blackout and freezing temperatures after the state’s power grid collapsed. At the time, Senator Cruz decided to travel to Cancún, Mexico, to escape the winter cold.

New York Mayoral Primary to Be Decided by Largest-Ever Ranked-Choice Vote

Jun 22, 2021

It’s Primary Day in New York state. New York City is the largest jurisdiction in the country to use ranked-choice voting, with the most watched mayoral primary in decades.

Carl Nassib Becomes First Active NFL Player to Come Out as Gay

Jun 22, 2021

Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib has become the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib made the announcement Monday in a social media post.

Carl Nassib: “I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life. I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for. I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that like one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary. But until then, you know, I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate. And I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project. They’re an incredible organization. They’re the number one suicide prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America. And they’re truly doing incredible things.”

Openly gay athletes are largely absent from major U.S. professional sports, with only a handful of active players ever coming out during their careers.

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