Another punishing heat wave is set to bring triple-digit temperatures to at least 17 million people in the western United States and Canada this weekend, as a record wildfire season — fueled by the climate crisis — shows no sign of letting up. In Oregon, the massive Bootleg Fire has burned more than 200,000 acres. Over a million acres of the western U.S. and Canada are now in flames. This is Dale Kunce, head of the Cascades Region of the American Red Cross.
Dale Kunce: “What we’ve seen as the Red Cross is really this change from one big event a year or one big event every five years or 10 years to now we’re seeing chronic events.”
In northeastern Washington state, hundreds of residents of the Colville Indian Reservation were forced to evacuate after a wildfire sparked by lightning grew rapidly. Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Wednesday climate change is to blame.
Gov. Jay Inslee: “Every part of our state is under attack. Every person, in some way, is under attack from the combined effects of climate change, that is tonight and today ravaging our state.”
In Russia, the Kremlin has ordered heavy-lift military aircraft to join firefighting efforts as massive wildfires scorch northeastern Siberia. A heat wave and strong winds have left about 2 million acres of Siberian forest and tundra burning. This week, yet another heat wave broke records in western Russia, with high temperatures in Moscow forecast to approach 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day throughout the weekend.
Global COVID-19 cases and deaths are on the rise, fueled by chronic outbreaks in Latin America and surging cases in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The World Health Organization is warning of exponential increases in infections in Libya, Iran, Iraq — and in Tunisia, where medical workers report they’ve run out of oxygen and beds for coronavirus patients.
Ahmed Ghoul: “Now we don’t have any vacant place to receive any patients. We are waiting for someone to die to leave their place for the next patient. In fact, the situation is catastrophic. The number of patients outside waiting for a place in the emergency room is huge. Where will we put them?”
Indonesia continues to set daily records for infections, deaths and hospitalizations, and has overtaken India as the region’s biggest COVID hot spot. Malaysia has logged a third straight day of record infections.
In Paris, French police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters who marched against President Macron’s plan to require a “health pass” for those gaining entry to bars, restaurants and cinemas. People would be required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test result.
In Greece, more than 5,000 anti-vaccine protesters rallied in Athens Wednesday against the country’s mass vaccination program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says U.S. drug overdose deaths skyrocketed to a record 93,000 last year — a nearly 30% increase — as the pandemic took hold. That’s the largest one-year increase ever recorded. Overdoses rose in 48 of 50 states, fueled by methamphetamine and powerful opioids, including fentanyls. Overdoses accounted for more deaths in 2020 than car crashes, gun violence and HIV/AIDS combined.
President Biden has nominated a doctor who oversaw West Virginia’s response to the opioid epidemic to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. If confirmed by the Senate, Rahul Gupta would become the first medical doctor to serve as so-called drug czar since the position was created in 1988. Dr. Gupta also previously served as chair of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, where he touted the medicinal benefits of marijuana.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has proposed draft legislation that would remove marijuana from a federal list of controlled substances, while paving the way for the drug to be taxed and regulated. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would also expunge federal records of nonviolent marijuana offenders. Co-sponsor Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, said it’s the first time in American history the Senate majority leader is leading the call to end marijuana prohibition.
Sen. Cory Booker: “In 2019, there were more marijuana arrests than all other violent crime arrests combined. And the majority of those were for simple possession. This is a grievous reality. Lives are being destroyed every single day.”
In Haiti, the head of security at the presidential residence was taken into custody and is being questioned, along with several other security personnel, as investigations continue into last week’s assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Colombian authorities are probing whether Dimitri Hérard met with any of the Colombian suspects in the assassination when he traveled to Bogotá in May. Two more suspects were also arrested Wednesday, including a former police superintendent, Gilbert Dragon, a close associate to Guy Philippe, who led the 2004 coup against then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and who is now imprisoned in the U.S. The other arrested suspect, Reynaldo Corvington, runs a security company and is accused of harboring the men who raided Moïse’s home and killed him. Eighteen Colombian nationals — many of them former military — and five Haitians are now in police custody. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has confirmed one of the two arrested Haitian American suspects had worked as an informant.
Cuba announced it will allow incoming travelers to bring in unlimited food, medicine and hygiene products without having to pay a customs tax. The move comes after several days of rare anti-government demonstrations, with people decrying a lack of medicines and basic goods, which is due in large part to the catastrophic U.S. blockade.
Taliban forces say they have captured a key border crossing with Pakistan as they continue to make territorial gains, and with the U.S. and NATO withdrawal nearing its end. Taliban fighters say they are encouraging Afghan soldiers to surrender to the militant group.
Taliban fighter: “Our request to the soldiers is to have mercy on themselves and surrender. Our order is a general amnesty, and they will be forgiven and will not face any problems. They have seen what we have done to them. Sometimes we have given them money and hung flowers around their neck.”
Video emerged this week that appears to show Taliban fighters gunning down 22 Afghan soldiers as they surrendered last month, in what Amnesty International has called a war crime. Intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to resume as early as Friday in Doha.
In Pennsylvania, the remains of nine Indigenous youth who died while at a government school over 100 years ago were turned over to their families Wednesday. The Carlisle Indian School was founded by an Army officer in 1879. Over 10,000 Native American children passed through its doors until 1918, where they were separated from their families and subjected to cultural genocide and neglect.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland participated in Wednesday’s ceremony with members of the Rosebud and Ogala Sioux Tribes. Haaland, the first Native cabinet secretary, is leading an investigation into the ongoing impact of these residential boarding schools and will seek to identify more burial sites across the country.
Top U.S. General Mark Milley feared then-President Trump could attempt a coup to remain in power, and compared Trump’s rhetoric to that of Nazi Germany in the final weeks of his presidency. The revelations come in a new book by Washington Post reporters, which says Milley described Trump as a “classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose.” Milley also reportedly called Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud his very own “Reichstag moment.”
Johnson & Johnson says it’s recalling five of its aerosol spray-on sunscreen products after they were found to contain the carcinogen benzene. The recalled sunscreens are sold under the brand names Neutrogena and Aveeno.
In North Carolina, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that officers who shot and killed the 42-year-old Black father used unreasonable and excessive force in violation of Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights. Brown was killed by a bullet to the back of his head in April, after two sheriff’s deputies opened fire on him in his driveway while serving an arrest warrant. A North Carolina prosecutor concluded the shooting was “justified” and said officers will not be charged. On Wednesday, family attorney Bakari Sellers said Brown didn’t get justice in life and has yet to find justice in death.
Bakari Sellers: “Andrew Brown’s voice, District Attorney Womble, will be heard. Sheriff Wooten can’t just run to Fox News. He’s going to have to sit in front of us and have a deposition and answer the questions about why his officers violated their own policy about shooting into vehicles where no one poses a threat.”
Jamaica is planning to seek billions of dollars in reparations for slavery from Britain. Jamaica was a British colony from the mid-17th century until its independence in 1962 and remains part of the Commonwealth today. An estimated 600,000 Africans were brought to Jamaica as slaves. Olivia Grange, the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sports, told Reuters, “Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire. Redress is well overdue.”