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HeadlinesJuly 16, 2021

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COVID-19 Cases Rise in Nearly Every U.S. State as Delta Variant Becomes Dominant

Jul 16, 2021

Los Angeles County will require everyone — including those who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 — to resume wearing masks indoors, as infections of the Delta variant continue to rise across the United States. After months of decline, hospitalizations and deaths have begun climbing again, with over 35,000 U.S. infections reported Thursday. The biggest hot spots are in areas with low vaccination rates, but cases are rising in nearly every state. Meanwhile, vaccinations have slowed to just over a half-million shots per day, down from a peak of over 3 million daily shots in April. 

Surgeon General Calls on Social Media Giants to Stop Spread of Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Jul 16, 2021

At the White House, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on social media companies to stop the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation that’s costing lives.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: “On a personal note, it’s painful for me to know that nearly every death we are seeing now from COVID-19 could have been prevented. I say that as someone who has lost 10 family members to COVID-19 and who wishes each and every day that they had had the opportunity to get vaccinated.”

Coronavirus Infections Continue Exponential Rise in Southeast Asia and Africa

Jul 16, 2021

In Indonesia, volunteer undertakers have begun collecting the bodies of COVID-19 victims from homes, after hospitals filled to capacity. Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s worst-hit nation and logged another record number of infections Thursday.

In Burma, doctors say the military regime that seized power in a February coup is hoarding limited supplies of oxygen amid a massive surge of COVID cases.

Thailand’s government is considering additional lockdown measures after confirming a record number of infections.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization warns COVID cases continue to surge across the African continent. This is the WHO’s Africa regional director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti: “Deaths have climbed steeply for the past five weeks, jumping 40% in the past week. This is a clear warning. Our hospitals are at the breaking point. In all, 153,000 people have, sadly, died.”

German Chancellor Confronted over Blocking Patent Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines

Jul 16, 2021

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop obstructing a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization. In a statement, caucus chair Pramila Jayapal wrote, “as long as Germany withholds its approval of the TRIPS waiver, it threatens the lives of millions of people around the world and our ability to crush the virus.” Her statement came as protesters briefly confronted Merkel outside the White House as she arrived for talks with President Biden.

WHO Warns 23 Million Children Missed Vaccinations in 2020 Due to Pandemic

Jul 16, 2021

The World Health Organization warns the pandemic triggered a massive decline in the number of children vaccinated against measles, polio, meningitis and other preventable diseases. This is WHO immunization director Kate O’Brien.

Dr. Kate O’Brien: “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major backsliding on childhood vaccination, taking us back more than a decade. An estimated 23 million children have missed out on basic vaccines through the routine immunization services in 2020. That is the highest number of unprotected children since 2009.”

110 Dead, 1,300 Missing as Once-in-a-Century Flooding Hits Germany and Belgium

Jul 16, 2021

Over 110 people have died following massive floods in west Germany and Belgium — triggered by some of the heaviest rainfall many European countries have seen in at least a century. Most of the fatalities are in Germany, where some 1,300 people have also been reported missing. Several villages in Germany are almost completely destroyed after torrents of water, often carrying trees and other debris, raged through them. Heavy floods were also reported in Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where thousands of people in the southern province of Limburg were told to evacuate Thursday.

Smoke Blankets Much of North America as Western Wildfires Grow in Size

Jul 16, 2021

Raging wildfires in the western United States and Canada are filling the sky with smoke across much of North America. Hazardous air quality was reported Thursday in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Minnesota, with hazy conditions as far east as New York. In California, a rapidly growing wildfire prompted officials to order the evacuation of a community just 10 miles from the town of Paradise, which was almost completely destroyed by a fire three years ago. In Oregon, the massive Bootleg Fire has now consumed an area larger than New York City.

Research Shows Parts of Amazon Rainforest Now Emit More Greenhouse Gas Than They Absorb

Jul 16, 2021

New research published in the journal Nature confirms that parts of the Amazon rainforest are emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb, driven by deforestation, fires and warming temperatures. The findings come as new data from Brazil’s government showed record levels of deforestation in the Amazon for the fourth straight month.

U.S. Military Trained Colombian Soldiers Arrested for Assassinating Haitian President

Jul 16, 2021

The Washington Post is reporting that an unspecified number of Colombian nationals arrested over Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination last week received U.S. military training while they were part of the Colombian armed services. On Thursday, Colombian President Iván Duque said some of the ex-soldiers who were part of the assassination team were aware of the plot to kill Moïse, while others thought they were there to provide security. Authorities say key suspects had met in Florida and the Dominican Republic over the past year to plot the assassination, but participants to those meetings say they were planning ahead for when Moïse stepped down as president.

Meanwhile, the U.S. sent 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Haiti this week and promised to send more. It’s the first batch of coronavirus vaccines Haiti has received. On Thursday, President Biden was asked if the U.S. would send military forces into Haiti.

President Joe Biden: “We’re only sending American marines to our embassy to make sure that they are secure and nothing is out of whack at all. But the idea of sending American forces into Haiti is not on the agenda at this moment.”

Biden Brands Cuba a “Failed State” Without Acknowledging Role of U.S. Blockade in Crisis

Jul 16, 2021

President Biden called Cuba a “failed state” and said communism was a “universally failed system.” Biden offered to send vaccines to the island if they would be administered independently of the government. But Cuba’s handling of the pandemic has resulted in far fewer deaths and cases than the U.S., proportionate to its population. Cuba is also developing several domestic vaccines. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has blamed the recent unrest and economic crisis on the devastating U.S. blockade and sanctions.

South Africa Sends 25,000 Troops into Street After Days of Protests and Unrest

Jul 16, 2021

South Africa’s government says it has deployed 25,000 troops to protect businesses after crowds ransacked and burned retail shops and warehouses during several days of protests. It’s one of the largest deployments of South African troops since the end of white rule under apartheid. The demonstrations erupted after former President Jacob Zuma began his 15-month jail sentence for refusing to testify in a corruption probe. They’ve since focused on grinding poverty and record levels of unemployment, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Dutch Crime Reporter Peter R. de Vries Dies One Week After He Was Shot on the Street

Jul 16, 2021

In the Netherlands, renowned crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died yesterday after being shot in an attack in Amsterdam last week. The 64-year-old was a household name in the Netherlands, investigating cold-case killings and reporting on organized crime for decades. He had received death threats in the past and was previously given police protection. In a statement, de Vries’s family said, “We are unbelievably proud of him and at the same time inconsolable.”

IRS Begins Child Tax Credit Rollout to 60 Million Families

Jul 16, 2021

Back in the United States, the IRS has begun monthly payments to the families of nearly 60 million children — averaging out to $483 per family per month. The payments are an advance on a temporary increase in the child tax credit, as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden in March. At the White House, Biden hailed the payments as the biggest new government benefit since Social Security.

President Joe Biden: “For every child under the age of 6, a parent will get $3,600 a year. For every child 6 to 17, they’ll get $3,000 per year. … And to give you a sense of how transformative this is, this would be the largest-ever one-year decrease in child poverty in the history of the United States of America.” 

The payments are set to expire at the end of the year, unless Congress takes action to extend the larger child tax credit beyond 2021.

Biden’s ICE Nominee Says He Would Let Local Law Enforcement Continue to Collaborate with Agency

Jul 16, 2021

In immigration news, President Biden’s pick to head Immigration and Custom Enforcement, ICE, testified in front of the Senate Thursday. In his confirmation hearing, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas pledged to uphold the “rule of law” and said he planned to continue allowing state and local law enforcement agencies to collaborate with ICE. His comments were a stark contradiction to Gonzalez’s previous move to end the controversial program in Harris County in 2017 during his time as sheriff. Immigrant justice advocates also condemned Gonzalez for not mentioning plans to address the systemic abuse and accusations of human rights violations that have plagued ICE for years.

FBI Failed to Intervene in Abuse Claims Against Larry Nassar, Leading to 100+ More Sex Crimes

Jul 16, 2021

A new report by the Justice Department’s inspector general finds Indianapolis FBI officials for months failed to properly investigate serious sexual abuse accusations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, stating FBI officials exhibited “extremely poor judgment.” The report found that the former agent in charge of the Indianapolis FBI office and another unnamed agent failed to follow up with key witnesses or alert other law enforcement agencies of the crimes. The neglect led to Nassar abusing or assaulting more than 100 other gymnasts between the time the FBI first heard of the accusations in 2015 until Nassar’s arrest the following year. The two FBI agents also made false statements and omitted key information in trying to hide failures in the Nassar investigation. In 2018, Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting and abusing more than 160 women and girl athletes.

Capitol Police Arrest Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty and Others as They March to Defend Democracy

Jul 16, 2021

In Washington, D.C., Capitol Police arrested at least nine people as they took part in a demonstration at a Senate office building in defense of voting rights, led by prominent Black women. One of those arrested was Ohio congressmember and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Joyce Beatty.

Protesters: “… turn me 'round. We fight for voting rights, and we — turn me ’round. We're gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, marching on to freedom land.”

The group chanted “Pass the For the People Act.” Congressmember Beatty wore a T-shirt reading “Protect Our Voting Rights.” She tweeted an image of herself walking with arms linked to other Black women defending democracy, writing, “We will not be turned around. We will keep walking. We will fight for freedom. We will fight for our right to vote!” Following her arrest, Congressmember Beatty also tweeted “#GoodTrouble,” quoting her friend, the late congressmember and civil rights leader John Lewis.

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