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HeadlinesAugust 17, 2021

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Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan After Taliban Capture Kabul 

Aug 17, 2021

President Biden is defending his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Biden spoke from the White House Monday, one day after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital, Kabul. 

President Joe Biden: “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

Advocates Demand U.S. and Other Nations Open Doors to Afghan Refugees

Aug 17, 2021

Human rights advocates are urging the United States and other nations around the world to open their doors to the thousands of refugees who are desperately trying to flee Afghanistan. Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai — who survived an assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban — spoke out on Monday.

Malala Yousafzai: “I think every country has a role and responsibility right now. Countries need to open their borders to Afghan refugees, to the displaced people. … Biden has a lot to do. President Biden has to take a bold step for the protection of the people of Afghanistan.”

Progressive U.S. lawmakers have also joined the call. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “If we don’t start putting everyday people first, no matter what country they’re born in, this will keep happening. Let’s start by opening our country to shelter refugees fleeing the consequences of our actions.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is reportedly planning to hold some 30,000 Afghan refugees at two military bases: Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. Fort Bliss is currently holding hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children and has been plagued by allegations of abuse and unsafe conditions.

Tropical Storm Adds to Haiti’s Misery Two Days After Massive Earthquake Kills Over 1,400

Aug 17, 2021

Tropical Storm Grace swept into Haiti and the Dominican Republic overnight, bringing heavy rain and winds, just two days after a massive earthquake killed more than 1,400 people in Haiti. Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude quake left some 6,900 people injured, and the toll is expected to rise. Hospitals report they’re inundated with earthquake survivors and facing a shortage of medical supplies. In the city of Les Cayes and the town of Jérémie, two of the most badly hit by the quake, roads were further damaged due to aftershocks and mudslides. 

Immigrant Advocates Denounce Biden Administration for Deporting Haitian Refugees

Aug 17, 2021

Haitian and immigrant justice advocates are denouncing the Biden administration for its ongoing deportations of Haitian asylum seekers — even after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Last week, at least two deportation flights departed from Texas to Haiti with some 130 asylum seekers, including children. In a statement, Guerline Jozef, co-founder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said, “How can the U.S. government deport anyone to Haiti right now? How do they think so little of Haitian lives, deporting children and babies in the middle of the chaos? This is a clear example of external violence that continues to deepen the instability in Haiti.”

U.S. Will Recommend COVID Booster Shots After 8 Months, Despite Global Vaccine Inequity

Aug 17, 2021

The Biden administration will advise nearly all U.S. residents to get a booster shot against COVID-19 eight months after they completed their initial vaccinations. White House officials told reporters the plan is contingent on FDA approval but could be formally announced as early as this week. Public health officials believe the shots could provide additional protection against Delta and other emerging coronavirus variants.

The policy is likely to deepen the global vaccine divide. Of the 4.7 billion vaccines distributed worldwide, more than 80% have gone to the richest countries. The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on booster shots until at least 10% of people in every nation have been vaccinated. 

Johnson & Johnson Ships Millions of Vaccine Doses from South Africa to Europe

Aug 17, 2021

Outrage is growing after Johnson & Johnson shipped at least 32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced in South Africa to the European Union — with plans to ship 10 million more — even as the African continent faces its deadliest wave of the pandemic. A clause in South Africa’s contract with Johnson & Johnson requires South Africa to waive its right to impose export restrictions on domestically produced vaccines. Just a small fraction of Africans have been vaccinated against COVID-19; by comparison, nearly two-thirds of Germany’s population has received at least one dose. The People’s Vaccine Alliance said in response, “This is further proof that the world cannot trust a handful of pharmaceutical companies to fairly allocate vaccines across the world.”

U.S. Coronavirus Hospitalizations Soar, with Record Infection Levels in Five States

Aug 17, 2021

U.S. coronavirus cases continue to soar, with hospitalizations now at levels seen during last summer’s peak. The U.S. is now detecting over 140,000 new infections a day, with Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon all recording their highest caseloads of the pandemic. In Arkansas, a record high number of patients are on ventilators, with more than 300 people intubated. Medical workers at a Little Rock hospital report they’re overwhelmed.

Courtney Hovorka Holdcraft: “It’s actually really hard. I made it a whole year without crying, and then, actually, a couple of months ago, left here from work crying because of so many — two — two deaths in one shift, from patients that I’ve had for very long periods of time.”

Republican Governors Erect New Barriers to COVID-19 Public Health Measures

Aug 17, 2021

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that all healthcare workers in the district must be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September. New York’s outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a similar requirement.

In Florida, nearly 5,600 students and more than 300 employees of Hillsborough County Schools have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are currently in quarantine. Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has prohibited schools and local governments from ordering mask mandates.

In Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday allowing any parent or guardian to opt out of mask requirements in school.

In Arizona, a judge in Maricopa County ruled Monday that Republican Governor Doug Ducey’s ban on mask mandates is not yet in effect. The ruling leaves the Phoenix school district’s mask requirements in place until at least September 29. Also on Monday, Governor Ducey ordered local governments not to create their own vaccine mandates.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Monday broke from his Republican counterparts, saying school districts requiring masks are “making a wise decision when the facts warrant it.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Resigns as COVID-19 Surges; Iran Orders 6-Day Lockdown

Aug 17, 2021

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned Monday amid mounting public anger over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Malaysia is in the grip of its worst wave of the pandemic and is averaging more than 20,000 daily cases, with just one-third of Malaysians fully vaccinated.

Iranian officials have ordered a six-day countrywide lockdown to battle its worst surge of the pandemic. Iran reported a record COVID-19 death toll Monday with over 650 deaths. In Tehran, residents reported the lockdown was being only loosely enforced.

Tehran resident: “When there is a lockdown, many people continue to go to work. They come and go. It’s called a lockdown, but everything is operating, and restaurants and businesses continue to do business.”

Trump-Appointed Judge Orders Restoration of “Remain in Mexico” Policy Rejected by Biden

Aug 17, 2021

In immigration news, the Biden administration has appealed a Texas federal judge’s order to reinstate the contested Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program. In his decision, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — a Trump appointee — ruled the Biden administration “failed to consider several of the main benefits” of the 2019 policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. The program forced some 68,000 asylum seekers to wait in often extremely dangerous conditions in Mexico while their cases made their way through U.S. courts. Many reported kidnappings and facing brutal violence while waiting in Mexico. The Biden administration officially terminated the program in June.

U.S. Declares Shortage on Colorado River, with Mandatory Water Cuts to Southwestern States

Aug 17, 2021

The United States government has for the first time in history officially declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, ordering mandatory cuts to water consumption across states in the Southwest. This comes as Lake Mead, the largest U.S. reservoir — which is fed by the Colorado River — has hit a record low level of just 32% amid an unprecedented drought. This is Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for water and science at the U.S. Interior Department.

Tanya Trujillo: “There’s no doubt that climate change is real. We’re experiencing it every day in the Colorado River basin and in other basins in the West.”

Water Protectors Take Direct Action to Halt Construction of Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

Aug 17, 2021

In northern Minnesota, where resistance to construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline continues, four water protectors on Monday locked themselves to each other and to machines halting a pipeline worksite near Hay Creek. Their protest followed similar direct actions last week.

Water protector 1: “This pipeline and all pipelines like it are violations of Indigenous rights and an assault on our collective future in a world of increasing climate crisis.”

Water protector 2: “I am here to stand with Indigenous people and sovereignty, to protect their land against Big Oil industries that are hell-bent on destroying the land, taking from the people and making profits. [bleep] Enbridge!”

Water protector 3: “I’m doing this action in support of Indigenous resistance and supporting stopping Line 3 and support the incredible Indigenous-led movement. I’m doing this for future generations. I’m doing this because I hope to raise a child one day in this world. And climate change is too urgent. We can’t wait on politicians that fail us. We have to take action.”

More than 700 water protectors protesting Line 3 have been arrested to date. If completed, the pipeline would carry more than 750,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil a day across Indigenous land and fragile ecosystems. Line 3 has the backing of the Biden administration.

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