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In California, powerful winds and dry conditions have caused several wildfires to explode in size, including the massive Dixie Fire, now the sixth largest in California history. The fire, north of Sacramento, almost completely burned downtown Greenville and has consumed an area larger than Los Angeles. Six of the largest 10 wildfires in California’s history have happened since 2020. Elsewhere in Northern California, officials shut down a hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville after the reservoir reached a record low level amid a searing drought.
In Greece, thousands of people have fled their homes on the outskirts of Athens as firefighters from across Europe joined crews battling blazes that are threatening the Greek capital. One fire nearly reached the Ancient Olympia archaeological site, where the Olympic Games were held for over a millennium. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed the fires on climate change.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis: “Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come, and the night ahead seems menacing. … We are talking about unprecedented conditions following many days of heat waves, which have transformed the whole country into a powder keg.”
Scores of other fires are raging in Turkey, Italy, the Balkans, Albania, Romania, Ukraine and Russia. On Monday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set to release its first assessment in eight years. The report from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning agency is expected to contain dire warnings over soaring temperatures, rising seas and extreme weather.
A new study in the journal Nature finds human activity could soon cause a crucial Atlantic Ocean current system to collapse, with devastating impacts on the global climate system. Researchers found the ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic have already been destabilized by the climate crisis. A complete collapse would dramatically change rainfall patterns around the globe, lower temperatures in parts of Europe while raising them elsewhere, and would dramatically raise sea levels in the eastern United States.
President Biden on Thursday restored tailpipe emissions standards set under the Obama administration — and later canceled by President Trump. Biden also set a goal of making half of all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. by 2030 be electric vehicles. Biden made the announcement surrounded by executives and labor leaders of the auto industry.
President Joe Biden: “Beyond the devastation to the lives and livelihoods and the health of our very planet, when I hear 'climate,' I think 'jobs,' good-paying union jobs. I wanted the world to see there was a consensus that all — that we’re at an inflection point in world history. If we act to save the planet, we can also come out of it better.”
Congressional Democrats have drafted legislation that would tax major polluters to compensate for the impacts of catastrophic climate change. The Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act would raise $500 billion over a decade by taxing companies like Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil based on the percentage of their global emissions. The fund would help pay for green energy research and to help communities adapt to a warming planet.
The World Health Organization warned Thursday the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant has led to an 80% increase in COVID-19 deaths across the African continent over the last month.
Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe: “The third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is still raging at full force. After a slight dip in cases last week, COVID-19 cases are surging again, rising by 19% to nearly over 278,000 this last week.”
Globally, COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise, with an average of over 600,000 confirmed cases per day.
The United Nations Security Council is holding an emergency session today to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan. This comes as Taliban fighters are attempting to seize three provincial capitals. On Wednesday, a U.N. spokesperson said the fighting has left thousands of Afghans trapped or fleeing for their lives.
Stéphane Dujarric: “We’re deeply concerned about the safety and protection of people in Lashkar Gah, in the south, where tens of thousands of people could be trapped by the fighting. Our humanitarian colleagues also tell us that in Helmand and Kandahar, there are reported increased civilian casualties, destruction or damage to civilian houses, as well as to critical infrastructure, including hospitals.”
In Nicaragua, authorities have arrested another candidate in November’s presidential election as President Daniel Ortega continues to crack down on his opposition. Berenice Quezada, who was Miss Nicaragua in 2017, has been placed under house arrest. Quezada is the running mate of right-wing presidential hopeful Oscar Sobalvarro, a former commander for the U.S.-backed Contras — which have been accused of brutal human rights violations fighting the Sandinistas during the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1980s.
In Guatemala, a new anti-corruption prosecutor has been appointed following the abrupt firing last month of Juan Francisco Sandoval, who was forced to flee the country. The new appointee has been accused of prosecuting Guatemala’s political opposition and of protecting the corrupt elite. This comes as protests continued across the country this week demanding the resignation of right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei and Guatemala’s attorney general. Click here to see our recent coverage of the protests in Guatemala.
Back in the United States, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott has ordered a new special session of the state Legislature in a renewed effort to pass draconian voter suppression legislation. In response to a previous effort last month, almost every Democratic representative in the Texas House fled the state to Washington, D.C., denying the Republican majority a quorum. Texas Democrats are reportedly debating whether to leave the state once again ahead of Saturday’s special session. Today is the 56th anniversary of the signing of the federal Voting Rights Act.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died of a heart attack on Thursday at the age of 72. Trumka had led the nation’s largest labor federation since 2009. Richard Trumka was a third-generation coal miner from Pennsylvania. At the age of 33, he became the youngest president of the United Mine Workers of America, where he helped organize strikes against Peabody Coal and the Pittston Coal Company. He also led union efforts to oppose apartheid in South Africa and backed a boycott of Royal Dutch Shell, which had been called by the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa. We’ll have more on Rich Trumka’s life and legacy after headlines.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has opened an investigation into allegations of abuse, excessive force and discrimination by the Phoenix Police Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday the probe will also focus on accusations that Phoenix officers retaliated against protesters and brutalized unhoused people and people with disabilities.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order restricting some asylum seekers to traveling only with law enforcement officials, and directing state troopers to stop vehicles suspected of transporting migrants. The ACLU denounced the policy as illegal and inhumane and warned it will create the “perfect storm” for racial profiling. A federal judge earlier this week temporarily blocked the executive order — until next week, when another hearing is scheduled.
The Biden administration says it will soon require thousands of border agents to begin wearing body cameras. Immigrant justice advocates have long demanded the practice to improve accountability, after dozens of fatal shootings involving border agents and mounting allegations of abuse against migrants, asylum seekers and others.
Today marks 76 years since the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140,000 people. During a ceremony today at the site of the blast, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Japan would work with other nations to promote nuclear disarmament. But he did not mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which Japan has not signed. Democracy Now! visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 2014 and spoke to a survivor of the bombing. Click here to see our coverage.