The United States marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks with somber memorials across the country. Saturday’s memorial service in New York City began with a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the moment the first of two planes struck the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Relatives then read the names of the victims of the attacks. President Joe Biden was in attendance. Ahead of the memorial, he released a video message calling for national unity.
President Joe Biden: “To the families of the 2,977 people from more than 90 nations killed on September 11th, 2001, in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the thousands more who were injured: America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones, the pieces of your soul. We honor all those who risked and gave their lives in the minutes, hours, months and years afterwards.”
Later on Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “In America, our diversity is our strength. At the same time, we saw after 9/11 how fear can be used to sow division in our nation, as Sikh and Muslim Americans were targeted because of how they looked or how they worshiped.”
Biden and Harris also visited Arlington, Virginia, to lay a wreath at the site of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
The FBI has released the first of several previously classified documents examining connections between Saudi citizens and two of the 9/11 hijackers. The first document provided no conclusive links between prominent Saudis and the attackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and families of 9/11 victims have long suspected senior Saudi officials provided funding and assistance for the attacks.
Former President George W. Bush drew comparisons Saturday between the 9/11 attackers and the Trump supporters who led the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Bush spoke at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
George W. Bush: “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is in our continuing duty to confront them.”
The wars launched by Bush following 9/11 killed an estimated 929,000 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. That’s according to the Costs of War Project, which estimates those wars came with a price tag of roughly $8 trillion.
In related news, after an internal investigation, the U.S. Capitol Police Department is recommending disciplinary action in six cases for failures during the January 6 insurrection, but no criminal charges will be brought against officers. That includes one officer who was filmed posing for selfies alongside insurrectionists. Meanwhile, top security officials are expected to approve a request by the Capitol Police to reinstall fencing on Capitol Hill ahead of the far-right “Justice for J6” rally next Saturday organized by Trump supporters. Fencing erected after the insurrection was removed in July.
In Afghanistan, the new Taliban government has said women will be permitted to study at universities but that schools would be segregated, a dress code would be imposed, and school curricula would be reviewed. Women and girls had been banned from schools and colleges under Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001. A recent U.N. report found the number of girls in elementary schools had increased from almost none to 2.5 million in the years after the Taliban lost power.
The U.N. is reporting at least four people were killed during recent protests against Taliban rule and that the Taliban had conducted house-to-house searches for people who participated in the protests. The U.N. human rights agency also warned of increasing intimidation and violence against journalists.
A New York Times investigation finds the U.S. drone strike that killed 10 people, seven of them children, in the final days of the military withdrawal likely killed a worker for a U.S. aid group and that there was no evidence of an ISIS bomb in the targeted vehicle. Zemari Ahmadi, who had applied for refugee resettlement in the United States, was likely transporting people to and from work.
This all comes amid a growing humanitarian and displacement crisis. Many Afghans who fled their towns for Kabul as the Taliban seized control are still living on city streets and in parks.
Noor Ahmad: “There was a war. There was bloodshed. Houses were destroyed. Children were orphaned. Women became widows. Because of these problems, everyone was displaced and came to Kabul.”
A Florida appeals court has sided with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, upholding his ban on school mask mandates while challenges are played out in lower courts. The ruling reverses a previous decision that had halted the ban. On Friday, the Education Department said it is looking into whether the Florida mask mandate ban was violating the rights of students with disabilities who are more vulnerable to severe infection from COVID-19. Similar investigations are underway in other states.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday he’s suing at least six school districts that defied Governor Greg Abbott’s order banning mask mandates at public schools.
Here in New York City, around 1 million students are returning to school for in-person classes today for the first time in 18 months.
As Pfizer-BioNTech is expected to seek approval soon for their COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 and older, new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people and more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized.
In Lebanon, a new government has been announced over one year after the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut, which killed over 200 people and led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Lebanon’s richest man, Najib Mikati, will serve as prime minister, a post he has already held twice before. Lebanon is in the midst of growing social unrest and what the World Bank says is one of the worst economic depressions in modern history.
Authorities in southern Spain have evacuated 2,000 people from their homes in six Andalusian villages as a massive wildfire fanned by strong winds grew to some 15,000 acres. The fire is so large it spawned its own weather systems, with thick smoke creating pyrocumulus clouds that threatened to spark new fires with dry lightning strikes. Some evacuees had no time to gather up belongings as they fled.
Adriana Iacob: “This is inhuman. Nothing like this has ever been seen. The flames of the fire as they ran through the mountains, it was spectacular.”
Last month, the Andalusia region recorded Spain’s all-time high temperature record of 117 degrees Fahrenheit.
In California, thousands of firefighters are battling at least a dozen large fires, whipped up by high winds and fueled by bone-dry vegetation. Much of California remains under a heat advisory through the end of the week. Fire officials say this year’s season is on pace to equal — or top — 2020’s record fire season.
In the Pacific, Super Typhoon Chanthu struck the northern Philippines on Saturday, before grazing Taiwan and bringing strong winds and heavy rain to eastern China. At its peak, the storm was the equivalent of an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.
Parts of the Texas coast are under a hurricane watch as Tropical Storm Nicholas is forecast to gain in intensity ahead of its landfall late today.
Meanwhile, torrential monsoon rains in northern Pakistan triggered landslides and destroyed homes Sunday, leaving at least 17 people dead.
A record number of environmentalists, land and water defenders were assassinated in 2020 — with advocates in the Global South disproportionately targeted with violence. That’s according to an annual report by Global Witness, which documented that at least 227 environmental activists were murdered last year. More than a third of the killings involved Indigenous leaders. Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil recorded the most murders as local communities resist mines, deforestation and other destructive industries that contribute to the climate crisis. The report says, “As the climate crisis deepens, forest fires rampage across swathes of the planet, drought destroys farmland, and floods leave thousands dead, the situation for frontline communities and defenders of the Earth is getting worse.”
In Brazil, Indigenous women led a protest in the capital Brasília Friday ahead of a much-anticipated Brazilian Supreme Court decision that could determine if thousands of Indigenous people can reclaim stolen ancestral lands. If the high court rules against Indigenous communities, rights defenders warn it could worsen an onslaught of aggressive mining on sacred land.
Indigenous protester: “We are here to join the fight. They’ve invaded our territories, and now they’re in the hands of agriculturalists and large-scale land owners. We are here to reclaim our territory.”
The New York Times reports Guinean soldiers were being trained by U.S. Army Special Forces last weekend when they staged a coup that ousted former President Alpha Condé, replacing him with a military leader. The U.S. has denied involvement in the coup, despite training those who carried it out. Guinea holds major mineral deposits including gold, iron ore and bauxite, and China is its biggest trading partner. Last week, the Economic Community of West African States suspended Guinea following the military coup.
In Burma, at least 20 people have been killed in a new wave of violent clashes between militias and Burmese security forces following the February military coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected government. Since the coup, at least 1,080 people have been killed by the military junta, and over 6,000 arrested. This week, the United Nations is holding its 76th General Assembly, where it could decide whether Burma’s junta or its civilian government will be recognized for a seat at the U.N.
The United Nations atomic agency and Iran said they reached a deal Sunday to allow international inspectors into some of Iran’s nuclear sites and to reset equipment for monitoring them. The two parties also said they will continue talks about Iran’s nuclear program. The development means Tehran will likely avoid censure by the agency, and renewed hope that the 2015 nuclear deal could still be restored. The U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the landmark deal in 2018 under President Trump.
North Korea says it has carried out tests on “strategic” long-range cruise missiles, which can travel as far as 930 miles. The announcement came just ahead of a meeting between nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
President Biden is campaigning in California today alongside Governor Gavin Newsom, one day before voting ends in a right-wing recall effort to remove Newsom from office. Newsom’s main challenger is conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who wants to repeal COVID public health measures, does not believe in combating climate change and was a mentor to Trump’s xenphobic adviser Stephen Miller.
In Chile, thousands of people took to the streets of Santiago Saturday to mark the 48th anniversary of the U.S.-backed military coup on September 11, 1973, against democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende. Allende was killed that day as Chilean armed forces bombed and stormed the presidential palace, unleashing a brutal dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet for the next 17 years. Protesters also marched to Santiago’s main cemetery to honor the victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship.
Protester: “I come to this march every year because of the large amount of comrades and friends that were annihilated by the fascist coup of September 11, 1973, dozens and dozens of people who I knew from university, from my job, and who are still missing today or were killed by the scoundrels in uniform.”