In New York, heads of states addressed the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, as Secretary-General António Guterres warned, “We are on the edge of an abyss,” as the world faces the mounting crises of the pandemic, inequity, conflict and the climate catastrophe. At his General Assembly debut, President Biden called for unity and diplomacy, though critics say his administration’s rhetoric and actions are stirring up a new Cold War with China. Biden also addressed the climate crisis.
President Joe Biden: “The scientists and experts are telling us that we’re fast approaching a point of no return, in the literal sense. To keep within our reach the vital goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, every nation needs to bring their highest possible ambitions to the table when we meet in Glasgow for COP26.”
Biden pledged to double U.S. aid to poorer countries bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, but activists say Biden’s promises are far too meager considering the U.S. is historically the world’s worst polluter.
In other climate pledges, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China would stop funding new coal-fired power plants overseas and would help develop low-carbon energy sources in poorer nations.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for a declaration to end the Korean War, and for talks to resume with North Korea.
Peru’s recently elected President Pedro Castillo said he came as a representative of the poor and the marginalized, and called for vaccine equity to overcome the pandemic.
President Pedro Castillo: “On behalf of Peru, I want to propose the signing of a global agreement between heads of state and the owners of patents to guarantee universal access to vaccines for all people on the planet, with no discrimination on the basis of privilege.”
Iran’s new leader, Ebrahim Raisi, said nuclear talks should lead to the lifting of brutal U.S. sanctions on Iran.
President Ebrahim Raisi: “Sanctions, and especially sanctions on medicine at the time of COVID-19 pandemic, are crimes against humanity.”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s health minister has tested positive for COVID-19, just hours after he accompanied President Jair Bolsonaro, who is unvaccinated, to the General Assembly.
House Democrats passed a bill Tuesday evening to avert a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit. But with less than two weeks before a September 30 deadline to keep funding the government, Senate Republicans have said they will not support a suspension of the debt ceiling, meaning critical funding for health, housing, education and other programs could still be interrupted, and some federal workers could stop receiving paychecks. The bill also includes funds for emergency recovery assistance for recent climate disasters and for resettling Afghan evacuees.
Under pressure from progressive lawmakers, Democrats removed $1 billion in Israeli military funding from the stopgap bill, though Democratic leaders said funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system would still be passed separately at a later date.
In other news from D.C., Congressmember Cori Bush and Senator Elizabeth Warren have introduced legislation that would reinstate the federal pandemic eviction moratorium and give the Health and Human Services Department permanent authority to enact an eviction ban during public health crises. The bill was unveiled at an anti-eviction rally Tuesday outside Congress, led by people who have been evicted or are facing eviction. This is Vivian Smith, a leader with the Miami Workers Center.
Vivian Smith: “I’ve been forced to choose between food, rent too many times. Many of us had to make the choice or the choices between our health or our homes. The rent eat first.”
Audience member: “That ain’t right!”
Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday an additional dose of its COVID-19 vaccine boosted its efficacy to 94% in mild to severe infections, up from 74% for just one shot. The J&J shot also has longer-lasting efficacy than the mRNA vaccines authorized in the U.S., according to a recent study. J&J says their data still needs to be reviewed by the FDA before any recommendations can be made about a second dose. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization once again warned against wealthy nations offering booster shots for the general population, with so many countries still lacking basic access to the vaccine.
The northern Chinese city of Harbin has ordered recreational facilities and religious venues to shut down after a single case of COVID-19 was identified in the city of 10 million. The move is part of China’s “zero tolerance” approach to stamping out new outbreaks of the virus.
Back in Washington, D.C., immigrant communities, advocates and allies took to the streets to demand the government provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of people and pass legislation protecting workers and combating the climate crisis. The march came two days after the Senate parliamentarian ruled Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship as part of its reconciliation package.
Protester: “Millions of immigrants work every day to provide a better future for our families. We’re essential to the country’s economy, yet we’re still forced to live in the shadows. We’re tired of living in fear of deportations, of being separated from our loved ones. A path to citizenship would change my life and would change the lives of many of us here today protesting.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar also addressed the crowd at the event.
The bodies of at least eight refugees — including one child — have washed up on the shores of Spain’s Mediterranean coast between Sunday and Tuesday morning. Local authorities say the refugees likely came from one or more boats that capsized after setting off on a dangerous journey from Morocco or Algeria. The U.N. says at least 238 refugees — fleeing extreme poverty, displacement and violence — have died this year as they attempted to reach Spain for safety, though local rights groups estimate the number to be far higher.
In more news from Spain, about 6,000 people have been evacuated from the island of La Palma, part of the Canary Islands, as the Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to erupt. Today lava poured from the volcano for a fourth straight day since Sunday, burying homes in its path. Scientists warn the eruption and its aftermath could last up to three months and that if lava reaches the sea, it could trigger more explosions and clouds of toxic gases.
In reproductive rights news, Texas has enacted yet another law restricting abortion rights by barring doctors from providing medication to induce a medical abortion after only seven weeks into a pregnancy. Anyone who violates the law faces a state felony offense, up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. NARAL Pro-Choice America said, “Anti-choice politicians have made their intentions abundantly clear, and they will stop at nothing to strip away reproductive freedom.”
Senator Bernie Sanders joined healthcare advocates at a protest outside the headquarters of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America — one of Big Pharma’s top lobbying groups — demanding an end to the for-profit drug industry and for drug corporations to stop meddling in Congress. This is Senator Sanders.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “While the pharmaceutical industry charges us the highest prices in the world, while one out of four Americans cannot afford the medicine they need, what we are seeing is that every year the drug companies are making outrageous profits and are paying their executives obscene levels of compensation.”
House Democrats unveiled the Protecting Our Democracy Act Tuesday, which they said would help rein in presidential powers and abuses of power following the Trump administration. The legislation would impose new restrictions on presidential pardons; protect watchdogs and inspectors general from firings or other retaliation; make it more difficult for presidents to refuse congressional subpoenas, to circumvent congressional appropriations and to make profits from the office of the presidency.
The New York Times reports Donald Trump’s reelection campaign was aware that claims by Trump lawyers that 2020 voting machines were rigged were unfounded. Just days after the campaign determined the voting fraud conspiracies had no merit, Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani held a press conference where they continued to level the false claims.
Meanwhile, the new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa says a lawyer on Trump’s legal team tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could overturn Trump’s election loss by throwing out electors from seven states.