President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States will donate an additional 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to other nations around the world. Biden made the pledge during a virtual global vaccine summit of world leaders.
President Joe Biden: “And it brings our total commitment of donated vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated. Put another way, for every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world.”
Biden called on wealthy nations to vaccinate 70% of the world’s 8 billion people within the next year. Critics say Biden’s commitments fall far short of what’s needed. The vaccine summit’s goals make no mention of a push, led by India and South Africa, to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and to force pharmaceutical companies to transfer technology to vaccine makers in the Global South. In a statement, the director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program said, “Ending the pandemic is a choice. Leaders at today’s summit have yet to make that choice. The White House still has not mobilized all its resources to expand vaccine manufacturing and protect millions more lives that may be lost.”
The United States reported nearly 2,800 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, more than a quarter of the reported worldwide death toll for the day. The Food and Drug Administration has approved third-dose booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 65 and older.
Meanwhile, Alaska has become the third state, after Montana and Idaho, to activate “crisis of care” standards at hospitals, which have become overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID patients. Under the policy, hospitals may now deny treatment to people deemed less likely to survive. This is Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink.
Dr. Anne Zink: “The strain on our hospital systems is impacting not only people with COVID-19, but people who are there because of a stroke or heart attack or a kid who falls off their bike.”
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has appointed an anti-mask vaccine skeptic as his new surgeon general. As one of his first official acts, Dr. Joseph Ladapo issued an emergency order allowing parents to opt children out of quarantine if they’ve had close contact at school with someone infected with the coronavirus. Ladapo is a proponent of the widely discredited theory of achieving herd immunity through natural infection, which Dr. Anthony Fauci has called “nonsense and very dangerous.” He’s previously appeared at public events with Dr. Stella Immanuel, an evangelical Christian and conspiracy theorist who has suggested alien DNA was used in pharmaceuticals and that gynecological problems are caused by sexual visitations by demons.
Immigrant rights advocates are blasting the Biden administration over reports it’s looking for a contractor to run an immigrant detention facility at Guantánamo Bay’s U.S. naval base. Homeland Security is reportedly seeking security guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole. The DHS told reporters the Biden administration will not send Haitian asylum seekers from the southern border to the facility. Migrants apprehended at sea have been temporarily held at Guantánamo Bay in the past.
This comes as deportation flights continue to expel Haitian asylum seekers from the U.S. without due process, under Title 42. The Biden administration is challenging a court order which is set to halt the Trump-era policy at the end of the month. Hundreds of Haitians who crossed the border have also chosen to leave unsafe conditions and return to Mexico.
Nadia: “I feel disappointed, because we crossed over to the U.S., and it wasn’t what we expected. They were very mean to us. Just imagine, they treated us like we were trash. They didn’t give us food or water. There’s no doctors — nothing — a lot of children, pregnant women. Things are really hard for us.”
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers held a press conference Wednesday to denounce the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border. California Congressmember Maxine Waters cited photos and video from last weekend showing Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing, grabbing and whipping Haitian asylum seekers.
Rep. Maxine Waters: “What the hell are we doing here? What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery: cowboys, with their reins, again, whipping Black people — Haitians — into the water, where they’re scrambling and falling down, when all they’re trying to do is escape from violence in their country.”
In other immigration news, lawyers have still not been able to reach the parents of over 300 children who were ripped from their families at the U.S. southern border under Trump’s family separation policy. Only 50 children have been reunited by a Biden administration task force charged with bringing the families back together.
At the U.N. General Assembly, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro demanded an end to sanctions by the U.S. and others, which have devastated the Venezuelan economy and contributed to political and social unrest.
President Nicolás Maduro: “This is financial, monetary, economic persecution, which is systematic, cruel and criminal. And Venezuela is raising its voice here to denounce it before the people of the world.”
Maduro said Venezuela has been on a path to recovery in 2021, and called for world leaders to “build a new world” which respects multilateralism and international law. Maduro survived a U.S.-backed coup attempt in 2019.
A top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky survived an apparent assassination attempt in Kiev Wednesday. Serhiy Shefir was unharmed, but his driver sustained injuries from the shooting. It’s not yet known who was behind the attack. This is Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.
Denys Monastyrsky: “But I want to stress that no one will intimidate the team of the president of Ukraine. We will carry on with the reforms we’ve already started, including ones directed to fight organized crime.”
President Zelensky, who was in New York for the General Assembly at the time of the shooting, said he would return immediately after his U.N. address, in which he denounced the attack. Zelensky also spoke out against Russia’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine and urged the U.N. to take more decisive action to combat global crises, likening the international body to a “retired superhero.”
The World Health Organization warned Wednesday that air pollution is even more dangerous than previously thought, as it slashed its recommended limits for emissions from vehicles and industrial sources. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged nations to take action against dirty air ahead of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “There is nothing more essential for life than air. And yet, because of air pollution, the simple act of breathing contributes to 7 million deaths a year. Almost everyone around the world is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution.”
The WHO estimates air pollution accounts for one in eight deaths worldwide each year.
On Capitol Hill, bipartisan talks on police reform have fallen apart. The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March, but Democrats have since not been able to secure Republican support to pass accompanying legislation in the Senate. A major sticking point was over the issue of qualified immunity, which shields police officers from lawsuits.
In other policing news, a group of former and active Black women officers in Washington, D.C., filed a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department, alleging racial and sexual discrimination.
Another New York City prisoner has died. Twenty-four-year-old Stephan Khadu on Wednesday became the 12th prisoner to die in a New York City jail since December. He was locked up at the Vernon C. Bain jail, which is located on a floating barge docked just north of Rikers, where the 11 other prisoners who died in 2021 were detained.
New York’s City Council is poised to pass a first-in-the-nation slate of municipal laws protecting app-based food delivery workers. The legislation was first proposed by the labor organization Los Deliveristas Unidos, whose members primarily use electric-powered bicycles to rush restaurant orders around the city. The workers are fighting to secure the tips they earn, the right to access restaurant bathrooms, disability benefits in case of an accident, and better security to prevent bicycle theft. They also say they’re misclassified as independent contractors, making them exempt from labor protections like New York’s $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Namibia resumed debate this week on a possible agreement with Germany over the former colonizer’s genocide of tens of thousands of Ovaherero and Nama people in the early 1900s. Hundreds protested in front of Namibia’s Parliament Tuesday against the proposed deal, which includes a payment of more than $1.34 billion, paid out over 30 years. This is McHenry Venaani, president of the Popular Democratic Movement, addressing the deal.
McHenry Venaani: “For the last 31 years, the Namibian government has received more than $1.1 billion from the German government. The Germans — listen very carefully — the Germans say they are guilty of murdering us. But for this guilt, they are paying the same amount that they have been paying the government for the last 31 years.”
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill giving workers at Amazon and other large warehouses the right to challenge employee productivity quotas and other practices that threaten workplace health and safety. Workers say Amazon’s quotas are so strict they often can’t stop to use the bathroom. At least two recent studies show Amazon employees suffered serious injuries at nearly twice the rate of the other warehouse industry workers in 2020.