Unemployment benefits for millions of U.S. workers expired on Labor Day, after President Biden declined to press the Democratic-led Congress to extend assistance — even as many states suffered their worst surge of the pandemic. An estimated 9.3 million jobless workers lost benefits, along with 26 million members of their households who relied on the income. The cutoff of aid came after the Labor Department reported the U.S. economy added just 235,000 jobs in August — a significant slowdown due largely to the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant. The unemployment rate for African Americans rose six-tenths of a percentage point in August to 8.8%.
On Labor Day, President Biden met with members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Wilmington, Delaware, shaking hands and posing for selfies.
Across the United States, at least 1,000 schools in 35 states have canceled in-person classes since the start of the school year, with tens of thousands of students forced to quarantine due to community spread of the coronavirus. A disproportionate number of closures have come in the Deep South, where vaccination rates are lowest and public health measures in schools are lax to nonexistent. Cases are rising fastest in school districts where students have been back in classrooms for weeks.
The U.S. is now averaging over 1,500 COVID-19 deaths and 150,000 positive tests per day. In Idaho, Republican Governor Brad Little said hospitals are preparing to adopt “crisis standards of care,” with medical workers set to ration care as hospitals fill beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has claimed control over Panjshir Valley, the last holdout of anti-Taliban forces. A spokesperson said the Taliban was in the final stages of forming a new government, with an announcement expected shortly. He denied reports of infighting and a power struggle within the Taliban’s ranks.
Meanwhile, attacks on Afghan women are continuing to escalate. Witnesses in the central Ghor province said Taliban militants beat a female police officer in front of her family Saturday before fatally shooting her. In Kabul, protesters and journalists were assaulted Saturday at a rally demanding equal rights. Protesters said Taliban soldiers blocked them from marching on to the presidential palace.
Soraya: “Together with a group of our colleagues, we wanted to go near a former government office for a protest. But before we got there, the Taliban hit women with electric Tasers, and they used tear gas against women. They also hit women on the head with a gun magazine, and the women became bloody. There was no one to ask why.”
The World Health Organization warns more than 2,000 healthcare centers across Afghanistan may soon be forced to close — at least temporarily — because their donors are barred from working with the Taliban. This is WHO regional emergency director Rick Brennan.
Rick Brennan: “That will be associated with an increase in illness and death, we would expect, and also rolling back the tremendous health gains of the last 20 years.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban for the safe passage of U.S. citizens and some Afghans to leave aboard charter flights. A team of engineers from Qatar is working with the Taliban to restore service to Kabul’s main airport. Domestic flights have resumed, but international civilian flights remain on hold due to damage to the airport’s radar and navigation systems.
The U.N. World Food Programme has published disturbing new footage of the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The footage, which was recorded in August, showed an emergency food distribution site with supplies being loaded on camels and brought to a remote area of Tigray that had been cut off from aid for months. This comes as the U.N. continues to warn millions of people are on the brink of famine, saying an estimated 100 trucks of aid need to be entering Tigray each day to meet people’s urgent needs. This is a resident of Tigray, who was displaced by the months-long conflict that started in November.
Letemariam: “I couldn’t sleep at night and think straight at day, thinking about what to feed my kids. I still think about how to provide for my kids.”
In Guinea, an army colonel said Sunday he had dissolved the government of President Alpha Condé, following reports of a gun battle near the presidential palace, spiraling the West African nation into political uncertainty. On Sunday, pictures surfaced of Condé in the custody of men wearing military attire. Meanwhile, Guinea government officials have been banned from leaving the country. This is Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, the coup’s leader.
Col. Mamady Doumbouya: “The committee wants to reassure our economic and financial partners of the normal continuation of activities in the country. Mining companies are asked to continue their activities. The maritime borders will stay open for the export of mining products. The curfew in mining areas is lifted in order to continue producing.”
In Brazil, millions of supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro are expected to take to the streets today on Brazil’s Independence Day, triggering fears from opponents of potential chaos and violence. Ahead of the massive marches, over 150 lawmakers, academics and former government officials from around the world wrote a letter saying they fear Bolsonaro and allies — which include white supremacist groups and military police — may be seeking to instigate a Trump-like insurrection or a military coup. Polls show more than half of Brazilians wouldn’t vote for Bolsonaro in next year’s election. The letter read in part, “The people of Brazil have struggled for decades to secure democracy from military rule. Bolsonaro must not be permitted to rob them of it now.”
Meanwhile, a ruling from the Brazilian Supreme Court is expected soon on a case that could determine if thousands of Brazil’s Indigenous people can reclaim ancestral lands stolen from them.
In Mexico, immigration and security forces violently blocked the passage of hundreds of asylum seekers in the southern state of Chiapas who hoped to reach the U.S. for refuge. The caravan was largely made up of Central American and Haitian families.
In more immigration news, the Biden administration is once again deporting asylum seekers to Guatemala City by air — marking a possible end to the practice of expelling asylum seekers to a remote jungle in the Guatemala-Mexico border. This is an asylum seeker who was deported to Guatemala last week.
Reginaldo Tum Cavallo: “For now, we lost, and it’s not worth crying over, because the trip cost us money. We didn’t leave with our own money, but with borrowed money. It’s a harsh situation because things are very hard here. We lost. We need to carry on here in Guatemala, take any jobs we can find, because life is hard here. We were unexpectedly deported for wanting to live the American dream.”
Parts of Louisiana remain underwater more than a week after Hurricane Ida struck as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States. More than 600,000 electricity customers in Louisiana still have no power. The storm’s death toll rose over the weekend to at least 63. At least 50 deaths came in the northeastern U.S. as Ida’s remnants brought record rainfall and flash flooding. President Biden is visiting storm-ravaged areas of New York and New Jersey today.
Nearly one in three U.S. residents live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months. That’s according to a Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations. The Post reports that 64% live in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave.
On Sunday, more than 220 health journals around the world published a joint editorial demanding urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In Minnesota, progressive congresswomen of color have joined the fight against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, demanding President Biden intervene to halt the project. If completed, Line 3 would carry more than 750,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil a day through Indigenous land and fragile ecosystems. Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar led a rally by the congressmembers known as “the Squad.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “They want to prioritize corporate profit over the lives of Indigenous women and the future of our planet. … Joe Biden promised to be the climate president. And this is his opportunity to follow through.”
Michigan officials are urging hundreds of families to evacuate their homes near a Detroit-area Ford Motor plant, after 1,400 gallons of gasoline leaked into city sewers. The Wayne County Health Department says there’s little risk of an explosion, but residents are at risk from toxic benzene fumes, which can cause cancer.
In Lakeland, Florida, a former U.S. Marine sniper carrying multiple guns and wearing full body armor targeted a family apparently at random early Sunday morning, killing four people in their own home. Among the dead was a mother and a 3-month-old baby she was cradling. An 11-year-old girl who was shot seven times survived. The shooter also killed the family’s dog. The gunman, 33-year-old Bryan Riley, was wounded during an intense gun battle with police and arrested. Riley was deployed as a Marine sharpshooter in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2008 and 2010. Riley’s girlfriend said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had a concealed weapons license and was working as a security contractor.
Actor Michael K. Williams — best known for bringing to life the character of Omar Little on HBO’s acclaimed series “The Wire” — has died. He was 54 years old. Williams was found unresponsive in his Brooklyn apartment Monday afternoon. His death is being investigated as a potential drug overdose. In a 2017 interview with The New York Times, Williams opened up about his struggles with substance use. He said, “Addiction doesn’t go away. It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”
Legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis has died at the age of 96. His popular songs and music, including the scores for the movies “Zorba the Greek” and “Z,” were banned during the military dictatorship of the 1960s and ’70s in Greece, and Theodorakis spent much of his three years of banishment in a remote village and in prison.
In Mexico City, a statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed last year will be replaced by a statue of an Indigenous woman. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum made the announcement Monday.
Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum: “It is a great recognition of the 500 years of resistance by Indigenous women in our country. This is for them. We owe them the history of our country, of our homeland.”