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HeadlinesSeptember 09, 2021

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WHO Calls for Halt to COVID Booster Shots in 2021, Says Vaccines Should Go to Poorer Countries

Sep 09, 2021

The World Health Organization called Wednesday for a global halt to third doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the rest of the year. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said wealthy nations should instead make limited vaccine supplies available to poorer countries.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We have been calling for vaccine equity from the beginning, not after the richest countries have been taken care of. … I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly rejected the WHO’s calls to halt booster shots until medical workers and other at-risk groups can be vaccinated in poorer countries. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki spoke Wednesday.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “Our view is that this is a false choice. And the United States has donated and shared about 140 million doses with over 90 countries, more than all other countries combined.” 

COVAX Cuts 2021 Vaccine Forecast; Australia Joins Call for Waiver on Vaccine Patents

Sep 09, 2021

On Wednesday, U.N. officials said the COVAX initiative to bring vaccines to poor and middle-income nations was falling further behind its initial target of 2 billion doses this year. COVAX is now projecting about 1.4 billion doses delivered through December.

Meanwhile, vaccine equity activists are cheering moves by Australia’s government to support a suspension of intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines. Australia’s trade minister said this week the government now supports calls for a temporary waiver of vaccine patent rights at the World Trade Organization. Such a move would require consensus at the WTO, where Germany and the United Kingdom are blocking the move to allow generic versions of vaccines produced by companies including Pfizer and Moderna.

Los Angeles Schools Poised to Require Vaccinations for Students 12 and Older 

Sep 09, 2021

President Joe Biden is set to lay out his administration’s six-point plan for managing the U.S. COVID-19 crisis. Biden’s speech at 5 p.m. Thursday evening is expected to focus on ways businesses, schools and government agencies can enact stricter policies on COVID vaccination and testing. The official U.S. coronavirus death toll has topped 650,000. On average, more than 1,500 U.S. residents are dying of COVID-19 each day.

In California, the Los Angeles Board of Education is expected to pass a measure today that would make L.A. the first major U.S. city to mandate COVID vaccines for in-person students 12 and older.

In Florida, a judge has ruled for a second time in favor of parents who successfully challenged Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on local school districts ordering mask mandates. The ruling came as the American Academy of Pediatrics reported COVID-19 cases among U.S. children surpassed 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 2,400 children were hospitalized in the week leading up to last Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, a pre-print study by Columbia University researchers published in Nature estimates over 100 million U.S. residents had a coronavirus infection at some point in 2020. That’s nearly a third of the population and about five times as many cases as the official toll of 20 million infections last year.

Afghanistan Evacuations Continue as Taliban Reestablishes Ministry of “Virtue and Vice”

Sep 09, 2021
Image Credit: Maxar Technologies

Around 200 Americans and other foreign nationals are scheduled to fly out of Afghanistan today for Qatar as international passenger flights from Kabul airport are expected to resume. Tens of thousands of Afghans, including many who qualify for U.S. special visas, are still hoping to evacuate, but their fate remains unclear.

Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to form its government, restoring its “Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.” The move stoked fears the new regime will again use violence to suppress women’s rights and enforce strict morality codes related to dress and daily activities for all Afghans. This is an Afghan student and activist, Fariba Bikzad.

Fariba Bikzad: “The Taliban came. And if people don’t get killed in the war with the Taliban, they die because of poverty and misery and because of depression and despair. I am a student. I am a civil society activist. Since the Taliban came to power, people have been terrified. People can’t understand whether they are dead or alive. They are like the walking dead.”

Main Suspect in 2015 Paris Attacks Tells Court He Was a Soldier for the Islamic State

Sep 09, 2021

In France, a trial got underway Thursday for 20 men charged over the 2015 attacks in Paris that left more than 130 people dead and hundreds more injured. The most prominent defendant is Salah Abdeslam, who’s believed to be the only attacker who survived the coordinated assaults on bars, restaurants, a sports stadium and the Bataclan concert hall on November 13, 2015. During his first courtroom appearance Wednesday, Abdeslam said he gave up his job to become a soldier for the Islamic State. Nineteen other suspects face charges of helping to provide guns and cars to the attackers or helping to plan their assault.

Human Rights Campaign President Fired in Latest Fallout from Cuomo Sexual Harassment Probe

Sep 09, 2021

The president of Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, has been fired for advising former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on how to handle the sexual harassment allegations he faced before his resignation last month. Alphonso David was the first Black president of HRC, the country’s largest LGBTQ organization. He previously worked as a legal adviser in Cuomo’s office, where he was part of an effort to discredit accuser Lindsey Boylan, according to the damning report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

Virginia Removes Statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Sep 09, 2021

In Virginia, work crews removed a monument to Confederate Army leader Robert E. Lee near the state Capitol in Richmond Thursday, more than a year after Democratic Governor Ralph Northam ordered it taken down. Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the 21-foot statue to General Lee was taken off its pedestal and cut into pieces. This is Richmond resident Charles Otey.

Charles Otey: “It’s a long time coming. I’m a native of Richmond. I’ve been here all my life. I’m 60-some years old. And so I’ve been passing through and seeing this. For it to finally come down, man, it’s a moment of joy for me, because it represents so much oppression, depression, because who Robert E. Lee represented.”

Former President Trump blasted the statue’s removal, saying in a statement, “Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left, and we can’t let that happen. If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan,” Trump added, to the bewilderment of many.

General Robert E. Lee was a staunch defender of slavery who led the Confederate Army until its defeat in 1865. The Civil War killed an estimated 750,000 people.

17 Patients Die as Floods Hit Mexican Hospital; Record Drought Worsens Brazil’s Energy Crisis

Sep 09, 2021

In Mexico, 17 patients at a public hospital in Hidalgo state died this week after torrential rains caused a river to burst its banks, flooding the area and leaving medical crews without power. Most of the victims were COVID-19 patients who had to be evacuated through floodwaters. 

In Brazil, a record drought fueled by the climate crisis is drastically reducing crop yields and deepening an energy crisis for a country that gets more than half its electricity from hydroelectric power plants. Officials say water levels are at their lowest level in over 90 years of records.

Suely Araújo: “The water crisis is the direct consequence of the climate crisis, which, in the case of Brazil, is mainly caused by deforestation.”

Super Typhoon Chanthu Hurtles Toward Philippines and Southeast China

Sep 09, 2021

In the Pacific, Super Typhoon Chanthu this week became one of the most rapidly intensifying storms ever observed. It’s now the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane and is threatening northern Luzon island in the Philippines as it tracks toward southeast China.

Ida’s Death Toll Hits 82 as Hundreds of Thousands Remain Without Power in South

Sep 09, 2021

The death toll from Hurricane Ida and its remnants has reached at least 82, with 52 of those recorded in the Northeast, which saw major rains, flooding and even tornadoes. New Orleans has lifted its curfew 10 days after Ida battered the town, as power is slowly being restored to more customers, though hundreds of thousands remain without electricity outside the city.

Biden Admin Aims to Boost U.S. Solar Output to 45% of All Energy Use by 2050

Sep 09, 2021

The Biden administration is expected to push for a major increase in solar energy production, going from less than 4% of the nation’s electricity use to 45% by 2050. Climate activists welcomed the news but said the 30-year timeline is far too slow, and called for Biden to follow through on his climate promises by ensuring the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package passes, even as conservative Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin have refused to back it.

Indigenous Activists Lead Months-Long Campaign to Protect Vancouver Island’s Ancient Forests

Sep 09, 2021
Image Credit: Twitter: @PaigeSmithFilm

In western Canada, environmental and First Nations activists have been staging a months-long anti-logging resistance in Vancouver Island’s ancient forests. Land defenders with the Fairy Creek blockade are calling on others to join them in Canada’s largest act of civil disobedience to save the remaining trees, which are hundreds of years old.

Land defender: “Not only is it really important to protect these trees currently, but — from industry coming in, invading unceded territories on Pacheedaht and Ditidaht land, where they’re stealing natural resources from Indigenous people, but we also need it for the old growth, because they have the most water intake that they can hold, that actually helps climate change and prevent forest fires. And we need that more than ever right now.” 

Over 800 arrests against the activists have been recorded since April, with police beating and pepper-spraying the land defenders.

Canada has experienced firsthand the ravages of climate change. In June, the town of Lytton in British Columbia was flattened by a devastating wildfire one day after posting a record-shattering high temperature of 121 degrees Fahrenheit. June’s heat wave is blamed for up to 500 deaths in British Columbia.

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