It’s Election Day in the United States. The pivotal midterm elections will determine who controls the House and Senate, as well as many statehouses. A record 43 million people cast their ballots early. The Pennsylvania Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-backed Mehmet Oz is one of today’s most closely watched contests. On Monday, Fetterman filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to have mail-in ballots be counted even if they are undated or improperly dated. Meanwhile, Republicans have sued to disqualify thousands of mail-in ballots in key swing states including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
On Monday, President Biden warned the future of democracy is at risk.
President Joe Biden: “Today we face an inflection point, one of those moments that comes around every three or four generations. We know in our bones that our democracy is at risk, and we know that this is your moment to defend it, preserve or protect it, choose it.”
In news from the U.N. climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, several leaders of the African Union said today that their countries can’t afford the cost of adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis. In their remarks at COP27, they urged richer nations to fulfill their promise of paying climate reparations for disproportionately fueling the climate catastrophe. This comes as a new report finds the United States is falling far short of contributing its fair share to U.N.-backed climate finance goals. The analysis by the U.K.-based climate news source Carbon Brief found the U.S. should be paying nearly $40 billion annually toward the U.N.’s $100 billion climate finance target. Instead, the U.S. has paid less than $8 billion.
A major report published Monday warns global warming has pushed the planet’s stores of ice to a widespread collapse that was “unthinkable just a decade ago,” with some level of Arctic sea ice certain to vanish in summer months before the year 2050, even as countries drastically reduce their fossil fuel emissions. Climate scientists say the only way to avoid further catastrophe is to take urgent steps now. If fossil fuel pollution is allowed to continue to grow, the Arctic could lose most of its sea ice by 2030.
In more news from Egypt, fear over the deteriorating health of British-Egyptian human rights activist and political prisoner Alaa Abd El-Fattah is mounting as his family says they don’t know if he’s still alive. On Monday, his mother, Laila Soueif, waited for 10 hours outside the gates of the desert prison where her son is being held, hoping to receive his weekly letter that never arrived. His family believes prison authorities may be force-feeding Abd El-Fattah. They’re now demanding proof of life as Abd El-Fattah intensified his six-month hunger strike by giving up water altogether over 50 hours ago — on Sunday, the opening day of the U.N. climate summit, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh. This is his sister, Sanaa Seif, speaking from Sharm el-Sheikh Monday.
Sanaa Seif: “I’m really scared. It’s now been over 24 hours where he stopped water. And I read online, like, what happens to the body, and it’s — for a normal body, he can endure maximum a week. Alaa’s body is not normal; he’s very frail. So I don’t know if we’re talking about hours or days. I’m really, really scared.”
In Ukraine, Russian-appointed officials say they’ve completed a mass evacuation of Kherson ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian assault to recapture the city. Ukraine has called the evacuation a forced deportation and a war crime, and accused Russian forces of looting abandoned homes and quartering soldiers inside. Meanwhile, Russia has blamed Ukraine for destroying power lines to Kherson, leading to widespread blackouts and the loss of tap water beginning on Sunday. The Russian Defense Ministry on Monday sought to dampen growing anger inside Russia over recent battlefield losses in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said hundreds of Russian troops — many of them recent conscripts — were being killed there each day.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “The Donetsk region remains the epicenter of the greatest madness of the occupiers. Hundreds die daily. The ground before the Ukraine positions is littered with bodies of the occupiers.”
The U.S. Air Force has carried out joint air drills with South Korea that included a flyover by a pair of supersonic, nuclear-capable B-1B bombers. The weekend military exercises came as the U.S. and South Korea agreed to extend war games involving hundreds of warplanes and thousands of troops. The drills came as North Korea test-fired more than 30 missiles over the past week, including an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday that triggered evacuation alerts in Japan.
In Italy, at least 89 asylum seekers on board a German humanitarian aid rescue ship were allowed to disembark in the coastal city of Reggio Calabria early Tuesday, after days of being stranded in the Mediterranean Sea. Another Norwegian-run rescue ship with some 250 asylum seekers is still stuck in the Sicilian coast as Italian officials have for days blocked its passengers from disembarking. Three people jumped off the boat in desperation as they attempted to reach safety, while others screamed for help.
Asylum seekers: “Help us! Help us! Help us!”
Back in the United States, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has rejected another challenge to the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan. The Education Department has approved 16 million borrowers for up to $20,000 of relief, but it’s unclear when they will actually see their loans canceled or reduced, thanks to a Republican-led lawsuit which has put Biden’s plan on hold while an appeals court weighs its merits.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has temporarily suspended a four-month prison sentence and $6,500 fine for Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, pending an appeal. Bannon was sentenced for criminal contempt of Congress last month after he refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the House January 6 committee. The judge who suspended Bannon’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, was nominated to the federal bench in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump.
Twitter’s new billionaire owner is using the social media platform to call on U.S. voters to elect Republicans to Congress. Elon Musk’s endorsement to his 115 million Twitter followers came a day ahead of the U.S. midterm elections — the same day the League of Women Voters of California said Twitter unexpectedly suspended the account of its executive director, Stephanie Doute. The League’s San Francisco chapter tweeted, “No warning. No explanation. No way to appeal. What is next?” Doute’s account came back online overnight. She said Twitter informed her it had mistakenly taken her offline along with a batch of spam accounts. In an email to volunteers, Doute wrote, “We should all be concerned. Not for me, but for how this impedes access to democracy and silences a source of trustworthy election information.”