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Headlines for August 12, 2021 – Democracy Now!

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-Amy Goodman
Please join us for a special virtual celebration of Democracy Now!’s 25th anniversary on December 7 with Angela Davis, Greta Thunberg, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Winona LaDuke, Martín Espada, Danny DeVito & many more! Your donation today will help keep this event free for our worldwide audience and will support our fearless, independent journalism throughout the year. Your donation of $10 would go a long way right now. If you can give $50 or more, you’ll get to choose from some great 25th anniversary gifts! Thank you so much and we look forward to celebrating with you on December 7 at 8 p.m. ET at democracynow.org.
-Amy Goodman
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The World Health Organization is warning that unless nations act urgently to slow the spread of coronavirus, the world could log another 100 million infections by the end of 2021. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday noted the number of confirmed cases worldwide recently passed 200 million.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “And we know that the real number of cases is much higher. As I said recently, whether we reach 300 million and how fast we get there depends on all of us.” 
More than 200 prominent doctors, scientists, public health officials and civil society groups have signed an open letter calling on the Biden administration to adopt a wartime footing to massively increase the availability of mRNA vaccines around the world. The scientists warn, “Without urgent and immediate scale up of vaccine production and distribution, millions more will be infected and die.”
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC said Wednesday it found no evidence the vaccines increase the risk of miscarriage. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize a third dose of vaccine for people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients. The World Health Organization recently urged wealthy nations not to authorize booster doses until 10% of people in every country have had access to a vaccine.
Florida’s Health Department has asked the federal government to ship 300 ventilators, as hospitals are overrun with COVID patients in one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis continues to prohibit mask mandates and other public health measures. 
In Tennessee, angry anti-mask protesters packed a school district meeting in suburban Nashville Tuesday night as officials reinstated a mask mandate for elementary school students. Video that’s gone viral shows unmasked protesters shouting and threatening people after the meeting — including public health officials who testified in favor of masks.
Anti-masker 1: “We” —
Anti-masker 2: “We know who you are.”
Anti-masker 1: “We know who you are!”
Anti-masker 2: “We know who you are.”
Anti-masker 1: “We know who you are!”
Anti-masker 2: “You can leave freely.”
Anti-masker 1: “We know who you are!”
Anti-masker 2: “But we will find you, and we know who you are.”
Anti-masker 1: “You — you — you will never be allowed in public again!”
Anti-masker 2: “We know who you are.”
Anti-masker 1: “You will never be allowed!”
The protesters threatened people inside and outside the meeting as they were in their cars. This week, Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee refused to rule out a ban on mask mandates. 
California has become the first state to require that all K-12 teachers and staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 — or undergo weekly testing. Governor Gavin Newsom said the order will apply to both public and private schools in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have — I have four young children — and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe.”
Coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide, with the U.S. reporting an average of 125,000 daily infections.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said Wednesday he has “serious concerns” about the $3.5 trillion budget resolution plan passed by Democrats just hours earlier. Although Manchin voted to open debate on the measure, he said it represents “irresponsible” levels of spending. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema has also expressed reservations.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz blocked consideration of three bills on voting rights and electoral integrity Wednesday, including the For the People Act. The move prompted voting rights groups and others to demand Democrats and President Biden move to abolish the filibuster, or come up with a plan to combat Republican obstructionism and protect voting rights.
In climate news, a weather station in Sicily recorded a high temperature of 48.8 degrees Celsius Wednesday — that’s 120 degrees Fahrenheit, an all-time record for Europe. Across the Strait of Sicily, Tunisia’s capital Tunis logged a record temperature of 49 degrees Celsius. The heat wave has kicked off hundreds of wildfires across North Africa and Southern Europe.
In Turkey, at least six people were killed after flooding and mudslides from torrential rains swept away cars, washed out bridges and left people stranded on rooftops. The flooding on Turkey’s northern coast came as intense heat and drought in southern Turkey has fueled over 200 wildfires.
In the United States, the Pacific Northwest faces another major heat wave, with three days of triple-digit temperatures expected in Portland. Temperatures in western Oregon could hit 25 degrees above normal. A New York Times investigation found the record-shattering heat wave that hit Oregon and Washington in June may have led to about 600 deaths — three times official estimates of the death toll. 
Despite the unfolding climate disasters, the Biden administration on Wednesday urged OPEC to pump more oil to combat high fuel costs and rising inflation in the U.S. Just three weeks ago, the oil-producing cartel agreed to increase oil production by 400,000 barrels per day.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has taken control of the city of Ghazni, the 10th provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in under a week. Ghazni is less than 100 miles from the Afghan capital Kabul. The Washington Post reports U.S. intelligence officials are predicting Kabul could fall to the Taliban within one to three months. This week, the Biden administration launched a last-ditch effort to convince the Taliban it would face international condemnation if it takes all of Afghanistan by force.
In a setback for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a British judge ruled to allow the U.S. to widen the scope of its argument as it appeals the January decision to block Assange’s extradition. The United States argued the judge who blocked the extradition on the grounds that Assange was a suicide risk did not sufficiently take into account expert evidence that contradicted this finding. The full appeal hearing is scheduled for the end of October. Assange faces up to 175 years behind bars under the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes. Julian Assange’s partner Stella Moris spoke Wednesday outside the London courthouse.
Stella Moris: “For every day that this colossal injustice is allowed to continue, Julian’s situation grows increasingly desperate. He won the case against the U.S. government seven months ago, yet he remains in Belmarsh prison. What is this, if not punishment by process?”
In Mexico, a prominent news anchor took to the airwaves to stand up to one of the country’s most powerful drug cartels. Jalisco New Generation Cartel posted a video online in which they directly threatened Milenio TV anchor Azucena Uresti, who regularly reports on cartel violence and organized crime. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to protect Uresti. She addressed the threats during her broadcast Monday night.
Azucena Uresti: “I have joined the federal system of protection from the government. I repeat: Our work will continue to be based on the truth and with the intention of providing information on the reality of a country like ours.”
The U.N. Refugee Agency has condemned the ongoing U.S. policy of expelling Central American asylum seekers to southern Mexico, where they face significant dangers. The Biden administration has continued to carry out the Trump-era policy, which cites the pandemic as justification for the expulsions. Mexican authorities, meanwhile, have removed hundreds of these asylum seekers, dropping them into a remote part of Guatemala with no resources or any way to return to their countries of origin. This is Gerson Flores, a Honduran asylum seeker who was turned around at the U.S. border.
Gerson Flores: “This is really sad. We weren’t asked for any explanations. The Americans said nothing. We wanted President Biden to grant us a legal opportunity to stay in the United States, no matter how we get in, even if they put us in shackles. I have decided I want to support my family.”
Canada has sold billions of dollars of weapons to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in violation of the Arms Trade Treaty — an international agreement it formally joined in 2019. That’s according to a new report by Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares, which accuses Canadian officials of cherry-picking through evidence of Saudi war crimes in order to paint the weapons sales as compliant with international law. Researchers say weapons sold by Canada to Saudi Arabia may have been diverted for use in Yemen. Since 2014, the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war has killed about a quarter of a million people, while devastating Yemen’s infrastructure and setting off a humanitarian catastrophe. The World Food Programme says more than 16 million Yemenis are food insecure, with pockets of famine persisting.
Early this morning, activists with the FANG Collective blockaded the entrances to the Raytheon facility in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The group was protesting weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Raytheon’s involvement in the militarization of U.S. immigration policy and the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, Raytheon missiles have been linked to the killing of civilians in Yemen. 
In New York, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul distanced herself Wednesday from disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo announced his resignation Tuesday after New York Attorney General Letitia James reported he sexually harassed at least 11 women. Hochul is set to replace Cuomo on August 24, becoming New York’s first female governor.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul: “The governor and I have not been close, physically or otherwise, in terms of much time. … At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment.”

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