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Headlines for August 24, 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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Leaders of the G7 group of wealthy nations are meeting virtually today to discuss the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, where they’re expected to ask President Biden to extend the U.S. troop presence in Kabul past the August 31 deadline for withdrawal. On Monday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News that the U.S. would “face consequences” if its troops remained in Afghanistan into September.
Suhail Shaheen: “President Biden announced this agreement that ’til 31st of August they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation.”
Thousands of people remain camped outside of Kabul’s airport in an increasingly desperate bid to fly to safety. The White House says the U.S. has evacuated more than 58,000 people since the Taliban swept into Kabul on August 14.
On Monday, the United Nations’ top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, cited credible reports of serious human rights violations committed by the Taliban: summary executions of civilians and Afghan soldiers who had surrendered, and severe restrictions on women and girls.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports CIA Director William Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul Monday with the Taliban’s de facto leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar. It was reportedly the highest-level face-to-face meeting between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the Taliban takeover.
The World Health Organization is calling on wealthy countries to impose a two-month moratorium on COVID-19 booster shots until poorer nations can inoculate their most vulnerable residents. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that global vaccine inequity was not only unfair, but could lead to new, more dangerous coronavirus variants spreading around the globe.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. residents age 16 and over. The vaccine still has emergency use authorization for children aged 12 to 15. President Joe Biden said the FDA’s move should convince vaccine holdouts to get inoculated.
President Joe Biden: “If you’re one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot when it’s — until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it has now happened. The moment you’ve been waiting for is here. It’s time for you to go get your vaccination, and get it today.”
The FDA’s announcement set off a wave of vaccine mandates by corporations and government agencies. The Pentagon said all 1.3 million active-duty troops will be required to get vaccinated. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said all school employees — including principals, teachers and custodians — will be required to have at least one vaccine dose by September 27. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy said all state employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or undergo testing up to twice a week. This comes as the U.S. is recording an average of over 150,000 daily infections and over 1,000 daily deaths from COVID-19.
In Florida, thousands of students returned to classrooms Monday even as the state recorded one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the world. Miami-Dade County schools opened the fall semester with a mask mandate in place, defying Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s threat to pull funding from the district and to cut off the salaries of school officials who require masks. At least seven Florida districts that serve more than a million students are defying DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates. This comes after more than 10,000 students in Hillsborough County alone have had to quarantine over possible exposure to the coronavirus at school.
Meanwhile, Florida’s hospitals are overrun with COVID-19 patients — the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. On Monday, 75 South Florida doctors staged a symbolic walkout from Palm Beach Gardens hospital, pleading with members of their community to wear masks and get vaccinated. This is Dr. Rupesh Dharia.
Dr. Rupesh Dharia: “We are not only your doctors, but we are your neighbors and your friends. Many of our children go to school here with your children. We are exhausted. Our patience and resources are running low. And we need your help.”
In Haiti, the death toll from the massive August 14 earthquake has passed 2,200, with thousands of survivors growing increasingly desperate. People left homeless by the quake have been living in squalid camps in the mountains, north of the hard-hit city of Les Cayes, where they say children are suffering from hunger, fevers and infections.
Mimose Danger: “Our throats are dry because we are thirsty. We have no choice but to stay here. Children crying for water and food. We stay here because there is nothing else we can do.”
UNICEF says 1.2 million people were affected by the earthquake, including over half a million children.
Here in New York, Kathy Hochul was sworn in as New York’s first woman governor early Tuesday, just after outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation took effect at the stroke of midnight. Cuomo announced his resignation two weeks ago, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a damning report finding he sexually harassed at least 11 women. Cuomo released a recorded video statement Monday in which he portrayed himself as the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by his political rivals.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “You know me. I am a fighter. And my instinct is to fight this because it is unfair and unjust, in my mind.”
Cuomo said he was resigning not because he was guilty, but to prevent “governmental paralysis.” Former aide Charlotte Bennett, who says Cuomo repeatedly made inappropriate comments to her, told Spectrum News she was disappointed Cuomo refused to admit to sexual harassment.
Charlotte Bennett: “He didn’t take responsibility for his actions. He really — you know, his resignation said it all, right? He really was defending himself until the last second.”
Cuomo could still face criminal and civil charges, and he’s under investigation for covering up thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes early in the pandemic.
During his final hours in office, Governor Cuomo granted clemency to six New Yorkers, including former Weather Underground member David Gilbert, who was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for his role in the robbery of an armored truck. The 1981 robbery left a security guard and two police officers dead. It was aimed at expropriating money from a Brink’s armored car for the Republic of New Afrika. David Gilbert is 76 years old and has been incarcerated for four decades. He’ll now have an opportunity to apply for parole. Gilbert’s son is Chesa Boudin, who’s serving as the district attorney of San Francisco.
In North Carolina, a three-judge court panel has ordered the immediate restoration of voting rights for tens of thousands of people who were convicted of felonies and are currently on parole, probation or supervised release. The 2-1 preliminary ruling will impact some 56,000 formerly incarcerated people, most of whom are Black.
In Oregon, dozens of members of the far-right group the Proud Boys gathered in Portland for a rally Sunday where they assaulted and opened fire on counterprotesters. At least one counterprotester fired back. Proud Boys members descended on Portland from as far away as New York for the gathering, which quickly devolved into a violent clash over the incarceration of far-right extremists accused of involvement in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Members of the Proud Boys vandalized cars, smashed windows, slashed tires and shot at counterprotesters with paintball guns.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has been sentenced to five months in jail for burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn down from Asbury United Methodist Church, a historic Black church, during a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., in December. Tarrio will also serve time for bringing two high-capacity rifle magazines to Washington — just days before the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The sentencing judge said even though Tarrio was not present at the Capitol during the assault, his actions contributed to undermining U.S. democracy.
In Britain, the climate justice group Extinction Rebellion launched a new resistance campaign with a series of protests in London Monday. The group says they want to highlight the destructive role financial institutions play in the climate crisis. This is a member of Extinction Rebellion who joined a peaceful blockade of a busy London intersection on Monday.
Extinction Rebellion protester: “I’m doing this because I care about the climate emergency. I care about all living things on this Earth, and I am doing something about it.”
U.S.-born, French performer Joséphine Baker will be given a memorial in Paris’s Panthéon mausoleum, making Baker the first Black woman to receive the honor. Her induction into the Panthéon will take place in November, joining other beloved French icons such as writer Victor Hugo and scientist Marie Curie. Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906. She rose to international stardom in the 1930s after moving to France, where she became a singer and dancer. Baker went on to fight with the French resistance in World War II and was involved in the civil rights movement here in the U.S. She passed away in 1975 and received French military honors at her funeral. Her remains are currently buried in Monaco.

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