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Headlines for October 15, 2021 – Democracy Now!

In Afghanistan, a massive explosion at a Shia mosque in Kandahar has killed at least 32 people during Friday prayers and injured scores of others, according to local officials. The blast came one week after an explosion at a mosque in Kunduz killed at least 72 people. That attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, known as ISIS-K.
In other news from Afghanistan, the U.S. said it will resume regular evacuation flights before the end of the year to get remaining U.S. citizens, residents and qualifying visa applicants out of the country.
Lebanon is observing a national day of mourning, one day after a pitched gun battle in Beirut left seven people dead and injured at least 32 others. Hezbollah blamed snipers with an armed Christian faction for firing on Shia marchers who were protesting an ongoing probe into last year’s deadly blast at the Port of Beirut. On Thursday evening, Lebanese President Michel Aoun promised to hold the attackers accountable.
President Michel Aoun: “Armed forces did their duty and will continue to do so and maintain security and stability and civil rest. We will not allow anyone to take the country hostage to their own interests.”
A meeting of the World Trade Organization’s intellectual property council ended Thursday without action on a proposal to suspend patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines. The United Kingdom and some wealthy European Union nations, led by Germany, continue to oppose a patent waiver, which was first proposed over a year ago by India and South Africa and backed by over 100 WTO member nations. Since then, the world has recorded over 3.8 million COVID-19 deaths.
Here in the United States, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is recommending a third shot of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older, as well as those at high risk of severe disease and workers in high-risk professions. The recommendation came even as many scientists questioned whether the protection conferred by Moderna’s vaccine is waning. Today the FDA panel will weigh whether people who’ve received Johnson & Johnson vaccines should get a second dose, and whether it might be advantageous to mix and match vaccines.
President Biden welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House Thursday for talks in the Oval Office. It was the first time President Biden has hosted an African leader. The meeting came just days after a massive leak of secret documents known as the Pandora Papers revealed President Kenyatta and his relatives stashed more than $30 million of wealth in offshore tax havens, including in Panama.
In Chile, opposition lawmakers have launched impeachment proceedings against President Sebastián Piñera over possible irregularities in the 2010 sale of a mining company partially owned by Piñera’s children. The revelations emerged in the Pandora Papers leak, detailing how the company — named Dominga — was sold for $138 million to an offshore firm run by a Chilean businessman and a close friend of Piñera’s. Chile’s public prosecutor last week announced a probe into the sale, citing possible tax and bribery-related violations. One lawmaker said, “Chile does not deserve to have a president like Piñera.”
A coalition of immigrant and racial justice organizations have filed a civil rights complaint denouncing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s brutal assaults against African asylum seekers. The complaint details incidents that took place before or during deportation flights to Cameroon in October and November of last year. ICE officers are accused of placing asylum seekers in five-point shackles and further immobilizing them in a device called “the WRAP” for hours. The coalition, which includes the UndocuBlack Network and the Cameroon Advocacy Network, released this video along with the complaint that was filed on behalf of three asylum seekers.
Breanne Palmer: “The WRAP is intended for use in extreme situations. It is designed to restrain people in a seated position. Instead, the WRAP was used against these Black migrants, who were already restrained, to lock them into painful stress positions, with one man forced into a full-face hood. This is torture, as the United Nations has made clear.”
One of the Cameroonian asylum seekers in the complaint said he has asthma and couldn’t breathe while he was placed in the WRAP. He said, “I truly felt I was meeting my death in that moment.” Another asylum seeker suffers from a heart condition and reported experiencing chest pain after being restrained in the device.
Fresh calls to ban police use of tear gas came Thursday after the House Oversight Committee released a memo noting the U.S. government does not regulate the chemical weapon and never found it to be safe for use on humans. In spite of this, law enforcement regularly deploys tear gas on civilians and did so in at least 100 U.S. cities in the first six months of 2020 alone. The memo also notes that tear gas is banned from use in war as a chemical weapon by international treaty. Missouri Congressmember Cori Bush said in a statement, “For protest to truly be a right, we must ensure that we are never again met with weapons of war on our streets.”
A federal appeals court has ruled to keep Texas’s near-total ban on abortions in place. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals extended a stay on a federal judge’s ruling last week that blocked the ban, deeming it unconstitutional. The two judges on the three-judge panel who voted Thursday to keep the law in place were appointed by George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
In other news from Texas, a top administrator with the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake has come under fire for telling teachers they should offer students books with “opposing” perspectives on the Holocaust. Gina Peddy is the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction. In a recording obtained by NBC News, Peddy advises teachers on how to comply with Texas’s new state law, House Bill 3979, which requires them to present multiple perspectives about “widely debated and currently controversial” issues.
Gina Peddy: “As you go through, just try to remember the concepts of 3979 and make sure that if — if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has opposing — that has other perspectives.
Teacher 1: “How do you oppose the Holocaust?”
Teacher 2: “What? What?”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has praised House Bill 3979 as “a strong move to abolish critical race theory.”
In New Jersey, actor and visual artist Lili Bernard sued Bill Cosby Thursday, accusing the disgraced actor of drugging and raping her in 1990. Bernard has spoken publicly about her case but, until recently, was not able to file a suit due to New Jersey’s statute of limitations. A reform enacted in 2019 opened a two-year window to bring cases of sexual assault regardless of when they happened. Bernard says Cosby was her mentor and promised to help prepare her for a guest-starring role on “The Cosby Show” when he drugged and assaulted her at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Sixty survivors have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, but he was released from jail in June after a court overturned his conviction on a technicality. Click here to see our interviews with Lili Bernard and more on the case.
In Kenya, police have arrested the husband of record-breaking runner Agnes Tirop, one day after the celebrated athlete was found stabbed to death in her home. Twenty-five-year-old Agnes Tirop broke a long-distance running record just last month and was a two-time World Championship bronze medalist. She also participated in the Tokyo Olympics.
The congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is set to recommend criminal charges against Donald Trump’s campaign adviser and senior political strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon missed a Thursday deadline on a congressional subpoena requiring him to testify and hand over documents related to the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Bannon’s legal team cited Trump’s claims of executive privilege.
The White House says President Biden will be joined by 13 Cabinet members and other senior officials next month at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The crucial United Nations talks come after U.N. scientists warned the planet is on course for a catastrophic global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius, unless nations sharply increase their stated goals for cutting emissions.
In Scotland, a climate justice advocate is being praised for bravely confronting Shell CEO Ben van Beurden during a TED event in Edinburgh Thursday. Lauren MacDonald is a campaigner for a Green New Deal Rising. She and van Beurden appeared on a TED Countdown Summit panel together that was described by its organizers as a forum where speakers would “share a blueprint for a beautiful net-zero future.” Tickets for the four-day event were between $10,000 and $50,000. These were some of MacDonald’s remarks.
Lauren MacDonald “No matter what he says today, remember, Shell has spent millions covering up the warnings from climate scientists, bribing politicians, and even paying soldiers to kill Nigerian activists fighting against them, all whilst rebranding to make it look as though they care and that they have the intention of changing. Disproportionately in the Global South, so many people are already dying due to issues related to the climate crisis, such as pollution, extreme heat and weather-related disasters. This is not an abstract issue, and you are directly responsible for those deaths. … We will never forget what you have done and what Shell has done. I hope you know that as the climate crisis gets more and more deadly, you will be to blame. And I will not be sharing this podium with you anymore.”

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