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Headlines for September 08, 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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In Afghanistan, the Taliban has announced its acting government in Kabul. The Cabinet does not include any women or any members of the former Afghan government. Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a close aide to the deceased Taliban founder Mohammad Omar, was named acting prime minister. Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder, will be his deputy. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister, is on the FBI’s most wanted list for a 2008 attack in Kabul that killed six people.
This comes as protests grow across Afghanistan. Hundreds of men and women rallied in Kabul Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on Pakistan to stop intervening to aid the Taliban. Two people reportedly died Tuesday during another protest in Herat. This all comes as aid organizations warn of the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, with the country’s fragile healthcare system potentially facing collapse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday 75% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The milestone was announced as the U.S. soared past 40 million reported cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with the Delta variant continuing to fuel this summer’s surge. Children currently make up more than a quarter of new cases nationwide.
In Florida, 13 school employees of public schools in Miami-Dade have died from COVID since mid-August. The district enacted a mask mandate despite efforts to ban the requirement by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. All 13 COVID victims were African American.
New Zealand has eased its strict lockdown outside of its largest city Auckland after cases started to go down from August highs.
Meanwhile, Cuba has become the first country to start rolling out vaccines for children 2 years and older. The two domestically produced vaccines, Abdala and Soberana, have not been approved by the World Health Organization, but local trials have shown an efficacy rate of more than 90%.
In Brazil, massive crowds rallied in support of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro Tuesday, Brazil’s Independence Day. “Only God will take me out of Brasília,” Bolsonaro told his supporters. The right-wing populist has been sowing doubt about the country’s voting system ahead of next year’s election. Counterprotesters also took to the streets to condemn Bolsonaro’s attacks on the environment, education and his mishandling of the pandemic.
Isabella Lesa: “We cannot wait for this genocidal government to keep on killing people. Everywhere in the world there are vaccines, and here we’ve got over 500,000 deaths, almost 600,000. We don’t have to wait until 2022 for the elections. We need to kick Bolsonaro out now.”
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the state’s sweeping new voter suppression bill, SB1, Tuesday. The law bars drive-thru and 24-hour voting sites, adds new identification requirements for absentee ballots, bans unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and gives new authority to partisan poll watchers. Voting rights groups have vowed to keep fighting the law, which already faces at least five challenges in state and federal courts.
Meanwhile, Abbott has come under renewed fire over comments he made during the SB1 signing ceremony. Referring to Texas’s recently enacted, near-total ban on abortions, a reporter asked Abbott, “Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?”
Gov. Greg Abbott: “It provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. And so, for one, it doesn’t provide that. That said, however, this makes something very clear: Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Abbott after the comments for his “deep ignorance.”
President Biden visited parts of New Jersey and New York Tuesday that were hard hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last week. He spoke from Queens, flanked by New York’s top elected officials.
President Joe Biden: “Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy. And the threat is here. It’s not going to get any better. … The nation and the world are in peril. That’s not hyperbole; that is a fact.”
Climate groups urged Biden to take decisive action after his comments Tuesday. Sunrise Movement said, “If Biden does not deliver on at least a $3.5 trillion investment through budget reconciliation, while he has a potentially fleeting Democratic majority, future generations will ask why he didn’t do more when we still had the chance.” West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has said he won’t back more than $1.5 trillion in spending.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard is currently investigating reports of 350 oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
In related news, Louisiana officials revoked the licenses of seven nursing homes that sent their residents to a warehouse in the town of Independence ahead of Hurricane Ida. Seven people died and 800 people faced squalid, inhumane conditions there before being rescued.
A coalition of over 1,500 environmental and rights groups around the world is calling for the U.N. to postpone its annual climate talks, COP26, scheduled for November in Scotland, because of entrenched vaccine inequality. Climate Action Network says the countries most affected by the climate crisis are likely to be shut out of talks because of lack of access to vaccines, as well as prohibitive travel and quarantine costs. The coalition said in a statement, “There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the U.N. climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis. … It is difficult to imagine there can be fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization blasted wealthy countries on Tuesday for refusing to share excess vaccines and other COVID treatments.
Maria Van Kerkhove: “It is the hoarding of these materials. We saw it in the beginning of the pandemic with PPE. But this is not just unfair. It’s not just immoral. It’s prolonging the pandemic, and it is resulting in people dying.”
The Mexican Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional — a historic decision which paves the way to legalizing the procedure across the country. This is the president of the Mexican Supreme Court, Arturo Zaldívar.
Arturo Zaldívar: “From now on, there is a new path to freedom, clarity and dignity, which respects all those who are pregnant, especially women. Today is one more step in this historic struggle for equality, for dignity and for fully exercising their rights.”
Abortion has been severely restricted and penalized in all but four Mexican states. This comes after years of resistance and organizing by reproductive justice advocates.
In other news from Mexico, at least one person is dead after a powerful earthquake struck near the coastal town of Acapulco, triggering a tsunami warning for the region. About 1.6 million people lost power. The 7.0 magnitude quake was also felt over 230 miles away in Mexico City.
Bitcoin crashed to its lowest value in nearly a month Tuesday as El Salvador officially rolled out the cryptocurrency as legal tender. For months critics have warned the adoption of bitcoin as an official currency in El Salvador could trigger an economic catastrophe — particularly impacting poorer communities that don’t have access to bank accounts, computers or smartphones. The controversial move, spearheaded by President Nayib Bukele and approved by lawmakers earlier this year, has led to ongoing protests.
A harrowing new report by Amnesty International details the brutal violence faced by Syrian refugees who have been returned to the war-torn country. The group documented tortures, rapes, illegal detentions and other serious human rights violations committed by the Syrian government and intelligence officers against over 60 people, including children. In one testimony, a mother described how Syrian authorities undressed her daughter, handcuffed and hung her on a wall while she was repeatedly beaten and sexually assaulted.
The five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks appeared in a Guantánamo Bay military court Tuesday for the first time in over a year. The resumption of pretrial hearings comes just days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The case against the five men, which includes suspected mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has been riddled with procedural problems, including the admissibility of evidence that was obtained by CIA agents under torture. The pretrial hearings, which have been prolonged for at least nine years, were suspended in February 2020 due to the pandemic. The selection of a military jury will likely not begin until at least 2022.

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