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Headlines for September 29, 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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On Capitol Hill, House progressives say they will “hold the line” and oppose the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this week, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would seek a vote Thursday on the measure without a commitment to also pass the Build Back Better Act, the $3.5 trillion, 10-year bill that expands the social safety net and combats climate change. Activists from People’s Watch and Sunrise Movement are demonstrating in D.C. this week to pressure Democrats to pass the measure through reconciliation. Activists confronted Pelosi Tuesday evening as she headed into a fundraiser.
Activist: “Nancy Pelosi, will you hold the line on the reconciliation bill, for climate justice, for California? Will you hold the line?”
Meanwhile, President Biden met Tuesday with conservative Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, who receive major donations from financial institutions, fossil fuel companies and other industries that oppose the spending package.
In Italy, climate activists spoke at the Youth4Climate conference in Milan. This is Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate.
Vanessa Nakate: “Historically, Africa is responsible for only 3% of global emissions. And yet Africans are already suffering some of the most brutal impacts fueled by the climate crisis: rapidly intensifying hurricanes, devastating floods and withering droughts. Many Africans are losing their lives, while countless more have lost their livelihoods.”
Greta Thunberg addressed the inaction by world leaders in her speech Tuesday.
Greta Thunberg: “This is not about some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging or blah, blah, blah. Build back better, blah, blah, blah. Green economy, blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 25 — 2050, blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050, blah, blah, blah. Net zero, blah, blah, blah. Climate neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders: words — words that sound great but so far has led to no action. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises.”
In related news, a new study published in the journal Science found that a child born in 2021 will experience, on average, seven times as many heat waves, twice as many wildfires and nearly three times as many droughts, crop failures and river floods as their grandparents. The effects of the climate crisis will be far worse for children born in poorer nations.
Top military officials acknowledged the “strategic failure” of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan after a failed 20-year war. This is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: “The fact that the Afghan army, that we and our partners trained, simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot, took us all by surprise. And it would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”
Generals Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, and Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they recommended keeping a small force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, an apparent contradiction of statements given by President Biden earlier this year. In response, the White House said Tuesday that keeping troops in Afghanistan beyond August would have led to an escalated war with the Taliban.
Senators also questioned General Milley about recent reports he circumvented the official chain of command in order to prevent possible actions from former President Trump. Milley said senior military leaders were aware he communicated with his Chinese counterparts to assure them the U.S. was not planning an attack.
Gen. Mark Milley: “I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. And it is my directed responsibility, and it was my directed responsibility by the secretary, to convey that intent to the Chinese. My task at that time was to deescalate.”
Pfizer-BioNTech said Tuesday they submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration showing their vaccine to be safe and effective in children aged 5 to 11. An official request for the vaccine to be given to that age group will be made in the coming weeks. An FDA official previously said an authorization could come “in a matter of weeks, not months.” About 28 million U.S. children between 5 and 11 would become eligible for the shot, if approved.
A federal judge has temporarily blocked South Carolina’s statewide ban on school mask mandates. The ACLU of South Carolina argued the ban puts students with certain disabilities at significant risk.
Earlier this week, an Arizona judge ruled the state’s ban on public school mask mandates was unconstitutional.
In international coronavirus news, Cuba has begun delivering its three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. Last week, Cuba asked the World Health Organization to review and approve its Abdala and Soberana 02 vaccines.
Russia reported its highest daily COVID death toll Tuesday, with over 850 fatalities, amid a new surge.
Syrian health officials warn hospitals are overwhelmed as the war-torn nation deals with its worst surge since the start of the pandemic. As of last week, just over 1% of the population was fully vaccinated.
Japan will lift its state of emergency Thursday for the first time in almost six months, as the number of new cases and deaths have been decreasing.
In Japan, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is poised to become the country’s next prime minister after winning a leadership race for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The outgoing prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who has faced widespread criticism over his mishandling of the pandemic, announced his resignation last month, after less than a year in power. A representative of Hiroshima, Kishida has campaigned for the abolition of nuclear weapons, though has defended Japan’s policy of not signing on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, citing Japan’s reliance on the extended nuclear deterrence provided by the U.S., a longtime ally.
An independent investigation found over 80 alleged cases of sexual abuse and assault at the hands of aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Ebola outbreak between 2018 and 2020. Twenty of those involved were World Health Organization employees. Dozens of survivors spoke to investigators. Among the accounts, there were nine allegations of rape; sexual harassment and intimidation by superiors at work; and the promise of favors in exchange for sex. On Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offered an apology to survivors.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what was done to you by people who were employed by WHO to serve and protect you. I’m sorry for the ongoing suffering that this event must cause. I’m sorry that you have had to relive them in talking to the commission about your experiences.”
In Haiti, elections planned for November have been postponed until 2022, after Prime Minister Ariel Henry dismissed the electoral council amid the country’s mounting political and humanitarian crises. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is continuing its mass expulsion of Haitian asylum seekers, deporting over 4,000 people in the past 10 days.
In Germany, Berlin residents voted in a referendum to seize back some 240,000 apartments from corporate landlords in an effort to combat gentrification and soaring rents. The measure, though not binding, would see the municipal government buy back housing from powerful landlords or real estate companies that own more than 3,000 units, and turn the units into affordable public housing.
The European Court of Justice issued a ruling today annulling two trade deals between the European Union and Morocco that included fishing and agricultural products from Western Sahara, a territory occupied by Morocco since 1975. This is the third time that the court has struck down trade deals between Morocco and the bloc, ruling that Western Sahara cannot be part of the EU’s trade deal with Morocco without the express consent of the people of the territory.
In Maryland, a judge sentenced Jarrod Ramos, the gunman who stormed the Capital Gazette newsroom on June 28, 2018, and murdered five people, to five life sentences without parole, along with two other life sentences. Survivors of the attack and bereaved family members testified before Tuesday’s sentencing. Capital Gazette photographer and survivor of the mass shooting, Paul Gillespie, spoke outside the courthouse.
Paul Gillespie: “I don’t think there’s ever going to be any closure. I mean, I lost five of my family members. I was almost killed myself. It’s something that haunts me every day I think about this and what happened to me and my Capital Gazette family.”
In Arizona, a federal judge has temporarily banned a key portion of a new sweeping anti-abortion law that would make it a felony for doctors to terminate pregnancies due to a fetal genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. The court, however, denied a request to block another part of the law that classifies fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs as people starting at the point of conception.
In Chile, lawmakers have approved debate on legislation that would expand access to abortions. Chilean reproductive justice advocates are celebrating what is a “first step” toward the South American nation decriminalizing the procedure. This comes as thousands of women took to the streets across Latin America Tuesday demanding the legalization of abortion on International Safe Abortion Day. This is a protester in El Salvador.
Morena Herrera: “Our country has a high rate of pregnancies of girls and adolescents. It shows that there is sexual abuse, lack of protection of children, they are forced to continue with their pregnancies in cruel conditions, and that they have to put aside their life projects. It is a violation of the rights of girls and adolescents.”
Over 20 Latin American countries still ban abortions without exception, including El Salvador, where women have been sentenced to decades in prison and accused of homicide even in cases where they’ve had miscarriages and other obstetric emergencies.

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