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Headlines for September 14, 2021 – Democracy Now!

This year Democracy Now! is celebrating our 25th anniversary—that’s 25 years of bringing you fearless, independent reporting. Since our very first broadcast in 1996, Democracy Now! has refused to take government or corporate funding, because nothing is more important to us than our editorial independence. But that means we rely on you, our audience, for support. If everyone who tunes into Democracy Now! signed up for a monthly donation of just $10, we could cover our operating costs for the entire year. Please do your part today. Right now, a generous donor will even TRIPLE your first monthly gift, which means it’ll go three times as far! This is a challenging time for us all, but if you’re able to start a new monthly donation, please don’t delay. We’re counting on your support. Thank you and remember, wearing a mask is an act of love.
-Amy Goodman
This year Democracy Now! is celebrating our 25th anniversary—that’s 25 years of bringing you fearless, independent reporting. Since our very first broadcast in 1996, Democracy Now! has refused to take government or corporate funding, because nothing is more important to us than our editorial independence. But that means we rely on you, our audience, for support. If everyone who tunes into Democracy Now! signed up for a monthly donation of just $10, we could cover our operating costs for the entire year. Please do your part today. Right now, a generous donor will even TRIPLE your first monthly gift, which means it’ll go three times as far! This is a challenging time for us all, but if you’re able to start a new monthly donation, please don’t delay. We’re counting on your support. Thank you and remember, wearing a mask is an act of love.
-Amy Goodman
We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.
Please do your part today.
The United Nations warns a million Afghan children could face starvation without immediate international aid, after the Taliban completed its sweeping takeover of Afghanistan last month. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres spoke at a high-level U.N. donor conference in Geneva on Monday.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline. After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour.”
Monday’s donor conference raised $1.2 billion in pledges for Afghanistan. The U.S., which spent over $2.3 trillion during its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, pledged just $64 million in aid. 
On Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee that no one in the Biden administration predicted the Afghan government would collapse while U.S. troops were still in Kabul. During his opening remarks Monday, Blinken said by remaining in Afghanistan, the U.S. military would have only delayed the Taliban’s inevitable takeover.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “There’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining. If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment and training did not suffice, why would another year, another five, another 10?”
Blinken blamed the chaotic U.S. withdrawal on the Trump administration, saying, “We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan.” At least two Republicans called on Blinken to resign. Blinken is testifying to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee today. 
Coronavirus cases are back on the rise across the United States. More than 1,800 COVID-19 deaths were reported Monday, and the U.S. is confirming an average of more than 170,000 infections a day. That’s up from last week, when the Labor Day holiday led to a gap in data about the U.S. outbreak.
Here in New York, nearly 1 million public school students returned to classrooms Monday, most of them for the first time in a year and a half. Teachers are required to be vaccinated, though they have until September 27 to get their first shot.
In Iowa, a federal judge on Monday issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a Republican-led ban on mask mandates in schools. The federal judge sided with parents of disabled students who argued their children were being denied equal access to education since they’re at higher risk of COVID-19.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said he will fine city and county governments $5,000 per employee if they impose vaccine mandates — this as new data show child COVID-19 deaths have doubled in Florida since students returned to classrooms, many of them without mask requirements in place. 
Two prominent scientists who recently retired from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are blasting the Biden administration’s plans to approve third, booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to most U.S. residents. In a scathing critique published in the British medical journal The Lancet, Philip Krause and Marion Gruber write, “Current evidence does not appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high. … The limited supply of these vaccines will save the most lives if made available to people who are at appreciable risk of serious disease and have not yet received any vaccine.”
Meanwhile, more than 140 Nobel laureates and former heads of state have signed an open letter calling on Germany to support a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines. Their call comes as a World Trade Organization panel is set to convene this week to discuss a patent waiver — nearly a year after India and South Africa proposed the move, which would require the unanimous consent of all 164 WTO member nations. A handful of countries, led by Germany and the United Kingdom, have so far refused to agree to a patent waiver. Joining the call for a People’s Vaccine is California Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna.
Rep. Ro Khanna: “This issue is so fundamental. If you believe that every human life has dignity and has moral worth, then we need to ensure that everyone has access to this vaccine. And a first step to getting people access to the vaccine is making sure that we’re sharing the know-how of how they can build it.”
A new report contends the Biden administration could unilaterally share the recipe for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine with the world. Public Citizen says the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — known as BARDA — invested heavily in the development of Moderna’s vaccine at taxpayer expense and has access to its entire “vaccine recipe.” That includes chemistry, manufacturing and controls information that Public Citizen says could be shared with the World Health Organization. 
Hurricane Nicholas made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast overnight as a Category 1 storm, bringing 75-mile-per-hour winds and a life-threatening storm surge of up to five feet. Forecasters say some parts of the region could see up to 20 inches of rain. There are widespread reports of power outages, with nearly a quarter-million Houston-area customers in the dark. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, warning his state is still recovering from Hurricane Ida, which struck two weeks ago. Nearly 100,000 customers in Louisiana remain without power after Hurricane Ida.
President Biden called Monday for urgent congressional action on the climate crisis during a tour of western states ravaged by wildfires. Biden visited the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho before traveling on to Northern California, where he joined Governor Gavin Newsom for an aerial tour of damage from the Caldor Fire. Afterward, Biden called on Congress to pass his $3.5 trillion spending plan, which includes money for a Civilian Climate Corps and other measures to combat the climate crisis.
President Joe Biden: “These fires are blinking code red for our nation. … But we can’t ignore the reality that these wildfires are being supercharged by climate change.”
Climate justice groups seized on Biden’s remarks, demanding the White House declare a climate emergency.
Later on Monday, President Biden joined a campaign rally for Governor Newsom, who faces a right-wing recall effort to remove him from office. Polls in the recall election close this evening at 8 p.m. California time. 
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled legislation Monday that would raise income taxes on the rich and some corporations to pay for most of President Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill. The tax measure would raise the corporate tax rate from 21% percent to 26.5%. It would include a 3% surtax on U.S. residents making over $5 million a year. And it would restore the top rate of nearly 40% for high-income individuals and couples. The top capital gains rate would rise to just 25% — far short of the nearly 40% capital gains tax rate proposed by President Biden and supported by progressives. Speaking to ”PBS NewsHour,” Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders said he hoped the Senate would craft a more progressive tax plan.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality, when two people own more wealth than the bottom 40%, when the top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 92%, now is the time to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share, so that we can begin to address the long-neglected needs of working families, in terms of our children, in terms of healthcare, in terms of the elderly and, by the way, in terms of addressing the existential threat of climate change.”
On Sunday, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin insisted again that he would not support President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package, calling the price tag too high. Manchin’s support is crucial in the Senate, where Democrats have a razor-thin majority.
Meanwhile, New York progressive Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for progressive taxation on the red carpet at Monday’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in New York. AOC’s white gown featured the words “Tax the Rich” in prominent red letters along its back. 
Israeli forces launched a third consecutive night of attacks on the Gaza Strip Monday after rockets were fired toward Israel. The Israeli military claimed it had targeted at least four Hamas sites. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports a Hamas spokesperson said the assaults were in response to the escape last week of six Palestinians from an Israeli maximum-security prison. Two remain on the run.
The Biden administration said Monday it will withhold about 10% of the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. gives annually to Egypt, citing concerns over human rights violations. Nearly $1.2 billion of military assistance will continue to flow to Egypt despite serious allegations of human rights abuses against the government of dictator and U.S. ally Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
This comes as advocates are sounding the alarm on the worsening conditions faced by Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who was returned to prison in 2019 just six months after being freed following a five-year sentence. El-Fattah reportedly told Egyptian media, “My situation is horrible and I won’t be able to continue like this. Get me out of this prison, I will kill myself.” El-Fattah was a key leader in Egypt’s 2011 uprising.
Back in the United States, Capitol Police arrested a man who parked near the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., on Monday with a machete and bayonet in his pickup truck. Officers charged 44-year-old Donald Craighead of Oceanside, California, with possession of prohibited weapons. His truck was emblazoned with a swastika and other white supremacist symbols. The arrest came less than a month after Capitol Police arrested a North Carolina man outside the Library of Congress who claimed to have a bomb in his truck. Police are erecting a temporary fence around the Capitol ahead of a far-right, pro-Trump so-called Justice for J6 rally planned for Saturday.
Apple has released an emergency software update to fix a security flaw in its iPhones and other products researchers found was being exploited by the Israeli-based NSO Group to infect the devices with its Pegasus spyware. Over 1.65 billion Apple products in use around the globe were vulnerable to the spyware since at least March. Apple said vulnerable devices could be hacked by receiving a malicious PDF file that users didn’t even have to click — known as a “zero-click” exploit. The flaw was discovered by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which found the hack in the iPhone records of a Saudi political activist. Earlier this year, a massive data leak revealed Pegasus software had targeted the phones of thousands of journalists, activists and political figures around the world for foreign governments and NSO Group clients.
A coalition of left-leaning parties is poised to form a new government in Norway after a landslide win Monday that ousted a center-right coalition that’s held power since 2013. Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre will likely become Norway’s next prime minister. His coalition could include the Green Party, which campaigned to shut down Norway’s oil production within a few years. Støre says his government will focus on dramatic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions to help fight the climate crisis.
Jonas Gahr Støre: “So we will cut 55% of our emissions. That’s a huge transition, so we have to really get going during these first four years and do that in a tangible way.”

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