Headlines for November 15, 2021 – Democracy Now!
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The U.N. climate summit wrapped up in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday with a significantly weakened deal that activists, scientists and many governments say falls far short of what is needed to avert a climate catastrophe. COP26 President Alok Sharma praised the deal as historic but also apologized for last-minute changes which saw earlier drafts of the deal watered down to change the “phasing out” of coal to “phasing down.” Based on current government pledges, global temperatures are on track to rise a disastrous 2.4 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels this century. Delegates from poorer nations, and those at highest risk from climate change, expressed deep disappointment in the outcome of the summit. This is Tina Stege, the climate envoy of the Marshall Islands.
Tina Stege: “We accept this change with the greatest reluctance. We do so only — and I really want to stress 'only' — because there are critical elements of this package that people in my country need as a lifeline for their future. Thank you.”
The most affected nations also slammed the final agreement for failing to sufficiently address loss and damage reparations. This is Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq.
Saleemul Huq: “It’s a death sentence for the poorest people on the planet. And not only that, the polluters are saying, 'To hell with you. We don't care. We’re not going to give you a penny.’ … We’ll bring it up again. We’re not giving up. But we are describing this COP as an abject failure, because it hasn’t been able to rise to the occasion of dealing with loss and damage. It doesn’t matter what else they do. That was our issue. The poor countries, the vulnerable countries came here for that, and they’ve been slapped in the face.”
Meanwhile, protests continued in Glasgow through the weekend. On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion activists staged a funeral ceremony for all the failed COP summits to date.
The U.S. military killed dozens of civilians in an airstrike in Syria in March of 2019, then spent the next two-and-a-half years covering up evidence of war crimes. That’s according to a New York Times investigation, which found the death toll from a U.S. strike near the town of Baghuz was almost immediately apparent to military officials, with one legal officer flagging the attack as a possible war crime. But the bombing, which was carried out by a classified special operations unit known as Task Force 9, was never investigated, even though it left about 70 women and children dead. The Times found U.S. military officials downplayed the death toll, delayed reports, and sanitized and classified evidence of civilian deaths. U.S.-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site, and top military leaders were not notified.
COVID-19 continues to surge in Europe, which recorded nearly 2 million coronavirus cases last week, the highest weekly caseload since the start of the pandemic. The World Health Organization says Europe is once again the epicenter of the pandemic as officials blame lagging vaccination rates tied to misinformation for the latest wave. Austria has imposed a lockdown for the roughly 2 million people who have not been fully vaccinated, while the Netherlands is in a partial lockdown with restaurants, supermarkets and shops ordered to close early. Cases in Germany remain at an all-time high as authorities consider new restrictions to help ease the surge.
Here in the U.S., COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising in at least 29 states. Hospitalizations are also increasing in nearly half of all states. Public health experts warn the U.S. could face a new wave as winter weather and the holidays drive more people to gather indoors.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it would respond after the newly appointed commander of the Oklahoma National Guard said none of the state’s 10,000 Guard members would be required to get vaccinated against COVID, defying a vaccine mandate ordered by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
In Sudan, at least eight people were killed and many others wounded Saturday after soldiers fired tear gas and live rounds at thousands of protesters who’d gathered to demand a reversal of the October 25 coup. Among the dead was a 15-year-old who died from bullet wounds to the stomach. This is a protester at Saturday’s rally in Khartoum who showed spent shell casings to reporters as gunfire rang out.
Mohamed Hamed: “The revolutionary protesters have nothing but peacefulness and are calling for democracy and bringing back civilian rule, which was taken away by General Burhan. As you hear now, the sound of live shots is getting louder. These are live shots that they use to target the revolutionaries.”
Al Jazeera’s Khartoum bureau chief El Musalmi El Kabbashi was taken into custody after Sudanese security forces raided his home overnight Saturday. Al Jazeera blasted his arrest as an attack on press freedom and called on international human rights and media organizations to condemn Sudan’s crackdown.
In Spain, coast guard sailors discovered the dead bodies of eight people in a boat transporting migrants and refugees. Sixty-two other passengers were rescued from the vessel, which had been drifting near the Canary Islands for a week. Authorities said the deceased migrants came from unspecified African nations.
In Burma, U.S. journalist Danny Fenster has been released from prison just three days after he was sentenced to 11 years behind bars by a military court. The English-language news site he writes for, Frontier Myanmar, said Fenster has since left Burma. Former U.S. politician and ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson said he negotiated Fenster’s release with Burma’s military coup leader.
In Afghanistan, journalist Hamid Seighani was killed after a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in a Kabul suburb Sunday. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in a suburb of mostly Shia Hazara residents. This came one day after at least three people were killed in a bomb blast at a mosque in Nangarhar. Members of the Shia community are calling on the Taliban to ensure their protection after a recent spate of deadly attacks.
Zia Qatari: “Afghanistan is still facing problems, and the security has to be maintained. And this is one of the main responsibilities of the ruling government, to provide comprehensive security for all the residents.”
In related news, Indian officials are accusing Pakistan of blocking a request to allow 50,000 tons of wheat and medicine to be transported to Afghanistan. The nation’s humanitarian crisis, already dire due to war and drought, has deepened since the Taliban takeover in August, with 23 million people facing acute food insecurity and 9 million people on the brink of starvation, according to the U.N.
In India, New Delhi schools have closed for one week amid spiking levels of toxic pollution. Air quality in the Indian capital has been further exacerbated by the widespread burning of crop residue. Farmers say they have been left with no other choice but to burn the agricultural stubble to prepare for more cultivation.
Vijer Singh: “The prices of crops are decreasing. The farmers are helpless, and hence they have to burn it. The government should provide some solution, give us subsidies and machinery, or some organizations should provide us with machinery to decompose it. There won’t be a need for farmers to burn it then. They won’t do it.”
In Ecuador, at least 68 people were killed during the latest outbreak of deadly prison violence at the Litoral Penitentiary, located in the port city of Guayaquil. In late September, at least 118 people were killed in gang-related fighting at the same prison. Prisons in Ecuador suffer from major overcrowding. Grieving relatives of the killed prisoners are demanding the government do more to prevent such tragedies.
Paula: “The state and the police should do something. It’s not fair that innocent people die. My nephew was not a killer. He was inside for stealing a mobile phone. Do you think that a person deserves to die in this way for stealing a mobile phone?”
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is expected to surrender to authorities today after a federal grand jury charged him with two counts of contempt of Congress Friday for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Meanwhile, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows did not show up for his deposition before the House select committee Friday, which could result in another contempt charge and further action to enforce the subpoena.
President Biden has nominated former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf to reprise his role. Califf led the agency for just under a year starting in 2016. He was previously confirmed with bipartisan support but has faced opposition from some lawmakers and others over his work consulting for pharmaceutical companies. After leaving the FDA, he started working as an adviser for Google Health and Verily, both owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, lawyers are delivering closing arguments today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenage gunman who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during racial justice protests in 2020. Last week, Judge Bruce Schroeder garnered yet more scrutiny after he called on the courtroom to applaud the service of a military member on Veterans Day; that military member was also a witness in the case, leading to concerns of possible jury bias. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has called 500 National Guard troops to be on standby ahead of a possible verdict.
A 9-year-old boy has become the latest — and youngest — deadly victim of the Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston, Texas. Ezra Blount had been placed in a medically induced coma after he fell from his father’s shoulders during the crowd surge which took place as headliner Travis Scott was performing. Ten people have died from the stampede. The young boy’s family has filed a lawsuit — one of some 100 lawsuits that have been filed since the fatal event — against Travis Scott, Live Nation Entertainment and others.