Stork Raving Mad
September 14, 2021
The Good News
- Gottlieb says vaccines could be approved for kids 5-11 by end of October (CBS)
- Amazon Canada hikes front-line worker pay and plans to hire 15,000 more people (CBC)
“The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift.” — Laurie Colwin
One week ago, the Taliban announced the members of its new caretaker government now in control of Afghanistan. All are hard-liners. The Haqqanis, a faction known for their close ties to Pakistan and belief in global jihad, were particularly well represented in the cabinet. Five men receiving top posts were released from Guantanamo Bay last year. 27 others given key posts have been members of the Taliban since it emerged in the 1990s. All spent the past 20 years hiding in Pakistan.
The absence of any officials from the Western-backed government of former president Hamid Karzai made for a somber mood in Delhi, 600 miles away. For India’s leaders, any hope was dashed that the Taliban’s new government would be different than before. Also chilling was the reinforced connection to Pakistan, India’s arch-enemy. “It’s a massive strategic victory for Pakistan to have a Taliban administration over which they have quasi-control,” said Kabir Taneja, an academic in Delhi. A former Indian ambassador to Pakistan noted that Islamabad’s involvement in Afghanistan and its interference in the new Taliban regime had become “very visible,” and that “if the whole process becomes ISI-driven and ISI-controlled, then this is a huge cause of concern for India.”
The regional and domestic security risk that a Taliban regime poses is clearly seen in Kashmir, where India’s Muslim-majority region has been embroiled for decades in a separatist insurgency allied with Islamabad. Two of the main Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir have historical ties to the Taliban; Indian officials fear the Taliban’s victory will embolden similar Islamist groups and individuals across the region. “That entire geography, from the Afghan-Iran border stretching up to the border of Kashmir, is now susceptible to jihadist groups,” said Taneja. “This outcome in Afghanistan is very detrimental to India’s security.”
Taliban leaders have vehemently pledged they won’t allow Afghan soil to be used for any foreign terrorist groups. But a former CIA counter-terrorism chief said he had little faith in Taliban pledges to prevent militant Kashmiri separatist groups from operating on Afghan soil. “In an unfortunate way, the Taliban is in a much better position today than it was before 9/11 to provide support to any of the regional jihadist groups it wishes to,” he said.
Monday morning, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passenger plane from Islamabad touched down in Kabul. It was Pakistan’s first flight to Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S. troops. A PIA spokesman said the service was a “special flight” to create “goodwill” with the people of Afghanistan and to “strengthen humanitarian efforts.” But he was quick to clarify that this was “not an aid flight.” (WaPo, Guardian, CNN)
Green Around The Gills Yet?
- Greenland is the world’s largest island, over 36,000 times the size of Manhattan. Most of it is covered in ice, thousands of feet thick in many places. Except for Antarctica, Greenland’s ice sheet contains four times more ice than all of Earth’s other glaciers and ice fields combined. But carbon dioxide and methane accumulating in the atmosphere are warming the planet and disintegrating Greenland’s ice sheet.
- In the past ten years, the island has lost more ice than it had in the previous century. Massive summertime meltwater rivers now flow over Greenland’s ice sheet. And in August, for the first time in recorded history, rain fell on the highest point of the island’s ice sheet.
- Rain in a place historically defined by bitter cold portends a future that will alter coastlines worldwide, and drown entire cities. Greenland’s ice melt will probably contribute more to sea level rise in the near future than any other single factor. If people in Miami, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai, Lagos, Bangkok, and New York aren’t concerned, they should be. (Guardian)
A Rocky Roe Ahead
- Last week, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion, putting the country on a path to becoming the most populous Latin American nation to allow the procedure. The ruling also paves a way for thousands of women who ended their pregnancies to get prior criminal charges leveled against them dropped.
- But polls show most people in this overwhelmingly Catholic country don’t think abortion should be legal, and many state laws outlawing the procedure may have to be challenged in court. A federal law passed in 2018 protects a doctor’s right to refuse any procedure that goes against his or her personal beliefs, and medical staff in some hospitals won’t treat patients who’ve had abortions and developed complications.
- Mexico’s top court is now considering whether to require that public hospitals have doctors on staff who are willing to perform abortions, or transfer patients to facilities that do. Justices will also decide whether to prohibit medical professionals from harassing or preaching to women seeking abortions. (NYT)
Additional World News
- Pope Francis says antisemitism ‘still lurking in Europe’ on visit to Hungary (NBC)
- Villagers flee homes as Spanish wildfire blazes for fifth day (Reuters)
- Vietnam Speeds Up Vaccinations But Shortage Remains (NPR)
- Eitan Biran: Italy investigates ‘kidnap’ of cable car crash survivor (BBC)
- England reverses its plan for vaccine passports (The Hill)
- What fate awaits the rearrested Palestinian prisoners? (Al Jazeera)
- China’s strict 21 day quarantine under question after new outbreak emerges (CNN)
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- The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan includes broadband infrastructure among its primary uses for pandemic aid flowing to each city, county, and state. But some U.S. cities and urban counties fear their ability to tap into the $350 billion of aid to expand high-speed internet connections might have been compromised by a Treasury Department interim rule published in May.
- The rule narrows broadband eligibility by focusing on areas lacking reliable broadband, which connects devices to the internet through a cable or data line with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. The rule’s threshold ensures funding for remote, rural areas that have slow or no internet service, but overlooks the realities of today’s internet needs.
- Underserved urban areas with more population might have broadband, but it’s too slow to handle what became a common scenario during the pandemic — multiple people in a home trying to work, study, and stream entertainment simultaneously. Cities argue that the Treasury should use a 100/100 Mbps eligibility standard that would increase the number of locations eligible for funding from 11 million households to 82 million households and businesses nationwide. (AP)
Stork Raving Mad
- The White House is requiring that millions of American workers, like federal employees, contractors, and certain health care workers, get a COVID-19 vaccine. People employed at medical facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs are among those required to be vaccinated.
- Former New York governor Andrew Cuomo previously mandated that all healthcare workers in his state get a vaccine, and employees at hospitals and long-term care facilities needed their first dose by September 27. But in upstate N.Y., at least 30 health care workers have quit their jobs at Lewis County General Hospital rather than get vaccinated.
- The hospital system’s CEO said the hospital will be “unable to safely staff” its maternity department and newborn nursery as of September 25, forcing it to “pause” maternity services. Other departments could be next. Only 46% of Lewis County is fully vaccinated, and the state lists it as being at a “very high” risk level. (NPR)
Additional USA News
- New York City Schools Reopen For 1st Time in 18 Months (NYT, $)
- Amy Coney Barrett: Supreme Court justices aren’t “partisan hacks” (Axios)
- Democrats look to hike taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for $3.5 trillion budget bill (CNN)
- Trump’s White House chief of staff is target of Capitol attack records request (Guardian)
- Tropical Storm Nicholas forms over Gulf of Mexico, with Texas in its path (CNN)
- GOP sees Biden vaccine mandates as energizing issue for midterms (The Hill)
- New York woman, 22, who was traveling across country with boyfriend goes missing (NBC)
Let Them Eat Cake
- Stephanie Grisham faithfully served as former President Trump’s press secretary and as a leading aide to former first lady, Melania Trump. But after the January 6 insurrection, Grisham resigned her job. Distancing herself from the White House allowed Grisham to come to her senses. She used the months after her departure to write a book, due for release next month, entitled: “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw in The Trump White House.”
- Judging from excerpts from the book, it appears the tipping point might have come when Grisham texted Melania during the attack on the Capitol by her husband’s supporters and asked her: “Do you want to tweet that peaceful protests are the right of every American, but there is no place for lawlessness and violence?” “No,” the former first lady replied. Grisham then relays how Melania shared her husband’s view that the 2020 presidential election was not conducted legitimately and said that “something bad happened.” Five days after the attack, Melania issued a statement saying she was “disappointed and disheartened” as she watched the deadly chaos unfold five days earlier.
- Grisham sees Melania in a new light now, describing her as “the doomed French queen. Dismissive. Defeated. Detached.” Naturally, Melania didn’t take these insults lying down. A statement from her office read: “The intent behind this book is obvious. It is an attempt to redeem herself after a poor performance as press secretary, failed personal relationships, and unprofessional behavior in the White House. Through mistruth and betrayal, [Grisham] seeks to gain relevance and money at the expense of Mrs. Trump.” Ouch. We’ll just have to wait and see who gets the last word — the poor performer or Marie Antoinette. (The Hill)
- Mars: Nasa rover’s rock cores were ‘highest priority samples’ (BBC)
- This Country Is Struggling to Reverse a Shrinking Population (WSJ)
- North Carolina man wins three lottery jackpots at same store (AP)
- California Passes Warehouse Worker Bill, Taking Aim at Amazon (Ars Technica)
- Komodo dragons have become endangered species due to climate change (USA Today)
- ‘Neurograins’ Could be the Next Brain-Computer Interfaces (Wired)
- Scientists scramble to harvest ice cores as glaciers melt (Reuters)
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