Leaders dial up doomsday warning to kick-start climate talks
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — World leaders turned up the heat and resorted to end-of-the-world rhetoric Monday in an attempt to bring new urgency to sputtering international climate negotiations.
The metaphors were dramatic and mixed at the start of the talks, known as COP26. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described global warming as “a doomsday device” strapped to humanity. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told his colleagues that humans are “digging our own graves.” And Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, speaking for vulnerable island nations, added moral thunder, warning leaders not to “allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”
Amid the speeches, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his coal-dependent country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2070 — two decades after the United States and at least 10 years later than China. Modi said the goal of reaching “net zero” by 2070 was one of five measures India planned to undertake to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel avoided soaring rhetoric and delved into policy.
“There’s no more time to sit back,” Biden said in a more measured warning that also apologized for his predecessor’s decision to temporarily pull the U.S. out of the historic 2015 Paris agreement, something he said put the country behind in its efforts. “Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”
Supreme Court questions controversial Texas abortion law
WASHINGTON (AP) — A majority of the Supreme Court signaled Monday they would allow abortion providers to pursue a court challenge to the controversial Texas law that has virtually ended abortion in the nation’s second-largest state after six weeks of pregnancy.
But it was unclear how quickly the court would rule and whether it would issue an order blocking the law that has been in effect for two months, or require providers to ask a lower court to put the law on hold.
Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, two conservative appointees of former President Donald Trump, voted in September to allow the law to take effect, but they raised questions Monday about its novel structure. The law, written to make it difficult to mount legal challenges, subjects clinics, doctors and any others who facilitate abortions to large financial penalties.
“Millions and millions retroactively imposed, even though the activity was perfectly lawful under all court orders and precedent at the time it was undertaken, right?” Kavanaugh asked, one of several skeptical questions he put to Judd E. Stone II, representing Texas.
Barrett, too, pressed Stone about provisions of the law that force providers to fight lawsuits one by one and, she said, don’t allow their constitutional rights to be “fully aired.”
Ugandan kids lose hope in long school closure amid pandemic
BUSIA, Uganda (AP) — Dressed in his school uniform, Mathias Okwako jumped into the mud and started his daily search for gold, a commodity that may be closer to his grasp than another precious asset: an education.
His rural school in Uganda sits idle just across the road from the swamp where he and scores of children now work as informal miners. Weeds grow in some classrooms, where window frames have been looted for firewood. Another school nearby is renting out rooms to tenants.
Uganda’s schools have been fully or partially shut for more than 77 weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, the longest disruption anywhere in the world, according to figures from the U.N. cultural agency.
And unlike many parts of the globe, where lessons moved online, most public schools, which serve the vast majority of children in this East African country, were unable to offer virtual schooling.
In the void left, some students got married. Some are dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Others, like 17-year-old Okwako, found jobs.
Tight Virginia race becomes referendum on Biden presidency
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A closely contested race for governor in Virginia entered its final hours Monday with Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin both hoping for last-minute momentum amid a contest that’s emerging as a referendum on Joe Biden’s presidency.
McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, is scrambling to stave off disaster in a state that has become reliable Democratic territory in recent years. Biden carried Virginia by a comfortable 10 percentage points last year, but Youngkin’s campaign is optimistic about his prospects of becoming the first Republican to win a statewide race since 2009.
“This is a moment for Virginians to push back on this left, liberal, progressive agenda,” Youngkin, a former private equity executive, told a rally at an airport hangar outside Richmond.
Voters were also poised to decide a New Jersey governor’s race Tuesday, as well as mayoral elections in many of the nation’s top cities. Also, a ballot question that could remake policing in Minneapolis, after George Floyd’s death there last summer, could have national implications.
But the political repercussions were farthest reaching in Virginia, where McAuliffe again offered the message he’s repeated throughout the campaign — that his opponent will bring former President Donald Trump’s divisive style of politics to an increasingly blue state.
COVID-19’s global death toll tops 5 million in under 2 years
The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems.
Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 745,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.
“This is a defining moment in our lifetime,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. “What do we have to do to protect ourselves so we don’t get to another 5 million?”
The death toll, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. It rivals the number of people killed in battles among nations since 1950, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Globally, COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and stroke.
The staggering figure is almost certainly an undercount because of limited testing and people dying at home without medical attention, especially in poor parts of the world, such as India.
Jury seated for homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A jury was selected in a single day Monday for the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young, aspiring police officer who shot three people while they were out on the streets of Kenosha during a protest against racial injustice last year.
Opening statements are set to begin Tuesday morning.
The jury in the politically charged case must decide whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, as his lawyers claim, or was engaged in vigilantism when the 17-year-old opened fire with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle in August 2020, killing two men and wounding a third.
In an all-day session that ran well past dark, 20 people — 12 jurors and eight alternates — were selected. The judge said he would decide at the end of the trial which ones are alternates and which ones will deliberate. The 20 consist of 11 women and nine men.
Jurors were not asked to identify their race during the selection process, and the court did not immediately provide a racial breakdown of the group.
Ethiopia’s PM defiant as rival Tigray forces make advances
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister has called on citizens to redouble their efforts to combat the rival Tigray forces who claim to have seized key cities on a major highway leading to the capital, while a new wave of detentions of ethnic Tigrayans has begun.
A move on the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa is a new phase in the war that has killed thousands of people since fighting broke out a year ago between Ethiopian and allied forces and Tigray ones who long dominated the national government before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, told The Associated Press on Monday that Abiy “is where he’s meant to be, leading the country’s front and center.”
Abiy said Sunday said that federal troops are fighting on four fronts against the Tigray forces and “we should know that our enemy’s main strength is our weakness and unpreparedness.” Amid calls on social media for attacks against ethnic Tigrayans, he said “we should closely follow those who work for the enemy and live amongst us.”
A new roundup of Tigrayans was seen in the capital on Monday. Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said “those who believe the government is now weakening and (Tigray forces are) coming should be careful. Some even went to nightclubs to celebrate. The government is taking actions against those.”
COVID vaccine for younger kids already being packed, shipped
WASHINGTON (AP) — Anticipating a green light from vaccine advisers, the Biden administration is assembling and shipping millions of COVID-19 shots for children ages 5-11, the White House said Monday. The first could go into kids’ arms by midweek.
“We are not waiting on the operations and logistics,” said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients.
By vaccinating children, the U.S. hopes to head off another coronavirus wave during the cold-weather months when people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses can spread more easily. Cases have been declining for weeks, but the virus has repeatedly shown its ability to stage a comeback and more easily transmissible mutations are a persistent threat.
On Tuesday, a special advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to consider detailed recommendations for administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to younger children. The Food and Drug Administration already cleared the shots, which deliver about one-third of the vaccine given to adults. After CDC advisers make their recommendations, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will give the final order.
Zients said the government has enough of the Pfizer vaccine for all 28 million children in the 5-11 age group. “We’re in great shape on supply,” Zients said during the White House coronavirus briefing.
Robert Durst indicted in 1982 murder of wife Kathie Durst
NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Durst was indicted Monday for murder in the death of his first wife, Kathie Durst, whose disappearance nearly four decades ago has long shadowed the incarcerated millionaire, contributing to his increasingly bizarre and violent behavior and leading to an infamous on-camera confession.
A grand jury in the New York City suburbs returned the second-degree murder indictment just weeks after an investigator in the case filed a criminal complaint in town court charging the 78-year-old real estate heir with murder, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah said.
Durst is serving a life sentence in California for killing a confidante who helped him cover up Kathie Durst’s slaying. Durst was hospitalized on a ventilator with COVID-19 after his Oct. 14 sentencing in the Los Angeles case and was transferred last week to a state prison hospital. His medical condition was not released but a mug shot showed no sign of a ventilator.
Rocah said a warrant has been issued for Durst’s arrest in the New York case.
“When Kathleen Durst disappeared on January 31, 1982, her family and friends were left with pain, anguish and questions that have contributed to their unfaltering pursuit of justice for the last 39 years,” Rocah said in a statement announcing the indictment.
Canadian snowbirds head south as US land borders reopen
PHOENIX (AP) — Canadians Ian and Heather Stewart are savoring the idea of leaving behind this winter’s subzero temperatures when the U.S. reopens its borders to nonessential land travel next week and they launch a long-delayed drive to their seasonal home in Fort Myers, Florida.
Restrictions imposed by both countries during the coronavirus pandemic and their own concerns kept the retired couple and millions of other Canadians from driving south to warmer climes like Florida, Arizona and Mexico during last year’s freezing winter months.
Now, the Biden administration’s decision to allow vaccinated people to enter the U.S. by land for any reason starting Nov. 8 has many Canadians packing up their campers and making reservations at their favorite vacation condos and mobile home parks. Some are already in the U.S., arriving on flights that never stopped and have required just a negative COVID-19 test.
But many have waited to drive, preferring the convenience of having a vehicle to get around in with rental cars scarce and expensive.
Vacasa, a management company for over 30,000 vacation homes in North America, Belize and Costa Rica, said it saw a major rise in traffic on its online platform after the new rules were announced. Canadian users’ views at rentals in snowbird-popular destinations jumped by 120%.