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Today is the first official day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and you know the drill. Cozy sweaters, knit scarves, warm apple cider, pumpkin pie and scenic foliage. What’s not to love? Well, it may be a bit longer until it actually feels like fall for the southern tier of the US as heat waves continue to linger in much of the region.
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Steve Bannon, one-time adviser to former President Trump, turned himself in to the FBI and appeared in federal court yesterday. Bannon was indicted last week following his refusal to answer subpoenas from the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. He will not be detained before his trial on contempt of Congress charges. Bannon was defiant during yesterday’s events, telling reporters outside an FBI field office, “We’re taking down the Biden regime.” Bannon’s antics could be the precursor of a long legal fight that could bog down the House committee’s investigation. Today, the committee is expected to consider what to do about similar defiance from Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Medical experts are warning of another deadly pandemic winter as Covid-19 numbers tick up and flu season threatens. The US is back at a point where more than 2,000 people are dying of Covid-19 every day on average, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, about 12,000 to 50,000 Americans lose their lives to flu every year. The best way to avoid another devastating season, doctors say, is to get vaccinated for both. Meanwhile, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, are coming out of long lockdowns and abandoning their “zero Covid” strategies. Leaders want to revive their countries’ economies, especially their tourism sectors, but experts are worried that low vaccination rates in the region could spell disaster.
2. Gas prices
“Respectful and straightforward.” A “healthy debate.” That’s how officials described the virtual summit between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The countries have clashed recently over trade policies, military might and human rights issues, and the meeting yesterday was intended to ensure, as Biden said, that competition between the two “does not veer into conflict.” Biden reportedly raised concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in China, reaffirmed the need for transparency in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and asked about ways the US could cooperate with China on climate issues. Through it all, the US and China remain economically codependent. In fact, before the summit, two dozen businesses called on Biden to ease tariffs on China, saying it would reduce record inflation at home.
The climate crisis was front and center at the UN General Assembly yesterday. Chinese President Xi Jinping recorded a rare address to the UN body promising to halt coal projects, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will present the Paris climate agreement to its parliament next month, and US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed further climate action during an Oval Office meeting. An array of international points of conflict were also addressed by the dozens of world leaders present, including nuclear arms in Iran, free and fair elections in Venezuela, and competition between the US and China. The Taliban have also requested representation at this week’s meeting, a move that is expected to kick off a diplomatic battle with the preexisting Afghan envoy.
The US intelligence community is struggling with an intelligence blind spot as it continues to monitor irregular Russian military movements near the border with Ukraine. US officials have said publicly that they don’t yet know what Russia’s intentions are, and there is concern the country is looking to repeat in some way the 2014 invasion of its western neighbor. The US has long struggled to penetrate the Kremlin or get strong intelligence around Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle. Regarding the country’s current movements, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US remains committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. NATO’s secretary-general warned Moscow against “potential aggressive actions” regarding the proliferation of Russian troops, which has deepened concerns over the potential for a wider geopolitical crisis.
Progressive Democrats have announced they will not vote for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without passing the $3.5 trillion package that is aimed at enacting President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. That vote is scheduled for next week, and as it stands, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only a handful of votes to get anything passed. President Biden will increase his engagement with Congressional Democrats today, including a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to try and get all the Democratic factions in line. Yesterday, the House also passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown and suspend the US debt limit. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, so the country is still approaching a possible shutdown and financial precipice in the coming weeks.
4. Hurricane Fiona
The Biden administration is withdrawing a Trump-era policy that limited the FDA’s review process of certain lab tests, including some Covid-19 tests. Under the policy, the agency did not require premarket reviews of laboratory-developed tests, even in situations in which they had poor performance. The rollback of this policy is intended to increase public access to more reliable tests, which experts say are still a cornerstone of pandemic protection. Meanwhile, India has opened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists on commercial flights for the first time in nearly two years. Depending on their country of origin, travelers may have to submit to Covid-19 tests upon arrival. India has been one of the hardest-hit nations in the pandemic and endured a devastating second wave this spring.
More than a million people in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic once again woke up without power this morning in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. The Category 4 storm is poised to sideswipe Bermuda later this week, forecasts show. At least five people have been killed in the Caribbean, including one in Guadeloupe, two in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic. Fiona also whipped parts of the Turks and Caicos islands on Tuesday with sustained winds of almost 125 mph, officials said. While the recovery process will likely take a long time, authorities have started visiting several islands to begin repairs.
Taliban forces held a military parade in Kabul using dozens of captured American-made armored vehicles and Russian helicopters in a show of strength as the group continues to build a standing army after gaining control of Afghanistan. Most of the weapons and equipment Taliban forces now use were supplied by the US to the Western-backed government in Kabul with the intention of bolstering the fight against the insurgents. Some $28 billion worth of defense articles and services were transferred from the US to the Afghan government from 2002 to 2017. US troops destroyed some vehicles and other equipment as they departed during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this year, but a significant amount of equipment was abandoned and left vulnerable to Taliban use.
There are about 8,600 Haitian migrants remaining under the Del Rio International bridge in Texas, waiting to be processed by immigration officials and possibly removed from the country. That’s down from a high of about 14,000 earlier in the week, but there are still tens of thousands of other Haitian refugees further south, still waiting for a chance to enter the US. There are up to 30,000 Haitians in Colombia who may be seeking to travel north, and Panama expects 80,000 migrants to cross its borders by the end of this year. South and Central American leaders have expressed concern at the unprecedented flow of migrants. More than 97% of Haitians migrating to the US do not come directly from Haiti, but rather were residents of other countries first. Many Haitians trying to enter the US are believed to have been living elsewhere since the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010.
‘Dancing with the Stars’ Season 30 premieres
Four couples live to dance another day. Next stop: the finals!
Taylor Swift debuts Blake Lively-directed video for ‘I Bet You Think About Me’
In case you weren’t done being emotionally victimized by all of Ms. Swift’s artistic antics recently.
Chick-fil-A will be closed Christmas weekend
Mark your calendars so no one gets ho-ho-hangry.
Applebee’s is bringing Cheeto-flavored wings to restaurants for a limited time
Clean fingers never had a chance.
‘Megaspider’ is biggest of its kind we’ve ever seen, Australian reptile park says
THIS JUST IN …
Two explosions have rocked the Ugandan capital’s city center, with three people killed and 33 injured. One blast went off near the Central Police Station and another near Parliament. The cause of the explosions was not immediately clear, and no group has claimed responsibility.
Jury deliberations are set to begin today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. The 18-year-old is charged with five felonies after he shot and killed two people and wounded another during unrest last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
That’s the anticipated unemployment rate by the end of next year, as predicted by Goldman Sachs. If the estimation is correct, it would match the 50-year low hit in late 2019 and repeated in early 2020.
“I started telling myself that it was okay. I was coming to terms with dying.”
Lagos Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, after a government-appointed panel concluded the lethal display of force conducted by Nigerian military during last year’s notorious Lekki toll gate shooting in Lagos could be considered a “massacre.”
Days of severe wind and rain has led to extensive flooding in parts of Washington state, shuttering a stretch of Interstate 5, knocking out power and displacing hundreds.
Restoring an icon
Start your day like a kookaburra … with a little conversation and a little head pat. (Click here to view.)
Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter misidentified who died in blasts in Uganda’s capital. One police officer and two civilians were killed, police said.