First Thing: DoJ vows to protect women seeking abortions in Texas
The federal government will take action to protect women in Texas trying to obtain an abortion in the wake of the strictest anti-abortion law in the US taking effect last week, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced on Monday.
The Department of Justice said it would not tolerate violence against anyone seeking abortion services in the state and that federal officials were exploring options to challenge the ban on almost all terminations, with the new state law also empowering the public to enforce it in a way critics decry as promoting vigilantism.
United Nations human rights monitors have strongly condemned the state of Texas, which they say violates international law by denying women control over their bodies and endangering their lives.
What did Garland say? He issued a statement that said the DoJ would “protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services” under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (or Face) Act.
What did the UN say? Melissa Upreti, the chair of the UN’s working group on discrimination against women and girls, condemned the Texas law, SB 8, as “structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst”.
Michael K Williams, star of The Wire, dies aged 54
The actor Michael K Williams, best known for his role as Omar Little in The Wire, has died at the age of 54.
Confirming his death to the Hollywood Reporter, Williams’s representative said it was “with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams. They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss.”
Williams, who is believed to have been found dead at his home in New York, was also known for playing Albert “Chalky” White in the series Boardwalk Empire from 2010 to 2014. He received an Emmy nomination this year for the role of Montrose Freeman in the series Lovecraft Country, and had appeared in films including 12 Years a Slave and Inherent Vice.
David Simon, creator of The Wire, said on Twitter that he was “Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words. And today those words won’t come.”
Actor John Cusack said Williams was “an unbelievably talented artist” and that his portrayal of Omar Little was “among the greatest performances TV and film has ever seen”.
Republicans in crosshairs of 6 January panel begin campaign of intimidation
Top Republicans under scrutiny for their role in the events of 6 January have embarked on a campaign of threats and intimidation to thwart a Democratic-controlled congressional panel that is scrutinizing the Capitol attack and opening an expanded investigation into Donald Trump.
Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee into the violent assault on the Capitol, in recent days demanded an array of Trump executive branch records related to the insurrection, as members and counsel prepared to examine what Trump knew of efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.
House select committee investigators then asked a slew of technology companies to preserve the social media records of hundreds of people connected to the Capitol attack, including far-right House Republicans who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
What have the Republicans said? The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy decried the select committee’s investigation as a partisan exercise and said “a Republican majority will not forget”.
How did members of the committee react? Congressman Jamie Raskin said that he was appalled by McCarthy’s remarks, which he described as tantamount to obstruction of justice.
Biden under pressure as NGO says flights from Afghanistan blocked
Joe Biden’s administration is facing mounting pressure amid reports that several hundred people, including Americans, had been prevented for a week from flying out of an airport in northern Afghanistan.
Marina LeGree, the founder and executive director of a small American NGO active in Afghanistan, said 600 to 1,300 people, including girls from her group, had been waiting near the Mazar-i-Sharif airport for as long as a week amid confusion involving the Taliban and US officials.
That number is understood to include 19 Americans, though none are with LeGree’s group. Those waiting are being housed in various places in the city, she said.
“It’s been seven days and nothing’s moving,” LeGree told AFP, adding that six chartered planes were waiting at the airport to evacuate what some officials are calling “the NGO group”.
“The Taliban are simply not letting anything move,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have fought their way to the capital of Panjshir, the last Afghan province holding out against their rule, and seem on the brink of total victory.
Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on 15 August, concerns over financial collapse have risen in Afghanistan. As the fragile economy buckles under instability, Afghans are being forced to sell possessions on streets of Mazar-e-Sharif.
In other news …
The US Coast Guard is investigating nearly 350 reports of oil spills in and along the US Gulf coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The storm wreaked havoc on offshore oil production platforms and onshore oil and gas processing plants.
A court in Vietnam has jailed a man for five years for breaking strict Covid quarantine rules and spreading the virus to others, state media reported. Le Van Tri, 28, was convicted of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases” at a one-day trial on Monday.
Stat of the day: About 1.5 billion children globally were out of school during the pandemic
The education of hundreds of millions of children is hanging by a thread as a result of an unprecedented intensity of threats including Covid 19 and the climate crisis, says a report. As classrooms across much of the world prepare to reopen after the summer holidays, a quarter of countries – most of them in sub-Saharan Africa – have school systems that are at extreme or high risk of collapse, according to Save the Children.
Don’t miss this: The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship
In October 2020, three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. They planned to sail the ship to Panama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters. It didn’t work out.
… or this: Angela Bassett on success, salaries and staying power
In her 35-year career, Bassett seems to have done it all: stage, television, movies; drama, action, comedy, horror, sci-fi, documentaries, animation. She has played everything from civil rights icons and secret service bosses to triple-breasted circus freaks. “I guess I am every woman, as Chaka [Khan] sings, it’s all in me,” Bassett laughs. Coming from just about anyone else, this would seem like an immodest boast; with Bassett, it is almost a statement of fact.
Climate check: More global aid goes to fossil fuel projects than tackling dirty air
Governments around the world gave 20% more in overseas aid funding to fossil fuel projects in 2019 and 2020 than to programmes to cut the air pollution they cause. Dirty air is the world’s biggest environmental killer, responsible for at least 4 million early deaths a year. But only 1% of global development aid is used to tackle this crisis, according to an analysis from the Clean Air Fund (CAF).
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Last thing: ‘What is this if not magic?’ The Italian man living as a hobbit
Nicolas Gentile, a 37-year-old Italian pastry chef, did not just want to pretend to be a hobbit – he wanted to live like one. First, he bought a piece of land in the countryside of Bucchianico, near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo, where he and his wife started building their personal Shire from JRR Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth. “Some time ago, I realised that books and films were no longer enough for me to satisfy my passion for the fantasy genre and, in particular, for the Lord of the Rings saga,” Gentile said.
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