‘Recognition of failure’: A shift urged in global vaccination strategy

“47 countries still have inoculation rates below 20 percent.

Now, many health organizations involved in the global vaccination effort aim to immunize 90 percent of vulnerable populations in every country — a move that seems to undercut the WHO’s 70 percent target.”

“Prioritizing vulnerable populations — health care workers, elderly individuals and those with comorbidities — could undermine the global push to prevent variants if it reduces the total number of vaccinated people, some experts said. But facing the reality that the 70-percent-vaccination goal by mid-2022 is virtually doomed, some health groups working on the global vaccination effort are focusing on letting countries set targets according to their abilities and advising them to first target vulnerable populations.”

““Striving to vaccinate 70 percent of the population of every country remains essential for bringing the pandemic under control — with priority given to health workers, older people and other at-risk groups,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.”

The fate of the planet will be negotiated in Glasgow, Scotland

“Under the Paris agreement, every country is required to publish a climate change target and a route for getting there, or what’s called a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The first round of NDCs put forward in 2015 were clearly inadequate, putting the world on course for roughly 2.7°C of warming by the end of the century.

Climate leaders hoped that in the runup to COP26, countries would roll out new commitments for the coming decade, as well as long-term strategies for eliminating emissions by the middle of the century. As of October 21, 114 countries and the European Union have submitted new NDCs. Some major emitters like the US, United Kingdom, and China have proposed or submitted stronger targets. But others, like Russia, Brazil, and Australia, did not meaningfully ramp up their goals. Still others like India have yet to submit a new NDC.

The leaders at COP26 will try to create carrots and sticks to motivate the laggards and holdouts to take more aggressive action. Many countries are now adamant that the limit for warming this century should be 1.5°C, now that many countries have already suffered the tolls of disasters worsened by climate change — a sign that 2°C of warming would be far worse.”

“The core injustice of climate change is that the people who contributed least to the problem stand to suffer the most.”

“a key part of the discussion at COP26 will be around how to compensate countries facing the impacts of climate change today, from rising sea levels eroding shores to more devastating extreme weather.”

“The US has the dubious distinction of being the only country to complete a 360-degree turn on the Paris agreement. It helped convene the accord in 2015, yet former President Trump withdrew the US in 2020. President Biden signed an executive order in January to rejoin and the US was formally back in the Paris accord in February.

Since the US is the wealthiest country in the world and the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, it plays a prominent role in climate negotiations and has an even greater obligation to act on the crisis. At COP26, the US not only has to make up for lost time, it also has to rebuild trust with other countries and show that it’s willing to be more ambitious.”

Why Ethiopia wants to expel UN officials sounding the alarm on famine

“A civil war between Ethiopia’s federal government and the country’s northern Tigray region, which began late last year, has led to widespread atrocities and created famine conditions in parts of the country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to expel UN officials from the country comes after they raised concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation.

UN officials have repeatedly warned that Ethiopia’s government is blocking the movement of critical supplies — like medicine, food, and fuel — into the Tigray region, with as little as 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies being allowed in. Those accusations were echoed this week by the head of the UN’s humanitarian aid arm, as well as by a UN report finding the region on the brink of famine.”

In U.N. Speech, Biden Says America Is Not at War for First Time in 20 Years. That’s Just Not True.

“As commander in chief, Biden is still operating under the authority of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which, on paper, grants the president only authority to bring the military to bear against those responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but in reality has been used by multiple U.S. presidents to authorize very broad military interventions throughout the world.

Furthermore, the 2002 AUMF, which directly authorized the military invasion of Iraq, is still in force. The House voted in June to repeal the 2002 AUMF, but that repeal hasn’t passed the Senate yet. We still have thousands of troops in Iraq and are currently planning to keep them there indefinitely. The plan is that these troops will serve as logistics and advisory help for Iraq’s government, but they will most definitely still be involved in fights against the Islamic State.

We may have pulled troops out of Somalia, but we’re still performing airstrikes there against Al Qaida affiliate al-Shabab. In June, the Pentagon announced that it is considering putting troops right back in there.

And none of that gets into the countless—well, not countless, but the numbers are deliberately concealed from the American public—drone strikes in places like Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya. We don’t really have data on drone use under the Biden administration yet, save the disastrous one from late August in Kabul that killed 10 civilians, including 7 children. Biden has reportedly quietly implemented stricter rules on the use of drones outside of war zones and the White House is evaluating the legal and policy “frameworks” for continuing to use them.

Biden might not see all of this piecemeal military intervention as “war,” but let’s be clear here: We’re talking about thousands of U.S. troops overseas involved in potentially killing armed combatants. And Biden currently still has congressional permission to wage war.”

The devastating new UN report on climate change, explained

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ climate science research group, concluded in a major report that it is “unequivocal” that humans have warmed the skies, waters, and lands, and that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred in every inhabited region across the globe. Many of these changes are irreversible within our lifetimes.

This is the first report of its kind in eight years, and a lot has changed. Scientists have backed away from many of the best-case scenarios. They’re more confident than ever that human-caused climate change is already worsening deadly weather events, from flooding to heat waves. And they’re investigating culprits of climate change that warm the planet even more than carbon dioxide.”

“The goal of these reports is to compile the best available science and create a solid foundation for decision-makers to act, whether that’s to invest in clean energy, relocate people from high-risk areas, or help the most vulnerable places cope with unavoidable impacts.”

“While researchers have better answers now on some fronts, they are also blunt about the things they still don’t know, which could have huge effects on the livability of the planet. Certain tipping points, feedbacks, and currently unappreciated mechanisms could further tilt the climate out of balance in ways that are hard to predict.”

“in the eight years since the last comprehensive IPCC report and the six years since the Paris accords, humanity’s output of heat-trapping gases has only grown. Even with a dip in emissions stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reached a record high this year, topping 419 parts per million, a level the planet has not seen for at least 2 million years.

This rise in emissions has given scientists unprecedented opportunities to study climate change in real time. Alongside improvements in computer simulations, measurement technology, laboratory experiments, and historical records, scientists have gained far more insight to, and confidence in, humanity’s role in cranking up the planet’s thermostat.”

“According to the report, it now seems impossible that the world will get lucky and warming will somehow stay within the Paris agreement targets without massive action to limit emissions, starting right away.”

Medical Marijuana Gets the Green Light From the United Nations

“In a close 27 to 25 vote (with one abstention)..members of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) backed a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal to take cannabis and cannabis resin off the list of Schedule IV drugs—i.e., those which the international body says are “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects” and should therefore be most strictly controlled around the world. Schedule IV drugs include heroin, fentanyl, and—from 1961 until now—cannabis.”

“While the U.N. vote “doesn’t totally free the plant from treaty control, it’s a giant step toward the normalization of cannabis in medicine above all but also in our societies generally””

“These recommendations might not be legally binding, but they can wield significant influence around the globe.
For instance, after the WHO change, Argentina’s government “issued a decree authorizing sales and self-cultivation of cannabis for medical use, and the justification explicitly refers to the outcome of the critical review and the WHO recommendation to delete cannabis from schedule IV,” noted Jelsma.”

“The rescheduling “is even more important when you consider that cannabis was placed into Schedule IV without ever having been subject to any scientific assessment,” suggests For Alternative Approaches to Addiction Think & do tank (FAAAT) in a press release. “Schedule IV for cannabis is a relic of the most extreme international drug laws inherited from 1950s morals … The removal from Schedule IV is, therefore, phenomenal news for millions of patients around the world and a historical victory of science over politics.””

Russia and China will join the UN Human Rights Council. The US should too.

“The United Nations’s premier body for protecting human rights has elected serial human rights abusers, including Russia and China, to the panel, once again calling into question whether it’s actually an important platform to address the plight of millions — or an anachronism.

The Geneva-based, 47-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) does two main things: It passes nonbinding resolutions on human rights issues around the world, and it oversees the work of experts who investigate violations in specific countries. Its supporters, those of whom in the US typically lean left, say it’s a place where nations can address issues that don’t usually garner the world’s attention. Its critics, who mostly lean right, argue it’s a toothless organization that kowtows to authoritarians and harbors a deep anti-Israel bias.

Detractors gained an upper hand in the debate this week when China, Russia, Cuba, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan each won enough votes to sit on the UNHRC for a three-year term (though China received fewer votes than it had in previous years). Other despotic regimes angling for a spot, like Saudi Arabia, didn’t get the nod, however.”

“it’s fair to look at the council and think it’s a problematic forum the US should stay out of. But experts say there are a few problems with that view, namely that the US loses any influence in that forum to push back against the Russias and Chinas of the world — and Israel is left without a strong backer on the council.”