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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
The COP26 climate summit began with leaders escalating their rhetoric by issuing a doomsday warning. After leaders from the G20 failed to commit to a 2050 target to halt net-carbon emissions, world leaders tried to re-energize climate negotiations by warning of the impending impacts of climate change. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the opening ceremony saying: “enough of brutalising biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves.” Tamila Varshalomidze and Usaid Siddiqui report for Al Jazeera.
Leaders of more than 100 countries, including Brazil, China and the U.S., representing 85% of the world’s forests, have vowed at the COP26 to end deforestation by 2030, seeking to preserve forests crucial to absorbing carbon dioxide. The pledge will demand “transformative further action,” according to the declaration, which was accompanied by several measures intended to help put it into effect. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to announce the deforestation agreement at an event this morning attended by President Biden and the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo. “Forests are the lungs of our planet,” Johnson wrote on Twitter this morning. Some advocacy groups have however criticized the pledge as lacking sufficient teeth to address deforestation. Catrin Einhorn and Chris Buckley report for The New York Times.
The funds contributed to the pledge are to be used to restore forests, tackle climate events such as wildfires, help indigenous people protect their land, and improve data systems to track illegal logging, among other issues. “Some $12 billion of public finance for the project comes from 12 countries and will be made available between 2021 and 2025. The pledge benefits from $7.2 billion of private investment, including $2 billion from Amazon.com Inc.’s founder Jeff Bezos’ ‘Bezos Earth Funs,’” Max Colchester reports for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden apologized for the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, a decision made by former President Trump, after delivering his opening address at the COP26 summit. In his remarks, Biden declared that “the United States is not only back at the table, but hopefully leading by the power of our example. I know it hasn’t been the case and that’s why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words.” “I guess I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize,” he said in remarks at a smaller meeting following his formal speech. Annie Linskey reports for the Washington Post.
Biden’s administration is expected to put forward a long list of climate initiatives, aimed at showing the world that it can take action, even when there is no consensus in Congress. “Biden spent much of Monday talking up his ‘build back better’ climate and social policy proposals. But in the face of congressional opposition, his administration has abandoned the centerpiece policy of that bill, a measure that would incentivize the power sector to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Somini Sengupta reports for The New York Times.
The Biden administration plans to announce today that it will regulate methane heavily, a potent greenhouse gas that comes from oil and natural gas operations. “For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to limit the methane coming from roughly one million existing oil and gas rigs across the United States. The federal government previously had rules that aimed to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells built since 2015, but they were rescinded by the [former President] Trump’s administration. Biden intends to restore and strengthen them, administration aides said,” Lisa Friedman reports for The New York Times.
“The rules would require what the EPA calls ‘a comprehensive monitoring program to require companies to find and fix leaks applying across operations, including wells, pipes and storage tanks. It includes provisions to encourage the use of new technology such as drones for more effective monitoring,” Timothy Puko in Glasgow and Katy Stech Ferek report for the Wall Street Journal.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that India expects to become carbon neutral by 2070. India’s target date is two decades beyond the 2050 global net-zero deadline that scientists have given for avoiding catastrophic effects of climate change. Al Jazeera reports.
Scientific analysis of national climate pledges has shown that most pledges are too weak — and many countries’ policies do not match their pledges — making it unlikely that countries will meet the goals set in the 2015 Paris agreement. The analysis, by Climate Action Tracker, assesses countries’ pledges and current policies against the goal to keep average global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Harry Stevens and Brady Dennis report for the Washington Post.
The climate envoy for the Marshall Islands has called on world leaders to act, saying: “we’re on the front lines. We are the most vulnerable and if you protect the most vulnerable you protect yourself.” The island nation of 60,000 is already reeling from the effects of climate change and is preparing “a survival plan.” A recent World Bank report identifies the nation as one of the first whose existence is at risk due to rising sea levels. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
Live reporting on the COP26 summit is provided by The New York Times, BBC News and the Washington Post.
The Afghan capital of Kabul has been rocked by two explosions and gunfire at the site of a military hospital, with at least 15 people having been killed. “A Taliban spokesperson said the first blast happened in front of the 400-bed Sardar Daud Khan hospital and the second was nearby. The spokesperson said there had been casualties but did not give numbers…Unconfirmed reports said at least 15 people had been killed and more wounded,” BBC News reports.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosions in Kabul, however the official Bakhtar news agency has quoted witnesses saying a number of Islamic State fighters entered the hospital and clashed with security forces. Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia has banned imports from Lebanon and, along with three other Gulf states, has expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, following remarks by an official about the war in Yemen. Georges Kordahi made the comments in August before he left a high-profile television job to join the Lebanese government as information minister. “The Houthis are defending themselves in the face of foreign aggression,” Kordahi said in an interview aired by Al Jazeera, commenting on the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “Kordahi’s remarks, circulated widely online last week, raised hackles anew in Riyadh and across the Gulf,” Stephen Kalin and Nazih Osseiran report for the Wall Street Journal.
Israel has begun authorizing plans to build more than 1,300 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank; however, Palestinians and rights groups said these new homes would meet only a fraction of the need in the area under Israeli control, which covers 60% of the West Bank. The authorization also comes just days after an announcement that over 3,000 new Israeli settler homes were approved for the West Bank. The United States has said it strongly opposes this settlement expansion and twelve European countries have urged Israel to “reverse” the settlement expansion plan because it “undermines efforts for the two-state solution.” Al Jazeera reports.
Egypt is expected to pass legislation which will expand the national security powers of the country’s president and military, just as Egypt’s authoritarian government appeared to relax its grip last week with the lifting of the longstanding state of emergency. “The House of Representatives approved new amendments to the national terrorism law on Sunday granting the extended powers, and the changes will now go to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for ratification, which is little more than a formality. The amendments give the president the authority to take ‘measures necessary to preserve security and public order,’ including imposing curfews, among other powers,” Vivian Yee and Nada Rashwan report for The New York Times.
Dozens of countries have called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold a special session on the crisis in Sudan following the military coup on Oct. 25. A letter signed by 48 countries — including 17 of the Council’s 47 member states — was sent to the president of the Council requesting an immediate special session to discuss the human rights issues related to the coup. Al Jazeera reports.
Multiple mediation efforts are underway in Sudan, the U.N. special Representative for Sudan, Volker Perthes, has told journalists. Speaking from the capital, Khartoum, Perthes said the situation on the ground is “stable but very tense” in the wake of the takeover. “Many of the interlocutors we are speaking with in Khartoum, but also internationally and regionally, are expressing a strong desire that we move forward quickly to get out of the crisis and return to the steps of normalcy, to the steps of political transition, as we viewed it before Oct. 25, on the basis of the Constitutional Declaration,” Perthes said. Perthes also said that he has met several times with Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok, who is no longer detained but under house arrest at his residence. Though physically well, “he is not free,” Perthes said. UN News Centre reports.
The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, has arrived in Khartoum to try to defuse the crisis, Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel has reported. Reuters reporting.
Yesterday, Just Security published an article by editorial board member Rebecca Hamilton, Sudanese Send Clear `No’ to Military Coup. What Will Security Forces Do Next?
U.S. RELATIONS AND MILITARY
Russia’s Black Sea naval forces have practised destroying enemy targets today, following complaints from Moscow about the presence of two U.S. warships in the area. Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russian forces could observe the USS Mount Whitney navy command ship and complained about NATO activity near Russia’s borders. Today, “the Black Sea fleet said its ships had rehearsed destroying enemy targets and that their air defense systems had been put on alert at its bases in Novorossiysk and on annexed Crimea, the Interfax news agency reported,” Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth report for Reuters.
A 15-page confidential agreed communications timeline on the AUKUS pact and cancelled French submarine contract has been reported by The Australian newspaper. The Australian states that the timeline undermines claims from Biden that he did not know that Australia had not informed France earlier about the cancellation of the submarine contract. A text message sent from French President Emmanuel Macron to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison two days before the announcement of the AUKUS pact has also been leaked. In the message, Macron asked Morrison whether to expect good or bad news on the submarine project, and the text appears to have been shared to reinforce Australia’s position that France was not blindsided about the contract’s cancellation. However, Morrison has been accused of putting his personal political interests ahead of healing Australia’s diplomatic rift with France, and it has been suggested that the documents were leaked by the Australian government. Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian.
A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine that struck an underwater object in early October hit an uncharted underwater mountain, an investigation has found. The USS Connecticut had been operating in the contested waterway when it struck the object on Oct. 2, forcing it to head from the South China Sea to Guam for repairs. The Navy said the nuclear propulsion plant was not damaged in the accident and crew members suffered minor injuries. A statement from a Navy spokesperson said that the command investigation has been submitted to Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, the commander of 7th Fleet, for his review. Thomas will decide whether “follow-on actions, including accountability, are appropriate.” Oren Liebermann reports for CNN.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The jurors for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse have been selected in an unusually swift process that was completed in a single day. Rittenhouse, 18, faces six criminal counts including first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of another in the aftermath of protests over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. About 150 potential jurors were initially summoned, with the panel being whittled down to 20 to hear the case. Kenosha County is 75% white, and the selected jury was overwhelmingly white. Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court was determined to select a jury rapidly, “he pushed back against comments from potential jurors who said they had read and talked too much about the trial, which has been an all-consuming topic of conversation in Kenosha for weeks. When one man began explaining that his support for the Second Amendment was so fervent that he did not believe he could serve as an impartial juror, Judge Schroeder stopped him,” Julie Bosman reports for The New York Times.
Opening statements in Rittenhouse’s trial are expected to begin today, as Schroeder yesterday warned potential jurors that notions of the case had been seized for political gain and twisted by news outlets. He said chosen jurors would be exposed to “the real evidence in this case” and must decide on that alone. “This is not a political trial,” Schroeder said. Dennis Romero and Nadine Comerford report for NBC News.
As lawmakers were being evacuated from the Capitol on Jan. 6, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reportedly told the Senate sergeant-at-arms to use guns to quell the people who had breached the building. According to a long report in the Washington Post on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, “Graham was irate that senators were forced to flee their own chamber. He yelled at the Senate sergeant-at-arms. ‘What are you doing? Take back the Senate! You’ve got guns. Use them.’” Graham also called Ivanka Trump repeatedly with suggestions for what former President Trump should say to appeal to the rioters to calm down and leave the Capitol. The Washington Post reports.
Gun dealers are marketing weapon parts and ammunition using a right-wing slogan “Let’s go, Brandon,” widely understood as code for profanity directed at President Biden. The phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” has become right-wing code for “F— Joe Biden,” originating from an Oct. 2 NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama when a reporter misstated the profanity that the crowd was chanting. Gun firms have started advertising guns for sale with a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker, or other references to the phrase. Ken Dilanian reports for NBC News.
Officials are on high alert for cyberthreats ahead of today’s Election Day in over 30 states, including Virginia. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out a statement yesterday announcing that it would set up an election situational awareness room to monitor the elections. “This space will serve to coordinate election security efforts between CISA, the key agency responsible for election security, and election officials at the state and local levels, along with representatives from political organizations and other private sector groups. CISA stressed Monday that while preparations were underway to monitor for any security concerns, there is currently ‘no specific, credible threat to election infrastructure,’” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has criticized President Biden’s potential plan to pay settlements to migrant families separated at the border during the Trump administration. “Honestly, this absurd idea feels like a satirical policy proposal that Republicans would have invented to make a parody out of the radical left. Oh, and the next thing you know, they’ll be sending out million-dollar checks to illegal immigrants,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. Monique Belas reports for The Hill.
Eleven Republican senators yesterday also asked Biden to halt his administration’s talks to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of immigrant families who say they suffered trauma from being separated after illegally crossing the southern border during the Trump administration. “[R]ewarding illegal immigration with financial payments runs counter to our laws and would only serve to encourage more lawlessness at our border,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the 10 other Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Biden. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments are considering payments that could amount to close to $1 million a family to resolve the lawsuits filed on behalf of parents and children. Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China and Russia are pushing for the U.N. Security Council to ease sanctions on North Korea, reviving a previous attempt that failed in 2019. China and Russia want the Council to remove the sanctions “with the intent of enhancing the livelihood of the civilian population,” a reworked draft resolution, seen by Reuters, states. The resolution “proposes removing a ban on Pyongyang’s exports of statues, seafood and textiles, as well as lifting a cap on refined petroleum imports…The draft resolution also includes other measures first proposed by Russia and China nearly two years ago, including lifting a ban on North Koreans working abroad and exempting inter-Korean rail and road cooperation projects from sanctions,” Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters.
Gunmen have kidnapped six people including four lecturers from the University of Abuja in Nigeria’s capital. The attackers invaded the living quarters of the university and abducted the victims in the early hours. Security forces have been deployed to try to rescue the victims and arrest the kidnappers, the police have said. BBC News reports.
The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, has warned that the country is in imminent danger of breaking apart, and there is a “very real” prospect of a return to conflict. The Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, is threatening to pull out of state-level institutions, including the national army built up with international assistance over the past quarter century, and reconstitute a Serb force. Dodik has also said that he would force the Bosnian army to withdraw from the Republika Srpska (the Serb half of Bosnia) by surrounding its barracks and that if the West tried to intervene militarily, he had “friends” who promised to support the Serb cause, a presumed reference to Serbia and Russia. In a report to the U.N. seen by the Guardian, Schmidt said “that if Serb separatists carry out their threat to recreate their own army, splitting the national armed forces in two, more international peacekeepers would have to be sent back in to stop the slide towards a new war,” Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
Facebook has said that it shut down a “troll farm — a coordinated effort to manipulate public discourse using fake accounts” — run by the Nicaraguan government to spread pro-government and anti-opposition messages. The announcement comes days before the country’s presidential election, in which the leadup “has been marked by a widespread crackdown on Nicaraguan opposition leaders and presidential hopefuls.” The U.S. has criticized the election as a “sham” and imposed new sanctions and travel restrictions on Nicaraguan officials. Al Jazeera reports.
Pakistani officials have reopened a key national highway that supporters of the banned militant Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik (T.L.P.) have occupied for days, following a secret pact between the government and the group. After a violent, protracted face-off with members of T.L.P. that left four police officers dead, the Pakistani government announced Sunday that it had entered into an agreement with the group, but did not disclose the terms publicly. The agreement defused the crisis, the latest in a series of debilitating standoffs with Islamist hard-liners protesting perceived blasphemy. However, the agreement also illustrates the growing influence of such groups “and the weak civilian government’s struggle to assert itself amid economic troubles and rising inflation,” Salman Masood reports for The New York Times.
In 2020 62 journalists were killed just for doing their jobs, according to U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, which works to protect media workers. Between 2006 and 2020, more than 1,200 professionals lost their lives the same way, and in nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. Today’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is seeking to highlight the important role of prosecutorial services, not only in bringing killers to justice, but also in prosecuting threats of violence. In a message marking the day, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres noted that many journalists had lost their lives while covering conflict, but the number of media workers killed outside conflict zones has risen in recent years. “In many countries, simply investigating corruption, trafficking, human rights violations or environmental issues puts journalists’ lives at risk,” Guterres said. UN News Centre reports.
Two more veteran Mexican journalists have been killed in their homes in less than 24 hours, as reporters express their concerns about the worsening violence against journalists. The deaths of Fredy López Arévalo, a veteran reporter in the southern state of Chiapas, and Acapulco journalist Alfredo Cardoso, bring this year’s death toll for media workers in Mexico to nine – already surpassing the eight deaths recorded in 2020. David Agren reports for the Guardian.
Ethiopians have been told to prepare to protect the capital Adis Ababa against rebel forces from the Tigray and Oromia regions. Following comments by a rebel alliance that it was considering marching on to the Ethiopian capital, state media in Ethiopia reported that the authorities in Addis Ababa are urging residents to register their private weapons within the next two days. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front “has now linked up with fighters from an Oromo force – giving the rebels a major boost in their ability to threaten Addis Ababa,” BBC News reports.
A digital campaign by resistance groups against the military junta in Myanmar has contributed to a small but steady stream of military defectors to the groups. “Since the military seized power in a coup on Feb. 1, opposition groups say more than 2,500 police and soldiers have defected. They claimed numbers have risen modestly since early September, when a rival shadow administration called the National Unity Government, formed by ousted civilian leaders in hiding, declared support for an armed struggle against the regime. Defense analysts say defections don’t appear to threaten the military’s cohesion, but signal weak morale that could frustrate part of the junta’s strategy to gain full control of the country,” Feliz Solomon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that planned trade-related sanctions on the U.K., following a post-Brexit row over fishing rights, would be postponed so negotiators could focus on settling the argument. Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Pineau report for Reuters.
The coronavirus has infected over 46.09 million people and killed more than 747,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 247.12 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.00 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
As New York’s vaccine mandate comes into effect, thousands of New York municipal workers, including police officers and firefighters, have chosen unpaid leave rather than getting vaccinated against Covid-19. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that he expected no disruptions as a result of some 9,000 city employees, or about 6% of the 378,000-strong workforce, getting put on unpaid leave for failing to get vaccinated. Scott Neuman reports for NPR.
The U.S. Covid-19 vaccination program for children ages 5 to 11 will be fully operating by Nov. 8. The announcement by Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, comes after the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of vaccines for the age group last Friday. Signoff by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected by Tuesday. Lateshia Beachum and Hannah Knowles report for the Washington Post.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.