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First Thing: Biden urged to act as climate agenda hangs by a thread

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Good morning.

Joe Biden is facing increasing pressure over a climate agenda that appears to be hanging by a thread. The president has been warned that time is running perilously short, both politically and scientifically, for the US to enact sweeping measures to slash planet-heating emissions.

Failure to do so will escalate what scientists have said are “irreversible” climate impacts such as disastrous heatwaves, floods, wildfires and a mass upheaval of displaced people.

The administration’s multitrillion-dollar social spending package, widely considered the most comprehensive climate legislation ever put forward in the US, must survive razor-thin Democratic majorities in Congress and pass in time for crucial UN climate talks in Scotland that begin in about two weeks.

Embedded in the measure are plans to dramatically cut carbon emissions, a potentially historic set of policies that the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has said would serve as “a model for the world” and the prospect of the leading economic power arriving in Glasgow with no domestic policy to cut emissions will make it harder to convince other big emitters, primarily China, to do more.

  • What’s the deadline to pass the package of bills? 31 October but negotiations are dragging on between the White House, Democratic leaders and a pair of centrist holdouts in the Senate.

  • If successful, what will it mean? The legislation would slash US emissions by about 1bn tons by 2030, bringing Biden within striking distance of his target of cutting the country’s emissions in half by this point.

Trial of three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery set to begin

Thea Brooks stands in front of a mural of her nephew Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia. Brooks calls the killing a &#x002018;modern-day lynching&#x002019;.
Thea Brooks stands in front of a mural of her nephew Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia. Brooks calls the killing a ‘modern-day lynching’. Photograph: Russ Bynum/AP

The trial of three white men accused of pursuing and murdering Ahmaud Arbery in one of Georgia’s most notorious racial killings is scheduled to begin on Monday with jury selection, a process the judge estimates could take at least two weeks.

Jury duty notices were mailed to 1,000 people in Glynn county, about one in every 85 adult residents, in an attempt to secure an unbiased panel of 12 plus four alternates for the trial of Travis McMichael, his father, Greg, and their friend William “Roddie” Bryan.

The McMichaels are accused of chasing down Arbery, who was Black, in a pickup truck as he went for a run in February 2020. Bryan allegedly joined the chase and took cellphone footage of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery, 25, with a shotgun at close range. All three deny murder.

The suspects remained free for more than two months until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the district attorney’s office. The men were arrested in May 2020 and a grand jury returned murder indictments the following month.

  • The incident received little publicity until Bryan’s video of the confrontation was leaked online and went viral in May 2020, outraging civil rights groups who were furious that the men had not been arrested or charged.

  • Arbery’s death was one of several killings of Black people that sparked racial protests across the US last summer, including the murder of George Floyd and the death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Capitol attack panel’s message to Steve Bannon: we won’t forget about you

Steve Bannon, Trump&#x002019;s former chief strategist
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has declined to appear before the committee, or respond to the subpoena demanding documents and testimony, claiming executive privilege. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Adam Kinzinger , one of two Republicans on the special committee investigating the deadly 6 January US Capitol attack, said on Sunday the pursuit of a criminal contempt referral against Steve Bannon was “the first shot over the bow” for allies of Donald Trump defying subpoenas to testify.

“It’s very real but it says to anybody else coming in front of the committee: ‘Don’t think that you’re going to be able to just kind of walk away and we’re going to forget about you’,” Kinzinger, a vocal critic of the former president, told CNN’s State of the Union.

He added that the committee would not rule out calling Trump to testify, though he acknowledged that such a move was not imminent.

Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has declined to appear before the committee, or respond to the subpoena demanding documents and testimony, claiming executive privilege. The committee will decide on Tuesday whether to make a criminal contempt referral to the full House of Representatives.

  • The 6 January committee has issued a number of subpoenas in recent days and weeks to former Trump acolytes or administration officials thought to have key knowledge of the events of the day.

  • Last week’s subpoena for the former top Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark was seen as an escalation of its investigation.

  • Trump has directed aides not to testify, this includes Bannon, the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and defense department aide Kash Patel.

In other news…

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with another armed civilian during the protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake on 25 August 2020.
Kyle Rittenhouse, left, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with another armed civilian during the protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake on 25 August 2020. Photograph: Adam Rogan/AP
  • The police department in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha is facing new legal action after being accused of “deputizing” a group of militia vigilantes during protests last year in which 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people.

  • At least eight types of bird flu, all of which can kill humans, are circulating around the world’s factory farms – and they could be worse than Covid-19. Here’s how industrial chicken production is breeding the next pandemic.

  • Republicans have moved to tighten their grip on power in Texas after a late-night vote in the state’s legislature approved an early sign-off to new congressional boundaries at the expense of communities of color.

  • China’s economy grew more slowly than expected in the third quarter, official data showed today, thanks to power outages, supply bottlenecks, Covid outbreaks, and concerns about the struggling property sector.

Stat of the day: more than 120,000 US sites feared to handle harmful PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals

The US Environmental Protection Agency has identified more than 120,000 locations where people may be exposed to a class of toxic “forever chemicals” associated with various cancers and other health problems, which is a frightening tally four times larger than previously reported, according to data obtained by the Guardian. The list of facilities makes it clear that virtually no part of the US appears free from the potential risk of air and water contamination with the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Don’t miss this: Is it your personality, or a disorder?

Psychological diagnoses offer an easy way in to understanding character – but our habit of using them comes at a cost. There is an unspoken sense that unless a problem has an official name it’s not real, or not bad enough to warrant attention or help. So a recalibration is needed, in all of us. Something can be difficult without being diagnosed; pain is no less valid if it doesn’t have a medical-sounding name; and people going through an undefinable difficult time still deserve your help. Arguably, if we resist the terminology and opt for the long-form description of the problem instead, we might actually be able to understand each other better.

Or this: flight attendants on the air rage epidemic

Although air traveler hissy fits are nothing new, incidences of bad behavior have spiked amid the tense travel landscape of Covid-19. The phenomenon became especially pronounced this year, as a short-staffed aviation industry struggled to keep pace with the post-vaccine surge in travel demand – and a customer base whose social skills were, after a year of lockdowns, not exactly at their most refined. Factor in a highly politicized federal mask mandate, and the situation has made for a perfect storm of passenger unruliness.

Climate check: young climate activists speak out on how to save the world

The generation born into the reality of global heating are refusing to accept the lethal status quo. The testimonies of these teens and early twenty-somethings are humbling and often thrilling. By setting up a student bank based on recycling waste, José Adolfo Quisocala single-handedly changed child poverty and environmental pollution in his town in Peru. Though their projects vary widely, these young activists have a strikingly shared sense of what must be changed. As Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, an activist from Uganda, says: “We are a generation of scared people. But we are very persistent. And very united.”

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Last thing: He’s a poet and the FBI know it: how John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem alarmed the Feds


In 1968, the poet and visual artist John Giorno was on the telephone when he was hit with an idea. It came to him that “the voice was the poet, the words were the poem, and the telephone was the venue”. He imagined utilising the telephone to generate a new relationship between poet and audience. This would become Dial-a-Poem: one telephone number that anyone could call, 24/7, and listen to a random recorded poem – liberating spoken poetry from what Giorno termed “the sense-deadening lecture hall situation”. After receiving hundreds of thousands of calls, the poet’s project almost broke the New York telephone exchange – leading to an FBI investigation.

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