Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 8, 2021

The Taliban unveil new government in Afghanistan as protests mount, Mexico's high court decriminalizes abortion, and more


Taliban names new Afghan government 

The Taliban on Tuesday unveiled a new Afghan government that includes Islamist stalwarts and puts a U.S.-designated terrorist in control of internal security. The announcement came days before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which prompted the U.S.-led invasion that drove the Taliban out of power. Also on Tuesday, Afghan protesters staged their largest demonstration to date since the Taliban took over Afghanistan last month. The Taliban responded to the march through Kabul by shooting in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd, which witnesses estimated at between 300 and 500 people. Some protesters reportedly were beaten or detained. The activists chanted support for resistance fighters continuing to challenge Taliban rule in Panjshir.


Mexico high court decriminalizes abortion

Mexico's supreme court on Tuesday ruled that a law in northern Coahuila state that imposed prison terms for women for undergoing illegal abortions was unconstitutional. The decision decriminalized abortion and paved the way for its possible legalization in a country with one of the world's biggest Catholic populations. "Today is a watershed in the history of the rights of women and pregnant people, above all the most vulnerable," Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar said. The Coahuila law called for prison sentences of up to three years for women who have abortions. People who helped them also faced possible prison terms. Women's rights organizations said the ruling could lead to changes across Latin America, where abortion bans are common. Mexico's Catholic Church had urged the justices not to bow to calls to decriminalize abortion.


Biden tours Ida devastation, warns of 'code red' moment on climate change

President Biden on Tuesday toured parts of New York and New Jersey devastated by flooding from remnants of Hurricane Ida, warning of a "code red" moment on climate change. "The nation and the world are in peril," he said. Biden used the trip — his second related to Ida — to urge Congress to take action to fight climate change. He referenced a Washington Post report finding that nearly a third of Americans live in counties hit by weather disasters in the last three months. "Folks, the evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy," Biden said in New York. "It's not going to get any better. The question — can it get worse? We can stop it from getting worse."


White House seeks money for disasters, refugees in deal to avert shutdown

The White House on Tuesday asked Congress to add money for disaster relief and Afghan refugee resettlement into a deal to prevent a partial government shutdown later this month. Democratic leaders also are considering including a debt-limit hike in the package. The three elements could "present a triple threat, daring GOP lawmakers to go on record in opposition to aid for disaster-hit communities," Politico said. President Biden's budget office is calling for more than $14 billion for disaster-aid needs that preceded Hurricane Ida, with at least $10 billion in disaster funding for Ida alone. The administration wants $6.4 billion for the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services to help them accommodate Afghan allies and partners evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country last month.


Powerful earthquake hits near Acapulco

A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Mexico near Acapulco on Tuesday night, killing at least one person, a man struck by a falling electric pole. The quake sent chunks of concrete falling to the ground at some of the resort city's hotels. It was strong enough to be felt in Mexico City, more than 230 miles away. People fled buildings there and sought safety in the streets. About 1.6 million people lost electricity. "It was terrible. It really reminds me of the 1985 quake every time something like this happens," said Yesmin Rizk, 70, referring to a disaster that killed at least 10,000 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings in Mexico City.


California wildfire season on pace with last year's record

This year's wildfire season is on pace to match last year's record of 4.2 million acres burned in the state, Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said Tuesday. Fires have burned about two million acres so far this year, roughly equal to the toll at this point in 2020. The Caldor Fire forced the evacuation of the entire town of South Lake Tahoe before being steered clear. The Dixie Fire farther north is already the second biggest fire in state history, and it is still pushing into new territory. "We are on a par with where we were last year," Porter said during a briefing. "That's sobering, that's the new reality, that's what we are looking at." Forecasters say that over the next three months the state will get more of the dry weather and strong winds that have fueled this year's fires.


Former Trump adviser questioned in Brazil

Jason Miller, who was an aide to former President Donald Trump, said Tuesday he was detained by authorities in Brazil and questioned for three hours. Local reports in Brazil suggested Miller, who formerly served as an adviser to Trump and founded the social media platform Gettr, was questioned as part of an investigation into "anti-democratic acts" in the country. Miller said in a statement that the three-hour interview occurred at the Brasilia airport after he attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Brazil. "We were not accused of any wrongdoing, and told only that they 'wanted to talk,'" Miller said. "We informed them that we had nothing to say and were eventually released to fly back to the United States. Our goal of sharing free speech around the world continues!"


Hong Kong activists who organized Tiananmen vigil arrested

Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested several members of a group that organized vigils for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to leaders of the group, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. The arrests came after the activists refused to hand over information authorities demanded for an investigation into allegations that the group was colluding with foreign powers in violation of Hong Kong's national security law imposed by China last year. At least four people were detained, including vice chairwoman Chow Hang Tung. She denied the group was acting on behalf of foreign powers, writing that the group members were "agents of the Hong Kong people's conscience."


Texas governor signs voting restrictions into law

Texas' Republican governor, Greg Abbott, signed new voting restrictions into law on Tuesday. The legislation bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting. It also imposes new limits on mail-in ballots and boosts access for partisan poll watchers. Texas joined a growing list of Republican-controlled states that have tightened voting rules in response to former President Donald Trump's false claims of 2020 voting fraud. Texas has long been a red state, but Democrats have gained ground as the population shifts, with people of color accounting for nearly all the state's population growth. Abbott said the law makes it "harder than ever for people to cheat at the ballot box." Opponents of the legislation said it will disproportionately reduce voting access for marginalized voters, mostly people of color and those with disabilities.


Britney Spears' father files petition to end her conservatorship

Britney Spears' father, the conservator of the singer's estate, filed a petition Tuesday seeking to end the court-ordered, 13-year conservatorship. The move came after Britney Spears in a July hearing called the arrangement "f---ing cruelty," and said she wanted charges against her father Jamie Spears for "conservatorship abuse." The Tuesday filing, obtained by CNN, said that if Britney Spears "wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance." Britney Spears' attorney, Mathew Rosengart, called the filing "vindication," but added that Mr. Spears should not be able to "avoid accountability and justice." A previously scheduled hearing in the case is coming up on Sept. 29.


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