Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 9, 2021

Biden calls for shifting half of U.S. power to solar by 2050, crowds cheer as Virginia removes Robert E. Lee statue, and more

1

Biden calls for shifting half of U.S. energy to solar by 2050

The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled a plan to put the United States on a path to get nearly half its electricity from solar power by 2050. Meeting the goal would require major upgrades to the power grid, which currently gets less than 4 percent of its electricity from solar energy. The big jump roughly matches what most climate scientists say is necessary to avert the worst damage from climate change. The Energy Department said in a new report that the U.S. will have to double the solar energy equipment installed over the next four years, then double it again by 2030 to achieve the growth necessary to meet the long-term target. President Biden made reducing planet-warming emissions a focus of his campaign. He announced last month that he wants all new cars to be electric by 2030.

2

Virginia removes Robert E. Lee monument

Virginia on Wednesday took down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the last Confederate memorial on Richmond's historic Monument Avenue. The state's Supreme Court last week cleared the way for taking down the 12-ton statue, dismissing a challenge to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) June 2020 order to remove it. A crowd cheered as workers removed the statue of Lee on a horse, which had rested on a pedestal and stretched 60 feet high. Onlookers chanted, "Na, na, na, na! Hey, hey, hey, goodbye," and "Black Lives Matter," as the monument came down. "It's electrifying," said Alexcia Cleveland, 29, who went to Monument Avenue to watch. "It's bittersweet. I'm glad to see it down, but I would like to see more progress on issues such as police brutality and housing inequality."

3

Women protest Taliban's all-male interim Afghan government

A group of women took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday to protest the Taliban's announcement of a hardline, all-male interim government in Afghanistan. Taliban militants responded by attacking the protesters with whips and sticks in the latest effort by the Islamist group to crack down on opponents since it reclaimed power last month. Women in Wednesday's protest carried signs saying, "No government can deny the presence of women," and "I will sing freedom over and over." On Tuesday, women in hijabs joined other protesters who took to the streets in the Afghan capital in the largest demonstration yet against the Taliban. The interim government did not immediately comment on the protests, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group represents "the whole of Afghanistan."

4

Louisiana's Ida death toll rises to 26

The Louisiana death toll from Hurricane Ida jumped to 26 on Wednesday after health officials reported 11 more deaths in New Orleans. Most of the newly recorded victims were elderly people who died between Aug. 30 and Sept. 7 from intense heat during the extended blackout after the storm hit Louisiana's Gulf Coast with 150 mile-per-hour winds. The announcement came as electricity was restored to most New Orleans neighborhoods, and authorities lifted a nighttime curfew. More than 100,000 people outside the city remained without power. Some areas still had no water. The families of 250,000 children were still waiting for word on when schools would reopen. "We need to get those kids back with us as soon as we possibly can," said Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley.

5

Judge says Florida can't enforce DeSantis ban on school mask mandates

A Leon County, Florida, judge on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) administration could not enforce its ban on school mask mandates. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by parents who said DeSantis overstepped his authority. The judge said the school districts could enforce their mask mandates, which allow medical opt-outs. The state, however, immediately appealed, putting the ruling on hold. After a four-day trial last month, Judge John Cooper found that DeSantis and his administration acted "without legal authority" by trying to block all mask mandates, saying they were selectively enforcing the Parents' Bill of Rights, a new state law relating to a minor child's education, upbringing, and health care.

6

Ex-Georgia prosecutor booked on obstruction charge in Ahmaud Arbery killing

A former Georgia district attorney, Jackie Johnson, was booked Thursday on charges stemming from her handling of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man fatally shot by white men who followed him as he jogged through their Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood last year. A grand jury indicted Johnson last week on charges of obstruction and violations of oath by a public officer for allegedly delaying the arrests of the white men, father and son Greg and Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, who joined their chase of Arbery and took a cellphone video that showed Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun.

7

Trump picks candidate to endorse in Cheney primary challenge 

Former President Donald Trump plans to support Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman in a primary challenge against GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Politico reported Wednesday, citing three people with knowledge of his plans. Backing Hageman's bid to oust Cheney, who was forced out of her position in the House Republican leadership over her criticism of Trump's role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters, will be a crucial test of Trump's clout within his party, and possibly his most important endorsement since leaving office, Politico said. Hageman resigned this week as one of Wyoming's members of the Republican National Committee, a key step toward launching her campaign.

8

Taliban to allow 200 Americans, other foreigners to leave Afghanistan

The Taliban plans to let about 200 Americans and other foreign citizens leave Afghanistan on a Thursday flight from Kabul to Qatar, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Qatari and American officials. The flight by a Qatar Airways Boeing 777 would be the first for foreigners since the last U.S. forces left the country last month. It will mark the resumption of international passenger service at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, with other international flights to follow daily. A Qatari official said the people flying out on Thursday all have proper foreign passports, the appropriate visas, and tickets, so the flight isn't considered an evacuation operation. Qatar is helping the passengers get to the airport in a convoy of minibuses from a Kabul hotel.

9

West Virginia governor slams COVID vaccine conspiracy theories

West Virginia's Gov. Jim Justice (R) rebuked COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theorists on Thursday, asking in a televised address "why in the world do we have to come up with these crazy ideas? And they're crazy ideas." He singled out a well-known but baseless theory that the vaccines contain microchips that allow the government to track people. "The same very people that are saying that are carrying their cell phones around," he noted. "I mean, come on." Justice has dismissed such conspiracy theories before. His comments came after another high-ranking Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), repeatedly urged his constituents to get vaccinated. "The fact is, it works," McConnell said Wednesday. "Opinions that you may hear from others, frequently are nonsense, honestly."

10

Biden administration tells Trump military-academy-board appointees to resign

The Biden administration asked 11 officials former President Donald Trump appointed to military service academy advisory boards to resign or face dismissal, CNN reported Wednesday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The list included former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, former senior counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, and former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. "I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on these boards," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Conway said she wouldn't resign, accusing the Biden administration of trying to divert attention from the Afghanistan withdrawal. "It certainly seems petty and political, if not personal," Conway said.

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