Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 14, 2021

COP26 deal speeds up carbon cuts but falls short on curbing warming, Kaiser Permanente and unions avert hospital strike, and more


COP26 deal toughens emissions targets but falls short on warming

Negotiators from nearly 200 nations reached a deal Saturday at the United Nations COP26 climate summit to strengthen targets for reducing carbon emissions and phasing out fossil fuels, although India forced a last-minute compromise watering down language on cutting coal use. The agreement calls on wealthy nations to follow through on a promise to help poorer nations adapt and pay for costly damage from global warming. The deal fell short of the summit's goal of securing concrete commitments to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. "The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us," said Aminath Shauna, the Maldives' environment and climate change minister. Organizers of the summit said the agreement "keeps 1.5 alive."


Kaiser Permanente, unions reach deal to avert West Coast hospital strike

Kaiser Permanente reached a tentative deal with unions to avoid a strike that had been scheduled to start Monday at 14 West Coast hospitals and hundreds of clinics and medical offices. The strike would have involved 32,000 nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other health care professionals who are members under the Alliance of Health Care Unions. Further walkouts scheduled for the following week would have added another 40,000 strikers. Possible sympathy strikes by uninvolved unions could have taken another 60,000 workers off the job, which would have made it the nation's biggest private sector strike since 2004. Union leaders said the tentative deal, which must be approved by members, includes the economic package they wanted, and hiring and staffing accommodations to improve working conditions and patient treatment.


Report: U.S. military covered up civilian deaths from 2019 airstrike 

The U.S. military covered up an airstrike against the Islamic State in Syria in March 2019 that killed about 70 civilians, The New York Times reported Saturday. The strike in the city of Baghuz was among the largest civilian casualty incidents in the fight against ISIS. A legal officer deemed the incident to be a possible war crime. That designation requires an investigation, but military leaders concealed what happened and downplayed the death toll, the Times reported. U.S.-led coalition forces bulldozed the site of the attack. The Defense Department's independent inspector general started an investigation but the findings were glossed over. "Leadership just seemed so set on burying this," said Gene Tate, an evaluator who worked on the case for the inspector general's office.


India's capital closes schools to protect children from smog surge

Authorities in New Delhi said Saturday they would close schools for a week to protect children from a decline in air quality in the Indian capital. "For a week from Monday onwards, schools will be physically closed but will continue virtually so that children don't have to breathe polluted air," said New Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal. Construction sites will be shut down for four days, and city officials are discussing a possible complete lockdown. Thick smog has choked the area due to crop stubble and garbage burning, and emissions from vehicles and coal-fired plants outside the city. Air quality was rated very poor to severe in New Delhi early Sunday. Prolonged exposure to that level of pollution can cause respiratory illness.


Sudan forces target protesters with gunfire and tear gas, killing 5

Security forces in Sudan on Saturday used gunfire and tear gas against huge crowds protesting a military coup, Reuters reported, citing witnesses and medics. Five protesters died in the violence. The demonstrations in the capital, Khartoum, and other cities occurred two days after army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced a new ruling council with no representatives of the civilian coalition that had shared power with the military from 2019 until the Oct. 25 coup. Security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators as soon as they began gathering, instead of waiting until later in the day to disperse crowds, as they did in previous protests. Witnesses estimated that tens of thousands demonstrated in Khartoum. There were large crowds in other cities, too. "The revolutionaries have nothing but peacefulness and are calling for democracy and bringing back civilian rule which was taken away by Burhan," said Mohamed Hamed, a protester in Khartoum.


Trump leads Biden in Iowa, poll says

Former President Donald Trump leads President Biden in a hypothetical 2024 rematch in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Saturday. Fifty-one percent of likely Iowa voters polled said they would vote for Trump in 2024; 40 percent said they would vote for Biden, giving Trump an 11 percentage-point lead. Trump carried Iowa by about eight percentage points in 2020. In the poll, Trump won the backing of 91 percent of his fellow Republicans, while Biden had the support of 95 percent of Democrats. Trump led among independents by eight percentage points. The poll was conducted as Biden's approval rating in Iowa hovers near its lowest point since he took office in January. Trump got higher ratings in a September Iowa poll than he did when he was in office.


Bulgarians vote for 3rd time after 2 inconclusive elections

Bulgarians vote Sunday to elect a new president and 240-member parliament. It is the Balkan nation's third vote this year, after general elections in April and July proved inclusive. Turnout is expected to be low among the country's 6.7 million eligible voters due to a surge of coronavirus infections. Analysts say a low turnout would benefit the ruling GERB party, which has seen its support drop but still has a core of loyal voters. Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member, has the lowest COVID vaccination rate in the E.U., with less than one-third of adults fully vaccinated. The country recently reported 334 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day, its highest daily toll of the pandemic.


Kuwait emir accepts government's resignation, pardons dissidents

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on Sunday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah's cabinet, which was submitted a week ago to help end a feud with opposition lawmakers. The premier was granted immunity from questioning by parliament about the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and corruption until 2022. The dispute with lawmakers who want to question him sooner has hindered efforts to confront the pandemic and boost the oil-rich country's finances, which suffered last year when pandemic lockdowns weakened demand for fuel. The emir on Saturday issued two decrees pardoning and reducing sentences for dozens of political dissidents, meeting another key opposition demand.


68 inmates die in Ecuador prison-gang gunbattle  

A gunfight between rival gangs in Ecuador's largest prison left at least 68 inmates dead and 25 wounded on Saturday. The fighting started before daybreak inside the prison in coastal Guayaquil. Authorities said it was the latest in a series of clashes among gangs associated with international drug cartels. During eight hours of fighting, gang members "tried to dynamite a wall to get into Pavilion 2 to carry out a massacre. They also burned mattresses to try to drown (their rivals) in smoke," said Pablo Arosemena, governor of Guayas province. "We are fighting against drug trafficking," Arosemena said. "It is very hard." About 700 police officers were sent to contain the chaos. President Guillermo Lasso in October declared a national state of emergency giving security forces the right to fight drug trafficking and other crimes.


Catholic bishops expected to discuss whether Biden should receive communion 

U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops gather Monday for a conference in Baltimore where they are expected to discuss whether President Biden should be denied communion because of his support for abortion rights. The bishops are scheduled to vote at the Nov. 15-18 meeting on a document clarifying the meaning of the sacrament. The committee that drafted the document debated whether it should include a position on disqualifying from receiving communion prominent Catholics whose political actions conflict with church teachings against abortion. Biden, the first Catholic president since John F. Kennedy, has said he opposes abortion but supports a woman's right to choose. A Pew Research survey in April found that 55 percent of U.S. Catholics and 59 percent of the general population believe abortion should be broadly legal.


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