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First Thing: How the US vaccine effort derailed | US news


Since the first coronavirus vaccines were approved, the US bought enough to inoculate the entire population, and even potentially embark on a round of booster shots, but health professionals have found an essential element to a successful vaccination campaign has been lacking: trust.

That low confidence has garnered the US an unenviable distinction – in mid-September it became the least vaccinated member of the world’s seven most populous and wealthy democracies, or G7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Now, a surge of the Delta Covid-19 variant has killed more than 2,000 Americans a day on average and has taken the US death toll past the symbolic milestone of 675,000 deaths: the estimated number of Americans who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic.

The US’s flagging vaccine uptake has flummoxed national health authorities, but researchers say we shouldn’t be surprised.

  • How many people are not getting vaccinated? Strategies to promote the vaccine have failed to encourage more than 900,000 Americans a day to get vaccinated in recent weeks.

  • What is behind the low uptake? Researchers say it is the predictable outcome of a campaign subject to entrenched social forces that have diminished American health and life expectancy since the 1980s.

Haiti deportations justified because of Covid, Biden’s homeland secretary says

A Haitian man carries a boy while waiting to board a bus provided by a humanitarian group after being released from US custody in Del Rio, Texas.
A Haitian man carries a boy while waiting to board a bus provided by a humanitarian group after being released from US custody in Del Rio, Texas. Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

The US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s decision to send thousands of Haitians to a home country they fled because of natural disasters and political turmoil.

Mayorkas told NBC’s Meet the Press the removals were justified because of the coronavirus pandemic, a point disputed by advocates and public health experts.

“The Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention, or CDC] has a Title 42 authority that we exercise to protect the migrants themselves, to protect the local communities, our personnel and the American public,” Mayorkas said. “The pandemic is not behind us. Title 42 is a public health policy, not an immigration policy.”

  • Since Donald Trump’s administration implemented Title 42 in March 2020, advocates and dozens of public health experts have called for its end.

  • Under Title 42, people who attempt to cross the border are returned to Mexico or deported to their home countries without an opportunity to test asylum claims.

  • In January, Joe Biden stopped the rule from applying to children. Despite that, at least 22 babies and children were deported to Haiti in February.

Liz Cheney mocks Trump over bizarre insult

Representative Liz Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment over the Capitol attack.
Representative Liz Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment over the Capitol attack. Photograph: Jim Bourg/AP

The Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney has responded to a bizarre insult from Donald Trump by tweeting a picture of George W Bush with the caption: “I like Republican presidents who win re-election.”

Bush beat John Kerry for re-election in 2004. Cheney’s father, Dick Cheney, was vice-president to Bush.

Liz Cheney’s tweet was a response to an image released by Trump on Thursday. Under the heading “ICYMI: Must-See Photo”, a Trump-affiliated political action committee sent out a Photoshopped image that spliced Cheney Sr and George W Bush.

Trump displayed the image at a rally in Georgia on Saturday but he could not tweet it himself because he remains barred from the platform for inciting the deadly assault on the US Capitol on 6 January.

  • Why did Trump use the image? Cheney voted to impeach Trump over his role in the 6 January riot at the US Capitol. She was one of only 10 House Republicans to do so.

  • Why is he attacking her now? Cheney is up for re-election and the former president wants to unseat her with a candidate who supports him.

Five Palestinians shot dead in gun battles with Israeli troops in West Bank

Relatives mourn during the funeral of 22-year-old Osama Sobh, killed in an Israeli overnight military raid.
Relatives mourn during the funeral of 22-year-old Osama Sobh, killed in an Israeli overnight military raid. Photograph: Alaa Badarneh/EPA

Five Palestinians have been killed after gun battles erupted when Israeli troops conducted a series of raids against suspected Hamas militants across the occupied West Bank.

The fighting on Sunday was the deadliest violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank in several weeks. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded.

There has been increased fighting in the region in recent months, with tensions fueled by Israeli settlement construction, heightened militant activity in the northern West Bank and the aftermath of a war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in May.

The Israeli military said it had been tracking the Hamas militants for several weeks and the raids were launched in response to immediate threats.

  • Why were there raids? Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said the militants were preparing to carry out attacks “in real time”.

  • What has the the Palestinian Authority said? It condemned the killings and said the Israeli government was “fully and directly responsible for this bloody morning”.

  • Were those killed militants? Hamas confirmed four of the dead, including three killed in Biddu, were members of the Islamic militant group.

In other news …

River otters do not usually attack humans, Alaskan authorities have said.
River otters do not usually attack humans, Alaskan authorities have said. Photograph: Robin Loznak/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock
  • The Alaska department of fish and game has alerted residents to a pack of otters that have attacked dogs, children and adults near creeks, rivers and lakes in Anchorage. Authorities said the otters would be tested for rabies, which could explain their aggression.

  • China will reduce the number of abortions performed for “non-medical purposes”, the country’s cabinet has said, in the latest apparent attempt to reverse its declining birthrate, which fell from 1.6 live births per woman in 2016 to 1.3 in 2020.

  • Vital UN climate talks, billed as one of the last chances to stave off climate breakdown, will not produce the breakthrough needed to fulfill the aspiration of the Paris agreement, key players in the talks have conceded.

  • Staff attrition, high demand for appointments and enraged human clients are straining vet practices across the US. The array of overlapping circumstances has created a cascade of problems powerful enough to threaten the entire delicate ecosystem of veterinary care.

Stat of the day: Male life expectancy declines in US by 2.2 years because of Covid

People jogging in Lisbon, Portugal
The study analysed data from 29 countries and found 27 had experienced reductions in life expectancy. Photograph: Jorge Mantilla/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Data from most of 29 countries analysed by scientists – spanning most of Europe, the US and Chile – recorded reductions in life expectancy last year and at a scale that wiped out years of progress. The biggest declines in life expectancy were among males in the US, with a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian males (1.7 years). Dr José Manuel Aburto, a co-lead author of the study, said the scale of the life expectancy losses was stark across most of those countries studied, with 22 of them experiencing larger losses than half a year in 2020.

Don’t miss this: My father was brutally killed by the Taliban. The US ignored his pleas for help

Afghan writer and activist Muska Najibullah with her father, ex-president Najibullah of Afghanistan, at the presidential palace in Kabul, 1989
Afghan writer and activist Muska Najibullah with her father at the presidential palace in Kabul, 1989. Photograph: Muska Najibullah

In 1992, Muska Najibullah’s father, a former Afghan president, appealed to the US to help Afghanistan become a bulwark against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. He said: “If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many more years. Afghanistan will turn into a centre of world smuggling for narcotic drugs. Afghanistan will be turned into a centre for terrorism.” His warnings were ignored. This is the first time Muska has shared her personal story and she says she is doing so because what is happening to her country now is distressingly similar to what happened then.

Children likely to experience more climate disasters than their grandparents, research shows

Children holding climate banners
Rapidly cutting global emissions to keep global heating to 1.5C would almost halve the heatwaves today’s children will experience. Photograph: David Cliff/AP

People born today will experience many times more extreme heatwaves and other climate disasters over their lifetimes than their grandparents, research has shown. The study is the first to assess the contrasting experience of climate extremes by different age groups and starkly highlights the intergenerational injustice posed by the climate crisis.

The analysis shows a child born in 2020 will endure an average of 30 extreme heatwaves in their lifetime, even if countries fulfill their current pledges to cut future carbon emissions. That is seven times more heatwaves than someone born in 1960.

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Last thing: the 21 biggest style tribes of 2021 and what they say about the world

Doja Cat (e-girl); Shawn Mendes (angelcore); goblincore; Timothee Chalamet (e-boy); Bridgerton (regencycore); Viktor & Rolf outfit (angelcore); Diane Keaton (menocore).
I got 21 trends to go … (clockwise from top left) Doja Cat (e-girl); Shawn Mendes (angelcore); goblincore; Timothee Chalamet (e-boy); Bridgerton (regencycore); Viktor & Rolf outfit (angelcore); Diane Keaton (menocore). Composite: Guardian Design; Jerritt Clark/Fabrice Caterini/Pierre Suu/Getty Images; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP; Ian West/PA Wire; Netflix; AF archive/Alamy

Once upon a time, fashion subcultures were simple: you could see skaters, ravers and goths all milling around shopping malls. But now the style tribes have moved online, and are more likely to be dressing up for TikTok and Instagram than the shops. There has also been a bigger change: a splintering and multiplying, with fantasy and dress-up coming to the fore. It used to be easy to recognise a punk, for example, but now there are forestpunks, icepunks and even lunarpunks. If all this has your head spinning, let us cut through the confusion.

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