Cuba Protests, U.S. Role In Haiti, Risk Of Delaying Cancer Screenings: News You Need To Start Your Day
Good morning, hope everyone had an excellent weekend. We're starting our morning with updates from Cuba, Haiti and Afghanistan.
- Food and medicine shortages have prompted rare protests against the communist government in Cuba.
- Pfizer will meet with administration officials early this week to discuss a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine as a booster to shore up protection.
- Haitian police say they've arrested another man with U.S. ties in connection with the assassination of the president. The U.S. is also sending a team to investigate the murder.
- At the height of the pandemic, routine cancer screenings declined by 90%. Now, doctors are diagnosing later-stage cancers that might have been caught earlier.
- And on today's 🎧 Up First, our daily news podcast, a look at how the Taliban now controls large parts of Afghanistan.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
Emily Alfin Johnson, Rachel Treisman and William Jones
Drug maker Pfizer is meeting early this week with government officials to discuss authorization of a third shot of the company's COVID-19 vaccine.
As NPR's Joe Palca reports, health officials say booster shots may be needed at some point.
Federal health officials have taken pains to point out that the current vaccines remain effective at preventing illness caused by the coronavirus.
At the same time, they admit that some day, boosters could be needed — a contingency the government has been planning for. Various studies are already underway to test a variety of booster strategies to see which would be most effective.
Pfizer's strategy has been to give a third dose of its existing COVID-19 vaccine, and it's announced its intention to seek regulatory authority for doing that.
Thousands of Cubans took part in widespread anti-government protests this weekend that ended with hundreds of arrests.
Demonstrators were voicing outrage over food and medicine shortages and high prices, as COVID-19 cases increase there.
The protesters chanted "we want freedom" and "we want vaccines" as they marched through the capital of Havana and a number of other cities.
Nora Gamez Torres covers Cuba for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. As she explains on Morning Edition:
Although the protesters were asking for food, medicine and vaccines, the loudest cries were for an end to the communist regime. Demonstrators were calling for an end to the regime of president Miguel Díaz-Canel. Images show overturned police cars and people throwing stones at the police, in what were unprecedented scenes coming out of the island.
The uprising is not entirely surprising, as Cuba's economic situation has been deteriorating in recent years and more dramatically in recent months. The pandemic, dwindling economic aid from Venezuela and stronger U.S. sanctions are all factors. The government decided to start selling goods in dollars, which are in short supply, creating a lot of anger and frustration among the public.
It's too early to say whether there's a long-term threat to Cuba's government. Even if the government retains control, which is the most likely scenario, Cubans now see what their collective voices can do. The frustration is not going anywhere, and for the country's president this is a huge crisis of legitimacy.
We know there’s a long list of things the pandemic put on hold, ranging from mundane to serious. In some cases, those delays can be deadly.
As NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports, screenings for various types of cancers plummeted last year in the U.S.
Doctors now say they’re diagnosing later-stage cancers that could have been caught earlier.
Plus, modeling data from the National Cancer Institute shows last year’s drop in testing for breast and colorectal cancers alone will lead to a staggering 10,000 additional deaths over the next decade.
And many patients still haven’t resumed check-ups, even as more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19.
That’s due in large part to barriers – both logistical and cultural – to accessing healthcare that rural and minority communities have faced since way before the pandemic. Those include lack of insurance, doctor shortages and the mistrust that many patients feel towards doctors after they perceive having had medical concerns dismissed because of their race.
Writer Jodi-Ann Burey says doctors dismissed her cancer symptoms for two years. She created the Black Cancer podcast during the pandemic to empower others to advocate for their own care.
“Trusting yourself, screenings, genetic testing,” she advises. “I think we need as much information as possible, particularly people of color.”
What can doctors and hospitals do to bridge these gaps in care? And how worried should you be if you’ve missed or delayed an appointment of your own?
Marcellus Cadd has been geocaching for three years, using GPS coordinates to track down hidden containers across his home state of Texas.
He's already found more than 3,200 "caches," including one from each of Texas' 254 counties. Cadd, who is Black, has also experienced racism and bias along the way.
Soon after he got started on the high-tech treasure hunt, Cadd encountered an online forum where mostly white geocachers were discussing how rarely they had been stopped by police while rummaging around outdoors.
"And I was thinking, man, I've been doing this six months and I've been stopped seven times," Cadd recalls.
Random strangers — usually white — have also stopped him to ask why he's poking around their neighborhoods. He's been called "boy" in Paris, Texas and ended up finding a cache hidden inside a flagpole flying the Confederate flag.
While there are over one million active geocachers, he's only ever met one Black geocacher in person. Cadd has documented his experiences with racism on a blog called "Geocaching While Black." He hopes it will encourage more Black people to take up the pastime.
"There's a certain joy in being Black and basically going out to places where you don't see a lot of Black people," Cadd says. "And being there and being able to say, 'I'm here whether you like it or not.'"
Sarah Kate Kramer has the full story: read or listen to it here.
A team of American security officials landed yesterday in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where they will determine how the U.S. can help with the investigation into the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse.
Moïse was killed — and the first lady injured — in an attack at his home last Wednesday. Haitian police say they have arrested some of the suspects and are still working to untangle the details of the alleged plot.
NPR's Jackie Northam brings us these updates:
- Haitian authorities said yesterday they had arrested another suspect: a Haitian-born doctor based in Florida, who allegedly arrived via private plane in June and arranged to hire some of those involved in the assassination. Police say the operation was part of a broader plot to install this doctor as president.
- Claude Joseph, Haiti's interim prime minister, has asked the U.S. for troops to help protect the country's airports and infrastructure.
- The U.S. has sent FBI agents and Department of Homeland Security officials to assess how the country can help Haiti. They will brief President Biden upon their return.
- The U.S. has a long history of involvement in Haiti, dating back to 1915 and most recently in 1994. But the Biden administration, which is in the process of shifting its troops worldwide — including withdrawing from Afghanistan — says so far there are no plans for military intervention.
The list of suspects in Moïse's killing includes two Haitian Americans, as well as more than two dozen former members of Colombia's military.
Stephen Donehoo, a retired U.S. military intelligence officer who was raised in Colombia, spoke with NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer about the practice of former Colombian soldiers turning to mercenary work in other countries.
He says the well-trained and inexpensive mercenaries are typically hired as security forces by many different countries — but it's theoretically possible that these particular individuals were hired for one job and ended up doing something else. 🎧 Listen to that conversation here.
Three simple words have been on the minds of England's soccer fans in the past few weeks. "It's coming home". The phrase illustrates the complicated and painstaking relationship English fans have with their men's soccer team.
Those words are at the heart of a 1996 song that marks how decade after decade (55 years and counting), despite boasting teams packed full of talent, they've failed to win a trophy at a major international tournament.
But the song offers hope. Hope that the rut will finally end. That hope was once again dashed last night.
Despite progressing to the final of the Euro 2020 final, England were undone by an efficient and often underrated Italian side on Sunday night in London.
Despite conceding early, Italy slowly edged their way back into the contest, taking the game into extra time and then a penalty shootout. England has a tradition of heartbreak when it comes to penalty shootouts and that was to be the case again.
Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made the game defining save in the shootout against England's rising star, Bukayo Saka. Donnarumma, 22, would later be awarded the player of the tournament award. That's the first time a goalkeeper has been recognized with that accolade.
This weekend saw not one, but two major international soccer finals.
Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the Copa América final, securing the title for the first time since 1993. It was a particularly poignant moment for Argentina's captain, Lionel Messi. Despite being one, if not the greatest soccer players of all time, it was the first time he has ever won a major trophy with Argentina.
Protestant marching bands are pouring through towns across Northern Ireland today. Last night, more than 160 bonfires — some as tall as 14 stories — lit up the skies.
This is what’s known as the marching season.
It's an annual — and controversial — ritual where Protestants proclaim their allegiance to the United Kingdom. It’s also a tradition that highlights the continued divisions over the future of this British province.
NPR’s London correspondent Frank Langfitt and I are here in Belfast covering the multi-day event.
Stu, it’s the Eleventh Night Bonfires in Northern Ireland 🔥 A spark from the bonfire next to our hotel set a little out building alight! Here was my view while mixing our Morning Edition piece… pic.twitter.com/kIiI6aRuCw— Jessica Beck (@JessicaB_BBC) July 12, 2021
As folks on the ground navigate a new customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic Of Ireland, frustrations are high.
The Senate is expected to hold an initial vote this week on President Biden's nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management.
As NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, Tracy Stone-Manning — Montana's former top environmental regulator — has a reputation in the West as a moderate and bipartisan deal maker on contentious public lands battles.
But Republican lawmakers are focused on a letter she sent in the 1980s on behalf of environmental advocacy group Earth First, in which she warned the government that trees at a planned federal timber sale had been sabotaged and put loggers' lives in danger.
They say it disqualifies her from leading the department:
"Tree spiking, these were the kinds of tactics that Tracy Stone-Manning once conspired in. Does that disturb you America?"
Stone-Manning later testified against the "tree spikers" in federal court, saying she sent the letter because she didn't want anyone to get hurt.
Her supporters are now rallying on her behalf. They include Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat who has worked with Stone-Manning before — she previously served as one of his senior aides — and sits on the committee that is expected to initially vote on her confirmation.
"I think the crap, and I mean it is crap, that they're sending around on her is just character assassination ... But look I mean, you can take a look at some of the noms that went through for President Trump. They're not after competency, they're just after to rip people apart."
A map compiled by a news site called the Long War Journal has an update on America's longest war.
As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the color-coded map shows the Taliban controlling much of the country.
With the U.S. military all but gone from Afghanistan, NPR's Greg Myre reports that as the Taliban rapidly gain ground, the CIA faces a new set of challenges as it attempts to monitor developments in that country.
NPR's Steve Inskeep connected with Bilal Sarwary, a journalist based in the capital, Kabul, to get a sense of the situation on the ground.
Sarwary says hospital beds are full because of the pandemic and the cost of oxygen has gone through the roof.
He also notes that the power infrastructure around Kabul has been blown out, so people have been experiencing a lack of electricity and running water.
But "it's the brutal war that has Afghan people extremely worried," he says.
"You're often witnessing fighting and people have often been caught in the middle of it. Roadside bombs have blown up entire passenger buses. And I think that is the tragedy in Afghanistan. The new frontline is everywhere."
According to Sarwary, there's a huge amount of political bickering among Afghan government officials and politicians at the moment, as to how to deal with the Taliban's surge. "The lack of a united front on the peace process, the lack of support to the Afghan National Security Forces has caused a massive psychological torture among Afghans," he notes.
You can hear all of Sarwary's conversation with NPR here and find out more about the security situation in Afghanistan currently.
Recently, I have noticed how absolutely exhausting being around people is. After a year sequestered with only my dogs, husband and Zoom for company, I have no stamina for socialization even with my closest friends and family.
Thankfully, the amazing team at Life Kit is here to help us navigate nearly every facet of life, and their latest guide is about remembering (or learning) how to flirt.
Plus, the Life Kit crew has started listener life hacks!
So if you need to start a bit smaller than finding love, may I suggest this incredible tip for how to eat pomegranate seeds (without dyeing your kitchen pink.) It's the little things.