Start your day here: A nearly all-white jury will hear the trial of the killing of Ahmaud Abery; the Fed takes aim at a sagging economy; today is Diwali

Published November 4, 2021 at 8:07 AM EDT
Judge Timothy Walmsley questions potential jurors during jury selection in the trial of the men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery on Tuesday.
Elijah Nouvelage/AP
Pool Getty Images North America
Judge Timothy Walmsley questions potential jurors during jury selection in the trial of the men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery on Tuesday.

Good morning,

Here's what we're following today:

The trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery: Eleven out of 12 jurors are white. The judge acknowledged that "intentional discrimination" appearsto have shaped jury selection in the trial of the three white men charged with the killing of Arbery, who was Black; Defense attorneys denied that race played a role.

Aiming at inflation fears: The Federal Reserve reports it'll do more to boost the struggling economy.

Today is Diwali: Hindus around the world are celebrating the festival of lights.

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, Democrats say they are closer to turning much of President Biden's domestic agenda into law.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Carol Ritchie and Chris Hopkins)


What's on the menu at the global climate summit? A large carbon footprint, critics say

Posted November 4, 2021 at 12:01 PM EDT
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (from left), U.S. President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chat as they attend an evening reception to mark the opening day of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit on Monday.
Alberto Pezzali/AP
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (from left), U.S. President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson chat as they attend an evening reception to mark the opening day of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit on Monday.

Some environmental advocates are criticizing the sustainability of the food at the U.N. climate summit, pointing to the large percentage of meat and dairy items on the menu.

The menu for the COP26 summit — now underway in Glasgow, Scotland — is available online. Organizers partnered with a Swedish startup called Klimato to analyze the carbon footprint of each dish offered at the conference, and categorize their environmental impact as "low," "medium" or "high."

"Each stage of the food production process — cultivation, farming, processing and transportation — contribute[s] to various greenhouse gas emissions, collectively referred to as the carbon footprint of a food product," the company explained. "The carbon footprint of foods can vary greatly depending on type of food product, production method and energy mix in the country of production."

It classifies low-impact foods as those that generate less than 0.5 kg CO2e ("carbon dioxide equivalent"), and medium-impact as those that generate between 0.6 and 1.5 kg of the greenhouse gas. Anything higher is considered a high-impact dish.

The average meal in the U.K. has a carbon footprint of 1.7 kg CO2e, reads a statement at the bottom of each menu.

"According to the WWF, we need to get this number down below 0.5 kg CO2e to reach the goals defined in the Paris Agreement," it adds.

The website, which is called A Recipe For Change, lists separate menus for different categories, from burgers and "Scottish Larder" to pizza, salads, soups and pastries. It also outlines its efforts at sustainability, complete with statistics. And the vast majority of menu items were close to that 0.5 kg goal.

One breakdown shows that 65% of its retail menu offerings are classified as low impact, 24% as medium and 11% as high.

And the majority of suppliers come from within 100 miles of Glasgow, it adds, therefore reducing their transportation footprint. Just 5% of the menu's produce is sourced outside of the United Kingdom, according to one chart.

But critics are also pointing out that less than half of its menu offerings — 42% — are plant-based. A combined 41% of items contain meat and fish, while 17% are vegetarian (which include eggs and dairy).

Those foods have a higher carbon footprint. Meat and dairy specifically account for around 14.5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N.

Joel Scott-Halkes, the director of UK environmental group Wild Card, tweeted that having meat and fish on the COP26 menu is "the equivalent of serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference."

"Only when governments grasp animal agriculture's central role in the #climate crisis will we stand a chance of solving it," he added.

Another group, the Salmon and Conservation Trust, criticized the provision of farmed salmon in an interview with The Big Issue.

"We have ensured that menus at COP have a strong focus on sustainability and support local businesses," a COP26 spokesperson told NPR over email. "Over 80% of food served at the conference is seasonal and sourced from Scotland, putting sustainability at the heart of catering for the summit, reducing emissions and promoting environment-friendly food production."

"We have also gone over and beyond the UNFCCC recommendation for COP catering, providing almost 60% of dishes as vegetarian and of these, 40% are fully plant based/vegan," they added.

The conference menus do include some high-impact items, like a beef ramen dish (3.0 kg CO2e) and a mozzarella pizza (2.1 kg CO2e).

Still, those appear to be the outliers, and conference organizers say they have taken steps to make even the high-impact dishes more sustainable. Take, for instance, the Scottish beef burger (3.3 kg CO2e).

"Our standard beef burger would have produced 5.1 kg of CO2e," reads the menu. "By reducing the meat content, we have reduced the carbon footprint by 1.8 kg."

Other critics are taking aim at a different source of greenhouse gas emissions: They're criticizing U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders for chartering planes travel to and from the summit.


Why Christmas trees may be harder to find this year (and what you can do about it)

Posted November 4, 2021 at 10:28 AM EDT
Smoke fills the sky above rows of green trees on a Christmas tree farm.
Noah Berger/AP
FR34727 AP
Smoke from the Bond Fire billows above Peltzer Pines Christmas tree farm in Orange County, Calif., on Dec. 3, 2020.

We don't want to be Grinches, but we do want to give you a heads-up about some important holiday news: Christmas trees may be harder to find than usual.

Jami Warner, the executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, tellsMorning Edition that both environmental and economic factors are to blame.

Extreme weather events like wildfires, droughts and floods have made this an especially challenging season for growers. Such events are driven by climate change and could become more common as the Earth warms.

And even artificial trees are feeling the burn, thanks to ongoing global supply chain issues.

"The great majority of our artificial Christmas trees are manufactured in China, and Christmas trees and pretty much every other consumer good is languishing either out at sea or hasn't shipped yet," Warner explains.

Experts expect the bottleneck at U.S. ports is to get even worse during the holiday season, exacerbated by Americans' online shopping.

All of this means that you can expect to pay at least 20% more for your Tannenbaum, whether real or artificial.

But don't despair. It's still worth holding out hope for a Christmas miracle.

Warner says there are bound to be bargains and online sales out there. And she's officially giving you permission to act fast and claim your tree early.

"I think it's very important for consumers to, if they see something they like, to buy it right away," she advises.

And it doesn't have to be the tree of your dreams, she adds. After all, there are many other sources of Yuletide joy — especially this season, with vaccinations making it safer for people to travel and gather.

"This year, I think people will be able to celebrate Christmas with their families again and with their friends, and no one is going to notice if you don't have that very, very perfect Christmas tree," Warner says. "Really, there are no such thing as bad Christmas trees — they're all beautiful."

The audio version of this story was produced by Taylor Haney and edited by Kelley Dickens.

Love in aisle 3

This couple took their engagement photos at a grocery store. Here's how it went

Posted November 4, 2021 at 10:01 AM EDT
A man and a woman smile while posing in the produce section of a grocery store. He is holding a pineapple and she is holding a leafy vegetable.
Anna T. Nguyen
Melody Yu and Joey Chiang celebrated their engagement with a photoshoot at Berkeley Bowl Market in Berkeley, Calif.

Etiquette experts agree: Your engagement photos should mean something.

For Melody Yu and Joey Chiang, that meant calling up Berkeley Bowl Market — yep, it’s a grocery store — to shoot there. Chiang said that when he spoke to Special Events Manager Chi Dixon, she was incredibly welcoming and supportive of their idea.

Yu and Chiang met as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, but now live in San Francisco.

"Back when we lived in Berkeley, we did 90% of grocery shopping at Berkeley Bowl — usually once to twice a week," said Yu.

A woman in a white jumpsuit and veil pushes a shopping cart with a man smiling with his arms out, in an empty grocery store.
Anna T. Nguyen
Joey Chiang and Melody Yu incorporated grocery props into their engagement photoshoot.

Fast forward three years later, and the pair met their photographer after store hours for a fun, romantic and memorable day.

And it went something like this:

"In one of the pictures Joey and I put bananas on each other's heads. Chi runs off and says, ‘Wait I have the perfect thing,'" Yu recalled. "She hands me a pointy purple flower-bud-looking thing. She told me it's a banana flower — which I've never heard of or seen before."

A man and a woman lock arms and make faces at each other while smiling, each wearing a bunch of bananas on top of their heads.
Anna T. Nguyen
Chiang and Yu decided to take their engagement photos at the grocery store they frequented while in graduate school.

Yu said there are no regrets whatsoever.

"It was such a fun day," she added. "We were at Berkeley Bowl for about two, three hours."

And in case you were wondering, Chiang proposed to Yu at home with a ring pop in March. They went shopping for a “real” ring together afterwards. Their wedding will be held in Berkeley next year.

A woman scans a man, casting a red light over his chest, at the checkout register of a grocery store.
Anna T. Nguyen
Yu checks Chiang out at the register of Berkeley Bowl Market.


The Federal Reserve says it'll take steps to cool down the 30-year high inflation rate

Posted November 4, 2021 at 9:39 AM EDT
Tow people walk in front of the white Federal Reserve building on a sunny day.
DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images
The Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Reserve reports it'll do more to boost the U.S.'s struggling economy ahead of the holiday season and calm sky-high inflation rates.

That was the news from the Fed's meeting on Wednesday,where policymakers agreed to leave interest rates near zero until the U.S. is back to something close to full employment.

The Fed's goals are to promote employment and price stability, but it's a challenge with the pandemic still pushing the economy around.

The word "shortage" will likely be often used this holiday season. The economy hasn't yet recovered nearly 5 million of the jobs it had before the pandemic, but at the same time, labor shortages abound and many people of color and women are struggling to get back to work. Data shows women's workforce participation is back to what it was in the 1980s. Shortages and supply-chain issues are pinching products across industries, even dipping into Christmas tree supplies.

NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley joinedUp Firstto discuss the central bank's plans.

Horsley reports the Fed sees supply-chain bottlenecks and resulting inflation likely continuing well into next year, but its hands are tied somewhat to help. Its best move for fighting inflation is to raise interest rates — but doing so right now probably wouldn't do much to untangle the supply chain and could seriously stunt job growth, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell says. The central bank says it knows Americans are feeling the pandemic's economic effects.

"Particularly people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are seeing higher grocery costs, higher gasoline costs, when the winter comes higher heating costs for their homes," Powell said. "We understand completely what they're going through and we will use our tools over time to make sure that that doesn't become a permanent feature of life."

The central bank also announced purchases of at least $120 billion worth of bonds each month, another step it undertook to help the pandemic economy.

Read a full explanation of the Fed's moves and what they could do to the economy here, from Horsley.

International Dispatch
From Mumbai

Scenes from the Diwali festival in India

Posted November 4, 2021 at 9:08 AM EDT
Pink, purple and green lasers light up the night sky, against the skyline of Indian temples and a crowd of observers.
Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images
People watch a laser show on the banks of the river Sarayu during Deepotsav celebrations on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Ayodhya on Wednesday.

Hindus across the world are celebrating Diwali. The five-day festival of lights is one of the most popular holidays in India, and today is the main day of festivities when faithful pray to the Hindu goddess of wealth.

People celebrate Diwali by lighting little earthen oil lamps to mark the victory of light over darkness.

A group of five men light yellow and orange oil lamps outside, with a temple in the distance.
Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images
People light oil earthen lamps on the eve of Diwali at the Akshardham Hindu temple in Gandhinagar, India, on Wednesday.

In the northern Indian temple town of Ayodhya, authorities lit about a million such lamps, along the banks of a river.

People stand over earthen lamps on the ground, which illuminate the banks of a river stretching as far as the eye can see.
Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images
People light earthen lamps on the banks of the river Sarayu during Deepotsav celebrations on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Ayodhya..

Ayodhya is believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Lord Ram, and Diwali is said to be the day he returned home after defeating a demon.

Across India, celebrations include fireworks and devotional music.

People carry a large purple statue of a Hindu goddess down the street against a dark sky.
Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP via Getty Images
Laborers transport an idol of the Hindu goddess Kali to a place of worship on the eve of Diwali at Kumortuli, the traditional potters' quarter in northern Kolkata on Wednesday.

But amid the festivities, there are also concerns about air pollution caused by Diwali firecrackers.

Already, pollution in the capital of New Delhi has risen to its worst this season.

People stand on a street with two large temple-like structures, against a smoggy gray sky.
Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images
Visitors walk along the Raisina Hills at Rajpath amid smoggy conditions in New Delhi on Thursday.

World holidays

Today is Diwali. Here are 3 things to know about this world holiday

Posted November 4, 2021 at 8:37 AM EDT
Hindu devotees light oil lamps at a temple during Diwali, the festival of lights, in Hong Kong on Thursday.
Kin Cheung/AP
Hindu devotees light oil lamps at a temple during Diwali, the festival of lights, in Hong Kong on Thursday.

It is once again Diwali, India’s biggest holiday of the year, celebrated with a five-day festival of lights. Today is the main day of celebration, which includes the lighting of lamps and candles and gatherings of families and friends for elaborate feasts and firework. Here’s a breakdown of the holiday.

What "Diwali" means

Diwali, or Dipawali, gets its name from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” which means “row of clay lamps.” Many people in India will light these lamps outside of their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness, in tune with a holiday that is an ode to the triumph of good over evil.

Why Diwali is celebrated

It depends on where you’re from and what religion you align with. Hindu celebrations center around the return of Rama and Sita, two deities, to Ayodyha, an ancient city in India, after being exiled. Sikhs, Jains, and even Buddhists have their own lore surrounding the holiday — you can read about here

What celebrations look like

Depends on what day of the festival it is. The holiday overlaps with the Hindu New Year, and as a result is associated with a chance to reset and start anew. This course of the five days includes cleaning house, buying new furnishings and exchanging gifts with loved ones. It also centers on traditions like buying new kitchen utensils to help bring good fortune, and other practices to attract the goodwill of spirits.

Click here to learn more.

The U.K. gives Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill its first regulatory OK

Posted November 4, 2021 at 8:13 AM EDT

Merck’s antiviral pill that fights COVID-19 in adults who have the disease won its first authorization in the world Thursday, as the U.K.’s medical regulator announced that the drug is “safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death” in mild to moderate cases.

The drug is a “game changer,” said British Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics created the oral antiviral.

“Today is a historic day for our country, as the U.K. is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19,” Javid said.

The U.K.’s authorization is based on clinical studies that showed the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 50% for at-risk adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, Merck says.

The drug, called molnupiravir and sold under the name Lagevrio, helps people cope with COVID-19 by interfering with the virus’ ability to replicate itself.

“This prevents it from multiplying, keeping virus levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease,” said the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA.

“Lagevrio is another therapeutic to add to our armory against COVID-19,” said MHRA Chief Executive Dr. June Raine. “It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before COVID-19 has progressed to a severe stage.”

Because of its ability to tamp down on viral levels in the body, the drug works best when it’s taken very soon after infection — preferably within five days of the first symptoms.

The MHRA approved the drug for people who have mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 along with at least one risk factor, such as obesity, heart disease or being 60 or older.

Outside of the U.K., molnupiravir is still being evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, according to Merck.


The jury in the trial over Ahmaud Arbery's killing is almost completely white

Posted November 4, 2021 at 8:03 AM EDT
The back of a Black man's head is in the foreground of this courtroom scene, in which several people are seated in benches, a man is standing at the podium gesturing and a male judge is seated in the back.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Prosecutor Paul Camarillo questions a potential juror during jury selection in the trial of the men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Superior Court on October 26, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

Opening statements are set to begin tomorrow in the trial of the three white men accused of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia last year. The jury that will decide their fate is comprised of 11 white people and just one person who is Black.

To recap: Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, are accused of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and other charges in connection with the February 2020 killing.

Cell phone video taken by Bryan shows the men chasing 25-year-old Arbery with their pickup trucks and cornering him before Travis McMichael fatally shot him in a struggle. The defendants have said they believed Arbery was responsible for a string of neighborhood robberies — police never connected him to any — and are pleading self-defense.

The racially-charged killing fueled national protests last summer, and advocates see this trial as a test case for racial justice.

It's taken more than two weeks to seat the jury, in large part because so many prospective jurors said they had seen the cell phone video, believed that Arbery was targeted because of his race or had otherwise formed negative opinions of the defendants. Read more about this.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers spent yesterday narrowing the jury pool to 12 people, plus four alternates. NPR's Debbie Elliott has been covering the case, and walks us through what happened (listen to the full story here):

The defense eliminated all but one prospective Black juror — they said they struck 13 white people and 11 Black people from the jury pool because of their biases.

The prosecution argued that they had unconstitutionally removed the prospective Black jurors because of their race, and asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to reinstate some of them.

He partially agreed, but allowed the case to proceed.

"The court has found there appears to be intentional discrimination in the panel," Walmsley said. But he also said the law prevented him from reinstating Black members to the jury pool because the defense lawyers were able to cite "race-neutral reasons" for removing them.

That's understandably not sitting well with racial justice advocates and members of Arbery's family, as Elliott reports.

Race and racism are major themes in this case. And they're also the throughline in two other high-profile trials happening across the U.S., as NPR's Leila Fadel reports.