Start your day here: Climate summit hits and misses; Biden's high-stakes meeting with Xi; and more
Here's what we're following today:
U.S.-China virtual summit: President Biden will meet virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping today, amidst rising tensions between the two countries over trade issues, human rights concerns and national security. The White House says the leaders will discuss ways to manage competition and cooperate where possible.
Poorer nations leave COP26 without aid: The U.N. climate summit ended with a promising agreement to cut heat-trapping emissions, but without financial support for developing countries hit hard by climate change.
Weekend stories you may have missed: The Astroworld death toll climbs to 10, Taylor Swift stopped time on Saturday Night Live, Vice President Harris and Doug Emhoff are back from France and NPR remembers beloved books editor Petra Mayer.
🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, Catholic bishops consider whether abortion-rights supporters should be denied communion.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark and Chris Hopkins)
Harvard’s 148-year-old student newspaper gets its first Latina president
Raquel Coronell Uribe, a history and literature major from Miami, will become the Harvard Crimson’s first Latinx president in the student newspaper’s 148-year history. She takes the helm in January.
Coronell currently covers police accountability as a reporter for the Crimson, where she has written stories about the university’s search for a new police chief among other issues.
She also serves as a social media manager for the newspaper and edits its daily email newsletters.
In addition to that, Coronell heads up the Crimson’s internal Latinx affinity group, which was created by the newspaper’s diversity and inclusivity committee.
The Harvard Crimson calls itself the nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper, though there is some debate over which U.S. collegiate broadsheet has truly been around the longest.
New Delhi's air pollution is so bad, officials are calling for a city-wide lockdown
India’s Supreme Court is calling for a lockdown in the capital New Delhi. It’s because of a health emergency — but it’s not about COVID-19. It’s about air pollution.
At a hearing Monday, justices ordered authorities to halt all non-essential travel on roads in the national capital region. They also told them to close offices in the area, shifting tens of millions of people to work from home.
It’s unclear if or when such a lockdown would take effect, or how long it might last. Delhi’s air quality appeared to ease slightly Monday. The AQI is now in the low 400s, on a 500-point scale. Last week, it was off the charts in some areas.
Delhi’s chief minister has indicated his willingness to impose a pollution-related lockdown, but has said it would have minimal effect without similar measures from neighboring states. Officials from the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh plan to hold meetings Tuesday.
New Delhi’s schools are already closed this week because of air pollution that’s been about four times the safe limit. Construction sites are also on pause — which will ultimately slow the economy.
This is all because of toxic smog across much of northern India. It happens every winter, as industrial and vehicular emissions mix with smoke from crop-burning after the harvest.
While farmers have often been blamed for exacerbating the pollution problem, government lawyers told the Supreme Court on Monday that crop-burning amounts to only about 10% of emissions. One justice responded by saying it might be even lower.
Some of the schools forced to shut this week had only just reopened for the first time in nearly 20 months, because of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, India pushed for watered-down language in a final declaration at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow over the weekend. It ended up calling for coal to be “phased down,” rather than “phased out” — a revision that angered some delegates. Choking back tears, the COP26 president said India had to explain itself. But the reaction was different from some media inside India.
One Indian newspaper called the revised language in the COP26 declaration “a major win for India” and its international diplomacy.
India gets about 70% of its electricity from coal. It has pledged to reduce that amount, but has pushed back against global efforts to ditch coal altogether. Prime Minister Narendra Modi says India’s emissions will be net-zero by 2070 — 20 years after the U.S. and Europe, and 10 years after China.
Steve Bannon just turned himself in on criminal contempt charges
Steve Bannon, former President Donald Trump's one-time top adviser who was indicted last week for defying a congressional subpoena related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, surrendered to federal authorities on Monday.
Bannon turned himself in at the FBI's Washington field office, and addressed his supporters in brief remarks livestreamed on Gettr, the social media platform popular with Trump allies. He is expected to appear in federal court in D.C. later Monday.
"I don't want anybody to take their eye off the ball of what we do every day," Bannon said directly into the camera. "We got the Hispanics coming on our side, African Americans coming on our side, we're taking down the Biden regime."
"I want you guys to stay focused, stay on message," he added. "Remember, signal not noise."
A federal grand jury indicted Bannon last week on two counts, one for failing to appear for a deposition with the House committee and one for failing to produce documents in response to its subpoena.
Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of one year, as well as a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Bannon was a private citizen at the time of the insurrection, having left the Trump administration in 2017. But he remained in Trump's orbit, and the congressional committee believes he has useful information about the events of Jan. 6 (for instance, it sought information about a meeting he attended with Trump allies at a Washington hotel the previous evening).
Bannon had argued he was covered by an assertion of executive privilege, though legal experts say that claim falls short for two reasons: He was not in Trump's administration at the time, and Biden, the current president, has waived privilege on matters before the House committee.
NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas told Weekend Edition Saturday that contempt charges against Bannon could convince other Trump-era officials to comply with their subpoenas from the committee.
For instance, Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, missed a deadline to answer the panel's questions on Friday. The committee said in response that it is considering a similar contempt of Congress referralfor him as well.
Health workers in some Chinese cities are killing pets while their owners are in quarantine
Local health workers in some Chinese cities are breaking into peoples’ homes and killing their pets while the owners are in quarantine, prompting outrage online.
In one case, a dog owner named Ms Fu witnessed through her home security camera as people clothed in hazmat suits entered her home and beat her pet corgi to death with iron rods while she was away in a quarantine facility. She tested negative for COVID-19.
“The dog ran into another room and out of sight, but its whimpers were audible. After a few minutes, the workers took out yellow plastic bags and said they were taking the dog away,” Fu wrote in a long social media post. Her security camera video has gone viral on China’s social media site Weibo, attracting millions of views from internet users who are largely furious with the way cats and dogs have been disposed of out of fears the animals could transmit the novel coronavirus to humans.
Under immense pressure to keep COVID infections near zero, local health authorities have been taking extreme measures to prevent local transmissions.Inn the northern city of Harbin, a woman reported that her three cats were killed in September while she was completing quarantine, garnering anger online as well. Authorities in the cities of Chengdu and Wuxi have similarly entered private homes while their owners are in quarantine and murdered their cats.
The U.S.' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people can transmit the coronavirus to their dogs and cats, though the chance of infection happening the other way around is “low.” Various studies suggesttransmission from pets to their owners is “unlikely” and lacks evidence.
Fu wrote that she was suddenly called to quarantine in the city of Shangrao after contact tracers found she had been in close contact with someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19. She was not able to quarantine with her dog, but community workers assured her the corgi would be taken care of in her home while she was away.
Shangrao municipal authorities later apologized and said the workers who killed Fu’s dog had been fired for “the harmless disposal of a pet dog without having fully communicated with the pet owner,” according to a statement posted online.
As Europe faces a new COVID-19 wave, Austria begins a lockdown of the unvaccinated
COVID-19 infections in Europe are reaching record highs, with cases surging in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. And with this new wave comes new restrictions, particularly for the unvaccinated.
Austria's government is imposing a new lockdown on people who have chosen not to get the vaccine. The Netherlands is reverting to a partial lockdown. And localities in Germany are tightening restrictions too.
NPR's Rob Schmitz spoke to Morning Edition from Berlin about these latest measures. Listen to the conversation and read on for highlights.
Austria's new lockdown targets the unvaccinated
Starting today, most unvaccinated Austrians will only be able to leave their homes to work, buy food or in case of an emergency. Police will be out conducting spot checks to make sure people have their digital vaccination certificates.
The country's vaccination rate is actually higher than that of the U.S., with about 35% of the population — more than 3 million people — still unprotected. Health officials are emphasizing that the new measures apply only to this portion of the population.
Some unvaccinated people took advantage of their final unrestricted hours to protest in the streets over the weekend. Many took it upon themselves not to make their own lives more difficult: A record 32,000 people opted to get their first shot the day after the lockdown announcement.
The Dutch government is implementing a three-week partial lockdown
Over the weekend, new rules took effect in the Netherlands limiting hours for hairdressers, restaurants, bars and supermarkets. There is a limit of four guests per household, and spectators are once again banned from sporting events.
The country's seven-day incidence rate has never been so high, Schmitz says, and hospitals are buckling under the pressure. But he adds that the new measures aren't universally welcomed: Protesters gathered outside the prime minister's press conference and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at police.
Germany sees a surge in cases and return to restrictions
Germany is seeing its worst infection rate since the pandemic began, despite rolling out a large, state-run vaccination campaign in the spring and summer, Schmitz says. More than a quarter of the country's population has yet to roll up their sleeves, and Germany's health minister said last week that this new wave of the pandemic is one of the unvaccinated. The situation is especially dire in the southern state of Bavaria, where intensive care units are more than 90% full.
Schmitz explains that Germany's federal government has always been wary of issuing centralized mandates (for historical reasons), but that individual cities and states are rolling out strict guidelines and that more nationwide guidance could be coming.
And in Berlin, where he is, new rules effective today allow only fully vaccinated or recently recovered people to enter restaurants, cinemas and sports facilities.
Trump's controversial hotel in D.C. will reportedly be sold and renamed
Former President Donald Trump’s company has agreed to sell its Trump International Hotel operation in Washington, D.C., according to multiple reports. The deal is said to be worth $375 million and will result in the Trump name being removed from the landmark property that stands close to the White House.
The hotel’s lease is being bought by Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant Group, according to The Wall Street Journal, which says the company is working with another hotel chain, Hilton Worldwide Holdings. In its new iteration, Trump’s name will be replaced by the Waldorf Astoria brand on the massive historic property, which has previously been both a post office and an office building.
Members of the House Oversight Committee recently stated that the Trump family’s company suffered a net loss of $70 million in operating the hotel. Monthly rent for the building is $250,000.
The Trump International Hotel location opened on Pennsylvania Ave. in the fall of 2016, just a few months before Trump was inaugurated. It quickly became known as an enclave for Republican allies of Trump, as well as a focal point for protests against the president.
Trump’s dual roles as U.S. chief executive and local hotel owner touched off accusations that he had violated federal emoluments laws. Trump faced a lawsuit over those claims, but the Supreme Court ended the suit after President Biden was sworn in. In new financial details that were released last month, congressional Democrats said foreign governments paid an estimated $3.7 million to rent rooms in the hotel.
The Trump hotel in D.C. also survived an attempt to force the federal government to end the 60-year lease Trump signed for the building in 2013, because the contract language specifically stated that no "elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom[.]"
Despite that contract, the General Services Administration said the Trump Organization was in compliance with the lease because Trump had shifted his financial interest in the building to a trust managed by his family and others.
Some nations are disappointed by the COP26 climate agreement
The U.N's climate summit wrapped up this weekend, but discontent over the process and its outcomes aren't done yet.
NPR's Frank Langfitt joined Morning Edition to run through the conference's agreements and what's at the heart of the criticisms. Listen here.
The plan urges wealthy nations to increase financial aid to developing countries struggling with climate change's fallout, and includes more specificsonpledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But some say the pact doesn't go far enough, particularly developing nations already facing devastating effects of climate change.
"It's not just a disappointment for all of us, but it's also scary. You know, we are heading towards a point of no return," said Maina Talia, a climate activist from Tuvalu, a low-lying archipelago in the South Pacific.
"It seems like the rich countries and industrialized [countries do] not give a damn about us, because they are thinking that we are small in number and we are small nations, and we have no value for them," Talia said.
Within the pact, a call to "phase out" coal use was ultimately weakened to “phase down,” mostly after last-minute pushing by India. As NPR's Lauren Frayer reports, India gets 70% of its electricity from coal.
COP26 president Alok Sharma appeared to struggle to compose himself Saturday as he acknowledged the "deep disappointment" some felt at the summit's final declaration.
Other nations saw the final agreement as a mixed outcome, Ambassador Janine Felson, deputy head of the Belize delegation at COP26, toldWeekend All Things Considered. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm joined Morning Edition to weigh in on the highlights; listen here.
U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry had this to say about the agreement: "Obviously we all know the old adage of negotiation: You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
Next year's conference, COP27, is scheduled to take place in Egypt.
Here's why the stakes are so high for today's Biden-Xi meeting
President Biden meets virtually this evening with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It will be the world leaders' first face-to-face summit. Biden has spoken twice by phone with Xi so far; Xi has not left China since the pandemic.
Relations with China, the U.S.'s major economic rival, have become increasingly antagonistic, as NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe reports. Biden has kept Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods in place, although he has taken a more diplomatic stance than the former president, who launched a trade war during his time in office.
But two events have raised the stakes since Biden took office:
- Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community named China as the top national security threat, saying the country is challenging the U.S. economically and militarily and is "pushing to change global norms." Read more on that from NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre.
- In September, the U.S. took the rare step of sharing its nuclear-powered submarine technologywith Australia, in an effort to reorient military focus toward the Indo-Pacific region. The deal will enable its ally Australia to travel further and with more stealth.
And in domestic policy news ...
Biden also plans to sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill in a ceremony today at the White House, joined by lawmakers from both parties.
Biden has frequently mentioned competition with China as an argument for the bill, which will bolster the nation's roads, bridges, airports and passenger and freight rail, along with electric vehicles, broadband and the power grid. Here's what's in the bill.
New Zealand Indigenous tribe demands vaccine protesters stop using haka
A New Zealand Māori tribe has demanded that anti-vaccine mandate advocates stop using its ceremonial dance, the “Ka Mate” haka, at protests.
The dance, which was traditionally performed before battle and is meant to show tribal pride and unity, is an intimidating display of chanting, foot-stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping. It has been popularized by New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team, which performs it before the start of every match.
The Ngati Toa, which won legal control of the Ka Mate — the tribe’s unique version of the haka — in 2009, strongly objected on Monday after demonstrators were seen performing it at recent rallies.
Taku Parai, a tribal leader, called on the protesters to stop using the Ka Mate “immediately.”
"We do not support their position and we do not want our [tribe] associated with their messages,” he said, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Last week, thousands of people, some waving Trump flags, marched or rode motorcycles to New Zealand’s Parliament to protest a government mandate for doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other health care workers to be fully vaccinated by December, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Teachers and other education workers have until January to get vaccinated, according to the mandate.
Brian Tamaki, the leader of the fundamentalist Destiny Church in New Zealand and a right-wing activist, has been a prominent figure in the anti-vaccine movement in the country.
Tamaki, himself a member of two Māori tribes, was reportedly planning to teach the Ka Mate haka to protesters for use at future demonstrations, according to Radio New Zealand.
"Our message to protesters who wish to use Ka Mate is to use a different haka,” Modlik said.
Vaccination rates among Māori people are below New Zealand’s national averages, with just 61% fully vaccinated, according to government data.
Some Māori leaders have criticized the government's decision to end lockdowns, with the co-leader of New Zealand's Māori Party, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, calling that move a “death warrant” for Indigenous communities.
"Many of our [ancestors] lost their lives in previous pandemics,” the tribe’s chief executive Helmut Modlik said in a statement.
“We are absolutely clear that the Covid-19 vaccine is the best protection we have available to us,” Modlik said, adding that the Ngati Toa “are committed to supporting” vaccination of its people “as soon as possible.”
U.K. police have declared Sunday's Liverpool car blast a terrorist incident
Police are investigating a deadly car explosion in the English city of Liverpool as a terrorist incident, British authorities said on Monday.
They have also arrested a fourth person in connection with Sunday's blast, in which one person died and another was injured after an explosive device went off in a taxi outside of Liverpool Women's Hospital.
"Although, the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident and Counter Terrorism Policing are continuing with the investigation," Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, the head of Counterterrorism Policing in northwest England, said in a statement on Monday.
According to police, a local taxi driver picked up a male passenger in the Rutland area of Liverpool shortly before 11 a.m. local time on Sunday. The passenger asked to be taken to Liverpool Women's Hospital, about 10 minutes away.
Liverpool Women's Hospital specializes in the health of women and babies, and the National Health Service describes it as the largest women's hospital of its kind in Europe.
"As the taxi approached the drop-off point at the hospital, an explosion occurred from within car, which quickly engulfed it in flames," authorities said.
Emergency responders put out the fire and discovered that the passenger was deceased inside the vehicle. The taxi driver managed to escape and has since been released from the hospital after being treated for injuries.
The taxi driver is being hailed as a hero
The taxi driver has been named locally as David Perry and and has garnered praise from local and national leaders for his conduct.
Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he had gotten out of the taxi and locked the doors before the blast (though the BBC reports that Jackson has not confirmed that account).
"The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital," Anderson said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told reporters on Monday that the driver appeared to have acted with "incredible presence of mind and bravery."
The motive is still unclear
Investigators' working assumption is that the improvised explosive device was brought into the taxi and manufactured by the passenger, Jackson said, but they don't yet know why he took it to the Women's Hospital or the reason behind its sudden explosion.
The motive behind the blast is not year clear. Police noted that Remembrance Day events were taking place at a cathedral near the hospital, and said that is one line of inquiry they are pursuing.
"We believe we know the identity of the passenger but cannot confirm this at this time," they added.
Police have arrested four men and searched two addresses
Jackson said the investigation has led police to two addresses, both in the Kensington area of Liverpool.
Police arrested three men aged 21, 26 and 29 at one of those locations on Sunday, on terrorism-related charges. A 20-year-old man was later arrested in the same area. They will be interviewed by authorities on Monday.
Authorities are also searching both addresses, Jackson added. At the second location, police found "significant items" that Jackson said will necessitate further searches on Monday and perhaps the coming days. Eight families have been evacuated from that address.
"Our inquiries will now continue to seek to understand how the device was built, the motivation for the incident and to understand if anyone else was involved in it," Jackson said, urging members of the public to come forward with any information they may have.
The hospital is open with safety restrictions
Meanwhile, hospital officials on Monday said that patients are no longer being diverted to other hospitals, and provided a list of safety precautions they are taking as the investigation continues.
For example, they are restricting visiting access until further notice, increasing police presence on site, limiting access to the building through one entry point and asking visitors to park their cars in designated areas.
News you might have missed this weekend
We hope you had a restful weekend, though the news certainly didn't take a break. Here are some of the stories we're following this morning.
The Astroworld death toll rose to 10
Nine-year-old Ezra Blount died on Sunday, bringing the death toll of Travis Scott's Astroworld music festival to 10. The Dallas native had been placed in a medically induced coma after suffering serious injuries to his brain, kidney and liver at the Nov. 5 concert, which he had been watching from his father's shoulders when a crowd surge rushed toward them.
The Blount family has filed a lawsuit against Scott and event organizer Live Nation, who are now the focus of a criminal investigation. Read more here.
The vice president and second gentleman returned from France
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are back in Washington after spending much of last week in Paris. The trip was part of an effort to repair U.S.-Franco relations that turned rocky after a botched international submarine deal, though it was also Harris' debut in Europe and her first time meeting with some of the world's most important leaders. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid, who traveled with Harris, has the highlights.
It was also Emhoff's first diplomatic trip abroad — and the first for a second gentleman. He took a traditional approach to the role of dutiful second spouse, Khalid reports, but has his own platform too (it focuses on gender equity). Learn more here.
SNL skewered Ted Cruz and catered to Swifties
Taylor Swift stopped time this weekend when she appeared on Saturday Night Live as its musical guest to perform the new 10-minute version of her 2012 magnum opus, "All Too Well" (as her new short film by the same name played on a screen behind her). Here's a video of the full performance.
The show also weighed in on current events, using its cold open to slam Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz over his recent attack on fictional character Big Bird. Read more about the SNL bit and the original Big Bird vaccine "controversy."
Remembering NPR books editor Petra Mayer
NPR is mourning the loss of one of our own: beloved books editor Petra Mayer, an enthusiast of science fiction, comics and cats who shared her passions with readers and listeners on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, NPR's literary recommendation tool Book Concierge and on-the-scene reporting at Comic Con, among others.
Mayer died on Saturday at age 46 of an apparent pulmonary embolism. Her friends and coworkers (often one and the same) are remembering her for her smarts, sarcastic humor and loyalty. Read more here about all she brought to NPR and its fans over the decades, and listen to this remembrance from Weekend All Things Considered.