Start Your Day Here: The DOJ's Texas Lawsuit, California's Recall Election And More
Here are some of the top stories we're watching today:
California recall: The election to decide whether or not Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled is underway. Here's what's at stake.
Harvard dumps fossil fuel investments: The university announcedit would no longer invest in fossil fuels, after years of pressure from activists on and off campus.
9/11's impact: The Sept. 11 attacks shaped the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, among other things. We're examining the legacy of the attacks on the eve of the 20th anniversary.
🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, President Biden issued new rules expanding mandatory vaccinations.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Chris Hopkins and Manuela López Restrepo)
Scenes From The Start Of The Hindu Ganesh Festival In India
Celebrations have begun in India for a religious holiday honoring the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh.
Across Mumbai, drum beats and firecrackers announce the beginning of the 10-day Ganesh festival.
Typically, each neighborhood erects a big stage with a massive Ganesh idol where crowds throng to pray. And on the last day, huge parades take the idols to the city’s beaches to immerse them in the sea.
But for the second year in a row, large public festivities are banned because of the pandemic. Instead, the government has built artificial ponds in every locality, to avoid crowding.
Mumbai was one of the worst-affected cities when coronavirus cases peaked nationwide this past spring.
For more history on the holiday and scenes from festivities of years past, immerse yourself in this 2018 piece from NPR's Lauren Frayer.
Plus, check out these photos and reflections from visual journalist Kainaz Amaria, published in 2012.
In Her Final Episode, A 'Code Switch' Host Shares What It Was Like To Start Covering Race
This week, NPR's award-winning podcast Code Switch published its last episode co-hosted by Shereen Marisol Meraji. Shereen's a founding mother of podcast and has been bringing listeners sharp and empathetic conversations about race and culture for years.
The good news: She's stepping away to put her skills towards some new adventures. She's joining the newest cohort of Nieman Fellows to study at Harvard, and then she'll be heading to the University of California, Berkeley, where she'll be an assistant professor of race in journalism.
Getting ready to teach the next generation of journalists got Shereen thinking about what it was like when she was new on the scene. Those reflections led to the newest episode of Code Switch.
The episode takes us back to 2001 South Africa for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
And there, covering the conference 20 years ago with newly printed business cards, was a 24-year-old Shereen Marisol Meraji.
In this episode, she and co-host Gene Demby reflect on what has changed since the conference, which filled a young Shereen with hope and optimism — but that turned out to be fleeting.
Pro Football Is Back, And It Looks A Little Different This Season
The new NFL season got off to a fiery start last night, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the defending Super Bowl champs) defeating the Dallas Cowboys in a stadium once again filled with fans.
Lessons from last season
The NFL got through its last season without canceling a single game (though it did have to reschedule nearly two dozen), thanks to strict COVID-19 protocols, comprehensive testing and contact tracing and flexibility when outbreaks did flare up.
In fact, Goldman notes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually published a paper exploring takeaways from the league's experience and how they might apply to the general public. Unsurprisingly, it found that common sense measures — like widespread masking, reducing in-person meetings and spacing people out — were the most important.
New year, new rules
It'll be interesting to see how this season unfolds, given the surging pandemic. Fans are coming back in large numbers, and without as many strict mask-wearing protocols this time around, there's a lot of focus on vaccines.
Some stadiums will require proof of vaccination for fans to enter. When it comes to players, Goldman says, "The league's not mandating vaccinations, but it's making life harder for those who don't get shots." They'll have to follow stricter health protocols.
There's also this much talked-about new policy: If a game is called off because of an outbreak linked to unvaccinated players or staff and can't be rescheduled, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the game and be credited with a loss.
As Martínez points out, this is quite literally the biggest season of all time. The NFL regular season expanded from 16 to 17 games, based on agreement between the league and the union.
It means more money for all involved, Goldman says, but it's also been a contentious issue as players worry about the increased risk of injury.
Plus, there's a controversial new rule allowing players in certain positions to wear different jersey numbers.
This is also the first year that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" — the song known as the Black national anthem — will be played or performed live before every Week 1 NFL game. The league announced the new tradition last summer, as part of an effort to recognize victims of systemic racism.
Florida A&M University's Marching "100" Band and Concert Choir sang it at yesterday's pregame festivities, marking the first time the song has been performed live in an NFL stadium. Read more from member station WUSF.
A Beachfront Property Taken From A Black Family A Century Ago May Soon Be Returned
In 1924, a flourishing beach resort for Black people along the Southern California coast was seized by the local city government through eminent domain.
The stated reason was to build a park, but historical records show the resort was shut down because the owners and the patrons were Black.
Now, an effort to return what is known as Bruce’s Beach to the descendants of its original owners — and make amends for a historical wrong — is poised to become reality.
The California state Legislature gave its final approval to a law that would enable county officials to give Bruce’s Beach back to the family who owned it nearly a decade ago.
All that’s needed now is a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom, whom lawmakers expect to give “quick approval” to the bipartisan legislation, Spectrum News 1 reported.
“I’m elated, walking on water right now,” Duane Shepard, a distant Bruce descendant and family historian, said Thursday, according to the Southern California News Group. “This is one of the greatest things in American history right now.”
Recommended Reading And Listening Ahead Of The 9/11 Anniversary
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, NPR has published a wide range of stories to help you reflect on the day and learn about its impact. Here are a few highlights we encourage you to check out:
Memory and legacy
- The children of 9/11 victims reflect on their parents' legacy
- Video: Families and friends leave voicemails for loved ones killed in 9/11
- How mourning has been different for each of these 9/11 families
- 20 years on, 9/11 victim Richard Guadagno's spirit stays alive
- How to talk about 9/11 with a new generation of kids
- Here's how presidents have responded to terrorism
- The anniversary of 9/11 will be the latest instance when Biden has given a voice to grief
- How America's fight against terrorism has changed
- Sept. 11 books to help kids understand
- Three new books on lessons from 9/11
- How movies have shaped the public's perception Of 9/11
- Two more 9/11 victims are identified
- Families of victims may get answers when classified government records are released
- 9/11 first responders face a high cancer risk but are also more likely to survive
- Jon Stewart and Pete Davidson are doing a 9/11 anniversary comedy show for charity
Thanks To Alexis Nikole Nelson, I Will Never Look At A Weed The Same Ever Again
If you're on TikTok, you've probably caught one of Alexis Nikole Nelson'svideos on your "For you" page.
Nelson's exceptionally joyous and educational adventures in appreciating the natural bounty around us have earned her over 2 million followers. And they've also been a perfect reminder to pay closer attention towhat's growing in your community.
Recently, TED Radio Hour's Manoush Zomorodi talked to Nelson about what brought her to foraging (a desire to add sustainable greens to her diet affordably!) and the opportunity to connect with African American and indigenous food traditions (that previously were discouraged or even actively prevented.)
But remember, foraging incorrectly can be dangerous, so make sure to
conduct thorough research from multiple credible sources, consult experts, and exercise caution when foraging.
Think you have what it takes to forage safely? Check out this quiz of sortsby the crew at TED Radio Hour to see if you can safely prepare a foraged cake worthy of a party with Alexis Nikole Nelson!
Justice Breyer Won't Be On The High Court Forever. But Don't Try To Tell Him When To Retire
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer knows liberals want him to retire so that President Biden can ensure there will be a liberal justice on the court for years to come. But in an interview with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, he wouldn't hint at when that might happen.
"I'm only going to say that I'm not going to go beyond what I previously said on the subject, and that is that I do not believe I should stay on the Supreme Court, or want to stay on the Supreme Court, until I die," he said.
Watch the clip below and read a fuller story on Breyer's answer and what's at stake here:
Breyer also talked to Totenberg about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Texas abortion law, a move he called "very, very, very wrong."
And as for liberals who want to remake the court to their advantage, Breyer warned: Be careful what you wish for.
A Man, A Mission And 191 Apple Cider Doughnuts
Armed with opinions and an appetite, Alex Schwartz has a cinnamon-sugar dusted-dream: To taste and review every fresh apple cider doughnut he can get his hands on.
Schwartz has been cataloging his travels and reviews on an Instagram page where he goes by the name "Cider Donuteur". He calls it his "life-long mission to try every cider donut."
He's compiled a map which so far lists 191 places where aficionados can get their taste buds on the classic cider treats. Schwartz has tasted and ranked many on the list, and also took suggestions from impassioned Reddit users to create the searchable map.
He started the cider doughnut odyssey last year and has picked the quest back up for the 2021 season.
Apple cider doughnuts are a fall institution in many parts of the Northeast, but Schwartz contends they're not all the same. He reviews a doughnut's freshness, crumb texture, sugar level and, of course, taste.
Yes, it is close to 70 degrees in much of New England right now. But thepromptarrival of seasonal foods has become a moderntradition (we're looking at you, pumpkin spice lattes in August). And what's the harm in starting early when there are so many delicious doughnuts to discover?
Trying every apple cider doughnut is a lofty dream, though. If Schwartz is going to succeed he'll need his resolve to be as strong as his hunger.
He told Boston Magazine he once ate six apple cider doughnuts from six different places in one day. "My stomach was not super jazzed about that,” Schwartz said. “But, you know, I was doing it for the cause.”
Here's Why The NIH Director Supports Biden's New Vaccine Requirements
President Biden's newly unveiled plan for combatting the pandemic will affect some 100 million Americans.
One of its key pillars is increasing COVID-19 vaccinations, including through a forthcoming federal rule that will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure its workers either get vaccinated or tested weekly.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says he believes Biden is "on the right side of history" for mandating vaccines.
“Why didn't we do it months ago? I guess there was some expectation that people would just decide to do the right thing," he told NPR's Rachel Martin. "The evidence is so compelling that these vaccines are safe and effective and they save lives. And yet somehow we haven't quite succeeded in getting through, and maybe it's necessary, therefore, to get a bit more muscular about it."
The Pfizer vaccine now has full approval from the FDA. Collins says that does away with an earlier argument that the vaccine couldn't be mandated because it was only authorized for emergency use. Plus, given that the fourth surge of the delta variant is killing some 1,500 people per day, he believes "it was justified ... to do everything possible that the president had at his disposal."
The government will enforce vaccine requirements by cutting funding to those who don't comply. Institutions who get funding from Medicare and Medicaid are at risk of financial loss if they don't show proof of full vaccination, Collins said.
"And hey, I'm a federal guy who runs an institution called NIH with 45,000 people," he added. "Surprisingly, we still have people who haven't gotten vaccinated. They will now be required to, with no option of just getting tested. They must now be vaccinated or face some serious consequences of potentially losing their jobs.”
Collins also emphasized the importance of vaccines for children. He offered his support for the Los Angeles School Board, which yesterday became the largest U.S. school district to require vaccines for students 12 and up who are attending in-person classes. It's the right move from a public health perspective, Collins said, because vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in kids aged 12 to 17, but only about half of them have been immunized.
He said that depending on the data, a decision around vaccines for kids younger than 12 could be coming within several weeks.
Harvard University Will Stop Investing In Fossil Fuels After Years Of Public Pressure
Harvard University says it will end its investments in fossil fuels, a move that activists — both on and off campus — have been pushing the university to make for years.
In a Thursday message to the Harvard community, President Lawrence Bacow said that endowment managers don't intend to make any more direct investments in companies that explore or develop fossil fuels, and that its legacy investments in private equity funds with fossil fuel holdings "are in runoff mode and will end as these partnerships are liquidated."
He noted that the university has not had direct investments in fossil fuels since June, and its indirect investments make up less than 2% of the total endowment. Harvard boasts the country's largest academic endowment, clocking in most recently at $41.9 billion.
"Given the need to decarbonize the economy and our responsibility as fiduciaries to make long-term investment decisions that support our teaching and research mission, we do not believe such investments are prudent," Bacow wrote. He called climate change "the most consequential threat facing humanity" and noted some of the other ways Harvard aims to address it.
The Harvard Crimson notes that Bacow — who has been president since 2018 — and his predecessors publicly opposed divestment, and that administrators have focused on combatting climate change through teaching, research and campus sustainability efforts.
Activists, students and alumni have long called on the university to take action by selling off its fossil fuel holdings, with those voices growing louder in recent years.
Supporters of divestment have filed legal complains, stormed the field at the 2019 Harvard-Yale football game, staged campus protests and gained seats on school governance boards, according to The Crimson.
Advocates are hailing Thursday's announcement as a victory, though cautioning there is still more work to be done.
"I can't overstate the power of this win," tweeted environmentalist Bill McKibben. "It will reverberate the world around."
He credited activists with forcing "the richest school on earth, which in 2013 pledged never to divest ... to capitulate."
Advocacy group Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard called the decision "proof that activism works, plain and simple."
BREAKING: After a decade of constant pressure by students, faculty, and alums, @HARVARD IS FINALLY DIVESTING FROM FOSSIL FUELS.— Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard 🔶 (@DivestHarvard) September 9, 2021
It’s a massive victory for our community, the climate movement, and the world — and a strike against the power of the fossil fuel industry. (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/56yESznMMY
Its celebration was not without reservations, however: A statement from the group criticized Bacow for stopping short of using the word "divest," and urged the university to follow through on its commitments, address holes in its net-zero by 2050 endowment pledge and "stop lending its prestige and power" to the fossil fuel industry in other ways.
"This announcement is a massive victory for activists and for the planet," FossilFuelDivestHarvardtweeted. "Much more work remains, of course — and our movement will be here to make sure that for Harvard, it’s only a beginning when it comes to building a more just and stable future."
Read more from NPR about the broader push for fossil fuel divestment at colleges and universities across the country.
Why The Justice Department's Lawsuit Against Texas' Abortion Law Is An Uphill Battle
The Justice Department is suing Texas over the state’s restrictive abortion law, calling it unconstitutional. But the path ahead for that lawsuit is a tricky one.
The law is among the strictest in the nation. It bans abortions after about 6 weeks (before many even know they’re pregnant), and it empowers citizens of the state to report doctors and others who may be helping people get abortions after that timeframe.
- State lawmakers designed this law to make it hard for anyone to challenge it. And it is.
- Law professors who have been following the issues closely say they don't know how a judge could stop everyone in the state of Texas from enforcing it.
- Even if the Justice Department convinces a lower court to stop this law in its tracks, experts aren't sure what the Supreme Court will do when it gets back up there again. (The Supreme Court earlier declined to prevent the law from taking effect.)
Still, the Justice Department is hoping the lawsuit can also help slow the momentum of other Republican-led states that may want their own versions of the law.
➡️ Read more about the Justice Department’s lawsuit and the reaction to it here.
Hear From Kacey Musgraves About Her New Album, Which Drops Today
Kacey Musgraves has written a breakup album that is “full of love and gratitude.”
From her home in Nashville, she told NPR's Noel King that it would be impossible to sum up her journey over the last three years in a single song.
That’s why Star-Crossed, out today, comprises 15 songs in three acts. It’s a follow-up to 2018’s Golden Hour, which earned four Grammys, including Album of the Year.
Now divorced from singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly, Musgraves says marriage is beautiful — as with her grandparents, who met in grade school and have stayed together — but it’s also not for everyone.
“It keeps you accountable in all seasons to someone that you love. But it's also unrealistic in my mind, because we do change so much over the years.”
Read or listen to the full interview here for more on the album and what Musgraves says marriage taught her.
California's Recall Election Is Happening Now. Here's What You Need To Know
There are just a few days left in the recall election that will decide the fate of California's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom — and could have massive consequences for both state and national politics.
Election Day is officially Tuesday, though the state's 22 million registered voters have received ballots in the mail and can cast their vote before then. Here's what you need to know about how the process works and what's at stake.
What prompted the recall
Scott Shafer, senior political editor at member station KQED and co-host of the Political Breakdown podcast, spoke to The NPR Politics Podcast about why Newsom's job is now on the line (listen to the full episode here).
Initially, the recall effort was focused on policy areas like the death penalty, crime, homelessness and housing, Shafer said, but it's since morphed into anger about Newsom's handling of the pandemic. People are especially angry about a November 2020 incident in which he violated his own COVID-19 rules by attending an indoor dinner at a posh restaurant called French Laundry.
Shafer notes that there have actually been five recall attempts against Newsom that didn't have the funding or signatures to qualify — but this time, proponents got the necessary 1.5 million signatures to force an election.
How the process works
There are two questions on the ballot: 1. Should Newsom get the boot? 2. If so, who should replace him?
KQED's helpful voter guide breaks down some of the arguments of the "yes" and "no" camps, as well as the top six contenders for the job. It also points Californians to resources for filling out, mailing in and dropping off their ballot.
The leading candidate in every poll is Republican Larry Elder, a Black, libertarian-leaning talk show host who has made controversial comments about topics including slavery and women in the workforce. Learn more about him here.
Why it matters
California is an overwhelmingly blue state, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 5 million. As NPR's senior political reporter and correspondent Domenico Montanaro explains, this recall shows how partisan things have gotten and how upset people on the right are with Democratic governance in particular.
He describes the recall as the first big national test, noting that it will come down to whether Newsom is able to get Democrats fired up about any number of issues from vaccinations to abortions.
Plus, as KQED's Guy Marzorati reports, the state's large Latino population has a key role to play — but have so far returned mail ballots at lower rates than any ethnic group.
The outcome of the recall election could also reshape national politics. One thing a governor can do is name a U.S. senator if one has to leave before the end of their term, and there's been talk about whether 88-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein will remain in office until 2023. Larry Elder has outright said he would replace her with a Republican, which would tip the balance of the evenly divided Senate and mean changes in Washington.
How 9/11 Shaped The Enduring Israeli-Palestinian Impasse
On Sept. 11, 2001, American TV viewers saw scenes of cheering Palestinians, jubilant to see Israel’s ally attacked. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had his security services quash the scattered celebrations, and issued a statement.
“We want to send a message to the world: we are not with Al Qaeda and its activities,” said Nabil Amr, then Palestinian minister of information, who helped draft the condemnation.
At the time, the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising — with militant bombings and shootings, and attacks by Israeli troops — had been going on for one year. The 9/11 attacks made Arafat worried that Palestinians, who considered themselves freedom fighters, would be seen by the West as terrorists.
“At this stage, I think Yasser Arafat knew very well that the Intifada must stop,” said Nasser Jumaa, a former Palestinian combatant leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Jumaa said Arafat’s emissaries delivered that message to Palestinian armed groups like his.
Violence decreased, but only for a short while.
“Yasser Arafat ... wanted to distance himself from this axis of evil, and the only way to do it was to stop the Intifada,” said retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom. “But it didn't stop, and not because of Yasser Arafat. Because of the Israeli side. We missed this opportunity.”
In January 2002, Israel killed a top West Bank militant, restarting a policy of assassinations. “We couldn’t overcome the urge,” Brom said.
Not all put the blame on Israel. Former Maj. Gen. Amos Gilead, who oversaw Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories during the Intifada, believed Arafat was committed to violence, and Jumaa believed Arafat could not control the various Palestinian combatant groups.
In March 2002, a suicide bomber killed 30 civilians during a Passover meal at an Israeli hotel. “The moment I got the message, I said, ‘That’s it. Now we will invade,’ ” Gilead recalled.
Six months after 9/11, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of the West Bank, rolling tanks into the streets and killing hundreds of Palestinians. Israel’s view was the U.S. would understand. “It’s an American expression, very simple one: terror is terror,” Gilead said.
The peace process for a two-state solution has never fully regained momentum, and Israelis widely believe their security requires keeping the West Bank under their control. The violence of the Intifada “completely destroyed the mutual trust between the two sides. Completely destroyed and never returned,” Brom said.
After 9/11, the U.S. and Arab states became preoccupied elsewhere in the region, and Jumaa believes that spelled “an end of the Palestinian dream for a Palestinian state.”