In Brief: April 24, 2021

Indian hospitals plead for oxygen, country sets virus record

NEW DELHI — India put oxygen tankers on special express trains as major hospitals in New Delhi begged on social media on Friday for more supplies to save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. More than a dozen people died when an oxygen-fed fire ripped through a coronavirus ward in a populous western state.

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India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730.

India has confirmed 16 million cases so far, second only to the United States in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. India has recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 186,920.

The fire in a hospital intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai early Friday.

The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.

Summit shows Biden’s big vision on fighting climate change

WASHINGTON — What did the world learn at Joe Biden’s global summit about his vision of the battle to save the world’s climate?

For two days, Biden and his team of climate experts pressed his case that tackling global warming not only can avert an existential threat, but also benefit the U.S. economy — and the world’s as well.

The virtual summit, based at the White House and featuring more than 40 world leaders whose views were beamed to a global online audience, offered fresh details on how the U.S. might hope to supercharge its efforts on climate while leveraging international action to spur new technologies to help save the planet.

From wire sources

Biden opened the conference by announcing a goal to cut up to 52% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — double the target set by President Barack Obama in the 2015 Paris climate accord. The 2030 goal vaults the U.S. into the top tier of countries on climate ambition.

“This goal is eyebrow-raising, but it has to be,” said Marshall Shepherd, a climate expert at the University of Georgia. “To move the needle on the climate crisis, we need bold actions like this rather than individual or incremental actions only.”

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Biden working group targets jobs for fossil fuel communities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Six large regions nationwide that have economies reliant on fossil fuels have been targeted for federal investment and aid to create renewable energy jobs, as detailed in a new report from President Joe Biden’s administration.

The report released Friday is part of Biden’s plan to reduce America’s use of coal and other fossil fuels in order to fight climate change. The White House held a global summit this week and Biden announced he intends to cut U.S. coal and petroleum emissions in half by 2030.

The report, from a working group comprising several federal agencies, identifies $37.9 billion in currently available funding across a wide variety of departments that can help support job creation, rural infrastructure and reclaiming abandoned mine lands.

“President Biden is committed to providing federal leadership in partnership with coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities to create good-paying union jobs, spur economic revitalization, remediate environmental degradation, and support energy workers,” the report says.

One of the hardest-hit areas is coal country. The report seeks an immediate focus on the 25 most coal-dependent areas, with Appalachia top of the list, in addition to Alaska and states in the west such as Wyoming and Utah. The Department of Energy will begin taking applications for a $75 million fund for carbon capture and storage technology, the report says.

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7 deputies on leave after fatal shooting of Black man

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Seven North Carolina deputies have been placed on leave in the aftermath of a Black man being shot and killed by members of their department serving drug-related search and arrest warrants, authorities said Friday.

The disclosure comes as calls increase for the release of deputy body camera footage amid signs, including emergency scanner traffic, that Andrew Brown Jr. was shot in the back and killed as he was trying to drive away.

Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Aaron Wallio confirmed the number of deputies on leave due to the shooting in an email Friday. Sheriff Tommy Wooten II has previously said that multiple deputies fired shots and were placed on leave after Brown was killed Wednesday morning.

Wallio’s email also said that another three deputies have recently resigned, but he later clarified that the resignations were unrelated to the shooting. He said the department has about 55 total sworn deputies.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper joined calls for the swift release of the body camera footage, saying that initial reports of what happened “are tragic and extremely concerning.”

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Resilient redwood forest a beacon of hope for California

BIG BASIN REDWOODS STATE PARK, Calif. — Eight months after a lightning siege ignited more than 650 wildfires in Northern California, the state’s oldest park — which was almost entirely ablaze — is doing what nature does best: recovering.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is closed, but during a backcountry guided tour earlier this week, clusters of chartreuse shoots were budding on blackened redwood branches and trunks. Bright yellow bush poppies, white violets and star lilies dotted the scorched landscape. Hillsides of purple California lilac shrubs were fixing nitrogen in the soil. And new Knobcone pine trees, which need temperatures above 350 degrees to pop open their cones and drop their seeds, were sprouting.

“I think nature is finding a way,” State Parks senior environmental scientist Joanne Kerbavaz said.

Scientists, parks advocates and conservations say the resiliency of Big Basin Redwoods State Park is cause for hope well beyond the Santa Cruz mountains. In California, COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped rapidly as a widespread vaccine rollout appears to be turning the corner. And in the burned communities that lost homes in last year’s fires, construction vehicles crowd narrow roads to lay new foundations.

At first glance, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a mess. The entire 18,000-acre (7,284-hectare) park, which has about 1 million visitors a year, burned hard and fast for 24 hours and is still smoldering in a few spots, causing nearly $200 million in damage.

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In court, Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty to new charges

NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell faced her trial judge in person for the first time Friday as lawyers squabbled over exactly when she should be tried on sex trafficking charges that allege that she procured teenage girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse at his posh residences.

Maxwell, a British socialite and one-time girlfriend of the financier, pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and an additional sex trafficking charge that were added in a rewritten indictment released last month by a Manhattan federal court grand jury. The new indictment stretched the timespan of the charges from three years to a decade.

Wearing a prison blue short-sleeved smock, Maxwell sat with her lawyers before U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan took the bench in a courtroom where everyone wore masks and sat apart from one another to protect against the coronavirus. Members of the media were in the jury box.

Maxwell answered “Yes, your honor” when she was asked if she had seen the indictment and “I have, your honor” when asked if she had ample opportunity to review it.

Her lawyers maintain they need months of additional preparation because of the new charges, making it impossible to keep a July 12 trial date. Prosecutors have said the new charges should not require substantial additional work because they add a single victim to the three already described in the indictment.

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LGBT activists not excited by Jenner’s campaign for governor

Though Caitlyn Jenner is one of the most famous transgender people in America, the announcement of her candidacy for California governor was greeted hostilely by one of the state’s largest LGBTQ-rights groups and by many trans activists around the country.

“Make no mistake: we can’t wait to elect a #trans governor of California,” tweeted the group, Equality California. “But @Caitlyn_Jenner spent years telling the #LGBTQ+ community to trust Donald Trump. We saw how that turned out. Now she wants us to trust her? Hard pass.”

Jenner – the former Olympic gold medalist and reality TV personality — is a Republican and supported Trump in 2016. She later criticized his administration for some discriminatory actions against transgender people, but has failed to convince many trans-rights advocates that she is a major asset to their cause.

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“Caitlyn Jenner is a deeply unqualified hack who doesn’t care about anyone but herself,” tweeted trans activist Charlotte Clymer. “Her views are terrible. She is a horrible candidate.”

Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender writer and professor at Barnard College, appeared on multiple episodes of Jenner’s TV show, “I Am Cait” and considers her a friend. But she’s not an admirer of Jenner’s politics.

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