In Brief: September 12, 2021

‘Don’t focus on hate’: World marks 20th anniversary of 9/11/01

NEW YORK — The world solemnly marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 on Saturday, grieving lost lives and shattered American unity in commemorations that unfolded just weeks after the bloody end of the Afghanistan war that was launched in response to the terror attacks.

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Victims’ relatives and four U.S. presidents paid respects at the sites where hijacked planes killed nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil.

Others gathered for observances from Portland, Maine, to Guam, or for volunteer projects on what has become a day of service in the U.S. Foreign leaders expressed sympathy over an attack that happened in the U.S. but claimed victims from more than 90 countries.

“It felt like an evil specter had descended on our world, but it was also a time when many people acted above and beyond the ordinary,” said Mike Low, whose daughter, Sara Low, was a flight attendant on the first plane that crashed.

“As we carry these 20 years forward, I find sustenance in a continuing appreciation for all of those who rose to be more than ordinary people,” the father told a ground zero crowd that included President Joe Biden and former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

UN chief: World is at `pivotal moment’ and must avert global crises

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dire warning that the world is moving in the wrong direction and faces “a pivotal moment” where continuing business as usual could lead to a breakdown of global order and a future of perpetual crisis. Changing course could signal a breakthrough to a greener and safer future, he said.

The U.N. chief said the world’s nations and people must reverse today’s dangerous trends and choose “the breakthrough scenario.”

The world is under “enormous stress” on almost every front, he said, and the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call demonstrating the failure of nations to come together and take joint decisions to help all people in the face of a global life-threatening emergency.

Guterres said this “paralysis” extends far beyond COVID-19 to the failures to tackle the climate crisis and “our suicidal war on nature and the collapse of biodiversity,” the “unchecked inequality” undermining the cohesion of societies, and technology’s advances “without guard rails to protect us from its unforeseen consequences.”

In other signs of a more chaotic and insecure world, he pointed to rising poverty, hunger and gender inequality after decades of decline, the extreme risk to human life and the planet from nuclear war and a climate breakdown, and the inequality, discrimination and injustice bringing people into the streets to protest “while conspiracy theories and lies fuel deep divisions within societies.”

Taliban flag rises over seat of power on fateful anniversary

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace Saturday, a spokesman said, as the U.S. and the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The white banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

The flag-raising marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said. The composition of the all-male, all-Taliban government was announced earlier this week and was met with disappointment by the international community which had hoped the Taliban would make good on an earlier promise of an inclusive lineup.

Two decades ago, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a heavy hand. Television was banned, and on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the horrific attacks on America, the news spread from crackling radios across the darkened streets of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The city rarely had electricity and barely a million people lived in Kabul at the time. It took the U.S.-led coalition just two months to drive the Taliban from the capital and by Dec. 7, 2001, they were defeated, driven from their last holdout in southern Kandahar, their spiritual heartland.

US pulls missile defenses in Saudi Arabia amid Yemen attacks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The U.S. has removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show.

The redeployment of the defenses from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh came as America’s Gulf Arab allies nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including their last-minute evacuations from Kabul’s besieged international airport.

While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the U.S.’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses. Tensions remain high as negotiations appear stalled in Vienna over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers, raising the danger of future confrontations in the region.

From wire sources

“Perceptions matter whether or not they’re rooted in a cold, cold reality. And the perception is very clear that the U.S. is not as committed to the Gulf as it used to be in the views of many people in decision-making authority in the region,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

“From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden — three successive presidents — taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment.”

Could Texas abortion ban strategy be double-edged sword?

SALT LAKE CITY — The unusual legal strategy used to ban most abortions in Texas is already increasingly being employed in Republican-led states to target pornography, LGBT rights and other hot-button cultural issues.

While private residents filing lawsuits is a fixture of some arenas like environmental law, some warn that expanding it and applying it to new areas could have a boomerang effect if Democrats were to use it on issues like gun control.

When Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice would sue over the Texas law, he said it could become a model “for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and protections.” He worried about the “damage that would be done to our society if states were allowed to implement laws and empower any private individual to infringe on another’s constitutional rights.”

The concept has already popped up in other states, including on issues like abortion where courts have sided against laws backed by conservatives.

In Missouri, a new law lets people sue local police departments who enforce federal gun laws. In Kansas, residents can go to court to challenge mask mandates and limits on public gatherings, and in Ohio people can sue over any action taken in response to an emergency.

Newsom, GOP rivals seek votes in recall’s final weekend

OAKLAND, Calif. — Democratic allies of California Gov. Gavin Newsom continued to express confidence Saturday in his chances of beating back a recall but warned his supporters not to let up on urging people to vote as they seek a decisive win, while Republicans said the contest is far from settled.

“We don’t need to just win by a little, we need to win by a lot. We need to send a message: Hands off our democracy, hands off our California,” said April Verrett, president of the SEIU Local 2015, as she rallied union members who have been among Newsom’s biggest supporters.

Newsom joined the Oakland rally as his Republican rivals made their cases up and down the state and both major parties sent volunteers out to knock on doors and urge their supporters to vote. The race concludes on Tuesday, and more than a third of voters have already mailed in their ballot or voted early in person. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, one of the GOP candidates, voted Saturday morning in his home city.

A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows Newsom likely to survive, and Democrats are making a stronger showing in early voting. But the GOP is expecting a larger turnout on Election Day, given many Republicans are skeptical of voting by mail.

“Anyone who is counting the recall out at this point is not really in touch with what’s actually going on with this movement,” said Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who is running to unseat Newsom and is favored by some of the recall’s original supporters.

Evangelical Lutheran church installs 1st transgender bishop

SAN FRANCISCO — The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America installed its first openly transgender bishop in a service held in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral on Saturday.

The Rev. Megan Rohrer will lead one of the church’s 65 synods, overseeing nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada.

“My call is … to be up to the same messy, loving things I was up to before,” Rohrer told worshippers. “But mostly, if you’ll let me, and I think you will, my hope is to love you and beyond that, to love what you love.”

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Rohrer was elected in May to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod after its current bishop announced his retirement.

“I step into this role because a diverse community of Lutherans in Northern California and Nevada prayerfully and thoughtfully voted to do a historic thing,” Rohrer said in a statement. “My installation will celebrate all that is possible when we trust God to shepherd us forward.”

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