Joe Biden made his virtual debut as president on the world stage on Friday, pledging “unshakeable” US support for the transatlantic alliance in what he portrayed as an epoch-defining struggle to safeguard democracy.
In videoconference remarks first to the G7 and then the Munich Security Conference, Biden sought to assure America’s allies of his determination to bury the legacy left by his predecessor.
Donald Trump was not mentioned but almost every sentence of Biden’s speech to the Munich conference was framed by how the new US president would reverse the policies and approach of the past four years.
In the wake of the January insurrection in Washington in which Trump’s supporters had attempted to overturn the result of the US election by force, Biden said neither he nor Europe’s leaders could take democracy for granted.
“In so many places, including Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault,” Biden said. “Historians are going to examine and write about this moment as an inflection point and I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy will and must prevail.”
“That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission,” the president said, in a livestreamed speech to Munich, where he shared the virtual stage with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.”
How the winter storms robbed Texas of a week of vaccine distribution
Shipment delays and vaccination site closures triggered by the catastrophic winter storm have essentially robbed Texas of an entire week in the race to protect Americans against Covid-19, even as widespread power outages, water shortages and lack of food cause yet another humanitarian crisis in the state.
“Everything was put on ice — literally — this week,” said Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations at the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Shipping hubs also affected by the winter weather generally didn’t risk transporting most of the precious vaccine doses for jabs in Texas amid the storm. Exceptions included 125,000 Moderna vaccines that arrived at hub providers last Friday and a handful of Pfizer doses that were supposed to make it by Wednesday, though some sites hadn’t received them on time, Van Deusen said.
But “even if it takes a day or two to get them delivered as conditions improve, it’s not gonna put the vaccine in jeopardy,” he added.
If vaccine providers have doses that are going to spoil and can’t be stored safely, they’re up for grabs to anyone who’s willing to take them, regardless of whether that person meets Texas’ current eligibility criteria prioritizing healthcare workers, long-term care residents, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.
But other than a storage facility in Houston’s Harris county, where power went out, a backup generator failed, and thousands of doses were quickly redistributed to a university, the county jail, and local hospitals, Van Deusen hasn’t heard of too many desperate scrambles to reallocate shots before they expire.
Both vaccines — and especially Moderna’s — have enough of a shelf life to weather the storm if they’re able to be stored correctly.
“We haven’t fortunately gotten a whole lot of reports, at least to this point, of vaccine being spoiled,” Van Deusen said. “But, you know, people may just now be getting back into places, or over the next few days.”
Icy, slick roads have caused treacherous driving conditions across Texas, making it incredibly dangerous for people to grab much-needed groceries or get to hotels and warming centers, much less attend their clinical appointments. Likewise, as the natural disaster and subsequent failure of basic infrastructure have wreaked havoc on the state, vaccination sites have shuttered for days.
Around 10.6% of Texans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 4.3% have received both doses, according to the New York Times, lagging behind the nation at large.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2.2 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and roughly 340,000 probable cases have ravaged the state, killing almost 41,000 residents so far.
The US has officially rejoined the Paris climate agreement today, 107 days after it exited the global effort to stave off disastrous global heating at the behest of Donald Trump. Joe Biden moved to reverse the withdrawal on his first day in the White House.
In an online event to mark the re-entry, John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, said he was “super excited” and admitted that “for the last four years there were a lot of times when a lot of us thought the failure of this enterprise may rest on one word – Trump.”
The world is still committed to action on the climate crisis, Kerry said, although far more needs to be done to avert catastrophic flooding, heatwaves and other disasters. “Paris is not enough,” said the former US secretary of state.
Crucial UN climate talks will be held in Scotland later this year and the Biden administration is starting to cajole other countries, including the fossil fuel-friendly leaderships of Brazil and Australia, to accelerate emissions cuts. Last night Kerry told Al Gore, the former US vice president, that the talks present the “last, best hope” to avoid climate breakdown.