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Female Government Workers In Kabul Told To Stay Home In Latest Taliban Rule

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Female Government Workers In Kabul Told To Stay Home In Latest Taliban Rule


Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said that many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers.

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Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said that many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers.

AP

The Taliban-appointed mayor of Kabul is telling most of the city government’s female employees to stay home.

In a new ruling passed down by the Taliban, Kabul interim mayor Hamdullah Namony said that women working for the city’s government are to stay home pending a further decision, according to The Associated Press.

The only exception to the new rule applies to women whose jobs cannot be replaced by men, including those working in the city’s design and engineering departments and women’s public toilet attendants, he said.

Speaking in a news conference Sunday, Namony said that before the Taliban takeover in August, just under a third of the city’s 3,000 employees were women. He didn’t give an exact number on just how many employees across Kabul will now be forced to stay home.

“There are some areas that men can’t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfill their duties, there is no alternative for it,” Namony said, according to the AP.

A Taliban spokesperson last month told women across the country to stay at home for their own safety in what he called a temporary measure. The Taliban haven’t gone into full detail laying out the specific guidance on how long this new rule will be in place and whether or not women will ever be able to return to work.

However, in light of staffing shortages in the health care, the Taliban on Aug. 28 announced they would allow all 2,000 female public health care workers to return to work.

The former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, pictured on Saturday. The Taliban have replaced the office with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.”

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The former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, pictured on Saturday. The Taliban have replaced the office with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.”

Bernat Armangue/AP

The new Taliban government’s latest move is just one of several in the last few days stripping back the rights of girls and women.

On Friday, Taliban officials told middle and high school-aged boys to return to the classroom but made no mention of girls.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Pashtana Durrani, founder and executive director of LEARN, a nonprofit focused on women’s education in Afghanistan, in an interview on Weekend Edition.

Durrani said that while Taliban rulers haven’t announced a ban, they haven’t addressed the question of where girls in grades 7-12 will go in the meantime if they aren’t receiving their education.

“Where should they go? What should they be doing? … They could’ve been learning,” Durrani said.

Female college students, too, are also facing restrictions from the Taliban, as they were told that their classes would now take place in “gender-segregated settings” in addition to women abiding by a “strict Islamic dress code,” The Associated Press reported.

Also on Friday, the Taliban closed the Women’s Affairs Ministry and set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” in its place, resulting in over a dozen women protesting Sunday outside the building.

Mahbouba Seraj, the head of the Afghan Women’s Network, told The Associated Press she was surprised by the new orders restricting women and girls passed down by the Taliban, saying it’s becoming “really troublesome.”

“Is this the stage where the girls are going to be forgotten?” Seraj said. “I know they don’t believe in giving explanations, but explanations are very important.”



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Texas School Official Apologizes For ‘Opposing’ Views On Holocaust Comment

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Texas School Official Apologizes For ‘Opposing’ Views On Holocaust Comment

A north Texas school superintendent has apologized for an administrator’s instruction that students be taught “opposing” views on the Holocaust.

The executive director of curriculum and instruction at the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake was recorded earlier this month suggesting to a group of teachers that a new Texas law requires them to present “opposing” perspectives on events, no matter how horrifying they might be.

“Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has opposing — that has other perspectives,” instructed the official, Gina Peddy, as teachers reacted in stunned surprise

NBC News published a recording of the comments on Thursday.

District Superintendent Lane Ledbetter issued a statement later on Thursday offering his “sincere apology,” and insisting that Peddy’s comments were “in no way to convey the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history.”

He added: “Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides to the Holocaust.”

Peddy was reacting to the state’s hugely controversial new curriculum law, which eliminated a requirement to teach that the Ku Klux Klan is “morally wrong,” among numerous other changes.

The law is a thinly veiled attempt to overwhelm the teaching of critical race theory in schools with requiring “opposing” views.

“The idea is to whitewash American history of any legacy of racism,” state Rep. James Talarico (D) said of the law when it passed. An additional consequence of whitewashing racism appears to be soft-pedaling anti-Semitism.

The law prohibits teachers from discussing “a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” If a teacher does engage in such a discussion in the classroom, the educator is required to “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

The Holocaust — namely, Nazi Germany’s murder of 6 million Jews — is not a “widely debated” or “currently controversial” issue.

Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association union, told The Washington Post that Peddy’s instruction to teachers was “reprehensible.”

“We’re saddened to hear it, but we’re not terribly surprised,” said Robison. “There is enough vagueness and ambiguity in that law that some educators are overreacting to it, as we feared that they would.”

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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises

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Joe Manchin’s objections to a clean energy program threaten Biden’s climate promises


Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks to members of the media while departing the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 7. Manchin has reportedly told the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

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President Biden had promised to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, but an essential tool the administration planned to use to achieve that goal now appears out of reach.

The New York Times reported Friday that Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, has indicated to the White House that he opposes the key climate measure in Biden’s multitrillion-dollar climate and social programs package.

The president needs the support of all 50 Democratic senators in order to pass the measure through a process known as reconciliation.

The program in question is the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would financially reward utilities that transition to renewable energy and penalize those which do not. Experts say that the program would sharply reduce greenhouse gas pollution tied to electricity generation — which today accounts for roughly a quarter of U.S. emissions.

Manchin is at odds with his Democratic colleagues

Manchin, who leads the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said during an appearance on CNN in September that energy companies are already transitioning to clean energy.

“Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing,” he said. “Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”

Manchin’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.

Sen. Tina Smith, a Minnesota Democrat and champion of the clean energy measures, said in an interview with the Star Tribune newspaper that Manchin’s characterization is “just not right.”

“In fact, what we’re doing is we’re providing utilities with support, so that they can rapidly add clean power without raising utility rates,” Smith said.

Ties to the fossil fuel industry

Coal is a dominant industry in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.

As of 2019, the state is the second-largest U.S. coal producer and relies on the fuel for 91% of its energy needs. The energy sector accounts for 6% of the state’s employment, compared with a national average of roughly 2%.

The senator also has personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Last year, according to his public financial disclosure, Manchin received about $492,000 in dividends on stock from Enersystems, Inc., the coal business he founded in 1988, which is now controlled by his son Joseph. According to OpenSecrets, which tracks political fundraising, Manchin is the top recipient of donations from the oil and gas and coal mining industries this election cycle.

After news broke of Manchin’s reported opposition to the clean energy program, Smith issued a warning to the White House on Twitter.

“Let’s be clear: the Build Back Better budget must meaningfully address climate change,” Smith said, using the administration’s branding for the legislative package.

“I’m open to different approaches, but I cannot support a bill that won’t get us where we need to be on emissions,” Smith said. “There are 50 Democratic senators. Every one of us is needed get this passed.”

Smith told NPR this month that she and Manchin have been in regular contact about Manchin’s concerns.

U.S. credibility is on the line

In two weeks, world leaders will meet in Scotland for a major United Nations conference on climate change, COP26.

President Biden and John Kerry, his climate envoy, have been working to build U.S. credibility on climate issues after years of inaction and climate change denialism.

In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Kerry said that the administration’s trouble passing its own climate policies hurts the effort to spur climate action abroad.

“I’m not going to pretend it’s the best way to send the best message. I mean, we need to do these things,” Kerry said. He said that if Congress fails to pass significant climate change legislation, “it would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again.”

A crucial moment for the health of the planet

Kerry also indicated that the conference talks are likely to fall short of securing the pledges that would be necessary, if met, to limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, from pre-industrial levels.

Under current worldwide commitments, global emissions are expected to rise by about 16% in 2030, compared to 2010. That would put the planet on track for more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by 2100.

At that point, rising sea levels would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves would be significantly more common and more intense floods and droughts would potentially displace tens of millions of people.

Lauren Sommer contributed reporting.



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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows

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Sea Otters Are Adorable Stewards Of Underwater Sea Grass Meadows


It turns out when sea otters are foraging for dinner, they’re also doing a huge favor to the ecosystem.

According to new research, the critters have positive effect on sea grass meadows, a crucial part of the underwater environment that help stabilize the ocean floor, improve water quality and serve as food for some species and habitat for others.

Nuno Valadas / 500px via Getty Images

Sea otters disturb these meadows when they dig for clams, and their presence is marked by bare patches and indentations from all the digging, according to National Geographic. Though some might assume that means otters aren’t so great for the grass, ecologist Jane Watson noticed in the 1990s that where sea otters thrived, so did sea grass, The New York Times reported.

Decades later, Watson’s idea inspired her former student, Erin Foster, to lead a study on the matter. Watson, who conducted the seagrass research while completing a PhD at the University of Victoria, co-authored a paper on the findings, which was published Friday in the journal Science.

As it turned out, Watson was right all along. The researchers studied meadows of eelgrass ― a type of sea grass ― in British Columbia, and found that they had significantly higher genetic diversity in areas where otters were present. Not only that, but the longer that otters had been living in a particular area, the higher the genetic diversity among the eelgrass.

Eelgrass.
Eelgrass.

Andrey Nekrasov via Getty Images

So how do otters do this? The answer has to do with the fact that eelgrass can reproduce two ways ― clonally or sexually. Clonally basically means that each new plant is genetically identical to its predecessor; sexually means that the plants reproduce via pollination, and that each new plant has genetic material from each of its parent plants. The researchers believe that otters disturbing the grass specifically encourages sexual reproduction in the eelgrass, which creates a more genetically diverse meadow.

That’s good news for the grass, which is vulnerable to numerous threats, from climate change-fueled ocean acidification and warming water temperatures to pollution from fertilizer runoff and severe disruption from human activities like dredging for development. More genetic diversity gives the grass a better shot of long-term survival.

“Genetic diversity typically builds resilience to change, and considering the challenges we’re facing … this will be important for eelgrass meadows,” Foster told National Geographic.

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