World leaders meet at the United Nations for General Assembly
On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the United Nations held the first day of its annual General Assembly. The event was in person for the first time in two years since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was at the UN headquarters in New York City. More than 100 world leaders participated in person, while about 60 delivered prerecorded statements.
The session’s opening happens every year on a Tuesday, on the third week of September. The General Assembly meetings will happen “intensively from September to December and resume in January until all issues on the agenda are addressed – which often is just before the next session starts,” the UN website said.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the ceremony, and he said the world has never been more threatened and divided.
“I’m here to sound the alarm,” Guterres said. “The world must wake up.”
President John Biden delivered his speech encouraging a “peaceful, prosperous future for all.” He advocated for global unity in the fight against COVID-19, climate change, and technological threats.
“No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” Biden said. “Our security, our prosperity and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view as never before.”
Biden defended his decision to end the war in Afghanistan. Biden said the use of force should be “our tool of last resort, not our first.”
“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against COVID-19 or its future variants.”
Google and Apple removed the voting app in Russia after government pressure
Apple and Google removed an app responsible for protest voting in Russia. The removal is directly related to the Russian elections happening on Sept. 24, as it was created by allies of the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
After Russian authorities argued the app to be illegal, Apple and Google employees received prosecution threats. Silicon Valley, the owner of the app, did not resist the pressure from the Russian government.
Ivan Zhdanov, part of Navalny’s team, said on Twitter that the decision goes against free speech.
“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” Zhdanov said. “Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.”
According to The New York Times, the pressure on Google and Apple represents how threatful the Kremlin finds Navalny’s “smart voting” and the role technology plays in politics. If an opposition vote was confirmed, it could defeat United Russia candidates in crucial districts. Only a simple majority is required to win.
David Kaye, a former UN official, said Apple and Google were put in a difficult position.
“They are de facto carrying out an element of Russian repression,” Kaye said. “Whether it’s justifiable or not, it’s complicity and the companies need to explain it.”
The US will lift restrictions on fully vaccinated international travelers
On Sept. 20, the White House pandemic coordinator, Jeff Zients said the Biden administration will lift international travel restrictions starting in November. The decision ends the travel ban implemented over a year ago at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening the United States borders for fully vaccinated travelers.
Passengers will need to provide proof of vaccination before boarding into the United States as well as a negative COVID-19 test within three days before traveling.
Zients said international travel is an important way to connect the world.
“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange of ideas and culture,” Zients said. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”
Unvaccinated Americans traveling home will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test one day before boarding and will need to test again upon arrival in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also ordered a contact tracking system where the airlines will collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers and follow up with them after arrival for any symptoms of the coronavirus.
Gabrielle Petito matches the description of remains found in Wyoming
On Sept. 19, the FBI confirmed they found human remains matching Gabrielle Petito’s description in Bridgerteton National Forest in Wyoming. Petito was reported missing on Sept. 11 during a cross-country trip with Brian Laundrie, her fiancé, who remains a person of interest.
Charles Jones, an FBI agent, said in a news conference that a full forensic identification was not yet completed to confirm the remains were Petito’s. Jones also said the cause of death has not been confirmed.
“On behalf of the FBI personnel and our partners, I would like to extend sincere, sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family,” Jones said. “As every parent can imagine, this is an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We ask that you all respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of their daughter.”
Landrie’s parents said he returned to his home after the one-month long trip without Petito but have not seen him in days, as the authorities continue to search for him.
Defense attorney Frank Urbanic announces OKC mayoral bid
On Sept. 20, criminal defense attorney Frank Urbanic said he plans to run for mayor of Oklahoma City. The announcement comes after Urbanic sued Mayor David Holt and Gov. Kevin Stitt over lockdown restrictions.
At the end of 2020, Urbanic filed lawsuits advocating for bars and restaurant owners, after Stitt announced an executive order restricting restaurants to sell food after 11 p.m. in hopes of containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the case was dismissed in May 2021, Urbanic appealed the decision, questioning the legal authority for local governments to close business during states of emergency.
Urbanic is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a major in the Air Force Reserve. He served as GOP precinct chair and district chair, and as a member of the Oklahoma County GOP’s executive committee.
Urbanic is a Republican and said to The Oklahoman he intends to protect business and workers, favoring property rights and limited government.
“Elect me and I’m not going to shut your business down,” Urbanic said. “I want to see how money can be better spent for Oklahoma City residents.”
Oklahoma City Thunder updates COVID-19 protocols for the fall season
On Sept. 21, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced new audience protocols for COVID-19. Fans will have to prove either full or partial vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before the game. The new requirements begin Oct. 4.
The Thunder news release still recommends the use of face masks inside the arena, while the NBA has yet to announce additional guidelines for COVID-19 protocols.
Thunder Chairman Clay Bennet said the Thunder is committed to protecting the health and safety of its fans and community.
“While there are no perfect answers, our health experts tell us the vaccine has proven to be effective in slowing the spread of this coronavirus, including the Delta variant,” Bennet said. “We feel the best option to keep our community safe is to make sure those who attend our games have a reduced chance of contracting or spreading the coronavirus.”
To continue to monitor the situation, Bennet said the Thunder partnered with OU Health, the NBA and other health experts.
OU Health Chief Quality officer, Dale Bratzler, said the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma has taken a great toll on healthcare workers and hospital resources. Bratzler said the measure taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder is beneficial.
“I am extremely pleased to hear the steps the Oklahoma City Thunder is taking to not only help reduce the risk of transmission during games, but in encouraging Oklahomans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Bratzler said. “Vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and are quite effective in reducing the risk of breakthrough COVID-19 infections.”