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The Morning Dispatch: Haiti in Crisis
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The Morning Dispatch: Haiti in Crisis

Plus: The Olympics runs into yet another round of COVID restrictions in Japan.

Happy Friday! Crazy how it’s always the people you most expect who try to extort Nike for $20 million and then get sentenced to a couple years in jail for it. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Joe Biden announced in a speech Thursday that the United States’ military mission in Afghanistan will conclude August 31—slightly earlier than his original target of September 11—and that his administration is working to accelerate the process by which Afghan interpreters can receive Special Immigrant Visas to come to the United States. In response to a reporter’s question, Biden said he does not trust the Taliban, but trusts “the capacity of the Afghan military” to stave off the collapse of the Afghan government.

  • Hours after Pfizer’s president of research and development told the Associated Press the pharmaceutical giant plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize a third-dose booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control issued a joint statement reiterating that fully vaccinated Americans do not currently need a booster shot. “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed,” the statement read.

  • The Japanese government on Thursday declared a new state of emergency over the spread of coronavirus within the country, leading to a reversal of the Olympic host country’s earlier decision to allow some fan attendance at the games.

  • WinRed and ActBlue, firms which process online donations for Republicans and Democrats, respectively, are under scrutiny from four state attorneys general for allegedly misleading practices related to pre-checked boxes for recurring donations.

  • In a reversal of its previous position, the FDA is now recommending that the Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm be prescribed only to patients in the early stages of the disease. (The drug was only studied in early-stage patients.)

Haiti in Crisis

Early Wednesday morning, an armed group invaded the Port-au-Prince home of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, killing him and critically injuring his wife, Martine. The president was shot at least 12 times. No one else in the house was harmed, though Moïse’s daughter was also home at the time. 

24 hours later, security forces engaged with the alleged attackers in Port-au-Prince, killing four and arresting two. Haiti’s chief of police, Léon Charles, told reporters that additional assailants were still at large. Four others have since been arrested, including James Solages, a Haitian American. One other suspect is reportedly a Haitian American, but the authorities have not yet released the suspect’s name.  They have also not yet released any evidence of the involvement of those arrested. 

Haiti’s ambassador to the United States, Bocchit Edmond, called the assailants “well-trained professionals, killers, commandos.” The group allegedly dressed as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials, but both Haitian and U.S. authorities have confirmed they had no connection to the DEA. 

In light of the assassination, it is unclear who is functionally in charge of the government. Claude Joseph—interim prime minister since March 2020—assumed leadership of the country despite objections from other government officials. Just a day before his assassination, Moïse singlehandedly appointed Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, as prime minister. Henry was scheduled to be sworn in this week, but Joseph has declared a “state of siege” for the next 15 days with the support of Haiti’s law enforcement and military leadership. 

“I am a prime minister with a decree passed in my favor,” Mr. Henry told Le Nouvelliste. Henry asserts that he was duly appointed, while Joseph was simply an interim administrator

The chief justice of Haiti’s Supreme Court, René Sylvestre—who would have taken control of the government following Moïse’s death per Haiti’s constitutional line of succession—died in late June with COVID-19. His position remains unfilled.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday that the Biden administration had been in touch with Joseph, and that it echoes his calls for calm.

“We continue to call for elections to happen this year,” she added. “And we believe they should proceed.”

Moïse—a banana exporter turned politician who campaigned for his position as Neg Bannan Nan, Banana Man—was elected president in November 2016. Less than 21 percent of Haiti’s population participated in the election. His tenure was marred by economic crisis, gang violence, and protests. 

“You have this situation where the institutions are not working, where the economy is stagnated … the politics has been extremely volatile. The current government has been challenged by the population. There have been massive accusations of corruption,” Robert Fatton, a professor at the University of Virginia, told NPR. “So you name it, in terms of instability and institutional decay, you have it at the moment in Haiti.”

Between January and April, nearly 200 kidnappings occurred throughout the country. Almost 15,000 residents of Port-au-Prince have been displaced due to gang violence. Nearly 60 percent of the workforce makes less than $2 a day, and inflation in the region is rising exponentially. The country is facing a food and fuel crisis.

For months, opposition groups have demanded Moïse step down. In February, Moïse arrested 23 people, including a police inspector, a Supreme Court judge, and a former presidential candidate for allegedly plotting his assassination. In the last year, Moïse has passed sweeping executive decrees, including the creation of an intelligence agency that reported only to him and an expansion of the definition of terrorism to include domestic protests and other forms of political dissent.

President Moïse had been ruling by executive decree since January 2020, when he refused to hold parliamentary elections, effectively dissolving the power of the parliament. At the time, Moïse told The Economist he would bring a new constitution up for a popular vote in 2020 and hold parliamentary elections afterward. Only 11 elected officials remained in office, including Moïse, as a result of the delay.

The constitutional referendum was rescheduled for June 2021, then delayed until later this year. Parliamentary elections are currently scheduled for September 26, 2021. 

The Olympics, Sans Fans

On March 24, 2020, as governments around the world were declaring total war on the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Olympic Committee bowed to the inevitable, announcing the Tokyo 2020 games would be postponed. A week later, the committee set a new starting date for the competition: July 23, 2021. 

As that date has approached, the return of the Olympics has symbolized how far the world has come in its fight against the virus. But this week, that triumphant narrative got a gut check when the Japanese government announced it would institute a state of emergency for the fourth time since the beginning of the pandemic to counter new COVID-19 surges in the capital city.

For the Olympics, the consequence is simple: No fans will be permitted to attend. The order will take effect on Monday and last through August 22—meaning the Olympic Games, which open on July 23 and conclude on August 8, will take place entirely under emergency measures.  

The declaration comes after organizers announced in June that up to 10,000 domestic fans would be permitted inside Olympic venues despite public opposition to hosting the games. Fans from abroad were barred from attending the games earlier this year.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said after he announced the state of emergency on Thursday.

“This is a sorry message that we have to announce,” Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, told reporters. “I am very sorry for those people who will be disappointed. But in order to prevent the spread, this was the only choice available for us to take. I hope that you understand the difficult choice that we made.” 

On Wednesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government reported 920 new coronavirus cases, bringing the current seven-day average for the capital city to 632 new cases per day. Nationwide, Japan reported 2,191 new cases.

These numbers are seemingly manageable for a country of more than 120 million. But mitigating the spread of COVID-19 remains a considerable issue in Japan, as the country has fully vaccinated only 15.2 percent of its population due to vaccine hesitancy and a shortage of medical staff to deliver the shots. 

The Japanese Government and Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee have faced considerable backlash from Japanese citizens who oppose hosting the games this summer as vaccination rates remain low and positive coronavirus cases rise.

In May, a poll found that 83 percent of Japanese citizens do not want the Olympics or Paralympics to be held in Tokyo this summer. The public backlash to hosting the Olympics was compounded when about 10,000 of the 80,000 unpaid volunteers for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics told organizers they would not participate in the games. 

The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper with the second-largest print circulation in the world, joined the chorus of calls for the cancellation of the games last week. 

“We demand that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga evaluate the situation calmly and objectively, and decide against holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer,” the newspaper said in an editorial headlined, “Prime Minister Suga, please call off the Olympics this summer.”

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College who writes extensively about the Olympics, told The Dispatch that the Japanese government’s decision to bar fans from Olympic venues will cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The Japanese government is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money,” he said. “They’ve already spent between $30–40 billion and were hoping to make at least $900 million from spectators. After they banned fans from abroad, they were hoping to make $200 million from domestic spectators. Now, they’re not going to make any of that.”

Worth Your Time

  • If you’re anything like your Morning Dispatchers, you’re getting a bit tired of hearing about the New York mayoral primary. But if you feel inclined to read one more article about it, make it Perry Bacon Jr.’s thoughtful piece for the Washington Post, which analyzes what the race reveals about the Democratic Party. “The progressive left faces some real structural disadvantages, so it probably needs to outperform the party’s center-left on electoral tactics—and that isn’t happening right now,” he writes. “Until more very liberal Democrats get better at politics, they will be stuck trying to push their ideas onto centrists like Biden and Adams who hold the power, a process that will have some successes but also many frustrations.”

  • In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting piece on a new North Carolina bill that would restrict the promotion of certain concepts in public schools. “In short, proponents of the North Carolina bill have adopted critical race theorists’ call for explicitly limiting discriminatory speech in education, while bill opponents have rejected it,” he writes. And later in the article: “The closer one looks at the particulars, the more it seems as though the North Carolina bill’s advocates would be securing a symbolic political victory rather than a policy victory with any significant classroom consequences.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • On Thursday’s Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah chat with Peter Canellos, Politico editor at large and the author of a new book about former Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan. Tune in to hear Canellos explain how Harlan went from being a Southern slave owner to the lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the infamous Supreme Court case that upheld segregation.

  • Even those defending anti-critical race theory speech codes can’t justify the laws actually being passed now, David argues in Thursday’s French Press (🔒). “Existing anti-CRT bills would ban teaching even some of the arguments of Martin Luther King,” he writes. “If you want to teach history, civics, and law more effectively, there are abundant examples of high quality curricula you can propose and enact rather than banning ideas.”

  • Thomas Joscelyn’s latest Vital Interests (🔒) tackles the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary and President Xi Jinping’s speech commemorating it. “The speech, which was transcribed into English and released on state-controlled media websites, provides a useful window into how Xi continues to see his party 100 years after its founding.”

  • Slate’s Will Saletan rejoined Jonah on The Remnant this week for a discussion of Biden’s first six months, critical race theory, former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter and Facebook, and much more.

Let Us Know

14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Louisiana won the Scripps National Spelling Bee last night. Did you participate in a spelling bee when you were in school? If so, do you remember the word that eventually tripped you up?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), Tripp Grebe (@tripper_grebe), Emma Rogers (@emw_96), Price St. Clair (@PriceStClair1), Jonathan Chew (@JonathanChew19), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).