News Wrap: 3 police officers, 2 paramedics indicted in death of Elijah McClain

In our news wrap Wednesday, three suburban Denver police officers and two paramedics have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. President Joe Biden had his first face-to-face meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A federal judge in White Plains, New York has approved the bankruptcy reorganization plan for oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news, the Taliban worked to restore stability across Afghanistan, as new concerns emerged about the plight of the Afghan people who remain in the country. A senior United Nations official warned that Afghanistan's food supply could run out this month, and estimated that a third of the population is facing a hunger crisis.

    Meanwhile, a technical team from Qatar arrived in Kabul to help the Taliban reopen the airport to aid deliveries and other flights. We will have more on Afghanistan later in the program.

    Back in this country, firefighters in Northern California made more progress today against the massive Caldor Fire raging near the Lake Tahoe resort area. The flames are now 20 percent contained, after burning more than 204,000 acres since mid-August.

    Stephanie Sy has the latest.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Plumes of black smoke rose above the historic Echo Summit mountain pass early this morning, signs that the Caldor Fire is creeping closer to South Lake Tahoe, the most populous city on the lake.

    Nearly 4,000 firefighters battling the raging inferno made some progress today. The fire has already destroyed hundreds of structures.

  • Keith Wade, Caldor Fire Incident Command:

    We have been resource-starved here at times. We're continuing to get more people sent to us, but it's still not enough, as this fire is shown to be a huge challenge for everyone involved. Fuel

    load is extreme out in these areas. Everything is easily ignitable. And the vegetation is very thick and dense and the areas are sometimes inaccessible.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Thousands of members of California's National Guard have also been deployed to assist with the fire response and evacuations. For days, erratic winds and low humidity have spread spot fires, with embers flying and spreading the flames.

  • Steve Vollmer, Fire Behavior Analyst:

    Those ember casts that it throws out are going over a mile in distance. So that's what's propagating the spread of the fire right now, is that long-range downwind spotting of that ember cast.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And the thick smoke has made it difficult for crews to navigate the rough terrain. On Monday, some 50,000 people in the popular resort region were placed under evacuation orders, snarling traffic for hours.

    A tourist area that's usually filled with thousands of holiday visitors is now almost empty. Military vehicles, fire crew personnel, and an odd bear were seen in the city's smoke-filled streets. Only a few residents remain.

  • David Duet, South Lake Tahoe Resident:

    No one's stupid enough to stay when the flames are right mounting around the outside of the meadow. So, as long as the smoke isn't so bad and the flames aren't real close, we're going to stick it out, you know? But, if not, we will hightail it out.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Evacuation orders have also expanded to communities in neighboring Nevada, along the California state line.

    Meanwhile, the massive Dixie Fire is also still burning through the Sierra Nevada. It's the second largest wildfire in the state's history, and has burned over 844,000 acres since it began in early July. Scientists say climate change has made worse the hot and dry weather conditions fueling the West's extreme wildfires.

    And it's also contributed to the warming of water, making hurricanes such as Ida in the Gulf Coast more dangerous.

    Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist and the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy.

  • Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist:

    Climate change didn't cause Hurricane Ida, but it definitely made it worse, and that's what climate change is, a threat multiplier. It's taking events that occur naturally and it's making them bigger, stronger, more dangerous and more damaging.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    That includes wildfires.

    Imagine you had a green, wet wood, and you accidentally dropped a match into it. What would happen? Not much.

    Then imagine you had a pile of bone-dry kindling, and you accidentally dropped a match into it. What would happen? A huge conflagration. That's the difference between with or without climate change.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    This year is on track to be California's worst fire season on record, and it's far from over.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A new report out today from the United Nations' weather agency has found that weather disasters are more frequent and more severe than 50 years ago due to climate change. Events like fires and floods are becoming — are happening more than four times more often, and causing seven times more damage than in the 1970s. But they are causing fewer deaths, due to better warnings and preparedness.

    A Texas ban on most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy went into effect today. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to act on an emergency appeal to block the law, which is the most restrictive in the nation. The law also empowers private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who helps another person get a prohibited abortion.

    We will return to this right after the news summary.

    Three suburban Denver police officers and two paramedics have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain. Officers stopped the 23-year-old Black man after a 911 caller reported he was acting suspiciously. They put him in a choke hold, and injected him with a sedative before he died.

    Today's announcement is part of a new investigation into his death after his autopsy was inconclusive.

    President Biden had his first face-to-face meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky since taking office. Zelensky was a key figure in former President Trump's first impeachment, after Mr. Trump pressured him to investigate then-candidate Biden and his son Hunter.

    Today, Mr. Biden pledged to give $60 million in new military aid to Ukraine to counter Russian hostility.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: And the United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, and, and our support for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Zelensky welcomed the assistance, and said he wanted to drum up U.S. support for Ukraine's bid for NATO membership.

    In Nigeria, gunmen abducted 73 young students in a new school attack today. The assailants descended on the secondary school in a remote village in the northwestern part of the country. Their kidnappings came days after three other groups of hostages were freed, reportedly after ransom payments were made. Overall, more than 1,000 students have been kidnapped in Northern Nigeria since December.

    The Pan American Health Organization is out today with some concerning new COVID-19 data. As infections surge in North America, hospitalization rates among young people and adults under the age of 50 are higher today than at any point in the pandemic. And three-quarters of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean have not been fully vaccinated against COVID.

    Rescue crews are searching for five people still missing off the coast of Southern California a day after a U.S. Navy helicopter crashed. Officials said the aircraft went down Tuesday afternoon during a routine flight 70 miles off the coast of San Diego. One sailor was rescued. There was no immediate word what caused the crash.

    A federal judge in New York today approved the bankruptcy reorganization plan for OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. The plan will help settle thousands of lawsuits over the company's role in the deadly opioid epidemic. The Sackler family will give up ownership of the company, and must pay $4.5 billion. But they will be shielded from future opioid lawsuits.

    And on Wall Street today, trading was light on this first day of September. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 48 points to close at 35312. The Nasdaq rose 50 points to notch another all-time high. And the S&P 500 added one.

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