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News brief: Climate talks, Astroworld festival, Nicaragua presidential election

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are starting off the final week of the COP26 climate summit, and there are still more demands for change and lots of deals that still need to be negotiated.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many of the world's leaders left big promises behind when they left Glasgow. More than 100 countries agreed to end deforestation by 2030. Some made broad promises to cut carbon and methane levels and stop overseas fossil fuel projects. But environmental groups and thousands of people who demonstrated over the weekend say those pledges do not go far enough. And they are demanding that global leaders do more to limit the warming of the planet. They also want this week to reflect that.

MARTIN: Sarah Kaplan is a reporter with The Washington Post. She's been covering the summit from Glasgow. Thanks for being with us, Sarah.

SARAH KAPLAN: Hey.

MARTIN: So all the big heads of state have left, and now it's down to brass tacks for the people who actually do the work of making these negotiations. What can we expect this week?

KAPLAN: Yeah, this is kind of the technical, boring part of the COP summit. It's all about...

MARTIN: Sarah, you can't lead with, this is the boring part.

KAPLAN: (Laughter).

MARTIN: This is the - this is where it happens.

KAPLAN: But this is where the rubber meets the road.

MARTIN: There you go.

KAPLAN: This is where you make sure that people actually follow through on their promises. So the main agenda item is finalizing what they call the rulebook for the Paris Agreement that was signed six years ago.

MARTIN: Yeah.

KAPLAN: You know, agreeing to standards for reporting emissions, sketching out a global carbon market where countries can buy and sell credits to help them achieve their climate goals. Some countries are also pushing for an accelerated timeline for updating the plan for cutting carbon. Technically, that happens every five years. But, you know, this cycle, many countries submitted kind of underwhelming targets. And activists say if they wait five years to update them, it'll be too late.

MARTIN: So is that what's motivating all these protests? I mean, there were demonstrations in Scotland over the weekend, even though it was pouring rain. What are the specific demands coming from activists right now?

KAPLAN: I think there's just, like, a lot of skepticism about the whole COP process. Many people were angry that because of COVID-19 measures, access for civil society to these big negotiations and big meetings has been restricted. And a lot of people feel like this is just rich countries negotiating over bad behavior. They don't really have faith that this process is going to lead to change, and it's kind of understandable that they feel this way because the U.N. has been holding COP summits for almost three decades, and the world is still on a pretty dangerous path.

MARTIN: So, you know, talk about this idea that is kind of embedded into the firmament of every global summit on climate change - that it's the rich countries that are doing the emitting, and yet the worst effects of climate change are affecting more developing countries or poorer nations. How is that discrepancy being acknowledged by the leaders there who are trying to make these promises?

KAPLAN: Yeah. I mean, I do think, you know, for all the criticisms of this process, these U.N. negotiations are really the only system where every country has a seat at the table. And it's one country, one vote. So even though the biggest and most powerful countries with big economies - they have a lot of clout. But you also see smaller, developing countries band together to push for what they want. And kind of that topic of equity that you mentioned is going to be a big topic for them. Developing countries, you know, hard-hit, vulnerable nations want the wealthy world that made its wealth on the burning of fossil fuels to pay up for both helping to, you know, decarbonize and switch away from fossil fuels but also helping them adapt and pay for the damage that climate change is already causing.

MARTIN: I mean, this is the whole rub with these conferences, right? There are limitations to what the summits can do, how you get all these global leaders and these parties to make these kinds of commitments. And yet it's sort of the only way to do it, right? Do you hear that sentiment there, this balance of disappointment and continued purpose nevertheless?

KAPLAN: Absolutely. And I think, you know, at the end of the day, people say, you know, this - we have to do this because the planet and the future of humanity is on the line. So, you know, there's pretty high stakes.

MARTIN: Sarah Kaplan with The Washington Post, reporting from Glasgow. Thank you so much.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: All right. Officials in Houston say they're starting to investigate just what went wrong and what led to eight deaths at a music festival on Friday night.

INSKEEP: The concertgoers who died ranged from 14 years old to 27. They died in a rush to the stage at the Astroworld Festival, which was put on by rapper Travis Scott. This festival had attracted about 50,000 people. Family members and friends have started sharing the names of loved ones they lost.

MARTIN: Paul DeBenedetto is with Houston Public Media. He's been reporting on this and joins us now. Paul, just get us up to speed. What have we learned at this point about what happened Friday?

PAUL DEBENEDETTO, BYLINE: Police say they started seeing people collapsing around 9:30 that night and reached out to organizers, but the concert didn't stop for about another 40 minutes. There is video of concertgoers scrambling to get the attention of a cameraman who was filming the event. And there's one video on social media where Scott himself appears to notice someone in the crowd is in trouble, and he calls for security. Now, police - Houston Police have defended that response. They've argued that abruptly stopping the show could have caused a riot. But overall, eight people died. More than a dozen others were hospitalized in the aftermath. The youngest of those who was injured is just 10 years old.

MARTIN: As we said, names are just starting to come out. You just identified the age of the youngest victim. Do we know anything else, any other released information about the victims?

DEBENEDETTO: So authorities have released ages but not the names of those who died at the concert. But friends and families have started to identify some of the victims. Local officials have said all eight who were killed are younger than 30. Those who died included high school students and college students.

MARTIN: So let's get into what you nodded to earlier - that there's been this criticism of Travis Scott himself for, I guess, noticing that something was going, on and then the music just kept going. Is that right?

DEBENEDETTO: Right. There was this kind of, like I said, 40-minute lag, almost, between when the police did contact the promoters and the end of the concert. We don't yet know everything that occurred during that time. Travis Scott recorded a statement on Instagram.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

TRAVIS SCOTT: I could just never imagine the severity of the situation. We've been working closely with everyone to just try to get to the bottom of this.

MARTIN: How did the police respond, actually, in the moment?

DEBENEDETTO: Well, I think that there was a sense that once everything started happening, they got a little overwhelmed. Crowd control has been an issue in the past for this event. This year, the number of police did increase. HPD said there were more than 500 officers throughout the day, about 300 of which were active during the incident. So police bulked up their presence from previous concerts. There was a medic tent on site. There were more private security on the ground throughout the day. Clearly, police felt prepared. But the bottom line is just a few minutes into Travis Scott's set, problems did quickly emerge. Fans started pushing to the front of the stage. And shortly after, yeah, like I said, police, private security - they were overwhelmed.

MARTIN: Presumably, the investigation goes on. And there will be questions about negligence, I suppose.

DEBENEDETTO: Yeah. I mean, police are continuing the investigation. They're looking at who caused these deaths, what caused these deaths. And probably they'll review some footage to look at the actions of individual fans. We know so far - actually, starting this morning, we know two attendees have sued. So that's what we're looking forward to the next few days, looking for more of those.

MARTIN: OK. Houston Public Media's Paul DeBenedetto, thank you.

DEBENEDETTO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Daniel Ortega is the winner of the presidential elections in Nicaragua for the fourth straight time, not really a surprise considering he got rid of the competition.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Months ago, Ortega locked up critics, journalists, businessmen and passed a series of laws criminalizing dissent. The United States is preparing new sanctions because the State Department says this election is paving the way for a dictatorship.

MARTIN: NPR was barred from entering Nicaragua to cover this. So were other journalists. And NPR's Carrie Kahn has been forced to cover it from neighboring Costa Rica. She joins us this morning. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: What can you tell us about turnout, I mean, despite the distance from what you're having to look at this?

KAHN: it appears that state workers were taken to the polls early yesterday, but voting centers were pretty quiet throughout the rest of the day. I watched a lot of state TV. And even on official channels, you know, it just didn't look like a bustling regular election in Nicaragua. And because I couldn't enter the country - and NPR hired a local independent journalist who has been doing interviews there, and we're not revealing the journalist's identity for their protection.

MARTIN: Yeah. So what are Nicaraguan voters saying about this election?

KAHN: Well, opponents asked voters to boycott the elections. And many we talked to were conflicted just whether they should do that or not. Some people were just afraid if they didn't vote, officials would just mark their ballots for Ortega. Here's 21-year-old taxi driver Jose Leiva (ph) we talked to in Managua. He says some family went to the polls and defaced their ballot. He chose to sit out.

JOSE LEIVA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says the candidates he wanted to vote for were all in jail, and the ones on the ballot are allies of Ortega. So he says it was all a joke. The candidates that were on the ballot are small parties aligned to Ortega Nicaraguans call them zancudos, mosquito bloodsuckers. And so there really was no viable opposition on the ballot yesterday.

MARTIN: So Ortega's 75 years old, right? He's been a figure in Nicaraguan politics for a long time. Why did he go to such lengths to stifle all the opposition?

KAHN: Ortega's slowly been eroding democratic institutions for more than a decade, when he was elected in 2007. He was a leader of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1970s against the U.S.- backed dictator. And he did become the first president after the 1979 overthrow of Anastasio Somoza. But he lost reelection in 1990, and many say he just hasn't shaken the sting of that loss. He faced massive student-led protests in 2018 that he brutally suppressed. And polls have shown that he was losing, drastically, support. And in the spring, Rachel, he just unleashed a round of repression, jailing opponents and cracking down on dissent that critics say hasn't been seen in Latin America since the military dictatorships of the 1970s and '80s.

MARTIN: which is what the Biden administration is calling him now - right? - practically a dictator.

KAHN: President Biden came out with a strong statement last night practically calling him a dictator. He says his family will face more sanctions. They are expected. And Congress passed a bill to increase those sanctions and plans to review free-trade perks Nicaragua now has.

MARTIN: NPR's Carrie Kahn, thank you. We appreciate it.

KAHN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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