Background Briefing: September 21, 2021


At the U.N. Biden Urges World Leaders to Face the Challenges of Climate Change and Pandemics

We begin with President Biden’s address today to the U.N. in which he declared the world is at an “inflection point” with climate change and pandemics threatening the planet. Earlier the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned that “the world is on a catastrophic pathway” and that current climate pledges are inadequate and still missing are new pledges from 70 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Joining us is Barbara Crossette, the senior consulting editor and writer covering the U.N. for PassBlue at and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation who was previously the UN bureau chief for The New York Times. We discuss Biden’s efforts to get world leaders to be more serious about dealing with climate change and his pledges to get more vaccines out to where they are needed making it clear that the U.S. by far is distributing the most and the most effective vaccines to poorer nations. 


Apple and Google Helped Putin Rig Russia’s Parliamentary Elections

Then we get an analysis of last weekend’s rigged Russian elections in which Google and Apple cooperated with Putin’s government to stymie the opposition’s plans to direct votes away from Putin’s party via an app that was banned. A professor of Russian Studies at the University of Florida and an expert on Russian language and political culture and the impact of social media on Russian politics, Michael Gorham, joins us to discuss how Putin still seems to want the appearance of democratic legitimacy even as he goes to increasingly brazen lengths to ensure his party wins. 


Stuffing More Pork Into the NDAA Even As We End Wars in the Middle East

Then finally we examine the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act which has already had 800 amendments and has hawks on both sides pushing to add an extra $24 billion even though the U.S. is ending its wars in the Middle East. Joining us to discuss this disconnect is Kelley Vlahos, a Senior Advisor at the Quincy Institute and Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft who is on the board of, a non-profit media project promoting informed Left-Right debate, and is co-host of the Crashing the War Party podcast.