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In Syria, up to 100 people died in a barrage of Syrian government airstrikes and artillery shelling against the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside the capital Damascus Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is calling Monday the deadliest day in three years for the area. Among the victims were dozens of civilians, including children, whose bodies filled a makeshift morgue on Tuesday. At least four hospitals were reportedly bombed on Monday. There are reports the Syrian government is planning an impending ground invasion of Eastern Ghouta, which is home to 400,000 people and is the last rebel-held area near the capital. One doctor in Eastern Ghouta said, “We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century. … It’s not a war. It’s called a massacre.”
In Florida, 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are beginning a two-day, 400-mile bus trip to the Capitol in Tallahassee today to demand action from lawmakers on gun control, after 17 people were killed in a shooting massacre at their high school last week. This is student Cameron Kasky speaking outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Cameron Kasky: “It’s not our job to tell you, Senator Rubio, how to protect us. The fact that we even have to do this is appalling. Our job is to go to school, learn and not take a bullet. You need to figure this out. That’s why you were, unfortunately, elected. Your job is to protect us, and our blood is on your hands.”
In Washington, D.C., dozens of students lay down in front of the White House for three minutes on Monday in a protest symbolizing how it only took the white former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, three minutes to kill 17 people with his AR-15. The demonstration originally called for 17 students to lie down—to symbolize those killed—but once the “lie-in” started, many more students and adults joined them. On Monday, under enormous pressure from the youth-led activism, President Trump said he’s open to tightening background checks for gun purchases.
CNN is reporting special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation into Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. Mueller is now reportedly investigating Kushner’s attempts to secure foreign investors and financing for Kushner Companies during the presidential transition period, when Kushner served as the primary point of contact between Trump and foreign governments. Mueller is reportedly specifically looking at Kushner’s meetings with Chinese, Russian and Qatari investors during the transition period.
Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Trump, has arrived in India for a whirlwind tour aimed at selling more than $1 billion worth of luxury apartments being built by the Trump Organization in partnership with Indian developers. Trump Jr. is also slated to speak at a Global Business Summit, where he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are billed as keynote speakers. Critics say the trip represents the array of the Trump family’s conflicts of interest. The Trump Organization has at least four real estate projects underway in India. Former State Department official Daniel Markey, who served under President George W. Bush, said, “The idea that the president’s son would be going and shilling the president’s brand at the same time Donald Trump is president and is managing strategic and foreign relations with India—that is just bizarre.”
In Israel, seven members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner circle have been arrested amid a widening series of corruption scandals that threaten to bring down Netanyahu. Among those arrested were Netanyahu’s close friend and former communications director, as well as the former director general of the Communications Ministry. Netanyahu’s inner circle has been accused of intervening with federal regulators to benefit communications giant Bezeq Group in order to secure more favorable media coverage for Netanyahu and his family. This comes after the Israeli police recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery and fraud over two separate corruption investigations.
The British charity Oxfam has been hit with dozens more misconduct allegations involving a slew of countries, in the days since The Times of London revealed Oxfam tried to cover up sex crimes by senior aid workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. On Monday, Oxfam released its own internal report into the sex scandal, in which Oxfam senior aid workers, including the country director, hired prostitutes at Oxfam properties and then tried to cover it up. Prostitution is illegal in Haiti, but Oxfam refused to report the activity of its aid workers to Haitian police. Oxfam’s internal report also includes claims that three Oxfam staff members physically threatened a witness during the charity’s internal investigation. Haiti has threatened to expel Oxfam from the country. This is Haiti’s external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant.
Aviol Fleurant: “An investigation has been launched into the functioning of all nongovernmental organizations regarding sexual crimes and abuse. The state will be keeping a vigilant eye on the actions of humanitarian workers. As required by the president of the republic, there will be new rules of cooperation and government concerning developmental aid.”
Thousands of people have canceled their donations to Oxfam since the scandal broke.
In Iraq, ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack against a Shiite militia that left more than two dozen fighters dead on Sunday night. Last month, ISIS militants also carried out a double suicide bombing in the capital Baghdad, which killed at least 27 people. All this comes after, in December, the Iraqi government declared victory in the 3-year fight against ISIS.
In Afghanistan, three tribal elders were killed after a bomb blast in a hotel room in Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. This comes as, in western Farah province, at least eight Afghan police officers have been killed in Taliban attacks on police checkpoints overnight. Meanwhile, Afghan artists have taken to the streets of the capital Kabul to paint over concrete blast walls—aimed at minimizing damage from bombings—with murals promoting social justice and peace. This is Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of the artists’ group called ArtLords.
Omaid Sharifi: “We go out there on the streets, and we are bringing down the walls, the ugly blast walls. We are painting. We are using art as a tool for social change. We are painting against corruption. We are painting against the injustices that’s happening in the society, for women’s rights. So, basically, we’re encouraging people to come join us. Let’s raise our voice about all this nonsense and nonsense terrorism which is happening in the city.”
Back in the United States, in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court has redrawn the congressional map, after the court found the previous map unconstitutionally benefited Republicans. The new map is expected to benefit Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections.
In New York City, four NYPD police officers are appearing in court today on a federal civil rights trial in which the officers are accused of carrying out false arrests simply to increase their overtime pay. The practice is known as “collars for dollars.” If any of the officers are found guilty, the NYPD could face a broader trial over whether the scheme is a routine practice across the nation’s largest police force.
In West Virginia, teachers have announced they are launching a statewide walkout on Thursday and Friday in order to protest for better healthcare and pay. The announced walkout comes after teachers have staged rallies and protests for weeks, including a massive rally at the state Capitol Saturday.
And two transgender women have been murdered this month. In Buffalo, New York, 35-year-old Tonya Harvey was fatally shot on February 6. Only two days earlier, 36-year-old Celine Walker was shot to death in Jacksonville, Florida. They are the third and fourth transgender women murdered so far this year. Other victims include transgender rights activist and founder of the Miss Trans America pageant, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, who was stabbed and beaten to death inside her home in North Adams, Massachusetts, on January 5.