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Venezuela: 4 Dead as Violence Spikes Over “Aid” Standoff

Feb 25, 2019

Venezuela’s opposition is calling on the United States and allied nations to consider using military force to topple the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. This comes as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence heads to Bogotá, Colombia, today to discuss next steps with regional leaders and Venezuelan self-proclaimed president, opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

The meeting comes after a dramatic weekend which saw the Venezuelan military blocking the delivery of so-called humanitarian aid from entering the country at the Colombian and Brazilian borders. At least four people died after clashes broke out between forces loyal to Maduro and supporters of the opposition. The United Nations, the Red Cross and other relief organizations have refused to work with the U.S. on delivering aid to Venezuela, which they say is politically motivated. Over the weekend, U.S. officials ramped up pressure on the Maduro government.

U.S. Ratchets Up Threats Against Venezuelan Government

Feb 25, 2019

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro’s days in office are numbered. Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the violence on the border “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.” Rubio also tweeted images of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, including one of him after he was killed following the U.S. bombing campaign. We’ll have more on the situation in Venezuela with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza after headlines.

New Yorkers Protest Against U.S. Intervention in Venezuela

Feb 25, 2019

Meanwhile, in New York City, protesters took to the streets Saturday for a “No War on Venezuela” demonstration.

Hector: “The entire Puerto Rican nation was taken over by the United States, and now they want to do the same thing to Venezuela, to make Venezuela a colony of the United States, because they’re not interested in the freedom of the Venezuelans or nothing. They want to get the natural resources of Venezuela, just like they are doing to Puerto Rico and to other countries in the world.”

Trump Moves to Withdraw Funds, Impose Gag Order on Abortion Providers

Feb 25, 2019

On Friday, President Trump issued a rule barring abortion providers or groups that refer patients for abortions from federal funds known as Title X. Planned Parenthood would be one of the main groups affected by the new gag rule. Title X covers non-abortion services like STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception, and provides over $280 million in funding for 4 million mostly low-income women every year. Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood, tweeted in response to the news, “The Trump-Pence administration knows what it’s doing. In a country where racism and discrimination have caused rampant inequities and disparities, an attack on Title X—a program for patients with low incomes—is an attack on poor women and people of color.” Several states, including New York and California, have already announced plans to sue the Trump administration over the rule.

Trump and Kim Jong-un to Meet in Vietnam for 2nd Summit

Feb 25, 2019

President Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam this week for their second summit. In a direct contradiction of previous statements by the president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that North Korea still poses a nuclear threat.

Michael Cohen to Testify Before Congress

Feb 25, 2019

While Trump is attending the highly anticipated summit, his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will testify in front of three congressional committees about his work for Donald Trump.

Congress Expected to Subpoena Trump Admin over Family Separation

Feb 25, 2019

Also this week, the House is scheduled to hold hearings on the Trump administration’s family separation policy. The House Oversight Committee will vote Tuesday on authorizing subpoenas for the departments responsible for implementing and overseeing the policy, which has separated thousands of children from their families.

House Dems to Vote on Bill Blocking Nat’l Emergency Declaration

Feb 25, 2019

House Democrats are set to vote Tuesday on a resolution blocking President Trump’s national emergency declaration to construct a U.S.-Mexico border wall. It’s unclear, though, if such a measure would pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump has vowed to veto the bill. Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting a bipartisan group of 58 former national security officials will publicly rebuke the president’s national emergency declaration today.

Sudan: President Declares State of Emergency Amid Ongoing Protests

Feb 25, 2019

In Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir declared a 1-year, countrywide state of emergency Friday, after over two months of widespread anti-government protests calling for his resignation. He also dissolved central and state governments. Rights groups say more than 50 people have been killed by Sudanese security forces since the protests started. The government has also been accused of jailing hundreds of activists, opponents and critics of al-Bashir, and of shutting down press outlets and barring foreign reporters from covering the uprising. Protests continued through the weekend, defying the president’s order.

Nigeria: Scores Killed in Election Violence

Feb 25, 2019

In Nigeria, civil society groups reported nearly 40 people were killed across the country in election-related violence over the weekend. Nigerians headed to the polls Saturday, one week after elections were delayed due to logistical reasons. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term, running against dozens of challengers amid a spate of recent violence and insurgent attacks by Boko Haram.

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U.N.: Record Number of Civilians Killed in Afghanistan in 2018

Feb 25, 2019

A newly released United Nations report found that a record number of Afghan civilians were killed last year due to an increase in airstrikes by U.S. and Afghan forces and on-the-ground suicide bombings by insurgent groups, primarily the Taliban and the Islamic State. The now more than 17-year-old conflict claimed over 3,800 civilian lives in 2018—over 900 of which were children. The numbers represent an 11 percent increase in civilian deaths from the year before. The report comes as peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban resume in Qatar today.

Gaza: Israeli Forces Kill Teenager at Weekly Protest

Feb 25, 2019

In Gaza, mourners gathered Saturday after a Palestinian teenager was shot and killed by Israeli forces Friday. Israeli soldiers shot 15-year-old Yusif Said Hussein al-Dayeh as he attended the weekly Great March of Return demonstration at the separation barrier with Israel. Around 40 others were wounded.

Israel: Netanyahu Allies with Far-Right, Racist Group

Feb 25, 2019

In Israel, embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a pact with several far-right parties to form a new coalition ahead of elections in April. One of the groups, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, has been compared to the KKK for its racist, anti-Arab and homophobic beliefs. The party has called for annexing the occupied Palestinian territories, expelling Israeli Arabs and a ban on relationships between Jews and Arabs.

The group was formed by supporters of the fundamentalist Rabbi Meir Kahane. An earlier iteration of Otzma Yehudit was banned by Israel and designated a terror organization in the 1990s by both Israel and the U.S. The move was swiftly condemned, including by pro-Israeli government groups such as AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League.

Trump Announces Delay of Tariff Hike on Chinese Goods

Feb 25, 2019

President Trump announced via Twitter Sunday he is delaying an increase in tariffs on Chinese products after negotiators made “substantial progress” in the ongoing trade discussions between Washington and Beijing. A trade truce between the two countries was initially set to expire on March 1 and would have increased tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

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Sen. Feinstein Dismisses Youth Activists’ Call for Green New Deal

Feb 25, 2019

California Senator Dianne Feinstein is coming under fire after a video showing her interaction with a group of youth climate activists, some as young as 7 years old, went viral over the weekend. In the video, Feinstein dismisses the students’ demands to take action on climate change, including supporting the Green New Deal, which was recently introduced as a resolution by New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.

Youth activist: “Scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Well, it’s not going to get turned around in 10 years. What we can do is put ourselves”—

Morissa Zuckerman: “Senator, if this doesn’t get turned around in 10 years, you’re looking at the faces of the people who are going to be living with these consequences.”

Magdalena: “The government is supposed to be for the people, by the people and all for the people.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “You know what’s interesting about this group is, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here, and you say, 'It has to be my way or the highway.'”

Trump to Nominate GOP Donor Kelly Knight Craft as Ambassador to U.N.

Feb 25, 2019

President Trump announced via Twitter Friday he will nominate Kelly Knight Craft—the current U.S. ambassador to Canada—to be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, after Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration earlier this month. Craft’s husband is the head of the coal company Alliance Resource Partners, and together the couple donated around $1.5 million to Republican campaigns in 2016, including over $270,000 to then-candidate Trump. They reportedly also are regulars at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Craft has previously denied climate change by declaring “there are sciences on both sides of the debate that are accurate.”

R. Kelly Charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault

Feb 25, 2019

R. Kelly is expected to appear in a Chicago court today, after he was arrested and charged Friday with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault. The charges involve four women and girls, three of whom were under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged crimes. A judge set bail at a million dollars—which R. Kelly, who is still in jail, has not yet been able to make—and forced the singer to surrender his passport. Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who says he is representing an R. Kelly whistleblower, says he gave prosecutors a tape showing the singer engaging in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl.

The arrest follows two decades of accusations against R. Kelly, who has never been criminally convicted. Last month, the explosive documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” thrust the case back into the spotlight. Activists have been calling for justice for the black girls and women preyed on by R. Kelly and for the music industry to disassociate itself from the musician, with the #MuteRKelly campaign.

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged in Sex Trafficking Sting

Feb 25, 2019

The billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was charged Friday for soliciting sex during a sting operation investigating prostitution and human trafficking at day spas in Florida. Hundreds of others have also been charged. Police officers say many of the women involved in the case came to the U.S. from China on temporary visas, and some reportedly had sex with 1,000 men a year. Prosecutors say they have video evidence of Kraft engaging in the criminal acts. Super Bowl Sunday is believed to be one the biggest days of the year for sex trafficking.

Sen. Warren Says She Will Not Accept Donations for Access

Feb 25, 2019

Massachusetts senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren announced her campaign will not fundraise through donor calls or by holding dinners and other events with wealthy supporters. Warren previously announced she would reject any corporate PAC money for her campaign, and challenged other Democratic primary candidates to do the same. Of the recent announcement, Senator Warren said, “My presidential primary campaign will be run on the principle of equal access for anybody who joins it.”

Oscars Celebrates Firsts for Diverse Filmmakers, Spike Lee Tells Viewers to Vote in 2020

Feb 25, 2019

In Hollywood, the 91st Academy Awards were held Sunday evening, celebrating a diverse range of awardees and a number of firsts, including director Spike Lee’s first competitive Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for his film “BlacKkKlansman.”

Spike Lee: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize. Let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let’s do the right thing!”

“Green Book” won for best picture at the end of the evening, despite facing criticism for historical inaccuracies. Spike Lee, who reportedly attempted to walk out of the theater when “Green Book” was named the winner, said, “I thought I was courtside at the Garden and the ref made a bad call.” Lee also joked, “Every time somebody’s driving somebody, I lose.” In 1990, “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture, while “Do the Right Thing”, which was nominated for 2 awards, went home empty-handed. Rami Malek won best actor for his portrayal of the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury. In his acceptance speech, Malek—an Egyptian-American actor—said, “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. … We’re longing for stories like this.” Alfonso Cuarón won best director for “Roma,” which also won best foreign language film. The record-shattering film “Black Panther” won three Oscars, including two that marked the first African-American women winners in their categories: Hannah Beachler for production design and Ruth E. Carter for costumes.

Boots Riley Calls Out U.S. Intervention in Venezuela at Spirit Awards

Feb 25, 2019

And in more entertainment news, the Independent Spirit Awards were held in Santa Monica, California, Saturday, the night before the Oscars. “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the feature film based on the 1974 James Baldwin novel, took home best director and best feature. “Sorry to Bother You” won best first feature. This is director Boots Riley accepting the award.

Boots Riley: “This is a film that takes place in an office place and is the first one that I know that has class struggle in it, even though class struggle is happening every day when you’re on your jobs and you’re seeing that happen. For some reason, we thought we had to edit that out of our stories.”

Boots Riley went on to call on viewers to speak out against U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

Boots Riley: “The CIA is trying to have a coup in Venezuela. I haven’t been watching since I’ve been here, so they might be doing it right now. And we should all be putting our voices out to stop the U.S. from having regime change for oil in Venezuela.”

After Riley was cut off on stage, he continued to speak out on the issue backstage, raising the U.S.’s history of regime change in Chile, Iraq and Guatemala.

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