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HeadlinesNovember 23, 2020

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U.S. Holiday Travel Surges as U.S. COVID-19 Cases Soar Past 12 Million

Nov 23, 2020

The U.S. soared past 12 million confirmed COVID-19 cases this weekend, as the number of new cases quickly approaches 200,000 a day. Over a quarter of a million people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus. Despite warnings from public health experts — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — who are urging people to skip travel and indoor gatherings, a surge in holiday travel has already started ahead of Thanksgiving.

The Department of Health and Human Services warned over 1,000 hospitals across the country are “critically” short on staff, and that number is expected to rise. North Dakota is the worst hit with over 50% of hospitals facing shortages.

Housing Activists in Tacoma Take Over Empty School Building for Emergency Pandemic Housing

Nov 23, 2020

In Washington state, the housing rights group Tacoma Housing Now has turned a former middle school building into emergency pandemic accommodations for unhoused people and is demanding the formation of a community land trust in response to the housing crisis.

G20 Pledges Fair Distribution of Vaccine as U.N. Warns Some Countries Face Financial Ruin, Hunger

Nov 23, 2020

Leaders from the G20 nations pledged Sunday to distribute coronavirus vaccines fairly around the world. This comes as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he was issuing an “S.O.S.” for less wealthy countries and is pushing for a rescue package worth at least 10% of the global economy.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “The developing world is on the precipice of financial ruin and escalating poverty, hunger and untold suffering. We see tremendous debt vulnerabilities emerging, especially among commodity- and tourism-dependent economies.”

President Trump addressed the virtual summit by boasting of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and skipped sessions on the pandemic to play golf. Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the international climate deal as one of his first acts in office.

India and Brazil Pass Grim Coronavirus Milestones; Gaza Warns Health System Will Soon Be Overwhelmed

Nov 23, 2020

In other international pandemic news, India, the second most infected country after the U.S., has topped 9 million cases of COVID-19. The third most infected country, Brazil, topped 6 million cases. In Gaza, medical experts warn the health system is on the verge of being overwhelmed, and are calling for a lockdown.

Biden to Name Adviser Tony Blinken as Sec. of State, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. Ambassador

Nov 23, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden will reportedly name longtime adviser Tony Blinken as secretary of state. He previously served as deputy secretary of state for President Obama. Earlier this year, Blinken spoke with the Hudson Institute about foreign policy challenges and how he views the United States’ role in the world.

Antony Blinken: “Simply put, the big problems that we face as a country and as a planet, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a pandemic, whether it’s the spread of bad weapons, to state the obvious, none of these have unilateral solutions.”

After he left Obama’s White House, Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a consulting firm which helped Silicon Valley companies pitch for Pentagon contracts. In an Intercept profile from 2018, William Hartung, an arms control expert at the Center for International Policy, said, “The revolving door is a longstanding feature of the military-industrial complex, and it can lead to distorted policy decisions based on the financial interests of former government employees.” Blinken was also a top Senate aide to Biden in 2002 and 2003, when Biden was pushing for the invasion of Iraq.

Another close adviser, Jake Sullivan, will reportedly be tapped as national security adviser. Both Sullivan and Blinken served as Biden’s national security advisers when he was vice president.

And media is reporting Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be named the new U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield was an ambassador to Liberia and assistant secretary of state for African affairs under Obama. She was fired days into the Trump administration.

Biden will formally announce his first Cabinet picks on Tuesday.

50+ House Dems Back Deb Haaland for Interior Sec.; Progressive Orgs Endorse Joaquin Castro as HFAC Chair

Nov 23, 2020

Over 50 House Democrats are backing New Mexico Congressmember Deb Haaland to be the next interior secretary, which would make Haaland the first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary.

Meanwhile, in Congress, nearly 50 groups, including Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement, have endorsed Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro to be the next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who they say will focus on rooting out U.S. militarism at home and abroad.

Michigan GOP Threatens to Delay Election Certification as Trump Continues to Challenge Results

Nov 23, 2020

A key Republican member of the Michigan canvassing board is expected to vote against certifying Joe Biden’s victory, potentially causing a constitutional crisis in the state if he is joined in a “no” vote by the other Republican member of the board. After meeting with Trump on Friday, Michigan lawmakers said they did not learn any new information that would change the outcome in Michigan. But Trump and Republican leaders have been putting pressure on the state’s canvassing board to delay certification.

This comes as Trump continues in his flailing legal efforts to overturn the election results. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit to block certification there, calling the claim “like Frankenstein’s Monster, … haphazardly stitched together.” In Georgia, the Trump campaign requested another recount Saturday, after the state already completed its hand recount and certified the win for Joe Biden Friday. In Wisconsin, where a recount is underway in two heavily Democratic counties after a request from Trump, election officials say Trump observers have been obstructing the process, in some cases by objecting to every ballot being counted.

Meanwhile, top House Democrats are demanding the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, brief lawmakers on why she has yet to certify Biden’s win, which would allow him to finally access transition funding and key briefings.

Ethiopian PM Warns Tigray Residents of “No Mercy” Attack

Nov 23, 2020

Ethiopia’s prime minister and military have warned leaders of a separatist movement in the northern Tigray region to surrender within 72 hours, telling civilians in Tigray’s capital to “free themselves” — or face “no mercy.” Human Rights Watch said the threat constitutes a war crime under international law. It’s been nearly three weeks since Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched attacks on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, killing hundreds and forcing some 40,000 refugees to flee into Sudan.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed bin Salman Held Secret Meeting During Pompeo’s Saudi Trip

Nov 23, 2020

Israeli media are reporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia Sunday evening for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. If confirmed, it would be the first known face-to-face meeting between top officials of the two countries. Netanyahu’s reported trip coincided with talks between Prince Mohammed and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Saudi city of Neom on the Red Sea. This follows recent U.S.-brokered deals to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, over the protests of Palestinians who say normalization should only follow the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Fatal Beating of Black Man by Brazilian Police Spurs Nationwide Protests

Nov 23, 2020

In Brazil, the killing of a Black man by security guards has set off nationwide protests declaring that Black lives matter. João Alberto Silveira Freitas of Porto Alegre died from his injuries after the pair of guards — one of them an off-duty military police officer — were filmed pummeling him and kneeling on his back in the parking lot of a supermarket on the eve of Brazil’s Black Consciousness Day. Video of the killing was widely shared on social media, with many Brazilians comparing Freitas’s death to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Guatemalans Demand President Resign Amid Budget Cuts and Devastating Aftermath of 2 Hurricanes

Nov 23, 2020

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Guatemala City this weekend to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei amid growing anger over recent proposed budget cuts to education, health, and anti-hunger and malnutrition programs, while bolstering the personal stipends of members of Congress. This comes as hundreds of thousands were displaced by back-to-back Hurricanes Eta and Iota, and as the country continues to grapple with the pandemic and a worsening economic crisis. Hundreds of protesters broke into the congressional building and partially set it on fire Saturday, while others were tear-gassed by police as they peacefully protested in front of the National Palace. Dozens of people were also beaten by police and arrested, including journalists.

New Report Shows Devastating Toll of Afghan War on Children as Deadly Attacks Continue

Nov 23, 2020

In Afghanistan, U.N. data shows over 26,000 children were killed or injured from 2005 to 2019. The figures were published in a new report by Save the Children, which warns Afghanistan is among the most dangerous countries in the world for children as a result of the ongoing war between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban.

This comes as at least eight people were killed following a rocket attack in Kabul Saturday. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. Withdraws from Open Skies Treaty

Nov 23, 2020

The U.S. has formally withdrawn from the Open Skies Treaty, a major international arms control deal signed by the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992. Trump announced he was withdrawing in May. The deal allows the United States, Russia and 33 other countries to fly unarmed observation aircraft over the others’ territory to help reduce the risk of war.

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Protests Mount over Controversial French Law That Would Ban Publication of Images of Police

Nov 23, 2020

In France, protests are ramping up against a controversial new bill that would ban the publication of images of on-duty police officers and expand the power of law enforcement, including through the use of surveillance drones. Press freedom and human rights groups, including the U.N. Human Rights Council, have condemned the bill, which passed its first hurdle in the Parliament Friday and will undergo another vote by lawmakers Tuesday. This is journalist and co-founder of news outlet Mediapart, Edwy Plenel, speaking from a Paris protest Saturday.

Edwy Plenel: “What this government is trying to do is for us to stop carrying out this vigilance, for citizens, whistleblowers, for journalists in possession or not of a press card, to be more and more hindered in revealing the failings of the state. And if that happens, it’s the end of democracy.”

Kyle Rittenhouse, Who Killed Two Protesters, Released on $2 Million Bail

Nov 23, 2020

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse — the 17-year-old who is charged with homicide for fatally shooting two protesters in August — was released from custody Friday after posting $2 million in bail, which he raised online. The killings occurred during Black Lives Matter protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Does anyone believe Rittenhouse would be released if he were Muslim & did the same thing in a [different] context? For people who say 'systemic racism doesn't exist,’ this is what it looks like: protection of white supremacy baked deep into our carceral systems. Law and disorder.”

ICE Arrested 150+ Immigrants Who Were Granted Voluntary Removal in Latest Crackdown

Nov 23, 2020

In immigration news, BuzzFeed reports over 150 immigrants were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in recent weeks as part of an operation targeting people who had been granted voluntary removal but remained in the country. Voluntary removal allows people to leave the U.S. on their own rather than facing deportation.

Tennessee Can Enforce Ban on Down Syndrome Abortions

Nov 23, 2020

In reproductive rights news, a federal appeals court ruled Tennessee can deny abortions based on a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis, or the race or sex of a fetus. The ruling Friday partially lifted a preliminary injunction on a law that essentially bars abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — something that typically happens just six weeks into a pregnancy and before many people realize they’re pregnant. Reproductive rights groups have denounced the law as unconstitutional.

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