The U.S. has signed a deal with the Taliban aimed at drawing down its military presence and ending its 18-year war in Afghanistan. The long-anticipated deal comes after a year and a half of negotiations and following a week-long partial truce. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday, however, rejected a prisoner swap with the Taliban, ahead of power-sharing talks that start next week in Oslo, Norway. Afghan women are raising alarm that the deal could further restrict or do away with their rights. This is journalist Nargiss Hurakhsh.
Nargiss Hurakhsh: “During the period of negotiations, the Taliban have repeatedly shown that their views on women have not changed, and this is a concern to us. We call on the Afghan government and the team who will negotiate with the Taliban to consider the freedom and achievements of all Afghans, especially women, as the bottom line.”
We’ll have more on the historic U.S.-Afghan deal after headlines.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won a decisive victory Saturday in the South Carolina Democratic primary, marking his first-ever win in a presidential primary or caucus. He took over 48% of the vote — more than double Senator Bernie Sanders, who received just under 20%, placing second. Billionaire Tom Steyer placed third with 11%; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came in fourth with 8%; and Senator Elizabeth Warren fifth with 7%. As Saturday’s results came in, Steyer announced he was dropping out of the race, with Buttigieg following suit Sunday evening, after making history as the first openly gay major presidential candidate.
While Biden received the majority of black votes in South Carolina, over 100 prominent black writers and academics endorsed Bernie Sanders, writing in an open letter, “A Sanders presidency would go a long way toward creating a safer and more just world. The commitment to free college education, the elimination of student debt … and the enfranchisement of incarcerated citizens, are only some of the reasons we have come to this conclusion.”
Meanwhile, a number of mostly black churchgoers in Selma, Alabama, protested billionaire Mike Bloomberg Sunday by standing up and turning their backs to him as he addressed the congregation. Bloomberg was commemorating the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when police attacked civil rights activists as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. While Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, police officers engaged in 5 million stop-and-frisks, which terrorized and criminalized black and brown communities.
The remaining presidential candidates — including Bloomberg, who will appear on the ballot for the first time since the primaries started — will compete tomorrow on Super Tuesday, where 14 states will vote and over a third of all Democratic delegates are up for grabs. Democracy Now! will be live broadcasting with The Intercept on Super Tuesday from 7 p.m. to midnight at democracynow.org.
A new MIT study found that there was no fraud in Bolivia’s elections last October — refuting a widely touted accusation that was used by the Organization of American States, the U.S. government and others to justify supporting the coup that removed President Evo Morales and put in place an unelected right-wing, anti-indigenous government.
In Israel, voting is underway for the third national election in less than a year, pitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against former army chief Benny Gantz. Neither Netanyahu’s Likud party nor Gantz’s Blue and White party have been able to win an outright majority or form governing coalitions in the two prior elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial for corruption will begin two weeks after the election. Sixteen polling places were designated for voters who may have or be at risk for coronavirus.
Greek forces attacked migrants with tear gas and stun grenades as thousands of refugees arrived at the Turkish border with Greece after Ankara announced it would no longer try to prevent entry into Europe. Thousands, including families with young children, are now stuck at the border. This is a Syrian refugee describing the scene this weekend.
Syrian refugee: “We’ve been here for two days. There are children that are 2 months old. They’re not allowing us in. They’re firing tear gas at us. One man was hit with a bullet in his hand. They took him to the hospital. We have no food. Look at these kids.”
Turkey’s move to loosen border restrictions came as a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in Idlib province has displaced nearly a million people, most of them fleeing toward the Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has regularly threatened to open the border to pressure Europe for military assistance in Syria, where dozens of Turkish troops have been killed in recent days and weeks.
In Britain, a judge has suspended the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange until mid-May. This comes after four days last week of intense deliberations between Assange’s legal team and attorneys representing the United States government. If extradited to the United States, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison for charges related to the Espionage Act. We’ll have more on this story after headlines with Assange’s legal adviser Jennifer Robinson.
Chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Canadian ministers are resuming talks today after reaching a draft deal which reportedly affirms certain indigenous land rights amid the ongoing battle against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Indigenous land defenders say they will continue to fight until plans for the pipeline are canceled and the Canadian police retreat from protected lands.
Members of the Cayuga Nation are sounding the alarm after multiple buildings, including a school, were raided and destroyed last weekend in Seneca Falls, New York. A press conference to address the destruction this weekend ended in violence after Cayuga Nation police reportedly attacked Cayuga chiefs. The demolitions were ordered by the Cayuga Nation Council, whose leader, Clint Halftown, is not recognized as legitimate by many members of the nation. Some local authorities have called the destruction acts of domestic terrorism.
President Trump announced Friday he would nominate Texas Congressmember John Ratcliffe as his permanent director of national intelligence. In 2019, Trump was forced to back off from nominating Ratcliffe for the role after his lack of experience — and apparent lies about his qualifications — were questioned by both Democrats and Republicans.
A federal court ruled Sunday the Trump administration unlawfully appointed Ken Cuccinelli as the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last June. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss also ruled that Cuccinelli’s policy that accelerated initial screenings for asylum seekers should be struck down, since he did not have the authority to issue the directive. The group Democracy Forward, which brought the suit on behalf of immigrant rights organization RAICES, said in statement, “This is both a victory for the rule of law and a significant blow to the Trump administration’s xenophobic agenda.”
Asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border were left confused and frustrated after a federal appeals court ruled Friday that Trump’s so-called Remain in Mexico policy was invalid — but just hours later stayed its own decision to allow for the Trump administration to appeal. Some 60,000 asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico in dangerous and often squalid conditions while their claims make their way through U.S. courts, which can take months or even years.
In a victory for climate activists, a Portland, Oregon, jury refused to convict five Extinction Rebellion members for blocking railroad tracks used to transport oil by Zenith Energy Corporation and other oil companies. The outcome came after the defendants presented a necessity defense. Valve turner Ken Ward — one of the “Zenith 5” — said of the landmark victory, “When citizens are told the truth about the climate crisis — which is the first of Extinction Rebellion’s demands — they take appropriate and responsible action, as our jury did, and we thank them.”
In other environmental activism news, police arrested members of Extinction Rebellion NYC as they blocked construction of a National Grid fracked gas pipeline in Brooklyn.
Fifty-four teaching assistants at the University of California, Santa Cruz, were fired as they have been carrying out a weeks-long strike demanding a cost-of-living adjustment. The workers were fired after they refused to turn in final grades for the fall semester. Another 28 striking graduate workers who were expecting to be assigned teaching positions were told they would not be hired. Santa Cruz is one of the least affordable cities in the country. The organizers of the wildcat strike have called for the cancellation of classes today in support of the strike.