The government of Lebanon stepped down Monday night amid mounting unrest and anger over last week’s catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut. As he announced his Cabinet’s resignation in a televised address, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said, “Corruption is bigger than the state.” At least 200 people were killed in the blast, which was triggered by 2,700 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate left unattended in a warehouse for six years. The devastating explosion came at a time when Lebanon was already facing a political, economic and public health crisis. We’ll go to Beirut after headlines with historian Ziad Abu-Rish.
In international news, the number of global coronavirus cases has surpassed 20 million. Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced Russia is the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, even stating that his daughter had already received it.
The regulatory approval was granted as the vaccine is still going through clinical trials.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ordered the city of Auckland into lockdown and for other measures to be renewed in the rest of the country, after four people from one Auckland family contracted COVID-19. This comes just two days after New Zealand celebrated 100 days without a domestic transmission.
In Chicago, over 100 people were arrested early Monday morning after the police clashed with protesters, accusing them of looting upscale stores in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district. The massive overnight protest was sparked by the police shooting Sunday of a 20-year-old man. Police allege the man, Latrell Allen, opened fire against the police officers first. Allen has been hospitalized and charged with attempted murder. On Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a lockdown with massive police presence in parts of the city.
In Portland, Oregon, at least 16 people were arrested Monday morning as massive protests against police brutality and racial violence continue. Among those arrested was Demetria Hester, a Black woman and hate crime survivor who was assaulted by a white supremacist three years ago.
Belarus remains in political turmoil as protests continued for a second day, leaving one person dead, after incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of Sunday’s election with 80% of the vote. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, his main challenger, fled to neighboring Lithuania after she refused to concede. At a press briefing before she left, she condemned the brutal police crackdown on protesters, who were met with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya: “People went out peacefully to defend their voices. Yesterday they made their choice. People had a celebration. And to start suppressing people with harsh methods, literally, in a couple of hours, it is a crime.”
Meanwhile, Lukashenko’s government is ramping up its attack on journalists, assaulting and arresting multiple reporters during the demonstrations. Another person currently behind bars is Vitali Shkliarov, a former campaign staffer for Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama. He is married to an American and had been helping on the campaign of Svetlana’s husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, who had planned to run for president before he was arrested in May.
In Bolivia, protests are intensifying against the government of right-wing interim President Jeanine Áñez after it delayed presidential elections last month, for the second time, citing the pandemic. Blockades have been set up for over a week as the Bolivian Workers’ Union has called for a general strike and for elections to be moved up from October to September. This is a protester from El Alto.
Eleuterio Calle: “The Bolivian people of El Alto are demanding the resignation of Jeanine Áñez and her lazy ministers. They are just using this moment to loot our country in the name of health.”
In environmental news, the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon continues to accelerate, with the number of fires in 2020 up dramatically — even compared to last year’s devastating so-called fire season. Environmental groups say the fires are mostly the product of unlicensed loggers, ranchers and miners, with the encouragement of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
The last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic has collapsed, losing over 40% of its area — a piece larger than the island of Manhattan — in just two days at the end of July. The ice shelf’s melting has been attributed to rising temperatures as the Canadian Arctic has been over 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer this summer than the 30-year average.
The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to rescind regulations for methane gas emissions and end requirements that oil and gas companies have mechanisms in place to detect methane leaks. The new rule changes are part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to ease regulations on the largest polluters. Methane accounts for around 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
In immigration news, advocates are urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release a Mexican man imprisoned at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California and to remove him from a “deportation list.” Rights groups say ICE wants to deport José Tapete for speaking out against the facility’s squalid and abusive conditions, and neglectful practices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the agency’s use of harmful chemicals allegedly used to disinfect the facility. Tapete has been imprisoned at Adelanto for over two years and has schizophrenia. He has also participated in several hunger strikes.
Meanwhile, the family of a 74-year-old South Korean immigrant, Choung Won Ahn, who died by suicide in May, is demanding California investigate the privately run Mesa Verde Detention Facility, where he was locked up. The family says his death was preventable.
Newly released police bodycam video of George Floyd’s killing shows medical personnel waited almost three minutes to perform chest compressions on an unresponsive Floyd. The footage also shows Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed him by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes, longer than what had previously been estimated. The video comes from the bodycams of Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, who have been charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder. The video also shows Lane pulling a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of encountering him in a parked vehicle as he was investigating a complaint of a possible fake $20 bill. George Floyd can be heard repeating at least 25 times that he cannot breathe, as well as telling the officers he had COVID-19.
In North Carolina, a nurse and five guards at Forsyth County Jail face charges of involuntary manslaughter over their roles in the death of 56-year-old African American prisoner John Elliott Neville last December. The incident began when Neville reportedly fell from the top bunk of his prison bed onto a hard concrete floor. Newly released video shows guards handcuffing Neville, placing a bag over his head and moving him to another cell. There, he’s hogtied and pressed face-first into the floor as he cries out for his mother and says “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. After Neville becomes unresponsive, a nurse begins administering CPR. Neville died two days later in a hospital in Winston-Salem. An autopsy showed he was asphyxiated while restrained and suffered a brain injury after his heart stopped beating.
In Baltimore, a major gas explosion killed one woman and injured at least seven others Monday. Three homes were leveled. Investigators say it could take months to determine the cause of the devastating blast.
President Trump’s much-touted deal with Kodak has been put on hold amid a probe launched by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is investigating after Kodak’s stock surged just days after the company received a $765 million loan under the Defense Production Act. The loan was given to help Kodak start making prescription drugs — something it has never done before.
In Florida, a federal appeals court ruled it is unconstitutional for schools to ban transgender students from using the restroom corresponding to their gender identity. The case was brought by transgender teen Drew Adams, who battled his local school board for years after he was told he could no longer use the boys’ bathroom. On Friday, the judges said, “A public school may not punish its students for gender nonconformity [nor] harm transgender students by establishing arbitrary, separate rules.”