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HeadlinesSeptember 08, 2020

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Record-Breaking Wildfires and Heat Scorch California

Sep 08, 2020
Image Credit: Steven Russo

Wildfires continue to rage across California. The Creek Fire in Central California forced an entire small town to evacuate as firefighters battled the blazes, which have already burned 135,000 acres. Around 200 people were rescued by helicopter as the wildfires overtook a popular campground in the Sierra National Forest. Meanwhile, authorities say the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County was sparked by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party. The fire has grown to over 9,000 acres. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Sunday in five counties. California has already broken the yearly record for acres burned before the start of the fall fire season, with over 2 million acres scorched. Multiple heat records were also broken in California this weekend, including a reading of 121 degrees in Woodland Hills, the highest temperature recorded in Los Angeles County, and higher than Baghdad, Iraq, which is in the midst of a heat wave. As the climate crisis-fueled heat wave grips California, record cold temperatures are expected in parts of the country, including the Rockies, Plains and Midwest, with rare September snow forecast for the Rocky Mountains. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s in Denver today, just days after the thermometer hit 101 degrees on Saturday.

Rochester Protests Continue as Mayor Promises Changes After Police Killing of Daniel Prude

Sep 08, 2020

In New York, protests in Rochester continued over the weekend demanding justice for Daniel Prude. Prude, a Black man, died from asphyxiation in March after police officers handcuffed him, put a hood over his head and pushed his face into the freezing cold ground for two minutes while kneeling on his back. On Sunday, a group of naked and near-naked protesters wearing nothing but “spit hoods” protested outside Rochester’s public safety building. New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she would impanel a grand jury over his case. The mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, has promised police reforms after nearly a week of nonstop demonstrations.

Mayor Lovely Warren: “It is my solemn duty as a mayor of this city to honor Mr. Prude, to not let his death be in vain, and to do everything possible to transform how we police our city to truly protect and serve our residents.”

Protests were held across other U.S. cities, including Louisville, Kentucky, where armed, right-wing protesters confronted antiracist protesters during a demonstration ahead of the Kentucky Derby Saturday. This comes as Vice reports at least one of the officers involved in the police killing of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor was wearing a body camera, contradicting earlier statements by the local police department. In Portland, Oregon, this weekend marked over 100 days of daily demonstrations, as police continue to violently repress protesters.

Major Drug Companies Pledge to Not Rush COVID-19 Vaccine as U.S. Cases Top 6.3 Million

Sep 08, 2020

Coronavirus cases in the United States have topped 6.3 million, with a confirmed death toll of over 189,000. Cases are rising in 22 states, according to Reuters, as health experts warn the numbers could get worse following gatherings over the Labor Day weekend. Schools remain a site of new coronavirus clusters: Over 51,000 cases have now been reported across more than 1,000 campuses.

The Wall Street Journal reported several major drug companies, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, will issue a public pledge to not seek government approval for a COVID-19 vaccine until they are proven to be safe and effective. This comes as concerns are growing that Trump is trying to rush the release of a vaccine before the November election.

During a press briefing Monday, Trump tried to coerce Reuters reporter Jeff Mason into taking off his face mask because his voice was muffled. Trump relented after Mason said he would speak louder. Mason is the former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Later on, Trump praised a reporter who took their mask off. “You sound so clear,” Trump said.

India Becomes Second Most Infected Country; Spain First European Country to Surpass 500,000 Cases

Sep 08, 2020

As global COVID-19 cases topped 27.3 million, India has shot past Brazil to become the second most infected country, with over 4.2 million cases. Around 1,000 COVID-19 deaths are being recorded daily in India.

Spain has become the first country in Western Europe to top 500,000 coronavirus infections, as the country has witnessed a second surge in cases amid the easing of lockdowns and the reopening of schools.

Greece has registered 10 cases of coronavirus in the overcrowded migrant camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos.

In Russia, some frontline workers, including teachers and healthcare workers, are expressing concern over getting a coronavirus vaccine, touted last month by President Vladimir Putin, which is still undergoing trials. Critics say it’s still premature for widespread use and that the government rushed the vaccine’s approval.

Belarusian Opposition Leader Resists Expulsion at Border with Ukraine After Reports of Abduction

Sep 08, 2020

Ukrainian officials say Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova was arrested after resisting being expelled to Ukraine by tearing up her passport at the border. On Monday, witnesses reported she was snatched off the streets of Minsk and driven off in a van. This all comes one month after authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in an election many say was rigged. On Sunday, 100,000 people took to the streets of Minsk as protests demanding Lukashenko step down continue to gain steam.

Alexei Navalny Out of Induced Coma as He Continues Recovery from Poisoning

Sep 08, 2020

In Germany, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is out of an induced coma and responsive, according to the Berlin hospital treating him. Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was poisoned last month with Novichok, a banned military-grade nerve agent, and airlifted to a hospital in Germany. The Kremlin has denied any responsibility for Navalny’s poisoning.

Extradition Hearing Resumes for Julian Assange in U.K.

Sep 08, 2020
Image Credit: Julia Quenzler

In Britain, the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange resumed this week, after being delayed for months amid the pandemic. Assange is wanted in the U.S. for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and faces a 175-year sentence on espionage and hacking charges. As he arrived at the London courthouse, Assange was arrested on 18 new charges from a U.S. indictment filed in June. Legal observers say they were barred from the proceedings. Protests took place in London and in cities around the world in defense of Assange and press freedom. This is Julian Assange’s father John Shipton speaking Monday as he left the courthouse.

John Shipton: “I think the case is a fraud against the court. That’s what I think: fraud against the court applied by the American Department of Justice. Julian is an Australian citizen. The publications are in the United Kingdom. And yet he is kidnapped and judicially abducted to the United States to spend 175 years in jail.”

Hundreds of Rohingya Refugees Arrive on Dry Land After Months at Sea

Sep 08, 2020

Nearly 300 Rohingya refugees have disembarked in Indonesia after being stranded at sea for over six months. The refugees reportedly set sail from southern Bangladesh this spring, but the majority were denied entry by both Malaysian and Thai officials, who cited coronavirus restrictions. Over a dozen children were among the group. Some 30 people likely died while at sea. Since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled violent persecution in Burma.

Duterte Pardons U.S. Marine Convicted of Killing Transgender Woman

Sep 08, 2020

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has pardoned a U.S. marine who was convicted in 2015 of killing a transgender woman. Joseph Scott Pemberton killed 26-year-old Jennifer Laude in a hotel room near a former U.S. naval base. He admitted to punching and choking Laude after learning she was transgender. Local LGBTQ rights group Bahaghari tweeted, “For as long as the U.S. maintains hegemony over our military, economy, and politics, there will be no Justice For Jennifer and for the Filipino LGBTQ+.”

U.N. Calls Saudi Sentences in Jamal Khashoggi Murder a “Parody of Justice”

Sep 08, 2020

In Saudi Arabia, a court issued prison sentences of between seven and 20 years for the eight defendants in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in October 2018. The trial and verdict were widely condemned around the world, namely for the failure to address who ordered the murder of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government. Agnès Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called it “a parody of justice.” She added, “As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country.” She urged the U.S. to release its intelligence findings on the role of the crown prince in Khashoggi’s killing.

Trump Lashes Out at Pentagon Following Report He Called U.S. Soldiers “Losers” and “Suckers”

Sep 08, 2020

In the U.S., fallout continued over reports last week that Trump referred to U.S. soldiers who died in war as “losers” and “suckers.” On Monday, Trump told reporters top Pentagon officials don’t like him because he wants to get the U.S. out of “endless wars” that benefit weapons manufacturers. Last year, Trump bypassed Congress so he could sell $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Recently the U.S. said it could start selling F-35 jets to the UAE following the normalization agreement it reached with Israel. According to a former DHS official, Trump berated a marine general in the Oval Office, demanding he award a contract to a particular company building the wall on the southern border.

Trump Goes After Gov’t Antiracism Training, Threatens to Cut DOE Funding over Use of 1619 Project

Sep 08, 2020

Trump ordered a crackdown on antiracism training within federal agencies Friday, calling it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” The director of the Office of Management and Budget said they are targeting spending related to “critical race theory” and “white privilege.”

Meanwhile, in education news, Trump threatened Sunday to pull federal funding from schools that use The New York Times’s 1619 Project — which reexamines the legacy of slavery — in their curriculum. Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize this year for her essay as part of the acclaimed interactive project, which she also directed.

Prosecutors Drops Case Against Curtis Flowers After Six Trials and 23 Years Behind Bars

Sep 08, 2020

In Mississippi, prosecutors have dismissed the case against Curtis Flowers, a Black man who was tried six times and spent over two decades in prison on capital murder charges. Flowers was accused of killing four people in 1996 at a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, but the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned his first three convictions, and Flowers’s next two trials ended in hung juries. In 2010, a jury in his sixth trial found Flowers guilty and sentenced him to death. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Flowers deserved yet another trial, saying prosecutors had engaged in racial discrimination for striking Black jurors from the panel.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Under Fire over Reports He Made Employees Donate to GOP Candidates

Sep 08, 2020

President Trump said Monday he is open to an investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s campaign fundraising, following a recent Washington Post report that said DeJoy’s former employees at New Breed Logistics were pressured into making donations to Republican candidates and then later reimbursed through bonuses — an illegal practice. Trump said DeJoy should lose his job if he did something wrong. DeJoy, who is a Trump megadonor, has come under fire for recent changes at the Postal Service that have caused widespread delays and sparked major concerns over mail-in ballots in November’s election.

CA Judge Halts Trump Effort to End Census Collection Efforts Early

Sep 08, 2020

A federal judge in California has temporarily halted the Trump administration from ending its census collection efforts one month early, pending a court hearing later this month. The Census Bureau is being challenged by a coalition of rights groups, local governments and Native American communities, after it announced it would end its collection efforts at the end of September instead of the end of October, which could lead to a vast undercount of immigrants and communities of color.

Climate Activists Target News Outlets for Failing to Truthfully Report the Climate Crisis

Sep 08, 2020
Image Credit: Twitter: @alchymediatv

Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion targeted media outlets around the country and around the world on Friday to demand news organizations truthfully report on the climate emergency and stop financial conflicts of interest with fossil fuel companies. In Washington, D.C., activists staged a die-in in front of CNN’s offices.

Sophia: “As one of the most powerful news organizations in this country, CNN has a moral duty to tell the truth to the public. It has a moral duty to inform people about the gravest existential threat humankind has ever faced. CNN is failing to fulfill its moral duty. Instead of telling the truth, CNN takes money from the fossil fuel companies that lie to the public.”

Dozens of Extinction Rebellion activists in Britain were arrested as they blockaded access to printing presses of publications owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is also the owner of News Corp here in the U.S.

Beloved Peace Activist and Lawyer Kevin Zeese Dies at the Age of 64

Sep 08, 2020

Prominent peace activist, lawyer and writer Kevin Zeese has died at the age of 64. Kevin Zeese was deeply involved in many anti-imperialist and anti-corporate movements, including the fight for universal healthcare and Occupy Wall Street. In 2019, he was part of a group of activists who occupied the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., to prevent it being taken over by Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition. This is Zeese speaking from inside the embassy in May 2019.

Kevin Zeese: “We’re not going to leave voluntarily. We came here to protect the embassy. We’ve been here for 34 days. We will stay longer, if necessary. We hope that this still results in an agreement between Venezuela and the United States to protect this embassy from the fake government, the fake coup nongovernment that the U.S. is pushing forward. So, we’re here. We’re still resisting.”

Kevin Zeese ran the website Popular Resistance and the podcast Clearing the Fog, with his partner Dr. Margaret Flowers.

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