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HeadlinesJanuary 15, 2021

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Joe Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus and Economic Relief Package

Jan 15, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden has proposed a massive $1.9 trillion plan to battle the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis. The plan calls for sending out an additional $1,400 per person in direct payments, $350 billion for hard-hit state and local governments, and another $400 billion in pandemic response funds to pay for vaccinations, testing, school reopenings and emergency paid leave. It also offers enhanced unemployment benefits, tax credits to working families, rental assistance, and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums through September. Biden also called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He outlined his plan in a national address Thursday evening.

President-elect Joe Biden: “Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance. Some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors. … A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s no time to waste. We have to act, and we have to act now.”

Parts of Biden’s plan rankled some progressive lawmakers, like Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pointed to Biden’s proposal for $1,400 stimulus checks rather than the $2,000 checks many Democrats called for in recent weeks. Biden’s transition team says the $1,400 checks would build on $600 payments already approved by Congress. Bloomberg is reporting Biden will seek a compromise deal that will mean a smaller initial package featuring some priorities favored by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

U.S. on Pace to Top 400,000 COVID-19 Deaths by Inauguration Day as Unemployment Surges

Jan 15, 2021

New jobs data showed U.S. workers filed 965,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week — the highest level in nearly five months and far above historical averages. This all comes as the U.S. reported its 10th day in a row of more than 200,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday and over 3,700 COVID-19 deaths. The total confirmed number of deaths is set to top 400,000 before Inauguration Day, next Wednesday.

Dozens of Capitol Rioters Were on FBI Terrorism Watch List

Jan 15, 2021

Dozens of people on an FBI terrorist watch list were in Washington, D.C., on January 6, when President Trump incited a violent mob of insurrectionists to attack the Capitol. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reports most of the rioters flagged by the national Terrorist Screening Database are white supremacists. The FBI says more than 100 insurrectionists have been arrested so far, with more than 200 other suspects identified. Among the latest arrests are Kevin Seefried, who was photographed carrying a Confederate battle flag through the halls of Congress; former U.S. Olympic medalist Klete Keller, who wore his Olympic swim team jacket to the riots; and Robert Sanford, a retired firefighter who was filmed throwing a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police officers, striking three of them in the head.

QAnon Insurrectionist Jacob Chansley, Who Threatened VP Pence, Seeks Trump Pardon

Jan 15, 2021

In Arizona, the lawyer for rioter Jacob Anthony Chansley said he will seek a pardon from President Trump. Chansley faces charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct after he was filmed posing shirtless, wearing buffalo horns and holding a spear on the Senate dais. In a court filing unveiled Thursday, federal prosecutors in Phoenix wrote that Chansley left a note for Vice President Mike Pence reading, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.” They added, “Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government.” Video from January 6 posted to the now-defunct social media site Parler shows Chansley boasting about his role in the insurrection.

Reporter: “How did you get out?”

Jacob Chansley: “How did I get out of what?”

Reporter: “How did you get out?”

Jacob Chansley: “Of the Senate?”

Reporter: “Yeah.”

Jacob Chansley: “The cops walked out with me.”

Reporter: “They just let you go?”

Jacob Chansley: “Yeah.”

Reporter: “And what’s your message to everybody now? Like, what are you yelling now?”

Jacob Chansley: “Oh, Donald Trump asked everybody to go home. He just said it. He just put out a tweet. It’s a minute long. He asked everybody to go home.”

Reporter: “Why do you think so?”

Jacob Chansley: “Because, dude, we won the [bleep] day!”

The Washington Post reports the National Park Service will close the National Mall on Inauguration Day amid fears of domestic terror attacks. Michigan Congressmember Peter Meijer said Thursday he purchased a bulletproof vest — and will have the expense reimbursed by Congress — after he joined nine other Republicans and House Democrats voting for Trump’s impeachment on Wednesday.

NY Rep. Adriano Espaillat Tests Positive for Coronavirus After Receiving 2nd Dose of Vaccine

Jan 15, 2021

Democratic New York Congressmember Adriano Espaillat announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus and is asymptomatic. Espaillat received the second dose of his COVID-19 vaccine last week. It takes several weeks to build up immunity after the shots, which have been proven to prevent severe disease but are not known to prevent people from becoming infected or spreading the virus to others.

Hospitals in Brazil’s Amazonas Run Out of Oxygen as Fears of Variant Trigger Travel Bans

Jan 15, 2021

Over 93 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported around the world. With confirmed global deaths set to top 2 million, an analysis by The Wall Street Journal finds at least another 820,000 deaths on top of that number were caused by the coronavirus.

In Brazil, officials in Amazonas, the country’s largest state, have imposed a 7 p.m. curfew, and health workers say they are desperate for oxygen supplies and other resources as they face a dramatic surge. Hospitals in the state’s capital, Manaus, are resorting to performing manual ventilation to try to save people’s lives. A local epidemiologist called the situation an “unprecedented calamity.” Officials say a new variant could be partially to blame for the explosion in cases.

Britain is banning travel from much of South America, as well as Portugal, over fears of the variant. Brazil has recorded over 207,000 deaths, the second-highest tally after the U.S.

2020 Was Hottest Year on Earth, Bringing Record Fires, Heat Waves and Extreme Weather

Jan 15, 2021

In climate news, 2020 edged out 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded, with global surface temperatures averaging 2.25 degrees Fahrenheit above historical averages, or 1.2 degrees Celsius. The last seven years have been the warmest years ever observed. The worsening climate crisis brought record heat waves and fires, searing droughts and the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels surpassed 410 parts per million in 2020 — also a record — continuing an inexorable rise. The dire climate report comes even as the coronavirus pandemic slowed the worldwide pace of emissions in 2020, with U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropping by 10%.

Yemen’s Humanitarian Disaster Set to Worsen as U.S. Moves to Label Houthis as Terrorists

Jan 15, 2021

In Yemen, aid groups are sounding the alarm following the U.S. move to designate Houthi rebels as a terrorist group. The U.N. is warning of “famine not seen in 40 years.” Houthis control Yemen’s capital Sana’a, running financial institutions and coordinating with international groups that supply food and other essentials to the area. Yemenis also rely heavily on remittances, which have already fallen during the pandemic and which could now be further disrupted.

Yosra Abdullah: “My family and I depend for a big part on expatriates for our livelihood. I have relatives in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and in other countries. I depend on them for my expenses. If the decision is enacted, it will hit remittances, and my family’s situation will deteriorate. The decision works against us, and the private sector is in danger. Work can stop at any moment.”

Michigan Ex-Gov. Rick Snyder, 8 Top Ex-Officials Charged over Flint Water Crisis

Jan 15, 2021

Back in the United States, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and eight other former officials were charged Thursday in a sweeping criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis. Snyder faces two charges of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor. Snyder’s former health director, Nick Lyon, faces nine felony counts of involuntary manslaughter. In 2014, Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by then-Governor Snyder, switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure. The move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and widespread lead poisoning in residents, including children, in the majority-Black city. Michigan’s solicitor general, Fadwa Hammoud, spoke Thursday.

Fadwa Hammoud: “At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long. … There are no velvet ropes in our criminal justice system. Nobody, no matter how powerful or well connected, is above accountability when they commit a crime.”

Click here to see our documentary, “Thirsty for Democracy: The Poisoning of an American City.”

DOJ Inspector General Report Details How Trump and Allies Pushed to Separate Families

Jan 15, 2021

In immigration news, a damning new report by the Justice Department’s inspector general directly implicates President Trump in aggressively pushing for harsher, crueler immigration policies despite knowing they would lead to the separation of thousands of asylum-seeking families.

According to the report, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a 2018 meeting, “We need to take the children away,” and that there was tremendous pressure from Trump to prosecute more asylum seekers. The report also says Trump and senior officials were woefully unprepared to enforce the “zero tolerance” policy.

In response, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said, “The barbaric family separation practice was immoral and illegal. … This new report shows just how far the Trump administration was willing to go to destroy these families.”

ICE’s Acting Director Resigns After Two Weeks on Job

Jan 15, 2021

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s newest acting director, Jonathan Fahey, has stepped down after only two weeks on the job. Fahey is the latest homeland security official to resign, just days before President Trump leaves office. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf resigned earlier this week.

Caravan Departs Honduras, Fleeing Economic Crises and Hurricane Devastation

Jan 15, 2021

A caravan of hundreds of asylum seekers from Central America is expected to depart Honduras today with the hopes of reaching the U.S. The caravan is likely to face obstacles as it tries to cross through the region and into Mexico. Reuters reports that just one week ago, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico issued a joint declaration that would require asylum seekers produce a negative COVID-19 test at border checkpoints. Tens of thousands of Central Americans were displaced after two back-to-back hurricanes, Eta and Iota, battered the region last November. The pandemic also worsened an already devastating economic crisis in Central America.

Report Says ICE Failed to Provide Basic Coronavirus Protections, Threatened Prisoners

Jan 15, 2021

In more U.S. immigration news, a report by Physicians for Human Rights and Harvard Medical School highlights how Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, failed to implement even the most basic hygienic methods to prevent the spread of the coronavirus inside immigration jails. The report says prisoners didn’t have access to soap to wash their hands and weren’t able to socially distance inside the squalid jails. If prisoners raised safety concerns, they would be retaliated against, according to the report. Researchers spoke to 50 formerly incarcerated immigrants. A 33-year-old man, who was held at Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, said, “I think I got COVID because I had body pain and felt short of breath. But I never said anything to anybody because I was so scared that they were going to punish me.”

New York Attorney General Sues NYPD for Abuses During 2020’s BLM Uprising

Jan 15, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued the New York Police Department, accusing police officers of widespread abuses against peaceful racial justice protesters last year. This is the first time in history a state attorney general has sued a police department. This is James speaking at a press conference Thursday.

Attorney General Letitia James: “We found that over the course of the protests from May to December of 2020, NYPD officers engaged in blatant use of excessive force and often misconduct, including the indiscriminate, unjustified and repeated use of batons, pepper spray, bicycles and a crowd control tactic known as kettling, also referred to as containment, which caused significant physical harm. We also found that NYPD officers unlawfully detained and arrested legal observers, medics and other essential workers performing services.”

This comes as new data show police are three times more likely to use force against leftist and progressive protesters than right-wing rioters.

The Intercept Co-Founder & Oscar Winner Laura Poitras Says She Was Fired by First Look Media

Jan 15, 2021

The Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laura Poitras published an open letter Thursday saying she had been fired in November from her job at First Look Media, where she co-founded The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. She wrote, “My termination came two months after I spoke to the press about The Intercept’s failure to protect whistleblower Reality Winner and the cover-up and lack of accountability that followed.” Winner is a former National Security Agency linguist who is now serving a five-year prison sentence for leaking documents to The Intercept about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. First Look disputed Poitras’s account, saying her contract was not renewed because “she has not been active in any capacity with our company for more than two years.” This comes as Reality Winner’s mother is leading a campaign to push President Trump or President-elect Joe Biden to pardon her.

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