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HeadlinesDecember 17, 2021

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Biden Warns of “Winter of Severe Illness and Death” for Unvaccinated Americans

Dec 17, 2021

President Biden warned Thursday of an imminent surge of COVID-19 cases as the Omicron coronavirus variant continued to spread around the world and across the U.S. at an unprecedented pace.

President Joe Biden: “For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death, if you’re unvaccinated, for themselves, their families and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm.”

U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise, with nearly 1,300 people dying of the disease each day. Amid the surge, many prominent universities, including NYU, DePaul and Princeton, have returned to online classes. Cornell canceled most campus activities after 1,100 students tested positive for coronavirus in just one week.

The National Football League and National Basketball Association have announced new COVID-19 protocols after dozens of players tested positive this week.

Here in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced plans to distribute 1 million high-quality masks and half a million at-home COVID-19 tests. 

CDC Recommends Moderna and Pfizer Vaccines Over Johnson & Johnson, Citing Rare Blood Clots

Dec 17, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday people should avoid use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and should instead opt for vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. A vaccine advisory panel cited the risk of extremely rare but life-threatening blood clots linked to J&J shots.

Thousands of ICE Prisoners Denied Access to COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

Dec 17, 2021

The American Civil Liberties Union warns Immigration and Customs Enforcement is denying COVID booster shots to some 21,000 prisoners being held in ICE jails around the U.S. An ACLU attorney said, “This is yet another example of ICE’s cavalier approach to the health and safety of people in detention, in violation of their constitutional rights, and underscores the inherent danger of detention in the first place.” 

FDA Relaxes Restrictions on Access to Abortion Pills 

Dec 17, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration has permanently removed the in-person restriction on accessing abortion pills, allowing patients to receive the medication by mail after a telehealth consultation. Previously, pregnant people had to go to an on-site provider to take the prescription drug, though that requirement was lifted during the pandemic. The medication, mifepristone, was approved by the FDA in 2000 and has become an increasingly popular method of abortion. It is used in conjunction with the drug misoprostol. Reproductive rights advocates hailed the FDA decision at a time when the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance with a conservative-majority Supreme Court.

Federal Judge Throws Out Opioid Settlement That Shielded Sackler Family from Lawsuits

Dec 17, 2021

A federal judge has thrown out a roughly $4.5 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma that shielded the Sackler family from future lawsuits. Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York ruled the bankruptcy court does not have the authority to grant the Sacklers such legal protection. The Sacklers have refused to acknowledge any personal responsibility in the deadly opioid crisis.

Lucía Hiriart, Widow of Chilean Dictator Pinochet, Dies on Eve of Presidential Election

Dec 17, 2021

In Chile, the widow of former U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet has died at the age of 99. Lucía Hiriart married General Pinochet in 1943 and stood by him as he toppled the democratically elected President Salvador Allende in a bloody 1973 coup supported by the Nixon administration. During Pinochet’s 17-year reign, more than 3,000 Chileans were murdered and disappeared; tens of thousands more were tortured.

Hiriart’s death was announced just days before Sunday’s presidential election pitting far-right candidate José Antonio Kast against leftist Gabriel Boric, a former student leader.

In Santiago, large crowds gathered to celebrate news of Hiriart’s passing.

Javiera: “For now, all I can feel is joy, but also anger because she died without paying for her crimes. But there’s hope with Gabriel Boric’s candidacy for the presidency, for a fair presidency that is full of love and justice. We can return to having a country we can all love, that was taken from us 30 years ago.”

At Least Seven Die as Super Typhoon Rai Slams Philippines with 160 MPH Winds

Dec 17, 2021

Super Typhoon Rai struck the southeastern Philippines Thursday with winds topping 160 miles per hour. At least seven deaths have been reported. Nearly 100,000 people evacuated ahead of landfall. The typhoon is the third Category 5 storm to hit the Philippines in the past two years.

Workers at Candle Factory Destroyed by Tornado Sue Company over “Flagrant Indifference”

Dec 17, 2021

In Kentucky, workers who survived the tornado that flattened a candle factory in the city of Mayfield last week have sued their employer, charging Mayfield Consumer Products with “flagrant indifference” that led to the deaths of eight people. The lawsuit alleges managers had up to three-and-a-half hours to evacuate the factory amid reports of approaching severe weather but instead chose to threaten workers with termination if they left their shifts early.

Striking Kellogg’s Workers Win Tentative Contract; L.A. Cake Factory Workers Are 6 Weeks into Strike

Dec 17, 2021

A union representing 1,400 Kellogg’s workers has reached a tentative agreement with the cereal giant on a new five-year contract. If approved by workers during a weekend vote, the deal will end a more than two-month strike at four Kellogg’s plants. A previous tentative agreement that would have brought 3% raises was rejected by an overwhelming majority of workers.

In Massachusetts, workers at two Boston-area Starbucks stores have announced a unionization effort. Their campaign comes after workers at a Buffalo Starbucks location voted last week to form the first U.S.-based union of the coffee megachain.

In Los Angeles County, workers at a cake factory that produces desserts for chain stores including Walmart and Baskin-Robbins are on day 45 of a strike demanding better working conditions. The mostly Latinx immigrant workers say they’re forced to work up to 15 hours a day, have to produce 13 cakes per minute and are granted only three sick days a year.

Calls Mount to Overrule Senate Parliamentarian Who Rejected Immigration Proposal 

Dec 17, 2021

The Senate parliamentarian has rejected Democrats’ third bid to include immigration reform in the Build Back Better bill. The proposal included granting work permits and deportation protections to millions of people. The news prompted a swift rebuke from immigrant justice advocates and Democratic lawmakers. New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman tweeted, “The parliamentarian is not an elected official. Their guidance is advisory not law. The republicans have fired the parliamentarian to pass their tax cuts for the wealthy. Democrats must overrule the parliamentarian to pass immigration reform.”

U.S. May Stop Detaining Migrant Families But Pulls Out of “Zero Tolerance” Compensation Talks

Dec 17, 2021

Axios is reporting the Biden administration has stopped holding undocumented families in detention centers, relying instead on electronic ankle bracelets and other tracking methods. The administration has not announced an official policy ending the harmful practice, and facilities are still holding adults in often inhumane conditions. Immigrant rights advocates have also condemned the intense surveillance of migrants and likened monitoring devices to “shackles.”

In related news, the Justice Department has pulled out of talks to compensate migrant families who were separated at the border under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. Over 5,000 children, including babies, were ripped from their families, which Biden has called a “moral and national shame.” But last month Biden rejected reports his administration could offer up to $450,000 per family, saying, “That’s not going to happen.”

Haitian Gang Releases 12 Remaining North American Missionaries Held Hostage for Ransom

Dec 17, 2021

Haitian officials announced Thursday the remaining 12 North American missionaries who were kidnapped in October have been released. Five others had previously been freed. The gang 400 Mawozo had initially demanded a ransom of $1 million for each of the 17 hostages. It has not been confirmed whether any money was exchanged for the release, though one source said a smaller amount was paid to the gang, but not by the U.S. government.

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Haitian Immigrant Activist Jean Montrevil Wins Chance to Pursue Permanent Status in U.S.

Dec 17, 2021

Jean Montrevil, the immigrant activist and former U.S. permanent resident who was abruptly deported to Haiti in 2018, has been given three years of deferred action that will allow him to remain in the United States to pursue a path to permanent status. This comes as a result of a settlement in his First Amendment lawsuit against the U.S. government. Montrevil argued federal immigration officials targeted him for his activism, including his criticism of the Trump administration’s policies toward Haiti. We’ll speak with Jean Montrevil and his lawyer on Monday. Click here to see more than a decade of our interviews with Jean.

Rohingya Genocide Survivor Testifies to Argentine Court in Universal Jurisdiction Case

Dec 17, 2021

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a representative of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority testified in court Thursday as a trial got underway against senior Burmese military officials, charging them with crimes against humanity. The case was brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows for serious international crimes to be prosecuted — even if they were committed in another nation. First to testify was activist Maung Tun Khin, one of an estimated 730,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled Burma after a military-led crackdown in 2017.

Maung Tun Khin: “My brothers and sisters were brutally killed and murdered by Burmese military, and thousands of our sisters were raped by Burmese military. … I am a victim. I’m a genocide survivor. Many genocide survivors, we want to see — we want to get justice. … So we are seeking justice under a universal jurisdiction case.”

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