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HeadlinesDecember 20, 2021

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Build Back Better in Jeopardy After Sen. Joe Manchin Announces He Will Not Vote in Favor

Dec 20, 2021

The Build Back Better bill appears to be doomed after Senator Joe Manchin announced Sunday he would not vote for President Biden and Democrats’ signature piece of legislation, a roughly $2 trillion package that would expand the social safety net and combat the climate crisis.

Sen. Joe Manchin: “If I can’t go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.”

The news prompted swift condemnation from Democrats, activists and the White House, which essentially accused the West Virginia conservative of lying. In a scathing statement, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Manchin’s announcement “represent[s] a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.” Manchin reportedly refused to take a White House call before sinking the bill. Progressive lawmakers called out both Manchin and Democratic leadership for failing earlier this year to keep the bipartisan infrastructure vote tied to a vote on the Build Back Better Act. Congressmember Ilhan Omar tweeted, “West Virginia is 50th in public health, 50th in childcare, 48th in employment. They support Build Back Better by a 43 point margin. This has nothing to do with his constituents. This is about the corruption and self-interest of a coal baron.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced this morning senators will vote “very early in the new year” on Build Back Better, and vowed to keep trying to find a way forward.

Federal Company Vaccine Mandate Reinstated; New Data Show Moderna Booster Helps Fight Omicron

Dec 20, 2021

COVID-19 surges have been reported in more countries as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread. Here in the U.S., an average of 1,300 people are still dying every day, with Delta remaining the dominant variant for now. Across the country, long lines formed at testing sites amid a wave of new infections and as people prepare for holiday travel and gatherings. Meanwhile, a federal appeals court Friday reinstated the Biden administration vaccine-or-testing mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.

In medical news, Moderna said lab tests showed its booster increases the level of Omicron-fighting antibodies by around 37-fold. Health officials are asking vaccinated people to get boosted as soon as possible in hopes of curbing the winter surge. This is Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: “We are going to see breakthrough infections, Chuck. There’s no doubt about that. The difference between a vaccinated and boosted person who has an infection and someone who has an infection who’s never been vaccinated, a major difference with regard to the risk of severity.”

In other medical news, Pfizer said Friday its vaccine trials on 2-to-4-year-olds generated a weaker immune response than expected. Pfizer is now expanding its clinical trials to see if a third dose will produce a robust immune response in young children — with results not expected for months.

Southwest CEO Tests Positive After Senate Hearing; Sens. Booker and Warren Announce They Have COVID

Dec 20, 2021

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly tested positive for the coronavirus just days after he testified unmasked at a Senate hearing last week. Kelly, who was seated next to other airline executives, can be seen, in now widely circulated video, coughing during his testimony, in which he opposed mask mandates on airplanes.

Three Democratic lawmakers announced this weekend they tested positive for COVID-19. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Representative Jason Crow all reported mild symptoms. All three were fully vaccinated and received booster shots.

Omicron Sends COVID Cases Surging, Prompts New Restrictions in Israel, U.K., the Netherlands

Dec 20, 2021

The Netherlands is entering a strict lockdown through the year-end holidays to battle a surge of infections from the coronavirus Omicron variant. All bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, hair salons and nonessential shops will be closed until mid-January.

In Britain, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a “major incident” and will invoke new emergency powers as the U.K. continues to shatter records for daily infections.

Israel has banned travel to the U.S. and a growing list of other nations in an effort to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.

35-Year-Old Progressive Activist Gabriel Boric Will Be Chile’s Next President

Dec 20, 2021

Chilean voters have elected leftist former student leader Gabriel Boric as their new president. The capital Santiago erupted in celebration Sunday with an estimated hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets following the news. Boric beat out right-wing candidate José Antonio Kast, who conceded the runoff election Sunday. At 35 years old, Boric will become Chile’s youngest president. He has vowed to fight for progressive social reforms and overhaul the neoliberal economic policies left by the U.S.-backed dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

President-elect Gabriel Boric: “In the coming years, the future of our country is at stake, so I guarantee that I will be a president who cares for democracy and does not risk it, listens more than what he speaks, seeks unity and attends to the needs of the people daily. I will firmly fight against the privileges of a few. And I will work every day for the quality of the Chilean family.”

Gabriel Boric will be sworn in as president in March.

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Death Toll from Super Typhoon Rai Rises to 375 in Philippines; Floods Kill 8 in Malaysia

Dec 20, 2021

In the Philippines, the death toll from Super Typhoon Rai has reached 375. At least another 500 people were injured, and dozens are still missing, as search and rescue operations continue. Rai is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, major floods have killed at least eight people and displaced tens of thousands after a month’s worth of rain fell in just two days. Many residents found themselves stranded after roads became inundated and were shut down.

Rohkidah Yusof: “I’ve never experienced floods this bad. Usually it’s just small floods, but this time it’s the worst, with cars in floodwater.”

Hong Kong’s “Patriots Only” Election Sees Record Low Turnout

Dec 20, 2021

Hong Kong voters turned out in record low numbers for a legislative election held Sunday — the first election under a draconian new law that only allows pro-Beijing candidates to run for office. Just 30% of Hong Kong’s 4.4 million eligible voters cast ballots in the so-called patriots-only election.

Tse Kwok Keung: “There are no voices from the opposition side. If there are even just some opposing opinions, they would send signals to Hong Kong and China to indicate what Hong Kong people are thinking. But now there will not be much of these signals.”

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Hundreds of Thousands of Sudanese Protesters March Against Military Rule

Dec 20, 2021

In Sudan, hundreds of thousands of protesters marched to the presidential palace in the capital Khartoum Sunday, demanding an end to military rule and the right to self-determination. They were met by heavy volleys of tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition fired by Sudanese soldiers. Protesters also took to the streets in cities across Sudan, marking the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir.

U.N. Human Rights Council to Probe War Crimes in Ethiopia

Dec 20, 2021

The United Nations Human Rights Council is launching an international investigation into Ethiopia’s 13-month conflict that’s left thousands of people dead and millions displaced. The resolution passed despite objections from the Ethiopian government. The conflict between northern Tigrayan forces and the Ethiopian government has led to a devastating humanitarian crisis, as well as likely war crimes and crimes against humanity. This comes as the Ethiopian government has announced its army has recaptured several more towns from Tigrayan rebels.

Islamic Countries Pledge Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan

Dec 20, 2021

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has vowed to establish a humanitarian trust fund for Afghanistan in hopes of averting widespread hunger and economic crisis. The U.S. and its allies froze billions of dollars of assets and aid after the August Taliban takeover. Pakistan hosted the major emergency summit of Islamic states. This is Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking Sunday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan: “And I must say that we have to — and I speak to the United States specifically — they must delink the Taliban government from the 40 million Afghan citizens, even if they have — they’ve been in conflict with Taliban for 40 years — 20 years. But this is a question of the people of Afghanistan, 40 million human beings. And that’s why it is very important that action is taken immediately. Already we are late.”

NYT Reveals Widespread Pattern of Civilian Deaths and Cover-Ups in U.S. Air Wars

Dec 20, 2021

The New York Times has obtained a trove of internal documents detailing how the U.S. military’s air wars in the Middle East have been marked by flawed intelligence, rushed and imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children. The Times reports the 1,300 documents on civilian casualties contrast sharply with the U.S. government’s image of precision warfare waged by all-seeing drones. In one such attack, Special Operations forces reported killing 85 ISIS fighters in a July 2016 air raid in northern Syria; in fact, the raid hit houses far from the frontline, killing 120 villagers.

Capitol Rioter Gets 5 Years in Prison, Stiffest Sentence Yet for January 6 Insurrection

Dec 20, 2021

A federal judge sentenced a January 6 rioter to over five years in prison, the longest sentence yet linked to the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Robert Palmer attacked police officers with a fire extinguisher, a plank and a long pole during the assault on the Capitol. He was seen on video on the frontlines of the mob violence and cheering on his fellow rioters, while wearing a “Florida for Trump” hat and a jacket that looked like a U.S. flag.

Rahm Emanuel, Who Covered Up Police Killing of Laquan McDonald, Confirmed as Ambassador to Japan

Dec 20, 2021

The Senate confirmed Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan overnight Friday, despite vocal opposition from progressives and activists over Emanuel’s cover-up of the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald while he was mayor of Chicago in 2014. Rahm Emanuel was among 41 ambassadors and nine federal district court judges confirmed early Saturday morning, after months of obstruction led by Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz held up the process until the Senate agreed to vote on his bill imposing sanctions over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Saturday lawmakers would debate and vote on the sanctions by mid-January.

Claudette Colvin, Who Resisted Segregation in Alabama, Has Juvenile Court Record Expunged

Dec 20, 2021

An Alabama judge has expunged the juvenile court records of Claudette Colvin, an African American woman who was just 15 years old when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman. On March 2, 1955, Colvin boarded a Montgomery city bus after school to head home. As it filled up, a white woman was left standing, and the bus driver ordered Colvin to get up and move to the back. She refused and was dragged off the bus in handcuffs. In 2013, Claudette Colvin recalled that day in an interview with Democracy Now!

Claudette Colvin: “It felt like Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder, and I could not move. And I yelled out, “It’s my constitutional rights!’”

Her act of civil disobedience came nine months before Rosa Parks’s arrest in a similar protest sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, a landmark event in the civil rights movement.

Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Who Spent 22 Years in Solitary Confinement, Dies at 78

Dec 20, 2021

Former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz has died at the age of 78, less than two months after being let out of prison on compassionate release. Shoatz was jailed in connection with a 1970 attack on a Philadelphia police station and spent 22 of his nearly half-century behind bars in solitary confinement, becoming an outspoken prison abolitionist.

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