In China, some 13 million residents of the city of Xi’an have been ordered to remain at home after officials reported more than 200 coronavirus infections — the most China has reported since March of 2020. The strict lockdown comes just weeks before Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his Christmas address to advocate for universal healthcare and access to vaccines.
Pope Francis: “Grant health to the infirm, and inspire all men and women of goodwill to seek the best ways possible to overcome the current health crisis and its effects. Open hearts to ensure that necessary medical care and vaccines, in particular, are provided to those people who need them most.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African anti-apartheid icon who championed human rights struggles around the globe, died on Sunday at the age of 90. In 1984, Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work fighting to end white minority rule in South Africa. That same year, he traveled to Washington, where he denounced the Reagan administration’s support of the apartheid government. After the fall of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first Black president, Archbishop Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he pushed for restorative justice. Tutu was a prominent opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestine and spoke out against torture and the death penalty.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday he plans to double the number of Israeli settlers living in the occupied Golan Heights. Bennett announced the move after the Biden administration signaled it would not challenge Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed the territory in 1981 in defiance of international law.
In Burma, human rights groups say at least 35 civilians were massacred by government forces Friday as they fled fighting in a village in eastern Kayah state. Among the dead were women, children and two staffers with the international aid group Save the Children. Photos from the site showed charred bodies in three burned-out vehicles. The U.N.'s top humanitarian official, Martin Griffiths, condemned the attack and called on Burma's military rulers to protect civilians. Aid groups say a crackdown by government forces has left more than 1,300 people dead since Burma’s military overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
The bodies of at least 27 refugees, including a baby, were discovered after they washed ashore in the western coast of Libya Saturday. The refugees likely drowned in recent shipwrecks as Libya has become a key departure point for those trying to reach safety in Europe.
Meanwhile, the bodies of 16 people, who were among another group of 27 refugees who died last month trying to cross the English Channel, were returned to their hometown in Iraqi Kurdistan Sunday. This is one of their family members.
Zana Mohammad: “In Kurdistan, for more than seven or eight years there has been a lack of work, and young people have no work in the government sector or the private sector. All these young people traveled to achieve their dreams and goals and to reach a country that provides a decent life with dignity, because, unfortunately, in this country they do not live with dignity.”
In northeastern Brazil, authorities issued flash flood warnings after a pair of dams collapsed Saturday night amid heavy rainfall. Officials say the floods have driven over 35,000 people from their homes. Parts of Bahia state have received rainfall that is six times greater than the December average.
Here in the United States, hundreds of temperature records fell over the Christmas holiday weekend as Texas and southeastern states experienced spring-like conditions. Dallas-Fort Worth airport hit 82 degrees on Saturday — a Christmas record for North Texas, and just seven degrees cooler than the high on the Fourth of July.
Texas lawyer Sarah Weddington, who successfully argued the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, died Sunday at the age of 76. Weddington was just 26 years old when she brought a class-action lawsuit challenging Texas’s ban on abortions all the way to the Supreme Court. The court’s 1973 ruling set a precedent legalizing abortion nationwide that stands to this day. In 2012, Sarah Weddington spoke with KPBS Public Television about her long legal career.
Sarah Weddington: “You look back as I was growing up, and there were so many limits on what women could do. Women couldn’t even run full court in basketball. We got half court and two dribbles. We didn’t get credit unless our fathers or our husbands signed for us. Now most people get a credit card offer every week. We didn’t get to make decisions about our own reproductive. We didn’t get to go to law school. I was in the first group of women who went to law school. We didn’t get equal pay. And so, what we’ve been doing all these years is trying to push back barriers so that women could make more decisions.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared ready to dramatically roll back Roe v. Wade as they heard oral arguments on a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
In El Salvador, three women serving 30 years in prison under the country’s strict anti-abortion laws have been released. The three women had been convicted and sentenced to decades behind bars for having obstetric emergencies. El Salvador has had a total ban on abortion since 1998. Dozens have been arrested and imprisoned, accused of inducing abortions after having stillbirths, miscarriages and other obstetric emergencies. The three women’s release comes after a November ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights saying El Salvador’s government had violated the rights of a woman identified as Manuela, who was arrested in 2008 on charges of provoking an abortion and died in prison two years later.
Literary icon Joan Didion has died after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 87 years old. The best-selling novelist, journalist and essayist came to prominence with a collection of articles about culture and life in 1960s California. Many of Didion’s works have received several honors and are considered to be modern classics. Didion is best known for books including “Salvador,” “Play It as It Lays,” “The White Album” and “The Year of Magical Thinking,” for which she won the Pulitzer Prize.
In Georgia, two former election workers have filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani and the far-right One America News Network after they were falsely accused of manipulating votes in the 2020 election. The lawsuit states Fulton County poll workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter — who are both African American — received death threats after a “campaign of malicious lies designed to accuse them of interfering with a fair and impartial election, which is precisely what each of them swore an oath to protect.”
In Minnesota, a jury has found former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a minor traffic stop in April. Video from the killing showed Potter, who is white, pointing her 9-millimeter pistol at Wright, who was Black, repeatedly shouting “Taser!” before firing a single bullet into Wright’s chest. Potter claims she drew the pistol by mistake. Kimberly Potter will be sentenced in February; she faces up to 15 years in prison, although under Minnesota sentencing guidelines she could receive as little as six years in prison.
In California, Los Angeles community advocates are condemning the police killing of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, a 14-year-old girl who was fatally shot by LAPD Thursday while she was inside a Burlington clothing store’s changing room trying on dresses for a quinceañera. Police arrived at the store after receiving reports of an alleged assault. Officers then opened fire on an unarmed man who was also killed. Preliminary information on the shooting indicated police bullets had penetrated a wall, killing the 14-year-old girl.
In Mexico, the parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa students who were disappeared in 2014 led a peaceful protest Sunday in Mexico City as they continue to demand justice for their children. The parents are urging the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to tell them the whereabouts of the students. This is one of the fathers.
Margarito Ramírez: “To us, they are still alive. We cannot say they are dead until we see proof. We believe they might still be alive somewhere. That is why we are here with our hope and our faith in the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is the mother of all Mexicans.”