The Biden administration is prepared to reinstate the contested Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy as soon as next week, after it reached an agreement with the Mexican government. This means asylum seekers who arrive at the southern U.S. border will once again be returned and forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are resolved in U.S. courts — a process that can take months or even years. Advocates warn Biden has expanded the program to now potentially include asylum seekers from the entire Western Hemisphere.
This comes despite mounting reports of human rights violations and other grave dangers faced by asylum seekers while stuck in Mexico. This is a Salvadoran asylum seeker in Juárez, Mexico, speaking Thursday from a migrant shelter near the U.S. border.
Esmeralda Bravo: “I have been here 22 days. Being here for a long time is desperate. We have children, and we are here without our families. To stay here another six months is very difficult. Thank God we have food here. We have everything we need, but it is hard to be without our families.”
Advocates have vowed to continue fighting “Remain in Mexico.” The ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said in a statement, “The reimplementation of this illegal and cruel policy will inflict on thousands of additional people seeking asylum the same harms that were well documented under its previous implementation: horrific abuse, including torture, rape, and death; and the denial of any meaningful opportunity to obtain asylum.”
German leaders have ordered tough new restrictions for people not vaccinated against COVID-19, as Germany and many other European nations experience their worst surge of the pandemic. Germany’s new rules bar unvaccinated people who haven’t had a previous infection from public life: from restaurants, theaters, stores and many other venues. Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said officials may make vaccinations mandatory by February.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases in South Africa have nearly tripled in just three days amid a fourth surge linked to the Omicron coronavirus variant. On Thursday, South African scientists warned people with a previous coronavirus infection appear to have little immunity to Omicron and are highly susceptible to reinfection.
President Biden visited the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Thursday, where he laid out his public health strategy for battling COVID-19 this winter.
President Joe Biden: “And it doesn’t include shutdowns or lockdowns, but widespread vaccinations and boosters and testing and a lot more.”
Biden’s plan will require private health insurers to reimburse their customers for the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests. Fifty million tests would be made available to the uninsured for free through health centers and rural clinics.
This comes as hospitalizations and deaths are once again on the rise across the United States, with more than 1,000 U.S. residents dying of COVID-19, on average, each day.
At least five states have now detected cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Here in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul urged all 53,000 people who attended a November anime convention in Manhattan to get tested, after a Minnesota man who traveled to the event was found to have been infected with Omicron. Other cases have been found in New York, Colorado, California and Hawaii.
On Capitol Hill, House and Senate lawmakers approved a stopgap spending bill Thursday evening that funds government operations through mid-February. Senators narrowly defeated a Republican amendment that would have defunded COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, military members and federal employees. Many Republicans had threatened to shut down the government in protest of vaccine mandates.
Oregon Congressmember Peter DeFazio said Wednesday he will not seek reelection in 2022. DeFazio is currently chair of the House Transportation Committee, serving his 18th term in Congress. He’s the 19th House Democrat to announce their retirement ahead of midterm elections next year, in which Republicans are expected to benefit from gerrymandered congressional districts and sweeping new voter suppression laws.
Last month, California Democrat Jackie Speier announced she will not run for an eighth term in Congress. A survivor of the Jonestown massacre when she was a congressional aide in 1978, Speier more recently co-led a resolution to censure Republican Paul Gosar after he posted a violent animated video depicting himself murdering Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Gosar was censured over the video.
Human rights groups are demanding the United Nations reopen an investigation into atrocities committed in Yemen, after the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in October against extending an independent war crimes investigation. Dozens of organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, said in a joint statement Thursday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “bribed, coerced and arm-twisted” council members to win a 21-18 vote ordering an end to the war crimes probe, which was set up four years ago. Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said all parties to the conflict in Yemen — including Saudi and Houthi forces — have committed atrocities with impunity.
Agnès Callamard: “There is seemingly no end in sight for this war. There is no light that we can see at the end of the tunnel. For that reason, we have to act now, because every day that goes by … far more people are being harmed and killed. And, indeed, to say that a mechanism could save millions of lives is not an exaggeration.”
The U.N. estimates about a quarter of a million people have been killed as a result of Yemen’s war, with some 4 million Yemenis displaced since the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.
A new report by Human Rights Watch finds Burmese security forces encircled, then killed anti-coup protesters at a demonstration in Rangoon in March as part of a pre-planned attack. At least 65 people were shot dead. According to a local rights monitor, over 1,300 people have been killed by the military junta since the February 1 coup. This comes as the announcement of the first verdicts in a series of charges against deposed and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was delayed until Monday of next week.
A record-breaking winter heat wave had residents of Washington state, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Canada feeling like it was mid-spring this week. Parts of British Columbia hit 72.5 degrees, a record high for the region. In Montana, the unusually hot and dry weather has set prairies ablaze, with two dozen homes and businesses catching fire in the rural town of Denton.
In southern Oregon, Canadian oil and gas company Pembina Pipeline has abandoned plans for a fracked gas pipeline and export terminal, after years of organizing and community pushback. Opponents argued the project violated the Clean Water Act and threatened local wildlife, livelihoods and Indigenous land.
In another climate victory, Shell has pulled out of the Cambo oil field project in the U.K.’s North Sea. The announcement came after an intense pressure campaign by activists who petitioned the British government against the potential environmental disaster. Shell cited economic reasons for canceling the project. Climate activists are demanding the government follow suit and drop its support of the oil field project.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated President Biden would likely soon speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin as tensions continue to mount over the military buildup at Russia’s border with Ukraine. Blinken made the statement after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Thursday. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military said it is conducting artillery drills near the border of Russian-annexed Crimea. Russia has denied it has plans for any military action and blamed Ukrainian allies for the current situation. This is Sergey Lavrov.
Sergey Lavrov: ”NATO continues to escalate the situation on our borders, refuses to consider our proposals to deescalate tensions and prevent dangerous incidents.”
The Biden administration has rejected calls to ban the use of lethal autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots.” During a United Nations meeting in Geneva Thursday, the U.S. instead proposed establishing a code of conduct for their use. Activists across the globe have long warned of the growing threat posed by robots that use artificial intelligence and lethal weapons to kill without a human overseeing the process.
At least 60 schools in Michigan closed on Thursday after police warned of potential copycat killings following the Oxford High School shooting on Tuesday, which left four students dead and seven people wounded. On Thursday, prosecutors signaled they may soon bring criminal charges against the parents of the 15-year-old suspect. The boy’s father, James Crumbley, purchased the semi-automatic pistol used in the killing just days before the massacre. Prosecutors say the gun was in the boy’s backpack during a meeting with his parents and teachers just before the shooting to discuss reports of “concerning behavior.” After the meeting, the teen was allowed to return to class. Prosecutors also said Thursday they discovered videos on the boy’s cellphone made the night before the massacre in which he talked about shooting and killing students the next day.
Social justice and environmental advocate Martha “Marty” Nathan has died after a battle with lung cancer and congestive heart failure. She was 70 years old. Nathan was a co-founder of Climate Action Now and the founder of the environmental group 2degrees Northampton. She was also a retired physician. Nathan spoke to Democracy Now! in 2019 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Greensboro massacre — when 40 Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis opened fire on an anti-Klan demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing five antiracist activists in a span of 88 seconds.
Dr. Marty Nathan: “Five people were murdered, including my husband Mike, and 10 people were injured. The police were nowhere to be found.”
In 2020, Greensboro’s City Council passed a resolution apologizing for the attack and the police department’s complicity in the killings. Marty Nathan said the Greensboro massacre showed how white supremacist violence continues to threaten movements for social and economic justice.
Dr. Marty Nathan: “We stand for the rights of people to live and to live decently. In a time of climate change, threat of nuclear war and increasing economic disparity, we all have to be in the streets, and we do not want to get shot.”