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HeadlinesDecember 07, 2021

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Justice Department Sues Texas over Political Maps That Diminish Power of Voters of Color

Dec 07, 2021

The Justice Department has sued Texas over its heavily gerrymandered political maps, charging that Republican lawmakers drew new districts that favor white voters despite the rapid growth of Black and Latinx communities in Texas. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said Monday the new maps show clear signs of discrimination. 

Vanita Gupta: “Texas will gain two new congressional seats because of its population growth, almost all of which is due to growth in the state’s minority population. However, Texas has designed both of those new seats to have white voting majorities. The congressional plan also deliberately reconfigured a West Texas district to eliminate the opportunity for Latino voters to elect a representative of their choice. This is the third time in three decades where Texas has eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in this same district, despite previous court determinations that this violates the law.” 

This comes a month after the Justice Department sued Texas over its recently passed voter suppression law, saying it illegally targets Texans of color, voters who don’t speak English and voters with disabilities.

New York City Announces First-in-Nation Vaccine Mandate for Private Employers

Dec 07, 2021

New York City will require all private employers to mandate their workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 27, with no testing option as an alternative. It’s the most aggressive vaccine mandate yet by any state or big city in the U.S. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the mandate could help prevent a winter surge of new infections. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “I describe the actions we’re taking today as a preemptive strike — get ahead of this problem before it deepens, and use the thing that works: vaccination.”

Nearly 90% of New York City adult residents have at least one vaccine dose — a higher rate than the national average. This comes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise rapidly nationwide. The official U.S. death toll from the pandemic is now on pace to pass 800,000 by the end of the year.

Biden Meets Putin as Russian Troops Mass on Ukraine Border

Dec 07, 2021

President Joe Biden is meeting by video link today with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid growing tensions over Russia’s buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. The Biden administration says it’s responding by sending reinforcements to NATO allies in Eastern Europe. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. was prepared to sanction Russia if it launched an invasion of Ukraine. 

Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “On financial sanctions, we have consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy. You can call that a threat. You can call that a fact. You can call that preparation, whatever you want to call it.”

Russian officials deny they’re planning an invasion of Ukraine. A Kremlin spokesperson Monday called U.S.-Russia relations ahead of Biden’s meeting with Putin “quite lamentable.”

Russia and India Agree to Deepen Military Ties

Dec 07, 2021

Russia and India on Monday pledged greater military cooperation as President Putin met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Modi agreed to purchase Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, and the pair signed a contract to manufacture more than 600,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles in India. The Biden administration has threatened to sanction India over its growing military ties with Russia.

Haitian Kidnappers Release 3 More Missionaries, 12 Remain Hostages

Dec 07, 2021

In Haiti, another three of the 17 North American missionary hostages taken in October have been released. Christian Aid Ministries says the three freed members are safe and “in good spirits.” A Haitian gang claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and had threatened to kill the hostages if their ransom was not paid. Twelve people remain in captivity. 

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Civil Rights Office’s Warnings over Haiti Deportations Went Ignored by DHS and ICE 

Dec 07, 2021

Internal documents have revealed the Homeland Security Department’s Civil Rights Office in late August advised immigration and border enforcement officials not to mass deport Haitian asylum seekers, warning the expulsions could be a violation of U.S. civil and human rights obligations. That’s according to BuzzFeed, which reports the civil rights officers were ultimately ignored. Since September, advocates estimate the Biden administration has deported some 9,200 Haitians — setting off condemnation from even U.N. human rights officials.

Biden Administration Reinstates and Expands Trump-Era “Remain in Mexico” Policy

Dec 07, 2021

In more immigration news, the Biden administration on Monday restarted the contested, Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program. Since its implementation in 2019, the policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases were resolved in U.S. courts.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration to revive the program. But immigrant justice advocates are denouncing Biden’s government for choosing to expand those who are eligible to include asylum seekers from the entire Western Hemisphere, which includes Haitians. The group Human Rights First has tracked over 1,500 reports of murder, torture, rape and other attacks against asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico. This is an asylum seeker from Honduras, who has been stuck in an encampment in the Mexican border city of Reynosa. 

Eidi Reyes: “I have been here for four months in the Plaza de las Americas, where the migrant camp is located. All we ask for is help. We want to leave, and we have suffered a lot. There are many sick children. We are in danger. We are afraid because we feel unsafe here.”

Trump-Era Oil & Gas Drilling Boom Continues Under Biden, Despite Campaign Pledge 

Dec 07, 2021

The Biden administration has accelerated the expansion of new oil and gas wells in the United States, issuing drilling permits on public lands at a faster pace than under President Trump. That’s according to a new report by Public Citizen, which found the Bureau of Land Management has approved an average of 333 oil and gas drilling permits per month under Biden — 40% faster than it did in the first three years of Trump’s presidency. This comes despite a campaign promise Biden made during a 2020 debate with Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden: “No more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period.”

Meanwhile, a new study finds the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies have made $174 billion in profits during the first nine months of 2021.

Top Mike Pence Aide Will Cooperate with January 6 Committee

Dec 07, 2021

CNN reports a top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence is cooperating with the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Marc Short was Pence’s chief of staff and was present when Pence was rushed out of the Senate chamber and moved to a secure location in the Capitol basement, as rioters chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” breached the building. Donald Trump reportedly banned Short from the White House immediately after the insurrection. 

Devin Nunes Will Quit Congress to Become CEO of Trump Media Company

Dec 07, 2021

California Republican Congressmember Devin Nunes said Monday he will quit Congress by the end of the year in order to become CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group. Donald Trump said in October the new company will compete with social media giants like Twitter and Facebook that have banned him from their platforms. Nunes formerly served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, where he helped to stymie investigations into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

Jussie Smollett Testifies in Own Defense, Denying He Staged a Hate Crime

Dec 07, 2021

In Chicago, actor Jussie Smollett testified in his criminal trial Monday, where he denied orchestrating a fake hate crime on himself and said the attack was not a hoax. Smollett was arrested in 2019, accused of lying to the Chicago police about being violently assaulted on the street. Police believed Smollett, who is gay and African American, paid two brothers, who were personal acquaintances of Smollett’s, to carry out a staged attack. The former star on Fox’s hit TV show “Empire” is facing six counts of felony disorderly conduct and up to three years in prison, if convicted.

Animal Rights Activist Convicted of Felonies for Rescuing Sick Baby Goat

Dec 07, 2021

In North Carolina, an animal rights advocate has been convicted on felony charges of burglary and larceny for removing a sick baby goat from a goat meat farm. Wayne Hsiung was given a suspended sentence and 24 months probation.

The co-founder of the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere was arrested in 2018 for taking the baby goat from the Sospiro Goat Ranch in Pisgah Forest. Hsiung said the goat was suffering from pneumonia and had lice. His action was broadcast on social media, as animal rights advocates often film these public animal rescues from farms where the animals face cruel and unsafe conditions.

Justice Department Ends Emmett Till Murder Probe Without Filing Charges

Dec 07, 2021

The Department of Justice has ended its latest investigation into the murder of Emmett Till without filing any charges. Till was the 14-year-old Black teenager who was brutally abducted, tortured and killed in Mississippi in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman and store clerk. Federal prosecutors opened their latest probe after a 2017 book quoted Donham as saying she lied when she said Till made sexual advances toward her. But the Justice Department said Monday it had “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Donham lied to the FBI. Till’s family said they were deeply disappointed by the decision to drop the case.

Donham’s husband and his half-brother were tried for Till’s murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. The two later confessed to beating and shooting Till in a magazine article. Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, described her decision to have an open casket and show her son’s mutilated body at his funeral. This is a clip from the 2005 film, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.” 

Mamie Till Mobley: “Well, I looked at Mr. Rayner, and Mr. Rayner wanted to know: Was I going to have the casket opened? I said, 'Oh, yes, we're going to open the casket.’ He said, 'Well, Ms. Bradley, do you want me to do something for the face? Want me to try to fix it up?' I said, 'No. Let the people see what I've seen.’”

If he had lived, Emmett Till would have celebrated his 80th birthday in July.

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