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HeadlinesFebruary 17, 2021

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Severe Winter Storm Kills 23 People, Cuts Power to Millions as Texas Energy System Fails

Feb 17, 2021

At least 23 people have been killed and millions remain without power as a major winter storm sweeps across large swaths of the country, bringing record-breaking cold and snow. An overwhelmed and underprepared power grid in Texas plunged millions into freezing cold and darkness. Hundreds of thousands also lost power across parts of Appalachia, as well as in Oregon. This is a resident of Denton, Texas.

Robert Pierce: “We had a fireplace, and I burnt up all the wood we had. … There’s just — this is sad. This is a sad state of affairs. I wish it were better, but, you know, somebody’s got to do some planning after all this is over and make sure there’s an alternative source of energy.”

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott took to Fox News Tuesday to blame renewable energy sources for his state’s blackouts, saying the Green New Deal would be “deadly” for the U.S. His comments contradicted Texas’s own energy department, which said the outages were due to “frozen instruments at natural gas, coal and even nuclear facilities.”

Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal.” Texas set up its own power grid, ERCOT, in the 1930s to avoid federal regulation.

Prisoners in Texas, including 1,000 women at the Fort Worth federal medical prison, reported having no heat. In Matamoros, Mexico, which sits on the border with Brownsville, Texas, around 1,000 asylum seekers who were denied entry to the U.S. as part of Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy were forced to face the subfreezing temperatures inside low-grade tents. In North Carolina, a tornado killed at least three people.

Storm Creates Havoc for COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout as Biden Seeks Support from Public for Stimulus

Feb 17, 2021

The winter storm also disrupted states’ COVID-19 vaccination programs, stalling deliveries and shutting down vaccine sites. In Harris County, Texas, health officials rushed to distribute thousands of vaccine doses after storage freezers lost power.
President Biden held a town hall hosted by CNN in Milwaukee Tuesday evening, where he was questioned by host Anderson Cooper about vaccine availability.

Anderson Cooper: “When is every American who wants it going to be able to get a vaccine?”

President Joe Biden: “By the end of July of this year. We have — when we came into office, there was only 50 million doses that were available. We have now — by the end of July, we’ll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American.”

President Biden urged people to support the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that House Democrats are working to finalize. A House vote is expected at the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration extended the federal moratorium on foreclosures through the end of June. Biden also extended the window to request mortgage forbearance, as well as six months of additional forbearance for homeowners who enroll by the end of June.

NAACP Files Lawsuit Against Trump, Giuliani over Jan. 6 Insurrection

Feb 17, 2021

The NAACP filed a lawsuit Tuesday against former President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and far-right groups for inciting the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Mississippi congressmember and House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, says Trump and others violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, which is supposed to protect Black people and lawmakers from white supremacist violence. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “The insurrection was the culmination of a carefully orchestrated, months-long plan to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election, and to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of African-American voters who cast valid ballots.”

French Assembly Approves Bill Accused of Targeting Muslim Communities

Feb 17, 2021

France’s National Assembly approved the controversial so-called anti-separatism bill Tuesday, which the government says will strengthen France’s secular principles and help counter the rise of militant Islamist groups. But critics say the laws unfairly targets Muslim communities and could deprive them of their civil rights. Among other things, the bill strengthens the government’s ability to shut down places of worship and religious schools and ban what it deems to be “extremist” religious leaders. The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

Chad Sending Troops to Sahel, France Will Maintain Military Presence, as Conflict Claims More Lives

Feb 17, 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron joined the heads of state of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger this week via video link for a summit on the mounting crisis in the Sahel. France said it is seeking to avoid an “infinite war” but did not have immediate plans to draw down its 5,100 troops in the West African region. Meanwhile, Chad says it plans to deploy 1,200 troops to combat armed groups associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. According to one tally, 7,000 people were killed due to the Sahel conflict last year, while the U.N. warned over 2 million had been displaced.

Protests Erupt over Spanish Rapper Arrested for Anti-Monarchy Lyrics and Tweets

Feb 17, 2021

In Spain, the arrest of a rapper over his song lyrics and tweets has sparked protests and fierce scrutiny over the government’s control on freedom of speech. Pablo Hasél was arrested Tuesday after barricading himself inside a university to avoid serving a prison term for “glorifying terrorism” and insulting the monarchy. Hasél referred to former King Juan Carlos as a “drunken tyrant” and showed support for the Basque separatist group ETA, among other charges. This is Hasél speaking from inside the university where he was barricaded.

Pablo Hasél: “Either we have an overwhelming and organized response to these severe attacks from the state, or they will keep cutting our most fundamental rights and freedoms. We have to stop this. There might be people thinking that this does not affect them directly, but of course it does. When one of us loses a right, the working class as a whole loses it.”

In response to the public outcry over Hasél’s case, the Spanish government has said it will ease its restrictions on free speech

Biden Directs DHS to Stop Using Word “Alien” to Refer to Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

Feb 17, 2021

BuzzFeed reports the Biden administration has directed homeland security officials to stop using the terms “alien” and “illegal alien” when referring to immigrants and asylum seekers — terms immigrant rights advocates have long called out for being dehumanizing and racist.

Biden Received $5 Million from Border Security and Immigrant Prison Companies During Campaign

Feb 17, 2021

A new report reveals President Biden and other Democrats received more campaign money from leading border security and immigration prison corporations than Trump and fellow Republicans during the 2020 election season. According to the report by the Transnational Institute, American Friends Service Committee and Mijente, Biden received over $5 million from border security executives, while Trump got $1.7 million in campaign contributions.

Meat Plant Workers Suffer Discrimination for Seeking Healthcare, Compensation After Nitrogen Leak

Feb 17, 2021

In Georgia, meat plant workers who survived a deadly liquid nitrogen leak at a Gainesville poultry processing plant last month say they are being discriminated against and intimidated as they try to file compensation claims and get medical care. Six people were killed and nearly a dozen others were hospitalized at the plant, which is owned by the Foundation Food Group. Most of the workers in Gainesville’s meat processing plants are Latinx

Tribune Publishing Acquired by Hedge Fund Alden Global; Baltimore Sun Will Go to Nonprofit

Feb 17, 2021

In media news, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital has struck a deal to fully acquire Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and other major publications. Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild, tweeted, “A terrible deal for the company, the workers, the shareholders and our democracy. Alden is only interested in extreme short-term profits by cutting everything to the bone. They have no long-term plan. #SaveLocalNews.” However, some Tribune papers, including The Baltimore Sun and the Capital Gazette, will instead be acquired by a nonprofit formed by hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr.

Beloved Palestinian Poet Mourid Barghouti, Exiled from His Homeland, Dies at 76

Feb 17, 2021

Renowned Palestinian author and poet Mourid Barghouti died Sunday at the age of 76 in Amman, Jordan. Barghouti spent most of his life in exile, writing about his Palestinian homeland and the Israeli occupation. He married acclaimed Egyptian writer Radwa Ashour, who died in 2014. In his autobiographical novel “I Saw Ramallah,” in which he returns to his Palestinian hometown after an absence of 30 years, Barghouti writes, “The calm of the place of exile and its wish-for safety is never completely realized. The homeland does not leave the body until the last moment, the moment of death.”

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