U.S. Air Force fighter jets bombed buildings in eastern Syria on Thursday, with the Pentagon claiming it successfully targeted “Iranian-backed militant groups.” Iranian media said the airstrikes killed 17 fighters. The Pentagon called the assault a response to recent rocket attacks on U.S. forces in northern Iraq. Those attacks came more than a year after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops — an order that’s been ignored by both the Trump and Biden administrations.
Thursday’s assault is the first known military action ordered by President Biden. California Congressmember Ro Khanna condemned the attack, saying, “There is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization. We need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
President Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Thursday as the U.S. prepares to release an intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. A White House readout of the call says Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to joint defense against “Iranian-aligned groups,” as well as the effort to end the war on Yemen and the importance of human rights, commending the recent release of prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul. The readout, however, does not mention Jamal Khashoggi or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely thought to be responsible for his assassination.
Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll has passed a quarter of a million — the second-highest toll in the world after the United States and about 10% of all coronavirus deaths worldwide. Brazil has vaccinated just 3.6% of its population after a disastrous rollout led by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a COVID-19 denier who’s said he personally might not get vaccinated.
The World Health Organization warned in a new report that millions of COVID-19 survivors continue to suffer debilitating and lingering symptoms long after their initial bout of the disease, with major social, health and economic consequences. Dr. Hans Kluge is the WHO’s regional director for Europe.
Dr. Hans Kluge: “The burden is real, and it is significant. About one in 10 COVID-19 sufferers remain unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer.”
The WHO’s report on so-called long COVID was led by professor Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Martin McKee: “Those suffering from it describe a varying combination of overlapping symptoms: chest pain, muscle pain, fatigue, shortness of breath and what patients describe as brain fog, among many, many others.”
The United States recorded another 77,000 coronavirus cases and 2,400 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday. A seven-day average of new infections has begun to tick up again, after a sharp fall from January’s peak. In Washington, D.C., President Biden held an event marking 50 million vaccinations under his administration.
President Joe Biden: “This is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced and, for God’s sake, for God’s sake, wear a mask.”
The acting chief of the Capitol Police department warned a House panel Thursday that pro-Trump extremists who attacked Congress on January 6 are plotting more violence. Chief Yogananda Pittman said a fortified security perimeter surrounding the Capitol should remain in place, based on credible threats.
Yogananda Pittman: “We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union.”
In Nigeria, up to 300 schoolgirls are missing after gunmen raided a boarding school in the northwestern state of Zamfara, with the exact number of abducted children and other details still unclear. The attack comes one week after a raid on a school in north-central Nigeria, where one student was killed and 42 people were kidnapped and are still being held hostage.
The U.S. House has passed landmark legislation that amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups. The Equality Act extends discrimination protections for LGBTQ people at the workplace, in housing, education, among other areas.
This is Democratic Congressmember Mondaire Jones of New York — who is among the first Black, openly gay men to be elected to Congress — speaking on the House floor Thursday.
Rep. Mondaire Jones: “To grow up poor, Black and gay is to not see yourself anywhere. It is also to feel completely unseen as so many people around you invalidate your very existence. … Today we send a powerful message to millions of LGBTQ people around the country, and indeed around the world, that they are seen, that they are valued, that their lives are worthy of being protected.”
The bill is expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans largely oppose the Equality Act.
Republican Senator Rand Paul is facing backlash over his transphobic attacks against Rachel Levine during her historic confirmation hearing to become assistant health and human services secretary. On Thursday, Senator Paul repeatedly compared hormone therapy and transition surgery for trans people with genital mutilation. Levine responded, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care.” If appointed, Levine would be the first out trans official to be confirmed by the Senate.
This comes as far-right Republican Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene is being condemned for hanging a poster outside her office that reads, “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust The Science!” Greene displayed the poster after Democratic Congresswoman Marie Newman of Illinois raised a transgender pride flag outside her office, which is directly across from Greene’s. Newman’s daughter is transgender.
In New York, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment and intimidation. In an essay published in Medium, Lindsey Boylan says the governor went “out of his way” to touch her “lower back, arms and legs,” and accuses him of kissing her during a one-on-one meeting. Boylan first took the accusations public in a Twitter thread back in December, where she wrote, “Yes, New York Governor Cuomo sexually harassed me for years. Many saw it, and watched.” Boylan is currently running for Manhattan borough president.
This comes as Governor Cuomo faces a probe by the FBI and a federal prosecutor over his administration’s cover-up of thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. He’s also been accused of bullying New York Assemblymember Ron Kim, who says Cuomo called him at his home and threatened to “destroy” him.
In Michigan, former U.S. Olympic gymnastics coach John Geddert died by suicide Thursday — moments after he was charged with sexual assault and human trafficking. In addition to two charges of sexual assault against children, Geddert was accused of enabling former Olympic team physician and convicted serial rapist and child sexual abuser Larry Nassar. Nassar survivor Sarah Klein was just 8 years old when she began training in Geddert’s gym. On Thursday, she said, “He tortured and abused little girls, myself included, for more than 30 years and was able to cheat justice.”
Georgia state Republicans have introduced sweeping voter suppression legislation which would strictly limit eligibility criteria for absentee ballots, as well as require witness signatures and proof of voter ID for mail-in ballots. The measure also bars advance voting on Sundays, which Black churches use as part of their get-out-the-vote efforts, known as “souls to the polls.” Georgia flipped blue in both the 2020 presidential race and the two Senate runoffs, largely thanks to Black voters and the work of Black organizers.
This is AME Church Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson speaking at a Fair Fight Action virtual hearing on the bill.
Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson: “Let’s just be honest: This bill is racist. … This legislation is submitted only because Republicans lost, because Blacks exercised their right to vote and turned out in huge numbers.”