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HeadlinesFebruary 04, 2021

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CDC Director Warns Coronavirus Variants Could Reverse Drop in Caseload

Feb 04, 2021

A congressional watchdog is blasting the former Trump administration over its disastrous handling of the pandemic, with auditors saying they were left “deeply troubled” by their review of the federal government’s failures. In a 346-page report, the General Accounting Office says 90% of its recommendations remained unimplemented just before Trump left office.

The report came as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passed 450,000, with over 3,900 deaths reported on Wednesday alone. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday people should get vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent new coronavirus variants from causing a fresh surge in cases.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “Although we have seen declines in cases and admissions and a recent slowing of deaths, cases remain extraordinarily high, still twice as high as the peak number of cases over the summer. And the continued proliferation of variants, variants that likely have increased transmissibility, that spread more easily, threatens to reverse these recent trends.”

CDC Director Walensky also said the vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools. It’s a position that’s drawn fire from teachers’ unions nationwide.

On Wednesday, Baltimore City schools announced a two-week delay to its plans to expand in-person learning, after students and parents joined teachers in a car caravan protest at Baltimore City Hall demanding stronger safety measures — including that all staff members be fully vaccinated.

Education Secretary Nominee Favors Return to In-Person Classes, Supports Trans Athletes

Feb 04, 2021

President Biden’s pick to become secretary of education received a warm reception on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Connecticut public schools commissioner Miguel Cardona told a Senate committee he favors reopening schools during the pandemic with science-driven guidance from the CDC. He also pushed back at Republican Senator Rand Paul, saying transgender students should be allowed to participate in sports based on gender identity.

Sen. Rand Paul: “So you don’t have a problem then with boys running in the girls’ track meet, swimming meets, you name it? You’re OK then with boys competing with girls?”

Miguel Cardona: “Respectfully, Senator, I think I answered the question. I believe schools should offer the opportunity for students to engage in extracurricular activities even if they’re transgender. I think that’s their right.”

Meanwhile President Biden’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency told a Senate panel Wednesday that he would restore science and transparency at the EPA while working to address the urgent threat of climate change. If confirmed, Michael Regan would be the first Black man to lead the EPA.

Senate Agrees to Power-Sharing Deal That Leaves Democrats in Control of Committees

Feb 04, 2021

The Senate has reached a power-sharing agreement that will see Democrats in the evenly divided chamber control Senate committees and set their agendas. Republicans will hold an equal number of seats on each committee. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he’s ordered incoming Democratic committee chairs to start holding hearings on the climate crisis in preparation for passing major climate legislation.

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Republican Leader Won’t Punish Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene over Racist and Violent Rhetoric

Feb 04, 2021

The House of Representatives votes today on whether to strip Georgia Republican Congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene of her assignments on the House Education and Budget Committees over her history of violent threats, promoting dangerous conspiracy theories, and racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments. On Wednesday, Greene reportedly apologized for some of her past comments during a closed-door Republican caucus meeting. She received a standing ovation after concluding her remarks. Afterward, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters he condemned Greene’s comments — but said he would not strip Greene of her committee assignments or punish her in any other way.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: “I denounce all those comments that were brought up, everybody. And she came to the — she came inside our conference and denounced them, as well. She said she was wrong.”

Mother Jones reports Greene served as a moderator for a Facebook page that championed the John Birch Society and routinely featured death threats and bigoted attacks against Democrats. Greene has repeatedly claimed that the Parkland massacre and other mass shootings were “false flag” operations staged to crack down on gun rights. NBC News reports that in one 2019 interview with a gun owners group, Greene mocked Parkland, Florida, high school shooting survivor David Hogg as an “idiot” who “only talks when he is scripted.” House Ethics Committee Chair Ted Deutch of Florida — whose district includes Parkland — responded on Wednesday.

Rep. Ted Deutch: “The families are still grieving, as are the communities of Sandy Hook and Las Vegas and too many more to name. There are not words in the English language to properly describe how the remarks of Ms. Greene makes these communities feel. They are still suffering. They will suffer forever.”

100s of Congressional Aides Call on Senate to Convict Trump and Bar Him from Holding Office

Feb 04, 2021

Nearly 400 congressional aides have signed a public letter calling on the Senate to convict Donald Trump for inciting the violent mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6. It’s a rare case of congressional staffers publicly airing their own views. In the letter, the aides describe hiding under chairs and desks, barricading themselves in their offices and fleeing for their lives. They’re calling on senators to bar Trump from ever running for office again, writing, “Our Constitution only works when we believe in it and defend it. It’s a shared commitment to equal justice, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of our differences. Any person who doesn’t share these beliefs has no place representing the American people, now or in the future.”

Canada Designates Proud Boys as a Terrorist Group

Feb 04, 2021

Federal agents have arrested Ethan Nordean, the self-described “sergeant at arms” of Seattle’s chapter of the far-right Proud Boys organization, charging him with helping to lead the mob of rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6. CNN reports at least 11 people with ties to the Proud Boys have been charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection.

On Wednesday, Canada designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization, describing it as a neo-fascist group that engages in political violence. Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the Proud Boys “espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies.”

Here in the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened top military and civilian leaders at the Pentagon Wednesday and ordered them to “stand down” — or pause operations — to allow commanders to root out white supremacy and right-wing extremism in the ranks.

Prosecutors Seek Rearrest of Kyle Rittenhouse, Wisconsin Teen Charged with Killing 2 Protesters

Feb 04, 2021

In Wisconsin, prosecutors have asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old accused of killing two people and injuring another during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha last year. Rittenhouse reportedly failed to inform the court of a change of address, a violation of his $2 million bond. In January, Rittenhouse was photographed at a bar in Wisconsin posing with alleged Proud Boys members and flashing a white power hand sign. Rittenhouse was seen drinking beer and wearing a T-shirt that read “Free as Fuck.”

Tigray Opposition Say 52,000+ Killed in Conflict as U.N. Warns All of Ethiopia Faces Unrest

Feb 04, 2021

The U.N. warned Wednesday the humanitarian situation in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia could get even worse and that the rest of the country could become destabilized due to the volatile situation. This comes a day after Tigray opposition groups said at least 52,000 people have been killed since a conflict in the region broke out in November. Some 3 million people have been displaced. Meanwhile, up to 20,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray are missing after two camps were destroyed. The U.N. says many were abducted and forcibly returned to Eritrea.

BBC Report Details Mass Rape and Torture of Uyghur Women in China’s Xinjiang

Feb 04, 2021

China is facing widespread condemnation following a BBC report about the mass rape and sexual torture of Uyghur women and other Muslims detained in the province of Xinjiang. The U.S. State Department called the reports “deeply disturbing” and said any atrocities committed by China should be “met with serious consequences.”

ICC Finds Former LRA Commander and Child Soldier Guilty of War Crimes

Feb 04, 2021

The International Criminal Court has convicted Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, of war crimes and crimes against humanity in its first conviction of an LRA leader. Ongwen was himself abducted and turned into a child soldier by the rebel group before eventually becoming deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony. The LRA was most active in Uganda from the mid-1990s to 2005. The U.N. estimates the rebel group killed over 100,000 people and abducted 60,000 children.

U.N. Report Describes Widespread Torture of Prisoners in Afghanistan

Feb 04, 2021

A new U.N. report says nearly one-third of all prisoners in Afghanistan have been tortured or mistreated. The forms of torture include beatings, suffocation, electric shocks, as well reports of “enforced disappearances.” Over half of the claims in the U.N.’s “Torture Report” come from Kandahar province.

In other news about Afghanistan, a Congress-appointed bipartisan panel is advising the U.S. to slow down its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The panel’s report says the May 1 withdrawal goal, established in a 2020 agreement between the U.S. and Taliban forces, could lead to more unrest and potentially a civil war.

French Court Finds Government Failed to Take Action to Combat Climate Crisis

Feb 04, 2021

Climate activists in France celebrated a historic victory this week after a court ruled the French state failed to take necessary action to fight the climate catastrophe. The case was brought by four environmental groups and backed by over 2 million people through an online petition. The French state was ordered to pay a symbolic one euro to each of the four organizations while the court reviews other potential steps President Emmanuel Macron’s government might be asked to take.

U.S. and Russia Extend New START Nuclear Arms Treaty

Feb 04, 2021

The U.S. has extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, with Russia — the only remaining nuclear treaty between the two countries, which was set to expire on Friday. The agreement limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads for each country as a deterrent to a new arms race and nuclear war.

Biden Administration Rules Out Talks with Venezuelan President Maduro

Feb 04, 2021

The Biden administration reaffirmed its recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president, ruling out talks with the actual president, Nicolás Maduro, who was elected by the Venezuelan people. This is State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Ned Price: “I would expect that our dialogue will be with our like-minded allies and partners, as well as with the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó as the leader chosen by that National Assembly. I would not expect any direct contact with Maduro, again, whom we consider to be a dictator.”

The Biden administration has said it will continue to impose sanctions on Venezuela, which have crippled the economy. The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates as many as 40,000 Venezuelans have died due to sanctions.

Ex-Officer Adam Coy Charged with Murdering Andre Hill in Columbus, OH

Feb 04, 2021

In Columbus, Ohio, former police officer Adam Coy was arrested and charged with murder for the fatal shooting of 47-year-old Andre Hill, a Black man, after a grand jury indicted Coy Wednesday in the killing. While responding to a nonemergency call in December, then-officer Coy, who is white, opened fire just seconds after encountering Hill, who was unarmed. Officer Coy was not using his body camera properly at the time, and he failed to administer aid to Hill for several minutes as Hill lay dying.

Report Details How Border Patrol Contributes to Humanitarian Crisis at Southwestern Border

Feb 04, 2021

A damning new report by the groups No More Deaths and Coalición de Derechos Humanos finds that Border Patrol agents systematically ignore and dismiss reports of missing migrants and obstruct efforts by families and humanitarian groups to assist or find migrants in the harsh Arizona desert. This is Parker Deighan, who works with No More Deaths and is one of the authors of the report.

Parker Deighan: “The agency’s systematic neglect towards emergency reports of undocumented people in distress constitutes a state crime of historic proportions. Therefore, we don’t advocate for the improvement, expansion or reform of Border Patrol’s supposed humanitarian initiatives. Instead, we call for an immediate end to Border Patrol’s role as sole or primary responder to reported emergencies in the borderlands.”

The group Humane Borders found 2020 was the deadliest year for migrants crossing the border into Arizona at nonofficial ports of entry. The group says the remains of 227 migrants were found on the border last year.

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