Protesters took to the streets of cities across the United States over the weekend to condemn racism and hate crimes against Asian Americans, following last week’s deadly shooting in Atlanta which killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. The names of all the victims have been released: Xiaojie Tan, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Suncha Kim, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Daoyou Feng and Paul Andre Michels. Elcias Hernandez Ortiz, who survived the shooting, is in hospital in critical condition.
In New York, community leaders and elected officials gathered for a vigil Friday evening. This is Jeehae Fischer of the Korean American Family Service Center.
Jeehae Fischer: “These women are our mothers, our aunties, our sisters, our daughters, our loved ones. So, stop beating us! Stop cursing at us! Stop stabbing us! Stop killing us! Stop Asian hate!”
Protesters: “Stop Asian hate! Stop Asian hate! Stop Asian hate! Stop Asian hate! Stop Asian hate! Stop Asian hate!”
Jeehae Fischer: “And stop telling us 'Go back to China.' We belong here.”
President Biden and Vice President Harris met with Asian American leaders in Atlanta and addressed the mass shooting. This is Kamala Harris, who is the first Asian American and first woman vice president.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “Everyone has the right to go to work, to go to school, to walk down the street and be safe, and also the right to be recognized as an American, not as the other, not as them, but as us. A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us.”
President Biden has urged Congress to quickly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Meanwhile, lawmakers and others have questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray’s statement last week that the shooting was apparently “not racially motivated.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a proposal to reduce gun violence Tuesday. The Atlanta mass murderer purchased a 9 mm handgun just hours before Tuesday’s massacre at three area spas. The purchase was fully legal.
AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease among participants in a large clinical trial in the United States. The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing serious illness and death. The findings pave the way for a fourth vaccine to request emergency use authorization in the U.S. The trial also showed no increased risk of serious blood clotting, after more than a dozen countries this month suspended or delayed its use over such concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say one in six U.S. adults has now been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Mississippi and Alaska have opened vaccine eligibility for anyone 16 or older. Floridians over 50 can get vaccinated starting today.
In education news, the CDC updated its guidelines to say three feet of physical distancing is safe in elementary schools, though teachers and other staff should still maintain six feet of distance and masks must remain mandatory for all. New York City high schools are reopening today, though officials warn infection numbers remain dangerously high in parts of the city, on par with this winter’s surge.
Miami Beach has imposed an emergency curfew after officials said spring break revelers brought “chaos and disorder” to the area and ignited fears of superspreader events.
The Intercept reports Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are planning to hike up prices on vaccines as soon as COVID-19 is no longer considered a pandemic. Health experts say COVID-19 will likely become endemic, and people will continue to require regular shots, much like the flu. AstraZeneca, which also vowed not to profit from the pandemic, could declare it is over as early as July.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has tested positive for COVID-19, two days after he received a vaccine and as Pakistan is facing a third wave of the virus.
Chile has recorded its highest daily caseload yet, and officials say over a quarter of deaths this year are due to COVID-19. The surge comes despite relatively high vaccination rates, with 15% of the population fully vaccinated.
A Department of Health and Human Services report says U.S. health officials in Donald Trump’s administration pressured Brazil to reject Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, putting geopolitical concerns over saving lives.
In Japan, organizers for the July Tokyo Olympics are barring international spectators. After delaying the Olympics one year, officials pushed ahead with the event this summer despite health experts warning against it.
In Europe, France and Poland are the latest countries to reinstate partial lockdowns amid fresh coronavirus surges.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared on multiple news shows over the weekend to say the U.S. border is effectively closed.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “The border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.”
Over 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children are now in U.S. custody as the number of asylum seekers at the southern border shows no sign of slowing down. Over 5,000 of those are being held in Customs and Border Protection jails. Axios reports over 800 children have been jailed for over 10 days — more than a fourfold increase over the past week.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin arrived in Afghanistan Sunday for an unannounced visit with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and top U.S. generals. The trip came after President Biden said last week the U.S. might not honor its agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting top NATO officials in Brussels, Belgium, today to discuss whether to cancel or delay those plans. The Taliban have called on the U.S. to honor its commitments and warned of a “reaction” if the U.S. and its allies violate a peace agreement signed in February 2020. About 3,500 U.S. troops and another 6,500 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan — nearly 20 years after the U.S.-led invasion.
Human rights groups are condemning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the world’s first binding treaty to combat violence against women and girls. Nearly 40% of Turkish women have been subjected to violence from their partner, according to U.N. figures, and local rights groups say femicides are on the rise. In Istanbul, women took to the streets to protest the move.
Özlem Tekin: “I wasn’t feeling safe as a woman even before this. And after this, I feel even more like I am in an unsafe environment. At least there was a law, a decision that I was leaning on. But now I don’t feel like I have any support. I feel vulnerable.”
In Syria, at least six people are dead — including a child and medical workers — after Syrian forces shelled a hospital outside the rebel-controlled city of Aleppo on Sunday. Sixteen civilians were also wounded in the assault, four of them critically. The attack came despite a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey in March of 2020. Physicians for Human Rights has documented nearly 600 attacks on healthcare facilities by Syria’s military and its allies since the start of the civil war a decade ago.
In Spain, a 2-year-old girl who arrived with dozens of other refugees by boat to the Canary Islands last week has died. The girl’s name was Nabody. She was from Mali. She was one of 10 people, over half of them children, who were taken to hospital with hypothermia after their boat was rescued.
In Israel, tens of thousands of people took to the streets Saturday for some of the largest protests yet against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday’s election.
Eyal Goldman: “We are here to protest against Netanyahu and his corrupt government. This is our last chance before the election. We want everyone to come and vote to change, vote to exchange this government.”
Israel is heading into its fourth election in two years amid Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial. Protesters initially condemned the government response to the pandemic, but Netanyahu is hoping Israel’s rapid rollout of vaccines will help secure his win.
In other news from the region, Israeli troops fatally shot a Palestinian man, 42-year-old Atef Yussef Hanaysheh, Friday during protests against illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan made history Friday, becoming the nation’s first woman president. Hassan was Tanzania’s vice president but will now finish the term of John Magufuli, who died suddenly last week. Hassan will take on the national response to the COVID crisis, which her predecessor denied, shunning any public health measures.
A Pakistani court sentenced two men to death for a rape last year which set off protests and national outrage. The men gang-raped and robbed a woman in front of her children after her car broke down. At the time, the Lahore police chief blamed the woman for traveling at night without a male companion and not making sure she had enough gas in her car.
The FBI has reportedly opened an investigation into New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s role in shielding nursing home industry executives from liability over the deaths of thousands of residents from COVID-19. The liability protections came in April 2020, after the Greater New York Hospital Association and its executives gave over $2 million in donations to Cuomo’s campaign. The FBI is also investigating reports that top aides to Cuomo pressured state health officials to falsify state data to cover up the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
Meanwhile, an eighth woman has stepped forward to accuse Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct. Alyssa McGrath, one of Cuomo’s current aides, says the governor made numerous unwelcome sexual advances, ogled her body and remarked on her looks. The latest accusations came as former aide Lindsey Boylan called on New York’s Legislature to impeach Governor Cuomo. Boylan addressed a crowd of protesters in Manhattan Saturday.
Lindsey Boylan: “In December, I spoke truth to power on the harassment and bullying I faced working for Governor Cuomo. And when the governor should have been focused on leading us out of this pandemic, he was instead focused on covering up the deaths of 15,000 New Yorkers and smearing me and my reputation.”
In western New York, Republican U.S. Congressmember Tom Reed has apologized to a female lobbyist who accused him of unwanted sexual advances. Nicolette Davis says Congressmember Reed drunkenly rubbed her back, unhooked her bra and moved his hand to her thigh during a gathering at a Minneapolis bar in 2017. Reed said he would not seek reelection next year. He’s among elected officials who’ve called on Governor Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment claims, and said as recently as last month he was considering a run for governor in 2022.
Louisiana Republican Julia Letlow has won a special election to replace her husband, Luke Letlow, who died in December of COVID-19 before he could take his seat in Congress for what would have been his freshman term.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Democrats Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson head to an April runoff to see who will fill the congressional seat vacated by Cedric Richmond, who is now serving as the White House director of public engagement.
New York Congressmembers Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a bill that would allow Puerto Rico to determine its territorial status, including statehood or independence from the U.S. New Jersey’s Bob Menendez introduced the measure in the Senate. “A colony is incompatible with democracy,” said Ocasio-Cortez.
Youth climate activists staged a global strike Friday, after a year of scaled-down and virtual protests due to the pandemic.
Climate striker: “What do we want?”
Climate strikers: “Climate justice!”
Climate striker: “When do we want it?”
Climate strikers: “Now!”
Climate striker: “No more…”
Climate strikers: “Empty promises!”
“No more empty promises!” chanted climate strikers in Kenya. Youth activists from around the world called on their governments to treat the climate catastrophe as an immediate crisis and fulfill their commitments to cut emissions.