Calls are mounting to rapidly enact meaningful gun control reform after the second tragic mass shooting in under a week. The 10 victims of the massacre at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, have now been identified as Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Rikki Olds, Tralona Bartkowiak, Suzanne Fountain, Teri Leiker, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray, Jody Waters and officer Eric Talley, who was one of the police officers who responded to the shooting. The suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and one charge of attempted murder. Police say he purchased an AR-556 pistol less than a week before Monday’s massacre. Family members say they believe Alissa suffered from mental illness, including severe paranoia. President Biden called on Congress Tuesday to pass new restrictions on gun laws.
President Joe Biden: “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take commonsense steps that will save the lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act. We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again.”
The White House also said executive action on guns was being considered. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on reducing gun violence. This is Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Inaction has made this horror completely predictable. Inaction by this Congress makes us complicit. Now is the time for action to honor these victims.”
The mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder are also prompting even louder calls for Democrats to end the filibuster as Republicans are expected to block passage of any significant gun control reform.
The World Health Organization is warning most regions of the world are seeing an increase in COVID-19 infections. Southeast Asia has the highest proportion of new cases, which shot up by nearly 50% over the last week. The Philippines registered a record high of over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases this week as some hospitals near capacity. The current surge has led to increased restrictions in the sprawling metro Manila region. Much of the Philippines has been under the longest and strictest lockdown in the world as many struggle with hunger and loss of income. Rights groups also warn authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte is using coronavirus restrictions to further consolidate power.
In Brazil, COVID-19 deaths continue to soar, topping a record 3,200 fatalities Tuesday. Brazil is second only to the U.S. in total deaths and infections.
In Israel, early vote tallies show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the lead but still short of a majority, leaving him to appeal to other right-wing leaders, and possibly a small Arab party, in the hopes of forming a coalition. If Netanyahu or others fail to do so, Israel could be headed toward a fifth election to determine the country’s next leader.
In Burma, a 7-year-old girl was fatally shot by security forces, becoming the youngest known victim of the deadly crackdown on protests since the February 1 military coup. Her father was reportedly the target of a raid, and the young child was killed at home, sitting in his lap. Save the Children says over 20 children have been killed in the crackdown. Protesters launched a “silent strike” today in an effort to shut down towns and cities across Burma. On Monday, the European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions on individuals and groups tied to the coup. Some rights groups say the sanctions don’t go far enough and should target all of the military junta’s economic interests.
In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has acknowledged for the first time Eritrean soldiers crossed into the northern Tigray region and were involved in the bloody conflict that erupted in November. Harrowing witness accounts have emerged of Eritrean soldiers killing Tigrayan men and boys and committing acts of sexual violence, including against displaced people. The U.N. has said multiple parties may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity since the start of the conflict.
In Mozambique, the United Nations warns up to 1 million people could be displaced by June amid the escalating violence in the northern Cabo Delgado province. Some 2,000 people have been killed since 2017, when fighters allied with the Islamic State group began an anti-government insurgency. This month, the Biden administration declared the insurgents a “foreign terrorist organization” and sent U.S. Green Berets to Mozambique to train soldiers in counterinsurgency. Amnesty International said in a new report published this month that all sides in the conflict have committed war crimes — including the insurgents and government forces.
In Yemen, a new study by Save the Children has found that children made up at least a quarter of civilian deaths killed in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war between 2018 and 2020. The group says at least 2,300 children were killed during that time, though the true death toll is likely much higher. Earlier this month, the World Food Programme warned Yemen is headed toward the biggest famine in modern history, projecting around 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die from acute malnutrition this year as the Saudi war and blockade continues.
In Australia, at least two people are dead and over 40,000 have been evacuated from Sydney and other parts of New South Wales after the region was battered by record rains, which triggered historic flooding. Scientists warn such extreme, deadly weather patterns are becoming Australia’s “new normal” as global heating worsens.
In Honduras, another Indigenous Lenca environmental activist has been assassinated. Forty-one-year-old Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante, who was fighting against a hydroelectric dam in northwestern Honduras, was reportedly shot to death in front of his children. At least 12 environmental activists and land and water defenders were killed in Honduras last year. Violence has skyrocketed in the country since the U.S.-backed 2009 coup and under President Juan Orlando Hernández, a key U.S. ally.
In Texas, two Indigenous leaders — who were forced to flee Guatemala in 2019 — are denouncing the ongoing violence against Indigenous land and water defenders, and demanding justice for Indigenous political prisoners and assassinated leaders. Gaspar Cobo and Francisco Chávez are now seeking asylum in the United States. They were stuck in the border city of Juárez for over a year under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy and were ultimately allowed to enter the U.S. after receiving death threats from a local drug cartel. The two were recently released from an ICE prison in El Paso and held a virtual press conference.
Gaspar Cobo: “We are not in the United States because we are searching for better living opportunities. We are here by force. The best opportunities should be in our communities. And these opportunities do exist in Guatemala, but, sadly, we are unable to live there because Guatemala is a failed state.”
Chávez is a survivor of a 1982 massacre orchestrated by U.S.-backed Guatemalan army officials and was a key eyewitness in the genocide case against dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. Cobo has long advocated for survivors of the genocide.
In Minneapolis, a jury has been selected for the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes. The jury is made up of one Black woman, three Black men, three white men, six white women and two women who identify as multiracial. Opening statements are set for next Monday.
Here in New York, over 3,000 research and teaching assistants at Columbia University are on day 10 of their strike demanding fair wages, improvements to healthcare and child care provisions. Workers are also asking for third-party arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. Democracy Now! spoke to some of the strikers.
Kevin: “Columbia, I think, likes people to have the impression that every course at this university is taught and made happen by an august tenured professor who’s been working here for 40 years and wears a tweed jacket. But in reality, this university does not work without graduate students. Acknowledging our union is acknowledging that, and that’s what we want to make happen.”
Yasemin: “We are at an $11 billion institution. The president of this institution is getting paid $4.6 million in salary. And the majority of us who make the work of this university possible, who enable its mission, are not able to afford the rents.”
The Senate has confirmed Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general, reprising a role he filled under President Obama. Murthy was a coronavirus adviser to Biden during his campaign and transition. The Senate also confirmed Shalanda Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Young, who was the Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, is favored by many powerful Democrats to lead the OMB, after Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination early this month.
Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii stepped back from their threat to block upcoming votes on Biden’s nominees who are not people of color in protest over the lack of Asian Americans named to top positions. The senators said they received assurances from the White House late Tuesday, which vowed to add a senior-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison.
Advocates are calling for the release of Standing Rock water protector Steve Martinez, who has been behind bars for over three weeks on contempt charges. Martinez refused to give testimony before a federal grand jury about injuries to Sophia Wilansky, a water protector whose arm was severely wounded during a police crackdown on anti-pipeline protests in 2016. Martinez says prosecutors are trying to shift the blame for Wilansky’s injuries from law enforcement to water protectors.