A group of Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are considering a new ban on assault-style weapons after 10 people died in a mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder on Monday. Republicans in Colorado oppose the ban and are pushing for more money for mental health services. The accused Boulder gunman is scheduled to appear in court today for the first time. In a major legal decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that states may bar people from openly carrying guns in public. The ruling could impact right-to-carry laws across the West and Hawaii and Alaska. Meanwhile, nearly 20,000 people died in the United States from gun violence last year — more than any year in at least two decades — this according to the Gun Violence Archive. Gun sales also jumped by 64% in 2020, with some 23 million guns sold in the United States.
President Biden has tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to oversee an effort to slow the high number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. There are now over 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody. Harris spoke at the White House on Wednesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also — because we can chew gum and walk at the same time — must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek, as the president has described, to come here.”
President Biden is holding his first news conference since taking office today. He is expected to face questions about the border. On Wednesday, the Pentagon approved a plan to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children at two Texas military bases.
The Environmental Protection Agency has faulted the private prison company GEO Group for using a pesticide as a coronavirus disinfectant up to 50 times a day at the Adelanto Detention Center in California. Immigrant prisoners reported nosebleeds, fainting, headaches and stomach pain after being exposed to the pesticide.
President Biden has now deported more Haitians over the past two months than President Trump did in the previous year, even though the Biden administration admits Haitians “may face harm” after being deported. Haiti is in the midst of a political and economic crisis. At least 1,300 Haitians — including hundreds of children and infants — have been deported since February 1. The most recent deportation flight took place on Wednesday.
The COVID-19 death toll in Brazil has topped 300,000 — the second highest in the world after the United States. More than 5,000 Brazilians have died over the past two days. Brazil’s hospital system is on the brink of collapse with widespread oxygen shortages. Here in the United States, the total number of cases has topped 30 million, with the death toll now over 546,000.
Israel has become the first country to fully vaccinate more than half of its adult population, but few Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories have been vaccinated. On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders urged Israel to immediately help slow the spread of COVID in the Occupied Territories, where cases are spiking.
The Senate has held its first hearing on the For the People Act — the most sweeping voting rights bill in decades. The legislation has already been approved by the House. Senate Democrats say it is needed to counter efforts at the state level by Republicans to restrict the right to vote. Since the 2020 election, Republican state lawmakers have introduced over 250 bills in 43 states to limit voter access. This is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Instead of doing what you should be doing when you lose an election in a democracy — attempting to win over those voters in the next election — Republicans instead are trying to disenfranchise those voters. Shame on them!”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the effort to protect voting rights a “power grab.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system.”
In other voting news, lawmakers in Washington state have passed a bill to automatically restore voting rights for people who are on parole and probation.
The United States and European countries have announced new plans to work together to counter China. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke at NATO headquarters and claimed China was a threat to other NATO nations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “There’s no question that Beijing’s coercive behavior threatens our collective security and prosperity and that it is actively working to undercut the rules of the international system and the values we and our allies share.”
Earlier this week, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed new sanctions on Chinese officials over the mistreatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. China then accused Western nations of having a hypocritical stance on human rights, citing U.S. wars in the Middle East, systematic racism in the United States, the French slaughter of Algerians during colonial rule, and the Holocaust. Meanwhile, Facebook has removed a group of suspected China-based hackers accused of using the platform to help spy on Uyghur exiles, as well as journalists and activists.
Virginia has become the first state in the South to outlaw capital punishment. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation Wednesday abolishing the death penalty.
Gov. Ralph Northam: “I can say that the death penalty is fundamentally flawed. Most importantly, we know that the system doesn’t always get it right.”
Since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Virginia has carried out 113 executions, more than any state besides Texas.
In Argentina, thousands marched in Buenos Aires Wednesday to mark the 45th anniversary of the 1976 coup that ushered in a bloody U.S.-backed dictatorship, under which as many as 30,000 people were killed and disappeared. Lita Boitano is the president of Families of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons.
Lita Boitano: “What I am feeling is that I never felt my children so close like this year. My children are part of the 30,000 disappeared. They are part of the group that are never named or that are barely named, the more than 10,000 political prisoners, the thousands killed by the genocidal dictatorship.”
The National Security Archive has revealed new details about how the U.S. government was in direct contact with the coup plotters in Argentina prior to the overthrow of Isabel Perón’s government on March 24, 1976. Declassified documents show then CIA Director George H.W. Bush briefed President Gerald Ford on a “possible” coup almost two weeks before it happened. The U.S. government also told the Argentine military in advance that it would recognize the new regime. At the time, the State Department was privately acknowledging a coup would lead to “military rule for an extended duration and of unprecedented severity.” The U.S.-backed dictatorship in Argentina would continue until 1983.
Kim Janey has been sworn in as mayor of Boston, making her the first woman and first African American to hold the office. She replaces Marty Walsh, the new U.S. labor secretary. Janey vowed to fight Boston’s wealth gap.
Mayor Kim Janey: “Today, in the city of Boston, we have an enormous wealth gap. The median net worth for Black families is just $8. Eight dollars is not an accident. It is the product of discriminatory policies that we have all inherited. We need to call it out, and we need to institute new policies to address it.”
While the median net worth of Black families in Boston is just $8, the median net worth of white families in Boston is nearly $250,000 — nearly 31,000 times as much.
A new report has revealed the world’s 60 largest banks lent more than $3.8 trillion for fossil fuel projects since 2016 following the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. Top lenders included JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and the Bank of China.
NBC New York has revealed the New York Police Department has issued over 217,000 secret subpoenas to force internet providers and other companies to hand over personal information for tens of thousands of people for so-called internal investigations. Targets of the subpoenas include journalists and officers who criticize the NYPD. One target was Philip Insardi, who retired from the department in 1993. He was alerted by Microsoft after the NYPD demanded access to all of his emails, citing a provision under the USA PATRIOT Act.
Philip Insardi: “The PATRIOT Act wasn’t created to go after a retired cop who goes tuna fishing. That’s not the PATRIOT Act. Absolutely shocking that they were abusing, or are abusing, the PATRIOT Act to investigate civilians.”
One retired police captain compared the NYPD to the gestapo.
The Senate has confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary of health. She becomes the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
President Biden signed a proclamation Wednesday to mark Equal Pay Day, a day which marks how far women must work into the new year to earn what men made on average in the previous year. U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe spoke at a congressional hearing.
Megan Rapinoe: “It’s just unacceptable that we’re still fighting for equal pay. And I feel like also we’ve done everything. You want stadiums filled. We filled them. You want role models for your kids, for your boys and your girls and your little trans kids. We have that. You want us to be respectful. You want us to perform on the world stage. You want us to take the Stars and Stripes, the Red, White and Blue, across the entire globe and represent America in the best way possible. We’ve done all of that. And simply, there’s no reason why we’re underpaid, for the exception of gender.”