India has recorded 3,500 new coronavirus deaths and a record 386,000 new confirmed cases as the world’s second most populous nation faces a catastrophic collapse of its healthcare system, with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen. Public health officials fear the true death toll is far higher. Residents fear the worst is yet to come.
Manoj Garg: “The situation is horrific, absolutely terrible, according to what I see. Everyone is afraid. Every single person. People are afraid that if I am talking to a person, maybe I won’t get to talk to them tomorrow or in the near future. The death toll is 200,000 today. It can go up to 400,000 or even a million. Everyone is terrified right now across the country. The environment is of fear. We are Delhi residents, and it is pathetic over here. We don’t even have oxygen cylinders or its parts.”
The Indian novelist Arundhati Roy writes in a new essay, “The system hasn’t collapsed. The government has failed. Perhaps 'failed' is an inaccurate word, because what we are witnessing is not criminal negligence, but an outright crime against humanity.”
The total number of confirmed COVID cases across the globe has now topped 150 million. This comes as coronavirus deaths are also soaring across Latin America, which recorded more than a third of global COVID deaths last week as it faces a major vaccine shortage. On Thursday, Argentina recorded 561 new deaths, its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic. Colombia, Peru and Uruguay are experiencing a new surge in cases. And Brazil’s official death toll has topped 400,000 — the second highest in the world behind the United States.
In Israel, at least 44 ultra-Orthodox Jews have died, and dozens are injured, after a stampede during a religious pilgrimage. An estimated 100,000 people gathered on Mount Meron late Thursday, and the stampede occurred in the early hours of Friday morning, after some attendees appeared to slip on stones leading to a sloped passageway, triggering what one local news site described as a “human avalanche.” Warnings have been issued over the years saying the site was not safe for mass gatherings.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed next month’s parliamentary elections — the first in 15 years in the Occupied Territories. Abbas blamed Israel for refusing to promise that thousands of Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied areas of Jerusalem could vote in the election.
President Mahmoud Abbas: “Facing this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people is guaranteed. Jerusalem will not be compromised, and our people in Jerusalem will not give up their right to exercise their democratic rights.”
Abbas’s decision comes at a time when a rift is growing within his Fatah party after jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti recently endorsed a rival slate to challenge candidates backed by Abbas.
The inspector general of USAID, the Agency for International Development, has criticized the Trump administration’s politicization of humanitarian aid for Venezuela. In a new report, the watchdog said the White House’s push to deliver aid to the Venezuelan border in 2019 was driven more by the administration’s desire for regime change than based on the actual needs of Venezuelans. The report said the Trump administration used the aid as a “key tool to elevate support” for U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó and that decisions were made to reinforce Guaidó’s credibility.
The Burmese military has launched airstrikes against rebels from two ethnic groups, the Kachin and Karen, who have been seeking greater autonomy for decades. At least 2,000 Burmese refugees have already crossed into Thailand seeking safety. This comes days after Karen rebels seized a Burmese military base near the Thai border. Meanwhile, protests against the Burmese military junta continue. Over 750 protesters have been killed since the junta seized power in February.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in Florida has approved a sweeping voter suppression bill that is being compared to Georgia’s new voting law. The Florida bill would limit the use of mail ballot drop boxes, make it harder to vote by mail, and criminalize the distribution of food and water to people waiting in line to vote. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signaled he will sign the bill into law. Kara Gross of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida criticized the bill, saying, “There was no problem in Florida. Everything worked as it should. The only reason they’re doing this is to make it harder to vote.”
West Virginia’s Republican Governor Jim Justice has signed legislation to ban trans girls and women from competing on sports teams at any public school, including state colleges. A similar bill approved by lawmakers in Florida is awaiting the governor’s signature. And in Texas, the state Senate has approved a bill to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. By some counts, close to one-fifth of U.S. states could ban trans kids from sports by the end of this legislative session. Meanwhile, President Biden expressed support for trans youth during his speech to Congress on Wednesday night.
President Joe Biden: “To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people, who are so brave, I want you to know your president has your back.”
To mark his 100th day in office, President Biden held a rally in Duluth, Georgia, and visited former President Jimmy Carter, who is now 96 years old. During his speech, Biden was interrupted by protesters calling on him to end private detention centers.
President Joe Biden: “I want to thank you, the people of Georgia.”
Protesters: “No! End detention now! End detention now! Abolish all! Close private detention centers! Abolish all! Close private detention centers now, please!”
President Joe Biden: “I agree with you. I’m working on it, man. Give me another five days. Folks, y’all know what they’re talking about. There should be no private prisons, period. None, period. That’s what they’re talking about, private detention centers. They should not exist. And we are working to close all of them.”
Three men who are accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer are facing a new charge of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Federal prosecutors allege the men, who are part of a far-right anti-government group, had plotted to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation home.
A New York man has been convicted of threatening to murder members of Congress two days after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Brendan Hunt faces up to 10 years in prison for his online threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Justice Department is reportedly seeking to indict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for federal civil rights violations for killing George Floyd last year by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. This comes a week after a Minnesota judge convicted Chauvin on three counts, including second-degree murder. The three other officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s death may also face federal indictments.
In immigration news, the Supreme Court has sided with an undocumented Guatemalan man challenging his deportation, in a ruling that could affect hundreds of thousands of immigrants. In a decision authored by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court ruled the Justice Department had violated the law by not properly notifying immigrants about their deportation proceedings.
The Food and Drug Administration is moving to ban the sale and manufacturing of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The FDA claims the move could potentially save 633,000 lives by 2050, with the benefits being most felt in the African American community. For decades, tobacco companies have heavily marketed menthol cigarettes to communities of color. The ACLU, however, is warning this could lead to greater policing in areas where underground menthol markets pop up. The ACLU cited the case of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in New York after being accused by police of selling untaxed cigarettes.
In Boone, North Carolina, a gunman killed two sheriff’s deputies, as well as his mother and stepfather, on Thursday, leading to a 13-hour standoff that ended with the gunman killing himself. The deputies were killed while conducting a wellness check after co-workers of the gunman said he didn’t show up to work.
The Indian Point nuclear power plant is permanently shutting down today following decades of protests. The plant is located just 25 miles north of New York City. Decommissioning the plant is projected to take 12 years at a cost of over $2 billion.
Germany’s highest court has ruled the government must expand its efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to protect future generations. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a group of youth climate activists, including Sophie Backsen.
Sophie Backsen: “We are super happy and relieved after the court’s decision. The decision is a huge success for us young people. It has become clear that parts of the climate protection law do not correspond with our constitutional rights. Effective climate protection has to be implemented now, and not in 10 years’ time, when it will be too late.”