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HeadlinesMay 18, 2021

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Gaza Death Toll Reaches 213 as Israel Strikes Homes, Health Clinics and COVID-19 Testing Site

May 18, 2021

The death toll in Gaza has reached 213 as Israel continues to attack the besieged territory by air, land and sea using U.S.-made warplanes and U.S.-made bombs. Health officials in Gaza say the dead include 61 children and 36 women. Over 1,400 Palestinians have been injured. Another 58,000 are internally displaced and facing shortages of food, medicine and supplies.

On Sunday, 6-year-old Suzy Eshkuntana was pulled from the rubble of her Gaza City home after an airstrike killed her mother and all four of her siblings. Her father Riyad was the only other member of her family to survive.

Riyad Eshkuntana: “I ran to check up on the girls. My wife jumped. She hugged the girls and took them out of the room. Then a second airstrike hit the room. I could feel the ceilings were destroyed, and I was left under the rubble. The last moment I saw my wife, I saw that she threw herself on the floor, and the concrete fell on her head.”

An Israeli airstrike Monday damaged the office of Qatar’s Red Crescent. Another strike damaged the only COVID-19 testing laboratory in Gaza. A clinic run by Doctors Without Borders was hit by an Israeli strike on Sunday. The World Health Organization reports Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics in Gaza.

In Phone Call with Israeli PM, Biden Urges Ceasefire But Won’t Demand One

May 18, 2021

The White House said President Biden expressed his support for a ceasefire during a phone call Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu — but Biden did not directly demand Israel halt its assault. Biden faces pressure from over two dozen Democratic senators who are calling for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar is demanding the Biden administration halt a planned arms sale to Israel, writing, “It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians.”

Eritrean Troops Disguised as Ethiopians Block Aid in Tigray as U.N. Warns Millions Face Hunger

May 18, 2021

In Ethiopia, CNN reports Eritrean troops disguised as Ethiopian soldiers are blocking critical aid from reaching starving populations in the conflict-torn Tigray region. The World Health Organization says almost 5 million people in Tigray are in need of humanitarian aid, with severe and acute malnutrition becoming rampant. Some have already died of hunger, and there are reports of indiscriminate killings and widespread sexual violence by combatants. Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea to stop blocking humanitarian access to the region.

India Reports Deadliest Day of Pandemic as Cyclone Compounds Coronavirus Crisis

May 18, 2021

In India, at least 21 people are dead and nearly 100 others missing after the most powerful tropical cyclone ever to hit western India made landfall late Monday. The storm pummeled Gujarat state with the force of a Category 3 hurricane, compounding India’s coronavirus catastrophe. Two hundred thousand people evacuated ahead of the storm — including hundreds of COVID-19 patients — and vaccination sites were forced to close. This came as India reported more than 4,300 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday — making it the deadliest day of the pandemic for any country.

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Hit 14-Month Low as Biden Pledges to Ship 20M Vaccine Doses Abroad

May 18, 2021

In the United States, a weekly average of coronavirus deaths has fallen to its lowest level in 14 months, while hospitalizations and new cases continue to decline. Nearly half of all U.S. residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, though the pace of inoculations continues to fall, with vaccine supplies outpacing demand. On Monday, President Biden said the U.S. would send at least 20 million vaccine doses to other nations by the end of June.

President Joe Biden: “We’ll share these vaccines in the service of ending the pandemic everywhere. And we will not use our vaccines to secure favors from other countries.”

Twenty million doses represents a small fraction of what’s needed to vaccinate most of the world’s 7.8 billion people. Fewer than 5% of Asia’s population and about 1% of Africans have been vaccinated. On Monday, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus blasted the growing gap between rich and poor nations as “vaccine apartheid.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “The world is in vaccine apartheid. As you know, high-income countries account for 15% of the world’s population but have 45% of the world’s vaccines.”

Supreme Court to Hear Mississippi Abortion Case in Major Challenge to Roe v. Wade

May 18, 2021

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law banning nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. It’s the first time that Trump-appointed Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch will preside over a major challenge to the court’s landmark 1973 ruling, Roe v. Wade. Oral arguments are set for the next term, which starts in October. A ruling is expected next year. Staci Fox of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates said in a statement, “We knew the day would come when that dangerous legislation would not only threaten the health, lives, and freedoms of Mississippians, but the entire country. That day is finally here.”

Steven Donziger, Who Sued Chevron over Amazon Oil Spills, Blasts Contempt Trial as “Charade”

May 18, 2021

In New York, the federal trial against environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger wrapped up Monday with the defense refusing to call a single witness after dismissing the trial as a “charade.” Donziger has been on house arrest for over 600 days on allegations of contempt of court after he refused to turn over his computer and cellphone. The case stems from Chevron’s unprecedented legal campaign against Donziger over his role in winning an $18 billion settlement on behalf of 30,000 Amazonian Indigenous people who suffered the effects of toxic waste from Chevron’s oil drilling in the Amazon. In an unusual legal twist, the judge appointed a private law firm with ties to Chevron to prosecute Donziger, after federal prosecutors declined to bring charges. Donziger spoke to reporters ahead of the trial’s close.

Steven Donziger: “The Chevron witnesses admitted that they had had multiple meetings with the private corporate prosecutors from a Chevron law firm to help them prepare their public prosecution of me in an effort to convict me. … This is a process that is structurally designed to favor Chevron and to trample on my due process rights. I cannot get a fair trial.”

A verdict is expected in June. Click here to see our full interview with Steven Donziger.

Republicans in Arizona’s Maricopa County Blast GOP-Ordered Recount of 2020 Ballots

May 18, 2021

In Arizona, Republican leaders in Maricopa County are demanding an end to the GOP-ordered vote recount in the 2020 presidential election results, calling it a “mockery” and a “grift disguised as an audit.” Last month, Arizona state Senate Republicans used their subpoena power to take possession of 2.1 million ballots, ballot-counting machines and computer hard drives in Maricopa County — Arizona’s most populous region. The recount is being overseen by Cyber Ninjas, a company with no record of working in election security. The company’s CEO has espoused conspiracy theories claiming the election was stolen from former President Trump. This is Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chair Jack Sellers speaking Monday.

Jack Sellers: “This board is done explaining anything to these people who are playing investigator with our constituents’ ballots and equipment paid for with real people’s tax dollars. People’s ballots and money are not make-believe. It’s time to be done with this craziness and get on with our county’s critical business.”

Rep. AOC and Other Democrats Urge Biden Administration to “End the Carceral Approach to Immigration”

May 18, 2021

In immigration news, a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union says Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, did close to nothing to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks inside immigrant jails and has even concealed the number of people in its custody hospitalized during the pandemic. A total of over 14,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 while in ICE custody. Officially, nine people have died of COVID in ICE jails, but several others died shortly after their release.

This comes as over 20,000 immigrants are currently jailed by ICE — a jump from just under 15,000 people at the end of the Trump administration. In a letter signed by more than 30 House Democrats, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez writes, “We are in a moment of racial reckoning in this country, with communities across the country calling for an end to mass incarceration and racist policing. It is time to end the carceral approach to immigration, which relies on these same flawed systems.”

5,000 Asylum Seekers Swim from Morocco to Spanish Enclave of Ceuta

May 18, 2021

Spanish authorities have apprehended about 5,000 refugees who swam from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa Monday. Among them were about 1,500 children. A Spanish government spokesperson said one person died in the attempt.

Meanwhile, the German humanitarian aid group Sea-Eye says it rescued at least 330 refugees in recent days as they attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to flee poverty and violence in their homelands.

“Trans People Don’t Exist in El Salvador”: Protesters Demand Passage of Gender Identity Law

May 18, 2021

In El Salvador, transgender leaders took to the streets of the capital San Salvador Monday to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and to demand the Salvadoran government enact protections for the trans community. This is trans activist Britany García.

Britany García: “We’re marching to demand the Legislative Assembly debate and approve the law on gender identity. It’s about a change of name and gender in our identity documents. This identification is the door to accessing our social, economic, political and cultural rights in the country. Trans people don’t exist in El Salvador.”

El Salvador, as well as neighboring Guatemala and Honduras, are among the most violent countries for trans and all LGBTQ people.

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