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HeadlinesMay 20, 2021

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Palestinian Death Toll Hits 231 as Israel Pounds Gaza Strip for 11th Straight Day

May 20, 2021

Israel has continued its ferocious bombing and shelling campaign on the Gaza Strip for an 11th straight day, bringing the Palestinian death toll to at least 231, including 65 children. Earlier this morning, Israeli forces bombed the crowded Jabaliya refugee camp. Palestinian health officials say 1,700 Palestinians have been wounded. Over 1,300 housing units have been completely demolished or severely damaged. Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed inside Israel from rockets fired from Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected calls for a ceasefire, but Hamas officials say a truce could be reached within a day. In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demanded an end to the Israeli attack and Israel’s occupation.

President Mahmoud Abbas: “What the occupation is doing in Gaza, including vicious attacks on civilians, deliberate shelling of residential areas and institutions, destruction of infrastructure, as well as the killing of women, elderly and children, is organized state terrorism, carried out by the Israeli occupation, and war crimes punishable by international law.”

U.S. Blocks Gaza Ceasefire Resolutions at U.N. as Some Democrats Urge Halt to Israel Arms Sales

May 20, 2021

On Wednesday, President Biden spoke to Prime Minister Netanayahu and reportedly told him that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.” But the Biden administration also said the same day it would block a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by France calling for an end to violence and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip. The U.S. has blocked at least three other such attempts at the U.N. since Israel’s bombing campaign began 11 days ago.

On Capitol Hill, Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and supporting diplomatic efforts to protect human rights and to uphold international law. Sanders blasted a competing Republican-led resolution for failing to express sympathy for the killing of Palestinians.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The loss of 12 innocent Israeli lives is, in fact, a tragedy. But what about the loss of 227 Palestinian lives, including 64 children and 38 women?”

Today, Senator Sanders is expected to introduce a resolution of disapproval on a planned $735 million U.S. sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel. A similar resolution in the House was co-sponsored by Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan and Rashida Tlaib — the first Palestinian American congresswoman. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “The United States should not be rubber-stamping weapons sales to the Israeli government as they deploy our resources to target international media outlets, schools, hospitals, humanitarian missions and civilian sites for bombing.”

India Sets New Record High for Daily Coronavirus Deaths

May 20, 2021

India reported another 3,800 coronavirus deaths on Thursday — just 24 hours after setting a new single-day record high for the pandemic, with over 4,500 COVID deaths. India’s massive second wave appears to have crested, but the nation is still reporting more than a quarter-million cases per day. In recent days, hundreds more corpses of COVID-19 victims have been discovered floating in the Ganges River, adding to evidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is concealing the true toll from its failed response to the crisis. India’s official death toll now stands at over 287,000, though public health experts say the real number could be up to five times higher.

New York City Restaurants Reopen at Full Capacity

May 20, 2021

Here in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a ribbon-cutting ceremony at celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s newest Manhattan restaurant Wednesday, celebrating the return of indoor dining at 100% capacity for the first time since March of 2020.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “This is the largest restaurant reopening since the pandemic. This is a symbol of New York City coming back, right here, right now.”

Daily U.S. coronavirus cases continue to decline even as the pace of U.S. vaccinations continues to slow. There were fewer than 30,000 new cases reported nationwide Wednesday.

European Union to Welcome Vaccinated Travelers

May 20, 2021

The European Union says it will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared a drink at an outdoor Paris cafe with France’s prime minister to celebrate the partial reopening of restaurants. More than 3 in 10 people in France have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

35 House Republicans Defy Leadership, Vote in Favor of Commission on January 6 Insurrection

May 20, 2021

The House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Thirty-five Republicans joined Democrats in favor of the bill. Indiana Congressmember Greg Pence, the brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, voted against the bill, even though Pence had to be evacuated on January 6 as the mob of insurrectionists called for him to be hanged. The measure’s fate now rests in the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to oppose it. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy also opposed the bill.

107-Year-Old Viola Fletcher Recounts Horror of Tulsa Race Massacre in Congressional Hearing

May 20, 2021

Three survivors of one of the worst racial terror attacks in U.S. history testified to Congress Wednesday in favor of reparations, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. Over two days, beginning on May 31, 1921, racist white mobs set fire to homes, businesses and churches in Greenwood, a thriving African American business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as “Black Wall Street.” One-hundred-seven-year-old Viola Fletcher is the oldest living survivor.

Viola Fletcher: “I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.”

Harrowing Video Shows Louisiana State Troopers Brutalizing Ronald Greene in 2019

May 20, 2021

The Associated Press has obtained video of Louisiana state troopers electrocuting, beating and dragging Ronald Greene, a Black man who was killed during a 2019 traffic stop in Monroe, Louisiana. AP released portions of the 46-minute video showing one officer putting Greene in a chokehold and punching him in the face, while another can be heard calling him a “stupid MF-er.” After the beating, AP reports the officers left Greene unattended, moaning and face down for more than nine minutes as officers refused to render aid, instead washing blood off their hands and faces. Greene arrived dead at an area hospital with two Taser prongs in his back. Police initially told Greene’s family he died of a car crash. Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit.

North Carolina Jury Awards $75 Million in Damages to Brothers Wrongfully Imprisoned for 30+ Years

May 20, 2021

A North Carolina jury has awarded $75 million in damages to compensate two brothers who spent more than three decades in prison after they were falsely convicted of rape and murder. Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, who both are Black and have intellectual disabilities, were sentenced to death over confessions that, for years, they said were coerced. They were released in 2014, after an investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence implicating another man in the crimes.

Texas Executes Quintin Jones, a Black Man, Rejecting Clemency Pleas from Victim’s Family

May 20, 2021

Texas carried out its first execution in 10 months on Wednesday night, administering a lethal injection to 41-year-old Quintin Jones, a Black man convicted for killing his great-aunt in 1999. Jones had pleaded with the Texas governor to spare his life in a viral video produced by The New York Times. The victim’s family had forgiven Jones and publicly opposed the execution, including signing a petition for clemency. In a shocking move, there were no media witnesses present during Jones’s execution. A spokesperson said new staff failed to tell reporters it was time to carry out the lethal injection, and so they were left waiting in an office across the street while Jones was put to death.

Emergent BioSolutions Reaped Millions in Federal Contracts But Has Yet to Deliver Any COVID Vaccines

May 20, 2021

Executives from biotech company Emergent BioSolutions were grilled by lawmakers Wednesday over multiple failures in their manufacturing of coronavirus vaccines, which led the company to throw out 15 million doses earlier this year due to contamination. This is New York Congressmember Carolyn Maloney speaking at the hearing Wednesday.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney: “This is unfair to the American taxpayer, to say the very least. When you have a contract, you should produce the product. So far, we haven’t even gotten one dose of the product out to the American taxpayer, yet you have been able to get bonuses, millions of dollars in pay going out to executives, and they have not completed the contract.”

Former government officials serve on the board of Emergent, and the company spends an average of $3 million a year on lobbying lawmakers.

Massive Ice Sheet Breaks Off Antarctica, Becomes World’s Largest Iceberg

May 20, 2021

A massive sheet of ice four times the size of New York City has broken free from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, becoming the world’s largest iceberg. Though such events are part of a natural cycle, scientists warn greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air pollution are warming the Earth’s polar regions faster than the rest of the globe, threatening wildlife and contributing to rising sea levels.

Climate Activists Protest Shell Sponsorship of London Science Museum Exhibit

May 20, 2021

In Britain, scientists with the group Extinction Rebellion locked themselves to an exhibit at the London Science Museum Wednesday to protest its sponsorship by oil company Shell. Climate activists also staged an oil “clean up” outside the museum. One of the protesters said, “Shell is using the Science Museum to legitimize its crimes.”

AOC, Bernie Sanders Join McDonald’s Workers’ Strike Demanding $15/Hour Minimum Wage

May 20, 2021

McDonald’s workers across the United States held a strike Wednesday to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were some of the high-profile supporters who joined a virtual action in solidarity with workers. Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez called on McDonald’s to require all of its franchise locations to set a minimum wage of at least $15.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Because they are a leader in this industry, and their actions set the tone and set the standard for so many other competitors, as well. And so you’re not just fighting for you and yourselves; you are fighting for food workers across this country to be paid a living wage and to be able to get the union that they deserve.”

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