The United Nations high commissioner for human rights says Israel may have committed war crimes during its 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip earlier this month. Michelle Bachelet said Thursday she had seen no evidence to back Israeli claims that civilian buildings in Gaza bombed by Israel were being used for military purposes.
Michelle Bachelet: “Airstrikes in such densely populated areas resulted in a high level of civilian fatalities and injuries, as well as the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. Such strikes raise serious concerns of Israel’s compliance with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law.”
High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet also said Hamas violated international law by firing rockets into Israel. Her comments came as the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to create a permanent Commission of Inquiry to monitor human rights abuses in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Michael Lynk, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, testified to the council Thursday.
Michael Lynk: “What we have witnessed in Gaza in these past few weeks haunts the conscience of the world — approximately 242 Palestinians killed, the majority of whom are civilians and at least 63 of whom are children. Almost 2,000 were injured. There’s been massive property destruction.”
The World Health Organization warned Thursday that African nations need to acquire another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine in the next six weeks, or millions of people will miss out on their second dose. The head of the WHO’s African operations said, “Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.” So far African countries have received just 43 million vaccine doses for the continent’s 1.2 billion people.
A new report by Public Citizen finds wealthy nations could produce enough vaccines to inoculate 80% of people in low- and middle-income countries within a year with an investment of just $25 billion. The People’s Vaccine Alliance tweeted in response, “The global vaccine apartheid is a policy choice. We have the means to end it.”
Senate Republicans are preparing to use the filibuster to block Democrats from voting to create a 9/11-style commission to study the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Debate over a key procedural vote on the commission stretched until about 3 a.m. this morning without resolution.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly calling fellow Republicans and asking them to support a filibuster of the bill as “a personal favor.” Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski accused McConnell of blocking the commission for political gain. Murkowski and just two other Republican senators — Mitt Romney and Susan Collins — support the commission’s creation.
On Thursday, the mother and girlfriend of Brian Sicknick, the police officer who died a day after he was attacked by the pro-Trump mob at the Capitol, personally met with Republican senators to press them to support the commission.
The Senate has confirmed Christine Wormuth as the first woman secretary of the Army. Wormuth served as a Pentagon policy chief under President Obama and led President Biden’s transition team at the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, Biden is expected to announce his nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be the next ambassador to Japan. Emanuel, who also served as a chief of staff for Obama, has faced fierce public backlash for helping cover up the 2014 police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
In media news, Amazon announced Wednesday it was acquiring MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, its second-largest acquisition after Whole Foods. With the purchase, Amazon will add the James Bond franchise and thousands of older films to its Prime Video streaming catalog. In a statement, Public Citizen said, “Amazon is prioritizing monopolizing content for the streaming service while completely failing to address the real concerns of workers, small businesses, and regulators. This massive dominant monopoly needs to be broken up.” The planned merger comes on the heels of a $130 billion merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery. WarnerMedia was spun off of Time Warner, which AT&T acquired in 2018 for $85 billion.
Top executives of the largest U.S. banks appeared on Capitol Hill for a second straight day Thursday, where some lawmakers accused them of pandemic profiteering. On Wednesday, Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren grilled the CEOs of Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo for charging customers a collective $4 billion in overdraft fees during the COVID crisis.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “While you automatically, and at no cost, got complete protection from overdraft fees at the Federal Reserve, could you please raise your hand if you gave the same automatic protection to your customers and automatically waived all of their overdraft fees? OK, I’m not seeing anyone raise a hand, and that’s because none of you gave the same help to your customers that the bank regulators extended to you.”
More information has emerged about the gunman in the San Jose mass shooting who killed nine co-workers before turning the gun on himself. A Homeland Security memo reveals customs officers had detained Samuel Cassidy in 2016 as he returned from a trip to the Philippines. He professed a hatred for his workplace, where Wednesday’s massacre took place, and possessed books and manifestos about terrorism. An ex-partner accused him of sexual assault in 2009, and his ex-wife told reporters he talked about killing co-workers when they were married, well over a decade ago. Authorities recovered three handguns at the scene of the massacre, at least two of which were semi-automatic pistols, and 11 magazines. The FBI said the guns were legally obtained and registered.
In Washington state, prosecutors have charged three Tacoma police officers with murder over the March 2020 killing of Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black father of two. Ellis was violently arrested and beaten by the officers on the side of the road and died while he was being restrained and in handcuffs. He can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” on a police scanner.
Officers Christopher Burbank and Matthew Collins, who are white, are charged with second-degree murder; Asian American officer Timothy Rankine faces a first-degree manslaughter charge. It’s the first time in history the Washington state Attorney General’s Office has criminally charged a police officer over a deadly use-of-force incident. It comes more than a year after a county medical examiner ruled Ellis’s death a homicide, reporting he died of “hypoxia due to physical restraint.”
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have ordered as many as 1 million people to evacuate the city of Goma, as one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes is threatening to erupt for a second time in a week. Lava from Saturday’s eruption left about 20,000 people homeless and killed at least 32 people. Powerful aftershocks and frequent tremors since then have rattled nerves and prompted fears over the fate of Goma, a densely populated city at the foot of the volcano.
In Australia, a court ruled the government has a duty to protect children and the environment from the effects of the climate catastrophe. In a case brought by eight high school students, a federal judge acknowledged, “Many thousands will suffer premature death from heat stress or bushfire smoke.” The judge stopped short, however, of granting an injunction on the expansion of a coal mine. This is Ava Princi, one of the young climate activists and plaintiffs in the historic case.
Ava Princi: “The law now recognizes that the environment minister is in a special position of power to prevent foreseeable harms to young people. I feel elated by this decision, and this is not over. This case was about young people stepping up and demanding more from the adults whose actions are determining our future well-being.”