President Biden and other leaders of the G7 nations are pledging to donate a billion doses of COVID vaccines to poorer countries as part of an effort to end the pandemic by the end of 2022. The World Health Organization estimates 11 billion doses are needed in order to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population. The Group of 7 is holding its first in-person meeting in two years in Cornwall, England.
On Thursday, President Biden formally announced the United States would do its part by buying half a billion doses from Pfizer to send abroad.
President Joe Biden: “Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic. That’s it, period.”
While Biden said there are no strings attached to the vaccine donations, none of the doses will be going to Venezuela, which is under U.S. sanctions. Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, said the decision demonstrates Washington’s “continued hatred towards the Venezuelan people.” On Thursday, the Venezuelan government revealed it has been unable to receive vaccines through the COVAX program because some of its financial payments have been blocked due to the U.S. sanctions.
The New York Times is reporting the Trump administration secretly subpoenaed and seized data of two prominent Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee — Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell — as well as their staff aides and family members, including a minor. Schiff described the move as a “terrible abuse of power.” The Justice Department forced Apple to hand over the records and then placed a gag order on the company preventing it from informing the lawmakers until last month. The Trump administration also seized records from reporters at The Washington Post, New York Times and CNN as part of a sweeping probe into government leaks.
On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of 10 senators said Thursday they have reached a deal on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, but many Democrats have criticized the proposal for not doing enough to address the climate crisis. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts appeared on MSNBC Thursday night.
Sen. Ed Markey: “It sounds like, to me, that they have a package, which is climate denial masquerading as bipartisanship. We can’t have an infrastructure bill in 2021 that doesn’t have climate at its center.”
The United Nations and international aid groups warn that Ethiopians in the war-ravaged Tigray region are facing the world’s worst famine in a decade, with 350,000 people facing catastrophic conditions and millions more suffering from acute food shortages. The United Nations is urging the Ethiopian government to allow more humanitarian aid into Tigray, which the Ethiopian military invaded last year with support from Eritrea.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during a predawn undercover raid on Wednesday. The Israelis were dressed to look like Palestinians. The dead included two military intelligence officers with the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called a “dangerous Israeli escalation.” Israeli forces also raided the headquarters of the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee on Wednesday and ordered the group’s Ramallah office to remain closed for six months. Amnesty International warned Israel’s action could have “catastrophic consequences” for Palestinians needing healthcare.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published shocking video of Israeli prison guards brutally kicking, punching and beating shackled Palestinians inside a prison in the Negev Desert in 2019. The video shows guards throwing dozens of men into a large pile on a concrete floor; 15 were later hospitalized. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said today, “The case proves, yet again, that Palestinian victims of violence by Israeli security forces cannot achieve justice via Israeli systems and can hope to do so only in an international court.” No Israeli guards faced charges over the assault. The warden on duty was later promoted.
Amnesty International has accused China of committing crimes against humanity for its mass imprisonment and torture of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang province. Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said, “The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale.” China has long defended its policies in Xinjiang, saying they are needed to combat extremism.
Lawmakers in Oregon have voted to expel Republican state Representative Mike Nearman after video surfaced showing him literally opening the door to let armed right-wing protesters enter the state Capitol in December at a time when the building was closed to the public. Days before the incident, Nearmen spoke on a live stream where he gave out his phone number and explained how he could help them get inside.
Rep. Mike Nearman: “If you say, ’I’m at the west entrance,’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there.”
The breach of the Oregon Capitol occurred about two weeks before the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, six California men, including a former police chief, have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges for their role in the January 6 insurrection in Washington. Several of the men are connected to the far-right Three Percenters movement.
In North Carolina, a state autopsy confirms Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man who was shot by sheriff’s deputies in April, died of a gunshot wound to the back of his head. The report lists Brown’s cause of death as “homicide” and matches the results of an earlier independent autopsy and what Brown’s family says they witnessed in bodycam video. A North Carolina prosecutor concluded last month the shooting was “justified” and said officers will not be charged, prompting renewed protests demanding justice for Brown.
The district attorney in Westchester, New York, has ordered an independent review of two separate fatal police shootings of Black men over a decade ago: Danroy “DJ” Henry and Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old former marine. Chamberlain was killed in his own apartment in White Plains, New York, in 2011 during a police confrontation after he accidentally triggered his LifeAid medical alert pendant. Within two hours, officers broke down his apartment door and shot him dead. Click here to see our full coverage of his story.
In Bexar County, Texas, a sheriff’s deputy has been placed on administrative leave after video surfaced of him tasering a 16-year-old Honduran asylum seeker at the Southwest Key Casa Blanca shelter in San Antonio last year. Patrick Divers was placed on leave after Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting published video of the tasering. Congressmember Joaquin Castro is calling for a federal investigation into what happened. Click here to see our interview with Aura Bogado, who broke the story.
Much of Puerto Rico lost power on Thursday after a fire at an electrical substation. The massive blackout comes just days after the private U.S. and Canadian company LUMA Energy formally took over management of the island’s electric grid from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria.