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President Biden is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a high-stakes summit in Geneva right now for their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office. Representatives for both leaders said they expect cybersecurity, strategic nuclear stability, the climate crisis, Syria, the Iran nuclear deal, Afghanistan, Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula to be on the agenda, and possibly the case of imprisoned nationalist opposition figure Alexei Nalavny. The two heads of state will then give separate press conferences. Ahead of the meeting, Biden said the U.S. was not looking for confrontation with Russia.
Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian woman in a town northeast of Jerusalem earlier today. She was identified as 29-year-old Mai Afanah, a doctoral student. The Israeli military claimed she attempted to ram her car into a group of soldiers. Local media report no ambulance was sent to care for her after she was shot.
The killing came the day after Israel launched overnight air raids on Gaza for the first time since a ceasefire with Hamas was declared in May following a brutal 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip. No casualties have been reported. The Israeli military said its air raid came in response to “fire balloons” launched from the besieged Gaza Strip.
Earlier in the day, at least 17 Palestinians were arrested as they protested the ultranationalist Israeli “March of the Flags” taking place in occupied East Jerusalem. Some participants chanted “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn down.” This is Palestinian legal activist and protester Farid al-Atrash.
Farid al-Atrash: “They should stop all the acts by the Israeli occupation and the settlers by entering Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state. We’re telling Jerusalem and the Jerusalem residents that you are not alone, and there should be an end to all this aggression by the Israeli occupation in front of the whole world.”
The Senate has unanimously approved legislation that would make Juneteenth — the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States — a federal holiday. The celebration dates back to the last days of the Civil War, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with news that the war had ended and slaves were free. The measure will now have to pass the House before it can be enacted into law. Lawmakers celebrated the historic move, but some called for further action. Democratic New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman tweeted, “The Senate continues to be behind the times. Juneteenth has been a holiday for well over 100 years. Let’s bring the Senate into modern times and get unanimous consent on abolishing the Jim Crow filibuster.”
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has signed a controversial bill into law that prohibits educators from teaching about the history and social impacts of systemic racism in the U.S. The law also bans teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, for which creator Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2020. Texas joins several other states, including Arkansas and North Carolina, that have passed legislation banning the teaching of critical race theory since the police murder of George Floyd last year. Teachers across the country have been protesting the enactment of such legislation, which they’ve compared to Jim Crow laws.
Democratic House members Cori Bush and Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced a bill Tuesday that would decriminalize all drug possession and put in place a “health-centered approach.” Missouri Congressmember Bush said, “It’s time to put wellness and compassion ahead of trauma and punishment.”
In Somalia, at least 15 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the capital Mogadishu. The attack reportedly targeted recruits at a Somali army training camp. At least 20 others were wounded. Al-Shabab later claimed responsibility for the attack. This comes as the Pentagon is working on a proposal to deploy dozens of Special Forces trainers to Somalia to help local officials combat al-Shabab. In January, former President Trump withdrew some 700 troops from Somalia.
In Hungary, human rights advocates are denouncing new anti-LGBTQ legislation passed by lawmakers yesterday that bans media, advertisers and other outlets from showing children any content that portrays gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people, and prohibits teaching about LGBTQ issues at schools. The far-right party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán introduced the legislation, which was attached to a bill that more strictly penalizes child abuse. Opponents of the legislation have compared it to Russia’s so-called gay propaganda law enacted in 2013. Human Rights Watch said the law “is a cynical attack by the ruling party … on the human dignity of LGBT people for political gain. By falsely associating harmful illegal behavior with LGBT people, authorities invite hostility and hatred against them, fueling homophobia and transphobia.”
After the largest expedition ever to the North Pole, researchers say Arctic ice is receding faster than ever before and that we may have already passed the point of no return on global heating. The expedition’s leader, Markus Rex, presented the team’s findings on Tuesday.
Markus Rex: “There are several tipping points in the climate system which lead to irreversible, sudden changes, which are triggered when the planet reaches a certain temperature. We have seen that we are on the verge of that tipping point which will lead to the disappearance of the ice in the Arctic summer.”
Water and land defenders in Minnesota are continuing resistance actions against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline. On Tuesday, activists blockaded a semi-truck loaded with drilling equipment, lying on the ground and attaching themselves to the vehicle. At least 30 people were arrested Tuesday. This came a day after a Minnesota court upheld a state approval of the pipeline’s expansion. The Native-led group Honor the Earth said, “Line 3 is a clear violation of human rights + cultural rights to live as Anishinaabe people promised in the #1855Treaty. [President Biden] must #StopLine3.” Click here to see our interview with Indigenous leader Winona LaDuke.
President Biden named Lina Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission after the Senate confirmed her earlier in the day. Lina Khan is a prominent critic of Big Tech. She wrote a widely hailed paper on the failure of antitrust laws to rein in Amazon while she was a law student at Yale. Senator Elizabeth Warren celebrated the news, tweeting, “With Chair Lina Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy.”
The Biden administration announced new measures Tuesday to combat domestic terrorism following a review of extremist threats and in light of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The new approach includes hiring more analysts and prosecutors at the Justice Department and FBI, improving communications on possible threats between the federal government and local authorities, as well as with social media companies. Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke Tuesday after the White House plan was released.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: “The two most lethal elements of the domestic violence extremist threat are racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and militia violent extremists. In the FBI’s view, the top domestic violent extremist threat comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocated for the superiority of the white race.”
Newly revealed emails show former President Trump, his chief of staff and other aides pushed the Justice Department to back his false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The House Oversight Committee released the documents Tuesday, which show Trump and others began pressuring incoming acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen just an hour before Trump announced that William Barr would be stepping down as attorney general.
In immigration news, the Los Angeles Times reports the Biden administration is planning to expand a program that allows some Central American children to reunite with their parents living in the U.S. Under the program, first enacted by the Obama administration, parents from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who have legal residency or temporary protected status in the U.S. can apply for their children to be allowed into the country. This comes as the Biden administration continues to detain thousands of unaccompanied refugee children. Last week during a visit to Guatemala, Vice President Kamala Harris warned asylum seekers not to come to the U.S.
Janitors, maintenance and security workers around the U.S. and the world marked Justice for Janitors Day Tuesday and are holding actions all week to demand safety, fair pay, healthcare, immigration reform, and respect in the workplace. In Miami, workers have been on strike since last Thursday over low wages, pay discrimination and unfair labor practices. This is Miami janitor Walter Osores.
Walter Osores: “We need to work two or three jobs. Right now I’m only sleeping four or five hours to be able to support my family. It’s unfair. We want a better quality of life and for them to invest in us, in essential workers.”
William vanden Heuvel, a former diplomat, lawyer and adviser to Robert F. Kennedy, died Tuesday in New York City from complications of pneumonia at the age of 91. Vanden Heuvel fought for civil rights, including during his time at the Justice Department from 1962 to 1964. He also advocated for better conditions for incarcerated people, calling on the media to help shine a light on the failures of the criminal justice system. In 1972, vanden Heuvel wrote, “The right to know in a democracy frequently depends on the demand to know by the media.” He is survived by his wife and his two daughters, including Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher and former editor of The Nation.
The Goldman Environmental Prize announced its 2021 winners, recognizing grassroots climate justice activism across the world. Vietnam’s Thai Van Nguyen is combating illegal wildlife trade and poaching. Kimiko Hirata is a climate activist working to halt Japan’s use of coal power. Maida Bilal led a blockade to cancel two proposed dams in protected areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here in the U.S., Sharon Lavigne activated her community in Louisiana to stop a hazardous plastics plant from being built. In Peru, Liz Chicaje Churay helped found the Yaguas National Park, which protects more than 2 million acres of Amazon rainforest. Gloria Majiga-Kamoto spearheaded a campaign which led the government of Malawi to impose a ban on thin plastics, a type of single-use plastic. She spoke at Tuesday’s virtual award ceremony.
Gloria Majiga-Kamoto: “Many countries around the world are regulating quantities and types of plastics being produced and used. But we’re still drowning in plastic. You and me need to start making these policies a reality. We need to start making different choices, different decisions. We need to start refusing plastics and start reducing our part of the waste.”