Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives boarded chartered airplanes and flew to Washington, D.C., on Monday in a bid to block Republican-backed voter suppression legislation. The extraordinary move denied Republicans a quorum in the Texas House, where Republican Governor Greg Abbott has convened a special session to pass legislation that, among other things, would ban 24-hour polling places and drop boxes, and stop drive-thru voting. Texas Democrats flew from Austin to the U.S. capital to demand Congress pass the sweeping federal voting rights bill, the For the People Act. This is Texas state Representative Joe Moody of El Paso.
Rep. Joe Moody: “The voter suppression going on in Texas is just the tip of the iceberg. The clock is literally ticking on Congress to act to protect voters in Texas and all across the country.”
Today President Biden is delivering his first major speech on voting rights since Republicans deployed the filibuster to stall the For the People Act.
In Iraq, at least 64 people were killed, and over 100 others suffered burns and smoke inhalation, after a fire tore through a COVID-19 isolation ward at a hospital in the city of Nasiriyah. Monday’s fire was fueled by an exploding oxygen canister. A similar blaze in April killed 82 people and injured over a hundred others in a Baghdad hospital. The latest disaster came as Iraq recorded its highest daily infection rate of the pandemic and as Iraqis have been holding anti-government protests amid shortages of electricity and water during a blistering summer heat wave.
Oxfam warns there has been a sixfold increase in people around the world facing famine-like conditions since the start of the pandemic. Conflict was the main driver behind the increase, exacerbated by the climate crisis and COVID-19’s effect on the economy. Meanwhile, the wealth of the 10 richest people grew by $413 billion last year — 11 times more than what is needed to fund the U.N.’s global humanitarian assistance.
Israel began offering a third dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Monday to immunocompromised adults at high risk of death from COVID-19. This comes as Pfizer officials met with U.S. regulators and vaccine experts Monday seeking emergency use authorization for a second booster dose of its vaccine. Most public health experts say a third shot of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is not necessary for most adults. In Geneva, the head of the World Health Organization slammed the growing vaccine gap between rich and poor countries. This is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Some countries and regions are actually ordering millions of booster doses before other countries have had supplies to vaccinate their health workers and most vulnerable. … We’re making conscious choices right now not to protect those most in need.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has added a new warning to Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA reports about 100 cases of the rare autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barré among 12.8 million J&J vaccine recipients in the U.S. The cases were mostly in men aged 50 and older, with one death reported. The FDA said in a statement the benefits of the vaccine still clearly outweigh the risks. A recent study by the Cleveland Clinic found over 99.7% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.
More information is emerging about the suspects involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse last week. At least one of two Haitian Americans arrested was an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the DEA. Other suspects were also FBI informants. This comes as a U.S. delegation on Monday returned from Haiti after meeting with Haiti’s interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph, as well as Ariel Henry, whom Moïse had appointed as Joseph’s successor days before Moïse was killed. Dozens of suspects have been arrested, including Colombian mercenaries who were reportedly recruited by a Miami-area security firm called CTU Security, run by a right-wing Venezuelan.
President Biden said Monday he stands with the Cuban people, in response to thousands taking to the streets of Cuba over the weekend in rare anti-government protests denouncing the island’s economic crisis during the pandemic — which has been exacerbated by catastrophic U.S. sanctions. This is White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “There’s every indication that yesterday’s protests were spontaneous expressions of people who are exhausted with the Cuban government’s economic mismanagement and repression. And those — these are protests inspired by the harsh reality of everyday life in Cuba, not people in another country.”
Thousands of people also participated in counterprotests in favor of the Cuban Revolution and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who accused the U.S. of instigating the anti-government actions and urged the Biden administration to end the U.S. blockade.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel: “Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me, that you, who carry out policy that violates human rights of an entire people for more than 60 years, intensify it in the midst of a situation as complex as the pandemic, and you want to present yourself as the big savior? Lift the blockade. Lift the 243 measures, and we will see how we get along.”
In South Africa, at least 32 people have been killed amid several days of clashes between police and protesters. On Monday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered soldiers to the country’s two most densely populated provinces, after crowds ransacked retail shops in Durban and Johannesburg. The protests began in response to the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, who was charged with contempt of court for refusing to testify in a probe of high-level corruption. But the protests quickly refocused on poverty and growing economic inequality during the pandemic.
In Morocco, press freedom groups are denouncing the jailing of Moroccan journalist Soulaimane Raissouni, the editor-in-chief of a now-defunct Moroccan newspaper. Raissouni last week was sentenced to five years in prison, accused of “indecent assault” against another man — a charge he’s denied and said was fabricated to intimidate him. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said he was “disappointed” by the sentencing.
For years Raissouni covered anti-government protests in Morocco and was also highly critical of the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Raissouni was arrested in May 2020. He’s been on hunger strike for over 90 days demanding his release. Raissouni is one of at least 10 Moroccan journalists who’ve been jailed in recent years, many of them accused of sex crimes. Click here to see our interview with another Moroccan journalist, still jailed, Omar Radi.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia, over the weekend after a camera operator died following an attack last week on dozens of LGBTQ activists and journalists. The attack from violent, homophobic groups came after a pride march had to be called off due to threats of violence and political and religious opposition. Protesters called for the Georgian prime minister to resign for failing to protect LGBTQ people and journalists.
Davit Kakulia: “Georgian media must stay strong so everyone in this Parliament building must understand that media cannot be silent and Alexander Lashkarava should be the last victim in the nearest future and history.”
On Monday, scuffles broke out as journalists and opposition politicians tried to enter the floor of Georgia’s lower house of Parliament, demanding the resignation of Georgia’s prime minister and government.
In Guatemala, demands are mounting for the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei over his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive shortage of COVID vaccines in Guatemala. Several protests took place over the weekend in Guatemala City and other regions denouncing Giammattei’s government neglect and corruption. Progressive Guatemalan congressmembers are also demanding Giammattei step down. This comes as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in Guatemala, with hospitals on the verge of collapsing. Others have already collapsed. Guatemala has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in all of Latin America.
A federal judge in Michigan grilled lawyers for former President Trump Monday over their false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. U.S. District Court Judge Linda V. Parker, who called the claims “fantastical” and “speculative,” is considering whether to ban Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and other Trump allies from practicing law in Michigan, or whether to disbar them altogether.
This comes as The Washington Post reports that the Republican National Committee’s top lawyer warned last November against continuing to push false claims that the presidential election was stolen, calling them a “joke” that could mislead millions of people.
In Illinois, some 2,500 Chicago-area public employees have won a tentative contract after 10 months of negotiations and an 18-day strike. If approved by members of SEIU Local 73, the contract would offer better pay equity, hazard pay for certain workers during the pandemic, and other benefits to custodians, technicians, clerks and other frontline workers. The deal ends the longest public sector strike in Chicago’s recent history.