The state of California and New York City have announced plans to require government workers to get vaccinated or face weekly COVID-19 tests. These new initiatives come as the number of new COVID cases has quadrupled in the United States over the past month and are expected to keep rising for months as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require its frontline healthcare workers to get vaccinated. The American Medical Association and American Nurses Association have also joined with other medical groups calling for mandatory vaccination of all healthcare workers. In a statement, the groups said, “The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it.”
According to the CDC, every county in Florida and Arkansas now has high levels of community transmission. Florida accounts for nearly one in five of all new COVID cases in the country. The virus is also spreading rapidly across Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
A new study out of UCLA finds the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths both increased dramatically after states lifted eviction moratoriums. The study estimates over 10,000 lives could have been saved if the moratoriums were left in place.
COVID-19 cases are surging in Tokyo as it hosts the Summer Olympics. The city reported over 2,800 new infections today — the highest since the start of the pandemic. At least 155 people tied to the Olympic Games have now tested positive for COVID. Meanwhile, Iran is also reporting record-breaking COVID infections. Nearly 32,000 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, and at least 322 new deaths overnight — the highest since at least May.
Protesters have been gathering outside the Tunisian parliament to denounce President Kais Saied after he ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament. On Monday, the Tunisian president ordered a nightly curfew and dismissed the nation’s defense minister and acting justice minister. Tunisian police have also raided the offices of Al Jazeera in Tunis. Critics have accused the Tunisian president of launching a coup.
Protester: “The decisions by President Kais Saied are not correct, against the Constitution and the reality. They bring us back again to 1954. The scene of the parliament closed by tanks is very disgraceful.”
Ten years ago, Tunisia became the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
President Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi have signed an agreement to formally end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year, more than 18 years after the 2003 invasion. But the agreement is largely symbolic as the U.S. will keep troops in Iraq indefinitely in an advisory role.
President Joe Biden: “I think things are going well. Our role in Iraq will be as a — dealing with not — it’s just to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it — as it arrives. But we are not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission.”
Fifty-seven people are feared dead after a boat capsized off of the coast of Libya. Many of the passengers were migrants from Nigeria, Ghana and Gambia. The number of refugees who have died while attempting to reach European soil by sea has more than doubled compared to the first six months of 2020. So far this year, over 1,100 people have perished.
Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of carrying out apparent war crimes during its recent 11-day assault on Gaza that killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children. In a new report, Human Rights Watch called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians. Survivors who spoke to Human Rights Watch include Omar Abu el-Ouf, who lost his father, mother and two siblings when their four-story building collapsed in Gaza City following Israeli airstrikes.
Omar Abu el-Ouf: “Why did they kill my family? Why did they kill my father and mother? Why did they turn me into an orphan? Who will, in the end, give me justice?”
Omar Abu el-Ouf’s father was the head of internal medicine at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, where he headed the hospital’s coronavirus response. Human Rights Watch also accused Palestinian armed groups of committing unlawful attacks by indiscriminately firing rockets at Israel.
One of Lebanon’s wealthiest business executives has been named prime minister-designate. The billionaire Najib Mikati has served twice before as prime minister. Lebanon is in the midst of a massive economic and political crisis. Mikati has been accused of corruption in the past. In 2019, a public prosecutor brought charges against him for profiting from state-subsidized housing loans.
A top Chinese diplomat has accused the Biden administration of “demonizing” China. During face-to-face talks in Beijing with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, China’s vice foreign minister urged the U.S. to “change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy.” In related news, the U.S. Air Force is sending more than two dozen F-22 stealth fighter jets and 10 F-15 Strike Eagle fighters to a U.S. base on Guam as tensions escalate between the U.S. and China.
In the Philippines, police shot dead two activists Monday who were spray-painting the words “Oust Duterte” on public property ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation address. The Philippines-based rights group Defend Bicol condemned the killings, saying, “Dissent may take on many forms, but to kill innocent unarmed civilians in the dead of the night for painting the people’s call is purely fascist and brutal.” Rights groups estimate there have been over 400 extrajudicial killings since Duterte took office. Thousands have been killed since Duterte unleashed a brutal so-called war on drugs.
Authorities in Haiti have arrested the head of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s security team as part of its probe into Moïse’s assassination on July 7. It remains unclear how Moïse’s assassins were able to get by the president’s security detail without firing a shot. Haitian authorities have also issued an arrest warrant for Supreme Court Justice Windelle Coq Thélot. Her whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, CNN is reporting some of the court clerks involved in the investigation of Moïse’s assassination have received death threats.
In Nicaragua, another presidential candidate has been arrested as President Daniel Ortega continues to crack down on his opposition ahead of the November election. At least seven presidential hopefuls have been apprehended since June. Almost two dozen journalists and opposition activists have also been detained under a “treason” law. Ortega has long justified the arrests, saying he’s only targeting people suspected of planning a coup against his government. On Monday, Ortega accused the U.S. government of trying to undermine the political process in Nicaragua.
President Daniel Ortega: “The Yankees have no respect. For them, elections are only valid when their weaklings win, who they put up as candidates. So, if the U.S. allies win, the election is good; if their weaklings don’t win, then the election is bad, and they do everything possible to destabilize the country, to destroy the country.”
In Bangladesh, torrential rain has caused widespread flooding in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp. It houses nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence and persecution in Burma. At least five refugees have died in landslides. A child was also killed after being swept away by flooding. Several others were injured. This comes as COVID-19 cases are spiking in Bangladesh. On Monday, the government recorded over 15,000 new infections and nearly 250 deaths — both the highest one-day totals since the pandemic began.
More than 1.5 million acres of land have now burned as firefighters battle 85 active wildfires across the West. In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire has burned over 400,000 acres. The Dixie Fire is now threatening 10,000 homes in California. Meanwhile, Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the United States, has reached a record low amid a massive climate change-fueled drought in the West. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 90% of the West is now officially in drought.
The Biden administration has announced plans to place some migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in expedited removal proceedings. The practice allows U.S. immigration officials to deport people without a court hearing in front of an immigration judge. Advocates warn the policy is a violation of due process and international law.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol will hold its first hearing today and hear testimony from four police officers who were attacked by Trump supporters while defending the Capitol. The committee is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — both of whom voted to impeach Trump for his role in instigating the assault on the Capitol. Last week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all of his recommended committee members after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of his five picks. On Monday, McCarthy chided Cheney and Kinzinger as “Pelosi Republicans” for participating in the probe.
Trump adviser and former inaugural chair Tom Barrack pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of secretly lobbying for the United Arab Emirates. The lobbying came at a time when Barrack was making major business deals with the UAE and other Gulf states. The New York Times reported Barrack’s real estate company received some $1.5 billion in investments from the UAE and Saudi Arabia after Trump’s 2016 nomination. The billionaire investor was released last week on $250 million bond.
In news from Canada, longtime Inuk leader Mary Simon has been sworn in as Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.
Governor General Mary Simon: “I am honored, humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous governor general.”
As governor general, Mary Simon will serve as Queen Elizabeth’s federal representative in Canada as well as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Reverends Jesse Jackson and William Barber were arrested Monday along with 37 others during a sit-in at Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office in Phoenix calling on her to support ending the filibuster to help pass voting rights legislation. The Reverend Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign begin a 27-mile march for voting rights in Texas today. Organizers have described it as a “Selma-to-Montgomery style” march.
In labor news, workers at Frito-Lay in Kansas have ended a 19-day strike after the company agreed to a contract guaranteeing workers one day off per week. Workers went on strike to protest forced overtime, 84-hour workweeks and horrific working conditions. In the summer, workers endure triple-digit temperatures without air conditioning. Multiple workers have reportedly died on the job of heart attacks.
A federal judge has found environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger guilty of six counts of criminal contempt of court after he refused to turn over his computer and cellphone. The case stems from Chevron’s unprecedented legal campaign against Donziger over his role in winning an $18 billion settlement against Chevron for dumping 16 billion gallons of oil into the Ecuadorian Amazon. In an unusual legal twist, the judge appointed a private law firm with ties to Chevron to prosecute Donziger, after federal prosecutors declined to bring charges. Donziger, who has been under house arrest for almost two years, condemned the judge’s ruling.
Steven Donziger: “This is an outrageous decision. I see it as an attack on human rights lawyering, an attack on the very notion of corporate accountability for the fossil fuel industry. And I’ve already been locked up in my home awaiting this decision for almost two years on a misdemeanor. I’m the only lawyer in American history, as far as we can tell, who’s spent even one day, prior to trial, locked up. I’ve been here now 720 days. This is an outrage. It’s a violation, I believe, of the rule of law. It’s terrible for our democracy, and it’s terrible for the planet. The United States cannot become a country that begins to lock up its human rights lawyers, its environmental advocates, its Earth protectors.”
Steven Donziger has vowed to appeal Monday’s ruling. Click here to see our recent interview with Donziger.
In an update from Tokyo Olympics: Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka has been eliminated from the tennis tournament just days after lighting the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremonies. She was playing for Japan after she gave up her U.S. citizenship. And four-time Olympic gold medal winner Simone Biles pulled out of the U.S. gymnastics team finals today with an apparent injury.