The U.S. special envoy to Haiti has resigned in protest over the Biden administration’s policies. In a letter, the longtime diplomat Daniel Foote wrote, “I will not be associated with the United States’ inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.” Foote also criticized the Biden administration for meddling in Haiti’s political affairs, including its support for Ariel Henry as prime minister following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July. Foote wrote, “This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results.”
Foote’s resignation came just days after U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback were filmed chasing, grabbing and whipping Haitian asylum seekers who had gathered in a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security banned the use of horses in the area, but deportations are continuing despite growing criticism from human rights advocates. The New York Times reports the Biden administration has now deported nearly 2,000 Haitians since last week. About 3,000 Haitians remain in the makeshift camps in Del Rio, while thousands of others have been allowed to stay in the U.S.
Immigrant justice activists held demonstrations across the country yesterday to demand the closure of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails, an end to deportations, and the release of all imprisoned asylum seekers and immigrants. The “Communities Not Cages” day of action came as reports show that the number of people detained by ICE has gone up 70% since Biden took office. In Atlanta, activists rallied in front of the Stewart County Detention Center. This is LGBTQ+ activist Li Ann Sánchez, of the group Community Estrella, who was held in three different immigration jails, including Irwin County Detention Center, which was forced to shut down due to whistleblower complaints of medical abuses.
Li Ann Sánchez: “I have unpleasant memories of all the unhealthy and inhumane conditions in these places of torture, the medical negligence and the unsanitary food. But the worst was having to stay in solitary confinement for a whole year in the infamous 'hole,' just because I am trans, because they don’t have a dedicated place to hold LGBT people.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has endorsed giving workers in high-risk settings booster vaccine shots despite opposition from a CDC panel. On Thursday, the panel recommended making Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots available to people over the age of 65, nursing home residents and people with underlying health conditions. But the panel did not recommend booster shots for younger healthcare workers, teachers and others in high-risk settings, but Walensky then overruled the panel. Many global health experts have criticized the Biden administration for promoting booster shots while much of the world remains unvaccinated.
At the United Nations General Assembly, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa repeated his call for waiving intellectual property rights on vaccines. He also criticized wealthy nations for hoarding vaccines.
President Cyril Ramaphosa: “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries. Unless we address this as a matter of urgency, the pandemic will last much longer, and new mutations of the virus will emerge and spread. South Africa reaffirms its call for fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.”
Meanwhile, Bolivian President Luis Arce said access to vaccines should be considered a human right.
President Luis Arce: “Capitalism has commodified all aspects of social life, and health is not the exception. Medical science should be at the service of humanity without any sort of geographical, political, social or nationality discrimination. The access to the vaccine must be considered as a human right.”
The United Nations General Assembly is occurring as COVID cases continue to surge in parts of the world. Earlier today, South Korea reported over 2,400 new COVID cases — its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. In Yemen, Oxfam is warning COVID deaths have increased fivefold in the past month. Fewer than 1% of Yemen’s population is vaccinated.
At the United Nations, leaders from low-lying and island nations have also called on wealthy countries to do far more to combat the climate emergency. This is Guyanese President Irfaan Ali.
President Irfaan Ali: “Small island states and continental countries with low-lying coastlines, such as Guyana, will be the first to feel the full brunt of the impending disaster. Yet our countries are among the lowest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing the least to the harmful and destructive effects of climate change. This is not only unfair; it is unjust.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new rule to cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Meanwhile, youth climate activists are staging a global climate strike today with actions planned in over 1,500 locations.
On Capitol Hill, the House has approved increasing the Pentagon’s budget even though the U.S. recently pulled combat troops out of Afghanistan, ending the longest war in U.S. history. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers voted in support of a $768 billion Pentagon budget as part of the National Defense Authorization Act — this was $25 billion more than President Biden had sought. The House rejected two amendments to trim the Pentagon’s budget and an amendment to prohibit the military from transferring firearms, military vehicles and aircraft to local police departments.
House lawmakers approved an amendment to end all U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen. Congressmember Ro Khanna of California had introduced the amendment.
Rep. Ro Khanna: “Our amendment would end all U.S. logistical support and transfer of spare parts for Saudi warplanes that are bombing Yemen, that are bombing schools, that are killing children, that are bombing civilians, in the largest humanitarian crisis around the world.”
House lawmakers have also voted to approve $1 billion in new military funds for Israel despite accusations from human rights groups that Israel committed war crimes during its recent assault on Gaza. The congressional funding is being given to help Israel replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system, which is built in part by the U.S. military contractor Raytheon. Eight Democrats voted against the measure, including Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American congresswoman.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib: “I rise in opposition to this supplemental. I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses and violence. We cannot be talking only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes. We should also be talking about Palestinian need for security from Israeli attacks. We must be consistent in our commitment to human life, period. Everyone deserves to be safe there.”
Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont has been detained in Italy on an arrest warrant from Spain, where he is wanted on sedition charges for his role in organizing an independence referendum for Catalonia in 2017. Puigdemont has been living in exile for four years.
Abortion providers in Texas have asked the Supreme Court to urgently review the state’s new near-total ban on abortions. In their petition, Whole Woman’s Health and other groups write, “Texans are in crisis.” The new law bars abortions around six weeks into a pregnancy — with no exception for rape or incest — and allows anyone to sue patients, medical workers, or even a patient’s family or friends who “aid and abet” an abortion. In related news, Republicans in Florida have introduced a similar bill to ban most abortions after six weeks.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has subpoenaed four close aides and allies to former President Trump: former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his deputy, Dan Scavino, as well as former adviser Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, who at the time was chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense.
The results from a controversial recount of the presidential vote in Maricopa County, Arizona, has finally ended, and the results are not what Trump supporters were hoping for. The Republican-financed recount found an additional 99 votes for Biden and 261 fewer votes for Trump. But Trump’s effort to overturn the election has not ended. On Thursday, the office of Texas’s secretary of state announced a new audit of election results in the state’s four largest counties. This came just hours after a request by Trump to Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is moving to appeal his 22.5-year sentence and conviction for murdering George Floyd. In court documents filed Thursday, Chauvin said he intends to appeal on 14 grounds, including the judge’s decision not to move the trial out of Hennepin County.
In Tennessee, one person died and 14 were injured in a mass shooting at a Kroger supermarket in the town of Collierville on Thursday. The shooter was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted wound.
Facebook’s global head of safety is set to testify before a Senate panel next week amid mounting concerns the social media platform can seriously damage young people’s mental health. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published a report based on internal Facebook documents revealing its Instagram app makes many adolescent users, particularly teenage girls, feel bad about themselves, and can lead them toward harmful content. The report also shows Facebook was aware of the negative impacts of the app but did not take any action to address the issue.