At least 19 people, nine of them children, were killed and dozens injured on Sunday when a fire spread thick smoke through a high-rise apartment building in the Bronx. New York’s fire commissioner said victims suffered from severe smoke inhalation and the fire was triggered from a malfunctioning electric space heater. Many of the building’s residents are African immigrants. New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged victims to come forward regardless of their immigration status.
Mayor Eric Adams: “If you need assistance, your names will not be turned over to ICE or any other institution. We want people to be comfortable in coming forward.”
The building where Sunday’s fire took place is owned by an investment group whose co-founder, Rick Gropper, served on Eric Adams’s transition team as an adviser on housing issues. It was New York City’s deadliest residential fire in decades and came just days after a blaze at a public housing property in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children. Democratic Congressmember Ritchie Torres, whose district includes the Bronx building that burned Sunday, blamed decades of disinvestment in affordable housing that he said leaves buildings “wide open to catastrophic fires that can cost people their lives.”
In Georgia, the three men who chased down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison Friday. Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery three times, and his father Gregory McMichael, a former police officer, will not be eligible for parole. Their neighbor, William Bryan, will become eligible for parole after 30 years. Before announcing the sentences, Judge Timothy Walmsley held a minute of silence, representing just a “fraction” of the time 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery ran from the three killers. Outside the courtroom, Arbery’s family and their supporters celebrated the sentences. This is his father, Marcus Arbery.
Marcus Arbery: “He’s a kid of love, because he brought people together. I’m telling you, he was a young one, but he thought he was the oldest. So, hey, Ahmaud, rest in peace, because mommy and daddy got glory for you.”
Attorney Ben Crump also highlighted the significance of the trial’s outcome.
Benjamin Crump: “Today your son has made history, because we have people who have been held accountable for lynching a Black man in America.”
All three of Arbery’s murderers will also face a federal hate crime trial next month.
In news about the pandemic, nearly a quarter of U.S. hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages as the Omicron coronavirus variant drives an unprecedented surge in cases.
In Chicago, public schools are closed for a fourth day as talks between the teachers’ union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot over in-person teaching remain at an impasse.
Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the latest lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19. The New York Democrat, who is vaccinated and boosted, said she is symptomatic and recovering at home.
In Ethiopia, aid groups have suspended their work in parts of the northern Tigray region after a deadly airstrike on a camp for displaced people killed at least 56 civilians last week. Dozens of others were wounded, including children. The attack by Ethiopian military forces took place late Friday.
This comes as Tigray’s biggest hospital is reporting they’re running out of therapeutic foods to treat children with severe malnutrition. More than 40% of children under 5 who arrive at the hospital are malnourished, medics said. The hospital is also facing a shortage of medicines and equipment, with doctors blaming the devastation on a six-month blockade by government forces that’s made it nearly impossible for aid to enter Tigray.
In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to another four years in prison after a closed military court found her guilty of possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus measures, in what rights groups say are more trumped-up charges. Suu Kyi was overthrown alongside Burma’s civilian leadership in last February’s deadly military coup.
In Bangladesh, a massive blaze at a Rohingya refugee camp has razed the homes of over 5,000 people in Cox’s Bazar. Destructive fires are not uncommon in the camp, which is home to some 850,000 Rohingya Muslims, many of whom fled Burma following 2017’s genocidal campaign.
In Nigeria, some 200 people were killed in the northwestern state of Zamfara last week following a series of reprisal attacks by armed bandits whose hideouts were targeted by military airstrikes. Armed gunmen stormed over a dozen villages in the region, shooting at residents, looting and burning their homes. An estimated 10,000 people were displaced, while others are still missing.
An Australian judge reinstated Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa and released him from immigration detention amid the ongoing controversy over whether Djokovic’s COVID vaccine exemption was legitimate. Australian government authorities say they could still intervene to revoke the visa and prevent the defending champion from taking part in the Australian Open, set to start next week. Djokovic’s case has intensified international scrutiny over the treatment of immigrants and refugees in Australia. Later in the broadcast, we’ll look at the people he leaves behind in the facility where he was detained.
Russian and U.S. officials are meeting in Geneva today to address the escalating situation in Ukraine, where troops have been massing on the border with Russia in recent months. Further diplomatic talks are scheduled in Europe throughout the week.
Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan, where Russian troops have deployed in recent days, officials say over 160 people were killed and 5,000 arrested in the past week amid the crackdown on protests. Kazakhstan’s authoritarian President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has claimed the recent unrest was an attempted coup d’état.
Outrage is mounting over news that a number of airlines are operating tens of thousands of near-empty flights in Europe amid the COVID surge in order to retain coveted airport landing slots. Climate activists slammed the practice, including Greta Thunberg, who tweeted sarcastically, “The EU surely is in a climate emergency mode.”
Back in the U.S., California Democrats are pushing forward a proposal for statewide universal healthcare. The measure would be funded by new taxes on businesses and individuals with higher incomes. On Saturday, the California Nurses Association held car caravans in 15 cities across the state, where health and labor advocates joined with elected officials to promote the California Guaranteed Healthcare for All Act, also known as CalCare and A.B. 1400.
Zenei Triunfo-Cortez: “CalCare finally guarantees healthcare as a human right in California. It ensures the elimination of the profit motive and that patient care is the highest priority.”
Assemblymember Ash Kalra: “Remember, Medicare was called radical, too. It was called socialism. It was called — the same business groups, the American Medical Association was against it. Let’s remember that these battles have been fought and won before.”
Dr. Oranit Limmaneeprasert: “I am looking at my colleagues, who tell me they are worried about their families’ well-being. We are told it’s too expensive to have a single-payer healthcare system. Guess what, life is priceless. Health is priceless.”
In New York City, a Chinese man who was attacked in an anti-Asian hate crime last year has died of his injuries. Yao Pan Ma died on December 31, eight months after the 61-year-old was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head. A representative for Ma’s family is calling for charges against the suspect to include murder.
In other news from New York City, student workers at Columbia University have ended their 10-week strike after reaching a tentative agreement with the school to increase wages and improve health benefits. The deal also allows members of the Student Workers of Columbia union to use third-party arbitrators in instances of discrimination or harassment. The vote to ratify the deal is scheduled for later this month.
The pioneering film legend Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. In 1963, Poitier became the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Poitier’s many films included “Lilies of the Field,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” which he also performed on Broadway, and “In the Heat of the Night,” a story about a Black police officer contending with racism in the Jim Crow South. Poitier was active in the civil rights movement. In 1964, he flew with Harry Belafonte to Jackson, Mississippi, carrying $70,000 in cash to fund the Freedom Summer campaign to register Black voters. The pair were harassed and chased by armed members of the Ku Klux Klan. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of Sidney Poitier, “I consider him a friend. I consider him a great friend of humanity.”