In climate news, a new study finds ocean temperatures rose to a new record high last year as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels soared to a new high. This comes as Danish researchers reported Greenland’s ice sheet lost more mass in 2021 than it gained — for the 25th year in a row. Meanwhile, the insurance reinvestment firm Munich Re reports 2021 was the second most costly year on record, with insured losses from natural disasters totaling around $120 billion.
The United Nations has launched a nearly $5 billion aid appeal for international donors to Afghanistan. U.N. Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said, without immediate assistance, a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms in Afghanistan.
Martin Griffiths: “A million children potentially suffering severe acute malnutrition. A million children. Figures are so hard to grasp when they’re this kind of size, but a million children in Afghanistan at risk of that kind of malnutrition, if these things don’t happen, is a shocking one.”
In Washington, D.C., the Congressional Progressive Caucus is demanding the Biden administration lift economic sanctions imposed after the Taliban overran Afghanistan in August. The caucus tweeted that if the current U.S. economic policy toward Afghanistan continues, “there could be more civilian deaths this year than there were in 20 years of war.”
Delegations from the United States and Russia emerged from negotiations in Geneva Monday with no sign the two sides had narrowed their differences over military tensions in Ukraine. This is Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.
Sergei Ryabkov: “We underscore that for us it’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never — never, ever — becomes a member of NATO.”
The Biden administration says some 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine’s border. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned Russia Monday that if it invades Ukraine, it would face “significant costs and consequences, well beyond what they faced in 2014” — when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
South Korea and Japan say they detected a North Korean ballistic missile launch on Tuesday — the North’s second suspected test in a week. South Korea’s military said the missile achieved a velocity more than 10 times the speed of sound before crashing in the ocean between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Lithuania has paid $113,000 to Abu Zubaydah, the accused 9/11 conspirator who survived CIA torture before his detention in the Guantánamo Bay prison, where he’s been indefinitely held since 2006 without charge. In 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Lithuania and Romania violated Zubaydah’s rights by allowing the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to torture him in secret prisons. The court found the countries violated Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which requires the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
Twenty years ago today, the U.S. military began imprisoning Muslim men at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic have detained a key suspect in the July assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. The Associated Press reports Rodolphe Jaar was arrested Friday with the assistance of the U.S. government and is being handled as a U.S. prisoner. Jaar, who is Haitian, had been hiding in Haiti for months and was taken into custody in the Dominican Republic. He was previously convicted of drug trafficking and is a former informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
This comes as new evidence has linked Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry with a prime suspect in Moïse’s murder. Henry and Joseph Felix Badio reportedly spoke both before and after Moïse’s killing. Badio is a former Haitian Justice Ministry official wanted on suspicion of organizing the attack against Moïse. Henry claimed power following Moïse’s death. He was appointed by Moïse shortly before he was assassinated.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti reports three more U.S. deportation flights left Laredo, Texas, Monday morning, expelling 297 Haitian asylum seekers, including 63 children.
El Salvador’s Supreme Court has reopened a criminal investigation into the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests carried out by a U.S.-trained death squad during the Salvadoran civil war. Their housekeeper and her daughter were also killed. Five of the priests were from Spain, and one was Salvadoran. There have been ongoing attempts to prosecute all of those involved in the massacre, since a 1993 amnesty law was declared unconstitutional in 2016. A Spanish court in 2020 sentenced former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to 133 years for the killings of the Spanish priests. He’s the only person linked to the massacre currently behind bars.
President Biden and Vice President Harris are in Georgia today pressing lawmakers to pass major voting rights legislation. Biden and Harris are touring Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and are paying respects at the crypts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta. Ahead of the visit, the White House signaled Biden is supporting a special “carve-out” of the Senate filibuster that would allow a simple majority of senators to pass two major voting rights bills that have stalled amid unanimous Republican opposition.
A number of voting rights organizations in Georgia will not be attending today’s events with Biden and Harris. Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told reporters, “We don’t need even more photo ops. We need action, and that action is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, and we need that immediately.” Another person who will be absent is the gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams, the most famous of the voting rights activists in Georgia.
In North Carolina, a group of voters is challenging the reelection bid of Republican Congressmember Madison Cawthorn, saying his support for rioters who overran the Capitol on January 6 disqualifies him from office. Cawthorn voted against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory and spoke at the so-called Stop the Steal rally outside the White House last January 6. The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War in 1868, bars people from serving in Congress if they’ve engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or have provided aid or comfort to insurrectionists.
The Fox News channel has promoted the far-right TV personality Jesse Watters to a nightly primetime show. Watters first drew national attention in 2016 with a primetime segment about New York City’s Chinatown full of racist anti-Asian stereotypes. Watters came under fire in December after he used violent rhetoric to call on conservative activists to confront top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with conspiracy theories about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jesse Watters: “Now you go in for the kill shot. The kill shot with an ambush, deadly, because he doesn’t see it coming. … Boom! He is dead! He is dead! He’s done!”
After those remarks, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on Fox News to fire Watters on the spot; instead, Fox News announced Monday Watters will host his own show weeknights at 7 p.m.
Here in New York, the death toll in Sunday’s high-rise apartment fire in the Bronx has been revised downward to 17. Investigators say the fire began when an electric space heater malfunctioned. Victims suffered from severe smoke inhalation after a pair of open doors allowed smoke to spread throughout the 19-story building. City records show tenants of the Twin Parks tower had complained about a lack of heat in the building and doors that didn’t close automatically, as required by law. The building did not have fire escapes or sprinklers, and many people became trapped in upper floors where self-closing doors were supposed to have blocked toxic smoke and flames from spreading.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, authorities say a fire that burned down a local Planned Parenthood clinic on New Year’s Eve was arson. The clinic was closed for renovations at the time. The fire was the second attack against the clinic since an evangelical protest group called the “Church at Planned Parenthood” moved to Knoxville a year ago. Last January, a month after the group’s first protest, a person fired a shotgun at the clinic’s doors, shattering the glass and peppering the reception area with bullet holes. The gunman has yet to be identified.
In medical news, doctors have for the first time successfully transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a human recipient. David Bennett Sr. of Maryland is responding well after an eight-hour operation on Monday. He received a heart from a pig whose genetic makeup was altered to make the organ less likely to be rejected by a human host. Dr. Bartley Griffith led the surgical team.
Dr. Bartley Griffith: “We’ve never done this in a human. And I like to think that we have given him a better option than what continuing his therapy would have been. But whether it’s a day, week, month, year, I don’t know.”
Animal rights groups condemned the procedure — known as xenotransplantation — as unethical and dangerous. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said, “Animals aren’t toolsheds to be raided but complex, intelligent beings. It would be better for them and healthier for humans to leave them alone and seek cures using modern science.”
An investigation by The Washington Post found more than 1,700 United States congressmembers enslaved people — or were former owners of enslaved people — many of whom served in Washington long after the Civil War ended. The Post researched thousands of historical documents and census records to compile what is the first-ever database listing enslavers who served in Congress.
In California, mourners gathered Monday for the funeral of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, a 14-year-old girl fatally shot by a Los Angeles police officer in December while she tried on dresses inside a department store dressing room. The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, demanding the LAPD be held accountable.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “The question is: If two days before Christmas, would you have gone into a shopping center in Bel Air or Beverly Hills and started shooting like that and not consider whether high-end shoppers might be hurt? The fact that the value of a life was not considered is disturbing.”