In France, tens of thousands of unionized teachers have walked off the job to demand a coherent policy for COVID-19 in schools and to demand greater protections for teachers and students.
Elisabeth Allain-Moreno: “We have reached a level of exasperation, tiredness and anger. We had no choice but to organize a large mobilization to send a strong message to the government.”
In Britain, some senior members of Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party are calling on the prime minister to step down, after Johnson admitted he attended a cocktail party at his official residence in May 2020 at a time when he’d ordered the U.K. into a strict coronavirus lockdown. Opposition parties also demanded Johnson resign. This is Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer.
Keir Starmer: “After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defense, his defense that he didn’t realize he was at a party, is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public. He’s finally been forced to admit what everyone knew, that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?”
Here in the United States, President Biden is announcing the deployment of 1,000 military medical personnel to six states where hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. The U.S. is averaging nearly 800,000 cases per day, a record high, and more than 145,000 U.S. hospital beds are filled by COVID patients — also a record number. Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that most U.S. residents will be exposed to coronavirus at some point.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Virtually everybody is going to wind up getting exposed and likely get infected. But if you’re vaccinated and if you’re boosted, the chances of your getting sick are very, very low.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom has approved a policy change that will allow asymptomatic healthcare workers who have tested positive for coronavirus to return to work immediately. The president of the California Nurses Association, Cathy Kennedy, blasted the decision, writing, “We need more infectious disease controls, not more casualties. Surging pandemic numbers are a warning to strengthen safety measures, not weaken them.”
In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice has called off plans to deliver his State of the State address, after he tested positive for coronavirus. Justice’s chief of staff said the 70-year-old Republican, who was vaccinated and boosted, is “very ill” with COVID-19 and suffering from elevated blood pressure and severe congestion.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday he will not cooperate with the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The panel had asked McCarthy to voluntarily testify about Trump’s state of mind in the run-up to the riot and in the week following the attack on Congress. McCarthy slammed the committee as “illegitimate” and said his private conversations with Trump were “not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the Capitol.”
President Trump cut short a telephone interview with National Public Radio on Tuesday after he was repeatedly called out over his lies about the 2020 election. Trump hung up less than nine minutes into what was supposed to have been a 15-minute interview with host Steve Inskeep, after repeating conspiracy theories about Joe Biden’s Electoral College win. NPR aired the exchange on Wednesday.
Donald Trump: “You have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.”
Steve Inskeep: “Mr. President, if I” —
Donald Trump: “So, Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate it.”
Steve Inskeep: “Woah, woah, woah. One more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on January 6th. Judge Amit Mehta — he’s gone. OK.”
During the interview, Trump branded Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell a “loser” for failing to back Trump’s unsupported claims about the election.
On Capitol Hill, President Biden is holding a lunchtime meeting today with the Senate Democratic Caucus. The White House is pressuring Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to support a change to Senate rules that would allow Democrats to pass a pair of major voting rights bills with a simple majority, circumventing a Republican-led filibuster.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a plan to bring the voting bills to a debate using a parliamentary maneuver. The move would still leave room for Republicans to filibuster final passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.
On Wednesday, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted President Biden over his voting rights speech in Georgia earlier this week, when Biden accused Republicans of siding with Jefferson Davis over Abraham Lincoln.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Twelve months ago, this president said disagreement must not lead to disunion. Ah, but yesterday he invoked the bloody disunion of the Civil War — the Civil War — to demonize Americans who disagree with him.”
In 2015, an old photo emerged showing McConnell posing in front of a large Confederate flag at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in the early 1990s.
Ohio’s Supreme Court has struck down a state House and Senate redistricting plan that’s heavily gerrymandered by Republicans to preserve their supermajority in Ohio’s Statehouse. The court gave the Republican-dominated Ohio Redistricting Commission 10 days to submit a new plan, after it determined the previous maps violated an anti-gerrymandering amendment to the Ohio Constitution.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed an 80-year-old Palestinian American man Wednesday. Witnesses say Omar Abdulmajeed Asaad was stopped by Israeli forces while driving home, then dragged out of the car, gagged and handcuffed, and left to die. The U.S. State Department says it supports an investigation into the death of Asaad, who holds U.S. citizenship.
In other news from the region, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the Interior Ministry cannot deny Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens the right of residency in Israel.
A court in Germany has found a former Syrian intelligence officer guilty of crimes against humanity, wrapping up the first-ever torture trial against a member of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Anwar Raslan, a Syrian army colonel, was sentenced to life in prison after the court linked him to at least 4,000 instances of torture, dozens of murders and five cases of sexual violence in Syria. Police arrested Raslan in Germany in 2019, with prosecutors citing the principle of universal jurisdiction for serious crimes.
Five more Guantánamo Bay prisoners have been approved for release. Three of the men are from Yemen, one is Kenyan, and one is from Somalia. None have been charged with a crime. The Biden administration made the announcement earlier this week, on the 20th anniversary of the prison’s opening. Nearly half of the remaining 39 Guantánamo prisoners have now been approved for release, but that does not guarantee they will be freed soon as the U.S. still needs to secure host countries to transfer them to. Click here to see our hour-long discussion with a Muslim chaplain and two former Guantánamo prisoners.
In Somalia, a car bomb explosion in the capital Mogadishu killed eight people and injured nine others Wednesday, in an attack claimed by al-Shabab. The blast struck a road leading to Mogadishu’s main international airport; it appeared to target a multi-vehicle private security convoy escorting foreigners.
In New Mexico, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons arsenals around the globe. In a pastoral letter released Tuesday, Wester says, “To love our enemies means we have to begin the process of ending our preparations to kill them … and doing everything we can not to harm them, but to actively love them, including the people of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and others.” Wester spoke to reporters in Santa Fe on Tuesday.
Archbishop John Wester: “The Catholic Church has a long history of speaking out against nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Vatican was the first nation-state to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. … The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has a special role to play in advocating for nuclear disarmament, given the Los Alamos and Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories and the nation’s largest repository of nuclear weapons at the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.”
The archbishop’s letter came as a coalition of 60 groups issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of the hundreds of U.S. intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles now armed and on hair-trigger alert.
A Texas sheriff is being investigated over reports he regularly ordered his deputies to seize cash and vehicles from undocumented motorists during traffic stops, before transferring the individuals to U.S. Border Patrol. Real County Sheriff Nathan Johnson could face two to 10 years in prison and a fine, if charged.
In Colorado, around 8,400 workers across 77 Kroger’s King Soopers in Denver and other areas went on strike Wednesday as they demand better wages and benefits, and safe working conditions. During the pandemic, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen’s pay increased by over 45% while the median pay for workers dropped by 8% despite booming sales. Workers also say stores are understaffed. A new report funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union reveals over 75% of Kroger employees surveyed face food insecurity, and 14% have been unhoused over the past year.
In California, Governer Gavin Newsom unveiled a plan that would extend its state-sponsored healthcare program to all low-income undocumented residents. Currently only undocumented Californians under the age of 26 can benefit from Medi-Cal, and later this year undocumented people 50 and over will also be able to apply. Nearly two-thirds of undocumented Californians under the age of 65 currently do not have health insurance.
Meanwhile, a new bill sponsored by the California Nurses Association that would guarantee single-payer universal healthcare cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday by overwhelmingly passing an Assembly Health Committee vote.