A British judge has ruled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal a December court decision to extradite him to the U.S. Assange faces espionage charges and up to 175 years in prison for publishing evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. His fiancée Stella Moris just spoke in front of the courthouse.
Stella Moris: “The High Court certified that we had raised point of law, point of law of general public importance, and that the Supreme Court has good grounds to hear this appeal. The situation now is that the Supreme Court has to decide whether it will hear the appeal. But make no mistake: We won today in court.”
Julian Assange’s lawyers and advocates have warned his mental and physical health have been steadily deteriorating, and a lower court judge last year ruled Assange should not be extradited as he posed a possible suicide risk if locked up in the U.S.
In pandemic news, U.S. health officials say they are cautiously optimistic the Omicron-fueled surge would soon pass its peak, though many hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with patients and the country is still averaging over 2,000 deaths per day.
In legal news, a federal judge on Friday blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers and contractors. The Justice Department has appealed the ruling, which could end up at the Supreme Court. The White House says about 98% of government workers have already been vaccinated.
The U.S. State Department is reducing nonessential personnel at its embassy in Ukraine and has ordered family members of diplomats to leave, citing a “threat of Russian military action.” President Biden is reportedly now weighing the possibility of sending up to 5,000 U.S. troops to the region and deploying warships and aircraft to NATO allies. NATO members say they have put forces on standby. The U.S. also sent a new delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. This comes after talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterpart Sergey Lavrov Friday failed to make any breakthroughs on the escalating tensions at the Russia-Ukraine border, where some 100,000 Russian troops have been massed. Blinken is joining a meeting of EU foreign ministers today over the crisis.
In Yemen, scores of people are dead after the U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition launched a heavy aerial assault on territory controlled by Houthi rebels. One attack on Friday destroyed a prison in northern Yemen near the Saudi border, with reports of 82 killed and dozens more trapped under rubble. Among the dead are African migrants who had been detained while attempting to cross Yemen to seek work in Saudi Arabia. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the bombings and called for an investigation, as did families of prisoners who visited the site.
Salman Badi: “We came from Amran province on a visit to find out that the prison has been hit by warplanes. This is a crime to be added to their crimes, and this makes us more determined to face their aggression. And we want concerned bodies to investigate this.”
Another Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Friday severed internet service across all of Yemen. Elsewhere, the United Arab Emirates says it thwarted an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, intercepting two ballistic missiles fired at Abu Dhabi. This comes a week after Houthi drones and missiles killed three Emirati civilians.
In northeastern Syria, more than 150 people have been killed after Islamic State fighters launched a coordinated assault on a prison, aiming to free men and boys held captive by a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia. The attack prompted the U.S. military to call in airstrikes from helicopter gunships. The prison remains under siege, with Kurdish fighters claiming the Islamic State is using hundreds of boys as human shields. Nearly 700 children of alleged Islamic State fighters have been held at the prison by a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. Last year, a United Nations report found conditions inside the jail amounted to torture, with prisoners packed into overcrowded cells and denied sunlight, medical care and proper nutrition.
In Afghanistan, at least seven people were killed Saturday after a bomb went off on a bus in the western city of Herat.
Taliban leaders are holding three-day talks in Oslo with Afghan civil society representatives and officials from the U.S. and European nations. The parties are expected to discuss women’s rights, as well as access to billions of dollars in frozen assets and aid money. The U.N. warns foreign sanctions are leading Afghanistan to an even worse humanitarian disaster, with some 23 million Afghans facing extreme hunger and nearly 9 million at risk of famine.
In Burkina Faso, President Roch Kaboré has reportedly been detained by mutinous soldiers in an apparent coup. Several reports say he’s being held in a military camp. Gunfire erupted Sunday at military bases in the capital Ouagadougou as soldiers revolted, angered by Kaboré’s government’s failure to stop a years-long wave of attacks by Islamist extremists. More than 2,000 Burkinabes have died in the violence. Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets of the capital Sunday, demanding Kaboré’s resignation.
In Sudan, prominent women’s rights advocate Amira Osman was detained after over a dozen armed men raided her home late Saturday in the capital Khartoum. This is Osman’s sister, Amani Osman.
Amani Osman: “They stormed through the door and came into the house. There were so many of them, around 15 men and another 15 outside, carrying guns and Kalashnikovs.”
Osman and other women’s rights advocates played a crucial role in the uprising that led to the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Dozens of other high-profile political figures have been arrested since October 25, when Sudan’s military took control of the government in a coup.
The Palestinian Authority is calling for an international commission to investigate a massacre committed by Israeli forces in the Palestinian village of Tantura in 1948. This comes after last week the Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed there’s a mass grave under the parking lot of the now-popular Dor Beach, of over 200 Palestinians executed by Zionist gangs in Tantura. 1948 marked the beginning of the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine, known as the Nakba.
The chair of the House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection has revealed the committee has been speaking with former Trump Attorney General William Barr. Congressmember Bennie Thompson shared the information in response to a question about the draft of an executive order, released by Politico, that was presented to Trump in December of 2020. The order would have directed the secretary of defense to seize voting machines in battleground states, among other things.
In related news, the Justice Department charged a man Friday with publicly calling for the killing of Georgia election officials one day before the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Chad Christopher Stark of Texas called on “Georgia Patriots” to “put a bullet” in one official. Stark is the first person to be charged under the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, which was created last June.
The Arizona Democratic Party censured Senator Kyrsten Sinema Saturday for voting against a rules change that would have allowed Democrats to bypass a Republican filibuster and pass major voting rights legislation. In a statement, Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party Raquel Terán said, “In the choice between an archaic legislative norm and protecting Arizonans’ right to vote, we choose the latter. … The ramifications of failing to pass federal legislation that protects their right to vote are too large and far-reaching.”
In Mississippi, every single Black state senator stood up and walked out as the Republican-led Senate passed a bill which would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. This is Senator Barbara Blackmon speaking ahead of the walkout.
Sen. Barbara Blackmon: “This bill is not morally right. I heard this gentleman say he talked to his African American friend, and I guess everybody has an African American friend. There are 14 Black senators in this chamber, and these 14 Black senators are telling you that this bill is morally wrong.”
The bill passed 32-2, with the two votes against the bill cast by white Democratic senators.
The Biden administration has ordered federal agencies to enact the new $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal employees by the end of the month. The change will affect nearly 70,000 workers. Biden signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers and contractors last April.
Here in New York City, new legislation granting protections and rights to delivery app workers goes into effect today. The new laws were pushed by the labor group Los Deliveristas Unidos and essential workers who kept the city running throughout the pandemic. They include a fair minimum wage, tip transparency and access to restaurant bathrooms. Workers say they will continue to push for more protections. This is Councilmember Carlina Rivera, one of the sponsors of the legislation, speaking at a celebratory rally Sunday in Times Square.
Councilmember Carlina Rivera: “Just a reminder of what these deliveristas go through: Remember waist-deep floodwaters to bring you your hot meal, your neighbor’s medicine; violent attacks; theft; and even death. Many of them are not here to celebrate this moment with us. And so this is our obligation, is policymaking with a foundation of immigrant, environmental, disability and gender justice.”
In Northern California, firefighters have contained about one-third of a 1,000-acre wildfire near the coastal communities of Monterey and Big Sur. Hundreds of residents were evacuated over the weekend. The blaze is the first 100-acre-plus wildfire in the area to burn in the month of January in over a decade, as the climate crisis and a two-decade drought have led to extended wildfire seasons.