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HeadlinesJanuary 26, 2022

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U.S. Says Personal Sanctions Against Putin Possible If Russia Invades Ukraine

Jan 26, 2022

President Biden said Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin amid mounting tensions over Ukraine. Russia has ordered a series of military drills as the U.S. and NATO build up their military presence in the region, and the U.S. announced plans to ensure adequate fuel supplies to Europe in the event of a Russian embargo. Meanwhile, Ukrainian leadership is warning against spreading panic, saying no decisive moves toward an incursion have been made. Some 100,000 Russian troops have been massed near the Ukrainian border for weeks. Biden addressed the escalating situation at a press event Tuesday.

President Joe Biden: “There will be enormous consequences if he were to go in and invade, as he could, the entire country — or a lot less than that, as well — for Russia, not only in terms of economic consequences and political consequences, but there’ll be enormous consequences worldwide. This would be the largest — if he were to move in with all those forces, it’d be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world.”

The Intercept is reporting House Democrats are planning to fast-track a bill that would increase U.S. military aid to Ukraine by $500 million and provide military training to Ukrainian forces.

This comes as political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are holding talks today in Paris. Germany has been more restrained than some of its European neighbors in response to the crisis, opposing sending weapons to Ukraine and warning against harsh sanctions on Russia.

Aid Ship to Tonga Reports 23 COVID Cases; China Tries to Contain Omicron Ahead of Olympics

Jan 26, 2022

At least 23 people on an Australian ship carrying aid to Tonga have tested positive for COVID-19. Planes have been used to unload supplies for the volcano-stricken island nation amid fears of spreading the coronavirus. So far, only one confirmed case has been reported in Tonga since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in Australia, health authorities approved the Novavax vaccine for adults amid an ongoing surge. It’s expected to roll out next month. New Zealand has imposed its toughest restrictions yet after at least nine Omicron cases were detected.

In South Korea, COVID cases hit a new daily record of 13,000.

China lifted its lockdown in the city of Xi’an this week, where 13 million residents had been ordered to stay at home since December 22 as part of the country’s “zero-Covid” strategy. Beijing continues to report new daily cases, though overall numbers remain low, as the Winter Olympics are set to kick off at the end of next week. Officials have sealed off Beijing neighborhoods near the games and have conducted mass testing of some 2 million people in the run-up to the event. Dozens of people associated with the Olympics have tested positive so far.

In the Netherlands, officials are loosening restrictions despite record cases, allowing bars, restaurants and theaters to reopen starting today. Ireland also recently removed most of its COVID curbs, including curfews on hospitality venues and requiring proof of vaccination for patrons. Ireland’s prime minister credited the high uptake of boosters for preventing a worse outcome during the Omicron surge.

In Saudi Arabia, millions of schoolchildren returned to in-person classes this week after nearly two years of remote learning, one of the longest school system shutdowns in the world.

Cuba has pledged to donate 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries in the Global South. The move was announced at talks hosted by the Progressive International and was heralded as a possible “historic turning point” in the pandemic.

Biden Admin Pulls Business Vaccine Requirement; Judge Stays Decision Blocking NY Indoor Mask Mandate

Jan 26, 2022

Here in the U.S., nearly 3,000 COVID deaths were reported Tuesday, with seven-day averages for fatalities at their highest level since February of 2021.

On Tuesday, an appeals court judge temporarily stayed a ruling that struck down New York’s indoor mask mandate just one day earlier. Governor Kathy Hochul’s statewide mask mandate for all indoor public places will remain in effect as New York’s attorney general files a formal appeal of Monday’s decision.

The Biden administration is withdrawing its vaccine-or-testing mandate for large companies, following a Supreme Court decision earlier this month that blocked the requirement. Businesses will be subject to state and local laws on vaccinations, which vary widely across the country.

Pfizer Starts Testing Omicron Vaccine; FDA Halts Use of 2 Antibody Therapies

Jan 26, 2022

In medical news, Pfizer-BioNTech launched their trial of an Omicron-specific vaccine.

Meanwhile, the FDA withdrew emergency use authorizations for COVID antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, saying they don’t work against Omicron. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis slammed the move, threatening a possible lawsuit, even as the two affected drug companies did not dispute the findings, with Eli Lilly agreeing with the FDA decision. The White House labeled DeSantis’s response as “crazy.”

Leonard Peltier Calls Prison Conditions “Torture” Amid COVID Lockdowns and Neglect

Jan 26, 2022

Jailed Native American activist Leonard Peltier has described prison as a “torture chamber” amid constant coronavirus lockdowns. Peltier, who suffers from multiple health conditions, says he and others held at the Florida federal prison have yet to receive their COVID booster shots and describes worsening neglect and uncertainty. In a statement, Peltier writes, “Left alone and without attention is like a torture chamber for the sick and old.” Seventy-seven-year-old Peltier is one of the U.S.'s longest-serving political prisoners, convicted of killing two FBI agents on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975. He has long maintained his innocence.

Colombian Indigenous Leader José Albeiro Camayo Killed by Armed Group

Jan 26, 2022

In Colombia, Indigenous leader José Albeiro Camayo was assassinated Monday in the region of Cauca. Camayo was a member of the Nasa people and one of the founders of the Indigenous Guard, an unarmed collective of land defenders. Indigenous leaders said a group of dissident members of the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, opened fire on them and community members after demanding respect for their people and territory. Among those involved in the attack is a man accused of murdering a 14-year-old Indigenous Nasa environmentalist earlier this month.

Pataxó Protesters in Brazil Launch Blockade, Demand Justice 3 Years After Deadly Vale Dam Disaster

Jan 26, 2022

In Brazil, Indigenous Pataxó protesters blocked a railroad Tuesday to mark three years since a dam collapsed in the state of Minas Gerais, killing some 270 community members. The dam was owned by the mining company Vale. Protesters have vowed to continue the blockade until the mining company helps resettle them to a new territory, builds new homes and starts paying reparations. This is an Indigenous Pataxó leader.

Sucupira Pataxó-Hahahae: “We are here on the train track, me with my people, claiming our territory. Vale has to give us another territory, because our village is polluted with minerals. The water brought all those minerals to our water and to our houses. We ask people outside of Brazil and the U.N. for justice. Please intervene. Come help us. We are living here on the Vale company train track. We have nowhere to go.”

Seven Bangladeshi Refugees Die En Route to Italy

Jan 26, 2022

At least seven Bangladeshi refugees died of hypothermia after attempting to cross the Mediterranean on a boat from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Others were taken to the hospital to be treated for hypothermia and severe disorientation. Around 280 refugees were aboard the boat, most of them from Bangladesh and Egypt.

Dozens of Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Capsized Off Florida Coast

Jan 26, 2022

At least 39 people are missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Florida Saturday. A man was rescued Tuesday after he was seen clinging to the hull of the sinking boat, which had departed from the Bahamas. Few details about the passengers are known. The Bahamas is frequently used as a transit point by migrants who are attempting to reach the United States for safety.

Florida Bill Backed by Utility Co. Could Wreck State’s Solar Industry

Jan 26, 2022

Environmental groups have condemned a new bill moving through the Florida Legislature that could effectively kill the state’s rooftop solar market by making the sustainable energy source economically nonviable. The rooftop solar industry currently provides tens of thousands of jobs in Florida and brings in billions of dollars. The bill is backed by the state’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light.

Florida Republicans Push Homophobic Bill Banning Discussion of LGBTQ Issues in Schools

Jan 26, 2022

A Republican-led Florida House committee has advanced legislation that would ban all discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The bill would also allow parents to sue school districts for injunctive relief, damages, attorney fees and court costs if they believe schools have violated the measure. Critics have dubbed the legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, saying it would prohibit teachers from speaking about LGBTQ+ issues and harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ students.

Prosecutors Accuse 3 Ex-Officers of Failing to Intervene During George Floyd’s Murder

Jan 26, 2022

In Minnesota, the federal civil rights trial of three former police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd continues. In opening statements Monday, prosecutors argued Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were guilty of ignoring Floyd’s repeated pleas of “I can’t breathe” and failing to provide medical assistance as Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Two of the officers also helped Chauvin physically restrain Floyd while one officer prevented passersby from intervening. A defense attorney, meanwhile, argued Chauvin was the one who called “all of the shots.” This is George Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams speaking Monday.

Brandon Williams: “It was hard watching that video of my uncle begging and pleading for his life. And instead of raising up, turning him over, instead of even one of the officers saying, 'Hey, this guy isn't breathing. Let him up,’ they ignored that fact. They chose to kill him. We need some accountability.”

The three ex-officers also face a separate trial for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

At Least 29 House Dems Will Not Run for Reelection; Alabama Ordered to Redraw Racist Voting Map

Jan 26, 2022

Tennessee Congressmember Jim Cooper has become the 29th House Democrat to announce he will not seek reelection in this year’s midterms. Cooper says he does not see how he could retain his seat after redistricting maps drawn up by state Republicans “dismembered” his Nashville hometown.

In related news, a panel of federal judges rejected Alabama’s redrawn congressional districts this week, saying they discriminate against Black voters and violated the Voting Rights Act. Alabama’s Republican attorney general has appealed the decision.

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