President Biden marked the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection by denouncing his predecessor Donald Trump for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. In a speech from Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, Biden accused Trump of spreading a “web of lies” and claimed the former president — whom he did not name — is placing a “dagger at the throat of American democracy.”
President Joe Biden: “For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.”
Inside the House chamber, Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a moment of silence to open a congressional ceremony marking the anniversary of the Capitol assault. Just two Republicans joined the proceeding: Congressmember Liz Cheney of Wyoming and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The World Health Organization says governments logged a record 9.5 million coronavirus cases around the globe last week — a 71% jump from the prior week. On Thursday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed reports that the fast-spreading Omicron variant is less likely to produce severe disease — but warned it should not be categorized as a “mild” virus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Just like previous variants, Omicron is hospitalizing people, and it’s killing people. In fact, the tsunami of cases is so huge and quick that it is overwhelming health systems around the world.”
Mexico’s official COVID-19 death toll is set to pass 300,000. That’s the fifth-highest death toll of any nation, though disease experts believe the true toll is significantly higher due to lapses in testing and reporting.
India reported over 117,000 positive coronavirus tests Friday, the most since early June, as Omicron spreads rapidly in urban areas.
The British government has deployed 200 military personnel to London hospitals amid staffing shortages due to COVID-19.
In France, lawmakers have approved a bill requiring everyone 16 and up to show a “vaccine pass” to access public places.
In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday blasted his government’s approval of Pfizer COVID shots for 5-to-11-year-olds and insisted he would not allow his 11-year-old daughter to be vaccinated.
President Jair Bolsonaro: “I ask you: Are you aware of a child aged 5 to 11 who has died of COVID? I’m not.”
A study by the public health organization Vital Strategies found nearly 3,000 children in Brazil aged 10 and younger had died of COVID-19 by summer of 2021.
Meanwhile, Chile on Thursday announced it will begin rolling out fourth COVID-19 vaccine shots, becoming the first country in Latin America to offer a second booster dose.
Kazakhstan’s authoritarian President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has ordered troops suppressing a mass uprising to “shoot without warning,” rejecting calls to hold talks with protesters, whom he called “criminals and murderers.” According to the Kazakh Interior Ministry, 44 people, including 18 security officers, have been killed in recent violence. President Tokayev also thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for sending in troops. The deadly crackdown came in response to what started as demonstrations against rising fuel prices and widened to broader anti-government protests. On Thursday, a U.N. spokesperson called on security forces to respect protesters’ rights.
Stéphane Dujarric: “The important thing is that security forces, whether they are Kazakh or whether they are non-Kazakh troops, need to uphold the same human rights standards, which is to show restraint and protect people’s rights to demonstrate peacefully.”
The United Nations says three Eritrean refugees were killed, including two children, when an airstrike hit a refugee camp Wednesday in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. The U.N. did not say who was responsible for the assault, but Ethiopia’s military has the only air force in the area. Ethiopia’s government has repeatedly denied targeting civilians throughout its 14-month-old war in Tigray. Aid workers and witnesses say at least 146 people have been killed and over 200 injured in airstrikes in Tigray since mid-October.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man, 21-year-old Bakeer Mohammad Hashash, during a raid on the Balata refugee camp in Nablus Thursday. Hours later, an Israeli settler drove his car into a Palestinian man, 25-year-old Mustafa Falaneh, near a checkpoint, killing him. Meanwhile, far-right Israeli protesters attacked a Palestinian photojournalist in front of a hospital near Tel Aviv. The attackers were protesting the release of Hisham Abu Hawash, who recently ended his 141-day hunger strike after being granted release from administrative detention, where he was being held without trial or charge.
In Haiti, suspected gang members killed two journalists on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince Thursday. The reporters were on location to interview the leader of a rival gang. A third journalist managed to escape the brutal attack. Police identified the victims as local reporter Wilguens Louissaint and Amady John Wesley, who worked with Canadian radio station Écoute FM. The killings come amid a worsening security situation in Haiti six months after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Earlier this week, the U.S. arrested and charged Colombian national Mario Palacios in connection with Moïse’s killing.
The director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is resigning amid growing problems in the agency’s handling of the pandemic. Michael Carvajal was appointed to the post in February 2020 by Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr. About a third of federal prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus, and at least 275 have died of COVID-19. Carvajal’s tenure was also marked by reports of serious abuse and misconduct involving correctional officers. An Associated Press investigation found more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted for sexual abuse and another charged with murder.
In Buffalo, New York, newly unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job Wednesday, citing safety concerns amid staff and other shortages during the ongoing COVID surge. Starbucks Workers United said, “The company has again shown that they continue to put profits above people.”
In other labor news, a group of nurses’ unions and the AFL-CIO are demanding the federal government enact permanent rules to ensure workplace safety, some two years into the COVID pandemic. The group says all frontline health workers should be guaranteed “personal protective equipment, exposure notification, ventilation systems, and other lifesaving measures.” National Nurses United said, “Going to work should not mean putting your life and the lives of your loved ones in danger.”
In Pennsylvania, two activists were arrested as they shut down construction on the Mariner East pipeline in Chester County. The fracked gas pipeline is being built by Sunoco, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners, and threatens Marsh Creek Lake, a drinking water source for 1.75 million people. The toxic gases are exported to manufacture plastics overseas. The pipeline has already caused major spills in March Creek, leading to dozens of criminal charges against Energy Transfer Partners.
In Minnesota, three former Minneapolis police officers charged with federal civil rights violations in George Floyd’s murder will go on trial on January 20. Officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao stood by and watched as Derek Chauvin murdered Floyd, pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. The three face charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in a separate trial set to begin in a Hennepin County court in March.
Minneapolis civil rights journalist and activist Mel Reeves died Thursday due to complications of COVID-19. He was 64 years old. Reeves was community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the oldest Black-owned newspaper in the state. Last April, Democracy Now! spoke with Reeves as the murder trial of George Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, got underway.
Mel Reeves: “I’m not just a writer and journalist. I’m an activist. I’ve been on the ground actually organizing against police violence. In fact, I push back against folks saying that the fight was just a fight for racial justice. It was a fight for justice, and it was a fight for — they’re demanding very clearly — the prosecution of the police. We’ve been trying to hold the police accountable here. … And part of that is fueled by the fact that the police in Minneapolis and St. Paul have not changed their behavior.”
Mel Reeves was unvaccinated against the coronavirus and died after a weeks-long struggle with COVID-19. In December, he spoke out from his hospital bed, urging people to get vaccinated. He’s survived by his son and five grandchildren.