President Biden said Thursday he will pardon anyone convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law — in a major step toward the decriminalization of cannabis. Biden announced his plan in a video posted on social media.
President Joe Biden: “I’m announcing a pardon for all prior federal offenses for the simple possession of marijuana. There are thousands of people who are convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result of that conviction. My pardon will remove this burden on them.”
Biden also called on governors to pardon people found guilty of marijuana charges on the state level, where most convictions occur. The Drug Policy Alliance applauded Biden’s move as a good first step, but added, “We, however, hope that the Biden Administration will go further and fully deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.” We’ll have more with Drug Policy Alliance director Kassandra Frederique later in the broadcast.
In Ukraine, the death toll from missile strikes in the city of Zaporizhzhia has risen to 11, after rescue crews combed through the rubble of a five-story apartment complex flattened by a Russian assault on Thursday. Twenty-one survivors were pulled from the blast site. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the death toll rose after a Russian strike fell on first responders who rushed to the site — a tactic known as a double-tap strike.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “In Zaporizhzhia, after the first rocket strike today, when people came to pick apart the rubble, Russia conducted a second rocket strike. Absolute vileness. Absolute evil. And there have been thousands of instances of this already, and there could be thousands more, unfortunately.”
Zelensky’s comments Thursday came as he met with the head of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, in Kyiv. Their meeting came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to be Russian federal property. Grossi rejected Putin's assertion and repeated his call for the establishment of a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the Zaporizhzhia plant, where fierce fighting has threatened to trigger a radiation disaster.
Rafael Grossi: “The staff at the plant is operating under almost unbearable circumstances — the stress, the uncertainty, not knowing what is going to happen. … We are here in a conflict. We are here in a war. We want this war to stop. The war should stop immediately. And, of course, the position of the IAEA is that this facility is a Ukrainian facility.”
President Biden has warned the world faces the threat of “Armageddon” if Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Biden was speaking at a Thursday evening fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the home of James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In widely quoted remarks, Biden said, “For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we have a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons if in fact things continue down the path they are going. … [Putin is] not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to imprisoned Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, as well as the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties. The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced this year’s Peace Prize winners at a ceremony this morning in Oslo.
Berit Reiss-Andersen: “They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together, they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”
This year’s Peace Prize announcement came as Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 70 years old today. It’s also the 16th anniversary of the assassination of the crusading human rights and anti-corruption reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of Putin and Russia’s war in Chechnya. After headlines, we’ll go to Moscow to speak with Anna Dobrovolskaya, who led the Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow before it was shut down by the Russian government.
The death toll from Hurricane Ian has reached 131, with most of the victims in Florida, making Ian second only to Hurricane Katrina among the deadliest storms to hit the mainland U.S. this century. On Thursday, an analysis published by the group CoreLogic estimated total flood and wind losses from Hurricane Ian at up to $70 billion. The Florida Power & Light Company says it has restored power to over 2.1 million customers, with fewer than 100,000 customers in the hardest-hit areas still remaining in the dark. Meanwhile, some 82,000 homes and businesses in Puerto Rico still lacked power on Thursday, more than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona collapsed the island’s fragile electrical grid.
A new report finds the World Bank has financed at least $14.8 billion in fossil fuel development since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. That’s despite a pledge by World Bank officials roughly five years ago to stop supporting oil and gas projects within two years. A campaigner with the group Glasgow Actions Team said, “If the World Bank wants to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, it needs to stop funding fossil fuels and unlock billions in order to support the transition to renewable energy across the globe and end poverty and inequality.”
In Washington, D.C., at least 13 immigrant justice advocates were arrested Thursday while protesting this week’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling deeming the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, illegal. Those already enrolled in the program are still allowed to renew their DACA, but new applicants are blocked. Advocates are also demanding Congress enact permanent immigration relief for undocumented people. DACA recipients Diana Pliego and Cindy Colade joined Thursday’s protests.
Diana Pliego: “This is — I can’t count what number of times this is that I’m anxiously awaiting on a court decision and unsure of what’s going to happen, and maybe it will ruin our futures. Like, I don’t know, and it’s really hard to live life that way.”
Cindy Colade: “We want to make sure that all of the children that has been part of this country, no matter what of their paper situation or anything, that with DACA, it will help them stay and be part of this community and pay the taxes and pay everything that this country needs.”
In August, the Biden administration turned DACA into a federal regulation to protect it from further legal challenges. That rule is scheduled to take effect October 31. DACA was enacted in 2012 and has shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and granted them work permits.
In New Mexico, immigrant justice organizations report a group of asylum seekers held at the Torrance County Detention Facility have been on hunger strike since last week, protesting inhumane and unsanitary conditions. The asylum seekers are denouncing chronic medical neglect, inedible food and horrific abuse at Torrance, which is run by the private prison corporation CoreCivic. Demands are mounting to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center following the August death by suicide of 23-year-old Kesley Vial, an asylum seeker from Brazil. This is Orlando de los Santos, a hunger striker and asylum seeker from the Dominican Republic who has been detained at Torrance since July.
Orlando de los Santos: “We are demanding our freedom. No more deportations. We demand to be treated equal and to be released. No human being should be detained here. We are being abused by ICE guards and by the guards working at this detention center. When it rains, my cell floods with water. It’s full of mosquitoes. And the food they serve us is often raw.”
The city of Rochester, New York, has agreed to pay a $12 million settlement to the family of Daniel Prude, a Black man killed by police in March 2020. Prude died from asphyxiation after Rochester police officers handcuffed him while he was naked, put a hood over his head and then pushed his face into the freezing cold ground for two minutes while kneeling on his back. Last year, a grand jury decided not to file charges against the officers involved in Prude’s death. The Prude family filed a lawsuit two years ago. The city of Rochester has not admitted liability in Prude’s killing and did not pay punitive damages.
In more news from New York, a federal judge has blocked major portions of a state law restricting who can carry concealed firearms in public spaces. District Court Judge Glenn Suddaby ruled Thursday that New York’s attempts to bar guns from so-called sensitive spaces — including schools, libraries, museums and theaters — violated the constitutional right to carry a firearm for the purposes of self-defense. New York Attorney General Letitia James has promised to appeal Thursday’s ruling.
In Mexico, at least 20 people were killed in the southern state of Guerrero after gunmen wearing ski masks burst into the town hall in the city of San Miguel Totolapan Wednesday and opened fire during a meeting hosted by the local mayor. The mayor, Conrado Mendoza, was among those killed, as well as his father, who was a former mayor. The gunmen reportedly belonged to a local drug gang that’s in a dispute with a rival drug smuggling group. An investigation of the shooting is underway.
In London, thousands of supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are planning to form a human chain outside Parliament on Saturday as they demand the United Kingdom cancel plans to extradite Assange to the United States to face charges that could see him jailed for life. Assange’s U.S. supporters are planning a similar rally near the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, where they’ll demand the Biden administration cancel plans to try Assange on hacking charges and 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors believe they have gathered enough evidence to charge President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reports a final decision has to be made by the U.S. attorney in Delaware, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. The investigation into Hunter Biden began in 2018 and was a central issue in Trump’s unsuccessful reelection campaign in 2020.
The National Football League is once again facing scrutiny over its policy on traumatic brain injuries and concussions, following a series of high-profile head injuries this season. On Thursday evening, Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines was pulled from a game against the Denver Broncos after he struggled to get to his feet after he was struck in the head. This comes after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a horrifying concussion in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in September. This week, the neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose work was depicted in the 2015 film “Concussion,” said the 24-year-old star should retire from football.