Three days after U.S. voters cast ballots in a critical midterm election, the balance of power in Congress rests on the outcomes of three yet-to-be-determined Senate contests and 30 congressional races. In Georgia, Democratic Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock kicked off a renewed reelection campaign on Thursday after he fell just shy of the 50% of votes needed to prevent a runoff on December 6 against his Republican opponent, the Trump-backed former football star Herschel Walker.
Sen. Raphael Warnock: “And so, I need you to fight like the future of Georgia and the future of America depends on it, because it does. Are you all ready to fight?”
Sen. Raphael Warnock: “Are you ready to get this done?”
In Nevada, Republican Adam Laxalt — a 2020 election denier — leads incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto by fewer than 9,000 votes with about 100,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted.
In Arizona, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly leads Trump-backed Republican Blake Masters by more than 110,000 votes, with about one in five ballots yet to be counted. Arizona’s gubernatorial race is even closer, with Democrat Katie Hobbs leading Trump-backed Republican Kari Lake by just over one percentage point. Lake has repeatedly denied the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and has said she would only accept the election results if she wins.
Ahead of the midterms, election officials in Arizona’s Maricopa County received more than 100 violent threats and intimidating communications. Bill Gates, the Republican chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, spoke to reporters on Thursday.
Bill Gates: “More people need to start speaking out and saying that that is absolutely unacceptable. No one should be the subject of death threats, but particularly not those who are simply trying to keep our democracy afloat and count the votes and make sure that every eligible voter’s ballot is treated with respect.”
Republicans have edged closer to a majority in the House of Representatives but need to win at least seven of the remaining contests. One closely watched race is in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, where the far-right, pro-gun, election-denying incumbent Republican Lauren Boebert leads Democrat Adam Frisch by about 1000 votes. That contest may be heading for a recount.
Ukraine’s military says it has reclaimed control over 100 square miles of territory in the Kherson region over the last 24 hours, including dozens of settlements. Ukraine’s latest battlefield gains came as Russia’s military claimed all its troops have retreated from Kherson city. Kherson is one of four Ukrainian territories Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed in October. Elsewhere, officials in the city of Mykolaiv say Russian attacks on a residential building killed six people overnight.
This week, top U.S. General Mark Milley estimated more than 100,000 soldiers on each side of the conflict have been killed or wounded. His remarks came as The Wall Street Journal reported South Korea will for the first time sell artillery shells destined for Ukraine’s military through a confidential arms deal between Seoul and Washington. The sale comes after North Korea’s government denied reports it has sent artillery shells and ammunition to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Russia’s invasion has led to a dramatic rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “This Russian war has brought about an energy crisis that has forced dozens of countries to resume coal-fired power generation in order to lower energy prices for their people at least a little, to lower prices that are shockingly rising due to deliberate Russian actions. The Russian war brought an acute food crisis to the world, which hit worst those countries suffering from the existing manifestations of climate change — catastrophic drought, large-scale floods.”
Zelensky’s recorded remarks came in a video message played at the U.N. climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Tuesday.
Egyptian authorities have denied entry to the country to the Italian activist Giorgio Caracciolo from the anti-torture group Dignity, even though he was accredited to attend COP27. This comes amid mounting international pressure to release British-Egyptian political prisoner Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who was denied a visit from his lawyer yesterday, as his family grows increasingly concerned for his life after he entered a complete food and water strike Sunday. President Biden is meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi today in Sharm el-Sheikh. In a direct appeal to Biden, Alaa’s sister Sanaa Seif said, “You can make the difference here. You can save Alaa, and you can show that there is some hope and potential for common sense, freedom, democracy. Don’t fail us, please.” Meanwhile, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced a state of high alert after calls for demonstrations today. Cairo and other major cities are in a state of lockdown with security forces maintaining a heavy presence in the streets.
The White House says President Biden will meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 summit next week in Bali, Indonesia. It will be the pair’s first in-person meeting since Biden took office. The White House says the talks will focus on “efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication.” Russian President Vladimir Putin will skip the G20 summit.
In China, authorities have ordered new lockdowns affecting millions of people after the number of daily COVID-19 cases topped 10,000 for the first time since April. About 5 million residents of Guangzhou’s downtown district have been confined to their homes through Sunday. Meanwhile, officials tightened COVID restrictions across Beijing after reporting a record 118 new locally transmitted cases. Many residents say they’ve been unable to leave Beijing since the start of the pandemic.
Ling Zhu: “Even on October 1st of this year for the National Day holiday, I couldn’t go anywhere. And many of my colleagues have not been back home for a few years, either. I’m thinking about going back home. But with the recent outbreaks, people can’t leave, nor can they return to Beijing.”
In the occupied West Bank, two more Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in separate incidents Wednesday. One of the victims was 15-year-old Mahdi Hashash from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. In related news, earlier this week in Geneva, Switzerland, Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq told a U.N. human rights commission that Israel uses “mafia methods” of threats and intimidation to silence groups documenting Israeli violations against Palestinian rights.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the State Department called out far-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir for attending the memorial for Meir Kahane, the ultranationalist founder of the racist Kach party, which later became Kahane Chai. This is State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Ned Price: “Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent. There is no other word for it. It is abhorrent. And we remain concerned, as we said before, by the legacy of Kahane Chai and the continued use of rhetoric among violent right-wing extremists.”
In May, the Biden administration removed Kahane Chai from its list of “foreign terrorist organizations” despite its connection to the murder of Palestinians and Arab Americans, including on U.S. soil. Itamar Ben-Gvir is expected to become a key member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government.
In Chicago, construction of the Obama Presidential Library was halted on Thursday after work crews discovered a noose at the site. In a statement, the Obama Foundation wrote, “This shameless act of cowardice and hate is designed to get attention and divide us.”
The U.S. Parole Commission has granted compassionate release to longtime political prisoner Mutulu Shakur after 36 years in prison. The 72-year-old Black liberation activist likely has less than six months to live, after he was diagnosed in prison with stage 3 bone marrow cancer. Shakur was part of the Black nationalist group Republic of New Afrika that worked with the Black Panther Party and others, and is the stepfather of the late rapper icon Tupac Shakur.
Washington, D.C.’s attorney general has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the Washington Commanders and team owner Dan Snyder, along with the National Football League and its commissioner, Roger Goodell. The lawsuit laid out Thursday by Attorney General Karl Racine alleges that Snyder lied when he denied knowing about a hostile work environment and culture of sexual harassment at his franchise.
Attorney General Karl Racine: “In fact, the evidence shows Mr. Snyder was not only aware of the toxic culture within his organization, he encouraged it, and he participated in it. Mr. Snyder exerted a high level of personal control over everything the Commanders did. And his misconduct gave others permission to treat women in the same demeaning manner.”
The lawsuit alleges Snyder was joined by the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, in a campaign to mislead the public about what was being done to address harassment allegations. Prosecutors are seeking millions of dollars in penalties. Last year, the NFL levied a $10 million fine against the Washington Football Team after 15 women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
In Texas, a federal judge struck down the Biden administration’s student loan relief program, calling it illegal. The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit by the conservative group the Job Creators Network Foundation. The program was already on hold due to a challenge from a group of Republican-led states. The White House is appealing the order by Trump-appointed Judge Mark Pittman. The Education Department has already approved 16 million borrowers for up to $20,000 of relief, out of 26 million people who have applied for the program.
Forty-eight thousand University of California graduate student workers are preparing to strike across all 10 UC campuses starting Monday. The student workers have organized with United Auto Workers and are demanding the university system pay a living wage and engage in good-faith bargaining for a fair union contract. Student workers recently rallied on the UC Berkeley campus.
Student worker 1: “Can someone tell me why my peers have to skip meds in order to make ends meet? Can someone tell me why my peers are attending funerals on Zoom because they can’t afford a plane ticket home?”
Student worker 2: “I’m not going to have money in my checking account by the end of this month. These demands that we’re putting forward with this new contract are making sure that we’re able to have our basic necessities covered.”
Student worker 3: “Real equity, real access means paying living wages so that this university isn’t just for those with generational wealth.”
Employees at HarperCollins Publishers launched an open-ended strike Thursday amid stalled contract negotiations. Workers are demanding HarperCollins increase pay and provide better paid leave benefits, as well as address its lack of diversity. HarperCollins is the publisher of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” as well as the books “A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy” and “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America.”