The House has passed legislation to block a nationwide rail strike by imposing a contract that has been rejected by unions representing the majority of freight rail workers. In addition, the House passed a separate bill by a much narrower margin to give seven days of paid sick leave to railroad workers, but it remains unclear if this provision will pass in the Senate. The vote came two days after President Biden pushed Congress to prevent the strike. On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders slammed railroad carriers for refusing to provide workers any paid sick days while their profits soar.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Do we stand with workers in the rail industry and say, 'Yes, you are right. Working conditions are horrendous. We cannot continue a process by which you have zero paid sick leave.' Do we stand with workers, or do we stand with an industry that is making huge profits, pays its CEOs exorbitant salaries and treats its working workers with contempt?”
House Democrats have unanimously elected Hakeem Jeffries of New York to lead the caucus, making him the first African American to head a political party in Congress. Jeffries, who is 52, will succeed Nancy Pelosi who led House Democrats for two decades. Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the party could have benefited if the election to lead the party was contested, saying, “This is the most significant generational change that we have seen in House Democrats in several decades. I personally believe that we would benefit from a debate on what that means.” While Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he has been at odds with some progressives in the House. In 2016, he backed Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Last year he told The Atlantic, “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” On Wednesday, Democrats also elected Katherine Clark of Massachusetts to serve as whip and Pete Aguilar of California to serve as chair of the party caucus.
Meanwhile, House Democrats have finally obtained Donald Trump’s tax returns, ending a multiyear court battle. The Treasury Department released them to the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
In China, authorities have lifted some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in parts of Shanghai and Guangzhou as protests are continuing over the country’s zero-COVID policy. Video from Guangzhou, a major manufacturing hub, shows police in hazmat uniforms confronting protesters.
Russia is poised to expand its 2013 anti-LGBTQ law banning so-called gay propaganda. The law seeks to prohibit movies, advertisements, websites and books featuring same-sex relationships or transgender characters in a positive light. Individuals found to be in violation of the law could be fined over $6,000. President Putin is expected to soon sign the law, which was approved by lawmakers. This is Ksenia Mikhailova of the Russian LGBTQ support organization Coming Out.
Ksenia Mikhailova: “This is a signal that all the types of violence against LGBT people are allowed by the state. How it already happened in 2013, when was a wave of hate crimes against LGBT, now it will be a tsunami.”
Israeli authorities arrested the prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro on Monday, days after he posted video showing an Israeli soldier throwing an Israeli activist to the ground and then punching him in the face in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Before he was released, Amro was reportedly beaten at the police station before he was interrogated. His home was also raided. Amro is the founder of Youth Against Settlements. On Wednesday, the Israeli activist Miko Peled tweeted, “Issa’s life is in danger and there must be guarantees to his personal safety.”
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed another two Palestinians during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. According to Al Jazeera, Israel has now killed eight Palestinians over the past three days in the West Bank.
A U.S. citizen who lives in Massachusetts has been arrested on a trip to the United Arab Emirates and faces possible extradition to Egypt after he made a video calling on Egyptians to protest during the recent U.N. climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh. The 46-year-old Sherif Osman is a former Egyptian Army officer who has become a vocal critic of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Osman was arrested by two plainclothes officers in UAE on November 6, two days after he arrived from the United States.
The Biden administration’s attempt to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt has been dealt another setback. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a request by the Biden administration to put on hold a ruling against the plan by a judge in Texas. The issue will likely now go to the Supreme Court.
In a major victory for immigrant rights activists, the federal government has announced it is closing the Berks Detention Center in Pennsylvania. Groups including the Shut Down Berks Coalition have organized for years to close the facility, which was once used to imprison families as they sought asylum. Most recently Berks was used as an immigrant women’s prison.
The Los Angeles Times has revealed Immigration and Customs Enforcement accidentally posted detailed personal information online about more than 6,000 asylum seekers in the United States. Immigrant rights advocates fear the unprecedented data release could jeopardize the lives of many immigrants who came to the United States fleeing torture and violence.
A group of Yale students are suing the Ivy League university for discriminating against students with mental health challenges. The lawsuit alleges Yale pressures students to take “voluntary” leaves of absence if they are experiencing significant symptoms of mental health disabilities, while suggesting the students might otherwise be suspended. Students who take leave, either voluntarily or involuntarily, often lose parts of their tuition and accommodation payments, as well as access to student health insurance.
The founder of the website Cryptome.org has written to the U.S. Justice Department with a strange request: He is asking to be indicted for violating the Espionage Act. Cryptome’s founder John Young says he should be added as a co-defendant in the prosecution of WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange because he published the same leaked government documents at the center of the U.S. case against Assange. While Assange faces 175 years in U.S. prison if he is extradited, the U.S. government has never moved to prosecute Young, who says he published the documents two days prior to WikiLeaks. Earlier this week, The New York Times and four international newspapers called on Biden to drop the charges against Assange, saying “publishing is not a crime.”
President Biden announced new investments for Indigenous communities, including $135 million to help 11 tribal communities “severely impacted” by climate change. Three of those communities are planning on relocating altogether. Biden spoke Wednesday at the White House Tribal Nations Summit.
President Joe Biden: “There are tribal communities at risk of being washed away, washed away by superstorms, rising sea levels and wildfires raging.”
Biden also vowed to protect Spirit Mountain, or Avi Kwa Ame, in Nevada, a sacred site for the Fort Mojave Tribe and others. Advocates have been pushing for years to designate the area as a national monument.
The Justice Department is suing Jackson, Mississippi, over its failure to provide its 150,000 majority-Black residents with safe drinking water. This is Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: “Communities of color, Indigenous communities and low-income communities often bear the brunt of these harms. As we work to fulfill our responsibility to keep the American people safe, to protect civil rights, we will continue to prioritize cases like this one that will have the greatest impact on communities most burdened by environmental harm.”
On Tuesday, the city of Jackson and the Mississippi Health Department agreed to federal oversight of its crumbling water system. In August, city officials issued “boil water” advisories across Jackson that lasted nearly seven weeks.
In Pennsylvania, the fracking company Coterra Energy has agreed to pay $16.2 million after pleading “no contest” for polluting the water in and around the community of Dimock. Coterra, which was previously known as Cabot Oil and Gas, will also pay water bill payments for the impacted residents for the next 75 years.
The 2022 Right Livelihood Awards were given out on Wednesday at a ceremony in Stockholm. The award is widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Winners included the Somali activist Ilwad Elman, who was recognized along with her mother for their work to bring peace in Somalia.
Ilwad Elman: “Somalia right now is facing the worst drought in the last 40 years. More than a million people are already internally displaced. If immediate action is not taken, we are on the brink of a famine.”
Other winners of the 2022 Right Livelihood Awards included the Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties, led by Oleksandra Matviichuk; the Venezuelan collective Cecosesola; and the Ugandan Africa Institute for Energy Governance. Click here to watch the Right Livelihood Awards award ceremony.
Today marks World AIDS Day. UNAIDS is calling for a renewed push to combat the HIV virus after the world turned its focus to COVD-19 and other global crises over recent years. One-and-a-half million new HIV infections were recorded in 2021 — 1 million more than the global target of half a million — with an estimated death toll of 650,000. UNAIDS also reports dangerous inequalities persist, with girls and young women especially at risk.