Newly installed Peruvian President Dina Boluarte declared a nationwide state of emergency amid mounting unrest following last week’s ouster and imprisonment of then-President Pedro Castillo, in what his supporters say was a legislative coup. Protests have spread since his arrest, with at least six people killed in the southern Andes region. Boluarte’s government sent troops to Peru’s second-largest city Arequipa Wednesday. Castillo supporters rallied in front of his jail in the capital Lima yesterday.
Alcina Romero: “Today marks the seventh day of his preliminary detention. He should have been released at 1:30 p.m., but yesterday at midnight the prosecutor asked for 18 months of preliminary detention. Right now the president has no lawyers. We need international help, please.”
The leaders of Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia have voiced support for Castillo, calling him a “victim of anti-democratic harassment” in a joint statement.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by one-half a percentage point and signaled it may continue lifting rates through the first half of next year. On Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the higher cost of borrowing would slow the economy and lower the rate of inflation.
Jerome Powell: “We’re taking forceful steps to moderate demand so that it comes into better alignment with supply. Our overarching focus is using our tools to bring inflation back down to our 2% goal and to keep longer-term inflation expectations well anchored. Reducing inflation is likely to require a sustained period of below-trend growth and some softening of labor market conditions.”
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said the Fed’s move risked plunging the U.S. economy into recession and throwing millions of people out of work. He noted U.S. prices have outpaced wage gains over the last year, diminishing the real purchasing power of workers. Reich added, “This is absolutely not the time for more interest rate hikes that make it even harder for working people to keep the lights on.”
The Biden administration says it will make at-home COVID-19 tests available for free again this winter amid a steep rise in cases. Beginning today, U.S. residents can once again order four COVID tests per household through the U.S. Postal Service. The program was paused in September after Congress failed to approve a new round of COVID relief funding requested by the White House. Over the past two weeks, U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations have risen more than 20%, and deaths have surged by 65%, with more than 3,000 people dying of COVID each week. Much of the latest surge has been caused by two Omicron subvariants that have evolved to bypass immune defenses. Researchers stress that most people who are up to date on their vaccines are still highly protected against severe disease.
Russian officials said Wednesday they have no plans to impose a ceasefire in Ukraine over the Christmas holiday after nearly 10 months of war. Overnight, Ukraine’s military launched a massive artillery attack on the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk. Ukraine also took credit for a drone attack on an air base about 50 miles inside Russian territory. Elsewhere, at least two people were killed by heavy Russian artillery fire in Kherson, where Russian attacks on the power grid have left residents without electricity. The continued fighting came as the Pentagon said it would more than double the number of Ukrainian troops at its training program in Germany.
On Wednesday, a U.S. citizen was freed as part of a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine. Suedi Murekezi had been held since his arrest by Russian forces in Kherson in June. Meanwhile, CNN is reporting Russia refused to release U.S. prisoner Paul Whelan alongside Brittney Griner last week unless a former colonel from Russia’s domestic spy organization currently in German custody was also released. Vadim Krasikov is serving a life sentence in Germany after he was convicted of assassinating a Georgian citizen in broad daylight in Berlin in 2019. His victim, Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, was a Chechen separatist commander who fought against Russian forces in the early 2000s.
The International Federation of Journalists says Ukraine was the deadliest country for journalists over the past year. The IFJ says at least 67 media workers were killed so far around the world in 2022 — 20 more than the previous year. The group also cited Haiti and Mexico as some of the deadliest reporting zones.
Here in the United States, Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton blocked the Senate passage of a bipartisan bill designed to protect free press by not allowing the government to legally compel journalists to disclose their sources. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who co-sponsored the PRESS Act, highlighted the bill’s inclusion of exceptions in cases of immediate threats of violence or death, as well as its unanimous passage in the House.
In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is one step closer to forming his new government after a preliminary vote Tuesday which would allow for the appointment of ministers who are convicted criminals. If fully approved, the legislation would allow Netanyahu to make good on his pledge to ultra-Orthodox leader Aryeh Deri to head the interior and health ministries despite being convicted of tax fraud. Netanyahu was granted an extended deadline of December 21 to form his administration, set to be the most extreme far-right in Israeli history.
In Nigeria, dozens of eyewitnesses say they saw soldiers in the Nigerian Army massacring children in its 13-year war against Boko Haram insurgents, with estimates putting the number of dead in the thousands. An investigation by Reuters found Nigerian Army commanders repeatedly ordered soldiers and armed guards to “delete” children, because they were assumed to be collaborating with militants in Boko Haram or its Islamic State offshoot. This is a soldier interviewed by Reuters. His face has been obscured and his voice replaced to protect his identity.
Soldier: “Yes, at times, when we come into a place and we find children and adults, we kill them all, shoot them all. We don’t differentiate and say, 'This is a child, and this is an adult,' because they’re all together. At times, if you kill the adult, the child will become a problem.”
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said his uncle was killed by Eritrean troops amid ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. He made the revelation at the end of a COVID briefing Wednesday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “I spoke to my mother, and she was really devastated because he was the youngest from their family. And he was almost same age with me. … And he was not alone, by the way. In the village, when they killed him in his home, from same village, more than 50 people were killed.”
Last month, Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan representatives agreed to a peace deal after two years of war, but Eritrean forces were not part of that agreement.
Meta has been sued by two Ethiopian researchers and a Kenyan rights group for allowing Facebook posts inciting violence in the Tigray war to proliferate on the site. One of the plaintiffs says his father, an Ethiopian academic, was the subject of racist attacks online before his murder in November 2021, and that Facebook had refused to remove the violent posts. This is Kenyan lawyer Mercy Mutemi, who filed the lawsuit.
Mercy Mutemi: “The case my clients have made is that not only do Facebook allow such content to be on the platform, they prioritize it, and they make money from such content. Why are they allowed to do that?”
The lawsuit is seeking $1.6 billion from Meta to establish a fund for victims of online hate and violence.
In other social media news, Twitter has disbanded its Trust and Safety Council, an external group made up of civil rights organizations, academics and others that advised Twitter on matters related to user safety, including mental health, human rights, suicide prevention and child sexual exploitation. Separately, Twitter suspended the account of @ElonJet, which tracked the movements of Twitter owner Elon Musk’s private jet. Musk previously vowed not to block the account.
In California, a San Francisco police detective said Wednesday the man charged with assaulting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband also planned to target California Governor Gavin Newsom, Hunter Biden and actor Tom Hanks. The testimony came during the trial of David DePape, who’s accused of breaking into Pelosi’s home and assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer. He faces up to 30 years in prison on a federal assault charge and up to 20 additional years for attempted kidnapping. On Wednesday, prosecutors played video of the assault on Paul Pelosi, along with a 911 call he made and police body-camera footage. This is San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
Brooke Jenkins: “This sends a strong message. This case, in general, and just the facts of what happened send a clear message to the country that things have gone too far and that we must tone down our rhetoric, especially as political leaders.”