The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would allow Puerto Rico to hold its first-ever referendum to decide between statehood, independence, or independence with free association. The Puerto Rico Status Act was co-sponsored by Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez — two of the four current Puerto Rican members of the U.S. House — and was approved on a vote of 233 to 191. Sixteen Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill. This is Ocasio-Cortez speaking from the House floor on Thursday.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “While Puerto Rico is not the United States’s only colony, it is its oldest. Today, for the first time in our nation’s history, the United States will acknowledge its role as a colonizing force and Puerto Rico’s status as an extended colony. The Puerto Rico Status Act begins a process for Boricuas to decide their own future.”
The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
In China, public health officials warn COVID-19 cases are spreading rapidly and show no sign of slowing down, after officials in Beijing abandoned their long-standing “zero COVID” policy. Researchers estimate some 800 million people in China — or about one-tenth of humanity — could become infected by the coronavirus over the next 90 days. Several models predict more than a half-million people could die. China’s population remains especially vulnerable to a winter surge because few people have been exposed to the coronavirus. There are also concerns about the effectiveness of China’s domestically produced vaccines, which rely on inactivated forms of the virus. It’s a technology that’s proven to be less protective than the mRNA vaccines widely used elsewhere.
The Biden administration has broadened its crackdown on China’s semiconductor chip industry. On Thursday, the Commerce Department added YMTC and 21 other Chinese chip makers to a trade blacklist. The White House has accused China of blurring the line between military and civilian use of advanced semiconductors that can be used to power hypersonic missiles and other weapons. China’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization accused the U.S. of violating WTO rules, adding, “Clearly, the United States is a unilateralist and bullying hegemonist.”
The White House has wrapped up a three-day summit that brought 49 African leaders to Washington, D.C. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit came as the Biden administration seeks to counter the growing influence of Russia and China in Africa. On Thursday, President Biden pledged $55 billion to Africa over the next three years and said he’d seek to expand Africa’s role in international politics.
President Joe Biden: “The United States fully supports reforming the U.N. Security Council to include permanent representation for Africa. And today I’m also calling for the African Union to join the G20 as a permanent member of the G20.”
We’ll have more on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit later in the broadcast.
The Senate passed the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act Thursday in an 83-11 vote, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature. The measure provides $45 billion more for the military than requested in Biden’s budget. It scraps the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate in a major concession to Republicans. It also earmarks billions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine and Taiwan.
One provision not included in the NDAA is West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s “permitting reform,” which was shot down for the third time this year in a victory for climate activists and the planet. The amendment, which would help fast-track fossil fuel and mining projects, failed to garner the 60 votes needed despite President Biden coming out in support of the measure. The climate action group 350.org blasted Biden’s backing of Manchin’s “Dirty Deal,” writing, “We need to phase out fossil fuel projects swiftly and completely. That’s the only way to move forward a just transition to an equitable, renewable energy future.”
In Turkey, thousands of people flooded the streets of Istanbul Thursday to protest the conviction of the city’s elected mayor on what his supporters say are trumped-up charges.
Aslihan Gulhan: “We came here today so we can continue to live in a country governed by the rule of law. We think the law has been violated. We came here to defend our rights and the votes of Istanbul residents.”
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu was found guilty Wednesday of insulting public officials and sentenced to two years and seven months in prison. He remains free pending an appeal. If his conviction is upheld, Imamoglu will be removed as mayor and barred from running in next year’s elections, where he’s seen as a challenger to Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Spain’s parliament has passed a landmark sexual and reproductive health law that guarantees people as young as 16 the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy in the nearest public hospital. The bill also guarantees access to sex education, free contraceptives and menstrual hygiene products in high schools. It also provides paid medical leave for people suffering from painful menstrual cramps. Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, championed the legislation.
Irene Montero: “We are restoring the right of women between the ages of 16 and 18 to decide about their own bodies. And we also affirm that the state recognizes and respects the autonomy of women to decide that we do not doubt their decisions.”
Here in the U.S., three Senate Republicans last week blocked a bipartisan bill that sought to require basic workplace accommodations for pregnant people, including water bottles, a place to sit or extra bathroom breaks. The bill passed with overwhelming support in the House.
The Biden administration is suing Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey over his state’s illegal construction of a makeshift wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, built with double-stacked shipping containers and razor wire. The complaint filed by the Justice Department demands Arizona halt construction and remove the barrier, which immigration and environmental advocates say is destroying precious biodiversity in the Sonoran Desert and putting the lives of asylum seekers at further risk as they attempt to cross to the U.S. for refuge. Ducey has said his administration was trying to fill up the gaps in former President Trump’s unfinished border wall. The lawsuit comes less than three weeks before Ducey leaves office on January 2.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott is calling on his state to investigate whether nonprofit humanitarian groups are helping asylum seekers cross into the U.S. In a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Abbott claims — without any evidence — that humanitarian groups “may be engaged in unlawfully orchestrating … border crossings.” Abbott has intensified his anti-immigrant hate speech as the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic policy — that has blocked over 2 million migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. — is set to end next week. Abbott has also described the growing number of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
In Michigan, three men convicted of providing material support in the 2020 plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer were sentenced Thursday to prison terms ranging from seven to 12 years. Prosecutors say Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico were part of the militia group Wolverine Watchmen, which planned to kill police and elected officials, as well as kidnap the governor. The plot was hatched after then-President Trump urged supporters to ”LIBERATE” Michigan from coronavirus public health measures.
Twitter has suspended the accounts of over half a dozen journalists without warning, after the social media site’s new owner Elon Musk accused them of posting “assassination coordinates” for him and his family, without providing any evidence. The reporters — from CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Intercept and other outlets — were suspended after Twitter changed its policy on sharing “live location information.” Many of the journalists had reported on the latest policy change and Musk’s mounting crackdown on accounts he disagrees with. In a statement, CNN said, “Twitter’s increasing instability and volatility should be of incredible concern for everyone who uses Twitter.”
Texas lawmakers and grieving families of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Thursday, where they blasted Uvalde law enforcement over its botched response during the massacre and demanded federal gun reform. The hearing began with the sound of the gunfire that killed 19 students and two teachers on May 24. This is Faith Mata, whose 10-year-old sister Tess was killed that day.
Faith Mata: “In the days following the death of my sister, I took on the responsibilities and tasks that my parents could not bear to do. My parents should not have to plan their own child’s funeral. So I felt the need to step in when they needed me the most. Our life has changed forever. It has darkened because our light has left.”
In Louisiana, five officers have been charged in the 2019 killing of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist who died after he was put in a chokehold, beaten and tased by Louisiana State Police officers. The charges, which include one count of negligent homicide, come after years of organizing and protests. Authorities originally told Greene’s family he died due to injuries stemming from a crash, but body-camera footage shows officers assaulting Greene, who tells them, “I’m scared!”
A Texas jury has found white former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter for the fatal 2019 shooting of Atatiana Jefferson. Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by Dean, who was responding to a “wellness check” requested by her neighbor, who noticed the home’s front door had been left open. Jefferson was babysitting her 8-year-old nephew at her mother’s home at the time. The young boy, now 11, testified at the trial and was asked about the moments after his aunt was shot; he told the courtroom, “I was thinking, 'Is it a dream?'”
Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar is calling on President Joe Biden to commute the sentence of Daniel Hale, who is serving 45 months in a federal prison for leaking classified information about the U.S. drone and targeted assassination program. Hale pleaded guilty in March of 2021 to one count of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. His lawyers say he sought to bring attention to “immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military’s drone program.” On Thursday, Congressmember Omar said Biden should pardon Daniel Hale and set him free.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “Daniel’s case is exactly what the pardon power is for, where the letter of the law cannot capture the complex moral judgment that human beings make in extraordinary circumstances. I take the prohibition on revealing classified information extremely seriously, but what Daniel did was courageous. What Daniel did was patriotic. What he did was public service.”