In Israel, returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has inaugurated the most far-right government in the country’s history. Netanyahu, who is still facing a corruption trial, was heckled on the floor of the Knesset as he delivered his agenda earlier today.
Benjamin Netanyahu: “We will guarantee Israel’s military advantage in the region by unceasing empowerment. The first mission that the members here are yelling, but canceling as if it isn’t important, is to make sure that Iran won’t annihilate us with nuclear bombs.”
Netanyahu’s new coalition brings together multiple ultrareligious and ultranationalist leaders as critics warn democracy is at risk and Palestinian and Arab rights look set to be even further violated. The new government has announced the expansion of illegal West Bank settlements is a top priority. 2022 was one of the deadliest years for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and elsewhere in nearly two decades. Palestinian authorities say over 220 people were killed and over 9,000 injured by Israeli forces in the past year.
Outside the Knesset, hundreds of protesters gathered to condemn what they called an illegitimate government.
Russia has launched a massive series of missile attacks across Ukraine, with reports of explosions and fresh power outages in cities including Lviv, Kyiv and Odessa. The attacks came after Ukrainian officials called on residents to evacuate the city of Kherson amid heavy Russian artillery strikes. On Wednesday, two explosions rattled a maternity hospital in Kherson where at least five people were recovering from childbirth.
Olha Prysidko: “It was frightening, also unexpected. The explosions began abruptly. The window handles started to tear off. Glass. Oh, my hands are still shaking, frankly speaking.”
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave his annual address to parliament, where he again pressed for Ukraine to join the European Union.
The Biden administration has approved the sale of anti-tank mines to Taiwan valued at $180 million. This comes after China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday condemned Taiwanese leaders for extending mandatory military service from four months to a year.
Wang Wenbin: “Realizing the complete reunification of the motherland is the common will of all Chinese people. It is an unstoppable, great, historical event. … We believe Taiwan compatriots are highly principled, and they will not serve as cannon fodder for Taiwan independence separatist forces.”
The death toll from last weekend’s historic winter storm has risen to at least 38 in western New York, the hardest-hit region. As residents recover from the storm and mourn those lost, criticism against — and between — local leaders is mounting. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he’s spoken with state and county officials about taking over control of snow removal efforts from the city of Buffalo.
Mark Poloncarz: “The mayor is not going to be happy to hear about it, but storm after storm after storm after storm, the city, unfortunately, is the last one to be opened. And that shouldn’t be the case. It’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth.”
Poloncarz has also been criticized for his response, accused of delaying a driving ban that could have saved lives. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, whom some are calling on to resign, again rejected any responsibility for his response to the tragic storm.
Mayor Byron Brown: “Again, as you know, this was a historic storm, probably the worst storm that the city has seen in over 50 years, and perhaps, maybe, the worst storm in recorded history since these storms have been tracked.”
In South Dakota, the National Guard was called in to help dig out thousands of people trapped in their homes, many without power, at the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, which saw at least 30 inches of snowfall.
Meanwhile, federal regulators are launching an inquiry into the preparedness of U.S. power systems for extreme weather events. Climate activists say the current fossil fuel-based energy system has again revealed its unreliability, and are urging for greater investment in sustainable energy infrastructure.
In Jackson, Mississippi, residents remain under a boil water notice after freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst. This is Danyelle Holmes, a volunteer at a water distribution site where drivers waited in long lines on Wednesday.
Danyelle Holmes: “In Jackson, Mississippi, of course, we know that this has been going on for the last 40, 50 years. And now it has reached its peak, where the infrastructure is crumbling.”
U.S. airports remain mired in chaos, with more flight cancellations announced. On Wednesday, over 2,800 flights were canceled and 3,200 delayed. The vast majority of the canceled flights were at Southwest Airlines, whose CEO said Wednesday it may take days to restore the airline’s regular schedule. The latest delays came after the Transport Workers Union said some Southwest ground support workers developed frostbite during shifts that lasted up to 18 hours over the holiday weekend.
In August, 38 state attorneys general warned in an open letter to Congress that the Department of Transportation was failing to properly regulate the airline industry. They wrote, “Americans are justifiably frustrated that federal government agencies charged with overseeing airline consumer protection are unable or unwilling to hold the airline industry accountable.” According to the watchdog organization Accountable.US, Southwest spent $5.6 billion on stock buybacks in the three years leading up to the pandemic, rather than making investments in infrastructure to be better prepared for extreme weather events.
A federal judge in Michigan has sentenced Delaware trucker Barry Croft to nearly 20 years in prison for masterminding the foiled 2020 kidnapping plot against Governor Gretchen Whitmer. It’s the longest sentence handed down in the case, though prosecutors had argued for a life sentence, calling Croft the “spiritual leader” of the far-right, anti-government group of convicts.
In California, David DePape, who was arrested after invading Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and attacking her husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to state charges including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. DePape, a far-right conspiracy theorist, reportedly told police he wanted to break the House speaker’s kneecaps.
Maryland Democratic Congressmember Jamie Raskin announced Wednesday he has lymphoma, referring to it as a “serious but curable” form of cancer, and will undergo treatment including chemotherapy. Raskin was the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s second impeachment following the January 6 insurrection and is on the House committee investigating the attack. He will become the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee in the new Congress.
Here in New York, prosecutors in Nassau County have opened a criminal probe into George Santos, after the Republican congressmember-elect admitted he lied about his work, education and family history. In the latest revelation, resurfaced social media posts show Santos wrote last year that his mother died in the September 11, 2001, attacks — only to claim months later that she died in 2016. Santos has also falsely claimed Jewish ancestry and said his grandparents fled the Holocaust; lied about attending Baruch College and NYU; and lied about working at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. On Wednesday, Santos granted his first television interview since The New York Times published its exposé of Santos’s lies. He spoke on Fox News with former Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard, who was sitting in for Tucker Carlson.
Tulsi Gabbard: “These are blatant lies. My question is: Do you have no shame? Do you have no shame in the people who are — now you’re asking to trust you to go and be their voice for them, their families and their kids in Washington?”
Rep.-elect George Santos: “Tulsi, I can say the same thing about the Democrats and the party. Look at Joe Biden. Joe Biden has been lying to the American people for 40 years. He’s the president of the United States. Democrats resoundingly support him. Do they have no shame?”
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have opened an informal investigation into Santos’s finances. When Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, he listed no assets and a salary of $55,000. Yet Santos reported millions of dollars of income from a company he founded last year, and FEC filings show he loaned his most recent campaign more than $700,000. New York Congressmember Ritchie Torres tweeted, “Where did all that money come from? The Ethics Committee MUST start investigating immediately.” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to comment on the scandal.
A new lawsuit warns plastic containers used in lots of common household products contain high levels of so-called forever chemicals known by the acronym PFAS, which have been linked to cancer, liver disease and reproductive health issues. The lawsuit says Texas-based company Inhance produces tens of millions of plastic containers which could leach PFAS into foods, personal care products and cleaning supplies.
This comes as manufacturing giant 3M announced last week it will stop all production of PFAS by 2026, amid a litany of lawsuits. Last month, California sued 3M and other companies for contaminating the state’s drinking water, rivers, lakes, wildlife and residents with the forever chemical.