In Georgia, voters will head to the polls Tuesday in the closely watched runoff between Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. A record 1.85 million Georgians cast early votes, with over 350,000 people voting on Friday alone, setting a new single-day state record. This is Senator Warnock speaking to voters at a church in Athens, Georgia, Sunday.
Sen. Raphael Warnock: “The people of Georgia need a true champion. Women need a champion. Workers need a champion. Our kids need a champion. The planet needs a champion. We’re on a different field tonight.”
Meanwhile, last week, a third former partner accused Herschel Walker of violently attacking her.
The DNC’s rules committee agreed Friday with President Biden’s plan to make South Carolina the first primary contest of the 2024 presidential election, replacing the Iowa caucus. Primaries in Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Michigan will then follow. Iowa and New Hampshire, which had kicked off the voting schedule, are two of the whitest states in the country. Biden said the new voting calendar will give more weight to voters of color, who helped propel him to victory in 2020.
Russia says it will not adhere to a G7-imposed $60-per-barrel price cap on maritime shipments of Russian crude oil, which went into effect today. The new rule means third parties would not be able to import Russian crude using G7 and European Union vessels and companies unless they respect the price cap. Ukraine’s government said the $60-per-barrel price tag was still too high to impact Russia’s ability to fund its invasion. An EU embargo on Russian crude also begins today.
This comes amid a deepening energy crisis across Europe affecting millions of people as winter weather sets in. On Saturday, people across the United Kingdom took to the streets to protest “fuel poverty” caused by soaring energy prices. Demonstrators are demanding the government fund renewable energy and home insulation. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to mollify fears of potential large-scale rolling blackouts caused by energy shortages.
President Emmanuel Macron: “Don’t panic. That’s pointless. There’s legitimate work to be done by the government to prepare for extreme cases, which is of course the need to cut electricity for some hours in the day if we have a shortage.”
Ukraine’s government says Russia has launched a fresh series of missile attacks across the country, with air raid sirens sounding today in the capital Kyiv and other cities. This follows reports of intense battles in the eastern Donetsk region. Large sections of the city of Bakhmut have been destroyed after months of attacks.
Meanwhile, a new report shows global arms sales increased for the seventh consecutive year in 2021, rising to $592 billion. On Friday, Northrop Grumman unveiled its $700 million B-21 stealth bomber. The U.S. Air Force reportedly plans to buy at least 100 of the warplanes, which can deliver conventional and thermonuclear weapons. CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin blasted the “ominous death machine,” telling Common Dreams, “One thing the world definitely does not need is another stealth bomber.”
In North Carolina, authorities have called a state of emergency and imposed a curfew in Moore County after gunfire at two power substations cut power to some 45,000 customers Sunday. This is Sheriff Ronnie Fields.
Sheriff Ronnie Fields: “We’re looking at all avenues. That’s the reason I’ve got the professionals, the federal folks. They deal with the domestic terrorism more than locals. So, they’re on board, and they’re working with us to determine exactly who done this. Now, I can say this: This individual that done this, it was targeted; it wasn’t random.”
Authorities have yet to identify any suspects in the shootings. Local officials warned power could be out until Thursday amid freezing temperatures.
President Biden on Friday signed into law a bill prohibiting a rail strike and imposing a deal rejected by over half of unionized rail workers over its lack of paid sick leave. At the signing, Biden acknowledged the issues with the bill.
President Joe Biden: “And, look, I know this bill doesn’t have paid sick leave, that these rail workers and, frankly, every worker in America deserves. But that fight isn’t over.”
Labor activists have condemned Biden and Democratic Party leaders for failing to secure paid time off for workers who become ill. Pressure is now building on Biden to issue an executive order requiring paid sick days. Railroad Workers United said in a statement the U.S. rail system should come under public ownership and freight workers should consider supporting leaders outside the existing two-party system. The general secretary of the RWU said, “This one-two punch from the two political parties is despicable.”
In international labor news, thousands of unionized workers marched in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday in a show of support for truckers who have been on strike since last week over a dispute around the price of freight. The South Korean government ordered truckers to return to work under a contested law that could impose fines or even jail time if workers continue a work stoppage. This is a spokesperson from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
Han Sang-jin: “We’re told to stop the strike and get back to work because the knock-on effects on the economy are too serious. However, if you think about it in reverse, it means that the truckers have not been paid enough despite their huge influence on the national economy.”
Iran’s top prosecutor says authorities have suspended the nation’s morality police and have placed Iran’s mandatory hijab law under review. The claims by Iran’s attorney general have not been verified, and it’s not clear whether authorities would seek to enforce Iran’s strict dress code in other ways. This follows more than 11 weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was arrested for allegedly violating laws requiring women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing.
Also on Saturday, Iran’s Interior Ministry provided its first death toll since the protests erupted, claiming more than 200 people have been killed in what it called “riots.” That’s about half of the deaths documented by the group Iran Human Rights, which reports at least 448 people, including 60 children, have been killed by Iran’s security forces since September.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have reportedly destroyed the family home of Elnaz Rekabi, a 33-year-old rock climber who drew international headlines in October when she joined a competition in South Korea without wearing a headscarf.
In the occupied West Bank, a 22-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli forces near the city of Bethlehem earlier today in the latest killing to come from near-daily raids on Palestinian communities. Six other Palestinians were injured during the Monday morning assault on the Dheisheh refugee camp.
This follows the killing on Friday of a Palestinian man by an Israeli soldier, who’s been accused of carrying out a summary execution. Video of the incident in a town south of Nablus shows the soldier holding 23-year-old Ammar Mufleh in a headlock. Mufleh then breaks free of the chokehold, and after a scuffle, the soldier pulls out a pistol and fires it repeatedly at the young Palestinian man. The killing has sparked widespread protests. The U.N.’s Middle East envoy said he was “horrified” by the killing, and added, “Such incidents must be fully and promptly investigated, and those responsible held accountable.”
In Syria, at least two people were killed after Syrian security forces fired live ammunition during rare anti-government protests. Dozens of demonstrators stormed a government building in the southern city of Suwayda Sunday, denouncing economic hardships.
Protester 1: “We want Syria to give us our rights.”
Protester 2: “We want our dignity. We are asking for our rights and dignity.”
Protester 1: “Our message today is to the government. You see how people are dying from starvation. People are waiting for aid.”
The United Nations warns Syria’s 11-year-old civil war has left 90% of the population below the poverty line, with 60% of Syrians suffering from food insecurity. A U.N. envoy last month urged Western and other nations to lift decade-old, catastrophic sanctions on Syria.
Sudan’s ruling military junta and pro-democracy groups have signed an initial deal to end their political standoff and prepare Sudan for its first election and transition to civilian rule after the October 2021 military coup. The agreement establishes a two-year, civilian-led transitional government and appoints a prime minister ahead of the elections. Several key players have boycotted the deal as they’ve refused to negotiate with Sudan’s military rulers. Protesters who took to the streets ahead of the signing object to the exclusion of a transitional justice system or the implementation of key military reforms.
Meanwhile, prominent leftist Sudanese politician Wagdi Salih, a member of the pro-democracy coalition that signed the deal, was freed from jail on Sunday. Talks between the parties have been facilitated by the United Nations, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among others. This is the first of at least two planned accords.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, tens of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in one of the largest mass protests since fighting escalated between the government and the M23 rebel group in recent months. Last week DRC’s armed forces accused M23 of killing at least 50 civilians in the eastern town of Kishishe, violating a five-day ceasefire. M23 denied that it had targeted civilians. The U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC also denounced the killings and called for an investigation to “bring the perpetrators to justice.” Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.
Former President Trump has called for terminating the U.S. Constitution, as he continues to rail against his election loss in 2020. In a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump wrote, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” A flurry of Democrats and the White House swiftly rebuked the comment, while top Republican leadership remained silent. Trump’s post followed a Twitter thread by reporter Matt Taibbi, promoted by Elon Musk, detailing Twitter’s internal discussions in 2020 as the platform decided to block links to a New York Post article about emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
In other Trump news, a prosecutor in the criminal tax fraud trial of his real estate business told a Manhattan court Friday evidence shows “Mr. Trump is explicitly sanctioning tax fraud.” The trial is expected to wrap up this week.
In Washington, D.C., Jane Fonda led climate activists on their first Fire Drill Friday rally in nearly three years. Protesters were joined by some Democratic lawmakers, and members of the Biden administration, to demand Senator Joe Manchin’s “dirty deal,” granting favorable permitting to the fossil fuel industry, be shot down for good. This is climate activist Maria Lopez-Nuñez.
Maria Lopez-Nuñez: “No more sacrifice of our communities for the greater good, all right? The greater good will come from a just transition where we’re all taken care of, where we transform the foundation of this society and break apart the racism, the classism. No means no. And we’ve already told no to this dirty side deal. So let’s send it back where the hell it came from, and let’s actually build the future, a future without compromise.”