The United States and Russia clashed Monday at the United Nations Security Council over the crisis in Ukraine. The U.S. accused Russia of preparing to invade Ukraine by amassing over 100,000 troops on its border, but Russia rejected the charge, claiming it was the United States and NATO who were trying to push Russia into a war. This is Russia’s U.N. ambassador.
Vasily Nebenzya: “Our Western colleagues are talking about the need for deescalation; however, first and foremost, they themselves are whipping up tensions and rhetoric and are provoking escalation. The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself. You are almost calling for this. You want it to happen.”
Last week, President Biden placed 8,500 U.S. troops on high alert. The U.S. and NATO allies are also shipping weapons to Ukraine.
On the diplomatic front, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is set to speak with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov by phone today.
In Washington, U.S. senators are preparing to unveil a bill imposing what Senator Robert Menendez described as “the mother of all sanctions” targeting Putin, Russian banks and other entities. We’ll have more on the crisis over Ukraine after headlines.
Chinese authorities say they’ve identified over 200 coronavirus infections among athletes and personnel involved in the Beijing Winter Olympics as China struggles to maintain its “zero-COVID” strategy ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony. Over the weekend, authorities sealed off several residential areas of Beijing where two locally transmitted COVID-19 cases were detected.
The number of daily coronavirus infections reported around the United States continues to fall rapidly from mid-January’s peak but remains higher than at any other point in the pandemic. More than 2,500 people are dying of COVID-19 each day, with the official U.S. death toll on pace to pass 900,000 in mid-February.
Pfizer is preparing to request emergency use authorization for its vaccine in children aged 6 months to 5 years old. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reports the request by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech could come far sooner than expected, and a decision by health regulators could come as early as the end of February.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has fully authorized Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in U.S. adults. It’s the second vaccine to get full FDA approval, after Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine won full authorization last August.
The New York Times reports former President Trump directed his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to ask the Department of Homeland Security if it could legally take control of voting machines in key swing states after Trump lost the 2020 election. The Times cited three anonymous sources who said Trump also explored proposals for two other government agencies — the Pentagon and the Justice Department — to seize voting machines in an effort to reverse his defeat.
The Washington Post reports some of the White House records turned over by the National Archives to congressional investigators had been ripped up by Trump and then taped back together. Trump reportedly had a habit of tearing presidential records into shreds and tossing them on the floor — in violation of the Presidential Records Act.
CNN reports that former Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short quietly testified last week before the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has asked the FBI to provide security after Trump called on his supporters at a weekend rally to target what he called “radical, vicious, racist prosecutors.” Last week, a judge approved Willis’s request to convene a special grand jury to investigate Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Willis is an African American woman.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday lashed out at people who’ve called on him to condemn a series of Nazi demonstrations over the weekend near Orlando. DeSantis accused Democrats of trying to “smear me as if I had something to do with it.” His remarks came after his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, deleted a tweet suggesting the protesters were not real Nazis and questioning whether they were Democrats in disguise.
Meanwhile, police in Chicago have arrested a suspect in a string of apparent hate crimes targeting the Jewish community. The windows of two Jewish-owned Chicago businesses were smashed Saturday, while on Sunday a synagogue and Jewish school were vandalized with swastika images and antisemitic graffiti.
Amnesty International has published a new report accusing Israel of carrying out “the crime of apartheid against Palestinians.” Amnesty’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard told reporters in occupied East Jerusalem today that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity.
Agnès Callamard: “We are here today to call on the international community to take resolute action against the crime [against] humanity being perpetrated in order to maintain the system of apartheid.”
Israeli officials had demanded Amnesty International not release the report, calling its findings “false, biased and antisemitic.”
Three Israeli military officers are being disciplined over their involvement in the January death of a 78-year-old Palestinian American man in the West Bank. Two were removed from their positions, and the third will be formally censured. None have been criminally charged. Omar Assad died of a stress-induced heart attack after being bound and gagged and held in a cold construction site by the Israeli soldiers who detained Assad at a checkpoint while he drove home.
In immigration news, the Homeland Security Department confirmed Monday it will expel Venezuelan asylum seekers apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border to Colombia if they previously lived there. The Biden administration had already quietly begun returning Venezuelans to Colombia using the contested Trump-era so-called public health policy Title 42, which allows U.S. immigration officials to remove asylum seekers without due process during the pandemic.
In Mexico, journalist Roberto Toledo was assassinated in the state of Michoacán Monday — the fourth Mexican media member killed in January alone. Toledo reported for the local news outlet Monitor Michoacán. The outlet’s director denounced Toledo’s murder in a video posted on social media and said their team had received several death threats.
Armando Linares: “Today the threats were ultimately fulfilled. One of our colleagues lost his life at the hands of three people who shot him in a mean and cowardly manner. We are not armed. We do not carry weapons. Our only defense is our pen.”
Burma’s military rulers have extended a state of emergency for another six months. Monday’s announcement came just ahead of the first anniversary of the February 1 coup that deposed democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese military officials have threatened to bring charges of sedition and terrorism against businesses that join a “silent strike” today to protest against the military dictatorship. Meanwhile, there were reports of scattered protests in the capital Rangoon. U.N. human rights officials report at least 1,500 people are known to have been killed in the year of protests that followed the coup.
In Brazil, over a dozen people, including seven children, have died in the state of São Paulo since Friday in landslides and flooding triggered by torrential rains. Some 500 families lost their homes.
Meanwhile, in Ecuador, at least 11 people died and several others were injured in Quito as cars, mud, rocks and tree trunks were swept away by flooding after a day of record rainfall Monday.
A federal appeals court has ruled that an Arizona utility company can be held liable for violations of antitrust laws after it charged its customers higher rates for electricity if they chose to install solar panels on their rooftops. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found evidence that the Salt River Project utility company structured its pricing to unlawfully thwart competition from solar energy systems. Some Salt River Project customers in Phoenix saw their electricity prices rise by more than 60% after they installed solar panels on their homes.
In labor news, the Workers United union says workers at 16 more Starbucks locations around the U.S. petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for union elections on Monday. That brings the number of Starbucks stores where workers are organizing to 54 across 19 states. In December, workers at a Buffalo Starbucks store successfully organized the first union of the coffee giant’s 9,000 U.S. locations.
In California, a Democratic lawmaker called off a vote Monday on whether to establish a single-payer universal healthcare system, moments before the California State Assembly was scheduled to take up the bill. A.B. 1400 — also known as the California Guaranteed Health Care for All Act — had failed to garner the support of enough Democrats, even though the party has a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature.
Progressives have vowed to fight to bring the bill to a vote in the next legislative session. The California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus responded, “Healthcare is a human right, and in the midst of a global pandemic, our Democratic supermajority showed its true colors and its loyalty to the profits of the healthcare industry over the needs of their constituents.”
In Georgia, a federal judge has rejected plea deals between federal prosecutors and two of the three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. The deals would have allowed Gregory and Travis McMichael to serve the first 30 years of their life sentences in a federal prison instead of a state prison and to avoid a federal trial scheduled for next week. Ahmaud’s father Marcus Arbery on Monday condemned the plea agreements, saying all three of his son’s killers should face federal hate crimes charges.
Marcus Arbery: “And we want 100% justice, not no half-justice, because you’ve got to think, if an African American man were to deal with a white man like that, they would have tried to kill him on the spot.”