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HeadlinesFebruary 18, 2022

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Biden Claims Russia Is Plotting a “False Flag” Operation as Pretext for Ukraine Invasion

Feb 18, 2022

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have agreed to meet next week as tensions remain high over Ukraine. On Thursday, President Biden said there is a “very high” threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and that Russia might stage a “false flag” operation to justify an attack. Secretary of State Blinken repeated the claim when he addressed the U.N. Security Council.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “We don’t know exactly the form it will take. It could be a fabricated so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians or a fake — even a real — attack using chemical weapons.”

Russia’s U.N. ambassador blasted Blinken’s comments as political posturing. Russia’s Foreign Ministry insists no invasion is being planned and said the U.S. and NATO are seeking to pressure and devalue Russia’s proposals for security guarantees.

On Thursday, Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region accused each other of violating a ceasefire agreement. Meanwhile, Russia has announced plans to stage massive drills on Saturday of its nuclear forces.

Today President Biden is hosting a phone call with NATO allies; meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is attending the Munich Security Conference, where she’ll speak with the president of Ukraine and a dozen other heads of state.

COVID-19 Cases Hit Record Highs in Asian Countries as Omicron Variant Surges

Feb 18, 2022

Coronavirus cases are surging in many Asian countries as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the region. In Hong Kong, quarantine facilities are full, and 95% of hospital beds are occupied, as authorities said they will reduce the duration of hospital and supervised isolation stays for some patients to ease the strain on the health system. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she’s finalizing plans to have all city residents get tested for COVID-19.

Malaysia and South Korea also reported record caseloads this week, with South Korea topping 100,000 daily infections for the first time. 

Donald Trump, Trump Jr. and Ivanka Ordered to Testify in New York Civil Fraud Probe

Feb 18, 2022

A New York judge has ordered Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump to testify in New York Attorney General Letitia James’s fraud investigation into the Trump Organization within the next three weeks. Trump has also been directed to hand over documents to the AG’s Office within two weeks. James is investigating whether the Trump Organization lied about the value of its assets to obtain loans and tax benefits. 

Florida Lawmakers Advance Bill to Ban Abortions After 15 Weeks

Feb 18, 2022

Florida’s state House has approved Republican-led legislation that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill mirrors a Mississippi anti-abortion law currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court that threatens to severely weaken or overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortions nationwide. The measure could be approved by Florida’s full state Legislature as early as next week. 

More Than a Quarter of World’s Women Worldwide Have Experienced Domestic Violence

Feb 18, 2022

Over one in four women in the world have experienced domestic violence before they turn 50. That’s according to a new study published by The Lancet medical journal, which compiled statistics on physical and sexual violence against women from the years 2000 to 2018. That data was based on self-reported experiences, and authors warn the real scale of the crisis may be far worse, as many cases are not reported due to stigma and fear. The COVID-19 pandemic likely exacerbated domestic violence, with women and girls often forced to stay home with their abusers without access to support services.

Haitian Sweatshop Workers Strike to Demand $15 a Day

Feb 18, 2022

In Haiti, labor protests continue as factory workers demand a wage increase amid worsening economic conditions and political instability. Workers are demanding a salary of $15 a day; they currently make just $5 a day. This is one of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets Thursday.

Protester: “We have earned the 1,500 gourdes we are demanding. It is not normal that the U.S. clothing retailers are earning millions while I am paid in cents. It makes no sense. We are giving our blood.”

Many North American companies source from factories in Haiti that pay exploitative wages and force people to work in sweatshop conditions. Local reports say the protesters work for U.S. brands including Gap, Walmart, Target and for Canada’s Gildan Activewear.

Death Toll in Brazil Landslides Rises to 117, with 100+ Still Missing

Feb 18, 2022

In Brazil, the death toll from massive flooding and mudslides in the city of Petrópolis — triggered by some of the most intense rains seen in decades — rose to at least 117 Thursday. Over 100 people are missing. Survivors dug through debris, collapsed homes and structures, trying to find loved ones as rescue efforts continue. This is a Petrópolis resident.

Luci Vieira dos Santos: “I’ve got no words. I’m destroyed, destroyed because of everything we’ve lost — our neighbors, our friends. The house, that doesn’t matter. We are alive. What about those who passed away?”

India Sentences 38 Muslim Men to Death over 2008 Bombings

Feb 18, 2022

India has sentenced 38 Muslim men to death over a string of bombings in the western city of Ahmedabad in 2008 that killed dozens of people and injured hundreds of others. The death sentences capped a trial that spanned nearly a decade. The court found a group calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen” carried out the attacks as revenge for 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state that left more than 1,000 people dead. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at the time the chief minister of Gujarat; he’s been accused of turning a blind eye to the violence.

Family and Friends Mourn Amir Locke, Black Man Killed in Minneapolis Police No-Knock Raid

Feb 18, 2022

In Minneapolis, mourners gathered Thursday for the funeral of Amir Locke, a 22-year old Black man who was fatally shot by police officers executing a no-knock warrant on February 2. Body-camera video of the incident shows Locke appeared to be asleep on a couch and wrapped in a blanket when a SWAT team entered the apartment. White police officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke three times — opening fire less than nine seconds into the raid. On Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered Locke’s eulogy, saying, “Amir was not guilty of anything but being young and Black in America.” His aunt, Linda Tyler, also spoke.

Linda Tyler: “We don’t want to continue to hear about being a police officer is a difficult job. You have to make split decisions. You fear for your life. You’re not drafted into the police department; you chose that profession. And if you think being a police officer is a difficult profession, try to be a Black man!”

Ex-Cop Involved in George Floyd’s Murder Admits He Failed to Perform CPR 

Feb 18, 2022

In Saint Paul, Minnesota, the federal civil rights trial of three former police officers involved in George Floyd’s murder continued Thursday. During cross-examination, former Minneapolis officer J. Alexander Kueng admitted he laughed at a joke made by Derek Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, as Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Kueng also acknowledged that he could have performed CPR on Floyd after he became unresponsive, but failed to do so.

Jury in Trial for Arbery’s Murderers Shown Graphic Images of Gunshot Wounds

Feb 18, 2022

In Georgia, jurors at the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers on Thursday were shown graphic images of Arbery’s autopsy. One juror asked the judge if there was money for counseling available after hearing racist language used by the killers — and after viewing images of the damage to Arbery’s body caused by two close-range blasts from Travis McMichael’s 12-gauge shotgun. 

19 Austin Police Officers Indicted over Violent Response to 2020 BLM Protests

Feb 18, 2022

In Texas, a grand jury has indicted 19 Austin police officers on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for their roles in violently suppressing Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. News of the indictments came just hours after Austin approved a $10 million settlement with two protesters injured by police, including 20-year-old Texas State University student Justin Howell, who suffered brain damage when he was shot in the head with a lead-pellet bag fired by an officer’s shotgun. 

Video Shows NJ Cops Violently Arresting Black Teen, Letting White Teen Go After Fight He Started

Feb 18, 2022

The New Jersey NAACP is calling on the Bridgewater Police Department to remove two police officers filmed breaking up a fight by violently arresting a Black teen while allowing an older white teen to remain free. Video of Saturday’s incident at a shopping mall shows 14-year-old Z’Kye Husain, who is Black, intervening to stop a 16-year-old white teen from bullying his younger friend. The older teen shoves Z’Kye, and the two begin trading blows. Fourteen seconds into the fight, a pair of white police officers arrive to pull the boys apart. One officer wrestles Z’Kye to the floor and puts his knee on the boy’s back. The other officer pushes the white teen onto a couch and motions to him to remain still; she then joins the other officer, pressing her knee into Z’Kye’s shoulder, near his neck. Z’Kye is then handcuffed, while the older white teen — who instigated the fight — looks on and is not arrested. The video ends with a bystander’s comments.

Bystander: “Yo, it’s because he’s Black. [bleep] Racially motivated!”

On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called the video deeply disturbing and promised an investigation. Z’Kye’s mother, Eboné, told CNN that racism clearly played a role in the officers’ disparate treatment of the two boys. 

Eboné Husain: “I hate to say this, but if it wasn’t for race, then what is it? What made them tackle my son, not the other kid? What made them be so aggressive with my son, not the other kid? Why is the other kid sitting down, looking at my son be humiliated and put into cuffs? It just doesn’t make sense. And it makes me angry.”

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