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HeadlinesFebruary 21, 2022

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Possible Biden-Putin Summit Announced Amid High Tensions, Unrest in Eastern Ukraine

Feb 21, 2022

France has announced President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed “in principle” to a summit, proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, as diplomatic tensions continue to escalate over Ukraine. However, the White House said the meeting will only go ahead if Russia does not invade Ukraine, and Moscow said there are not yet “concrete plans” for the talks. The agenda would be set by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov when they meet on Thursday. On Friday, President Biden offered one of his starkest warnings yet over a possible invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden: “In the coming days, we believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.”

Reporter: “And do you have any indication about whether President Putin has made a decision on whether to invade? Do you feel confident that he — that he hasn’t made that decision already?”

President Joe Biden: “As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision.”

This comes amid intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine. Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed Saturday, and Russian-backed separatists ordered evacuations of civilians — a move Ukraine blasted as a provocation and part of a Russian plan to stage attacks in the region. Meanwhile, Russia has extended military drills in Belarus that were set to end Sunday.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Western nations to take stronger action, urging them to impose sanctions immediately, as he spoke at the Munich Security Conference.

President Volodymyr Zelensky: “To me, as the president of a country that has lost parts of its territory and thousands of people, at whose border 150,000 Russian soldiers, military equipment and heavy weapons stand, the answer is obvious: The world security architecture is fragile. It needs renewal. The rules that the world agreed on 10 years ago do not apply any longer.”

Outside the Munich conference, hundreds of peace activists rallied in protest. We’ll have the latest on Ukraine after headlines with The Nation magazine’s Katrina vanden Heuvel.

California to Start Treating COVID-19 as Endemic Disease

Feb 21, 2022

California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced his state is moving to the “next phase” of the coronavirus pandemic and will now treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease.

Gov. Gavin Newsom: “What we’re announcing here today is about turning a page, moving from this crisis mentality, moving from a reactive framework to a framework where we are more sentinel in our approach, that we stand firm and confident as we lean into the future, moving away from a reactive mindset and a crisis mindset to living with this virus.”

Many states have recently relaxed or lifted public health restrictions after the worst of the winter’s Omicron surge, though an average of more than 2,000 people are dying of COVID-19 each day across the U.S.

Queen Elizabeth Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Canadian Police Clear Ottawa of “Freedom Convoy”

Feb 21, 2022

In Britain, 95-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms.

In Canada, police arrested some 200 people and towed away dozens of vehicles, clearing the streets of Ottawa of the weeks-long so-called freedom convoy. The anti-government, trucker-led protest, which started as a demonstration against COVID mandates, inspired similar actions in other cities and countries. Its organizers have been linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups.

6 African Countries to Receive mRNA Technology as Part of WHO Program to Expand Vaccine Production

Feb 21, 2022

The World Health Organization announced six African nations will receive technology needed to produce their own mRNA vaccines. The countries are Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. It’s part of a WHO initiative to expand vaccine access and decrease dependency on wealthier nations.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “More than 80% of the population of Africa has yet to receive a single dose. Much of this inequity has been driven by the fact that globally vaccine production is concentrated in a few mostly high-income countries. One of the most obvious lessons of the pandemic, therefore, is the urgent need to increase local production of vaccines, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”

Al-Shabab Claims Bomb Blast That Killed at Least 13 in Somalian City of Beledweyne

Feb 21, 2022

In Somalia, at least 13 people were killed and 20 others wounded Saturday in the city of Beledweyne after a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a restaurant where a number of local officials and politicians were eating. At least one of those killed was a candidate in a parliamentary election that has been delayed for months. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Clashes on Malian Border Kill Dozens as France Announces Gradual Withdrawal

Feb 21, 2022

Mali’s military says eight soldiers were killed, four remain missing, and 14 others were injured, after clashes with armed groups near Mali’s borders with Burkina Faso and Niger on Friday. An estimated 57 unidentified fighters were also killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, witnesses say about 40 civilians were killed in the area during recent fighting between rival armed groups. On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said French troops would gradually withdraw from Mali over the next six months. Mali’s military rulers have called on France to withdraw “without delay.” France deployed troops to its former colony in 2013 after Tuareg rebels and groups with ties to al-Qaeda seized control of two-thirds of Mali’s territory.

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Iran Nuclear Deal Could Be Revived as Talks Enter Final Stretch

Feb 21, 2022

Talks to restore the landmark Iran nuclear deal have entered their final stretch as officials from opposing sides have expressed cautious optimism a deal may be within reach. Iran’s Parliament has set conditions for signing on to a new deal, which include the lifting of certain sanctions and a guarantee signatories will not unilaterally abandon the agreement, as the U.S. did under Trump in 2018. This is Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Hossain Amir-Abdollahian: “I would like to emphasize here that we are ready to achieve a good deal at the earliest possible time, if the other side makes the needed political decision.”

Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor Is Most Decorated Black Athlete in Winter Olympics After Beijing Medals

Feb 21, 2022

In Olympic news, Elana Meyers Taylor has become the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history. She won the bronze medal alongside Sylvia Hoffman in the two-woman bobsled Saturday in Beijing — the American athlete’s fifth career medal. Taylor collected more medals than any other woman in Olympic bobsledding. She also won the silver medal in the monobob at the Beijing Games. The 37-year-old is now a four-time Olympian. On Sunday, she waved the flag for the United States in the Olympics closing ceremony.

Jeffrey Epstein Associate Jean-Luc Brunel Found Dead in French Jail Cell

Feb 21, 2022

In France, a close ally of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his prison cell in Paris Saturday. Jean-Luc Brunel was reportedly found hanged. Brunel, a former modeling agent, was being held on charges involving the rape and sex trafficking of minor girls. Brunel was arrested at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2020. He frequently accompanied Epstein and was considered central to the French investigation into accusations against Epstein. Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan jail in 2019 while awaiting trial.

Judge Sentences Kim Potter, Who Killed Daunte Wright During Traffic Stop, to 2 Years in Prison

Feb 21, 2022

In Minneapolis, a judge has sentenced former police officer Kim Potter to two years in prison for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a minor traffic stop last April. Potter was convicted of manslaughter in December. The judge in the case said Potter made a “tragic mistake” when she shot Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. Potter claimed she meant to deploy her Taser. Daunte’s mother Katie Wright spoke after the sentence was announced on Friday.

Katie Wright: “Kim Potter murdered my son, and he died April 11th. Today the justice system murdered him all over again. To sit there and watch, pouring my heart out in my victim impact statement, that took so long to write, and I reread it over and over again, to not get a response out of the judge at all, but then when it came down convicting — or, to sentencing Kim Potter, she broke out in tears. So, once again, we are standing here to say that we’re very disappointed in the outcome. … This is the problem with our justice system today: White woman tears trumps — trumps — justice.”

Chicago Denies Permit for General Iron Metal Plant After Organizing from Community

Feb 21, 2022

Chicago officials have rejected the final permit for the highly contested General Iron metal shredding plant in the city’s Southeast Side. The area is home to mostly Black and Brown residents. It’s a major victory for local activists whose protests included a hunger strike last year that drew national attention to the issue. A coalition of environmental groups said, “Our community is not a sacrifice zone. This decision can be a turning point for communities of color that have been hurt by environmental racism for decades.”

Federal Judge Says Trump May Be Held Liable for January 6 Insurrection

Feb 21, 2022

A federal judge ruled civil lawsuits against Donald Trump over his role in inciting the January 6 Capitol insurrection can proceed. Judge Amit Mehta said Trump’s speech to supporters on January 6 appeared to be “a call for collective action” and “the essence of civil conspiracy.”

Los Angeles KPFK Broadcaster Fernando Velázquez Dies at 73

Feb 21, 2022

There have been two major losses in the Pacifica Radio family. In Los Angeles, Spanish-language community radio programmer Fernando Velázquez has died at the age of 73. His career spanned more than four decades. Velázquez was a dedicated producer, programmer, mentor and organizer at Pacifica station KPFK, where he served for a time as news director.

Askia Muhammad, Who Chronicled African American Politics and Culture for 40+ Years, Dies at 76

Feb 21, 2022

In Washington, D.C., journalist, photographer, jazz critic and poet Askia Muhammad has died at the age of 76. Muhammad was a longtime programmer and news director at Pacifica station WPFW. His column in The Washington Informer regularly appeared in Black-owned newspapers around the United States. In 2018, Askia Muhammad published “The Autobiography of Charles 67X,” a collection of personal stories, photos and poems about his four decades spent covering African American culture and politics.

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