French President Emmanuel Macron is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today in hopes of deescalating tensions over Ukraine. Macron will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday. This comes as the Biden administration continues to warn of a possible attack on Ukraine by Russian forces and as U.S. officials reportedly said over the weekend Russia now has 70% of the necessary combat forces in place to invade. Following the comments from Washington, Ukraine’s foreign minister told Ukrainian citizens, “Do not believe the apocalyptic predictions.” The U.S. has also ramped up its arms transfer to Ukraine and sent troops to NATO allies in Eastern Europe and Germany in recent days.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with President Biden at the White House today before heading to Kyiv and Moscow. On Sunday, Scholz said he was open to deploying more German troops to Lithuania to help prop up NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe.
The U.S. topped 900,000 recorded deaths from COVID-19 Friday. President Biden marked the grim milestone by urging all Americans to get vaccinated and boosted. Case numbers are steadily falling from this winter’s Omicron-fueled highs, though experts say related deaths — which now average over 2,500 per day — have yet to peak.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is lifting his state’s mask mandate in schools. This follows a similar decision in Pennsylvania last month. The governors of New York and Connecticut said last week they are reconsidering school mask mandates, as well.
In international coronavirus news, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19. Separately, recently sworn-in Honduran President Xiomara Castro also tested positive with mild symptoms and announced she will be working in isolation.
In Canada, the mayor of Ottawa has declared a state of emergency, saying the city was under “siege” from thousands of truck drivers who have been blocking roads to protest COVID restrictions and vaccine mandates. The protests, which have now spread outside of Ottawa, have also expanded to include broader grievances against the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy have been linked to far-right and neo-Nazi movements, with some participants waving Confederate flags or swastikas.
In Minneapolis, protesters have been taking to the streets following the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Amir Locke last week. The Minneapolis Police Department released a video of the raid Thursday, in which a SWAT team stormed into an apartment where they found and shot Locke, who was not a suspect in their warrant. On Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a moratorium on no-knock warrants. Amir Locke’s parents described him as a talented musician and beloved community member while speaking at a press conference Friday. His mother, Karen Locke, called for accountability in her son’s killing.
Karen Wells: “At the end of the day, I believe that he was executed by the MPD, and I want the police officer that murdered my son to be prosecuted and fired.”
In Mexico, some 380 migrants — including families with young children — were evicted from a makeshift border camp in the city of Tijuana Sunday morning. Dozens of Mexican National Guard, Army soldiers and municipal police raided the camp where the migrants, mostly from Central America, had been forced to live for nearly one year — due to the Biden administration’s ongoing enforcement of policies that have blocked people from entering the U.S. to apply for asylum. This is a migrant from El Salvador.
José Contreras: “We are caught off guard. We don’t know where we will be taken. A shelter? I don’t know. I don’t know what the Mexican authorities are going to do with us. We don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Iran has welcomed a move by the United States to waive sanctions against foreign countries and companies that work in Iran’s civil nuclear sector. The sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration in 2020 after it pulled the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran has called ending those sanctions a necessary first step toward restoring the nuclear agreement. Last week Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran is willing to engage in direct talks with the Biden administration if negotiations on a new nuclear deal reach an advanced stage.
In Madagascar, at least 10 people have been killed and some 48,000 displaced from their homes after Cyclone Batsirai battered the island overnight Sunday. The cyclone made landfall in the southeastern city of Mananjary with winds of about 100 miles per hour, triggering massive floods, uprooting trees and destroying buildings. This is the second major storm to hit Madagascar in two weeks.
Nigeria’s Environmental Ministry has declared a “major disaster” after a ship carrying more than 50,000 barrels of crude oil exploded off Nigeria’s coast. The blast killed at least one crew member, with seven others still missing. Survey crews reported a sheen and emulsified oil around the vessel, as authorities warned the spill poses a “great danger” to coastal communities.
Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has ruled that Indigenous communities should have much more control over whether to allow extractive projects on their lands. In a decision handed down Friday, judges ruled that Indigenous groups can halt proposed mining and oil drilling projects if they’re found to require “excessive sacrifices to the collective rights of communities and nature.” It’s a blow to President Guillermo Lasso, who has promised to double Ecuador’s oil production, and a major victory for the A’i Cofán community and other Indigenous groups who’ve suffered the effects of environmental destruction for decades.
In Puerto Rico, torrential rains inundated San Juan and other regions of the island Saturday, breaking a rainfall record that had previously been set in 1998.
Meanwhile, thousands of teachers from across Puerto Rico led a massive protest Friday demanding higher wages and pension protections. The action was in response to the approval last month of another plan to restructure some of Puerto Rico’s massive debt. The plan includes a slight increase of teachers’ base salaries, significantly lower than what was demanded. It also freezes future pensions for current teachers. Many teachers say they’re forced to take on other jobs to make ends meet.
The Republican National Committee censured Congressmembers Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger Friday over their involvement in the House investigation into the Capitol insurrection, which the censure referred to as “legitimate political discourse.” The two congressmembers are the only Republicans on the House committee.
In related news, former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday rebuked Trump’s false claim that Pence had the authority to change the results of the 2020 election.
Mike Pence: “President Trump said I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.”
North Carolina’s Supreme Court struck down Republican-gerrymandered redistricting maps and ordered the Legislature to redraw the congressional and General Assembly maps ahead of primaries in May.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Republican House speaker thwarted an attempt by a fellow Republican lawmaker to move forward a bill that would grant Arizona’s Legislature the authority to reject election results, among other measures.
In other voting news, Pamela Moses, a Black activist from Tennessee, was sentenced to six years in prison last week for trying to register to vote, not knowing she was ineligible due to a felony conviction. Officials erroneously told Moses that her voting rights had been restored. Her lawyer is appealing the case. Moses is the founder of Black Lives Matter Memphis and a former mayoral candidate.
Former employees of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team have detailed new sexual harassment claims against team owner Daniel Snyder. Team marketing manager and former cheerleader Tiffani Johnston testified last Thursday to the House Committee on Governmental Reform.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: “Mr. Snyder touched you in a sexual manner that night, correct?”
Tiffani Johnston: “Correct.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: “Snyder did so on purpose, right?”
Tiffani Johnston: “Correct.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: “How do you know that?”
Tiffani Johnston: “He left his hand on my — the middle of my thigh until I physically removed it.”
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: “You did not consent to being touched in that way, right?”
Tiffani Johnston: “Absolutely not.”
In July, the NFL issued a $10 million fine to the Washington Football Team after 15 women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
In 2020, the team dropped its name and mascot — a racist slur against Native Americans — which it first adopted in 1933. Last week the team announced its new name, “The Washington Commanders,” which the team called a tribute to Washington’s military ties. The name was dropped as a result of years of organizing in Indigenous communities.