U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders in the city of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Blinken’s visit comes just days after the Palestinian Authority ended its security coordination with Israel, following a spate of killings by Israeli forces. In the latest violence, Israeli forces shot 26-year-old Palestinian Naseem Abu Fouda in the head Monday morning at a checkpoint in the occupied southern city of Hebron. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that so far this year Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 35 Palestinians, including eight children and an elderly woman.
On Monday, Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, where he reiterated that U.S. support for Israel remains “ironclad.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Throughout the relationship between our countries, what we come back to time and again is that it is rooted both in shared interests and in shared values. That includes our support for core democratic principles and institutions, including respect for human rights, the equal administration of justice for all, the equal rights of minority groups, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society.”
Many of Blinken’s remarks were drawn word for word from previous State Department statements. His meeting with Netanyahu came just days after State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel refused to describe Palestinians in the West Bank as living under Israeli military occupation.
In Pakistan, the death toll from Monday’s suicide bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar rose to 95, after first responders ended their rescue and recovery operation. A local official said more than 225 people were also injured in the attack, which tore through a packed mosque inside a police and government compound. Most of the dead were police officers. An offshoot of the Taliban known as TTP claimed responsibility for the massacre.
In Iran, human rights groups are demanding authorities throw out the convictions against three young men sentenced to death for their involvement in anti-government protests that erupted in September after the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. Their cases are detailed in a new Amnesty International report, which denounces Iranian authorities for torturing the three men and denying them a fair trial. The report describes how 19-year-old Mehdi Mohammadifard was raped and beaten so brutally by prison guards, he had to be taken to the hospital. The two others, 18-year-old Arshia Takdastan and 31-year-old Javad Rouhi, have also been subjected to horrific beatings in prison. The three were denied the right to choose their lawyers to fight the charges, and their hearings lasted less than an hour.
President Joe Biden has informed Congress he will end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations over COVID-19 in mid-May and will ask the federal government to treat the coronavirus as an endemic threat. The announcement comes after lawmakers repeatedly rejected requests from the Biden administration for billions of dollars in additional aid to combat the pandemic — including funding for free COVID vaccines and testing. Last year, COVID-19 remained the third leading cause of death in the United States for the third year in a row, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer. On average, the disease is killing more than 3,500 people per week across the U.S.
In Tennessee, the Memphis Fire Department has terminated two EMTs and a fire department lieutenant over their roles in the killing of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old African American father who was fatally beaten by police officers on January 7 after a traffic stop. Memphis fire officials say an internal investigation revealed that the first responders “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols.” Video shows the EMTs walking away from Tyre Nichols and leaving him on the ground as he roils in agony.
Meanwhile, the Memphis Police Department has revealed that a sixth and a seventh officer were suspended after Tyre’s killing. One of the officers, Preston Hemphill, who is white, participated in the initial traffic stop and fired his Taser at Tyre. Hemphill was recorded saying, “I hope they stomp his ass” — referring to Tyre.
An initial police report filed just hours after Tyre’s violent arrest shows wide discrepancies between the claims of officers and what video from the scene reveals. The video shows no evidence that Tyre tried to fight the officers or reached for their guns, as the arrest report alleges.
On Monday night, residents gathered to remember Tyre in a candlelight vigil at the site of his killing. Pastor Charita McCoy helped organize the protest.
Charita McCoy: “I want peace. She spoke peace. I represent peace. I want to see that in the city of Memphis. I want to see peace in families. There are hurting families behind this. There are hurting cities behind this. There are hurting — the nation is hurt.”
In New Jersey, racial justice advocates and the family of Carl Dorsey, an unarmed Black man who was killed by Newark police on New Year’s Day 2021, are calling on the U.S. attorney to launch a civil rights investigation into the case. This comes after a New Jersey grand jury last week decided not to indict Newark Police Detective Rod Simpkins for fatally shooting Dorsey two years ago. Simpkins was undercover and in an unmarked police minivan when he arrived at the scene after reportedly hearing gunshots. Within seconds of exiting his car, Simpkins fired his gun at Dorsey, and it is unclear if he first announced himself as a police officer.
In Madagascar, at least 25 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced by a tropical cyclone that made landfall last week. The storm also decimated crops and cut off major roads.
In New Zealand, Auckland residents are bracing for more downpours after record rains killed at least four people and triggered flash floods and landslides. New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday global heating is to blame for the extreme weather.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins: “Climate change is real. It’s with us. It’s having an impact on our weather. We are seeing more of these extreme weather events. We’re going to have to deal with more of these extreme weather events in the near future, and we need to be prepared for that. And we need to do everything that we can to combat the challenge of climate change.”
In Mexico, relatives of two land defenders who’ve been missing since January 15 are demanding authorities investigate their abductions and bring them back alive. Ricardo Arturo Lagunes Gasca, a human rights lawyer and environmentalist, and Antonio Díaz Valencia, an Aquila Indigenous leader, were last seen two weeks ago after leaving a community meeting in the state of Michoacán against mining in the region. Witnesses said the environmentalists were followed and threatened by a group of men; their vehicle was later found abandoned with several bullet holes. Their family members have accused transnational mining company Ternium of complicity in the kidnappings. The steel manufacturer has faced mounting opposition from community members who say Ternium’s mining operations have destroyed the environment, triggered health issues and brought violence to the region.
Here in New York, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is presenting evidence to a grand jury about a $130,000 hush money payment Donald Trump sent to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels through an intermediary. The renewed investigation signals Trump could face criminal charges for violations of campaign finance law. In 2018, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and lying to Congress about the hush money payments. Cohen has said Donald Trump directed him to make the payments through a shell company shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
In France, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of cities nationwide today as unions went on strike to protest a bid to slash pension benefits. President Emmanuel Macron has proposed raising the age of retirement from 62 to 64 years old, and refused to back down earlier this month when more than a million people took part in a similar nationwide strike.
Tens of thousands of workers are poised to strike across the United Kingdom on Wednesday, after members of the ruling Conservative Party advanced legislation that would allow the government to break strikes by ensuring workplaces maintain “minimum services” during work stoppages. On Monday, Labour MP Zarah Sultana joined a protest against the anti-worker bill outside the prime minister’s Downing Street residence.
Zarah Sultana: “The Tories know that their program is unpopular. They know that workers are getting angrier. They know that the public doesn’t want a government that sacrifices people and planet for profit. So they want to crush us. They want to crush dissent. They want to rob us of our rights and stop us from fighting back.”