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HeadlinesDecember 21, 2023

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Death Toll Tops 20,000 as Northern Gaza’s Last Functioning Hospital Fails Under Israeli Onslaught

Dec 21, 2023

Palestinian officials say the death toll from 75 days of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has passed 20,000 — or nearly 1% of the population of the besieged territory. At least 8,000 children are among the dead. On Wednesday, a World Health Organization emergency team reached the al-Ahli Hospital, which had been northern Gaza’s last functioning medical facility where people could undergo surgery. WHO team coordinator Sean Casey says conditions have further deteriorated, with the bodies of the dead placed in rows in the courtyard, patients who’ve gone weeks without needed surgery and growing rates of postoperative infections due to a lack of antibiotics.

Sean Casey: “What we found here is a hospital that’s really almost completely stopped functioning. Two days ago, a number of staff were detained. Just last Saturday, we visited Al-Shifa, and they were telling us how they were sending surgical cases here because al-Ahli had some of the only operating theaters left in northern Gaza and Gaza City, and those are now no longer functional. They don’t have specialists. They don’t have surgeons. They don’t have power. They don’t have water. They don’t have food.”

U.N. Says Israeli Troops Summarily Executed Palestinians in Gaza City

Dec 21, 2023

The United Nations Human Rights Office says it has received “disturbing” information about a summary execution of Palestinians by Israeli forces in Gaza City on Tuesday. The U.N. agency reports that during a raid on a building in the Al Remal neighborhood, Israeli soldiers allegedly separated a group of men from women and children and then shot and killed at least 11 of the men in front of their family members. Soldiers then allegedly ordered the women and children into a room and either shot at them or threw a grenade into the room, seriously injuring some of them, including an infant and a child.

3-Day-Old Infant Pulled from Rubble of Rafah Home Flattened in Israeli Strike

Dec 21, 2023

Israel continues to attack southern Gaza. On Wednesday, a 3-day-old infant was pulled from the rubble, alive but injured, after Israeli strikes flattened residential buildings in Rafah.

Amin Almasry: “We saved her life at the last moment. We couldn’t see her because of the smoke created by the rocket, so we were looking for her. My cousin carried her outside so she could breathe properly. Three days old, a small baby girl. Three days old, choked because of the rocket strikes.”

France Renews Call for Ceasefire, U.S. Continues to Reject It, as UNSC Vote Delayed for 3rd Time

Dec 21, 2023

The United Nations Security Council has for the third time this week postponed a vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Israel to allow shipments of food, water, fuel and medicine into the besieged territory. Several Security Council members have expressed frustration with the United States for repeatedly delaying votes and for threatening to once again veto any resolution.

Meanwhile, President Biden had just a brief response Wednesday when asked by a reporter about the unprecedented death toll in Gaza.

Reporter: “And your reaction to 20,000 dead in Gaza, that death toll reached — likely to be reached today?”

President Joe Biden: “It’s tragic.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has criticized Israel’s assault on Gaza while repeating his call for a truce leading to a humanitarian ceasefire. On Wednesday, Macron told a French TV news channel, “We cannot let the idea take root that an efficient fight against terrorism implies to flatten Gaza or attack civilian populations indiscriminately.”

“It Will Lead to Greater Human Suffering”: France, EU Impose Harsh New Restrictions on Migrants

Dec 21, 2023

France’s health minister tendered his resignation Wednesday to protest an anti-immigrant bill backed by President Emmanuel Macron and approved by a wide margin in the French Parliament. The bill makes it far easier for France to expel asylum seekers, sets strict immigration quotas, makes it harder for children of immigrants to become French citizens and delays immigrants’ access to welfare benefits by several years. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has called the amended bill an “ideological victory” for her party.

In Brussels, the European Union has agreed to a New Pact on Migration and Asylum that Amnesty International warned “will set European asylum law back for decades to come and lead to greater human suffering.” The agreement comes after three years of negotiations. It allows for the detention of migrant families, including those with young children, and fast-tracks the deportation of newly arrived asylum seekers. EU Parliament Member Malin Björk said in a statement, “In the face of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU showed that solidarity with those seeking protection is possible. But instead of building on that experience, the deal just struck will institutionalize and worsen the most repressive practices: mass detention, pushbacks, and cruelty at the borders.”

Texas Gov. Flies 120 Migrants to Chicago Amid Ongoing Weaponization of Immigration by GOP

Dec 21, 2023

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott chartered a flight Tuesday that brought more than 120 immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to Chicago. It’s a major escalation of Abbott’s policy of transporting asylum seekers to Democratic-led cities and comes just after Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, which allows police to arrest anyone they suspect to have entered the U.S. without authorization. This comes amid mounting tensions in Chicago over the arrival of migrants from the southern border, and a worsening housing and health crisis that faces them. On Sunday, a 5-year-old boy staying at a temporary shelter died amid a spate of illnesses at the facility. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson is calling for more resources to support migrant families and an end to the political weaponization of the issue.

Mayor Brandon Johnson: “Everyone knows that the right-wing extremism in this country has targeted Democratically ran cities. And quite frankly, they’ve been very intentional about going after Democratically ran cities that are led by people of color. And their whole motivation is to create disruption and chaos, because that’s what this — that particular party has been about.”

NBC News: Xi Jinping Told Biden China Will Force Reunification of Taiwan

Dec 21, 2023

NBC News is reporting Chinese President Xi Jinping informed President Biden last month that Beijing plans to reunify Taiwan with mainland China. The message was conveyed as the two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco, in a meeting intended to ease tensions between Beijing and D.C. The Biden administration reportedly rejected a Chinese request to make a public statement saying it supports the goal of peaceful unification and does not support Taiwanese independence. Though the U.S. supports the “One China” policy, it maintains cultural and commercial ties with Taiwan and supplies the territory with weapons.

Maduro Hopes for New Page in U.S.-Venezuela Relations Following Prisoner Swap

Dec 21, 2023

U.S. citizens freed in a prisoner exchange with Venezuela were repatriated Wednesday, while released Colombian businessman Alex Saab landed in Venezuela, where he met with close ally President Nicolás Maduro. Saab, who is accused of money laundering via the U.S. and bribery, was granted clemency by President Biden in exchange for the release of 10 U.S. prisoners. Maduro also agreed to free at least another 20 political prisoners. Separately, Caracas also returned fugitive Malaysian defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, who is implicated in a major Pentagon bribery scandal. As he welcomed Alex Saab back at a Caracas news conference, President Maduro welcomed the prisoner exchange as a positive step in U.S.-Venezuela relations.

President Nicolás Maduro: “Hopefully the way will be found for a process of respect, equal treatment and understanding between the United States of America and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Today a step has been taken that will hopefully contribute to that path.”

Javier Milei Deregulates Argentine Economy as Protesters Defy Crackdown on Dissent

Dec 21, 2023

In Argentina, newly inaugurated President Javier Milei ordered a major deregulation of the national economy Wednesday. The far-right libertarian followed through on his campaign promise, using executive powers to undo or change 300 rules. These include eliminating laws regulating rents and preventing the privatization of state companies. Milei also announced measures to deregulate labor, trade, tourism, pharmaceuticals and other areas. Following the announcement, thousands of people took to the streets in the first public demonstration since Milei’s inauguration — and his threats to crack down on protests. This is Alejandro Bodart, secretary general of the Socialist Workers Movement.

Alejandro Bodart: “I think it is clear that there is a government that is determined to apply a brutal adjustment, that has already begun, which has rapidly crushed wages. And in order to make this adjustment happen, they are determined to repress and restrict democratic freedoms. It is unbelievable that a march cannot take place in peace because these people have taken the political decision to prevent it by violating our constitutional rights.”

140+ Opposition Lawmakers Suspended in India Ahead of Key Votes and Pivotal Elections

Dec 21, 2023

India’s Parliament voted on a number of key bills Wednesday, including contested criminal reform measures, after more than 140 opposition lawmakers were suspended this week in a major crackdown by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. Opposition leaders accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to hobble a new political alliance that is challenging the BJP in next year’s elections. Karti Chidambaram of the opposition National Congress party warned after the suspensions India’s Parliament is “going to resemble the North Korean assembly.”

Paul Chevigny, Pioneering Lawyer Who Took on Police Brutality, Dies at 88

Dec 21, 2023

Influential civil rights lawyer, professor, and expert on police brutality, Paul Chevigny has died at the age of 88. As a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, Chevigny founded the Police Practices Project and published two books on abusive policing, including the seminal “Police Power.” In the 1971 case Handschu v. Special Services Division, he successfully challenged the NYPD’s surveillance of political organizations, which at the time included the Black Panther Party and anti-Vietnam War activists. He went on to write about police violence in other countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Jamaica. As a professor at NYU Law, he inspired legions of students. Paul Chevigny is survived by two children, including the filmmaker Katy Chevigny.

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