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HeadlinesFebruary 23, 2023

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Israel Bombs Gaza Strip Amid Palestinian Rocket Fire, Following Deadly Raid in Nablus

Feb 23, 2023

Israel’s military has bombed parts of the Gaza Strip, after Palestinian militants fired rockets at southern Israel overnight. The Israeli airstrikes targeted the Al-Shati refugee camp northwest of Gaza City, which is among one of the most densely populated areas of the besieged Palestinian territory. Israel says one of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in an open field, while five others were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The latest violence follows an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Nablus Wednesday that killed 11 Palestinians. Health officials report hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation and 82 people were treated for gunshot wounds after the assault. Among the wounded is Palestinian TV journalist Mohammed al-Khatib, who was shot in the hand.

On Wednesday, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, said he was “deeply disturbed by the continuing cycle of violence and appalled by the loss of civilian lives.” His comments came after the head of Amnesty International, Agnès Callamard, called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to turn its attention to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

Agnès Callamard: “At a moment where we ask the entire international community to support Ukraine against the Russians’ aggression, it’s absolutely right. This Russian aggression is unthinkable. We cannot allow it. But we also cannot allow what is happening in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. The Human Rights Council must raise these two realities and insist on these two realities.” 

Vladimir Putin Leads Pro-War Rally Ahead of First Anniversary of Ukraine Invasion

Feb 23, 2023

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin led a massive pro-war rally Wednesday, coming just ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An estimated 200,000 people joined the rally in Moscow’s main stadium. That’s roughly equivalent to the number of Russian soldiers estimated to have been killed or wounded in Ukraine. This week, the head of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, accused the Russian Defense Ministry of “treason” for allegedly attempting to destroy Wagner by withholding ammunition and supplies. The U.S. estimates more than 20,000 members of the Wagner Group have been injured in Ukraine, with about 9,000 killed in action.

Biden Pledges to Defend “Every Inch of NATO” in Meeting with Bucharest Nine 

Feb 23, 2023

President Joe Biden wrapped up his three-day trip to Ukraine and Poland Wednesday with a meeting of the “Bucharest Nine” — leaders of nations on NATO’s eastern flank. Biden pledged the U.S. would invoke Article 5 of NATO’s Charter, the “collective self-defense” clause, if any member is attacked. 

President Joe Biden: “Article 5 is a sacred commitment the United States has made. We will defend literally every inch of NATO. Every inch of NATO.”

Federal Judge Bars 9/11 Families from Seizing Frozen Afghan Central Bank Funds

Feb 23, 2023

A federal judge in New York has ruled that 9/11 families cannot claim $3.5 billion from the central bank of Afghanistan as compensation. Judge George Daniels said “neither the Taliban nor the [plaintiffs] are entitled to raid the coffers of the state of Afghanistan to pay the Taliban’s debts.” The money was part of $7 billion of Afghan funds that were deposited in the New York Federal Reserve and frozen by President Biden after the Taliban takeover in 2021. He subsequently allocated half of that money to aid efforts in Afghanistan, as Afghans and rights groups fought to return all the funds to the Afghan people amid an ongoing humanitarian disaster.

Turkey Fines Broadcasters Critical of Government Response to Deadly Earthquakes

Feb 23, 2023

The combined death toll from the February 6 earthquake and its aftershocks in Turkey and Syria has topped 49,000, according to CNN, and continues to rise. The U.N. is warning there is an urgent need for shelter and aid in both countries. At least 1.5 million people in Turkey became homeless from the quakes. Meanwhile, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued fines to three broadcasters who aired coverage critical of the official earthquake response.

Nigerians Prepare to Vote in High-Stakes Presidential Election Amid Ongoing Violence

Feb 23, 2023

In Nigeria, 18 presidential candidates have signed a second peace pact ahead of Saturday’s pivotal election in Africa’s most populous nation. Nigerians will cast ballots for their next president, as well as lawmakers, as Muhammadu Buhari steps down after serving the two presidential terms allowed by the constitution. It’s the first time a candidate who is not from one of the two main parties could win since the end of military rule nearly a quarter of a century ago. The three front-runners are Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition party Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Voters are hoping the next leader will be able to address the ongoing security threats, from insurgents to kidnappings, as well as double-digit inflation and unprecedented oil theft.

Violence has plagued Nigeria in the run-up to the election. On Wednesday, gunmen killed a senatorial candidate from the Labour Party in southeastern Enugu State, just days after suspected rebels killed eight police officers. Some people say they will not vote for fear of reprisals as Nigeria’s electoral commission announced Monday that 240 polling stations will remain closed because of security concerns. This is a farmer in Zamfara state who was forced to flee his home last year after his community came under attack.

Ahmadu Garkuwa: “Because my life is being threatened by bandits, they are targeting my life. I barely managed to escape from the east, and they are still looking for me. So how can I go out and cast my vote?”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Subpoenaed in Jan. 6 Criminal Probe

Feb 23, 2023

Here in the United States, the special counsel leading the Justice Department’s criminal probes into Donald Trump has subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to testify to a federal grand jury about efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. That’s according to The New York Times, which reports the subpoenas by special counsel Jack Smith follow similar efforts to compel the testimony of Vice President Mike Pence, who’s reportedly resisting his subpoena. Trump’s former national security adviser Robert O’Brien and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were also recently subpoenaed by Smith. 

Minnesota Lawmakers Approve Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Residents, Voter Reenfranchisement

Feb 23, 2023

Minnesota lawmakers have approved a bill ending a requirement that applicants seeking a driver’s license show proof of legal residence in the United States. Democratic Governor Tim Walz has promised to sign the Driver’s Licenses for All bill, which will benefit more than 80,000 undocumented immigrants, most of whom are over the legal driving age of 16. The legislation was co-sponsored by state Senator Zaynab Mohamed, who moved to Minneapolis with her family at age 9 from Somalia. 

Sen. Zaynab Mohamed: “What we’re doing is we’re doing a rule change to allow undocumented people to not have to provide Social Security numbers, because they don’t have that. This debate is about the safety of our roads, and we can debate that tonight if you’d like, because there are 40,000 accidents on the highways. And the people of Minnesota, they want to make sure that the people who are driving on our roads have the driver education that they need.”

Passage of the Driver’s Licenses for All bill caps two decades of campaigning by immigrant rights groups. Also on Wednesday, Minnesota senators approved a bill to restore voting rights to people convicted of felonies as soon as they’re released from prison, rather than once they’ve completed their parole. Current restrictions on voting have disproportionately affected Black and Native American Minnesotans. 

Florida Shooting Leaves 3 Dead, Including 9-Year-Old and a Journalist 

Feb 23, 2023

In Florida, three people were shot dead Wednesday in Orange County, including a 9-year-old girl and a journalist. The violence began when a gunman opened fire on a 20-year-old woman, killing her. Hours later, the suspect returned to the scene and fired on journalists covering the initial shooting, killing 24-year-old Spectrum News reporter Dylan Lyons and critically wounding photojournalist Jesse Walden. The 9-year-old was shot dead inside a home where her mother was also found in critical condition. Police arrested a suspect with a lengthy criminal history that includes weapons charges. Weekend news anchor Luana Munoz of Orlando NBC affiliate WESH covered the scene.

Luana Munoz: “This is every reporter’s absolutely worst nightmare. We go home at night afraid that something like this will occur. And that is what happened here. So, again, we are at Orlando Regional Medical Center, where we have learned that one of our own, a fellow reporter, has died while out covering a shooting.”

The Orlando shootings came as four family members were found shot to death in Daphne, Alabama. They were the 83rd and 84th mass shootings recorded in the United States since January 1. 

Pete Buttigieg in East Palestine as Pennsylvania Weighs Criminal Charges over Norfolk Southern Crash

Feb 23, 2023

The attorney general of Pennsylvania is investigating possible criminal charges over the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, just across the border in Ohio. Governor Josh Shapiro said environmental officials are continuing to monitor for any contamination in Pennsylvania. Shapiro spoke Tuesday at a press conference with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and EPA head Michael Regan.

Gov. Josh Shapiro: “We will hold accountable Norfolk Southern, the company that made this vigilance necessary. The combination of Norfolk Southern’s corporate greed, incompetence and lack of care for our residents is absolutely unacceptable to me.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is visiting East Palestine today after coming under enormous pressure for his initial response to the disaster. Critics say he should have visited the site of the crash immediately, and rejected his claims that he was powerless to improve rail regulations.

On Wednesday, former President Trump visited East Palestine and blasted Biden’s response to the crash, as well as his absence, saying he was busy “touring Ukraine.” In 2018, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era rule that would have required more sophisticated brakes on trains carrying hazardous materials. Trump’s EPA also rolled back many environmental regulations.

Indian Point Nuclear Plant Owner Plans to Dump Radioactive Waste Water into Hudson River 

Feb 23, 2023

Here in New York, environmental groups and community members are sounding the alarm after Holtec International, the owner of the decommissioned Indian Point nuclear facility, said it plans to dump some 1 million gallons of radioactive water into the Hudson River as soon as August. The water contains tritium, a byproduct of nuclear fission that cannot be filtered out of water and which could lead to a host of negative environmental and health effects. The advocacy group Riverkeeper said, “It’s time to draw the line against using the Hudson as a dumping ground.”

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