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HeadlinesFebruary 03, 2023

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Pope Francis Arrives in South Sudan as Fighting Kills 27

Feb 03, 2023

As Pope Francis visits South Sudan today, 27 people, including five children, were killed in clashes between cattle herders and militia members Thursday. The Vatican said the pope’s visit came in the hopes of reinvigorating a troubled peace process following a decade of conflict in South Sudan since its establishment in 2011. The pope’s visit comes after he spent the week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than a million worshipers attended his Mass in Kinshasa. He condemned the simultaneous exploitation and neglect of the region by Western powers. 

Pope Francis: “The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood. This is a tragedy to which the economically more advanced world often closes its eyes, ears and mouth. Yet this country and this continent deserve to be respected and listened to. They deserve to find space and receive attention. Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa. It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.”

Congolese Survivors of Abuse by Catholic Priests Demand Pope Take Action

Feb 03, 2023

On Thursday, protesters gathered outside Kinshasa’s Notre Dame Cathedral to denounce systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Advocates are drawing attention the case of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a priest in the DRC, and demanding the church apply a 2019 law enacted by the pope to hold bishops accountable for sex abuse or for covering it up. This is Tim Law, founder of Ending Clergy Abuse. 

Tim Law: “What happened after the abuse was reported to the bishop, the good sisters and priests that reported it all got fired, and the order disbanded, and the girl has left the country in fear of her life. If the pope doesn’t enforce this law, he’s sending a message throughout all of Africa: 'Bishops, it doesn't matter. Do what you want.’ If he enforces this law, he sends the message that he cares about the African children.”

Putin Compares Ukraine War to Battle of Stalingrad; EU Officials Meet Zelensky in Kyiv

Feb 03, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has welcomed the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Kyiv for talks on Ukraine’s push to join the European Union. EU officials have said Ukraine’s accession to the 27-member bloc will, at a minimum, take several more years, as Ukraine needs to ensure more anti-corruption measures. At Thursday’s summit, von der Leyen also said the commission will set up a dedicated office at The Hague to prosecute war crimes committed by Russia during its war on Ukraine.

Her remarks came as Russian President Vladimir Putin compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II. Putin spoke at a ceremony in Volgograd commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi forces.

President Vladimir Putin: “Now, unfortunately, we see that the ideology of Nazism, in its modern form and manifestation, once again directly threatens the security of our country. Again and again, we have to repel the aggression of the collective West.”

Republicans Oust Rep. Ilhan Omar from House Foreign Affairs Committee

Feb 03, 2023

On Capitol Hill, House Republicans have removed Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee after accusing her of antisemitism. Omar has been outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights and has repeatedly been accused by Republicans — and some Democratic leaders — for questioning U.S.-Israeli relations and criticizing the power of AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in Washington. Omar spoke from the House floor just before 218 Republicans voted to strip her committee assignments in Thursday’s party-line vote.

Rep. Ilhan Omar: “I didn’t come to Congress to be silent; I came to Congress to be their voice. And my leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world, as it has been.”

Omar came to the United States as a refugee after her family fled civil war in Somalia. She’s one of the first Muslim women to serve in the House. Democrats accused Republicans of political retribution over the removal of far-right Congressmembers Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from their committee assignments in the last Congress due to their violent and racist rhetoric. In 2021, Gosar became the first lawmaker to be censured in more than a decade for posting an animated video on social media where he murders Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacks President Biden. This is Ocasio-Cortez, speaking from the House floor Thursday. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I had a member of the Republican caucus threaten my life, and you all — and the Republican caucus rewarded him with one of the most prestigious committee assignments in this Congress. Don’t tell me this is about consistency. Don’t tell me that this is about a condemnation of antisemitic remarks, when you have a member of the Republican caucus who has talked about Jewish space lasers and an entire amount of tropes, and also elevated her to some of the highest committee assignments in this body. This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America. Don’t tell me, because I didn’t get a single apology” —

Chair: “Time has expired.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: — “when my life was threatened. Thank you.”

House Denounces “Horrors of Socialism” in Bipartisan Resolution

Feb 03, 2023

The House approved a bipartisan resolution Thursday to “denounce the horrors of socialism.” The nonbinding measure passed with the support of every Republican. One hundred nine Democrats voted yes, while 86 voted against it and 14 voted “present.” Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan, who voted no, said, “This resolution is plain ridiculous. It jointly condemns Pol Pot and Norway.” He accused Republicans of staging the vote to pressure Democrats to accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

1,000 Children Are Yet to Be Reunited with Families After Separation at U.S.-Mexico Border

Feb 03, 2023

In immigration news, nearly 1,000 asylum-seeking families remain separated after their children were forcibly taken at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. That’s according to the Homeland Security Department, which reported on Thursday that a task force created by the Biden administration has only been able to reunite some 689 children with their parents and relatives. An estimated 5,500 migrant children were separated from their families during Trump’s time in office; thousands have since been found and reunited with loved ones, largely due to the work of advocacy groups like the ACLU. President Biden had vowed to stop the practice and to pay reparations to the families separated by Trump. But his administration has now refused to pay restitution, while data shows Biden immigration officials have separated hundreds of families at the southern border.

Congressional Black Caucus Meets with Biden & Harris to Push for Police Reform 

Feb 03, 2023

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House Thursday, a day after the funeral of Tyre Nichols. This is Nevada Democrat Steven Horsford, chair of the CBC.

Rep. Steven Horsford: “The death of Tyre Nichols is yet another example of why we do need action. But you’ve already led on the action that we’ve been able to take through executive order. We need your help to make sure we can get the legislative actions that are necessary to save lives and to make public safety the priority that it needs to be for all communities.”

New Jersey Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour Gunned Down in Front of Her House

Feb 03, 2023

In New Jersey, a 30-year-old councilwoman was shot dead in her car outside her home Wednesday in the town of Sayreville. Eunice Dwumfour was elected in 2021 and was remembered by a colleague as someone who “wanted to make a better community for all our children.” The identity of the killer and their motive are still unknown. She leaves behind a young daughter and her husband.

U.S. Court Strikes Down Law Barring Domestic Violence Perpetrators from Owning Guns

Feb 03, 2023

A federal court has struck down a ban on gun ownership for some perpetrators of domestic violence. The ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals relies on an antiquated interpretation of gun laws and comes as the U.S. is seeing a surge of gun violence. The Gun Violence Archive says there were 52 mass shootings last month, making it the deadliest January since it started tracking such data. A 2021 study found that over two-thirds of mass shootings are either domestic violence incidents or are perpetrated by shooters with a history of domestic violence. The Justice Department said it plans to appeal Thursday’s ruling.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, at least two Republican lawmakers, including embattled New York Congressmember George Santos, have been spotted wearing AR-15 pins on their lapels. The office of Florida Congressmember Anna Paulina Luna said the shocking accessory is meant to promote a gun bill, though it’s unclear what that bill is.

Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan Freed and Resettled After 2 Decades of Detention, Years of Torture

Feb 03, 2023

The Biden administration has released Guantánamo Bay detainee Majid Khan after nearly 20 years in custody. In 2021, Khan became the first Guantánamo prisoner to testify in an open court about torture methods used by the CIA at its network of secret “black sites,” where Khan was detained in 2003 to 2006. This is Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, speaking to Democracy Now! in 2021.

Baher Azmy: “Majid Khan, to his credit, detailed the systematic, brutal, sadistic torture of U.S. government officials — namely, the CIA — which for nearly 20 years the U.S. government has tried to keep secret.”

Khan’s lawyer said in a statement, “Guantánamo is a national shame, and we hope that today is another step forward towards its ultimate closure. The men languishing in Guantánamo who have been cleared for release must be transferred; indefinite detention is anathema to a just society.”

On Thursday, Majid Khan arrived in Belize, which has agreed to permanently resettle him. His release came as the United Nations announced it’s sending a human rights official to the Guantánamo military prison for the first time ever. The U.S. continues to hold 34 prisoners at Guantánamo. Only 11 of them have been charged in military tribunals.

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