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HeadlinesFebruary 07, 2023

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Death Toll from Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria Tops 5,000

Feb 07, 2023

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a three-month state of emergency after the death toll from Monday’s catastrophic earthquakes topped 5,000 and continued to rise. The World Health Organization warns the number of dead could ultimately increase eightfold, with some 23 million people affected by two major earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. Hundreds of aftershocks followed. The quakes caused thousands of buildings to collapse, trapping people under rubble amid freezing temperatures. In Turkey’s border province of Hatay, residents anxiously searched for loved ones among the wreckage.

Cennet Inal: “Our relatives are dead. My sister’s daughter died. She was 17. My sister-in-law’s children are stranded under rubble. She’s there with three children. They are not rescued yet. God, please help us. Please pray for us. I beg you: Pray for us. Pray for us. There are aftershocks. It’s uncertain what will happen to us.”

Earthquakes Compound Humanitarian Crisis in Northern Syria

Feb 07, 2023

The earthquakes struck as fighting continued along the Turkey-Syria border between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters. The United Nations reports more than 4 million people in northwest Syria where the deadly earthquake struck already rely on humanitarian assistance. The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Syria said Monday the quake is preventing aid workers from accessing northern Syria through the single border crossing into the region.

El-Mostafa Benlamih: “The infrastructure is damaged. Roads that we used to use for humanitarian work are damaged. We have to be creative in how to get to the people and how to get to them the assistance.”

Russia’s Military Masses Hundreds of Thousands of Troops for Ukraine Offensive

Feb 07, 2023

Ukrainian officials say Russia’s military is massing hundreds of thousands of troops for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine, set to begin as early as next week. This comes amid heavy fighting in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russian troops are attempting to encircle the city of Bakhmut.

Here in the United States, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is in Washington, D.C., today for talks with senior Biden administration officials and congressional leaders. His trip comes a day after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for an end to the conflict in Ukraine, saying he fears the world is “sleepwalking into a wider war.”

47 Hong Kong Activists Go on Trial for “Conspiring to Commit Subversion”

Feb 07, 2023

In Hong Kong, authorities have opened a trial for 47 pro-democracy activists and politicians accused of violating a sweeping national security law imposed in 2020. Sixteen of the activists have pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, which could see them sent to prison for life. Chinese authorities have accused the activists of “conspiring to commit subversion” by holding an unofficial primary election. This is Chan Po-ying, a longtime activist with the League of Social Democrats and spouse of a former legislator who’s among the 47 facing charges.

Chan Po-ying: “For the League of Social Democrats and many Hong Kong people, it would never have occurred to them that participating in the primaries and participating in the Legislative Council in a peaceful manner would be considered illegal means. We will wait and see what the prosecution side says the reasons are, but we think that participation in the primary election is not guilty. So we think this is a political repression, and all those arrested should be released.”

Crews Release Poisonous Gases from Wreckage of Train That Derailed in Ohio

Feb 07, 2023

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered residents of the village of East Palestine to evacuate their homes and businesses Monday, after a freight train crash spread smoke and toxic chemicals into the community 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Gov. Mike DeWine: “You need to leave. You just need to leave. We are ordering you to leave. This is a matter of life and death.”

On Friday evening, a freight train derailment triggered a massive fire that engulfed the surrounding area in smoke and threatened to cause a major explosion. The wreckage contained poisonous chemicals including phosgene, hydrogen chloride and vinyl chloride. On Monday, the train’s operator, Norfolk Southern, said it carried out a controlled release of the chemicals into the air. Some residents of East Palestine who packed into emergency shelters said they will be reluctant to return to their homes.

Jami Cozza: “The creek by my house had a very, very strong chemical smell to it. I went in my house. It was worse. I gathered clothes up and left. When I left, the clothes stunk so bad, even the ones that were in my dryer, that I had to wash them at the hotel. My laptop for work stunk like chemicals. There’s definitely something going on with the water, and I don’t even know that I want to go back when they lift the evacuation.”

The accident brought renewed attention to so-called bomb trains transporting crude oil and other dangerous chemicals through communities across the United States.

White House Rejects GOP Commission as a “Death Panel for Medicare and Social Security”

Feb 07, 2023

The White House has condemned a bid by House Republicans to create a commission to explore cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of negotiations on raising the United States’ debt ceiling. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told Bloomberg News, “The American people want more jobs and lower costs, not a death panel for Medicare and Social Security.” This comes after House Republicans introduced a bill to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains major climate investments and allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs.

Biden to Call for Assault Weapons Ban and Police Reform in State of the Union Address

Feb 07, 2023

President Joe Biden is set to deliver his annual State of the Union speech this evening. Several special guests have been invited to attend, among them, Brett Cross, whose son was one of 19 schoolchildren killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, last May, and the parents of Tyre Nichols, whose killing at the hands of Memphis police last month prompted murder charges against five officers. Biden will use his address to push for a ban on assault weapons and the passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

George Santos Accused of Sexually Harassing Prospective Staffer

Feb 07, 2023

Embattled New York Republican Congressmember George Santos is facing fresh scrutiny after a prospective staffer in his Capitol Hill office accused Santos of sexual harassment. Derek Myers made the allegation on Twitter, publishing a complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports Santos told potential donors in 2021 that he had been a producer for the Broadway flop, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” A spokesperson for the short-lived musical responded, “Of all the tribulations the producers … had to endure, we are very pleased, proud and relieved to report working with George Santos was not one of them.” This comes after reports emerged that the Brazilian lawyer that Santos hired to defend him against fraud charges in Brazil was convicted and incarcerated for his involvement in a gang execution in 2007.

Autopsy Reveals “Cop City” Protester Was Shot 13 Times by Police in Atlanta

Feb 07, 2023

In Georgia, the family members of environmental activist Manuel Esteban Páez Terán said Monday multiple Atlanta police officers shot the 26-year-old at least 13 times, killing Terán during a raid last month on a peaceful encampment of protesters opposed to the proposed construction of “Cop City,” a $90 million police training complex in the Weelaunee Forest. The family conducted a private autopsy of Terán, who went by the name Tortuguita, and demanded access to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the fatal shooting. Terán’s family, including their mother Belkis, spoke out publicly for the first time at a press conference outside the DeKalb County Courthouse Monday. They denounced charges of domestic terrorism against dozens of other Atlanta forest defenders who’ve been arrested. This is Terán’s brother, Daniel Páez.

Daniel Páez: “Calling protesters only charged with trespassing misdemeanor as terrorists is not absolute honesty and trustworthiness. Raise your hand if you know of any terrorists known for their infamous trespassing. We have been lied to. That is the truth. My call to action goes to the police officers: Find your moral courage and place your nation over loyalty to individuals. Forcefully stop each other from killing civilians.”

Documents Reveal ICE Officers’ Racist and Violent Language Against Black Asylum Seekers

Feb 07, 2023

Immigration rights advocates have released a series of newly obtained documents revealing the racist and violent language used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials against Black asylum seekers. The communications between ICE agents are from 2020 and 2021, while the Biden administration mass deported Black asylum seekers to Cameroon and other African countries in what became known as “death flights.”

Dozens of Cameroonian asylum seekers deported by the U.S. faced torture, sexual violence and forced disappearances upon returning to their home country. At the time, Cameroonian asylum seekers also denounced torture from ICE agents who assaulted and restrained them and many times violently forced them to sign their deportation orders. In one email chain, an ICE official compares deportations to sports, while a high-ranking ICE official living in Cameroon complained about having difficulties finding a Catholic church there that wasn’t “aficanized” [sic].

In a statement, Luz López of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project said, “Black migrants suffer unfair and cruel treatment by racist U.S. immigration policies when seeking safety from gang-related violence, political instability, and extreme disasters. For decades, they have been denied due process rights and endured immoral and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. and international laws, exposing them to further abuse, discrimination and even death.”

Asylum Seekers End Hunger Strike at ICE Jail in Tacoma, Washington

Feb 07, 2023

Over 150 people locked up at ICE’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, have ended their hunger strike after nearly a week but said they are ready to restart the peaceful demonstration if officials don’t fulfill their promise to improve living conditions. Their demands included nutritious meals, clean facilities and proper medical care. Hunger strikers reported retaliation from ICE and the GEO Group, which runs the detention center.

Federal Agents Arrest Neo-Nazi Leader over Plot to Attack Maryland’s Power Grid

Feb 07, 2023

In Maryland, two people, including a neo-Nazi leader, were arrested and charged with plotting to attack the state’s power grid. Brandon Russell appeared in a Baltimore court Monday, while Sarah Clendaniel, whom Russell met while in prison, was indicted in Florida. The two face up to 20 years in prison. This is FBI special agent Thomas Sobocinski.

Thomas Sobocinski: “Sarah Beth Clendaniel and Brandon Russell conspired to inflict maximum harm on the power grid, a key component of our critical infrastructure. The accused were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals.”

The White House has said white supremacists and violent extremist militias pose the most significant domestic terrorism threat in the United States.

Protesters Demand Freedom for Leonard Peltier After 47 Years Behind Bars

Feb 07, 2023

Supporters of Leonard Peltier rallied in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world Monday, calling for the release of the 78-year-old Indigenous rights activist. The protests came as Peltier entered into his 48th year behind bars for a crime he says he did not commit. His 1977 conviction for alleged involvement in killing two FBI agents in a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation was riddled with irregularities and prosecutorial misconduct. Last month, former senior FBI agent Coleen Rowley told The Guardian that in the 1990s she helped ghostwrite an op-ed arguing against Peltier’s release. She said that for years new FBI agents were “indoctrinated” against Peltier. This is Christina Castro, an Indigenous activist from New Mexico, speaking at a rally for Leonard Peltier Monday in Santa Fe.

Christina Castro: “Now the government is actually admitting they don’t know who shot these FBI agents, but they will not give him a new trial or grant him clemency or a compassionate release, based on a pure revenge and systemic racist agenda.”

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