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HeadlinesMarch 17, 2023

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Yellen Declares, “Our Banking System Is Sound,” as Wall Street Props Up First Republic Bank

Mar 17, 2023

Wall Street’s largest banks have moved to prop up the ailing San Francisco-based First Republic Bank after the sudden collapse of regional banks Signature and SVB last week sparked fears of a financial meltdown. Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo will each make $5 billion in uninsured deposits into First Republic, while seven other Wall Street firms will deposit a further $10 billion. The Federal Reserve reports Wall Street firms have received about $300 billion in emergency lending over the past week — roughly half what the Fed loaned banks during the 2008 financial crisis. On Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sought to reassure the Senate Finance Committee over the stability of U.S. financial markets. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: “I can reassure the members of the committee that our banking system is sound and that Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them.”

Yellen defended the Biden administration’s decision to allow all depositors at SVB and Signature to recover their assets after the banks collapsed, using money from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. That’s despite the fact that over 93% of assets at SVB and Signature were not insured by the FDIC. Under questioning from senators, Yellen admitted that smaller banks that fail might not get the same treatment.

Iran Agrees to Stop Arming Yemen’s Houthis in Pact with Saudi Arabia

Mar 17, 2023

The United Nations says there is encouraging momentum in the effort to end the war in Yemen after more than eight years of conflict. U.S. and Saudi officials said Iran has agreed to stop arming Houthis in Yemen as part of the recent China-brokered deal to restore diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Here in the U.S., Senators Chris Murphy and Mike Lee introduced a bipartisan resolution this week that would require the U.S. to report on Saudi human rights abuses, with the goal of ending U.S. arms sales to the kingdom. The humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen has left over 17 million people in need of assistance.

Poland and Slovakia Will Send Fighter Jets to Ukraine

Mar 17, 2023

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Thursday his government will ship four Soviet-era MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, becoming the first nation since Russia’s invasion to meet Ukraine’s request to deliver warplanes. Following that announcement, Slovakia’s government said it would transfer 13 MiG fighters to Ukraine. Finland, the Netherlands and other NATO members are considering similar transfers. 

U.N. Inquiry on Ukraine Finds Wide Evidence of Russian War Crimes

Mar 17, 2023

In Geneva, the U.N.-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said Thursday Russia has committed wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine, including possible crimes against humanity. Erik Møse is chair of the commission.

Erik Møse: “The commission has concluded that the Russian authorities have committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in addition to a wide range of war crimes, including the war crime of excessive incidental death, injury or damage, willful killings, torture, inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement, rape, as well as unlawful transfer and deportation.”

China Urges Diplomatic End to War in Ukraine as Xi Jinping Plans Trip to Kremlin

Mar 17, 2023

China’s foreign minister said Thursday he called his Russian counterpart to urge a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, warning the conflict could spiral out of control. The warning came as China announced President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow early next week to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Biden Approves Sale of 220 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to Australia 

Mar 17, 2023

Australia has agreed to purchase 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States at a cost of nearly $1 billion. The State Department approved the sale Thursday, just days after President Biden formally announced plans to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia in a bid to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

White House Threatens to Ban TikTok Unless Chinese Owners Sell Stakes

Mar 17, 2023

The Biden administration is threatening to ban TikTok if its Chinese owners refuse to sell their stake in the U.S. version of the hugely popular video-sharing app. TikTok has been the target of increasing scrutiny by some lawmakers who say it’s a threat to national security and that its owner, Beijing-based ByteDance, could use Americans’ personal data. On Thursday, the U.K. became the latest country to announce TikTok would be banned on government devices, following similar bans by the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

Israeli Forces Kill 4 More Palestinians in Jenin Ahead of Security Talks in Egypt

Mar 17, 2023

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians, including a teenager, in a raid on the city of Jenin Thursday. The deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year to at least 83. The Palestinian Authority and Israel are scheduled to hold security talks in Egypt over the weekend, which will include officials from Egypt, Jordan and the U.S.

Macron Pushes Through Pension Reform Despite Overwhelming Public Opposition

Mar 17, 2023

Fresh protests erupted across France Thursday after President Emmanuel Macron bypassed Parliament and invoked executive powers to push through a highly contested law raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron took the drastic step after it appeared he might not have the necessary support in the National Assembly. Lawmakers booed and sang the national anthem while holding up protest signs, and signaled Macron could soon face a no-confidence vote by opposition parties. Massive protests and prolonged strikes have rocked France over the past two months as union leaders vowed to keep up the disruptions. This is a teacher speaking from Thursday’s protests in Paris.

Olivier Chaibi: “It’s proof that the president’s party is a minority in Parliament, but he is also a minority in public opinion. The responsibility is on President Macron. After he refused to have dialogue with the unions, he decided to pass this law by force. This law, which is unfair and unpopular, will result in people working more to get less.”

Strikes and Protests Continue in U.K. as Workers Demand Living Wages

Mar 17, 2023

In the United Kingdom, unions representing medical workers, including nurses and paramedics, have agreed to a tentative deal on pay raises that would recover ground lost to inflation. Union leaders hailed the deal as a historic victory, capping months of rolling strikes by thousands of workers at the National Health Service. About 100,000 civil servants and others, including junior doctors at NHS, remain in a long-running dispute over pay, pension and job security.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government says it has agreed to “intensive talks” on teacher pay and classroom sizes with an estimated 200,000 teachers in England and Wales, who hit picket lines this week for a three-day strike action. Teachers were among tens of thousands of people who marched through the streets of London on Wednesday.

Ferdushi Mohshin: “I can’t sit back and watch education decimated. It’s not just about teacher pay. We’re talking about funding for schools. Our children deserve so much better than this. They are our future.”

General Strike Brings Greece to Standstill Amid Anger over Fatal Train Crash

Mar 17, 2023

In Greece, riot police deployed tear gas and sound grenades against protesters Thursday as workers held a general strike amid ongoing anger over last month’s rail disaster that killed 57 people. The strike grounded flights, halted public transport, kept ferries docked, canceled classes and left public hospitals running with emergency staff. Rail workers say government neglect and privatization led to the decay of the train system.

High Levels of Toxic Chemicals Detected in East Palestine Soil After Train Derailment

Mar 17, 2023

In East Palestine, Ohio, newly released data shows soil around the site of February’s Norfolk Southern train derailment contains levels of dioxin hundreds of times higher than what’s considered safe. That’s according to The Guardian, which had the data reviewed by former EPA officials and other chemical experts, who said dioxins found in East Palestine were extremely concerning, even if they’re below the federal cleanup threshold. The findings also contradicted assertions by the EPA, which told Congress last week dioxin levels were “very low.” In 2010, when the EPA found dioxin poses cancer risks, the agency tried to have those limits lowered, but the Obama administration kept the higher threshold in place.

In related news, two trains operated by BNSF derailed in Arizona and Washington state Thursday. In Washington, cleanup teams were deployed after some 5,000 gallons of fuel leaked onto the Swinomish tribal reservation.

North Dakota Supreme Court Leaves Access to Abortion in Place as Ban Is Challenged

Mar 17, 2023

North Dakota’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday the state’s abortion ban should remain on hold while a lawsuit over its constitutionality is resolved. North Dakota’s anti-abortion “trigger law” was supposed to take effect once Roe v. Wade was overturned, but a lower court temporarily blocked it last summer, arguing abortion rights are protected by the state Constitution. The legislation makes it a felony to perform an abortion — with limited exceptions in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency.

L.A. Times to Stop Using “Internment” to Describe Imprisonment of Japanese Americans in WWII

Mar 17, 2023

The Los Angeles Times announced Thursday it will no longer use the word “internment” to describe the mass imprisonment of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. It will instead use terms like “incarceration,” “imprisonment” or “detention.” It’s the latest step taken by the paper to rectify the harm it caused during the war, when it called for the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans. The L.A. Times issued a formal editorial apology six years ago.

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