At the United Nations, negotiators from more than 190 countries have agreed to the first-ever international treaty to protect the high seas. The historic agreement caps nearly two decades of efforts by conservation groups. It seeks to establish marine protected areas covering 30% of the world’s seas by 2030 to protect ocean biodiversity. Environmentalists hailed the treaty’s passage as a major milestone and called on nations to swiftly adopt and ratify it. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in a statement the treaty “closes essential gaps in international law and offers a framework for governments to work together to protect global ocean health, climate resilience, and the socioeconomic wellbeing and food security of billions of people.” We’ll have more on the high seas treaty after headlines.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran have agreed to increase cooperation and monitoring of nuclear activities, following a visit by the IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi, to Tehran.
Rafael Grossi: “What we have agreed is on a number of concrete actions, like accesses that we are going to have to information and places. … I believe that an improvement, a marked improvement, at least in terms of my dialogue with the Iranian government, has been registered.”
The agreement offered a glimmer of hope following recent reports Iran successfully enriched uranium to near weapons-grade level and amid stalled talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. withdrew from in 2018 under President Trump.
In Iran, worried parents protested in the streets of Tehran and other cities Saturday following a spate of apparent poisonings at dozens of girls’ schools since November. Last week, authorities said they would investigate the attacks, which have affected hundreds of students, as well as teachers and staff, though no fatalities have been reported. Human Rights Watch warned authorities’ “long history of disregard for the basic rights of Iranian citizens, especially women and girls, leaves little reason to be hopeful.” This is a teacher at one of the targeted schools describing the experience.
Teacher: “The students all felt the same symptoms as me. They had coughs. Some of them said their eyes burned. And most of them were scared.”
A new report by the U.N. special rapporteur on Afghanistan warns the Taliban has “normalized” systemic violence and human rights abuses against women and girls, and says it may amount to gender persecution — a crime against humanity. The report condemns cases of arbitrary arrests of women protesters, as well as bans on women and girls from schools, most jobs, and even their use of public parks.
The report also finds journalists and dissidents are subjected to surveillance, harassment, violence and detention. Economic sanctions on the Taliban, and the loss of foreign aid, have also exacerbated humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan as an estimated 18.9 million Afghans — or half the population — are experiencing hunger.
In Pakistan, former Prime Minister Imran Khan evaded arrest Sunday as police showed up to his home in Lahore while hundreds of his supporters protested outside. Khan is accused of corruption and terrorism — charges he denies. Khan has been demanding a snap election since his ouster in a parliamentary vote early last year. Pakistan’s media regulator has banned the broadcasting of speeches and news conferences by Imran Khan.
In Bangladesh, a massive fire at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar has left at least 12,000 Rohingya Muslims without shelter. Some 2,000 housing structures, as well as health clinics, learning centers, water distributing facilities and over two dozen mosques were destroyed by the blaze. Many refugees returned to the site today to try to salvage some of their belongings from the burnt rubble. Authorities say one person has been detained in connection with the fire, which is still under investigation. Cox’s Bazar houses over 1 million Rohingya Muslims forced to flee violent persecution in Burma beginning in 2017.
In Nigeria, an explosion at a Shell oil pipeline killed at least 12 people Friday in the southern Rivers State. The blast came during a theft of crude oil, a booming illicit industry in Nigeria.
In related news, over 13,000 residents of the oil-rich Niger Delta joined a landmark British lawsuit against Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary earlier this year. The lawsuit is demanding compensation and cleanup for dozens of oil spills that have devastated land and waterways, destroying local livelihoods and ecosystems. Click here to see Democracy Now!'s documentary “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship.”
The U.K. will start removing asylum seekers who arrive on small boats through the English Channel, barring anyone who lands on British soil through unofficial ports of entry. Under the new rules, the removed individuals would also be barred from returning to the U.K. The Conservative British government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to “stop the boats” as one of its main priorities.
The Italian Coast Guard rescued over 200 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa Friday, as the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni has also imposed draconian anti-refugee policies.
Meanwhile, one of the victims of last month’s tragic shipwreck off the Calabrian coast has been identified as Shahida Raza, who played on Pakistan’s national soccer and field hockey teams. Raza, who was a member of the Shiite Muslim Hazara minority, had fled toward Europe in hopes of providing a better life for her disabled 3-year-old son.
In Greece, fresh protests rocked the streets of Athens Sunday as anger mounts over last week’s train crash that killed 57 people. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized for the disaster Sunday, saying in a statement, “We cannot, will not, and must not hide behind human error.” The station master at the Larissa railway station has been detained and awaits trial. Among the 10,000 estimated protesters yesterday were many rail workers.
Vasiliki Svarna: “We feel unspeakable grief over the incident. It is tragic. We cannot soothe the pain of the families who lost their kids, nor can we bring them back. But we are here so that nothing remains in darkness, for everything to be revealed to the bone, for those responsible to pay, those who have left the railway to its fate, all the governments, all these years.”
Here in the U.S., Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw will testify before a Senate panel Thursday about last month’s train derailment and contamination of East Palestine, Ohio. This comes as another Norfolk Southern train derailed near Springfield, Ohio, on Saturday, prompting officials to issue a temporary shelter-in-place order. Officials said none of the 28 train cars involved in the crash contained hazardous materials, though other sections of the 212-car train did contain dangerous chemicals, including propane.
President Biden was in Selma, Alabama, Sunday to mark the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when state troopers violently attacked Black voting rights activists as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Biden sought to refocus attention on voting rights legislation — which has stalled in Congress — as he is expected to soon announce his bid for reelection.
President Joe Biden: “The right to vote, to have your vote counted, is the threshold of democracy and liberty. With it, anything’s possible. Without it, without that right, nothing is possible. And this fundamental right remains under assault.”
In Maryland, former President Trump was met with thunderous applause at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where he delivered the keynote speech Saturday. Trump, who was introduced as “the next president of the United States,” gave a nearly two-hour address in which he railed against the investigations he is under, and lied about winning the 2020 election.
Donald Trump: “In 2016, I declared I am your voice. Today, I add: I am your warrior, I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
Trump’s likely competitor, right-wing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, addressed supporters at a rally in Southern California Sunday, where he repeated his motto, “[Florida] is where woke goes to die.”
Self-help author Marianne Williamson launched her bid for the Democratic nomination this weekend.
Marianne Williamson: “It is our job to create a vision of justice and love that is so powerful that it will override the forces of hatred and injustice and fear.”
Williamson, who also ran in 2020, said some of her key campaign promises were free healthcare, free college and free child care.
In Atlanta, at least 35 people were arrested Sunday as protesters marked the start of a nationwide week of action against Cop City, a $90 million police training facility being built in the Weelaunee Forest. The Defend the Atlanta Forest collective said those arrested were peaceful protesters who were attending a concert in the forest when they were surrounded by police. This comes less than two months after Atlanta police shot and killed Manuel Paez Terán, a 26-year-old environmental defender, who also went by the name Tortuguita.
At least 13 people have died across the U.S. in recent days from a mix of extreme weather events, including tornadoes, torrential rains and flooding across southern states, and historic snowfall on the West Coast. California officials say the unusually wet winter has helped ease some of the state’s decade-long drought, though scientists say it would take several consecutive winters like 2023’s to fully alleviate the statewide drought.
Nearly two dozen lawmakers are calling on President Biden to reject a massive oil and gas development in northern Alaska known as the Willow project. The project was initially approved by President Trump in 2020 and would have allowed ConocoPhillips to extract over 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years. The project was halted by a federal judge in 2021 after environmental and Indigenous groups sued. Since then, the Biden administration has been considering a scaled-down plan, and a final decision is expected within days. In a letter sent to President Biden Friday, 22 members of the House and Senate wrote, “No version of the Willow Master Development Plan is consistent with your commitments to combat the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.”
The trailblazing civil rights activist Judy Heumann died Saturday at the age of 75. Heumann was widely known as “the mother” of the U.S. disability rights movement, for breaking down barriers faced by disabled people and leading campaigns for historic legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 1970, Heumann became the first teacher in New York to use a wheelchair. In 1977, she led a 26-day sit-in protest at a federal building in San Francisco that led to enforcement of the Rehabilitation Act’s prohibition on discrimination against disabled people.
President Biden honored Heumann in a statement, writing, “After her school principal said she couldn’t enter Kindergarten because she was using a wheelchair, Judy dedicated the rest of her life to fighting for the inherent dignity of people with disabilities.”