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HeadlinesMay 31, 2023

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Debt Limit Deal Heads to House Vote Amid Objections on Both the Left and Right

May 31, 2023

Lawmakers in the U.S. House are voting today on a bill to suspend the debt limit until January 2025, as Congress races against the clock to avert a potentially disastrous default on June 5. On Tuesday, at least 20 far-right Republicans rejected Kevin McCarthy’s debt ceiling deal with President Biden. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are threatening to trigger a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker if the bill passes.

Some progressives have also indicated they will vote down the deal over its work requirements for social programs, and so-called oil and gas “permitting reforms.” Lawmakers on the House Rules Committee narrowly voted to bring the bill to the floor Tuesday evening after exchanging cross-party jabs. This is Pennsylvania Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, who voted against the bill.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon: “Here we are today, forced to address a manufactured debt ceiling crisis that has rattled global economic markets because right-wing members of the House have a stranglehold on House majority and its leadership. Republicans in the House, influenced by their most extreme members, decided to hold our country’s economy hostage in order to take food out of the mouths of hungry Americans.”

NYC Climate Protesters Call on Sen. Schumer to Remove Climate Concessions Before Passing Debt Deal

May 31, 2023

Here in New York, climate protesters rallied near the Brooklyn home of Senator Chuck Schumer to demand the final debt ceiling deal not include any concessions on the climate crisis. This is Betamia Coronel of the Center for Popular Democracy.

Betamia Coronel: “The deal that Senator Schumer and other Democratic leaders are cutting with Joe Manchin and the Republican Party really just proves to us that they don’t give a [bleep] about people. They don’t give a [bleep] about people. The debt ceiling will fast-track the Mountain Valley Pipeline, poisoning every poor community along its path and dumping millions of pounds of carbon, accelerating the crisis.”

Activists noted that Schumer received over $280,000 in donations this election cycle from NextEra Energy, a stakeholder in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is also a top donor to Joe Manchin.

Climate Crisis: Canada Wildfires Grow; Heat Wave Scorches Asia; EU Ups Summer Firefighting Force

May 31, 2023

In Canada, authorities in Nova Scotia have declared an emergency and evacuated over 18,000 people as wildfires rage outside Halifax amid record-breaking heat. Air quality alerts were issued in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Asia’s heat wave also continues to smash records, with Shanghai reaching its highest May temperature in over a century at 97 degrees Fahrenheit. In India, the thermostat hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit in recent weeks, as many laborers and poor workers have no choice but to keep working outdoors in the extreme heat.

Meanwhile, the EU said this week it is doubling its aerial firefighting fleet to tackle worsening summer forest fires due to the climate crisis.

Janez Lenarčič: “Disasters are occurring with increased frequency and intensity. In recent years, we have seen wildfires raging in countries in the central and even northern Europe. And we have seen historic floods just now in Italy or two years ago in Germany and Belgium. This is why we are scaling up our response capacity across the mechanism, including our ability to tackle wildfires.”

Tech Experts Warn Against “Risk of Extinction from AI”

May 31, 2023

Hundreds of artificial intelligence experts, as well as tech executives, scholars and others, are warning that AI poses an existential threat. The ominous one-line statement reads, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.” Among the signatories is Geoffrey Hinton, who has been dubbed “the godfather” of AI. He recently quit Google so he could warn of the dangers of the technology he helped build.

Experts say the greatest dangers may come with the development of “artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, in which machines would have cognitive abilities akin or superior to human beings, and that it could happen sooner than previously thought. Many have called for a pause on introducing new AI technology until strong government regulations are put into place.

Hotline Workers at Nat’l Eating Disorder Association Are Being Replaced by Chatbot

May 31, 2023

Fears are growing around AI’s threats to the workforce. Starting tomorrow, June 1, hotline operators at the National Eating Disorders Association are scheduled to be replaced by a “wellness chatbot” named Tessa. Workers say executives at the organization moved to fire them and replace them with AI in retaliation for unionizing.

Sudan’s Army Suspends Participation in Ceasefire Talks

May 31, 2023

The Sudanese army has suspended its participation in ceasefire talks as a shaky truce with the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, set to expire Monday, has been punctured by ongoing fighting in and around the capital Khartoum. The talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, aimed to protect and bring much needed humanitarian aid to the civilian population. The war has forcibly displaced 1.4 million people in the past six weeks, while the U.N. says some 25 million people — over half the population — need assistance.


NATO to Deploy 700 More Troops to Kosovo Amid Mounting Tensions

May 31, 2023

NATO has announced it will deploy another 700 troops to northern Kosovo after at least 52 protesters and 30 NATO peacekeeping troops were injured during protests on Monday. The protests were held after Kosovo sent armed forces to install ethnic Albanians to serve as mayors in four heavily Serbian areas where ethnic Serbs had boycotted a recent election. On Tuesday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić blamed the hostilities on Kosovo, which Serbia does not recognize as an independent country.


Over 1 Million Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh at Risk of Humanitarian Aid Shortages

May 31, 2023

A U.N. special rapporteur warns international support for more than 1 million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladeshi camps is “grossly insufficient.” According to the U.N., about $876 million is needed to support Rohingya refugees for a year, but only 17% of that has been pledged to date. The World Food Programme has been forced to make additional cuts due to funding shortages, dramatically scaling back its food assistance efforts for Rohingya refugees.

Malta May Have Violated International Law by Neglecting Calls for Help from Refugee Ship

May 31, 2023

Humanitarian aid groups are accusing Malta of violating international law after facilitating the forced return of hundreds of asylum seekers to Libya, where they were then imprisoned under horrific conditions. The group of some 500 migrants, including dozens of children and pregnant people, were on a boat to Europe when their ship went adrift last week, leaving them stranded in the Mediterranean as the boat started filling up with water. The asylum seekers called a humanitarian hotline for help. Maltese authorities responsible for search and rescue missions in the region never arrived. The group was instead captured at sea by what’s believed to be a Libyan militia group, and taken to a prison in Benghazi. Human rights groups have long denounced the torture, forced disappearances and other dangers faced by asylum seekers in Libya, which U.N. experts say amount to crimes against humanity.

U.N. Launches Operation to Remove Oil from Decaying Tanker Off Yemen’s Coast

May 31, 2023

In Yemen, the United Nations has begun an operation to salvage over 1 million barrels of oil from a decaying tanker anchored in the Red Sea. It comes after years of delay and mounting warnings of a potentially catastrophic oil spill off the Yemeni coastline after maintenance on the Safer tanker was suspended in 2015 due to the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Indigenous Groups in Brazil Protest Against Bill Restricting Protections for Tribal Land

May 31, 2023

In Brazil, Indigenous groups took to the streets across the country Tuesday protesting a proposed law that would limit their ability to obtain protected status for their ancestral lands by excluding Indigenous communities that were expelled before October 1988, when Brazil’s current constitution was adopted. Brazil’s lower house approved the legislation after growing pressure from powerful agricultural groups. In São Paulo, police fired tear gas at demonstrators.

Kerexu Rete Guarani: “We are in a national protest with the original peoples of this territory. Today, in the name of Brazil, we are fighting for life. Here are my people, the Guaraní people, fighting, saying no to the law of death, saying no to the law of destruction, saying no to the timeframe.”

In April, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recognized six ancestral lands, with the largest two in the Amazon, fulfilling a campaign promise to protect the rainforest from commercial exploitation.

Joshua Valles Is the Third Rikers Island Detainee to Die in 2023

May 31, 2023

In New York, a detainee at Rikers Island died last week after becoming sick. Thirty-one-year-old Joshua Valles was being held at the psychiatric unit and was transferred to a hospital after complaining of a headache and vomiting. He died a week later. Joshua Valles is the third death at Rikers this year. 2022 was the deadliest year at the jail complex in almost a decade. A recent report by a federal monitor warned prisoners at Rikers are at “imminent risk” of harm, and renewed calls for a federal takeover of New York City jails.

Elizabeth Holmes Reports to Prison to Start 11-Year Sentence for Defrauding Theranos Investors

May 31, 2023

Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes reported to a federal prison in Texas Tuesday to begin her 11-year sentence after she was convicted of defrauding investors in her blood testing company. Holmes was declared the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire by Forbes in 2014 after securing hefty investments by falsely claiming Theranos machines could run a wide range of diagnostic tests from a few drops of blood. Holmes has appealed her case but will remain in prison during legal proceedings.

Federal Trial Begins for 2018 Massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue

May 31, 2023

In Pittsburgh, the federal death penalty trial of the gunman accused of killing 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 is underway. On Tuesday, jurors listened to a 911 audio recording that contained the last words of 84-year-old Bernice Simon, one of the massacre’s victims. Simon told the dispatcher, “I’m scared to death,” over background audio of screams and gunshots.

Robert Bowers has pleaded not guilty to 63 charges, including hate crimes. Investigators say Bowers posted antisemitic comments and racist memes online in the months ahead of the shooting and called immigrants “invaders.” If convicted, he could face execution.

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