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HeadlinesJuly 06, 2023

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IAEA Sees No Evidence of Explosives Planted at Russian-Held Nuclear Plant in Ukraine

Jul 06, 2023

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has seen no evidence to back claims by Ukraine’s government that Russia’s military has planted explosives at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. But the IAEA said it needed additional access to all six of Zaporizhzhia’s reactor buildings to be sure. Both Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of preparing to sabotage Europe’s biggest nuclear plant.

Overnight, a Russian missile attack on the western city of Lviv killed at least four people and injured 32 others. In eastern Ukraine, an airstrike triggered a massive fireball in the Russian-occupied city of Makiivka. Russian officials said the strike hit a hospital, killing one person and injuring dozens; Ukraine’s military says the video clearly shows it struck a Russian arms depot. 

Belarus President Says Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin Is in Russia

Jul 06, 2023

In Minsk, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said earlier today the head of Russia’s Wagner Group is not in Belarus and is instead in St. Petersburg, Russia. His surprise announcement came after Russian state TV broadcast images of police raids on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s office in St. Petersburg and one of his mansions. Prigozhin has not been seen publicly since June 24. President Lukashenko previously claimed Prigozhin had arrived in Belarus to live in exile as part of an agreement that ended a mutiny by Wagner forces as they advanced to within 120 miles of Moscow.

Biden Welcomes Swedish PM to White House, Pressing NATO Membership for Sweden

Jul 06, 2023

President Biden met with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the White House Wednesday ahead of NATO’s annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, next week.

President Joe Biden: “Sweden is going to make our alliance stronger and has the same value set that we have in NATO. And I’m really looking — anxiously looking forward for your membership.”

Sweden’s bid to join NATO has been blocked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who accuses Sweden of harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey. Turkey’s opposition to Sweden joining NATO is now facing a further challenge as protests have broken out in a number of Muslim countries after two men staged a demonstration in which they tore up and burned a Qur’an outside a Stockholm mosque last week. This is an Iranian protester speaking Monday in front of the Swedish Embassy in Tehran.

Mis Jabbari: “We declare that we are Muslims, and no country has the right to insult the Qur’an and cannot desecrate the Qur’an. And if they insult it, they will be given a strong response.” 
Pope Francis has also condemned the Qur’an burning.

U.S. Judge Restricts Biden Administration’s Ability to Stem Misinformation on Social Media

Jul 06, 2023

A federal judge in Louisiana has barred Biden administration officials from asking social media companies to remove misinformation from websites and apps. The ruling has broad ramifications for the ability of government officials to engage with the public through popular online forums. In a 155-page ruling handed down Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty — a Trump appointee — issued an injunction against federal officials and agencies contacting sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, siding with Republican attorneys general who accused President Biden of trying to silence his critics. Judge Doughty said several federal officials violated the First Amendment when they asked social media companies to take down misinformation about COVID-19, including false content about vaccines and the effectiveness of wearing masks. The judge also accused officials of “suppressing” free speech by battling claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Legal observers say the sweeping ruling could end up enjoining hundreds of thousands of government employees from participating in online debate.

Meta Launches Twitter Competitor “Threads”; Canada Blocks Facebook and Instagram Ads

Jul 06, 2023

In more technology news, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has officially launched a rival social media platform to Twitter, which has been struggling to retain users and advertisers since its purchase by billionaire Elon Musk last October. In the latest in a series of unpopular moves, Musk said over the weekend Twitter will begin limiting the number of tweets its users would be able to view per day unless they pay for premium service.

Meanwhile, Canada’s government says it has halted all advertising on Facebook and Instagram, after Meta moved to restrict news content across Canada. Meta’s move came after Canadian lawmakers approved the Online News Act, which will require tech companies to pay news outlets for posting their content on their platforms. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has also removed Canadian news articles from search results after calling the new law “unworkable.”

Biden Nominates Elliott Abrams, Death Squad Backer Convicted of Lying to Congress, to Gov’t Commission

Jul 06, 2023

President Biden has nominated Elliott Abrams to the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Elliott Abrams was convicted in 1991 of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, and later pardoned by then-President George H.W. Bush. He defended death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, when he served as assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. Abrams dismissed reports that El Salvador’s U.S.-trained military had massacred 1,000 civilians, including children, in the Salvadoran town of El Mozote in December 1981. He has also been linked to the 2002 attempted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and helped plan the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Under President Trump, Abrams served as special envoy to Iran and Venezuela. Abrams will need to be confirmed by the Senate to serve on the commission.

Hunger and Malnutrition Surge in Ethiopia’s War-Torn Tigray After U.S. and WFP Halt Food Aid

Jul 06, 2023

The United Nations is warning rates of severe malnutrition in Ethiopia’s Tigray have risen sharply with nearly 9 million people needing food aid in the war-ravaged northern region. The World Food Programme and the U.S. government, Ethiopia’s two largest food donors, both halted deliveries to Tigray in April, saying the food was being diverted away from those in need. A Tigray official said hundreds have died, including children, since the aid was withdrawn, calling the situation “extremely desperate.”

Mass Protests in Tel Aviv After Police Commander Resigns Amid Ongoing Uproar over Judicial Reform 

Jul 06, 2023

In Israel, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv Wednesday evening after the city’s police commander announced he was resigning under pressure from senior Israeli government officials. Commander Ami Eshed said he would rather step aside than follow the demands of cabinet members, who demanded a violent crackdown on protesters opposed to plans by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu to gut Israel’s judiciary. This is a protester speaking Wednesday.

Alon Sternberg: “I’m here today because I’m an Israeli who cares about democracy. I know that if the government decided to fire the head police officer of Tel Aviv only because he decided it’s legal to protest, I think this is one step further for Israel to be a nondemocratic state.”

There were no mass protests in Israel over this week’s two-day raid in Jenin, which killed 12 Palestinians, including four children, displaced thousands of residents and razed homes to the ground.

UPS Workers Move Closer to Strike; L.A. Hotel Workers Return to Jobs; NLRB Rules for Starbucks Union

Jul 06, 2023

Back in the United States, unionized UPS drivers and warehouse workers are moving closer to a strike after contract negotiations broke down Wednesday. More than 340,000 UPS workers represented by the Teamsters are fighting for better wages amid soaring cost of living increases and company profits. The current contract expires on July 31.

In more labor news, thousands of Los Angeles hotel workers returned to work Wednesday after a three-day strike over the busy July 4th weekend. Workers say more stoppages are to be expected until a deal is reached on fair wages, healthcare and pension benefits, and improved working conditions.

And in a major victory for baristas, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Starbucks violated federal labor law when it fired employees at several Pittsburgh stores who were organizing their coworkers. Starbucks now has over 330 unionized coffee shops.

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