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HeadlinesAugust 14, 2023

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Maui Wildfire Death Toll Nears 100 as Residents Continue Search for Missing Loved Ones

Aug 14, 2023

In Hawaii, the death toll from the Maui wildfire has reached 96 and continues to rise, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in 100 years. Family resource centers have been set up to help survivors desperately trying to locate their missing loved ones. This is a Maui resident who said this weekend nine of his relatives were missing.

June Lacuesta: “I cannot describe my feeling right now, so it’s all — I could feel it underneath me. So, when I see the Lahaina — Lahaina Town itself, I cannot describe how — how hard feelings I get.”

The blaze decimated the historic town of Lahaina, as it spread at a rate of “one mile every minute,” propelled by wind gusts from Hurricane Dora of up to 81 miles per hour. A lawsuit filed against Hawaiian Electric Industries alleges electrified power lines blown over by the high winds helped the wildfire spread at such rapid pace, and that the company should have “deenergized” their power lines after a high wind alert. We’ll have more on Hawaii, and the climate crisis, after headlines.

Nigerien Military Leaders Announce Plan to Prosecute Deposed President Bazoum

Aug 14, 2023

In Niger, the ruling military junta said they will prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum for high treason following his ouster last month in the July 26 coup. The U.S. warned last week of the deteriorating health of Bazoum and two of his family members who have been held in the presidential palace in Niamey with dwindling supplies of food and no electricity.

Meanwhile, Nigerian Islamic scholars say Niger’s coup leaders are open to meeting with ECOWAS in hopes of coming to a diplomatic resolution, after the West African bloc last week said it had activated a “standby force” for possible military intervention.

Over the weekend, a delegation of the Nigerien military traveled to Guinea, where they met with Mamady Doumbouya, who is the interim president of Guinea after leading a military coup in October 2021. Doumbouya expressed solidarity with Niger’s coup.

Col. Mamady Doumbouya: “As far as the Republic of Guinea is concerned, we are Pan-African. When our people have problems, we’re always there, and we’ll always be there. And that’s what happened with my brothers in Mali, Burkina and Niger. As far as we’re concerned, we’re the only ones who can find solutions to our problems.”

Pro-coup Nigeriens have continued to protest against any outside military action. On Friday, they rallied outside the French Army base in the capital Niamey.

At Least 6 Asylum Seekers Drown in Channel; 2 Off Tunisian Coast

Aug 14, 2023

Six asylum seekers have died after a boat carrying dozens of migrants to the U.K. sank in the English Channel. Several people are still missing, while 55 people were rescued in efforts largely led by French coastal authorities. The mayor of the port city of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, slammed British policy, which they say saddles France with handling the mounting crisis at the maritime border.

Mayor Natacha Bouchart: “We are systematically being fooled by the British government. When are we going to bang our fists on the table? When are we going to threaten them with action so that they can put an end to it? Calais is not the border of England. They don’t want to do the dirty work of saying 'I accept' or 'I do not accept refugees in my territory.'”

This comes as two refugees, including a baby, have died after another boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia.

3-Year-Old Toddler from Venezuela Dies on Migrant Bus from Texas to Chicago

Aug 14, 2023

Here in the U.S., a 3-year-old toddler has died while on a migrant bus that was on the way to Chicago from Texas. The child’s death is the first reported by Texas authorities since Republican Governor Greg Abbott began busing thousands of asylum seekers to Democrat-led cities last year, including Chicago and New York. CBS News reported the child was from Venezuela.

Taiwan Vice President Defies Chinese Intimidation While on U.S. Visit

Aug 14, 2023

Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai defiantly declared Taiwan will not back down to Chinese threats as he visited the U.S., in what has been billed as a transit stop on his way to Paraguay’s presidential inauguration this week. China vowed to take “forceful and resolute measures” in response to his stop in the U.S., which Beijing considers a challenge to its sovereignty over the territory. Lai, who is a front-runner in Taiwan’s January presidential election, spoke during a lunch with supporters in New York City Sunday.

Vice President William Lai Ching-te: “Peace and security in the Taiwan Strait is not only Taiwan’s problem, but rather an international issue that concerns all the countries of the world. When Taiwan is safe, the world is safe. When there is peace in the Taiwan Strait, there will be peace in the world.”

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian in West Bank as Int’l Group of Academics Slams Israeli Apartheid

Aug 14, 2023

In the occupied West Bank, mourners marched in a funeral procession Friday for 23-year-old Mahmoud Jarrad, who was shot dead during an Israeli raid in the Tulkarm refugee camp. At least eight others were injured. This is Mahmoud Jarrad’s mother.

Maisa Jarrad: “He was ambitious like other youngsters. What the youngster wants? To have a home, marry. Everything disappeared.”

A group of over 1,500 academics from around the world, including Israel and the U.S., signed a statement condemning Israel’s “regime of apartheid” against Palestinians. They write, “There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid.”

In other news from the region, Palestinian officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas, welcomed their first Saudi Arabian ambassador. Nayef al-Sudairi will serve as envoy to Palestine and consul general in Jerusalem. This comes as the U.S. has been pushing for the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Jordan Cracks Down on Online Speech with “Draconian” Cybercrime Law

Aug 14, 2023

Jordan enacted what has been described by rights groups as a “draconian” cybercrime law. The legislation, which will go into effect in a month, includes fines and even prison for posting content deemed to be “immoral,” insulting religion or “undermining national unity.” It also punishes people who publish names or pictures of police officers and bans certain measures that protect a user’s identity. A statement issued by over a dozen rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, said, “Vague provisions open the door for Jordan’s executive branch to punish individuals for exercising their right to freedom of expression, forcing the judges to convict citizens in most cases.”

U.N. Completes Transfer of 1 Billion+ Barrels of Oil from Red Sea Decaying Tanker

Aug 14, 2023

The U.N. said Friday it has completed the transfer of more than 1 million barrels of oil from a decaying supertanker off Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

Achim Steiner: “This is a major disaster averted. It was a ticking time bomb, as many called it, and it could have destroyed hundreds of thousands of livelihoods. It could have affected the shipping up the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal. It could have destroyed biodiversity and fisheries for a quarter of a century.”

Pakistan Names Caretaker PM Amid Mounting Doubts Country Will Be Ready for Nov. Elections

Aug 14, 2023

In Pakistan, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, a senator from Balochistan province, has been named as caretaker prime minister ahead of elections which are supposed to take place within 90 days following the dissolution of the National Assembly last week. But it’s unclear if the country will be ready for elections by November, after the outgoing government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a new census, which the Election Commission will now have to rush to translate into new boundaries. Observers are warning a delay in elections could hand more control to the military, which already exerts significant power in Pakistani politics. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has accused the military of going after him, is imprisoned and barred from running for office on corruption charges that he has denied.

Argentine Far-Right Populist Javier Milei Becomes Presidential Front-Runner After Primary

Aug 14, 2023

In Argentina, voters cast their ballots in a crowded primary Sunday. Far-right populist Javier Milei emerged as the surprising lead, receiving the largest number of votes, about 30%. The 52-year-old is an admirer of former U.S. President Trump and has vowed to shutter Argentina’s central bank, opposes sex education, wants to facilitate the purchasing of guns and is a climate crisis denier. Milei has served in Argentina’s Congress since 2021. He addressed supporters Sunday.

Javier Milei: “We are facing the end of the caste model, that model based on that atrocity which says that where there is a need, a right is born, but forgets that someone has to pay for that right, whose ultimate manifestation is that aberration called social justice.”

Argentina’s current president, Alberto Fernández, is not seeking reelection as the country faces a worsening economic crisis with soaring inflation. The general election is scheduled for October.

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Ecuador Presidential Debate Proceeds with Empty Podium for Slain Anti-Graft Candidate Villavicencio

Aug 14, 2023

In Ecuador, presidential candidates participated in a debate Sunday night where they vowed to address violence and security issues following the assassination of presidential hopeful Fernando Villavicencio last week. An empty podium stood in Villavicencio’s place, while candidates held a moment of silence before starting the debate. Construye, or the Build, political party has opted for journalist Christian Zurita to replace Villavicencio as presidential candidate, reversing its previous decision to go for Villavicencio’s vice-presidential nominee Andrea González. The election is scheduled for this Sunday, August 20.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian authorities have transferred a powerful gang leader, accused of threatening Villavicencio before the candidate was killed, to a maximum-security prison. Some 4,000 soldiers and police were deployed to help relocate Adolfo Macías from a low-security facility. This comes as Villavicencio’s widow blamed the state for her husband’s killing.

Verónica Sarauz: “They did not protect him as they should have protected him. The state was in charge of Fernando’s security. The state is directly responsible for the murder of my husband, Fernando Villavicencio. The state still has to give many answers about everything that happened. His personal guards did not do their job. I do not want to think that they sold my husband to be murdered in this infamous way.”

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Media Organizations Blast Kansas Police for Raid and Seizure of Local Marion County Newspaper

Aug 14, 2023

Back in the U.S., Kansas police raided local newspaper the Marion County Record and the home of its publisher and co-owner Joan Meyer Friday, seizing computers and other materials. One day later, on Saturday, 98-year-old Joan Meyer died. The paper blamed the police action, which it said “stressed beyond her limits.” The raid reportedly stemmed from a dispute between the newspaper and a local restaurant owner who accused the Marion County Record of illegally obtaining information about a drunk driving incident. But it appears the newspaper had also been actively investigating Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody over sexual misconduct charges at a previous job in Kansas City. Details about that investigation were on a computer seized in the raid.

Over 30 news organizations and press groups published an open letter to Marion’s police chief blasting the raid, writing, “Newsroom searches and seizures are among the most intrusive actions law enforcement can take with respect to the free press, and the most potentially suppressive of free speech.” The group Reporters Without Borders said the seizure may violate federal law.

Judge Orders Sam Bankman-Fried to Jail for Interfering with Witnesses Ahead of Fraud Trial

Aug 14, 2023

A federal judge in New York ordered Sam Bankman-Fried to jail after revoking bail for the disgraced founder of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX. He had been under house arrest at his parents’ home in Palo Alto, California, while awaiting his October trial on fraud and money laundering charges. The judge said Bankman-Fried twice tried to interfere with witnesses in his case, including giving reporters documents. Bankman-Fried is accused of using deposits in FTX for real estate purchases, political and charitable donations.

Hunter Biden Case Gets Special Counsel as Trial Looks Increasingly Likely

Aug 14, 2023

Attorney General Merrick Garland named David Weiss, the federal prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden, to special counsel. Prosecutors said they could not come to a new plea deal to settle tax and gun charges against the president’s son, after a judge rejected a previous deal last month. The latest twist significantly increases the chance of Hunter Biden going on trial as President Biden campaigns for reelection.

Fulton County DA Expected to Indict Trump This Week over Bid to Overturn Georgia 2020 Loss

Aug 14, 2023

In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has called former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and journalist George Chidi to testify Tuesday before the grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election. Chidi is believed to have stumbled upon a meeting of Trump-supporting “fake electors” at Georgia’s state Capitol. A fourth indictment against former President Trump and his co-conspirators is widely expected from Georgia this week, with possibly as many as 12 people indicted.

Atlanta Effort to Get “Stop Cop City” on Nov. Ballot Successfully Passes Signature Threshold

Aug 14, 2023

In other news from Georgia, activists campaigning to get a public referendum on Cop City have gotten 80,000 signatures, surpassing the minimum number needed to get the measure on the November ballot. The campaign “Vote to Stop Cop City” has set a stretch goal of 100,000 signatures before it submits the petition next Monday.

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