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HeadlinesAugust 16, 2023

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Hawaii Officials ID First 2 Victims of Maui Wildfires as Hawaiians Warn of Real Estate Vultures

Aug 16, 2023

Hawaii officials have started identifying victims of the historic Maui wildfires as the death toll reached 106, with hundreds more missing. Maui police named the first two victims as 74-year-old Robert Dyckman and 79-year-old Buddy Jantoc, a beloved musician who once played with bands including Santana.

As many survivors expressed frustration with government relief efforts, communities have set up sites to distribute food, clothes and other assistance to those in need. Meanwhile, Hawaiians are sounding the alarm over outsiders who almost immediately started preying on survivors to buy up land and property around the historic town of Lahaina, which was all but decimated in the fires.

Paele Kiakona: “Some of the things that’s already been happening is realtors are calling families who lost everything, offering them to buy their property and their home for pennies on the dollar. Just pennies on the dollar. So, it’s pretty offensive to us that people won’t even give us the time to grieve properly. And people’s mental health has been diminished in all of this. They’ve lost everything. People have lost family members. And for them to have that disrespect to come in and really try and buy things up is out of control. So, some of the things that I’ve been doing is gathering all of our community leaders, getting as much resources as I possibly can at the same table so we can speak on how we can prevent these land grabs from happening.”

President Biden said Tuesday he will travel to Hawaii “as soon as he can.”

2 Years After Taliban Takeover, Women and Girls, Refugees and Ordinary Afghans Face Dire Conditions

Aug 16, 2023

Tuesday marked two years since the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, after a failed U.S. invasion and a two-decades-long occupation. Afghans face spiraling human rights and humanitarian crises, made worse by the U.S. refusing to release billions in Afghan deposits in U.S. banks, and the Taliban’s ban on women working in most sectors, preventing the U.N. and other international aid agencies from delivering services and operating in the country. Women and girls have largely been erased from public life. This is 24-year-old Hosna in Kabul.

Hosna: “I didn’t think the Taliban would take over the country one day. And after they succeeded, their restrictions on women have increased day by day and caused us many problems. As far as I’m concerned, the victory day of the Taliban is the worst day for the people of Afghanistan.”

A U.N. envoy has called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute Afghan officials for crimes against humanity over their treatment of women and girls.

According to the U.N., more than 1.6 million Afghans have fled the country in the past two years, with Pakistan receiving the highest number of refugees, around 600,000. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans who were employed by American forces or contractors have been awaiting resettlement in the U.S. or for their visa applications to be processed. Many now say they are stuck in limbo. Eighteen-year-old Marwa, whose father worked as a guard for an American NGO, lives with 11 other family members in a tiny rental near Pakistan’s capital Islamabad as they await news of their U.S. visas amid dwindling savings.

Marwa: “Here, we only have one room with a kitchen. Our space is very tight. We cannot go back to Afghanistan. My father will be killed. We want to reach our destination as soon as possible to study there, because everything is favorable there. We can neither study nor live here and in Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Taliban to end its persecution of journalists, lamenting, “Afghanistan’s once vibrant free press is a ghost of its former self.”

Landslide Kills at Least 32 People at Burmese Jade Mine

Aug 16, 2023

In Burma, at least 32 people have been reported dead after a massive landslide Sunday at a jade mine in the town of Hpakan. Several people are still missing, while heavy rains have hampered rescue efforts. Burma produces between 70% to 90% of the world’s jade. Climate and human rights groups have denounced the industry for its destructive impacts on the environment, corruption and the deadly conditions faced by mine workers. Jade mining is estimated to produce billions of dollars in profits for Burma’s military regime, with China being a major buyer. In 2020, more than 160 people died after torrential rains triggered landslides in another jade mine in the region.

North Korea Acknowledges U.S. Soldier Travis King Crossed the Border, Claims He Was Fleeing Racism

Aug 16, 2023

Pyongyang made its first public statements on Private Travis King, the U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea on July 18 while on a guided tour of the Demilitarized Zone and has not been heard from since. North Korean state media reported Tuesday that King, who is Black, fled to the country in order to seek refuge from racism in the U.S. military. Travis King’s family has told reporters he had spoken about the racism he faced as a soldier, and called the situation “a big nightmare.” King had spent two months in a South Korean jail on assault charges and was due to return to the U.S., where he faced disciplinary procedures.

Paraguayan President Santiago Peña Pledges to Continue Taiwan Support at Inauguration

Aug 16, 2023

In Paraguay, Santiago Peña was inaugurated as the new president Tuesday. The former International Monetary Fund economist is a member of the conservative Colorado Party, which has been plagued by accusations of corruption during its 70-plus years in power, with its ruling streak broken only once, between 2008 and 2013. Peña opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. In his inaugural speech, Peña reaffirmed his government’s support for Taiwan.

President Santiago Peña: “Our relationship with the Republic of China-Taiwan is an example of Paraguay’s friendly spirit with nations toward whom we have great affection and with whom we feel not only allies but also brothers. We will continue to negotiate with the world without compromising our sovereignty, territory, values and culture.”

Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai attended the inauguration.

Rights Groups Challenge Imprisonment of Minors at Angola Prison

Aug 16, 2023

In Louisiana, young people imprisoned at the state penitentiary, known as Angola, and legal groups are asking a federal judge to take emergency action and order the removal of children from the notorious prison. The ACLU and other rights groups say kids, the majority Black boys, have been locked up for the past year in abusive conditions on Angola’s former death row — an adult maximum-security prison with a history of human rights violations. The ACLU says, “Research shows that youth in adult facilities are more likely to commit suicide, suffer from sexual assault and experience exacerbated mental health challenges.” Hearings in the case will continue through Friday.

Woman Sentenced to 30 Years for Helping Cover Up Murder of Fort Hood Soldier Vanessa Guillén

Aug 16, 2023

In Texas, a woman who helped cover up the 2020 killing of 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillén has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Cecily Aguilar pleaded guilty to helping her boyfriend, soldier Aaron Robinson, dismember and dispose of Guillén’s body. Aguilar was the only person charged in Guillén’s murder; Robinson killed himself shortly after being questioned by police. Robinson was accused of bludgeoning Guillén to death in April 2020. She had spoken out about being sexually harassed at the military base, which was renamed Fort Cavazos earlier this year.

Guillén’s murder brought global attention to the epidemic of sexual violence in the U.S. military and inspired some federal policy changes in the handling of sexual harassment and assault allegations in the military.

Trump and Allies Expected to Surrender to Georgia Police by Aug. 25 in 2020 Election Indictment

Aug 16, 2023

Donald Trump said on social media he would release a 100-page report on Monday that would exonerate him, after a Georgia grand jury indicted him and 18 co-conspirators for attempting to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday Trump and the 18 co-defendants are expected to surrender to police and will be booked at the Rice Street Jail. Trump was given a deadline of August 25 to turn himself in. “The jail is open 24/7,” the sheriff added in the statement.

3 Candidates Have Not Yet Signed GOP Loyalty Pledge One Week Ahead of First Primary Debate

Aug 16, 2023

The first Republican presidential primary debate will be held next Wednesday, August 23. One criterion to appear on the debate stage is a pledge to support whoever emerges as the Republican nominee. Those who otherwise qualify but have not signed the pledge are Donald Trump, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence, though he has said he will sign.

Planned Parenthood Arsonist Gets 10 Years in Prison

Aug 16, 2023

In Illinois, a man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the arson of a Planned Parenthood in Peoria. Tyler Massengill admitted to using a homemade explosive to set the clinic on fire in January, just days after Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law sweeping protections for people from out of state seeking an abortion in Illinois. Massengill will also have to pay $1.45 million in restitution. The Planned Parenthood clinic plans to reopen in 2024.

Arkansas Orders Credits Be Withheld for AP African American Studies in High School

Aug 16, 2023

In education news, Arkansas officials told high schools not to offer Advanced Placement African American Studies, warning students would not receive credit for taking the course. Republican governor and former Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued an executive order in January banning what she called “indoctrination and critical race theory in schools.”

One school affected by the move is Little Rock’s Central High, where some 100 students were enrolled in the course this school year. Central High was home to the “Little Rock Nine,” nine Black students who in 1957 tested the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that ordered the desegregation of schools. On their first day, they were met with angry white mobs and National Guard members. President Eisenhower was forced to order federal troops to escort the students for the remainder of the year.

Florida Colleges Drop AP Psychology as Chilling Effect from Draconian Censorship Law Takes Hold

Aug 16, 2023

Many colleges in Florida say they are dropping their AP psychology course due to Florida law, which bans discussions on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier this month, Florida backtracked on a directive effectively banning AP psychology, but educators fear the repercussions of teaching the course since it would be all but impossible to do so without violating the anti-LGBTQIA so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Rights Groups Sue Oklahoma to Halt Funding of First Religious Public School in U.S.

Aug 16, 2023

In Oklahoma, the ACLU and other groups are suing to stop the state from funding the nation’s first religious public charter school. The groups say the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School will violate rules for publicly funded schools, including indoctrinating students in religious beliefs, and “discriminate in admissions, discipline, and employment based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected characteristics.”

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