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HeadlinesAugust 17, 2023

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Hawaii Officials Defend Response to Wildfires; Gov. Calls for Moratorium on Lahaina Land Purchases

Aug 17, 2023

The death toll from the devastating Maui fires has reached 111 and continues to rise as crews search areas in and around Lahaina. About 1,000 people remain missing. On Wednesday, authorities in Hawaii defended not activating emergency sirens during the wildfire. This is Maui emergency chief Herman Andaya.

Herman Andaya: “The sirens, as I had mentioned earlier, is used primarily for tsunamis. And that’s the reason why many of them are found — almost all of them are found on the coastline. The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded. In fact, on the website of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the following guideline is provided: If you are in a low-lying area near the coastline, evacuate to high grounds.”

Instead of using the sirens, emergency officials in Maui sent out warnings to people’s cellphones, but many did not receive the messages because power and cell service was already down.

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green has proposed a moratorium on land transactions in Lahaina. He said, “My intention from start to finish is to make sure that no one is victimized from a land grab.” Hawaiians have been warning about wealthy outsiders attempting to buy up land after the fire.

Yellowknife Orders Evacuation of 20,000 Residents as Record Wildfires Continue to Devastate Canada

Aug 17, 2023

Authorities in Canada have ordered all residents of the city of Yellowknife to evacuate as a massive wildfire approaches. Military aircraft will help evacuate some residents who cannot drive out of the city, which is the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories. The city is home to about 20,000 people. Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty spoke on Wednesday.

Mayor Rebecca Alty: “There is a possibility that without rain, the fire reaches the outskirts of Yellowknife by the weekend. It is approaching, but there’s time to complete the community evacuation. It’s being called now so that we can allow people the opportunity to drive while the highway is open. The highway is subject to closures at any time, but it’s likely that it will be open until tomorrow morning. Conditions will be smokey, and residents should drive with caution and care.”

A number of other communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories have already been evacuated due to the fires. So far this year, fires have burned more than 33 million acres in Canada — more than double any previous season. That’s an area equivalent to the size of Alabama or nine Connecticuts.

Appeals Court Backs Restrictions on Abortion Pill, Sending Case to Supreme Court

Aug 17, 2023

A federal appeals court upheld restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone, the most widely used method of abortion in the U.S. The 5th Circuit Court sided with the right-wing Texas judge and plaintiffs, who argued the FDA improperly relaxed regulations on the pill to make it more accessible, and that it should only be used up to seven weeks into a pregnancy and only issued in person. But due to a previous stay issued by the Supreme Court, mifepristone will remain available for now under current regulations while the case proceeds; the Justice Department is expected to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

In other abortion news, Indiana blocked a doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape survivor from receiving a prestigious award. Dr. Caitlin Bernard performed the abortion for the Ohio patient last year and spoke out about it to highlight the cruelty and real-world impact of banning abortion. She was reprimanded and fined $3,000.

60 Asylum Seekers Feared Dead Near Cape Verde

Aug 17, 2023

More than 60 asylum seekers are feared dead after a boat carrying migrants was found drifting near Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa. The boat left Senegal over a month ago with 101 people on board. Most of the passengers were from the same Senegalese fishing village. Officials believe the boat may have been headed to the Canary Islands, which is part of Spain. According to the Spanish group Walking Borders, at least 778 migrants have died this year attempting to reach the Canary Islands.

ECOWAS Military Chiefs Meet over Niger Coup Amid Mounting Humanitarian Concerns

Aug 17, 2023

Defense chiefs from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS are meeting today and tomorrow in Ghana to discuss a possible military intervention in Niger, where the military seized power last month. The Intercept is reporting U.S.-trained officers have been appointed to head five of Niger’s eight regions under the new military junta. This comes as the United Nations is warning that international sanctions could worsen a growing humanitarian crisis in Niger.

Farhan Haq: “In Niger, our humanitarian colleagues are concerned about the potential impact of the ongoing crisis on the food security situation. Before the coup, over 3 million people were already severely food insecure, and according to the World Food Programme, some 7.3 million food-insecure people could see their situation worsen due to the unfolding crisis. Humanitarian exemptions to sanctions and border closures are required to avert a rapid deterioration of the food security and malnutrition situation.”

In other news from Niger, at least 17 soldiers have been killed in an attack near the Mali border. In recent years, the region has seen a surge in violence by groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Libya Fighting Kills 55 People

Aug 17, 2023

In Libya, at least 55 people have been killed in the heaviest fighting between rival armed factions so far this year in Tripoli. Over 150 people were injured before a truce took hold on Wednesday. Libya has been in a state of crisis for over a decade since the 2011 NATO-backed operation to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

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U.N. Warns of “Spiralling” Humanitarian Situation in Sudan as Army Leader Says Talks Needed

Aug 17, 2023

In Sudan, the army’s second in command has said a plan to end the deadly conflict needs to be negotiated and a caretaker government must be formed, as the fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces rages into its fifth month.

The U.N. this week issued a dire warning as the number of refugees who crossed the Sudanese border topped 1 million. In a joint statement, U.N. agencies said, “Time is running out for farmers to plant the crops that will feed them and their neighbors. Medical supplies are scarce. The situation is spiralling out of control.” Reports of sexual violence have increased by 50% since the start of the fighting, though this is likely a significant undercount of the true toll. This is a spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency.

William Spindler: “Since the start of the conflict in Sudan on the 15th of April, over 4.3 million people have been forced to flee. This includes over 900,000 refugees and asylum seekers who fled to neighboring countries and 195,000 South Sudanese forced to return to South Sudan. Within Sudan, over 3.2 million people have been internally displaced, including more than 187,000 refugees already residing in the country at the start of the crisis.”

NATO Official Apologizes for Saying Ukraine Could Give Up Territory in Exchange for Joining NATO

Aug 17, 2023

A high-ranking NATO official has apologized after publicly suggesting that Ukraine could give up some of its land as part of a way to end the war with Russia. Stian Jenssen, the chief of staff to the NATO secretary general, made his initial comment during a recent forum in Norway. He said, “I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory and get NATO membership in return.” Officials in Ukraine blasted Jenssen’s comment.

TX Woman Jailed for Threatening to Kill Judge in Trump Jan. 6 Case; Trump Supporters Dox GA Jurors

Aug 17, 2023

A woman in Texas has been arrested and jailed after threatening to kill federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the Donald Trump January 6 case. Security has been increased around Chutkan, a Black woman, who was appointed by President Obama and has issued some of the toughest sentences for January 6 rioters.

Meanwhile, supporters of Donald Trump have posted online the purported names and addresses of the grand jury members in Georgia who voted to indict the former president and 18 co-defendants. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has not said if any security precautions have been taken to protect the grand jurors. Meanwhile, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis continues to face an onslaught of racist abuse online instigated by Trump, who has repeatedly attacked her on the campaign trail. On Wednesday, Fani Willis, who is the first Black woman to serve as Fulton County DA, proposed the Trump trial begin on March 4.

Kansas Prosecutor Withdraws Search Warrant Used in Last Week’s Marion County Record Raid

Aug 17, 2023

A local prosecutor in Kansas has withdrawn the search warrant used by police to raid the Marion County Record newspaper. The raid sparked national condemnation. In a statement, the Marion County attorney said there was “insufficient evidence” for the police to raid and seize material from the newsroom and the home of the paper’s owner. Items seized, including computers and cellphones, will now be returned. On Wednesday, the Marion County Record published its first edition since the raid. The banner headline on the paper read: “Seized … but not silenced.” This comes as the community prepares for the wake and funeral of Joan Meyer, the paper’s co-publisher. The 98-year-old longtime journalist died on Saturday, one day after the police raid on her home.

North Carolina GOP Overrides Gov. Veto on 3 Anti-Trans Bills

Aug 17, 2023

In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and House have voted to override vetoes from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and enact three bills targeting trans youth. One law bans gender-affirming care for youth. Another bans transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams in middle school, high school and college. A third law restricts how gender identity is discussed in schools. It’s been described as North Carolina’s version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill; the group Equality NC decried the three new laws as a slate of hate.

Protesters Decry Erasure, Rewriting of Black History from Florida Schools

Aug 17, 2023

Hundreds of people marched to the School Board of Miami-Dade County on Wednesday to protest changes to how Black history is taught in Florida’s schools. The new standards require students be taught about the “benefits” of slavery. One section of the curriculum states that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has defended the new curriculum changes. Speakers at Wednesday’s rally included Tennessee state Representative Justin Pearson, who made national headlines when he and his colleague Justin Jones were expelled from Tennessee’s Republican-dominated legislative body.

“Children Are Locked Away in Cages”: ACLU Demands Louisiana Remove Children from Angola Prison

Aug 17, 2023

An emergency court hearing is continuing in Louisiana over calls for authorities to transfer children being imprisoned at the notorious maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, which was built on a former slave plantation. Advocates say children as young as 14 years old are being held in solitary confinement and are being deprived of their education. Most of the children are Black boys. This is Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

Alanah Odoms: “Children are currently being locked away in cages at Angola — children, not youth offenders, not juvenile delinquents, not throwaways, not people without value. Children are children. Children are being deprived of an education. Children are being deprived of humane conditions. Children are being shackled and handcuffed.”

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