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HeadlinesAugust 21, 2023

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Progressive Bernardo Arévalo Wins Guatemala Presidency in Landslide

Aug 21, 2023

In Guatemala, progressive politician Bernardo Arévalo has declared a decisive victory in a presidential runoff election against former first lady Sandra Torres. Arévalo, leader of the Semilla party, took nearly 60% of the vote Sunday. He has vowed to fight corruption and push for social reforms. His supporters poured onto the streets of Guatemala City to celebrate.

Fabiola Valvert: “Democracy won. We will be able to dream of a different Guatemala. I hope, little by little, we will abolish poverty. There is new hope for Guatemala. Guatemalans are happy, and we are telling these corrupt politicians they must respect our vote. Guatemala has already changed.”

Bernardo Arévalo is the son of former President Juan José Arévalo, Guatemala’s first democratically elected leader, who pushed for revolutionary policies when he was in office from 1945 to '51. We'll go to Guatemala for more after headlines.

Ecuador Sends Progressive Luisa González and Businessman Daniel Noboa to Presidential Runoff

Aug 21, 2023

Ecuadorians also took to the polls Sunday for a snap presidential election. Leftist Luisa González took the lead in the first round and will face Daniel Noboa in a runoff election in October as neither candidate won over 50% of the vote in the first round. González is a member of former President Rafael Correa’s Citizen Revolution Movement party. Noboa is a businessman whose father, Álvaro Noboa, is one of Ecuador’s wealthiest people. Álvaro Noboa is a banana industry magnate who previously ran for president and has been accused of multiple tax and labor violations. Luisa González spoke to supporters Sunday.

Luisa González: “We don’t want Lasso 2.0. We don’t want anybody disconnected from the people’s needs, because then we would again face a situation in which we would have a president that rules for the companies and not for the needs of Ecuadorians.”

At least three political leaders were killed ahead of Sunday’s election, including presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

Ecuadorian Voters Back Referendum to Ban Oil Extraction in Yasuní National Park

Aug 21, 2023

On Sunday, Ecuadorian voters also overwhelmingly supported a historic referendum blocking oil extraction in the Amazon’s Yasuní National Park — the largest protected area in Ecuador with massive petroleum reserves crossing through Indigenous Yasuní land. The effort was spearheaded by Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders. The group Yasunidos said on social media, “This is the first time a nation chooses to defend life and leave petroleum underground.”

Tropical Storm Hilary Lashes SoCal, Mexico as Wildfires Rage in Washington and Canada

Aug 21, 2023

Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall Sunday in Baja California, Mexico, and shortly after in Southern California, where authorities have warned of “life-threatening” floods. One person died in Mexico when their vehicle was swept away in water. School districts in Southern California and Nevada have canceled classes. In Palm Springs, the 911 emergency phone system was knocked out Sunday evening as residents of California’s desert towns say they’ve never witnessed such extreme storms.

DJ Hilton: “It is a bit unprecedented. We’ve had storms before, but never anything quite this windy and rainy at the same time. I have a friend who just saw a 60-foot carport get blown off of his neighbor’s house and carried four houses up.”

Meanwhile, further north, in Washington state, one person died in a growing wind-fueled wildfire near the city of Spokane. Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

Gov. Jay Inslee: “There’s a beast at our door, and that’s the beast of climate change. It seems like the whole world is on fire today — Yellowknife, Canada, with over a thousand fires burning in Canada; Maui, with Lahaina burnt to the ground; and now Spokane County and 35,000 acres on fire today in Washington state.”

Canada is sending its military to help tackle its record-breaking wildfires in British Columbia. So far, more than 35,000 people have been evacuated.

In Hawaii, the death toll from the Maui wildfires has reached 114, with another 1,000 still missing. President Biden is meeting today with federal, state and local officials, as well as survivors.

Niger Coup Leader Proposes 3-Year Transition as Junta Supporters Remain Defiant of ECOWAS Threats

Aug 21, 2023

Niger’s military junta said it was open to talks following the July 26 coup and has proposed a three-year transition to civilian rule. Coup leader Abdourahmane Tchiani announced the plan after meeting with delegates from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened military intervention and imposed sanctions on Niger. On Sunday, thousands of coup supporters rallied in Niger’s capital Niamey.

Coup supporter: “We didn’t ask for this coup d’état, but it’s done. We’ll take responsibility for it. But instead of punishing us, ECOWAS needs to ask the right questions. What has led us to this situation? What led to this repeated coup d’état, not just in Niger but in West Africa in general? Instead of sitting down to negotiate, you put a gun on the table. You threaten us, and you think you’ll get something out of it.”

Six Children Killed by Fire at Camp for Congolese Displaced by Floods

Aug 21, 2023

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at least six children were killed in a fire at a camp for displaced flood victims. The blaze started as a child was cooking unsupervised, burning down hundreds of makeshift tarp dwellings. The U.N. said some 3,000 families lost their homes after recent intense flooding and mudslides in eastern DRC.

Egyptian Arab Spring Activist Ahmed Douma Pardoned After Decade in Prison

Aug 21, 2023

Egypt’s authoritarian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pardoned nearly three dozen political prisoners, including a leader of the Arab Spring uprising that ousted then-President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ahmed Douma was freed Saturday from the notorious Badr prison after nearly a decade behind bars. In 2013, he and two other protest leaders were arrested for violating a law effectively banning public protest. His lawyer, Khaled Ali, welcomed Douma’s release but called on Egyptian authorities to set other political prisoners free.

Khaled Ali: “Thank God for Ahmed’s release. But honestly, there are still many inside, like Alaa Abd El-Fattah, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mohamed al-Qassas, Mohamed Oxygen, Mohammed Adel. There are also still a lot of imprisoned women, and we hope that the next time some of them will also be released, because this is their right. So far, there has only been a focus on the male activists, but not for the women.”

Human Rights Watch: Saudi Border Guards Have Killed Hundreds of Ethiopian Asylum Seekers

Aug 21, 2023

Saudi border guards have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers who’ve tried to cross the Yemen-Saudi border since March 2022. That’s according to a new investigation by Human Rights Watch that relies on firsthand accounts from 42 people, over 100 verified videos and photos, and an analysis of satellite imagery. This is an excerpt of a video from HRW accompanying its report.

Human Rights Watch video: “We found evidence that Saudi border guards have used explosive weapons and shot people at close range in what appears to be a policy targeting migrants and asylum seekers, including women and children, at the border. Human Rights Watch believes this may amount to crimes against humanity. Saudi Arabia’s border forces should stop intentionally using lethal force to kill Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers with explosive weapons.”

Biden Pledges Deeper Ties with Japan and South Korea, Citing Threats by China and DPRK

Aug 21, 2023

President Biden hailed a “new era” for cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan, as he hosted leaders of the two nations at Camp David Friday. It was the first such meeting between the three countries as South Korea and Japan pursue a rapprochement in the face of what they called “dangerous and aggressive behavior” by China in the South China Sea. The three heads of state also discussed North Korea. This is President Biden.

President Joe Biden: “We’re doubling down on information sharing, including on the DPRK’s missile launches and cyber activities, strengthening our ballistic missile defense cooperation. And critically — critically — we’ve all committed to swiftly consult with each other in response to threats to any one of our countries from whatever source that occurs.”

Biden Administration Urges COVID-19 Booster Shots for All This Fall

Aug 21, 2023

The Biden administration will recommend COVID-19 booster shots for all this fall to ward against a new wave of infections. Vaccine makers will submit updated versions of their shots for regulatory approval that protect against the subvariants driving current infections: Eris and Fornax. While cases are on the rise, they still remain comparatively low. U.S. officials will also recommend everyone get their flu shots and RSV shots.

New York Bans Release of Radioactive Water from Decommissioned Nuclear Plant

Aug 21, 2023

Here in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill banning the release of nuclear wastewater into the Hudson River. The legislation came after campaigning by activists and local communities to stop Holtec International, the owner of the decommissioned Indian Point nuclear facility, from dumping 1 million gallons of radioactive water into the Hudson. The group Food & Water Watch celebrated the law for “prioritizing public health and the environment over corporate expediency,” adding, “Today, we celebrate the power of our communities over corporations.”

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