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HeadlinesMarch 19, 2024

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Famine in Northern Gaza Imminent; U.N., EU Blast “Man-Made” Hunger Crisis by Israel and U.S.

Mar 19, 2024

Famine is imminent in northern Gaza, according to a U.N.-backed report published Monday. Michael Fakhri, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said the U.S. is “complicit in this starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” and urged the Biden administration to call for a ceasefire and stop sending weapons and money to Israel. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini also blasted the “man-made” hunger crisis Monday. This is the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell.

Josep Borrell: “This famine is not a natural disaster. It’s not a flood. It’s not an earthquake. It’s entirely man-made. … I’m coming from Washington, and I dare to say, 'Well, yes, Israel is provoking famine.'”

Borrell added, “Before the war, Gaza was the greatest open-air prison. Today it is the greatest open-air graveyard”. The EU on Monday approved sanctions against violent Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and against Hamas.

Gazans Say Israel’s Assault on Rafah Has Already Started as Biden Warns Netanyahu Against Invasion

Mar 19, 2024

The White House says President Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call Monday that Israel “should not” invade Rafah, as the Israeli prime minister reportedly agreed to send a team of Israeli officials to Washington to discuss “an alternative approach.” But the Palestinian Foreign Ministry says Israel has already begun its large-scale attack on Rafah without announcing it, as Israeli forces escalate its bombardment of the once so-called safe zone, where some 1.5 million Palestinians have taken shelter. Earlier today, Israeli strikes killed at least 14 people in Rafah and injured dozens of others.

Ibrahim Hasouna: “We’re in Ramadan. People have suhoor to prepare for the fast. But we’re having suhoor over body remains, blood and martyrs. … There’s U.S. support, European support and support of the whole world to Israel. They support them with weapons and planes, with continuing planes. They mock us and send four or five airdrops just to save face.”

Close to 32,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since October 7, according to the latest official numbers. Seventy-four thousand others have been injured.

Journalist Ismail al-Ghoul Released After Al-Shifa Raid; Officer Who Secured Food Aid Is Among Dead

Mar 19, 2024

The police general tasked with coordinating the entry of aid trucks into northern Gaza was killed by Israeli forces during their raid on the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City Monday. Faiq Mabhouh recently helped secure the arrival of food aid for two nights in a row after weeks of Israeli blockade.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera journalist Ismail al-Ghoul, who was arrested and beaten during the Al-Shifa raid, was released after 12 hours in detention. While in Israeli custody, al-Ghoul said he and other journalists were forced to strip naked and lie on their stomachs for hours while blindfolded with their hands tied.

Israel Arrests West Bank Reporter Rula Hassanein; 13th Palestinian Dies in Israeli Prison Since Oct. 7

Mar 19, 2024

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces arrested journalist Rula Hassanein and raided her home overnight. She has a 9-month-old baby she was forced to leave behind despite still breastfeeding.

In related news, a 26-year-old Palestinian Bedouin detained in an Israeli prison died over the weekend amid reports of rampant abuse and medical neglect in Israeli jails. Juma Abu Ghanima is at least the 13th person to die from mistreatment in an Israeli prison since October 7.

Gang Violence in Haiti Spills Over into Previously Shielded Upscale Areas of Capital

Mar 19, 2024

In Haiti, at least a dozen people were killed as armed groups attacked two upscale neighborhoods in the capital Port-au-Prince Monday. The communities of Laboule and Thomassin had remained relatively untouched by worsening violence and turmoil in Haiti. Residents described the chaotic scene early Monday.

Exilien Dagene: “Last night, around 11 p.m., as we were sitting here, two young boys suddenly appeared and opened fire on several of our brothers. They didn’t address anyone. They just came up and started shooting. They didn’t ask any questions. I was there when the shooting happened, and I saw them get out of a car and start shooting. I was trying to understand the situation.”

Last week, unelected Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced he would resign, after a coalition of armed groups opposing his rule declared an uprising. Meanwhile, Haitian stakeholders and leaders of Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, are still in negotiations to establish a transitional presidential council in Haiti.

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Armed Groups in Nigeria Kidnap 100+ People in Kaduna

Mar 19, 2024

In Nigeria, armed groups kidnapped at least 100 people, including children, in two separate attacks in Kaduna state. The mass abduction is the latest attack following the separate kidnapping of nearly 300 students and staff from a school in the northwestern town of Kuriga earlier this month. Abductions in Nigeria have become more frequent in recent years, as armed groups target residents for large ransoms.

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Gambian Lawmakers Advance Repeal of Female Genital Mutilation Ban

Mar 19, 2024

In Gambia, the National Assembly voted to repeal a landmark 2015 ban on female genital cutting, also known as female genital mutilation. If approved, it would be the first reversal of protections against the practice, which causes long-term health effects, including increased risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Less than 10% of the National Assembly’s members are women. This is Amnesty International researcher Michèle Eken.

Michèle Eken: “It simply will be disastrous for women’s rights, not only in Gambia, but in the region. It would tell young girls, you know, your rights can be easily taken away. If this is passed, then what’s next? We have to really be strong about it and make sure that we don’t take away something that took so long to fight for.”

South Sudan Schools Close Due to Extreme Heat

Mar 19, 2024

Schools in South Sudan have temporarily shuttered in preparation for a scorching heat wave that’s expected to last for the next two weeks. Officials have advised children to stay indoors, as temperatures are likely to reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat waves have become more common in South Sudan due to the worsening climate crisis and have compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis due to conflict in the region.

Two Dozen Civilians Reportedly Killed in Burmese Military Strikes in Rakhine

Mar 19, 2024

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed concerns at reports the Burmese military is continuing to bomb civilian areas. Dozens of people were reportedly killed, including children, early Monday in Burmese military airstrikes on a predominantly Rohingya village in Rakhine state. Clashes in the region have soared after the end of a ceasefire in November between the Arakan Army and Burmese forces that had been in place since the 2021 military coup. Guterres said, “The expansion of conflict … is driving displacement and exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities and discrimination.”

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30,000 Children and Women Held in Abusive Camps in Northern Syria

Mar 19, 2024

In Syria, some 30,000 children and women who had ties to Islamic State militants are still being detained in camps and prisons across the north under severely abusive conditions. That’s according to a U.N.-backed commission, which says most of the children were brought to the camps a decade ago when the Islamic State controlled portions of land in the region. It’s been five years since the militant group lost its presence in Syria, but the children have yet to be repatriated to their home countries, remaining in indefinite captivity. Tens of thousands of people — many of them children under the age of 12 and women who were married to Islamic State militants — are being held at al-Hol Camp, which has been described by the U.N. as a “blight on the conscience of humanity.” Dozens of babies are reportedly born each month at al-Hol, which is located in a region of northwestern Syria still patrolled by hundreds of U.S. troops. Meanwhile, teenage boys are kept in jails that are run by the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Protesters Condemn Javier Milei’s Austerity Regime Amid Social and Economic Crises

Mar 19, 2024

In Argentina, protesters in Buenos Aires were met with riot police and tear gas Monday as they marched in a union-led rally to protest mounting food insecurity and far-right President Javier Milei’s massive cuts to social spending. This is union leader Hugo Godoy.

Hugo Godoy: “Today, we came back to march together to demand the government once again respond to this worsening situation of the food crisis that over 6 million Argentinians suffer from. The government doesn’t even have an inch of humanity to guarantee food provisions to soup kitchens. It’s as if they enjoy the people’s pain.”

The protest took place days after senators dealt a major blow to President Javier Milei’s so-called economic shock therapy agenda, voting to block his sweeping decree. Since taking office, Milei has imposed over 300 austerity and deregulation measures. He also has cracked down on the right to protest. Argentina has the highest inflation rate in the world, even as it slowed down to 13% last month, down from 20% in January. UNICEF has warned that children are suffering some of the worst effects of the current economic crisis and Milei’s cost-cutting measures, with a child poverty rate that could soon hit 70%.

Trump Unable to Secure $454M Bond in NY Civil Case; Peter Navarro to Begin Sentence for Contempt

Mar 19, 2024

Back in the U.S., Donald Trump has failed to secure the $454 million bond for his New York civil fraud case, increasing the likelihood New York Attorney General Letitia James will seize his real estate assets. Trump’s lawyers said their client was turned down by around 30 bond underwriting companies. The lawyers are requesting the former president be allowed to delay posting bond while he appeals the case. If their request is denied, James could start seizing Trump’s properties next Monday.

In other Trump news, former White House aide Peter Navarro is expected to turn himself in to a federal prison in Miami today to serve his four-month sentence for contempt of Congress. Navarro will become the first-ever ex-White House official to serve time for a contempt of Congress conviction after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

SCOTUS Considers Free Speech Cases Involving Guns, Government’s Authority Over Social Media

Mar 19, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in two First Amendment cases. The National Rifle Association is accusing a New York state official of threatening insurance companies in order to get them to cut ties with the gun rights group. In the other case, conservative states and social media users allege the federal government overstepped when it put pressure on social media companies to moderate misinformation around COVID-19 and the 2020 election. The justices appeared skeptical of efforts to limit the Biden administration’s contact with social media companies. This is liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson: “So, I guess some might say that the government actually has a duty to take steps to protect the citizens of this country, and you seem to be suggesting that that duty cannot manifest itself in the government encouraging or even pressuring platforms to take down harmful information. So, can you help me? Because I’m really — I’m really worried about that, because you’ve got the First Amendment operating in an environment of threatening circumstances, from the government’s perspective, and you’re saying that the government can’t interact with the source of those problems.”

EPA Announces Total Ban on Asbestos

Mar 19, 2024

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a total ban on asbestos. The carcinogen had been largely prohibited in previous environmental orders, but chrysotile asbestos had been permitted until this latest ban and is used in a range of products, including brake linings, gaskets, and in chlorine bleach and sodium hydroxide production. It’s been found to cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers and is linked to over 40,000 U.S. deaths each year.

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