Tag Archive for: Atlanta


Biden approves controversial Alaska drilling project.

Autopsy: Atlanta “Cop City” activist had hands raised when shot.

Frustrated migrants rush border over “asylum” rumor.



Biden approves controversial Alaska drilling project

President Biden has approved a $8 billion Conoco-Philips oil drilling project in Alaska’s North Slope, the state’s northernmost region. Some in Alaska have welcomed approval for what’s known as the Willow project, hoping the project will bring jobs and growth to the region.  The Alaska Native groups who live in the North Slope territory have condemned the move. These groups depend on the local environment for their survival and fear pollution from potential spills. They also fear drilling activity at three sites will have a disruptive effect on local wildlife.

The White House has defended the approval, saying that Conoco-Philips had preexisting oil drilling rights in the region dating back to 1999. The administration feared a court order would eventually allow the oil giant to drill at the five sites they had prior permits for. Under the White House deal, Conoco-Philips will only drill at three sites. The deal also includes a moratorium on any new drilling on US government-held lands in the Arctic.

Environmental activists and climate scientists consider approval for the Willow project a betrayal of the climate goals Biden campaigned on. The Willow project will produce about 576 million barrels of oil over 30 years, up to 180,000 barrels a day at peak production. This means the project will carry on well beyond the point when climate scientists say we must significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. Scientists predict that by 2030, the Willow project will produce twice the amount of carbon emissions that all the renewable energy projects on public lands would cut. 

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Autopsy: Atlanta “Cop City” activist had hands raised when shot

In January, activist Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (aka “Tortuguita”) was gunned down in a police raid of encampment on the future site of Atlanta’s “Cop City”. At least four law enforcement agencies were involved in the raid, and yet the Georgia Bureau of Investigation claims none of the law enforcement personnel were wearing bodycams at the time of the incident.

Law enforcement claim that Tortuguita fired on and wounded one of the officers before being gunned down. However, bodycam footage from just after the incident (which miraculously does exist) suggests that other law enforcement personnel at the scene believed the officer was wounded by friendly fire, or even by his own gun. GBI claims that ballistic evidence proves the bullet that wounded the officer was fired from a gun Tortuguita had legally purchased in 2020, but that analysis has not been shared publicly.

An autopsy commissioned by Tortuguita’s family disputes GBI’s account of the shooting. The Terán family’s lawyers said that, “both Manuel’s left and right hands show exit wounds in both palms. The autopsy further reveals that Manuel was most probably in a seated position, cross-legged when killed”. Tortuguita was shot at least a dozen times, probably by multiple shooters. 

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Frustrated migrants rush border over “asylum” rumor

This weekend hundreds of migrants, most from Venezuela, attempted to charge en masse through the US border crossing from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, TX. The crowd managed to break through Mexican security, but they were stopped at the US side by riot gear-clad Border Patrol agents, concrete barriers and barbed wire.

Some migrants told reporters that they’d heard a rumor that the US would be allowing migrants into the country that day to seek asylum because of a “day of the migrant” celebration. International Migrants Day is on Dec. 18, so it’s not clear what celebration they were referring to. Misinformation of this kind can spread rapidly in the encampments where migrants wait for months for their chance to cross over.

Others in the crowd were expressing frustration with a recently-launched app meant to allow asylum seekers to make appointments ahead of their arrival at the border. The app’s purpose is to streamline the asylum process. However, bugs and other roll-out issues have only succeeded in creating an additional layer of frustration for migrants hoping to enter the country legally.

Users cited a lack of appointments at various crossing points as well as a glitchy geolocation feature. Even more disheartening for some, users with darker skin frequently have photos required by the app rejected. Facial recognition software is often unreliable with darker-complected people. The Department of Homeland Security says its aware of these issues and recent update to the app should improve its performance.

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SC to bring back firing squads. ATL reinstates officer charged with murder. WH backs vaccine patent waiver. Myanmar: anti-coup block forms defense force.


SC to reinstate firing squads for executions

The South Carolina House has voted to allow death by firing squad as an acceptable execution method in the state. The state’s Senate has already approved the bill. It will now go to Gov. Henry McMaster, who has said he would sign it.

There has been a shortage of effective lethal injection drugs nationwide, and South Carolina is no exception. The state hopes the bill will soon have its death chambers up and running again after a 10-year hiatus. Three of the state’s 37 death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and could soon be put to death.

South Carolina is one of only 9 states still using the electric chair, and only the fourth to reinstate firing squads. The other three states that allow firing squads are Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. Once signed, the new bill will require condemned inmates to choose between electrocution and firing squad. 

Recently, a Nevada death row inmate requested death by firing squad. His attorneys say he believes it to be a more merciful method than the experimental cocktails that have led to botched lethal injections across the US.

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Atlanta forced to reinstate officer facing murder charge

Last year, just 12 days after the death of George Floyd, Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe shot Rayshard Brooks, a black man, in the back in a Wendy’s parking lot. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms immediately had Rolfe fired from the police force. 

Now, the Atlanta Civil Service Board says that Bottoms summary of dismissal of Rolfe without a hearing violated the city’s due process rules for such firings. Rolfe has been reinstated to the city’s police force but restricted to administrative duty. Rolfe has been charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and other crimes in connection with the case, but no trial date has yet been set.

Bottoms defended her actions in firing Rolfe last year. She stated that, “Given the volatile state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to terminate this officer, after he fatally shot Mr. Brooks in the back, was the right thing to do”.

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White House backs vaccine patent waivers

Under pressure from progressive politicians and the international community, the Biden administration has at last pledged to support patent waivers for COVID vaccines. The US does not have the authority to unilaterally waive patents, but representatives from the US and other nations will discuss the matter at an upcoming World Trade Organization summit. Nevertheless, US support could potentially be pivotal in the negotiations. Vaccine producers’ share prices dropped considerably following the announcement.

A patent waiver would allow poorer countries to produce their own vaccines rather than waiting for leftovers from wealthier countries. 

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Myanmar’s anti-junta bloc announces to create its own defense force

Last month, a coalition of ethnic militias and pro-democracy protesters formed their own National Unity Government (NUG) to oppose the country’s military junta. Some of the militias that have long defended the country’s ethnic minorities in border regions have seen some recent success in attacking military assets in the country. 

The NUG has announced the formation of a unified “people’s defense force” to protect protesters and other opponents of the junta from military aggression. Since the military coup on Feb. 1, the military’s suppression of protests has killed more than 700 people, many of them children.

The statement says the defense force is a precursor to the creation of a Federal Union Army to oppose the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s well-armed and battle-hardened military force. The announcement points to all-out civil war in the country breaking out in the near future.

In related news, 200 NGOs have petitioned the UN to block arms sales to Myanmar’s military, citing rampant human rights abuses.

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Police: Atlanta shooter fueled by sex shame. Dems tempt GOP with $billions to back infrastructure. Putin on Biden’s “killer” comment: “Takes one to know one”. US, Russia in Afghan peace push.


Police: Atlanta shooter fueled by sex shame

The motivations behind the spree of massage parlor shootings in Atlanta that left 8 dead, including 6 Asian woman, are proving to be more complex than many first imagined. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds says suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, denies his crimes were racially motivated. “We asked him that specifically and the answer was no,” Reynolds said.

Instead, what is emerging is that the deeply religious Long was ashamed of his sex addiction for which he frequently sought relief in massage parlors. Long’s former roommate in a halfway house for recovering addicts has attested to this.

Nevertheless, given a recent uptick in hate crimes against Asian-Americans across the country, some say the two motivations cannot necessarily be divorced from one another. Asian women have reported more than twice the number of hate incidents, ranging from name-calling to violence, compared to men. Activists say Long’s decision to scapegoat these women for his own shame is linked to a widespread perception that Asian women working in massage parlors are de-facto sex workers, whether or not they provide sexual services.

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Dems tempt GOP with earmarks to back infrastructure

Following last week’s announcement of an upcoming $multi-trillion infrastructure bill, Democrats in Congress are banking on $billions in earmarks to lure Republicans to the negotiating table. Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says, “I’m perfectly willing to divide it equally between Republicans and Democrats, and so it will be up to them if they want it. If they don’t, we’ll just have it on the Democratic side. But I think enough of them would like to have it on both sides”.

Deficit hawks on the Republican side, including Sen. Mitt Romney, argue that earmarks are not necessarily in the national interest. It largely comes down to seniority when it comes to Senators winning lucrative and job-creating earmarks for their districts. Nevertheless, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) estimates that 60% of his Congressional colleagues overall support bringing back earmarks.

The Democrats are billing the infrastructure bill as a further stimulus, in addition to the predicted $2 trillion in COVID stimulus that will likely come with it. Last week, Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the bill would bring “jobs to every zip code”.

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Putin responds to Biden’s “killer” comment: “Takes one to know one”

President Biden ruffled some feathers in Moscow yesterday when he characterized Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a killer”. Moscow-Washington tensions have escalated further in recent days over allegations of that Russian meddling in the 2020 US elections and the attempted murder and subsequent imprisonment of Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Responding to Biden’s comments, Putin retorted, “I remember, in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard, we used to say: ‘It takes one to know one’.”

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Strange bedfellows Russia, US push for peace in Afghanistan

Three decades after their proxy-war in the country, Russian and US envoys are pushing Afghanistan’s warring factions to get their acts together for peace. At two upcoming summits in Moscow and Turkey, representatives from Afghanistan and its neighbors will meet to discuss the next step in bringing a now-decades old conflict to an end.

Russian and US envoys are pushing for the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban to form an interim government. The US has already increased pressure on the Afghan government by refusing to confirm whether or not the US will move ahead on its planned May 1 troop withdrawal. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that the Taliban may make territorial gains in spring fighting if the Afghan government does not take the opportunity for a political solution.

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Trump urges fans to get COVID vaccine. 6 Asian women among 8 dead in Atlanta spa shootings. China requires Chinese vaccines for foreign travelers. Guinea Ebola survivor triggered new outbreak.


Trump urges supporters to get COVID vaccine

In a TV interview yesterday, former President Trump broke his silence to encourage Americans to get COVID jabs. Trump said, “It’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine and it’s something that works”. Trump directly addressed his own loyal fanbase, saying “I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly”.

Although, Trump and his wife quietly received vaccines in January, his core supporters have been among the most reluctant to get the jab. A recent poll showed that about a third of Republicans had no interest in getting the vaccine, compared to 10% among Democrats.

Trump’s statement came a day after Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, “If former President Trump woke up tomorrow and wanted to be more vocal about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, certainly we’d support that”. Psaki pointed out that Trump was the only living ex-president that had not yet done so publicly.

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6 Asian women among 8 dead in Atlanta spa shootings

Police have arrested a 21-year-old suspect in a deadly shooting spree at 3 Atlanta-area massage parlors. Eight people were killed, including 6 women of Asian descent. Police have not offered an official conclusion as to the motive. However, many fear that the shootings mark an escalation in months of anti-Asian hate crimes across the US.

The organization Stop AAPI (Asian-American/Pacific Islander) Hate has been compiling reports from all 50 states of anti-Asian hate crimes. The attacks range from verbal assaults to lethal physical violence in muggings or other unprovoked attacks. Asians have also reported workplace discrimination and being denied access to transportation and other public services.

The attacks have disproportionately targeted Asian women. Women have reported 2.3 times the number of hate incidents as men.

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China requires Chinese-made vaccine for foreign travelers

Beijing has announced that it will resume visa processing for visitors from dozens of countries. As usual, negative COVID tests will be required. However, the foreign ministry is also requiring that travelers have received a Chinese-made COVID vaccine at least 14 days prior to travel. This poses some difficulties, since many of the countries to whom China is opening its borders have not approved any Chinese vaccines.

Many foreign health agencies have been wary of China’s secrecy surrounding the development of its vaccines and lack of credible trial data. Even in countries that have approved Chinese vaccines, data as to their efficacy varies widely.

Despite the backlash, Beijing denies that the requirement is an effort to coerce foreign governments into approving vaccines

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Guinea Ebola outbreak traced to survivor of previous outbreak

Health authorities in Guinea believe that a man who survived Ebola 5 years ago may have triggered a new outbreak of the disease. If true, the alarming implication is that the disease can remain dormant for years in an outwardly healthy body.

Previously, the longest recorded time that an ebolavirus remained dormant before causing another infection was 500 days. Experts say that immunity from the virus could last many years after infection. 

Furthermore, it appears the new outbreak may have resulted from sexual transmission. After the 2013-2016 outbreak, researchers found that the virus can quietly linger in “immune privileged” areas of the body, including the testes.

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