Tag Archive for: earthquake



Buttigieg sends “sharply worded letter” to train company 16 days after Ohio derailment.

Biden makes surprise visit to Ukrainian capital ahead of Russian war anniversary.

Breaking: Another massive quake strikes Turkey.

Breaking: Another massive quake strikes Turkey 

Just over an hour ago, a 6.4 magnitude struck the southern Turkish province of Hatay. This is now two weeks after two earthquakes measuring 7.8 and 7.5 struck further east. In those quakes, Hatay was one of Turkey’s worst affected provinces. This quake seems to have been centered on Antakya (ancient Antioch). There, many people have been sleeping in tents since the initial earthquakes hit, afraid to return to their homes with over 100 aftershocks a day still threatening to topple already damaged buildings.

Early reports indicate that more buildings did come down in this quake. It’s too early to say at this moment whether this quake will add significantly to the already astronomically high death toll. Rescue crews are already there on the ground assisting in recovery from the previous quakes. However, the region is likely to experience more strong aftershocks from this quake in the coming hours and days. 

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Buttigieg sends “sharply worded letter” to train company 16 days after Ohio derailment

Yesterday – just over two weeks after the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, OH – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote what ABC News calls a “sharply worded letter” to the CEO of the Norfolk Southern rail company. Worth noting, Buttigieg didn’t address the incident at all for 10 days, despite being head of the relevant department. 

The derailment and the release and controlled burn of vinyl chloride at the site has raised health fears among East Palestine’s 5000 residents. Local authorities ordered an evacuation of the area shortly after the derailment, fearing a catastrophic explosion from the vinyl chloride. Residents were allowed back six days after. Many say they have regretted returning. Locals say that they can still smell strong fumes in the area and have reported various troubling symptoms including burning eyes and throat, loose stools, headaches and rashes.

State authorities have been insistent that the chemical spill has not affected local drinking water supplies. However, residents are not convinced, after a massive die off of fish in local waterways.

Norfolk Southern initially offered to pay the town $25,000, or about $5 per resident. It’s now upped its offer of an “inconvenience fee” to $1000 per household. The company is worth about $55 billion and reported record profits last year

Residents aren’t having it and have launched several lawsuits against the rail company, demanding among other things that the company pay for special medical screenings for anyone exposed to the spill and its aftermath.

What did Buttigieg’s “sharply worded letter” say?

Essentially, Buttigieg calls on Norfolk Southern to pay for the clean-up, “make residents whole”, and accept safety reforms. The letter points out that Norfolk Southern and the entire rail industry has actively lobbied against safety rules changes that would likely have prevented the Feb. 3 incident, or at least limited the scale of the catastrophe.

Specifically, he cited the industry’s efforts to fight tighter rules around high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT). These rules govern the speed at which these trains can travel through populated areas as well was what equipment and personnel have to be on the train. Thanks to lobbying pressure from the rail industry during the Obama administration, the rules for labeling these trains is very lax. As a result, the East Palestine train was not labeled as a high-hazard flammable train, despite carrying at least 5 cars containing highly-flammable and toxic chemicals.

The rail industry lobby was also successful in repealing a rule requiring installation of Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) braking technology during the Trump administration. As a result, the East Palestine train was using the Civil War-era braking technology used on most US rail freight.

NTSB is still investigating the cause of the accident, but it seems clear that poor regulation was at the root of it.

Buttigieg’s poor track record

Buttigieg’s letter concludes, “I expect that Norfolk Southern and other railroads will take action now, not later, to address public safety concerns and better prevent future disasters”. Unfortunately, Buttigieg does not have a good track record of holding companies accountable when it comes to repeated systemic failures.

For example, he failed to meaningfully tackle or address thousands of flight cancellations last summer. It wasn’t until the summer travel season was nearly over that Buttigieg threatened to take any action against airlines that did not offer inconvenienced travelers a full refund. Both Republican and Democratic Senators also blasted Buttigieg for his handling of the Southwest Airlines meltdown in December, and for his absence from a Senate hearing on the subject.

Before joining Biden’s Cabinet, Buttigieg was Mayor of South Bend, IN, from 2012 to 2020, earning him the moniker “Mayor Pete”. His greatest transportation-related accomplishment as Mayor of South Bend was putting some decorative lights on a bridge.

In his two years leading the Department of Transportation, Buttigieg has had ample opportunity to raise concerns about woefully inadequate safety regulations on the railroads. He did not. Admittedly, these failures to legislate and regulate predate his tenure. Still, two years is a long time for the Secretary of Transportation to say nothing about this immense problem. So is 16 days.

You can read the full contents of Buttigieg’s “sharply worded letter” by clicking here and scrolling down the page (opens in new tab).



Biden makes surprise visit to Ukrainian capital ahead of Russian war anniversary

This Friday, Feb. 24, will mark the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ahead of this sad occasion, President Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Biden reiterated US and Western support for Ukraine’s fight and pledged a further $500 million in US financial aid. He also commended the Ukrainians for holding out for a year against all odds. This time a year ago, most thought the war would be over in two weeks.

In addition to the anniversary, the timing of Biden’s visit coincides with a moment of increasing division among Ukraine’s allies. Zelenskyy has been aggressively campaigning for his allies to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine ahead of a renewed Russian offensive. He’s been asking for them since March last year, though with little hope of receiving them. After Germany and the US recently agreed to send battle tanks, a move they’d long resisted, Zelenskyy doubled and tripled down on his requests for F-16s.

Some of the allies, like Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, are all too eager to send them, but are waiting for some sign of support from the US, France, the UK or Germany. Over the weekend, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield may have signaled increased willingness by the US to supply the jets. Thomas-Greenfield says the US is “still having discussions” with Ukrainians on the subject.

One very good argument against supplying the jets to Ukraine is that it might just be the final push needed for China to begin supplying weapons to Russia.

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With child labor violations on the rise, some Republican lawmakers want to roll back protections.

Ohio community urged to use bottled water after toxic train derailment.

Syria: Assad allows more UN aid convoys into rebel stronghold nine days after earthquake.




With child labor violations on the rise, some Republican lawmakers want to roll back protections

Last year, two major companies, meatpacker JBS and automaker Hyundai, found themselves in an unwelcome spotlight for numerous child labor law violations. Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC was found to have illegally employed children as young as 12 in its metalworking plant in Luverne, AL. This turned out to be just one of 10 Hyundai and Kia suppliers violating child labor laws in Alabama.

In a separate case, the Labor Department discovered that Packers Sanitation Services, or PSSI, a cleaning subcontractor for JBS, had illegally employed at least 31 minors, aged between 13 and 17, to do dangerous overnight work. The cleaners use caustic chemicals, and at least one underage worker suffered severe burns. The Labor Department also accused PSSI of interfering in the investigation. PSSI allegedly altered or deleted employment records and intimidated underage workers to discourage them from cooperating with the probe.

Republican-led statehouses want more child labor

Republican lawmakers in Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio are now introducing legislation that would relax restrictions on child labor. Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature recently passed a measure to expand legal working hours for 14 and 15-year-olds, but the state’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoed it. All these states are experiencing labor shortages in certain industries as adult workers have moved on to seek more competitive wages elsewhere. GOP lawmakers defend opening the child labor market as a way to fill the gaps without raising wages. 

Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio all seek to expand the number of hours an underage worker can work and relax restrictions on how late they can work. The bills in Iowa and Minnesota also want to lift restrictions on kids working dangerous jobs. The Minnesota bill would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work construction.

In Iowa, children are prohibited from working in slaughterhouses, meatpacking or rendering plants; mining; operating power-driven metal forming, punching or shearing machines; operating band or circular saws, guillotine shears or paper balers; or working in roofing or demolition. However, Iowa’s new bill sets up a clever workaround to allow kids aged 14 to 17 to work in these dangerous jobs by designating their employment as a “work-based learning” program. The bill would also shield employers from lawsuits if kids are killed or injured doing these dangerous jobs.

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Ohio community urged to use bottled water after toxic train derailment

Officials fear that a Feb. 3 train derailment and a subsequent controlled release and burn of toxic chemicals may have contaminated the water in East Palestine, OH. The train was carrying 6 cars full of vinyl chloride, an industrial chemical known to cause rare liver cancers. Experts say the burn of the vinyl chloride may have also released dioxins. These are long-cancerous environmental pollutants. 

Ahead of the burn, authorities evacuated the surrounding area. Residents got the all clear to come home last Thursday. But since then, at least 3,500 fish have died off in local lakes and waterways. Locals have also reported rescue foxes and cats suddenly becoming sick and dying. Officials have also confirmed contamination of local waterways, though they initially said this wasn’t a concern. However, a 2019 assessment found that local aquifers had a greater danger of contamination because of a lack of protective clay.

Bruce Vanderhoff, the director of Ohio’s Department of Health, has downplayed these concerns. Nevertheless, Vanderhoff urged residents, especially those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or feeding formula to use bottled water until a full contamination assessment can be done. 

The railroad company in question, Norfolk-Southern, has said it will be digging test wells around the area to monitor the groundwater. Initially, Norfolk-Southern, a company worth $55 billion, offered to cut the town a check for $25,000- $5 for each of East Palestine’s 5000 inhabitants. 

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More: How Norfolk-Southern and other rail companies blocked safety regulations before the derailment (opens in new tab).



Syria: Assad allows more UN aid convoys into rebel stronghold days after earthquake

The death toll of the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last Monday has risen to over 41,000. The shambolic disaster response by Turkey’s government has been widely criticized. But across the border in war torn Syria, the response has been even slower to materialize. This is in part because of the civil war that has been going on in Syria since 2010. Over the last few years, the fight has narrowed to the northern part of the country. There, the government of Bashar Al-Assad, with support from Russian military and mercenary forces, has been fighting to retake Syria’s last remaining rebel stronghold. Four million of the people living in this enclave already relying on aid for their survival even before the quake.

The rescue and recovery process in government-held areas has been arduous. In the rebel-held areas, aid groups and even humanitarian convoys have largely been kept out. The rebels blame Assad for the blockade, while Assad blames the rebels.

It wasn’t until three days after the quake that the first UN aid arrived through the single crossing into the rebel-held area through Turkey. The US and UN have been urging Assad to open more crossing points into the rebel-held areas since the quake happened. Yesterday, the first UN aid convoys finally entered through a newly-opened crossing point. Assad has agreed to open two more crossing points for a total of four.

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White House: “No indication” three high-altitude “objects” recently shot down are extraterrestrial.

Georgia judge orders partial release of report on Trump election interference.

Turkey arrest building contractors after deadly quake; toll passes 36,000.



White House: “No indication” three high-altitude “objects” recently shot down are extraterrestrial

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified to reporters today that there was “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity” connected with three high altitude objects shot down in as many days over Canadian and US airspace.

Last Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced a US jet had shot down an object floating at around 40,000 feet over Alaskan. Kirby said the object was about the size of a small car and had no propulsion and was floating “at the mercy of the wind”. An unidentified source also described that object as “cylindrical and silver-ish gray”.

On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canadian and US pilots had shot down another object. That object was also described as “cylindrical”, this time by an official source, namely Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.

Yesterday, the US Air Force shot down a third object over Lake Huron. Another unnamed US government source described this object as “octagonal” with strings attached but no discernible payload (that is, it didn’t appear to be carrying external equipment).

General’s comments fuel speculation

Jean-Pierre’s comments were likely in response to comments by Air Force General and NORAD commander Glen VanHerck following Sunday’s takedown. At a press conference, reporters also asked VanHerck if an extraterrestrial origin for the objects had been ruled out. “I will let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out,” VanHerck answered. “I haven’t ruled anything out at this point. We continue to assess.”

When asked if the objects were balloons, VanHerck responded, “I’m not going to categorize them as balloons. We’re calling them objects for a reason”. Other comments from VanHerck served to explain why the military is detecting more of these objects than previously. Following the incursion of a Chinese spy balloon that floated across the US a couple of weeks ago, NORAD retuned its radar settings to detect smaller and slower moving objects.

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Related: China says US balloons have breached Chinese airspace at least 10 times in the past year.


Georgia judge orders partial release of report on Trump election interference

Late last month, Georgia judge Robert McBurney heard a request from several media outlets to publish the findings of a grand jury probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn Biden’s 2020 election win in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who led the probe, argued against releasing the report. Willis said that she wanted to protect the integrity of any potential prosecutions in the case. During that hearing, Willis said decisions on indictments were “imminent”.

Today, Judge McBurney ruled that due to overwhelming legitimate public interest, three sections of the report should be made public this week, regardless of DA Willis’ timeline. Included in the release will be the report’s introduction and conclusion and a section in which the grand jury “discusses its concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony”. McBurney ordered Willis to release those three sections this Thursday.

During months of closed door hearings, the grand jury called several prominent Trump allies to testify, including Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The grand jury also heard from Georgians involved in the plot to set up a fake slate of pro-Trump electors. Trump himself was not called to testify.

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Turkey arrest building contractors after deadly quake; toll passes 36,000

Turkish officials have issued arrest warrants for about 130 major building contractors whose buildings toppled during the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes last Monday. It’s not clear how many of these contractors have actually been arrested as many of them likely fled the country in the past week.

One contractor, Mehmet Yaşar Coşkun, was nabbed at one of Istanbul’s major airports as he was about to catch a flight out of the country. Coşkun’s brother and business partner, Hüseyin Yalçin Coşkun, was last known to be in Montenegro and has gone off the grid. The Coşkun brothers’ “earthquake-proof” luxury building in Antakya toppled over and entombed many of its occupants. Days after the quake, rescuers using thermal imaging could see that many of the trapped occupants were still alive, but dying of injuries, as well as cold, hunger and thirst. The building’s construction makes it all but impossible to save them since rescuers do not have the right heavy equipment. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has a long history of granting “amnesties” to contractors who buildings were not up to code. These amnesties were preferentially granted to contractors with ties to Erdogan’s nationalist AKP party. The arrest warrants are a bit of political sleight of hand on Erdogan’s part. Anger has been growing in Turkey over the government’s response to the quake. Opposition figures are also reminding the public of the culture of corruption, negligence and nepotism in Erdogan’s government that allowed so many shoddily built constructions. 

The death toll in Turkey and Syria is now over 36,000. However, Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, expects that the toll could eventually top 50,000.

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US jet shoots down object floating at high altitude over Alaska.

Former acting Defense Secretary says Pentagon budget should be cut in half.

Turkey-Syria quake: Newborn, toddlers rescued four days later.



US jet shoots down object floating at high altitude over Alaska

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced a short while ago that a US jet had shot down an object floating at around 40,000 feet in Alaskan airspace. Kirby told reporters that the object was about the size of a car. It also seemed to have no means of propulsion and was floating “at the whim of the wind”. According to Kirby, fighter aircraft went up to get a look at the object after it was spotted on radar. The pilots believed it was not manned. However, Kirby said, “It was difficult for the pilots to glean a whole lot of information”.

President Biden gave the order to shoot the object down, not because of any surveillance risk but because its lack of maneuverability made its course unpredictable, making it a danger to air traffic. Kirby said the object was shot down over frozen territorial waters  “So, a recovery effort will be made,” Kirby said, “and we’re hopeful that it will be successful and then we can learn a little bit more about it”.

An unnamed government source told ABC’s Martha Raddatz that the object was “cylindrical and silver-ish gray”. When Raddatz asked if it was “balloon-like,” the source responded, “All I say is that it wasn’t ‘flying’ with any sort of propulsion, so if that is ‘balloon-like’ well — we just don’t have enough at this point”. The description is reminiscent of objects reported by UFO watchers for years. However, this object is most likely terrestrial in origin, though as John Kirby pointed out, we don’t know who it belongs to yet or even what it is. 

Spy balloon furor fueling speculation, tensions

The incursion of this new object comes after a flurry of headlines about the Chinese spy balloon shot down last weekend. What we know from official and cited sources at this point is that officials believe it was capable of monitoring signal intelligence, that is, communications. The White House has also disclosed that such balloons have been sighted in the airspace of 40 countries over four continents.

However, the FBI says that their analysis of the balloon and the technology it was carrying is in a very early stage. Very little of the balloon’s hardware has yet been recovered.  The actual reconnaissance platform was only located yesterday. It remains submerged off the Carolinas and searches haven’t yet attempted to retrieve it due to rough seas.


Former acting Defense Secretary says Pentagon budget should be cut in half

Christopher Miler, who served as Acting Sec. of Defense in the final days of the Trump administration, says it’s time to “dramatically” cut the Pentagon’s budget. The Pentagon’s current $816 billion budget cut be cut by as much as half, Miller says. In addition to being wasteful, Miller contends that runaway defense spending contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle that incentivizes belligerence with foreign powers to justify more funding.

“We have created an entire enterprise that focuses economically on creating crisis to justify outrageously high defense spending,” Miller said in an interview on CBS. “You have to starve the beast to make people come out of their cubby holes and start thinking creatively,” Miller said. Miller also said that certain older and costly weapons systems should be phased out in favor of newer, more efficient and less expensive technology. 

In the interview, Miller specifically cited rapidly escalating tensions with China as an example of the military-industrial complex stoking conflict to feed a vast network of defense contractors. He also said that feeding those military tensions is counterproductive and is only strengthening Chinese President Xi’s position. “I think by constantly harping on the fact that China is the new threat and we’re going to go to war with them someday actually plays right into Chairman Xi’s hands and the Chinese Communist Party,” Miller said. “They need to have an enemy that they can, you know, focus their people’s anger and attention on and I think we provide them that opportunity by constantly harking on the fact that the Chinese are the greatest threat to America and what not.” 

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Turkey-Syria quake: Newborn rescued four days after earthquake

Rescuers examine 10-day-old Yagiz Ulaz who was rescued today, 4 days after a deadly earthquake in Turkey.

The death toll of Monday’s earthquake in southern Turkey has risen over 23,000 in Turkey and northwestern Syria. This makes it easily the deadliest earthquake in the world since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Haiti killed in excess of 100,000 people, though some estimates put the number as high as 316,000.

Because of the weather, bureaucratic snarls, and damage to infrastructure, aid workers and equipment have had a difficult time reaching the hardest hit parts of Turkey and Syria. However, there have been some moments that have brought some hope to an unspeakably dark situation. Today, a 10-day-old baby named Yagiz Ulas was rescued alive along with his mother in Turkey’s hard-hit Hatay province. 

At least eight other children were also rescued alive today, spurring on tired and overwhelmed rescuers. You can read more about their stories by clicking the link below.

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Toxic gas concerns linger after Ohio train derailment.

Chinese spy balloon: Diplomatic and political fallout continues.

Turkey-Syria quake: Death toll tops 12,000. Anger turns towards Erdogan.



Toxic gas concerns linger after Ohio train derailment

Last Friday, a cargo train derailed in a fiery crash in East Palestine, OH, near the state border with Pennsylvania. The train was carrying a shipment of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and unstable chemical used in making PVC pipes among other things. Fearing a potential explosion and an uncontrolled release of the toxin, authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for a wide area around the derailed train cars.

On Monday, a crew of workers emptied five of the tankers carrying the vinyl chloride. They then released it into a ditch for a controlled burn. The burn created a dark plume of smoke visible from miles away. Even now on Wednesday, authorities haven’t allowed evacuees to return due to concerns about the immediate effects of burning off the chemicals.

Vinyl chloride has been linked with rare liver cancers in pipe workers with prolonged exposure. Burning the chemical also releases phosgene glass, a chemical once used as a weapon of war. Phosgene is a colorless but smelly gas that can cause vomiting and breathing problems. But Neil Donahue, a professor chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, says the biggest potential long-term worry for residents could be dioxins that will be a biproduct of the burn. Dioxins are known carcinogens that can last in the ground and body for years.  

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Chinese spy balloon: Diplomatic and political fallout continues

Days ago, a US warplane shot down the Chinese balloon that had traversed the entire continental US in shallow water off South Carolina. A military recovery operation then got underway, collecting the debris using remote-controlled submarines in the frigid water. Military and intelligence agencies will analyze the debris in hopes of discovering the purpose and capabilities of the balloon’s apparatus. However, sources in both the military and intelligence communities have already come to the conclusion that the balloon’s purpose was espionage.

When the balloon’s presence in the US first came to national attention last week, Pentagon officials were quick to tell the public that they were certain it was Chinese in origin, and that it had been hovering over sensitive military installations. Nevertheless, officials said they believed it posed no military or intelligence threat and that there was no need to shoot it down. The balloon was taller than the Statue of Liberty and carried the size of two or three school buses. Shooting it down would have posed more of a danger than any intelligence it collected.

The reaction and the political and diplomatic consequences of the balloon were in many ways out of all proportion to any threat its presence posed to the US. We’ve since learned that similar balloons entered US airspace three times during Donald Trump’s administration and on one prior occasion during Biden’s presidency. In those instances, the balloons were too high to be seen from the ground with the naked eye or to pose any danger to aviation. The balloon’s spying capabilities were judged to pose no greater security threat than China’s sophisticated array of low-orbit spy satellites. Weighing all of these considerations, officials decided the most appropriate action was to take no action.

99 Luftballoons

This time, the reaction to a highly visible balloon apparently violating US airspace with impunity was decidedly different. Not only did it create a national uproar, with reactionary politicians of both parties calling for it be shot down (posing unknown dangers to people and structures on the ground), it also widened the rift between the US and China. Last weekend, Sec. of State Antony Blinken was due to travel to Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart. Once there, it was hoped we could find some common ground with the world’s other superpower and possibly find a path towards coexistence. Instead, Blinken’s trip was cancelled.

Chinese officials have also lashed out, likely out of embarrassment. Dubbing the balloon a “civilian airship”, Beijing officials slammed the US lack of “restraint” in shooting it down. They vowed to avenge the loss, saying China “retains the right to respond further”. This was a marked escalation in a years-long war of words between the two countries.

Because of this relatively minor incident, China and the US could now find themselves on the road from cold war to hot war unless cooler heads prevail. Regardless, this likely won’t be the last we hear about it, as Republican members of Congress are determined to use the incident to portray Biden as “weak” on national security, and Biden’s bellicose tone in his remarks on China during the State of the Union last night suggests he’s playing right into it.

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Turkey-Syria quake: Death toll tops 12,000. Anger turns towards Erdogan.

Rescue efforts continue in Turkey and Syria after two powerful quakes hit Monday morning. Volunteer rescue teams from 65 countries have arrived or are en route. In Turkey, the sheer scale of the disaster, with at least 6000 multi-story buildings toppled in across 10 provinces, means there simply isn’t enough personnel or equipment to attend all the scenes. In desperation, family members are digging with shovels and sometimes with bare hands to reach loved ones trapped alive in the rubble. The situation is equally grim in war-torn Syria where bureaucratic red tape and the danger of live fire make it difficult or impossible to get aid in. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is touring the disaster-hit areas in the south of his country. Amid growing anger and frustration at the government’s inability to cope with the tragedy, Erdogan made a rare admission of “shortcomings” in the initial response. He made these remarks in the particularly hard hit Hatay province. Much of its ancient city of Antioch (or Antakya) was flattened, including its state-run hospital. Hatay has long been neglected by Ankara, even before Erdogan, in part because of its largely Arab population. It remains one of the country’s poorest regions and was already suffering more than most of Turkey in the country’s recent economic downturn

Despite this, Hatay has been a political stronghold for Erdogan, who has courted Islamic fundamentalism. Southern Turkey, and particularly Hatay, is less culturally secular than the rest of Turkey. With a tough re-election fight coming in May, Erdogan visited with promises of a 10,000 lira ($532) payout to each family affected by the quake. This is about 2 months’ wages for the average worker in Antakya.

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 Tyre Nichols: 7 Memphis PD officers probed; More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis.

Biden to deliver State of the Union tonight with lackluster poll numbers.

Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll nears 8,000; conditions hamper rescue efforts.



Tyre Nichols: 7 Memphis PD officers probed; More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis

Memphis city attorney Jennifer Sink announced at a city council meeting that 7 MPD officers are currently under investigation in the death of Tyre Nichols last month. That brings the total number of officers fired or disciplined by the department to 13. Five officers have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder. A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was also recently fired. Hemphill’s violations related to his personal conduct, his truthfulness and his non-regulation use of his Taser. In the police bodycam footage of Nichols’ initial stop, Hemphill could be heard saying “I hope they stomp his ass”. The department also revealed that a 7th unnamed officer had been placed on administrative leave.

The investigation of the 7 police officers Ms. Sink referred to is apparently an internal MPD investigation to determine whether they violated department protocols. There’s no indication yet that any of them are facing a possibility of criminal charges.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has opened an investigation of the MPD. Specifically, the DOJ is reviewing the department’s use of force policies and its use of special enforcement units. All five officers indicted in Nichols’ death were members of the now disbanded SCORPION unit.

More concerning revelations about MPD Chief Davis

There have already been concerns about MPD Chief Cerelyn Davis’ initial reluctance to disband SCORPION despite many violations, and her time leading a similarly infamous and brutal squad in Atlanta. Davis was fired from the Atlanta PD in 2008 for attempting to halt an underage sex crimes investigation into the husband of one of her colleagues. But Davis appealed her dismissal and the Atlanta PD rehired her three months later.

It now comes to light that after rejoining the APD, Davis helped establish an exchange program with the Israel National Police. When she later became police chief in Durham, NC, Davis’ prior involvement with this program alarmed local activists who successfully lobbied the city council to ban such exchanges for Durham officers.

Advocates for police reform say that these exchanges contribute to the over-militarization of US policing. Eran Efrati of the group Jewish Voice for Peace says that “what takes place during US-Israel police exchanges does nothing to keep our communities safe”. Instead, Efrati says, “participants witness real-life examples of repressive violence” against Palestinians by Israeli security officers.

Police reform advocate Alex Vitale says the training US police receive in Israel “encourages a warrior mindset” and “exposes them to practices that would be unconstitutional in the US”.

Since Davis became Memphis Police Chief in 2021, and particularly since the death of Tyre Nichols, community leaders have expressed skepticism about Davis’ commitment to police reform. Earle Fisher, a Memphis pastor and campaigner against police brutality, said of Davis, “She’s presented herself as very polished and diplomatic in her presentation; but that doesn’t change the substance of the philosophy that she uses”. 

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Biden to deliver State of the Union tonight with lackluster poll numbers

President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address tonight at 9pm ET/8pm CT. Many expect that he will use this opportunity to make the case for his ambition to serve a second term. Biden hasn’t officially announced whether he will seek a second term, but most believe such an announcement is inevitable. Going into the speech, Biden has been buoyed by some encouraging economic news. Unemployment remains very low and inflation, while still high, is showing signs of slowing. However, Biden is not exactly riding high in the most recent polls.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden’s approval at just 41%. This is not the lowest of his presidency; the same poll had him at just 36% approval in May and June of 2022. An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 4 in 10 Americans say they are worse off financially than when Biden took office. This is likely tied to inflation and may improve over the next two years. But perhaps most discouraging for Biden’s 2024 prospects is an AP-Norc poll that found just 37% of Democrats want Biden to seek a second term. Unlike the other polls, this figure is heading in the wrong direction for Biden. Before the midterms, 52% of Democrats wanted him to run again.

Names and faces to put to Biden’s policies

Tonight is Biden’s big chance to make his case for the American people. Several people have been invited tonight to help Biden make his points about what he hopes to accomplish. RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, will lend support to Biden’s police reform agenda. Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park mass shooter last month, will be the guest of First Lady Jill Biden. Tsay’s presence is likely to bolster Biden’s case for gun reform. 

Others who will be in attendance have a stake in some of Biden’s key policies on infrastructure, immigration, abortion, cancer and other medical research, climate change, technological advancement and manufacturing. Also in attendance will be the Ukrainian Ambassador to the US.

Biden is also expected to offer an olive branch to skeptical Republicans while also advocating for a more equitable tax system.



Turkey-Syria earthquake: Death toll nears 8,000; conditions hamper rescue efforts

We’re learning more today about the sheer scale of death and destruction from the earthquake in Turkey yesterday morning. Tonight, the death toll in in Turkey stands at 5,894 people with around 32,000 injured. Across the border in Syria, the death toll is at 1,932. The World Health Organization has estimated that the death toll may rise to around 20,000. There also remain thousands of people still alive trapped under rubble, some contacting loved ones with their cell phones.

Despite the tireless efforts of local professional and volunteer rescuers, as well as teams arriving from dozens of countries, work is progressing slowly. Rescue efforts are being hampered by bitterly cold and inclement weather, a lack of equipment, shortages of supplies including food and fuel, and strong incessant aftershocks. About every 20 minutes on average, strong aftershocks are occurring somewhere within the area. This makes debris unstable and rescue efforts more perilous.

Additionally, the strong earthquakes yesterday damaged critical infrastructure like roads and airport runways. This has made it more difficult to bring in people and equipment. In Syria, the ongoing civil war has also made it more difficult for rescuers and equipment to enter rebel-held areas. Workers in the rebel-held areas say the Assad government is blocking supplies from entering. 

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Thousands dead in Turkey and Syria after 2 devastating quakes.

FBI arrests 2 in plot to attack power stations, destroy Baltimore.

US cold temperature record set in New Hampshire this weekend.



FBI arrests 2 in plot to attack power stations, destroy Baltimore

The FBI have arrested Sarah Clendaniel of Catonsville, MD, and Brandon Russell of Orlando, FL, for allegedly plotting a coordinated attack on power substations near Baltimore, MD. The FBI says the pair were motivated by extremist ideologies, but did not elaborate. Russell is a founding member of an Orlando-based neo-Nazi group calling itself “Atomwaffen”. In 2018, Russell received a 5-year prison sentence for possession of explosives. At the time, federal prosecutors claimed Russell planned to use the explosives to target civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues.

Despite these serious accusations, Russell was on supervised release by June 2022. At that time, Russell began communicating with an FBI informant. Russell put the informant in touch with Clendaniel, a felon who was having trouble obtaining new weapons. Clendaniel told the informant that her goal was to shoot at and disable several power substations around Baltimore. She told the informant such an attack “would lay this city to waste”. Russell apparently endorsed the plan to attack power stations as “the greatest thing somebody can do.”

These arrests come after months of warnings from the Department of Homeland Security that ideological extremists such as white supremacists were targeting vulnerable power infrastructure. Most power substations in the US have little more protection than a chain-link fence, making it easy for saboteurs to shoot and destroy key components. In December, shooting attacks on power substations in North Carolina and Washington State left thousands without power for days in freezing temperatures. Two men were arrested in January in the Washington attack. No suspects have been identified in the North Carolina incident.

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US cold temperature record set in New Hampshire this weekend

Since Thursday, the Northeast has been at the mercy of an Arctic blast that brought blistering cold and high winds. Several cities in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York State set or broke cold temperature records. Some areas experienced overnight temperatures in the negative 40s Fahrenheit when accounting for windchill.

On top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, a cold temperature record was set on Friday evening for the continental US. While the actual temperature was -46 degrees Fahrenheit, the windchill brought it down as low as -108 degrees. At Eureka, Canada’s northernmost Arctic weather station, temperatures were around -41 F.

Several cities, including Boston, took extra steps to ensure that homeless people had a warm place to sleep. Boston issued a weather emergency, keeping train stations open so that homeless people could find shelter. Other warming stations opened throughout the city, though many homeless people were hesitant to use them. 

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Over 2600 dead and climbing in Turkey and Syria after two devastating earthquakes

A little after 4am local time this morning, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in southern Turkey, near the Syrian border. The quake destroyed thousands of buildings on both sides of the border, with video showing some pancaking with the very first tremor. The tremor sent thousands of panicked people into the streets, screaming in the dark and confusion. This area is already experiencing snow, slush and bitterly cold temperatures, leaving people unsure where to seek shelter.

In the hours leading up to the 4am quake and in the hours since, nearly two hundred smaller quakes (many of them in the 4-5 magnitude range) have struck across the region ranging from the Mediterranean Sea to more than 300 miles inland. Then around 1:30 pm local time, another 7.5 magnitude quake struck about 60 miles from the 7.8 magnitude quake.

Seismologists have always known there was a dangerous fault running through this region, but it has been largely dormant for the last 100 years. Three major tectonic plates, the Eurasian, the African and the Arabian, meet just off the Mediterranean coast at this point. The Turkish side of the border here is home to many of the country’s poorest people, including many Kurds and ethnic Arabs. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war over a decade ago, it has also become home to millions of refugees. On the Syrian side of the border, both government controlled areas and the one remaining major rebel enclave were heavily affected.

The most recent count shows over 1600 dead across 10 Turkish provinces and nearly 1000 dead on the Syrian side. Both numbers are expected to climb. Rescue efforts are continuing into the night in freezing temperatures.

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Remains found in landfill search for Savannah toddler Quinton Simon; mom arrested. Over half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals may soon close. Many dead in Indonesia quake, including schoolchildren.




Remains found in landfill search for Savannah toddler; mom arrested

Over a month after 20-month-old Quinton Simon went missing from his Savannah home, a search of a local landfill led by the FBI has located human remains believed to be his.

Quinton’s mother, 22-year-old Leilani Simon, reported him missing on Oct. 5. Leilani initially claimed that Quinton’s father Bubba Moss had come in and taken Quinton. But police confirmed Moss was nowhere near Savannah when Quinton disappeared. Just a few days later, Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley told reporters that repeated searches of the home had yielded evidence that Quinton was dead. Quinton’s mother, Leilani, was named as the prime suspect.

Leilani Simon had lost custody of two of her three children, the youngest being a 4-month-old infant. But she and her boyfriend Daniel Youngkin were living with Leilani’s mother, Billie Jo Howell, who had been awarded custody. Howell was out of town when Quinton disappeared.

The week after the disappearance, FBI specialists in landfill searches flew in from all over the country. They were acting on information that suggested Leilani Simon had dumped Quinton’s body in a particular dumpster in a local trailer park near her home. After weeks of searching a mountain of trash, interrupted by passing hurricanes, the remains were found on Friday.

An FBI lab in Quantico, VA, identified them as human. It will take a few more days to confirm whether the remains are Quinton’s. Police arrested Leilani Simon yesterday on charges of malice murder, hiding the death of another, and making false statements.

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Over half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals may soon close

Mississippi’s rural hospitals were struggling financially before the pandemic, thanks in part to repeated refusal both by former Gov. Phil Bryant and current Gov. Tate Reeves’ refusal to accept Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Without this expansion, low income people who otherwise would qualify for Medicaid have no insurance. That leaves the hospitals on the hook for uncompensated care.

The pandemic may now be claiming 38 (54%) of Mississippi’s rural hospitals as victims. Rising costs of care and hospitalizations have driven these hospitals to the brink of closure. During the pandemic, many permanent hospital staff nurses left to take better paying jobs as travel nurses, forcing hospitals to increase wages to retain staff.

The Delta will be the hardest hit region in terms of losing healthcare institutions. People in the Delta often have to drive over an hour to receive essential medical care as it is. But other more affluent parts of the state could be losing hospitals and clinics as well. 

Short-term solutions for long-term problems

Some hospitals have only managed to keep their doors open by cutting key departments like maternity care. In 2020, 60% of births in Mississippi were financed by Medicaid. Mississippi already has one of the nation’s worst success rates in prenatal, perinatal and postnatal care. We already lead the nation in rates of fetal mortality, infant mortality and pre-term births. Mississippi also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

The Mississippi Hospital Association is attempting to hold off some closures, at least temporarily. MHA has called on the state’s Division of Medicaid work with federal officials to raise cap on Medicaid reimbursement rates. That would at least decrease costs for caring for individuals already covered by Medicaid.

Democratic State Sen. Hob Bryan, says Mississippi’s hospitals are headed for “market failure” without urgent intervention. “What we need is somebody, somewhere in state government, who is charged with figuring what we want health care to look like now and five and 10 years down the road,” Bryan said. “Unless I’m terribly confused, there is nobody in your state government that has that charge”.

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Many dead in Indonesia quake, including schoolchildren

Yesterday afternoon, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake struck Java, Indonesia’s main island. The quake destroyed or damaged 22,000 homes and over 50 schools. When the quake struck at 1pm,schools were still in session. The death toll is currently around 268 people, many of them schoolchildren. That number is likely to rise over the following days and 151 people are still missing. Professional and volunteer rescuers worked long into the night to try to locate any survivors trapped in the rubble. 

Rescue and aid work is difficult as the damage is spread out over a wide area and there have been around 140 aftershocks. Much of the region is without power and landslides have affected roads and other key infrastructure.

Indonesia lies at one edge of the Ring of Fire, a highly seismically active boundary around a tectonic plate which roughly circles the Pacific Ocean. However, in this area of Java, buildings aren’t built to withstand earthquakes of this magnitude. Survivors describe seeing homes simply collapse almost as soon as the earth started shaking. More than 58,000 people have been displaced and some have carried cardboard signs seeking water and shelter.

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“Multiple” fatalities, dozens injured in Amtrak derailment in Missouri. Jan. 6 committee sets surprise hearing tomorrow. Afghanistan: Aid slow to reach villages after deadly earthquake.




“Multiple” fatalities, dozens injured in Amtrak derailment in Missouri

An Amtrak passenger train carrying 243 passengers and 12 crew members between Los Angeles and Chicago derailed at about 12:42 p.m. local time today in Mendon, MO. Eight passenger cars and two locomotive engines jumped the track after colliding with a truck. According to the superintendent of the local Chariton County Ambulance Service, there are multiple fatalities and at least 50 people injured. This is a developing story and authorities are still at the scene.

This is the second fatal Amtrak crash in two days. Yesterday, 3 people were killed and 2 seriously injured when an Amtrak train hit a car in Brentwood, CA.


Jan. 6 committee sets surprise hearing tomorrow

Following last Thursday’s live hearing, the Jan. 6 committee announced they’d be taking a break of several weeks. Today they announced a surprise hearing broadcast tomorrow, Tuesday Jun. 28, at 1 p.m. ET/ 12 p.m. CT. So far, the committee have not announced what the subject of tomorrow’s hearing will be, except to say that they will be presenting “recently obtained evidence”.

The surprise hearing comes after members of the committee met last week with Alex Holder, a British filmmaker. From the end of the 2020 campaign cycle until the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, Holder was filming a documentary titled Unprecedented with the cooperation of the Trump family. During that time, Holder had extensive and intimate access to Trump and his family members.

The committee has been in possession of Holder’s raw footage for an indeterminate amount of time. Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (R-MS) said the committee needed time to review the hours of footage. It appears some of the contents of the footage may contradict previous witness testimony.

Trump aides had no idea about the documentary

Holder coordinated the filming of Unprecedented directly with the Trump family, who granted him “unparalleled access” according to Holder. This arrangement apparently left several of Trump’s former senior aides completely in the dark about the documentary. Having seen a previous write-up about the documentary in Politico, one former Trump aide reached out to Rolling Stone asking, “What the f— is this?”. Another summed up the Trumps’ decision to allow a documentary film crew into their lives as “a terrible idea”. To Trump, a former reality star who prides himself on his media savvy, it must have seemed only natural.

Holder says that he and his crew had “no agenda” when they embarked on the project, except “to better understand who the Trumps were and what motivated them to hold onto power so desperately”.

It remains to be seen whether any of Holder’s footage will present the committee with any incriminating bombshells. Again, it’s not even certain whether Holder or his footage will be the focus of tomorrow’s hearing. The committee has also expressed interest in hearing from Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Pat Cipollone, a former Trump White House attorney. Either Thomas or Cipollone could offer enough information to merit a solo hearing, but so far there is no indication that either of them has come forward.



Afghanistan: Aid slow to reach villages after deadly earthquake

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 22, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck a rural area in southeast Afghanistan. Officials estimate that the initial quake killed about 1,150, injured 2000 and destroyed 10,000 homes in the remote mountainous region. Homes in the region are generally built from mud and collapsed in on residents as they slept.

Torrential rains over the following days have hampered efforts to locate survivors and victims, tend to the injured and bring in much-needed supplies. The rains have also triggered landslides that have either washed out or obstructed many of the dirt roads that are the only terrestrial route to many of the villages. Because of this, the Taliban government and some international aid organizations have been flying supplies in by helicopter. On top of that, the area has experienced several powerful aftershocks that have residents afraid to sleep inside what homes remain.

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Bipartisan gun control bill moves forward. Murder conviction overturned in case of GA man who left son to die in hot car. Afghanistan: At least 1000 dead after 6.0 magnitude earthquake.




Bipartisan gun control bill moves forward

A group of Republican and Democratic Senators has released the full text of the new gun control legislation. The Senate also voted to fast track voting on the bill. In addition to all Senate Democrats, 14 Republicans voted to fast track the bill, suggesting it has enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has also said that she will move for a swift vote once the bill arrives in her chamber.

What’s in the bill?

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act does include financial incentives for states to pass “red-flag laws”. These laws allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals who are adjudicated mentally ill or who have expressed intent to harm themselves or others. However, if a state chooses not to pass a red-flag law, they can still get money for other “crisis management” programs. The bill also provides funding for community mental health programs and in-school resources.

The legislation will also close the “boyfriend loophole”. Until now, only people convicted of domestic violence against a marriage partner banned from buying a gun. Now that will also apply to people convicted of domestic violence against a dating partner. 

Also included in the bill is expanded background checks for gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 21. Juvenile records will now also show up in background checks for people in this age group.

The bill does not include many of the measures that a majority of Americans (both Republicans and Democrats) support. For example, it does not establish universal background checks or close the “gun show loophole”. It also does not ban high-capacity magazines or end sales of military-style assault rifles. Nor does it raise the legal age to purchase such weapons.

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Murder conviction overturned in case of GA man who left son to die in hot car

In June 2014, Justin Ross Harris, then 33, was supposed to drop his 22-month-old son Cooper off at daycare on his way to work. Instead, with Cooper strapped into a rear-facing child seat inches behind the drivers seat, Harris pulled into the parking lot at his workplace and got out of the car at 9:25am. A little after noon, Harris returned to the car and opened the drivers side door to leave some lightbulbs he’d bought after lunch. By then, Cooper had already been in the car for over 3 hours in 92-degree heat.

Then at 4:16, Harris pulled into a mall parking lot after leaving work, having discovered his son dead in the backseat. He got out of the car and frantically yelled for passers by to call for help. A witness said Harris made three phone calls (none to 911) and never attempted CPR on Cooper, contradicting Harris’ later statement to police. Harris also neglected to mention his visit to the car after lunch during his interrogation.

Police were immediately suspicious about Harris’ behavior when they arrived to the scene. One moment he would be wailing frantically, and the next he’d be dead calm. He told officers he’d simply forgotten Cooper was in the backseat. As they put him in the back of the squad car, Harris complained about how hot it was.

Infidelity and Google searches on hot car deaths

After Harris’ arrest, police searched his home computer. They found that he’d been contacting women (and some underage girls) online and meeting them for sex. They also discovered that Harris had researched how long it takes a child to die in a hot car just days before Cooper’s death.

At his trial, prosecutors argued that Harris was unhappy in his marriage and intentionally killed his young son to free himself. The jury convicted Harris of “malice murder” (equivalent to first degree murder) in Cooper’s death and seven other charges. A judge later sentenced Harris to life in prison on the murder charge plus 32 years for the other charges.

Today, in a 6-3 decision, Georgia’s Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction against Harris. This means that Harris is entitled to a new trial on the murder and child cruelty charges. The majority ruled that the inclusion of the evidence of Harris’ infidelity was “extremely and unfairly prejudicial” and “improperly admitted”. The three dissenting judges wrote that the state was “entitled to introduce, in detail, evidence of the nature, scope, and extent of the truly sinister motive it ascribed to Harris”. 

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Afghanistan: At least 1000 dead after 6.0 magnitude earthquake

At about 1.30 am local time this morning, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck rural parts of Afghanistan and also shook part of neighboring Pakistan. Most people were in bed as their houses tumbled in on top of them. Many of the homes in this part of Afghanistan are mud-built. Since the area is remote, it took hours for rescue crews to arrive with heavy equipment to search for any survivors.

The latest information we have says that at least 1000 people were killed and about 1,500 injured, but the death toll is expected to rise higher. Rescuers have yet to reach some of the affected villages.

Images from local news shows rows of destroyed homes in numerous villages. Rescue and recovery efforts are ongoing. The country’s ruling Taliban government has sought UN assistance in assessing damage and aiding those affected. Several foreign governments have offered assistance. 

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NEMiss.News Texas abortion law protest


National and International News for Thursday Oct. 7

Texas abortion law is temporarily overturned. The debt ceiling crisis may be kicked to December. Twenty deaths confirmed in Pakistan earthquake, more expected.




Federal judge in Texas restrains state from enforcing its abortion law

 A federal judge in Austin, Texas, has issued an order temporarily overturning the strong restrictions on abortions passed by that state’s legislature.

However, the ruling is certain to be appealed by the state.

Judge Robert L. Pitman said in his opinion, “Women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.” The full opinion runs to 113 pages.

The Biden Administration Justice Department brought the case to Pitman’s court. Reacting to Judge Pitman’s ruling, the White House called the decision “an important step” toward restoring abortion rights in the state.

Judge Pitman was appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas by President Barak Obama in 2014. He holds a law degree from the University of Texas and a Masters degree from Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

For the full story: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58824668


Agreement to avert debt ceiling shut down until December appears near

The possibility of an imminent federal government shutdown over raising the government debt ceiling seemed to near solution yesterday. Democrats reacted favorably to a proposal by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell that would postpone a showdown until December.

See full story: https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-business-congress-mitch-mcconnell-6e330d9fb94b73787ea70e7807b87151





Twenty killed by earthquake in remote part of Pakistan

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck southern Pakistan early today, killing at least 20 people. Discovery of more dead is expected as rescue workers dig through rubble.

The worst-affected area was the remote mountainous city of Harnai, in Balochistan, where a lack of paved roads, electricity and mobile phone coverage has hampered the rescue effort.



Supreme Court ends eviction ban; get help now! Insurers: unvaccinated to pay more for COVID hospitalizations. 2 weeks after quake, Haitians still lack food, water and shelter.


Supreme Court overturns CDC eviction moratorium

When President Biden and the CDC declared a new ban on evictions earlier this month, they knew they were on shaky ground legally and that the ban would not survive a legal challenge. That’s because, when the Supreme Court ok’d a one-month extension from the end of June to the end of July, the court had prohibited further bans without specific legislation from Congress.

When that extension ended, Biden called on Congress to push legislation through. But Nancy Pelosi batted the ball back into Biden’s court without even holding a vote before adjourning the House for summer recess. Progressive Congresswoman Cori Bush, who was once homeless herself, staged a protest by sleeping on the Capitol steps. She called on Biden to defy the Supreme Court and reinstitute a ban to give states more time to distribute rental assistance. And Biden did just that, but now the time he borrowed has run out.

What did we do with that time?

Not much. Just two days ago, we learned that states have distributed just 11% of the nearly $47 billion in rental assistance approved by Congress. In Mississippi, the situation is even worse. As of early July, Mississippi led the nation in percentage of renters behind on payments (29% or 157,000 renters). As of July 30, the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program (RAMP), which distributes rental assistance for most of the state, had spent just 6.2% of its allotment. I’ve not been able to find any more recent reporting on how or if RAMP has progressed since then.

What can be done now?

Following yesterday’s Supreme Court’s ruling, the White House said that Biden would continue to push states to get money to renters and landlords faster. Congress could (and should) still hold a vote to give this process more time. Earlier this month, Pelosi justified her decision to not hold a vote saying she “didn’t have the votes”.

But with anywhere between 4 million – 11 million people in danger of eviction nationwide, now would be the time to get every member of Congress on the record. Force every Senator and Representative, Republican and Democrat to cast their vote. That way, at least, the hundreds or thousands of soon-to-be-homeless Americans each of them represents will know which of their representatives had their backs and which didn’t.

What can you do? 

If you are a renter in need of assistance or a landlord with tenants behind on rent, you can still apply for rental assistance directly from RAMP either by visiting ms-ramp.com, or calling:

Local: 601-533-8401
Toll-Free: 1-888-725-0063

Free help with navigating the application process is also available from two organizations, Covenant Faith Outreach Ministries and Mississippi United to End Homelessness (MUTEH).

Covenant Faith Outreach Ministries
Contact: Patricia Ross, info@cforminc.org
Office Hours: M-TH : 11 am – 7 pm

(Please be aware, this organization serves Union, Lafayette, Pontotoc, Lee, Itawamba, Prentiss, Tishomingo, Alcorn, Tippah, Benton, Marshall, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Monroe, Webster, Lowndes, and Clay counties)

According to this flyer from RAMP, people living in most areas of Mississippi can also contact (MUTEH) at 601-960-0557. You can also visit the MUTEH website by clicking here.

The MUTEH homepage shows links to click for people in different situations. These include “I am homeless and need housing”; “I am a homeless veteran and need housing”; “I am at risk of losing housing”; and “I am a landlord with tenants behind on rent”. When the page first opens, you’ll see a pop-up to sign up for a “waitlist” for help. This is for people who are just in arrears, but not in a more urgent housing situation.

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Insurers want unvaccinated to pay more for COVID hospitalizations

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) surveyed the top two insurance companies in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and found that more than 70% of the nation’s largest insurers are no longer waiving COVID-19 treatment costs. That means that if you get sick with COVID and require treatment or even hospitalization, a bigger portion of those costs will be coming out of your pocket. 

According to the CDC, unvaccinated people who contract COVID are 29 times more likely to require hospitalization than vaccinated people. Hospitalizations for a severe case of COVID can cost around $50,000. But insurers aren’t asking patients to foot the bill alone. On average, fully-insured patients requiring hospitalizations for pneumonia, which has similar treatment to severe COVID hospitalizations, end up paying around $1,300 out of pocket. That number can go up or down depending on what kind of coverage you have, what treatment you receive and where you are.

Matthew Rae of KFF explains that more insurers are pushing for more people to get the jab. Unlike last year, there is an effective and fully FDA-approved vaccine for COVID. So, insurers are not as eager to fully subsidize this care as they did throughout 2020 and much of 2021.

Earlier this week, Delta Airlines announced that unvaccinated employees will be charged $200 more per month for their company health insurance to offset the costs of hospitalizations. Rae says, “Now that COVID-19 is largely preventable for most adults and employers are pushing people really hard to get vaccinated, it makes a lot less sense for those employers to be giving people who do get infected a break,”

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2 weeks after earthquake, 1000s of Haitians still without adequate food, water and shelter

Two weekends ago, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Haiti. The quake killed about 2,200, left 30,000 families homeless, and many more scared to return to their homes.

The quake also flattened numerous clinics and hospitals, leaving those still standing struggling to attend the wounded. Medics say patients are still coming in with quake injuries that have gone untreated and are now infected. Even when patients leave the hospital, many have nowhere else to go.

Sterens Yppolyte, a trainee doctor in the hard-hit city of Les Cayes, says, “To tell the truth, medication and emergency health aren’t the most dire needs. Across the region what people need most is water, bread and tarps”.

Tarps and tents to build shelters, as many are sleeping with no shelter whatsoever. Roadblocks, fuel shortages and blockades by gangs have massively complicated the relief effort. Many communities whose roads were damaged in the quake are now only accessible by helicopter.

Uncoordinated aid

The U.S. military and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are coordinating relief efforts with military pilots helicoptering necessary supplies to remote areas. Colonel Steve Gventer oversees much of the air support missions. His pilots sometimes return with wounded who have no other way of reaching a hospital. Often, when pilots touch down in a remote village, they realize the bags of rice they are delivering don’t come close to meeting local needs. Local approach and ask for tents, water and basic medical supplies. 

But the military doesn’t decide what goes where, they just deliver what aid groups tell them to. Gventer says, “It’s very tough for us to deliver and then walk away”.

And that’s part of a much broader problem. As far back as the 2010 quake, which killed 200,000 and left 1.5 million homeless, there has been a mutual distrust between international aid groups and local government. This creates a lack of coordination and further hampers the ability to get supplies where it needs to go.

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