Tag Archive for: Iran protests

Drugmaker Eli Lilly caps out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $35 (for real this time).

Judge: Starbucks violated workers’ rights “hundreds of times”.

Iran: Alarm over gas poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls.



Drugmaker Eli Lilly caps out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $35 (for real this time)

Back in November 2022, an online hoaxer created a fake Eli Lilly Twitter account (with a blue check), and proclaimed that the company would make it’s insulin free. The real Eli Lilly then had to come out and say that the tweet was a fake and that it wasn’t reducing the price of its insulin. Now, the real Eli Lilly has taken the step to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for some of its insulin products to $35 for people with private insurance.

The move follows legislation in the Inflation Reduction Act that would cap the price for Medicare beneficiaries. At the same time, a few states, including California, Washington, Maine and Michigan, are exploring the possibility of producing their own insulin and selling it at cost, both to individual patients and to their own Medicaid programs. Eli Lilly’s decision may be meant to get ahead of those developments, which are sure to eat into their profits, while benefitting from a reputational boost.

Who will benefit?

Starting May 1, diabetes patients on high-deductible private insurance will be able to purchase four of Eli Lilly’s insulin products for $35 or less. The company says it is expanding its Insulin Value Program which caps prices for the uninsured (patients can sign up at InsulinAffordability.com. )

However, for those with insurance, there may be a catch in the form of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). PBMs are insurance company entities who determine which drugs are covered under which insurance plan. When the PBMs come into play Eli Lilly’s profits on insulin sales may not suffer much under the new plan. 

Drugmakers offer rebates to PBMs to ensure their products are included and promoted in the menu of drug options insured patients can choose from. However, the PBMs don’t pass along that savings to the patient. By the time a company pays its rebates to the PBMs, the drugmaker may be getting only pennies on the dollar from each sale. By cutting its list price, Eli Lilly is essentially cutting out the middle man.

But PBMs may instead favor drugs from companies that offer them bigger rebates. Eli Lilly still has products on the market that won’t be subject to this $35-a-month cap, as do two of its largest competitors in this market, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

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Related: How Eli Lilly and other drugmakers have manipulated the insulin market to keep prices high for decades.


Judge: Starbucks violated workers’ rights “hundreds of times”

Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that Starbucks has violated the rights of unionizing workers in its Buffalo, NY, stores “hundreds of times”. Rosas ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven Buffalo workers the company fired and to reopen a store the company shutdown after its employees voted to unionize.

The ruling also requires Starbucks to post a 13-page document in all its stores detailing the company’s labor law violations and delineating the rights of workers. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will also have to read or be present at a reading of employees’ rights, with a recording of the reading distributed to all of Starbucks employees in the US.

A nationwide effort to unionize Starbucks workers got underway in 2021. To date, about 281 stores have voted to unionize, representing over 7000 employees. But Starbucks CEO Schultz has repeatedly, and often illegally, adopted illegal union busting tactics, including employee intimidation, firing union organizers and penalizing employees at stores who voted to unionize. Last year, a judge forced Starbucks to rehire 7 employees in Memphis, TN, who were fired after becoming involved in the movement.

Starbucks has yet to sign a contract with any of the unionized stores. Rosa’s ruling requires them to participate in bargaining with the union at multiple stores in Upstate New York. Starbucks may appeal Rosa’s ruling and has until March 28 to do so.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, will hold a vote to subpoena Schultz to answer for his union busting before Congress.

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Iran: Alarm over gas poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls

A recent wave of gas attacks on girls’ schools in Iran has parents, students and government officials pointing fingers in all directions. The gas attacks began in November 2022 as massive nationwide protest movement over state oppression of women was raging. By that time, girls’ schools had become hotbeds for such protests. Since November, more than 1000 students have been affected, but so far none have died. The symptoms students have experienced include respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.

After a brutal state crackdown including dozens of killings by police, thousands of arrests and several hangings, the larger protest movement has gone quiet. But the anger of the populace hasn’t dissipated, and schools remain focal points for organizing acts of civil disruption.

The most recent wave of poisonings have hit 26 schools in five cities, sickening dozens of girls. It’s widely believed among Iranians that these attacks are an orchestrated attempt to force the schools to close. The government has been cagey about who is behind the attacks and has refused to even confirm reports about what gas is being used.

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New ‘boil water’ notice in Jackson due to freeze. Four substations sabotaged in Washington State, leaving 14,000 without power. Iran protest movement marks 100 days.




New ‘boil water’ notice in Jackson due to freeze

Days of low temperatures and severe storms has wrought havoc over much of the US. Even Buffalo, NY, no stranger to harsh winter weather, has declared this the worst storm in the city’s history. In Western New York State, 27 people have died, 25 of them in Buffalo. This included many who froze to death in their cars after becoming stuck and then covered by snow.

Things haven’t been nearly as bad in Mississippi and the rest of the Southeast, but the region hasn’t been spared either. The antiquated and poorly-maintained water system in Jackson has suffered yet another weather-related blow, four months after the entire city lost water pressure for days this summer. Over the weekend, the city reported that water pressure was “fluctuating” due to the freeze. Now the entire city is under a “boil water” notice. In February 2021, a similar spate of freezing weather left much of the city without running water for days.

Months of political wrangling and finger-pointing between city, state and federal authorities has brought the city no closer to bringing its water system into the 21st century. Earlier this month, a federal judge appointed a special third-party manager to take charge of a series of short-term fixes.

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Four substations sabotaged in Washington State, leaving 14,000 without power

Between 2:39 a.m. and 7:21 p.m. local time on Christmas day, vandals broke into and sabotaged equipment in four power substations near Tacoma, WA. The entire state had suffered below freezing temperatures just two days before, but thankfully temperatures were low but at least above freezing on Christmas day. By Monday morning, most affected customers had power restored.

Local authorities are investigating but have made no arrests nor named any persons of interests. Power substations have become an appealing target for domestic terrorists. Earlier this month, gunfire attacks on two power substations in North Carolina left thousands without power for days amid freezing temperatures. Local police have still made no arrests in those incidents, which forced thousands of residents into shelters to keep warm and charge phones and home medical equipment. Authorities were also unable to confirm or refute reports that the saboteurs had targeted the substations to thwart plans for a drag show.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security warned that critical infrastructure, including largely unsecured power stations, could be targeted by “lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances”.

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Iran protest movement marks 100 days

Iran’s antiregime protest movement has just reached the 100-day mark. It began with the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa, or Zhina, Amini in the custody of the morality police. Since then, the protest movement has continued to grow and evolve, as has the regime’s response to it. The regime has deployed deadly force against street protesters. According to Human Rights Activists’ News Agency (HRANA), police have killed more than 500 protesters, including 69 children. Prominent members of the resistance (including some whose only crime was posting a TikTok video) have also been arrested.

Police routinely shoot protesters with pellets in the face and genitals, permanently disfiguring them. Detained female protesters have described sexual assault while in prison or in police custody. Two protesters have been executed on charges of “warring against god”. In one of these executions, the prisoner was hung from a crane. At least 26 other imprisoned protesters are charged with crimes that could result in execution. Reports of torture of detainees and evidence of torture on the bodies of deceased protesters have become common.

These intimidation tactics have indeed had an effect on the protest movement. While mass street protests continue, they are not as frequent nor as widespread as they initially were. Instead, the nature of the protests seems to be evolving. For example, protesters are hurling petrol bombs at police stations and religious schools. Recently, a “turban tossing” has emerged where a protester runs up behind a cleric, knocks their turban off their head and runs away. Famous sports figures and prominent members of Iran’s entertainment industry are also now speaking openly in favor of regime change.

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Brittney Griner freed: US swaps WNBA star for “Merchant of Death”. “Tripledemic” of flu, RSV, COVID strains hospitals. Iran carries out first execution connected with headscarf protests.




Brittney Griner freed: US swaps WNBA star for “Merchant of Death”

WNBA star Brittney Griner is now on her way home to the US after months as a Russian prisoner. President Biden, joined at the White House by Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner, announced that the US had reached a prisoner swap deal with Russia. Russia is releasing Griner in exchange for the US releasing the notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Griner arrived in Moscow in February where she plays for a professional women’s basketball team during the US off season. Police arrested her at the airport after finding vape cannisters in her bag containing hashish oil. Griner has a US prescription for the hash oil which she uses for pain management. However, marijuana is illegal in Russia in all its forms. 

The case received a great deal of media attention as Griner’s arrest coincided with the build-up of Russian military assets on Ukraine’s border. Once Russia invaded, many suspected that Russia had detained Griner to use her as a pawn in negotiations with the West.

Griner appeared in a Russian court over the summer. Despite pleading guilty to smuggling in a bid for leniency, she received a 9-year sentence in one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies.

Griner’s family and fans met today’s news of her release with elation. However, the family of another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan, were disappointed that Whelan was not also coming home. Whelan is a former US Marine who was arrested in Russia in 2020 on espionage charges. President Biden said the US has not given up on bringing Whelan home, but said that Russia “unfairly” considered Whelan’s case as being different to Griner’s. 

Who is Viktor Bout?

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Viktor Bout earned himself the nickname “Merchant of Death”. He was an international arms dealer suspected of having deep ties to the Russian government. He built a notorious reputation as someone who could obtain, sell, and move military-grade hardware to anyone, anywhere in the world for the right price. Bout would even sell his high-grade weapons to both sides in an armed conflict. His wares helped to fuel deadly conflicts in Africa, particularly during civil wars in Angola, DR Congo, and Sierra Leone. The 2005 film “Lord of War” starring Nicholas Cage was loosely based on Bout.

After an elaborate sting operation, US authorities arrested Bout in 2008 over a conspiracy to sell weapons to Colombian rebels to kill Americans. He was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

Securing Bout’s release has been a high priority for the Kremlin and Putin’s government has raised the possibility in negotiations with the US many times. It’s not clear whether Bout was himself working for the Russian government, but many think it likely as he was able to easily procure the latest in Russian weapons and even combat aircraft.

US security analysts believe it’s unlikely that Bout will once again represent a danger once he’s released. However, Bout is only 55 (we think) and if Putin is backing him, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that he could go right back to arms dealing on a mass scale.

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“Tripledemic” of flu, RSV, COVID straining hospitals

Doctors are raising the alarm as cases of flu, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are spiking across the country. Unlike during much of the COVID pandemic, children are proving to be especially vulnerable, especially to RSV. Pediatric units in major cities across the country are full to capacity, with many young children and even infants on ventilators. Many children are coming in with RSV and other infections at the same time.

RSV is a virus that commonly affects people in the winter months. However, infections began rising unusually early this year. Following the Thanksgiving holidays, cases of flu, COVID and RSV all predictably rose. Public health officials are urging people to get their flu vaccines and COVID boosters and to go back to social distancing and mask wearing to avoid overwhelming hospitals over the holidays.

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Iran carries out first execution connected with headscarf protests

When Iran’s attorney general hinted over the weekend that the country’s morality police might have disbanded, some observers wondered whether this meant the regime was attempting to assuage the growing protest movement. In the three months since a 22-year-old woman died in the custody of the morality police, the protest has taken on revolutionary overtones. However, the protests have continued, as has the state’s brutal police response to them.

Today Iran carried out the first execution known to be connected with the protest movement. Mohsen Shekari, 23, was hanged after being convicted of “warring against God”. Shekari took part in some of the earliest protests. He was arrested for allegedly stabbing and wounding a member of a pro-government militia during a demonstration. He was also accused of blocking a road with his motorcycle. Iran state television aired footage of Shekari’s confession, which rights groups believe was coerced. Shekari was visibly bruised in the recording.

Shekari was one of 21 people facing charges connected with the demonstrations which carry the possibility of the death penalty. Iran’s security forces have killed hundreds of protesters outright, many of them children.

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Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crime for burning cross to frighten Black neighbors. California Gov. targets Big Oil’s price gouging. Iran protests: Confusion after official implies morality police have disbanded.




Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crime for burning cross to frighten Black neighbors

Axel Cox, 24, of Gulfport, MS, has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges after a Dec. 2020 incident in which he set up a wooden cross on his front lawn, doused it with motor oil, and set it alight. According to the Justice Department, Cox admitted that he burned the cross to frighten his Black neighbors. He further admitted that he did it because of their race and because they were living next door to him. Court documents also show that Cox made “threatening and racially derogatory remarks” towards his neighbors.

Cox’s lawyer has entered a guilty plea in which Cox admits to violations of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act is part of the 1968 Civil Rights Act and prohibits discrimination against a person’s housing rights based on their race, religion, nationality, sex or family status.

Cox faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 or both.

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California Gov. targets Big Oil’s price gouging

As gas prices have risen and fallen over the past year, California residents have been paying consistently high prices, averaging over $6 per gallon. Despite various market and supply issues, major oil companies have been making record profits. California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom, rumored to have Presidential aspirations, is looking to find a way to penalize oil companies for price gouging and return some of that money to the state’s drivers.

Newsom hasn’t yet formally released this plan. However, it is likely to be similar to the windfall tax that prominent Democrats, including President Biden, have been calling for at the national level. As in Congress, the proposal would face an uphill battle in the California Legislature. The oil lobby is one of the top campaign donors for politicians in both bodies. California’s legislature is also seating an unusually high number of new members this term, many of whom received hefty campaign donations from Big Oil.

The Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry lobbying group, is also already fighting back. The group blames California’s regulations and tax system for its higher-than-average gas prices and called on lawmakers to do away with these regulations.

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Iran protests: Confusion after official implies morality police have disbanded

Over the weekend, Iran’s attorney general made a spontaneous remark that has raised questions about the status of the country’s morality police. Among other things, the morality police enforce the country’s strict dress codes for women. The death of a young woman in their custody for improperly wearing her headscarf has sparked two months of growing protests. Iran’s security forces have led brutal and deadly crackdowns killing hundreds of protesters, many of them children. However, the morality police themselves have been far less visible since the protests began.

At a news conference, a reporter asked Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri why the morality police had seemingly gone dormant. Montazeri responded that the morality police were not part of his justice department, but rather the interior ministry and that the agency had been “shut down by those who created it”. This created an assumption by many that the infamous agency had been fully disbanded. However, the government has issued no official decree to that effect.

Even if it’s true that Iran’s current iteration of the morality police is no longer active, the regime still has many other agencies to enforce its decrees. The justice department continues to arrest and sentence protesters. In time, a different mechanism for imposing strict Islamic dress and other morality issues may emerge. 

In any case, the protesters have made clear that, whether or not the morality police go away or the government enacts reforms to relax enforcement, their goal is total regime change.

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Costly train strike looming ahead of holidays. Shooter at CO gay club charged with hate crime, dodged red flag law. Turkey, Iran carry out airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan.


National train strike looms again ahead of holidays

Back in September, marathon negotiations between industry groups, labor unions and members of the Biden administration narrowly averted a major nationwide railroad strike. The parties hammered out a deal that would give train workers a 24% raise. However, the deal did nothing to address issues with working conditions and sick days, which were a major sticking point for the unions.

Leaders and members of the 12 major unions expressed dissatisfaction with the deal at the time, but agreed to put the contracts to a vote. As of now, seven unions have ratified the agreement; three have rejected it and are back at the bargaining table; and two unions have yet to vote. 

Now fears are rising that we could see a strike as soon as Dec. 4. If even one of the 12 unions decides to strike, all the others will join them. Back in September when a strike was first on the horizon, industry groups estimated a strike would cost the US economy about $2 billion per day. With the holidays approaching, the loss could be even better. Not to mention the fact that about 30% of freight in the US travels by rail. A rail strike could mean even greater supply chain problems and even empty shelves. Amtrak and some commuter rail lines would also grind to a halt.

In the event of a strike, Congress has the power to force the unions back to work. Workers know this would mean accepting a less favorable deal than the one that’s on the table now. But after over 5 years of negotiation and two years of crews working short-staffed with punishing schedules while companies made record profits, there is a lot of built up anger and frustration on the part of the workers

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Shooter at CO gay club charged with hate crime, dodged red flag law

Saturday night, a 22-year-old gunman entered Club Q, a LGBT club in Colorado Springs, CO., and started shooting. Anderson Lee Aldrich killed 5 people and injured 25 before two civilians heroically tackled and disarmed him. Police and first responders were on the scene within about 5 minutes of the first 911 call.

Aldrich was not known to the patrons or owners at Club Q. His attack coincided with Trans Memorial Day, when the LGBT community memorializes trans people who have died by violence in the last year. It seems Aldrich picked a day when he knew there would be a good crowd in attendance. He carried both and AR-style long gun and a handgun and brought several extra magazines. It’s not clear how many people were in the club that night, but Aldrich obviously hoped for a high body count.

Today Aldrich was charged with a hate crime. FBI agents have been working alongside local law enforcement processing the scene.

Back in June 2021, Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb. Police responded and evacuated nearby neighbors while the bomb squad searched his home for explosives. None were found. Local media reports that prosecutors did not pursue formal charges and the records were sealed. Nevertheless, Aldrich’s guns could have been confiscated under Colorado’s red flag laws. Red flag laws allow family members or law enforcement to obtain a warrant to remove weapons from the home of a subject who is considered a threat to himself or others. It’s not clear at present why this didn’t happen. Even if a judge had ordered Aldrich’s weapons confiscated, subjects often get them back within a couple of weeks.

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Turkey, Iran carry out airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkey is hitting neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan (in the north of the country) with air strikes in retaliation for a recent bombing in Istanbul. The Turkish government blames militant Kurdish liberation forces, known as the PKK, for the bombing. Air strikes have also taken place in Kurdish areas of Syria in what the Turks are calling Operation Claw-Sword. Turkey has been waging war on its own Kurdish population for decades and has committed numerous war crimes against them over the years. Militants have now largely retreated to areas of Syria and Iraq. Turkey has taken advantage of political turmoil in its neighboring countries, believing they can carry out attacks on foreign soil with impunity.

Iraqi Kurdistan has also been hit multiple times by Iranian missiles in recent weeks. Iran’s government blames the Kurdish minority for stirring and perpetuating widespread antigovernment protests across the country. Mahsa Amini (also known as Zhina Amini), the 22-year-old student whose death in police custody sparked the protests, was Kurdish.

The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group with their own language. They’ve been fighting to create their own state as they frequently face brutal oppression in the countries they inhabit. The diaspora spreads across areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and the Caucasus region. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Kurdish force called the Peshmerga fought alongside US troops. The Kurds then established a semi-autonomous region in the north of the country and enjoyed a period of relative peace. Now that the political situation in Iraq has become increasingly unstable, Iraqi Kurdistan has been vulnerable to attacks from all sides. 

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One year later, search continues for missing Oklahoma mom and son. Former Trump Chief-of-Staff ordered to testify in Georgia election interference probe. US sanctions Iran over hijab protest crackdowns.



One year later, search continues for missing OK mom and son

It’s been a year since Glenda “Cookie” Parton, 80, her son Dwayne Selby, 59, and Dwayne’s friend Jack Grimes, 76 vanished from Turley, OK, near Tulsa. Selby and Grimes were last seen on Oct. 25, 2021, on their way to a horse show in Texas. When they never arrived, Parton went searching for them and also vanished. Selby and Grimes’ vehicle and the vehicle belonging to Parton were soon both found abandoned in the Tulsa area.

On Oct. 31, 2021, hunters found human remains in a wooded area. Police later identified them as belonging to Grimes and said that his cause of death was homicide. Grimes’ remains were found only about a mile from his home. Investigators now believe that none of the three ever left the area. 

There has since been no sign of either Parton or Grimes, but police believe they also met with foul play. Back in March, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant at the home of Jack Grimes in search of clues. Authorities never revealed whether or not they found anything of interest. Investigators also sought information from people in the regional show horse scene. Grimes, Selby and Parton were loved and respected horse breeders and were partners in a business. However, authorities haven’t indicated that the trio’s fate had any connection to the horse world.

Person of interest?

Last week, TCSO spokeswoman Casey Roebuck told reporters that searches around the county, “resulted in some evidence that is pointing us toward a person of interest”. However, investigators aren’t yet ready to name or charge this person. “We are working with the Tulsa County DA’s office to try and build a case, but we’re not there quite yet,” said Roebuck.

“We have reason to believe the same person is most likely responsible for all three of their deaths,” Roebuck said. “It would help us exponentially if we could locate Dwayne and Cookie. But at this point, we haven’t”.

Bizarrely, a 4th person disappeared from Turley, a town of about 2500 people, about a week before Grimes, Selby and Parton. Shannon Miller, 39, was later found deceased as well. However there’s no indication to date that Miller’s disappearance and death has any connection to the others.


Former Trump Chief-of-Staff ordered to testify in Georgia election interference probe

A judge has ordered Mark Meadows to testify before a Fulton County grand jury probing attempts by former President Trump to interfere in the 2020 election. In late 2020, Meadows was Trump’s White House Chief-of-Staff. Meadows was part of an infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During that call, Trump called on Raffensperger to “find” the 11,000-odd votes that Trump needed to overturn his loss to Biden in Georgia. Trump also implied that Raffensperger and his attorney might face legal consequences if they refused.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis convened a grand jury earlier this year over this call and other attempts by Trump surrogates to pressure Georgia state officials to overturn the election results. The grand jury has already heard from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is also a target of the probe.

Like Meadows and others, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- SC) has been fighting subpoenas to testify in Fulton County. Graham also made phone calls to Raffensperger and other Georgia election officials and lawmakers following the election. Raffensperger says Graham pressed him about the legal authority to toss out certain ballots. Graham asserted his calls were simply “fact-finding” and that his status as a US Senator shielded him under the Speech-and-Debate clause. Court after court rejected this argument, until Graham appealed to the Supreme Court. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas temporarily blocked the subpoena. It’s worth pointing out that Thomas may have his own reasons for wanting to slow the investigation.



US sanctions Iran over hijab protest crackdowns

The US has announced new sanctions on Iranian intelligence officials, prison officials, leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and an Iranian firm engaged in online censorship. The new sanctions come 40 days after Mahsa (or Zhina) Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini was arrested for improperly wearing her hijab.

Amini’s death has sparked weeks of protests all over Iran against the country’s theocratic leadership and oppression of women and free speech. While Iran’s leadership has continually played down the significance and size of the protests, they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to try to suppress them. Human rights groups in the country say over 200 protesters have been killed in the crackdown and over 12,000 arrested. Just today, clashes occurred between police and protesters marking 40 days after Amini’s death. In Islam, family and loved ones observe a special day of remembrance 40 days after a death.

The sanctions come at a difficult moment for US-Iran relations. Since Biden took office, his administration has been attempting to renew the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump unilaterally withdrew. Progress in the negotiations has been slow and prospects for a new treaty look increasingly unlikely. At the same time, activists supporting the protesters in Iran have been calling on the US to pause the negotiation. They say that a new treaty and sanctions relief would strengthen the current Iranian regime and undermine the protesters.

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Report: DOJ believes Trump may still be holding onto government documents. Alabama prisoners strike over inhumane conditions. Iran protests: Family say 2nd girl murdered by police.



Report: DOJ believes Trump may still be holding onto government documents

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the investigation, the New York Times is reporting that the Justice Department is skeptical that Trump has returned all the government documents he carried off from the White House. The DOJ has reportedly been in continuous talks with certain members of Trump’s legal team in recent weeks. The reporting implies that these talks are similar in nature to months of talks with Trump’s team aimed at recovering stolen documents. It was only after months of bad faith negotiations that the DOJ authorized a search of Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago.

Since that August 8th search, questions have been swirling about dozens of empty folders with classification markings found by the FBI. It’s likely that the documents once contained in those folders are still in Trump’s possession. The question is, “Where?”. Some have pointed to a video from 2021 which has recently received attention. The video shows Trump getting on a private plane in Florida headed to New Jersey, where Trumph has his Bedminster golf resort. In the video, Trump aides can be seen carrying several heavy boxes which are identical to the boxes found to contain government documents at Mar-a-Lago. The reason this is significant is that this May 8, 2021, flight took place just two days after the National Archives reached out to the Trump team with concerns that documents belonging to the government may be at Mar-a-Lago.

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Alabama prisoners strike protesting inhumane conditions

Since late last month, prisoners at all 13 Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) prisons have been on strike from unpaid prison service jobs. Alabama prisoners routinely perform laundry, food service and maintenance work in prisons for no compensation. Since the strike began, ADOC has reduced the daily meals prisoners receive from three to two and canceled weekend visitations. While some prisoners say this is retaliation, ADOC says the cutbacks are due to logistical constraints due to the strike. However, ADOC insists the prisons remain fully operational.

Without prisoners to do much of the work, ADOC likely is experiencing logistical setbacks due to a long-standing staffing shortage that only worsened during the pandemic. This is in part why prisoners are striking. Advocates say these staffing shortages have led to, among other things, inadequate food, increased violence in the prisons, dangerous living conditions, and appalling shortfalls in medical and mental healthcare. In 2017, the Justice Department said these and other deficiencies in ADOC’s prisons violated inmates’ constitutional rights. But since that report, the situation has only gotten worse.

Prisoners are also demanding reforms to the state’s parole system and sentencing laws, both of which have led to dangerous overcrowding. ADOC prisons currently house over 20,000 prisoners in prisons designed to hold a maximum of 12,115.

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Family say second girl murdered by police in Iran protests

Iranian authorities claim that Nika Shakarami, 16, fell from a building during recent historic protests against the country’s morality police. Shakarami’s family say that she was beaten to death by police. Furthermore, Shakarami’s family say authorities kept her death a secret for nine days, then snatched her body from a morgue and buried her in a remote area.

Conflicting reports over Shakarami’s death signal that Iran’s elites fear that her death at the hands of police may stir further anger and protests. The protests began nearly four weeks ago when Zhina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Amini had been arrested for wearing her headscarf improperly. Meanwhile, the state coroner has ruled that Amini’s death was not a result of blows to her body but an underlying condition. Iran’s protesters are not likely to accept these findings

Another 16-year-old Sarina Esmailzadeh died after being beaten in the head and body with batons at a rally. Authorties are insisting that Esmailzadeh also died from jumping off a building.

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Ian devastates Florida, takes aim at South Carolina, Georgia. Iran strikes in Iraq kill at least 13 over protests. Putin prepares to annex Ukraine lands; at least 200,000 flee draft.



Ian leaves devastation in Florida, takes aim at South Carolina, Georgia

When Hurricane Ian made landfall at 3:05pm local time yesterday, it landed as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of over 150mph. Tampa Bay had been bracing for a direct hit for days. Although the city of Tampa still suffered extensive damage from flooding and wind, the heart of the storm veered southwards. Ft. Myers bore the brunt of the storm’s impact from huge storm surges, 16 ft. in some areas, and punishing winds.

While much of low-lying Ft. Myers had been under evacuation orders, many had stayed put, not expecting a direct hit. Some residents on Sanibel, a nearby barrier island, called for help during the initial surge, saying they were trapped in their attics. But weather was too severe for many hours to event attempt a rescue. As a result, local authorities fear there may be a significant loss of life in the area.

Officials in southwest Florida have confirmed deaths, but there is no official death count as yet. Rescue efforts are still underway. At least 2.7 million in the state were without power at one point. Utility crews, bolstered by volunteers from 27 states, have been hard at work since the worst of the storm passed. So far, they’ve managed to restore power to about 500,000 homes.

Reports have come in of extensive property damage, particularly in Naples and Ft. Myers. The full picture will become clearer in the days to come.

Dangers still ahead

As clean-up and rescue operations have gotten underway on the southwest coast, Ian continued its march across the state. Ian has been downgraded at this point to a Tropical Storm. Its progress has slowed but it continues to dump torrential rain in central Florida, particularly in the area around Orlando. Over the coming hours, Ian is expected to move slowly off the coast. There meteorologists say it is likely to regain strength over warm Atlantic waters. If it regains sufficient power, it could endanger parts of St. John’s county (where Jacksonville is) sending the flood-prone waters of the St. John’s River surging inland.

Forecasters are now predicting Ian will hit Charleston, SC, tomorrow morning as a Category 1 hurricane. Charleston is city particularly prone to flooding. A hurricane watch has been issued for the entire coastlines of South Carolina and Georgia.

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Iran drone strikes in Iraq kill at least 13 over protests

Following nearly 2 weeks of protests in Iran after the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, Iran has carried out drone strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan. Amini, 22, died in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who had arrested her for wearing her head scarf improperly. Days of protests in Iran left at least 72 people dead. Despite the growing protests, Iranian officials have continually downplayed their significance and blamed outside actors for instigating them. However, their reaction to the protests would suggest Iran’s elite fear the protests may have a destabilizing effect. 

Yesterday, Iran carried out the deadly attacks in Iraq in apparent retaliation for the protests. The attacks killed at least 13 people and wounded nearly 60. Iraq has been in turmoil for the past year following inconclusive elections. Turkey has also apparently seized on the opportunity to launch its own airstrikes into Kurdistan from the other side. Turkish authorities claim to have been targeting rebels of the Kurdish rebel group PKK.

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West blames Russia for sabotaging Baltic pipelines

NATO forces have now confirmed four leaks in two Nord Stream pipelines that carry natural gas between Russia and Germany. Both NATO and US officials have blamed Russia for deliberately sabotaging the two pipelines. The two pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 were not operational, but still contained huge amounts of methane gas, which is now bubbling up to the surface. The gas leaks not only pose dangers to shipping, they also constitute what may be the largest ever release of climate-warming methane in a single event. Not only that, oil and gas companies are taking advantage of the panic, sending already high gas prices in Europe skyrocketing by 14%. 

Putin prepares to annex Ukraine territory as at least 200,000 flee draft

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to sign a declaration annexing four Ukrainian territories. The regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia underwent sham referendums to join Russia starting last week. During these votes, occupying forces go house-to-house forcing people to vote. Not surprisingly, they voted to join the Russian Federation with 96% of the vote. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy condemned the sham votes and said there would be no further negotiations with Russia if Putin went ahead with the annexation. Western countries have rejected the votes as illegitimate and said they will never recognize the territories as Russian.

Meanwhile, various sources report that anywhere between 194,000 and 261,000 Russian men of military age have fled the country to avoid the draft Putin announced last week.


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Congress unveils gov’t funding bill with money for Ukraine, Jackson. Hurricane Ian: 2.5 million Floridians ordered to evacuate. Iran: At least 76 dead in crackdown on “morality police” protests.




Congress advances bill to avert government shutdown with money for Ukraine, Jackson

Last night, Democrats in Congress forwarded a 237-page federal spending bill that must pass by Friday to avoid a partial government shutdown. The bill would fund the federal government until December 16. The proposal also includes $12.3 billion more for Ukraine and $20 million in emergency funding to address the water crisis in Jackson, MS. 

The bill also includes a controversial energy permit reform provision put forward by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). The reform would fast track the permitting process for oil exploration and other carbon-fueled energy projects. The provision has met resistance from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Other progressives in the House have said they will vote against the bill if the provision is included.

Speaking on Fox News, Manchin said he had expected the resistance from Sanders and other progressives. However, Manchin was surprised by opposition from Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Republicans. McConnell has effusively praised Manchin’s conservative votes on a host of issues, including his role in killing the Build Back Better plan. But McConnell is upset with Manchin for voting with Democrats on a much pared-down bill that included corporate tax reforms and climate change spending. McConnell came out last week against the energy permit reform, apparently in a tit-for-tat against Manchin.

Manchin expressed exasperation with McConnell’s stance, bemoaning the fact that he was “a hero one day and a villain the next”.

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Hurricane Ian: More than 2.5 million Floridians ordered to evacuate

As predicted, Hurricane Ian struck Cuba last night as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm is now making its way up to Florida and is expected to strike Wednesday afternoon. The trajectory isn’t yet certain, but meteorologists say it’ll likely hit between Tampa and Ft. Myers. Officials have ordered more than 2.5 million people in areas vulnerable to flooding and storm surges to evacuate. In most cases, officials say, evacuees won’t have to go far away from their homes to get to safety. Even 5-10 miles inland would suffice.

In an attempt to dissuade people from riding out the storm in evacuation areas, officials have repeatedly warned residents not to underestimate Ian’s destructive power. The Tampa Bay area, which has not seen a storm of this magnitude in a century, is particularly vulnerable due to the shape of its coast line.

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Iran: At least 76 dead in crackdown on “morality police” protests

Protests over the police custody death of Mahsa Amini, 22, have entered their 11th day. Last week, Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the “morality police”, who had arrested her for wearing her hijab (a hair covering) incorrectly. Authorities claim that Amini suffered a sudden cardiac episode and slipped into a coma. Her family say that Amini had been beating by police.

The protests have been springing up in cities all over the country. Despite a brutal police crackdown that has left at least 76 people dead, the protests are continuing to spread and intensify. This has forced Iran’s hardline conservative President Ebrahim Raisi to promise an investigation into Amin’s death.

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