Amerika

Alexei Navalny

US hits Russian officials with fresh sanctions

The US has announced sanctions on seven Russian government officials and 13 Russian and European companies in response to the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which a US intelligence assessment confirmed to be the work of the FSB.

Russia

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny jailed

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was on Tuesday sentenced to more than two-and-a-half years in prison on charges that he violated probation while he was recuperating in Germany after being poisoned. Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany where he was treated after the attack with a nerve agent, which he has blamed on the Kremlin.

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COVID-19

'Neanderthal thinking': Biden lays into states lifting restrictions

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that moves by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others to lift statewide Covid restrictions showed 'Neanderthal thinking': “I think it’s a big mistake. I hope everyone has realized right now these masks make a difference," Biden said of the decision to lift mask mandates and other Covid mitigation measures. "We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”

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COVID-19

'Neanderthal thinking': Biden lays into states lifting restrictions

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that moves by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others to lift statewide Covid restrictions showed 'Neanderthal thinking': “I think it’s a big mistake. I hope everyone has realized right now these masks make a difference," Biden said of the decision to lift mask mandates and other Covid mitigation measures. "We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”

The president's remark came after both Texas and Mississippi issued executive orders Tuesday to eliminate mask mandates and let all businesses open at 100 percent capacity, flying in the face of health officials who have urged continued Covid restrictions. Biden has signed an executive order requiring mask-wearing on federal property but has little authority to overrule governors and other state and local officials.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, laid into Biden for his comments Wednesday.

"President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is 'neanderthal thinking.' Mississippians don’t need handlers," Reeves wrote in a tweet. "As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them."

In a statement to POLITICO, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said Abbott was "clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continue containing COVID."

"The fact is, Texas now has the tools and knowledge to combat COVID while also allowing Texans and small businesses to make their own decisions," Eze said. "It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed. We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans."

Ku Klux Klan

No charges for man who displayed Klan flag next to Black neighbor's home

A prosecutor has declined to file charges against a man who displayed a Ku Klux Klan flag in his window in suburban Detroit, next to the home of a Black family. Such “horrible conduct” doesn’t violate Michigan law, Wayne county prosecutor Kym Worthy said on Tuesday, adding that an ethnic intimidation charge would require physical contact, property damage or threats of such activity.

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Ku Klux Klan

No charges for man who displayed Klan flag next to Black neighbor's home

A prosecutor has declined to file charges against a man who displayed a Ku Klux Klan flag in his window in suburban Detroit, next to the home of a Black family. Such “horrible conduct” doesn’t violate Michigan law, Wayne county prosecutor Kym Worthy said on Tuesday, adding that an ethnic intimidation charge would require physical contact, property damage or threats of such activity.

“I strongly encourage the Michigan legislature to look, revise and create laws to protect citizens from this kind of horrible conduct,” said Worthy, who is Black.

JeDonna Dinges, 57, of Grosse Pointe Park, said the flag was hanging next door in a window directly across from her dining room. The incident occurred two weeks ago.

The flag was removed after police carrying large cloths visited the home and made a switch, the city manager, Nick Sizeland, told the Detroit Free Press last week.

The man’s girlfriend claimed they could not afford a curtain, Sizeland said.

“There is absolutely no question that what happened to Ms Dinges was despicable, traumatizing and completely unacceptable,” Worthy said. “But, very unfortunately in my view, not a crime. The KKK flag, while intending to be visible to Ms Dinges, was hanging inside of her neighbor’s house.”

The Klan was a secretive society organized in the southern US after the civil war to assert white supremacy, often using violence. It flourished well into the 20th century.

Dozens of people turned out for a 21 February march and rally to support Dinges. Before the flag incident, she said she was concerned about her safety after finding a full gas can inside her outdoor recycling bin.

Archdiocese New Orleans

Catholics should avoid Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans urged Catholics against taking a vaccine for COVID-19 manufactured by Johnson & Johnson because the vaccine is developed from stem cells obtained from two abortions. In a statement on the archdiocese's website, the organization argued that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was "morally compromised."

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Archdiocese New Orleans

Catholics should avoid Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans urged Catholics against taking a vaccine for COVID-19 manufactured by Johnson & Johnson because the vaccine is developed from stem cells obtained from two abortions. In a statement on the archdiocese's website, the organization argued that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was "morally compromised."

"The archdiocese must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing," the statement read.

"We advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines," the archdiocese continued.

A request for comment from Johnson & Johnson was not immediately returned.

Catholic groups that oppose abortion have long criticized medical companies that use human cell lines from aborted fetuses, while companies including Johnson & Johnson have defended the process as leading to medical breakthroughs on the disease prevention front.

"As a research tool, human pluripotent stem cells promise to expand our understanding of normal physiologic processes such as cell growth and differentiation, and to enable new insights into disease, which may lead to new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat a wide variety of disorders," reads a statement on the company's website.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine became the third candidate authorized for emergency use in the U.S. earlier this month, joining two others on the market produced by drugmakers Moderna and Pfizer.

COVID-19

Justice Department appeals order blocking federal eviction ban

The Justice Department is appealing a ruling by a U.S. judge in Texas blocking the federal eviction moratorium, the agency announced late Saturday, arguing that the ban remains broadly in effect in the meantime. The court in the Eastern District of Texas blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on Thursday, ruling that the federal government had overstepped its authority in imposing the sweeping ban. The decision “does not extend beyond the particular plaintiffs in that case, and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to other parties,” acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton argued. “For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect."

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COVID-19

Justice Department appeals order blocking federal eviction ban

The Justice Department is appealing a ruling by a U.S. judge in Texas blocking the federal eviction moratorium, the agency announced late Saturday, arguing that the ban remains broadly in effect in the meantime. The court in the Eastern District of Texas blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on Thursday, ruling that the federal government had overstepped its authority in imposing the sweeping ban. The decision “does not extend beyond the particular plaintiffs in that case, and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to other parties,” acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton argued. “For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect."

The CDC’s September order banning evictions amid the pandemic cited a 1944 public health law that gives the agency certain powers to prevent communicable diseases from crossing state lines. The Biden administration recently extended the moratorium through June.

“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium,” U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker wrote in the decision.

“It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic,” Campbell said. “Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year.”

Barker, an appointee of President Donald Trump, also said the government’s justification for the ban under the commerce clause of the Constitution was open-ended: “The federal government thus claims authority to suspend residential evictions for any reason, including an agency’s views on ‘fairness,’” he wrote.

The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal Saturday.

Boynton noted that Congress had signed off on the ban in his statement on the appeal.

"The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” he said. “By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more-crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of Covid-19.”

Intel report

Saudi prince approved Khashoggi murder

The Biden administration on Friday released a long-secret intelligence report concluding that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report reads.

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Intel report

Saudi prince approved Khashoggi murder

The Biden administration on Friday released a long-secret intelligence report concluding that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report reads.

The report was finally released more than a year after it was first completed by the intelligence community under former President Donald Trump and briefed to the relevant congressional committees, officials said on Thursday.
“We’ve made it clear that this administration will not sweep anything under the rug, and that President Biden will follow the law,” a senior administration official said ahead of the report’s release. The official added that the release was “in honor of Jamal and this horrific crime.”

“Our aim going forward is to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” the official said.