Headlines for August 26, 2022 – Democracy Now!

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In Ukraine, the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was cut off from the national power grid Thursday, after fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces sparked fires that destroyed a transmission line. Without a source of outside power, the plant’s automated system switched to an emergency backup — a last line of defense against nuclear meltdown. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear power station, with six reactors and thousands of tons of highly radioactive materials stored on site. On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia has put the whole world at risk of a major nuclear disaster.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Diesel generators were immediately activated to provide energy to the station itself, to support it after the shutdown. The world must understand what a threat this is. If the diesel generators had not turned on, if the automation and our station staff had not reacted after the blackout, then we would have already been forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident. Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.”
The latest fighting around the nuclear plant comes as the United Nations is negotiating with Russia for access to the site. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi told France 24 television Thursday he expects a team of inspectors to reach Zaporizhzhia within days.
Rafael Grossi: “We need to be there. We need to be there soon. Kyiv accepts it, Moscow accepts it. We need to go. And we are going to be there, hopefully very, very soon.”
Reporter: “Is 'very soon' days or weeks?”
Rafael Grossi: “Days.”
The United States launched a series of attacks inside Syria this week, targeting what the Pentagon described as Iranian proxies. U.S. Central Command reports that on Wednesday U.S. helicopter gunships killed up to three “suspected Iran-backed militants” after two bases housing U.S. troops in northeastern Syria came under rocket fire. A day earlier, U.S. warplanes struck near Deir ez-Zor in an oil-rich region along Syria’s eastern border with Iraq. The Pentagon says President Biden ordered the airstrikes to target fighters linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Congress has not formally authorized U.S. military action in Syria, and last month about 60% of House Democrats voted to end the U.S. military’s role in Syria.
In Bangladesh, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have staged protests in refugee camps to mark five years since Burmese soldiers began a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide against their community. The U.N. reports as many as 10,000 Rohingya were killed by Burmese forces during the 2017 pogroms, though some estimates put the death toll at more than twice that number. Another 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee Burma. On Thursday, protesters in a sprawling refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar said they’re ready to be repatriated — but only if they’re guaranteed security and Burmese citizenship.
Jamalida Begum: “Today we are holding a demonstration, because in 2017 the Burmese army killed our people in a genocide. They killed my husband and others. The military raped us, then they killed our children, throwing them into fires and snatching them from the laps of mothers.”
Abul Kasim: “We are now ready to go back to Burma, but our demand is that we must get our citizenship rights. If they agree, then we are ready to go back. Bangladesh is not our soil. We don’t want to stay here. If we go, we will not stay in camps in Burma; we want to go straight to our own homes.”
Here in New York, environmental groups are warning United Nations talks aimed at protecting the world’s oceans are on the brink of failure. This week, diplomats convened at the U.N.'s headquarters for a final round of negotiations on a new treaty to protect biodiversity in international waters. Greenpeace says a handful of mostly rich countries, including the United States and Canada, have derailed progress on the talks, including a plan to establish “marine protected areas” spanning 30% of the world's oceans. In a statement, Greenpeace said, “It now looks like protecting 30% of the world’s oceans [by 2030] will be impossible. Scientists say this is the absolute minimum necessary to protect the oceans, and failure at these talks will jeopardize the livelihoods and food security of billions.”
Peru is suing Spanish oil firm Repsol for $4.5 billion over a massive oil spill that fouled beaches off the coast of Lima in January, when an underwater oil pipeline leaked nearly 12,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Repsol has denied responsibility for the spill, which Peruvian President Pedro Castillo described as “one of the biggest ecocides ever on our coasts and seas.” Locals continue to demand justice.
Perla Zamudio: “We have been enormously affected by the oil spill, just like the traditional fishermen at the port, which the company, Repsol, doesn’t want to recognize. And they said the only direct effect is on the rights of traditional fishermen. But we are all connected in a chain. We lived off and brought products from the Chancay port. Since the oil spill, we haven’t been able to get fish, and people don’t consume products from the port.”
In North Dakota, a state court has blocked an anti-abortion “trigger law” just before it was set to take effect today. On Thursday, a judge granted a preliminary injunction against the legislation, which makes it a felony to perform an abortion — with limited exceptions in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency.
Meanwhile, in Texas, an anti-abortion “trigger law” went into effect Thursday making it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by a $100,000 fine and up to life in prison. A similar “trigger law” — with no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal anomalies — also took effect in Tennessee.
In South Carolina, Republican state Representative Neal Collins recently said he is reconsidering his support of his state’s so-called fetal heartbeat bill after learning how the law imperiled the life of one of his constituents. Last week, Collins described how he learned from a doctor about a 19-year-old who was denied abortion care for her unviable fetus and sent home from a South Carolina hospital because the new law required her to wait until a heartbeat could no longer be detected in the fetus.
Rep. Neal Collins: “The doctor told me at that point there’s a 50% chance — well, first, she’s going to pass this fetus in the toilet. She’s going to have to deal with that on her own. There’s a 50% chance — greater than 50% chance that she’s going to lose her uterus. There’s a 10% chance that she will develop sepsis and herself die. That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people.”
Collins was among three South Carolina Republicans who abstained from a committee vote on a new bill that would ban nearly all abortions. That bill faces a debate by the full South Carolina House next Wednesday.
A federal appeals court has ruled against an Arkansas law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender children. On Thursday, a three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a temporary injunction against the law should remain in effect while legal challenges proceed. Last year, the ACLU sued to block the Arkansas bill on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as a pair of doctors who provide care to trans youth.
In immigration news, the Biden administration is turning the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, into a federal regulation — a move aimed at protecting it from more legal challenges. The rule is scheduled to take effect October 31. DACA has shielded hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and granted them work permits. Several Republican-led states have led lawsuits attempting to gut DACA, arguing the program is illegal. Last year a federal judge in Texas blocked new DACA applications; the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue an opinion on a challenge to that ruling later this year.
A federal judge has set a deadline of noon today for the Justice Department to release parts of the affidavit used by the FBI to justify its search of former President Trump’s Florida residence earlier this month. It’s not yet known how much of the affidavit will be redacted, but the document is likely to contain clues to how the FBI established probable cause in its search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where agents recovered 11 sets of classified documents, many of them marked “top secret.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is set to be deposed today in a lawsuit brought by the voting machine company at the center of Republicans’ false claims about a stolen 2020 election. Dominion Voting Systems is seeking $1.6 billion from Fox News, alleging the network’s hosts defamed the company by repeatedly promoting baseless conspiracy theories that its voting machines were used to steal votes from Donald Trump. Other prominent Fox News hosts facing depositions include Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Steve Doocy.
In labor news, workers at a Chipotle restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, have voted to form a union, making it the first successful unionization campaign at the fast-food chain. Workers have been demanding higher wages and better schedules. The Lansing store first filed for a union election in July. That same month, a Chipotle in Augusta, Maine, was permanently closed after workers tried to unionize. A company spokesperson said Chipotle was “disappointed” by the Lansing vote.
The National Labor Relations Board has filed a new complaint against Starbucks, accusing the coffee giant of illegally withholding wage raises and benefits from thousands of workers involved in union efforts. The complaint seeks full back pay for the workers and would require CEO Howard Schultz to record a video admitting his company’s illegal actions. Starbucks faces dozens of other unfair labor practice charges over its massive retaliation campaign against union organizers. Workers at more than 230 Starbucks stores have voted to join Starbucks Workers United since last December.
Qatar has deported dozens of migrant workers who recently led a protest denouncing unpaid wages. Many of them were from Bangladesh, India and Nepal and worked for Al Bandary Engineering and Electrowatt company, which hold multimillion-dollar contracts in Doha. Workers said they hadn’t been paid for at least six months’ worth of labor. British human rights advocate Mustafa Qadri recently spoke with migrant workers in South Asia who report they are still owed unpaid wages from jobs in Qatar as it prepares to host the World Cup. Many of them suffer from work-related disabilities.
Mustafa Qadri: “Speaking to victims of forced labor in Qatar, I’ve been shocked by the stories that I’ve heard. … FIFA, Qatar and its partners have failed their human rights responsibilities to respect workers’ basic rights and dignity at work, and also profiting out of an exploitative labor system.”
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