Headlines for January 04, 2022 – Democracy Now!

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Global coronavirus cases have skyrocketed to a new record high, with more than 2.2 million confirmed cases reported on Monday.
In southern Africa, cases are soaring in Mozambique, where President Filipe Nyusi said Monday he and his wife had tested positive for coronavirus and were self-isolating. Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi also entered isolation Monday after a positive test.
Australia recorded nearly 50,000 daily cases — a record high in a country that until recently had prevented large-scale community spread of the virus.
In France, lawmakers are debating a vaccine pass law that would require anyone 12 or older to present a vaccination certificate to enter restaurants and other public venues. 
Olivier Véran: “Let us not lose sight of the fact that the objective of this law is not to restrict individual and collective liberties of the French people. The objective of this law is to save lives. It is to protect our hospitals and relieve the workload of our healthcare workers.” 
Across the United States, more than 1 million positive coronavirus tests were reported Monday, shattering the previous single-day record. U.S. hospitalizations are rising rapidly, with COVID-19 patients now occupying more than 100,000 hospital beds.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration extended emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot to include children aged 12 to 15. Shots could begin later this week if the CDC signs off on the move.
This comes as more than 3,200 schools around the U.S. canceled in-person learning this week amid the surge in cases. In Florida, which has a test positivity rate of over 26%, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday rejected demands he open more coronavirus testing sites, and once again rejected calls to require public health measures like masking and social distancing in schools.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Kids need to be in school. They do not need to be doing any crazy mitigation. Just let them be kids. I think it’s pretty clear a lot of this mitigation hasn’t worked, period.”
Over 3,000 flights into, out of or within the United States were canceled on Monday as airlines struggled with staffing shortages and winter weather. Meanwhile, the coffee chain Starbucks has become the latest corporate giant to require workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly for coronavirus.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday he will schedule a vote on rolling back the filibuster by January 17 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — unless Republicans end their obstruction of voting rights legislation. Currently a pair of bills — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — don’t have the 60-vote supermajority needed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the 100-member Senate.
By Monday, nearly 60 groups had signed on to an open letter asking senators to reform the legislative filibuster to protect democracy. They cited a recent deal that saw Republican leader Mitch McConnell agree to a one-time exemption to the filibuster allowing Democrats to raise the ceiling on the national debt, writing, “Just as we needed to extend the debt limit to avoid economic calamity, we need to pass federal democracy and voting legislation to safeguard our democracy.”
Two Democrats — Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have said they oppose Democrats’ push to abolish the filibuster, which critics call a relic of the Jim Crow era.
Iraq’s military says it shot down a pair of explosives-laden drones Monday as they approached a military base near Baghdad’s airport where U.S. troops are stationed. The attack came after thousands of Iraqi protesters gathered in Baghdad to mark the second anniversary of the killing of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general and Iraqi militia leader who was assassinated in a U.S. drone attack ordered by then-President Trump. On Monday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Trump — and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — should face justice for Soleimani’s murder.
President Ebrahim Raisi: “If a just prosecution court is set up for Trump, Pompeo and the other criminals, where they are prosecuted for this shocking crime and they face the consequences of their horrible actions, then so be it. If not, do not doubt that I will tell every American official that the fist of revenge will extend from the sleeve of the Islamic community.”
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Monday he was forced to flee the northern city of Gonaïves on New Year’s Day after his convoy came under fire from members of a criminal gang. The gunfire reportedly left one person dead and two others injured. Human rights groups estimate criminal gangs control over half of Haiti’s territory, filling a power vacuum left behind by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a devastating earthquake in August.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro was hospitalized in São Paulo Monday with abdominal pain that doctors said was caused by an intestinal blockage. It was the latest in a string of health problems Bolsonaro has faced since he was stabbed in the abdomen during a 2018 campaign event. He faces the prospect of surgery just nine months out from presidential elections.
Bolsonaro’s hospitalization came as environmentalists warned deforestation in Brazil’s vast Cerrado region last year spiked to its highest level since 2015, as Bolsonaro’s government encouraged large-scale development by agribusiness companies and cattle ranchers. This is environmental scientist Ane Alencar.
Ane Alencar: “Deforestation is the most naked and raw indicator of the terrible environmental policy of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government.”
In California, a federal jury in San Jose has found Elizabeth Holmes guilty of defrauding investors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the blood-testing startup Theranos. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 at the age of 19. A decade later, she announced her company had produced a medical device that could test for more than 200 health conditions with only a few drops of blood. In fact, the device could run only a small number of such tests, and Theranos secretly relied on larger, commercially available blood-testing machines for its results. Holmes attracted large investments from billionaires including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, members of the Walton family and the family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Holmes was found guilty on four of 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy related to misleading investors. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the four charges, though white-collar criminals rarely face such a steep penalty. She posted bond and will remain free as she appeals Monday’s verdict, a process that could take years. 
A newly unveiled 2009 confidential settlement between convicted predator and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and survivor Virginia Giuffre has revealed Giuffre agreed to restrictions on her ability to sue others involved in Epstein’s network of abuse. The deal also awarded Giuffre a payment of $500,000. The settlement was made public as part of a lawsuit Giuffre filed against British royal Prince Andrew last year and may impact whether Giuffre’s suit moves forward. Prince Andrew’s lawyers are expected to argue again for a dismissal of her case against him today. Giuffre has accused convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell of trafficking her to Prince Andrew when Giuffre was 17.
Republican lawmakers who voted last year to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election received over $8 million in campaign donations from corporations and trade groups — even after the deadly January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. That’s according to data compiled by the watchdog group Accountable. The report focuses on 20 Fortune 500 companies and 10 industry groups — including Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Merck and Pfizer — that continued funneling money to GOP lawmakers even after the violent riot and unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
In a statement, Accountable said, “Major corporations were quick to condemn the insurrection and tout their support for democracy—and almost as quickly, many ditched those purported values by cutting big checks to the very politicians that helped instigate the failed coup attempt.”
This comes as over 200 vigils are scheduled to take place across U.S. cities and towns Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has subpoenaed former President Donald Trump’s two eldest children — Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump — as part of a civil investigation into Trump’s business practices. Their involvement was revealed in court documents that were filed Monday as the Trump Organization continues to attempt to block James from questioning Trump and his children. James has been investigating whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of its properties to obtain loans and then reduced them to evade taxes.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has confirmed he asked former U.S. President Trump to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and reiterated he’d offer Assange asylum in Mexico. This is AMLO speaking Monday from Mexico City.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “Before President Trump’s term was over, I sent him a letter requesting a pardon for Assange so that he’d be exonerated. As you know, when the presidents of the United States end their term, they can exercise this right. I sent him the letter and got no response. … We believe the United States government should act humanely. Assange is sick, and it would be a show of solidarity and fraternity to grant him asylum wherever he would choose to live, including Mexico.”
A British court in December ruled in favor of the Biden administration’s appeal to extradite Assange to face espionage charges in the U.S.

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