February 19, 2018
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Trump to Continue U.S. War in Afghanistan, Likely Deploy 4,000 More Troops

President Trump has announced plans to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan—already the longest war in U.S. history. While Trump offered few specifics during his prime-time address Monday night, he has reportedly already signed off on a plan to send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The U.S. is already intensifying its air war in Afghanistan. During the month of June the U.S. carried out 389 airstrikes in Afghanistan, the highest monthly total in five years.

Trump’s speech follows an intense debate within the White House. Trump’s top generals had been pressing Trump to deploy thousands more U.S. troops, while former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and other members of the administration had been pushing to privatize the U.S. war and send in thousands of military contractors.

Syria: U.S.-Led Bombing Reportedly Kills Dozens of Civilians in Raqqa 

In Syria, the local journalistic group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reports dozens of civilians have been killed by U.S.-led bombing and U.S. artillery fire over the last few days amid the ongoing battle to seize control of the city of Raqqa from ISIS. The group says as many as 32 civilians were killed amid bombing in one neighborhood alone. Among the victims were eight members of a family who had fled to Raqqa amid earlier fighting in Palmyra. A local Syrian journalist with the outlet Sound and Picture reports, "The city is devoid of doctors and the market is devoid of food. What food there was in our fridges has rotted because of the absence of electricity."

University of Texas in Austin Removes 3 Confederate Monuments

Back in the United States, Confederate statues continue to fall amid nationwide protests against white supremacy and the monuments celebrating the U.S. legacy of slavery and racism. The University of Texas at Austin has removed three statues of Confederate leaders. In an email to students, the university president wrote "We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus." The University of Houston has announced it will rename a dormitory now called "Calhoun Lofts." Former Vice President John C. Calhoun was of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in U.S. history.

Baltimore Activists Take Sledgehammer to Christopher Columbus Statue

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, activists took a sledgehammer to a 44-foot-tall monument to Christopher Columbus, destroying part of the statue and then attaching a sign to its base reading "The future is racial and economic justice." This is one Baltimore resident, explaining why the statue was targeted, in a video posted online.

Baltimore Resident: “Christopher Columbus symbolizes the initial initial invasion of European capitalism into the western hemisphere. Columbus initiated a centuries-old wave of terrorism, murder, genocide, rape, slavery, ecological degradation and capitalist exploitation of labor in the Americas. That Columbian wave of destruction continues on the backs of Indigenous, African-American and brown people. Racist monuments to slave owners and murderers have always bothered me.”

Liberty Grads to Return Diplomas to Protest University Head’s Support for Trump

As many as fifty graduates of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, are planning to return their diplomas in protest, after the university’s president defended President Trump’s refusal to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one anti-racist activist dead and dozens wounded. In response to Trump’s comments that there was violence "on both sides," university president Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeted, "Finally a leader in WH. Jobs returning, N Korea backing down, bold truthful stmt about #charlottesville tragedy. So proud of @realdonaldtrump."

Secret Service Has Run out of Money to Protect Trump & Family 

The Secret Service says it has run out of money to protect President Trump and his family members, as the agency has been stretched thin by Trump’s large family, their multiple homes up and down the East Coast and Trump’s frequent trips to his private golf resorts. The Secret Service currently has 1,000 agents protecting Trump and 41 of his family members. Trump’s trips to his private golf courses are particularly expensive, with the Secret Service already spending $60,000 in taxpayer money on golf cart rentals this year alone.

Remains Discovered of Some U.S. Sailors Missing after USS McCain Crash

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet says remains have been found of some of the U.S. sailors who went missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in the waters off Singapore. Ten sailors were missing after the collision, and five more were injured. It’s the second time this summer that a Navy ship has collided with another vessel at sea. In June, seven U.S. sailors died after the USSFitzgerald collided with a container ship south of Japan. Before that, on May 9, USSLake Champlain was hit by a fishing boat, and in January, the USS Antietam ran aground.

Pope Francis Calls on Governments to Protect Refugees, Not Criminalize Them

Pope Francis has issued an action plan calling on governments worldwide to prioritize the dignity of migrants and refugees. The 20-point plan demands countries outline legal pathways for migration and avoid banning refugees or deporting them en masse. It also calls on countries to stop imprisoning refugees and migrants simply for entering a country without authorization. The Pope’s action plan comes as hundreds of Afghans are planning to march in Athens, Greece, today, to demand to be recognized legally as refugees and to call on Greece and the European Union to stop the mass deportation of Afghans.

"50 Years Is Too Long!": Protests Erupt in Togo Against Ruling Family Dynasty 

In west Africa, massive protests have erupted demanding an end to decades of rule by a family dynasty and the reinstatement of constitutional term limits in Togo. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets, chanting "50 years is too long!" They were confronted by troops firing tear gas and live ammunition. At least two protesters were killed by security forces.

Spain: Police Kill Suspected Driver of Van in Barcelona Attack

In Spain, police have shot and killed a suspect in the Barcelona attack that killed 14 people after a van plowed into a crowded walkway Thursday. Younes Abouyaaqoub was suspected of driving the van. He was shot dead by police on Monday in a town 30 miles west of Barcelona. On Sunday, thousands of Muslims marched against violence in Barcelona, chanting, "Islam is peace" and "not in my name."

Spain: German-Turkish Author Critical of Erdogan Briefly Arrested at Turkey’s Request

Also in Spain, German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli was briefly arrested over the weekend at Turkey’s request in a further crackdown against free speech and human rights by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The author has criticized Erdogan and written extensively about human rights in Turkey, including the 2007 killing of a Turkish journalist and the 1915 Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks. This is author Dogan Akhanli, speaking after being granted conditional release.

Dogan Akhanli: "I was even shocked, so to say, when I saw the police in front of me. Not shocked immediately, but later I was shocked that the police went there with the intention to arrest me. That shocked me, because I was wondering why I was of so much interest to the Spanish police that they have gone through so much trouble, and that they, so to say, arrested me in my hotel room."

India: Bank Workers Strike to Protest Privatization of Banking Sector

In India, unionized bank workers have launched a nationwide strike today to protest government policies that promote privatization of the banking sector. As many as 50,000 workers walked off the job today in the southern state of Tamil Nadu alone. The striking workers say the privatization and consolidation of the banks would make it even harder to get loans for agriculture, rural development and education.

Chile Rolls Back Strict Anti-Abortion Laws Imposed Under Military Dictatorship

In Chile, pro-choice activists have won a landmark victory, as the supreme court ruled Monday in favor of legislation that rolls back one of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws, imposed under Chile’s military dictatorship nearly three decades ago. The court ruling comes after years of organizing and protest by women across Chile. It will legalize abortion in cases of rape, when a mother’s life is in danger, or when the fetus is unviable. Chilean women celebrated the court ruling on Monday.

Chilean activist: "I decide, I decide, I’m free now to decide, I decide, no shitty conservative is going to tell me what I have to do with my uterus, I decide."

Tens of Thousands Expected to Protest Trump’s Speech in Arizona

Back in the United States, President Trump is heading to Arizona today, where he’s expected to face major protests in Phoenix. Local news reports that tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to protest against Trump’s campaign-style rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. There’s widespread speculation that Trump may pardon the notorious sheriff Joe Arpaio today, who has been convicted of contempt of court for defying a court order to stop his deputies from racially profiling people and then detaining them on suspicion of being undocumented. Arpaio is a major supporter of Trump whose policies have included detaining immigrants in a scorching outdoor tent city jail, which Arpaio once referred to as his own "concentration camp."

Ohio: Father of Steubenville HS Football Player Shoots & Wounds Judge

In Ohio, the father of a Steubenville High School football player convicted of rape in 2013 shot and wounded a county judge near the Steubenville courthouse on Monday. Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. survived the shooting. Suspected shooter Nathaniel "Nate" Richmond is the father of Ma’Lik Richmond, who served 10 months after being convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl. The judge was not the one who handled the rape case, and authorities are still looking for possible connections or a motive.

Pokanoket Nation Launches Occupation at Brown U. to Reclaim Ancestral Land

And in Bristol, Rhode Island, members of the Pokanoket Nation have launched a permanent encampment aimed at reclaiming their sacred ancestral land, which is currently claimed by Brown University.

Po Wauipi Neimpaug: “My name is Po Wauipi Neimpaug and I am the Sagamore of the Council Seven, Royal House, of the Pokanoket Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation. We are here at camp Po Metaco to repatriate the land ‘principal village’ of my people back to our nation."

Courtesy of Democracy Now

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