February 19, 2018
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Egypt in Mourning after 305 Killed in Militant Attack at Sufi Mosque

Egypt has declared three days of national mourning, after at least 305 people were killed in an attack on a crowded Sufi mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday. Egyptian officials are calling it the deadliest terror attack in Egypt’s modern history. On Friday, more than two dozen attackers wearing military combat uniforms detonated a bomb inside the mosque, then opened fire with machine guns on fleeing worshipers, and set cars ablaze to stop people from being able to escape. Among the victims were at least 27 children. Officials are blaming the attack on a militant group linked to ISIS. This is Mohamed Abdel Fattah, the imam of the al Rawdah mosque, which was attacked on Friday.

Mohamed Abdel Fattah: “Yesterday’s sermon was on Muhammad, the prophet of humanity, and the week before that was on Muhammad, the prophet for mercy. I believe these are two issues that the entire world, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, need to implement: mercy, forgiveness, and humanity. A religion based on humanity will never condone violence, or aggression such as this.”

Over the last year, ISIS-linked militants in Egypt have also repeatedly targeted Coptic christians, bombing two Coptic churches and opening fire on a bus headed to a monastery. Within hours after Friday’s attack, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appeared on television, vowing revenge for the attack. Only minutes later, Egyptian warplanes carried out multiple airstrikes in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula. The military says they were targeting militants fleeing the attack.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Official Sues over Agency Showdown

In Washington D.C., there’s chaos at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as two people are battling for control of the consumer protection agency, which was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. After announcing his resignation earlier in the month, on Friday, former director Richard Cordray resigned and appointed his former chief of staff Leandra English to be his successor. But President Trump intervened, unexpectedly announcing he planned to appoint his budget director Mick Mulvaney to head the agency. While serving as a South Carolina congressman, Mulvaney voted to eliminate the agency entirely. Leandra English has sued President Donald Trump over his appointment of Mulvaney. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that created the agency specifically calls for the deputy director to become acting director when the agency’s top spot is vacant.

Lawmakers Under Escalating Pressure to Reveal Sexual Harassment Settlements

Lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill today, where they’re facing escalating pressure to reveal which lawmakers have used taxpayer money to pay out at least $17 million in settlements for sexual harassment and racial discrimination. While many members of congress are pushing to pass a resolution to require mandatory sexual harassment awareness training, Congressmember Jackie Speier is introducing legislation to make all sexual harassment settlements public. The bill would also end a mandatory “cooling off period” before accusers could file sexual harassment claims.

Michigan Congressman John Conyers is stepping aside as the ranking Democratic lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee, after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct. Conyers reportedly paid out $27,000 to one woman who alleged she was fired from his Washington staff because she rejected his sexual advances. The news of the settlement was first reported by Buzzfeed, after a white supremacist blogger gave Buzzfeed the documents. Conyers denies the accusations. Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken says he will not resign from the Senate, but is returning to Capitol Hill today feeling “embarrassed and ashamed” after three women accused him of groping them without their consent.

This all comes as President Trump continues to offer support for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting at least nine women when they were children or young adults. On Sunday Trump slammed Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, tweeting: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet.” Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 16 women.

Two Journalism Schools Rescind Awards Given to Charlie Rose

The journalism schools at Arizona State University and the University of Kentucky have rescinded awards given to Charlie Rose, who was fired by CBS after nearly a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. The dean of Arizona’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication said: “The actions victimized young women much like those who make up the overwhelming majority of Cronkite students – young women who deserve to enter workplaces that reward them for their hard work, intelligence and creativity and where they do not have to fear for their safety or dignity.”

Crowds Rally Worldwide for Int. Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Women across the world took to the streets on Saturday on the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Crowds poured into the streets in Peru, Mexico, France, Sweden, Spain, Mozambique, and other countries to protest femicide, rape and sexual harassment. In Turkey, thousands of women clashed with police in Istanbul during the protest.

Aysegul Doker: “They do not even let this (march) happen. They cannot even tolerate this. They do not want us, the women, to be free. But we will not leave the streets, as long as we can.”

Fatos Ocal “First, the government needs to stop their discriminating policies, even supported by laws, against women, because woman will always say no to this.”

South African Court Doubles Sentence for Olympian Oscar Pistorius, Convicted of Killing Girlfriend

In South Africa, the Supreme Court of Appeals has more than doubled the prison sentence for Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. The sentence has now been increased from six years to 15 years.

More than 100 Career Diplomats Exodus State Department under Tillerson

Back in Washington DC, more than one hundred senior Foreign Service officers have left the State Department since President Trump took office, in what appears to be a forced exodus carried out by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Among those to have departed was the State Department’s chief of security, Bill Miller, who left after Tillerson repeatedly refused to meet with him. Miller is one of the most powerful people at the State Department. Yet he was reportedly forced to cite a law requiring him to be allowed to speak with the Secretary of State before Tillerson was willing to meet with him—for five minutes, leading Miller to resign.

Pope Francis Visits Burma Amid Military Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against Rohingya

Pope Francis is visiting Burma today, amid the Burmese military’s ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims in the majority Buddhist nation. More than 600,000 Rohingyas have fled Burma into neighboring Bangladesh amid a Burmese military campaign of murder, rape, torture and forcible displacement.

Pope Francis is slated to meet today with the Burmese military leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has sole authority over Burma’s armed forces, and who is likely planning to run for president in 2020.

On Tuesday Pope Francis will meet with Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose relative silence in the face of the ethnic cleansing campaign has deeply undercut her international standing. This all comes only days after Bangladesh and Burma signed a deal to repatriate of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees back to Burma. This is Abdul Mannan, a Rohingya refugee speaking from a Bangladeshi refugee camp.

Abdul Mannan: “We ought to be returning to our own country but we have one condition. We Rohingya people want our own nationality to be recognised there, if we are not recognised by the government there then we will not go back from here.”

Honduras: Progressive Candidate Takes Early Lead in Presidential Election

In Honduras, millions of people went to the polls Sunday to vote in a contested presidential election that pits the authoritarian conservative president Juan Orlando Hernandez against the left-wing alliance’s candidate Salvador Nasralla. As of this morning, Nasralla is leading Hernandez by about five percentage points. Both candidates have claimed victory, although the results have not been fully counted.

Syria: Dozens of Civilians Killed in Last 24 Hours 

In Syria, dozens of civilians have been killed in the last 24 hours by shelling and airstrikes reportedly carried out by the Syrian regime and Russia. The attacks occurred in the ISIS-controlled eastern province of Deir Az Zor and the rebel-controlled district of Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus.

Pentagon to Admit There Are 2,000 U.S. Soldiers inside Syria

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is slated to announce in the coming days that there are already 2,000 US soldiers inside Syria. The Pentagon has previously claimed there are only 500 US soldiers inside Syria. This comes as the U.S. is reportedly ending its strategy of arming Syrian Kurdish fighters, who were the main on-the-ground fighting force in the months-long US campaign that pushed ISIS out of Raqqa. Turkey has opposed the US backing of the Syrian Kurds.

Pakistan: Law Minister Resigns After 5 Protesters Are Killed in Security Crackdown

In Pakistan, the federal law minister has resigned after weeks of escalating protests in Islamabad. On Saturday, at least five people were killed when security forces cracked down on the protesters, firing rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and water cannons.

Time Inc. Bought by Meredith Corporation in Koch Brothers-Backed Deal 

In news on media consolidation, the company Time Inc., which publishes Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and People, has been bought by the Meredith Corporation in a $3 billion deal backed by the Koch Brothers. The Meredith Corporation owns the magazines Family CircleBetter Homes and Gardens and AllRecipes.com. The Koch brothers invested $650 million in the deal.

Black Workers at Tesla File Class-Action Lawsuit, Saying Tesla Is “Hotbed for Racist Behavior”

Black workers at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Tesla of being a “hotbed for racist behavior.” A former African American worker at Tesla says he was routinely called the N-word while working at the factory, and that after he complained, he was fired for not having a positive attitude. Tesla is also facing lawsuits accusing the company of discriminating against LGBT workers and older workers.

Native Americans Gather in Plymouth, MA, for 248th Annual National Day of Mourning

And in Massachusetts, members of Native American nations from across New England gathered in Plymouth on Thursday to observe the 48th annual National Day of Mourning. As many across the country were celebrating Thanksgiving, the Native Americans were gathering to remember the genocide and colonialism brought by European settlers, who established one of the first permanent settlements in North America in Plymouth.

Courtesy of Democracy Now

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