The far-right dictator of Belarus used a fighter jet and a fake bomb threat to force down a civilian airliner flying over his country, allowing him to arrest a journalist and dissident who was on board.
Meanwhile, Israel’s violence against Gaza is still having ripple effects after a ceasefire, as health officials report hospitals overwhelmed with wounded civilians are now also facing a surge in coronavirus cases.
And lastly, the Biden Administration finally granted Temporary Protected Status to thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the U.S., shielding them from deportation back to a country that is dealing with both a political crisis and a brutal COVID epidemic.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Belarus’ dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko carried out a shocking abduction of a journalist on Sunday, using a fighter jet and a faked bomb plot to force down a civilian airliner carrying the dissident and then arresting him on the ground.
On Sunday, dissident journalist Roman Protasevich was on a Ryanair flight from Greece to Vilnius, Poland, where he has been living in exile. Protasevich is the 26-year-old former editor of NEXTA, a channel on the Telegram app that has become one of Belarus’s largest opposition media companies.
The flight passed through Belarussian airspace, at which point Belarussian air traffic control claimed that there was a bomb threat aboard. Lukashenko then used that as pretext to personally order Mig-29 fighter jet up to force the plane to land in Minsk, although it was by that time far closer to its destination of Vilnius, according to the BBC.
After seven hours on the tarmac in Minsk, the flight eventually made it to Vilnius. But Protasevich was not aboard, as he had been abducted by Belarussian agents when the plane was forced to land. One passenger on the flight told AFP quote:
“He was not screaming, but it was clear that he was very much afraid. It looked like if the window had been open, he would have jumped out of it.” Protasevich reportedly told other passengers that he was facing the death penalty.
Lukashenko has, in recent months, brutally repressed protests against his authoritarian rule, but has been staunchly defended by the Russian government and faced little to no consequences for his policies. European governments and the U.S. have strongly denounced the shocking hijacking, but it’s unclear what concrete action they can or actually will take -- prior sanctions on the Lukashenko regime have clearly done little to dampen his brazen authoritarianism.
Gaza Sees Rise in Covid Cases
Israel agreed to stop its outright bombardment of the Gaza strip on Friday, but the aftershocks of its brutal campaign of violence are still shaking the captive population there.
According to the Washington Post, Gaza’s hospitals are starting to experience a new wave of COVID cases, as Israel’s bombardment forced many residents into close-packed bomb shelters.
Those cases are in addition to the 1,900 people who were injured directly by Israel’s bombing. To make matters worse, the Post reports that an airstrike destroyed the only lab in Gaza that was doing PCR tests for COVID.
All of this is even more outrageous when you consider the disparities between Israel and Gaza’s access to the vaccine. Outside of the strip, Israel has conducted one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world. But inside Gaza, only 2 percent of the population has been vaccinated. Much of this shortage is in thanks in part to the Israeli blockade that stops medical supplies getting through to people there.
Even before the recent bombardment, Gaza’s ICUs were completely swamped. The country has only 60 ICU beds for a population of almost 2 million.
The International Red Cross said that damage inflicted by Israel during the conflict cut water supplies in Gaza by 40 percent and had cut power to 700,000 Gazans at one point or another.
Lest we forget: all of this damage is intentional. Israel knows what will happen when it drops its bombs. And even though it claims to be targeting Hamas, it’s Gaza’s citizens who suffer the most.
Biden Gives Haitians Protected Status
Some good news from the Biden Administration. Biden’s head of the DHS announced on Saturday that Haitians living in the U.S. would be extended Temporary Protected Status, reversing Trump-era efforts to deport them or force them out of the country.
Some 150,000 Haitians have been living in the U.S. since the devastating 2010 earthquake, and recent political crises and the pandemic there have only made their predicament more dire.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of the DHS, acknowledged that the country’s recent plight has made it all the more important to offer these people shelter.
The temporary protected status order will last for 18 months, and is a continuation of policies the Obama administration started for Haitians after the 2010 quake. The New York Times reports that it originally stems from a 1990 law that allowed foreigners who had to flee their homes because of natural disasters and conflict to work and live in the United States.
This decision is far from fixing the disastrous trend of U.S. immigration policy, but it will certainly be a welcome relief for thousands of Haitians fearing for their lives and livelihoods. The U.S. was founded to offer refuge to the needy, and policies like this are the least we can do to live up to that ideal.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Some more good news for the coronavirus watch in the U.S. Our cases are down to their lowest rate since last summer, with fewer than 30,000 new cases a day. That’s still a lot, but at least 50 percent of Americans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine now, so we should see those continue to drop.
The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Read, said on Sunday that he supports assigning independent prosecutors to sexual assault cases in the military, cutting out the role that unit commanders had played in investigating their own troops.
Shareholders at Tribune Publishing, the company that owns the Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers, approved a sale of the company to Alden Global Capital, one of the most bloodthirsty vulture capital funds that has been destroying newspaper chains across the country, in another blow to the greater journalism industry.
In news that should surprise no one, GOP Senator Rand Paul has announced he will not get the COVID vaccine. What can we say -- I guess the only thing Rand is afraid of is that neighbor who beat the crap out of him a few years back, and not a deadly pandemic. A smart guy, that Rand.
AM QUICKIE - MAY 24, 2021
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Jack Crosbie
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn