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Headlines for November 16, 2021 – Democracy Now!

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President Biden has signed the $1.2 trillion dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, legislation hailed by the White House as the largest-ever federal investment in U.S. bridges, drinking water, passenger rail and public transit. Biden signed the bipartisan bill Monday on the South Lawn of the White House, surrounded by lawmakers from both major parties. 
President Joe Biden: “The bill I’m about to sign into law is proof that despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans can come together and deliver results. We can do this.”
Progressive lawmakers are demanding Congress swiftly pass an even larger piece of legislation: The ten-year, $1.75 trillion dollar Build Back Better Act to fund social safety net programs and combat the climate crisis. All 50 Republican senators oppose the legislation, meaning it needs the support of conservative Democrats to pass.
Last week West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin cast new doubt on the bill’s fate, after he said he would oppose tax incentives for electric vehicles produced by union workers. Manchin has also refused to say if he’ll back President Biden’s pledge at the COP26 climate summit to slash methane emissions by 30 percent this decade. Biden has proposed a tax on methane as part of the reconciliation package.
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for three and half hours in a virtual summit on Monday. Topics discussed included Taiwan, human rights and trade policies. During the summit Xi warned Biden that supporting Taiwanese independence would be “playing with fire.” Xi also criticized the U.S. for building new alliances in the Pacific region to counter China’s rise. Xi said dividing the world into blocs would “inevitably bring disaster to the world.” Biden called on the two nations to develop “guardrails” to help avoid possible disagreements from spiraling into conflict.
bq. President Joe Biden: “It seems to me our responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer in the conflict, whether intended or unintended. Just simple, straightforward competition.”
In Uganda, police say at least three people were killed and nearly three dozen others injured Tuesday after a pair of suicide bomb attacks rocked the capital city, Kampala. One of the blasts struck near Uganda’s parliament; another went off near Kampala’s central police station. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Islamic State claimed attacks in Uganda last month that killed civilians including children.
Spanish coast guard sailors on Monday rescued three dozen refugees in waters near the Canary Islands and recovered the bodies of two others who died during the crossing. Five people with hypothermia were airlifted to a nearby hospital in critical condition. Spain says nearly 17,000 people have made the dangerous journey to the Canary Islands from Morocco or occupied Western Sahara this year — more than double the number who attempted the crossing during the same period last year.
In eastern Poland, border guards fired tear gas and water cannons Tuesday at hundreds of asylum-seekers who tried to push their way through a razor wire barrier erected along the Poland-Belarus border. Some of the refugees responded by throwing sticks, stones, and bottles at soldiers in riot gear. Many of the migrants have spent weeks enduring freezing temperatures in squalid camps hoping to reach the European Union to apply for asylum.
On Monday, the E.U. threatened new sanctions against Belarus, accusing it of encouraging migrants to cross into Poland in retaliation for earlier sanctions imposed after Belarus cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
In Thailand, thousands of people took to the streets of Bangkok on Sunday in defiance of a ban on protests, after a court ruled that calls to reform the Thai monarchy amounted to attempts to overthrow the king. Since 2020, more than 150 people have been charged under a Thai law allowing prison terms of up to 15 years for anyone convicted of defaming Thailand’s monarchs. This is one of the protesters. 
 
bq. Peeyawith Ploysuwan: “The word 'reform' is not equivalent to abolition. You (authorities) want to do only the things you people desire, and see people with opposing views as the bad guys so you think that we’re trying to topple you. If society continues like this, how could we move forward?”
The United States has sharply condemned Russia over what it said was an anti-satellite missile test carried out Monday. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the missile targeted one of Russia’s own satellites. He said the resulting explosion created more than 1,500 pieces of orbital debris large enough to track, plus hundreds of thousands of smaller objects that pose a risk to satellites and astronauts. 
Ned Price: “Russia’s dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long term sustainability of outer space and clearly demonstrates that Russia’s claims of opposing the weaponization of space are disingenuous and hypocritical.”
This comes as the U.S., Russia and China continue to test new hypersonic missiles capable of flying through low-earth orbit to deliver nuclear warheads.
President Biden on Monday proposed a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling in and around Chaco Canyon, a site of ancestral significance to Indigenous people. The valley in the high desert of northwest New Mexico was at the center of Chacoan culture for about 400 years beginning in the 9th century.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who this year became the first-ever Native American U.S. cabinet secretary, praised the drilling ban. She added, “Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations.” Deb Haaland previously served as a Democratic congressmember representing New Mexico. 
Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy announced Monday he will retire when his term ends in 2022. Leahy is 81 years old, chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and is the longest-serving Senator currently in office.
In Texas, Beto O’Rourke said Monday he’s running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott in 2022. O’Rourke became a high-profile Democratic presidential candidate after he narrowly lost his bid to unseat Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz in 2018.
Meanwhile, an analysis of heavily gerrymandered Congressional maps proposed by Republican state legislatures since the 2020 census shows redistricting alone is on pace to give Republicans a House majority in the Midterm elections.
Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon turned himself in to the FBI on Monday after being indicted for two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Bannon was later released. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.
In Wyoming, the state Republican Party has voted to stop recognizing Congressmember Liz Cheney as a party member due to her vote to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection. A spokesperson for Cheney responded by saying it was sad that leaders in the Wyoming Republican Party have “allowed themselves to be held hostage to the lies of a dangerous and irrational man.”
In other Trump news, the Wall Street Journal reports a Miami investment fund is preparing to purchase the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC for $375 million and turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria hotel while removing the Trump name.
In labor news, unions representing more than 30,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers on the West Coast and Hawaii called off a strike Monday after winning a tentative contract that boosts wages and sets limits on nurse-to-patient ratios. Union negotiators also beat back a proposal by Kaiser managers to create a two-tiered wage structure that would have seen new hires paid significantly less. 
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees voted narrowly Monday to approve new film and TV contracts, ending a struggle that nearly saw 60,000 workers strike last month to demand higher pay, guaranteed breaks, and better benefits. A narrow majority of IATSE members actually voted down the larger of the two contracts, but the deal was still ratified after it gained a majority of votes under the union’s Electoral College–style voting system.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, jury deliberations begin today in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenage gunman who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020. Rittenhouse faces five felony charges including first-degree intentional homicide. On Monday the judge dropped a sixth charge for unlawful weapon possession. During closing arguments, Assistant District Thomas Binger urged jurors to convict Rittenhouse. 
Thomas Binger: “There is no doubt in this case that the defendant committed these crimes. He committed a first degree reckless homicide against Joseph Rosenbaum, he put Richie McGinniss’ life in jeopardy, he put Jump Kick Man’s life in jeopardy, he intended to kill Anthony Huber. And he attempted to kill Gaige Grosskreutz. All of those elements are true.”
During his closing argument, defense attorney Mark Richards maintained Kyle Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense.
Mark Richards: “Kyle shot Joseph Rosenbaum to stop a threat to his person. And I’m glad he shot him. Because if Joseph Rosenbaum had got that gun, I don’t for a minute believe he wouldn’t have used it against someone else. He was irrational and crazy.”
As the jury begins deliberations, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has put 500 National Guard troops on standby ahead of a possible verdict.
Meanwhile in Georgia, the trial is continuing for the three white men who hunted down and shot dead Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger. On Monday judge Timothy Walmsley rejected a request from defense attorneys to declare a mistrial. The judge also said it was “reprehensible” for the defense to object to Black Pastors being allowed to sit with Arbery family’s in the courtroom. Last week defense attorney Kevin Goff said “We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here.” He cited the presence of the Rev. Jesse Jackson who hadn’t actually attended the trial. On Monday, Rev. Jackson traveled to Georgia to sit with the Arbery family, prompting this remark from attorney Kevin Gough.
Kevin Gough “Your honor, I would submit, with all respect to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, that this is no different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guards in a small town where a young black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer or corrections officer.”
And students at Howard University have reached a deal that will bring an end to protests at one of the nation’s preeminent historically Black universities. Since October 12th, students have been occupying Howard’s Blackburn University Center to demand better campus housing amid reports of toxic mold, pests, and crumbling infrastructure in campus dorms. The students were also demanding better representation and more transparency from Howard administrators. An attorney for the students said that while details of the agreement remain confidential, protesters largely accomplished their objectives.

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