In Brief: July 8, 2021

Haiti in upheaval: President Moïse assassinated at home

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A squad of gunmen assassinated Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and wounded his wife in an overnight raid on their home Wednesday, with police killing four suspects and arresting two others hours later amid growing chaos in a country already enduring gang violence and protests of his increasingly authoritarian rule.

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Three police officers held hostage by the suspected gunmen were freed late Wednesday, said Léon Charles, chief of Haiti’s National Police.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas where a history of dictatorship and political upheaval have long stymied the consolidation of democratic rule.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Joseph called for an international investigation into the assassination, said that elections scheduled for later this year should be held and pledged to work with Moïse’s allies and opponents alike.

“We need every single one to move the country forward,” Joseph said. He alluded to enemies of the president, describing him as ”a man of courage” who had opposed ”some oligarchs in the country, and we believe those things are not without consequences.”

Crews give up hope of finding survivors at collapse site

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Emergency workers gave up Wednesday on any hope of finding survivors in the collapsed Florida condo building, telling sobbing families that there was “no chance of life” in the rubble as crews shifted their efforts to recovering more remains.

The announcement followed increasingly somber reports from emergency officials, who said they sought to prepare families for the worst.

“At this point, we have truly exhausted every option available to us in the search-and-rescue mission,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at a news conference.

“We have all asked God for a miracle, so the decision to transition from rescue to recovery is an extremely difficult one,” she said.

Eight more bodies were recovered Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 54, the mayor said. Thirty-three of the dead have been identified, and 86 people are still unaccounted for.

Trump files suit against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump has filed suit against three of the country’s biggest tech companies, claiming he and other conservatives have been wrongfully censored. But legal experts say the suits are likely doomed to fail, given existing precedent and legal protections.

Trump announced the action against Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube, along with the companies’ Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, at a press conference Wednesday in New Jersey, where he demanded that his accounts be reinstated.

Trump has been suspended from the platforms since January, when his followers violently stormed the Capitol building, trying to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential win. The companies cited concerns that Trump would incite further violence and have kept him locked out. All three declined comment Wednesday.

“We’re asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to order an immediate halt to social media companies’ illegal, shameful censorship of the American people,” Trump said of the filings. “We’re going to hold big tech very accountable.”

Twitter, Facebook and Google are all private companies, and users must agree to their terms of service to use their products. Under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, social media platforms are allowed to moderate their services by removing posts that, for instance, are obscene or violate the services’ own standards, so long as they are acting in “good faith.” The law also generally exempts internet companies from liability for the material that users post.

From wire sources

Study: Northwest heat wave impossible without climate change

The deadly heat wave that roasted the Pacific Northwest and western Canada was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change that added a few extra degrees to the record-smashing temperatures, a new quick scientific analysis found.

An international team of 27 scientists calculated that climate change increased chances of the extreme heat occurring by at least 150 times, but likely much more.

The study, not yet peer reviewed, said before the industrial era, the region’s late June triple-digit heat was the type that would not have happened in human civilization. And even in today’s warming world, it said, the heat was a once-in-a-millennium event.

But that once-in-a-millennium event would likely occur every five to 10 years once the world warms another 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius), said Wednesday’s study from World Weather Attribution. That much warming could be 40 or 50 years away if carbon pollution continues at its current pace, one study author said.

This type of extreme heat “would go from essentially virtually impossible to relatively commonplace,” said study co-author Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton University climate scientist. “That is a huge change.”

Black students, faculty: UNC needs self-examination on race

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When the University of North Carolina first declined to vote on granting tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, kicking off a protracted battle marked by allegations of racism and conservative backlash over her work examining the legacy of slavery, Black students and faculty at UNC saw yet another example of the institution’s failure to welcome and support scholars and students of color.

For years, Black students and faculty at UNC have expressed frustration with the way they are treated, from disproportionate scrutiny by campus police to the dearth of Black professors and staff. Without meaningful self-examination and change, they said, UNC risks its ability to recruit and retain students and faculty of color and continues to alienate its Black community.

“Right now, the relationship between the University of North Carolina and its Black students, faculty and staff is broken,” said Jaci Field, advocacy committee co-chair of the Carolina Black Caucus, a faculty group. “But have no fear. You belong. This is your home, too.”

UNC’s Black student and faculty groups presented a list of demands to the institution at a news conference Wednesday. Many centered on eliminating structural barriers Black students face, such as formalizing access to resources that many only learn about through word of mouth. The groups also urged the university to hire Black counselors and support staff in offices that work with students.

“It is hypocritical for this university to claim that Black lives matter, while disregarding the pain they have caused their own Black students and faculty,” said Julia Clark, vice president of the Black Student Movement.

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Adams’ win in NYC latest in surge for moderate Democrats

NEW YORK — The triumph of a moderate Democrat in the mayoral primary in deep blue New York City appears to accelerate a recent trend of some of the party’s most fervent voters breaking away from its most progressive candidates.

Eric Adams, a former New York Police Department captain, this week became his party’s nominee to lead the nation’s largest city after making a centerpiece of his campaign his rejection of left-leaning activists’ calls to defund the police.

His win comes on the heels of victories by self-styled pragmatic candidates in relatively low-turnout elections — which tend to draw the most loyal base voters — in races for a U.S. House seat in New Mexico, a congressional primary in Louisiana and a gubernatorial primary in Virginia.

And those successes come a year after President Joe Biden defeated more liberal opponents to capture his party’s nomination on his way to winning the White House.

It all raises questions as to the best candidates and approaches for Democrats trying to hold on to slim majorities in Congress next year and make inroads in Republican-dominated state legislatures.

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South Africa’s ex-leader turns himself in for prison term

NKANDLA, South Africa — Former South African president Jacob Zuma turned himself over to police early Thursday to begin serving a 15-month prison term.

Just minutes before the midnight deadline for police to arrest him, Zuma left his Nkandla home in a convoy of vehicles. Zuma handed himself over to authorities to obey the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, that he should serve a prison term for contempt.

“President Zuma has decided to comply with the incarceration order. He is on his way to hand himself into a Correctional Services Facility in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal province),” said a tweet posted by the Zuma Foundation.

Soon after South Africa’s police confirmed that Zuma was in their custody.

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Zuma’s imprisonment comes after a week of rising tensions over his sentence.

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