The Soapbox: Bannon and Jan. 6, Haiti, global COVID spikes

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN’s news desk, examining the major developments in world news and rounding up the stories we think are worth the read this week. Global consciousness for a global university.


Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

By Suhail Gharaibeh, Deputy News Editor

In the United States, team Trump defies democracy yet again

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold far-right political strategist and Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after he refused to cooperate with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. 

Earlier this week, Bannon refused to testify about his conversations with Trump leading up to the insurrection. Bannon’s attorney said he was absent at the “direction” of the former president, according to an email obtained by CNN. Rejecting these defenses on Oct. 19, the committee voted unanimously to hold Bannon in contempt, which set up Thursday’s House-wide vote.

“House investigators view Bannon’s testimony as crucial to understanding Trump’s intense focus on Congress’ Jan. 6 session to certify Joe Biden’s electoral college victory,” a Politico analyst reported. “In particular, they’re betting a Bannon-Trump conversation on Dec. 30 and Bannon’s Jan. 5 meeting with other figures of interest at D.C.’s Willard Hotel hold clues to Trump’s awareness of the prospect for Jan. 6 violence.”

Now that a majority of representatives — nine Republicans and all 220 Democrats in the House — have voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt, the case will be referred to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., for criminal prosecution.

In Haiti, protesters demand safety and the return of 17 kidnapped missionaries

Thousands of Haitians went on a general strike on Monday, Oct. 18 to protest for safety and social justice following the kidnapping of 17 Christian missionaries by an armed group on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.

“This strike is our way of saying that we can’t take it anymore,” striker Diego Toussaint told Reuters during protests in Port-au-Prince. “We live in fear.”

The kidnappers are demanding $1 million in ransom for each of the 17 missionaries, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Among the hostages are 12 adults and five children, all of whom were on a mission for the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. 

The group was kidnapped Oct. 16 while returning from a visit to an orphanage. The Miami Herald reported that their vehicle was hijacked in a Port-au-Prince suburb controlled by 400 Mawozo, an armed group that has consolidated its power through thievery, racketeering and, increasingly, kidnappings for ransom.

The U.S. FBI and State Department have dispatched a team to Haiti that will collaborate with the local U.S. Embassy to secure the release of the kidnapped missionaries, all but one of whom are U.S. citizens.

The Haitian human rights watchdog CARDH said on Oct. 19 that it had received 119 reports of kidnapping since the beginning of October alone — more than the entire month of September. The Washington Post reported that, with victims of all nationalities and social classes being violently abducted for ransom, Haiti now has the highest per-capita kidnapping rate in the world.

Around the globe, countries are still breaking their own COVID-19 records

Over 18 months into the pandemic, more than a dozen different COVID-19 vaccines are being administered around the world, with nearly 130 more in clinical development. However, a number of countries continue to reach record-high COVID-19 cases and deaths.

In the past week, Russia, Singapore, New Zealand and the Australian state of Victoria all logged higher numbers of COVID-19 cases than ever before. Romania now has the world’s highest death rate per capita, with one person dying of COVID-19 every five minutes, according to Reuters. Video of the “health catastrophe” recorded by the investigative news outlet Recorder shows that there are no free beds left in Romania’s largest hospital, yet ambulances keep bringing in patients with severe cases of COVID-19.

“The wave is also caused by lack of awareness and misinformation,” one doctor at the Bucharest hospital told Recorder. “The politicians should have been clearer. If they care about the wellbeing of the citizens, they should advise them to get vaccinated, because that’s the only way out of this.”

Meanwhile, as cases and deaths rise in the United Kingdom, medical professionals are urging the government to reinstate pandemic safety measures like mandatory masking in crowded or enclosed spaces in order to avoid “stumbling into a winter crisis.”

As of October 2021, nearly five million people around the world have died from COVID-19.

Contact Suhail Gharaibeh at [email protected]