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313 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for March 2022
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3-31-22 Report: Biden expected to announce plan for massive release of oil
President Biden could announce as early as Thursday a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for as long as 180 days, a person familiar with the matter told The New York Times late Wednesday. The White House has been considering ways to lower gasoline prices across the nation, which skyrocketed in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; in March, the average price of a gallon of gas hit a high of $4.17, six cents higher than the previous record set in 2008. Biden's public schedule for Thursday states he is scheduled to deliver remarks in the afternoon on his administration's "actions to reduce the impact of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's price hike on energy prices and lower gas price at the pump for American families." The price of the American crude oil benchmark dropped about 4 percent Wednesday evening once reports began surfacing about Biden's plan. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was created after the 1973 energy crisis, and comes into use when the United States experiences an increase in demand or low supply, the Times says. It currently holds about 550 million barrels, with a capacity of roughly 714 million barrels.

3-31-22 Ukraine war: Ukraine sends buses to Mariupol for rescue effort
Fresh efforts are under way to evacuate civilians trapped by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a convoy of 45 Ukrainian buses was on its way to the besieged southern city. She said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had confirmed that Russia had agreed to open a humanitarian corridor to Mariupol. Tens of thousands of civilians remain there after weeks of bombardment. Earlier, the Russian defence ministry said the United Nations refugee agency and the Red Cross would assist in the evacuation of civilians. The evacuation was initially planned for Thursday, but the Red Cross has since told Reuters that for logistical and security reasons, the evacuation will now happen on Friday. It said a ceasefire would allow people to travel westwards to Zaporizhzhia via the Russian-controlled port of Berdyansk. A spokesperson for the ICRC said its teams were ready to help get civilians out of Mariupol from Friday, but only if all parties agreed on the terms. "It's desperately important that this operation takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of people in Mariupol depend on it," the spokesperson added. The BBC has spoken to people who have managed to leave the besieged port city in the last few weeks. All of them described a city in ruins, with entire districts completely flattened. Diana Yalovets, a 23-year-old student, said: "As we tried to get out, we needed to cross the city centre. It was scary to see destroyed streets and buildings. "My school was destroyed. It's painful to see your once beautiful city this way. "Mariupol was a safe city. We loved to walk near the sea. There was a park, and it was an amazing place just to sit and talk. I just can't believe we lost everything we had." Although some residents have escaped, all previous attempts to establish a ceasefire in Mariupol have collapsed amid accusations of bad faith from both sides.

3-31-22 Ukraine war: Putin being misled by fearful advisers, US says
Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misled by advisers who are too scared to tell him how badly the war in Ukraine is going, the White House says. Meanwhile, British intelligence says Russian troops in Ukraine are demoralised, short of equipment and refusing to carry out orders. Mr Putin is also not being told about the full impact of sanctions on the Russian economy, the White House said. The Kremlin said the US had a "total misunderstanding" of the situation. Mr Putin's chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists: "They simply don't understand what's happening in the Kremlin, they don't understand President Putin, they don't understand how decisions are taken and they don't understand the style of our work." This was worrying, he added, "because such total misunderstanding leads to wrong decisions which have bad consequences." Earlier, White House spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said the US had information that Mr Putin "felt misled by the Russian military" and this had resulted in "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership". "Putin's war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage," she said. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the assessments "discomforting", because an uninformed Putin could result in a "less than faithful" effort at ending the conflict through peace negotiations. "The other thing is, you don't know how a leader like that is going to react to getting bad news," he said. Ukrainian forces have begun attempts to retake some areas from Russia, which on Tuesday said it would scale back operations around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. Jeremy Fleming, the head of the UK's cyber-intelligence agency GCHQ, said the move added to indications Russia had "massively misjudged the situation" and had been forced to "significantly rethink"."We've seen Russian soldiers - short of weapons and morale - refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft," Mr Fleming said in a speech to the Australian National University in Canberra.

3-31-22 Covid-19 news: Omicron's reinfection risk 10 times higher than delta's
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. In the UK, the risk of being reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 virus is 10 times higher with omicron than delta. The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey estimates the number of reinfections that occurred in the UK between July 2020 and 20 March 2022. From 20 December 2021 to 20 March 2022, when omicron was the dominant variant, the risk of reinfection was about 10 times greater than when delta dominated, defined as mid-May 2021 to 19 December. Reinfection definitions vary. The ONS defines it as a positive PCR test result after a number of negative results, following an initial infection. The specific number of negative results required between infections depends on when the reinfection occurred, as definitions have changed over time. Covid-19 immunity, whether naturally acquired or via vaccines, wanes over time, leaving people more vulnerable to reinfection. Omicron has also evolved to better evade immunity. “Risk of reinfection from omicron is much higher than any other previous variant, with those unvaccinated more likely to be reinfected than those vaccinated,” Sarah Crofts from the ONS said in a statement. The World Health Organization (WHO) expects covid-19 to become less severe over time. A WHO report sets out how countries should react to a worst-case, best-case and intermediate-case scenario for the pandemic. In the best-case scenario, less severe variants will emerge and booster vaccines will be unnecessary. In the worst-case scenario, a more harmful variant will evolve and immunity will wane. “Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said at a press briefing on 30 March. The emergence of the less severe omicron variant made many people optimistic that SARS-CoV-2 was evolving to be more transmissible, but less dangerous. This does not always occur in a virus’ evolution, however. Vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds reduces their risk of being hospitalised with omicron by 68 per cent. In the US, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been available for this age group since October 2021, despite young children being at very low risk of severe covid-19. A nationwide study of 1185 children has now found two Pfizer/BioNTech doses considerably cut their risk of being hospitalised while omicron was circulating. The UK recently started offering 5- to 11-year-olds a vaccine, but the potential heart risks of immunising children are unclear.

3-31-22 Attenborough ship proves its polar credentials
The new Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough is proving its capabilities as an icebreaker. On its first outing to the Antarctic, the £200m polar vessel - popularly known as Boaty McBoatface - has been smashing through thick frozen floes. A final assessment of its performance is still awaited, but the Attenborough is now very close to being declared a fully serviceable ship for science and logistics at the highest latitudes. The vessel will soon return to the UK. For the moment it continues to work around the White Continent. When it does come back, it will go into a yard for maintenance and upgrades. The Sir David Attenborough (SDA) went through formal ice trials during a 10-day period in January. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) engaged Finnish engineering consultants Aker Arctic to oversee the work. The trials involved pushing the ship through floes at various power levels. The vessel also had to perform a range of manoeuvres, including reversing, turning, as well conducting impact tests at different speeds. RRS Sir David Attenborough is what's called a Polar Ice Class 5 (PC5) ship, meaning it should be able to move through medium, first-year ice - about a metre in thickness - at a speed of three knots (3.4mph; 5.6km/h). BAS scientist Dr Andrew Fleming said the ship managed well these and more difficult conditions. At times in recent weeks the Attenborough has been cutting through 2m-thick floes. "Producing the final assessment takes some work to adjust for ice that was a bit warm and snow that was a bit thick," he told BBC News. "It was an anomalous year across a lot of the Antarctic and in places we did not expect a combination of second-year ice plus 1.5m of snow. That's extremely challenging for any ship. "But we certainly got a good sense of how the new ship performs in a wide range of sea-ice conditions and ultimately this is about learning how best to operate SDA." Part of Dr Fleming's role was to find the "right ice" in which to test the ship. He used satellite data for this search, but ultimately had to climb down on to the sea-ice to drill through it to check its suitability.

3-31-22 US astronaut and Russian cosmonauts return to Earth
Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov shared a capsule on their flight back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). Mr Vande Hei logged a US space-endurance record of 355 consecutive days in orbit as he finished his second ISS mission. It was Mr Dubrov's first space flight, while Mr Shkaplerov was ending his rotation as the latest ISS commander, accumulating a total 708 days in space. There has been concern that tensions over the war in Ukraine may have an impact on the long cooperation on the ISS between Russia and the US.

3-31-22 Russia's economy is predicted to shrink 10 percent this year, but Putin's popularity is soaring
Russia's economy will contract by 10 percent this year due to Ukraine invasion and resulting sanctions, sinking the country into its worse recession since the early 1990s, the Financial Times reports, citing new estimates from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). "Russia will take a hit and living standards will take a hit," said ERBD chief economist Beata Javorcik. "But they will be able to weather this shock in terms of macroeconomic stability. What is going to impact Russia more is growth," or more specifically "zero growth next year and very low growth longer-term," as foreign buyers wean themselves of Russian oil and gas and young Russians emigrate for better opportunities. And Russians are "fleeing their country in record numbers" since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, The Washington Post reports. "Some fear arrest and imprisonment for participating in antiwar protests," while others "worry about being forced into military service," but the "Russians who are departing appear to be disproportionately young, urban and well-educated," the Post says. "Many of them work in the tech sector or other white-collar professions, prompting economists and policy analysts to warn that Putin's Russia may also face an unexpected 'brain drain.'" Russian papers are full of news on the economic effects of sanctions, BBC News Russia editor Steve Rosenberg reports, including incentives to prevent a "brain drain." CNN reports on panic-buying of sugar and other commodities and says inflation in Russia may hit 50 percent by the end of the year. Nonetheless, "Putin's popularity is soaring in Russia following his invasion of Ukraine," approval of his actions rising from 69 percent in January to 71 percent in February and 83 percent in March, the Post reports, citing data from Levada, an independent Russian polling agency. "The approval ratings of the Russian government and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin also grew domestically," and there is increased "negative sentiment across Russia toward the European Union and the United States." A 69 percent majority of respondents said Russia is "moving in the right direction" versus saying Russia's current course "is a dead end."

3-30-22 Alex Jones facing fines after judge holds him in contempt
A Connecticut judge found far-right conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones in contempt on Wednesday, after he failed to comply with orders to sit for a deposition as part of a lawsuit brought by families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims. Judge Barbara Bellis of Connecticut Superior Court ordered that Jones receive a fine of $25,000 for the first weekday he fails to appear for his testimony, starting Friday. The fine will increase by $25,000 every weekday thereafter that he does not show up, The New York Times reports. If he still hasn't testified by April 15, Bellis will impose additional sanctions against him, which could include revoking his ability to present evidence in the trial. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 first grade students and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones has spent years spreading false claims about the mass shooting, including that the victims were "crisis actors." Jones is facing three lawsuits in connection with his Sandy Hook comments, and the Connecticut suit was filed by the families of eight victims and an FBI agent. On Tuesday, Jones' lawyers filed an "offer of compromise" in Connecticut, offering to pay $120,000 to each Sandy Hook plaintiff. The proposal was rejected by the families, who called it "a transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook."

3-30-22 Report: DOJ expanding its Jan. 6 investigation to rally planning and financing
The Department of Justice has expanded its criminal investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack to look at the financing and planning of a preceding rally attended by former President Donald Trump, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. The rally was held at the Ellipse near the White House, with organizers pushing the false claim that the November 2020 election had been stolen from Trump. The Post reports that in the past two months, a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has issued subpoena requests for people who helped plan, fund, and run the rally. While speaking at the rally, Trump encouraged attendees to make their way to the Capitol. As part of their investigation, the Post writes, FBI agents and prosecutors must "distinguish between constitutionally protected First Amendment activity, such as speech and assembly, and the alleged conspiracy to obstruct Congress or other potential crimes connected to fundraising and organizing leading up to Jan. 6." So far, more than 770 people have been charged with crimes related to the Capitol attack, and the FBI is asking for information to identify hundreds of other suspects. Read more at The Washington Post.

3-30-22 Ukraine's ambassador tells U.N. the 'demilitarization of Russia is well under way'
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his invasion of Ukraine sought only the "demilitarization and de-Nazification" of Russia's smaller neighbor. More than a month into the invasion, Ukraine's United Nations ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, used the same phrase to highlight Russia's losses in the war. The "demilitarization of Russia is well under way," Kyslytsya told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday. He claimed Russia has lost more than 17,000 military personnel since invading, plus more than 1,700 armored vehicles and about 600 tanks, in "an unprecedented blow to Moscow, where the numbers of Soviet losses in Afghanistan pale in comparison." Russia's loss of 15,000 or more troops over a decade in Afghanistan helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kyslytsya also claimed Russia has lost 127 planes, 129 helicopters, 7 ships, 300 artillery systems, almost 100 rocket launchers systems, and 54 air defense systems, The Associated Press reports. Russia recently claimed only 1,351 of its troops have died in Ukraine, while NATO put the number of Russian dead last week at between 7,000 and 14,000. "Each side has an incentive to inflate the damage they do, and deflate the damage that's been done to them," Stephen Saideman, a professor at Carleton University and director of the Canadian Defense and Security Network, tells CBC News. "It's part of every war to do that." But Sean Maloney, a professor of military history at Canada's Royal Military College, told CBC News he is "confident, with the sources that I have, that the number of Russians killed in action is above 15,000," including 31 senior Russian military officers and many highly trained soldiers. The Russians "don't care about their personnel, their vehicles are not equipped to protect their people," he said. "I have not seen an armored ambulance this entire war."

3-30-22 Russian strikes on Kyiv and Chernihiv cast doubt on peace talks
Peace talks in Istanbul appeared to be bearing fruit when Russia announced Tuesday that it would scale back military operations in northern Ukraine. Those hopes were dashed on Wednesday when, according to The New York Times, local Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces had launched new strikes in the region. A Russian deputy defense minister said Tuesday that "reduce military activity" around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, both of which are key Russian objectives. In the past week, Ukraine's military has successfully retaken territory in the Kyiv suburbs. Ukrainian sources report that some of the Russian units around Kyiv appear to be pulling back toward Belarus, possibly to regroup and re-supply. On Tuesday, an unnamed U.S. official warned that Russian guarantees were not to be trusted. "[N]o one should be fooled by Russia's announcements," he said, adding that "any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv" is likely "a redeployment, not a withdrawal." Biden also expressed skepticism. According to USA Today, he responded, "We'll see," when asked about Russia's promise to reduce military operations.

3-30-22 Ukraine War: Putin demands Mariupol surrender to end shelling
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that shelling of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol will only end when Ukrainian troops surrender. Mr Putin made the comments during an hour long phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday night, the Kremlin said in a statement. But French officials said the Russian leader had agreed to consider plans to evacuate civilians from the city. It comes as new satellite photos showed the destruction caused by the shelling. The images, released by the Earth observation company Maxar, showed that residential areas have been reduced to rubble and highlighted Russian artillery cannons in firing positions on the outskirts of the city. Officials from France's Elyseé palace called the situation in the city "catastrophic" and added that "civilian populations must be protected and must leave the city if they wish to. They must have access to food aid, water and the medicines they need". "This very degraded humanitarian situation is linked to the siege of the city by the Russian armed forces," the statement said. France, along with Turkey, Greece and several humanitarian groups, have presented Mr Putin with a plan to evacuate the city. Officials said that Mr Putin told Mr Macron that he will "think about" the proposal. But in its readout of the call, the Kremlin appeared to suggest that Mr Putin has provided no such assurances. Russian officials said Mr Putin told the French leader that "in order to resolve the difficult humanitarian situation in this city, Ukrainian nationalist militants must stop resisting and lay down their arms". The statement added that Mr Putin had given Mr Macron "detailed information about measures taken by the Russian military to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and ensure the safe evacuation" of civilians from the besieged south-eastern city. Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly relocating thousands of people from Mariupol to Russian-held territory.

3-30-22 War in Ukraine: Russia launches new attacks after peace promise
The governor of Ukraine's Chernihiv region says there is no let-up in attacks by Russia, despite its pledge to reduce military activity there. The governor, Viacheslav Chaus, told the BBC that he did not believe Russia's promise. "We've already seen that there wasn't even a single time when their military forces kept their word," he added. Russian and Ukrainian negotiators made no "breakthroughs" in Tuesday's peace talks, the Kremlin has said. "What is positive is that the Ukrainian side has at least started to specifically formulating and putting on paper what it is proposing. Until now we had not managed to achieve that," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "As regards the rest, we cannot, put it this way, at present state there have been any breakthroughs, anything very promising," he said, adding that a lot of work was still to be done. In Chernihiv and the surrounding area, "the entire night was pretty tense," Mr Chaus told the BBC. "They attacked Nizhyn and Chernihiv. Mostly Chernihiv. Again, part of the civilian infrastructure was destroyed." "Chernihiv still has no electricity, water supply and heat. It won't be easy to restore this infrastructure. None of the military buildings were targeted last night. They kept attacking only civilian infrastructure," the governor said. The BBC has not been able to confirm this independently, but residents of Chernihiv also said the fighting was continuing. "This night was rough," one resident told the BBC. "We heard there was fighting all night in the suburbs, away from the city centre. We heard artillery. But there was no aviation tonight." Another resident said shelling was continuing on Wednesday, although not as intensely as overnight. On Tuesday, Russia said it would cut back operations around Chernihiv and the capital, Kyiv, in an effort to "boost mutual trust" in the peace talks

3-30-22 Covid-19 news: Just 64 per cent are self-isolating in England
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Self-isolation rate dropped from 80 per cent to 64 per cent after the legal requirement changed to guidance. Fewer than two-thirds of people who test positive for covid-19 in England are choosing to self-isolate, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey. Using the NHS Test and Trace database, 1369 adults in England who tested positive for covid-19 before 24 February, when the legal requirement to self-isolate was dropped, were asked about their behaviour while infected. They were interviewed between 28 February and 8 March, when self-isolation was advised but not legally required. Fewer than two-thirds (64 per cent) said they fully self-isolated, compared with 80 per cent in a similar survey last month. “Now the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) has been removed in England, our data today reveal more about adherence to these rules,” Tim Gibbs from ONS said in a statement. “Compliance with self-isolation rules was significantly lower than the level reported in February 2022, when self-isolation was a legal requirement.” The omicron BA.2 sublineage is now the dominant variant in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today. For the week ending 26 March, the variant made up an estimated 55 per cent of new cases. The total number of covid-19 cases in Asia has surpassed 100 million, according to Reuters. The continent is reporting more than 1 million new cases around every two days, driven by a BA.2 surge. More than 400 million students worldwide are affected by the partial or full closure of schools, according to Unicef. While countries such as the UK have opened school gates, restrictions still apply in 23 nations, including the Philippines, Honduras and Trinidad.

3-30-22 Some Americans are going to Mexico for cheaper petrol
As petrol prices across the US continue to rise, Americans are looking for cheaper ways to fill their tanks - and some are even seeking deals in another country. In the US state of California, which consistently ranks among the highest in the nation for petrol prices, some are heading across the US-Mexico border in search of savings. Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, the cost of gas in the US was ticking upwards. According to the US Department of Labor, petrol prices rose 40% from January 2021 to January 2022. Russia is the world's third-biggest oil producer and the conflict sent petrol prices soaring in the US and elsewhere. Earlier this month, the average cost of a retail gallon of gasoline hit $4.33 (£3.31) - reaching 14-year highs - according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). The average price of petrol in California is currently $5.91 per gallon and $4.24 per gallon nationally, AAA data says. It's a different story in Mexico, where earlier this month President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised to control petrol prices by subsidising fuel. On TikTok, Julio Vaquero, a resident of San Diego, just 17 miles (23km) from the border, posted a video showing how he filled up his Honda Civic in Tijuana for $40. "Eight hundred pesos, filled it up. Full tank," he said, showing the petrol station's pump display and his car's full fuel gauge. The short TikTok has over 1,900 likes. He told the BBC that one week later it cost him $70 to fill up in California. Mr Vaquero lives about 20 minutes from Tijuana and tends to visit every other month, but he said if prices keep going the way they are, he's going to start making weekly trips to Mexico for cheaper petrol. When he calculated the gallon price, he said $3.75 per gallon at a Chevron in Mexico was a steal compared to nearly $6 per gallon in San Diego. The price at Pemex, a state-owned Mexican company, he noted, was even cheaper at $3.30 per gallon.

3-30-22 Covid closures still affecting 400 million pupils - Unicef
Schools in 23 countries, with 405 million pupils, are still partially or fully closed because of Covid, the United Nations Children's Fund says. The charity, Unicef, estimates 147 million children have missed at least half of their in-person schooling. Some vulnerable children, especially girls, have not returned to those schools that have reopened. Unicef executive director Catherine Russell says children are "the hidden casualties of the pandemic". While children have been less vulnerable to the most serious health effects of coronavirus, their lives have been turned upside down by the school closures of the pandemic. In March 2020, 150 countries around the world completely shut their schools, with partial closures in a further 10. Two years later, 19 still have some of their schools closed. In a further four - the Philippines, Honduras, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in the South Pacific - at least 70% remain shut, the proportion Unicef categorises as full closure. "We're seeing children go back who were reading before, who now can't read, who were doing numbers before, who now can't do that," Ms Russell told BBC News. She fears most for those who have dropped out of school and risk becoming vulnerable to exploitation. "Some children, because their families were so impoverished, were moved into the workforce," she said. "Girls also get moved into early marriage - and that's a terrible fate." In the Philippines, where children have also faced restrictions on playing outside, a few schools started to reopen during the autumn but most pupils remain at home. Chloe Almojuela Dikit, 13, has tried to keep up with her lessons online. "I miss the teaching and the classmates and also the activities and schoolwork - just the things that we do in school," she said. Her father, Dioecro Albior Dikit, supports his family by scavenging - collecting rubbish and finding things to sell from it. He wants his daughter back in school and is worried about what she has missed in terms of social skills, as well as lessons.

3-30-22 China: Panic buying in divided Shanghai under lockdown
Shanghai's Covid lockdown has left thousands scrambling to stock up on supplies, while others quarantine in their offices to keep business running. After weeks of isolated compound lockdowns, the city of 25 million has been split into two. Earlier this week those living in Shanghai's eastern half were told to stay home, with the western half due to enter a lockdown on Friday. The move comes as the city battles a surge in Omicron Covid cases. The city has reported around 20,000 Covid-19 infections since 1 March, registering more cases in four weeks than in the previous two years of the pandemic. China's zero-Covid strategy has been increasingly challenged by the highly infectious Omicron variant. Officials in China's cosmopolitan financial capital had earlier attempted to keep the city running by limiting lockdowns to select neighbourhoods or buildings. But on Sunday authorities announced a mass lockdown that saw the city being split along the Huangpu River. Residents living in the Pudong area, on the river's eastern bank, were told to stay at home for four days starting on Monday. Puxi, on the western bank, will enter lockdown on Friday. Mass testing is also being carried out to screen all of Shanghai's residents for the virus. Earlier this week, rumours circulating that authorities would bring forward Puxi's lockdown by several days or prolong the city's quarantine period reached a fever pitch, resulting in residents thronging supermarkets. Authorities on Tuesday sought to quash the speculation with a statement calling it "pure rumours". But several residents living in western districts received notice on Tuesday from their housing committees that they would be stopped from leaving their compounds for the next seven days, reported Reuters. Ahead of Monday's lockdown, more than 20,000 financial services staff were summoned back to their offices in the financial Lujiazui district and ordered to spend the rest of the lockdown there in an attempt to keep business operations running smoothly, according to officials. Several companies prepared sleeping bags and basic supplies for overnight stays. "The stock market won't stop opening just because of the virus," one worker told The Global Times.

3-30-22 Joe Biden signs anti-lynching bill in historic first
US President Joe Biden has signed legislation that designates lynching as a federal hate crime. The law follows more than 100 years and 200 failed attempts by US lawmakers to pass anti-lynching legislation. The Emmett Till Antilynching Act is named for the black teenager whose brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 helped spark the civil rights movement. Perpetrators of a lynching - death or injury resulting from a hate crime - will face up to 30 years in jail. Mr Biden said: "Thank you for never giving up, never ever giving up. "Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone, belongs in America, not everyone is created equal." He added: "Racial hate isn't an old problem - it's a persistent problem. Hate never goes away. It only hides." The bill was passed unanimously in the Senate earlier this month. The House had voted overwhelmingly in support of the legislation last month. Three Republicans voted no: Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Chip Roy of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia. They argued that it was already a hate crime to lynch people in the US. Lynching is murder by a mob with no due process or rule of law. Across the US, thousands of people, mainly African Americans, were lynched by white mobs, often by hanging or torture, in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Some 4,400 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Those who participated in lynchings were often celebrated and acted with impunity. "Lynching is a longstanding and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy," the bill's sponsor, Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush, said ahead of its passage. In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, the House passed an earlier iteration of the bill, but it was blocked in the Senate. Many racial justice advocates have described the death of Floyd, as well as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery - who was hunted down and shot by three white men in Georgia in 2020 - as modern-day lynchings.

3-29-22 Biden signs Emmett Till anti-lynching bill into law
President Biden on Tuesday signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act into law, designating lynching as a federal hate crime. Congress previously failed to pass anti-lynching legislation at least 240 times. Among those who attended the signing was Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., a cousin of Emmett Till who was with the 14-year-old in Mississippi when he was lynched in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. The bill passed the Senate unanimously in March after passing the House 422-3 in February. When the bill was previously before the House in 2020, then-Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) opposed the bill, arguing on Twitter that it was unnecessary. "Murdering someone on account of their race, or conspiring to do so, is not legal under federal law. It's already a federal crime, and it's already a hate crime," Amash wrote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also argued the bill needed to be more clearly differentiated. Under previously existing U.S. law, willfully causing "bodily injury" to someone because of "actual or perceived race, color, religion ... national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability" was already punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or by life in prison if the victim died as a result. Writing for The Washington Post, author Theodore R. Johnson argued that while the law is largely symbolic, its symbolism "is actually its most important and consequential feature." "In the same way that circumstances dictate whether a collection of murders can be labeled a mass shooting, domestic terrorism or a hate crime, calling an act of hate lynching adds social and political heft to the charge," he wrote.

3-29-22 FDA clears 2nd COVID booster for Americans ages 50 and up
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for use in adults ages 50 and older, NBC News reports. Individuals are eligible for a second booster dose at least four months after receiving their first booster, the FDA said, per NBC News. It does not matter which brand of vaccine a person initially received. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to sign off on the decision shortly. The FDA had already authorized a fourth shot for immunocompromised Americans, per NBC News. The CDC will likely say people older than 50 can get a second booster, rather than explicitly recommending they do so, The Washington Post reports, "a reflection of the ongoing debate about the benefits of additional doses and uncertainties about the future of the pandemic." The federal agency will also likely "highlight vulnerable populations" within the designated age group. Even with the FDA and (eventually) CDC's decision, health officials "likely face an uphill battle in another vaccine campaign," notes The Wall Street Journal. Approximately two-thirds of adults over age 65 have received a booster, and less than half of the adult population has. The extra shots will be available through "physician offices, retail pharmacies, nursing homes and other vaccination sites," per the Journal. A fourth shot is expected to be authorized for the broader population this fall.

3-29-22 Americans ages 50 and up now officially eligible to receive 2nd COVID booster
It's been a big day for COVID boosters. Tuesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed the Food and Drug Administration in clearing a new round of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 boosters for Americans ages 50 and older, CBS News reports. Not only did the CDC okay a second booster for older Americans, it also authorized a fourth shot for all adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and booster at least four months ago, per The Washington Post. Data released by the CDC shortly before the decision to authorize the second booster showed those who received the single-shot J&J regimen to be at a greater risk of serious hospitalization and illness than those who received the mRNA vaccines, reports the Post. The CDC strongly recommends those populations consider getting a booster dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, per The Hill. The second booster is "especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, per The Wall Street Journal. The FDA and CDC also authorized a second Pfizer booster for immunocompromised individuals ages 12 and up who've received their first COVID booster, and a second Moderna booster for immunocompromised people ages 18 and above, the Journal notes. The decisions arrive as as the Omicron subvariant BA.2 continues to gain ground in the U.S.

3-29-22 Trump said he doesn't know what a 'burner phone' is. John Bolton says he does.
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton said in an interview Tuesday that he heard former President Donald Trump use the phrase "burner phone" on multiple occasions with full knowledge of its meaning, CBS News election correspondent Robert Costa reports. Bolton's statement contradicts Trump's claim that he has "no idea what a burner phone is." A burner phone is an untraceable pre-paid cellphone that does not require the user to provide personal details or create an account. A Washington Post report published Tuesday revealed that the Jan. 6 committee is investigating whether Trump might have used burner phones that day after they discovered a gap of seven hours and 37 minutes in his telephone communications. Trump also frequently used his personal cellphone or those of his aides to make calls. Official White House records show that Trump made no calls between 11:17 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. Protesters began breaching the Capitol's police barricades shortly before 1:00 p.m.. By 5:30 p.m., National Guard units had begun securing the Capitol. Trump definitely made at least one call during that time period when, at around 2:00 p.m., he called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and asked to speak to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). According to CNN, Trump and Tuberville spoke for "less than 10 minutes."

3-29-22 AOC says 'impeachment should be on the table' for Clarence Thomas
Impeachment should be "on the table" for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote in a Twitter thread Tuesday. Justice Thomas has come under scrutiny after the publication of text messages his wife — conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas — exchanged with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as Meadows worked with then-President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 election. New York University law professor Stephen Gillers told The New York Times that, in light of Ginni Thomas' activities, it would be inappropriate for Justice Thomas to rule on cases related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. When the Supreme Court ruled in January that former President Donald Trump could not block White House records from being sent to the Jan. 6 committee, Thomas was the only justice to dissent. Ocasio-Cortez began her thread by discussing the House's decision to impeach Trump in 2019 for withholding aid to Ukraine, a decision she claimed many Democrats dismissed as a "stunt." "Often what seems like the righteous yet politically foolish thing short term ends up being the wisest choice long term," she wrote. Ocasio-Cortez then applied this lesson to the Clarence Thomas situation. "Subpoenas, investigations, and impeachment should absolutely be on the table. We shouldn't have to think twice about that," she wrote. "We must go where the facts take us. A failure to act puts the imperiling of democracy squarely on *our* shoulders. It's our duty to defend it." Only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached. Associate Justice Samuel Chase was impeached by the House in 1805 but was acquitted by the Senate. In 1970, then-House Minority Leader Gerald Ford called unsuccessfully for the impeachment of Justice William O. Douglas, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Nearly two dozen other lawmakers are also demanding that Thomas recuse himself from 2020 election-related cases, Bloomberg reports.

3-29-22 World Food Program chief: Ukraine war has damaged global food security, creating 'a catastrophe'
The war in Ukraine is already having a devastating impact on hungry people around the world who rely on the country's wheat to survive, the executive director of the United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday. While speaking to the UN Security Council, David Beasley declared that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created "a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe," and with so many Ukrainian farmers joining the fight and leaving behind their crops, the world should brace for something "beyond anything we've seen since World War II." Combined, Ukraine and Russia account for nearly 30 percent of global wheat exports, 20 percent of corn exports, and more than 80 percent of sunflower oil exports, Wired reports. With ports and shipping routes closed, corn that was harvested last fall in Ukraine can't go anywhere, and it's expected that when wheat is ready in July, there won't be enough labor to or fuel to run the combines. Prior to the invasion, the World Food Program was providing rations to 125 million people, Beasley said, but with the prices of food, fuel, and shopping sharply rising, the agency's monthly costs have gone up $71 million. This means "there will be 4 million less people we'll be able to reach," Beasley added. In Yemen, another country devastated by war, the World Food Program has had to cut the food rations of 8 million people in half, and "now we're looking at going to zero rations," Beasley said. The World Food Program purchases 50 percent of its grain from Ukraine, and Beasley said it's not just his program that will feel the sting — Egypt, for example, typically gets 85 percent of its grain from the country. The UN has to ensure that food insecurity in places outside of Ukraine is addressed, in order to "avoid famine, destabilization of nations, and mass migration," Beasley said. "If we don't, the world will pay a mighty price and the last thing we want to do as the World Food Program is taking food from hungry children to give to starving children."

3-29-22 Donald Trump's 6 January call logs show seven-hour gap
Official White House logs from 6 January, 2021 - the day the US Capitol was breached by a mob of Donald Trump's supporters - show a seven hour and 37-minute gap in presidential phone activity while the assault was at its height. The bipartisan congressional committee investigating the attack had fought a lengthy legal battle to obtain the presidential records, which could shed light on the activity of the pwsp_rte_replace_markeresident and his closest aides on the day. The logs show the president contacting at least eight people in the morning - including former White House advisor Steve Bannon and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who were both organising attempts to overturn Mr Trump's presidential defeat, according to records obtained by CBS News, the BBC's US media partner, and the Washington Post. It also records calls with 11 people in the evening. But they document no contacts from 11:17 am to 18:45 pm local time (16:17 to 23:45 BST). This runs counter to accounts from several Republican members of Congress - including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama - that they spoke with the president by phone that afternoon. The logs also do not show a reported late morning phone call between Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, where the latter again refused the president's increasingly angry demands to delay the certification of Joe Biden's presidential victory. t could be an indication that the president was communicating through unofficial channels, such as an aide's device or an undisclosed "burner" personal mobile phone. The gap may raise concerns that records of presidential contacts during key moments - as US Capitol police were in a melee with Trump supporters and Secret Service officers were evacuating Mr Pence from the Senate chamber - have been withheld or destroyed. If so, it could prompt accusations of a cover-up reminiscent of the one revealed in the 1973 Watergate investigation, when Oval Office audio recordings provided to congressional investigators contained 18-and-a-half minutes of missing audio. Accusations of presidential involvement in a criminal conspiracy led to Richard Nixon's resignation the following year.

3-29-22 Gretchen Whitmer: FBI agent 'bomb-maker' in kidnap plot
Men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor in 2020 sought to buy bombs with "IOUs", a court has heard. FBI agent Timothy Bates testified Monday that he had posed undercover as a bomb-maker and infiltrated the plotters' group. The group was "excited" to buy bombs, but did not have the funds, he said. The government says the men are armed extremists who targeted Gretchen Whitmer over her Covid-19 policies. But lawyers for the four accused argue they were entrapped by the FBI. Federal prosecutors are expected to conclude their case on Tuesday. Adam Fox, 38, Daniel Harris, 24, Brandon Caserta, 33, and Barry Croft, 46, each face charges of kidnapping conspiracy. Fox, Harris and Croft also face an additional charge of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. The group planned to snatch Governor Whitmer from her vacation home in north Michigan, the court heard earlier. Mr Bates was embedded within them under the guise of being a bomb-maker named "Red". He had convinced them he had access to high-grade explosives. The plan, he said, was to abduct the governor, then blow up one or two bridges in the vicinity of her home to thwart law enforcement. Mr Fox, said to be the group's ringleader, was "excited about what he saw" and asked if Mr Bates would "take an IOU" while he put together $4,000 (£3,044) to pay for the explosives, Mr Bates testified. But under cross-examination, Mr Bates acknowledged he had not ever been paid to procure the explosives. Defence attorneys have sought to downplay the plot as wild and profane chatter rather than an actual plan. They are also seeking to compel the testimony of an FBI informant, who they argue entrapped the men. Last week, two former co-conspirators - Ty Garbin, 26, and Kaleb Franks, 27 - took the stand to detail plans and discussions around the violent plot, with one telling the court the men hoped it would become the "ignition" for a second US civil war.

3-29-22 JD Vance says Marjorie Taylor Greene did 'nothing wrong' in appearing at white nationalist conference
Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance on Monday night defended his "friend" (and supporter) Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) by claiming "she did nothing wrong" in speaking at a white nationalist's conference last month, HuffPost reports. Greene spoke at the America First Political Action Conference, where participants "hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a hero and chanted his name," HuffPost writes. The organizer of the conference — Nicholas Fuentes — is a prominent white-nationalist activist, per The Washington Post. The congresswoman was later condemned for her participation by members of her own party, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said "There's no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists or anti-Semitism." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) described Greene's attendance as "appalling." And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called Greene — and fellow conference participant Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) – "morons." "I have morons on my team," Romney said, per the Post. So it might certainly seem all the more surprising that, at a GOP candidates' debate in Ohio, Vance stood by Greene's decision. "She is my friend, and she did nothing wrong," Vance told the crowd. "I'm absolutely not going to throw her under the bus, or anybody else who is a friend of mine." In January, Greene endorsed Vance in his Senate bid. Vance had also said it was unfair to hold only Republicans and not Democrats to "guilt by association" standards. Marjorie appeared at a conference "where somebody said something bad," but "did she say something bad?" he continued. "I actually watched her remarks, I agreed with nearly every word that she said." "There's no business in the world that asks you to stab your friends in the back like politics. I absolutely refuse to do it to Marjorie Taylor Greene."

3-29-22 Ukraine war: Russia to curb Kyiv assault as peace talks progress
Russia has announced it will "drastically reduce" military combat operations in two key areas of Ukraine "to boost mutual trust" in peace talks. The decision to scale back operations around the capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv is the first sign of tangible progress in talks since Russia invaded on 24 February. Ukraine has proposed neutrality in exchange for security guarantees. Russia launched the invasion to stop Ukraine joining the Nato alliance. Russian officials said peace talks in Istanbul, Turkey, had moved to a practical stage. Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin, who was taking part in the talks, told Russian TV that as "Ukraine's neutrality and non-nuclear status and security guarantees" had progressed, the defence ministry had taken the decision to cut its operations dramatically in the two areas to "create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and for the signing of the aforementioned agreement". While Russia is focusing on capturing areas of eastern Ukraine and a southern land corridor to Crimea, its military assault on Kyiv has been bogged down for weeks. Ukrainian forces have recaptured towns to the north-west of the capital including Irpin and Makariv, while Russian forces have encircled Chernihiv. Officials in the northern city say up to 400 people have been killed and some 130,000 residents are without heating, electricity or water supplies. Ukrainian negotiator Oleksandr Chaly told reporters in Istanbul that its offer of neutrality was a chance to "restore the territorial integrity and security of Ukraine through diplomatic and means". Ukraine's aim was to "fix its status as a de facto non-bloc and non-nuclear state in the form of permanent neutrality". Russia's chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said talks had been "meaningful" and Ukraine's proposals on neutrality would be put to President Vladimir Putin, holding out the possibility of a summit involving Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky.

3-29-22 Does video show Russian prisoners being shot?
Ukrainian authorities are investigating video footage which has been claimed to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners of war in the legs. The grainy video has been circulating on social media after first appearing in the early hours of Sunday morning (27 March). Since then, it's been widely reposted by pro-Russian accounts on various platforms. Ukrainian armed forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Russia was "filming and distributing staged videos" in order to discredit Ukraine's treatment of Russian prisoners. However, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said there would be an immediate investigation and added: "I would like to remind all our military, civilians and defence forces that abusing prisoners of war is a war crime." The BBC has been analysing the video but has not been able to independently verify it yet. As we continue to examine the footage, here is what we have found out so far. The footage - which is too graphic to show in full - purports to show a number of captured soldiers lying on the ground. Some have bags over their heads, and many appear to be bleeding from leg wounds. It is not clear how or when they were injured. The prisoners are questioned by their captors, asking them about their units and activities in the area. At one point, three men are brought out of a vehicle and apparently shot in the legs by a soldier with an assault weapon. These men are then questioned. By Sunday evening, a Twitter user had suggested the video was filmed in a dairy plant in Malaya Rohan, to the south east of Kharkiv. The BBC has used geo-location tools to confirm the location. The area had recently been re-taken by Ukrainian troops from Russian forces. Analysing satellite images and pictures from the farm, we can identify clues about the location of the video. Before the three soldiers are shot, we can recognise elements of a house behind one of them. A tree behind a white structure (1), a chimney (2) and the top half of a window (3) are very similar to those in a previous image of the dairy surroundings which we found on the farm's Google web page.

3-29-22 Can the super-rich solve America's budget problem?
A nonagenarian, a father of seven and a high-profile divorcee are among the Americans who would face a new minimum tax under a proposal in US President Joe Biden's budget plan. The proposal aims to capture more of the wealth created by the soaring stock market of the last few years. It targets the roughly 20,000 taxpayers in the US worth more than $100m (£76m). Investor Warren Buffett, Tesla boss Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would be among those affected. Under the proposal, America's 0.01% richest would face a minimum 20% tax on income. Crucially, it changes rules on calculating income to include gains from stocks, even if they were not sold by the investor being taxed. "This approach means that the very wealthiest Americans pay taxes as they go, just like everyone else, and eliminates the inefficient sheltering of income for decades or generations," the White House said. The idea is the latest in a long list of efforts to raise taxes on the super-rich and faces long odds in Washington - not to mention opposition among the class it proposes to target. There are about 20,600 people worth more than $100m in the US, according to estimates by the Boston Consulting Group. The White House said more than half the $360bn raised from the measure over 10 years would come from the country's roughly 700 billionaires. "Eventually they run out of other people's money and then they come for you," Tesla boss and world's richest man Elon Musk wrote on Twitter last year about a similar proposal. Under Mr Biden's proposal, Mr Musk - a father of seven who boasts a net worth of more than $280bn - would have to pay $50bn more in taxes over 10 years than under the current system, according to analysis by Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California-Berkeley. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would face an extra $35bn bill, while Warren Buffett would be on the hook for $26bn.

3-28-22 Trump 'likely' committed felony by obstructing Congress, judge rules in dispute over Jan. 6 documents
Former President Donald Trump "more likely than not" committed felony obstruction of Congress by trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a federal judge said Monday in a ruling on a dispute over documents related to Jan. 6, Axios and Politico report. According to court filings, Trump-allied legal scholar John Eastman had sued the committee in an attempt to block the committee from obtaining a cache of 111 emails Eastman sent or received between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021. Eastman assisted then-President Trump in his effort to overturn the election by urging Republican state legislators in states President Biden won to appoint alternate electors who would vote for Trump. Eastman also authored a memo laying out a procedure then-Vice President Mike Pence could use to hand Trump a second term on Jan. 6. In December, Eastman invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify before the Jan. 6 committee. Judge David Carter — who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton — wrote in his ruling that Eastman's strategy was "a coup in search of a legal theory" and that "[b]ased on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress" and that Trump conspired with Eastman to defraud the United States. Federal law defines "corruptly" in part as "acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement." Carter ruled that 10 of the emails were privileged, as Eastman had argued, but that the other 101 must be handed over to the committee. The ruling has no direct effect on Trump. "More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability. This case cannot provide it. The Court is tasked only with deciding a dispute over a handful of emails," Carter wrote.

3-28-22 DeSantis signs 'Don't Say Gay' bill into law: 'I don't care what corporate media outlets say'
It's official. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday signed into law the state's controversial so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which bans instruction regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through 3rd grade, NPR reports. "I don't care what corporate media outlets say, I don't care what Hollywood says, I don't care what big corporations say," DeSantis remarked at the bill's signing. "Here I stand. I'm not backing down." Those who support the legislation believe it allows parents the opportunity to decide when and where to introduce LGBTQ topics to their kids, while critics have assailed the bill as harmful to queer youth. Even the Walt Disney Company was brought into the fold when CEO Bob Chapek initially remained silent as to the company's position on the legislation. "If the people who held up degenerates like Harvey Weinstein ... as exemplars and as heroes and as all that ..." DeSantis said Monday, referring to the bill's Hollywood critics, "if those are the types of people that are opposing us on parents' rights, I wear that like a badge of honor." On Sunday night, Oscars hosts Regina Hall, Wanda Sykes, and Amy Schumer ridiculed the "Don't Say Gay" legislation during their opening remarks.

3-28-22 Disney vows to push for repeal after DeSantis signs 'Don't Say Gay' bill
Disney released a statement Monday vowing to fight Florida's parental rights in education legislation after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill into law. "Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," the statement reads. Disney CEO Bob Chapek initially declined to weigh in on the bill but later apologized and promised to be a "stronger ally" moving forward. Last week, Disney employees led a walkout to protest the bill and pressure the company to oppose it. The bill bans classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and, for older students, restrict lessons on those topics that are "not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate." It does not ban the word "gay." "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that," the statement continues. "We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country." The statement did not elaborate on how the "rights and safety" of Disney employees might be harmed by the bill, but Chapek previously also called it a "challenge to basic human rights." Christina Pushaw, DeSantis' press secretary, immediately condemned Disney's statement on Twitter. "Corporations don't get to veto bills passed by a duly elected state legislature," she wrote. Pushaw said earlier this month that anyone who opposed the bill was "probably a groomer," a term that refers to sexual abusers.

3-28-22 Ukrainian forces have retaken Kyiv suburb of Irpin, mayor says
Ukrainian forces retook the city of Irpin, located 30 minutes from the city center of Kyiv, on Monday, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said. According to Axios, Irpin has been under heavy attack since the early days of the invasion. Irpin resident Anastasia Taran told Ukraine's Euromaidan Press that Russian soldiers occupying parts of the city shot civilians, raped women, and seized private homes. Civilians struggled to escape the city after Russian forces destroyed the bridges over the Irpin River. Irpin is located on the western side of the river, which Russian troops will need to cross if they hope to attack Kyiv from the west. "Today Irpin is liberated. Now the sweep is underway," Markushyn said, adding that he expects Ukrainian troops to retake the towns of Bucha, Hostomel, and Vorzel in the coming days. Per Axios, U.S. officials have not been able to confirm Markushyn's report, but Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said last week that Ukrainian forces appeared to be "going a bit more on the offense." Ukraine's military recaptured the Kyiv suburb of Makariv on Tuesday and has reportedly launched counteroffensives in the vicinity of Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine. On Thursday, British intelligence said Russian forces northwest of Kyiv were in danger of being encircled by counterattacking Ukrainian troops, according to Newsweek.

3-28-22 Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta suspends operations, following warnings from Kremlin
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper that has long been critical of the government, will stop publishing print and online content until the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.The announcement was made Monday by Novaya Gazeta's editorial board. In early March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure that prohibits the spread of "fake news" about the military, including news outlets referring to an "invasion" or "war" in Ukraine. Novaya Gazeta said that earlier this month, Russia's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, ordered the removal of articles about the war from its website, and on Sunday, warned against publishing an interview between independent Russian journalists and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Novaya Gazeta's editor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, submitted questions for the interview with Zelensky, which was posted on the president's Telegram channel over the weekend. Novaya Gazeta was launched in 1993, and since then, six of its journalists have been murdered, including prominent Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot and killed inside an elevator in 2006. Since the start of the invasion, several independent Russian media outlets have paused operations, including TV Rain and the Echo of Moscow. Read more at CNN.

3-28-22 Biden says 'nobody believes' he was 'talking about taking down Putin'
President Biden said during a press conference Monday that "nobody believes" he was actually calling for regime change in a speech he delivered in Warsaw on Saturday. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin toward the end of his speech. The White House quickly walked back the ad-libbed statement, claiming Biden's "point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region." Key NATO allies quickly distanced themselves from Biden's remark, while Ukrainians welcomed them. Biden said Monday he is "not walking anything back," and was "expressing the moral outrage I felt" toward Putin and his "brutality" in Ukraine. "But I want to make it clear, I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change," he added. "I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it." "Whether those are your personal feelings or your feelings as president, do you understand why people would believe you ... saying someone 'cannot remain in power' is a statement of U.S. policy?" a reporter asked Biden. "And also, are you concerned about propaganda use of those remarks by the Russians?" "No and no," Biden replied. "Tell me why! You have so much experience. You are the leader of this country," she persisted. "Because it's ridiculous. Nobody believes I was talking about taking down Putin. Nobody believes that," Biden answered. "The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia. That's not part of it," he continued. "I was expressing my outrage at the behavior of this man ... And it's more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn't be in power ... People like this shouldn't be ruling countries, but they do ... That doesn't mean I can't express my outrage about it." Biden did not respond to the reporter's question about Russian propaganda. On Sunday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) warned that Biden's rhetorical "mistake" would "play into the hands of the Russian propagandists." Biden previously denied calling for regime change while returning from mass on Sunday. "Two steps from the altar, he would hardly have begun to lie," Russian journalist Mikhail Sheinkman wrote for the state-owned Radio Sputnik.

3-28-22 Roughly 6 in 10 Republicans, 4 in 10 Democrats say they've had COVID
New milestone, just dropped.. According to a new Monmouth University poll, a majority of Americans — 52 percent — now say they've contracted COVID-19, The Washington Post reports. In January, that number was at 40 percent. More specifically, the new poll found that just over 4 in 10 Americans said they'd tested positive or had been definitively diagnosed with the virus, while 10 percent said they weren't diagnosed but know they had it. Notably, this "appears to be the first poll to show a majority of Americans saying they've been infected at some point," the Post writes. In August, a Pew Research Center poll found that 30 percent of Americans said they'd either definitively tested positive or felt "pretty sure" they'd had it. In August of 2020, just 14 percent reported as such. On a partisan level, roughly 57 percent of Republicans said they've contracted COVID, versus 38 percent of Democrats, the Post writes per the poll. In January, "those numbers were 50 percent and 28 percent, respectively." Read more at The Washington Post.

3-28-22 Why Biden's off-script remarks about Putin are so dangerous
Over the past week, US President Joe Biden has made a series of unscripted remarks that have upped the temperature of US-Russia relations to near boiling point. However, his ad-libbed line at the end of what was billed as a "major speech" in Poland on Saturday - seemingly calling for President Vladimir Putin to be removed from power - may have landed the hardest. In his speech to a crowd of assembled Polish government officials and dignitaries at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the US president once again warned that the world was in the midst of an era-defining conflict between democracies and autocracies. He pledged that Nato would defend "every inch" of its member states' soil. He also promised continued support to Ukraine, although he noted that the US military would not engage with Russian forces there. It was a confrontational, but measured, speech - well in line with what US officials, from Secretary of State Antony Blinken on down, have been saying for months. Then, right before the "thank yous" and "goodbyes", Mr Biden added of his Russian counterpart: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." Cue the fireworks. "This speech - and the passages which concern Russia - is astounding, to use polite words," Russia spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. "He doesn't understand that the world is not limited to the United States and most of Europe." And the US walk-backs. "The president's point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region," a Biden administration official said on background. "He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia, or regime change." The speed with which the US issued its "clarification" - later echoed by Mr Blinken - suggests the US understands the danger inherent in Mr Biden's words. Earlier in the day, the US president had called Mr Putin a "butcher". Last week, he seemed to get ahead of his own administration's diplomatic process by accusing the Russian leader of war crimes. In both cases, Mr Biden's remarks prompted condemnations and warnings from Moscow that US-Russia diplomatic relations were being frayed to the point of breaking.

3-28-22 Zelensky says Ukraine prepared to discuss neutrality in peace talks
Ukraine's president has said his government is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia. In an interview with independent Russian journalists, Volodymyr Zelensky said any such deal would have to be put to a referendum in Ukraine. He has made similar comments before, but rarely so forcefully. The news comes as the negotiations between the two countries are set to resume this week in Turkey. "Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point," Mr Zelensky said in the 90-minute video call. Neutrality means a country does not ally itself militarily with others. Mr Zelensky said that any potential agreement would require a face-to-face meeting with President Putin and that effective security guarantees that Ukraine would not come under attack were essential. The Ukrainian leader - speaking in Russian throughout - added that Russia's invasion has caused the destruction of Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine. Later, in an overnight video address to his nation, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine sought peace "without delay". Russia's President Vladimir Putin has long demanded a neutral Ukraine, and guarantees that it would not join the Nato military alliance. After the country achieved independence in 1991, as the Soviet Union collapsed, it has gradually veered towards the West - to both the EU and Nato. But Russia's leader aims to reverse that, seeing the fall of the Soviet Union as the "disintegration of historical Russia". He has claimed Russians and Ukrainians are one people and denied Ukraine its long history. On Sunday, the Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor instructed the press not to publish the interview with Ukraine's leader, and said "an investigation has been started in order to identify the level of responsibility and what response will be taken" in relation to those who carried out the interview.

3-28-22 Zelensky offers a neutral Ukraine for Russian withdrawal, but there are some big caveats
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a group of independent Russian journalists on Sunday that he is ready to discuss enshrining Ukraine as a neutral country, without NATO aspirations, as part of a peace deal with Russia, in return for ironclad security guarantees. "Security guarantees and the neutral, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to accept this. This is the most important point," Zelensky said. "This was the first point of principle for the Russian Federation, as I recall. And as far as I remember, they started the war because of this." He rejected even discussing Russia's demands that Ukraine be "de-Nazified" or demilitarized," and said "the issues of Donbas and Crimea must be discussed and solved" in peace talks. Zelenksy later told Ukrainians that in negotiations with Russia, "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are beyond doubt." "On the face of it," Zelensky's offer "sounds like something of a breakthrough," the BBC's Jonah Fisher writes from Lviv. "But there are a number of important caveats." Zelensky made clear Western countries would have to guarantee Ukraine's security, neutrality would have to be put to a public referendum, and crucially, Russia would have to withdraw to its positions before its Feb. 24 invasion. "Having fought so hard to gain ground, it's very hard to see Russia agreeing to this, particularly in the south and east," Fisher suggests. "And finally and most important of all, there's the unanswered question of what Russia actually wants from this war. Is it about security and Ukraine's NATO ambitions as was first claimed? Is it about more territory in eastern Ukraine? Or is President Putin determined to permanently disable Ukraine's ability to function as an independent sovereign nation?" Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a meeting between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin would be "couterproductive" at this point, before the two countries have agreed on key issues. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators will hold peace talks in Turkey this week. And while the Kremlin is surely aware of Zelenksy's offer, it forbade any other Russian media organizations to broadcast any part of Zelensky's interview.

3-28-22 War in Ukraine: Anti-war Russians intimidated on their doorsteps
Russian activists and journalists speaking out against their country's so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine have had their homes vandalised by unknown pro-Kremlin figures. Apartment doors have been daubed with threatening graffiti labelling the people inside a "traitor", with messages featuring the letter "Z" - a pro-Kremlin symbol of Russia's war in Ukraine. Other examples are even more extreme. In one case, a leading Russian journalist discovered a pig's head wearing a wig on his doorstep with an anti-Semitic sticker stuck to his door. Alexei Venediktov, the long-time editor of radio station Ekho of Moscow before it stopped broadcasting due to increased Russian censorship, posted photos of the vandalism, pointing out the irony of an anti-Semitic attack happening in the "country that defeated fascism". Such vandalism is a sign of the increasingly intimidating atmosphere in Russia for those people who publicly express their opposition to the war in Ukraine. When Darya Kheikinen looked through the peephole on the door of her St Petersburg apartment, she noticed it had been painted red on the outside. She guessed straight away what had happened - there had been similar instances with other activists. She opened the door to find the word "traitor" scrawled in large red letters across the outside, several pieces of paper with messages such as "a traitor to the motherland lives here" pinned to her home, and a pile of manure on the mat at her feet. "It probably happened because of my public anti-war statements and opposition views," Ms Kheikinen, a well-known political activist, told the BBC, adding that the same thing happened to three other St Petersburg activists at the same time. It happened again the next morning - but only to her this time. "The door was covered in green dye, and there was spray foam in the lock. There were signs reading 'we will not forgive Nazism' and 'a Finnish Nazi lives here'," she said, pointing out that her surname is Finnish.

3-28-22 Russia transfers thousands of Mariupol civilians to its territory
Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly relocating thousands of civilians from Mariupol, the strategic port city devastated by Russian shelling. Russia is housing an estimated 5,000 at a temporary camp in Bezimenne, east of Mariupol, seen in satellite images. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 40,000 had been moved from Ukraine to Russian-held territory without any coordination with Kyiv. A Mariupol refugee, now in Russia, said: "All of us were taken forcibly". Some Ukrainian officials describe Russia's actions as "deportations" to "filtration camps" - an echo of Russia's war in Chechnya, when thousands of Chechens were brutally interrogated in makeshift camps and many disappeared. It is an internationally-recognised abuse of human rights for a warring party to deport civilians to its territory. While 140,000 civilians have managed to escape from besieged Mariupol, another 170,000 are still trapped there, the city council says. Relentless Russian shelling for more than three weeks has reduced the city to ruins, its terrified civilians hiding in cellars, desperately short of water, food and medicine. The BBC is unable to independently verify the figures for civilians evacuated from Mariupol, or the number killed there. Relatively few Mariupol civilians have fled via the humanitarian corridors agreed by both sides. Ukraine says Russian troops continued shelling the evacuation routes, which were supposed to be safe. In parts of Mariupol captured by the Russians, reports suggest the civilians - hungry, thirsty and often sick - have little choice but to head out to Russian-controlled areas and Russia itself. Matt Morris, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the ICRC could only evacuate civilians and deliver aid if Russia and Ukraine provided safety guarantees, and that had not happened yet, though the ICRC was speaking to both sides.

3-28-22 China begins massive COVID lockdown of Shanghai and its 26 million residents
Life in much of the U.S. is returning to some semblance of normal following the winter COVID-19 wave, but China is ratcheting up its strict mitigation measures to quash its relatively small outbreak. Chinese authorities on Monday began a two-phase lockdown of Shanghai and its 26 million residents, starting with five days of requiring people in the Pudong financial district and surrounding areas to stay home until Friday as mass testing gets underway. "Panic-buying was reported on Sunday, with supermarket shelves cleared of food, beverages, and household items," The Associated Press reports. "Additional barriers were being erected in neighborhoods Monday, with workers in hazmat suits staffing checkpoints." Starting Friday, downtown Shanghai and other areas west of the Huangpu River will start a five-day lockdown. "This staggered approach means that half of the city will be able to remain open," BBC News reports. "Shanghai's public transport has been suspended and firms and factories in the city have been ordered to halt operations or work remotely," though some factories in the suburbs are still expected to operate, even if workers have to stay confined on-site. This will be the largest lockdown China has undertaken during the pandemic, though it will shorter than the 76-day clampdown on Wuhan and its 11 million residents in the first phase of the COVID-19 outbreak. It will also be test of the costs and benefits of China's "zero COVID" policy. The Shanghai lockdown aims to "curb the virus spread, protect people's life and health, and achieve the dynamic zero-COVID target as soon as possible," Shanghai's COVID-19 prevention and control office said Sunday evening. China on Sunday reported 1,219 new symptomatic COVID-19 cases, including 50 in Shanghai, and 4,996 asymptomatic cases, with about 3,450 of them in Shanghai. In all, China has reported 56,000 confirmed cases this month. The outbreak is centered in Jilin province.

3-28-22 Covid-19 news: UK infections approaching a record high
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Estimated infections have already surpassed past records in Wales and Scotland. The number of suspected covid-19 cases in the UK is approaching a record high. The Office for National Statistics’ weekly Covid Infection Survey suggests 4.26 million people across the UK had the SARS-CoV-2 virus last week, just shy of the record 4.3 million infections estimated in the first week of 2022. In England specifically, covid-19 cases are approaching a new record, with an estimated 3,485,700 people having the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the week ending 19 March, equating to around 1 in 16 people. This record may have already been broken in Wales and Scotland, where an estimated 192,900 and 473,800 people had covid-19 last week, respectively. Northern Ireland may be faring best of the four UK nations, with an estimated 108,700 people having covid-19 in the week ending 19 March, equating to one in 17 people. The estimated number of true cases is considerably higher than the officially reported incidences. As of 25 March, 599,244 people had tested positive for covid-19 in the past seven days across the UK. Deaths within 28 days of a positive test remain relatively low, however, with 950 recorded fatalities in the past seven days. Fewer than half of the immunocompromised people in England have received a covid-19 booster jab, according to NHS data. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends people with a weakened immune system have a reduced-dose booster three months after receiving a third full-dose jab. But just 255,422 of the 561,356 immunocompromised people in England had received a booster as of 24 March. A Freedom of Information request by Blood Cancer UK reveals that of 6 February, white British people who have a suppressed immune system were the most likely to have received a booster jab, with 17 per cent being immunised. This is compared with 2 per cent of their counterparts from a Bangladeshi background and 4 per cent from a Black Caribbean background. Shanghai will introduce a two-stage, nine-day lockdown in an effort to curb its omicron surge. The city reported more than 3000 symptomatic cases yesterday, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of China’s total incidences. The eastern half of the city will be locked down from today until 1 April, followed by its western side until 5 April. A preventative antibody therapy produced by AstraZeneca has received European Union approval, a week after it was approved in the UK. Evusheld is a combination of two long-acting antibodies that attach to the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ spike protein, preventing it from entering human cells. Evusheld is recommended for adults and children over 12 who have a suppressed immune system and may not mount a sufficient immune response after covid-19 vaccination. People in an adult clinical trial who received Evusheld were 77 per cent less likely to develop symptomatic covid-19 if exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with protection lasting at least six months.

3-27-22 Nine-term GOP congressman convicted of lying to FBI will resign at the end of March
Nine-term Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) announced in a letter to supporters on Saturday that he plans to resign at the end of March following his felony conviction for lying to the FBI, CNN reported. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) will then call a special election to fill Fortenberry's seat. Nebraska law requires that the election be held "within 90 days after the vacancy occurs." State Sen. Mike Flood (R) was already challenging Fortenberry in the GOP primary and has been endorsed by Ricketts. Fortenberry was found guilty on Thursday of lying to federal investigators about an illegal contribution made to his campaign by a foreign magnate. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that, according to federal prosecutors, Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury funneled "a bag of $30,000 cash" to "Los Angeles Dr. Eli Ayoub, who gave it to his relatives so they could write checks to Fortenberry at an LA fundraiser in 2016." The jury found that Fortenberry lied when he told FBI agents he didn't recognize Ayoub in photo. Jurors convicted Fortenberry on three counts after less than three hours of deliberation. He faces up to five years in prison on each count, plus fines. Fortenberry's sentencing is set for June 28.

3-27-22 At Georgia rally, Trump blames 'turncoat' governor for loss
Former President Donald Trump held a rally in Georgia on Saturday in which he endorsed a slate of candidates and harshly denounced incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who Trump claims should have done more to overturn President Biden's 2020 victory in Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "Trump voters will not go out and vote for Brian Kemp," Trump said at the rally in Commerce, calling Kemp a "turncoat" and a "RINO." To replace Kemp as governor, Trump has endorsed former Sen. David Perdue (R), who lost his seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff in a 2021 runoff election. In Commerce, Perdue said for the first time that the Senate election was "stolen" from him, the Journal-Constitution reported. According to The New York Times, Perdue trails Kemp by about 10 points in the polls despite early speculation that Trump's endorsement would instantly make Perdue the frontrunner. Trump has struggled to settle into his role as a GOP kingmaker. Last week, he rescinded his endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Rep. Mo Brooks (R) after Brooks suggested Republicans should stop obsessing over the results of the 2020 election. Sean Parnell, who Trump endorsed for a Pennsylvania Senate seat, dropped out of the race in November amid accusations of domestic abuse. A Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury is investigating Trump over a January 2021 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to reverse Biden's win. Trump has endorsed Georgia secretary of state candidate Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) in an attempt to unseat Raffensperger. The former president also dropped the f-bomb while mocking former Secretary of State John Kerry's comments about climate change. "The ocean will rise one hundredth of one percent over the next 300 f--cking years," Trump said.

3-27-22  Biden to propose 'Billionaire Minimum Income Tax' of 20 percent
The Biden administration plans to announce a "Billionaire Minimum Income Tax" on Monday as part of its 2023 budget proposal, The Washington Post reports, citing "five people with knowledge of the matter and an administration document obtained" by the Post. Fox News, appears to have obtained the same document, reports that the new tax would apply to all U.S. households with a net worth of more than $100 million. The Post explains that many billionaires "pay far lower tax rates than average Americans because the federal government does not tax the increase in the value of their stock holdings until those assets are sold" and that billionaires can then "borrow against their accumulated gains without triggering taxes on capital gains." The document says that, under the proposed policy, the ultra-wealthy will be taxed 20 percent of their "full income," including "unrealized income." If a household pays an amount equivalent to or higher than 20 percent of full income in already-existing taxes, no additional taxes will be levied. If the household's tax bill falls short of that number, "they will owe a top-up payment to meet the 20 percent minimum," per the document. Married couples filing jointly for the 2022 tax year will be taxed 37 percent of any income over $647,850, according to Forbes. The document predicts the new tax will raise $360 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.

3-27-22 Utah passes transgender sports ban over governor's veto
Utah's Republican-dominated legislature overrode the governor's veto on Friday to pass a ban a bill banning transgender girls from participating in women's school sports, NPR reports. The Utah House of Representatives voted 56-18 in favor of HB11, while the Senate voted 21-8, according to Deseret News. The bill determines sex according to "an individual's genetics and anatomy at birth." Gov. Spencer Cox (R) spent several months working to broker a compromise that would have set up a commission that would make decisions about transgender student-athletes on an individual basis, USA Today reported. After negotiations broke down, Cox vetoed the bill on Tuesday, a move that drew the ire of cultural conservatives. Cox said he was motivated by a desire to "err on the side of kindness, mercy, and compassion." Daily Wire podcast host Matt Walsh accused Cox of "gutlessness" and said conservatives should begin "exiling" such "cowards" from the Republican Party. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D), who opposed the bill, tweeted, "I'm at a loss ... I'm ashamed at the way some of our state's leaders are playing politics with children's lives." Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) vetoed a similar bill on Monday, claiming to see "no evidence" of "an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention." The Utah bill initially passed without supermajorities in either chamber, but 10 Republicans in the House and five in the Senate who initially voted against the bill supported it this time, providing the votes necessary to override Cox's veto, according to NPR. The law is set to take effect on July 1.

3-27-22 Canada pledges to help countries stop using Russian oil
Canada says it can provide more oil, gas and uranium to help solve the global energy crisis. Prices have soared as a result of Russian supplies being squeezed because of its invasion of Ukraine. Canada's natural resources minister said many countries are committed "to help as much as we can in terms of displacing Russian oil and gas". The world's fourth biggest oil producer has committed to exporting an extra 200,000 barrels of oil. Its Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told BBC News it would also export an additional 100,000 barrels of natural gas. It follows requests from its allies at a meeting of the world's energy ministers at the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which pledged to accelerate the move to clean energy. "We expect that by the end of the year we will be fully up to the 300,000 barrels," said Mr Wilkinson. However, that is only a fraction of the three million barrels a day that the IEA says will be removed from global markets by next month because of sanctions against Russia. Canada is limited in how much oil it can export because its pipelines are running near full capacity, but Mr Wilkinson says sending it via the United States is an option. Canada's biggest pipeline company Enbridge told the BBC it is "prepared to do what we can to increase energy security for both North America and Europe". The impact of Canada's extra supplies "will be relatively limited given the regionality of Canadian crude, which will likely stay in the North American market", according to Louise Dickson, who is a senior oil analyst at the consultancy Rystad Energy. "The main energy crisis is playing out in Europe due to supply shortages, and Asia where demand is on the cusp of recovering if Covid-19 lockdowns can be kept at bay," added Ms Dickson. Canada has joined the US and UK in introducing a ban on Russian oil. That has seen prices pushed up as high as almost $130 (£98.56) a barrel since the war in Ukraine began. Mr Wilkinson believes "there is a consensus" among the other energy ministers at the meeting that the world needs to cope without Russian oil and gas, adding: "I think the only differences are around how fast can you actually get away from it."

3-27-22 Ukraine war: Chernobyl’s vodka producer remains defiant
It started with "Chernobyl moonshine". Scientists who were studying crops grown in the Chernobyl exclusion zone decided to use some of their leftover grain to produce alcohol. That experiment became a social enterprise that made and sold a spirit drink called, appropriately enough, Atomik. The aim was to show that slightly radioactive fruit, grown in orchards in or near the contaminated exclusion zone that surrounds Chernobyl's nuclear power plant, could be distilled into a spirit that was no more radioactive than any other. Profits were channelled into communities that live in deprived areas close to the zone. Now, as Russian troops occupy the land where that fruit is grown and harvested, this unusual company is making a defiant marketing move by releasing two more "premium drinks" and donating profits to help Ukraine's refugees. While the future of an enterprise that makes a niche spirit might seem insignificant amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, it is an example of how decades of progress has been upended by war. After 30 years of studying the exclusion zone, the scientists who set up the Atomik project enabled people on contaminated land to sell their own produce. It was a small but significant milestone in the recovery of a patch of Ukraine that was largely abandoned after the nuclear catastrophe in 1986. "Now, that whole region where we harvest our fruit for production is occupied by Russian forces," explained Kyrylo Korychenskyi, an environmental researcher and member of the Atomik team. Russian forces seized control of the now defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the first few days of the invasion. Military machinery kicking up radioactive dust in the usually carefully controlled zone caused a spike in radiation levels. "The information we're getting from the region is very bad," says Kyrylo. "Russian forces go into the villages and put their tanks in the middle of people's gardens."

3-27-22 Ukraine war: Five wounded after explosions hit western city of Lviv
Several explosions hit the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, regional officials said. The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said five people had been injured, and that rocket fire had hit a fuel storage facility and a factory. Lviv has so far escaped much of the shelling that has come to be a part of daily life in other parts of Ukraine. It has also become a hub for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing other parts of the country. The alleged Russian attack came as US President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, Poland, some 250 miles (400km) from Lviv. In it, he addressed the Russian people on their leader, President Vladimir Putin, telling them: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." The Kremlin responded that was not for the US leader to say. "That's not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians," a spokesman said. A White House official later said that Mr Biden was not calling for "regime change", but making the point that Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours in the region. Lviv's mayor, Andriy Sadoviy, said that "with today's blows, the aggressor sends greetings to President Biden, who is in Poland," Reuters news agency reports. First, mid-afternoon, the air raid sirens went off. Then, three powerful explosions, and thick plumes of smoke could be seen from the distance. Hours later, another attack. It all happened a day after Russia said it was focusing its invasion of Ukraine on the east. Lviv is in the extreme opposite. And this distance from the worst of Russia's aggression, where people have been under unrelenting bombing and shelling, turned this city into something like a safe heaven. Displaced people, humanitarian workers, volunteers. They are all here. That perception could be changing. Maryanna Pack, a 39-year-old economist who was near the site of the blast, gave a passionate testimony that may be a view shared by many. "We're feeling unprotected. Nobody really cares about what's happening here," she said. "We need more help now. Eastern Ukraine has been completely destroyed. It's really possible that could happen to Lviv and the west of the country too."

3-27-22 Ukraine defence: Red lights and painted arrows fuel fear of Russian agents
Suspicion thrives on conflict and after a month of war in Ukraine, the fear that Russian saboteurs may be operating is hardening into a certainty. But how much is fact, backed up by intelligence reports and arrests, and how much is something closer to understandable paranoia, fuelled by social media rumours about mysterious lights and signs? "It was my neighbours from this stairwell who came to see me. They were scared about security," said Bohdan Mylko, a 22-year-old engineer sharing an apartment on the northern edge of Odesa. Fifteen minutes later, the police were at his door, asking about a red light in his bedroom window. "It's paranoia, based on fake news about red lights being a sign to the Russians. I had to go to the police station and get my documents checked, make a statement, and get my photo taken. "The police realised that I'm just a normal guy and let me go home. I'm not trying to help the Russians," said Mylko, holding up the set of flashing fairy lights that prompted the police's intervention. Moments after we visited him, one evening shortly before curfew, we were stopped on the street outside by a group of residents who asked to see our documents. "You could be Russians," said an elderly woman who gave her name as Valya. "What are you doing here? We have small children. We don't want anything to happen to them. Maybe someone will drop a bomb here tomorrow," said another woman, as the wail of an air raid siren rose over the apartment complex. Such concerns are understandable in a city, and a country, still reeling from the shock of Russia's invasion. Similar behaviour has been noted in many other conflicts, from Syria to Chechnya and beyond. "This is not paranoia. There are Russian agents and citizens of Ukraine working against us. That's a fact," said Capt Volodymir Kalina from the Odesa police. But he acknowledged there was a strong element of disinformation involved and accused Russia of deliberately trying to stir up public fear. "They're trying to distract us, to make us pay attention to the wrong places - to clear us from one part of the city so they can carry out their work in another area," he said.

3-27-22 Sidney Poitier's daughter on his Oscars legacy
Nearly six decades after Sidney Poitier became the first black man to win an acting Oscar, four actors of colour are nominated at this year's Academy Awards. There will be a tribute to Poitier, who died in January, at Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles. The BBC's culture editor Katie Razzall talked to his daughter, Sydney, to find out more about her father’s life and legacy.

3-27-22 Ukraine: No Russia regime change plans, says Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has denied that the United States has any plans to bring about regime change in Russia or anywhere else. Mr Blinken's comments come a day after President Joe Biden said his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, should not be allowed to remain in power. Mr Biden made the unscripted remark at the end of a speech in Poland. Mr Blinken said the president simply made the point that Mr Putin could not be allowed to wage war against Ukraine. The Kremlin dismissed Mr Biden's remark, saying it was for Russians to choose their leader. "I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else," Mr Blinken said on Sunday during a visit to Israel. "As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else, for that matter. "In this case, as in any case, it's up to the people of the country in question, it's up to the Russian people," he added. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," US President Joe Biden said about his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin during a speech in Poland's capital, Warsaw, on Saturday. This was quickly followed by the White House saying Mr Biden wasn't calling for regime change, but was instead making a point about Mr Putin not being allowed to exercise power over his neighbours. This was clearly an attempt at rolling back - the concern is that this is going to put more pressure on Putin and make him more uneasy. Given that he is the head of a country that is struggling militarily, and is in control of a nuclear arsenal, the concern on the Americans' part is that they don't want to back Mr Putin into a corner. Calling out for regime change directly could cause instability and increase unpredictability. And the last thing you want in these circumstances is unpredictability.

3-27-22 Biden wasn't calling for regime change in Russia, White House official says
The White House on Saturday walked back a remark from President Biden that many interpreted as a call for regime change in Russia, NPR reported. During a speech in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday evening, Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." CNN initially reported the story with the headline "Biden calls for regime change in Russia," and several other outlets interpreted his comment the same way."The President's point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia or regime change," a White House official said shortly after the speech. The Washington Post reported that Biden's controversial statement was "ad-libbed" and "came as a surprise to U.S. officials," according to a source familiar with the text of the speech. Author Tom Nichols, writing for The Atlantic, didn't mind. "What Biden was doing, of course, was being Joe Biden. He was speaking for all of us, from the heart. One of the more endearing things about the president—at least for those of us who admire him—is that he has almost no inner monologue and regularly engages in the kind of gaffe where a politician says something that is impolitic but true," he wrote.

3-26-22 Putin 'cannot remain in power' Biden says in Warsaw speech
President Biden delivered a speech in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday evening wrapping up his four-day trip to Europe with what was widely interpreted as a shocking call for regime change in Russia. In the speech, Biden promised that the United States will accept thousands of Ukrainian refugees, reiterated that American troops will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, and touted his plan to help Europe "end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels." Biden previously announced this "game plan," which includes allocating more American natural gas to the European market and accelerating Europe's transition to clean energy sources, in Brussels on Friday. He then addressed the Russian people, accusing Putin of increasing the resolve of the Western democracies and causing a "brain drain" in Russia. "You, the Russian people, are not our enemy," Biden said, reciting a catalog of the atrocities Russian forces have committed in Ukraine. "These are not the actions of a great nation ... Vladimir Putin's aggression has cut you, the Russian people, off from the rest of the world. He's taking Russia back to the 19th century. This is not who you are ... This war is not worthy of you, the Russian people." Biden ended his speech with an apparently clear call for Putin to be deposed. "A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people's love for liberty," he said. "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." The Biden administration has previously been wary of calls for regime change in Russia. When Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) called earlier this month for a Russian "Brutus" to assassinate Putin, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said his comments did not reflect "the position of the United States government," NPR reported. A few days later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that American opposition to the invasion of Ukraine is "not about regime change" in Russia. Update 7:15 p.m.: A statement from the White House after Biden's Saturday remarks said Biden was not calling Putin's ouster: "The president's point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin's power in Russia, or regime change."

3-26-22 Russian general claims only 1,400 Russian troops have died in Ukraine
Russian Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, deputy head of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said Friday that 1,351 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine and 3,825 have been wounded, The Associated Press reported. This report is far lower than estimates from NATO — which on Wednesday said Russian forces have likely suffered between 7,000 and 15,000 fatalities since the invasion began on Feb. 24 — and the United States, which placed Russian military deaths at around 7,000. In an address to the nation on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said "more than 14,000" Russian soldiers had been killed. Rudskoi's report also contradicts numbers provided by the Russian Defense Ministry. On Sunday, the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda published an article citing a Russian Defense Ministry report that 9,861 Russian soldiers had been killed — a number more than seven times higher than the figure Rudskoi provided Friday — and over 16,000 wounded. The casualty figures were stealth edited out of the article four hours after it was published. Komsomolskaya Pravda is reportedly part of a select group of Russian news outlets known as "our guys" whose news editors have yellow phones on their desks that link directly to the Kremlin. AP notes that Rudskoi's report "did not appear to include the Moscow-backed separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine."

3-25-22 US jobless claims at lowest level since 1969
Fewer workers sought jobless benefits in the US last week than at any time since 1969. Just 187,000 people filed for unemployment, the Labor Department reported. That was down roughly 28,000 from the previous week. The figures show a stark turnaround in the job market in the US since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The news sparked several historic comparisons on social media, with some sharing photos of Woodstock music fest. "The last time jobless claims fell this low was the same year we landed folks on the moon," said Rep Ted Lieu, Democrat from California. "The last time weekly jobless claims were this low The Beatles were still together," added Rep Don Beyer, Democrat of Virginia. The US economy has many looking back to the past at the moment, but it hasn't been easy for economists and analysts to settle on the right historic analogies. When lockdowns hit two years ago, the weekly jobless report hit record highs, with claims eventually exceeding six million. But the economy, helped along by a massive government stimulus programme, has since roared back with a strength that surprised most analysts. Growth jumped 5.7% last year, while payrolls have been expanding at a healthy clip, increasing by more than 600,000 last month, helping to cut the jobless rate to 3.8%. Thursday's report highlighted the tight labour market, analysts said. President Joe Biden has sought to claim credit for the gains, pointing to Democratic spending plans and progress controlling coronavirus under his watch. He celebrated Thursday's report, citing it as another sign of a "historic economic recovery". But surveys show the public remains worried about the economy, reflecting prices that are increasing at a pace not seen in 40 years. Many in the business world are haunted by comparisons to the 1970s, when the US was hit by so-called stagflation - when growth slowed even as price increases spiralled, driven in part by oil shocks. David Rosenberg, head of the Toronto-based economic research firm Rosenberg Research, said economic indicators - including low jobless claims - suggest that America's economy is headed for a recession - as it was at the end of 1969.

3-25-22 Up to 60 percent of Russian missiles in Ukraine are failing, U.S. assesses
Russia has been trying to make up for its setbacks on the ground in Ukraine with missiles and bombs, and the Russians have launched at least 1,200 missiles "of all stripes and sizes" in the first 28 days of their invasion, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday. But not all of those missiles are hitting their marks. Three U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60 percent for some of the precision-guided missiles it's using to attack Ukraine. "Such a high failure rate can include anything from launch failures to a missile failing to explode on impact," Reuters reports. "The disclosure could help explain why Russia has failed to achieve what most could consider basic objectives since its invasion a month ago, such as neutralizing Ukraine's air force, despite the apparent strength of its military against Ukraine's much smaller armed forces." The failure rate for Russia's missiles varies from day to day and depends on the type of missile being launched, the U.S. officials told Reuters, citing U.S. intelligence. Air-launched cruise missiles, for example, are failing at a rate of 20 percent to 60 percent. Two experts told Reuters that any failure rate above 20 percent would be considered high. But Russia still has "the vast majority of their assembled available inventory of surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles available to them," the senior Pentagon official said Wednesday. "I mean, they've expended a lot, but they put a lot into the effort. And they still have an awful lot left." And even 40 percent of 1,200 missiles would do a lot of damage. On Friday, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that Russia destroyed "the largest of the remaining fuel depot of the Ukrainian armed forces," outside Kyiv with "sea-launched Kalibr precision cruise missiles." Russia's failure to shock and awe Ukraine isn't impressing the Pentagon. "I think with a high degree of certainty that Russia will emerge from Ukraine weaker than it went into the conflict," Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl said Thursday. "Militarily weaker, economically weaker, politically and geopolitically weaker, and more isolated." Kahl added that an upcoming Pentagon defense strategy document would asses Russia as an "acute threat" that, unlike China, poses no long-term systems challenge to the U.S.

3-25-22 Ukraine War: Civilians abducted as Russia tries to assert control
Ukrainians are being arbitrarily detained and subjected to enforced disappearances in Russian-controlled areas, the UN has told the BBC. At least 36 cases of civilian detentions were verified by the UN, with families often denied any information about the fate of those being held. Ukrainians say they fear an escalating campaign of kidnappings and intimidation, as Russia struggles to assert control over towns it captures. Viktoriia Roshchyna, a journalist, was working in occupied areas in the east of the country when she was taken by unidentified men on 15 March. Her employer, Hromadske media, said she "was probably detained by the FSB", Russia's internal intelligence service, based on witness accounts of her being taken in the city of Berdyansk. She was released six days later when a hostage-style video - apparently recorded under duress - began to circulate on pro-Russian Telegram outlets. In it Ms Roshchyna said Russia had not taken her captive and thanked Moscow's forces for "saving her life". Svetlana Zalizetskaya, a journalist in the occupied city of Melitopol, accused Russian forces of taking her 75-year old father hostage as punishment for her refusal to co-operate with the new administration. Ms Zalizetskaya, the director of local news agency RIA Melitopol, wrote on Facebook that her father had been detained after her meeting with the Russian-installed leader of the city, where she refused to end her criticism of the invasion. She said that she received a phone call from his captors, in which her father informed her that he was being held "in some basement" and said that he "didn't know what they wanted from him". His captors demanded that Ms Zalizetskaya, who has pledged to "tell the world of atrocities" committed by Moscow's forces in Melitopol, surrender herself. Ukraine's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said four journalists had also been detained and were later released in Melitopol. The head of the Ukrainian NUJ, Sergiy Tomilenko, said the detentions were part of "a wave of information cleansing" which is aimed towards the "intimidation of journalists and public figures".

3-25-22 Ukraine: Nato will respond if Russia uses chemical weapons, warns Biden
US President Joe Biden has said Nato "would respond" if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine. The president - who is in Europe for talks with allies - did not spell out what that might mean. His comments came on an unprecedented day of emergency summits in Brussels, where Western leaders showed a united front against Russia's invasion. Mr Biden is travelling to Poland on Friday where more than two million Ukrainians have fled from the fighting. Asked whether the use of chemical weapons by Russia's Vladimir Putin would prompt a military response from Nato, Mr Biden replied that it "would trigger a response in kind". "We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use," he said. Western nations have warned Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, as its invasion of the country enters its fifth week. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it would be "catastrophic" if Mr Putin used chemical weapons, while Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has made it clear it would result in severe consequences. The White House has set up a national security team to look at how the US and allies should react if Russia launched a chemical attack. But there is no suggestion Nato would respond by using chemical weapons, says BBC US Editor Sarah Smith. Mr Biden has previously stressed the US and Nato would not send troops to Ukraine over fears of a direct military confrontation with Russia. The president was speaking after an emergency meeting of Nato leaders to debate how to respond to the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, as well as military aid for Ukraine and tougher sanctions on Moscow. "The single most important thing is for us to stay united," the president said after the summit. Mr Biden is expected to announce a major deal with the EU on liquified natural gas, in an attempt to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian energy.

3-25-22 EU signs US gas deal to curb reliance on Russia
The US and the EU have announced a major deal on liquified natural gas, in an attempt to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian energy. The agreement will see the US provide the EU with extra gas, equivalent to around 10% of the gas it currently gets from Russia, by the end of the year. The bloc has already said it will cut Russian gas use in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia currently supplies about 40% of the EU's gas needs. The new deal will involve the US and other countries supplying an extra 15 billion cubic metres of gas on top of last year's 22 billion cubic metres. The new total will represent around 24% of the gas currently imported from Russia. The eventual aim is for the US and international partners to provide about 50 billion cubic metres per year to the EU. Cutting reliance on Russia will mean generating more renewable energy and improving energy efficiency as well as increasing imports. The deal was announced on Friday during a three-day visit by US President Joe Biden to Brussels. Mr Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed Russia's invasion of Ukraine and offered fresh support to Kyiv. "Putin is using Russia's energy resources to coerce and manipulate its neighbours," Mr Biden told reporters in Brussels. "He's used the profits to drive his war machine." He said the long term benefits of the deal would outweigh the short term pain that reducing Russian gas supplies would cause. "I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it's not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it's going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing." President von der Leyen said: "We want, as Europeans, to diversify away from Russia towards suppliers that we trust that are friends and that are reliable." She pointed out that the target 50 billion cubic metres per year "is replacing one-third already of the Russian gas going to Europe today. So we are right on track now to diversify away from Russian gas."

3-25-22 Biden announces 'game plan' to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas
President Biden has announced the United States will form a joint task force with the European Commission to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy. While in Brussels on Friday, Biden held a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and announced the task force, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin has used Russia's energy resources "to coerce and manipulate" neighbors and "drive his war machine." "The United States welcomed the European Union's powerful statement earlier this month committing to rapidly reducing its dependence on Russian gas," Biden said. "Today, we've agreed on a joint game plan toward that goal while accelerating our progress toward a secure, clean energy future." Biden said the initiative will focus both on helping Europe reduce its dependence on Russian gas "as quickly as possible" and on "reducing Europe's demand for gas overall." The U.S. will "strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm in 2022," the White House said. "We're going to have to make sure that families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we're building an infrastructure for a diversified, resilient, and clean energy future," Biden said. The announcement comes after Biden earlier this month imposed a ban on Russian oil imports in order to "inflict further pain" on Putin amid the country's invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, Biden said that while "eliminating Russian gas will have cost for Europe," it's "not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it's going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing." Von der Leyen said Friday "we are determined to stand up against Russia's brutal war." She also said the United States' commitment will "replace the LNG supply we currently receive from Russia," adding, "We are right on track now to diversify away from Russian gas and towards our friends and partners' reliable and trustworthy suppliers."

3-25-22 Texts reveal wife of Supreme Court judge urged 2020 election overturn
The wife of a US Supreme Court judge repeatedly pressed Trump White House staff to overturn the 2020 presidential election, US media has reported. Virginia Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, reportedly sent 29 text messages to former adviser Mark Meadows, urging him not to concede. Ms Thomas called Joe Biden's victory "the greatest heist of our history". The texts are among 2,320 messages Mr Meadows provided to a committee investigating the US Capitol riot. In the text messages, seen by CBS News and The Washington Post, she urged Mr Meadows, who was Donald Trump's chief of staff, to "make a plan" in a bid to save his presidency. "Do not concede. It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back", she wrote on 6 November. It is unclear if Mr Meadows responded. Ms Thomas also appeared to push QAnon conspiracy theories and urged Mr Meadows to appoint Sidney Powell, a conspiracy theorist and lawyer, to head up Mr Trump's legal team. "Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud," Ms Thomas wrote. "Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down." Mr Meadows told Ms Thomas that he intended to "stand firm" and said that he "will fight until there is no fight left". The Trump campaign later distanced itself from Ms Powell, after she made dramatic claims of voter fraud, without providing any evidence, at several media events. Virginia Thomas - who goes by Ginni - is a prominent Republican fundraiser. She was formerly associated with the Tea Party wing of the party, a hard-line conservative movement to which Mr Meadows was also affiliated during his time in the House of Representatives. She has been married to conservative-leaning Justice Clarence Thomas for 35 years, and has insisted her activist work has no influence on her husband's work with the Supreme Court. In 2010, she made headlines for asking Anita Hill to apologise for accusing Mr Thomas of harassment during his confirmation hearings in 1991. Clarence Thomas is the longest-serving member of the US Supreme Court, having served since 1991, and is currently in hospital with "flu-like" symptoms.

3-25-22 Ginni Thomas texted Mark Meadows she discussed post-election fight with 'best friend.' Was it Justice Thomas?
Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a well-connected conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was very invested in the false idea that former President Donald Trump was robbed of victory in the 2020 election, according to text messages she sent to Mark Meadows, then Trump's White House chief of staff, The Washington Post and CBS News reported Thursday evening. Thomas' texts to Trump's top White House aide in the weeks following the Nov. 3 election are tinged with conspiracy theories about election fraud and suggest she discussed those ideas with her husband. Meadows, who is now under investigation for committing possible vote fraud in the 2020 election, sometimes replied. When Meadows wrote Thomas on Nov. 24 to "not grow weary" in this "fight of good versus evil," and said he has "staked my career" on overturning Biden's win, Thomas replied: "Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now." She did not say who that "best friend" was, but Clarence Thomas has repeatedly referred to his wife as his "best friend." There are no overt references to Clarence Thomas or the Supreme Court in this batch of Ginni Thomas' text messages to Meadows, but the exchanges "represent the first evidence that she was directly advising the White House as it sought to overturn the election," The New York Times reports. In fact, they show that Thomas "effectively toggled between like-minded members of the executive and legislative branches, even as her husband, who sits atop the judiciary branch that is supposed to serve as a check on the other branches of government, heard election-related cases." Justice Thomas has been Trump's "most stalwart defender on the court," the Times adds, and cast the lone vote against allowing the release of Trump White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Ginni Thomas has a First Amendment right to express her opinions, but "the consequences of what she's done is that I don't think that Clarence Thomas can sit on any case involving, even remotely, the conduct of the election, the vote of Congress on Jan. 6, or any cases involving the Jan. 6 committee's attempts to get information," Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and judicial ethics expert, told the Times. "He must recuse himself, and should have recused himself in the cases that have been heard up to now."

3-25-22 Covid-19 news: China still aiming for zero-covid despite record cases
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Shanghai’s recorded cases jumped by more than 60 per cent in one day. China is continuing with its zero-covid strategy despite recording a record 4988 symptomatic cases today, with asymptomatic infections being logged separately. The surge of the more-transmissible omicron variant has prompted different provinces to introduce varying restrictions. These are being met with increasing resistance from local people, particularly after a nurse in Shanghai died of an asthma attack when a hospital was closed for covid-19 disinfection earlier this week. Shanghai, a city of about 25 million people, reported a record 1609 cases today, an increase of more than 60 per cent in just 24 hours. Despite the surge in cases, health officials are persisting with their strategy. “Only by doing dynamic zero-COVID can we eliminate the hidden dangers of the epidemic, avoid the run on medical resources that may be caused by large-scale infections and prevent a large number of possible deaths of the elderly or those with underlying diseases,” said Wu Zunyou at China’s Center for Disease Control. The vaccine uptake gap between ethnic minority groups and white groups in the UK is at least partly due to the former having lower levels of trust in the medical establishment and poor past healthcare experiences, according to a study in the BMJ Open. As of 13 January 2021, 42.5 per cent of white people in the UK who were not living in a care home had been vaccinated, compared with 20.5 per cent of their Black counterparts. Low trust and poor past experience may explain around a quarter of the vaccine uptake gap, with the remaining discrepancy being unknown and a “cause for concern”, the researchers write. Long covid symptoms may differ according to the SARS-CoV-2 variant that caused the initial infection, according to researchers at the University of Florence, Italy. The team looked at more than 400 people who were hospitalised with covid-19 between early 2020 and June 2021. At 4 to 12 weeks post-discharge, 76 per cent of the participants reported at least one lingering symptom. Those who became infected in 2020, when the original SARS-CoV-2 strain was circulating, were more likely to experience a loss of smell, impaired hearing and difficulty swallowing. When the alpha variant was dominant between January and April 2021, more of the participants went on to experience muscle aches, insomnia, brain fog and depression or anxiety. The dominant omicron BA.2 sublineage that has caused a surge in cases and hospitalisations across Europe could pose a considerable risk for the US, where vaccination rates are lower, the Financial Times reported. According to John Hopkins University, 66.19 per cent of people are fully vaccinated in the US, compared with 73.83 per cent in the UK. This comes after the US’ Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci said that while BA.2 will probably cause an uptick in cases, he is not expecting a surge.

3-24-22 'Let her answer!': Lindsey Graham draws frustrated outbursts after repeatedly interrupting Ketanji Brown Jackson
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeatedly interrupted Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, drawing frustrated responses from audience members and other senators on the Judiciary Committee. Most of Graham's interruptions took place during a tense exchange about Jackson's approach to sentencing in child pornography cases. After one such interruption, several voices could be heard saying "Let her answer!" and "Come on," while Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, "Please, let her complete her answer." Washington Post White House reporter Seung Min Kim tweeted that the audience in the hearing room grew "audibly frustrated" with Graham's interruptions and that she heard one woman mutter "shut up." During his initial remarks on Monday, Graham expressed frustration that President Biden chose to nominate Jackson rather than Judge Michelle Childs of South Carolina. "The attacks from the left against Judge Childs was really pretty vicious, to be honest with you," Graham said Monday, adding that he believed 60 or more senators would have voted to confirm Childs. This is not the first time Graham has become heated during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. "This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics ... this is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap!" he yelled during the 2018 hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault.

3-24-22 Pentagon's Kirby says U.S. 'wants to step up' with pledge to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
The U.S. is planning to welcome into the country up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, a Biden administration official announced Thursday, per CNN. To do so, the White House will not have to ask Congress to add to the current cap on annual refugees, "which is currently set at 125,000 for fiscal year 2022," because this initiative is more so seen as a long-term committment in which Ukrainians will have multiple avenues to enter the U.S, CNN reports. "The State Department will be managing this, and working through the refugee system that's in place," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday. "We're proud to be able to contribute to international efforts to provide a home for those who have now lost everything in Ukraine." "The United States wants to step up here and be welcoming to those who have been so terribly affected by the death and destruction inside Ukraine," he added. Officials will emphasize the protection of the most vulnerable refugee populations, "including members of the LGBTQI+ community, those with medical needs, journalists and third-country nationals," CNN writes. "By opening our country to these individuals, we will help relieve some of the pressure on the European host countries that are currently shouldering so much of the responsibility," the initial official said. More details are the come, per The Wall Street Journal. The United Nations estimates over 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine in response to the war, a majority of which have gone to Poland.

3-24-22 Russian warship destroyed in occupied port of Berdyansk, says Ukraine
A Russian landing ship has been destroyed and two other vessels have been damaged in the occupied Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk, say Ukrainian officials. The Ukrainian military posted footage early on Thursday and said the Orsk had been hit by its forces. Details of what caused the explosion and fire on board the ship are unclear. Berdyansk, which is west of the besieged port of Mariupol, was seized four days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia says it has used the port as a base to ferry in equipment for its troops. Russian army TV hailed the arrival of the Orsk in Berdyansk last week as an "epic event" as it was the first Russian warship to dock there. Drone footage filmed by Russian state TV reporter Murad Gazdiev showed an armoured personnel carrier being offloaded from the Orsk in the port. The armoured vehicles were to be used to reinforce Russian troops, the TV report added. Video posted by the navy and on social media showed explosions and a big ship on fire at the port at 07:00 (05:00GMT) on Thursday. Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar told Ukrainian TV that the military had hit a "huge target", capable of carrying 20 tanks, 45 armoured vehicles and 400 troops. The BBC cannot independently verify the claim. Earlier this week Gazdiev, who works for Russia-backed media outlet RT, reported that Ukrainian missiles had repeatedly targeted Berdyansk port, and every missile had been intercepted by Russian anti-air defence. Berdyansk is of major strategic value to the Russians, lying between Crimea and the besieged city of Mariupol, some 80km (50 miles) to the east, where an estimated 100,000 people remain stranded facing Russian bombardment. Some of those who have managed to escape Mariupol have arrived in Berdyansk and Ukraine's deputy prime minister has said they will be taken inland to the city of Zaporizhzhia. Capturing the towns of Berdyansk and Melitopol are part of Russia's bid to create a land bridge from Crimea to the Russian border, as well as establishing a route towards Zaporizhzhia. Residents have staged protests against Russia's occupation of Berdyansk, and video posted on social media this week showed the military beating people in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

3-24-22 Ukraine war: Destruction of cities shown from above
In the month since Russia's military invaded Ukraine, it has laid waste to cities across the country.

3-24-22 Putin's 'Achilles heel' in Ukraine is Russians believing their 'soldiers are dying unnecessarily,' CNN says
Soviet Russia finally pulled out of Afghanistan because fierce Afghan resistance, fueled by U.S.-provided Stinger missiles, were eating away at Russian forces, eventually resulting in 15,000 Russian deaths. "Today the death toll of Russian troops in Ukraine could already match those killed over 10 years in Afghanistan," CNN's Nic Robertson reported early Thursday, citing NATO estimates. "Afghan parallels with today's war in Ukraine are clear," Robertson said. "Russia's enemies, if not Russia, have learned the lessons of the Afghan war." "Across dozens of Russian cities, more than 15,000 people have been arrested for protesting the war," Robertson said. "Recently, anxious parents of troops have begun showing up. Putin's Achilles heel is the perception soldiers are dying unnecessarily. It's why he's tightened reporting laws and swapped Russia with Kremlin propaganda, and it's why the Ukrainian military shows off battlefield gains — like knocking out Russian tanks or captured Russian soldiers — because they know bad press back home is what the Red Army out of Afghanistan." Thus far, Kremlin-friendly media has rarely strayed from the party line. So, for example, this drone footage of Mariupol after weeks of relentless Russian bombing and airstrikes, is "shocking" proof on CNN of Russia's scorched-earth campaign of punishing and killing Ukrainian civilians to achieve otherwise unattainable territorial gains. On Russian state TV, it is portrayed as Ukrainian forces burning down their own house to thwart the Russians. But there are signs of low morale among Russian forces in Ukraine, reported to be suffering from frostbite and hunger, not just stalemate and high casualties. And the morale problems aren't just among Russian ground troops and field officers in Ukraine, CNN says, pointing to a report it obtained by U.S. military attachés in Moscow who "casually inquired" about a Russian major general's Ukrainian family roots and were shocked when the general's "stoic demeanor suddenly became flushed and agitated."

3-24-22 Russia partially opens stock market for 1st time since Ukraine invasion. U.S. calls reopening 'a charade.'
Russia's stock market partially reopened Thursday for the first time since Russia's central bank shut it down to halt dizzying losses after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Russian missiles and troops into Ukraine. The U.S. and other countries have slapped punishing sanctions on Russia, frozen its foreign reserves, and enacted other financial measures since Russia's stock market was suspended Feb. 25, and the Russian ruble has sunk precipitously. Russia's benchmark MOEX index rose as much as 10 percent in early trading, but "the increase is unlikely to be interpreted as a sign that all is well with the Russian economy," The Wall Street Journal explains. For one thing, "only 33 shares out of 50 shares on the index were allowed to trade. To prevent a steep selloff, Russia's central bank banned short selling, and blocked foreigners, who make up a huge chunk of the market, from selling their shares. The Kremlin also directed a Russian sovereign wealth fund to buy around $10 billion in shares." White House Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh dismissed Russia's "Potemkin market opening" as "a charade." Between the Kremlin "artificially propping up the shares of companies that are trading" and prohibitions on short selling and foreigners selling their shares, this is "not a real market and not a sustainable model — which only underscores Russia's isolation from the global financial system," he wrote.

3-24-22 Western leaders meet to discuss Ukraine support
US President Joe Biden joins fellow Western leaders in Brussels on Thursday for three summits on Russia's war in Ukraine, a month after the invasion began. Nato, the G7 and the EU are all holding meetings, in a display of unity rarely seen by the West. Mr Biden will take part in all three, the first ever visit by a US president to an EU summit in Brussels. But his visit to Brussels is not just about symbolism. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has given the Western defensive alliance Nato a renewed sense of purpose. And as the EU attempts to sever energy ties with Russia, it needs to forge and reinforce other relationships, particularly with the US. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was due to appear by video link at all three summits. Nato's 30 presidents and prime ministers will agree greater support for Ukraine and new troop deployments for Eastern allies. Their aim is to show solidarity to Kyiv, though only up to a point. Many, but not all, have been willing to supply weapons. The UK said it would use both the G7 and Nato meetings to "substantively increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine". But the alliance has also made clear it won't become more directly involved and Mr Zelensky's repeated requests for a no-fly zone over Ukraine have pretty much been ignored. Nor is it clear how Nato would respond if Russia were to dramatically escalate the conflict in Ukraine - such as an attack on a Western weapons convoy, the use of chemical, or even tactical nuclear weapons. Nato's red lines have so far been drawn at its borders.

3-24-22 Nato set for 'long haul' as it boosts Ukraine military aid
Updates from BBC correspondents in Ukraine: Jeremy Bowen, Orla Guerin, Lyse Doucet and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Odesa, Wyre Davies in Zaporizhzhia, Quentin Sommerville in Kharkiv, and Jonah Fisher and Hugo Bachega in Lviv. Nato leaders approve major increases of the alliance's forces in Eastern Europe at an emergency summit in Brussels. Jens Stoltenberg says four new battlegroups will be sent to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. He said the invasion had changed security for the long term - and Nato was prepared for the "long haul". President Zelensky has asked people everywhere to take to the streets in a show of support for Ukraine to mark one month of the Russian invasion. The US says members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The UK extends sanctions to include 65 more Russian individuals and organisations including the Wagner Group of mercenaries. Anna Vorosheva, a businesswoman from Mariupol, has been telling the BBC about her plans to return to the devastated southern city to bring supplies and help others leave. She left Mariupol on 18 March and is currently in Zaporizhzhia, about 200km (120 miles) away. She told the BBC: "My conscience won't let me go any further. Not one single car or service is going in, unless it's driven by individuals, by volunteers... to take supplies in, help people come out. "I completely understand the risk. But buses are not getting to people. They're having to go 35 kilometres on foot. I'm a 45-year-old woman and strong. But there are women and children and old people and they can't make it out." Vorosheva described conditions there. "If you want to know [what it's like in Mariupol], you should go in to your cellar, turn out the light, take no food or water, so it's freezing cold. Don't wash yourself, go to the toilet in the street, not have nappies for babies or for old people," she said. "People who are ill are rotting to death in their beds. There's no water to cook your pasta. There are no communications. Since 1 March there's been no telephones, no radio, no TV, no internet."

3-24-22 North Korea tests banned intercontinental missile
North Korea has tested a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017, South Korea and Japan say. Japanese officials said it flew 1,100 km (684 miles) and fell in Japanese waters after flying for over an hour. ICBMs, designed for nuclear arms delivery, could extend North Korea's strike range as far as the US mainland. The test is being seen as a major escalation by the North and has been condemned by its neighbours and the US. North Korea has launched a flurry of missile tests in recent weeks. The US and South Korea have said some of those tests, which Pyongyang claimed were satellite launches, were in fact trials of parts of an ICBM system. Thursday's missile appeared to be newer and more powerful than the one North Korea fired five years ago, reaching an altitude of more than 6,000km (3,730 miles), according to Japanese officials. South Korea's military responded with five missile tests of its own, from land, sea and air. The United States condemned the North for a "brazen violation" of UN Security Council resolutions. "The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilising actions," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in condemned what he said was a "breach of the suspension of intercontinental ballistic missile launches promised by Chairman Kim Jong-un to the international community". The United States and South Korea had warned in recent weeks that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire an ICBM at full range for the first time since 2017. On 16 March, North Korea launched a suspected missile that appeared to explode shortly after lift-off over Pyongyang, South Korea's military said. The UN prohibits North Korea from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests, and has imposed strict sanctions after previous tests. In 2017 North Korea carried out a number of ICBM tests, the last of which involved a Hwasong-15 missile that reached an altitude of 4,500km (2,800 miles). Experts estimated the Hwasong-15 could have travelled more than 13,000km (8,080 miles) if it had been fired on a standard trajectory, which meant it could reach any part of the continental United States. The latest launch is thought to be the North's largest ever ICBM test, and involved an even more powerful missile, possibly the new Hwasong-17 unveiled in 2020 but untested up to now.

3-24-22 Covid-19 news: Covid caused 5.6% of deaths in England last month
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 caused 5.6 per cent of all deaths in England in February. Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in England and the sixth biggest driver of fatalities in Wales last month. According to the Office for National Statistics, covid-19 was the primary cause of 5.6 per cent of all deaths in England in February. This is compared with the 11.6 per cent of deaths caused by dementia, the leading driver of fatalities last month. Ischaemic heart disease, brought on by narrowing of the arteries, was the leading cause of death in Wales, accounting for 10.8 per cent of fatalities. Across the UK, the number of recorded SARS-CoV-2 cases increased by 16.9 per cent in the past week, according to government data. This is probably due to the widespread easing of restrictions and the more-transmissible omicron BA.2 sublineage. Deaths within 28 days of a positive test increased by 17.9 per cent, however, covid-19 may not have directly caused all these fatalities. A SARS-CoV-2 variant that is resistant to the widely-used antiviral drug remdesivir has been detected in an immunocompromised person. The person, who was in remission for stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had covid-19 for six months before they required supplemental oxygen. Their viral load then increased while being treated with the antiviral remdesivir. A team from the Yale School of Public Health found an enzyme that is involved in the replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus had mutated, making it resistant to remdesivir. This mutation is thought to have occurred due to the virus replicating in the person for so long, with their immune system unable to fight it off. “The threat of antiviral resistance is a critical concern, given the rate that the virus introduces mutations in the genome,” said study author Albert Ko in a statement. “A big question is whether this will happen with the other drugs, paxlovid and molnupiravir, we are using to treat our patients.” Moderna plans to seek regulatory approval in the US for its vaccine for children under 6 years old. This comes after trials revealed two doses of the jab were 38 per cent effective at preventing infections in 2 to 5 year olds and 44 per cent effective in children aged between two years and six months. If authorised, the covid-19 vaccine would be the first to be approved for under 5 year olds in the US. Nearly 840,000 of 2.2 million AstraZeneca jabs donated to Kenya via the global Covax scheme expired before they could be used, the BBC reported.

3-23-22 The covid-19 pandemic isn't over – and it won't end any time soon
JUST over two years since the official start of the pandemic, tens of millions of people in China have entered lockdown. It is a striking reminder of how things started, and that, despite the feeling in some countries, things are far from over. At the end of January, the huge global wave of covid-19 caused by the faster-spreading omicron variant was ebbing fast, but now cases are ticking up once more. This second wave of omicron has been caused in part by an even faster-spreading subvariant, plus the fact that many nations are dropping measures to contain the virus, The emergence of such fast-spreading variants has shifted the pressure points of the pandemic. Many countries that took a heavy toll early on and therefore had a strong incentive to vaccinate, including England, have now chosen to drop restrictions, assuming that vaccines will keep deaths and hospitalisations low as case numbers soar. That is in stark contrast to regions that successfully dodged a high death toll at the start of the pandemic. These include Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and Hong Kong, which kept the virus at bay with rigorous testing and quarantine measures. They were successful for a time, but the increased transmissibility of recent variants allowed the virus to break through. At this point, it is clear that public health officials in these regions must refocus efforts on vaccination. This presents a few problems. First, not all vaccines are equal. China has been using its own vaccines, which are less effective at preventing infections than the mRNA vaccines used by many other nations. Second, vaccine access has been inequitable since jabs were first rolled out. Dozens of countries still have less than 10 per cent of their population vaccinated. How this wave will play out in these nations will depend on several factors. But the situation reminds us what we do know for sure: that this wave won’t be the last; that we cannot expect to deal with the pandemic in one corner of the globe and not see repercussions elsewhere; and that, ultimately, the only way to prevent new variants is to prevent the spread of the virus.

3-23-22 WHO official says rise in European COVID cases linked to restrictions being lifted too quickly
Several countries in Europe where COVID-19 cases are rising should have taken a more measured approach to lifting pandemic restrictions, Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe, said on Tuesday. Britain, Germany, France, and Italy are among the 18 European countries where cases are increasing, thanks to the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which is highly transmissible. In those countries, the governments lifted restrictions "brutally, from too much to too few," Kluge said. In England, for example, masks are not legally required in most public areas, but are still "strongly encouraged" on trains, buses, and subways. Kluge said he is still hopeful, however, because temperatures are rising and more people will start spending time outside, rather than in crowded indoor areas where the virus can linger and spread. Also, even with cases rising in those European countries, the mortality rate is dropping. Kluge said he believes COVID-19 can be brought under control by patients receiving antiviral medicines that reduce the severity of disease and governments conducting more testing to find new variants.

3-23-22 When the latest COVID wave arrives, do nothing
You've no doubt heard about it: A new COVID wave is coming. The Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 has already led China to shut down whole cities to stop the spread while also raising alarms in South Korea and across Europe and the United Kingdom, where case numbers are spiking once again. That means it will probably start spreading more widely, sending case counts surging, in the United States very soon. What should we do when it does? The answer is: Nothing. Okay, maybe that's going a mite too far. It would certainly be nice if we had enough tests and therapeutics available to help us to protect the most vulnerable of our family members and neighbors. But we've been aiming for and falling short of this goal for a long time now. If the latest wave motivates the government to get its act together, great. Then there's some uncertainty around the subvariant itself. It appears to spread quite a bit faster even than the already highly contagious original Omicron strain (BA.1). But will it lead to more hospitalizations and deaths? There's no sign of that yet, but because of the lag time between positive test results and the worst consequences of infection, we probably won't be sure for a few more weeks. But if BA.2 proves to be no more deadly than BA.1, our path forward is clear: We should go right on living without imposing or having to endure restrictions on behavior. As we learned with the original Omicron wave, people who are vaccinated and have received a booster shot are very well protected. Some caught COVID, but usually a mild case that resembled a cold or mild flu. Within a week or so, symptoms were gone. That's more of a nuisance than a life-threatening event warranting the imposition of restrictive public-health measures.

3-23-22 Evan Neumann: US Capitol riot suspect gets asylum in Belarus
A California man suspected of taking part in the US Capitol riots last year has been granted asylum in Belarus. Evan Neumann fled the US after being charged in connection with the riots. The 48-year-old first settled in Ukraine, before reaching Belarus where he asked for asylum - claiming he faced "political persecution" in the US. A Belarusian official said Mr Neumann has been granted permission to remain in the country "indefinitely". State officials also alleged that Mr Neumann had been forced to cross the Belarusian border "illegally" after attracting "interest from local secret services" in Ukraine. Mr Neumann told Belarusian state-owned news agency Belta he had "mixed feelings". "I am glad Belarus took care of me. I am upset to find myself in a situation where I have problems in my own country." In July last year, Mr Neumann was charged on six different counts, including violent entry and assaulting police officers. He was accused of punching two police officers and using a metal barrier as a "battering ram" against police during the riots at the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021. But, according to Mr Neumann, he had already sold his house and travelled across Europe to Ukraine. After worrying the Ukrainian authorities were watching him, Mr Neumann says he crossed the border into Belarus on foot in August. Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the US. In November, Mr Neumann gave an interview to Belarusian state TV and rejected the charges against him. "I do not believe that I have committed any crime," he said. "One of the accusations was very upsetting. It is alleged that I hit a police officer. That is baseless." He said he was asking for "government protection" from Belarus because of the "political persecution" he faced in the US, including the FBI questioning his family and using a photo of him on its most-wanted list.

3-23-22 Ukraine war: Ukrainian fightback gains ground west of Kyiv
Ukrainian troops are counter-attacking Russian forces in some areas of the country, with reports that they have gained ground near the capital, Kyiv. Local authorities in the town of Makariv, west of Kyiv, said Ukrainian flags were flying there once more. A US defence spokesman said Ukrainians were also reversing momentum in some parts of the south. In the small southern town of Voznesensk, Russian forces were pushed back and an armoured convoy destroyed. And in Kherson, close to the Crimean peninsula and the first city to fall to Russia, Ukrainian forces are also trying to recapture territory. A UK defence analyst told the BBC the fightback could force Moscow to change its tactics. However, the latest assessment from the UK Ministry of Defence says Russian troops in Ukraine are moving in from the north and south to "envelop Ukrainian forces in the east of the country". The note says "Russian forces are likely reorganising before resuming large-scale offensive operations". Russian forces are also continuing to bombard the southern port city of Mariupol, although the port area itself is said to have suffered relatively little damage. Justin Bronk, from the UK defence and security think tank the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), said the Ukrainian pushback came as the Russians were trying to compensate for their lack of progress so far. "The Russians have quite visibly failed to take the whole of Ukraine across multiple positions of advance," he told the BBC. "So now they are trying to pull their resources back and consolidate them and concentrate them on one push at a time - in particular around Mariupol and the south." He said that if the Russians took Mariupol, which has been besieged for weeks and is low on supplies, then they might look to redistribute troops and ammunition, first to Ukraine's eastern Donbas region and then perhaps to the north-eastern city of Kharkiv.

3-23-22 Ukraine forces fighting to retake ground from Russia - US
Updates from BBC correspondents in Ukraine: Jeremy Bowen, Orla Guerin, Lyse Doucet and James Waterhouse in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Odesa, Wyre Davies in Zaporizhzhia, Quentin Sommerville in Kharkiv, and Jonah Fisher and Hugo Bachega in Lviv. Ukrainian soldiers are successfully fighting back against invading Russian forces to reclaim ground in some parts of the country, the Pentagon says. There are reports of the Ukrainian flag being raised again in the suburb of Makariv, west of the capital Kyiv. But Russian bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol continues unabated. About 100,000 civilians remain trapped inside the city in "inhumane conditions", says Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky says a humanitarian convoy has been captured by Russian forces and Ukrainian emergency workers taken prisoner. A Kremlin spokesman says Putin could use nuclear weapons if Russia faced "an existential threat". The Pentagon calls the nuclear remarks "dangerous", but says the US has seen no need to change its deterrent posture. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will begin insisting that payments for Russian gas from "unfriendly countries" are made in roubles. He's given the Russian central bank a week to find a way of switching these payments away from other currencies. He says the change will only affect payments and that gas will continue to be supplied in line with existing contracts. It's not clear what the impact of this decision will be. Putin says the freeze on Russian assets by Western countries has destroyed trust and that his country's economy has been hit hard by sanctions imposed by the West over Russia's actions in Ukraine. Sanctions include a move to restrict Russian access to international payment systems. Nato leaders will agree to the deployment of four new Nato battlegroups in eastern Europe - in Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania - Jens Stoltenberg said. The Nato secretary general said this amounted to a big long-term increase in the military alliance's presence in the region, doubling the existing number of battlegroups. US President Joe Biden has just departed from Washington en route to the Belgian capital, where he will attend a meeting with Nato allies to discuss the response to Russia's invasion.

3-23-22 3 ways Ukraine's outgunned air force has kept Russia from controlling Ukraine's skies.
A month into Russia's invasion, "one of the biggest surprises of the war in Ukraine is Russia's failure to defeat the Ukrainian Air Force," The New York Times reports. "Military analysts had expected Russian forces to quickly destroy or paralyze Ukraine's air defenses and military aircraft, yet neither has happened." Russia invaded Ukraine "with an arsenal of advanced fighter planes, bombers, and guided missiles, but significant combat losses in more than three weeks of fighting raise questions whether Moscow will ever fully dominate the skies," The Wall Street Journal adds. How did Ukraine's Soviet-era fighter jets and air defense systems deny Russia aerial impunity? First, Ukraine has been nimble and creative with the air defense systems they have, a mixture of decades-old S-300 long-range missile-defense units, Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drones, and portable U.S.-provided Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Ukraine's long-range anti-air batteries have forced "Russian pilots to fly lower to escape those systems, but that put them within range of the shoulder-fired weapons," like the heat-seeking Stingers, the Journal reports. The heavy losses inflicted by these weapons have limited Russian sorties. Second, despite having only about 55 working fighter jets, Ukraine utilizes its home-field advantage. "Ukraine has been effective in the sky because we operate on our own land," says Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat. "The enemy flying into our airspace is flying into the zone of our air defense systems." The Russians "have almost full air superiority," because Ukrainian has limited air defense and aircraft, a Ukrainian fighter pilot using the call sign "Juice" told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday. But "Russians have a lot of losses, and they have a fear of our air defense." Third, in the eight years since Russia annexed Crimea and stealth-invaded Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, "we have developed different techniques to give the enemy a punch in the teeth," Ignat tells the Journal. Ukraine's air defense has also likely "benefited from new approaches to fighting that the military embraced as it reorientated toward NATO and abandoned its Soviet-era centralized command," the Journal reports. Ukraine's air force is greatly outnumbered, but its jets can take off from partially destroyed runways or even highways, the Times reports. "I only have to use my skills to win," a fighter pilot name Andriy tells the Times. "My skills are better than the Russians. But on the other hand, many of my friends, and even those more experienced than me, are already dead."

3-23-22 Russian climate envoy reportedly quits, would be 'highest-level official' to split with Kremlin over Ukraine war
Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has resigned from his post at the Kremlin and left the country out of opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin's attack on Ukraine, Bloomberg reports Wednesday, per people familiar with the situation. According to The New York Times, Russian state news agency Tass has reported that Chubais only stepped down from his role, not left the country. But per The Moscow Times, sources close to him have told the media that the now-former official is in Turkey. If confirmed, Chubais, 66, would be "the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion," Bloomberg writes. He is "is one of the few 1990s-era economic reformers who'd remained in Putin's government and had maintained close ties with Western officials." He actually even gave Putin his first job at the Kremlin, per Bloomberg. Last week, Arkady Dvorkovich — senior economic adviser to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and a deputy prime minister until 2018 — resigned as head of state-backed Skolkovo technology in protest of the invasion. Dvorkovich "is one of only a few former senior officials to speak out against the war," Bloomberg notes.

3-23-22 Support for Jackson's confirmation 2nd highest of any SCOTUS nominee
Support among Americans for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is the second highest for any nominee since 1987, Gallup polling shows. Fifty-eight percent of Americans supported confirming Jackson, with 22 percent opposed and 19 percent saying they had no opinion. Only Chief Justice John Roberts (nominated in 2005) scored higher, with 59 percent of Americans supporting his confirmation. Democrats expressed overwhelming support for Jackson, with 88 percent supporting her confirmation, compared to 55 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans. Gallup began conducting these surveys when Robert Bork was nominated to the court in 1987. Only 31 percent of American said the Senate should vote to confirm Bork, and his nomination was eventually withdrawn. No polling was conducted for nominees Stephen Breyer (nominated in 1994), David Souter (1990), and Anthony Kennedy (1987). For the 12 nominees for whom Gallup conducted polling, the average level of support for confirmation was 48 percent. The average share of respondents who chose "no opinion" was 23 percent. Of the 12 nominees, Justice Amy Coney Barrett was by far the most polarizing. 51 percent of Americans supported her nomination with 46 percent opposed. Only three percent had no opinion. Polling for Justice Brett Kavanaugh (41 percent in favor, 37 opposed, and 22 undecided) was conducted before he was publicly accused of sexual assault.

3-23-22 Ketanji Brown Jackson: Key moments as Biden's Supreme Court pick quizzed
US President Joe Biden's Supreme Court pick is taking questions on her career and record from lawmakers on a key Senate panel over the next two days. If the 22-member Judiciary Committee advances Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination, she will be considered by a vote of the full 100-member Senate. If confirmed, she would replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires at the end of the court term in June. So the political balance of the court would remain largely the same. But it would be history-making because Ms Jackson would be the first black woman in the court's 233-year existence. Here is a look at the key moments so far, with analysis by our political correspondent Anthony Zurcher. What happened: Several Republicans have focused on how Ms Jackson views and interprets the law. Some question if she is an "activist judge" imposing her policy views or preference from the bench. The judge replied that she is "acutely aware" of the limits on her judicial authority and has a three-step methodology to keep herself in check. "I am trying in every case to stay in my lane," she said. Democrats argue Ms Jackson's record is well-established through over 500 legal opinions and because she has been confirmed in the Senate on three prior occasions. What it means: Politicians of all stripes like to complain about "activist" judges who pursue their own agendas. Of course, judges are only improperly activist when they're ruling in ways that the politicians don't like. When asked about her judicial philosophy, Ms Jackson emphasised neutrality and restraint as key components of her judicial philosophy. That was her way of defusing Republican criticism that she will defend liberal priorities on the court (even if that's exactly what most Democrats hope, and expect, she will do). By Anthony Zurcher

3-23-22 Canada's NDP agrees to support Trudeau's Liberals until 2025
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal minority government has reached a deal with the New Democratic Party (NDP) to stay in power until 2025. In exchange, the Liberals will support the left-leaning NDP on several of the party's key priorities in parliament. Mr Trudeau said on Tuesday that he believes the agreement will provide "stability" for Canadians. The move has been strongly criticised by Canada's Conservative Party. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Mr Trudeau said that the deal - which he termed a "supply and confidence" agreement - begins today and will continue through the end of Canada's current parliament in 2025. "What this means is that during this uncertain time, the government can function with predictability and stability, present and implement budgets and get things done for Canadians," he said. The deal differs to a coalition, where parties share power. Instead, the Liberals - who failed to win a majority in the past two elections - will continue to govern as a minority, but with assurances the NDP will support them in confidence votes. While Mr Trudeau predicted that the two parties would continue to disagree in some areas, he said they had identified some key policy areas in which they share similar objectives, including healthcare, housing and the environment. "These are things that fit within our universe of priorities, but are easy to move forward in a constructive way that assures that, on a broad range of issues, parliament gets to focus on delivering for Canadians," he added. Last year, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh ruled out a formal agreement with the Liberals, but said that he was willing to support Mr Trudeau. At a separate news conference on Tuesday, Mr Singh said that his party views the agreement as the best way to "help people", particularly when it comes to developing a national dental care programme for low-income Canadians and a national prescription drug programme, and on issues like climate and housing.

3-23-22 Some Disney staff stage walkout over Florida LGBT law
Disney employees have staged a walkout to pressure the company into actively opposing a Florida bill that bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in primary schools. A handful of staff joined the walkout, with organisers accusing the firm of showing "apathy" to the bill. Disney said in a statement that it "stands in solidarity" with its LGBT cast, crew, guests and fans. The bill is formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Bill. Critics have dubbed it the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The legislation's text does not contain the term "gay", though it bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity for children under 10 or when "not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards". It is expected to soon be signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, but it has faced significant criticism, including from the White House and their Democratic allies. Supporters of the legislation say it will protect children from classroom exposure to topics deemed inappropriate by their parents, while critics warn it will stigmatise and isolate LGBT youth. LGBT leaders at Disney have been pushing the company to speak out against the bill, as Disney is a major tourism driver in the state, drawing millions of people annually to its flagship Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It also employs 77,000 Floridians. Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees earlier this month in a memo that he was wrong to have been silent on the controversial bill, and on Monday said he would use the moment as a catalyst for change at the company. Disney also committed to pausing donations to Florida lawmakers who backed the bill. On Tuesday, it released a social media statement saying it is "committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form".

3-22-22 GOP tweet linking Ketanji Brown Jackson with critical race theory draws accusations of racism
Critics accused the Republican Party of racism after its official account posted a tweet associating Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson with critical race theory. If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. The GOP tweet features a gif in which Jackson's initials — KBJ — are crossed out and replaced with the acronym CRT, as well as a link to a list of "Important Questions for KBJ." Three of these questions are drawn directly from a 2020 lecture at the University of Michigan Law School, in which Jackson favorably cited journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, civil rights activist Derrick Bell, and Bell's wife, scholar Janet Dewart Bell. All three figures have been associated with critical race theory. Another refers to remarks titled "Fairness in Federal Sentencing: An Examination," in which Jackson briefly referred to "critical race theory" as relevant to the study of sentencing. Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali wrote that the GOP's tweet constituted "full blown, out in the open racism." Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked, "Why do you hate black people?" MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan called the tweet "pure unadulterated racism." Representatives from across the political spectrum joined the pile-on. Bulwark editor Bill Kristol tweeted, "No more dog whistles. Just unabashed bigotry," and called on Republican elected officials to denounce the tweet. The official account of the Libertarian Party sarcastically tweeted, "Anything I don't like is CRT." Conservative activist Christopher Rufo has openly acknowledged that the Libertarian Party's assessment is largely accurate. "We have successfully frozen their brand — 'critical race theory' — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category," he tweeted last year.

3-22-22 Ukraine is fighting to 'regain territory,' Pentagon says
Ukrainian forces appear to be launching counter-offensives against the invading Russian military, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Tuesday, according to CNN. The U.S., Kirby said, has "seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offense now." "They have been defending very smartly, very nimbly, very creatively, in places that they believe are the right places to defend, and we have seen them now, in places particularly in the south near Kherson, they have tried to regain territory," he added. Ukraine's counter-attacks have not been confined to the area around Russian-controlled Kherson. On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces retook the Kyiv suburb of Makariv, though Russian forces made some gains in other areas near the capital city, The Hill reported. On Sunday, a Kremlin-aligned Russian tabloid cited a Russian Defense Ministry casualty report that placed the number of dead Russian troops at over 9,800 since the invasion began on Feb. 24. The casualty figures were later edited out of the article. An assessment published by the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., concluded that "Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign." Writing in The Atlantic, Eliot A. Cohen of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued the "likely truth" on the ground is not that "the war is stalemated," but "that the Ukrainians are winning." "The Ukrainians are not merely defending their strong points in urban areas but maneuvering from and between them, following the Clausewitzian dictum that the best defense is a shield of well-directed blows," Cohen wrote. "If the Ukrainians continue to win, we might see more visible collapses of Russian units and perhaps mass surrenders and desertions," he added.

3-22-22 Pediatric cancer patients evacuated from Ukraine arrive in the United States
Four Ukrainian children with cancer are now receiving medical care at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday. After Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the young patients could no longer receive their cancer treatments. The children, who are between the ages of 9 months and 9 years old, were first evacuated to Poland with members of their immediate family, before being airlifted to the United States. St. Jude said in a statement it is the first U.S. hospital to receive Ukrainian patients, and in addition to getting cancer care, the kids will receive "trauma-informed psychosocial therapy" and schooling. The State Department, which supported the airlift of the children, said they "represent a small proportion of the thousands of patients whose cancer treatment has been interrupted and, who, even amid a pandemic and with compromised immune systems, were forced to flee their homes. The United Nations estimates that since Feb. 24, at least 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes. St. Jude Global's SAFER Ukraine program is working with more than 600 Ukrainian cancer patients, helping them get get their medical records translated and find cancer care in other countries.

3-22-22 Texas governor's costly border operation plagued by low morale, fuzzy math, mission confusion, politics
Texas is spending $2 billion a year on Operation Lone Star, launched by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last March to address a purported emergency on the Texas-Mexico border with 10,000 Texas National Guard troops plus Department of Public Safety officers. "Abbott and DPS have repeatedly boasted in news conferences, on social media, and during interviews on Fox News that the border operation has disrupted drug and human smuggling networks," The Texas Tribune reported Monday with ProPublica and The Marshall Project. "But the state's claim of success has been based on shifting metrics that included crimes with no connection to the border, work conducted by troopers stationed in targeted counties prior to the operation, and arrest and drug seizure efforts that do not clearly distinguish DPS's role from that of other agencies." "The whole reason for all this, you know, playing with statistics, is for optics so that the governor could get reelected," Gary Hale, a former Drug Enforcement Administration intelligence chief now at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, told the Tribune. That's worked for Abbott, "but what's the net gain? I don't think there's any. Zero. We really haven't had any significant impact on migrant smuggling or drug trafficking." The Tribune and Military Times reported in late February that a leaked survey of some 250 National Guard members deployed in south Texas found widespread disillusionment, confusion about their mission, unhappiness with the involuntary deployment, and a common assumption they were there to help Abbott's re-election campaign. There have been a handful of suicides. "I hate it here," one respondent said. "Most of us signed up to help Texas in times of need like hurricanes," another Guard member said. "This doesn't feel like we are helping any Texans besides the governor." Some of the Operation Lone Star units are posted far from the border, including about 30 Guard members ordered in January to stand idly outside giant private ranches 80 miles north of Mexico, the Tribune reported last week. Two of the most prominent ranches, King Ranch and the GOP-connected Armstrong Ranch, told the Tribune they did not ask for the National Guard sentinels. "We really don't understand why we are there," one Guard member told the Tribune. "We're essentially mall security for ranches that already have paid security details to protect them." You can read more about Operation Lone Star at The Texas Tribune and watch the Tribune's James Barragán discuss his reporting on Austin's KVUE.

3-22-22 Biden is reportedly sending Ukraine old Soviet air defense weapons from America's own secret stockpile
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. went on a secret buying spree to collect "a small number of Soviet missile defense systems so that they could be examined by U.S. intelligence experts and help with training American forces," The Wall Street Journal reports. Now, the U.S. is sending some of those air defense systems to Ukraine to help Ukrainian forces shoot down Russian fighter jets and missiles. Ukrainian soldiers already know how to operate old Soviet weapons systems. President Biden was authorized to give Ukraine and NATO allies the weapons systems from the secret Soviet stockpile under the annual spending bill he recently signed, and Congress has been notified about these transfers, the Journal reports, citing U.S. officials. "Ukraine already possesses some Russian air defense systems, including the S-300. It needs more such systems, however," and "the U.S. is hoping that the provision of additional air defenses will enable Ukraine to create a de facto no-fly zone." Among the Soviet weapons systems the U.S. has given Ukraine are the SA-8 portable missiles defense system, the Journal reports. The SA-8 and SA-10, NATO's name for the S-300, "can operate at medium and long range to blunt Russia's aircraft and missile attacks," whereas "the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that the U.S. and NATO nations are providing to Ukraine are only effective against helicopters and low-flying aircraft." The U.S. is also publicly negotiating with NATO former Soviet satellite nations to donate their S-300s and other old Soviet systems to Ukraine, with the U.S. replacing the donated weapons with new U.S. systems. Slovakia agreed last week to send Ukraine some of its S-300 weapons once the U.S. provides it with Patriot or other replacement air defense systems. Those talks are still ongoing.

3-22-22 Why Ukraine has united hawks and their critics alike
What's caused the shift? Maybe there wasn't a shift at all. 've been a harsh critic of U.S. foreign policy, and especially of analysts who favor the aggressive use of military force in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, for a long time now. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine is different. For the first time in two decades, I find myself allied with neoconservatives and liberal internationalist hawks. Not on everything — and especially not with those who favor imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which I think would quickly and recklessly precipitate a war between NATO and Russia. But on much else, I now stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the same people with whom I've passionately disagreed since the early days of the War on Terror. Have they changed or have I? The answer, I think, is that neither of us have. What's changed is the character of our antagonist. What worked during the Cold War once again fits the situation in which we find ourselves, whereas that same approach was terribly ill-suited to the enemy we faced during the years following 9/11. It's important to understand this difference and what it tells us about the challenges that likely await us over the coming months and years. I came to political self-awareness during the 1980s and was quite supportive of President Ronald Reagan's reintensification of the Cold War. That isn't to say I was a full-spectrum teenaged hawk. I've never considered the Vietnam War anything other than a colossal blunder and tended to think many of our military interventions in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s were counterproductive. But Reagan's sharp increases in defense spending, deployment of missiles to Europe, and rhetorical confrontation with the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union seemed reasonable to me at the time. The Cold War was broadly continuous with the conclusion of the Second World War. That meant the United States needed to guarantee the security of a militarily obliterated Western Europe and Japan, both of which quickly faced powerful geopolitical threats — the former from the Soviet Union, and the latter from both the USSR and (within a few years) China. With both communist countries animated by an expansionist ideology dedicated to the destruction of the political and economic order of what became known as "the free world," conflict was inevitable and vigilance backed up by the threat of military force essential. On the basis of these strategic assumptions, there was plenty of room for disagreement about tactics. Did fighting on the side of South Korea against totalitarian North Korea make sense? How about risking nuclear war over the deployment of Soviet missiles to Cuba? Or defending the government in Saigon against Ho Chi Minh's communist guerrilla movement in Vietnam? Or using the CIA to help foment a coup against the elected government of socialist Salvador Allende in Chile? And so forth. The judgment call could vary in particular cases. But the underlying principle remained intact: Communist regimes were adversaries that posed a serious geostrategic threat to the United States and its allies around the globe. That threat vanished with the fall of the Iron Curtain and then collapse of the Soviet Union. What followed was a decade of low-stakes global police work — the first Gulf War and ongoing effort to enforce UN resolutions against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, a belated NATO intervention to stop bloodletting in the Balkans, and halfhearted attempts to respond to the rise of global terrorism. With 9/11, the terrorism that had been considered a nuisance through the 1990s instantly transformed into what felt like an existential threat to civilization itself. This gave renewed focus to American foreign policy, which now aimed at stamping out terrorism around the world.

3-22-22 Ukraine war: Terror of African students in Russian-occupied Kherson
About 100 African students are pleading for help to leave the Ukrainian port city of Kherson, more than two weeks after it was captured by Russian forces. They have been sheltering for days in underground bunkers on campus in bitterly cold temperatures, with no heating or supplies of medicines. They say they are traumatised and desperate to leave the southern city. One student told the BBC that they could still hear the "terrifying" continuous sound of gunfire, explosions and military aircraft. This could be the sound of clashes as the Russian forces push north-west towards Mykolaiv. Russian soldiers have also fired shots at people protesting against their occupation. The Nigerian students among them have appealed to their government to help evacuate them before it is too late. They have told the BBC that they are among the last foreigners left in the city. "We are begging, we really need to leave this place, things are not easy for us," one student told the BBC by phone. We're not naming them for their own safety. Nigeria's government says it is working relentlessly to help them get out. Last week, its ambassador to Moscow was told by a Russian official that plans were being put in place to get the students out through Russia. But that has not happened yet and in any case the students say they are wary of being taken to Russia. In the meantime, the students, some of whom are from other countries including Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, said there was still some food available at the university but that most supermarkets had run out of supplies. Those that are open are selling basic food supplies at double or even triple the normal price. "Those of us who are staying on campus are the lucky ones because there's still food being offered at the cafeteria," said one student. A second student said that Russian troops who control the city had been dropping off basic foods such as vegetables, rice, pasta and water outside government buildings and near train and bus stations around the city. But they said they had been urged not to take them in case they were seen as collaborators by Ukrainians.

3-22-22 Ukraine war: Belarusian dissidents fight against Russia in Ukraine
Among the foreign fighters heading to Ukraine to fight against Russia are dissidents from Belarus living in exile. They see the war as a battle both against Vladimir Putin’s forces but also against the regime of the Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko, which has heavily backed Moscow. The BBC met Pavel Kulazhanka, who left his life in New York to join the fight.

3-22-22 Ketanji Brown Jackson: Hearings begin for US Supreme Court nominee
US Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has told senators she will be independent and apply the law "without fear or favour". She made the remarks on Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will advance or sink her nomination. If successful, she will be considered by the full Senate as a replacement for retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. Recent Supreme Court nominations have drawn partisan rancour in the chamber. If confirmed, Judge Jackson, 51, will be the first black woman justice named to the highest US court. Announcing her nomination last month, US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, called her "one of the nation's brightest legal minds". It was long past time that a black woman be confirmed to sit on the 233-year-old US Supreme Court, he suggested. The court plays a key role in American life and is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions. For any Supreme Court justice nomination, the president first chooses his preferred candidate and the Senate then votes to confirm that nominee, which requires a simple majority. The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and Vice-President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, gets the deciding vote in the event of a tie. The Biden administration has indicated it hopes to garner some Republican backing. While civil rights and liberal advocacy groups have queued up to support the nomination, conservatives say they will closely scrutinise Judge Jackson's judicial philosophy, or how she views and interprets the law. Of particular interest will be her time as a public defender and as vice-chair of the US Sentencing Commission. In her opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Judge Jackson spoke of her family and her legal mentors and role models.

3-22-22 Biden threatened to fire staff who leaked negative stories about Harris, new book claims
Excerpts from a forthcoming book shed new light on tensions between Vice President Kamala Harris and other members of the Biden administration and on Harris' own frustration with her role, Politico reports. New York Times journalists Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns describe these struggles in their book, This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future, which is due out May 3. According to one excerpt, President Biden's communications director, Kate Bedingfield, has frequently complained about Harris: "In private, Bedingfield had taken to noting that the vice presidency was not the first time in Harris's political career that she had fallen short of sky-high expectations: Her Senate office had been messy and her presidential campaign had been a fiasco. Perhaps, she suggested, the problem was not the vice president's staff," Martin and Burns claim. Bedingfield told Politico that the authors had not fact checked this "unattributed claim" with her. She also described Harris as "a force in this administration." Another excerpt quotes an unnamed senator "close to" Harris who described the recent years of her political career as a "slow rolling Greek tragedy" and her frustration level as "up in the stratosphere." Martin and Burns also report that Biden threatened to fire any staffers caught leaking negative stories about Harris to the press. An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 registered voters conducted between March 12 and 15 found that 55 percent of respondents held an unfavorable view of Harris, compared to 37 percent who said they view her favorably.

3-21-22 Miami Beach implements spring break curfew following shootings
Miami Beach is reining in spring break revelers, with city officials declaring a state of emergency on Monday and announcing a curfew for parts of the South Beach area. This comes in the wake of two shootings over the weekend that left five people injured. During spring break, tens of thousands of people come to Miami Beach, forming a "young, party-hard crowd," Mayor Dan Gelber said. "We can't endure this anymore, we just simply can't. This isn't your father's, your mother's spring break. This is something totally different." "We don't ask for spring break, we don't promote it, we don't encourage it, we just endure it, and frankly, it's something we don't want to endure," Gelber added. The curfew, which runs from 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday through Monday, applies to an area of South Beach with several bars and restaurants, The New York Times reports. It will be finalized by city commissioners on Tuesday. The shootings took place on Ocean Drive early Sunday and Monday, and are under investigation, Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said. Since spring break visitors first started arriving in mid-February, nine officers have been injured, Clements said, and in the last three days, law enforcement officials have confiscated 37 firearms. Miami Beach is connected to Miami via several bridges, and city manager Alina Hudak said the island cannot safely accommodate the large crowds that flock there during spring break. "We haven't been able to figure out how to stop spring break from coming," Gelber said. "We don't want spring break here, but they keep coming."

3-21-22 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proved very effective against COVID Omicron variant, study shows
The two main COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S., Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's, remained highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant, even if they were less effective at preventing mild infections, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And people who got a third dose fared best. Two doses of the vaccines were 79 percent effective at preventing people from dying or going on ventilators during the Omicron surge, the tracking report found, while those who got a booster shot ended up with 94 percent protection. "Anybody who is skeptical really needs to look at that number and think, 'Okay, maybe I'm going to get a cold and feel sick, but ... I'm not going to get put on a ventilator or die,'" Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells The Washington Post. The CDC study looked at COVID-19 cases at 21 hospitals in 18 states from March 11, 2021, to Jan. 24, giving researchers a view of how vaccines worked against the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the report "solid gold." "This is such solid information that reinforces the current recommendation to get vaccinated and boosted — and [the vaccine] worked for Omicron," he told the Post. As Omicron has waned, COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically in the U.S. But a new subvariant, BA.2, is causing a massive wave of infections in China and a more modest rise in infections in Europe, and it is overtaking Omicron in the U.S., too. "Whether or not that is going to lead to another surge, a mini surge or maybe even a moderate surge, is very unclear because there are a lot of other things that are going on right now," Dr. Antony Fauci, President Biden's medical adviser, tells an ABC News podcast. The BA.2 subvariant is similar to original Omicron, though even more transmissible, and Fauci said his colleagues in Britain are seeing a "blip" in cases, though "their intensive care bed usage is not going up, which means they're not seeing a blip up of severe disease." The U.S. pandemic trajectory has lagged behind Britain's for about three weeks.

3-21-22 New research shows people who had COVID-19 at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
People who have had COVID-19 are at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes within a year compared with those who have not been infected, new research published Monday in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology shows. Researchers reviewed the records of more than 181,000 Department of Veterans Affairs patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, and compared them to records from more than 4.1 million VA patients who were not infected during the same period plus 4.28 million others who received medical care from the VA in 2018 and 2019. The researchers calculated that individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 were 46 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes for the first time or have a doctor prescribe medicine to control their blood sugar, The Washington Post reports. The elevated risk affected people who had mild or asymptomatic cases, and went up for those who experienced severe COVID symptoms. This study does not prove cause and effect, but rather a strong association between COVID-19 and Type 2 diabetes, the Post notes. While VA patients tend to be older, with more men and white people represented, "the risk was evident in all subgroups," said Ziyad Al-Aly of the VA St. Louis Health Care System, who led the review. Because of that, he is telling anyone who has had COVID-19 to "pay attention to your blood sugar." Read more at The Washington Post.

3-21-22 After heavy losses and few gains, Russia may be moderating its ambitions in Ukraine
Senior U.S. officials are coming to believe that Russia has moderated its war goals in Ukraine after stiff resistance inflicted heavy losses and shattered any hope of a swift and easy victory, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Per the Journal, international observers believed Russian President Vladimir Putin's initial objective was to capture Kyiv within days, depose Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and install a pro-Russian puppet regime. Now, Biden administration officials told the Journal, Putin's goals appear to be less ambitious. If Putin can bully Ukraine into accepting neutrality, recognizing Russian claims on Crimea and the Donbas, and surrendering a "land bridge" connecting the two, he'll be able to spin that as a win back home. Securing this land bridge would require capturing the port city of Mariupol. Russian forces encircled the city weeks ago and have been pushing into its neighborhoods in recent days. On Sunday, Russia demanded that the city surrender, but Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk replied early Monday that "[t]here can be no question of surrender," Reuters reports. Putin may well be looking for an off-ramp from this war. An assessment released Saturday by the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., concluded that Ukraine has "defeated the initial Russian campaign" and that Russian forces must take a "lengthy operational pause" to regroup if they are to have any chance of capturing major Ukrainian cities. In an address to the nation on Sunday, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces have killed over 14,000 Russian troops since the invasion began less than four weeks ago. The U.S., which estimates Russian military deaths at around 7,000, lost just over 4,500 troops during the nine-year Iraq War. None of this is certain, however. The Institute for the Study of War released another assessment on Sunday reporting that Russia appears to be "preparing its population" for a protracted conflict by "implementing increasingly draconian mobilization measures."

3-21-22 Russian strike destroys Kyiv shopping mall, killing at least 8
A Russian missile struck a shopping center in Kyiv's Podil district late Sunday, killing at least eight people, Ukrainian officials said. The strike shattered every window in a nearby residential tower and caused a massive fire that took 63 firefighters hours to extinguish. The missile and resulting inferno left a flattened, smoldering pile, and Ukraine's Prosecutor General said the death toll could rise. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the strike damaged six apartment buildings, leaving three of them uninhabitable, and said the strike raised pollution levels so much residents should "not open your windows" or go outside without wearing a medical-grade mask.

3-21-22 War in Ukraine: Backlash in Russia against anti-war musicians
A few days after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, one of Russia's largest media companies, Russian Media Group (RMG), released a statement explaining why it would no longer be playing certain artists on its popular radio stations or music TV channel. "The reason for this decision was the harsh statements these musicians made towards Russia in the context of the difficult situation between Russia and Ukraine," the statement read. It explained that respect for its listeners was the company's top priority, and the "arrogant and contemptuous attitude of the musicians towards Russian listeners" left it no choice but to terminate its contract with the artists. The list included several Ukrainian musicians and three Russian acts, including legendary rock group Aquarium, whose lead singer, Boris Grebenshchikov, had called the war "madness" in a post on Instagram. He is no stranger to political pressure. "I've spent half my life under some sort of ban", Mr Grebenshchikov told the BBC. "There were bans in the 70s, bans in the 80s - there's nothing unusual about it. Then the same people who ban you give you prizes." The pressure on dissenting voices in the music industry marks a stark contrast to those artists who are loyal to the Kremlin, some of whom performed last week at a glitzy, made-for-TV stadium concert which featured Vladimir Putin as the headline act. Tens of thousands of people waved Russian flags and chanted pro-Russian slogans at the event celebrating the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Many of them told the BBC they had been pressured to be there. On the first day of the war, Ukrainian singer Ivan Dorn published a video on Instagram calling for Russians to "end this catastrophe" and "not to participate in this murderous war". Days later he found himself on the list of acts banned by the Russian Media Group, and his name appeared on another "black list" leaked to Russian media, demanding that certain musicians are banned from performing because of their anti-war views. The list was reportedly circulated to music venues and promoters in Russia.

3-21-22 War in Ukraine: Protesters in Kherson appear to make Russian truck reverse
Footage posted online appears to show Ukrainian civilians in Svobody Square, Kherson making a Russian truck reverse away from their protest on Sunday. The reversing vehicle was marked with the letter "Z", which has become a symbol of support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The BBC has verified and geolocated this footage, but the source is unknown.

3-21-22 Ukraine conflict: Russian shelling blamed for corrosive gas leak
Russian shells hit a chemical plant near the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, causing an ammonia leak, officials say. Residents of Novoselytsya, near Sumy, were told to stay indoors but the region's governor, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, later said the leak had been contained. A 50-ton tank of the poison gas was damaged by the attack, local officials said, creating an ammonia cloud. Ammonia is largely used to make fertiliser and is corrosive. The Sumykhimprom chemical plant was attended by emergency crews, and the cloud affected an area of about 2.5km (1.5 miles), Dmytro Zhyvytsky said. He said one injury was reported - a worker at the plant. Residents of Novoselytsya were advised to shelter because of the wind direction. Ammonia is a common chemical that has several commercial uses, and the Sumykhimprom plant says its production is for making chemical fertiliser. It is a waste product of the human body and usually dealt with by the liver, but is toxic in large amounts. In the air, it is invisible but has a distinct unpleasant smell, and in high concentrations is both and irritant and corrosive. It can cause pain and burns to the airway and injuries to the eyes. However, it is lighter than air, so does not remain on the ground as long as some other dangerous gases do. Russia has previously alleged, without any evidence, that Ukraine was planning to use chemical weapons in the ongoing war, pointing to the creation of industrial chemicals such as ammonia. Earlier this month, Russia's defence ministry alleged that Ukraine was plotting a "false flag" operation to blame Russia for using chemical weapons. Yet Ukraine and its Western allies, including the US, have ridiculed such claims, and expressed their own concerns that Russia was setting the stage for its own false flag chemical weapons attack, which it would attempt to pin on Ukraine. Ammonia is not well-known as a chemical weapon, since the human body has ways of processing it and it disperses, being lighter than air.

3-21-22 Ukraine conflict: Russia trying to starve Mariupol into surrender - MP
A Ukrainian MP has accused Russia of trying to starve the besieged port city of Mariupol into surrendering. Dmytro Gurin was speaking soon after Ukraine rejected a Russian deadline demanding Mariupol's defenders lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of the city. Mariupol is a key strategic target for the Russian military. Around 300,000 people are believed to be trapped there with supplies running out and aid blocked from entering. Residents have endured weeks of Russian bombardment with no power or running water. Mr Gurin said there was no question of Mariupol surrendering. "Russians don't open humanitarian corridors, they don't let humanitarian convoys enter the city and we clearly see now that the goal of the Russians is to start to [create] hunger [in the city] to enforce their position in the diplomatic process," he said. "If the city does not surrender, and the city will not surrender, they won't let people out. They won't let humanitarian convoys into the city." Under the proposal, which Ukraine had until 05:00 Moscow time (02:00 GMT) to accept, Russian troops would have opened safe corridors out of Mariupol from 10:00 Moscow time, initially for Ukrainian troops and "foreign mercenaries" to disarm and leave the city. After two hours, Russian forces say they would then have allowed humanitarian convoys with food, medicine and other supplies to enter the city safely, once the de-mining of the roads was complete. But the deadline came and went. Should Russia capture Mariupol, it would help it create a land corridor between the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by Russian-backed separatists and Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. So far though, Mariupol's defenders have stood firm. There are mounting concerns about the humanitarian situation, with Yaroslav Zhelezniak, a Ukrainian MP from Mariupol, calling it "hell on Earth". Residents spend most of their time in shelters and basements as Russia continues its unrelenting attack on the city, from land, air and sea, officials say.

3-21-22 Moscow stock market reopens for some bond trading
The Moscow stock exchange has partially reopened after a nearly month-long suspension over the war in Ukraine. Only bonds issued by the Russian government can be traded as part of a phased re-opening of the market. The exchange closed hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on 24 February. Andrei Braginsky, a spokesman for the Moscow Exchange, said he hoped that trading in stocks would be able to start again soon. "Technically everything is ready, and we are hoping this will resume in the near future," he said. The market reopened at 13:00 (10:00 GMT) but only for OFZ bonds - the Russian acronym for Federal Loan Obligations. In pre-market trading, yields on those government bonds rose by almost 20% - the highest on record. A higher yield means the government will have to pay more to borrow and indicates the investment is more risky. The yield later settled close to 13% after trading began. Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Friday the bank would maintain its key interest rate at 20% and would purchase government bonds to limit volatility. Meanwhile, oil prices jumped more than $3 on Monday, with Brent crude climbing above $111 a barrel. Prices moved higher after reports that the EU was considering whether to join the US in imposing an oil embargo on Russia. The European Commission said earlier this month it aimed to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels "well before 2030". The invasion of Ukraine, and sanctions imposed by western governments, are taking a toll on the Russian economy. The Russian rouble was steady against the dollar on Monday, trading at 104.83 RUB. However, it is down by about a quarter since the start of the invasion. Some supermarkets are rationing sales of basic goods such as salt and cooking oil. Thee central bank more than doubled interest rates to 20% four days after the start of Moscow's military action in Ukraine. The continuation of the conflict and ratcheting up of sanctions have undermined confidence further. There have been concerns about Russia defaulting on its debt, but it paid $117 million in interest on two dollar-denominated bonds last week.

3-21-22 How Beijing's propaganda is hurting my relationship with my Chinese grandparents
Our conversations are ever more fraught as Chinese state media pushes Putin's war in Ukraine. "Strategic" and "exemplary" are hardly ever used to describe Russian President Vladmir Putin — unless we're talking about the Chinese internet. While Putin is met with condemnation from the West, he's winning wild cheers in China. Since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, China has broken away from other world powers and taken a comparatively pro-Putin stance on the war. Western nations such as the United States and Canada as well as private companies from McDonald's to Volkswagen have been quick to sever many financial ties to Russia that could aid its war effort. That's how China has become Russia's economic lifeline. The Chinese government has shown a general unwillingness to remove Chinese corporations from Russian soil, and Guo Shuqing, chair of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, has said Beijing won't help sanction Russia. China's state-controlled media has also been quick to embrace Russian propaganda, instilling a broad sense of pro-Putin sentiment among the Chinese people — and my Chinese family is no exception. Growing up in a multicultural household, it was easy to spot the ideological difference between my American parents and Chinese grandparents. My parents left China and my grandparents in the 2000s to emigrate to American. In the years since, like most other Americans, they've adopted a Western belief system, which now includes recognizing the harms of Russian aggression. But my relatives who remain in China have undergone no such shift, including in their stance on this war. A few weeks ago, my mother had a phone call with my grandma, who lives in a small rural town in eastern China. In just minutes, the call escalated from typical catching up to full-blown rebukes of each other's countries. I could hear my grandma throwing around hard-hitting phrases, like "brainwashed by America" and "Joe Biden's fault." "Don't believe everything you read," my mom shot back. Neither my mother nor grandmother are irritable people, but I could see my mother's anger and hear the strain in my grandma's voice through the phone. What was more surprising, though, were the parallels between my grandma's words and the jargon used in Chinese state media. As anti-Western sentiment in China heightens, pro-Russian stories have boomed in Chinese cyberspace. Putin's declaration of war speech on Feb. 24 received an outpouring of Chinese praise, and state censors allowed pro-war posts to go viral. "A comment widely circulated across various Chinese social media platforms in recent days depicts the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a romantic triangle," reports The Atlantic. "Ukraine is characterized as Russia's ex-wife, who mistreated the couple's two children — the breakaway pro-Moscow regions of Luhansk and Donetsk — and who also flirted with the United States and dreamed of joining the NATO family but was rebuffed." An article portrayed Russian aggression as a champion for combating NATO forces, adding that even discussing the war over dinner is remarkably satisfying. Users of Weibo, a Chinese analog to Twitter, praised Putin for doing a "beautiful job" fighting a necessary war. "If I were Russian, Putin would be my faith, my light," said one Weibo post.

3-21-22 Covid-19 news: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine treats covid for first time
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is thought to have helped an immunocompromised person clear the covid-19 virus. Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are thought to have cleared the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a person who first tested positive more than 7 months earlier. This is the first known time a covid-19 vaccine has been used to treat, rather than prevent, the infection. Ian Lester has the rare genetic disease Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, which weakens the immune system. Lester, 37, first tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in December 2020. His immune system was unable to fight off the infection naturally for at least 218 days. “Given the persistent positive PCR tests and impact on his health and mental health, we decided on a unique therapeutic approach,” said Stephen Jolles at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine in a statement. “We administered two doses of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine, one month apart, and very quickly saw a strong antibody response, much stronger than had been induced by the prolonged natural infection.” Lester was confirmed to have cleared SARS-CoV-2 72 days after the first vaccine dose and 218 days after his infection was detected. “To our knowledge, this is the first time mRNA vaccination has been used to clear persistent COVID-19 infection,” said Mark Ponsford, at Cardiff University. England has rolled out a booster jab programme for people aged 75 and over, care home residents and people aged 12 and over who have a weakened immune system. The Office for National Statistics estimates one in 20 people in England had covid-19 in the week ending 12 March. It is hoped that the booster programme will protect people amid surging cases of the omicron BA.2 sublineage. Similar boosters are already being administered to some groups in Scotland and Wales. China reported two covid-19 related deaths on 19 March, its first official covid-19 fatalities since January 2021. Both people died of underlying medical conditions, with mild covid-19 symptoms, according to Jiao Yahui at China’s National Health Commission. The deaths occurred in the province Jilin, where more than two-thirds of the country’s cases have been reported amid its current covid-19 wave. On 19 March, China’s reported new infections hit a rolling seven-day average of 2333 infections.

3-20-22 'I don't think we can afford to move on' from COVID, surgeon general says
Future waves triggered by new COVID-19 variants are likely, but Americans' "focus should be on preparation, not on panic," U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Fox News Sunday. Host Trace Gallagher began the interview by observing that new COVID cases in the United States have dropped by 95 percent since the Omicron-driven spike in January but that "the contagious new BA.2 subvariant" is beginning to cause new surges in Europe and elsewhere. "Do you expect a new wave in this country, doctor?" Gallagher asked. "There may be rises and falls in cases in the months ahead," Murthy responded. "But here's the key: our goal is to keep people out of the hospital, it's to save their lives, and we have more tools to do that than ever before." "So, our focus should be on preparation, not on panic. And if we get people these tools, vaccines, boosters, treatments, then we can actually get through waves that may come and go," he continued. According to data from The New York Times, 65 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated — defined as one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna — and 29 percent have received a booster. Eighty-nine percent of Americans over age 65 are fully vaccinated. When asked whether politicians have "moved on" from COVID, Murthy responded, "I don't think we can afford to move on, but I do think that we can move forward with more confidence, that we can live our lives and not let COVID define our lives." Murthy also emphasized the need for continued funding to help tackle future variants and pandemics. Earlier this month Congress dropped $15 billion in continued COVID response funding from a $1.5 trillion package to fund the government.

3-20-22 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proved very effective against COVID Omicron variant, study shows
The two main COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S., Pfizer-BioNTech's and Moderna's, remained highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant, even if they were less effective at preventing mild infections, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And people who got a third dose fared best. Two doses of the vaccines were 79 percent effective at preventing people from dying or going on ventilators during the Omicron surge, the tracking report found, while those who got a booster shot ended up with 94 percent protection. "Anybody who is skeptical really needs to look at that number and think, 'Okay, maybe I'm going to get a cold and feel sick, but ... I'm not going to get put on a ventilator or die,'" Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tells The Washington Post. The CDC study looked at COVID-19 cases at 21 hospitals in 18 states from March 11, 2021, to Jan. 24, giving researchers a view of how vaccines worked against the Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variants. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the report "solid gold." "This is such solid information that reinforces the current recommendation to get vaccinated and boosted — and [the vaccine] worked for Omicron," he told the Post. As Omicron has waned, COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically in the U.S. But a new subvariant, BA.2, is causing a massive wave of infections in China and a more modest rise in infections in Europe, and it is overtaking Omicron in the U.S., too. "Whether or not that is going to lead to another surge, a mini surge or maybe even a moderate surge, is very unclear because there are a lot of other things that are going on right now," Dr. Antony Fauci, President Biden's medical adviser, tells an ABC News podcast. The BA.2 subvariant is similar to original Omicron, though even more transmissible, and Fauci said his colleagues in Britain are seeing a "blip" in cases, though "their intensive care bed usage is not going up, which means they're not seeing a blip up of severe disease." The U.S. pandemic trajectory has lagged behind Britain's for about three weeks.

3-20-22 Biden has 'no plans' to visit Ukraine during trip to Europe, Psaki says
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Sunday that President Biden has "no plans" to visit Ukraine during his trip to Europe this week. It would likely be difficult for Ukraine to guarantee Biden's safety no matter where he went in the country. Western Ukraine remained safe for the first several weeks of the Russian invasion, but Russian forces have recently begun launching strikes in that part of the country, including a cruise missile attack on an aircraft repair plant in Lviv and a hypersonic missile strike targeting what the Russian Defense Ministry described as "a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the ... Ivano-Frankivsk region." United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield seemed to confirm Psaki's statement on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday. "Three European heads of state visited Kyiv in the last week or so, [and] former Ukrain[ian] President Petro Poroshenko suggested that President Biden should visit Ukraine during his trip to Europe this week. Is that on the table?" host Jake Tapper asked Thomas-Greenfield. (Tapper's first statement was not quite correct. According to The Washington Post, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa all visited Kyiv last week, but they are their countries' heads of government, not heads of state). "As far as I know, that's not on the table," Thomas-Greenfield responded. During a Sunday appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Biden should get as close to Ukraine as he can. "[W]hat I'd like to see the president do is to reassure our Eastern Bloc allies. It's fine to go to Brussels. It's fine to go to Berlin, and I'd like to see him go to Romania or Poland or to the Baltics. They're right on the front lines and need to know that we're in this fight with them to win," McConnell said.

3-20-22 Biden admin considered sending out pre-paid gas cards to ease pain at the pump
Last week, the Biden administration considered sending pre-paid gas cards to Americans to help ease pain at the pump, Axios reported Saturday. Per Axios, a House Democratic counsel talked the White House out of the idea by arguing that gas cards would be expensive, poorly targeted, ineffective, and difficult for the understaffed IRS to handle during tax season. White House spokesperson Vedant Patel said Saturday that gas cards are "not an administratively feasible solution" and are "not seriously under consideration." According to the American Automobile Association, the average price of a gallon of gas in the United States stood at more than $4.25 a gallon on Sunday. The White House has considered stimulus checks, federal rebates, increased ethanol usage, suspension of the federal gas tax, and measures that would put pressure on oil companies as other potential means of helping Americans cope with high gas prices, according to Axios. The Biden administration has also approached other oil-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, to help make up the shortfall stemming from a ban on importing Russian oil. Republicans have called for increased domestic oil production, while Bloomberg suggested taking the bus. Earlier this month, Joel Mathis wrote at The Week that an effective (albeit unpopular) way of reducing how much Americans spend on gas would be to "bring back the 55-mph speed limit." The last national speed limit law, which lasted from 1974 until 1995, saved an estimated 167,000 barrels of oil per day, Mathis notes.

3-20-22 1 killed, 28 injured in shooting at Arkansas car show
Police in Dumas, Arkansas, are searching for a suspect who opened-fire at a car show on Saturday night, leaving one person dead and 28 injured. One person has been arrested in connection with the shooting, law enforcement officials said Sunday. The person killed has been identified as Cameron Shaffer, 23, of Jacksonville, Arkansas. Several children, including two toddlers, are among the wounded. The annual Hood-Nic Car Show was one of several events held on Saturday night to promote non-violence and raise money for scholarships and school supplies, USA Today reports. Arkansas State Police Col. Bill Bryant said on Sunday it's believed "multiple gunmen began shooting" after two individuals exchanged fire. "You don't expect that from small-town Arkansas," Bryant added. Car show organizer Wallace McGehee told USA Today the event is known for being family-friendly and a safe place for the community to gather. "We apologize for all of this," McGehee said. "This has never happened with us at our event ever. For something like this to happen, it's a tragedy."

3-20-22 Finland tops U.N. World Happiness Report for 5th year in a row, U.S. comes in 16th
The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network released its 10th annual World Happiness Report on Friday, CNN reported. According to NPR, the study asks approximately 1,000 respondents from each country to assess their lives on a scale of zero to 10, "with zero being the worst possible life they could have expected to have, and 10 being the best." According to NPR, the study asks approximately 1,000 respondents from each country to assess their lives on a scale of zero to 10, "with zero being the worst possible life they could have expected to have, and 10 being the best." Nordic countries continued to dominate the rankings. Finland topped the list for the fifth consecutive year, with an average life evaluation of 7.821. Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway also made the top 10. NPR, however, points out that some Nordic commentators suggest Scandinavians report high levels of satisfaction not because "of the country's sterling quality of life, but because people in those countries have a lower bar for what they think their best possible life could have been." Writing for The Week in 2017, James Pethokoukis argued that Americans, by contrast, "are demanding, complain when dissatisfied, and, by the way, also produce the hard-driving entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who push the technological frontier so Europe doesn't have to." The United States ranked 16th in the 2022 report with a score of 6.977, between Canada (15th) and the United Kingdom (17th).

3-20-22 Putin quotes Jesus to justify invasion of Ukraine
During a pro-war rally in Moscow on Friday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked the words of Jesus Christ in order to justify his invasion of Ukraine. Moscow police said more than 200,000 people attended the rally, Al Jazeera reported. Polling shows that a majority of Russians support the war in Ukraine, which has already left numerous Ukrainian civilians displaced, injured, and dead. Speaking to the crowd in a turtleneck and down winter coat, Putin said he ordered the invasion "to get people out of their misery, out of this genocide, that is the main reason, the motive and purpose of the military operation that we began in Donbas and Ukraine," according to The Washington Post. Russia has repeatedly accused the Ukrainian government of committing genocide in separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. "And this is where the words from the Scriptures come to my mind: 'There is no greater love than if someone gives his soul for his friends,'" Putin continued, paraphrasing John 15:13. Both the Post and ABC News translate the Russian word ???? (dushu) as "soul," but most English translations of the passage use "life." The verse is part of a long discourse Jesus delivered to his disciples as they traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was arrested and taken to be crucified after ordering Simon Peter not to use force to defend him. Putin identifies as a Russian Orthodox Christian but has expressed discomfort with speaking publicly about his faith.

3-20-22 Ukraine war: Western agents seek to get inside Putin's head
Russia's leader Vladimir Putin is trapped in a closed world of his own making, Western spies believe. And that worries them. For years they have sought to get inside Mr Putin's mind, to better understand his intentions. With Russian troops seemingly bogged down in Ukraine, the need to do so has become all the more necessary as they try to work out how he will react under pressure. Understanding his state of mind will be vital to avoid escalating the crisis into even more dangerous territory. There has been speculation that Russia's leader was ill, but many analysts believe he has actually become isolated and closed off to any alternative views. His isolation has been evident in pictures of his meetings, such as when he met President Emmanuel Macron, the pair at far ends of a long table. It was also evident in Mr Putin's meeting with his own national security team on the eve of war. Mr Putin's initial military plan looked like something devised by a KGB officer, one Western intelligence official explains. It had been created, they say, by a tight "conspiratorial cabal" with an emphasis on secrecy. But the result was chaos. Russian military commanders were not ready and some soldiers went over the border without knowing what they were doing. Western spies, through sources they will not discuss, knew more about those plans than many inside Russia's leadership. But now they face a new challenge - understanding what Russia's leader will do next. And that is not easy. "The challenge of understanding the Kremlin's moves is that Putin is the single decision-maker in Moscow," explains John Sipher, who formerly ran the CIA's Russia operations. And even though his views are often made clear through public statements, knowing how he will act on them is difficult intelligence challenge. "It is extremely hard in a system as well protected as Russia to have good intelligence on what's happening inside the head of the leader especially when so many of his own people do not know what is going on," Sir John Sawers, a former head of Britain's MI6, told the BBC.

3-20-22 Ukraine conflict: Scores feared dead after Russia attack on Mykolaiv barracks
Scores of Ukrainian soldiers are feared to have been killed after an attack on a military barracks on Friday. About 200 soldiers were sleeping in the barracks when three Russian missiles hit the base on the northern edge of Mykolaiv, a source told the BBC. Some 57 injured people were being treated in hospitals, another source said. There are no official casualty figures. Rescue workers crawling over giant piles of rubble found a survivor on Saturday - 30 hours after the attack. The man was carried down the steep mountain of rubble in a stretcher and taken away by ambulance towards the city centre. However, the temperature in Mykolaiv last night was minus 6C and it's feared there may not be many more survivors. Vitaly Kim, head of the regional administration, blamed Russians for hitting "sleeping soldiers with a rocket in a cowardly manner". "At least 50 bodies have been recovered, but we do not know how many others are in the rubble," a soldier named Maxim was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. And the rescue work at the site is being carried out amid fears of new Russian attacks. With a crane pulling away chunks of concrete and twisted metal, suddenly soldiers guarding the base shouted at journalists to run for cover, as the sound of a plane, or possibly a missile, could be heard overhead. Seconds later a dull explosion could be heard somewhere to the north-east. Near the army base is the site of an attack which killed nine civilians queueing outside a shop. There we meet Yulia, who is in tears as she tells the BBC what happened. "I can't tell you how scared we are," she says. "We all live in the cellar now. When the bombs hit the army base - everything shook." Two blocks away, Andre Ansimov is trying to clear up from another Russian strike. The crater is so big, a car and a house fell into it.

3-20-22 Russia denies cosmonauts board space station in Ukrainian colours
Russia's space agency has rejected claims that three Russian cosmonauts boarded the International Space Station wearing Ukrainian colours, in a possible statement against the war. The first arrivals since Russia's war began were shown wearing bright yellow suits with blue trimmings. They were warmly welcomed on board, hugging and greeting their fellow American, Russian and German crew. "Sometimes yellow is just yellow," said the Roscosmos space agency. The ISS is a joint project between Russia, America, Canada, Japan and several European countries. It is led by a US-Russian partnership that has continued for two decades despite fluctuating tensions between the two world powers. Russian cosmonauts Denis Matveyev, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Korsakov docked at the ISS after a three-hour flight which blasted off from a Russian-owned facility in Kazakhstan. "Congratulations on the successful docking," a voice from Russia's mission control said. A few hours later, two sets of hatches were opened and the three smiling men floated into the space station one by one in their yellow suits. The standard-issue Russian uniform is plain blue, and at least one of the men was seen wearing this before take-off. The moment was live-streamed by both Roscosmos and Nasa, the American space agency. "It became our turn to pick a colour," Mr Artemyev said when he was asked about the suits in a live-streamed press conference. "We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it," he joked. "That's why we had to wear yellow." Since the invasion of Ukraine, people around the world have used the colours of its national flag to show solidarity and support. But Roscosmos's press service dismissed the reports as a "funny invention" by foreign bloggers and media. "The flight suits of the new crew are made in the colours of the emblem of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three cosmonauts graduated from... To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy."

3-19-22 Russia uses hypersonic missiles in Ukraine
Russian forces used hypersonic missiles, which can travel at 10 times the speed of sound, in western Ukraine on Friday, NBC News reported. "The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region," the Russian Defense Ministry announced Saturday. Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kinzhal ("Dagger") missiles in 2018, but this is the first time Russian forces have admitted to using them in combat, according to The Moscow Times. Michael Puttré, writing for Discourse, explained that hypersonic missiles "are more maneuverable and harder to detect than earlier high-speed weapons, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and can travel at more than five times the speed of sound." Russia and China have already added hypersonic missiles to their arsenals, while the United States and several other countries are working to develop them. "[A] hypersonic weapon with a high-Mach speed and a great ability to maneuver would defeat any U.S. anti-missile system that depends on tracking inbound missiles flying on a predictable course," Puttré argued. Others, however, expressed skepticism as to whether hypersonic weapons were really so revolutionary. Ryan Cooper wrote for The Week that "while a hypersonic missile would be nearly impossible to shoot down, that is already true of ICBMs," that "a realistic massed attack of multiple-warhead [ICBMs] would be impossible to defend against," and that even in the event of a successful hypersonic nuclear attack, the U.S. would retain second strike capability in the form of its nuclear-armed submarines. Cooper argued that fear about hypersonic missiles is being whipped up solely because "the military-industrial complex needs a new bogeyman to justify the preposterously bloated and wasteful Pentagon budget."

3-19-22 Russians board International Space Station in Ukrainian colours
Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing Ukrainian colours, in what appears to be a statement opposing the invasion. The three men were the first new arrivals since Russia attacked its eastern neighbour last month. They were warmly welcomed on board, hugging and greeting their fellow American, Russian and German crew. The ISS is a joint project between Russia, America, Canada, Japan and several European countries. It is led by a US-Russian partnership that has continued for two decades despite fluctuating tensions between the two world powers. Russian cosmonauts Denis Matveyev, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Korsakov docked at the ISS after a three-hour flight which blasted off from a Russian-owned facility in Kazakhstan. "Congratulations on the successful docking," a voice from Russia's mission control said moments later. A few hours later, two sets of hatches were opened and the three smiling men floated into the space station one by one wearing bright yellow space suits with blue accents. The standard-issue Russian uniform is plain blue, and at least one of the men was seen wearing this before take-off. The moment was live-streamed by both Nasa, the American space agency, and the Russian agency Roscosmos. "It became our turn to pick a colour," Mr Artemyev said when he was asked about the suits in a live-streamed press conference. "We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it," he joked. "That's why we had to wear yellow." Since the invasion of Ukraine, people around the world have used the colours of its national flag to show solidarity and support. The three Russians will begin a science mission on the ISS that is set to last just over six months. They will replace three current crew members who are scheduled to fly back to Earth on 30 March.

3-19-22 Russia claims first use of hypersonic Kinzhal missile in Ukraine
Russia's military has fired a hypersonic ballistic missile and destroyed a big underground arms depot in western Ukraine, the defence ministry in Moscow has said. If confirmed it would be Russia's first use in this war of the Kinzhal, or Dagger, ballistic missile launched from the air, most likely by a MiG-31 warplane. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly highlighted Russia's investment in hypersonic missiles, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5. The statistics are impressive: according to Russian officials the Kinzhal can hit a target up to 2,000km (1,240 miles) away and can fly faster than 6,000 km/h. But does that make them any more dangerous than other missiles or even artillery which can cause just as much death and destruction? "I don't view it as that significant," says James Acton, nuclear policy specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "I don't know how much of an advantage Russia is getting from using hypersonic missiles." President Putin boasted last December that Russia was leading the world in hypersonic missiles, which are hard to track because they can change direction in mid-flight. Russia posted a video of what it said was its missile strike on the arms depot in Deliatyn, a village in south-western Ukraine only 100km from the border with Romania."It's a sign of showmanship. Even if it's used we should consider it as an isolated moment because Russia doesn't have a large number of these missiles," said Dominika Kunertova of the Center for Security Studies in Zurich. The Russian leader unveiled the Kinzhal four years ago as one of a series of "invincible" weapons that he said would evade enemy defences. The other hypersonic missiles are the Zirkon and the Avangard, which is both faster and has a far greater range.

3-19-22 Ukraine war: Drone footage shows level of devastation in Mariupol
Blocks of flats and a shopping mall have been completely destroyed in Mariupol, Ukraine. The besieged port city has faced constant shelling since the war started three weeks ago. The Mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boichenko told the BBC that fighting has reached the city centre.

3-18-22 Ukraine war: 'Tanks in streets' as fighting hits Mariupol centre
Efforts to rescue hundreds of people trapped in the basement of a bombed theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol are being hampered by intense battles in the area, the mayor says. Vadym Boychenko told the BBC teams were only able to clear the rubble of the building during lulls in the fighting. Ukrainian officials say Russia attacked the site, which was clearly marked as a civilian shelter. Moscow denies it. Russian forces have encircled the city, which has no electricity, water or gas. About 300,000 people are trapped inside, as food and medical supplies run out with Russia blocking the entry of humanitarian aid. Russian attacks have hit a hospital, a church and countless apartment blocks, with local officials estimating that about 80% of residential buildings are either damaged or destroyed, a third of them beyond repair. Mariupol has seen some of the fiercest battles since Russia invaded Ukraine, three weeks ago. The location of the port city, on the Sea of Azov, is strategic for Russia, as it would help it create a land corridor between the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, controlled by Russian-backed separatists, and Crimea, the peninsula it invaded and annexed in 2014. "[There is] street fighting in the city centre," Mr Boychenko said, confirming a claim made by Russia on Friday, when it said it was "tightening the noose" around the city. "There are tanks... and artillery shelling, and all kinds of weapons fired in the area," the mayor said. "Our forces are doing everything they can to hold their positions in the city but the forces of the enemy are larger than ours, unfortunately." Communication with the city is difficult, with the phone network said to be operational only a few hours a day. Amid unrelenting Russian attacks, residents spend most of their days in shelters and basements, rarely coming outside. Mr Boychenko said, in a previous interview, that there was no city centre left.

3-19-22 Ukraine: What have been Russia's military mistakes?
Russia has one of the largest and most powerful armed forces in the world, but that has not been apparent in its initial invasion of Ukraine. Many military analysts in the West have been surprised by its performance on the battlefield so far, with one describing it as "dismal". Its military advances appear to have largely stalled and some now question whether it can recover from the losses it has suffered. This week, a senior Nato military official told the BBC, "the Russians clearly have not achieved their goals and probably will not at the end of the day". So what has gone wrong? I have spoken to senior Western military officers and intelligence officials, about the mistakes Russia has made. Russia's first mistake was to underestimate the strength of resistance and the capabilities of Ukraine's own smaller armed forces. Russia has an annual defence budget of more than $60bn, compared with Ukraine's spending of just over $4bn. At the same time, Russia, and many others, appear to have overestimated its own military strengths. President Putin had embarked on an ambitious modernisation programme for his military and he too may have believed his own hype. A senior British military official said much of Russia's investment had been spent on its vast nuclear arsenal and experimentation, that included developing new weapons such as hypersonic missiles. Russia is supposed to have built the world's most advanced tank - the T-14 Armata. But while it has been seen on Moscow's Victory Day Parade on Red Square, it has been missing in battle. Most of what Russia has fielded are older T-72 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and rocket launchers. At the start of the invasion Russia had a clear advantage in the air, with the combat aircraft it had moved near the border outnumbering Ukraine's air force by more than three to one. Most military analysts assumed the invading force would quickly gain superiority in the air, but it has not. Ukraine's air defences are still proving effective, limiting Russia's ability to manoeuvre.

3-19-22 Roman Abramovich's jet among 100 planes grounded by US
Nearly 100 planes with ties to Russia have been effectively grounded by the US government, including one owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich. The US Commerce Department has said the planes are in contravention of US sanctions on Russia. Providing service to these aircraft anywhere in the world - including inside Russia - may lead to heavy fines and potential jail time, it says. The list includes aircraft operated by Russian airlines, including Aeroflot. While most are Boeing aircraft, a Gulfstream private jet owned by Mr Abramovich - the current owner of Chelsea football club - is also included. The Russian was among seven oligarchs sanctioned by the UK government earlier this month in response to the Ukraine war. Mr Abramovich, 55, is alleged to have strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he has denied. In a statement, the department said any refuelling, maintenance or repair work of any of the listed aircraft - as well as the provision of spare parts - violates US export controls. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the move was in response to "Russia's brutal war of choice against Ukraine". She added: "We are publishing this list to put the world on notice - we will not allow Russian and Belarusian companies and oligarchs to travel with impunity in violation of our laws." The department said violators face "substantial jail time, fines, loss of export privileges, or other restrictions". The regulations apply to any aircraft which has more than 25% US-origin content that was re-exported to Russia after new controls came into effect on 24 February, the day Russia invaded Ukraine. "By preventing these aircraft from receiving any service, for example, including from abroad, international flights from Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded," the statement added.

3-19-22 US House passes Crown Act which would end hair discrimination
A ban on race-based hair discrimination in the United States is a step closer after a vote in Congress. The House of Representatives passed the legislation which seeks to end discrimination against natural hair at work and school. The Crown (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act must still be approved by the Senate. President Joe Biden has urged lawmakers to swiftly pass the law. Black Americans say they are often treated unfairly at work and in schools because of their natural hair textures or protective styles like braids, knots, twists and locs. If the Crown Act becomes law, natural hair discrimination would be treated as if it were race or national origin discrimination under federal civil rights law. Until then, advocates say that employers and institutions can discriminate against black Americans based on how they style their natural hair. Adjoa B Asamoah, legislative strategist for the CROWN Coalition, praised Friday's vote in the House, but acknowledged a potential uphill battle in the Senate. "There's the shift in policy and then there's a shift in culture," Ms Asamoah said. "This is about confronting this Eurocentric standard of beauty, tackling anti-blackness, and lifting the natural African aesthetic. The diversity of Blackness is beautiful." The CROWN Coalition partners with more than 85 organisations to pass statewide bans on hair discrimination, and advocate for the bill nationally. Just on Thursday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously voted to advance its bill to its state senate. A third of black children in majority-white schools have faced race-based hair discrimination, according to a 2021 study by DOVE and the CROWN Coalition. The survey found 86% of children say they have experienced it by the age of 12. More than a dozen states have already passed similar laws aimed at ending hair discrimination. Just on Thursday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously voted to advance its bill to its state senate.

3-19-22 Tanner Brass: Canada police force in racism row over boy's death
A Canada police force has been accused of ignoring an indigenous mother's warning about leaving her toddler with the man now charged with his death. Tanner Brass was found dead hours after police arrested his mother, Kyla Frenchman, when she argued with them about her son's safety, she said. The boy's father, Kaij Brass, has been charged with second-degree murder. Indigenous leaders say Ms Frenchman was racially profiled and have demanded the local police chief's resignation. Two Canadian police officers in the city of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, have been suspended. Police responded to reports of a domestic dispute in the early hours of 10 February and found Ms Frenchman standing outside the apartment building, she said. Ms Frenchman told the officers she had been kicked out of her apartment and feared her 13-month-old son was in danger. She said the officers told her to wait outside and entered the building, only to return shortly afterwards and say no-one had answered the door. Ms Frenchman said when she demanded the officers check on Tanner, she was arrested for suspected intoxication. She denies being drunk. Several hours later police were called back to the same home to reports of a homicide involving a child. They found Tanner dead and Kaij Brass was arrested. Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Kyla Frenchman struggled to speak as she demanded justice for her son. Standing with friends and relatives, she spoke of her son as a "happy baby" with a big smile. A statement read on her behalf said she had "begged and pleaded" with police to help her and her child after they arrived at their home. It went on: "Instead, they accused me of being drunk. They put me in handcuffs and they put me in a cell." A statement from the Prince Albert police department described the boy's death as a tragedy. It added: "As an organisation, there is nothing we can say to lessen the grief and torment at this shocking loss of a deeply loved child from our community." But Heather Bear, Vice-Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said: "If these officers showed up to a domestic dispute call involving a young white family, knowing that an infant was inside and possibly in danger, do you think they would have arrested the mother and left?"

3-18-22 New trial provides 'no indication' ivermectin is 'clinically useful' in treating COVID-19
A large new trial has reportedly found no indication ivermectin is useful in treating COVID-19 patients. The trial of almost 1,400 COVID-19 patients at risk of severe disease found the drug failed to reduce hospital admissions, according to The Wall Street Journal. In the trial, half the patients were prescribed ivermectin pills for three days, while the others received a placebo. The report noted this was the largest trial testing the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating COVID-19 so far. "There was no indication that ivermectin is clinically useful," Edward Mills, a lead researcher on the study, told the Journal. Peter Hotez of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine also reviewed the findings and told the Journal they should "really help put to rest ivermectin and not give any credibility to the use of it for COVID-19." The FDA hasn't approved ivermectin to treat COVID-19, and the agency has said that "currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19." Still, ivermectin has been promoted as a potential treatment for COVID-19 by podcaster Joe Rogan, among others. Last year, Rogan said he took ivermectin when he contracted the coronavirus.

3-18-22 Poland to formally propose peacekeeping mission in Ukraine
Poland will formally propose a peacekeeping mission in Russia-invaded Ukraine at the next NATO summit, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed Friday, per Reuters. The idea for an international mission was initially shared Tuesday, after leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Reuters notes. The officials, who arrived via train "in a show of high-level backing" for Zelensky, were briefed on the war and were the first foreign leaders to visit Kyiv since Russia's attack began. "I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission — NATO, possibly some wider international structure — but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory," Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a news conference. "It will be a mission that will strive for peace, to give humanitarian aid, but at the same time it will also be protected by appropriate forces, armed forces," he added. Kacynzski is seen as the main decision-maker in Poland, per Reuters.

3-18-22 What we know so far about Biden's nearly 2-hour call with Xi Jinping
President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours on Friday to discuss Russia's unprompted invasion of Ukraine, CNBC reports. The strategic conversation "was seen as a critical test of whether Biden can convince China to stay on the sidelines of the conflict in Ukraine, and to turn down Russian requests for military or economic aid," CNBC writes. Here's what we know about the conversation so far. The White House has not yet issued a formal readout of the call, but did note the conversation began after 9 a.m. and lasted just under two hours — "an unusually long time for a presidential call with the leader of a U.S. adversary," CNBC notes. told Biden that both the U.S. and China had an obligation to promote peace between Russia and Ukraine. "The world is neither peaceful nor tranquil," the Chinese leader is said to have told Biden, per CNBC, and "the Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see." Xi also reportedly told the president that, as economic behemoths, both the U.S. and China "must not only lead the development of China-US relations on the right track, but also shoulder our due international responsibilities and make efforts for world peace and tranquility," per the Chinese summary of the call. Beijing has thus far refused to explicitly condemn Russia's actions against Ukraine, but is still calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Reuters writes. The Biden administration previously warned China not to aid Russia in the war.

3-18-22 Ukraine war: Russia destroys aircraft repair plant near western city of Lviv
Russian missiles have hit an aircraft repair plant near Lviv in western Ukraine, a city that has become a safe haven for people fleeing the war. Emergency vehicles raced to the site of the strike, just 6km (four miles) from the city centre, after three loud explosions were heard early on Friday. No-one was injured in the attack. It is the closest the conflict has come to Lviv, a key humanitarian supply route and a hub for hundreds of thousands of people who have fled. Western Ukraine has so far been quieter than the rest of the country. Russia launched its invasion on three fronts - from the north, east and south - leaving cities such as Lviv relatively unscathed. But there are signs that may be changing, after Friday's strike and a deadly missile attack on a military training base outside the city on Sunday. "There have been air raid alarms here every morning, but now the strikes are actually landing," Valentin Vovchenko, 82, told the AFP news agency from Lviv. "We fled Kyiv because of the attacks but now they've started to hit here." The city's mayor, Andriy Sadovy, confirmed that the military aircraft maintenance facility had been destroyed by cruise missiles. The facility, which was not in operation at the time, is only a short distance from the Danylo Halytskyi International Airport. Mr Sadovy, however, said the airport itself had not been hit. Ukraine's air force said six cruise missiles had been fired in total from the Black Sea. Two of them were destroyed by anti-aircraft missiles. "The Russians are going for the infrastructure that is keeping Ukrainian aircraft in the air," Prof Michael Clarke, the former director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, told the BBC. Lviv is just 80km from Poland, a country that has taken in more than two million Ukrainians who are seeking refuge from a conflict that has destroyed homes and upended lives. Prof Clarke said that, given the facility's proximity to the Polish border, the strike could be seen as "an attempt to frighten the West out of helping Ukrainians as much as they have been"

3-18-22 Russian strikes destroy Ukrainian aircraft repair plant in Lviv, former safe haven 50 miles from Poland
Russian heavy bombers early Friday fired six cruise missiles from the Black Sea toward Lviv, a city less than 50 miles from Ukraine's border with Poland and, so far, a relatively safe harbor for civilians fleeing Russian shelling further east, Ukrainian officials said. Two of the missiles were shot down and four landed at an aircraft repair plant near Lviv's airport, destroying the buildings. Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy said work had already stopped at the plant and no casualties had been reported. Russia has started firing missiles into Ukraine's far west, and Friday morning's "strike may have been an attempt to target the capabilities of Ukraine's air force," The New York Times reports. "According to a local news article from January, the plant at the airport had a contract to fix and modify MiG-29 fighter jets and was 'the only enterprise in Ukraine that refurbishes MiG-29s for the Ukrainian Air Force.'" "It is very much a part of war that you go after each other's supply lines," British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told BBC Breakfast on Friday. "But the reality is this development will be a concern for people living in the west of Ukraine." He added that British Starstreak anti-aircraft missile systems should arrive in Ukraine "imminently." Friday's strikes on Lviv make it "clear the Russians are going for the infrastructure that is keeping Ukrainian aircraft in the air," British military expert Michael Clarke told BBC Radio 4 on Friday morning. It is also "an attempt to frighten the West out of helping Ukrainians as much as they have been." But elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine is "humiliating" Russia and "wiping the floor with them in terms of world opinion," Clarke added. "The Ukrainians are stalling the Russian advance in all areas and even operating now quite effective counter-attacks. The Russians are losing a lot of equipment and troops."

3-18-22 Shells rain down on Kharkiv as Ukraine's army stands firm
Ukraine's second city Kharkiv has been the constant target of Russian attacks for three weeks. The BBC's Quentin Sommerville and cameraman Darren Conway report from the front line where Ukrainian troops continue to repel the enemy advance. We enter the house where the back door used to be. Now there is just a blanket flapping in the freezing wind. The owners, long gone, would have had a view across the rich farmland north of Kharkiv, but much of that is unrecognisable, too. In the garage, beside an abandoned skateboard, are a dozen or so empty packing cases for some of the world's best anti-tank weapons. A dead Russian soldier lies face down in the front garden. The house has become a frontline base, and the spent cases are an indication that the soldiers here have had the fight of their lives - a fight for Ukraine's independence. We have gained rare access to the Ukrainian army, who after three weeks of hard fighting, are still holding firm on the outskirts of Kharkiv, preventing Russian forces from capturing Ukraine's second-largest city. "Do you want to go further ahead?" asks Yuri, a commander with the Ukrainian army's 22 Motorized Infantry Battalion, pointing at the ruins of two Russian armoured personnel carriers, and the shattered pieces of two of their tanks. The battalion was reconstituted in 2014 after Russia invaded Crimea and backed Donbas separatists. "They've used drones, aircraft, attack helicopters, everything," says Yuri, as Russian shells thunder overhead, striking nearby roads and apartment blocks. The Russians have continued to attack again and been repelled many times. In their frustration at being denied entry, they bomb the city, which was once home to 1.4 million people, day and night. The ground is churned up and thick mud sucks on your boots. A backward glance shows the ruined shells of the line of houses we just passed through. Suburban gardens have become battlefields from Europe's past.

3-18-22 Poland to formally propose peacekeeping mission in Ukraine
Poland will formally propose a peacekeeping mission in Russia-invaded Ukraine at the next NATO summit, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed Friday, per Reuters. The idea for an international mission was initially shared Tuesday, after leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Reuters notes. The officials, who arrived via train "in a show of high-level backing" for Zelensky, were briefed on the war and were the first foreign leaders to visit Kyiv since Russia's attack began. "I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission — NATO, possibly some wider international structure — but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory," Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a news conference. "It will be a mission that will strive for peace, to give humanitarian aid, but at the same time it will also be protected by appropriate forces, armed forces," he added. Kacynzski is seen as the main decision-maker in Poland, per Reuters.

3-18-22 Ukraine conflict: Putin lays out his demands in Turkish phone call
Turkey has positioned itself with great care to be the go-between with Russia and Ukraine - and this seems to be paying off. On Thursday afternoon, President Vladimir Putin rang the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and told him what Russia's precise demands were for a peace deal with Ukraine. Within half an hour of the ending of the phone call, I interviewed Mr Erdogan's leading adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. Mr Kalin was part of the small group of officials who had listened in on the call. The Russian demands fall into two categories. The first four demands are, according to Mr Kalin, not too difficult for Ukraine to meet. Chief among them is an acceptance by Ukraine that it should be neutral and should not apply to join Nato. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has already conceded this. There are other demands in this category which mostly seem to be face-saving elements for the Russian side. Ukraine would have to undergo a disarmament process to ensure it wasn't a threat to Russia. There would have to be protection for the Russian language in Ukraine. And there is something called de-Nazification. This is deeply offensive to Mr Zelensky, who is himself Jewish and some of whose relatives died in the Holocaust, but the Turkish side believes it will be easy enough for Mr Zelensky to accept. Perhaps it will be enough for Ukraine to condemn all forms of neo-Nazism and promise to clamp down on them. The second category is where the difficulty will lie, and in his phone call, Mr Putin said that it would need face-to-face negotiations between him and President Zelensky before agreement could be reached on these points. Mr Zelensky has already said he's prepared to meet the Russian president and negotiate with him one-to-one. Mr Kalin was much less specific about these issues, saying simply that they involved the status of Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, parts of which have already broken away from Ukraine and stressed their Russianness, and the status of Crimea. Although Mr Kalin didn't go into detail, the assumption is that Russia will demand that the Ukrainian government should give up territory in eastern Ukraine. That will be deeply contentious.

3-18-22 Putin hails Crimea annexation and war with lessons on heroism
Eight years after Russian troops seized Ukraine's southern region of Crimea, the event is being celebrated with flag-waving crowds in Moscow's Luzhniki stadium and special lessons in schools. President Vladimir Putin made a special appearance before the crowd. State workers said they had been told to take part. In schools, teachers held lessons marking the "Crimean spring". The Russian army has used its bases in Crimea to seize towns and cities on Ukraine's south coast. Mr Putin has regularly used the anniversary to highlight love of the motherland. Officials said more than 200,000 people had gathered at the stadium, although the numbers could not be verified. He told the crowd: "We know what we have to do next... we'll definitely carry out all the plans we have made." But his address on state TV suddenly cut to singer Oleg Gazmanov belting out the words "Forward, Russia", in what the Kremlin later called a technical glitch. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin also addressed the event along with top state TV journalist Margarita Simonyan and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Special lessons on the war entitled "My Country" began at the start of March, for students in the final six years of school. Pupils were played a video of Mr Putin from 21 February, in which he detailed his vision of Ukraine's history, BBC Russian reports. Photographs emerged earlier this week of children lining up to form the letter Z, a symbol painted on Russian military vehicles that have invaded Ukraine. The education ministry then sent out lesson plans specifically geared to 18 March, the date that Russia annexed Crimea after an internationally discredited referendum. According to a memo sent to schools by the education ministry, lessons for children in Years 6-8 (12-15 year-olds) should focus on "heroes of our time... to help form a stable and grounded understanding of the feeling of patriotism".

3-18-22 Ukraine: Arnold Schwarzenegger's anti-war video trends on Russian social media
A video address by Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Russian people was trending on Russian Twitter on Friday and has sparked reaction. In it, Schwarzenegger warns Russians they are being fed misinformation about their country's assault on Ukraine. Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, he says: "You started this war, and you can stop it". His intervention has been praised by Russians who oppose the war in Ukraine. Writing on the Telegram app, opposition politician Lev Shlosberg said it had been filmed "with respect towards us, Russian people". "Arnold Schwarzenegger has a unique ability to talk to anyone with persuasion, respect and on equal terms. Wits, power and justice. Have a listen. Think about it. Understand," Mr Shlosberg said. Also on Telegram, liberal journalist Anton Orekh said his message contained no "Russophobia". "We are outcasts in the world.. Arnold is one of the few people who addressed Russians not as savage orcs, but as good people who have lost their ways," Mr Orekh said. But a pro-Kremlin spoof account, Barack Obmana on Twitter, derided it, saying "the opinion of paid US talking heads" mattered little to Russians. Russia has consistently said the war in Ukraine was a "special operation" to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians. But in his video, Schwarzenegger said the Kremlin was lying to Russians when it said the invasion was intended to "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine did not start the war, but "those in power in the Kremlin" did, he said. By 13:00 GMT the video had been viewed nearly 25m times and had been retweeted 325,000 times. Schwarzenegger is one of the few accounts followed by the Kremlin's official Russian- and English-language Twitter accounts. In the nine-minute video, which also shows footage of the destruction in Ukraine, the actor-turned-politician calls on people to see through disinformation and propaganda.

3-18-22 Covid-19: Is the world ready for a great reopening?
Two years after the US went into its first lockdown, the country is getting nearer to a pre-pandemic existence. But what about the rest of the world? When California issued a statewide stay-at-home order on 19 March 2020, most people thought that life would return to normal relatively quickly. A full 24 months later, people are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with restrictions being eased in the US and several other countries. But with some places experiencing record numbers of cases yet again, it's clear that the pandemic isn't ready to let go its grip just yet. We asked our correspondents in the UK, Hong Kong, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Peru and the US to give us a snapshot. England's last remaining Covid restriction - the legal requirement to isolate after a positive test - was lifted at the end of February. It came a month after the government lifted the requirement to wear masks in places such as shops and on public transport and the advice to work from home where possible. But the truth is England has had a pretty light-touch approach to regulations compared to many places since the summer. The masks mandate and working from home advice was only reintroduced in late 2021 as the Omicron variant took off. The approach is based on the fact that vaccines are providing great protection and England has seen very good uptake among those groups most at risk - 95% of over-60s have had a booster jab. It has meant that despite the surge in infections caused by the Omicron variant, the number of people dying has been similar to what would normally be seen during a normal winter. There are signs infections may be starting to climb again, but it is causing little concern at the moment. South Africa is largely back in business. The government lifted most lockdown restrictions last December, which brought an end to a night-time curfew for the first time in nearly two years, as well as restrictions on the sale of alcohol (South Africa was one of a few countries to ban alcohol sales at the height of the pandemic in 2020). Today across the country's main cities and towns, life has returned to normal with the hubbub of people commuting to work and play in full swing. There is one unmissable indicator that Covid is still with us, however, the mandatory mask wearing in all public places - which is followed by most people.

3-17-22 A new COVID wave might be coming. Somehow we're not prepared.
Pandemic lulls aren't meant to last. There are new signs that the United States might — emphasis on might — be about to undergo another spike in COVID-19 cases. The CDC this week confirmed that wastewater sampling is showing increased amounts of virus in cities across the country, and a new Omicron subvariant is fueling a fresh wave of illness in Europe. Maybe we'll see a rise in hospitalizations and deaths again, maybe we won't, and it's pointless to panic. But this doesn't seem like a good moment to let our guard down too much. Somehow, we're not prepared. The White House and Congress are stuck in gridlock, haggling over a new COVID relief bill that would provide $15 billion in fresh funding for testing, stocks of antiviral drugs for those who need them, and free vaccines for those who want them. Without that money, officials warn those supplies and services will dry up very quickly. "Time is not on our side," an administration official told ABC News. "We need the funding immediately." So what's the holdup? Arguments over how to pay for the bill, and how long. The details of that debate are less interesting — and less important — than the clear need to be ready if and when the pandemic gets vicious again. Why can't the United States get this right, at long last? We've had enough practice by now, haven't we? Maybe our attention is diverted: There's a war in Ukraine, after all, that has understandably sucked all the conversational oxygen out of the room. Maybe we've been comforted by the plunging hospitalizations and death rates following the quick-and-dirty Omicron wave. Or maybe we've simply decided that the virus is endemic, no longer worthy of emergency panic after two slogging years. These are bad excuses. The virus isn't going away because of Russia's invasion — if anything, the war might serve as a breeding ground for COVID and other viruses. Coronavirus deaths are down, but they're still pretty high: 1,268 Americans died of the disease on Wednesday. (For comparison, the CDC says roughly 1,500 people have died of the flu this entire flu season.) And even if the virus has become endemic, that's no reason for federal government inaction. "An endemic threat isn't one that can be ignored but one that must be managed," The Atlantic's Ed Yong wrote Thursday. The story of the coronavirus pandemic is one of American leaders getting caught with their pants down over and over again. The government wasn't ready for the original virus, prematurely celebrated right before the Delta variant struck, and was still slow to ramp up testing availability ahead of the Omicron spike that started late last year. It's a bipartisan problem. And it leaves us staring down the possibility of another COVID wave without our best defenses firmly in place.

3-17-22 Western Europe coronavirus surge raises concerns that the U.S. could be next
Western Europe has been hit with a surge in coronavirus infections that is raising concerns that the United States could face another wave of COVID-19 cases, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Germany, for example, recorded more than 250,000 new cases and 249 deaths on Friday as an Omicron subvariant spread rapidly through the nation of 83 million people. The subvariant, known as BA.2, appears more transmissible than the highly infectious original Omicron variant, BA.1, that fueled the last U.S. wave. China and other Asian countries are also experiencing their worst outbreaks yet, but since the pandemic started, large outbreaks in Europe have been followed by surges in the U.S., and some public health experts are predicting that will happen this time, too.

3-17-22 Putin shared with Turkey's president his demands for Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday to share his demands for Ukraine, and a close adviser to Erdogan said he believes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be open to some of them. Erdogan has been in contact with Russian and Ukrainian officials throughout the invasion of Ukraine. Ibrahim Kalin, an adviser to Erdogan and his spokesman, listened in on the call with Putin, and spoke with BBC News world affairs editor John Simpson about what they discussed. Kalin said Putin sounded clear and concise during the conversation, and had two categories of demands. Ukraine could meet the first four rather easily, Kalin said. Ukraine would have to stay neutral and not apply to NATO, Kalin stated, and would have to undergo a disarmament process and protect the Russian language in the country. Ukraine would also have to agree to go through "de-Nazification." Zelensky is Jewish and had several relatives die in the Holocaust. Asking for the government to go through "de-Nazification" is "deeply offensive" to Zelensky, Simpson wrote, "but the Turkish side believes it will be easy enough for Mr. Zelensky to accept. Perhaps it will be enough for Ukraine to condemn all forms of neo-Nazism and promise to clamp down on them." Kalin was much more vague when describing the more contentious demands, only saying they involved separatist areas of eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The assumption, Simpson wrote, is that Putin will say Ukraine must give up the territory held by separatists and formally accept that Crimea, which was illegally annexed in 2014, is officially part of Russia. Putin told Erdogan that when discussing these demands, he will want to hold an in-person meeting with Zelensky, Kalin said. The Ukrainian president has already stated he is ready and waiting to have a face-to-face discussion with Putin.

3-17-22 Western Europe coronavirus surge raises concerns that the U.S. could be next
Western Europe has been hit with a surge in coronavirus infections that is raising concerns that the United States could face another wave of COVID-19 cases, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Germany, for example, recorded more than 250,000 new cases and 249 deaths on Friday as an Omicron subvariant spread rapidly through the nation of 83 million people. The subvariant, known as BA.2, appears more transmissible than the highly infectious original Omicron variant, BA.1, that fueled the last U.S. wave. China and other Asian countries are also experiencing their worst outbreaks yet, but since the pandemic started, large outbreaks in Europe have been followed by surges in the U.S., and some public health experts are predicting that will happen this time, too.

3-17-22 Ukrainian forces and volunteers handed Putin one of his 'most comprehensive routs' in a small town
"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in a public intelligence assessment early Thursday. "Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea, or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses. Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated. The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands." One Ukrainian town, Voznesensk, is still in Ukraine's hands because Ukrainian soldiers and local volunteers repelled a Russian attempt to capture it, in "one of the most comprehensive routs President Vladimir Putin's forces have suffered since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine," The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, based on reporting in the strategically located southern town of 35,000. "Judging from the destroyed and abandoned armor," the Ukrainians "eliminated most of a Russian battalion tactical group on March 2 and 3," killing an estimated 100 Russians and capturing or destroying 30 of 43 Russian tanks and other vehicles, the Journal reports. "The Ukrainian defenders' performance against a much-better-armed enemy in an overwhelmingly Russian-speaking region was successful in part because of widespread popular support for the Ukrainian cause — one reason the Russian invasion across the country has failed to achieve its principal goals so far." Conservatively, more than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed since Putin's Feb. 24 invasion, "a staggering number amassed in just three weeks of fighting," The New York Times reports. "Pentagon officials say a 10 percent casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks," and "Russian casualties, when including the estimated 14,000 to 21,000 injured, are near that level." Read more about Russian causalities and what they mean for its war at The New York Times, and find out how Ukrainians defeated the Russian invaders in Voznesensk at The Wall Street Journal.

3-17-22 Putin has committed 75 percent of Russia's total military to the Ukraine war, Pentagon estimates
Most of Russia's military offensives in Ukraine continue to be stalled amid fierce Ukrainian resistance, but Russia's military continues to fire dozens of missiles and rockets at Ukrainian civilian and military targets every day, a senior U.S. defense official said at a briefing in Brussels on Wednesday. The U.S. estimates that Russian President Vladimir Putin has "around 75 percent of his total military committed to the fight in Ukraine," the official said, clarifying later that the 75 percent figure mostly refers to "battalion tactical groups, which is the units that he has primarily relied upon." "At the height of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were about 29 percent committed," former U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges noted Tuesday at the Center for European Policy Analysis think tank. "And it was difficult to sustain that." Britain's Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that given Putin's significant "personnel losses" in Ukraine, "Russia is redeploying forces from as far afield as its Eastern Military District, Pacific Fleet, and Armenia. It is also increasingly seeking to exploit irregular sources such as private military companies, Syrian and other mercenaries." The U.S. official said the Pentagon has seen the Russians "deliberate and discuss the possibility of resupply to include replacement troops," and given the deaths, injuries, and defections they are suffering every day, "it certainly stands to reason that they would want to be exploring options to replenish those losses." However, "we haven't seen any indications that anything is moving right now outside of what they have already in Ukraine," the official said, cautioning that "we still assess that they have the vast amount of their combat power available to them" in Ukraine. "It's pretty clear that Russian generals are running out of time, ammunition, and manpower," CEPA's Hodges wrote. "There is no suggestion that the Russians have big units lurking in the woods somewhere," and "it's apparent that the notional 900,000 strength of the Russian military is a hollow number. " Russia will call up another 130,000 conscripts on April 1, he added, but while "the Ukrainian diaspora is flocking home to help the fight; Russians are not coming back home — and indeed, many are leaving to avoid Putin's fight."

3-17-22 Mariupol theatre: 'We knew something terrible would happen'
Civilians are said to be emerging alive from the ruins of a theatre bombed by Russia in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Despite pictures of devastation at the scene, many who were sheltering there are thought to have survived in a basement that withstood Wednesday's attack. For 10 days, that basement was a refuge for Kate, a 38-year-old Mariupol native, and her son, who is 17. Their own home, like many others in the besieged city, had been destroyed by Russian attacks, and they thought the Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama was a place where they would be relatively safe. Mother and son squeezed in the building's dark rooms, corridors and halls with dozens of other families. Some women, Kate said, carried babies that were just four or five months old. "In the beginning, it was really tough, because we didn't have a well-organised food supply. So on the first two days, adults didn't have any food," Kate, who used to work at the city's zoo shop and did not want to give her full name, said. "We gave it only to the children." They slept on improvised beds made with soft parts of auditorium seats which had been put together on the floor. The seats made of wood, she said, were cut in parts and used as firewood for them to cook. "Around the theatre there wasn't enough trees we could use, and it was too dangerous to go outside". For almost three weeks, Mariupol has been under constant shelling by Russian forces, which have completely surrounded the city. About 300,000 people are trapped, with no electricity, gas or running water. Food and medicine are running low, as Russia has prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid. Four days after she arrived, Kate said, Ukrainian forces managed to send some food supplies and a field kitchen to the theatre, and "we [started] cooking something". They would have soup, and sometimes oatmeal, for lunch and tea with biscuits for dinner.

3-17-22 Ukraine conflict: Biden brands Putin a 'war criminal'
US President Joe Biden has labelled Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" in a move likely to escalate diplomatic tensions even further. Mr Biden delivered the remark off-the-cuff in response to a reporter's question at the White House. It is the first time he has used such language to condemn President Putin, and the White House later said he was "speaking from his heart". The Kremlin, however, said it was "unforgiveable rhetoric". "We believe such rhetoric to be unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state, whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency Tass. The exchange in Washington happened Wednesday when a reporter asked the US president: "Mr President, after everything we have seen, are you ready to call Putin a war criminal?" The President replied "no" before being challenged, and then changed his reply: "Did you ask me whether I would tell ....? Oh, I think he is a war criminal." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later said the president had been speaking from his heart after seeing "barbaric" images of the violence in Ukraine, rather than making any official declaration. She noted that there was a separate legal process, run by the State Department, to determine war crimes - and that was ongoing separately. The president's official Twitter account posted: "Putin is inflicting appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine - bombing apartment buildings and maternity wards... these are atrocities. It is an outrage to the world." It came after a busy day of political theatre in both the US and Russia over Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier gave a speech by video link to the US Congress, receiving a standing ovation. Hours later, Mr Biden approved additional weapons aid for Ukraine, bringing the total US contribution to $1bn (£760m).

3-17-22 Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks directly to Russians in 9-minute video appeal: 'Ukraine did not start this war'
Actor, bodybuilder, and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday released a nine-minute, prerecorded message to the people of Russia and Russian soldiers, calling for an end to the war in Ukraine while broadcasting truths he's sure the Kremlin's been hiding. "I am speaking to you today because there are things that are going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about," Schwarzenegger, who has a large Russian following, began. "Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis," he went on, citing propaganda employed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people's war." Schwarzenegger then referenced the United Nations vote in which Russia was overwhelmingly determined the aggressor in the conflict, leading to its isolation from the society of nations. He flagged that the consequences of this war mean not only a loss of Ukrainian life, but a loss of Russian life, as well. Kremlin troops have been lied to, and "those who don't deserve it, on both sides of the war, will suffer," Schwarzenegger said. "To the Russian soldiers listening to this broadcast, you already know much of the truth that I've been speaking. You have seen it with your own eyes. I don't want you to be broken like my father," he said. "This is not the war to defend Russia that your grandfathers or great-grandfathers fought. This is an illegal war." To Putin himself, Schwarzenegger issued yet another direct appeal: "You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war," he said. But as for those brave Russians protesting the violence? "You have the true heart of Russia," Schwarzenegger concluded.

3-17-22 Health agency under Cuomo 'misled public' on nursing home deaths
Under ex-governor Andrew Cuomo, New York's health agency undercounted at least 4,100 Covid-related nursing home deaths, according to a state audit. The New York health department "misled the public", said state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in his 58-page report. Mr Cuomo last year admitted to a "delay" in reporting but did not apologise. The politician, a Democrat, resigned in August after an inquiry found he sexually harassed multiple women. Mr Cuomo has repeatedly denied the sexual harassment allegations against him. In January, prosecutors in New York dropped a groping charge against the former governor, saying the accuser was "credible" but there was not enough evidence to bring the case to court. In the early days of the pandemic, Mr Cuomo was lauded for his handling of the pandemic after New York experienced one of the worst initial covid outbreaks in the country. In October 2020, he published American Crisis, a book of "leadership lessons" from that time. It was later revealed that during his administration, the state health department had significantly undercounted nursing home deaths. This new report, released on Tuesday, marks the third state inquiry into how Mr Cuomo's administration failed to be transparent about the true tally. "The public was misled by those at the highest level of state government through distortion and suppression of the facts when New Yorkers deserved the truth," Mr DiNapoli said in a statement. He called the findings "troubling" but his audit did not say whether the undercount was due to poor-quality data or a "deliberate decision". The audit found Cuomo's health department failed to meet its "ethical" and "moral" imperatives to act transparently in counting deaths between April 2020 and February 2021. "Rather than providing accurate and reliable information during a public health emergency, the department instead conformed to the executive's narrative, often presenting data in a manner that misled the public," the report said. According to the audit, almost 14,000 people died in nursing homes due to covid between March 2020 and May 2021.

3-17-22 Chinese plot to smear US Congress hopeful unveiled
Unsealed files have revealed a plot by five people working on behalf of Chinese secret police to stalk and harass a US military veteran running for Congress, and to spy on an artist. It is the first time, they say, a federal election campaign has been undermined in this way in America. The perpetrators went to "outrageous and dangerous" lengths to do so, the Department of Justice said. Three of the accused have been arrested, but two are at large. According to court documents, they are accused of "transnational repression schemes" to target American residents whose political views and actions were "disfavoured by the People's Republic of China (PRC) government". The co-conspirators allegedly tried to "interfere with federal elections" by orchestrating a campaign to undermine the US congressional candidacy of a military veteran who was once a leader of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing. In another plot, they planned to destroy the work of a Chinese artist, living in Los Angeles, who had been critical of his home government, and allegedly planted spy equipment in the artist's workplace and car. Fan "Frank" Liu, Matthew Ziburis and Shujun Wang were all arrested in the Eastern District of New York earlier this week. Two other suspects, Qiang "Jason" Sun and Qiming Lin are at large. Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the plots had involved campaigns to "silence, harass, discredit and spy" on US residents for "simply exercising their freedom of speech". He added: "The United States will not tolerate blatantly illegal actions that target US residents, on US soil, and undermine our treasured American values and rights." The details of the allegations revealed on Wednesday, allege Mr Lin hired a private investigator in New York to disrupt the Brooklyn man's congressional campaign, including "by physically attacking" him.

3-17-22 Covid: Why US students are staging walkouts over masks
Will Wysoglad, a high school senior in Illinois, went viral after posting video diaries documenting how he was repeatedly sent home because he went to school mask-less. An Illinois judge had recently ruled schools couldn't require masks. But while two-thirds of American schools have dropped mask requirements, there are students fighting to keep those requirements in place over public health concerns. That includes Leif Aucoin, a theatre major sophomore in Nevada. We asked both students why they were protesting, and how mask requirement changes in schools were affecting them.

3-16-22 Trump says 'the people' wouldn't 'accept' Pence as his 2024 VP
Former President Donald Trump is acknowledging that his not-yet-launched 2024 presidential bid would not include his former vice president. Trump told the Washington Examiner his hypothetical run for re-election would most likely not select former Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate. "I don't think the people would accept it," Trump said, alluding to his supporters' anger with Pence for failing to support Trump's false claim he actually won the 2020 race. Trump wanted Pence to somehow overturn the election's results during the congressional certification of the Electoral College votes, notes the Examiner, but Pence explained he didn't have constitutional authority for such a move. "Mike and I had a great relationship except for the very important factor that took place at the end. We had a very good relationship," Trump said. "I haven't spoken to him in a long time." Pence himself is reportedly gearing up for a 2024 presidential run. While Trump called Pence a "really fine person," the Examiner reports he "signaled their relationship might be irrevocably broken." He said he "was disappointed in Mike," and continued to baselessly argue that Pence could have rejected the electoral votes that secured President Biden's victory. Read more at the Washington Examiner.

3-16-22 Ukraine war: Zelensky invokes 9/11 in plea to US Congress
Ukraine's president invoked the horror of the 2001 terror attacks on the US as he pleaded for more military aid in a historic address to the US Congress. Volodymyr Zelensky said via video link that Ukraine was enduring a 9/11 every day as it battled Russian forces. He again urged the US and Nato allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying: "I need to protect the sky." President Biden is later set to sign off an extra $800m (£612m) in military aid to Ukraine. He urged the assembled US politicians to remember coming under attack in the past - at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and on 11 September 2001 - saying Ukrainians were experiencing the same thing every day. "In your great history, you have pages that would allow you to understand the Ukrainian history. Understand us now," he said. He also referenced civil rights leader Martin Luther King's famous speech: "I have a dream, these words are known to each of you - today I can say I have a need. I need to protect the sky," he said. The Ukrainian leader also showed a video of missile strikes on his country's cities and the resulting dead and wounded people. He has repeatedly called on Nato to impose a no-fly zone over his country's airspace, but Nato has refused. A no-fly zone over Ukraine would mean that Nato forces would have to engage directly with any Russian planes spotted in those skies and shoot at them if necessary. As an alternative to a no-fly zone Mr Zelensky pleaded for air-defence systems and aircraft. He has previously asked the US and the EU for Polish MiG-29 fighter jets, but this has been rejected by Mr Biden over fears this would pull Nato members into the war. Addressing President Biden directly in English, President Zelensky said: "I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace." The $800m in funding set to be signed off later will go towards anti-armour and anti-aircraft weapons, such as Stingers and Javelins, US media report. The funding is covered by a spending bill on humanitarian, defensive and economic assistance to Ukraine that was approved by Congress last week. In the past year, the Biden administration has provided $1.2bn in weapons for the country, including Mi-17 helicopters, patrol boats and small arms such as grenade launchers and machine guns, the New York Times reports.

3-16-22 Ukraine war: European leaders risk train ride to meet Zelensky
Ukraine has praised the courage of three European leaders who made a long, hazardous journey by rail from Poland to Kyiv in a show of support as the city came under further Russian attack. The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday evening as a curfew began in Kyiv. Afterwards, the Czech leader told Ukrainians that they were "not alone". They are the first Western leaders to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded. "We admire your brave fight," Petr Fiala wrote in a tweet. "We know that you're also fighting for our lives. You're not alone, our countries stand by your side." "Your visit is a powerful expression of support for Ukraine," Mr Zelensky is quoted as telling the group. On Wednesday, Poland's Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted that Ukraine was reminding Europe what courage was. It was time for "sluggish and decayed" Europe to reawaken and "break through her wall of indifference and give Ukraine hope", he said. The leaders had arrived back in Poland on Wednesday morning, a Polish government spokesperson said. Also on the trip was Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of Poland's ruling party, and he called for the creation of a Nato or international peacekeeping mission that "will also be able to defend itself and operate in Ukraine". However, one of his advisers later clarified that Mr Kaczynski had not been calling for Nato to get involved militarily. "Here the position is unchanged. Neither Poland nor Nato are taking, or will take part, in the war," Michal Dworczyk told Polish Radio. Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote on Twitter that "devastating" sanctions against Russia had been discussed during the meeting in Kyiv, including the "recognition of Russia as a sponsor of terrorism". As the talks took place on Tuesday evening, loud explosions could be heard from fighting on the western edge of the capital city. The European Union said the politicians were not carrying any particular mandate, but that leaders in Brussels were aware of the trip, as it was mentioned during an informal EU summit in Versailles, France, last week.

3-16-22 War in Ukraine: Surrogate babies wait for parents in Kyiv bomb shelter
At least 21 babies born through surrogacy, are stuck in a bomb shelter nursery in Kyiv. They're waiting for their biological parents, who live abroad, to take them home. But the war has made the journey into the capital too risky..

3-16-22 Russia's state TV hit by stream of resignations
When Marina Ovsyannikova burst into Russian living rooms on Monday's nightly news, denouncing the war in Ukraine and propaganda around it, her protest highlighted a quiet but steady steam of resignations from Russia's tightly controlled state-run TV. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked her, appealing to anyone working for what he calls Russia's propaganda system to resign. Any journalist working in what he calls the fourth branch of power risks sanctions and an international tribunal for "justifying war crimes", he warns. Some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's biggest cheerleaders on state-run TV have already faced sanctions, including Vladimir Solovyov who presents a talk show on Russia's biggest channel Rossiya-1, and Margarita Simonyan who has accused anyone ashamed of being Russian at this point as not really being Russian. Russia's state-run channels are required to toe the Kremlin line, so who has quit in response to the war? Hours after Marina Ovsyannikova's on-screen resignation, three other resignations came to light. Channel One colleague Zhanna Agalakova quit her job as Europe correspondent while two journalists have left rival NTV. Lilia Gildeyeva had worked for the channel as a presenter since 2006 and Vadim Glusker had been at NTV for almost 30 years. Rumours abound that journalists have also headed for the door at All-Russia state TV group VGTRK. Journalist Roman Super said people were quitting its Vesti news stable en masse, although that has not been confirmed. However, renowned TV host Sergey Brilev quashed reports that he had resigned, pointing out he has been on a business trip for more than a week. Maria Baronova is the highest-profile resignation at RT, formerly known as Russia Today. Former chief editor at RT, she told the BBC's Steve Rosenberg this month Mr Putin had already destroyed Russia's reputation and that the economy was dead too. A number of other RT journalists have also resigned, including non-Russian journalists working for its language services.

3-16-22 Covid-19 news: Nearly 30 million in China are now living in lockdown
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is surging in China, with more than 5000 new cases a day. China yesterday reported 5280 new SARS-CoV-2 cases, more than double the previous day’s count and its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. The surge has prompted the introduction of full or partial lockdowns in various cities across the country. China has been pursuing a strict ‘zero covid’ strategy, which until recently had largely kept outbreaks under control. The omicron variant, however, is more transmissible than previous variants and is probably driving the current surge. Cities across the country are now in full or partial lockdowns. The north-east province Jilin is the worst affected, accounting for more than 3000 of China’s new reported cases on 15 March. Speaking on 14 March, Jilin’s governor vowed to “achieve community zero-Covid in a week”.China’s rising cases correspond with a global increase in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. A World Health Organization report reveals the number of new reported infections between 7 and 13 March increased by eight per cent compared to the previous week. The number of new weekly cases had been declining since the end of January. Face covering rules in Scotland will remain in place until April. On 15 March, Scotland reported 38,770 new covid cases, up from a daily average of 6,900 three weeks ago. As a result, coverings will continue to be required on public transport and in shops, although other covid restrictions will be lifted on 21 March. The BA.2 omicron sublineage, which is even more transmissible than the initial omicron variant, accounts for 80 per cent of Scotland’s SARS-CoV-2 cases, according to first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who added it is “prudent” to keep mask rules in place. A small study has linked covid-19 with cardiovascular changes among unvaccinated people without any pre-existing medical conditions. Fábio Santos de Lira from São Paulo State University and his colleagues looked at 38 people, aged 20 to 40, less than six months after they were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Even mild or moderate infections were linked to cardiovascular changes that resulted in a raised heart rate, which affected some of the participants’s ability to climb stairs or walk.

3-16-22 Royal Society of Chemistry report says racism 'pervasive'
Of the 575 chemistry professors in the UK, just one is black. In the 15 years Robert Mokaya has been a professor at Nottingham university, he has had all his applications for funding for research projects turned down by Britain's main chemistry funding body, now called the UK Research and Innovation agency. "That is not typical for a professor," he tells me phlegmatically. "I have had research papers published which I would have expected would have enabled me to obtain funding to do follow-up research. "I wonder if this is typical for someone of my sort of surname. "It has been very, very difficult," he says. Funding applications are reviewed and decided by fellow experts in the field whose names are not published, but the name of the applicant is known to the reviewers. Despite the constant rejections of funding applications, Robert has done extremely well for himself. He is a noted materials chemist, specialising in the study of materials for sustainable energy storage and has had numerous publications in scientific journals. He was able to do his research because of funding from charities and learned societies, such as the Royal Society, which funds only the researchers it judges to have a track record of excellence in their work. Robert is currently a pro-vice-chancellor at Nottingham university and a trustee of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The RSC has published an investigation which shows that racism is ''pervasive'' in the field. The report finds that it is "hard to challenge" and marginalisation of minorities has become "normalised" in universities and industry. The investigation also bears out Robert's experience, finding that minority ethnic researchers are less likely to get grant funding, promotions and are paid significantly less. In 2019/20 the average grant for a minority ethnic chemical sciences researcher was £320,000, compared with £355,000 for white colleagues.

3-15-22 Pfizer is reportedly seeking approval for a 4th dose of COVID-19 vaccines for seniors
Pfizer is expected to seek authorization for a fourth dose in its COVID-19 vaccine regimen for seniors, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The additional booster shot would go to Americans 65 and older, in an effort to provide additional protection to age groups that are more vulnerable to serious illness by the coronavirus. Pfizer has not yet submitted its request to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, but CEO Albert Bourla said earlier this week he believes a fourth dose is necessary. "The protection that you are getting from the third [dose], it is good enough, actually quite good for hospitalizations and deaths," he told CBS's Face the Nation. "It's not that good against infections, but doesn't last very long. But we are just submitting those data to the FDA and then we will see what the experts also will say outside Pfizer." Pfizer has rolled out COVID-19 vaccines and boosters with varying regimens for specific age groups. Most recently, it postponed its request for approval for a shot for kids under age 5, saying it wants to compare data between a two-dose and three-dose regimen.

3-15-22 The Senate just voted to abolish Standard Time and make Daylight Saving Time permanent
The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. If it passes through the House, Americans would no longer change their clocks twice a year. The Sunshine Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) but co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, seeks to bring the entire country in line with states like Florida which have already voted to end Standard Time, which runs from November to March. The senators sponsoring the bill explained a number of reasons to support it, including data that shows its negative health effects. Some studies have suggested permanent Daylight Saving Time could lead to fewer car accidents, lower rates of seasonal depression, and higher rates of physical activity, Rubio's press release outlined. It could potentially even boost economic activity and reduce energy usage, and would likely help employees like agricultural workers whose schedules are disrupted by time changes. "Congress created Daylight Saving decades ago as a wartime effort," noted Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), arguing, "now it is well past time to lock the clock and end this experiment." "Americans' lifestyles are very different than they were when Daylight Saving Time began more than a century ago," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) concurred. While not everybody agrees that Daylight Saving Time is preferable, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was certainly excited to have all her colleagues on board with the change. Read more about why many oppose changing the clocks here at The Week.

3-15-22 NATO's not ready for World War III
Forget the tactical nuke gap. The West's readiness gap is a far bigger deal. War is creeping closer to NATO's borders. On Sunday, a Ukrainian base just 11 miles from Poland was struck by Russian rockets. It seems like a warning. If one of those missiles had traveled just a few seconds farther west, NATO — and therefore the United States — and Russia could be on the verge of war. While we can hope that cooler heads would prevail in case of such an accident or "accident," that's by no means guaranteed. So, if the occasion arose, could NATO pull the trigger on a full-scale war against Russia right this moment? The short answer is "no," and it's time for both armchair military strategists and lawmakers calling for escalation to realize it. "We're in a reassurance posture, for our allies. We're showing we're in the game and our commitment is still strong," David Shlapak of the Rand Corporation, told The Week in a recent interview. "We're not in a deterrence posture. We're not in a credible warfighting posture." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a no-fly zone (NFZ) many times, and there are plenty of people in the foreign policy establishment and even Congress who want to give it to him. NATO isn't ready to do that either. To set up a no-fly zone, the United States would have to move hundreds of planes from bases around the world. It would take weeks to set up and couldn't be done under cloak of darkness. The Russians would know NATO was coming, and if you knew NATO was coming, wouldn't you take countermeasures? Wouldn't you see an act of war on the horizon? Even if NATO got around Russia's plans, enforcing the NFZ would mean shooting down Russian planes. It would also mean taking out Russian anti-aircraft defenses so NATO warplanes could fly safely, according to experts who spoke with The Week. Those, of course, are on the ground, many of them inside Russian and Belarusian borders. Taking them out would involve NATO in a ground war, and the West is even less ready for that. There are 74,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Spain, with the largest number (36,000) in Germany. Not all these people are front-line fighters. Many are involved in logistics, maintenance, and other tasks. There is a broader, 40,000-strong NATO response force, too, and some thousands of these troops are in the front-line Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. All told, fewer than 100,000 NATO forces in Europe are even close to being ready to fight. The Russian force brought together for the Ukraine invasion is double that, about 190,000, and total Russian forces number 900,000. Could NATO bring a larger force to bear? You bet. But it would take months, according to Shlapak. For NATO to truly be ready to face down Russia, at least 100,000 more troops would have to be transported to Europe from the United States, Mark Cancian, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Week. Weapons, equipment, and logistics would all have to be scaled up accordingly. Once preparations were made on the U.S. side of the Atlantic, ships would have to make the 3,000-mile trip to bases in Europe like Bremerhaven, Germany, and from there they would have to be deployed wherever they were needed most. All of this would take between two and three months, Cancian and Shlapak agreed. All of it would be visible by satellite and in every other way imaginable. Getting ready for war is loud. When the coalition of the willing went into Iraq in 2003, it took months to build up forces on Iraq's borders. It was obvious — everyone knew the war was coming — but the foe was so inferior, all they could do was dig in and hope the U.S. would lose interest in fighting.

3-15-22 Ukraine: Nick Robinson on how Germany is reversing decades of closer ties with Russia
Just over three decades ago I stood on top of the Berlin Wall which - for almost three decades before - had torn friends and families apart, split a country and set the division of Europe in concrete. I watched and held my breath with thousands of others on that heady night in November 1989, when one brave young man dared to jump off the wall into what had been "no man's land". Days earlier he would have been shot, joining all those who had paid with their lives for daring to try to bridge the gap between East and West. Not on the night the wall fell. He held out a flower to a bewildered-looking East German soldier who, after a pause that seemed to last a lifetime, held out his hand and accepted the gesture of peace. The crowd lining the wall cheered wildly. They - we - dreamt that Europe might now be "free and whole". People might soon be free to choose who governed them - whether they lived in Berlin or Prague, Warsaw or Budapest and perhaps, just perhaps, in Moscow and St Petersburg too. I am back in Berlin - a city facing up to the fact that that dream is now dead thanks to Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine and to bomb its people into submission. Germany's leader, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, spoke of this being a historic turning point. In German they have a word for it (they have a word for everything). It is zeitenwende. The German chancellor has now pledged to spend more - €100bn (£84bn) more - on defence. What that means is that this country will soon become the biggest military power in Europe and the third biggest in the world - behind only China and the United States. Not so very long ago, that prospect would have been greeted with fear abroad and protests at home. As a young man - a member of what he calls "the 1989 generation" - Nils Schmid studied in Ukraine in what was then part of the Soviet Union. These days, he is a German MP and foreign affairs spokesman for the governing Social Democrats. He told me he and his fellow countrymen and women now had to accept that the "iron curtain" which divided Europe had simply moved.

3-15-22 Ukraine war: Kyiv terrain will slow Russian troops, say Ukraine generals
At a briefing in their war room on Monday, the two Ukrainian generals responsible for the defence of Kyiv told the BBC how their forces were fighting hard to keep Russian artillery out of range, and explained why they believe the city has strengths that will make all the difference against the Russians. Kyiv is feeling the sharp touch of the war more acutely, along with Russia's destructive firepower. A nine-storey block of flats was hit by a Russian missile on Monday morning, killing at least one person and wrecking the building, making dozens of Ukrainians homeless. It would have been worse had many residents not taken to shelters. But the centre of Kyiv and many of its sprawling suburbs are still untouched by Russian weaponry. Other Ukrainian cities are being very heavily shelled, and there have been many casualties. Kyiv's remaining citizens - perhaps half have moved to western Ukraine or left the country - are facing the possibility that the same brutal experience lies ahead for them. The generals responsible for Kyiv's defence said they were fighting hard to keep Russian artillery out of range, but accepted that the capital was vulnerable to missiles. However the city's topography and terrain is on their side, Gen Andriy Kryschenko told me. The city is big and sprawling. It is cut up by rivers, not just the mighty Dnieper which divides Kyiv in two, but its tributaries. It is difficult to defend on the one hand, given that it is very large," he told me. "But on the other hand, this is a plus. Rivers, bridges, are on the approaches to the city. Our troops are building defences and fortifications. "Around the city there are many small rivers that flow into the Dnieper and there are many peat bogs, so that means the area is not suitable for large-scale movement of troops."

3-15-22 Ukraine war: Infection and hunger as hundreds hide in Mariupol cellar
Hundreds of people are crammed into the basement of a large public building in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, but are running out of food, with many also in need of urgent medical help. "Some have developed sepsis from shrapnel in the body," said Anastasiya Ponomareva, a 39-year-old teacher who fled the city at the start of the war but was still in contact with friends there. "Things are very serious." The city is encircled by Russian troops and remains under constant bombardment with almost 400,000 people still trapped without running water, and food and medical supplies quickly running out. The local authorities say the war there has left at least 2,400 civilians dead, but even they acknowledge that this is an underestimate. Ms Ponomareva's friends are with other families in the basement of the building. They have all left homes that are no longer safe or no longer standing. "People who managed to hide in underground shelters basically live there permanently," Ms Ponomareva said from the western city of Drohobych, where she was living. "They practically cannot leave at all." Most of their day is spent hiding in the basement. From time to time they go upstairs for some sunlight, but rarely outside. Conditions, she was told, were quickly deteriorating, as some people had a fever and nothing could be done to treat them. "There is no medical help, no antibiotics." Some streets are so dangerous that few go out to pick up the dead. Many are being buried in mass graves. The almost non-stop Russian attacks have turned their old neighbourhoods into wasteland. New drone footage (pictured above) showed the vast extent of the damage, with fire and smoke billowing out of apartment blocks and blackened streets in ruins. "On the left bank, there's no residential building intact, it's all burned to the ground," Ms Ponomareva said. "The city centre is unrecognisable."

3-15-22 Ukraine war: Zelensky urges Russian troops to surrender
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Russian soldiers to surrender. In his nightly TV address, he said Russian forces had suffered worse losses during their invasion of his country than in the Chechnya conflict. He said they had already begun to understand that they would not achieve anything by war. "I know that you want to survive," he said, adding that those who surrendered would be treated "as people, decently". Mr Zelensky also paid tribute to Marina Ovsyannikova, the woman who interrupted Russian state TV news by holding up an anti-war sign. He said he was "grateful to those Russians who do not stop trying to convey the truth" and who fought disinformation. Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are expected to continue on Tuesday, with Mr Zelensky saying "pretty good" progress had been made so far. Later, in a video call to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and representatives from the multinational Joint Expeditionary Force, the Ukrainian leader once again berated Nato over its refusal to implement a no-fly zone. Mr Zelensky said Nato was "the strongest alliance in the world" but "some of the members of this alliance are hypnotised by Russian aggression". He added that Vladimir Putin's invasion had undermined European security infrastructure and that fears of World War Three were allowing Russia to bombard peaceful cities. In another diplomatic move, the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers are on their way by train to Kyiv to meet Mr Zelensky. The Polish government said in a statement that the visit was intended "to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to present a broad package of support for the Ukrainian state and society". However, authorities in the beleaguered capital have announced a 35-hour curfew to begin at 20:00 local time on Tuesday. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said it would last until 07:00 on Thursday, adding that it came at "a difficult and dangerous moment".

3-15-22 Russia reportedly has 40,000 Syrian fighters lined up to go to Ukraine
More than 40,000 Syrians have signed up to fight for Russia in Ukraine, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are allies, with Putin supporting Assad throughout the Syrian civil war with military assistance. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the fighters are enlisting in Damascus and Aleppo, and have been told they will receive "a salary and benefits." About 400 are being trained right now in Russia near the border with Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say Putin has turned to Syria for help because Russia is experiencing heavy losses in Ukraine. On Monday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that since the invasion began on Feb. 24, Russia has suffered more casualties in Ukraine than during both Chechen wars. Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Zelensky's chief of staff, told Ukrainian media that Russia is on track to run out of resources by early May. "We are at a fork in the road now," Arestovich said. "There will either be a peace deal struck very quickly, within a week or two, with troop withdrawal and everything, or there will be an attempt to scrape together some, say, Syrians for a round two and, when we grind them too, an agreement by mid-April or late April." He added that it would be "completely crazy" for Russia to send new troops to Ukraine after just a month of training.

3-15-22 U.S. warns noncommittal China against aiding Russia during 'intense' and 'candid' Rome meeting
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with his Chinese counterpart in Rome for seven hours on Sunday, in a meeting U.S. officials described as "intense" and "candid." The meeting was planned weeks ago as a follow-up to last November's virtual summit between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominated the statements from Chinese and U.S. officials after Monday's meeting. Sullivan "directly and very clearly" told China's Yang Jiechi that the U.S. has deep concerns about China's "support to Russia in the wake of the invasion, and the implications that any such support would have for" China's relationship with the U.S. and its "allies and partners in Europe and the Indo-Pacific," State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday. Biden administration officials did not reveal any specific warnings Sullivan issued to Yang. The U.S. said Sunday that China has conveyed willingness to help Russia economically and militarily after Moscow asked for drones, pre-packaged food kits for troops, and other assistance in its Ukraine war, CNN reports. Russia and China have denied this, and Chinese government spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that the reported Russian aid requests were more "false information" the U.S. is spreading "against China on the Ukraine issue, with sinister intentions." Chinese officials said after the Sullivan meeting that Yang had "pointed out that the situation today in Ukraine has reached a stage that the Chinese side does not want to see," that "all parties should exercise maximum restraint, protect civilians, and prevent a large-scale humanitarian crisis," and that "China has always advocated respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries." China still did not criticize Russia for its invasion. Xi is said to be unhappy about Russia's bloody invasion and China's failure to predict it, "but a consensus is forming in Chinese policy circles that one country stands to emerge victorious from the turmoil: China," The New York Times reports. "After a confused initial response to Russia's invasion, China has laid the building blocks of a strategy to shield itself from the worst economic and diplomatic consequences it could face, and to benefit from geopolitical shifts once the smoke clears." Not everyone is convinced Xi can strike that balance.

3-15-22 Polish, Czech, and Slovenian prime ministers announce Kyiv visit as Russian shelling ramps up
The government of Poland announced Tuesday that its prime minister and his counterparts from the Czech Republic and Slovenia are heading to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine and its leaders amid Russia's invasion. "The aim of the visit is to express the European Union's unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence," Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala tweeted. Fiala, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal on Tuesday as representatives of the European Union. Along with supporting "the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," Poland said, "the aim of this visit is also to present a broad package of support for Ukraine and Ukrainians." Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia are also part of NATO. It isn't clear who the countries plan to ensure the safety of their leaders, but Russia hit Kyiv with a series of large artillery strikes Tuesday morning, hitting a 15-story apartment building, damaging the entrance to a subway station being used as a bomb shelter, and destroying other civilian targets.

3-15-22 The woman who protested the war in Ukraine on Russian state TV is missing
Where is Marina Ovsyannikova, the woman who protested against the war in Ukraine on Russian state TV? Her lawyers aren't sure. Ovsyannikova, an editor at the Russian state-run Channel One, in a viral video on Monday held a sign on the air that read, "Stop the war. Don't believe in propaganda. They're lying to you." By Tuesday morning, Dmitry Zakhvatov, a lawyer for Ovsyannikova, told CNN he's been trying to locate her since the protest but doesn't know where she is. Another lawyer, Anastasia Kostanova, told BBC News she "spent the whole night looking" for Ovsyannikova but hasn't been able to reach her. "This means that they are hiding her from her lawyers and trying to deprive her of legal assistance and, apparently, they are trying to prepare the most stringent prosecution," Kostanova told BBC News, while attorney Pavel Chikov tweeted she "has not yet been found" and "has been imprisoned for more than 12 hours." Ovsyannikova was reportedly detained after the protest. In addition to holding up the sign on the air, Ovsyannikova also recorded a video message, in which she said she's "ashamed" to be spreading Kremlin propaganda and that "what is happening in Ukraine is a crime." According to The Washington Post, Russia's state-run news agency Tass reported that the Russian Investigative Committee began a "pre-investigation check" against Ovsyannikova, which could lead to charges for "discrediting" Russia's armed forces. A spokesperson for the Kremlin decried Ovsyannikova's protest as "hooliganism" and said "the channel and those who are in charge are dealing with it." During an address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ovsyannikova and others who "don't stop trying to deliver the truth, who are fighting against disinformation and tell real facts to their friends and families."

3-15-22 Ukraine war: UK moves to cut links with Russian science projects
Russia risks being scientifically isolated as countries cut their ties with state research institutes, an expert has warned. "That damage will take a long time for Russia to repair," says Prof Robin Grimes, a nuclear physicist who is foreign secretary at the Royal Society. Researchers will be unable to participate in high-end cross border experiments. And he says they may leave Russia to pursue their research elsewhere. The government is expected to release formal guidance this week for UK universities working with scientists in Russia. Some universities have already announced they are cutting ties with Russian institutions. Imperial College said it had ended the partnership it had with "a majority state-owned Russian entity", and was reviewing current connections with Russia. The University of Warwick is reviewing all links to Russian State institutions "with a view to terminating contracts where possible". Meanwhile, the UK's main government funding agency for research at UK universities, UK Research and Innovation, is reviewing research projects with Russian partners and has reportedly suspended grant payments to some projects involving scientists in Russia. Prof Grimes said relationships with individual scientists were likely to continue, in certain circumstances, along with data sharing for humanitarian purposes, such as Covid and meteorology. UK, Russian and Ukrainian scientists have worked closely for decades in areas such as healthcare, high energy physics and space exploration. Space exploration has already been hard hit, with some partnerships unravelling. And Ukrainian researchers are pressuring academic journals to boycott Russian scientists.

3-15-22 Suspect arrested in string of shootings targeting homeless
Police have arrested a man following a string of five shootings - all targeting homeless people as they slept. A masked gunman struck five times in nine days in both New York and Washington DC. Two of the men died. One's tent was set on fire, after he was stabbed and shot. On Tuesday, only two days after a multi-state manhunt was launched, DC police said a suspect had been arrested for homicide. DC's Metropolitan Police Department had posted new photos of the suspect, offering a reward up to $55,000 (£$42,000) for tips that led to his arrest and conviction. Hours later, they announced there had been an arrest. According to detectives, the "modus operandi" had been the same in each case. One man was shot on 3 March and another on 8 March - both in the middle of the night. They were injured but survived. Just a day later, emergency services responded to a tent fire in the city where they found a man inside who had been fatally shot and stabbed. In New York, a masked suspect first shot a man sleeping on a street in Manhattan's Soho neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning. Around an hour later, according to police, that same person shot and killed another man also sleeping in Soho. "We now have a cold-blooded killer on the loose," DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and New York City Mayor Eric Adams had said in a joint statement.

3-15-22 Hijab ban: Karnataka high court upholds government order on headscarves
A high court in India's Karnataka state has ruled that the hijab is not "essential" to Islam in a landmark case that could have implications across the country. The court also upheld a state government order that had banned headscarves in classrooms. The verdict follows a months-long, divisive row over the hijab. A Karnataka college's decision in January to bar entry to Muslim girls wearing the hijab had sparked protests. The issue soon snowballed, forcing the state to shut schools and colleges for several days. The matter reached the high court after some Muslim women protesters filed petitions arguing that India's constitution guaranteed them the right to wear headscarves. The three-judge bench held that allowing Muslim women to wear the hijab in classrooms would hinder their emancipation and go against the constitutional spirit of "positive secularism". the hijab is not an obligatory religious practice. "There is sufficient intrinsic material within the scripture itself to support the view that wearing hijab has been only recommendatory, if at all it is. What is not religiously made obligatory therefore cannot be made a quintessential aspect of the religion through public agitations or by the passionate arguments in court,'' the order says. The petitioners had argued that a February order by the government prescribing uniforms in educational institutions violated their constitutional rights. The court, however, said the order was valid, holding that the government had the right to prescribe uniforms for students. The judgment is likely to be appealed against in the Supreme Court. "This is a pre-eminently fit case to go before the Supreme Court," Prof Ravi Varma Kumar, a senior advocate who appeared for one of the petitioners, told BBC Hindi. Aliya Assadi, one of the petitioners, told reporters that she felt let down by the verdict. "We had so much hope in our judicial system and our constitutional values. We feel we have been betrayed by our own country," she said. Another petitioner, Almas AH, added that they will take the fight to the top court. "I am not going to go to college without my hijab. And I will fight for it because the hijab is an essential part of my religion," she said.

3-14-22 Ginni Thomas acknowledges attending 'Stop the Steal' rally, but denies organizing it
Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has for the first time publicly admitted that she attended the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that took place before the Capitol riot. Thomas acknowledged participating in the rally in an interview with the conservative Washington Free Beacon that was published Monday, saying she briefly attended the event at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., but left before former President Donald Trump spoke because she was cold. Trump and other speakers that day falsely claimed that there was widespread voter fraud and he was cheated out of a victory. "I was disappointed and frustrated that there was violence that happened following a peaceful gathering of Trump supporters on the Ellipse on Jan. 6," Thomas told the Free Beacon. "There are important and legitimate substantive questions about achieving goals like electoral integrity, racial equality, and political accountability that a democratic system like ours needs to be able to discuss and debate rationally in the political square. I fear we are losing that ability." She also denied reports that she was involved in organizing the rally. Thomas' activism has overlapped several times with cases decided by her husband, The Washington Post notes; in December, she signed a letter that called the work of the bipartisan House select committee investigating the Capitol riot "overtly partisan political persecution," and the next month, Justice Thomas was the only member of the Supreme Court to say he would grant Trump's request to shield White House documents from the committee. Ginni Thomas downplayed the intersection of their work, telling the Free Beacon, "Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principals, and aspirations for America. But we have our own separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions, too. Clarence doesn't discuss his work with me, and I don't involve him in my work." Supreme Court justices decide whether to recuse themselves, and Gabe Roth, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy group Fix the Court, told the Post that Justice Thomas should have sat out the House committee case because of Ginni Thomas' "participation in that rally, which then led to the breach of the Capitol, which then lead to the Jan. 6 committee ... that means that you, as a justice, your impartiality still might reasonably be questioned." Read more at The Washington Post.

3-14-22 Ukraine war: 'Sky turned red' as missiles hit Lviv military base
Witnesses to a deadly Russian attack on a Ukrainian military base have told how "the sky turned red" as missiles struck the site near the Polish border. At least 35 people died in the strike on the Yavoriv training base, near a major crossing point into Poland used by refugees from the conflict. Russia fired around 30 cruise missiles at the base, outside the city of Lviv, early Sunday, the local governor said. Hours after the attack, ambulances were still rushing to the scene. Roads leading to the facility were blocked with checkpoints and authorities were conducting search-and-rescue operations. Russian jets fired around 30 cruise missiles at the site, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, authorities in Lviv said. Most, though, were intercepted by the air defence system. Video of the aftermath of the attack posted online and verified by the BBC showed a huge crater at the site and thick smoke billowing from a massive fire at a small building nearby. Dukhnych Vitalii, a 19-year-old student who lives in a nearby apartment complex, said "the night sky turned red" as the attack happened. "We can't hear the air raid sirens in this area. We woke up when we heard the sound of the first explosion. We went to the bunker," he said. "It looked scary." His 25-year-old cousin was training at the facility, Mr Vitalii said, and his family were still trying to contact him. Another resident, Nadin Berezovska, said she could see the fire from her parents' flat, where she had been living after fleeing the country's capital, Kyiv. "It was very scary. We're in shock," Ms Berezovska, a 39-year-old photographer, said. "Now we realise that it doesn't matter where you live," she said. "We aren't safe. How can Poland be safe?" The base has previously been used for military training of Ukrainian troops, often with instructors from the US and other Nato countries. It was not immediately clear whether foreign instructors were at the centre when it was hit.

3-14-22 Mass graves in Ukraine: Battered cities are digging makeshift burial sites
The Russian bombardment of some places in Ukraine is so intense that towns and cities are being forced to unceremoniously bury dozens of civilian victims in mass graves. Nowhere is this grim reality of war more apparent than in Mariupol, a key port city devastated by constant shelling, where several burial sites have been hastily dug in the past two weeks. "We can't bury [the victims] in private graves, as those are outside the city and the perimeter is controlled by Russian troops," Mariupol's deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC by phone. Locations include a retired city cemetery that has now been re-opened, Mr Orlov said. On Sunday, the city council said the civilian death toll had risen above 2,100. The heavy Russian shelling has prevented any mass evacuation from Mariupol, despite efforts to open a safe exit route. Mr Orlov could not give a total for dead civilians buried in mass graves, but said 67 bodies were at one site. "Some we can't identify but some had documents." Thousands of residents are hiding in cellars and in some cases, he said, people are burying family members privately in courtyards or gardens. The battered city's street cleaners and road repair teams were collecting bodies in the streets, he said, as municipal services had collapsed. "Some people were killed during those collections. We've had no electricity, or heating, sanitation, water, food for 11 days," he said. Four-hundred miles to the north west, on the edge of the capital Kyiv, a mass grave was dug near a church in the town of Bucha, local MP Mykhailyna Skoryk-Shkarivska said. It contains more than 60 bodies. Video of the burial was posted on Facebook by a doctor working in nearby Irpin, Andriy Levkivsky. Doctors buried the victims, who had been brought to Irpin hospital.Ms Skoryk-Shkarivska told the BBC that a "ritual service" was conducted at the hospital before burial. Not all had been identified and "nobody knows exactly where the relatives are," she said. "Now we're discussing with volunteers how to create a digital system to identify people and trace missing relatives," she said.

3-14-22 220,000 Ukrainians have returned home in the last 2 weeks
In the last two weeks, 220,000 Ukrainians have made the trek home, the country's border guard said — many were traveling when the Russian invasion began, others needed to tie up loose ends at their foreign jobs, some are returning to fight, and a few say it's even harder to be a refugee than it is to be back in Ukraine. On their journey last week from the Ukrainian town of Mykolaiv to Poznan, Poland, Zhanna Sinitsyna, her 30-year-old daughter Nadiia, and 12-year-old granddaughter Kira witnessed explosions and heard gunfire. Once in Poznan, the plan was to find work and send money to Mykolaiv, where Zhanna's husband and 19-year-old son are part of efforts to defend the city. They were unable to find an affordable place to stay in Poznan near areas with employment opportunities and quickly discovered they didn't have enough money to purchase necessities. After just two days, Zhanna convinced Nadiia and Kira to return to Mykolaiv on Saturday, despite their concerns. "In my soul, Mykolaiv is my home," Zhanna told The Washington Post. "And I need to be home." Oleksii Zvieriev is from the Kyiv suburb Brovary, and works as a truck driver, delivering goods across Europe. On the day Russia invaded, he decided that as soon as the job was over, he would go back to Ukraine and start fighting. Standing at a train station in Przemysl, Poland, on Saturday night, he told the Post he was keeping his word and heading home. "It's hard to talk about the emotions of going back into a war," Zvieriev said. "I have friends sitting in basements telling me they're hearing explosions all the time. I can't stop worrying." Two of his friends — one 40 years old, the other 25 — were killed shortly after picking up arms against Russia. Read more at The Washington Post.

3-14-22 Covid-19 news: UK data reveals 56 per cent rise in recorded cases
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 400,000 people in the UK tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Government statistics show 399,820 people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the UK between 5 and 11 March, an increase of 143,956 (56.3 per cent) on the previous seven days. Between 1 and 7 March, hospitalisations increased by 16.9 per cent from the previous week. Deaths within 28 days of a positive test are rising more slowly, with a week-on-week increase of 2.8 per cent as of 11 March. Easing restrictions, waning immunity and the more transmissible omicron sublineage BA.2 are thought to be driving the surge in cases. Amid the rise in infections, ministers have been criticised for scrapping England’s React study at the end of March. React randomly tests about 150,000 people across the country for SARS-CoV-2 each month to gauge nationwide infection levels. Talking to The Guardian, one scientist called the move “about as far from ‘following the science’ as you can get”, while another accused ministers of “turning off the headlights at the first sight of dawn”. Ministers are also being urged to consider offering older people a fourth vaccine dose. In England, people with a suppressed immune system, living in a care home or aged 75 or older are set to be offered an additional jab in April. Some scientists are calling for the age requirement to be set lower. However, a small Israeli study of healthcare workers found a fourth dose increased some antibody levels, but this did not translate into boosted immunity. China’s covid-19 cases have doubled in 24 hours amid its worst outbreak in two years. Nearly 3400 new cases were reported on 13 March, double the previous day. This has prompted schools to shut in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, and regional lockdowns to be introduced in several north-eastern hotspots. The surge in cases is thought to be driven by omicron and a rise in asymptomatic infections. Many countries have scaled back their coronavirus restrictions, but Iceland is going further with a plan to let infections spread.

3-14-22 Ukraine crisis: US warns China against helping Russia
China will face consequences if it helps Russia evade sanctions in its invasion of Ukraine, the US says. Unnamed US officials reportedly told multiple news outlets that Russia had asked China to provide military assistance after it began the invasion. The Chinese foreign ministry accused the US of spreading disinformation. Russia denied asking Beijing for military help. The exchanges came before top US and Chinese officials met in Rome. US media outlets, citing Washington officials, say that Russia has in recent days asked China specifically for military equipment, including drones. In a CNN interview, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said they were "communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them". "We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world," he said. He added that while the US believed China was aware that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was "planning something" before the invasion happened, Beijing "may not have understood the full extent of it". "Because it's very possible that [Mr] Putin lied to them the same way that he lied to Europeans and others," Mr Sullivan said. In response, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, said the US had "been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions". Asked if he could clarify whether China had received a request for military help from Russia, Mr Zhao said this was "fake news" but did not deny it directly. He added that China's stance had always been consistent and that China was playing a constructive role in promoting talks. President Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said reports Russia had asked China for military assistance were not true.

3-13-22 U.S. officials: Russia has asked China for military equipment
Russia has requested military equipment from China since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, U.S. officials told The Washington Post and CNN on Sunday. During an appearance Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told host Dana Bash that the U.S. is "watching closely to see the extent to which China actually does provide any form of support, material support, or economic support, to Russia. It is a concern of ours. And we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions." Sullivan is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on Monday in Rome. One senior U.S. official told CNN Russia has asked China for drones. In response, Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the United States, told CNN, "I've never heard of that. China is deeply concerned and grieved on the Ukraine situation. We sincerely hope that the situation will ease and peace will return at an early date." China, he added, has "provided Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, and will continue to do so."

3-13-22 Zelensky: Ukrainian negotiators tasked with setting up Putin meeting
When Ukrainian negotiators meet with their Russian counterparts on Monday, they will insist that the leaders of their countries meet for direct talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. Ukraine has long been calling for talks between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Putin is the one making the final decisions about the invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reports. Previously, Russia said a meeting between the leaders to discuss "specific" issues could happen. "Our delegation has a clear task: To do everything to ensure a meeting of the presidents," Zelensky said during a video address. "The meeting that I am sure people are waiting for. Obviously this is a difficult story. A hard path. But this path is needed. And our goal is for Ukraine to get the necessary result in this struggle, in this negotiation work. Necessary for peace. And for security." The negotiators will meet virtually on Monday. They have already gone through three rounds of talks in Belarus, focusing mostly on humanitarian issues.

3-13-22 China locks down millions of people as COVID cases spike
China reported 3,400 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, up from just under 2,000 on Saturday, marking the worst outbreak since the virus first became widespread in early 2020, according to The Guardian and The Associated Press. The majority of the new cases were reported in China's northeastern Jilin province. AP and The Guardian report that authorities responded by closing schools in Shanghai and suspending bus service to the city, locking down hundreds of neighborhoods in Jilin City (which has a population of 1.5 million and reported 500 new COVID cases on Sunday), and imposing full lockdowns on several other northeastern cities. Millions of people have been confined to their homes as China continues its strict zero-COVID policy. In December and January, the 13 million inhabitants of Xi'an were forbidden to leave their homes except in emergency situations after public health authorities recorded 52 new cases in the city in one day. The lockdown lasted for a full month. Chinese state media reported that the mayor of Jilin City and a top public health official in nearby Changchun were both dismissed

3-13-22 Trump denounces GOP incumbents at South Carolina rally
Former President Donald Trump disparaged South Carolina GOP Reps. Nancy Mace and Tom Rice and endorsed their primary challengers at a rally in Florence, South Carolina, on Saturday night, the Independent reported. Both Mace and Rice have criticized Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Rice voted to impeach Trump for inciting the riot. Mace, once a strong supporter for Trump, did not, though she did say Trump had "wiped out" his "entire legacy" on Jan. 6, according to the Independent. Trump endorsed Katie Arrington — a former one-term state representative who referred to Trump as "Big Daddy" in her speech Saturday — to replace Mace. Against Rice, he championed state representative Russell Fry, who referred to anti-Trump Republicans like Rice as "grandstanding losers." According to Politico, Nikki Haley, a possible 2024 presidential candidate who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, has endorsed Mace. She did not attend the rally. Trump also addressed the ongoing war in Ukraine. "I stand as the only president of the 21st century that Russia did not invade any other country," Trump said, according to The New York Post. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, during the George W. Bush administration, and seized Crimea while Barack Obama was president. "The fake news said my personality is going to get us into a war … but actually my personality is what kept us out of war," Trump said, per the Post. Rolling Stone reported that Trump repeated his baseless claim that he was the true winner of the 2020 election, said he "may have to run again" in 2024, and called for "reforms making every executive branch employee fireable by the president of the United States." "The deep state must and will be brought to heel," Trump said.

3-13-22 Ukraine war: Kyiv prepares for Russian attack
When the Russian offensive started, as sirens sounded in Kyiv for the first time, some people here feared that the city might fall by the afternoon. Reports were coming in of a long convoy of armour and heavy weapons pushing down from the north-west. Military analysts had a high opinion of the Russian army. It had, they said, been professionalised, with invaluable experience of perfecting weapons and seasoning men in the war in Syria. The tactical errors I had seen the Russians commit when they tried to crush a rebellion in the republic of Chechnya in 1995 were, I was told, ancient history. The consensus about the Ukrainian armed forces on the first day of the war was that they were much stronger than they had been in 2014, when they could not stop Russia seizing Crimea and establishing two breakaway enclaves in eastern Ukraine. But Russia had the numbers and the firepower. The Ukrainians, it was said, would rediscover the truth of an aphorism attributed to Stalin: "quantity has a quality of its own." The first two weeks of the war proved that those predictions were wrong. The Russians blundered; the Ukrainians resisted. Around Kyiv the Russian advance stalled. In the south, it was a different story. They worked steadily towards opening a land corridor between Crimea and Moscow's enclaves in eastern Ukraine. But it has been clear from the outset that control of Kyiv is crucial to winning arguments in politics as well as on the battlefield. While President Volodymyr Zelensky's government holds the city, he can claim not to be defeated, and President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin cannot claim victory. The last couple of days have been bright and sunny, after more than a week of thick cloud. That means satellites have a clear view of movements on the ground. One conclusion is that the 40-mile Russian convoy north-west of Kyiv is slowly dispersing and reorganising. The latest word from the US Department of Defense is that the rear elements are catching up, but the vehicles closest to Kyiv are not moving.

3-13-22 Ukraine war: Evacuations 'extremely difficult' amid shelling
Fresh attempts to evacuate civilians from cities under siege in Ukraine are being complicated by constant Russian shelling, Ukrainian officials say. Humanitarian corridors are being set up from Mariupol, Sumy and towns and villages outside the capital Kyiv. But Ukraine officials accused Russian forces of firing on a convoy of women and children from Peremoha village, near Kyiv, killing seven. And the evacuations come as fighting continues around Kyiv and other cities. "A column of civilians, exclusively women and children, was fired on by the occupiers," a statement by Ukraine's military intelligence service said. "The result of this barbaric act was seven killed, one of whom was a child." The BBC's Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Irpin, one of the towns outside the capital being evacuated, earlier reported that it was not possible to say that the humanitarian ceasefire was holding because of explosions and artillery fire, including from the Ukrainian side, could still be heard. Regional officials also said that fighting in the area was continuing and that there was a constant threat of air attacks. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk later said that about 13,000 Ukrainians had been evacuated through humanitarian corridors on Saturday but that no one had managed to leave Mariupol. The situation in Mariupol is particularly desperate after two weeks of bombardment, the UN has said, with little access to food, water and power. "Medicines for life-threatening illnesses are quickly running out, hospitals are only partially functioning, and the food and water are in short supply," the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC a convoy had left Zaporizhzhya for the city carrying aid and that it included buses for the evacuations. Previously, he said, convoys were "not let through, they were bombed, the road was mined, there was shelling in the town". Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that about 1,300 of his country's troops had died since the start of the Russian invasion. Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, arguing that it felt threatened by a neighbour intent on joining Western-led organisations such as the Nato military alliance.

3-13-22 War in Ukraine: Russian forces accused of abducting second mayor
Ukraine's government has accused the Russian military of abducting another mayor in an area that it has captured. Yevhen Matveyev was seized in the southern town of Dniprorudne, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, accusing Russia of "terror" tactics. Earlier, Russia installed a new mayor in Melitopol, after allegedly abducting the city's previous incumbent. Ukraine's president also accused Russia of trying to create "pseudo-republics" to break his country apart. In her first public appearance, Melitopol's newly installed mayor Galina Danilchenko urged residents not to take part in "extremist actions" and declared her main task was construction of "basic mechanisms under the new reality". Hundreds of people took part in a protest outside the city hall on Saturday to demand the release of previous incumbent Ivan Fedorov, who had refused to co-operate with Russian troops since they took the city on the third day of the invasion. Mr Fedorov was last seen on Friday evening being dragged away from the city's crisis centre by several armed men with a bag over his head. Ukrainian officials shared a video of the incident and said the armed men were Russian soldiers. "We are not co-operating with the Russians in any way," Mr Fedorov had told the BBC earlier in the week. "They have not tried to help us, they cannot help us, and we do not want their help." Russian authorities have not commented on his disappearance, but the prosecutor's office of the Russian-backed breakaway eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk has reportedly accused him of "terrorist activities". Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded Mr Fedorov's immediate release and asked the leaders of Israel, Germany and France to put pressure on Russia to free him. In his latest video address on Saturday night, Mr Zelensky said Russia was to create "pseudo-republics" in Ukraine.

3-13-22 Ukraine: 'Not all Russians support this war'
Tens of thousands of Russians have left the country since the invasion of Ukraine. They're mostly young and liberal - they're shocked by the war and economic sanctions, and are concerned by the latest crackdown on dissent led by President Putin. An estimated 25,000 of them have moved to Georgia. Yevgeny is one of them.

3-12-22 Full-scale assault on Kyiv could be imminent, Ukrainian military says
Ukrainian military officials expressed concerns Saturday that Russia could be preparing to encircle Kyiv and launch a full-scale attack on the city, BBC reports. According to BBC Kyiv correspondent James Waterhouse, "[t]he concern from army chiefs here is that [Russian forces] are preparing to mount a much fuller-scale attack on the city — and will try to encircle it as well, like we are seeing in other locations across Ukraine," though he added that it is "not clear whether Russian forces yet have the capacity to do that." Ukrainian President Volodymyr predicted Saturday that Russian forces "will take Kyiv" if they launch a full-scale attack, but he said that if they want to seize Kyiv, the Russians will have to destroy it. BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner suggested that Russian forces might be preparing to do just that. "Perhaps the best indication of how Russia is going to fight the final battles for the city is if you look at how they fought in Grozny, in Chechnya, and in Aleppo, in Syria — street-to-street fighting, but absolutely decimating the cities in the process," he wrote. So far, Russian forces have only probed the capital's defenses. Satellite photos taken late Thursday morning showed the 40-mile Russian convoy of vehicles, tanks, and artillery outside of Kyiv had split up and been redeployed, suggesting that a full-scale assault could be imminent. The convoy had been stalled for several days. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speculated that the delay was caused by logistical issues and "resistance from the Ukrainians," while others blamed cheap Chinese tires. The Pentagon said Thursday that the column has moved recently, with some vehicles now only nine miles from Kyiv's center.

3-12-22 Zelensky says 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, The Kyiv Independent reported. This is the first time Ukraine's government has released an estimate of Ukrainian military casualties since the first day of the war, when Zelensky's office said at least 30 members of the country's armed forces had died. The Ukrainian military's general staff claimed last weekend that over 11,000 Russian troops had been killed, an estimate that has since been increased to around 12,000, BBC reported. Russia has not publicly updated its own casualty figures since March 2, when Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said around 500 Russian troops had been killed. He estimated Ukrainian military deaths at more than 2,800. The U.S. government's figures suggest both sides are painting too rosy a picture for themselves. One official said Wednesday that the Ukraine's armed forces have suffered between 2,000 and 4,000 deaths. The same official estimated Russian losses at 5,000 to 6,000 killed in action, a number larger than the total number of American troops killed during the entire eight-year-long Iraq War, Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich noted.

3-12-22 Convoys carrying weapons into Ukraine are 'legitimate targets,' Russian official says
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov appeared on Russian state television Saturday to warn that his country's military forces could conduct strikes against convoys carrying foreign weapons into Ukraine, CNN reports. "We warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but these are actions that turn the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets," Ryabkov said. According to The New York Times, NATO stopped flying weapons into Ukraine when the Russian invasion began. Instead, the weapons are flown into Poland or Romania and shipped by land to Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Marc Finaud of the Geneva Center for Security Policy told Deutsche Welle last month that attacks on these convoys "could increase the tensions and the escalation." Russian aircraft launched their first strikes against targets in western Ukraine on Friday, with explosions reported in the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk. This expansion of the air war suggests that ground routes from the Polish and Romanian borders may no longer be safe.

3-12-22 Russian stock exchange won't reopen on Monday
Russia's central bank announced Saturday that the Moscow Exchange will not reopen on Monday, though commodity and foreign currency trading will resume, CNN reports. The Moscow Exchange closed on Friday, Feb. 25, the day after Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and has remained closed ever since. The following Monday, Reuters reported, Russia's central bank banned foreign individuals and entities from selling Russian securities. President Biden on Friday told a group of House Democrats in Philadelphia he expects that "the moment [the Russian stock exchange] opens, it will be disbanded. Hear me? It will blow up," The New York Post reported. According to Reuters, the Russian ruble "has lost a third of its value" since the invasion began. On Tuesday, Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports. On Friday, he called for an end to Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, which will allow the U.S. to impose additional tariffs on Russian goods. The revocation must be approved by Congress, but it is likely to pass. Biden also announced bans on Russian alcohol, seafood, and diamonds.

3-12-22 Bill Maher slams both parties for playing partisan politics with the war in Ukraine
Real Time host Bill Maher wrapped up his show Friday night by slamming both parties for using Russia's invasion of Ukraine to score partisan points, Fox News reports. "New rule: don't make World War III all about you," Maher said. The only conclusion anyone seems to be drawing from the war in Ukraine, he continued, is that "everything proves what we already believed, and everything goes back to the thing we already hate." Maher pointed out headlines that showed Republicans blaming President Biden for the war and Democrats blaming former President Donald Trump. He also quoted Biden's comparison of the invasion to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Trump's insistence that the crisis was caused by the "rigged" 2020 U.S. presidential election. On March 2, Biden suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been emboldened to invade Ukraine after watching the events of Jan. 6. "Putin was counting on being able to split up the United States. Look, how would you feel if you saw crowds storm and break down the doors of the British Parliament and kill five cops?" Biden said. Trump made the comments to which Maher alluded on Feb. 24 as the Russian invasion of Ukraine was beginning. Putin, Trump told Fox News host Laura Ingraham, "was going to be satisfied with a piece [of Ukraine], and now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration." Trump added that "it all happened because of a rigged election," repeating his baseless claim that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. "Kanye thinks less about Pete Davidson than Trump thinks about the rigged election," Maher quipped. He also asked why, "if Putin thought Trump was really that supportive of him … didn't he invade when Trump was in office?"

3-12-22 Virginia school system 'discriminated against' Asian Americans, federal judge says
U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton, who ruled last month that new admissions policies at a prestigious northern Virginia magnet school constituted illegal "racial balancing," denied a request to delay the implementation of his ruling on Friday, NPR reported. Fairfax County Public Schools argued that they cannot adjust their admissions policies with selection for next year's class already underway, but Hilton said they have had more than enough time to devise a back-up plan. He warned of "irreparable harm to the students who have been found to have been discriminated against" if the admissions policy remains in place for a second year. In an attempt to increase racial diversity at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the school board threw out the school's standardized admission test in 2020. A parents' group represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation sued, arguing that the new system discriminated against Asian American applicants. According to The Washington Post and NPR, the new policies included scrapping the standardized test and the $100 application fee, "set[ting] aside slots at each of the county's middle schools," and accounting for "experience factors" such as socioeconomic status. The changes did successfully increase the school's diversity. Asian American students made up 73 percent of the class of 2024 but only 54 percent of the class of 2025, the first admitted without the standardized test. Black and Hispanic representation jumped from one percent to seven percent and from three percent to 11 percent, respectively. According to census data, Fairfax County is 20.1 percent Asian, 10.6 percent Black, and 16.5 percent Hispanic or Latino. The U.S. Supreme Court said in January it will hear challenges to university affirmative action policies brought by a conservative advocacy group that claims these policies discriminate against Asian American applicants.

3-12-22 Ukraine war: Kyiv prepares for Russian attack
When the Russian offensive started, as sirens sounded in Kyiv for the first time, some people here feared that the city might fall by the afternoon. Reports were coming in of a long convoy of armour and heavy weapons pushing down from the north-west. Military analysts had a high opinion of the Russian army. It had, they said, been professionalised, with invaluable experience of perfecting weapons and seasoning men in the war in Syria. The tactical errors I had seen the Russians commit when they tried to crush a rebellion in the republic of Chechnya in 1995 were, I was told, ancient history. The consensus about the Ukrainian armed forces on the first day of the war was that they were much stronger than they had been in 2014, when they could not stop Russia seizing Crimea and establishing two breakaway enclaves in eastern Ukraine. But Russia had the numbers and the firepower. The Ukrainians, it was said, would rediscover the truth of an aphorism attributed to Stalin: "quantity has a quality of its own." The first two weeks of the war proved that those predictions were wrong. The Russians blundered; the Ukrainians resisted. Around Kyiv the Russian advance stalled. In the south, it was a different story. They worked steadily towards opening a land corridor between Crimea and Moscow's enclaves in eastern Ukraine. But it has been clear from the outset that control of Kyiv is crucial to winning arguments in politics as well as on the battlefield. While President Volodymyr Zelensky's government holds the city, he can claim not to be defeated, and President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin cannot claim victory. The last couple of days have been bright and sunny, after more than a week of thick cloud. That means satellites have a clear view of movements on the ground. One conclusion is that the 40-mile Russian convoy north-west of Kyiv is slowly dispersing and reorganising. The latest word from the US Department of Defense is that the rear elements are catching up, but the vehicles closest to Kyiv are not moving.

3-12-22 Ukraine war: Evacuations 'extremely difficult' amid shelling
Fresh attempts to evacuate civilians from cities under siege in Ukraine are being complicated by constant Russian shelling, Ukrainian officials say. Humanitarian corridors are being set up from Mariupol, Sumy and towns and villages outside the capital Kyiv. The situation in Mariupol is particularly desperate after two weeks of bombardment, the UN says, with little access to food, water and power. The evacuations come as fighting continues around Kyiv. The BBC's Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Irpin, one of the towns outside the capital being evacuated, says it is not possible to say that the humanitarian ceasefire is holding because explosions and artillery fire, including from the Ukrainian side, can still be heard. Regional officials also said that fighting in the area was continuing and that there was a constant threat of air attacks. Mariupol Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC a convoy had left Zaporizhzhya for the city carrying aid and including buses for the evacuations, but it was not clear whether it would get through. "This is the seventh attempt. On the previous six it didn't work. The convoys were not let through, they were bombed, the road was mined, there was shelling in the town," he said. Earlier, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hoped the day would go well and that "Russia will fulfil its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire". The UN has said those who remain trapped in Mariupol had become desperate, with basic supplies running out in the city. "Medicines for life-threatening illnesses are quickly running out, hospitals are only partially functioning, and the food and water are in short supply," the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday. Speaking to journalists on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that about 1,300 of his country's troops had died since the start of the Russian invasion. Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, arguing that it felt threatened by a neighbour intent on joining Western-led organisations such as the Nato military alliance.

3-12-22 Battle for Mykolaiv: 'We are winning this fight, but not this war'
The boom of artillery, muffled by heavy snowfall, echoes across the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, triggering a series of air raid sirens. In the faded grandeur of a long-abandoned club for navy officers, 29-year-old Anastasia Aleksieieva is gathering food supplies, medicines and even home-made steel plates, carved out of local cars, for use as body armour. Mykolaiv is now firmly in the sights of the Russian army - troops invaded from the nearby Crimea peninsula and have had more success in taking territory in this region than Russian forces elsewhere in Ukraine. As the Russians work their way west towards the city people are starting to flee and the hospitals are filling with the injured. But Anastasia has decided to stay, sending her one-year-old daughter and her mother away to safety. "I'm a mum of my baby. But I have to help because I know how to do it," the former army captain explains to the BBC. The attack on a hospital in the besieged south-eastern city of Mariupol on Tuesday made her decide she had no other choice. "That was the hardest moment for me," she says. Ukrainian forces in the city have, for more than a week now, successfully thwarted a major Russian advance west towards the larger port of Odesa. In the city centre, Mykolaiv's governor Vitaliy Kim is standing in fatigues, explaining how Ukrainian soldiers, helped by new reinforcements, had pushed Russian troops back between 15 and 20km (nine to 12 miles) towards the east, and had even surrounded some Russian units which were now in negotiations for their surrender. Some of those troops were reportedly preparing to bring the captured and damaged Russian tanks into the city to show to residents. But Mr Kim warns this is not a time to celebrate prematurely. "We are winning this fight, but not this war," he says. The governor said a relatively weak Russian force had underestimated local resistance and expected to "be greeted with flowers", but Russian reinforcements and planes could quickly turn the tide and enable the Kremlin to capture the whole Black Sea coastline. "We need a closed sky," he said, referring to the idea of a no-fly zone enforced by Nato. The Western alliance has so far rejected such an idea, as it could bring them into direct conflict with Russian planes that entered the area.

3-12-22 Zelensky says 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, The Kyiv Independent reported. This is the first time Ukraine's government has released an estimate of Ukrainian military casualties since the first day of the war, when Zelensky's office said at least 30 members of the country's armed forces had died. The Ukrainian military's general staff claimed last weekend that over 11,000 Russian troops had been killed, an estimate that has since been increased to around 12,000, BBC reported. Russia has not publicly updated its own casualty figures since March 2, when Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said around 500 Russian troops had been killed. He estimated Ukrainian military deaths at more than 2,800. The U.S. government's figures suggest both sides are painting too rosy a picture for themselves. One official said Wednesday that the Ukraine's armed forces have suffered between 2,000 and 4,000 deaths. The same official estimated Russian losses at 5,000 to 6,000 killed in action, a number larger than the total number of American troops killed during the entire eight-year-long Iraq War, Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich noted.

3-12-22 Republican senators pressure Biden to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine
Pressure is mounting on US President Joe Biden to bolster Ukraine's defences after his administration quashed Poland's offer to send fighter jets with US help. More than 40 Republican senators have written an open letter in which they say they "strongly disagree" with Biden's stance. They have now called on him to immediately "facilitate the transfer of aircraft and air defence systems". The White House says it's "high risk". Poland surprised the US administration this week when it offered to deploy MiG-29 jets to a US military facility in Germany "immediately and free of charge", ready for transferring them to Ukraine. The offer was rejected as "not tenable" by US officials, but the Republican senators disagree. Their letter reads: "We cannot allow Putin to gain an advantage because of a failure to provide the Ukrainians with needed weaponry, ammunition, communications equipment and medical supplies. "Supporting Ukraine's fight for freedom against the tyrannical, lawless Russian invasion of Ukraine's sovereign territory is among the most urgent missions the West has faced in a generation." The letter is led by Iowa senator Joni Ernst and Utah's Mitt Romney - and includes signatures from most of their Republican Senate colleagues, including minority leader Mitch McConnell. "We implore you to direct your Department of Defense to facilitate the transfer of aircraft, air defence systems, and other capabilities by and through our Nato partners immediately," it says. The Pentagon has so far ruled out sending its Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine, but has instead directed two of the units to Poland. The US is wary of sending military aid directly into Ukraine as Russia could interpret that as a more direct involvement in the war that could escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine. Nations have preferred to respond to Russia's invasion with sweeping sanctions.

3-12-22 US to ban Russian diamond and vodka imports
US President Joe Biden has announced a ban on imports of Russian diamonds, seafood and vodka in the latest response to Russia's war in Ukraine. The US, European Union and other allies also plan to revoke Russia’s status as an equal trade partner, paving the way for further economic punishment. The moves add to sanctions that have isolated Russia economically since the invasion. Its currency has collapsed, while global firms rush to exit the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin has likened Western sanctions on banks and oligarchs to a declaration of war. Moscow has also threatened to nationalise production plants or factories where work has been suspended. Western allies announced further economic retaliation on Friday. The European Union said it would ban imports of key Russian iron and steel products and bar new energy investments in the country, while the UK put sanctions on hundreds of Russian politicians. The US, EU and UK also said they would cut off shipments of luxury goods to Russia. Mr Biden said the latest steps will be "another crushing blow to the Russian economy". Under international rules, designating a country a "most favoured nation" provides reciprocal trade privileges such as lower tariffs, taxes imposed at the border. Stripping Russia of that status clears the way for higher tariffs on key products it sells such as mineral fuels, fertilisers and metals. Mr Biden said he was coordinating the plans with the European Union and other advanced economies, including Canada and Japan, each of which will take similar steps. In the US, Congress, which must act for the move to go into effect, has already declared itself in favour of the move. In addition, Western allies said they planned to cut Russia off from accessing finance from international organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

3-11-22 A lack of pandemic funding means 'playing with an infectious disease fire,' experts warn
Congress this week failed to approve additional funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a defeat experts fear could have "potentially devastating consequences" in the future, Stat News reports Friday. Though a $1.5 trillion package to fund the government (and also send aid to Ukraine) was passed, a measure to provide $15 billion in continued COVID-19 response funding was "abruptly dropped," Stat writes. Prominent experts worry this "political posturing could leave the United States stuck yet again in a cycle of under-preparedness" in the event another variant — or worse, another pandemic — arises. "It would be going out and purchasing fire trucks the moment the 911 calls come in to the station," said epidemiologist and former White House COVID adviser Michael Osterholm. "To not fully fund these programs, you are playing with an infectious disease fire, and it will burn you. In the process, unfortunately, people will unnecessarily have to die." Without the proper funding, the administration's plan to fight the pandemic proactively effectively falls apart, Stat notes. For example, testing capacity could possibly decline by 50 percent without added investment, an administration official told Stat. Not to mention more vaccines will need to be purchased once available for children under 5. Even a program that pays health care providers for the testing and treatment of the uninsured will soon run out of money, per Stat. Despite case rates declining, some experts are shocked at the complacency lawmakers have shown. "These legislators are lulled in some type of trance, thinking the pandemic is over," said Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. "Haven't we learned anything in two years? I'm dismayed and disquieted about this, and I'm hoping that there is going to be some remedy."

3-11-22 U.S. to lift Russia's 'most favored nation' trade status, ban Russian alcohol, seafood
President Biden on Friday called for an end to Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, and said the European Union and G7 nations will be doing the same, CNBC reports. Revoking the "most favored nation" status would "downgrade Russia as a trading partner and open the door to damaging new tariffs on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine," CNBC explains. "We're going to continue to stand together with our allies in Europe and send [an] unmistakable message," Biden said, per Axios. "We'll defend every single inch of NATO territory of the full might of the united and galvanized NATO." Ultimately, the decision will require approval from Congress, though the president is unlikely to encounter resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had also asked Congress over the weekend to move to revoke Russia's trade status, per CNBC. The U.S. will also ban imports of alcohol, seafood, and diamonds from Russia, Biden said, per CNN and The Associated Press. The status downgrade arrives in the wake of a slew of global sanctions against Russia, as well as Biden's decision earlier in the week to ban the import of Russian oil. Congress also on Thursday night passed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. In response to a question from a reporter, Biden later ended his brief presser by warning Russia would pay a "severe price" if it conducted a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine.

3-11-22 A lack of pandemic funding means 'playing with an infectious disease fire,' experts warn
Congress this week failed to approve additional funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a defeat experts fear could have "potentially devastating consequences" in the future, Stat News reports Friday. Though a $1.5 trillion package to fund the government (and also send aid to Ukraine) was passed, a measure to provide $15 billion in continued COVID-19 response funding was "abruptly dropped," Stat writes. Prominent experts worry this "political posturing could leave the United States stuck yet again in a cycle of under-preparedness" in the event another variant — or worse, another pandemic — arises. "It would be going out and purchasing fire trucks the moment the 911 calls come in to the station," said epidemiologist and former White House COVID adviser Michael Osterholm. "To not fully fund these programs, you are playing with an infectious disease fire, and it will burn you. In the process, unfortunately, people will unnecessarily have to die." Without the proper funding, the administration's plan to fight the pandemic proactively effectively falls apart, Stat notes. For example, testing capacity could possibly decline by 50 percent without added investment, an administration official told Stat. Not to mention more vaccines will need to be purchased once available for children under 5. Even a program that pays health care providers for the testing and treatment of the uninsured will soon run out of money, per Stat. Despite case rates declining, some experts are shocked at the complacency lawmakers have shown. "These legislators are lulled in some type of trance, thinking the pandemic is over," said Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. "Haven't we learned anything in two years? I'm dismayed and disquieted about this, and I'm hoping that there is going to be some remedy."

3-11-22 What the 'Don't Say Gay' bill debate tells us about democracy
Not since the partial-birth abortion bans of the 1990s has the name of a bill been at least as hotly debated as its contents. This time, the social liberals have won: Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act has been successfully rebranded by its opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, over the objections of supporters to it being so characterized not only by activists but also by much of the media. The legislation seeks to restrict the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity with public school children, especially from kindergarten to the third grade, and enhance the ability of parents to object to the local sex education curriculum. It comes at the same time as a similar debate over parental rights and the teaching of critical race theory in government schools. Critics of both these pushes regard this as akin to the John Scopes trial over illegally teaching evolution. Indeed, many of the bills now under consideration will prove overly broad. There will be excesses where innocuous books or classroom instruction become the subject of controversy or even prohibited (though these disputes would not be occurring were there not also excesses in the opposite direction). More than an argument over human sexuality or critical race theory, though, the debate is fundamentally about on what side does a community err and who gets to decide. The parents who raise the children, the taxpayers who support the schools, and the voters who elect the school boards — or the education professionals? There is no shortage of dedicated and compassionate teachers, nor inadequate parents. But the professionals have not always covered themselves in glory over the past two years and parents often know their children best. A presumption in favor of parents discussing sex with their own young children is not an unreasonable one. Democratic accountability for those who decide how public school students will be taught is also a good thing, even if there will sometimes be bad outcomes. That's democracy. Extremist conservative school boards can be voted out as easily as "woke" ones, and not all parents weighing in on their children's instruction will lean right. Much of the argument that parents should generally defer to the professionals is reminiscent of an old story by former Sen. Phil Gramm, who'd once asserted that "my educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do." Challenged by an interlocutor who insisted that wasn't true, Gramm replied, "OK. What are their names?"

3-11-22 Ukraine says 20,000 foreigners have volunteered to fight Russia. Russia's now welcoming 'volunteers,' too.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday approved a proposal from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to recruit "volunteers" to fight in Russia's "Ukrainian liberation movement." Putin, in a televised Security Council meeting, told Shoigu that "if you see that there are people who want to come voluntarily, especially free of charge, and help people living in the Donbas, you need to meet them halfway and help them move to the war zone." Shoigu told him Russia had already received more than 16,000 applications, most of them from the Middle East — and largely, according to multiple reports, from Syria. "Needing to recruit Syrians only two weeks after you launched an invasion is a surefire sign that your war is running so smoothly," deadpanned Washington Post foreign relations columnist Daniel Drezner. At the same time, Putin dismissed the 20,000 "mercenaries" from 52 countries that Ukraine says have volunteered to fight Russian invaders in Ukraine, claiming that the "Western sponsors of Ukraine" are sending over the fighters, "dismissing all norms of international law." The foreigners arriving to fight with Ukraine against Russia are pretty clear they are signing up of their own volition. Ukraine has encouraged foreign volunteers to sign up for its international legion, but foreign countries have responded differently. The U.S. has discouraged its citizens from fighting for Ukraine, while Britain has warned its would-be legionnaires they could be violating anti-terrorism laws, Reuters reports. Other countries, "such as Canada or Germany, have cleared the way for their citizens to get involved." There are enough pro-Ukraine legionnaires from Belarus, Russia's partner in the invasion, that they have their own squadron, The Associated Press reports. Reuters interviewed about 20 foreign volunteers who had arrived for staging in Lviv, and they offered differing motivations for signing up, from fighting for democracy to seeking the camaraderie of other war veterans and putting their battle skills to what they view as a righteous cause. Michael Ferkol, a U.S. Army vet who was studying archaeology in Rome when he decided to heed Zelensky's call, told Reuters he wanted to volunteer as a medic, but "there was a Finnish guy there too, and he was like, 'I just want to kill Russians.'"

3-11-22 Ukraine war: Putin seeks foreign volunteers to fight in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for foreign volunteers to be able to fight against Ukrainian forces. Speaking at a Russian security council meeting, he said those who wanted to volunteer to fight with Russia-backed forces should be allowed to. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there were 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East ready to fight alongside Russia-backed forces. US officials said these could include Syrians skilled in urban combat. Moscow is a long-standing ally of Syria and Mr Putin has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war. "If you see that there are these people who want of their own accord, not for money, to come to help the people living in Donbas, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone," Mr Putin told his defence minister. Mr Shoigu also proposed handing over captured Western anti-tank missile systems to Russian-backed rebel fighters in the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region. "Please do this," Mr Putin said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, responding in a video message, said "thugs from Syria" would be coming to kill people "in a foreign land". Foreign fighters, including former and current British army personnel, have also been arriving in Ukraine to fight for the government in Kyiv. Mr Zelensky said recently that 16,000 foreigners had volunteered for the cause, part of what he called an "international legion". Charles Lister, an analyst with the US-based Middle East Institute, questioned how useful any Syrian forces would be to Mr Putin. "If [President] Assad's regime begins sending troops to Ukraine, they'll be no more than cannon fodder in a battle and environment that's completely alien to them," he wrote on Twitter. There was no evidence of any actual recruitment of Syrians having taken place, he added.

3-11-22 How 'Saint Javelin' raised over $1m for Ukraine
A Canadian marketer who had planned to raise a humble few hundred dollars for a charity helping relief efforts in Ukraine has found himself the creator of a viral marketing campaign that has so far earned well over C$1m ($783,000; £600,000) using the unlikeliest of images - a rocket-armed saint. Christian Borys helped develop the image - known as "Saint Javelin" - which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling a US-made FGM-148 anti-tank weapon. These missiles are among the arms being sent by Western allies to Ukrainian forces to aid in their fight. The marketer and ex-journalist said the response to the campaign, which sells the image on everything from tote bags to sweatshirts, flags and stickers, has been "overwhelming", with thousands of orders coming in each day. He now plans for the "Saint Javelin" campaign to become a full-time effort and hopes to hire permanent staff so it can continue to support reconstruction efforts for decades after the current conflict ends. The Toronto-based Mr Borys, 35, is no stranger to Ukraine and its people, and is of Ukrainian heritage. From 2014 to 2018, he freelanced for a variety of media outlets - including the BBC - from the country, where he says he was particularly moved by the plight of widows and orphans from the conflict in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014 when separatists, backed by Moscow, seized parts of the region. A few years later, he was watching another conflict brewing. "When I knew [the Russian invasion] was going to happen, I wanted to not sit idly by," Mr Borys said, speaking from his father's house in Poland near the Ukrainian border, where he is helping coordinate relief shipments for a local non-governmental organisation. He does not take credit for the original concept behind Saint Javelin, which predates the current conflict. Mr Borys was inspired by the work of US artist Chris Shaw, who in 2012 painted a Madonna holding a gold-plated AK-47 - which was later, in online memes, replaced with a rocket launcher - when he commissioned a colleague to draw the image and began printing stickers.

3-11-22 What sanctions are being imposed on Russia over Ukraine invasion?
Measures designed to damage the Russian economy following its invasion of Ukraine have been introduced by the US, UK and EU, among others. In response, Russia has banned the export of some products. Sanctions are penalties imposed by one country on another, to stop it acting aggressively or breaking international law. They are among the toughest actions nations can take, short of going to war. The US is banning all Russian oil and gas imports and the UK will phase out Russian oil by the end of 2022. US President Joe Biden said it targets "the main artery of Russia's economy". The EU, which gets a quarter of its oil and 40% of its gas from Russia, says it will switch to alternative supplies and make Europe independent from Russian energy "well before 2030". Germany has put on hold permission for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to open. Western countries have frozen the assets of Russia's central bank, to stop it using its $630bn (£470bn) of dollar reserves. Other measures against it include: Suspension from the Bank for International Settlements - "the central bank for central banks" - to stop it using its services, The US, EU and UK have banned people and businesses from dealings with it. Some Russian banks are being removed from the international financial messaging system Swift, which is used to transfer money across borders. This will delay payments Russia being paid for energy exports. Other UK sanctions include: Major Russian banks excluded from the UK financial system, All Russian banks will have their assets frozen, The Russian state and major companies will not be able to raise finance or borrow money in the UK, A limit will be placed on deposits Russians can make at UK banks. The EU also said it would target 70% of the Russian banking market and key state-owned firms.

3-11-22 Which companies are pulling out of Russia?
Thirty years ago when communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, Western firms stepped up their presence in Russia. The arrival of big Western companies symbolised the start of a new era with Russians becoming eager consumers of brands ranging from fast-food chain McDonalds to Levi jeans and luxury goods. Now, in the wake of President Putin's invasion of Ukraine, a growing number of firms have suspended activities in Russia. So which firms, in which sectors, are exiting and why have others held back? McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Heineken are the latest companies to announce they are halting business in Russia after mounting pressure to act. McDonald's said it was temporarily closing its roughly 850 restaurants in Russia, while Starbucks also said its 100 coffee shops would shut. The firms initially remained tight lipped over the conflict, but took action because shareholders "wouldn't stand" for the continued generation of profits from Russia, says Anna MacDonald, a fund manager at Amati Global Investors. "It was affecting their share prices and the feeling was that it was just utterly inappropriate to continue to do so," she told the BBC. Pepsi, which has a much larger presence in Russia than rival Coca-Cola, said it was halting the production and sale of Pepsi and other global brands in Russia, but the company, which employs 20,000 people there, said it would continue to offer other products. Food companies Nestle, Mondelez, Procter & Gamble and Unilever have halted investment in Russia, but said they would continue providing essentials. The world's biggest cosmetics firm L'Oreal and rival Estee Lauder are both closing shops and ceasing online sales. Estee Lauder, whose brands include Michael Kors, DKNY, Clinique and Bobbi Brown, has had a presence in the country for about 30 years and Russia was where it had some of its strongest sales. In fact, Russia was the fifth largest European retail market globally last year, valued at £337.2bn. So some brands may not want to burn their bridges, if there's a chance of returning at a later date.

3-11-22 Russian missiles hit western Ukrainian cities Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk
With Russian ground forces continuing "to make limited progress," according to Friday morning's assessment from Britain's Ministry of Defense, Russia is increasing its air assault on Ukrainian cities. And Friday morning it expanded its targets to include the central-eastern city of Dnipro and Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk, both in western Ukraine. Russia said it struck military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk in "high-precision, long-range attacks," and local officials said missiles did strike the airfields or at least near them, killing several people. "Three missiles hit our military airfield. There is one dead," Lutsk Mayor Ihor Polishchuk said on Facebook. He said the city's missile alert system "did not work at all," and "the military will work on this issue." The alert system also failed to go off in Ivano-Frankivsk. Regional administrator Yuriy Pohulyayko said the strikes on Lutsk killed two soldiers and injured six more. Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk are far from Russia's main offensives in Ukraine, and the presumptive goal was to hit Ukraine's MiG-29 fighter jets or runways being used to resupply Ukraine with weapons. Russia hit three new cities on Friday, tweeted Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun. "That's what I tell journalists who ask if I'm in a safe city. There's no safe city here."

3-11-22 For the 1st time since start of invasion, airstrikes target Dnipro in central Ukraine
Three Russian airstrikes were reported early Friday in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, killing at least one person, Ukraine's state emergency service said. This is the first attack on a civilian target in the city since the start of the Russian invasion, ITV's Dan Rivers reports, with the strikes hitting near a kindergarten and apartment building. Ukrainian officials on Sunday said Russian forces were preparing to encircle Dnipro, an industrial hub on the Dnieper River.

3-11-22 Covid deaths probably three times higher than records say
More than 18 million people - three times higher than official records suggest - have probably died because of Covid, say researchers. Their report comes two years to the day from when the World Health Organization first declared the pandemic. The Covid-19 excess mortality team at the US's Washington University studied 191 countries and territories for what they call the true global death figure. Some deaths were from the virus, while others were linked to the infection. This is because catching Covid might worsen other pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, for example. The measure used is called excess deaths - how many more people have been dying than would be expected compared to recent years, before the pandemic hit. To calculate this, the researchers gathered data through searches of various government websites, the World Mortality Database, the Human Mortality Database, and the European Statistical Office. Rates of excess deaths are estimated to have varied dramatically by country and region, but the overall global rate calculated in the study is 120 deaths per 100,000 people. That would mean about 18.2 million deaths have happened because of Covid in the two years between the start of 2020 and the end of 2021 - three times as many as the official 5.9 million that have actually been recorded. Excess death estimates were calculated for the full study period only, and not by week or month, because of lags and inconsistencies in reporting of Covid death data that could drastically alter the estimates, the investigators stress. According to the research, which is published in The Lancet, the highest rates were in lower income countries in Latin America, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. But deaths were also fairly high in some high-income countries, such as Italy and parts of the US. For the UK, the estimated total number of Covid-related deaths in 2020 and 2021 was similar to official records at about 173,000, with an excess mortality rate of 130 people per 100,000. Lead author Dr Haidong Wang, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said: "Understanding the true death toll from the pandemic is vital for effective public health decision-making.

3-10-22 TSA will extend mask mandate on planes and public transportation to April 18
The TSA's mask requirement for public transportation won't be ending for at least another month. The Transportation Security Administration will extend the current mask mandate for planes and public transportation until April 18, CNN and NBC News report. The mandate was set to expire on March 18. The TSA most recently extended the mask mandate, which applies to planes, trains, buses, and transportation hubs, in August 2021. It was implemented in January 2021 following an executive order signed by President Biden. The CDC confirmed the news, saying it recommended the mandate be extended until April 18. "During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor," the CDC said. "This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science. We will communicate any updates publicly if and/or when they change." The decision to extend the mandate again comes as states lift their indoor mask mandates and after the CDC announced that about 70 percent of Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors. The agency cited declining COVID-19 cases and the prevalence of vaccines in that decision, issuing new guidelines breaking down each U.S. county into areas of low, medium, or high risk. Wearing masks in indoor public spaces was only recommended in the "high" areas, which applied to about 28 percent of Americans.

3-10-22 Senate passes $1.5 trillion government funding bill, sending it to Biden
The Senate on Thursday night passed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill, averting a shutdown that would have started Friday night. The bill, which funds the government through the end of September, passed with a vote of 68-31. It was approved by the House on Wednesday night, and is now on its way to President Biden's desk for his signature. The package includes $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, which will be used for the deployment of U.S. troops and equipment to Europe and to help refugees. "The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and fighting for the survival of their young democracy," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said before the vote. "Congress has a moral obligation to stand behind them as they resist the evils of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and his campaign of carnage."

3-10-22 World Health Organization has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, personnel in Ukraine
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the World Health Organization has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, health workers, and ambulances in the country, the agency said on Wednesday. The strikes have left 10 people dead and 16 injured. "These attacks deprive whole communities of health care," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing. Ukrainian officials on Wednesday said Russian forces targeted a maternity and children's hospital in the port city of Mariupol, and the heavy shelling severely damaged the building and left 17 people injured. To help Ukraine, WHO is sending medical supplies to hospitals treating trauma victims, Tedros said, and providing health care for refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. "Some of the main health challenges we see are hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory diseases, lack of treatment for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and mental health issues," Tedros said. The solution to the crisis "is peace," Tedros declared. "WHO continues to call on the Russian Federation to commit to a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and to allow safe, unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for those in need."

3-10-22 More Russian troops were killed in Ukraine in 2 weeks than U.S. troops in entire Iraq War, U.S. estimates
Russian forces continue to make inroads in southern Ukraine, but few military experts seem to think the war is going very well for Russia. The invading army has suffered "very, very significant casualties," a U.S. official told CBS News on Wednesday, putting the U.S. estimate at between 5,000 and 6,000 Russian troops killed in action. That's comparable to losses in World War II battles, the U.S. official said. It's also, as Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich notes, "more than the number of Americans killed during the Iraq War." The U.S. estimate is about halfway between the 500 Russian casualties Moscow claims and the 12,000 Russian deaths claimed by Ukraine. The U.S. intelligence estimate also puts Ukraine's casualties at 2,000 to 4,000 killed troops plus hundreds or thousands of slain civilians. Ukrainian forces continue to destroy a stalled 40-mile-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv, and the "unexpected effectiveness" of Ukraine's air defenses has curtailed Russian air activity, Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Thursday, in its latest public intelligence assessment. And as Russian casualties mount, including among conscripted troops, Russian President Vladimir Putin "will be forced to draw from across the Russian Armed Forces and other sources to replace his losses." Putin planned his "disastrous" Ukraine war "in high secrecy in order to avoid leaks," and his risk-reward analysis was skewed by a lack contingency planning from his tiny circle of generals, misplaced optimism in Russia's sanctions-proofing, and the surprisingly "deplorable state of Russian expertise on Ukraine," Russia expert Alexander Gabuev at the Carnegie Moscow Center tweeted Wednesday. The result is "a tragedy for Ukraine, and a catastrophe for Russia." "Putin truly believed people would greet (Russians) with flowers. Instead, they were met with Molotov cocktails," Ukrainian diplomat Volodomyr Shalkivskyi said at Australia's National Press Club on Thursday. "Russian soldiers going into Ukraine did not have extra ammo or food in their packs. They did however have a parade uniform for a Russian victory parade through Kyiv," he added. "You cannot win a war against a free people determined to fight for their freedom. There is no way we will give up."

3-10-22 Ukraine war: No progress on ceasefire after Kyiv-Moscow talks
A first round of talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine has failed to yield progress on a ceasefire, Ukraine says. Speaking after the meeting in Turkey, Dmytro Kuleba said that the demands his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had made amounted to a surrender. Mr Lavrov meanwhile said his country's military operation was going to plan. The talks come after Russia bombed a children's hospital, which Ukraine said was a "war crime". Officials say three people including a child died in the attack in the south-eastern city of Mariupol. Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago and more than 2.3 million people have since fled the country. The worst humanitarian situation was in Mariupol, Mr Kuleba said, where residents have been trapped for days in freezing temperatures without electricity or water. But Russia had not committed to establishing a humanitarian corridor there and had also not responded to proposals for a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire across Ukraine, he said. "I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender," he said, adding that he was willing to continue meeting. For his part, the Russian foreign minister offered no concessions and repeated demands that Ukraine be disarmed and accept neutral status. Moscow was waiting for a reply from Kyiv, he said. Mr Lavrov also accused the West of fuelling the conflict by supplying weapons to Ukraine. Russia would cope with Western sanctions and "come out of the crisis with a better psychology and conscience", he said. "I assure you we will cope and will do everything not to rely on the West ever, in any areas of our lives," he said. UN Secretary General António Guterres described the attack as "horrific" and the US accused Russia of a "barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians". But at his press conference Mr Lavrov dismissed allegation of a war crime in Mariupol, alleging that the maternity hospital had been occupied by Ukrainian forces.

3-10-22 Russia could launch chemical attack in Ukraine - White House
Russia could be planning a chemical or biological weapon attack in Ukraine - and "we should all be on the lookout", the White House has said. Press secretary Jen Psaki said Russia's claims about US biological weapon labs, and chemical weapon development in Ukraine, were preposterous. She called the false claims an "obvious ploy" to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked attacks. It comes after Western officials shared similar concerns about fresh attacks. They said they were "very concerned" about the risk the war could escalate, and particularly the possibility of Russia using non-conventional weapons. This most likely refers to chemical weapons although the term also covers tactical (small-scale) nuclear weapons, biological weapons and dirty bombs. "We've got good reason to be concerned," said one Western official. They said this was partly because of what had been seen in other places where Russia has been engaged - notably Syria where chemical weapons were used by its allies. Ms Psaki said: "We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them - it's a clear pattern." Earlier on Wednesday, the UK Ministry of Defence said in a tweet that Russia had used thermobaric rockets in Ukraine. These rockets are also known as vacuum bombs because they suck in oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion. This makes them more devastating than conventional explosives of a similar size, and can have a terrible impact on people caught in their blast radius. In a subsequent update, the ministry said it was likely "experienced mercenaries" from Russian private military companies associated with the Kremlin were deploying to fight in Ukraine. The update added Russian mercenaries have been accused of committing human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East, including in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic.

3-10-22 Goldman Sachs now 1st major Wall Street bank to exit Russia
Goldman Sachs is shutting down operations in Russia approximately two weeks after the start of a Moscow-led invasion of Ukraine, the company announced Thursday, per NPR. The departure marks Wall Street's first big exit from Russia, and arrives after a number of other large companies and retailers decided to similarly. "Goldman Sachs is winding down its business in Russia in compliance with regulatory and licensing requirements," a company spokesperson told NPR in a statement. "We are focused on supporting our clients across the globe in managing or closing out pre-existing obligations in the market and ensuring the wellbeing of our people." Goldman "was estimated to have $940 million in total exposure" in Russia, "including $650 million in credit, or less than 10 basis points of its total assets, according to Bank of America analysts," CNBC reports. Though the bank is halting operations in Russia, "the firm is still trading corporate debt tied to the country without the bank itself making wagers on price movements," adds Bloomberg, who first broke the withdrawal news.

3-10-22 U.K. freezes assets of 7 Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska
Britain on Thursday announced new sanctions on "seven of Russia's wealthiest and most influential oligarchs," freezing their U.K. assets and banning them from the country, as part of Britain's "efforts to isolate [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and those around him" in response to Russia's war on Ukraine. Those sanctioned include Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea soccer team, and two close Putin allies: Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with ties to Paul Manafort. "There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin's vicious assault on Ukraine," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. "We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals, and illegal occupation of sovereign allies." The new sanctions "show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society," British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added. "With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression. The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands." Britain said the seven Russians have a collective net worth of nearly $20 million. Abramovich alone is worth more than $12 billion, the British government said, citing Forbes. The other sanctioned oligarchs are VTB bank chairman Andrey Kostin, Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, pipeline company Transneft president Nikolai Tokarev, and Bank Rossiya chairman Dmitri Lebedev. The personal sanctions on oligarchs closely associated with Putin and his government "are incredibly important," Pavel Khodorkovskiy, the son of a Russian oligarch-turned-dissident, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. "Why? Because they are stemming the flow of capital back to Russia that, at this point, can and will be used to finance the slaughter of Ukrainian people." But "in terms of oligarchs' personal influence over Putin, I think that's a misconception," he added. "There is none. Putin views them as wallets, as a means to an end." Abramovich said last week he decided to sell Chelsea FC, one of the top teams in England's Premier League, but these sanctions put that plan on hold. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the British government will issue a "special license" allowing Chelsea to continue operating and playing soccer "while, crucially, depriving Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club." Separately, wealthy Russians are trying to shift some of their wealth from Switzerland and London to Dubai to shield their assets from Western sanctions, Reuters reported Thursday.

3-10-22 Russia hits back at Western sanctions with export bans
Russia has hit back at western sanctions for invading Ukraine by imposing export bans on a string of products until the end of 2022. The ban covers exports of telecoms, medical, vehicle, agricultural, and electrical equipment, as well as some forestry products such as timber. The economy ministry said further measures could include restricting foreign ships from Russian ports. It said: "These measures are a logical response to those imposed on Russia." The ministry added that the bans on countries that have "committed unfriendly actions" were "aimed at ensuring uninterrupted functioning of key sectors of the economy". Governments in the west have imposed a string of sanctions on Russia, notably on buying oil, and against billionaire oligarchs seen as close to President Vladimir Putin. About 48 countries will be affected , including EU and the US. Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the ban would include exports of goods made by foreign companies operating in Russia. Items include cars, railway carriages, and containers. It comes as Russia's former president Dmitry Medvedev warned that assets owned by western companies that have pulled out of Russia could be nationalised. Firms have been leaving en masse or halting investment, including industrial and mining giants such as Caterpillar and Rio Tinto, Starbucks, Sony, Unilever and Goldman Sachs. On Wednesday, Moscow approved legislation that took the first step towards nationalising assets of foreign firms that leave the country. And in a statement on Thursday Mr Medvedev said: "The Russian government is already working on measures, which include bankruptcy and nationalisation of the property of foreign organisations. "Foreign companies should understand that returning to our market will be difficult." He accused foreign investors of creating "panic" for ordinary Russians who could now lose their livelihoods. According to the most recent figures, Russia is the UK's 19th largest trading partner, with trade between the two nations totalling £15.9bn.

3-10-22 The Capitol riot trial that tore a family apart
When Guy Reffitt became the first person to stand trial for storming the US Capitol, he had to face not only a judge and jury, but his own son on the witness stand. Those who know Reffitt say he is a big talker. So much so that his defence lawyer used it as his main argument for dismissing the case against Reffitt, who stood trial for bringing a handgun to the US Capitol during the 6 January riot. But it was the volume of evidence of this bragging - detailed in texts, videos and audio - that convinced jurors of his guilt in a unanimous verdict on Tuesday after less than four hours of deliberations. The guilty verdict, delivered quickly and on all counts, is a huge victory for the government and is expected to affect the upcoming trials and defence strategy of other defendants indicted by the justice department. But Reffitt's trial has also shown how fissures dividing Americans have cracked wide open. It revealed how the deep political divide in the US has affected ordinary Americans and their families, often in a way that is emotionally wrenching and deeply personal. The divide has reached beyond the dinner table to pit family members against one another - in this case father against son - with far-reaching consequences. For it was Reffitt's son's testimony against his father - whose political views he had long opposed - that formed a crucial part of the prosecution's case. Weeks before Guy Reffitt drove from his hometown of Wylie, Texas, to Washington DC to storm the US Capitol, his son Jackson, 18 at the time, had already tipped-off the FBI. It was a string of messages from his father on Christmas Eve to the family text chain that alarmed Jackson. In them, the older Reffitt announced his intention to go to the nation's capital "to rise up the way the Constitution was written". During his testimony, Jackson said that he reported his father to the FBI because he was worried about his plans.

3-10-22 Covid-19 news: Drug-resistant mutation linked to a covid treatment
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The monoclonal antibody sotrovimab has been linked to a drug-resistant mutation in SARS-CoV-2. A study in Australia suggests that sotrovimab, a treatment for covid, may cause the coronavirus to acquire mutations that enable it to resist the drug. Sotrovimab neutralises SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells. Given through a drip, sotrovimab can be administered to people within five days of their infection to prevent symptoms from becoming severe. Rebecca Rockett from the University of Sydney and her colleagues reviewed the first 100 people who received sotrovimab at a healthcare facility in New South Wales between August and November 2021, when the delta variant of the virus was dominant. Eight of the people who were treated persistently tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and had airway samples collected before and after they received sotrovimab. In four of these patients, SARS-CoV-2 developed spike mutations between six and 13 days after sotrovimab was administered, with these genetic changes making the drug ‘effectively inactive’, said Rockett, as reported in The Guardian. The researchers are calling for increased genomic surveillance around sotrovimab’s use. “What we don’t want to see is resistant virus disseminating in the community, because that will mean that a lot of other people can’t use this drug as well,” said Rockett. The WHO has warned the pandemic is “far from over”. The number of global recorded deaths between 28 February and 6 March declined by 8 per cent compared to the previous week, with recorded infections also falling by 5 per cent. “Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over – and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said on 9 March. “The virus continues to evolve, and we continue to face major obstacles in distributing vaccines, tests and treatments everywhere they are needed.” A surveillance programme that looks for SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater has been rolled out across Northern Ireland, the BBC reported. Wastewater samples from 31 sites are being collected every day and sent to a Queen’s University Belfast laboratory for testing. Gauging infection levels in specific areas may help to prevent large SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, with the technology also looking for new variants.

3-9-22 World Health Organization has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, personnel in Ukraine
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the World Health Organization has verified 18 attacks on health facilities, health workers, and ambulances in the country, the agency said on Wednesday. The strikes have left 10 people dead and 16 injured. "These attacks deprive whole communities of health care," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing. Ukrainian officials on Wednesday said Russian forces targeted a maternity and children's hospital in the port city of Mariupol, and the heavy shelling severely damaged the building and left 17 people injured. To help Ukraine, WHO is sending medical supplies to hospitals treating trauma victims, Tedros said, and providing health care for refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. "Some of the main health challenges we see are hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory diseases, lack of treatment for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and mental health issues," Tedros said. The solution to the crisis "is peace," Tedros declared. "WHO continues to call on the Russian Federation to commit to a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and to allow safe, unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for those in need."

3-9-22 Guy Reffitt: First trial of US Capitol riot ends with conviction
The first person to face trial over the 6 January storming of the US Capitol has been found guilty on all counts. Guy Reffitt, 49, from Texas, was convicted of five charges including obstruction of an official proceeding and interfering with police in a riot. The case was being closely watched as a possible bellwether for hundreds more cases related to that day which will come to trial in the months ahead. Jurors took under four hours to unanimously convict Reffitt. According to investigators, Reffitt was among the mob of Donald Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol on 6 January as lawmakers met to confirm Joe Biden's presidential win. Reffitt - an oil-field worker and alleged member of the Three Percenters far-right militia - drove from Texas to Washington DC to participate in the riot, and led fellow members of the Three Percenters up the Capitol's staircase to the building. In court, prosecutors used Reffitt's own words against him, telling jurors that he "lit the match" during the riot. Reffitt faces up to 60 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for 8 June. Reffitt's prosecution was aided by multiple videos taken on and after 6 January, in which he discussed planning and later bragged about his participation in the riot. The videos included a 30-minute clip recorded with a helmet camera among the crowd outside the Capitol, and a self-recorded Zoom call in which he bragged about the day's events. Among those who testified against him was his 19-year-old son Jackson, who said his father threatened him to keep quiet. "He said 'if you turn me in, you're a traitor," the younger Reffitt testified about his father. "And traitors get shot". Another witness, Rocky Hardie, testified that he travelled to Washington in a car with Reffitt that contained weapons and ammunition. He added that Reffitt carried a pistol and zip ties during the riot. During the trial, Reffitt's defence attorney, William L Welch, called no witnesses and presented no evidence, but said that Reffitt had not assaulted police officers during the riot and characterised Reffitt as being prone to exaggerating.

3-9-22 1st trial of Jan. 6 defendant ends with conviction on all counts, in a key victory for prosecutors
A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Guy Reffitt, a Texas oil and gas rig manager and consultant, on all five counts tied to his involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, handing federal prosecutors a key victory in the first Jan. 6 cases put before a jury. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, set sentencing for June 8. Reffitt, 49, faces up to 20 years in prison, but will likely get much less time. Prosecutors did not accuse Reffitt of entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but provided evidence he spurred the crowd to battle past police officers and break into the Senate wing, with the intent to stop Congress from certifying President Biden's victory. Reffitt, a recruiter for the Texas Three Percenters militia group, wore a holstered handgun, body armor, a helmet, and zip-tie handcuffs when he led a group to confront police. According to police testimony and recordings he made, Reffitt turned back after being incapacitated with tear gas, but took credit for the breach. included fellow Texas Three Percenter Rocky Hardie and Reffitt's 19-year-old son, Jackson. Jackson Reffitt told jurors his father warned him and his 16-year-old sister that "if you turn me in, you're a traitor, and traitors get shot." He was "terrified" by the threat, he testified, but still met with an FBI agent and turned over images and recordings he had secretly made of his father boasting about his role in the siege. The jury found Reffitt guilty of five felonies — obstruction of an official proceeding, interfering with police in a riot, transporting a firearm for that purpose, armed trespassing, and witness tampering. His attorney, William Welch, argued Reffitt should face only trespassing charges because, despite his bragging and threats, he did not enter the Capitol, commit any actual violence, or damage property. Reffitt's trial was "the canary in the coal mine" for Jan. 6 defendants who declined plea deals, former federal prosecutor Gregg Sofer told The Associated Press. "If you're a defendant awaiting trial at this point, the canary just died." Of the 750 people charged with federal crimes tied to Jan. 6, AP adds, more than 220 have pleaded guilty while about 90 others have trial dates.

3-9-22 War in Ukraine: West hits Russia with oil bans and gas curbs
The US and UK are banning Russian oil and the EU is ending its reliance on Russian gas, stepping up the economic response to the invasion of Ukraine. US President Joe Biden said the move targeted "the main artery of Russia's economy". Energy exports are a vital source of revenue for Russia but the move is also likely to impact Western consumers. Major brands have meanwhile continued to pull out of Russia, with McDonald's and Coca-Cola the latest to leave. Russia's economy is heavily dependent on energy. It is the world's third-biggest oil producer, behind Saudi Arabia and the US. Before the measures were announced, Russia warned of "catastrophic" consequences for the global economy and said it might close its main gas pipeline to Germany. On the ground in Ukraine, civilians have been evacuated from two under-attack areas while the US has said up to 4,000 Russian troops may have been killed in the conflict. The conflict has already sent petrol prices to record highs in the US and the UK and experts warn they could go even higher. However, Venezuela could increase its oil production to help replace Russian oil. Reinaldo Quintero, president of the association that represents Venezuelan oil companies told the BBC that the country could potentially raise its production levels by 400,000 barrels a day. "I think we can reach 1.2 million barrels per day with the infrastructure we have right now at this moment. So that will make us able to supply the need, some of the need, to the North American market," he said. President Biden's announcement followed pressure from both sides of the US political divide to do more to target the Russian economy. "We're banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy," he said. "That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to [President Vladimir] Putin." Mr Biden admitted the move was "not without cost at home," adding the decision was taken "in close consultation" with allies. In a similar move, the UK is to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022.

3-9-22 A Russian woman considers leaving her country behind
"This china always reminds me of my grandparents," Lydia tells me. We are sitting in her flat in Moscow, drinking tea from porcelain cups. "My great-grandfather left the country to survive the pogroms. My grandfather survived Stalin's repressions, but three of his brothers and his father were murdered. He left the country. And now it seems I have to flee again. It just goes in circles." Lydia is not her real name. With independent media closed, protesters arrested on the cities' streets and new laws leading to up to 15 years in prison for what the authorities determine to be fake news about the military, she doesn't want her details to be shared. As Western companies leave Russia she says she's afraid few will come back for years. "Big companies are fleeing the market because they can't afford to stay here, it's a reputational risk," she tells me. "It's an avalanche and we are just at the start. "There are so many people around me losing jobs. I can't afford that." Before Russia started what it calls a "special operation" in Ukraine, Lydia worked for an international IT company. Now all of the employees are being moved out of Russia. The staff were split with 100 team members working internationally, 100 in Russia and 100 in Ukraine. "Some of our colleagues took up arms and went to fight for their country's independence," she says. "In my team there's a lady from central Ukraine, another from western Ukraine whose boyfriend went to fight. It took me a couple of days before I could get myself together to message them to say how sorry I am about what's going on." "I think it's going to take me and most of my friends years, before I can say I'm Russian and not feel ashamed." Thousands of Russians have left the country since the beginning of Russia's military action, some worried about the deteriorating economy, others worried about potential rumours of martial law or political concerns about how Russia is changing.

3-9-22 Ukraine: First Lady Olena Zelenska condemns Russian 'mass murder'
Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska has issued an impassioned statement on the Russian invasion, condemning the "mass murder" of the country's civilians.She focused on child casualties, mentioning the names of three children who had died in the bombardments. She said Ukraine wanted peace but would defend its borders and its identity. The whereabouts of Mrs Zelenska, 44, are unknown, and her husband President Volodymyr Zelensky says his family is a target for Russian forces. In an open letter published on the Ukrainian president's website late on Tuesday in English, International Women's Day, Mrs Zelenska said she had received numerous requests for interviews and that her letter served as an answer. She said the invasion was "impossible to believe. Our country was peaceful; our cities, towns and villages were full of life". "It is, in fact, the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians," she added, despite Russian efforts to portray it as a "special operation". "Perhaps the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties. "Eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her. Or Polina from Kyiv, who died in the shelling with her parents. "Fourteen-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage, and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires. "When Russia says that it is 'not waging war against civilians', I call out the names of these murdered children first." Mrs Zelenska said there were now several dozen children born in recent weeks who had never known peace. But she said Russian President Vladimir Putin had underestimated Ukraine, its people and its patriotism. "While Kremlin propagandists bragged that Ukrainians would welcome them with flowers as saviours, they have been shunned with Molotov cocktails," she added.

3-9-22 War in Ukraine: Russia soon unable to pay its debts, warns agency
Russia will soon be unable to pay its debts, according to a leading credit ratings agency. Fitch Ratings downgraded its view of the country's government debt, warning a default is "imminent". The move comes amid increasing international sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. A credit rating is intended to help investors understand the level of risk they face in buying a country's debt - or bonds. A low rating means the chances of not getting repaid is considered to be high - and so an investor will charge more to lend to that country. This week, Moscow itself said its bond payments may be affected by sanctions. The ratings cut - to C from B - is the second time this month Fitch has downgraded its view of Russia's ability to pay its debts. "This rating action follows our downgrade... on 2 March, and developments since then have, in our view, further undermined Russia's willingness to service government debt," the agency said. "The further ratcheting up of sanctions, and proposals that could limit trade in energy, increase the probability of a policy response by Russia that includes at least selective non-payment of its sovereign debt obligations," it added. The announcement from Fitch came after the US and UK said they will ban Russian oil, as they step up the economic response to the invasion of Ukraine. US President Joe Biden said the move targeted "the main artery of Russia's economy". Meanwhile, the European Union said it will end its reliance on Russian gas. As a major exporter of energy, the measures are aimed to hit Moscow's finances, although experts warn this is also likely to send the price of oil and natural gas higher on global markets. On Sunday, Moscow told investors that it would continue to service its sovereign debt. However, it warned that international sanctions imposed on its energy industry could limit its ability and willingness to meet its obligations.

3-9-22 Ukraine civilians flee towns near Kyiv after more Russian shelling
Convoys of civilians are due to leave several towns near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, according to regional leader Oleksiy Kuleba. Ukraine says it has agreed a 12-hour ceasefire with Russia for six routes in the war zone, and Mr Kuleba said the first groups had already left. Russian shelling has continued with further reports of civilian deaths. Russian forces surrounding the southern port city of Mariupol have destroyed a maternity hospital, Ukraine says. Olena Stokoz of Ukraine's Red Cross said "the whole city remains without electricity, water, food, whatever and people are dying because of dehydration. "We will continue trying to organise that [evacuation] corridor," she told the BBC. A local Ukrainian official, Pavlo Kirilenko, posted video on Facebook which he said showed the ruined hospital - gutted, smoking buildings and debris. Earlier Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said "almost 3,000 newborn babies lack medicine and food" in Mariupol, and "Russia continues holding hostage over 400,000 people" there. Ten people died in Severodonetsk in the east and five people were killed in Malyn near Kyiv, Ukraine says. Sumy governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said a night air raid on Monday flattened six houses and three children were among 22 people killed. "Three bombs in one evening... It was a terrible night," he said. Fighting is continuing north and north-west of Kyiv as Russian forces continue their offensive. Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun told the BBC that the Russian military was struggling to make significant progress. Air raid sirens were heard again in cities across Ukraine on Wednesday. Ukraine's armed forces agreed to stop firing on Wednesday along six evacuation routes for 12 hours, from 09:00 to 21:00 local time (07:00 to 19:00 GMT). They urged Russian forces to fulfil their commitment to the local ceasefires.

3-9-22 D.C. drops charges against protester accused of punching cop protecting Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) expressed his frustration on Wednesday after the Washington, D.C., government dropped charges against a Florida man accused of punching a police officer who was protecting Paul in 2020. "Surprise, surprise. DC government drops charges against the thug who attacked and injured a DC policeman (a policeman who protected Kelley and I from an angry mob)," Paul wrote on Twitter. "And people wonder why violence is consuming our cities." According to D.C. court records, the government gave notice of nolle prosequi on Jan. 27, effectively dropping the charges. Nolle prosequi is a Latin legal term that refers to "a legal notice or entry of record that the prosecutor or plaintiff has decided to abandon the prosecution or lawsuit." On Aug. 28, 2020, Paul and his wife were surrounded by protesters in D.C. as they returned to their hotel from the White House. Brennen Sermon of Orlando, Florida, was arrested and charged with assault on a police officer after allegedly punching one of the officers protecting the couple, the Courier Journal reported. Video of the incident shows police officers using their bicycles to hold back the crowd. Demonstrators can be heard shouting "Justice for Breonna Taylor!" and "Say her name!" At the time, Paul hailed the officers as "brave" for "likely sav[ing] Kelley and me." Two months prior to the attack, Paul introduced the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which would have banned no-knock raids like the one that resulted in Taylor's death.

3-9-22 Covid-19 news: Deaths and new infections are declining, say WHO
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Covid deaths and new infections are continuing to decline after the peak of the omicron surge. The number of global recorded covid deaths between 28 February and 6 March declined by 8 per cent compared to the previous week. In its weekly update, the WHO reported the number of recorded new SARS-CoV-2 infections also decreased by 5 per cent week-on-week. In the week starting 28 February, more than 10 million new covid cases and 52,000 deaths were reported across the WHO’s six regions. Case numbers only increased in the Western Pacific Region, rising by 46 per cent. Covid deaths rose in the Western Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean regions, by 29 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively, with fatalities falling elsewhere. The surge in infection caused by the omicron variant appears to have peaked in February. But the WHO has stressed that countries vary in their testing strategies and therefore any trends should be interpreted with caution. However, in the UK, reported coronavirus cases have increased by nearly two-fifths week-on-week. According to government data,322,917 people reported a positive test between 2 and 8 March, an increase of 90,944 (39.2 per cent) from the previous week. Hospital covid admissions are also rising, with 8763 people admitted between 26 February and 4 March, an increase of 11.1 per cent from the previous week. Deaths have slightly declined, however. Between 2 and 8 March, 729 people died within 28 days of a positive test, 12 (1.6 per cent) fewer than the previous week. The number of cancer research studies funded in the UK fell by 32 per cent in the first year of the pandemic, according to figures from the National Cancer Research Institute. The money awarded to these projects plunged by 57 per cent, The Guardian reports. The closing of charity shops and cancelled fundraising events are thought to have contributed to the problem.

3-8-22 Biden announces ban on Russian oil imports 'to inflict further pain on Putin'
President Biden has officially announced the United States will impose a ban on Russian oil imports over the country's invasion of Ukraine. Speaking from the White House on Tuesday, Biden said the U.S. is "targeting the main artery of Russia's economy" by banning imports of Russian oil and gas. "We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war," Biden said, adding that "this is a step that we're taking to inflict further pain on" Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden said the move will not be "without cost" in the United States, though, acknowledging that the war is "hurting American families at the gas pump," and he said he would work to "minimize" what he described as "Putin's price hike." But Biden said, "Defending freedom is gonna cost. It's gonna cost us, as well, in the United States. Republicans and Democrats alike understand that." Biden had faced pressure to take the step in the wake of Russia's attack on Ukraine and its ongoing invasion of the country. Shell previously announced Tuesday it wouldn't buy any more Russian oil or gas, and the United Kingdom is also reportedly set to ban Russian oil imports. The United States previously imposed numerous sanctions on Russia, which Biden said Tuesday are "causing significant damage to Russia's economy." Biden also said the crisis is a "stark reminder" that "to protect our economy over the long term, we need to become energy independent."

3-8-22 U.S. calls Poland's surprise public offer to route MiG-29s to Ukraine through a U.S. airbase 'not tenable'
Ukraine wants more fighter jets to help its outmatched air force battle Russian invaders, and the U.S. and Europe want Ukraine to have dozens of donated MiG-29s, but nobody seems ready to take on the risks and responsibilities of getting them into Ukraine's hands. Poland caught U.S. officials off guard on Tuesday by publicly offering to send its MiG-29s to a U.S. airbase in Germany and let the U.S. figure out how to get the jets to Ukraine, and the U.S. quickly said that "proposal is not a tenable one." "The prospect of fighter jets 'at the disposal of the government of the United States of America' departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance," Pentagon spokesman Jack Kirby said in a statement. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland told lawmakers on Tuesday she heard about Poland's offer "as I was literally driving here today," instead of a meeting she had just left where she "ought to have heard about" it. The U.S. and Poland have been discussing giving the Poles U.S. F-16s to replace the donated MiG-29s, which Ukrainian pilots can already fly, but Polish officials were frustrated with how forward-leaning the U.S. was on the subject, two European diplomats told CNN. "Any MiG transfer is fraught with complications," because "neither NATO nor the European Union wants to be seen as directly involved in such a transaction, which would sharply raise already extreme tensions with Russia," The Associated Press reports. The U.S. and Poland have been discussing options to sidestep direct involvement, and one of them starts with Poland transferring the fighter jets to the U.S. base in Germany, "where they would be repainted and flown to a non-NATO, non-EU country," possibly Kosovo, AP reports. "Ukrainian pilots would then come to fly them to Ukraine." Presumably, these discussions could be had over secure phone lines or in person, not over Twitter and in press releases. In fact, "other countries that are in talks with the U.S. about taking part in similar transfers are conducting the conversations quietly, without raising expectations," CNN reports, citing a Central European diplomat. Ukraine's biggest military request is more air-defense capabilities, either surface-to-air missiles or fighter jets, AP reports. A senior U.S. defense official said additional anti-aircraft Stinger missiles would probably be more useful than MiGs.

3-8-22 War in Ukraine: Crisis is unleashing 'hell on earth' for food prices
The head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, has warned the conflict in Ukraine could send global food prices soaring, with a catastrophic impact on the world's poorest. Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of basic foodstuffs, and the war has already hit crop production, driving up prices. Mr Beasley said it was putting more people at risk of starvation worldwide. "Just when you think hell on earth can't get any worse, it does," he said. Russia and Ukraine, once dubbed "the breadbasket of Europe", export about a quarter of the world's wheat and half of its sunflower products, like seeds and oil. Ukraine also sells a lot of corn globally. Analysts have warned that war could impact the production of grains and even double global wheat prices. Mr Beasley told BBC World Service's Business Daily programme that the number of people facing potential starvation worldwide had already risen from 80 million to 276 million in four years prior to Russia's invasion, due to what he calls a "perfect storm" of conflict, climate change and coronavirus. He said certain countries could be particularly affected by the current crisis, due to the high proportion of grains they currently import from the Black Sea region. "The country of Lebanon, 50%, give or take, of their grains, come from Ukraine. Yemen, Syria, Tunisia - and I could go on and on - depend on the country of Ukraine as a breadbasket," he said. "So you're going from being a breadbasket to now, literally, having to hand out bread to them. It's just an incredible reverse of reality." Norwegian chemical company Yara International, a major fertiliser producer which operates in more than 60 countries, told the BBC a shortage could badly hit crop yields, leading to "a global food crisis". Ukrainian lawyer Ivanna Dorichenko, an expert in international trade arbitration, said some farmers in Ukraine have already abandoned their fields in order to take up arms against the Russian invasion. She told the BBC: "The men who need to work on the land, they're all defending our land right now. Because if they do not defend the land, there'll be nothing to work on at a later stage, and you don't have a single person right now who's not trying to help in any way they can." Ms Dorichenko said the war had wreaked havoc with supply lines typically used to export agricultural produce. Ukraine's military suspended all commercial shipping at its ports in the aftermath of the Russian invasion.

3-8-22 War in Ukraine: US poised to ban Russian oil imports
The US and UK are poised to ban Russian oil and the EU is sharply reducing gas imports as countries harden their response to the invasion of Ukraine. Both the US and British governments are likely to make their announcements later on Tuesday. The European Commission has just announced it will reduce demand for Russian gas by two-thirds - the EU gets 40% of its gas from Russia. The measures are meant to hurt Russia, with its economy dependent on energy. But such action could also send prices soaring. Investor fears of an embargo drove Brent crude oil to $139 (£106) a barrel at one point on Monday - its highest level for almost 14 years. Russia earlier warned it may close its main gas pipeline to Germany if the West bans Russian oil. US President Joe Biden is expected to make the announcement at 10:45 local time (15:45 GMT), US media reports. The White House has not confirmed the ban on oil, but said the president would be announcing further actions against Russia. The move has political support. On Monday senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress announced a bipartisan agreement to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus. "Taking these actions will send a clear message to Putin that his war in unacceptable and the United States stands firmly with our Nato allies," they said. "We are committed to using the tools at our disposal to stop Russia's unconscionable and unjust war." About 8% of US oil and refined product imports come from Russia.

3-8-22 War in Ukraine: Russia says it may cut gas supplies if oil ban goes ahead
Russia has said it may close its main gas pipeline to Germany if the West goes ahead with a ban on Russian oil. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said a "rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market", causing prices to more than double to $300 a barrel. The US has been exploring a potential ban with allies as a way of punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. But Germany and the Netherlands rejected the plan on Monday. The EU gets about 40% of its gas and 30% of its oil from Russia, and has no easy substitutes if supplies are disrupted. While the UK would not be directly impacted by supply disruption, as it imports less than 5% of its gas from Russia, it would be affected by prices rising in the global markets as demand in Europe increases. Iain Conn, the former boss of British Gas owner Centrica, said natural gas was "less freely" traded compared to oil, and it would be "much more difficult" to replace Russian gas if supplies are affected as it is transported through fixed pipelines from country to country. The price of Brent crude - the global benchmark for oil prices - rose to around $130 a barrel on Tuesday following reports that the US and UK will announce its own ban on Russian oil imports. In an address on Russian state television, Mr Novak said it would be "impossible to quickly find a replacement for Russian oil on the European market". "It will take years, and it will still be much more expensive for European consumers. Ultimately, they will be hurt the worst by this outcome," he said. Pointing to Germany's decision last month to freeze certification of Nord Stream 2, a new gas pipeline connecting the two countries, he added that an oil embargo could prompt retaliation. "We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the [existing] Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline," he said.

3-8-22 War in Ukraine: World Bank approves $723m financial package
The World Bank has approved $723m (£551m) in loans and grants for Ukraine, as the country fights against a Russian invasion. The bank said it is continuing to work on another $3bn package of support in the coming months for the country. It also promised extra help for neighbouring countries that are taking in more than 1.7m refugees, which are mostly women, children and the elderly. The financial package for Ukraine includes a $100m pledge from the UK. "The World Bank Group is taking quick action to support Ukraine and its people in the face of the violence and extreme disruption caused by the Russian invasion," the bank's president David Malpass said in a statement. The bank said the funds would help Ukraine's government provide critical services, including wages for hospital workers, pensions for the elderly and social programmes for the vulnerable. The package includes a $350m loan, augmented by about $139m through guarantees from the Netherlands and Sweden. It is also made up of $134m in grants from Britain, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, as well as $100m of financing from Japan. Last week, Mr Malpass told the BBC that the war was "a catastrophe" for the world which will cut global economic growth. "The war in Ukraine comes at a bad time for the world because inflation was already rising," he said. He stressed that his biggest concern was "about the pure human loss of lives".

3-8-22 Ukraine: Russian general killed near Kharkiv, say defenders
A senior Russian military commander has been killed in a battle on the edge of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's defence ministry says. Maj-Gen Vitaly Gerasimov, 41st Army chief of staff, died along with other Russian officers, the report says. Russia has not commented, but if confirmed he would be their second officer of this rank to be killed. Ukraine has begun evacuating civilians from the town of Irpin near Kyiv and the northern city of Sumy. It comes after Russian and Ukrainian officials agreed to establish humanitarian corridors. "As of 09:30 [07:30 GMT], more than 150 people have been evacuated and activities are under way [from Irpin]," said Kyiv Region Governor Oleksiy Kuleba, quoted by Reuters. Sumy Region Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky, quoted by Reuters, said buses with evacuees had departed from the city for Poltava, further south. International students were among the evacuees. The corridors are expected to stay open until 21:00, but so far there has been no confirmation of evacuations from other cities. Ukrainian cities have continued to come under heavy bombardment from Russian forces and many civilians have so far been prevented from fleeing after previous attempts to evacuate them failed. Ukraine had described Russia's evacuation plans, many of which involve fleeing residents being sent to Russia, as cynical. In Sumy, authorities say children were among 10 people killed in artillery strikes late on Monday. The Ukrainian defence ministry statement said Maj-Gen Gerasimov was a veteran of the second Chechen war in 1999-2000, the Russian military campaign in Syria and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. It is based on a purported intercept of expletive-ridden phone conversations between Russian security officials which has not been verified. In the first conversation, the officials complain that secure communication lines have been lost and describe the situation as "very tight". In the second, another official mentions that Maj-Gen Gerasimov was killed and gives several other names of wounded.

3-8-22 Shell sorry and pledges to stop buying Russian oil
Shell has pledged to stop buying oil from Russia as it apologised for its purchase of cheap Russian crude at the weekend. The energy giant also said it would close all its service stations in the country and stop all current work there. Shell came under huge criticism at the weekend after it purchased a cargo of Russian crude at a discounted price. Its boss said on Tuesday, however, that it was wrong to buy Russian oil. "We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil... was not the right one and we are sorry," Mr van Beurden said. The company said it will immediately stop purchasing Russian crude oil and will shut about 500 service stations there, as well as halting its aviation fuel and lubricant operations in the country. The rest of the company's exit from Russian oil and gas is expected to take some time. The Ukrainian foreign minister had hit out at the firm on social media after it emerged Shell had bought crude. "Doesn't Russian oil smell Ukrainian blood for you," asked Dmytro Kuleba. Exiting the Russia market is "a complex challenge," admitted Mr van Beurden. "Changing this part of the energy system will require concerted action by governments, energy suppliers and customers, and a transition to other energy supplies will take much longer." When Shell was forced to defend its purchase of Russian crude over the weekend, it insisted that it had "no alternative" in order to maintain timely supplies of fuel to Europe. Russian oil currently makes up about 8% of Shell's working supplies. One of the firm's refineries, which produces diesel and petrol and other products, is also among the biggest in Europe. Cargoes from other sources would not have arrived in time to avoid disruptions to market supply, it said. It still remains unclear, however, how exactly Shell will replace the volume of energy produced by Russia. "These societal challenges highlight the dilemma between putting pressure on the Russian government over its atrocities in Ukraine and ensuring stable, secure energy supplies across Europe," said Mr van Beurden.

3-8-22 Gretchen Whitmer: Trial due to begin in US governor kidnapping plot
The trial of four men accused of a plot to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor is due to begin with jury selection on Tuesday. Prosecutors say the men, some of whom are alleged militia members, targeted Gretchen Whitmer over Covid rules she imposed early in the pandemic. Lawyers for the accused say that the government's evidence is flimsy and proves nothing more than boastful talk. The trial in the city of Grand Rapids is expected to last about six weeks. According to the FBI, which says it interrupted the plot 17 months ago, the men had planned to blow up a bridge near the governor's vacation home, then kidnap her and put her on a "treason trial". Ultimately 14 alleged plotters were arrested in late 2020. Six of the group were charged in a federal court. The other eight face separate state charges. Two of the men who faced federal charges have already pleaded guilty and are expected to testify against the remaining four at the trial. The undercover FBI agents that infiltrated the group are also expected to testify, and have been forced by a judge to reveal their real names over the objections of prosecutors. "Making it crystal clear to the jury and the public that inside the courtroom, nothing is undercover and everything is out in the open will best ensure fairness during trial and eventual acceptance and respect for whatever the jury ultimately decides," Chief US District Judge Robert Jonker ruled on Thursday. Suspects Adam Fox, 38, Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, are from Michigan, while Barry Croft, 46, is from the state of Delaware. All four are facing charges of kidnapping conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Mr Croft and Mr Harris are also facing charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors say they will prove the men took specific steps towards achieving their plan, including travelling to the governor's home, testing explosives and training for combat against Gov Whitmer's security team. The time of the FBI's swoop came as Ms Whitmer's lockdown orders drew thousands of protesters to the state capitol, where many legally entered government buildings with semi-automatic rifles and other firearms.

3-7-22 2 million people have now fled Ukraine, half children, U.N. says
Just over 2 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia began its attack 12 days ago, NPR reports Tuesday per a United Nations tracker. Just over 2 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia began its attack 12 days ago, NPR reports Tuesday per a United Nations tracker. Of the 2 million refugees, at least half are children, reports UNICEF. The 2 million total represents about 4 to 4.5 percent of Ukraine's population, notes NPR and Politico. The number of Ukrainian refugees has "increased exponentially" in recent days, NPR writes; as recently as Wednesday, roughly one week after the invasion began, the total count topped 1 million. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi confirmed the heartbreaking new figure on Twitter on Tuesday. "We've never faced a refugee crisis of this speed and scale," added UNICEF spokesperson James Elder while speaking with CNN early Tuesday morning. "We have almost 1 million children who are refugees ... in under two weeks. This is unprecedented globally, it's harrowing, it's happening as we speak, and it will continue unless we see a cessation of hostilities and this bombing to stop, otherwise we will keep seeing lives ... shattered." "A dark historical first," Elder later wrote on Twitter, alongside a clip of his CNN appearance. Overall, the U.N. estimates that as many as 4 million people — or about 10 percent of the population — may flee Ukraine, reports The Washington Post. So far, the vast majority of refugees have fled to Poland, while others have run elsewhere, including Hungary and Slovakia. As of Tuesday, almost 100,000 have fled to Russia, the Post notes, per the U.N.

3-7-22 Senate unanimously passes historic anti-lynching bill
With a unanimous vote, the Senate on Monday passed The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which makes lynching a federal hate crime. The bill is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black teenager who was brutally tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955, after a white woman falsely claimed he propositioned her. Lynchings have been used to instill fear in Black and Mexican-American communities, and Congress attempted to pass anti-lynching legislation more than 200 times prior to Monday, with efforts going back to the early 1900s. The measure was introducing in the House by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and in the Senate by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.); it now heads to President Biden's desk for his signature. In a statement, Rush said lynching is "a long-standing and uniquely American weapon of racial terror that has for decades been used to maintain the white hierarchy. Perpetrators of lynching got away with murder time and time again — in most cases, they were never even brought to trial. ... Today, we correct this historic and abhorrent injustice." Between 1882 and 1968, more than 4,000 people, most of them Black, were reported lynched in the United States, and 99 percent of the perpetrators went unpunished, Rush's office said.

3-7-22 Trucker convoy won't enter D.C. out of fear government will 'do to us what they did to' Jan. 6 rioters
The organizer of the "People's Convoy" protest against COVID-19 restrictions and mandates urged demonstrators on Monday not to drive into Washington, D.C., The Daily Wire reports. The convoy, which includes approximately 1,000 vehicles and is using Hagerstown, Maryland, as a home base, slowed traffic on the Capital Beltway on Sunday and plans to continue circling the road at the minimum legal speed every day. It will not, however, enter D.C. proper, organizers claim. "I am fearful — [myself] and the organizers are fearful — of them trying to do to us what they did to those involved in Jan. 6," organizer Brian Brase said. "It is our belief that they will try to do that." Another protester claimed the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was "a set-up" to justify a crackdown on conservatives and that it "would be a set-up now," if the convoy drove into D.C. proper. This view has become widespread on the right. Fox News host Tucker Carlson produced the documentary Patriot Purge, which alleged that the government has seized on the events of Jan. 6 as a pretext for a "domestic War on Terror" targeting "half the country." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has suggested that undercover FBI agents may have played a role in inciting the mob to storm the Capitol. The Week's Damon Linker described Patriot Purge as "conspiracy-laden," while The Dallas Morning News said Cruz was "peddling" a "baseless conspiracy theory." Despite Base's warnings, some protesters insist they won't be satisfied until they've reached Capitol Hill. "[T]hat flag on the back of my truck will go down to Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument," one man told Reuters.

3-7-22 Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to overturn new electoral maps in NC and PA
The Supreme Court on Monday denied requests by Republican-aligned groups to overturn state court decisions that rejected congressional districts drawn by the GOP-controlled legislatures of Pennsylvania and North Carolina and imposed new maps approved by the courts, NPR reports. Per NPR, the state courts "drew new congressional district maps after finding their state legislatures failed to adopt plans that met state constitutional and statutory requirements." The GOP requests were based on the novel legal theory that because the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to draw congressional districts and oversee elections, state courts lack the authority to impose new electoral maps, The Washington Post explains. The Post also reports that three of the court's six conservative justices found the argument compelling, while a fourth "expressed interest" but "said it was too close to the election to upend planning for primaries." The North Carolina court "enacted congressional district boundaries drawn by three court-appointed redistricting special masters," while the Pennsylvania court chose a map from among more than a dozen submissions, according to Ballotpedia.

3-7-22 The U.S. has moved a massive amount of arms into Ukraine since Russia's invasion, but the window is closing
Within 48 hours of President Biden approving a $350 billion security aid package for Ukraine on Feb. 26, two days after Russia invaded the country, the first shipment of U.S. weapons were arriving at airfields near Ukraine's border, ready for transfer to Ukrainian Soviet-era transport planes, U.S. officials tell The New York Times. "In less than a week, the United States and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania," to Kyiv and other major cities. The "vast majority" of the $350 billion package, or about $240 billion worth of arms, has already been delivered to Ukraine, and the rest should cross the border in days or weeks, "but not longer," a U.S. official told CNN on Friday. So far, the Times reports, "Russian forces have been so preoccupied in other parts of the country that they have not targeted the arms supply lines, but few think that can last." "The window for doing easy stuff to help the Ukrainians has closed," Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in Europe, told the Times. Along with the U.S., 13 other countries have sent security assistance to Ukraine, CNN reports, including traditionally neutral countries like Sweden. "To understand the warp-speed nature of the arms transfers underway now, consider this: A $60 million arms package to Ukraine that the U.S. announced last August was not completed until November," the Times reports. The U.S. is also assisting Ukraine with intelligence on Russian troop movements and is conducting cyber operations from bases around Eastern Europe, but Biden has laid strict ground rules to prevent the U.S. from being drawn into a direct war with nuclear-armed Russia, the Times reports. For example, not even U.S. surveillance aircraft is being allowed to fly over Ukraine, and only general intelligence is being passed on to Ukraine's military and intelligence agencies, in part because U.S. officials are convinced they are "populated with Russian spies" and in part so as not to "give Russia an excuse to say it is fighting the United States or NATO, not Ukraine."

3-7-22 Russia proposes Ukraine humanitarian corridors that mostly lead to Russia or Belarus
Russia on Monday proposed another handful of humanitarian corridors for Ukrainian civilians to leave several cities Russia is shelling — Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Sumy — but four of the six routes took the Ukrainians either to Russia or Belarus, a Russian ally aiding in its Ukraine invasion. The other two led to eastern Ukraine. Trial escape routes for the 200,000 residents trying to leave Mariupol collapsed Saturday and Sunday. Ukraine called Russia's new proposal a nonstarter. "This is an unacceptable way of opening humanitarian corridors," said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. "Our people will not go from Kyiv to Belarus to then be flown to the Russian Federation." British Europe Secretary James Cleverly agreed, telling BBC News, "Providing evacuation routes into the arms of the country that is currently destroying yours is a nonsense." Some Ukrainians have fled to Russia and Belarus to escape the war, according to the United Nations, but the vast majority have gone to Poland, with smaller numbers heading to Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova. Russia's Defense Minister said the humanitarian escape routes grew out of "French President Emmanuel Macron's personal request to Russian President Vladimir Putin" during a two-hour phone call on Sunday. But France said Macron did not ask for routes to Russia. "It's another way for Putin to push his narrative and say that it is the Ukrainians who are the aggressors and they are the ones who offer asylum to everyone," an Élysée official told France's BFM television on Monday. "The Russian proposal was reminiscent of similar ones in Syria," The Associated Press reports. "In 2016, a joint Russian and Syrian proposal to set up humanitarian corridors out of besieged opposition-held eastern Aleppo was deeply criticized on humanitarian grounds. Human rights activists said the tactic, coupled by brutal sieges, effectively gave residents a choice between fleeing into the arms of their attackers or dying under bombardment."

3-7-22 Ukraine: Angry Zelensky vows to punish Russian atrocities
President Volodymyr Zelensky has said everyone who commits atrocities against Ukraine's civilians will be punished. He said Ukrainians would not forgive or forget, and accused invading Russian troops of deliberate murder. "There will be no quiet place on Earth for you. Except for the grave," the president said. Ukrainian officials say Russia is striking civilian targets around the country, including hospitals, nurseries, and schools. But Russia denies targeting civilians, saying it is carrying out a "special military operation" against Ukrainian "nationalists" and "neo-Nazis". Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna told the BBC that, after "strong resistance" from the Ukrainian army, there was an "enormous operation" by Russia against civilians. On Sunday alone, a family of four were killed when Russian forces fired shells at people fleeing the conflict in the town of Irpin, north-west of Kyiv. And in the port city of Mariupol, promised evacuations were cancelled on both Saturday and Sunday amid fresh attacks. The city council there said Russian shelling had made safe movement impossible. Russia has blamed Ukrainian forces. The city is now in its sixth day with no running water, no power, and no sanitation. Food and water are fast running out. Moscow announced it would open new evacuation corridors at 09:00 local time (07:00 GMT) in Mariupol and other cities. However, the routes published by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency show some of the corridors end in Russia and Belarus. The corridor from Kyiv will lead to Russian ally Belarus, and civilians from Kharkiv will only have a corridor leading to Russia. Corridors from the cities of Mariupol and Sumy will lead both to other Ukrainian cities and to Russia, the AFP news agency reports. In a video address to mark the Orthodox Church's Forgiveness Sunday, Mr Zelensky said that instead of forgiveness there would be a day of judgment. "We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will punish everyone who committed atrocities in this war on our land," he said. He said Russia had announced shelling of defence targets which were built in cities in Soviet times.

3-7-22 Ukraine crisis: The West fights back against Putin the disruptor
Successive US presidents have struggled to get the measure of Vladimir Putin but now that Brussels and Berlin have joined the fray with such resolve, it's a different story, writes Nick Bryant. It is often tempting to look upon Vladimir Putin as the millennium bug in a human and deadly form. The Russian president rose to power on 31 December 1999, as the world held its breath that computers would go into meltdown when the clock struck midnight, unable to process the change from 1999 to 2000. In the 20 years since, Putin has been trying to engineer a different kind of global system malfunction, the destruction of the liberal international order. The former KGB spymaster wanted to turn back the clock: to revive Russia's tsarist greatness and to restore the might and menace of the Soviet Union prior to its break-up in 1991. This Russian revanchist has become the most disruptive international leader of the 21st Century, the mastermind behind so much misery from Chechnya to Crimea, from Syria to the cathedral city of Salisbury. He has sought - successfully at times - to redraw the map of Europe. He has tried - successfully at times - to immobilise the United Nations. He has been determined - successfully at times - to weaken America, and hasten its division and decline. Putin came to power at a moment of western hubris. The United States was the sole superpower in a unipolar world. Francis Fukuyama's End of History thesis, proclaiming the triumph of liberal democracy, was widely accepted. Some economists even peddled the theory that recessions would be no more, partly because of the productivity gains of the new digital economy. It was also thought that globalisation, and the interdependence it wrought, would stop major economic powers fighting wars. The same utopianism attached itself to the internet, which was seen overwhelmingly as a force for global good.

3-7-22 Chaos and tears as thousands try to catch a train out of Ukraine
When Svitlana Maksymenko's train pulled into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, about halfway through her 800-mile journey from home to safety, people pushed onto every part of the carriage, she said, grasping for their own escape route west. Some abandoned their luggage. Some begged to get on. "They were on their knees on the platform," Maksymenko said. "There was no room. There were people standing in every space, in every gangway, there were five people on every bed." Maksymenko's journey began in Kharkiv, an eastern city that has been heavily shelled by Russian forces, and stopped, for now, in Lviv, a picturesque western city about 50 miles from the Polish border with a grand central station that has become a waypoint for hundreds of thousands of refugees. In almost every corner of the station concourse over the weekend, in the waiting rooms, the underpasses and all along the platforms, there were people taking shelter, sleeping, anxiously waiting, rushing for trains. There were tense moments as volunteer stewards tried to hold back the crowds of people massed at entry gates, fearful of missing their chance to escape. Women with children wept with the stress, clutching their passports and family birth certificates in one hand and their children in the other. Outside the station, there were tearful goodbyes as fighting-age men, banned from leaving Ukraine, stopped and let their families go, unsure if they would ever see them again. By the time she reached Lviv, Maksymenko had been on the train with her parents-in-law and three-year-old daughter for 26 hours. Some reported longer journeys. Maksymenko was a drop in a river of people that began flowing into Lviv when Russia invaded and swelled over the past few days as Russian forces escalated their campaign of bombing against Ukrainian civilians. "We estimate 30,000 people arrived on Thursday, 100,000 people on Friday and at least a 100,000 more on Saturday," said Viktoria Khrystenko, a Lviv city council official helping to manage the influx of refugees.

3-7-22 Former Russian foreign minister lays out 3 key false things Putin believed before invading Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't acting irrationally in his invasion of Ukraine, but he made several flawed assumptions beforehand based on bad information and wishful thinking, Andrei Kozyrev, foreign minister of Russia from 1991 to 1996, argued on Twitter Sunday. On Ukraine, Putin has long believed the country is not really a country at all and, "at best, should be a satellite state," Kozyrev writes. His hopes for indirect control of Ukraine were dashed in 2014's Maidan uprising, so force was his only other option, and "he also started to believe his own propagandists that Ukraine is run by a Nazi-Bandera junta." So, "if you believe all three of the above to be true and your goal is to restore the glory of the Russian Empire (whatever that means), then it is perfectly rational to invade Ukraine," Kozyrev argues. "He miscalculated on all three, but that doesn't make him insane. Simply wrong and immoral." Read his entire thread to see how Kozyrev arrives at concluding Putin won't use nukes.

3-7-22 Ukraine conflict: Petrol at fresh record as oil and gas prices soar
Petrol prices have hit another record high as oil and gas costs soar amid fears of a global economic shock from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Oil prices jumped to $139 a barrel, the highest level for almost 14 years, while wholesale gas prices for next-day delivery more than doubled. It came as the US hinted at a ban on buying Russian energy, as it looked to other countries to increase supplies. UK petrol prices hit an average of 155p a litre, the AA motoring group said. The market turmoil is fuelling concerns that the price of many everyday items from food to petrol and heating, already rising at their fastest rate for 30 years, could be pushed higher. Analysts have already warned that UK energy bills could reach as high as £3,000 a year due to the surge in oil and gas prices. Russia is the world's second top producer of crude oil after Saudi Arabia, and supplies about a third of Europe's needs. The price of Brent crude rose by more than a fifth last week amid fears of a reduction in Russian supplies. The latest rise in UK petrol prices has pushed the cost to more than £7 a gallon, the AA said. Filling up a car with a 55-litre tank now costs nearly £17 more than a year ago, rising from £68.60 to £85.59. The boss of fuel delivery firm Portland Fuel, James Spencer, told the BBC he thought fuel prices could reach £1.70-£1.75 a litre. "Even if we can get extra [oil] supplies on to the market, nothing will happen quickly." He said that, to a certain extent, individual car drivers have options to cut their use by driving less, but added that businesses that have no alternatives were really starting to feel the squeeze. The crisis continues to affect share markets. The main stock exchanges in France and Germany sank more than 4% in early trading, but then recovered to stand little-changed on the day by early afternoon. In London, the FTSE 100 dropped more than 2% at first, but then recovered to stand 0.3% higher. Last week, the FTSE had its worse week since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

3-7-22 TikTok limits services as Netflix pulls out of Russia
Video-sharing site TikTok and streaming giant Netflix have limited and cut their services respectively in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. TikTok said it had suspended live streaming and new content from its platform as it assesses tough new laws to crack down on "fake news" about Russia's armed forces. Netflix said it was pulling out in protest at the invasion. Visa, Mastercard and PwC also joined the list of western firms cutting ties. TikTok, which has around 36 million users in Russia, said its move was about ensuring the safety of its staff and users. Since Friday, anyone who writes news deemed false about the military could face up to 15 years in jail. Among other things, the Kremlin objects to the conflict being called a war, instead calling it a "special military operation". The BBC and other news outlets have already stopped reporting in Russia, saying they can no longer be independent. In a series of Tweets, TikTok said: "In light of Russia's new 'fake news' law, we have no choice but to suspend live-streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law. "Our in-app messaging service will not be affected." It added: "We will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine when we might fully resume our services with safety as our top priority." Chinese-owned TikTok, which has one billion users worldwide, has been criticised for not speaking out against Russia invading Ukraine, unlike its peers Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and Twitter. But in a longer statement on its website on Sunday, it described the war in Ukraine as "devastating", adding that it had "brought pain to our community and our people". Last week, Netflix temporarily stopped all future projects and acquisitions in Russia as it assessed the impact of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.But on Sunday, a spokesperson said: "Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia."

3-6-22 Thousand-vehicle protest convoy plans to circle the D.C. Beltway twice per day
A convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions and mandates began moving toward Washington, D.C., at around 9:30 a.m. EST Sunday and plans to circle the Capital Beltway twice per day, local radio station WTOP reports. D.C.'s emergency alert service posted on Twitter at around 11 a.m. that the protest "will begin to disrupt travel on roadways in and around the National Capital Region" and that "the majority of this activity is expected to occur on the beltway, but could disrupt other areas." About 1,000 vehicles from across the country reportedly gathered in Hagerstown, Maryland, about an hour's drive from downtown Washington, by Saturday night, according to The New York Times. Brian Brase, an organizer of the "People's Convoy," told The Washington Post that the convoy will not attempt to "shut D.C. down." The Canadian Freedom Convoy, which inspired this weekend's protest, occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the country's Emergencies Act to break up the demonstrations. One convoy spokesperson told WTOP that the convoy does not plan to enter Washington proper and that protesters will return to Hagerstown, where they have been using the large parking lot at Hagerstown Speedway as a staging area. At least one trucker, however, plans to go all the way to Capitol Hill. "[T]hat flag on the back of my truck will go down to Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument," the man, who identified himself as the "lead trucker," told Reuters.

3-6-22 Why Russian opposition to Putin's war is crucial — and how U.S. sanctions could hurt it
The West is cheering Russia's anti-war protesters. But is our policy hurting their cause? Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive, immoral, and illegal invasion of Ukraine that began last month has only continued to escalate. Putin's troops have begun shelling civilian populations in Kharkiv and Kyiv, and the risk of nuclear strike or accident continues to loom. But where Ukrainians have banded together to fight for their lives and their sovereignty, Russia is not united in this war. Russian protestors have risked everything to stand against the war despite living under an authoritarian government that meets dissent with police and judicial brutality. Their bravery is indisuputable. But very much in question is whether Western policy will help or hurt their cause. OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project that tracks political persecution in Russia, estimates that more than 8,000 Russians have been detained as a result of anti-war activities in recent days. Many media outlets have been forced to close or to cease their coverage of the conflict, and new legislation passed in the Russian Duma this week would impose 15-year prison sentences on any journalist or protestor who contradicts the government's official narrative about the invasion. These crackdowns don't show the strength of the Russian state, but rather its fear of the Russian people. Governments engage in repression of this nature precisely because ordinary people possess the capability to force changes in policy and government through collective action. Those of us who marched against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should see the Russian anti-war movement as allies in the fight against war and aggression. Their boldness is inspiring, and it will be their movement, along with Ukrainian resistors, who will be responsible if there is to be a just and lasting peace. That's true in a moral sense but also because there is very little Ukraine's Western sympathizers can realistically do to help. It's unlikely that any amount of Western military and economic aid to Ukraine will be sufficient to secure an absolute military victory, and the Biden administration is absolutely correct to rule out direct military interventions such as a "no-fly zone" (an innocent-sounding name for a policy that would require NATO to bomb Russian air defenses and bases, potentially triggering an all-out continental war with a nuclear-armed power). If Putin comes to the negotiating table, it won't be through force alone, but because the costs of continuing a long war against the Ukrainian people have become too high at home and within Ukraine itself. We know from U.S. wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan that withdrawals often come about due to a combination of stiff resistance from the occupied population and a strong anti-war movement that succeeds in keeping a costly war at the forefront of domestic debate. Americans may be less familiar with the catastrophic Soviet intervention in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, a blunder so bad it contributed significantly to the Soviet Union's collapse. That invasion involved over half a million Soviet troops, many conscripted. Some of its survivors surely must empathize with the young men forced into the conflict today — told by propagandists they'd be greeted as liberators only to discover they're hated as an invading army.

3-6-22 Protests across Russia see thousands detained
Thousands of people have been detained at anti-war protests across Russia on Sunday, rights groups and Russian authorities say. Some 1,700 people were detained in Moscow alone, the RIA news agency reported, citing the interior ministry. The OVD-Info rights group says detainments took place in 49 cities. Although protests have become increasingly restricted in recent years, rallies have taken place across Russia since the Ukraine invasion. More than 10,000 people have been detained since the war began 11 days ago, OVD-Info says. "The screws are being fully tightened - essentially we are witnessing military censorship," Maria Kuznetsova, OVD-Info's spokeswoman, told Reuters news agency from Tbilisi in Georgia. "We are seeing rather big protests today - even in Siberian cities, where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests." Earlier this week, government critic Alexei Navalny - who is in jail on fraud charges - called for daily demonstrations against the invasion, saying Russia should not be a "nation of frightened cowards". However, a number of new laws have made it harder to protest in Russia in recent years, rights groups say. "Although Russian legislation avoids explicitly using terms like 'permit' or 'ban'... it effectively requires organisers to seek authorisation for their assemblies," Amnesty International says. According to Russian human rights group OVD-Info - which was set up in 2011 - more than 2,500 people were detained across Russia on Sunday. It publishes the names and locations of those arrested, as well as total figures. "Each police department may have more detainees than published lists," it says. "We publish only the names of those people about whom we know for certain and whose names we can publish." Protests did not just take place in Russia on Sunday, but around the world. In Kazakhstan - an ally of Moscow - a peace rally was permitted in Almaty, attended by around 2,000 people. In Brussels, anti-war protesters also took to the streets. And on Saturday, protests even took place in the Ukrainian city of Kherson - which is occupied by Russian forces.

3-6-22 Ukraine crisis: The West fights back against Putin the disruptor
Successive US presidents have struggled to get the measure of Vladimir Putin but now that Brussels and Berlin have joined the fray with such resolve, it's a different story, writes Nick Bryant. It is often tempting to look upon Vladimir Putin as the millennium bug in a human and deadly form. The Russian president rose to power on 31 December 1999, as the world held its breath that computers would go into meltdown when the clock struck midnight, unable to process the change from 1999 to 2000. In the 20 years since, Putin has been trying to engineer a different kind of global system malfunction, the destruction of the liberal international order. The former KGB spymaster wanted to turn back the clock: to revive Russia's tsarist greatness and to restore the might and menace of the Soviet Union prior to its break-up in 1991. This Russian revanchist has become the most disruptive international leader of the 21st Century, the mastermind behind so much misery from Chechnya to Crimea, from Syria to the cathedral city of Salisbury. He has sought - successfully at times - to redraw the map of Europe. He has tried - successfully at times - to immobilise the United Nations. He has been determined - successfully at times - to weaken America, and hasten its division and decline. Putin came to power at a moment of western hubris. The United States was the sole superpower in a unipolar world. Francis Fukuyama's End of History thesis, proclaiming the triumph of liberal democracy, was widely accepted. Some economists even peddled the theory that recessions would be no more, partly because of the productivity gains of the new digital economy. It was also thought that globalisation, and the interdependence it wrought, would stop major economic powers fighting wars. The same utopianism attached itself to the internet, which was seen overwhelmingly as a force for global good.

3-6-22 Ukraine: Russia has attacked schools and hospitals, says deputy PM
Russia is striking civilian targets in Ukraine, including hospitals, nurseries, and schools, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister has said, Olha Stefanishyna told the BBC that, after "strong resistance" from the Ukrainian army, there was an "enormous operation" by Russia against civilians. She accused Russia of a "terroristic plan", with attacks coming from the air and also by land. The World Health Organization also said health facilities are being attacked. "The WHO has confirmed several attacks on health care in Ukraine, causing multiple deaths and injuries," the WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Sunday. The British government has accused Russia of targeting populated areas "in multiple locations". "Russia has previously used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions," the UK said in an intelligence update. On Saturday, UN monitors said 351 civilian deaths had been confirmed in Ukraine since the invasion began on 24 February, but the real figure was likely to be "considerably higher". The UNHCR said more than 1.5m people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded. But Russia denies targeting civilians - saying it is carrying out a "special military operation" against Ukrainian "nationalists" and "neo-Nazis". Meanwhile, more than 1,700 people were detained across 44 Russian cities on Sunday at anti-war protests, the monitoring group OVD-Info said. Ms Stefanishyna - who was speaking to BBC TV's Sunday Morning programme - accused Russia of "military tactics right in the cities of Ukraine". "Shelled hospitals, the shelled houses for kindergartens and schools, and the ordinary households," she said. "This is how the reality looks." She said Ukraine was seeing "another wave of implementation of this terroristic plan of [the] Russian Federation". Ms Stefanishyna claimed Russia was suffering "enormous losses" of soldiers and equipment, but this "does not deter Russia". "It only encourages further aggression," she said.

3-6-22 War in Ukraine: Russian invasion fuels Finnish support for Nato
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent shivers of fear through many of its neighbours - from the Baltic states to Moldova. Finland ought theoretically to be safe, since it has historically been neutral and gave Stalin's Soviet army a hard time when he invaded the country in 1939. Like other Scandinavian countries, besides Sweden, there has never been much support here to join the Nato military alliance. But when the spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry recently warned Finland and Sweden explicitly that any move towards Nato could have military consequences, people in both countries were deeply shocked. Since then, Russian warplanes have blatantly intruded into Swedish airspace. If being neutral is not sufficient to guard against Russia, people here are saying that maybe joining Nato will give the two countries the protection they need. This represents a major change of mood. In Finland, particularly, relations with Russia were thought to be pretty good. The Ukraine invasion has changed everything. A few days before the Russian troops moved in, Aleksi Salonen and Sampo Muhonen, a couple of geeks - their own description of themselves - were sitting in a Helsinki flat gaming. During a pause, they started talking about the growing threat from Russia, and agreed that it would be safer for Finland to apply for Nato membership. They mentioned the idea to three friends online, and between them the five cooked up a plan to collect signatures for a petition to the Finnish parliament. In order to launch a debate by MPs, a proposal has to have 50,000 signatures. Within 10 days they had reached 70,000. They had touched a nerve in the Finnish population, and now the matter will be put to the government. The latest opinion polls indicate that a majority of people support the idea. Finland is a cautious country, and its government is particularly so. When I asked Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen for his views, he was careful not to give an answer. He acknowledged the situation was difficult, but said that joining Nato was something that required very careful consideration. Perhaps the Finnish government wants to see what happens in Ukraine before it makes up its mind. Clearly the Russians won't invade another country when their hands are full with the fighting in Ukraine.

3-6-22 Shell defends 'difficult' decision to buy Russian crude oil
Shell has defended its decision to purchase Russian crude oil despite the invasion and bombardment of Ukraine. The oil giant said in a statement that the decision to purchase the fuel at a discounted price was "difficult". It confirmed that it had bought a cargo of Russian crude oil on Friday but it had "no alternative". Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hit out at the energy company, asking on Twitter: "Doesn't Russian oil smell Ukrainian blood for you?" Although the purchase does not violate any sanctions introduced by Western countries, Mr Kuleba called on businesses to continue to apply pressure to Russia. A spokesperson for Shell said, however, that the company is trying to maintain supplies of fuels and in this case it had no alternative crude supplies which would reach Europe in time. In a statement, the firm said it remains "appalled by the war in Ukraine" and that it has stopped most activities involving Russian oil, but added that the situation with supplies is "highly complex". Russian oil currently makes up about 8% of work supply. One of Shell's refineries, which produces diesel and petrol and other products, is also among the biggest in Europe. "To be clear, without an uninterrupted supply of crude oil to refineries, the energy industry cannot assure continued provision of essential products to people across Europe over the weeks ahead," the spokesperson said. "Cargoes from alternative sources would not have arrived in time to avoid disruptions to market supply. "We didn't take this decision lightly and we understand the strength of feeling around it." The firm also said that it will try to choose alternatives to Russian oil "wherever possible", and that profits from Russian oil will go to a dedicated fund aimed at helping people in Ukraine. It comes shortly after the company announced that it would end all of its joint ventures with the Russian energy company Gazprom following the invasion. That will involve the company selling its 27.5% stake in a major liquefied natural gas plant and a 50% stake in two oilfield projects in Siberia. It will also end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. The 1,200km pipeline under the Baltic Sea had already been put on hold by German ministers.

3-5-22 Trucker convoy to arrive in D.C. this weekend
Truckers and other demonstrators seeking an end to COVID-19 restrictions and mandates plan to descend on Washington, D.C., this weekend, the city's NBC affiliate reports. Hundreds of vehicles reportedly massed in Hagerstown, Maryland, about an hour's drive from Capitol Hill, on Friday. A Facebook group for the "People's Convoy" has over 300,000 members. According to CNN, organizers said the protest will be "lawful" and will "terminate in the vicinity of the D.C. area, but will not be going into D.C. proper." Nevertheless, local officials warn that the protest will likely disrupt traffic around D.C. during the weekend. CNN notes that COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have dropped sharply in the past week as the Omicron wave subsided, and that "mask mandates and vaccine passport rules have been dropping around the country." D.C. lifted its vaccine mandate on Feb. 15 and its mask mandate on March 1. The protest is modeled on the Canadian Freedom Convoy that occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks last month and shut down several border crossings. According to data that leaked during the protests, about half of the donors to the Freedom Convoy were Americans. The demonstrations in Ottawa were broken up after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked his country's Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, resulting in nearly 200 arrests in a single weekend. Similar convoys formed in France, Belgium, and New Zealand.

3-5-22 Israeli prime minister meets with Putin in Moscow
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday to discuss the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports. According to The Times of Israel, the two leaders spoke for three hours and also discussed ongoing talks aimed at restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Belarusian news outlet Nexta reported on Feb. 25 — the day after the invasion began — that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had asked Bennett to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. The request was not granted, and the two countries instead held unproductive talks on the border between Russia and Ukraine. On the day of the invasion, Bennett tweeted that "our hearts are with the citizens of Ukraine." On Wednesday, Israel voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning Russia's invasion. Per Reuters, Bennett's spokesperson said that although Jewish law prohibits traveling further than 2,000 cubits — approximately one kilometer — on the Sabbath, the Orthodox prime minister flew to Moscow because longer journeys are permitted if the goal is the preservation of human life. Bennett will next fly to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before returning to Israel, the Times reports.

3-5-22 'Sorry to be a free speech absolutist': Elon Musk won't block Russian news sources from Starlink
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Saturday that he would not ban Russian news sources from his Starlink satellite network, Business Insider reported. "Starlink has been told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources. We will not do so unless at gunpoint," Musk wrote on Twitter. "Sorry to be a free speech absolutist," he added. Digital communications have become a major battleground in the war between Russia and Ukraine. BBC, CNN, and Bloomberg News have all curtailed their journalistic operations in Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a law that made spreading "fake" news about the war punishable by 15 years in prison. The Russian government blocked Facebook after the social network fact checked reports from Russian state media and has also restricted access to BBC and Voice of America, according to Reuters. Google has suspended all ad sales in Russia. Despite his refusal to prevent Russian propaganda from being carried on his satellites, Musk has also entered the communications fray on the side of Ukraine. Space.com reports that Musk "sent Starlink terminals to Ukraine at the request of a government official after internet service was disrupted across the country by the Russian invasion." Musk said Friday that Russian forces were attempting to jam these terminals but that a new software update had resolved the problem. Also on Friday, Musk tweeted "Hold Strong Ukraine," along with several Ukrainian flag emojis, and expressed his "sympathies to the great people of Russia, who do not want this."

3-5-22 War in Ukraine: Zelensky slams Nato over rejection of no-fly zone
War in Ukraine: Zelensky slams Nato over rejection of no-fly zone. In a fiery speech, Volodymyr Zelensky said the West's reluctance to intervene had given Russia "a green light" to continue bombarding towns and villages. Nato has argued that a no-fly zone will result in confrontation with Moscow. And Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, said on Saturday that any such move would be seen "as participation in an armed conflict by that country". Referring to sanctions imposed on Russia by the West, the Russian leader said they were "akin to a declaration of war, but thank God it has not come to that". In his speech from Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said he disagreed that direct action could "provoke Russia's direct aggression against Nato". In angry comments, he said the argument reflected the "self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside" and that Western reservations indicated that "not everyone considers the struggle for freedom to be Europe's number one goal". "All the people who will die starting from this day will also die because of you. Because of your weakness, because of your disunity," a furious Mr Zelensky added. On Friday, Nato's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the introduction of a no-fly zone could lead to a "full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering". US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also ruled out the introduction of a no-fly zone, but told the BBC he was convinced Ukraine could win its war with Russia. "I can't tell you how long this will go on," America's top diplomat said. "I can't tell you how long it will take. But the idea that Russia can subjugate to its will 45 million people who are ardently fighting for their future and their freedom, that does not involve Russia having its thumb on Ukraine, that tells you a lot." As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its 10th day, Moscow's forces continue to heavily shell many cities. In the south-eastern port city of Mariupol, the city's mayor has said that residents are under a "blockade" after days of "ruthless" attacks from Russian forces which has seen power and water shut off to the city's 450,00 strong population.

3-5-22 Ukraine: Thousands march in Kherson against occupiers
Protests against Russian occupation have broken out in the port city of Kherson, Ukraine's only big city to have been captured in the war so far. About 2,000 people marched through the city centre, waving flags and singing the Ukrainian national anthem. They shouted patriotic slogans including "Russians go home" and "Kherson is Ukraine". Other cities around the world have been hosting big anti-war demonstrations in support of Ukraine. Kherson, a key port on the Black Sea and the Dnieper River, fell to Russian troops earlier this week. Videos of the protest on social media show Russian troops firing into the air to deter the approaching crowd. One local resident, Yevhen, told the BBC the protest was a march for freedom and Ukrainian independence. When asked whether Ukrainian forces were trying to retake Kherson, he said: "Every night we hear about six or 10 explosions. It sounds like mortars. We don't know who is bombing whom." He added: "We are trying not to go outside because Russian troops are stopping cars, checking what is in the cars. They are even checking phones, searching for evidence of helping the Ukrainian army." Other locals have told the BBC that Russian soldiers have a list of Ukrainian activists they want to capture. Elsewhere in the country on the 10th day of the invasion, the Russian defence ministry said its units had opened humanitarian corridors to let civilians leave the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, which are under siege by its forces. However, Ukrainian authorities said Russia was not observing the ceasefire and attacks were continuing, so mass evacuations had been postponed. In other developments: President Vladimir Putin has said he will not impose martial law in Russia. He also warned Western countries against imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned Nato for ruling out the no-fly zone. However, Western leaders say introducing the measure would be an escalation.

3-5-22 Humanitarian corridor agreements collapse as Russia continues shelling
A ceasefire agreement intended to created "humanitarian corridors" that would allow civilians to escape the embattled Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha fell apart as Russian forces continued shelling the cities, The Associated Press reported. According to Reuters, Russia announced Saturday morning that military forces encircling Mariupol and Volnovakha would stop firing for five hours on Saturday afternoon so civilians could safely leave, but Ukrainian officials said the invaders never kept up their side of the bargain. "The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol," said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators had reached an initial agreement for a humanitarian corridor out of the encircled port city on Thursday. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russia continued firing on Volnovakha as well. Shelling also continued in the vicinity of Kyiv. Radio Free Europe shared video shot in the Ukrainian city of Irpin — a 30-minute drive from the Kyiv city center — on Friday that showed Russian artillery fire striking a high-rise apartment building. According to The Wall Street Journal, Russia has destroyed a bridge that separates Irpin from Kyiv, forcing civilians fleeing to the capital to "climb down and under the span and then navigate a precarious pathway, their suitcases and pets in their hands." Ukrainian special forces armed with U.S.- and British-made anti-tank weapons say they have repulsed Russian forces from Irpin for several days in a row.

3-5-22 Zara, Paypal and Samsung suspend business in Russia over Ukraine invasion
Zara, Paypal and Samsung are the latest international firms to suspend trading in Russia after it invaded Ukraine. The clothes retailer's owner, Inditex, will shut all 502 stores of its eight brands, including Bershka, Stradivarius and Oysho, from Sunday. Payment giant Paypal cited "violent military aggression in Ukraine" as the reason to shut down its services. Samsung - Russia's top supplier of smartphones - is suspending shipments over "geopolitical developments". Other global brands, including Apple, H&M and Ikea, have already stopped selling in Russia. who work in Russia. The Spanish-owned business told the BBC it was drawing up a plan to support them. "In the current circumstances Inditex cannot guarantee the continuity of the operations and commercial conditions in the Russian Federation and temporarily suspends its activity," the Zara owner company said. Adam Cochrane, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Research, told Reuters that logistical difficulties and the weakness in the rouble - resulting in large price increases for the Russian consumer - would make "operations difficult for all retailers importing into Russia". Other brands that have halted their business in Russia include: Apple, Ikea, H&M, Boohoo, Rolls Royce, Burberry,Jaguar Land Rover (JLR),General Motors, Aston Martin, Netflix. Online payments company Paypal has also shut down services in Russia but said it would support withdrawals "for a period of time". This would ensure that account balances were dispersed "in line with applicable laws and regulations", it said. The Ukrainian government had been calling on Paypal to quit Russia and help its officials with fundraising. Samsung, the leading supplier of smartphones in Russia ahead of Xiaomi and Apple, will suspend shipments to the country. It is unclear whether Samsung's shops will close.

3-5-22 BBC and Bloomberg News suspend reporting in Russia, CNN stopping broadcasts
Bloomberg News on Friday announced its decision to "temporarily suspend" its journalism work inside Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation that punishes "fake" reports about the country's military with up to 15 years in prison, Bloomberg writes. "We have with great regret decided to temporarily suspend our news gathering inside Russia," said Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait on Friday. "The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country." Over the past few days, the Kremlin has cracked down on coverage of the Ukraine invasion from non-state affiliated outlets; for example, "the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Meduza, an independent news group, weren't accessible Friday," Bloomberg writes. Access to Facebook was blocked the same day. In a decision similar to Bloomberg's, the BBC also on Friday announced it would be "temporarily suspending the work of all its news journalists and support staff in Russia," Bloomberg says. CNN, meanwhile, announced on Friday its decision to stop broadcasts in Russia for now, The Hollywood Reporter writes, citing the recently-passed censorship law as the reason.

3-5-22 Facebook hits out at Russia blocking its platforms
Facebook has hit out at a ban on its platforms introduced in Russia on Friday amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. Russia's communications regulator said the ban was a response to restrictions placed on its media there. It said there had been 26 cases of "discrimination" against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020. There were also reports that the use of Twitter had been restricted by the Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, on Friday evening. Facebook's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said that "soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information". Facebook had previously been limited in the country, along with platforms including Twitter. Although its use was restricted, Facebook had not been blocked entirely in the country. On Friday Russian media quoted the regulator as saying that Twitter had been restricted following a request by the prosecutor general from 24 February, the day of the invasion of Ukraine. Twitter did not immediately respond to the BBC's request for comment on the reports. It had also refused to stop fact-checking several Russian state media outlets, including RT and Sputnik. Russia's media regulator said in a statement: "Since October 2020, 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook have been recorded." The statement says the block on Facebook platforms has been introduced "to prevent violations of the key principles of the free flow of information". In response Meta said: "We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action." The White House said it was "deeply concerned" by Russia's decision to block the US company, and said the move was part of a broader effort to "choke off information". "This is part of their effort ... to cut off a range of information from their public," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said, adding that the US was also "concerned about the threat on freedom of speech in the country".

3-5-22 Supreme Court reimposes death penalty for Boston bomber
Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, reversing an earlier appeals court ruling to void it. Justices voted 6-3 to reject defence claims Tsarnaev's 2015 trial was conducted improperly. Three people died and 260 others were wounded in the 2013 bombing, which Tsarnaev carried out with his older brother Tamerlan. Tamerlan was shot dead by police. In July 2020, a federal appeals court 'vacated' (removed) Tsarnaev's death sentence, arguing the judge in his original trial had failed to question potential jurors about how much they'd been following the case in the news. Additionally, the appeals court said the judge should have allowed the defence team to bring up a 2011 triple murder in a Boston suburb. Tsarnaev's lawyers had hoped to use the crime as evidence that he had been manipulated by his brother who had been a suspect in the case, and who they characterised as the mastermind of the bombing. While the court upheld his conviction, his death sentence was overturned. The Supreme Court's decision on Friday reverses that decision. "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed heinous crimes," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote. "The sixth amendment nonetheless guaranteed him a fair trial before an impartial jury. He received one." The Supreme Court's six conservative justices were the majority, with the remaining three liberal judges dissenting. No federal executions were carried out in the US for a 17-year period before the administration of former President Donald Trump. A total of 13 federal executions took place during the Trump administration. In July last year, Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on federal executions to allow the Justice Department to review the death penalty. Earlier this year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration had "grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness". The Biden administration's Justice Department, however, defended the death sentence for Tsarnaev, and Mr Garland's moratorium did not prevent prosecutors from continuing to seek capital punishment in the case.

3-4-22 Supreme Court reimposes Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence
The Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the man convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In a 6-3 decision released Friday, the Supreme Court reimposed Tsarnaev's death sentence, rejecting arguments that the judge in his trial should not have excluded evidence pertaining to a prior crime and that there wasn't sufficient questioning of jurors, NBC News reports. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Tsarnaev's death sentence in 2020, saying the district court "abused its discretion during jury selection by declining to ask every prospective juror what he learned from the media about the case," the Supreme Court's decision explains. The appeals court also said evidence that Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, may have committed three murders in Waltham two years before the bombing should have been allowed to be introduced in the case by the defense. But Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that Tsarnaev did receive "a fair trial before an impartial jury." The Supreme Court's liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. "The reasons the District Court gave do not justify excluding the Waltham murder evidence, and it was an abuse of discretion to do so," Breyer wrote, adding this evidence "supported Dzhokhar's theory that Tamerlan's violent and radicalizing influence induced all of the actions Dzhokhar took in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings," so it "may have led some jurors to conclude that Tamerlan's influence was so pervasive that Dzhokhar did not deserve to die." The Biden administration's Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to uphold Tsarnaev's death sentence, despite Attorney General Merrick Garland's moratorium on federal executions.

3-4-22 BBC and Bloomberg News suspend reporting in Russia, CNN stopping broadcasts
Bloomberg News on Friday announced its decision to "temporarily suspend" its journalism work inside Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation that punishes "fake" reports about the country's military with up to 15 years in prison, Bloomberg writes. "We have with great regret decided to temporarily suspend our news gathering inside Russia," said Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait on Friday. "The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country." Over the past few days, the Kremlin has cracked down on coverage of the Ukraine invasion from non-state affiliated outlets; for example, "the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Meduza, an independent news group, weren't accessible Friday," Bloomberg writes. Access to Facebook was blocked the same day. In a decision similar to Bloomberg's, the BBC also on Friday announced it would be "temporarily suspending the work of all its news journalists and support staff in Russia," Bloomberg says. CNN, meanwhile, announced on Friday its decision to stop broadcasts in Russia for now, The Hollywood Reporter writes, citing the recently-passed censorship law as the reason.

3-4-22 Russians could face jail time for spreading 'fake' news about the military, parliament votes
Russian lawmakers on Friday unanimously passed legislation punishing those who intentionally spread "fake" news regarding the country's military with up to 15 years of jail time, Reuters and The Moscow Times report. Lawmakers also imposed fines for those who publicly call for sanctions against Russia. Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that the country's enemies — like the U.S. and its Western allies — have been spreading false information to "sow discord among the Russian people," Reuters writes. "Literally by tomorrow, this law will force punishment - and very tough punishment - on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces," said Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin of the law, per Reuters. The Duma is the lower house of parliament in Russia. Those found guilty of disseminating qualifying "false information" may face up to three years in prison or a 1.5 million ruble fine; for those guilty of using an "official position" to spread "false information," the punishment increases to 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to 5 million rubles, Variety writes per Russian news agency TASS. "If the fake information caused serious consequences, the term of imprisonment will be from 10 to 15 years," TASS explains, per Variety. The legislation was reportedly approved by both houses of parliament, says The Associated Press, and "is now set to be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin to take effect as soon as Saturday." Russian media outlets have also been told to refer to the ongoing invasion as a "special military operation," and to only use officially sanctioned sources when reporting on Ukraine, Variety adds. The new censorship law arrives after the country's communication watchdog blocked multiple foreign media outlets — like BBC, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle — for spreading "fake" information, Axios notes.

3-4-22 Meta executive warns Russia is cutting citizens off 'from reliable information' by blocking Facebook
Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg is out with a statement following the Russian government's Friday decision to officially block access to Facebook, owned by Meta, amid the Moscow-led invasion of neighboring Ukraine. "Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out," Clegg said of Russia's decision. "We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services to they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action." Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications regulator, said in a statement that the decision to block Facebook was made after at least 26 instances of "discrimination against Russian media and information resources" since October 2020, per BuzzFeed News. Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Meta, as well as several other Big Tech companies, have imposed restrictions on Kremlin-affiliated media sources so as to curb misinformation on their platforms.

3-4-22 Breonna Taylor: Ex-officer Brett Hankinson found not guilty in deadly raid
A former Louisville police detective has been found not guilty of recklessly endangering neighbours during the chaotic night-time raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor. Brett Hankinson fired 10 shots during the incident, which took place during a "no-knock" search of the black woman's home in Kentucky in March 2020. In court, Mr Hankinson maintained he did nothing wrong during the melee. Ms Taylor's death sparked racial injustice rallies across America. Mr Hankinson, 45, was the only officer charged in the case. The jury delivered the verdict on Thursday about three hours after closing arguments wrapped in the week-long trial, clearing him on all three wanton endangerment charges. In dramatic court testimony on Wednesday, Mr Hankinson said he believed he was coming under automatic weapons fire during the raid. He described seeing silhouettes and muzzle flashes after police used a battering ram to knock down Ms Taylor's door. During the raid, Ms Taylor's boyfriend shot and wounded one of the officers. Mr Hankinson said he quickly turned a corner and opened fire to "stop the threat". A total of 32 shots were fired. Prosecutors alleged some were by Mr Hankinson as he entered a neighbouring flat, endangering three people inside: Cody Etherson, his pregnant wife Chelsey Napper, and their five-year-old son. When asked if he believed he did anything wrong during the raid, Mr Hankinson said "absolutely not". He went on to say, however, that Ms Taylor, a 26-year-old hospital worker who was shot multiple times, "didn't need to die that night", prompting her mother to angrily storm out of the courtroom. Prosecutors cast doubt on his version of events, and argued he was shooting "wildly" but Mr Hankinson's defence attorney, Stewart Matthews, said he "did what he had to do" in a chaotic situation. (Webmasters Comment: If this had been a white woman killed by a black officer he would have been found guilty and lynched!)

3-4-22 Son of accused 6 January rioters testifies in court
The son of a man accused of helping to lead the 6 January 2020 Capitol riot has testified that his father threatened him with injury if he alerted authorities. Guy Reffitt, 49, has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges related to the attack, and is the first accused rioter to stand trial. His son, Jackson, 19, warned the FBI of his father's plans. Mr Reffitt told his children alerting authorities would make them "traitors". "If you turn me in, you're a traitor and traitors get shot," Jackson testified to a Washington DC court on Thursday. The teenager said that he had felt "nervous" and "weird" searching how to contact the FBI to report his father, he told jurors in Washington DC, but felt compelled to do so after exchanges with Mr Reffitt he found alarming. "I felt pretty gross and I felt pretty uncomfortable for even thinking about doing something like that, but I knew that it would help immensely," Jackson said. "Better safe than sorry". According to federal prosecutors, the elder Mr Reffitt drove from Texas to Washington DC to take part in the riot, in which supporters of former president Donald Trump attempted to storm the Capitol as lawmakers inside voted to certify the results of the 2020 elections. Prosecutors also allege that Mr Reffitt was a member of a militia group, the 'Three Percenters' and led rioters up the Capitol's stairs to the building. They've described him as a "leader" and said he was at the "tip of the spear" during the riot. Jackson had told FBI investigators that his father informed the family that he'd gone to the Capitol to protect the country and brought a gun with him. Mr Reffitt is charged with bringing a handgun to the Capitol, obstruction of justice and obstruction of an official proceeding, among other crimes. On 11 January, just 5 days after the riot, Mr Reffitt warned his children against reporting him to the police, telling them he'd "do what he had to do". Soon after, Mr Refitt allegedly told his daughter that he would "put a bullet through" her phone if she were recording him or sharing his comments online. He was arrested on 19 January.

3-4-22 War in Ukraine: Families run for cover as Russian air strikes hit Chernihiv
Civilians in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv have described being trapped under relentless shelling as Russia indiscriminately pounds residential neighbourhoods there and in several other cities. "We can hear the sounds right now of air strikes nearby," Svitlana, 40, told the BBC. She was hiding in Chernihiv on Friday morning under her dining table with her two children, aged six and three, and her neighbours in her five-storey apartment building. "There are no military targets here, there is only a cemetery, residential buildings, clinics and a hospital, why are they bombing us?" Svitlana said. Russia escalated its air campaign against Ukraine on Thursday and Friday, killing at least 47 civilians in Chernihiv and continuing to lay siege to residential areas in Mariupol, Borodyanka and Kharkiv. Aerial attacks in Chernihiv destroyed high-rise apartments buildings and damaged a clinic and hospital, sending residents fleeing into the streets and to underground bunkers. An apartment building 500m from Svitlana's was destroyed on Thursday, she said. Her building sits just 50m from a children's hospital, where staff had taken children including cancer patients to a shelter between the two buildings but were not able to create a sterile environment there and were struggling to evacuate the children. Reached on Friday morning, Sergey Zosimenko, a charity worker supporting the hospital, told the BBC that the staff were in the process of attempting an evacuation. Images and video footage from Chernihiv, which is 90 miles (144 km) north of the capital Kyiv and home to about 300,000 people, showed indiscriminate destruction to residential areas, drawing immediate comparisons to the devastating Russian bombing campaigns against Grozny in the late 1990s and Aleppo in 2016. Chernihiv has reportedly been surrounded by Russian forces. The BBC verified the full names and exact locations of people it spoke to in Chernihiv and other cities under attack but is not publishing those details for safety reasons.

3-4-22 Nuclear plant: How dangerous was the attack and what is the risk in Ukraine?
Buildings at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine - the largest in Europe - have been damaged after it was hit by shelling. The attack has prompted world leaders to accuse Russia of acting recklessly. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it could "directly threaten the safety of all of Europe". Russia attacked Zaporizhzhia with shelling, and later took control of the plant. Buildings around one of its six power units have been damaged, according to Ukraine's nuclear inspectorate. The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says that none of the safety systems at the plant were affected, and there was no release of radioactive material. Nuclear experts say the attack created a very risky situation. If a reactor - the device generating energy in a nuclear power plant - and the building housing it are damaged, this could cause the reactor to overheat and a core meltdown. Radiation could then leak into the surrounding environment. If people were exposed to this radiation it could cause severe immediate and long term health impacts including cancer. This was seen in 1986 at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine - the site of the worst nuclear incident in history. Experts say that although the attack was dangerous, there are important differences between the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia plants. The Zaporizhzhia site is far more secure, according to Dr Mark Wenman of Imperial College London. He says the reactor is in a steel-reinforced concrete building that can "withstand extreme external events, both natural and man-made, such as an aircraft crash or explosions". The Zaporizhzhia plant also does not contain any graphite in its reactor. At Chernobyl graphite caused a significant fire and was the source of the radiation plume that travelled across Europe. "You don't need to hit directly a plant to get a problem," says Olexi Pasiuk, deputy director of Ecoaction, an energy pressure group in Ukraine. A disruption to the plant's energy supply could also cause serious issues.

3-4-22 War in Ukraine: Russia restricts access to BBC in media crackdown
Access to the BBC's Russian language services has been restricted in Russia. Other news outlets, including Deutsche Welle, Meduza and Radio Liberty, have also had access to their services limited, Russia's state-owned news agency RIA says. Russia's parliament has passed a law making it an offence to spread "fake" information about the armed forces. The Kremlin objects to the conflict being called a war, instead calling it a "special military operation". A BBC spokesperson said: "Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia, millions of whom rely on BBC News every week. "We will continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia, and across the rest of the world." Record numbers of people have read the BBC's Russian language news website since the invasion, seeking up-to-date information on the conflict. On Thursday, one of Russia's last independent news outlets, TV Rain, stopped broadcasting after coming under pressure for its coverage of the invasion. The channel ended its final broadcast by showing staff walking off set. Russia's telecommunications regulator had accused the channel of "inciting extremism, abusing Russian citizens, causing mass disruption of public calm and safety, and encouraging protests". "No to war," said Natalia Sindeyeva, one of the channel's founders, as employees walked out of the studio. The channel then began playing footage of a performance of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. The ballet was used in Soviet-era broadcasts to mark the death of leaders, and was also played during the 1991 coup that contributed to the end of the Soviet Union. The station's editor in chief, Tikhon Dzyadko, left Russia on Wednesday, saying it was due to concerns for his safety. "The main problem is that we were covering Ukraine objectively, as professional journalists and covering from different sides. We had journalists going live and covering the situation," Ekaterina Kotrik, TV Rain presenter and former head of news, told the BBC.

3-4-22 Biden imposes sanctions on Russian oligarchs, 'Putin's cronies'
The US has announced fresh sanctions on Russian oligarchs - the latest attempt to squeeze President Vladimir Putin as his invasion of Ukraine continues. The new penalties will target members of the Russian elite, their families and close associates, cutting them off from the US financial system. "The goal is to maximise the impact on Putin," US President Joe Biden said. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's press secretary, is among those targeted in the latest blockade. Mr Peskov, 54, is already sanctioned by the European Union, and now joins a list of eight oligarchs and nearly two dozen of their family members and associates whose assets in the US will be frozen, and have their American properties blocked from use. Another 19 oligarchs - including Putin ally Alisher Burhanovich - and 47 of their family members will face US visa restrictions. "These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people," the White House said on Thursday. "We will continue to work with our allies and partners to hold accountable the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who are profiting from this violent regime." Earlier this week, Mr Biden had promised to go after Russian oligarchs who have "bilked [stolen] billions of dollars off this violent regime" when speaking of the Ukraine crisis at his State of the Union address. On Thursday, Mr Biden said the existing sanctions carried out with Western allies, such as blocking Moscow from the Swift international payments system and restrictions against the Russian central bank, were already having a "profound" impact. "Our interest is maintaining the strongest unified economic impact campaign on Putin in all history and I think we're well on the way to doing that," he said. The UK also announced further sanctions against two Russian oligarchs on Thursday.

3-4-22 Airbnb is suspending operations in Russia and Belarus
Airbnb is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CEO Brian Chesky tweeted on Thursday night. He did not give any additional details on the decision. On Monday, Airbnb said it would help find short-term accommodations for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees through its independent nonprofit, Airbnb.org, which provides housing for people in crisis. In the last week, several companies have said they will limit or stop their activities in Russia, including Disney, Ikea, and H&M.

3-4-22 Sackler family to pay $6bn for role in US opioid crisis
The wealthy Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, is set to pay $6bn (£4.5bn) for its role in America's opioid epidemic under a new deal. The sum is nearly $1.7bn more than a previous settlement. Purdue, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019 amid thousands of lawsuits, made drugs like OxyContin, and is blamed for fuelling the opioid crisis. Addiction to both legal and illegal opioid painkillers has been a serious, ongoing problem in the US. The country saw nearly half a million deaths from overdoses between 1999 and 2019, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden pledged to make fighting what he called "the opioid epidemic" a top priority. In 2020, Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges over its marketing of OxyContin, a painkiller it knew was addictive and being widely abused. Some of the Sackler family have denied wrongdoing. A previous settlement against them, reached in September 2021, was appealed by eight US states. As part of the new deal, the family is protected from all current and future civil claims. But the deal does not protect them from potential criminal cases. The $6bn settlement will largely be used to fund opioid treatment and prevention programmes in various states. The deal - which is the result of court-ordered mediation that began in January - was welcomed by a number of state attorney generals. "The Sacklers needed to pay more for the harms they caused," Washington DC attorney general Karl Racine tweeted on Thursday. Washington will receive more than $31m from the family and Purdue as part of the deal. In Connecticut - which is receiving $95m - Attorney General William Tong said that "after years of denial, the Sackler family must now directly apologise for the pain they have caused." In a statement in the mediator's report, two branches of the family said they "have acted lawfully in all respects", adding that OxyContin "unexpectedly became part of the opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities". The family is now banned from the US opioid industry, and together with Purdue must make public over 30 million documents, including some previously withheld as privileged legal advice.

3-4-22 Covid-19 news: Arthritis drug shows promise to treat severe cases
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Immune-suppressing treatment reduces deaths even in people already taking existing covid-19 medicines. Another treatment has been shown to help people hospitalised with severe covid-19: an arthritis medicine called baricitinib, which works by dampening the immune response. In the later stages of covid-19, overactivity of the immune system contributes to damage to the lungs and the blood clotting system, which causes tiny blood clots to form throughout the body. Baricitinib was already being used in some countries, but a large UK trial has now shown that adding it to the other treatments used against covid-19 further reduces the death rate by 13 per cent. Most people in the study were already being given the steroid treatment dexamethasone, the first medicine shown to reduce deaths in covid-19, which also suppresses the inflammatory immune reaction. When this result is combined with other trials, it suggests baricitinib could reduce deaths by one fifth. Baricitinib works by blocking the actions of an immune system compound called interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is raised in severe covid-19. It comes in tablet form, making it easier to give than another IL-6-blocking medicine called tocilizumab, given through a drip. Nearly a third of people in the trial also received tocilizumab and they still had the additional reduction in deaths from baricitinib. “As an oral agent with a short half-life and potentially less expensive, this makes baricitinib a more attractive agent after steroids in low/middle-income country settings,” said Athimalaipet Ramanan, at the University of Bristol, UK, in a statement. Panic buying has begun in Hong Kong amid fears of an impending lockdown, as cases of covid-19 and deaths due to the virus are soaring. The city, which is in the middle of an omicron surge, has relatively low vaccination rates among its elderly. Two of Hong Kong’s largest retail chains have started rationing some food and medicines. Measuring fourteen proteins in the blood can help predict if people will get severe covid-19, according to a study that used a genetic technique called Mendelian randomisation to link people’s genes with their risk of illness. The study found six proteins that cause higher rates of hospitalisation or death and eight that protect against such outcomes. One of the risky proteins determines a person’s blood group, supporting previous studies that have suggested people with blood group A are more likely to be admitted to hospital with covid-19.

3-3-22 Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Kimberly Guilfoyle
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has issued a subpoena to Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.'s fiancée and a former Fox News host. Last week, Guilfoyle met virtually with the committee's counsel for a voluntary interview, but when she learned that two members of the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), had joined the meeting, she stopped answering questions, The Guardian reports. Her lawyer later accused the committee of attempting to "sandbag" Guilfoyle. In a letter sent to Guilfoyle on Thursday, the committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), wrote that Guilfoyle "met with Donald Trump inside the White House, spoke at the rally that took place before the riot on January 6th, and apparently played a key role organizing and raising funds for that event. Because Ms. Guilfoyle backed out of her original commitment to provide a voluntary interview, we are issuing today's subpoena that will compel her to testify. We expect her to comply with the law and cooperate."

3-3-22 Surgeon general requests tech companies turn over data on COVID-19 misinformation
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is reportedly asking tech companies to hand over information pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on their platforms. A request for information from Murthy's office calls on companies to provide information regarding "exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of COVID-19 misinformation," in addition to data about the demographics exposed to this misinformation, The New York Times reports. The request also reportedly asked for information about major sources of COVID-19 misinformation. Murthy told the Times that "technology companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about the misinformation on their platforms" and argued this is "about protecting the nation's health." He also said he was asking for health care providers to provide information about the way patients have been negatively affected by COVID-19 misinformation. Last year, Murthy issued an advisory that described COVID-19 misinformation as an "urgent threat" that puts "lives at risk." He wrote, "The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act. Every single person can do their part to confront misinformation. But it's not just an individual responsibility. We need institutions to recognize that this issue is their moral and civic responsibility, too, and that they are accountable." According to the Times, the tech companies will reportedly have until early May to provide the data, although noncompliance won't result in a penalty.

3-3-22 Sackler family to pay as much as $6B in new opioid settlement with U.S. states
Members of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, have reached a new settlement with U.S. states, bringing an end to litigation surrounding the company's role in the country's opioid epidemic, Axios reports. In December, an earlier settlement was rejected by a federal judge following objections from eight states and Washington, D.C., whose attorneys general worried the deal didn't do enough to hold the Sackler family accountable, The Associated Press and Axios report. The holdouts — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia — on Thursday agreed to a new deal after the Sacklers agreed to throw in more cash and accepted other terms, AP writes, noting that, "the family would be protected from civil lawsuits" (and not criminal ones) in exchange. The settlement opens "the way for billions of dollars to begin flowing to addiction treatment programs nationwide," writes The New York Times; should a judge ultimately approve the agreement, "the Sacklers will pay as much as $6 billion to help communities address the damages wrought by the opioid crisis." Though the family did not explicitly apologize or accept any personal wrongdoing for the epidemic, they did issue a somewhat-regretful statement regarding the settlement, AP notes. "The families have consistently affirmed that settlement is by far the best way to help solve a serious and complex public health crisis. While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities," the statement reads.

3-3-22 Jan. 6 committee says there is evidence Trump 'engaged in a criminal conspiracy' to overturn 2020 election
In a court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot wrote there is evidence suggesting former President Donald Trump "may have engaged in criminal acts" by attempting to keep Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. The lawyers also wrote that the committee has a "good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States." The filing was made in response to John Eastman, one of Trump's former lawyers, fighting to keep documents and emails from the committee, saying they are protected under attorney-client privilege. In the days leading up to the Capitol riot, Eastman allegedly tried to convince former Vice President Mike Pence that he had the authority to overturn the election results. In a statement, the committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), said the "facts we've gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman's emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power." The committee has interviewed several Trump and Pence aides, and there are excerpts from some of their depositions in the filing. Read more at The Washington Post.

3-3-22 Oath Keeper pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy in Capitol riot case
oshua James, a 34-year-old member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group arrested last year in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of seditious conspiracy and one count of obstructing an official proceeding, as part of a plea deal reached with the government. This is the first plea deal for a Capitol riot defendant charged with seditious conspiracy, ABC News reports. Under the agreement, James, a resident of Arab, Alabama, will cooperate with federal authorities and testify before a grand jury. James' plea agreement states that in November 2020, during a meeting with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and others, he learned "of their plans to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power." James and other Oath Keepers kept weapons and ammunition in a hotel room near Washington, D.C., the plea deal says, and they were instructed to "be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors." As part of the plea agreement, James also admitted to entering the Capitol on Jan. 6 and assaulting a law enforcement officer. He told prosecutors that after the riot, he, Rhodes, and other Oath Keepers tried to conceal their identities, using burner phones and changing their appearances. The maximum penalty for seditious conspiracy is 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine, ABC News reports. The judge will take into consideration James' plea deal and cooperation at his sentencing.

3-3-22 Capitol riots: Guy Reffitt accused of being 'tip of spear' in 6 January mob
The first defendant to stand trial over the Capitol riots said that he would drag lawmakers "kicking and screaming" from the building, prosecutors say. Guy Reffitt, 49, is accused of carrying a handgun on to the Capitol grounds, obstruction of an official proceeding and obstruction of justice among other charges. Opening remarks for his criminal trial began on Wednesday. The Texas man has pleaded not guilty to the five charges against him. On 6 January, 2021, a mob of pro-Donald Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers gathered to certify Joe Biden's presidential election win. Prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler described it in opening remarks for Mr Reffitt's trial as "worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812", a date when British forces set fire to the White House. He is accused of driving from Texas to Washington. The prosecutor described Mr Reffitt as a "leader", saying he was "the tip of this mob's spear" that day. He said that Mr Reffitt, who federal prosecutors accuse of being part of the Three Percenters militia group, had led rioters up the Capitol's stairs to storm the building. The prosecutor said the Texas man, a drilling rig worker, had also texted a friend about plans to drag Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers from the Capitol that day. William Welch, the lawyer representing Mr Reffitt, gave a short opening statement, where he noted his client "does brag, he exaggerates and he rants" but that the "trial will be about fact versus hype". He also said Mr Reffitt had never entered the building. More than 750 people have been arrested since the Capitol attack last year. Most have been charged with misdemeanours, but at least 40 have received prison sentences. More than 200 people have pleaded guilty to various charges. Mr Reffitt, who was arrested on 19 January, 2021, is the first person facing criminal charges to stand trial. The trial is expected to be watched as a test case for future prosecutions.

3-3-22 How cheap Chinese tires might explain Russia's 'stalled' 40-mile-long military convoy in Ukraine
As the eighth day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine began Thursday morning, Russian forces appeared to have gained tactical control of their first city, the southern port city of Kherson, but Ukraine is still holding out in Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv, despite heavy shelling. Deaths are mounting on both sides. Big explosions were heard in Kyiv overnight, but according to the British Defense Ministry's Thursday morning update, the main body of the 40-mile-long Russian military convoy advancing on the capital remains nearly 20 miles from the city center, "having been delayed by staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown, and congestion. The column has made little discernible progress in over three days." Pentagon spokesman John Kirby gave a similar prognosis on Wednesday, saying the "stalled" column hasn't, "from our best estimates, made any appreciable progress in the last 24-36 hours," possibly because the Russians are "regrouping themselves and reassessing the progress that they have not made and how to make up the lost time," but probably also due to "logistics and sustainment challenges" and "resistance from the Ukrainians." Trent Telenko, a retired Pentagon staff specialist and military history blogger, suggests another big reason may be Russia's tires, as he explained in a long, illustrated Twitter thread based on photos of deserted Russian Pantsir-S1 wheeled gun-missile systems and his own experience as a U.S. Army vehicle auditor. "When you leave military truck tires in one place for months on end," the sidewalls get brittle in the sun and fail like the tires on the Pantsir-SR, he wrote. "No one exercised that vehicle for one year." Karl Muth, an economist, government adviser, and self-described "tire expert," jumped in, agreeing with Telenko but adding some details about the tires. "There is a huge operational level implication in this," Telenko said. "If the Russian Army was too corrupt to exercise a Pantsir-S1, they were too corrupt to exercise the trucks and wheeled [armored fighting vehicles] now in Ukraine," meaning "the Russians simply cannot risk them off-road during the Rasputitsa/mud season." That is a problem for the convoy in the north, he added. "The Crimea is a desert and the South Ukrainian coastal areas are dryer. So we are not seeing this there. But elsewhere the Russians have a huge problem for the next 4 to 6 weeks." Read Telenko's whole thread on Twitter.

3-3-22 After call with Putin, France's Macron reportedly believes 'the worst is to come' in Ukraine invasion
Following a 90-minute call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly believes "the worst is to come" in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, France 24 reports Thursday, per a French presidential aide. According to the Elysée, Macron also concluded that Putin "wants total control of Ukraine," writes Le Monde's Sylvie Kauffmann. Per AFP, the Russian leader appears intent on seizing "the whole" of the country, a French aide said. The Kremlin also after the call released a statement in which it made clear that "its goals included the demilitarisation and neutrality of Ukraine," Reuters reports. Putin reportedly told Macron "that Russia would achieve the goals of its military intervention in Ukraine whatever happens," Reuters writes. The statement also said Moscow's "special intervention" in Ukraine was going "according to plan," and that "any attempts by Kyiv to delay negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials would result in Moscow adding more items to a list of demands it has already set out."

3-3-22 Ukraine: Russian troops take control of key city of Kherson - mayor
Russian forces have seized control of a key port city in southern Ukraine, the mayor says. Kherson is the first major city to be taken by Russia, after heavy fighting, since it invaded a week ago. Its mayor, Igor Kolykhaev, said Russian troops had forced their way into the city council building and imposed a curfew on residents. Several cities have come under intense shelling, with Wednesday one of the most destructive days of the fighting. An investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine has been launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Russia has for the first time admitted taking heavy military casualties during its attack on Ukraine, with 498 troops killed and a further 1,597 injured. Ukraine says Russia's losses run into the thousands. Ukraine reports that more than 2,000 civilians have died since the invasion began last Thursday. The conflict has also caused more than a million people to flee Ukraine, according to the UN. In a Facebook post, Mr Kolykhaev said Russian forces were in control of Kherson, a port on Ukraine's southern Black Sea coast with a population of more than 280,000 people. He urged Russian soldiers not to shoot at civilians, saying there were no Ukrainian forces in the city. Mr Kolykhaev called on residents to follow conditions set by Russian forces in order to "keep the Ukrainian flag flying". "The (Russian) occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous," Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency. The capture of Kherson - located on the banks of the Dnieper River where it flows into the Black Sea - is significant because it could allow Russia to create a base for the military there as it seeks to push further inland. Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, came under a fierce aerial assault. Its mayor told the BBC shelling and cruise missile strikes were hitting residential areas and inflicting heavy civilian casualties.

3-3-22 Ukraine: Why has Russia's 64km convoy near Kyiv stopped moving?
Russia's huge military convoy, said to be 40-miles (64km) long, near Ukraine's capital Kyiv has hardly moved in three days, the UK defence ministry says. But US defence officials say Russia still intends to surround and seize the city where some three million people live - by siege tactics if necessary. Recent satellite images showing the size of the convoy sparked fears that an attack would be imminent. But UK and US officials say logistical problems could be slowing the advance. In an intelligence update on Thursday morning, the UK Ministry of Defence said the column had made "little discernible progress in over three days" and remains more than 30km from Kyiv. Several reasons could explain the why the huge column, which includes armoured vehicles, tanks, and towed artillery, has stopped its advance on the capital. They include logistical problems, unexpected Ukrainian resistance, and low morale among Russian troops. Logistically, mechanical breakdown and congestion are causing problems, according to the UK government. Food and fuel are said to be in short supply, and there are reports that poor quality and badly maintained tyres may also be an issue. "There's a massive logistical failure to provide fuel, food, spare parts and tyres... they got stuck in the mud in a way that makes it difficult to move vehicles out," General Sir Richard Barrons, former Commander of the UK Joint Forces Command, told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. However, he said that command and control issues - for example faulty radio networks and communicating on open networks - are likely to be causing bigger problems. The Pentagon also said Russia was having logistical issues and had taken the decision to deliberately regroup and reassess the "progress they have not made and how to make up the lost time". Ukrainian resistance is also thought to be hampering the progress of the convoy, according to the Pentagon, although it noted that it could not fully independently verify that claim.

3-3-22 Jerome Powell: US central bank boss says he plans to raise rates
The US central bank's boss has indicated that he plans to press ahead with interest rate increases this month. Speaking in front of Congress, Jerome Powell said he's in favour of a 0.25 point increase, aimed at tackling the surging cost of living. The bank is under pressure to rein in inflation as prices in the US rise at the fastest rate in 40 years. Analysts expect a rate hike in March, which would be the first since 2018. It comes as costs for food, fuel and cars have risen sharply in recent months, leaving families' budgets strained. Mr Powell admitted that he was open to further interest rate increases further down the line if inflation, which measures how quickly the cost of living rises over time, remains "persistently high." The idea of raising interest rates is to keep those current and predicted price rises under control. Higher interest rates make borrowing more expensive, for example. For households, that could mean higher mortgage costs, although - for the vast majority of homeowners - the impact is not immediate, and some will escape it entirely. Many central banks, including the Federal Reserve in the US, aim to keep inflation contained at 2%. Mr Powell acknowledged that price increases have jumped far above that target. In January, the increase in the cost of living jumped by 7.5% when compared with a year earlier. "The inflation that we're experiencing is just nothing like anything we've experienced in decades," he said. At the start of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve slashed rates to zero in a bid to stimulate spending and the economy at a time when many sectors were shut-down. But a mix of issues, such as high demand as restrictions ease, labour shortages and supply chain problems have led to increases in the cost of goods in particular. The chair recognised that "high inflation imposes significant hardship" on people and said the Bank will use all its tools to ensure the increased prices do not become "entrenched".

3-3-22 Covid-19 news: WHO reports 25 per cent rise in depression and anxiety
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Pandemic linked to increase in depression and anxiety worldwide. A World Health Organization (WHO) briefing suggests that depression and anxiety have risen substantially during the coronavirus pandemic, with women and young people among the worst affected. Based on a review of existing evidence into covid-19’s impact on mental health, the briefing largely attributes the rise to the unprecedented stress of social isolation, as well as grieving loved ones, financial worries and fear of infection. Most of the countries surveyed (90 per cent) have included mental health support in their covid-19 recovery plans, however, the WHO has stressed there are still gaps in care.“The information we have now about the impact of covid-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.” The WHO has conditionally recommended molnupiravir as the first oral antiviral drug for people with non-severe covid who are most at risk of hospitalisation, such as older age groups or people who are immunocompromised. The recommendation is based on six studies with a total of 4796 participants between them. The review found that, when given within five days of the onset of mild symptoms, administering four molnupiravir tablets twice a day for five days can reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 30 per cent.

3-3-22 How to interpret the CDC’s new mask guidelines
The coronavirus hasn’t gone away, but the agency now calculates risk differently. One moment, Campbell County in Wyoming’s northeastern corner was an area of high levels of transmission of the coronavirus, a scenario in which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors in public places. In the space of a breath, that county got the green light from the CDC that everyone could remove their masks. Campbell County is not alone. By one measure, in the week of February 20 to February 26, 91 percent of U.S. counties had high or substantial levels of community transmission of the coronavirus, the CDC calculated. The agency recommended wearing masks under those conditions (SN: 2/12/21). Yet on February 25, just 37.3 percent of counties were considered high risk and in need of masks, the agency projected. How could communities be in the Schrödinger’s cat position of simultaneous mask-on high and mask-off low risk? Transmission levels of the virus hadn’t changed, but the way that the CDC calculates risk did. Under previous guidelines, case counts were the most important measure. The CDC labeled counties that exceeded 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past week or had 8 percent of tests coming back positive as places with substantial or high transmission. With the new guidelines, the CDC shifted focus to levels of severe disease. Case counts are just one of three numbers used to calculate risk. The new metrics raise case thresholds for wearing masks and other precautions to 200 weekly cases per 100,000 people. Below that level of cases is now considered low risk, as long as the number of hospital admissions and percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients are also low. Higher case levels or more hospitalizations — both new admissions and beds filled — mark moderate or high transmission areas, and that’s when recommended public health measures, such as masking and testing, start phasing in again. Individuals can check their county’s COVID-19 levels using an online tool from the CDC.

3-2-22 DeSantis tells high school students to remove their masks: 'It's not doing anything'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) urged a group of high school students to remove their masks during an event at the University of South Florida on Wednesday, Tampa Bay's NBC affiliate reported. "You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off," DeSantis said as he approached the podium. Several of the students standing behind the podium laughed. "Honestly, it's not doing anything. We've gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous," DeSantis continued. According to his office, DeSantis visited USF to highlight a $20 million investment in new cybersecurity and IT training programs for middle school, high school, and college students. Of the six students visible in the video, all of whom reportedly attend Middleton High School in Tampa, four can be seen removing their masks. One stays masked, while the view of the remaining student is blocked by DeSantis' body. Addison Davis, the superintendent of the students' school district, said in a statement that "it is a student and parents' choice to protect their health in the way they feel most appropriate. We are proud of the manner in which our students represented themselves and our school district." Florida school districts are prohibited by state law from mandating masks, Forbes reports. USF "strongly encourage[s] COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters," but does not require students to be vaccinated or to wear masks on campus. DeSantis rose to national prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic for refusing to impose rigorous restrictions and taking action to keep local schools and businesses from requiring masks or vaccines as a condition of employment or service. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando last week, DeSantis touted Florida's status as a "citadel of freedom" and declared that "Florida has defeated Faucism," MSNBC reported.

3-2-22 No 'corporate death penalty' for the NRA, New York judge rules
A New York judge rejected New York Attorney General Letitia James' attempt to dissolve the National Rifle Association in a ruling issued Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reports. James sued the gun-rights group and four of its highest-ranking former and current officials in 2020, accusing the NRA of "illegally diverting tens of millions of dollars from the group through excessive expenses and contracts that benefited relatives or close associates," the Journal reports. These alleged abuses include NRA President Wayne LaPierre's failure to disclose several free "security retreats" he took on a 108-foot yacht owned by Hollywood producer David McKenzie. New York state law allows the attorney general to bring an "action for judicial dissolution" — also known as the "corporate death penalty" — against any corporation that has "conducted or transacted its business in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner." The NRA was first chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871. The gun-rights group tried to duck James' lawsuit last year by declaring bankruptcy in Texas and then reincorporating there, but a federal bankruptcy judge dismissed the petition, ruling that it "was not filed in good faith." During the trial in Texas, several witnesses testified that the NRA uses its tax-exempt funds to pay for tropical vacations, private airplanes, and weddings. Although New York Supreme Court Judge Joel M. Cohen declined to dissolve the NRA due to concerns about the "free speech and assembly rights" of NRA members, he did allow the rest of James' lawsuit against the group to proceed.

3-2-22 Russian troops in Ukraine are surrendering, sabotaging their own vehicles, Pentagon officials say
Russia's halting progress in its invasion of Ukraine has puzzled Western observers and analysts, but a senior Pentagon official told The New York Times on Tuesday that Russia's forces, plagued by low morale and food and fuel shortages, have suffered mass surrenders and self-sabotage by conscripts who "deliberately punched holes in their vehicles' gas tanks, presumably to avoid combat." The Economist's Shashank Josh said a Pentagon source told him "with certainty" that Russians are sabotaging their own military vehicles. U.S. and European officials said this mix of logistical failures and internal vandalism might explain why a 40-mile convoy of Russian military vehicles from Belarus has slowed to a crawl some 20 miles north of Kyiv, making it a target for Ukraine's armed forces, the Times reports. Other officials explain Russia's slow process by pointing to to stiffer-than-expected resistance from the Ukrainian forces and their surprisingly effective air defense, or suggest Russian commanders are just regrouping and calibrating their strategy. But Ukraine is celebrating what wins it can over the much larger and more powerful Russian invaders, tactically or in terms of public relations. Ukraine's National Agency for the Protection Against Corruption (NAPC) tax agency, for example, said in a press release Tuesday that Ukrainians don't have to declare Russian tanks and other equipment they capture from the enemy, according to Ukraine's Interfax news service.

3-2-22 Russia and Ukraine are ready for more peace talks, but neither side looks ready to budge
Russia and Ukraine say they're ready for another round of peace talks, but neither side appears willing to accede to the other's demands, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Per AP, "Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that a delegation would be ready later in the day to meet Ukrainian officials" and signaled that his country was prepared to weather the "unprecedented" sanctions being imposed on Russia. Ukrainian Defense Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country is also ready to negotiate but is unwilling to accept "Russian ultimatums" which are "the same as those publicly voiced by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin at the state of the war," The Kyiv Independent reported. In the months leading up to Russia's invasion, Putin attempted unsuccessfully to extract from NATO, Ukraine, or both a promise that Ukraine would not join NATO. The two countries previously held talks on the border between Ukraine and Putin-allied Belarus on Monday. According to Al Jazeera, they agreed to hold another meeting on the border between Poland and Belarus but were unable to reach a consensus on much else. After making advancing more slowly than expected, the Russian invasion began to meet with some success on Tuesday and Wednesday with the capture of the port city of Kherson and the encirclement of Kharkiv and Mariupol, the United Kingdom's Defense Ministry and Al Jazeera reported.

3-2-22 Russian forces claim control of key port city and begin to surround others
Russia's invasion of Ukraine took a heavy toll on civilians on Wednesday as residential neighbourhoods were bombed and key cities surrounded. The Russian military claimed it was in control of Kherson, a strategically important port city near Crimea. However, local authorities said Kherson was still under Ukrainian control, despite being surrounded. Russian forces also appeared to be surrounding key cities including Kharkiv and the port city of Mariupol. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky called his people a "symbol of invincibility". Mariupol, in the south east, was under constant shelling on Wednesday, its deputy mayor Sergiy Orlov told the BBC. "The situation in Mariupol is awful, we are near to a humanitarian catastrophe. We have been under more than 15 hours of continuous shelling without any pause," he said. "The Russian army is working through all their weapons here - artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, airplanes, tactical rockets. They are trying to destroy the city." Mr Orlov said Russian forces were several kilometres from the city on all sides, and strikes on key infrastructure had cut water and power supplies to parts of the city. One densely populated residential district on the city's left bank had been "nearly totally destroyed". "We cannot count the number of victims there, but we believe at least hundreds of people are dead. We cannot go in to retrieve the bodies," he said. "My father lives there, I cannot reach him, I don't know if he is alive or dead." Ukraine's emergency services said more than 2,000 civilians had been killed so far during the Russian invasion, though the BBC was not able to independently verify the figure. The UN said on Tuesday that at least 136 civilians have been killed, thought it estimates that the actual toll is higher. Mr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Russia was attempting to "erase" his country.

3-2-22 Ukraine conflict: Russia's Kharkiv attacks are war crimes, says Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of war crimes after it launched air strikes on the country's second city, Kharkiv. At least 10 people were killed and 35 hurt when an opera house, a concert hall and government offices were struck in Kharkiv's Freedom Square on Tuesday. Later, Ukraine's military said Russian troops had parachuted into Kharkiv in an effort to capture the besieged city. The military said there were immediate clashes after the paratroopers landed. Earlier on Tuesday, the main TV tower in the capital Kyiv was also hit, knocking media off air and killing five people. Moscow warned residents near Kyiv's military areas to leave their homes. The explosion sent smoke billowing from the steel structure, but the tower remains standing. A nearby memorial to victims of the Holocaust was damaged in the same strike. The Babyn Yar ravine is Europe's largest mass grave of the Holocaust where more than 70,000 people, mostly Jews, were shot by the Nazis. Mr Zelensky said on Twitter that the attack was "history repeating...". "What is the point of saying 'never again' for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?" Satellite images reveal a huge Russian military convoy snaking towards Kyiv, amid fears of an all-out assault on the capital. But a senior US defence official said there had been "no appreciable movement" by the 40-mile (64km) convoy on Tuesday. There were indications that morale was flagging among Russian troops in general, and some units were surrendering, sometimes without a fight, the official added. In a speech to the EU parliament by video link, Mr Zelensky called on Europe to "prove you are with us, prove that you will not let us go". Later the parliament said it would look at a request by Ukraine for candidate status of the EU.

3-2-22 Ukraine crisis: What message was Biden sending to Putin?
Joe Biden spent the first 15 minutes of his State of the Union address talking about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, an event that certainly has transfixed the world more than the latest twists and stumbles of his domestic legislative agenda. Although Mr Biden's annual speech is billed as a message to Congress, his comments on Ukraine were tailored to four distinct audiences - with four distinct messages. Early in his speech, Mr Biden called out Ukrainian ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova, seated in the balcony next to Jill Biden and other distinguished guests. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said, as members of Congress cheered. The United States has already sent Ukraine military, economic and humanitarian aid. On Tuesday night, Mr Biden wanted to send a message that America cared about Ukraine's fate and stood by the embattled nation. "From President Zelensky to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination inspires the world," he said. Although Kyiv may be encircled by Russian tanks, his message was that more American help is on the way. Mr Biden's message to Vladimir Putin was simple - the Russian president had "badly miscalculated". The economy pain that the US and Europe had imposed on Russia for its invasion was just beginning. The rouble was crashing, the Russian stock market was in free-fall, Russian oligarchs would have their "ill-begotten gains" confiscated, and Russia was losing access to key technologies. There was another message to Russia beyond one of economic pain, however. He also emphasised that the US and its allies would fight to defend "every inch of territory of Nato countries". Mr Putin has put his nuclear forces on elevated alert and warned of devastating consequences if any nation intervened in Ukraine. Mr Biden's message was to spell out, lest there be any doubt, when and where America itself would fight. The US and its European allies have been in remarkable lockstep as they imposed sanctions on Russia and offered military aid to Ukraine. Time and time again during his speech, Mr Biden celebrated this fact. "He thought the West and Nato wouldn't respond," the president said. "Putin was wrong. We were ready."

3-2-22 Ukraine crisis: Biden threatens to punish Putin over invasion
US President Joe Biden has told Congress that Vladimir Putin badly misjudged how the West would hit back once he invaded Ukraine. In a primetime speech, Mr Biden vowed "an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny". Democrats and Republicans reacted to Mr Biden's appeal to show support for Ukraine by rising in unison to applaud. His State of the Union address came as pandemic-weary Americans grapple with galloping inflation. In an hour-long address to lawmakers on Tuesday night, the Democratic president said: "Putin's war was premeditated and unprovoked. He rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy. "He thought the West and Nato wouldn't respond. And he thought he could divide us here at home." Mr Biden - whose chaotic withdrawal last year from Afghanistan damaged his popularity among Americans - added: "Putin was wrong. We were ready." He announced that the US would ban Russian aircraft from American airspace, following similar bans by Canadian and European authorities. The US and it allies have launched a barrage of sanctions against Russia's economy and financial system and Mr Putin himself. In his speech Mr Biden deviated from his prepared remarks by vowing further economic retaliation, warning Mr Putin: "He has no idea what's coming." The US president also welcomed Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova, who received a standing ovation as she sat in US First Lady Jill Biden's VIP box. Hours before his address, Mr Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss what help the US could give his country after six days of the Russian assault. "Let each of us... stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world," Mr Biden told his audience in the chamber of the House of Representatives. It was one of the few moments in the speech where members of both deeply polarised parties rose together to clap and cheer for Ukraine, many of them waving Ukrainian flags that had been passed out before the president arrived. Mr Biden's first formal State of the Union speech, an annual event pushing a president's agenda, came as his approval rating languishes.

3-2-22 Apple, Nike and Google join brands limiting services
Apple has become the latest major firm to halt all product sales in Russia, in a widening corporate backlash to the country's invasion of Ukraine. The tech giant was said it was "deeply concerned" about the Russian invasion and stands with those "suffering as a result of the violence". Apple Pay and other services such as Apple Maps have also been limited. Nike did not comment on the conflict but customers are no longer able to order its products online. An automated message said Nike was halting online orders because it could not guarantee delivery of goods to customers in Russia. However, the website directed customers to their nearest Nike stores. One Ukrainian member of parliament, Lesia Vsylenko, tweeted that the sportswear giant's move was a great example of how private companies could impose sanctions against Russia. A series of high profile brands have pulled back from Russia in recent days, including film studios, carmakers and technology firms. Google has removed Russian state-funded publishers such as RT from its features. Mobile banking apps in Russian, such as Russia's VTB Bank's app, may soon not function fully on devices using Apple's iOS operating system, according to news agency RIA. Apple said in a statement that the firm had disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a "safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens". Last week, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov published an open letter to Apple on Twitter, in which he asked Apple to cut Russia off from its products, services, and App Store. Apple's iPhones are the third best-selling smartphone in Russia, supplying about 13% of all the handsets sold last year,according to market research firm Counterpoint. However that represents less than 2% of Apple's global iPhone sales. Earlier, Google restricted news firms funded by the Russian government from advertising tools and some features on YouTube. "We are committed to complying with all sanctions requirements and we continue to monitor the latest guidance," the company wrote in a blog post.

3-2-22 Covid-19 news: Worldwide IVF and fertility treatments delays revealed
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. A study of 43 countries suggests the coronavirus pandemic has substantially pushed back fertility treatments, with Scotland facing some of the biggest delays. A team involving researchers at Monash University, Australia, sent surveys to fertility clinics across Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America from October 2020 to September 2021. Treatment delays were reported in 34 countries, with people waiting an average of 59 days for IVF or an intracytoplasmic sperm injection, when a single sperm is inserted into an egg in a laboratory. Frozen embryo transfers were delayed by an average of 60 days. These occur when embryos from a previous IVF cycle are thawed and inserted into the womb. The study, which is due to be published in Reproductive Medicine, found that the largest delay in fertility treatments was 228 days, reported by a clinic in Scotland. Austria, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Norway and Portugal were the only countries where the clinics surveyed reported no delays. Compulsory coronavirus vaccines for care home staff are being scrapped in England from 15 March. The policy previously required anyone working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home to have two vaccine doses, unless medically exempt. Amid fears of a staffing crisis, the government has said public immunity to the coronavirus is now high due to widespread vaccine uptake and many people recovering from the omicron variant. Nerve damage may play a role in some cases of long covid. A small study of 17 people experiencing long-term symptoms found that 59 per cent had signs of nerve damage, possibly caused by an overactive immune response. “I think what’s going on here is that the nerves that control things like our breathing, blood vessels and our digestion in some cases are damaged in these long COVID patients,” said neurologist Anne Louise Oaklander, reported by Reuters. Preliminary laboratory studies suggest that modified T-cells could help treat covid in people on immune-suppressing drugs. Researchers in Germany genetically modified the T-cells of people who had recovered from covid-19 to make them resistant to the drug tacrolimus, which is commonly given to people who have had an organ transplant to prevent rejection. The modified cells then attacked the coronavirus while exposed to tacrolimus in a laboratory experiment.

3-2-22 What Americans think of President Biden's Ukraine response
Before President Biden's first State of the Union address, the BBC's North America editor Sarah Smith asked some Americans in Philadelphia how they feel about the US response to the war in Ukraine. The US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) allies have been sending weapons to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia. But Mr Biden has said he will not send troops to fight. Western nations have instead focused on an economic response - sanctions designed to squeeze Russian banks, the Kremlin's elite and President Vladimir Putin himself.

3-1-22 Biden: 'The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police.'
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden stressed the importance of giving communities enough money to hire and train law enforcement officers who can "restore trust and safety" to neighborhoods, saying, "The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them." Several Republicans stood after Biden said this, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Biden spoke about recently meeting with the families of two slain New York Police Department officers, Wilbert Mora and Jason Rivera, and said he told them "we are forever in debt to their sacrifices and will carry on their mission to restore the trust and safety every community deserves." When it comes to public safety, "I know what works," Biden said. "Investigating, crime prevention, and community policing, cops who walk the beat, who know the neighborhood and can restore trust and safety. Let's not abandon our streets or choose between safety and equal justice. Let's come together and protect our communities, restore trust, and hold law enforcement accountable." The American Rescue Plan provided $350 billion for cities and counties to hire more police officers, Biden said, an investment in "proven strategies" like breaking the cycle of violence and trauma and "giving young people hope." Biden also said he will do everything in his power to crack down on ghost guns and gun trafficking, and called on Congress to ban assault weapons with high-capacity magazines and pass universal backgrounds. "Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon?" he asked. "Why? Why?"

3-1-22 Ukraine conflict: Russia bombs Kharkiv's Freedom Square and opera house
Russian missiles and rockets have hit the cultural heart of Ukraine's second largest city in what officials said was a deadly and "cruel" attack.An opera house, concert hall and government offices were hit in Freedom Square, in the centre of the north-eastern city Kharkiv. At least 10 people were killed and 35 more were injured, local authorities have said. The attack came as Ukraine's president said Russia was committing war crimes. "This is the price of freedom," President Volodymyr Zelensky said. "This is terror against Ukraine. There were no military targets in the square - nor are they in those residential districts of Kharkiv which come under rocket artillery fire," he added. Video footage showed a missile hitting the local government building and exploding, causing a massive fireball and blowing out windows of surrounding buildings. Freedom Square is the second largest city-centre square in Europe and a landmark of the city. Kharkiv has been bombed heavily for days now, and 16 people were killed before Tuesday's attack Mr Zelensky said. His government accuses Russia of trying to lay siege to Kharkiv and other cities, including the capital Kyiv, where a huge Russian armoured convoy is approaching. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the world must do more to punish Russia for the "barbaric" attack on Freedom Square and residential neighbourhoods, accusing the Russian President Vladimir Putin of committing "more war crimes out of fury, murdering innocent civilians". The sixth day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has seen continued attacks on several fronts, but the Russian advance has reportedly been slowed by Ukrainian resistance. People in the southern city of Kherson say it is now surrounded, and the mayor of Mariupol, a port city also in the south of Ukraine says it endured relentless shelling overnight.

3-1-22 Ukraine invasion: Russians feel the pain of international sanctions
"If I could leave Russia right now, I would. But I can't quit my job," says Andrey. He can't afford to get a mortgage in Moscow now interest rates have been hiked. Millions of Russians like him are starting to feel the effect of Western economic sanctions designed to punish the country for invading neighbouring Ukraine. "I am planning to find new customers abroad asap and move out of Russia with the money I was saving for the first instalment," says the 31-year-old industrial designer. "I am scared here - people have been arrested for speaking against 'the party line'. I feel ashamed and I didn't even vote for those in power." Like other interviewees for this article we are not using his full name or showing his face for security reasons. Some names have been changed. The sanctions now hitting Russia are being described as economic war - they aim to isolate the country and create a deep recession there. Western leaders hope the unprecedented measures will bring about a change in thinking in the Kremlin. Ordinary Russians face seeing their savings wiped out. Their lives are already being disrupted. The sanctions against some Russian banks include cutting them off from Visa and Mastercard, and consequently Apple Pay and Google Pay. Daria, 35, a project manager in Moscow, said this meant he'd been unable to use the metro. "I always pay with my phone but it simply didn't work. There were some other people with the same problem. It turned out that the barriers are operated by VTB bank which is under sanctions and cannot accept Google Pay and Apple Pay. "I had to buy a metro card instead," he told the BBC. "I also couldn't pay in a shop today - for the same reason." On Monday Russia more than doubled its interest rate to 20% in response to the sanctions after the rouble plunged to record new lows. The stock market remains closed amid fears of a massive share sell-off.

3-1-22 Putin is frustrated and uncharacteristically angry over Ukraine setbacks, U.S. intelligence warns
"U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin is growing increasingly frustrated by his military struggles in Ukraine, and may see his only option as doubling down on violence," NBC News reports, citing current and former U.S. officials. While there's no evidence he is mentally unstable, "the U.S. has solid intelligence that Putin is frustrated and expressing unusual bursts of anger at people in his inner circle." Putin, a former Russian intelligence officer, typically keeps his emotions in check. But the Ukraine invasion is not going well for him, for reasons The Guardian's Shaun Walker summarizes. "Putin is usually more cynical and calculated than he came across in his most recent speeches," former U.S. national security official and longtime Putin expert Fiona Hill tells Politico in a long, bracing interview. "There's evident visceral emotion in things that he said in the past few weeks justifying the war in Ukraine." This "visceral emotion is unhealthy and extraordinarily dangerous because there are few checks and balances around Putin," she adds, and unless he's stopped, he will settle for nothing less than a total conquest of Ukraine, by whatever means necessary — even nuclear weapons. "The thing about Putin is, if he has an instrument, he wants to use it," Hill said. "So if anybody thinks that Putin wouldn't use something that he's got that is unusual and cruel, think again. Every time you think, 'No, he wouldn't, would he?' Well, yes, he would. And he wants us to know that, of course. It's not that we should be intimidated and scared. That's exactly what he wants us to be. We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we're going to do to head them off." There is a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles descending on Kyiv, and Russia is raining missiles down on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. But "the Russian army is overextended and in a precarious position if Ukraine becomes a protracted war," writes Seth Jones at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. John Spencer, chair of the Urban Warfare Studies program at West Point, told Reuters what Russia has done wrong. "Putin's remaining options are all unattractive and risky," NBC News reports, and experts are concerned he will turn to indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, as he did in Syria and the 1999-2000 Chechen War that decimated Grozny but helped elevate Putin to power.

3-1-22 Canada to ban imports of crude oil from Russia
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a ban on Russian oil imports following the country's invasion of Ukraine. Mr Trudeau said oil revenues have helped to prop up President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs. Coordinated Western sanctions against Russia have targeted its banks but still accept its oil and gas exports. Unlike Europe, Canada is not heavily reliant on Russia's oil exports. "While Canada has imported very little amounts in recent years, this measure sends a powerful message," Mr Trudeau told a news conference. Canada imported just C$289m (£170m) worth of energy products in 2021, according to Statistics Canada. Canada is the world's fourth largest producer of oil. Europe, however, is far more reliant on Russia's supplies. A quarter of the European Union's petroleum oil imports come from Russia and about 40% of the EU's natural gas imports. Refusing to buy its oil and gas would be a very tough sanction from European countries, but policymakers have so far been reluctant to take that step, worried about the impact on energy prices in their own countries. The price of Brent crude rose by 4.6% to $102 barrel on Monday after Western nations imposed new sanctions on Russia - one of the world's largest energy producers. While the UK gets most of its imports from Norway and the US, fuel prices in the UK still hit record highs on Monday as the impact of Russia's invasion affected global energy markets. Russian oil and gas exports make up a fifth of Russia's economy and half of its earnings from exports. The country is the European Union's biggest oil trading partner, according to the latest data from Eurostat. Western nations announced at the weekend that they would impose sanctions on Russia's central bank to prevent it from selling its vast reserves to prop up its own banks and companies.

3-1-22 Covid-19 news: Pfizer/BioNTech jab may be less effective in under 12s
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Study suggests that protection from two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine quickly wanes in children between five and 11. Protection against infection and hospitalisation from the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine falls relatively rapidly in children aged 5 to 11, according to a preliminary study. Researchers analysed covid-19 cases and hospitalisations among 365,502 fully vaccinated children aged between five to 11, and 852,384 aged between 12 and 17, all of whom lived in New York. They looked at data from 13 December 2021 to 30 January 2022, during a surge of covid-19 infections from the omicron variant. The team found that, for the older children, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s protection against hospitalisation fell from 85 per cent in mid-December to 73 per cent by the end of January. But the drop was steeper for children aged five to 11, with protection against hospitalisation declining from 100 per cent to just 48 per cent. For protection against infection, effectiveness dropped from 66 per cent to 51 per cent among the 12 to 17 age group, and from 68 per cent to 12 per cent in the younger age group. Researchers may have found a case of deer-to-human covid-19 transmission in Canada. In a preliminary study published on 25 February, the team traced at least one case of covid-19 in humans back to a strain of the virus found in white-tailed deer. White-tailed deer had previously been found to be infected with covid-19 in the US and Canada. For the study, the researchers took samples from hunted deers in Ontario, Canada and found 17 were infected with a previously unknown strain of covid-19. They then found that one person, who had been in contact with deer, had tested positive for similar strain. Hong Kong today reported 32,597 new infections and 117 deaths – the city’s highest figure since the pandemic began. The city has seen a huge surge in covid-19 cases, with only 739 new cases on 1 February. Hong Kong’s fatality rate is currently one of the highest in the world, which may partly be due to lower vaccination rates in older age groups. To tackle the current surge, the city plans to begin mass testing its 7.4 million residents in mid-March.


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