Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

311 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for April 2022
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source


4-30-22 Russia's offensive in the Donbas is 'not succeeding,' Ukrainian military says
Russian forces pressed the attack in eastern Ukraine on Saturday but failed to capture their three main objectives, the Ukrainian military said. Per the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces, the Russians were attempting to capture the city of Lyman in the Donetsk Oblast and the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Popasna in the Lukahsk Oblast. The Pentagon said Russian forces are making only "plodding progress" in the face of intense Ukrainian resistance, The Washington Post reported. According to Reuters, "Moscow said on Saturday its artillery units had struck 389 Ukrainian targets overnight." Artillery has played a major role on the eastern front, with some observers warning Ukraine may not have enough artillery rounds to keep pace with Russia's bombardment. Russia's ongoing campaign in the Donbas, which it launched after failing to take Kyiv, aims to capture territory in eastern and southern Ukraine. A Russian general said earlier this month that Russia hopes to establish land bridges connecting the eastern separatist republics to Crimea and Moldova, a goal that would require seizing virtually all of southern Ukraine. The largest obstacle separating Russian forces from the Moldovan border is the port city of Odessa. On Saturday, The Kyiv Independent reported Ukrainian police believe Russia has hired "criminal gangs to plot provocations and riots in Odessa" on May 2. In response, Odessa police have declared a curfew "from the evening of May 1 till May 3."

4-30-22 Acceptable casualties
reedom from COVID mandates won’t be free. How many deaths should we tolerate? How many deaths is freedom worth? It's a calculation that's rarely discussed but must be made — consciously, as a matter of policy, or tacitly, as a matter of indifference. As the country settles into uneasy coexistence with the coronavirus, will vaccination be required by employers and schools, or left to individual choice? Are mask mandates in public spaces gone forever, or will they return if there's a major surge in fall and winter, or if dangerous new variants emerge? Should we stop fighting this persistent pathogen, and just let it rip? Cost-benefit analyses are tricky, but our choices can be made clearer through comparison: If the flu typically kills from 12,000 to 52,000 Americans a year, would 100,000 annual COVID deaths be an acceptable price for no mask or vaccine mandates? Would 200,000? Since early February, we've had 90,000 deaths, a rate of about 360,000 a year. Too many, or just right? The BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is now freely spreading, as masks come off and semi-normalcy returns. Thanks to vaccination and prior infections, COVID deaths and hospitalizations remain relatively low. But only 45 percent of the vaccinated have been boosted, and death is not the only bad outcome of infection: More than 20 million Americans already have long COVID, and even mild infections have been shown to sometimes leave lingering organ damage and to trigger chronic fatigue, inflammation, and autoimmune syndromes. Virologists and epidemiologists warn that we are likely in another lull in the pandemic, not at the end. Studies clearly show that immunity from vaccines and prior infection wanes over time, so the shape-shifting virus may return to infect people again and again, unless we keep boosting. We have the weapons to keep this virus under control, but lack the social cohesion to follow a coherent national strategy. Freedom is just another word for "you're on your own."

4-30-22 The S&P 500 is down 13.8 percent in 2022, the worst year-to-date performance since World War II
The stock market plunged on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 939.18 points, or 2.8 percent, The Washington Post reported. Tech stocks were particularly hard hit, with the Nasdaq down 4.2 percent. Amazon shares fell by around 14 percent. Netflix, which peaked at over $700 per share last year, continued its free-fall, closing out the week at around $190 a share. The S&P 500 lost 9.1 percent of its value in April, closing out its worst month since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 and marking its worst year-to-date performance since World War II. According to MarketWatch, the Nasdaq had its worst April since 2000, while the Dow and S&P 500 "suffered their worst April performance since 1970." "The economy is fundamentally soft: The Fed is going to hike next week, the situation in Ukraine is not getting better and high inflation is cutting into costs," Joe La Vorgna, who served as a White House economic adviser under former President Donald Trump, told the Post.

4-30-22 Trump appears poised to avoid criminal charges in Manhattan grand jury probe
The grand jury assigned to the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into Donald Trump is wrapping up this week without any criminal charges against the former president, suggesting he "will not be indicted in Manhattan in the foreseeable future — if at all," reports The New York Times. Trump was facing criminal charges as the probe looked into his financial dealings and those of the Trump Organization, but Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has reportedly stopped presenting the grand jury any evidence on Trump in recent weeks. The former "war room" prosecutors dedicated to preparing for grand jury presentations in the Trump probe has shuttered, and the grand jury expires at the end of the month. Prosecutors still could form another jury to continue determining whether Trump falsely inflated the value of his assets, but given the trajectory of the case, it seems unlikely, says the Times. Some sources "believe that it will not result in an indictment of the former president unless a witness cooperates unexpectedly — a long shot in an investigation that has been running for more than three years." Bragg's case is separate from that of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the same conduct. That case is expected to take action against Trump, but because "her investigation is civil, Ms. James can bring a lawsuit, but not criminal charges," writes the Times.

4-30-22 China Covid outbreak: Beijing residents must test negative to enter public spaces
Beijing residents must prove they are Covid negative to enter public spaces in a major tightening of restrictions in the Chinese capital. It is not clear how long the new measures will last, but the announcement comes as the city begins a five-day public holiday. Proof of a negative Covid test will also be required to board public transport from 5 May. China is battling a resurgence in Covid cases. In contrast to many other countries, China is pursuing a zero-Covid strategy with the aim of eradicating the virus from the country completely. But the measures, such as strict lockdowns, have led to rare shows of public anger against the authorities. Beijing's new rules come days after the city launched mass testing for its millions of residents following a spike in cases. All dining in restaurants will also be halted between 1 and 4 May, with people being asked to cook at home. The city has reported 295 new cases since 22 April. Of these, 123 cases were found in the Chaoyang, Beijing's most populous district, which is now set for three rounds of mass testing. The streets of Beijing were quiet at the start of the five-day Labour Day break. One female resident, a finance worker, started to cry as she told Reuters how she felt. "You look at a city that used to be crowded and now is empty. And you can't help but wonder how these people manage to survive," she said. Earlier this month residents rushed to stock up essential supplies and long queues were seen outside supermarkets and shops, despite government assurances there is sufficient food. There are fears the city could face a similar situation to Shanghai, which has seen 25 million people shut in their homes for weeks and left some struggling to find food and other basics. Since the outbreak began in early March, more than 500,000 people in Shanghai have tested positive for the virus. But the city reached a milestone on Saturday, recording no new daily Covid cases outside of quarantine areas.

4-30-22 Ukraine war: US accuses Russia of depravity and brutality
The US defence department has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of acting with "depravity" in his invasion of Ukraine. Spokesman John Kirby became visibly emotional as he asked how anyone "moral" could justify the atrocities committed by Russia. But Russia's ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov has rejected the accusation. He described Mr Kirby's comment as "offensive and unacceptable". Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday he was still open to peace talks with Mr Putin. But he said there was a high risk they could collapse amid Russian aggression. Speaking to Polish media, Mr Zelensky said he wanted to meet Mr Putin because "a single man decides everything" in Russia. But the destruction left by Russian forces in occupied areas has made any discussions tenuous, he said. "After Bucha and Mariupol people just want to kill them. When there is such attitude, it is hard to talk about anything." On Thursday, Ukraine announced a hunt for 10 Russian soldiers accused of war crimes in Bucha - a suburb north of Kyiv where at least 400 civilians were killed. "I don't think we fully appreciated the degree to which [Mr Putin] would visit that kind of violence and cruelty," Mr Kirby said on Friday. He dismissed Mr Putin's stated justifications for the invasion - that he is protecting Russians and Ukraine from Nazism - adding: "It's hard to square that rhetoric by what he's actually doing inside Ukraine to innocent people, shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed." But Mr Antonov accused Kirby of "resorting to street insults". "It has become a norm here that administration officials base their judgments on dirty lies of the Ukrainian authorities," the Russian ambassador added. The BBC's Joel Gunter in Kyiv said there is growing evidence that Russia has forcibly deported large numbers of civilians across the border since it invaded the country in February. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on Saturday that more than one million people have been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the war began in February. Mr Lavrov told China's state news agency Xinhua that it included some 120,000 foreigners, in addition to hundreds of thousands of people from the Russian-backed breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine - Donetsk and Luhansk.

4-30-22 Clearing bombs with their hands: The bomb disposal unit saving a city
Less than 20 miles from the front lines is the city of Mykolaiv. On the Black Sea coast, it stands between the Russian army and Odesa. The city’s being shelled almost daily. But the attacks themselves aren’t the only threat because the pieces of artillery left behind can be just as fatal. The BBC followed the city’s bomb disposal unit around the city.

4-30-22 Killer dolphins? How Russia's navy is using trained marine mammals in its war against Ukraine
Don't call them Flipper. Russia, wary of letting any more of its high-value Black Sea naval ships fall prey to Ukrainian missiles, is sheltering many of its vessels out of range in Sevastopol harbor in Crimea. And the entrance to the harbor is being guarded by military dolphins, according to satellite photos analyzed by The Washington Post and H.I. Sutton, a submarine analyst at the U.S. Naval Institute. Is Russia's navy really using military dolphins as part of Moscow's Ukraine invasion, or is this story too good to check? Satellite photos from Maxar Technologies show what appear to be two dolphin pens on either side of the entrance to Sevastopol harbor, prompting Sutton to hypothesize "the dolphins may be tasked with counter-diver operations," preventing "Ukrainian special operations forces from infiltrating the harbor underwater to sabotage warships." The U.S. and Soviet Union, then later Russia, have been training dolphins for this kind of thing since the 1960s, he noted. Yes. The U.S. Navy declassified its marine mammal training program, based in San Diego, in the 1990s, and Ukraine was open about the Soviet program when it inherited Crimea — and the dolphins trained near Sevastopol — after the Soviet Union's collapse. "Dolphins are trained to search for and mark the location of undersea mines that could threaten the safety of those on board military or civilian ships," the Navy's Marine Mammal Program explains. "Both dolphins and sea lions also assist security personnel in detecting and apprehending unauthorized swimmers and divers that might attempt to harm the Navy's people, vessels, or harbor facilities." The sea lions, the Navy says, primarily "locate and attach recovery lines to Navy equipment on the ocean floor." When the Navy began exploring the idea of using marine mammals, it tested the sensory and physical capabilities of "more than a dozen different species of marine mammals, as well as sharks, rays, sea turtles, and marine birds," the Naval Information Warfare Center explains. But they stuck with only California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins, both of which are "known for their trainability and adaptability to a wide range of marine environments," especially deep, dark, or murky waters. The Russians also use beluga whales and seals, Hutton says.

4-29-22 Russia is making 'slow and uneven' gains in Ukraine, at 'significant cost' to its army, U.S., U.K. assess
Russia fired missiles at locations across Ukraine on Thursday, but "the Battle of Donbas remains Russia's main strategic focus," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Friday. "Fighting has been particularly heavy" around Izium, but "due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces." "We would assess that Russian forces are making slow and uneven and, frankly, we would describe it as incremental progress in the Donbas," a senior Pentagon official said Thursday. "Continued pushback by the Ukrainians" means there's a lot of "back-and-forth in the Donbas in terms of territory gained and/or lost by, frankly, both sides." The U.S. has moved more than 60 percent of the 90 promised howitzers into Ukraine, and the first group of Ukrainian soldiers has been trained to use them, the Pentagon official said. Russia, meanwhile, has about 92 battle tactical groups (BTGs) in Ukraine, with another 20 still in Russia, in various states of combat readiness. These "alleged 92" BTGs are almost certainly "undermanned, not well supplied, not well led, are on ground they're not familiar with, and they don't do maneuver all that well," said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a former U.S. Army commander in Europe. Russia has been slamming Ukraine's Donbas forces with artillery, and while Ukraine's frontline troops wait for the U.S. howitzers to arrive, they have to temporarily "give up ground" to survive the shelling. "That's what we're seeing now in several locations in the east and south," Hertling said. "We're seeing Russian forces temporarily take ground, then being pushed back by the smart, better led, more adaptive active defense of the Ukrainian army." As spring arrives, "the ground conditions — and I mean literally the ground conditions — are going to be an increasing factor," the Pentagon official added. The Russians will be "ever more reliant on paved roads and paved highways," and "we would expect that some of their progress will be slowed, frankly, by mud."

4-29-22 Ukraine launches hunt for Russian soldiers accused of Bucha war crimes
Ukraine has launched a hunt for 10 Russian soldiers accused of war crimes in Bucha - the town outside of the capital Kyiv where civilians were tortured, raped and murdered. The Ministry of Defence - which shared pictures of the soldiers - described them as "the despicable 10". Prosecutors say they are being investigated for "premeditated murder". They are also accused of holding innocent civilians hostage, beating them and looting homes. Moscow has denied any crimes were committed in Bucha, which was under the control of the 64th motorised infantry brigade for more than a month at the start of the war. Russia's President Vladimir Putin gave the brigade an honorary title - recognising what he says was "mass heroism and valour, tenacity and courage" - on its return home. But in the time the brigade controlled Bucha, hundreds were killed. A mass grave was discovered at the church after the town's liberation, while bodies had been left lining the streets where they fell. Thousands of war crimes were documented by investigators. One of those who survived, Vitaliy Zhyvotovskyi, recalled the screams he heard to news agency AFP. "We had no hope," he said, remembering how they used to tremble "not because of the cold, but due to fear because we could hear what the Russians did to the captives". On Thursday, Ukraine's prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova announced they had identified the 10 suspects in particular, sharing pictures of the young men. In a Facebook post, she explained they "are suspected of cruel treatment of civilians and other violations of laws and customs of war". "The suspects will be declared wanted in order to detain them and bring them to justice," the statement added, appealing for any other information. Stephen Wilkinson, the manager of the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre in Sweden, points out that the chance of a successful prosecution is quite low if they are in Russia.

4-29-22 Russian troop losses in east colossal, says Ukraine official
Updates from BBC correspondents: Sarah Rainsford, Joe Inwood and Joel Gunter in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Laura Bicker and Hugo Bachega in Zaporizhzhia, and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Heavy fighting is continuing in eastern Ukraine where Russian forces are trying to take the entire Donbas region. A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, says Ukraine has taken serious losses, but Russian casualties have been "colossal". A number of civilians have been killed in the latest Russian bombardment of the Donetsk region and Kharkiv to the north. Meanwhile, a journalist at Ukraine's Radio Liberty was killed in one of several Russian missile strikes on Kyiv on Thursday, the station says. Vira Hyrych, who was killed when a missile struck her home, was described as "a bright and kind person, a true professional". Ukraine's President Zelensky has accused Russia of trying to humiliate the UN by launching the Kyiv attacks while the UN's chied was visiting. And two UK aid workers in Ukraine have been captured by the Russian military, an aid organisation says.

4-29-22 Russia is making 'slow and uneven' gains in Ukraine, at 'significant cost' to its army, U.S., U.K. assess
Russia fired missiles at locations across Ukraine on Thursday, but "the Battle of Donbas remains Russia's main strategic focus," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Friday. "Fighting has been particularly heavy" around Izium, but "due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces." "We would assess that Russian forces are making slow and uneven and, frankly, we would describe it as incremental progress in the Donbas," a senior Pentagon official said Thursday. "Continued pushback by the Ukrainians" means there's a lot of "back-and-forth in the Donbas in terms of territory gained and/or lost by, frankly, both sides." The U.S. has moved more than 60 percent of the 90 promised howitzers into Ukraine, and the first group of Ukrainian soldiers has been trained to use them, the Pentagon official said. Russia, meanwhile, has about 92 battle tactical groups (BTGs) in Ukraine, with another 20 still in Russia, in various states of combat readiness. These "alleged 92" BTGs are almost certainly "undermanned, not well supplied, not well led, are on ground they're not familiar with, and they don't do maneuver all that well," said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a former U.S. Army commander in Europe. Russia has been slamming Ukraine's Donbas forces with artillery, and while Ukraine's frontline troops wait for the U.S. howitzers to arrive, they have to temporarily "give up ground" to survive the shelling. "That's what we're seeing now in several locations in the east and south," Hertling said. "We're seeing Russian forces temporarily take ground, then being pushed back by the smart, better led, more adaptive active defense of the Ukrainian army." As spring arrives, "the ground conditions — and I mean literally the ground conditions — are going to be an increasing factor," the Pentagon official added. The Russians will be "ever more reliant on paved roads and paved highways," and "we would expect that some of their progress will be slowed, frankly, by mud."

4-29-22 Canada removes ban on blood donations from gay men
Canadian health officials have removed a ban on blood donations from gay men, one that has long been condemned as homophobic. The old rule prevented donations from men who have had sex with other men within three months of giving blood. Health Canada called the move "a significant milestone toward a more inclusive blood donation system". Countries around the world have been lifting similar bans in recent years. As of 30 September, prospective donors will not be asked about their sexual orientation during the screening process but instead about whether they engage in any higher-risk sexual behaviours. The policy change comes after Canadian Blood Services, which collects blood and blood product donations across most of the country, submitted a request last year to scrap the rule to Health Canada, which announced it had approved it on Thursday. Canada's ban was first put in place in 1992 as a measure to prevent HIV from entering the blood supply. It came in the wake of a 1980s public health scandal where some 2,000 people were infected with HIV and up to 60,000 with Hepatitis C from tainted blood donations amid testing failures. The donation ban was initially for life, but that policy was first eased in 2013, when men who had sex with men were allowed to donate after being abstinent for five years. That was later eased to the current three month period. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal party first made the promise to end the donation ban during the 2015 federal election campaign and has faced growing criticism for its failure to do so. At a news conference on Thursday, Mr Trudeau said the change that was long overdue, calling the current approach "discriminatory and wrong". Many countries instituted similar donation bans during the Aids epidemic of the 1980s. Experts have found that the bans had little effect, since blood is now systematically screened in advance for viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

4-29-22 How big are Donald Trump's legal problems?
He may have been out of power for over a year, but legal issues related to his time in office still present some risk to former President Donald Trump. The most serious cases include two criminal investigations: one into possible election interference and another into alleged financial crimes. Meanwhile, a political inquiry is considering recommending criminal charges over Mr Trump's role in the storming of Congress on 6 January, 2021. As Mr Trump contemplates a 2024 presidential rerun, here are the legal cases which may threaten those ambitions. Mr Trump stands accused of inciting an "insurrection" when his supporters ransacked the Capitol building as members of Congress certified Joe Biden's election win on 6 January, 2021. For weeks before he had made unfounded claims of election fraud, which he repeated at a rally on the Washington Mall just before the riot. Shortly afterwards, he was acquitted in a political trial in the Republican-controlled Senate and his supporters declared victory. But that wasn't the end of it. In July last year, Democratic and some Republican politicians formed a January 6th committee, which is examining Mr Trump's actions in detail. It has obtained thousands of communications made by and to the White House that day. While the committee has no legal powers to prosecute Mr Trump, it could choose to refer criminal charges to the US government's chief lawyer, Attorney General Merrick Garland. In a recent court case over the release of emails by his lawyer, there were hints the committee could do just that. The Democratic judge said it was "likely" Mr Trump had committed the crimes alleged by the committee. Those crimes include obstructing the vote count in Congress, and conspiring to defraud the US by overturning the election results, which can both be punishable by fines or jail terms. An interim report of the committee's findings, due this June, may pile the pressure on the attorney general to act.

4-29-22 Shanghai lockdown: Residents protest after five weeks of strict zero-Covid measures
Residents have been banging pans and shouting from the windows of their homes, to protest against the government enforced lockdown in Shanghai. The Chinese government has been pursuing a zero-Covid strategy since the beginning of the pandemic, with the aim of keeping the country entirely Covid free. Criticism of the government is rare in China, but residents said they have struggled to access food supplies, while others have been temporarily evacuated from their homes so they can be disinfected.

4-29-22 Covid-19 news: South Africa may be entering its fifth coronavirus wave
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Infections have risen considerably, driven by two new omicron sublineages. South Africa may be at the start of its fifth covid-19 wave, just three months after exiting its fourth wave. The country’s new recorded infections have been rising since mid-April. On 18 April, 1354 cases were recorded as a seven-day average, more than doubling to 3251 on 25 April. A growing number of the infections are sublineages of the omicron variant, called BA.4 and BA.5, Helen Rees at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg said at a news conference on 28 April. These sublineages accounted for more than half of South Africa’s new infections in the first week of April and are more transmissible than the previously dominant BA.2 sublineage, according to a paper by Tulio de Oliveira at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and his colleagues. Covid-19 hospitalisations are also picking up, however, intensive care admissions and deaths remain broadly stable, South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla said at a briefing on 29 April. South Africa’s seven-day average of daily deaths rose from 12 on 18 April to 22 on 25 April. Moderna has filed for authorisation of a low-dose covid-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to under 6 years in the US. Two doses of the vaccine were 51 per cent effective at preventing omicron infections in children under 2 and 37 per cent effective in 2- to 5-year-olds. The Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine is only approved for 5- to 11-year-olds in the US. Some of the genetic variants that predispose people to severe covid-19 also raise their risk of other conditions, such as heart disease, blood clots and type 2 diabetes. But genetic variants that cause certain auto-immune conditions, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s cells, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are linked with a lower risk of severe covid-19, according to a large study of more than 650,000 people in the US. The findings may help in the development of future covid-19 treatments, according to the authors.

4-28-22 What experts are saying about the economy's surprise contraction
The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web. During the first quarter of 2022, U.S. gross domestic product contracted 1.4 percent following a 6.9 percent annual growth rate in the previous quarter. It was the worst quarter since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. Here's how economists, analysts, and politicians are reacting. Despite the GDP contraction, Oxford Economics U.S. economist Lydia Boussour told The Associated Press the report "isn't as worrisome as it looks" and shows "an economy with solid underlying strength that demonstrated resilience in the face of Omicron, lingering supply constraints, and high inflation." Economists pointed to a 0.7 percent growth in consumer spending, in particular. "Domestic spending was remarkably resilient," Grant Thornton chief economist Diane Swonk noted to The New York Times. "It actually accelerated." Similarly, The Conference Board CEO Steve Odland told CBS News the report is "not quite as worrisome as it would seem" because "the most important thing" is that "consumers and businesses continued to spend." PNC chief economist Gus Faucher predicted "growth will resume in the second quarter" and said the labor market is still "in excellent shape." While White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain acknowledged the GDP number was "sour," President Biden said the economy "continues to be resilient in the face of historic challenges." On the other hand, Independent Advisor Alliance chief investment officer Chris Zaccarelli told Fox Business the "shock drop" in GDP is a "warning sign," which should serve as a "wake-up call that the economy isn't as strong as we all thought." The report "reminds us of the reality that growth has been great, but things are changing and they won't be that great going forward," State Street Global Advisors chief economist Simona Mocuta told CNBC. While the economy is "still showing some resilience," BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri told Reuters, the report "signals the start of more moderate growth this year and next, largely in response to higher interest rates." And Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi warned The Washington Post that when the Federal Reserve "has to raise interest rates as far as they say they're going to, recession risks are high," while Harvard University economics professor Kenneth Rogoff told the Post he has "significant concerns about the risk of recession."

4-28-22 10 Russian soldiers face war crimes charges after Bucha killings
A group of Russian soldiers now face criminal charges after being accused of holding Ukrainian civilians hostage and mistreating them in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, The Wall Street Journal reports. A total of 10 noncommissioned officers and privates of Russia's 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade were charged by Ukrainian authorities on Thursday. The Journal describes this as the "first such move by prosecutors investigating possible war crimes by Moscow's forces." United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres spoke in Kyiv on Thursday requesting a complete investigation into apparent crimes in Bucha, after traveling to Moscow two days prior to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ukrainian officials say they found over 400 dead civilian bodies in mass graves, as well as on Bucha's streets and sidewalks in March when the Russian invasion of the city began. "Our goal is to identify every criminal who committed a crime, for every crime to find its perpetrator," said Ruslan Kravchenko, Bucha's chief prosecutor. Several of the bodies had bullet wounds and some had their wrists restrained behind their backs, authorities revealed. Some Bucha residents who were also held captive by Russian troops told investigators they were tortured and starved. Putin, who previously called reports out of Bucha "fake," has moved to promote or otherwise honor the Russian soldiers in the accused brigade, reports the Journal.

4-28-22 A history of slavery at Harvard University and beyond
The school is setting aside $100 million to redress its ties to slavery. Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said Tuesday that the prestigious school will set aside $100 million to study and redress its historic ties to slavery following the release of a committee report on the topic. Here's everything you need to know: In 2019, Bacow established the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery to investigate "the University's historic ties to slavery — direct, financial, and intellectual." The report states that from the founding of Harvard in 1636 until slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1783, Harvard's faculty and staff enslaved 70 people. According to NPR, "[s]ome of those who were enslaved lived on campus and were responsible for providing care for Harvard's presidents, professors and students. Harvard also profited from "the beneficence of donors who accumulated their wealth through slave trading; from the labor of enslaved people on plantations in the Caribbean islands and in the American South; and from the Northern textile manufacturing industry, supplied with cotton grown by enslaved people held in bondage," the report reads. Isaac Royall Jr. (1719–1781), a wealthy merchant who owned and traded in slaves, left Harvard a bequest in his will that helped the school establish its first professorship in law. Harvard Law School even incorporated elements of Royall's coat of arms into its seal. The report also notes that Harvard's leadership took steps to curb abolitionist sentiment on campus in the years before the Civil War and that the university's medical school admitted three Black students in 1850 but expelled them after some white students and alumni complained. Racism continued to have an influence after the Civil War. Professors and administrators promoted the study of eugenics, and Harvard admitted only about three black students per year during the period between 1890 and 1940. The report states that the committee's findings "not only reveal a chasm between the Harvard of the past and of the present but also point toward the work we must still undertake to live up to our highest ideals." To fund that work, Harvard has created a $100 million Legacy of Slavery Fund. The report recommends that the fund be "preserved in an endowment, and strategically invested." Bacow confirmed Tuesday that some of the funds "will be available for current use, while the balance will be held in an endowment to support this work over time." He did provide a more specific breakdown. According to CNN, the report's recommendations include "the expansion of educational opportunities for the descendants of enslaved people in the Southern U.S. and the Caribbean, establishing partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and identifying and building relationships with the direct descendants of enslaved people who labored at Harvard." This fund is not Harvard's first attempt to atone for its historic ties to slavery, nor was Tuesday's report the first attempt to investigate them. A 2008 report shed light on Royall's ties to slavery, leading to the retirement of the law school's heraldic shield in 2016. The report states that the committee's findings "not only reveal a chasm between the Harvard of the past and of the present but also point toward the work we must still undertake to live up to our highest ideals." To fund that work, Harvard has created a $100 million Legacy of Slavery Fund. The report recommends that the fund be "preserved in an endowment, and strategically invested." Bacow confirmed Tuesday that some of the funds "will be available for current use, while the balance will be held in an endowment to support this work over time." He did provide a more specific breakdown. According to CNN, the report's recommendations include "the expansion of educational opportunities for the descendants of enslaved people in the Southern U.S. and the Caribbean, establishing partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and identifying and building relationships with the direct descendants of enslaved people who labored at Harvard." This fund is not Harvard's first attempt to atone for its historic ties to slavery, nor was Tuesday's report the first attempt to investigate them. A 2008 report shed light on Royall's ties to slavery, leading to the retirement of the law school's heraldic shield in 2016.

4-28-22 Minneapolis police 'engaged in pattern of racism'
Police in the US city of Minneapolis have engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least the past decade, a state inquiry has found. The investigation was launched following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. Minnesota's civil rights enforcement agency looked into how officers used force, stopped, searched and arrested minorities compared to white residents. Their analysis found wide disparities in the treatment of different races. Its conclusions could be used to force the police department to change its practices and policies. Last year, white ex-police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to over 22 years in prison for the on-duty murder of Floyd. The analysis of police reports, interviews and body camera footage took nearly two years, revealing what investigators said was a "pattern and practice" of racial discrimination. While African Americans make up 19% of the population of Minneapolis, they represented 54% of all traffic stops between 2017-20, the inquiry found. Black people accounted for 63% of police use-of-force incidents from 2010-20. The 72-page report blames a "paramilitary approach to policing" and a culture that is "ineffective at holding officers accountable for misconduct". (Webmasters Comment: You mean murder of blacks!) It also charges that officers in the department "consistently use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language and are rarely held accountable" for such misconduct. Officers also created fake social media accounts to monitor black people "unrelated to criminal activity, without a public safety objective", said the report. Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said on Wednesday the findings showed the city police department "engaging in a pattern of racial discrimination over the last decade". Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, said the findings were "repugnant, at times horrific". The USA's history of racial inequality has paved the way for modern day police brutality

4-28-22 Why the West is reckoning with caste bias now
The US states of Colorado and Michigan recently declared 14 April as Dr BR Ambedkar Equity Day. Days before that, Canada's British Columbia province also declared April as Dalit History Month. Ambedkar, the architect of India's constitution, is the venerated leader of the Dalits (formerly untouchables), who suffered from their lowly position in the caste hierarchy. He was born on 14 April 1891. India's constitution and courts have long recognised lower castes and Dalits as historically disadvantaged groups and offered protections in the form of quotas and anti-discriminatory laws. Now Dalit activists and academics, particularly in the US, are trying to bring in similar recognition in the West, where the Indian diaspora has often strived to be the "model minority" - aspiring, diligent immigrants who assimilate seamlessly into the country. "??Ambedkar once quoted, 'If Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem.' That is precisely what is happening now in the United States," Rama Krishna Bhupathi of the US-based civil rights group Ambedkar International Center told the BBC. Dalit activists say that for decades, discrimination practised by upper-caste Indians - especially in universities and technology firms - didn't get attention. But over the past few years, many have been speaking out. In a September 2020 episode of the NPR show Rough Translation, a tech employee using the alias of Sam Cornelius spoke about co-workers patting him on the back to figure out if he was wearing the white thread worn by men of the Brahmin caste. "They will call you for a swim, you know? 'Hey. Let's go for a swim' - because everybody takes their shirt off. And they all know who are wearing threads, who are not," he said on the show. Others also spoke of feeling afraid and uncomfortable as Indians asked each other their caste at university parties.

4-28-22 US economy contracts as Ukraine war hits trade
The US economy contracted in the first three months of the year partly due to trade disruption from the Ukraine war. Figures from the Commerce Department showed that gross domestic product fell at an annualised rate of 1.4%. Slower growth had been expected but the figure was worse than forecast, marking the first fall since the coronavirus-induced recession in 2020. Analysts said a surge in imports, as exports fell, made the economy look worse than it was. "This is noise; not signal," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "The economy is not falling into recession." Though inflation is running at a four decade high, households have not yet pulled back purchases. Consumer spending - the engine of the US economy - remained healthy, rising at an annual rate of 2.7% in the quarter, up from the end of last year. But businesses faced new supply disruptions in the first three months of the year, making trade figures more unpredictable than usual. Figures this week showed the US trade deficit in goods reached a record high last month, as coronavirus cases triggered shutdowns in China and the war in Ukraine upended key industries, including agriculture and oil. Analysts said the unexpectedly large surge in imports, which count against US output in calculations of GDP, was probably due to businesses accelerating purchases. Meanwhile exports fell, hurt in part by lower demand abroad. A decline in government spending also weighed on growth. Until now, recovery from the pandemic has largely been faster than expected, helped by government spending, including pandemic relief cheques to households. In the last three months of 2021, the US economy expanded at an annualised rate of 6.9%. Analysts said they did not see recession as imminent, despite the contraction, but they warned that rising prices mean that households will not be able to keep spending at their current pace. "Consumers have been able to maintain positive rates of real spending by reducing their savings rates. But if inflation continues to erode purchasing power, then consumers may eventually decide to retrench," Wells Fargo economists wrote in a recent note.

4-28-22 Why neither Russia nor Ukraine wants to discuss the mystery explosions at strategic Russian facilities
Russian media reported explosions Wednesday at an ammunition depot near Belgorod and two other storage facilities near Ukraine's eastern border, in the latest instances of "unexplained fires and explosions at strategic locations in Russia, including storage depots, a sensitive defense research site, and the country's largest chemical plant," The Washington Post reports. "All of the sites hit are likely involved in supplying fuel and ammunition to the troops engaged in Donbas and the damage may hinder Russia's efforts to sustain its offensive there," the Post reports, raising "suspicions that at least some may have been caused by sabotage or Ukrainian attacks." Local Russian officials blamed an April 1 explosion at fuel depots in Belgorod on Ukrainian attack helicopters, but as the incidents multiplied, it became "a subject which officials in Moscow prefer to avoid," BBC Monitoring's Vitaliy Shevchenko writes. "Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory would be an embarrassment to the Kremlin, which had been hoping to have control of Ukraine within days of invading it in February." For their part, "Ukrainian officials have hinted at some involvement in the incidents without expressly acknowledging them," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Karma is a cruel thing," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote in Russian on Wednesday. Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to Zelensky, suggested "you need to look for reasons inside Russia — for example, hiding the means by which money has been stolen from the Russian defense ministry." "It is clear why Ukraine would be reluctant to admit any cross-border attacks," writes the BBC's Shevchenko: "They would amount to a major escalation in an already bitter conflict." And there are plausible explanations other than sabotage or airstrikes. Thanks largely to negligence, Russia already "suffers from self-inflicted injuries in peacetime," Russian security expert Keir Giles at London's Chatham House tells the Journal. "When put under additional strain of an offensive war, it is no surprise that the rate of natural accidents should increase."

4-28-22 Biden announces $33bn to help Ukraine in war
President Biden will ask Congress for $33bn (£27bn) in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to support Ukraine "for the next five months". Mr Biden said it was "critical" for US lawmakers to improve the package. The package includes more than $20bn in military aid, $8.5bn in economic aid and $3bn in humanitarian aid. He said it was "not cheap", and added that the US could not "stand by" - but insisted that his country was not "attacking" Russia. The White House has also proposed making it easier for the US to seize and sell Russian oligarchs' assets, and transfer their proceeds to Ukraine. The proposals released on Thursday are a significant ramping up of US aid to Ukraine. last month, was less than $14bn. Last week, President Biden authorised a second $800m (£642m) military aid package in as many weeks, as well as $500m (£401m) in direct economic assistance. The US has moved quickly to help Ukraine since the war began in late February. Western allies, including European Union member states, have been working together since March to track down the assets of Russian elites, from artwork and real estate to helicopters and yachts. According to the White House, the US has now sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1bn, while the EU has collectively frozen over $30bn. But the new plans laid out by the administration go further, calling for streamlined inter-agency collaboration between the Treasury Department, Justice Department, State Department and Commerce Department. Thursday's sanctions measures would allow the US to use the funds from confiscated assets "to remediate harms of Russian aggression in Ukraine". The package will "establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine and further strengthen related law enforcement tools," the White House said in a statement. Canada's government also proposed legislation this week that would allow it to seize and sell off Russian assets. Under pressure to expand its sanctions actions, the ruling Liberals are pushing for "any type of property" including money, digital assets and virtual currency to be subject to seizure.

4-28-22 Ukraine War: Russia gas supply cuts 'blackmail', says EU
Russia's decision to cut off gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria is an "instrument of blackmail", the EU says.. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the move showed Russia's "unreliability" as a supplier. But the Kremlin said Russia had been forced into the action by the "unfriendly steps" of Western nations. Europe depends on Russia for more than a third of its gas needs and state energy giant Gazprom holds a monopoly on pipeline supplies in Russia. While many European countries have taken steps to wean themselves of Russian oil imports since it invaded Ukraine, Russia has continued to supply large amount of gas to many European countries. After Western powers placed financial sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that "unfriendly" countries would have to pay for gas in Russian currency. Gazprom said this was why it had suspended supply to Bulgaria and Poland. Poland said the move was in retaliation for Polish sanctions against Russian individuals and firms. Poland has also been a key transit country for weapons to Ukraine. Bulgaria has historically had warm relations with Russia, but a new government took office last year which has denounced the invasion. President Putin meanwhile warned that if Western forces intervene in Ukraine, they will face a "lightning-fast" military response. In what is seen as a reference to ballistic missiles and nuclear arms, he told lawmakers in Moscow: "We have all the tools no-one can boast of... we will use them if necessary." But there are signs that Russia's offensive in Ukraine is not going as smoothly as planned, with one official saying Russian forces are having difficulties overcoming a "staunch Ukrainian resistance" in their offensive in the east of the country. In reaction to Gazprom's statement regarding the suspension of gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, Polish state gas company PGNiG confirmed that Gazprom's supplies to the country had been halted and warned that it reserved "the right to seek compensation".

4-28-22 German energy giant Uniper gives in to Russian rouble demand
One of Germany's biggest energy firms has said it is preparing to buy Russian gas using a payment system that critics say will undermine EU sanctions. Uniper says it will pay in euros which will be converted into roubles, meeting a Kremlin demand for all transactions to be made in the Russian currency. Other European energy firms are reportedly preparing to do the same amid concerns about supply cuts. Uniper said it had no choice but said it was still abiding by EU sanctions. "We consider a payment conversion compliant with sanctions law and the Russian decree to be possible," a spokesman told the BBC. "For our company and for Germany as a whole, it is not possible to do without Russian gas in the short term; this would have dramatic consequences for our economy." Germany's biggest energy supplier RWE declined to comment on how it would pay for Russian gas. In late March, Russia said "unfriendly countries" would have to start paying for its oil and gas in roubles to prop up its currency after Western allies froze billions of dollars it held in foreign currencies overseas. Under the decree, European importers must pay euros or dollars into an account at Gazprombank, the Swiss-based trading arm of Gazprom, and then convert this into roubles in a second account in Russia. The European Commission said last week that if buyers of Russian gas could complete payments in euros and get confirmation of this before any conversion into roubles took place, that would not breach sanctions. However there are different views among countries on how to interpret its initial guidance, and this week EC boss Ursula von der Lyon sparked confusion when she said firms could still be breaking the rules. On Thursday, an EU official confirmed that any attempt to convert cash into roubles in Russia would be a "clear circumvention of sanctions" as the transaction would involve Russia's central bank. "What we cannot accept is that companies are obliged to open a second account and that between the first and second account, the amount in euros is in the full hands of the Russian authorities and the Russian Central Bank, and that the payment is only complete when it is converted into roubles."

4-28-22 US to seize and sell Russian oligarchs' property
The White House has proposed giving the government greater power to seize and sell the assets of Russian oligarchs, and transfer their proceeds to Ukraine. The legislative proposal, released on Thursday morning, will be presented to Congress for consideration. The measures would make it easier for the US to seize and sell oligarchs' assets, and use the funds "to remediate harms of Russian aggression". Similar US legislation was recently passed, but this marks an escalation. Western allies, including European Union member states, have been working together since March to track down the assets of Russian elites, from artwork and real estate to helicopters and yachts. According to the White House, the US has now sanctioned and blocked vessels and aircraft worth over $1bn, while the EU has collectively frozen over $30bn. But the new plans laid out by the administration go further, calling for streamlined inter-agency collaboration between the Treasury Department, Justice Department, State Department and Commerce Department. President Biden is due to set out the details on Thursday morning in the US. The package will "establish new authorities for the forfeiture of property linked to Russian kleptocracy, allow the government to use the proceeds to support Ukraine and further strengthen related law enforcement tools," the White House said in a statement. It comes alongside a request for Congress to approve more military, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. Last week, President Biden authorised a second $800m (£642m) military aid package in as many weeks, as well as $500m (£401m) in direct economic assistance. The US has moved quickly to help Ukraine since the war began in late February. On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin convened nearly 40 nations in Germany and announced that several were stepping up their support for Ukraine in order to "move at the speed of war". "Ukraine needs our help to win today. And they will still need our help when the war is over," he told participants.

4-28-22 Ukraine war: Putin warns against foreign intervention
Any country trying to intervene in the Ukraine war will face a "lightning-fast" response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned. "We have all the tools no-one can boast of... we will use them if necessary", he said, in what is seen as a reference to ballistic missiles and nuclear arms. Ukraine's allies have stepped up the supply of weapons, with the US vowing to make sure Ukraine defeats Russia. Western officials say Russia is being hampered in its efforts in the east. Last week, Russia launched a major offensive to seize the Donbas region after withdrawing from areas around the capital Kyiv. But according to one official, Russian forces are "finding it difficult to overcome the staunch Ukrainian resistance and they are suffering losses" In another development, the European Commission has accused Russia of blackmail after Moscow cut off gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria. The Commission's President, Ursula von der Leyen said it showed Russia's "unreliability" as a supplier. The Kremlin said Russia had been forced into the action by the "unfriendly steps" of Western nations. Gazprom's cut-off follows Poland and Bulgaria's refusal to pay for gas in Russian roubles - a demand made by President Vladimir Putin in March, which was designed to shore up the faltering currency battered by Western sanctions. Mr Putin made his comments speaking to Russian lawmakers in the northern city of St Petersburg on Wednesday. "If someone from the outside tries to intervene in Ukraine and create strategic threats for Russia, our response will be lightning fast," he said. "We have all the tools [to respond] that no one can boast of. And we will not be bragging about them, we will use them if necessary." The Russian leader added that all decisions on what that response would include had already been made - without providing any further details. Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, and within days President Putin ordered his military to put Russia's nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. Analysts suggest such threats are an attempt by Mr Putin to warn Ukraine's allies not to intervene more in the conflict.

4-27-22 Moderna requests authorization of COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 and under
Moderna on Thursday requested emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for Americans ages 5 and under, a "highly anticipated step" toward protecting the last vulnerable age group in the U.S., The Washington Post reports. The company's filing will likely push the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move quickly, "as parents, pediatricians, and politicians have become increasingly impatient about the lack of vaccines and treatments to protect young children," the Post writes. Moderna hopes a two-shot regimen will sufficiently protect the nation's youngest — though, as was the case with adults, such a regimen only proved modestly effective in preventing illness caused by the Omicron variant, notes both the Post and The Associated Press. "There is an important unmet medical need here with these youngest kids," Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton told AP. Two low-dose shots "will safely protect them. I think it is likely that over time they will need additional doses. But we're working on that." Meanwhile, Pfizer is soon expected to announce whether its three-shot regimen effectively protects babies and toddlers, after having been directed to research adding another dose to its initial two. FDA spokeswoman Stephnie Caccomo told the Post the agency would wait for Moderna's full filing — expected by the second week of May — and "review any [emergency use authorization] request it receives as quickly as possible using a science-based approach." If/when the FDA clears vaccinations for the youngest age group, CDC recommendations come next.

4-27-22 Congressional report accuses Trump officials of awarding $700 million pandemic loan over objections
A congressional report released Wednesday suggests two top Trump administration officials — former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper — intervened to ensure Yellow Corporation, a troubled trucking company, received $700 million in pandemic relief money, overriding career officials at the Defense Department who raised concerns over the company's eligibility. The report was written by Democratic staff on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. In 2020, Congress approved a $17 billion fund to help companies deemed critical to national security. The Treasury Department controlled the money, and that July, announced a $700 million loan for YRC Worldwide, the trucking company now known as Yellow. The report states that former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was a "key actor" in coordinating with lobbyists for Yellow, who were in constant contact with White House officials during the funding process. The loan was questioned immediately by watchdog groups, who knew Yellow was being sued by the Justice Department over claims it defrauded the federal government for years. The Defense Department needed to certify Yellow for it to qualify for a national security loan, and the report states that officials recommended against certification because of the accusations that Yellow overcharged the government. The report says a call was set up between Mnuchin and Esper, and after that, Esper certified Yellow; a week later, the loan was announced. Yellow also had ties to the Trump administration, with its CEO, Darren Hawkins, tapped for a seat on a coronavirus economic task force, and its former CEO, William Zollars, nominated by Trump to the U.S. Postal Service's board of governors. Read more at The New York Times.

4-27-22 Is Ukraine launching strikes on Russian soil?
Russian officials said Wednesday that an ammunition depot caught fire near the border with Ukraine and that air defense systems shot down Ukrainian drones flying over Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the incidents, which are only the latest in a series of fires and explosions that have occurred on Russian soil in the past month. On April 1, explosions rocked a fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov blamed "an airstrike coming from two helicopters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces." Two days later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied that his country's troops had carried out the strike. "We're fighting for our country on our terrain," he said. The Journal reports that fires also "broke out at two fuel-storage depots in [Russia's] Bryansk region on April 25." On Tuesday, local authorities in the Russian-backed Moldovan separatist region of Transnistria reported an attack on a military unit and on two radio antennas. Again, the two sides offered opposing claims, with Russia blaming Ukraine and Ukraine characterizing the attacks as a Russian false flag operation. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak suggested on Twitter that the fires and explosions in Russia could be "karma for the murder of [Ukrainian] children." He also urged Europe to stop importing oil from Russia, "a country where everything is self-destructing." Russian security expert Keir Giles told the Journal that the incidents inside Russia could easily be explained as "natural accidents" caused by Russia's "negligence."

4-27-22 EU officials compare Russian gas shut-offs to 'blackmail'
Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas company, cut off the supply of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, an escalation European Union officials have equated to "blackmail," The Washington Post reports.. The Kremlin said it shut off the gas supply to Polish and Bulgarian gas companies for failing to pay in Russian rubles, as was ordered. The suspension will not be lifted "until the payments are made" correctly, Gazprom said Wednesday. Moscow warned of a similar fate for others who refused to pay in their desired currency — and the EU was not happy. "The announcement ... is yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a statement. "This is unjustified and unacceptable." Both Poland and Bulgaria have enough natural gas from other EU countries "to keep the lights on for now," the Post writes. What's not clear, however, is "how the bloc would manage additional cutoffs, especially if Russia stopped supplying major customers Germany and Italy." Von der Leyen said member states have made "contingency plans" for such shut-offs and will meet to discuss additional options soon. Notably, Germany worries an incident on its turf will "trigger a recession in Europe's largest economy," the Post writes. "The situation has been tense for months," German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said. "But payments will continue to be made in euros."

4-26-22 Number of US police officers murdered up by 59% - FBI
Murders of police officers rose by nearly 60% during 2021, amid a wider rise in violent crime across the US, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Mr Wray said 73 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. Murders of all kinds across the US have risen dramatically since 2019. Mr Wray said violence against police was a "phenomena" that "doesn't get enough attention". He said it amounted to an officer killed every five days. Around 1,000 people are killed in the US by police each year, although only a small proportion of cases lead to criminal charges. Mr Wray said that "some" of the violence against police is "tied to the violent crime problem as a whole". But, he said, authorities believe that "an alarming percentage" of the officers killed were targeted and "killed through things like being ambushed or shot while out on patrol". "Wearing the badge shouldn't make you a target," he added. Mr Wray did not disclose how many of the 73 officers were targeted in such a manner. In January, however, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said that it had recorded 103 "ambush-style attacks" on officers in 2021, resulting in 130 officers shot and 30 killed. In 2020, the FBI's own data estimates that murders rose 29% from 2019, the sharpest increase since national-level record keeping began in 1960. On a per capita basis, 2020's total of 6.5 murders per 100,000 people is lower than a high of 9.8 per 100,000 set in 1991. A separate analysis of data from 22 cities released by the Council on Criminal Justice in January found that murders rose 5% in 2021, and have gone up 44% since 2019. "Certainly the pandemic didn't help," Mr Wray said of the spike in murders. "We're seeing more and more juveniles committing violent crime, and that's certainly an issue. We're seeing a certain amount of interstate gun trafficking. That's part of it. And we're seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst getting back out on the streets."

4-26-22 Donald Trump held in contempt in New York legal battle
A US judge has held former President Donald Trump in contempt for failing to turn over files for an investigation into his business practices. Justice Arthur Engoron on Monday ordered Mr Trump pay a fine of $10,000 (£7,850) per day until he complies. New York Attorney General Letitia James had asked the court to hold Mr Trump in contempt after he missed a March deadline to present certain documents. Mr Trump's lawyer said she would appeal the ruling. "Everything that your honour and the attorney general said that we haven't done - we have done," attorney Alina Habba said in court. After a "very diligent" search, there were simply no more relevant documents to provide, she said. Ms James, a Democrat, opened a civil inquiry in 2019 into claims that - before he took office - Mr Trump, a Republican, had inflated the value of his assets to banks when seeking loans. Mr Trump and his family have denied wrongdoing, and the former president has called the inquiry a "witch hunt". In court on Monday, Ms Habba called the civil probe as a "fishing expedition". Justice Engoron said a contempt finding was warranted because of what he called "repeated failures" to hand over the requested materials. "Mr Trump... I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt," he said, although the former president was not in the courtroom. The attorney general's office called the ruling a "major victory" in the legal battle against Mr Trump. "Today, justice prevailed," said Ms James. "For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company's financial dealings. Today's ruling makes clear: no one is above the law." The civil case is separate to a Manhattan criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's practices.

4-26-22 US Supreme Court: Should this coach have been punished for praying?
The US Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in the case of an American football coach suing for the right to pray at mid-field after his high school team's games. The court's conservative majority could use the lawsuit to expand the boundaries limiting religious expression in public schools. Joseph Kennedy first had the idea to pray after high school football games when he was watching television and came across Facing the Giants, a 2006 film that featured a coach at a small religious academy who led his team to a state football championship after praying and emphasising Christian values to his players. Mr Kennedy was considering whether to take a job as a coach at a high school in Bremerton, Washington - a town near Seattle - despite having little experience playing American football. His wife worked for the school district, and he had been offered the job based on his services as a US Marine, where he dabbled in the sport. He accepted the position, and for the next seven years prayed on the field after the games - sometimes alone and sometimes with players - apparently with little notice or controversy. That changed after a game in September 2015, when an opposing coach notified the Bremerton school principal of his actions. The school informed Mr Kennedy that his prayers could be construed as a school endorsement of religion, which run afoul of a long line of US Supreme Court cases that limited religious activities in public education. Mr Kennedy refused, and after a post-game prayer that October, became a public and media spectacle, with a crowd of spectators gathering on the field around the coach, the school placed him on leave. At the end of the season, instead of attempting to renew his one-year coaching contract with the school, he sued Bremerton for infringing on his constitutional right to freedom of religion and sought to make his case on a nationwide media tour. And so began a six-year legal battle that puts several aspects of the First Amendment to the US Constitution - which protects the free speech and religious exercise but also prohibits the "establishment" of a religion by the state - in tension.

4-26-22 Russian foreign minister: Threat of World War III is a 'real' danger
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday his country has "a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight" in order to "wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion." Lavrov made his remarks during an interview that aired on Russian state television. He appeared to be responding to comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after he traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend. Austin said the U.S. wants Ukraine to stay a sovereign country and "to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine." Any weapons and supplies sent to Ukraine from Western countries, including armored vehicles and Javelin anti-tank missiles, are "legitimate" targets for the Russian military, Lavrov said, and he accused NATO of being "in essence ... engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy. War means war." He also said Russia's "key position" is to prevent nuclear war, and the "danger is serious, real ... we must not underestimate it." At the same time "everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III," but NATO forces are "pouring oil on the fire" by giving Ukraine weapons, Lavrov declared. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that everything Lavrov said should actually encourage allies to provide more weapons. "Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine," he said. "Thus the talk of a 'real' danger of World War III. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security."

4-26-22 About 15,000 Russian troops killed in 1st 60 days of Ukraine invasion, U.K. estimates
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament on Monday that about 15,000 Russian troops have died in Ukraine since the Kremlin invaded on Feb. 24, and about a quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups Moscow committed to its invasion "have been rendered not combat effective." Russia has also lost about 2,000 tanks and other armored vehicles, and more than 60 helicopters and fighter jets, Wallace added. "Russia has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives." The estimate from British intelligence is in line with numbers published by the pro-Kremlin media outlet Readovka, citing a "closed briefing" from Russia's Defense Ministry. In its report, since blamed on a hack, Readovka said Russia has lost 13,414 soldiers in Ukraine, 7,000 more are missing, and 116 sailors were killed up on the sunken Black Sea flagship Moskva. "The Russian Ministry of Defense hides losses," tweeted Sergey Smirnov, editor-in-chief of the independent Russian media site Mediazona, but "we found out exactly who is dying in this war on the part of Russia," including "a lot of officers." Mediazona based its numbers on 1,744 military deaths confirmed by the pro-Kremlin press, relatives of slain soldiers, local authorities, or educational institutions. "At least 500 soldiers of the most combat-ready units — paratroopers, marines, and special forces — were killed," Mediazona reports. "More than 300 officers were killed. Among them are two major generals and the deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet," Capt. Andrei Paly, plus more than 70 National Guardsmen, 20 airplane pilots, and seven helicopter pilots. Ukraine has claimed that three other major generals and at least two lieutenant generals were killed, Mediazona adds, but it couldn't confirm those deaths and did not count them in its tally.

4-26-22 Germany to send tanks to Ukraine in U-turn
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Sarah Rainsford, Joe Inwood, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Toby Luckhurst and Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Germany’s government has authorised the supply of about 50 anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, in a major policy shift. Berlin's decision comes as the US and its allies meet at an airbase in Germany to pledge more weapons for Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Nato against supplying military aid to Ukraine, saying there was a risk of the conflict escalating into World War Three. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a ceasefire in Ukraine ahead of talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin later. Guterres describes discussions with Lavrov as "frank", but insists he is visiting Moscow as a "messenger of peace". Fresh explosions have been reported in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria, which neighbours Ukraine.

4-26-22 Nato expansion: No set date for Finland application - minister
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said it would be "useful" for Sweden and Finland to launch joint Nato membership bids. But he said that no fixed date had been set for any potential application. The comments came as Nordic media reported the countries could launch a simultaneous bid to join the security bloc next month. Stockholm and Helsinki have long pursued policies of military neutrality to avoid conflict with regional powers. But during a visit to Sweden earlier this month, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said "everything had changed" when Russia attacked Ukraine and told reporters that Helsinki must to be "prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia". Her comments coincided with the publication of a security report that warned Finland's membership of Nato could result in "increased tensions on the border between Finland and Russia". Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported on Monday that the two countries' leaders could meet in the week of 16 May to announce the bid during a state visit to Sweden by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Finland shares a 1,340km (830 miles) border with Russia, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that Moscow would have to "rebalance the situation" with its own measures if the Nato bid went ahead. And there have been some reports that Russia had started to move military equipment towards the Russian-Finnish border, although US officials said they had seen nothing to confirm that. But Swedish outlet Aftonbladet reported that the US and UK have agreed to provide security support during the application process, citing government officials. US defence sources told the outlet that Sweden and Finland would be treated as de-facto members of the security alliance for the duration of the application process. The UK and US support would reportedly include an increased number of troops in the Nordic nations, further intelligence co-operation, assistance in combatting cyber threats and an increased presence of Nato warships in the Baltic sea.

4-26-22 Covid-19 news: People hospitalised with omicron still face severe risk
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. People hospitalised with the supposedly milder omicron variant require similar levels of respiratory support and intensive care as those infected with delta. Heba Mostafa at John Hopkins University in the US and her colleagues studied more than 2000 people who tested positive for covid-19 between November and December 2021. The team recorded which variant the participants were infected with and their clinical outcomes. Results reveal 73 per cent of the participants who were hospitalised with delta needed extra oxygen, while 25 per cent required intensive care. Similarly, 67 per cent of those who were hospitalised with omicron required extra oxygen and 17 per cent needed intensive care. Nevertheless, the participants who were infected with omicron were less likely to be hospitalised in the first place, regardless of their vaccine status. Only 3 per cent of the participants infected with omicron were admitted to hospital, compared with 13 per cent of those with delta. “It’s true that patients with omicron were significantly less likely to be admitted to the hospital than patients with delta,” Mostafa said in a statement. “But omicron patients who did need hospitalisation faced a risk of severe disease comparable to those hospitalised with delta. Singapore removed nearly all of its remaining covid-19 restrictions today. Mask wearing indoors and on public transport are some of the only remaining curbs, with officials dropping limits on group sizes, social distancing guidelines and restrictions on the number of people who can work in an office at any one time. Nearly two-thirds of people who were restricted from visiting relatives while they were hospitalised with covid-19 may have developed a stress-related disorder. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver surveyed 330 relatives three months after a family member was admitted to intensive care with covid-19 between February and July 2020. Just under two-fifths (64 per cent) of the relatives scored high on tests that measure symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is more than double pre-pandemic levels, when relatives were similarly surveyed after a loved one was admitted to intensive care for non-covid-19 reasons. “Our findings suggest that visitation restrictions may have inadvertently contributed to a secondary public health crisis, an epidemic of stress-related disorders mong family members of ICU patients,” Timothy Amass said in a statement.

4-25-22 U.S. COVID deaths could hit 1 million mark in next few weeks
More than two years into the pandemic, the U.S. is approaching the "once-unthinkable" threshold of 1 million COVID-19 deaths, The Wall Street Journal reports Monday. Of the 990,000 and counting death certificates recorded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "at least 90 percent list COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death," the Journal reports. The remaining 10 percent list the virus as a contributing cause of death. The New York Times has estimated the country will arrive at the 1 million mark within the coming weeks. When independently analyzed using the current seven-day average of 376 deaths, per CDC data, The Week similarly calculated the U.S. would hit one million COVID deaths in about a month. Meanwhile, experts have cautioned that the virus' exact toll is likely being underestimated in official reports, considering undiagnosed cases, especially those from early 2020, the Journal reports. Since the start of the pandemic, almost 75 percent of all deaths have been among those at least 65 years old, the CDC has reported. The virus also hit nursing homes especially hard, a phenomenon vaccines eventually helped curb. When the data is adjusted for age, Black and Hispanic Americans are overrepresented among COVID-19 deaths, while white Americans are underrepresented. The total number of pandemic deaths is otherwise highest for the white population, "both because it is the largest and significantly older, on average," the Journal writes. Virus deaths also hit men harder than women, considering "men are prone to cardiovascular problems that can heighten the risks of COVID-19 infections," the Journal reports. Researchers believe there could also be a difference in how the male and female immune systems respond to the disease.

4-25-22 https://theweek.com/donald-trump/1012935/trump-held-in-contempt-of-court-and-fined-10000-per-day
A New York judge ruled Monday to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt of court and fine him $10,000 per day for failing to comply with subpoenas ordering him to hand over records by March 31, Bloomberg reports. The subpoenas were issued in connection with New York Attorney General Letitia James' probe into whether Trump broke the law by overstating the value of his assets in order to obtain "more favorable terms for bank loans," per Bloomberg. Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, claimed her client is "an honest person" and has already handed over all the required records. If that is the case, Judge Arthur Engoron asked Habba, "[w]hy don't we have an affidavit from him" affirming under oath that all the subpoenaed documents have indeed been delivered? According to Bloomberg, New York is likely to bring an enforcement action against Trump, but the "AG's attorney didn't give any details about what kind of enforcement action the state might bring or when it might be filed." In February, Engoron ordered Trump to be deposed as part of James' investigation, but Trump appealed the ruling, "a move that will probably delay the battle over his testimony by months," The Guardian reported last month.

4-25-22 Reports: Sweden and Finland agree to apply for NATO membership at the same time
Finland and Sweden are preparing to simultaneously submit membership applications to NATO, and could do so as early as mid-May, Nordic media organizations reported Monday. The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reports that Sweden "suggested the two countries indicate their willingness to join" the alliance on the same day, and Finland agreed "as long as the Swedish government has made its decision." Earlier this month, both prime ministers said they were contemplating membership, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the "security landscape" of Europe. Moscow has warned the countries against applying for membership, saying Russia would be forced to strengthen its defenses in the Baltic in order to "restore military balance." Finland and Sweden are nonaligned militarily, but became NATO partners in 1995 when joining the European Union. New opinion polls indicate that about 68 percent of Finns are supportive of joining NATO, more than double the number before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while in Sweden, "a slim majority" of residents are in favor of joining, The Guardian reports.

4-26-22 Number of US police officers murdered up by 59% - FBI
Murders of police officers rose by nearly 60% during 2021, amid a wider rise in violent crime across the US, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Mr Wray said 73 officers were killed in the line of duty last year. Murders of all kinds across the US have risen dramatically since 2019. Mr Wray said violence against police was a "phenomena" that "doesn't get enough attention". He said it amounted to an officer killed every five days. Around 1,000 people are killed in the US by police each year, although only a small proportion of cases lead to criminal charges. Mr Wray said that "some" of the violence against police is "tied to the violent crime problem as a whole". But, he said, authorities believe that "an alarming percentage" of the officers killed were targeted and "killed through things like being ambushed or shot while out on patrol". "Wearing the badge shouldn't make you a target," he added. Mr Wray did not disclose how many of the 73 officers were targeted in such a manner. In January, however, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said that it had recorded 103 "ambush-style attacks" on officers in 2021, resulting in 130 officers shot and 30 killed. In 2020, the FBI's own data estimates that murders rose 29% from 2019, the sharpest increase since national-level record keeping began in 1960. On a per capita basis, 2020's total of 6.5 murders per 100,000 people is lower than a high of 9.8 per 100,000 set in 1991. A separate analysis of data from 22 cities released by the Council on Criminal Justice in January found that murders rose 5% in 2021, and have gone up 44% since 2019. "Certainly the pandemic didn't help," Mr Wray said of the spike in murders. "We're seeing more and more juveniles committing violent crime, and that's certainly an issue. We're seeing a certain amount of interstate gun trafficking. That's part of it. And we're seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst getting back out on the streets."

4-25-22 U.S. COVID deaths could hit 1 million mark in next few weeks
More than two years into the pandemic, the U.S. is approaching the "once-unthinkable" threshold of 1 million COVID-19 deaths, The Wall Street Journal reports Monday. Of the 990,000 and counting death certificates recorded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "at least 90 percent list COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death," the Journal reports. The remaining 10 percent list the virus as a contributing cause of death. The New York Times has estimated the country will arrive at the 1 million mark within the coming weeks. When independently analyzed using the current seven-day average of 376 deaths, per CDC data, The Week similarly calculated the U.S. would hit one million COVID deaths in about a month. Meanwhile, experts have cautioned that the virus' exact toll is likely being underestimated in official reports, considering undiagnosed cases, especially those from early 2020, the Journal reports. Since the start of the pandemic, almost 75 percent of all deaths have been among those at least 65 years old, the CDC has reported. The virus also hit nursing homes especially hard, a phenomenon vaccines eventually helped curb. When the data is adjusted for age, Black and Hispanic Americans are overrepresented among COVID-19 deaths, while white Americans are underrepresented. The total number of pandemic deaths is otherwise highest for the white population, "both because it is the largest and significantly older, on average," the Journal writes. Virus deaths also hit men harder than women, considering "men are prone to cardiovascular problems that can heighten the risks of COVID-19 infections," the Journal reports. Researchers believe there could also be a difference in how the male and female immune systems respond to the disease.

4-26-22 Covid-19 news: People hospitalised with omicron still face severe risk
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. People hospitalised with the supposedly milder omicron variant require similar levels of respiratory support and intensive care as those infected with delta. Heba Mostafa at John Hopkins University in the US and her colleagues studied more than 2000 people who tested positive for covid-19 between November and December 2021. The team recorded which variant the participants were infected with and their clinical outcomes. Results reveal 73 per cent of the participants who were hospitalised with delta needed extra oxygen, while 25 per cent required intensive care. Similarly, 67 per cent of those who were hospitalised with omicron required extra oxygen and 17 per cent needed intensive care. Nevertheless, the participants who were infected with omicron were less likely to be hospitalised in the first place, regardless of their vaccine status. Only 3 per cent of the participants infected with omicron were admitted to hospital, compared with 13 per cent of those with delta. “It’s true that patients with omicron were significantly less likely to be admitted to the hospital than patients with delta,” Mostafa said in a statement. “But omicron patients who did need hospitalisation faced a risk of severe disease comparable to those hospitalised with delta. Singapore removed nearly all of its remaining covid-19 restrictions today. Mask wearing indoors and on public transport are some of the only remaining curbs, with officials dropping limits on group sizes, social distancing guidelines and restrictions on the number of people who can work in an office at any one time. Nearly two-thirds of people who were restricted from visiting relatives while they were hospitalised with covid-19 may have developed a stress-related disorder. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver surveyed 330 relatives three months after a family member was admitted to intensive care with covid-19 between February and July 2020. Just under two-fifths (64 per cent) of the relatives scored high on tests that measure symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is more than double pre-pandemic levels, when relatives were similarly surveyed after a loved one was admitted to intensive care for non-covid-19 reasons. “Our findings suggest that visitation restrictions may have inadvertently contributed to a secondary public health crisis, an epidemic of stress-related disorders mong family members of ICU patients,” Timothy Amass said in a statement.

4-26-22 Russian foreign minister: Threat of World War III is a 'real' danger
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday his country has "a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight" in order to "wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion." Lavrov made his remarks during an interview that aired on Russian state television. He appeared to be responding to comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after he traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend. Austin said the U.S. wants Ukraine to stay a sovereign country and "to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine." Any weapons and supplies sent to Ukraine from Western countries, including armored vehicles and Javelin anti-tank missiles, are "legitimate" targets for the Russian military, Lavrov said, and he accused NATO of being "in essence ... engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy. War means war." He also said Russia's "key position" is to prevent nuclear war, and the "danger is serious, real ... we must not underestimate it." At the same time "everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III," but NATO forces are "pouring oil on the fire" by giving Ukraine weapons, Lavrov declared. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that everything Lavrov said should actually encourage allies to provide more weapons. "Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine," he said. "Thus the talk of a 'real' danger of World War III. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security."

4-26-22 About 15,000 Russian troops killed in 1st 60 days of Ukraine invasion, U.K. estimates
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament on Monday that about 15,000 Russian troops have died in Ukraine since the Kremlin invaded on Feb. 24, and about a quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups Moscow committed to its invasion "have been rendered not combat effective." Russia has also lost about 2,000 tanks and other armored vehicles, and more than 60 helicopters and fighter jets, Wallace added. "Russia has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives." The estimate from British intelligence is in line with numbers published by the pro-Kremlin media outlet Readovka, citing a "closed briefing" from Russia's Defense Ministry. In its report, since blamed on a hack, Readovka said Russia has lost 13,414 soldiers in Ukraine, 7,000 more are missing, and 116 sailors were killed up on the sunken Black Sea flagship Moskva. "The Russian Ministry of Defense hides losses," tweeted Sergey Smirnov, editor-in-chief of the independent Russian media site Mediazona, but "we found out exactly who is dying in this war on the part of Russia," including "a lot of officers." Mediazona based its numbers on 1,744 military deaths confirmed by the pro-Kremlin press, relatives of slain soldiers, local authorities, or educational institutions. "At least 500 soldiers of the most combat-ready units — paratroopers, marines, and special forces — were killed," Mediazona reports. "More than 300 officers were killed. Among them are two major generals and the deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet," Capt. Andrei Paly, plus more than 70 National Guardsmen, 20 airplane pilots, and seven helicopter pilots. Ukraine has claimed that three other major generals and at least two lieutenant generals were killed, Mediazona adds, but it couldn't confirm those deaths and did not count them in its tally.

4-26-22 Germany to send tanks to Ukraine in U-turn
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Sarah Rainsford, Joe Inwood, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Andrew Harding in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Toby Luckhurst and Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Germany’s government has authorised the supply of about 50 anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, in a major policy shift. Berlin's decision comes as the US and its allies meet at an airbase in Germany to pledge more weapons for Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Nato against supplying military aid to Ukraine, saying there was a risk of the conflict escalating into World War Three. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a ceasefire in Ukraine ahead of talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin later. Guterres describes discussions with Lavrov as "frank", but insists he is visiting Moscow as a "messenger of peace". Fresh explosions have been reported in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria, which neighbours Ukraine.

4-26-22 Nato expansion: No set date for Finland application - minister
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has said it would be "useful" for Sweden and Finland to launch joint Nato membership bids. But he said that no fixed date had been set for any potential application. The comments came as Nordic media reported the countries could launch a simultaneous bid to join the security bloc next month. Stockholm and Helsinki have long pursued policies of military neutrality to avoid conflict with regional powers. But during a visit to Sweden earlier this month, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said "everything had changed" when Russia attacked Ukraine and told reporters that Helsinki must to be "prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia". Her comments coincided with the publication of a security report that warned Finland's membership of Nato could result in "increased tensions on the border between Finland and Russia". Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported on Monday that the two countries' leaders could meet in the week of 16 May to announce the bid during a state visit to Sweden by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Finland shares a 1,340km (830 miles) border with Russia, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that Moscow would have to "rebalance the situation" with its own measures if the Nato bid went ahead. And there have been some reports that Russia had started to move military equipment towards the Russian-Finnish border, although US officials said they had seen nothing to confirm that. But Swedish outlet Aftonbladet reported that the US and UK have agreed to provide security support during the application process, citing government officials. US defence sources told the outlet that Sweden and Finland would be treated as de-facto members of the security alliance for the duration of the application process. The UK and US support would reportedly include an increased number of troops in the Nordic nations, further intelligence co-operation, assistance in combatting cyber threats and an increased presence of Nato warships in the Baltic sea.

4-26-22 US Supreme Court: Should this coach have been punished for praying?
The US Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in the case of an American football coach suing for the right to pray at mid-field after his high school team's games. The court's conservative majority could use the lawsuit to expand the boundaries limiting religious expression in public schools. Joseph Kennedy first had the idea to pray after high school football games when he was watching television and came across Facing the Giants, a 2006 film that featured a coach at a small religious academy who led his team to a state football championship after praying and emphasising Christian values to his players. Mr Kennedy was considering whether to take a job as a coach at a high school in Bremerton, Washington - a town near Seattle - despite having little experience playing American football. His wife worked for the school district, and he had been offered the job based on his services as a US Marine, where he dabbled in the sport. He accepted the position, and for the next seven years prayed on the field after the games - sometimes alone and sometimes with players - apparently with little notice or controversy. That changed after a game in September 2015, when an opposing coach notified the Bremerton school principal of his actions. The school informed Mr Kennedy that his prayers could be construed as a school endorsement of religion, which run afoul of a long line of US Supreme Court cases that limited religious activities in public education. Mr Kennedy refused, and after a post-game prayer that October, became a public and media spectacle, with a crowd of spectators gathering on the field around the coach, the school placed him on leave. At the end of the season, instead of attempting to renew his one-year coaching contract with the school, he sued Bremerton for infringing on his constitutional right to freedom of religion and sought to make his case on a nationwide media tour. And so began a six-year legal battle that puts several aspects of the First Amendment to the US Constitution - which protects the free speech and religious exercise but also prohibits the "establishment" of a religion by the state - in tension.

4-26-22 Donald Trump held in contempt in New York legal battle
A US judge has held former President Donald Trump in contempt for failing to turn over files for an investigation into his business practices. Justice Arthur Engoron on Monday ordered Mr Trump pay a fine of $10,000 (£7,850) per day until he complies. New York Attorney General Letitia James had asked the court to hold Mr Trump in contempt after he missed a March deadline to present certain documents. Mr Trump's lawyer said she would appeal the ruling. "Everything that your honour and the attorney general said that we haven't done - we have done," attorney Alina Habba said in court. After a "very diligent" search, there were simply no more relevant documents to provide, she said. Ms James, a Democrat, opened a civil inquiry in 2019 into claims that - before he took office - Mr Trump, a Republican, had inflated the value of his assets to banks when seeking loans. Mr Trump and his family have denied wrongdoing, and the former president has called the inquiry a "witch hunt". In court on Monday, Ms Habba called the civil probe as a "fishing expedition". Justice Engoron said a contempt finding was warranted because of what he called "repeated failures" to hand over the requested materials. "Mr Trump... I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt," he said, although the former president was not in the courtroom. The attorney general's office called the ruling a "major victory" in the legal battle against Mr Trump. "Today, justice prevailed," said Ms James. "For years, Donald Trump has tried to evade the law and stop our lawful investigation into him and his company's financial dealings. Today's ruling makes clear: no one is above the law." The civil case is separate to a Manhattan criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's practices.

4-25-22 Trump held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 per day
A New York judge ruled Monday to hold former President Donald Trump in contempt of court and fine him $10,000 per day for failing to comply with subpoenas ordering him to hand over records by March 31, Bloomberg reports. The subpoenas were issued in connection with New York Attorney General Letitia James' probe into whether Trump broke the law by overstating the value of his assets in order to obtain "more favorable terms for bank loans," per Bloomberg. Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, claimed her client is "an honest person" and has already handed over all the required records. If that is the case, Judge Arthur Engoron asked Habba, "[w]hy don't we have an affidavit from him" affirming under oath that all the subpoenaed documents have indeed been delivered? According to Bloomberg, New York is likely to bring an enforcement action against Trump, but the "AG's attorney didn't give any details about what kind of enforcement action the state might bring or when it might be filed." In February, Engoron ordered Trump to be deposed as part of James' investigation, but Trump appealed the ruling, "a move that will probably delay the battle over his testimony by months," The Guardian reported last month.

4-25-22 Reports: Sweden and Finland agree to apply for NATO membership at the same time
Finland and Sweden are preparing to simultaneously submit membership applications to NATO, and could do so as early as mid-May, Nordic media organizations reported Monday. The Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reports that Sweden "suggested the two countries indicate their willingness to join" the alliance on the same day, and Finland agreed "as long as the Swedish government has made its decision." Earlier this month, both prime ministers said they were contemplating membership, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the "security landscape" of Europe. Moscow has warned the countries against applying for membership, saying Russia would be forced to strengthen its defenses in the Baltic in order to "restore military balance." Finland and Sweden are nonaligned militarily, but became NATO partners in 1995 when joining the European Union. New opinion polls indicate that about 68 percent of Finns are supportive of joining NATO, more than double the number before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while in Sweden, "a slim majority" of residents are in favor of joining, The Guardian reports.

4-25-22 Ukraine railway stations come under Russian attack
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joe Inwood, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Toby Luckhurst and Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odesa. Five railway stations have come under attack in central and western Ukraine, according to officials. There are reports of casualties after stations in Zhmerynka and Kozyatyn in central Ukraine were hit. Meanwhile, in Krasne, near Lviv, a facility handling the power supply to overhead lines was struck. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Russia is trying to brutalise parts of Ukraine but failing in its war aims. He was speaking after meeting President Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday - the highest-level US visit since Russia's invasion began. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who also went to Kyiv, said the US wanted to see Russia militarily weakened. Russia has said it will suspend attacks on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol to allow civilians to leave - but Ukraine has demanded written security guarantees.

4-25-22 Ukraine war: US wants to see a weakened Russia
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he hopes Russian losses in Ukraine will deter its leadership from repeating its actions. He added that Ukraine can still win the war if given the right support and praised the efforts of its military. "We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," the US military chief said. Mr Austin was speaking after meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. Accompanied by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the visit marked the highest level trip to Ukraine by US officials since the invasion began over two months ago. The meeting between the US and Ukrainian parties, which ran for over three hours, comes as Russia escalates its military campaign in the south and east of the country. The BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Landale observed that Mr Austin's comments calling for a weakened Russia were unusually strong for a US defence secretary. It is one thing to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, it is quite another to speak of weakening Russia's capabilities, he said. At a news conference in Poland after the visit, the US defence secretary told reporters that US officials still believe Ukraine can win the conflict "if they have the right equipment" and the "right support". The 68-year-old announced that the US will allocate an additional $713m (£559m) of military aid to the Ukrainian government and 15 other allied European governments fearful of Russian aggression. It brings the total US security assistance provided to Ukraine since the invasion began to more than $3.7bn (£2.9bn). Mr Zelensky has been pleading with Western leaders to increase the flow of military equipment for weeks, vowing that his forces overcome Russia's military if provided with fighter jets and other vehicles. Last week the US confirmed that it has supplied Ukrainian troops with howitzer artillery cannons and anti-artillery radars for the first time.

4-25-22 'You can't imagine the conditions' - Accounts emerge of Russian detention camps
"You can't imagine how horrible the conditions were." Oleksandr and Olena are two of the lucky few who recently managed to escape from Mariupol, which is now almost under full Russian control after weeks of bombardment. The city is effectively sealed off from the world, and information about what is happening inside is difficult to confirm independently. But the pair, and others, have given chilling accounts of life in Russia's so-called filtration camps, set up outside Mariupol to house civilians before they are evacuated. Oleksandr and Olena, speaking from the relatively safe western city of Lviv, say they ended up at one of the centres when they tried to escape the city. After walking from their home to an evacuation point, they were driven to a Russian refugee hub at a former school in the village of Nikolske, north-west of Mariupol. "It was like a true concentration camp," Oleksandr, 49, says. The centres have been compared by Ukrainian officials to those used during Russia's war in Chechnya, when thousands of Chechens were brutally interrogated and many disappeared. Oleksandr and Olena were fingerprinted, photographed from all sides, and interrogated for several hours by Russian security officers - "like in a prison", he says. They worried that the Russians would look at their phones, and so they cleared all evidence from their devices of anything to do with Ukraine - including photos of their daughter in front of a Ukrainian flag. They were right to worry. Oleksandr says that during their interrogation, Russian security officers examined photographs, phone call history and contact numbers on their devices for links with journalists or government and military officials. "If a person was suspected of being a 'Ukrainian Nazi', they took them to Donetsk for further investigation or murder," says Oleksandr, although the BBC has not been able to verify this claim. "It was very dangerous and risky. Any small doubt, any small resistance - and they could take you to the basements for interrogation and torture. Everybody was afraid to be taken to Donetsk."

4-25-22 Fires break out at Russian oil depots near border with Ukraine
Two oil storage facilities in the Russian city of Bryansk caught fire Monday morning, multiple outlets have reported per Russian state media and social media footage. The first blaze broke out at a civilian facility carrying 10,000 tons of fuel, followed by a second at a separate depot with 5,000 tons, per The Guardian. Bryansk, which is situated less than 100 miles from the border with Ukraine, acts as a logistics base for Moscow in the ongoing war. Russia has since reported zero casualties, and said it would begin investigating the cause of the outbreak, Reuters reports. Though there is speculation online that the fires were the result of a Ukrainian missile strike, there was no "immediate indication" that one or both of the fires were related to Ukraine, Reuters writes. "It sounds like something is flying through the air before the explosion," military analyst Rob Lee told The Guardian, referencing the footage circulating on social media. "I think it was probably a Ukrainian attack, but we cannot be certain." If it was the Ukrainians, Lee estimates the attack to have been an attempt at disrupting Russian military fuel supplies. There has been no immediate comment on the incident from Ukraine. Last week, Russian officials claimed Ukrainian helicopters had attacked residential buildings and injured seven individuals in the Bryansk region. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the alleged incident at the time, per Reuters. The fires also occurred hours after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

4-25-22 Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says U.S. believes Ukraine can win, wants to 'see Russia weakened'
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that the U.S. wants "to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country able to protect its sovereign territory, we want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine." Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to reporters in Poland after returning from a three-hour meeting in Kyiv on Sunday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials. "The first step in winning is believing that you can win," and both the U.S. and the Ukrainians "believe that we — they — can win, if they have the right equipment, the right support," Austin said. "And we're going to do everything we can and continue to do everything we can." "When it comes to Russia's war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding," Blinken told the reporters in Poland. "Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed." Nobody knows "how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene," he added. "And our support for Ukraine going forward will continue. It will continue until we see final success." CNN military analyst retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling agreed Sunday that Ukraine could defeat Russia's forces, but Putin would react badly to such a defeat. Zelensky said in a statement after his meeting with Austin and Blinken that "we appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine. I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position. To thank all the American people, as well as the Congress for their bicameral and bipartisan support. We see it. We feel it."

4-25-22 U.S. will give Ukraine $322 million in military aid, send back diplomats, Blinken and Austin say on secret visit
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukrainian officials in their unannounced visit to Kyiv on Sunday that the U.S. will provide the country with $322 million in military aid and return diplomats to Ukraine, State Department officials told reporters. Austin told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the other officials that President Biden also approved $165 million in ammunition sales to Ukraine and that the first U.S. howitzers had arrived in Ukraine. Blinken told Zelensky that Biden will nominate Bridget Brink, a veteran diplomat and current U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, as the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, a position that has been vacant since Marie Yovanovitch was controversially recalled in May 2019. While Brink awaits confirmation, U.S. diplomats will "start with day trips into Lviv" and "graduate to potentially other parts of the country and ultimately, resume presence in Kyiv," a senior State Department official said. The U.S. had planned to keep the visit by Austin and Blinken under wraps until they were out of the country, but Zelensky hinted at it on Saturday and one of his advisers broke the news Sunday. The U.S., in confirming the visit, said Blinken and Austin met with Zelensky, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, and Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky for about three hours. It was Zelensky's first face-to-face meeting with a top U.S. official since Russia invaded.

4-25-22 Supreme Court revisits case of coach who wanted to pray on football field
The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in the case of a Washington state high school football coach who lost his job for praying on the 50-yard-line in violation of school district orders, The Washington Post reports. It will be the second time the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, has been considered by the high court. When the court first took up the case in 2019, Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg in declining to hear the case. At the time, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh expressed sympathy for the free-speech arguments of former Bremerton High School assistant coach Joseph Kennedy, who said he should be allowed to say a post-game prayer of gratitude at midfield. In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The court's newly expanded 6-3 conservative majority — with Justice Amy Coney Barrett having replaced Ginsberg — has been strongly protective of religious rights. Newly confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will not rule on the case, as Breyer's resignation does not take effect until the end of the current term.

4-25-22 French election result: Macron defeats Le Pen and vows to unite divided France
Emmanuel Macron has won five more years as France's president after a convincing victory over rival Marine Le Pen, who nevertheless secured the far right's highest share of the vote yet. He won by 58.55% to 41.45%, a greater margin than expected. The centrist leader told jubilant supporters at the foot of the Eiffel Tower that now the election was over he would be a "president for all". He is the first sitting president in 20 years to be re-elected. Despite her loss, Ms Le Pen, 53, said her significant vote share still marked a victory. The ideas her National Rally represented had reached new heights, she told her supporters. But far-right rival Eric Zemmour pointed out that she had ultimately failed, just like her father who preceded her: "It's the eighth time the Le Pen name has been hit by defeat." Marine Le Pen took over the party founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 in a bid to make it electable. She won more than 13 million votes on Sunday, on a platform of tax cuts to tackle the high cost of living, a ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in public and a referendum on immigration controls. "An answer must be found to the anger and disagreements that led many of our compatriots to vote for the extreme right," Mr Macron said in his victory speech. "It will be my responsibility and that of those around me." More than one in three voters did not vote for either candidate. Turnout was just under 72%, the lowest in a presidential run-off since 1969, and more than three million people cast spoilt or blank votes. Much of France was on holiday on the day of the vote, but the low turnout also reflected the apathy of voters who complained neither candidate represented them. Voters who said they were casting blank ballots told the BBC they wanted to punish the sitting president.

4-25-22 French election: Historic win but Macron has polarised France
Before the caveats, it is only fair to acknowledge the scale of President Macron's achievement. Not enough is being made of this, but this is the first time ever that a governing president of the Fifth Republic has been re-elected. Yes, presidents have retained the Elysée before. But both François Mitterrand in 1988 and Jacques Chirac in 2002 were effectively in opposition in the period running up to the vote. In both cases, actual government was - as a result of mid-term parliamentary elections - in the hands of the president's foes. Though in office, Mitterrand and Chirac were politically impotent - but that helped when the wheel turned again and they found themselves back in favour. As for Charles de Gaulle's victory in 1965, he'd never been elected by the people in the first place. So, Emmanuel Macron is the first president in modern times who, after running every aspect of foreign and domestic policy for a full term, has once again won the trust of the people. When you consider France's longstanding relationship with government - which is essentially to cheer 'em in, then chuck 'em out at the first opportunity - this is no mean feat. He has done it by two methods, the first of which bodes well for the next five years, the second less so. The results suggest that hidden beneath the seething mass of social media caricatures - the arrogant Parisian rich, the angry provincial mob - there are millions of French people of the middling type who feel that Emmanuel Macron has not been at all a bad president. These people appreciate that unemployment is no longer a political issue, largely because of Macron's reforms. They think his handling of Covid was competent, and they agree that pushing back the age of retirement is inevitable. They also discern a leader who can more than hold his own on the international stage. They are glad there is someone at the Elysée with the stature to talk straight with Putin, even if it proved a fruitless endeavour. And they reckon that under Macron France can aspire to take the lead in Europe, at a time when his vision of greater military and economic autonomy for the EU is looking more and more relevant. The contrast on this front with Marine Le Pen could not have been starker. These people may not particularly like Emmanuel Macron - he's too different - but enough have come to respect him.

4-25-22 The liberal center holds in France, but how long can it last?
The battle between liberals and antiliberals is just getting started. Liberals across the Western world are rejoicing at the news that incumbent Emmanuel Macron roundly defeated the right-wing antiliberal candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of France's presidential election on Sunday. The celebration is warranted. Marcon didn't just win. He won by nearly 17 points — 58.3 to 41.6 percent — a popular-vote margin wider than any seen in a U.S. presidential election since Ronald Reagan won re-election in a landslide nearly 40 years ago. That's a decisive victory for the center and a resounding defeat for its opponents. But that doesn't mean complacency is in order. On the contrary, when the election results are placed in the broader historical context, it's clear that the battle in France between liberals and antiliberals, center and periphery, is far from over. Indeed, if recent trends continue, the likelihood of a defeat for the center and triumph of the antiliberal right or left will continue to rise, with one of the extremes running a good chance of prevailing in the coming years. Consider: When Marine Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the long-time ultranationalist head of the far-right National Front (FN), made it into the second round back in 2002, he was crushed by the center-right Jacques Chirac 82.2 to 18.8 percent. Fifteen years later, with the FN now led by the younger Le Pen, the result was another decisive loss, 66.1 to 33.9 percent, this time to Macron, who was leading a newly formed En Marche party of neoliberal centrism. Macron won his victory by turning the election into an all-hands-on-deck referendum on the fate of fascism in France, with voters from across the spectrum urged to cast an anti-Le Pen vote in favor of himself. Between 2017 and 2022, Le Pen changed the name of her party (it's now called National Rally) and worked to stake out somewhat more moderate positions on issues. The result in the first-round vote on April 10 was a plurality for Macron with 27.9 percent and a second-place showing for Le Pen at 23.2 percent, 1.9 points higher than her first-round result five years earlier. But that wasn't the only shift away from the center. A candidate even further to the right, xenophobic firebrand Éric Zemmour, won 7 percent, while the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in third, with 22 percent. Add in the combined 5 percent won by the French communists and Résistons, a small ruralist and social conservative party, and that's a total of 57.2 percent voting for parties sharply opposed to the political center. In the two-week run-up to the second-round vote, Macron attempted the same emergency move that brought him to victory five years ago, calling on the French nation to unite in opposition to the threat of extremism. It worked again, though this time with Le Pen finishing 7.7 points higher than she did in 2017. Has the far-right now hit a ceiling of support that will keep it out of the presidential palace over the long term? Or might its strength continue to grow between now and the next election in 2027? The liberal center has three reasons to worry. For one thing, Macron is precluded from running for a third term — and his En Marche party is more a personal brand than a real party with deep roots in the French electorate. It's possible and maybe even likely that it will fizzle without Macron running as its standard bearer.

4-25-22 Covid-19 news: Hospitalised people don't fully recover after a year
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Only 29 per cent of people who were hospitalised with covid-19 in the UK feel fully recovered one year later. Rachael Evans at the University of Leicester, UK, and her colleagues looked at 2320 people in the UK who were discharged from hospital, after being admitted with covid-19, between March 2020 and April 2021. All the participants were assessed five months later, while a third (33 per cent) were also assessed one year post-discharge. Symptoms – most commonly fatigue, muscle pain, poor sleep and breathlessness – persisted in 74 per cent of the participants five months later, decreasing slightly to 71 per cent at one year. “The limited recovery from five months to one year after hospitalisation in our study across symptoms, mental health, exercise capacity, organ impairment, and quality-of-life is striking,” Evans said in a statement. While severe covid-19 is more common among males, the female participants were 32 per cent less likely to feel fully recovered one year on. Obesity and having had mechanical ventilation were linked to the participants being 50 and 58 per cent less likely to feel fully recovered, respectively. “Given that more than 750,000 people have been hospitalised in the UK with covid-19 over the past two years, it is clear from our research that the legacy of this disease is going to be huge,” said Evans. Unvaccinated people could raise the covid-19 risk among vaccinated people, even when immunisation rates are high. David Fisman at the University of Toronto and his colleagues simulated how different levels of population mixing affect the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus. New infections were high when the simulated groups of vaccinated and unvaccinated people mixed. “We found that the choices made by people who forgo vaccination contribute disproportionately to risk among those who do get vaccinated,” Fisman said in a statement. Shanghai in China reported a record 51 covid-19 deaths and more than 19,000 new cases today, its highest daily total since the pandemic began. Shanghai’s over 25-million-strong population remains locked down as authorities try to maintain their zero covid policy. Cases are also surging across the rest of China, with nearly 22,000 new reported cases on 24 April, according to its national health ministry. Mass testing is being rolled out in Beijing after 26 new cases were identified./p>

4-25-22 Beijing kicks off mass testing after spike in Covid cases
The Chinese capital Beijing has kicked off mass testing for millions of residents after a spike in Covid cases. The Chaoyang district reported 26 cases over the weekend - the highest number so far in Beijing's latest surge. Long queues outside supermarkets and shops were seen despite government assurances there is sufficient food. It comes amid fears that Beijing could face a similar situation to Shanghai, which has seen some 25 million people shut in their homes for weeks. All 3.5 million residents in Chaoyang, Beijing's most populous district, will undergo three rounds of mass testing, according to a notice by the city's disease prevention team. The news prompted residents to rush to stock up essential supplies, with images circulating on local media showing supermarket shelves emptied of goods and snaking queues at check-out counters. Beijing's major supermarkets also extended their opening hours to accommodate the spike in demand. "Never thought I would go to the market early in the morning….when I got there, all the eggs and prawns were gone and all the meat was snatched up," said one Weibo user in Shanghai, before adding they managed to get some vegetables. Another Weibo user in Shanghai said: "Seeing people in Beijing rush to buy food is both funny and distressing… it's like looking at what my own life was like just last month." State-media news outlet The Global Times said that Beijing's fresh food companies have been ordered to increase the supply of groceries like meat, poultry eggs and vegetables. They also quoted health experts as saying that the results of the mass testing would indicate whether there is a need to escalate measures further, such as locking down several areas. Separately, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told state-media outlet China Daily that the number of cases in Beijing is expected to increase in the following days.

4-25-22 Shanghai: Green fences baffle locked down residents
Authorities battling Shanghai's latest Covid outbreak have installed fences to restrict the population's movement. Green barriers have appeared without warning outside buildings where those inside are forbidden from leaving. One resident told the BBC a green fence appeared inside his locked-up compound three days ago without any explanation. For weeks Shanghai's 25 million-strong population has been shut in their homes while officials try to contain the city's worst Covid surge to date. Images of workers in white hazmat suits sealing entrances to the city's housing blocks and closing off streets with green fencing have spread in recent days on Chinese social media. Many of the fences, which are around two-metres tall, were installed around buildings designated as "sealed areas" where at least one person has tested positive for Covid-19. Everyone living inside a "sealed area" is forbidden from setting foot outside their homes whether or not they have the virus. It was not immediately clear why officials have began constructing the fences. A notice dated 23 April from one local authority being shared online said it was imposing "hard quarantine" in some areas. The BBC has not been able to verify these images but has spoken to a foreign national living in Shanghai who said green fencing appeared in his own residential complex three days ago. The resident, who asked not to be identified, said that the main gate to his compound was chained up three weeks ago after he believes one of his neighbours tested positive for the virus. But on Thursday he said workers installed a new barrier without any warning. "There is a long corridor in our compound, and within the long corridor they put up another green fence three days ago," he described on the phone. "No one told us the reason it was installed." "No one can get out," he said. "I feel helpless. You don't know when the lockdown is going to end."

4-24-22  Why ventilation matters
After extensive studies of how COVID spreads, scientists and policy makers are focusing on indoor air quality. After extensive studies of how COVID spreads, scientists and policy makers are focusing on indoor air quality. Here's everything you need to know: One of the most powerful tools for limiting the spread of COVID-19 has been right in front of our noses: purifying the air we breathe. After extensive studies of outbreaks, superspreader events, and aerosol dynamics, epidemiologists who specialize in respiratory disease have warned that maintaining 6 feet of distance from others isn't sufficient to avoid indoor infection. It took the World Health Organization more than a year to acknowledge that COVID doesn't just travel via large respiratory droplets that fall to the ground quickly, but also spreads in tiny, aerosolized particles that can linger in the air like a fine mist for hours. As mask mandates are lifted, this underscores how crucial it is to keep air flowing in crowded indoor places, by equipping buildings with ventilation systems that pump virus-laden air outside, and with filtration devices that trap viral particles. Think of aerosolized virus as cigarette smoke, said Joseph Allen, director of Harvard's Healthy Buildings Program. "If I'm smoking in the corner of a classroom and you have low ventilation/filtration, that room is going to fill up with smoke," Allen said. But outdoors, he said, "you could be a couple of feet from me, depending which way the wind was blowing, you may not even know I'm smoking." Every time we exhale, air rushes out of our lungs and through our nose and mouth in a warm cloud of respiratory fluid. Droplets that emerge when we yell or cough can be as wide as a strand of human hair, but the coronavirus travels mainly through the millions of aerosols — droplets just a few thousandths of a millimeter wide — released with each breath. In a crowded, poorly ventilated room, up to 4 percent of each inhalation is someone else's breath; University of Oregon researchers found there was not much difference between the number of aerosol particles shared between people standing 4 feet versus 11 feet apart. Humidity helps, however. Studies indicate that in dry places, like many offices and restaurants, respiratory droplets travel farther and longer.

4-24-22 Shanghai: Censors try to block video about lockdown conditions
Chinese internet authorities are trying to block a popular video highlighting the impact of Shanghai's five-week lockdown on its residents. The clip features audio of citizens complaining about their conditions, lack of food and poor medical care. Official attempts to remove it have triggered a backlash on Chinese sites. Shanghai's 25 million residents have been shut in their homes for weeks while officials try to contain a severe Covid-19 outbreak. The six-minute montage features audio clips of the local population criticising insufficient food supplies and complaining about poor medical conditions. "We haven't eaten for days now," one person can be heard pleading. "This virus can't kill us. Starvation can," another man says. The video, titled The Voice of April, was being widely shared on the popular Chinese platforms Weibo and WeChat. But on Saturday internet authorities began trying to take it down, battling with rebellious users who were posting new copies elsewhere on the sites. It's now five weeks since Shanghai's population was first ordered to stay at home as part of an extremely strict lockdown. The rules are intended by officials to contain the city's latest Covid-19 surge - the most severe wave Shanghai has experienced to date. Public criticism of government policies is rare in China, but in the past few weeks some Shanghai residents have posted complaints on social media sites about the poor conditions they were being kept in. Some in locked-down areas of Shanghai have been struggling to access food supplies, and forced to wait for government drop-offs of vegetables, meat and eggs. Other recently introduced measures include placing electronic alarms on doors to prevent those with the virus from leaving and forcibly evacuating residents to allow their homes to be disinfected. Shanghai city officials have also ordered all infected patients and their close contacts to be transferred to government-run centralised quarantine.

4-24-22 Macron v Le Pen as France votes for president
Updates from BBC correspondents Katya Adler, Nick Beake, Anna Holligan, Paul Kirby, Jessica Parker and Lucy Williamson in France and the live reporting team in London. French voters are choosing between centrist sitting president Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Macron, 44, is vying to become the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years, but faces a strong challenge. Le Pen, 53, is challenging for the presidency for a third time; she lost to Macron in 2017. Although she was trailing in the final polls, Le Pen has never come this close to winning. Voting ends at 20:00 (18:00 GMT) and that is when we will have the first projections. Turnout four hours into voting was down on 2017 at 26.4%.

4-23-22 Labor board sues Starbucks after coffee chain fires 3 union organizers
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) petitioned a federal court on Friday to force Starbucks to reinstate three employees the NLRB claims were fired due to their union campaigning, CNBC reports. Employees have the fundamental right to choose whether or not they want to be represented by the union without restraint or coercion by their employer. The faith of Starbucks employees nationwide in workplace democracy will not be restored unless these employees are immediately reinstated under the protection of a federal court order," said NLRB Regional Director Cornele Overstreet in a statement. Per CNBC, "more than 200 Starbucks locations have filed paperwork to unionize under Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union," and 24 stores have already voted to unionize. On Friday, The New York Post reported that leaked video of a meeting between Starbucks managers and executives showed Rossann Williams, the company's president for North America, denying that Starbucks is engaging in "union-busting." In the same video, CEO Howard Schultz appeared to refer to the unionization push as an "outside force that's trying desperately to disrupt our company." Schultz, who recently rejoined Starbucks for his third stint as CEO after previously running the chain from 1986 to 2000 and from 2008 to 2017, "is particularly polarizing among union supporters because he has frequently spoken about his belief that Starbucks shouldn't be unionized," The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. According to CNBC, Workers United has filed dozens of complaints with the NLRB against Starbucks, while Starbucks has filed complaints of its own, alleging that "the union organizing its baristas broke federal law."

4-23-22 Marjorie Taylor Greene testifies under oath in Jan. 6-related challenge to candidacy
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) testified under oath for over three hours on Friday, defending herself against claims by a group of Georgia voters that her activities in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot should bar her from seeking re-election, CNN reported. Greene claimed she "was asking people to come for a peaceful march" but not "to actively engage in violence." Andrew Celli, the lawyer for the voters challenging Greene's eligibility, said she "was one of several leaders who gathered the kindling, who created the conditions, who made it possible for there to be an explosion of violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. And then, she dropped the match." Judge Charles Beaudrot is expected to issue a recommendation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) in the next few weeks. Under the 14th Amendment, public officials can be disqualified from holding office in the future if it can be proven that they "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against" the United States. The outcome of legal proceedings against Greene could indicate whether a similar challenge to former President Donald Trump might succeed if he seeks a second term in 2024, CNN notes. According to The Independent, Greene is appealing a federal judge's ruling that allowed the challenge to her eligibility to proceed.

4-23-22 Will Saturday's Trump rally propel J.D. Vance to victory in Ohio?
Former President Donald Trump plans to hold a rally Saturday night in Delaware County, Ohio, in an attempt to propel Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance to victory in the state's May 3 Republican Senate primary, Fox News and The Hill report. Trump endorsed Vance, who in 2016 expressed concern that Trump could become "America's Hitler," on Friday after Vance's opponents spent days imploring Trump not to intervene in the race, Politico reported. A Trafalgar Group poll conducted before Trump endorsed the venture capitalist and memoirist showed Vance in second place, trailing former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel by five points. A poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday by a pro-Vance super PAC showed him leading Mandel 25-18. Ohio Senate primaries use a first-past-the-post system, meaning that whoever receives the most votes will advance to the general election without having to win a runoff. "There's no runoff here. And if you've got five candidates splitting up the vote, it becomes easier. And if this was part of Trump's calculation, it was a smart calculation," University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato told Fox News. Since receiving Trump's endorsement, Vance's campaign has received an influx of cash, which it will likely need to spread the word in the less than two weeks before the primary. "Ideally, you would have had a month for this thing, but that's not the case," one Ohio GOP strategist told The Hill. "So, flood the zone."

4-23-22 Democratic insiders predict 'doom' in November
Democratic insiders are feeling increasingly pessimistic about their party's chances of avoiding disaster in the November midterm elections, The New York Times reported Saturday. "Are you calling to ask me about our impending doom?" one Democratic strategist asked a Times reporter. Jim Kessler of the center-left think tank Third Way recently gave a presentation in which he advised high-level Democrats not to consider any district "safe" unless President Biden won it by more than 12 percentage points in 2020. "If you're a district that is Biden plus 12 or less, you need to run like you're losing," Kessler said. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) expressed a similar fear earlier this week, arguing in an op-ed that "Democrats need to deliver more of the president's agenda" before November, "or else we will not be in the majority much longer." Democrats are almost certain to lose the House, where they currently hold a five-seat majority. The fate of the Senate will depend on the outcome of competitive races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada.

4-23-22 Morality just isn't Republicans' thing anymore
Republicans have taken the low ground with ‘groomer’ accusations. The party of "traditional values" seems to have lost track of what they are, and has decided to go about as low as you possibly can to retake the moral high ground. To make themselves feel better, Republicans have gone far beyond the traditional accusations of loose living and government sponging to calling Democrats pedophiles as well. At first the charge of pedophilia was limited to the more fetid swamps of QAnon, but recent, more mainstream, GOP talking points are all about "groomers" — predators who make nice to their young victims before striking. But why this particular attack, and why now? The answer to this question is readily apparent when you look at Republican leadership and the base itself. This is a party that sees itself as a moral majority, to steal the original Jerry Falwell's phrase, and will force all the facts to fit that narrative. When I talk about morality here, I do not primarily have in mind the hot-button culture war issues of sex and gender that dominate the current discourse, but a broader set of what could be called socially conservative values. These include the importance of religious belief and observance, the importance of strong and intact families, a notion that the leaders of any organization should be beyond reproach, a dislike for vulgarity, both profane and sexual, opposition to drug use, and things like that. It strikes me now, as I write this list, how old-fashioned it seems. Things have changed. There is no understanding the Republican Party without understanding its leader and id, former President Donald Trump. His sins and crimes have been enumerated many times. But for the record, the man is a serial adulterer who brags about committing sexual assault with impunity, responsible for three cameo appearances in Playboy videos, dishonest in his business dealings, and needlessly callow and cruel. And, finally, he claims that he has never asked God for forgiveness for any of this. Trump's presidency would seem to have vindicated the Southern Baptist Convention's claim that "tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God's judgment." Of course, that was about former President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Now, tolerating this sort of behavior in a leader is par for the Republican Party course. And Trump seems to have set a kind of example for other stars of the MAGAverse: Rep. Matt Gaetz is under investigation for paying for sex with an underage girl and sex trafficking; former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign that post after accusations that he tried to use nude photos to blackmail a woman with whom he had an affair, has not let that stop him from running for the Senate; Rep. Madison Cawthorn has been accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct by women who were his classmates in college. Democrats, of course, have their own fair share of scandals, criminals, and cads, and they see themselves as being on the moral side, too. But they're not running around championing those "traditional values." Why do Republicans thrill to Trump and tolerate misbehavior which previous generations — maybe even the very same people, a few decades ago — would have viewed as immediately disqualifying? (A long time ago, Ronald Reagan being divorced and remarried was a serious problem for a small but noticeable group of voters.) Maybe it's because, while Trump is an extreme (and rich) example, in many ways he's not so different from his devotees.

4-23-22 Russian forces renew attacks on Mariupol steel plant
Russian troops launched an attack on Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant on Saturday, aiming to eliminate the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in southern port city, NPR reports. This renewed assault comes as a reversal of earlier Russian policy. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol and ordered his defense minister to seal off the steel plant "so that not even a fly comes through" instead of storming it. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russian forces were launching air strikes against the Azovstal plant and appeared to be preparing to storm it. Around 2,000 Ukrainian troops and 1,000 civilians reportedly remain holed up in the sprawling Azovstal facility. Ukrainian sources claim that at least 20,000 people have been killed in Russia's siege of Mariupol. On Thursday and Friday, Ukrainian officials said they located two mass graves in villages outside Mariupol. The first, located about 12 miles outside of Mariupol in Russian-occupied Manhush, could contain up to 9,000 corpses. The second was found seven miles east of Mariupol in the village of Vynohradne, CNBC reported.

4-23-22 Russia wants to seize land corridors to Crimea and Moldova, Russian general says
Russian Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekayev said Friday that Russia plans to take "full control of Donbas and southern Ukraine," CBS News reported. These gains, he said, would open "a land corridor to Crimea" — connecting the separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine with the peninsula Russia annexed in 2014 — and "give the Russian army access to Transnistria." Transnistria is a narrow strip of land with around 400,000 inhabitants that is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but is de facto self-governing. Russia has had troops stationed in Moldova since 1992. appears to have been established, but a large swath of Ukrainian-held territory still separates Russian forces from the Moldovan border. Minnekayev said there is evidence "that the Russian-speaking population" in Transnistria "is being oppressed," a claim that could lay the groundwork for future Russian interventions. A few days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — displayed a map during a meeting of his country's security council that appeared to show plans to send Russian troops from southwestern Ukraine into Transnistria. Reuters identifies Minnekayev as "the deputy commander of Russia's central military district," while CBS refers to him as the district's "acting" commander. The New York Times says Minnekayev's role "in the Russian military's hierarchy" is "obscure."

4-23-22 Macron and Le Pen make final pitches to French voters ahead of Sunday's runoff election
Centrist French President Emmanuel Macron led right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen by around 10 points in final polling averages on Friday as campaigning ended ahead of Sunday's runoff election, The Washington Post reported. Macron — who defeated Le Pen by a wide margin in 2017 and is seeking to become the first French president in 20 years to win a second term — said the election is "a referendum on the future of France." Le Pen has accused the incumbent of being arrogant and aloof. "It's Macron or France," she told voters, according to BBC. French law required that all campaigning cease at midnight on Friday. On Wednesday, the two candidates faced off in a debate in which Macron sought to tie his opponent to Russian President Vladimir Putin and interrupted her repeatedly. French journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet told The Week after the debate that she "came out of this [debate]" feeling frustrated with both candidates and "thinking, 'I don't want to hear from these two again.'" She also predicted "record abstention" on Sunday. According to the Post, "a Le Pen upset victory still remains a possibility," and "turnout could play a critical role in Sunday's vote."

4-23-22 Marjorie Taylor Greene: I did not call for violent capitol insurrection
A US congresswoman has denied calling for an "insurrection" in Washington as part of a trial challenging her right to stand for re-election. Marjorie Taylor Greene is being tried under a Civil War era law that bars officials from holding office if they violate their oath to protect the US. The Georgia Republican, a close ally to Donald Trump, is one of the party's most right-wing members in Congress. Democrats claim she played a key role in the 6 January US Capitol riot. On Friday, Ms Greene, 47, became the first sitting lawmaker to testify under oath about her alleged role in the attack in 2021, as Congress was meeting to cement Joe Biden's election victory over Mr Trump. She testified to the Georgia courtroom that she "had no knowledge of any attempt" to illegally interfere with vote counting in Congress that day. She also repeated false claims that Mr Trump actually won the election. The case centres around a provision of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution - the "Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause" - which prohibits elected representatives from seeking office again if they "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof". Democrats may seek to use the same argument to bar Mr Trump from running if he attempts to throw his hat into the 2024 presidential election. In a filing ahead of the trial, lawyers for Ms Greene said that she "vigorously denies that she aided and engaged in insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of presidential power". In court, Ms Greene said: "I don't support violence of any kind," and denied having ever called for violence in her social media posts and media appearances. Prosecutors allege that she made coded calls to arms on public platforms. For example, on 5 January, one day before the riot, Ms Greene said in an interview: "This is our 1776 moment", in what lawyers said was a reference to the year that the US declared independence from Britain, triggering a war. Under oath, she said that she had no memory of that statement and denied that references to 1776 amounted to a secret call for violence. The Georgia state seal hanging in the court, she noted, has the year "1776" written on it, prompting a laugh from the judge.

4-23-22 Ukraine war: Russia aiming for full control of south, commander says
Russia is aiming to take full control of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region, a senior Russian commander says. Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev was quoted in state media as saying that goal would allow Moscow to form a land bridge to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. He also said it would give Moscow access to the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova. Transnistria is a small region that borders Ukraine's west. It is unclear if Gen Minnekayev's comments were officially sanctioned by the Kremlin, but they were widely cited in Russian state media including the Interfax and Tass news agencies. Russian defence officials told the BBC's Steve Rosenberg that they were "looking into" the general's comments, which - if confirmed - offer the first insight into Russia's potential plans in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, a senior EU official told Reuters that Russia is likely to intensify its attacks in eastern Ukraine and along the southern coast in the coming days, adding that the next two weeks may be decisive in the war. Moldova has summoned Moscow's ambassador over the comments, which its foreign ministry described as "deeply concerning". A small Russian-speaking breakaway region, Transnistria borders Ukraine from the west. It claimed independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in a bloody conflict, but is not recognised internationally and officially remains part of Moldova. A small detachment of around 1,500 Russian troops has been stationed in the region since 1995 as part of a truce agreement. Gen Minnekayev, who is deputy commander of Russia's central military district, was speaking at a military event in the Sverdlovsk region on Friday. "Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population," Gen Minnekayev said.

4-23-22 Russia fails to make major gains in Ukraine - UK
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joe Inwood, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Toby Luckhurst and Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odessa. Russian forces have made no major gains in the last 24 hours, despite increased activity, UK intelligence says. And Moscow has yet to establish full control of either air or sea, the British update says. Russia, however, claims a range of successes as its air force targeted multiple Ukrainian military facilities overnight. More civilians could leave the devastated southern city of Mariupol, via a planned humanitarian corridor - though these have failed in the past. Russian forces have resumed attempts to storm the huge steel plant in the city that's the last bastion of resistance there, Ukraine says. Earlier, a video was published appearing to show women and children sheltering in a bunker under the steel plant.

4-23-22 Mariupol steelworks: Video appears to show children in Azovstal bunker
Ukraine's Azov regiment has posted a video showing women and children purportedly sheltering underground at the Azovstal plant - the last part of Mariupol not under Russian control. Women and children in a crowded room can be heard saying they are running out of food and water, and pleading to be evacuated from the southern city. Some say they have seen no daylight for weeks, having been there from February. The BBC has not verified the video, believed to be filmed on 21 April. On the same day, President Vladimir Putin called off a planned Russian assault on the steelworks, and ordered his troops to seal it off instead. Moscow also declared itself to be in full control of the strategic city - a claim denied by Ukraine, who says Russian troops were simply unable to seize the Azovstal steelworks. The plant - a maze of tunnels and workshops - is a huge industrial site in central Mariupol. Taking the Sea of Azov port - which has been almost erased by weeks of heavy Russian bombardment - is a key Kremlin war aim, and would release more troops to join an ongoing Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region. The footage was posted online on 23 April. The Azov regiment, which was originally a far-right group that was later incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard, says it shows its fighters delivering food and other aid to women and children in one of the Azovstal underground bunkers. Big signs reading "Children" in red paint are seen on the walls leading to the room. One woman, who is not named, is heard saying more than 15 children - from babies to those aged 14 - are sheltering there. Another unnamed woman is seen on camera telling how she has been sheltering since 25 February - the second day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. grandmother on 27 February. "We haven't seen the sky or the sun since. We want to get out of here very much. We want it to be safe for us, so no-one is hurt, and then live in safety."

4-23-22 Russia wants to seize land corridors to Crimea and Moldova, Russian general says
Russian Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekayev said Friday that Russia plans to take "full control of Donbas and southern Ukraine," CBS News reported. These gains, he said, would open "a land corridor to Crimea" — connecting the separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine with the peninsula Russia annexed in 2014 — and "give the Russian army access to Transnistria." Transnistria is a narrow strip of land with around 400,000 inhabitants that is internationally recognized as part of Moldova but is de facto self-governing. Russia has had troops stationed in Moldova since 1992. With Russian troops almost entirely in control of Mariupol, the land bridge to Crimea appears to have been established, but a large swath of Ukrainian-held territory still separates Russian forces from the Moldovan border. Minnekayev said there is evidence "that the Russian-speaking population" in Transnistria "is being oppressed," a claim that could lay the groundwork for future Russian interventions. A few days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — displayed a map during a meeting of his country's security council that appeared to show plans to send Russian troops from southwestern Ukraine into Transnistria. Reuters identifies Minnekayev as "the deputy commander of Russia's central military district," while CBS refers to him as the district's "acting" commander. The New York Times says Minnekayev's role "in the Russian military's hierarchy" is "obscure."

4-23-22 French election: Macron and Le Pen trade taunts as campaigning ends
The two candidates fighting for the French presidency have launched bitter attacks on each other in a final bid to win over millions of undecided voters before Sunday's election. Centrist Emmanuel Macron is aiming to become the first sitting president to win a second term for 20 years. He said Marine Le Pen's far right was fuelled by unhappiness and risked a society of hate and fracture. It was proof of his weakness, she said, that he used old insults of extremism. The opinion polls give the sitting president the edge in the second round run-off, but Ms Le Pen's far right party has never been this close to power which is why the stakes are so high. The number one issue in this election has been the spiralling cost of living, from energy bills and food shopping to the price of filling up a car. It was identified very early on by the Le Pen team, who have promised a government of national unity to attack the high cost of living, as well as a referendum on immigration and a ban on wearing headscarves in public. Her simple message to voters has been: "It's Macron or France". Mr Macron also kept his message brief: "This election is a form of referendum, on secularism and on Europe." He argues Ms Le Pen's idea of a "Europe of nations" would mean an end to the EU. He invoked the UK's vote to leave the EU and the presidency of Donald Trump in a TV appeal to voters. "There are millions of people who, a few hours before Brexit, decided what was the point in going to vote. Millions did the same in 2016 with Trump. The next day they woke up with a hangover," he said. Accusing him of insulting both her and those who voted for her, Ms Le Pen said France had endured five years of chaos and could rediscover civil peace and respect. "We won't find it with the same man and the same type of rule," she said.

4-23-22 DeSantis signs bill removing Disney's self-governing privileges
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday abolishing the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which gave Disney the power to act as a local government in the area around Disney World, Fox News reported. Now that the special district, which was established in 1967, has been eliminated, "Orange County says it will have to take on the costs for municipal services to theme parks that Disney had paid for through Reedy Creek," according to The New York Times. DeSantis says Disney will "pay more taxes" under the new policy. DeSantis targeted Disney after the company announced its intention to oppose Florida's parental rights in education law, referred to by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. "You're a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you're gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state. We view that as a provocation, and we're going to fight back against that," DeSantis said. Also on Friday, DeSantis approved Florida's new congressional map, which favors Republicans, and the "Stop W.O.K.E. Act," which "prohibits critical race theory from being discussed in classrooms and in corporate settings, such as employee trainings," according to Fox News.

4-22-22 France says it has evidence Russia tried to frame it with mass graves in Mali
Russian mercenaries, likely with the Wagner Group, buried a dozen Malian bodies in a mass grave about 2.5 miles east of France's former Gossi military base with the goal of blaming France, a French military officer tells The Associated Press. The French military released video images taken Thursday morning showing what appear to be 10 Caucasian soldiers covering bodies with sand. France handed the Gossi base over to Malian forces on Tuesday. Later that day, a "sensor observed a dozen Caucasian individuals, most likely belonging to the Wagner Group," and a detachment from the Malian army arrived at the burial site an unload equipment, AP reports, quoting a confidential report by the French military. Fake social media accounts tied to Russia or created by Wagner posted tweets with pictures of the bodies, blaming France, the French officer said. It's unclear where the bodies came from. France announced in February it would be withdrawing troops it had in Mali since 2013, when they arrived to fight jihadist rebels. Mali's ruling military junta had decided to hire Wagner Group mercenaries, exacerbating tensions with the French military, AP reports. Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at Morocco's Policy Center for the New South, said the aerial video was "a big win for France who's been facing tough times about its reputation in Mali," and "will further put Mali's junta at odds with the international community," since Mali's military must have been aware of the Wagner Group's activities. Col. Souleymane Dembele, a spokesman for Mali's army, said a team has been dispatched to investigate the Gossi site and "it is still early for us to react on this case."

4-22-22 Gun deaths were the leading killer of US children in 2020
Guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of death for US children and teenagers in 2020, new research shows. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over 4,300 young Americans died of firearm-related injuries in 2020. While suicides contributed to the toll, the data shows that homicides form the majority of gun-related deaths. More than 390 million guns are owned by US civilians. According to the research - which was published this week in the New England Journal Medicine - the rise in gun-related deaths among Americans between the ages of one and 19 was part of an overall 33.4% increase in firearm homicides nationwide. Homicides, the study noted, disproportionately impact young Americans. Over the same time period, the rate of firearm suicides in the US rose by 1.1%. The overall rate of gun deaths of all reasons - suicide, homicide, unintentional and undetermined - among children and teenagers rose by 29.5%, more than twice that of the wider population. "We continue to fail to protect our youth from a preventable cause of death," said a research letter published in the journal on Wednesday. The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents rose among both men and women and across ethnic demographics between 2019 and 2020, with the largest increase among black Americans. In past years, gun-related deaths were second only to car crashes as the leading cause of death among young Americans. Car deaths, however, have fallen over time and in 2020 approximately 3,900 Americans under 19 died in vehicle crashes. Incidents of drug overdoses and poisonings rose 83.6% between 2019 and 2020, and now are the third leading cause of death in that age group. A separate study published earlier in April found that 954 young people died of overdoses in 2020, compared to 492 in 2019. Gun violence in the US has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

4-22-22 Guns become leading cause of death for children and adolescents in America
Guns have become the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States, surpassing car crashes, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. A research letter from the medical journal examined mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found there were more than 4,300 firearm-related deaths among people under 19 in the U.S. in 2020, a 29 percent increase from 2019, NBC News reports. Jason Goldstick, co-author of the letter, told NBC that "in the last 40 years, and almost certainly before that, this is the first time that firearm injuries have surpassed motor vehicle crashes among kids." The increase in firearm-related deaths among children and adolescents was "more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population," the letter said. There were over 45,000 firearm-related deaths in total. Drug overdose and poisoning was the third leading cause of death among children and adolescents, increasing 83.6 percent from 2019 to 2020. Meanwhile, the number of deaths from car crashes has declined following the implementation of various safety improvements, and there were 3,900 of crash deaths among children and adolescents in 2020. "As the progress made in reducing deaths from motor vehicle crashes shows, we don't have to accept the high rate of firearm-related deaths among U.S. children and adolescents," an article in the New England Journal of Medicine said. "To reverse the trend of increasing firearm-related deaths among U.S. children, experts and policymakers should be intentional in their efforts to develop and implement a multipronged scientific strategy centered on continuous improvement."

4-22-22 Ukraine war: Russia 'plans to seize southern Ukraine'
Russia aims to seize southern Ukraine and to open a route to the separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova, a senior Russian general says. Maj Gen Rustam Minnekayev specified that Moscow would seek to take "full control" over the south in addition to the eastern Donbas region - the stated objective of the Russian authorities. Transnistria is a small Russian-backed region that borders Ukraine. It is unclear if Gen Minnekayev's comments were officially sanctioned. Russian defence officials told the BBC's Steve Rosenberg that they were "looking into" the general's comments, which - if confirmed - offer the first insight into Russia's potential plans in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, a senior EU official has told Reuters that Russia is likely to intensify its attacks in eastern Ukraine and along the southern coast in the coming days, adding that the next two weeks may be decisive in the war. It comes as the BBC learned that European Council President Charles Michel has highlighted Russia's "miscalculations and losses" in its invasion of Ukraine to President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Friday. A small Russian-speaking breakaway region, Transnistria borders Ukraine from the west. It claimed independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in a bloody conflict, but is not recognised internationally and officially remains part of Moldova. A small detachment of around 1,500 Russian troops has been stationed in the region since 1995 as part of a truce agreement. Gen Minnekayev, who is deputy commander of Russia's central military district, was speaking at a military event in the Sverdlovsk region. "Control over the south of Ukraine is another way out to Transnistria, where there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population," Gen Minnekayev said. Mr Putin made similar claims about the alleged discrimination against Russian speakers in Ukraine before launching the invasion on 24 February. Ukraine's defence ministry denounced Gen Minnekayev's comments as Russian "imperialism".

4-22-22 Mariupol steelworks: 'We have wounded and dead inside the bunkers'
One of the last Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol has told the BBC that the besieged steelworks where they are holed up is largely destroyed above ground and civilians are trapped under collapsed buildings. Speaking from the Azovstal plant - the last part of Mariupol not under Russian control - Svyatoslav Palamar from the controversial Azov regiment said defenders had repelled waves of Russian attacks. "I always say that as long as we are here, Mariupol remains under control of Ukraine," he said. Earlier President Vladimir Putin called off a planned Russian assault on the steelworks - a maze of tunnels and workshops - and ordered his troops to seal it off instead. "Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot pass through," he said. Much of Mariupol has been destroyed in weeks of heavy Russian bombardment and intense street fighting. Taking the Sea of Azov port is a key Russian war aim and would release more troops to join a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region. Capt Palamar said the Russians had fired on the steel plant from warships and dropped "bunker-busting" bombs on it. The BBC has not been able to verify any of his account. But it tallies with testimony earlier this week from a Ukrainian marine commander also in the steelworks, who said fighters were outnumbered and running out of supplies. "All the buildings in the territory of Azovstal are practically destroyed. They drop heavy bombs, bunker-busting bombs which cause huge destruction. We have wounded and dead inside the bunkers. Some civilians remain trapped under the collapsed buildings," Capt Palamar said. The Azov regiment was originally a far-right neo-Nazi group that was later incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard. Its fighters along with a Marine brigade, border guards and police officers are the last Ukrainian defenders left in the city. When asked how many Ukrainian defenders remained in Mariupol, Capt Palamar answered simply "enough to repel attacks".

4-22-22 Mariupol: Satellite images suggest mass graves dug near besieged city
A US satellite firm says it has identified a mass burial site containing about 200 graves near Mariupol, a city Russian forces have been trying to wrest control of for weeks. Maxar said its images showed an expansion of graves that began at the end of March. Local Ukrainian officials accuse the Russians of burying Mariupol civilians killed by Russian troops there. Moscow has not yet responded. Russian troops control most of Mariupol after weeks of bombardment and fighting, but some Ukrainian forces remain in a sprawling steelworks in the city. President Putin has abandoned plans to storm the Azovstal plant and instead told troops to seal it off. The alleged mass grave is near a village called Manhush about 20km (12 miles) west of Mariupol. Maxar said there were four sections of linear rows about 85m long. The BBC has not independently verified the images. Mariupol city council earlier issued its own statement accusing the Russians of burying civilians at the same location. The council said the Russians were digging trenches and "using dump lorries to bring the bodies" and provided its own aerial image of the site, which it said was "already twice as large as the nearby cemetery". The city's mayor Vadym Boichenko says tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in Mariupol. Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations by Ukraine and its Western allies that Russian troops and top Kremlin politicians are responsible for mass killings of civilians. Earlier this month, Maxar images of the town of Bucha outside Kyiv appeared to show bodies of civilians lying in the street nearly two weeks before the Russians left the town as part of a withdrawal from northern Ukraine. The image from 19 March, first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by the BBC, contradicted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's claim that footage of bodies in Bucha had been "staged" after the Russians withdrew. Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk has said that least 300 civilians were killed in the town.

4-22-22 Ukraine says mass grave outside Mariupol seen in satellite photos could hold 9,000 civilians
New satellite photos of Ukraine show a mass grave in the Russian-occupied village of Manhush, about 12 miles outside of embattled Mariupol, The Washington Post reports. The photos, from Maxar Technologies, show the graves appearing between March 23 and 26. The Mariupol City Council said on Telegram that Russian forces "dug new trenches and filled them with corpses every day throughout April," and that up to 9,000 people were "buried in several layers." "The biggest war crime of the 21st century was committed in Mariupol," Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said in the council's statement, which contains unverified figures. "This is the new Babyn Yar. Then, Hitler killed Jews, Roma, and Slavs. Now, Putin is destroying Ukrainians." Babyn Yar is one of the largest mass graves in Europe, located on the outskirts of Kyiv. Ukrainian officials estimated that at least 20,000 people have been killed in Russia's siege of Mariupol, and President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday accused Russia of working to cover up their atrocities in the port city, including burning bodies in a mobile crematorium. "The occupiers drew conclusions from how the world reacted to the massacre in Bucha," he said. "And now the Russians are trying to hide the traces of war crimes." The civilians who have managed to escape from Mariupol into Ukrainian-held areas paint a very bleak picture. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Mariupol early Thursday, ordering Russian forces to seal the remaining 2,000 or so Ukrainian marines and soldiers inside their last stronghold, the sprawling Azovstal steel plant. Zelensky rejected Putin's claim to have captured the city, BBC News reports in its update on the war. "Putin's decision to blockade the Azovstal steel plant likely indicates a desire to contain Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol and free up Russian forces to be deployed elsewhere in eastern Ukraine," Britain's Ministry of Defense said Friday morning. "A full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness."

4-22-22 Ukraine war could last to end of next year - Johnson
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joe Inwood, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Toby Luckhurst and Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odessa. There "is a realistic possibility" the war in Ukraine could continue to the end of next year, UK PM Boris Johnson says. Johnson says he is "all in favour" of staff returning to the British embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv next month. European Council President Charles Michel highlighted Russia's "miscalculations and losses" in the war during a phone call with Vladimir Putin. Russia is prepared to allow fighters at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol to leave the plant, Russia's defence ministry is reported to have said. Moscow aims to take full control of southern Ukraine, as well as the Donbas region, a senior Russian military commander has been quoted as saying. Physical damage to Ukraine's buildings and infrastructure from Russia's invasion has reached roughly $60bn (£46bn), according to the World Bank.

4-22-22 Philadelphia abruptly ends briefly revived indoor mask requirement amid falling COVID-19 hospitalizations
Philadelphia's new public indoor masking requirement, which took effect Monday, is ending Friday morning, city health officials said Thursday night. The city Board of Health said it voted to rescind the mandate Thursday in part because of "decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts." The health board's April 11 announcement that masks would be required again was also met with threats of legal challenges. "We're in a situation that we really had not anticipated being in this soon, but it is good news," acting Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said at Thursday's meeting. "So I'm really very happy ... to say it appears that we no longer need to mandate masks in Philadelphia and that we can actually move to simply a strong recommendation." When Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to re-institute a mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 infections, health officials cited rising infection and hospitalization numbers. And both numbers continued to rise at least through Monday, when 82 people were reported hospitalized with COVID-19, Bettigole said Thursday, but they then unexpectedly dropped 25 percent in the next couple of days.

4-22-22 Putin tells defense minister on TV to seal off but not storm last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his defense minister to block off the sprawling Azovstal Steel and Iron Works in Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces in the besieged city, "so that not even a fly comes through." But he also told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in a televised event, not to storm the steel plant. "There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities," Putin said, expressing concern about "preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers." Ukraine's 36th Marine Brigade and Azov Brigade joined forces last week and are holed up in the four-square-mile steel plant. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that "about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded servicemen" are in Azovstal, and she urged the Russians to allow them to evacuate through a safety corridor. Putin said captives who lay down their weapons would be given "decent treatment in accordance with the relevant international legal acts." He also congratulated Shoigu on the "great achievement" of "completing the military task of liberating Mariupol. "Putin and Shoigu's comments appeared to reflect a change in strategy in Mariupol, where the Russians previously seemed determined to take every last inch of the city," The Associated Press notes. "But it was not clear what it would mean in practical terms." This is mostly "the Kremlin's PR machine" telling "the Russian people that everything is going according to plan," writes BBC News Moscow's Jenny Hill. "In reality, nothing has substantially changed over the last few days. Fighters are still in the Azovstal steelworks." Britain's Ministry of Defense assessed Thursday that "Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations."" "The news that the steel plant is not going to be stormed will be something of a relief, I think, to the men who have been defending it so determinedly," BBC News' Joe Inwood writes from Kyiv. "They are running out of ammunition and food supplies," and "if the Russians are able to seal off the entire Azovstal steelworks, then of course supplies will run out. But if the Russians use this as an opportunity to take some forces away, that may give the Ukrainian fighters an opportunity to break out. We don't know how this is going to play out."

4-22-22 Ukraine war: The Russia I knew no longer exists - Steve Rosenberg
There are no shells exploding in Moscow. There are no foreign forces encircling the city. What Muscovites are experiencing now is nothing compared to the horrors in Ukraine. At first glance life here even looks normal. As usual, Moscow's Garden Ring is packed with traffic. Crowds are streaming from the metro station opposite me. In reality, though, little here could be described as normal. Normality ended on 24 February when Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine for his "Special Military Operation". I have experienced Communist Russia. I have lived through post-Soviet Russia. Now the world's largest country has metamorphosed again. Let me take you on a tour of "Special Military Operation Russia". I get in the car to drive to the supermarket. By force of habit, I switch on the radio. It's tuned to 91.2 FM - once the home of Radio Echo of Moscow. Echo was my favourite Russian radio station - a reliable source of news and information. But in recent weeks all independent Russian news outlets have either been blocked or shut down. Broadcasting now on 91.2 FM is state-run Radio Sputnik, which backs the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Driving along the Garden Ring, I pass a theatre which has erected on its façade a giant Latin letter Z - the symbol of Russia's military operation. There's another Z outside the headquarters of Russian Railways. I overtake a lorry that has a Z sticker on the side. In recent weeks Zs have been graffitied on the front doors of Kremlin critics. At the shopping mall, business is far from booming. Many of the shops - international brands - have shut down. Since Russian forces attacked Ukraine, hundreds of foreign companies have suspended operations in Russia. In the supermarket, the shelves are full. Last month's sugar shortage in Russia - the result of panic buying - appears to have been resolved. But the range of products seems smaller than before. And over the last two months prices have shot up. Outside the shopping centre, I get chatting to Nadezhda, a doctor. "Prices are so high, it's impossible to survive now on my salary," Nadezhda tells me.

4-22-22 Florida lawmakers have stripped Disney of special tax status
Florida lawmakers have voted to strip Walt Disney of its special self-governing status amid a political clash between the company and the governor. The status gave Disney powers to levy tax, build roads and control utilities on the lands of its theme park. The entertainment conglomerate did not respond to a request for comment. The move is widely seen as retribution for Disney's opposition to a bill that bars many primary-school classrooms from discussing sexual orientation. On Thursday, at the urging of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the state House passed a bill that would rid the company of its near-total power over the special district where its theme park is based. It had already passed the Senate. Known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it was created in a 1967 deal between the state and the Walt Disney Company. Governor DeSantis had previously made it clear he will sign the measure into law. Following the vote, Disney's special district will be dissolved on 1 June, 2023. Its special status had effectively allowed the company to operate as its own municipal government, with its own board of supervisors and fire department, and meant Disney could even build its own airport, or nuclear power plant if desired. It had given the entertainment giant freedom from almost all bureaucratic intervention for half a century and is thought to have saved it from tens of millions of dollars in taxes and fees. And it is part of why Disney chose to build its theme parks in Florida, where it has become the state's largest private employer, with some 80,000 jobs. But Disney's special relationship with the state of Florida came under threat over its response to a gender and sexuality education bill signed by Mr DeSantis last month.Formally called the Parental Rights in Education Law, it has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law by critics. It prohibits any instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity between kindergarten and third grade - when students are roughly between five and nine years old.

4-21-22 For Black Americans, Mexico offers little respite from racism
Bigotry away from home isn't better than the domestic kind. William Shakespeare's famous adage "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" was once just a phrase I had stuck in my head from that '90s "Romeo and Juliet" remake in which the creators made the questionable choice to use the Shakespearean language nearly-word-for-word alongside shootouts and soul patches. But while walking the streets of Mexico, I had finally found a personal connection. Albeit in a much less romantic and far more disturbing manner. Because here I was reminded that racism by any other name hurts just as much. I came to Mexico City (aka CDMX) in April for an extended vacation and language immersion. CDMX has become a popular tourist destination. And over the last couple of years, Black American ex-pats had been traveling to Mexico to seek refuge from racism. I later learned that ex-pats have formed tight-knit communities in CDMX, with organized events and meetups, helping to foster connection and form roots. But if the only way I could find community was through spending time solely with other Americans, then why would I pay all this money to leave Florida? And the idea of "refuge" still seemed like a reach to me because I couldn't believe Black Americans could go from living in one country with well-documented systemic racial issues to another with its own racial inequality and somehow have a better experience. I'd been to Mexico before on vacation, in Cancún and Cozumel, where I'd spent just a couple of days and had a fine time. But after living in Italy in 2013, I learned that visiting a place for a couple of days is far different from what you experience over a long period of time. I was determined to never be caught off guard again. So, I took the concept of "racial refuge" with a grain of salt and started my journey. I had a great time meeting people, touring the popular areas of Condessa and Centro Historico, blowing up my followers' Instagram feeds with vacation-envy photos, and having my fill of tacos, chillaquiles and pozole. But within days, I realized that "refuge" is probably far too strong a word. From stares to unwanted touching, unsolicited photos, side comments and racial profiling in several popular central-Mexican destinations, I realized racism is just as present, no matter the culture. And I'd much rather face the devil I know. Up and down the streets of CDMX, a friend and I had been asked on multiple occasions for photos. On a visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, my mother and I were certain we caught kids from different parties pointing and sneaking photos of us while their parents knowingly allowed their rude behavior. During one trip to visit the historical area of Teotihuacan, as my Black female friend and I tried to take in the site of more than one dozen temples and two towering pyramids, an onlooker asked for pictures of us while we were in the presence of nearly 2,000-year-old structures with centuries of backstory far more photograph-worthy. And while in Guanajuato City, we could barely make it across the colorful streets without being asked for a dozen photos, as if we were Beyonce´ and Kelly Rowland. (But even such celebrity status didn't stop us from being followed by an employee in a crowded shop.) And at one point, a young woman touched my friend's hair from behind before asking if she could do so. When my friend said "no," she walked away giggling as if it were a game. I quickly shouted "¡No somos animales!"We are not animals and this is not a zoo.

4-21-22 A COVID vaccine for kids under 5 might not get the green light until June
A COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 has yet to be authorized, and the Biden administration may now wait until as late as June to do so, Politico reports Thursday, per individuals familiar with the matter. Health officials had originally hoped to OK the shots at the beginning of the year. But now, regulators are inclined to wait until early summer, worried that authorizing one of the two possible vaccines on a "faster timetable" than the other would confuse the general public and perhaps undermine confidence in the shots' effectiveness, Politico writes, per sources. Pfizer is likely to hold off on submitting its three-shot regimen for authorization until June, considering the FDA initially "rebuffed" its two-shot regimen for young children. Moderna, however, "plans to formally request authorization for its vaccine for children under six by the end of the month, meaning regulators could conceivably clear it for use by mid-May," Politico writes. With those two timetables in mind, the FDA is reportedly worried about "green-lighting Moderna's vaccine, only to potentially find out several weeks later that Pfizer's vaccine performs far better," reports Politico. Such a development could in turn spark backlash from parents who rushed out to get one shot rather than wait for the other, regulators argue. That scenario doesn't, however, change the potentially worrisome optics of the FDA stalling on a vaccine it expects to authorize. Plans could still change, sources have cautioned — the pandemic landscape might morph, for one thing, or the increasing pressure on the Biden administration to roll out a regimen could come to a head. But as it stands, Politico says, the "delays have vexed officials who see the vaccine as key to convincing Americans that the administration has successfully reined in the pandemic."

4-21-22 FAA makes 'zero tolerance' policy on unruly passengers a permanent fixture on commercial flights
The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it is taking steps to make permanent its "zero tolerance" policy for bad behavior on U.S. commercial aircraft. "Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that's a promise," acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement. The FAA issued its policy in 2021, in response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but many of the passengers fined or referred to the Justice Department for prosecution were sanctioned for attacking flight crew and fellow fliers over COVID-19 masking requirement. The FAA launched investigations of 1,100 investigations of unruly behavior in 2021, out of nearly 6,000 reports of unruly passengers, many tied to aggressive flouting of the mask mandate. A federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's masking requirement on public transportation, and the Justice Department announced Wednesday that it is appealing that decision because the CDC determined that the policy is still necessary for public health. "CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine whether such an order remains necessary. CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC's legal authority to protect public health," the agency said.

4-21-22 Trump calls Piers Morgan a 'fool' for thinking the 2020 election was 'free and fair'
Former President Donald Trump called Piers Morgan a "fool" for questioning his stolen election claims in a teaser video for Trump's interview with the journalist. The full interview is set to air on Morgan's show, Piers Morgan Uncensored, on April 25. "It was a free and fair election. You lost," Morgan told Trump, referring to the former president's false claims that he was robbed of victory in 2020 by massive election fraud. "Only a fool would think that," Trump shot back. "You think I'm a fool?" Morgan asked. "I do now, yeah," Trump responded. The snappy back-and-forth appears to have been edited together from pieces of a longer exchange. Later in the video, Trump can be seen walking off the interview set. "Turn the camera off. Very dishonest!" the former president said. In a column for The New York Post, Morgan wrote that about an hour before the interview was set to begin, "[s]omeone" sent Trump a list of quotes in which Morgan had criticized Trump. "These were by far the worst things I'd ever said about a man with whom I'd been friends for 15 years, but I felt they were justified when I said them, and I still do now," Morgan wrote. In 2008, Morgan became the first winner of Trump's reality TV competition series Celebrity Apprentice. Morgan wrote that, when he entered Trump's office to talk him out of canceling the interview, Trump greeted him with "undisguised fury" in his eyes. Morgan claims he calmed Trump down and convinced him to sit for the interview by asking flattering questions about the former president's hole-in-one during a round of golf last month. Morgan previously interviewed Trump in 2018 and was widely disparaged for not being tough enough on the then-president.

4-21-22 Putin will use nukes in Ukraine
Some Kremlin insiders have begun surreptitiously expressing concerns about the mounting costs of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could order the use of nuclear weapons to achieve his war goals, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. Bloomberg based its report on information provided by 10 anonymous "people with direct knowledge of the situation." Russia's setbacks in Ukraine have given Russian elites plenty of reasons to doubt the wisdom of invading. Last month, a pro-Kremlin tabloid posted an article that claimed 9,861 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine, more than the United States lost in the entire Iraq War. The tabloid stealth-edited out the casualty figures a few hours later. Also, Russian forces recently launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine after abandoning their costly attempt to capture the capital city of Kyiv. Per Bloomberg, "support for Putin's war remains deep across much of Russia's elite" despite stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance. "[P]ublic backing" for the war also "remains strong," as Russian citizens have seen the ruble's value rebound after an initial plunge caused by Western sanctions. Because of Putin's "total domination of the political system," Bloomberg notes, "alternative views take root only in private," with critics of the war unwilling or unable to challenge Putin publicly. Putin said during a televised address last month that Russians who side with the West over him are "scum and traitors" who should be removed from Russian society.

4-21-22 Mariupol steelworks: 'Block it so a fly can't pass,' Putin orders
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his troops to seal off Ukrainian defenders inside the besieged port city of Mariupol. Mr Putin told forces to abandon plans to storm the sprawling Azovstal steel works there, where Ukraine is still resisting the invaders. But a leader of the controversial Azov battalion told the BBC Mr Putin "has just admitted their possible defeat". "They're not able to occupy the Azovstal," Maksym Zhorin said. The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works - a massive, four sq-mile (10 sq km) plant in the south-east of the city - has become the last centre of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. Civilians as well as fighters are inside the plant. Taking the port city is a key war aim for President Putin. It would give his forces a land bridge to Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which Russia occupied in 2014. But despite controlling most of the city, the Russians still have not dislodged the Ukrainian troops inside the Azovstal works. At a televised meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday, Mr Putin officially cancelled plans to assault the works and ordered instead that the area be sealed off. "Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot not pass through," he said. "There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities," he said, while praising Mr Shoigu for the successful operation to "liberate Mariupol" from Ukraine. It comes after weeks of Russian bombardment of the area, and repeated demands for Ukrainian troops within to surrender. It is unclear how easy it would be for Russian forces to wholly seal off the site. It is a maze of tunnels and workshops and provides a natural advantage to defenders. Yan Gagin, an official with the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, told Russian state news network RIA over the weekend that there is "basically another city" beneath the plant.

4-21-22 Seal off last Mariupol fighters, Putin tells forces
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joe Inwood and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhzhia, Dan Johnson in Lviv and Caroline Davies in Odessa. US President Joe Biden has announced an additional $800m security assistance package for Ukraine. The US aid for Ukraine includes heavy artillery weapons, ammunition and tactical drones. Vladimir Putin orders his troops not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, where the last group of Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol is holding out. Instead, the president tells them to seal it up so even a "fly" cannot escape, and says Russia has control of the strategic port city. Some civilians trapped for weeks in the wider south-eastern city have been able to leave, but far fewer than hoped. In the east of Ukraine, where fighting continues along a 300-mile front, Russia has not had any major breakthroughs, a think-tank says.

4-21-22 Putin tells defense minister on TV to seal off but not storm last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his defense minister to block off the sprawling Azovstal Steel and Iron Works in Mariupol, the last holdout of Ukrainian forces in the besieged city, "so that not even a fly comes through." But he also told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in a televised event, not to storm the steel plant. "There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities," Putin said, expressing concern about "preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers." Ukraine's 36th Marine Brigade and Azov Brigade joined forces last week and are holed up in the four-square-mile steel plant. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that "about 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded servicemen" are in Azovstal, and she urged the Russians to allow them to evacuate through a safety corridor. Putin said captives who lay down their weapons would be given "decent treatment in accordance with the relevant international legal acts." He also congratulated Shoigu on the "great achievement" of "completing the military task of liberating Mariupol. "Putin and Shoigu's comments appeared to reflect a change in strategy in Mariupol, where the Russians previously seemed determined to take every last inch of the city," The Associated Press notes. "But it was not clear what it would mean in practical terms." This is mostly "the Kremlin's PR machine" telling "the Russian people that everything is going according to plan," writes BBC News Moscow's Jenny Hill. "In reality, nothing has substantially changed over the last few days. Fighters are still in the Azovstal steelworks." Britain's Ministry of Defense assessed Thursday that "Russia likely desires to demonstrate significant successes ahead of their annual 9th May Victory Day celebrations."" "The news that the steel plant is not going to be stormed will be something of a relief, I think, to the men who have been defending it so determinedly," BBC News' Joe Inwood writes from Kyiv. "They are running out of ammunition and food supplies," and "if the Russians are able to seal off the entire Azovstal steelworks, then of course supplies will run out. But if the Russians use this as an opportunity to take some forces away, that may give the Ukrainian fighters an opportunity to break out. We don't know how this is going to play out."

4-21-22 Afghanistan: Dozens dead and injured in four blasts
Dozens of people have been killed or injured in four explosions across Afghanistan on Thursday, local officials and journalists have said. The first explosion tore through a Shia mosque in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. At least 31 people were killed, and 87 were wounded, the BBC has been told. The Islamic State group (IS) admitted carrying out the attack. The Taliban say they have defeated the IS but the group remains a serious security challenge to Afghanistan's new rulers. The attack on the Mazar-i-Sharif mosque was carried out using a remotely detonated booby-trapped bag when the building was packed with worshippers, the IS jihadists said. The group called the attack part of an ongoing global campaign to "avenge" the deaths of its former leader and spokesman. IS has not said it was behind the three other explosions, and it is not clear if they are connected. The second blast saw a vehicle blown up near a police station in Kunduz, leaving four dead and 18 injured, a police spokesman said. The BBC has also received reports of a Taliban vehicle being hit by a roadside mine in eastern Nangarhar province, killing four Taliban members and wounding a fifth. A fourth blast was caused by a mine planted in the Niaz Beyk area of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, and wounded two children. Thursday's bloodshed comes days after two bomb blasts at Abdul Rahim Shahid high school in a mostly Shia area of the Afghan capital, Kabul. At least six people were killed and more than 20 wounded, officials said. IS militants have attacked the area in the past, but did not say they were behind that incident. Local reports and witnesses say the explosion in Mazar-i-Sharif happened at Seh Dokan, one of the biggest mosques used locally by the Hazara minority group. The number of casualties remains fluid at this stage and liable to change. Afghanistan's Hazara community is often targeted by Sunni militant groups, including the Islamic State.

4-21-22 Covid-19 news: Global cases down 24 per cent week-on-week
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. About 5 million new covid-19 cases were reported worldwide between 11 and 17 April, a 24 per cent reduction on the previous week. The number of official covid-19 cases is continuing to decline across the globe, according to a report by the World Health Organization. This reduction occurred across all of the six regions monitored by the WHO, but is most pronounced in the Western Pacific, where reported cases declined by 28 per cent week-on-week. This is followed by Eastern Mediterranean (26 per cent), Europe (25 per cent), South East Asia (16 per cent), Africa (7 per cent) and the Americas (2 per cent). Reported deaths similarly declined globally by 12 per cent week-on-week. The WHO has stressed these figures should be interpreted with caution. Changes in how countries are testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus may mean fewer swabs are being carried out, leading to a lower number of cases being detected. For example, England has scrapped free universal testing, while rules around free tests are also tightening in Wales and Scotland. Covid-19 tests are more widely available in Northern Ireland. Exposure to air pollution may increase your risk of catching SARS-CoV-2 virus. Zhebin Yu at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues looked at 425 people, average age 25, who tested positive between May 2020 and March 2021. Levels of airborne particulate matter and black carbon, also known as soot, around the participants’ homes were higher in the days leading up to their positive test, compared with later control days. A single dose of AstraZeneca’s dual-antibody treatment Evusheld could reduce the risk of symptomatic covid-19 by 83 per cent over six months, compared with a placebo. The study was made up of more than 5000 adults, all of whom were less likely to respond to a covid-19 vaccine or faced greater SARS-CoV-2 virus exposure. No severe covid-19 cases or covid-19-related deaths occurred in the Evusheld group. In the placebo group, five cases of severe or critical disease, seven hospitalisations and two covid-19-related deaths had occurred by the six-month follow-up.

4-21-22 French election: Macron and Le Pen clash in TV presidential debate
The two candidates for the French presidency have gone head to head in their only televised debate, ahead of Sunday's second-round run-off vote. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has fallen behind centrist Emmanuel Macron in the opinion polls but millions of voters are still undecided. It did not take long for the two-hour-45-minute clash to burst into life. The candidates confronted each other on the cost of living, Russia, climate change and immigration. Around 15.6 million viewers watched the debate, in which Mr Macron accused his rival of being dependent on Russian power while Marine Le Pen called him a hypocrite on climate change. Spiralling prices have dominated the campaign and immediately took centre stage in the debate. Emmanuel Macron was widely seen as the winner of the pair's 2017 encounter, when his rival appeared flustered and underprepared. But this time, Marine Le Pen was ready from the start and far more composed. Throughout the debate, it was Mr Macron who went on the offensive, appearing more like a challenger than an incumbent, repeatedly interrupting his rival. Ms Le Pen said 70% of the French people believed their standard of living had fallen over the past five years and she would be the president of civil peace and national brotherhood. "We need to give priority to the French in their own country," she said. Mr Macron said France had known unprecedented crisis, with Covid followed by war in Europe. He had steered France through those challenges and aimed to make France a stronger country: the vote was a "referendum on Europe, on secularism, and a moment of clear choice", he said. Despite a strong performance from Ms Le Pen, a snap Elabe poll of voters suggested 59% of viewers thought Mr Macron had come out the winner. The sitting president was seen as most presidential, by 53% to 29%, although half of viewers also said he had come across as arrogant. Ms Le Pen was narrowly deemed to be more in tune with normal people, although 50% found her "worrying".

4-21-22 Tesla profits soar as customers pay more
Tesla has been raising prices - but that hasn't seemed to dent demand for its electric cars. Despite the firm facing higher costs, profits at Elon Musk's electric car company soared to $3.3bn (£2.5bn) in the first three months of the year, as customers proved willing to pay more. The firm's deliveries were up 68% - and would have been higher if not for supply chain shortages, the firm said. Its Shanghai factory was also recently forced shut due to Covid restrictions. As the plant reopens this month, staff will be required to sleep at the factory in an effort to avoid further lockdowns, Bloomberg has reported. "Although limited production has recently restarted, we continue to monitor the situation closely," Tesla said as it shared quarterly results with investors. Tesla has been pushing to expand, opening new factories in Texas and Germany in recent weeks. The firm delivered more than 310,000 cars in the first three months of the year and in a conference call, chief executive Elon Musk predicted the company would produce 60% more cars during the year as a whole compared to last year. Tesla doesn't advertise its products, but attracts frequent headlines, often related to controversial comments made by Mr Musk. But the firm said that it had also seen spikes in orders following increased marketing from rival electric car makers. Mr Musk said Tesla expects to mass produce a robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedals by 2024. While Tesla shares rose more than 5% in after-hours trade, following the strong results, some investors worry Mr Musk may be distracted from his focus on the electric carmaker as it expands. Mr Musk, known for his sometimes erratic musings on Twitter, recently made an unsolicited offer to buy the social media platform for $43bn. The rise in Tesla's stock market value in recent years has made Mr Musk the world's richest man, with an estimated net worth of more than $260bn. That is nearly $100bn more than his closest rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

4-20-22 DOJ charges 21 people for COVID-related medical fraud
The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against 21 people who allegedly participated in COVID-19 medical fraud schemes that netted them almost $150 million, Axios reports. "This COVID-19 health care fraud enforcement action involves extraordinary efforts to prosecute some of the largest and most wide-ranging pandemic frauds detected to date," said Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers in a Wednesday statement. "The scale and complexity of the schemes prosecuted today illustrates the success of our unprecedented interagency effort to quickly investigate and prosecute those who abuse our critical health care programs." Some of the defendants are health care professionals who used the personal information and saliva or blood samples provided by people seeking COVID-19 testing to submit fraudulent Medicare claims for more expensive tests that were never performed. Another took advantage of relaxed telemedicine rules to bill for telemedicine encounters that never occurred. According to Axios, "[t]he 21 defendants were charged in nine federal districts across the country," and the Justice Department "said it seized over $8 million in cash and 'other fraud proceeds.'"

4-20-22 Pentagon says Ukraine's military has received 'additional aircraft' from unidentified ally
Ukraine is getting a lot of weapons and defensive equipment from Western allies, including military helicopters from the U.S. in the Biden administration's latest $800 million aid package, but fixed-wing fighter jets have been a heavier lift. The U.S. rejected an offer from Poland to transfer Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that Ukraine's military has gotten new aircraft from somewhere. The Ukrainians "right now have available to them more fixed-wing fighter aircraft than they did two weeks ago," Kirby said. "And that's not by accident, that's because other nations who have experience with those kinds of aircraft have been able to help them get more aircraft up and running." The U.S. has helped provide Ukraine with airplane parts, "but we have not transported whole aircraft," he added. When a reporter asked how many new aircraft Ukraine has received, Kirby said that "without getting into what other nations are providing," Ukraine has has been "able to increase" its "aircraft fleet size, I think I'd leave it at that." The U.S. has been flying in shipments of weapons and defensive materiel on a daily basis for weeks, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday. "Another one just arrived yesterday and in the next 24 hours we expect they'll be more than half a dozen, probably more like seven flights coming from the United States." And "none of these shipments sit around very long before being off loaded off of aircraft and on loaded appropriately in ground transportation to get them into Ukraine," the official added. With the U.S. and its allies providing Ukraine a munitions lifeline, Russia is likely to start targeting routes used to move the materiel through Ukraine to the front lines, a Pentagon official said. Even if the Russians did successfully strike bridges, roads, and railway routes used to get the arms to Ukrainian fighters, the official added, there are too many shipments coming in for that to have much effect.

4-20-22 Ukraine war: Mariupol ultimatum passes as hundreds shelter in steel mill
The deadline of a Russian ultimatum demanding the surrender of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol has passed with no sign that the troops have complied. The final Ukrainian holdouts, reportedly accompanied by 1,000 civilians, have taken shelter in the city's massive Azovstal steel plant. Moscow's ultimatum comes as the local Ukrainian commander warned his troops can hold out for just "days or hours". But Kyiv says there is a tentative deal to rescue some civilians from the city. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, wrote on Facebook that women, children and the elderly would be allowed to leave Mariupol under the deal. The city's mayor, Vadym Boichenko, told national TV that Ukraine hopes to send 90 buses to evacuate about 6,000 people on Wednesday. He said around 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol. Remaining civilians wishing to leave were instructed to gather at 14:00 local time (11:00 GMT), when it was hoped a convoy of buses would take them towards western Ukraine. But it is not clear whether the evacuation has yet taken place. "It's too early to tell what will happen," Mariupol Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC. He added that city officials still hadn't received confirmation from Russian forces that the residents would be allowed out. The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works - a massive, four sq-mile (10 sq km) plant in the south-east of the city - has become the last centre of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. As Russian forces advanced slowly into the heart of Mariupol, the sprawling complex became a home to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, including fighters from the Azov battalion - a controversial national guard unit with links to the far-right.The site is a mass of tunnels and workshops, and provides a natural advantage to defenders. Yan Gagin, an official with the separatist Donetsk People's Republic, told Russian state news network RIA Novosti over the weekend that there is "basically another city" beneath the plant.

4-20-22 Russia's deadline for Mariupol surrender passes
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Zaporizhia, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. An 11:00 GMT deadline issued by Russia for Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to lay down their weapons passes, with no sign of surrender. A marine commander in Ukraine's last stronghold in the southern city - a steelworks plant - says his men might have only hours left. In a video sent to the BBC and other media, Major Serhiy Volyna says his troops will not surrender but want evacuation to a third country. President Volodymyr Zelensky says "the situation in Mariupol remains as severe as possible". Ukraine has reached a preliminary agreement with Russia for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians there but these have failed in the past. Russia is trying to capture the eastern Donbas region in a new offensive but UK intelligence says Ukrainian forces have fought off several attacks.

4-20-22 Ukraine war: Kyiv's allies pledge more weapons to help win war
Ukraine's allies have pledged to send more weapons to help it defend against a renewed Russian offensive. The US and others vowed to send artillery, anti-tank and air defence aid to Kyiv during a 90-minute video call on Tuesday. Ukraine says it needs the weapons to help defend itself as Russia launched a new campaign in the country's east. Clashes there have marked what Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky said was the start of the "battle for the Donbas". The eastern Donbas - which comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions - is where Russia is concentrating its efforts. According to Ukraine, Russian forces have been attacking Ukrainian positions along the entire 300-mile (480km) front line since Monday. It was amid these renewed attacks that Western leaders met to discuss further military assistance for Ukraine. Following the meeting, the US defence department said additional military aircraft and aircraft parts had been sent to Ukraine to increase their fleet size and repair others in Ukraine's arsenal that were damaged. The US defence department added that the US had not provided aircraft to Kyiv itself, and did not provide details on which countries have provided the aircraft. President Zelensky has been appealing to the US for Soviet-made air defence systems and fighter jets as an alternative to a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Last month, the US refused a proposal by Poland to provide it with MiG-29 fighter jets, which it would then transfer to Ukraine. President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after the meeting between Western allies, added that the US is planning to provide a further military aid package to Ukraine of a similar size to the $800m (£615m) aid package he announced last week, according to US media. He said Washington would also be sending Ukraine more artillery - heavy guns deployed in land warfare.

4-19-22 Report: Biden to announce additional military aid package for Ukraine
President Biden is expected to announce another major military aid package for Ukraine later this week, five U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday. It's expected to be similar in size to the $800 million package the Biden administration announced last week, three of the officials said. That aid included 40,000 artillery rounds and 18 155mm howitzers. When asked by reporters on Tuesday if he will send more artillery to Ukraine, President Biden responded, "Yes." This new package is expected to include more artillery and tens of thousands more artillery rounds, NBC News reports.

4-19-22 Americans are split after a federal judge struck down airplane mask mandate
For the first time in two years, Americans can fly maskless after a 33-year-old Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask mandate for planes and public transportation on Monday, claiming the CDC overstepped its authority and failed to justify its decision. Video showed an airline pilot announcing the court's decision mid-flight. Passengers cheered, and one man yelled, "Finally!" But not everyone was cheering. According to polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation and analysis by Washington Post correspondent Philip Bump, the country was divided almost evenly on whether the mask mandate for trains and planes should be extended or be allowed to expire. The largest split was along partisan lines. Around 70 percent of Democrats supported keeping the mandate, while nearly 80 percent of Republicans said to let it expire. Americans were also divided by vaccination status. The jabbed favored extending the mandate, but only by a slim margin. The unvaccinated, on the other hand, overwhelmingly wanted to go mask-less, with over 70 percent opposing the mandate. This is not surprising, since partisanship is a strong predictor of vaccination status, and vaccination status is a strong predictor of support for COVID restrictions. "[V]accination status has long been intertwined with how people view the virus. If you think it's a serious risk, you will get vaccinated and want to see more people wearing masks. If you don't think it's a serious risk, you won't. And those views overlap with party, as they have for most of the pandemic," Bump wrote. Even the split between people with chronic health conditions and people without was less drastic than the partisan divide. Those with a chronic health condition backed the mandate by a 56-43 margin, while those with no such condition opposed the mandate 55-44.

4-19-22 Justice Department will appeal mask mandate ruling, if CDC says it's needed
The Department of Justice on Tuesday said it will appeal a judge's ruling blocking a federal mask requirement on public transportation if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines such a mandate is necessary to protect public health. In a statement, DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley said the department "continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health. That is an important authority the department will continue to work to preserve." On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a Trump appointee, struck down the mask mandate, which had recently been extended through May 3. Almost immediately, several major airlines, including Southwest and Delta, said masks will be optional for passengers, but in Philadelphia and New York, there are still local mandates, meaning face coverings have to be worn in airports. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday the Biden administration has "said from the start that our response should be guided by the science and data and by experts. Public health decisions shouldn't be made by the courts; they should be made by public health experts." President Biden was also asked if he thinks Americans should keep wearing masks, and he responded it's "up to them."

4-19-22 DeSantis directs Florida legislature to consider ending Disney World's self-government privileges
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said at a press conference on Tuesday that he was directing the state legislature to consider abolishing the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created in 1967 and grants Disney the powers of a local government in the area around Disney World. According to a Florida CBS affiliate, the legislature is already in a special session to determine how Florida's congressional districts should be redrawn and will simply add DeSantis' new request to the agenda. "[Y]es, they will be considering the congressional map, but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District," DeSantis told reporters. Last month, DeSantis signaled his willingness to consider stripping Disney of "special privileges" after the entertainment company vowed to push for DeSantis' parental rights in education law — referred to by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — to be repealed or struck down in court. "This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state. They do not control this state," DeSantis said after Disney announced its opposition. The governor's proclamation to the legislature also directs lawmakers to consider a law DeSantis signed last year that prohibits social media companies from de-platforming political candidates. The legislation includes a carveout for any company "that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex," language clearly intended to benefit Disney. Before it could take effect, the law was blocked by a federal judge.

4-19-22 Abbott's border policy cost the U.S. almost $9 billion in just 10 days
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's short-lived policy of requiring state troopers to conduct secondary inspections of trucks crossing into Texas from Mexico cost the United States almost $9 billion in just 10 days, Axios reported Tuesday. The policy, which Abbott enacted on April 6, snarled truck traffic at the border and led to a protest by Mexican truckers that stopped trade at some major crossings. On April 15, Abbott ended the double inspections, for which he'd received withering criticism from both sides of the border and the aisle, after striking deals with the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas. Per Axios, Abbott implemented the policy "in response to the Biden administration's announcement that it would lift Title 42," a Trump-era public health policy that denied migrants entry into the United States. An analysis by the Perryman Group showed that the U.S. lost an estimated $8.97 billion in GDP due to delays at the border, while Texas alone lost $4.23 billion. Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat contesting Abbott's bid for a third term as governor, slammed Abbott for his costly gambit. "Abbott jacked up inflation, increased prices at our stores, hurt Texas businesses, killed jobs, and shut down billions of dollars in trade ... Abbott says this financial pain is necessary. I say electoral consequences are necessary," he tweeted Tuesday. The Cook Political Report rates the Texas governor race as "Likely R."

4-19-22 Oath Keepers texted about protecting GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson during Capitol riot
During the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, members of the Oath Keepers exchanged text messages about protecting Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) and the "critical data" he had with him, court documents filed on Monday state. The Oath Keepers is a far-right extremist group, and its founder, Stewart Rhodes, and 10 other members have been charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The court documents say that amid the attack, one person wrote in the Oath Keepers group message, "Dr. Ronnie Jackson — on the move. Needs protection. If anyone inside cover him. He has critical data to protect." Rhodes responded, "Give him my cell." The text messages do not go into detail about the alleged "critical data" the Oath Keepers wanted protected. Jackson, who served as physician to the president under Barack Obama and Donald Trump, has denied being in contact with the Oath Keepers. In a statement, his spokesperson told CNN that "like many public figures, Rep. Jackson is frequently talked about by people he does not know. He does not know nor has he ever spoken to the people in question. In fact, he stayed behind with Capitol Police to help defend the House floor and was one of the last members to be evacuated."

4-19-22 Amazon must reinstate worker fired after protesting working conditions, judge says
Amazon has to reinstate a warehouse worker it allegedly fired illegally in 2020, a judge says. An administrative law judge, Benjamin Green, has ruled the company must offer Gerald Bryson his job back after "unlawfully" firing him, The Associated Press reports. Bryson's firing came after he led a protest against the company's working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, and the judge said Amazon must also offer him the wages he lost due to the "discriminatory discharge." Amazon has said it fired Bryson, who called for the company to take greater action to protect workers from COVID-19, for violating its vulgar language policy after he allegedly got into an argument with another employee at the protest. On Monday, Amazon said it "strongly" disagrees with the judge's ruling and will appeal it. "Mr. Bryson was fired for bullying, cursing at and defaming a female co-worker over a bullhorn in front of the workplace," an Amazon spokesperson said. "We do not tolerate that type of conduct in our workplace and intend to file an appeal with the NLRB." The National Labor Relations Board previously sued Amazon over Bryson's firing, alleging he was retaliated against. According to the AP, Green ruled that Amazon's investigation into Bryson was "skewed" and that the company wanted to fire him for his "protected concerted activity." After the ruling, Bryson told The New York Times that "for me to win and walk back through those doors changes everything," adding, "It will show that Amazon can be beat. It will show you have to fight for what you believe in."

4-19-22 Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin's Ukraine war has fractured his church
Russia's war in Ukraine is also something of a holy war. Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has long been a key ideological ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and at least tacit supporter of his military adventures. But his public support for Putin's bloody war in Ukraine has proved too much for many Orthodox Christians, especially the Ukrainians who fall under the authority of Kirill's Moscow Patriarchate. Ukraine's Orthodox Christians were under the episcopal authority of Moscow from 1686 until 2019, when Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople — the first among equals of the 15 Eastern Orthodox patriarchs — granted Kyiv's request for independence. "More than half Ukraine's parishes rejected the decision and stayed under Moscow's jurisdiction," The New York Times reports, but Putin's invasion — and Kirill's support for it — changed that. About half of Ukraine's 45 Orthodox dioceses have stopped mentioning Patriarch Kirill during prayers, a "de facto" cleaving from Moscow's authority, according to Russian religious scholar Sergei Chapnin at Fordham University. "How can you accept prayers for the patriarch who is blessing the soldiers trying to kill your son?" asked Andreas Loudaros, editor of Athens-based Orthodoxia.info. Hundreds of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy have signed a petition from Archpriest Andriy Pinchuk accusing Kirill of committing "moral crimes by blessing the war against Ukraine" and asking global Orthodox leaders to sanction their Russian colleague for "heresy" in a rare church tribunal. "By all accounts, a serious cleavage in the church appears inevitable, but the course of the war will determine its depth and the scar tissue left behind," the Times reports. And the rending isn't just in Ukraine. Russian Orthodox–aligned churches in Northern Italy and Amsterdam have formally severed ties to the Moscow Patriarchate, many U.S. parishioners are switching churches, and Orthodox seminarians in France asked their bishop to break with Kirill. Orthodox priests in Russia have been fined or fired for criticizing the war. The head of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania, Metropolitan Innokenty, "strongly" condemned "Russia's war against Ukraine," called for "greater church independence" from Moscow, and called Patriarch Kirill's "political statements about the war" his "personal opinion." Kirill "should not have identified so much with President Putin and even called Russia's war against Ukraine 'sacred,'" Patriarch Bartholomew recently told a group of students. "It is damaging to the prestige of the whole of Orthodoxy because Orthodoxy doesn't support war, violence, terrorism," he told reporters.

4-19-22 Afghans are selling their own organs to pay debts and avoid starvation
Afghans impoverished by their country's economic collapse following the Taliban takeover last summer have begun selling their own organs on the black market to pay debts and avoid starvation, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The Journal profiled several Afghans who bought, sold, or are considering selling kidneys in the western city of Herat. One, Gul Mohammad, borrowed money to pay for food and medicine but couldn't pay back his creditors, who threatened to kidnap his two-year-old son. Mohammad and his wife had health problems that prevented them from donating kidneys, and their oldest son helped feed the family by collecting plastic. So, Mohammad sent his second son, 15-year-old son Khalil Ahmad, to the hospital without telling him the reason. Doctors removed Khalil's kidney and paid the family around $4,500. "The night I made the decision, I cried so much. It was the last option," Mohammad told the Journal. "No father in the world wants to sell his son's kidney." Per the Journal, over half of Afghanistan's 39 million people "are now facing acute hunger, according to the United Nations, and 95% don't get enough to eat." Western countries imposed sanctions and froze nearly $10 billion of Afghan money after the U.S. backed government fell to the Taliban, and the flow of foreign aid has dried up almost entirely. Writing for The Week in January, Ryan Cooper called U.S. sanctions against Afghanistan an example of "America's brainless addiction to punitive sanctions regimes that virtually never achieve the desired effect and too often inflict pointless suffering on innocents."

4-19-22 Alex Jones' Infowars files for bankruptcy after defamation suits
Companies owned by US radio host Alex Jones, including his right-wing website InfoWars, have filed for bankruptcy. The move comes as he fights defamation suits brought by families of those killed in a 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. Mr Jones, who falsely claimed the shooting was a hoax, has been ordered to pay damages in the lawsuits. Those efforts will be complicated by his decision to seek protection from creditors in bankruptcy court. In the US, declaring bankruptcy provides a route for companies to remain in operation and negotiate their debts, with settlements overseen by the court. It puts a hold on other litigation. Troubles for the radio host and conspiracy theorist stem from his false claims about the 2012 shooting in Connecticut, one of the worst school shootings in US history. He repeatedly claimed the massacre, in which twenty children and six adults were killed, was a ploy to push gun control, staged by actors and the mainstream media. Those claims were among the most prominent spread on his radio show and Infowars website. In three separate lawsuits, families of those killed at Sandy Hook have said his lies enriched his business, including InfoWars, while leading to their harassment by his followers. They won the lawsuits last year after Mr Jones denied the claims but refused to present evidence such as financial records in court. This month, juries were set to start determining how much he owes the families. He had proposed to pay $120,000 (£92,150) to each of the 13 people involved in the lawsuits, but they rejected that offer last month. "The so-called offer is 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," the families said in court filings.

4-19-22 Covid-19 news: Shanghai reports first deaths in its omicron wave
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. China’s biggest city has reported seven covid-19 deaths, the first official fatalities amid its ongoing omicron outbreak. Shanghai is the epicentre of the largest covid-19 outbreak in China since the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged at the end of 2019, with its surge in cases driven by the more transmissible omicron variant. Despite relatively high case numbers, only seven people are known to have died with the infection amid the ongoing outbreak as of today, according to China’s health officials. China’s largest city has been in a widespread lockdown since 6 April. The restrictions were initially intended to take place in two stages, affecting Shanghai’s eastern districts for five days, followed by an additional five days of lockdown in its western districts. Lockdown was later extended to cover the city’s entire 26-million-strong population. Case numbers appear to be falling, prompting Shanghai officials to report they are preparing to ease the lockdown. On 18 April, 19,831 new asymptomatic infections were reported, down from 21,592 on 16 April. New symptomatic infections stood at 2417 on 18 April, down from 3238 the previous day. Babies born during the covid-19 pandemic may be slower to speak than those born before the outbreak emerged, according to research published by Brown University and LENA, a US non-profit organisation. Data taken from LENA’s “talk pedometer”, a wearable device that tracks what a child hears throughout the day and the infant’s own vocalisations, show a large drop in so-called verbal function in children aged between 12 and 16 months who were born after July 2020, compared with those born before 2019. These results reinforce earlier studies that suggest the pandemic has negatively impacted children’s brain development. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed all remaining countries from its highest coronavirus travel risk category. The CDC’s “Level 4: Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel” designation previously urged people to avoid all non-essential travel to these destinations. In a statement, the CDC said Level 4 would now be reserved for countries with special circumstances, including rapidly escalating case numbers or the emergence of a new variant of concern. The UK, France and Germany are among countries that remain at the CDC’s “Level 3 Covid-19: High” warning.

4-19-22 Ukraine war: Russia bombards cities as eastern offensive begins
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia has launched an assault to seize the eastern Donbas region. Moscow bombarded cities with rocket and artillery fire on Monday and in a video address Mr Zelensky said that the battle "for the Donbas has begun". Ukraine's top security official, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Russia tried to break through Ukrainian front lines in the region. The offensive has been long-expected after Russia failed to seize Kyiv. Russia initially appeared to want to capture major Ukrainian cities and topple the government. But after facing stiff resistance, Russian defence officials said that its main objectives in the "first stage of the operation" had been "generally accomplished" and its forces were moved from areas around the capital. They announced plans to redirect the focus of the invasion towards the "liberation" of the Russian speaking Donbas region. Russia's President Vladmir Putin has portrayed the invasion as an attempt to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine, something Ukraine and its allies dismiss as a ruse for an unprovoked attack. Throughout Monday, Russia unleashed a barrage of rocket and artillery fire on a number of eastern areas, with eight civilians killed in the city of Kreminna in Luhansk and in the Donetsk area. Seven people were killed and 11 more were injured in four Russian strikes in Lviv, a western city that has largely been spared the attacks seen elsewhere in Ukraine. The governor of the Luhansk region said the situation was "hell", with constant fighting being reported in some cities. In Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said evacuations of civilians were taking place in areas where intense clashes are expected. Russian defence officials said it its forces had hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine on Sunday night, including 16 military facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions, as well as a port in Mykolayiv in the south and east of Ukraine.

4-19-22 Russian forces attacking entire eastern front line, Ukraine says
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Catherine Byaruhanga in Dnipro, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. Russian forces are attacking Ukrainian positions along the entire 300-mile (480km) front line in the eastern Donbas region. It comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that a long-awaited Russian offensive in the east had begun. Despite the focus on the eastern offensive, Russian forces also struck several cities across the country in recent days, including Lviv in the west. Russian-backed fighters are also reportedly trying to storm an industrial complex in Mariupol where Ukrainian troops and civilians are said to be holed up. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are making some successful counter-attacks south of Kharkiv, according to military analysts.

4-18-22 U.N.: There's been 136 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine since start of invasion
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, there have been at least 136 attacks on health care facilities across Ukraine, leaving at least 73 people dead and 52 injured, the United Nations said Monday. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said those strikes account for more than 68 percent of all attacks on health care facilities worldwide this year, CNN reports. The World Health Organization reported the numbers. Roughly 12 million people in Ukraine — more than 1 out of 4 — have been displaced because of the war, Dujarric said, with about 7.1 million internally displaced and 4.9 million refugees. Guterres is "deeply concerned" about the high civilian death toll in Ukraine, Dujarric added, and the damage to critical infrastructure.

4-18-22 China's economy sags under widespread COVID-19 lockdowns
China's economy expanded 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2022, versus the same three months in 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday, and that already anemic number "obscured a looming problem," The New York Times reports. Much of that growth was logged in January and February, before the COVID-19 Omicron variant surged in China, leading to strict lockdowns in the southern technology hub Shenzhen, then Shanghai and other key industrial centers. Counting cities were movement in and out was restricted to full-on shelter-in-place lockdowns like the one imposed on Shanghai, 87 of China's 100 largest cities were in some type of lockdown by April 11, according to the economic research firm Gavekal Dragonomics. Tech and auto sectors have been warning in recent days about the economic effects of the shutdowns on their industries, among the biggest employers in China. "Shanghai is a hub for international car companies — if the hub fails, the whole system won't work," Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, told the Times. Chinese authorities have reported more than 443,000 COVID-19 cases since March 1, including just two deaths in northeastern Jilin province, but those numbers are low based on international standards of tallying cases and fatalities, the Financial Times reports. For example, more than 92 percent of the more than 20,000 cases reported in Shanghai each day are listed as asymptomatic, but patients are only listed as symptomatic if their positive test is confirmed by a lung scan, a Chinese official close to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells the Financial Times. "This means tens of thousands of people who tested positive and had cold-like symptoms were recorded as 'asymptomatic,' unlike in many other countries." Jin Dong-yan, a virologist at a Hong Kong university, tells FT that mainland China tends to list chronic illnesses like heart disease as the cause of death rather than COVID-19, even if the person was infected with the coronavirus. "The numbers are not accurate, but Shanghai hospitals are not necessarily doing this on purpose," he said. "From the start, China had this method of recording deaths."

4-18-22 Democratic challenger Marcus Flowers outraised Marjorie Taylor Greene in first quarter of 2022
Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) raised less than half as much as her Democratic challenger in the first quarter of 2022, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday. According to fundraising reports, Greene raised $1.1 million in the first three months of 2022, compared to the $2.4 million raised by Democrat Marcus Flowers. Flowers' campaign website says he "served as an active-duty member of the U.S. Army, followed by more than 20 years as a contractor or official for the State Department and Department of Defense." Greene also faces a lawsuit that aims to disqualify her from running for office due to her alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Journal-Constitution notes that, despite being outpaced in the last three months, Greene still has more cash on hand than Flowers ($3 million to his $1.9 million) and has raised more overall ($8.4 million to his $7.1 million). Flowers' campaign to unseat Greene is a long shot. The race is not ranked as competitive by the Cook Political Report, and the last Democrat elected in Greene's district was Nathan Deal, who won his seat in 1992 and was reelected in 1994. Deal joined the Republican Party in 1995, won seven more terms in the House, and served as governor of Georgia from 2011 to 2019.

4-18-22 J.D. Vance said Trump might be 'America's Hitler' in 2016 text message
J.D. Vance's former roommate on Monday released a purported screenshot of a 2016 conversation between him and Vance in which the now pro-Trump Senate candidate wrote that the former president might be "America's Hitler." Josh McLaurin, who attended Yale Law School with Vance and has served in the Georgia House of Representatives since 2019, previously alluded to the conversation with Vance in a tweet posted Thursday. In the message, Vance wrote that Republicans had neglected "lower-income, lower-education white people," leaving an opening for a "demagogue" like Trump. "I go back and forth between thinking Trump is a cynical a--hole like Nixon who wouldn't be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he's America's Hitler," Vance wrote. "The public deserves to know the magnitude of this guy's bad faith," McLaurin tweeted alongside the screenshot. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Vance in Ohio's competitive GOP Senate primary on Friday, writing that although Vance "said some not-so-great things about me in the past," he "gets it now." In 2016, Vance called himself a "Never Trump guy" and referred to Trump as an "idiot," Politico reported. In a 2021 interview with Time magazine, Vance explained how he came around to Trump. "I sort of got Trump's issues from the beginning," Vance said. "I just thought that this guy was not serious." Trump, Vance continued, "is the leader of this movement, and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I need to just suck it up and support him."

4-18-22 John Oliver explains what really happens in police interrogations, and why you should always request a lawyer
Police interrogations and dramatic confessions are "a staple of countless TV shows, including ones you might not expect," John Oliver said on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight. "But it's not just audiences who find them compelling — juries do, too. Confessions are viewed as the 'gold standard' when it comes to an indication of guilt," often even more persuasive than DNA evidence. But "of all the convictions that have been overturned through DNA testing, 29 percent involved false confessions," Oliver said. And like many jurors, "you may find that hard to believe, because it can be very hard to comprehend how someone could confess to something they didn't do." But there are several reasons innocent people do just that, "and a lot of that comes down to what happens in a police interrogation room," he said. "So tonight let's talk about police interrogations: What tactics they use and how damaging they can be, particularly for the innocent. " For one thing, "one study of false confessions found that they came after an average of 16.3 hours of questioning," Oliver said. "The notion that people crack under pressure and falsely confess really shouldn't be that hard to understand — it's a concept that even children's cartoons get." In real life, people end up in jail for decades — or even on death row — due to false confessions, he said, and recanting rarely works, in part because "as soon as the police get a confession, thorough investigations tend to stop." If police bring you in for questioning, don't waive your right to have an attorney present, because among other things, police can legally "flat-out lie to you to make you think you have no other choice but to confess," alleging they have nonexistent evidence, Oliver said. "Allowing the police to lie to suspects is crazy. Most countries do not allow it, and for good reason: It is far too powerful a tool." In fact, "the problem with police interrogations right now is the same problem that we have with policing at large," Oliver said: "They're emboldened to act however they'd like in a system where they hold an undue amount of power, with very few protections for civilians" and little cost to them when they get it wrong. The video has scattered NSFW language, lots of typical Oliver asides, and a brutally illustrative Tim Meadows cameo at the end.

4-18-22 Dozens arrested at Sweden riots sparked by planned Quran burnings
More than 40 people have been arrested after violent clashes in Sweden between police and people angry at plans by a far-right group to burn copies of the Quran. Three people were injured in Norrkoping on Sunday when officers fired warning shots at rioters, police said. The violence was sparked by a series of rallies organised by the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan. He says he has burned a copy of Islam's holy book and wants to do so again. Muslims consider the Quran the sacred word of God and view any intentional damage or show of disrespect towards it as deeply offensive. Saudi Arabia has condemned what it called the "deliberate abuse of the holy Quran by some extremists in Sweden, and provocation and incitement against Muslims". Iran and Iraq earlier summoned the Swedish ambassadors to lodge protests. Sweden's national police chief, Anders Thornberg, said he had never seen such violent riots following Sunday's clashes in Norrkoping, which is about 160km (99 miles) south-west of Stockholm, and nearby Linkoping. The two cites also witnessed riots on Friday, along with the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby and the western city of Orebro. On Saturday, there was a riot in the southern city of Malmo. On Monday, police said 26 police officers and 14 members of the public had been injured in the violence and that more than 20 vehicles had been damaged or destroyed. They said that around 200 people had been involved in the violence, adding they believed it was organised by networks of criminal gangs. Some of the individuals are already known to police and Sweden's security service, Sapo. Sunday's violence in Norrkoping came after Rasmus Paludan said he planned to hold a rally there. However, he never showed up in the city. In a statement posted by his far-right, anti-immigrant Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, Paludan said he cancelled the rally because Swedish authorities had "shown that they are completely incapable of protecting themselves and me".

4-18-22 China's economy sags under widespread COVID-19 lockdowns
China's economy expanded 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2022, versus the same three months in 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday, and that already anemic number "obscured a looming problem," The New York Times reports. Much of that growth was logged in January and February, before the COVID-19 Omicron variant surged in China, leading to strict lockdowns in the southern technology hub Shenzhen, then Shanghai and other key industrial centers. Counting cities were movement in and out was restricted to full-on shelter-in-place lockdowns like the one imposed on Shanghai, 87 of China's 100 largest cities were in some type of lockdown by April 11, according to the economic research firm Gavekal Dragonomics. Tech and auto sectors have been warning in recent days about the economic effects of the shutdowns on their industries, among the biggest employers in China. "Shanghai is a hub for international car companies — if the hub fails, the whole system won't work," Cui Dongshu, the secretary general of the China Passenger Car Association, told the Times. Chinese authorities have reported more than 443,000 COVID-19 cases since March 1, including just two deaths in northeastern Jilin province, but those numbers are low based on international standards of tallying cases and fatalities, the Financial Times reports. For example, more than 92 percent of the more than 20,000 cases reported in Shanghai each day are listed as asymptomatic, but patients are only listed as symptomatic if their positive test is confirmed by a lung scan, a Chinese official close to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells the Financial Times. "This means tens of thousands of people who tested positive and had cold-like symptoms were recorded as 'asymptomatic,' unlike in many other countries." Jin Dong-yan, a virologist at a Hong Kong university, tells FT that mainland China tends to list chronic illnesses like heart disease as the cause of death rather than COVID-19, even if the person was infected with the coronavirus. "The numbers are not accurate, but Shanghai hospitals are not necessarily doing this on purpose," he said. "From the start, China had this method of recording deaths."

4-18-22 Shanghai: China reports three dead in latest Covid outbreak
China has reported the deaths of three people from Covid in Shanghai for the first time since the financial hub entered lockdown in late March. A release from the city health commission said the victims were aged between 89 and 91 and unvaccinated. Shanghai officials said only 38% of residents over 60 are fully vaccinated. The city is now due to enter another round of mass testing, which means a strict lockdown will continue into a fourth week for most residents. Until now, China had maintained that no-one died of Covid in the city - a claim that has increasingly come into question. Monday's deaths were also the first Covid-linked fatalities to be officially acknowledged by authorities in the entire country since March 2020. In a statement announcing the deaths, Shanghai's Health Commission said that the three people died in hospital on Sunday despite "full efforts to resuscitate them". It added that all three people had underlying health conditions. Since the discovery of an Omicron-led outbreak three weeks ago, the city has been under strict lockdown, which has angered residents. Millions have been confined to their homes, with anyone testing positive being sent to quarantine centres. In recent weeks many have taken to social media to complain about the restrictions and the lack of food supplies. People have had to order in food and water and wait for government drop-offs of vegetables, meat and eggs, and analysts say many are running low on supplies. The lockdown extension has overwhelmed delivery services, grocery shop websites and even the distribution of government supplies. But with more than 20,000 new cases a day, authorities are struggling. The city in recent weeks has converted exhibition halls and schools into quarantine centres, and set up makeshift hospitals. The recent surge in cases in China, although small compared to some countries, is a significant challenge to China's "zero-Covid" strategy, which uses swift lockdowns and aggressive restrictions to contain any outbreak.

4-18-22 Russia's ambassador to the U.S. says he hasn't talked to Putin since 2017
Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the United States, hasn't spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin at all since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. In fact, the last time Antonov spoke directly to Putin was in 2017, just before he was dispatched to Washington, D.C., Politico reported Monday. When asked about his lack of contact with Putin, Antonov told Politico, "I have had enough conversations with senior officials in the Kremlin, in various agencies." Russia, he said, has "a different system." And besides, talking with Putin on the phone would only "give an opportunity to FBI to listen to everything what Mr. Putin could say [to] me." Since the invasion began, Antonov has also found himself increasingly isolated in Washington. "I don't think anyone really thinks he's a proxy for Moscow," former National Security Council official Gavin Wilde told Politico. In the interview, Antonov dutifully followed Kremlin talking points, referring to the invasion as a "special military operation," parroting concerns about Nazis in Ukraine, and decrying "Russophobia." He also said that he believes Ukraine "has a right to be [a] sovereign country" but that he doesn't "know what will be in the future."

4-18-22 Ukraine war: Dramatic images appear to show sinking Russian warship Moskva
Dramatic pictures - and a credible video - allegedly showing the Russian warship Moskva before it sank last week have appeared online. The video and images match the shape and design of the missile cruiser. Russia says a fire onboard caused ammunitions to explode and the vessel sank as it was being towed in a storm. Ukraine says it hit it with missiles. The new images do not immediately back the claims of either side - but there is no sign of a storm at the time. The images were allegedly taken on 14 April, a day after Ukraine claimed to have struck the warship. The three-second video clip - likely taken from a rescue boat - shows the Moskva in the distance listing heavily on her port side. A tug, likely a Russian Shakhter, is on its right. Smoke can be seen billowing out of the ship, with a section of the freeboard heavily damaged. Holes are also visible in other parts of the freeboard in one picture, suggesting the warship had taken in a substantial amount of water. It also appears all of the vessel's lifeboats had been deployed. Ukraine says it successfully struck the Moskva with two recently-introduced Ukrainian-made Neptune missiles last Wednesday. Unnamed US officials have told US media they believe the Ukrainian version. Russia alleges it was damaged after an explosion and subsequently sank because of "stormy seas". While conditions can vary at different times, there's nothing in the video to confirm the Kremlin's initial assertion that the Moskva sank due to stormy conditions. Prior to the sinking, Russia's defence ministry issued a statement saying "the vessel is seriously damaged. The entire crew have been evacuated". The BBC has not been able to verify the claims. However, some have suggested that dark marks - other than around the portholes - point to damage consistent with an attack from the outside.

4-18-22 Russia's sunken flagship Moskva is literally irreplaceable, its loss shrouded in questions
Russia's Ministry of Defense posted a video Saturday purporting to show dozens of surviving crew members from the missile cruiser Moskva, Russia's Black Sea flagship that sank Thursday under contested circumstances, but the video "did not answer lingering questions about the fate of the vessel and its more than 500 personnel," The New York Times reports Sunday. "Even Vladimir Solovyev, a popular prime-time talk-show host whose pronouncements often reflect the Kremlin line, began asking what went wrong" on Saturday. Among the unusual aspects of the segment, the Times reports, is that "Solovyev broached the idea that Ukraine had managed to sink the Moskva, one of the biggest naval losses anywhere in the world since World War II." Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with two Nepune anti-ship missiles. Russia said it was damaged by a fire and sank in rough seas. The U.S. assess that Ukraine hit the Moskva "with two Neptunes," a senior Pentagon official said Friday, calling it a "big blow" for Moscow. A day earlier, a Pentagon official said after the Moskva was damaged, Russia's four or five "other Black Sea ships that were operating in the vicinity of her or in the northern Black Sea have all moved further south," away from Ukraine. Russia's naval retreat from Ukraine's coastline suggests it views the threat as real, Japan's Nikkei reports from Istanbul, but "should Russia want to send more ships into the Black Sea to replace the Moskva or withdraw its Black Sea fleet to the Mediterranean, it must persuade Turkey to open the Bosporus and the Dardanelles." Turkey has closed both straits to warships, except those returning to their home ports, since Russia's invasion, under the 1936 Montreux Convention. "If Putin's plans still include an amphibious attack on Odessa or require a significant naval presence to keep pressure on Ukraine, he will need to bring additional vessels to the Black Sea, and that's not going to happen," Soner Cagaptay, a Turkey expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells Nikkei. "Turkey would need to violate Montreux, which it would never do, to allow extra naval vessels to come in." An unidentified Turkish official agreed with that assessment. "The sister ships of the sunken Moskva, the other Slava-class cruisers Varyag and Marshal Ustinov, are currently operating the eastern Mediterranean," and if Moscow designates one of these its new Black Sea flagship, that will force Turkey to make some hard choices, Turkish Minute notes. "Marshal Ustinov is affiliated with the Northern Fleet, and Varyag is the flagship of the Pacific Fleet."

4-18-22 Strikes kill seven in Lviv as Russia expands attacks
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Clive Myrie and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Joel Gunter and Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Tom Bateman in Dnipro, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. Russian forces have bombarded several Ukrainian cities including Lviv in the west, which had largely escaped unscathed until now. Seven people are dead after four rockets hit military facilities and a car tyre service point in Lviv, officials say. Blasts have also been reported in the capital Kyiv. And the city of Kharkiv in the north and the southern city of Mykolaiv, near the port of Odesa, have been targeted. Ukrainian troops in the besieged city of Mariupol ignored a Russian deadline to surrender on Sunday. Russia is planning to restrict access to the besieged port city from Monday, city officials say.

4-18-22 Ukraine war: Mariupol defenders will fight to the end says PM
Defenders of the besieged city of Mariupol will fight to the end against Russian forces, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal says. The port city has not fallen despite an ultimatum from Moscow to remaining fighters to give up, he said. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia has chosen to raze Mariupol to the ground. Local officials said Russian forces have announced they will stop anyone from entering or leaving the city. Capturing the whole of the city is seen as a major strategic prize for Russia, leaving it in control of a vast swathe of southern and eastern Ukraine. An advisor to the mayor of Mariupol said residents would be forced to queue for a pass to enable them to move between districts and some could have their phones confiscated or be taken against their will to Russia. Petro Andryushchenko also said Russia was holding at least 20,000 Ukrainian citizens in filtration camps outside Mariupol. In an interview with the US network ABC, Mr Shmyhal said a Russian deadline for Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender by Sunday had been ignored. "The city still has not fallen," he said. "There is still our military forces, our soldiers, so they will fight until the end. And as for now, they still are in Mariupol." Russia's military says it controls almost all of Mariupol, while Ukraine's Azov Battalion is still holding out in Azovstal, a huge steelworks overlooking the Azov Sea. Justin Crump, a military expert at security consultancy Sybilline, told the BBC there could be 500 to 800 Ukrainian troops holding out in the city. "[The steelworks] has nuclear bunkers, tunnels, it's built to survive a nuclear conflict - they are really well set for defence," he said. "They have had more than 50 days to fortify it and build escape routes," Mr Crump added. "I suspect that unless they are wiped out they'll be there a long time. It's credible there would be guerrilla resistance."

4-17-22 Defenders of Mariupol 'will be eliminated' after refusing to surrender, Russian defense ministry says
Russia's Ministry of Defense said Sunday that Ukrainian forces still defending Mariupol "will be eliminated" after they refused another ultimatum to "voluntarily lay down arms and surrender," CNN reports. Per CNN, Ukrainian troops were told to leave Mariupol between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, leaving all weapons and ammunition behind. The ministry also claimed that the city's remaining defenders had been forbidden to surrender by "the Kiev nationalist regime." Last month, The New York Times reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "had told Ukrainian soldiers still holding out" in Mariupol "that they could abandon the city to save their own lives." On Saturday, Zelensky described the situation in Mariupol as "inhuman" and "as severe as possible," according to The Hill. Mariupol's mayor claims that over 10,000 of the city's civilian inhabitants have been killed since Russia's siege began early in the invasion. Ukrainian forces, including soldiers from the right-wing Azov Battalion, are making what is likely to be a final stand inside Mariupol's large steel plant. If the city falls, Russia will control an unbroken "land bridge" connecting separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

4-17-22 Ukraine asks G7 for $50 billion to cover budget shortfall
Ukraine has asked the G7 countries for $50 billion to help cover the war-torn country's budget shortfall, Oleh Ustenko, the economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Sunday. Per Reuters, Ukraine "is also considering issuing zero percent coupon bonds to help it cover a war-linked budget deficit over the next six months." The World Bank projected last week that Ukraine's economy is expected to shrink by 45.1 percent in 2022 as a result of Russia's invasion, though "the magnitude of the contraction will depend on the duration and intensity of the war." The Group of Seven is made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan, with the participation of the European Union. Russia joined the G7 in 1998 but had its membership suspended in 2014 in response to the annexation of Crimea. In December, as Russia massed troops on Ukraine's border, the G7 signaled support for Ukraine, warning that "further military aggression ... would have massive consequences" for Russia.

4-17-22 Putting more guns on the street
As gun violence soars across the nation, many states are making it far easier to buy and carry concealed weapons. As gun violence soars across the nation, many states are making it far easier to buy and carry concealed weapons. Here's everything you need to know: What has changed? A growing number of states have passed laws authorizing citizens to carry weapons in public without a license. In 2011, only a single state, Vermont, allowed "permitless carry." But as of last month, when Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, and Alabama passed such laws, 25 states do. Eleven of those states passed their laws within the past year. It's part of an aggressive effort to roll back state gun restrictions; at the same time, congressional Republicans have blocked all efforts to expand federal gun-safety laws. The removal of restrictions comes at a time when gun violence in the U.S. is surging. Gun purchases hit a record 22.8 million sales in 2020 — and in the same year, gun-related deaths reached a new high, at more than 45,000. National statistics for 2021 aren't yet compiled, but many cities have reported even worse numbers for gun violence. What do permitless carry laws do? They allow any citizen over 18 or 21, depending on the state, to carry a concealed weapon with no requirements for licensing or training. Until Texas did away with licensing last year, anyone who wanted to carry a concealed handgun in public had to undergo a background check, fingerprinting, training, a written exam, and a shooting test. In Ohio, applicants had to undergo a background check and take an eight-hour class in gun safety. Now to walk into a bar, restaurant, store, or other place with a gun, "you don't have to know how to turn on the safety, how to carry your weapon, or even which end of the gun goes 'bang,'" said Gary Wolske, president of the state's largest police union. Last year some 2,000 applicants were denied permits after background checks, he said; all of them are now free to carry concealed firearms. Right-to-carry laws don't eliminate the background checks federal law requires of those buying guns from licensed dealers. But many sales, such as those at gun shows or from person to person, are not subject to such checks. Why are these laws passing? Advocates say regulations such as mandatory training unfairly infringe on the Second Amendment's guarantee that citizens can carry guns for self-protection. For many, "constitutional carry" is the favored term. "The Constitution should be our carry permit," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said last month, as he signed Georgia's law. But gun-control advocates say allowing unregulated carry of concealed weapons endangers police and the public, and there are statistics to back that up. One study found that gun homicides in Wisconsin rose by a third after a right-to-carry law was passed in 2011. In Missouri, gun homicides rose by 47 percent and gun suicides by 24 percent after the state repealed its licensing law, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Law enforcement agencies strongly oppose permitless carry, and a national Quinnipiac survey in 2019 found that 77 percent of Americans — including 68 percent of gun owners — back mandatory gun licensing. So why eliminate permits? It's another product of the country's intensely polarized politics, which discourages common-sense compromise and rewards extremist views. The National Rifle Association has lobbied to eliminate permits for years; when the Georgia law passed last month, NRA president Wayne LaPierre said it was "the result of decades of hard work." The NRA's efforts were aided by a sharp anti-regulatory shift among Republicans, who increasingly oppose any gun restrictions as unconstitutional. To demonstrate their unwavering support for the Second Amendment to conservative voters, Republican candidates have sought to outdo one another in proposing free-carry laws, with many states legalizing weapons in schools, houses of worship, and public transportation. Such laws, said Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, are a way of saying, "'I'm as far right as I can go.'" Meanwhile, gun-control advocates are watching with alarm a pending Supreme Court case that they fear will weaken state controls on firearms even further. What is that case about? It's based on a lawsuit brought by two men denied carry permits by New York state, which requires applicants to offer "proper cause" for why they need to carry a gun in public for self-defense. The plaintiffs argue that the law violates their Second Amendment rights — and questioning during oral arguments last November gave strong indications that the court's six conservative justices agreed. If New York's law is struck down, the state will be required to dramatically expand the number of permits it grants, as would other restrictive states such as California and Massachusetts. In New York City, one of many U.S. cities that's seen surging numbers of gun crimes over the past two years, that would bring a predictable result, said Iesha Sekou, an anti-violence activist in Harlem. "We're going to see more of young people's bodies bleeding out on concrete," she said. Ghost guns: A growing problem. As the nation's police grapple with a surge in gun violence, they face a new enemy: "ghost guns." These are largely unregulated weapons built out of parts ordered online or made using 3D printers, and they lack serial numbers and can evade metal detectors. For those legally prohibited from owning guns, "they're a dream come true," said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety. Police are finding them and confiscating them in increasing numbers. In California over the past 18 months, police officials said, ghost guns accounted for 25 to 50 percent of firearms found at crime scenes. The vast majority of suspects caught with them had been legally prohibited from having guns. This week President Biden announced new rules, a year in the making, that hold gun kits to the same regulations as regular guns, requiring manufacturers to add serial numbers and commercial sellers to be licensed and run background checks on buyers. Calling ghost guns "the weapons of choice for many criminals," Biden said those who make them can "expect federal prosecution." The rule goes into effect in 120 days — but is likely to be the target of lawsuits from gun advocates.

4-17-22 Ukraine war: Trucks stuck at Poland-Belarus border as EU sanctions deadline passes
A huge queue of trucks has formed on the Poland-Belarus border as Russian and Belarussian drivers try to leave the EU following a sanctions deadline. In the run-up to the Saturday deadline, the line extended to 80km (60 miles), with some stuck for up to 33 hours. The EU has banned lorries from Russia and Belarus - except those carrying medicine, mail or petroleum products - from entering or staying in the bloc. The move is part of sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Drone footage filed by Reuters news agency showed long queues remaining as the midnight deadline neared. "There are still many kilometres to drive... so it's unrealistic," it quoted a Belarusian driver on his chances of crossing the border in time. And hours after the deadline passed, the waiting times had been shortened to 12 hours, says the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw, with the number of trucks at two border crossings between 230-400 vehicles. However, it is unclear what will happen to thousands of other trucks from the two countries estimated to currently be on EU territory. One possibility is that they will be seized by national authorities. A Polish official representing transport groups expressed concern that such a move may lead to similar measures against Polish trucks using Russia and Belarus on their way back home. The EU - and many other Western countries - have imposed punishing sanctions against Russia, and its main ally Belarus. The two countries have reciprocated with measures of their own.

4-17-22 Mariupol defenders ignore Russia surrender deadline
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Clive Myrie, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Tom Bateman in Dnipro, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. Five people have been killed and 13 injured in shelling of the city of Kharkiv, local officials say. Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko tells the BBC that Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol won't surrender to Russia. Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, says "our defenders continue to hold the defence". Earlier Russia had said it would spare the lives of Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol if they lay down their arms on Sunday. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier said eliminating Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol would put an end to talks. Russia is planning to restrict access to Mariupol from Monday, city officials say. In his Easter Sunday Mass, Pope Francis urges leaders to hear the people's plea for peace in Ukraine. Men said to be crew members from the lost Russian warship Moskva are shown on parade in Sevastopol.

4-16-22 Ukraine might be running out of artillery rounds, U.S. official warns
Ukrainian forces defending their country against Russian invasion could face shortages of ammunition — especially artillery rounds — once Russia begins its expected offensive in eastern Ukraine, a U.S. official told CNN on Saturday. NBC News reported Saturday that "the main weapons of this new offensive will likely be artillery and short-range missiles," according to a senior defense official. Per CNN, the U.S. "is shipping 18 155mm towed howitzers and 40,000 artillery rounds to Ukraine as part of the new security assistance announced by President Joe Biden's administration this week." Unfortunately for Ukraine, those 40,000 rounds might only last a few days. Even as much of the Russian invasion force has stopped fighting to regroup, Ukrainian troops have still been expending thousands of artillery rounds per day. Last month, the Biden administration released a fact sheet explaining that the U.S. had already sent Ukraine over one million "grenade, mortar, and artillery rounds." The fact sheet did not offer a more detailed breakdown.

4-16-22 Wisconsin Supreme Court approves GOP-drawn state legislative maps
The Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-3 on Friday to approve new state legislative maps drawn by the state's Republican-controlled legislature, The New York Times reported. Last month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to approve alternative maps drawn by Gov. Tony Evers (D), but the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the decision, arguing the state court had not considered whether Evers' maps violated the Voting Rights Act. In Friday's ruling, Justice Brian Hagedorn was the swing vote, joining the court's conservatives after voting with the liberals in March, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Per the Times, the new maps, "essentially lock in overwhelming Republican majorities in the Assembly and the Senate for the next decade." An analysis by the Journal Sentinel found that the GOP maps "tilt heavily in Republicans' favor, with 63 of the 99 Assembly seats and 23 of the 33 Senate seats leaning" red. Writing for The Week in January, Ryan Cooper argued that, since Wisconsin Republicans implemented "one of the most extreme gerrymanders in American history" after taking control of both houses of the legislature in 2011, Wisconsin has effectively existed "under one-party rule." "For the last decade, the people of Wisconsin have had effectively no say in their government, and now they'll have no say for the next decade. Vote for whomever you want, you'll get GOP rule every time," Cooper wrote. Evers gave a similar assessment of the situation, calling the court's decision "an unconscionable miscarriage of justice for which the people of this state will see no reprieve for another decade."

4-16-22 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stops secondary inspections at border after striking deals with 4 Mexican governors
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Friday he had ended his policy of having state troopers conduct secondary inspections of trucks crossing from Mexico into Texas, The Washington Post reported. The policy, enacted on April 6, backed up truck traffic at the border and led to a protest by Mexican truckers that halted trade at some major border crossings. It also subjected Abbott, who is running for a third term, to criticism from U.S. and Mexican businesses, Mexican state and federal governments, the White House, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R), and many others. Not everyone in Texas turned against Abbott, however. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said his strategy was "genius" and would "create pressure on Mexico and some of their governors." On Thursday, Abbott began rolling back the inspection rules after striking deals with the governors of three of the four Mexican states that border Texas: Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo León. Abbott suspended secondary inspections at border crossings in those states after the governors agreed to have Mexican police conduct inspections on their side of the border. Abbott said on Thursday that secondary inspections would continue in the fourth Mexican border state, Tamaulipas, according to The Texas Tribune. After meeting with Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca on Friday, Abbott announced that Texas state troopers were no longer conducting additional inspections at any border crossings, though he added that "if we do see increased [illegal] trafficking across the border we will strategically shut down certain bridges," per the Post.

4-16-22 The NRA's ideal world
You might not have realized it, but our country is getting safer every day. How can that be? you might ask. Didn't the murder rate soar 30 percent in 2020, and isn't violent crime up nearly everywhere? Isn't there, on average, more than one mass shooting of four or more people every day — including a crazed gunman's barrage of 33 shots in a New York City subway this week? Yes, true enough, but look at the bright side: The sale of deadly weapons has been surging at a record pace for years, with nearly 40 million firearms sold in 2020 and 2021. Better yet, in 25 states, you can now legally buy and carry a firearm without a permit, testing, or training. For decades, the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment absolutists have assured us that the more guns there are in our communities, the safer — and "more polite," lol! — we'll all be. With nearly 400 million guns now in American hands, surely we must be the safest nation in the world. Actually, no. All those guns have turned our streets, schools, and homes into a 21st-century version of the Wild West, with tens of thousands of casualties. Nine mass shootings erupted on a recent weekend, leaving eight dead and 60 wounded, including a gunfight at a car show in Arkansas that left 27 people — including six children — injured. Road-rage shootings have become daily events. When people feel disrespected on the road, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, "now instead of throwing up the finger, they're pulling out the gun and shooting." In NRA dogma, the best response to this endless carnage is to arm yourself and prepare to shoot back. So, when a "bad guy" sprays bullets in a crowded bar, theater, school, workplace, or subway, "good guys" can whip out their guns and return fire, while the unarmed dive under chairs. Doesn't that vision fill you with warm feelings of safety? This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.

4-16-22 Patrick Lyoya: Could rethink of US police traffic stops save lives?
The fatal shooting of a young black man in Michigan after a scuffle during a traffic stop has once again raised questions about the police use of lethal force - and why pulling over African American motorists so often leads to tragedy. In a quiet suburb of the Michigan city of Grand Rapids, a collection of flowers, cards and candles has been placed against a tree next to a small front lawn. This corner of Nelson Avenue and Griggs Street - the intersection of two parallel rows of neat clapboard houses with cars in the driveways and Happy Easter decorations in the porches - could be anywhere in the great American Midwest. Some of the residents, though, speak of something else far less visible but just as commonplace - a sense of insecurity on account of the colour of their skin. "Once again we're at the same question - police brutality, police injustice in our country," says Terry Roberts, 57. "I think most black men go through that. We get stopped for no reason at all or just because we're driving black. That's just how it is." This week, the police released video footage of the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya. The tragic incident was caught in graphic detail and from multiple angles on a police body camera, a police dashboard camera, an eyewitness' phone and a doorbell security system from one of those Nelson Avenue homes. It makes difficult viewing from all of them. Frame by frame, what began as a routine traffic incident - with Mr Lyoya being questioned by a white police officer over a suspected licence plate violation - unfolds rapidly towards an outcome that has once again put the question of racial injustice and policing firmly in the national spotlight. Mr Lyoya at times seems confused, and tries to run. At one point his hand can be seen holding and fending off an electric stun gun while the officer attempts to deploy it from close range. In the ensuing struggle, Mr Lyoya is forced face down to the ground with the policeman lying on top of him shouting at him to let go of the Taser.

4-16-22 Fresh Russian strikes hit Kyiv and Lviv
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Clive Myrie, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Tom Bateman in Dnipro, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. New strikes hit the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and explosions have been heard in the western city of Lviv. One person has been killed and several wounded in the strikes, Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko says. Russia's defence ministry says the missile strikes targeted a military plant in the capital Kyiv. Russia has banned UK PM Boris Johnson and other senior ministers from entering Russia over the country's "hostile" stance on the war. Moscow formally warns of "unpredictable consequences" if the US and allies keep supplying weapons to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky says the world should be prepared for the possibility Russia will target Ukraine with a nuclear strike. The Kremlin previously said it would only resort to nuclear weapons if faced with an "existential threat". Kyiv's police chief says 900 civilians have been found dead in towns around the capital after Russian troops left.

4-16-22 Ukraine war: No quick return to normal for scarred Bucha
At the base of a block of flats in Bucha, the sound of sawing echoes around the deserted communal garden. In one of the doorways a blackened kettle boils on an open fire, blowing clouds of steam into the bitter air. This place should be buzzing with life and sound, with the chatter of children playing and clambering over the climbing frame that dominates the square. But since the Russians came, everything has changed here. Most people fled, and they're yet to return. There's just one small, hardy group who are trying to pave the way for others to come back. Sergei and his wife arrived at their flat five days ago. Now they and their neighbours are trying to rebuild their damaged homes, and clearing away the debris of countless Russian shells. "You always want to come back home", he tells me. "So we used our first chance to return as well. And we used our chance to make sure that all the property is safe, even from locals that might come and steal something." Sergei takes me to an open grave in the shadow of his building. It's just a few steps away, and we walk in the deep grooves the Russian tanks carved into the mud as they rolled in. Sergei's neighbour - killed as he tried to take a photo of them - lay here. His name and the date he died are written of a piece of wooden pallet, a rough and temporary gravestone. When Sergei returned home, one of the first things he wanted to do was finally give him a dignified burial. In just a few weeks, Bucha locals have become accustomed to death. Denys Davidoff stayed in the town throughout the occupation. When the Russians left he ventured back onto the streets, and was confronted with a vision of horror. Many people around the world saw photos and videos of bodies lying scattered on the ground in Bucha, some with hands bound behind their backs. But Denys witnessed them himself. "When I arrived I saw the street with the dead bodies. I just walked around them, and they were everywhere. I wasn't scared, but it was intense. You got used to it during the month of the occupation."

4-16-22 Ukraine war: Russia bans Boris Johnson from country over Ukraine war
Russia has banned Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other senior ministers from entering Russia over the UK's "hostile" stance on the war in Ukraine. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and 10 other senior politicians - mostly members of the Cabinet - have also been barred. Moscow said the decision had been made in retaliation to the UK's sanctions against it since it invaded Ukraine. In March, Moscow imposed a similar ban against US President Joe Biden. In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said: "London's unbridled information and political campaign aimed at isolating Russia internationally, creating conditions for containing our country and strangling the domestic economy" were responsible for its decision. It added: "In essence, the British leadership is deliberately aggravating the situation around Ukraine, pumping the Kyiv regime with lethal weapons and coordinating similar efforts on the part of Nato." In response to the sanctions, a UK government spokesperson said: "The UK and our international partners stand united in condemning the Russian government's reprehensible actions in Ukraine and calling for the Kremlin to stop the war. "We remain resolute in our support for Ukraine." The sanctions included financial measures designed to damage Russia's economy and penalise Russian President Vladimir Putin, high-ranking officials, and people who have benefited from his regime. Nato countries - including the UK and US - are also supplying weapons, ammunition and other military equipment to Ukraine, although they have ruled out sending in Nato troops or implementing a no-fly zone. On Wednesday, the US said that more sophisticated offensive weaponry would be sent to Ukraine as part of a $800m (£612m) package. In response, Moscow on Friday warned the US that there would be "unpredictable consequences" if it refused to stop sending weapons to Ukraine.

4-16-22 Ukraine war: Minesweeping dog helps clear Chernihiv of Russian explosives
A Jack Russell has been hard at work helping to remove explosive devices left behind by Russian troops. Patron is currently working in the Chernihiv region, north of Kyiv, and has so far helped to remove hundreds of devices.

4-16-22 Covid China: Elderly deaths contradict Shanghai figures
Dozens of elderly patients at a hospital in Shanghai have died after contracting Covid-19, but official government figures claim no deaths in the city have been caused by the disease since 2020. The BBC has spoken to a hospital manager and had access to correspondence sent to relatives of patients who've died during the Omicron outbreak that is sweeping through China's biggest city. We've also had access to official documents that suggest at least 27 patients from a single hospital, who weren't vaccinated, have died from what it called "underlying health problems". Shanghai is enforcing a mammoth lockdown as authorities try to contain a new wave of the virus. Most of the city's almost 25 million population have been ordered to stay inside for three weeks. The BBC has previously reported evidence that authorities in Shanghai are struggling to deal with the outbreak. We spoke to a nurse and a health worker at Donghai Elderly Care Hospital who, between them, described desperate attempts to help dozens of elderly patients, some of whom have died. We've contacted several other care homes or hospitals for the elderly since then, after social media postings suggested there was evidence of widespread infections among hundreds of patients in 12 other facilities here. One relative of a patient at another care home in Shanghai has told us that doctors and caregivers working there had informed her that everyone in the facility had tested positive. It has capacity for around 300 patients. In a phone conversation a manager at Donghai Hospital told us: "Of course there would be deceased with Covid. [In] Shanghai the situation is like this. How could there not be any death[s] without Covid?" In a letter sent to relatives of patients who'd died management at the hospital apologised and admitted a "lack of professionalism". They also expressed their "deepest guilt". Official figures say there have been no deaths during the current outbreak across the city; none at all.

4-15-22 Zelensky: Possible Russian nuclear weapon use should be a concern for 'all of the world'
The world should be prepared for Russia to use nuclear weapons in its war in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Zelensky said Russian President Vladimir Putin "could turn to either nuclear or chemical weapons because he does not value the lives of the people of Ukraine," CNN writes. "Not only me – all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth," Zelensky told Tapper, per CNN's transcription. "Chemical weapons, they should do it, they could do it, for them the life of the people, nothing. That's why," he continued. "We should think not be afraid, not be afraid, but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think." United States officials have previously warned that Putin could turn to tactical nuclear weapons should he feel threatened enough in Ukraine, CNN notes. The U.S. and other Western countries are also investigating claims that Russian forces may have already used chemical weapons in the devastated city of Mariupol. President Biden previously warned of a NATO response should Russia employ chemical weapons in Ukraine, but it's still unclear what exactly the response would be or where the definite red line is.

4-15-22 FDA authorizes COVID-19 breath test that provides results in less than 3 minutes
A test that can detect COVID-19 via breath is on the way in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration says it has issued an emergency use authorization for the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer, which can detect COVID-19 using breath samples and return results in less than three minutes. The test uses an instrument "about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage," and it must be performed in "environments where the patient specimen is both collected and analyzed," such as doctor's offices, hospitals, and testing sites, the FDA says. "Today's authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19," Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said. "The FDA continues to support the development of novel COVID-19 tests with the goal of advancing technologies that can help address the current pandemic and better position the U.S. for the next public health emergency." In a study consisting of over 2,400 people, this breath test correctly identified 91.2 percent of positive samples. Additionally, the FDA says the study indicated that those who receive a negative test result via the test "are likely truly negative in areas of low disease prevalence," as its "negative predictive value" was 99.6 percent. Those who receive a positive test result should have it confirmed via a molecular test, though. According to the FDA, InspectIR will be able to produce about 100 instruments a week, each of which can evaluate about 160 samples a day, and expects to increase testing capacity by about 64,000 samples a month.

4-15-22 Patrick Lyoya: Family calls for officer involved in fatal shooting to be named
The brother of the black man fatally shot by US police this month called video of the shooting "the most horrifying thing" he has ever seen. Michigan police this week released footage of a police officer shooting Patrick Lyoya, 26, in the head after a scuffle over a Taser. Mr Lyoya's family, Congolese refugees, addressed media on Thursday and called for the officer's name to be released. State police are investigating the incident, which has led to protests. Footage of the 4 April incident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a town some 150 miles (240km) west of Detroit, shows Mr Lyoya running from the officer following a traffic stop. There is an altercation over the officer's Taser, before the officer appears to shoot the man as he lies face-down on the ground. During Thursday's press conference, Mr Lyoya's father said through a translator: "My life has come to an end." Dozens of demonstrators gathered on Wednesday outside the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) demanding the name of the police officer involved be made public. Authorities said the officer would not be identified unless criminal charges were to be brought against him. Mr Lyoya is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo and had lived in Grand Rapids for about five years, according to the office of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Lyoya family. Mr Crump on Thursday said of the shooting: "There is no way to try to spin it or justify it." He called for the officer be fired and charged. What you see in that video is unnecessary, unjustifiable excessive use of fatal force. You see a police officer escalate a minor traffic stop into a deadly execution," he said. GRPD chief Eric Winstrom has called the shooting a "tragedy". On Wednesday, the GRPD released footage of the incident from a police body camera, a police unit's dashcam, a mobile phone and a home surveillance system. One of the videos shows the officer pulling over Mr Lyoya's vehicle shortly after 08:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on 4 April. The officer decided to stop the car for improper registration, according to the video footage.

4-15-22 Brooklyn shooting: Subway attack suspect held without bail
The man accused of unleashing a barrage of gunfire on a subway train in New York City will be held without bail until trial on federal terror charges. Frank James, 62, appeared in court on Thursday, for allegedly violating a law barring "terrorist attacks or other violence" against mass transit systems. He was apprehended following a huge manhunt for the lone suspect behind the attack, which injured 23 people. He did not enter a plea. His lawyer requested a psychiatric report. If convicted, he faces life behind bars. The suspect "committed a heinous and premeditated attack on ordinary New Yorkers during their morning subway commute", said US Attorney Breon Pearce in a statement announcing the charges. Police alleged the defendant donned a gas mask and threw two smoke grenades on the floor of a Manhattan-bound N train before opening fire around 08:30 (12:30 GMT) local time on Tuesday. He is accused of shooting 10 people and injuring at least another 13. The suspect escaped after the attack, police said, but left behind several incriminating personal items, including a key to a U-Haul van that he had rented, as well as a bank card with his name on it. There was also a Glock 9mm handgun legally purchased in Ohio under the name "Frank Robert James". He reportedly called police himself to report his whereabouts on Wednesday, US media said, citing sources in law enforcement. The suspect, who had recent addresses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, had nine previous arrests in New York and three in New Jersey, police said on Wednesday. No details about his alleged motive have yet been provided. According to prosecutors, he published a variety of videos online making statements about the New York City subway system, occasionally addressing New York City Mayor Eric Adams as he complained about the "homeless situation" on subway cars.

4-15-22 Why are Texas truckers in five-hour traffic jams?
Traffic has ground to a near standstill at several key US-Mexico border crossings in Texas, the result of new inspection requirements imposed by the state's governor - and subsequent protests by Mexican truckers angry about the policy. Lines of trucks carrying refrigerated agricultural goods, automobiles and industrial parts awaiting entry into the US have stretched for more than five miles at key border checkpoints near the US cities of El Paso, McAllen and Laredo this week. According to the US Customs and Border Protection agency, wait times at some border crossings are exceeding five hours, in spite of a 60% reduction in typical commercial traffic. The delays began after Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced last week his state would conduct supplementary inspections of all commercial vehicles entering the US from Mexico even after they cleared US government customs. In ordering what he called "enhanced safety inspections", Mr Abbott said the move was a response to US President Joe Biden's recent decision to rescind a pandemic-related Trump administration policy that allowed the immediate expulsion of all undocumented migrants detained at the border, regardless of asylum claims, rather than processing them on US territory. The change to the policy - known as Title 42 - is scheduled to go into effect on 23 May. US authorities predict it will lead to a new surge in undocumented migrants attempting to enter the US from Mexico. "We will use any, and all, lawful powers to curtail the flow of drugs, human traffickers, illegal immigrants, weapons and other contraband into Texas," Mr Abbott said when announcing the new inspections. The delays caused by the policy have infuriated Mexican truckers who, taking a page from the Canadian drivers who closed down a key US-Canadian entry point near Detroit in protest against Covid rules in February, blocked all traffic at several US border crossings. On Wednesday, Mr Abbott rolled back his supplemental inspections at one border checkpoint, citing an agreement with the governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to increase inspections on its side of the seven-mile border it shares with Texas. "Clogged bridges can end only through the type of collaboration that we are demonstrating today between Texas and Nuevo Leon," Mr Abbott said.

4-15-22 China Covid: Clashes in Shanghai over lockdown evictions
Video has emerged of clashes between police and people being forced out of their homes in Shanghai, as the city enters a third week of Covid lockdown. Some residential compounds are being turned into quarantine centres. Millions are confined to their homes as Shanghai battles a fresh outbreak of the virus. Anyone who tests positive is placed in quarantine. But with more than 20,000 new cases a day, authorities are struggling to find enough space. The city in recent weeks has converted exhibition halls and schools into quarantine centres, and set up makeshift hospitals. The low numbers of serious cases in Shanghai have led some to ask whether a lockdown is necessary, correspondents say. In recent weeks many residents have taken to social media to complain about the restrictions and the lack of food supplies. People have to order in food and water and wait for government drop-offs of vegetables, meat and eggs, and analysts say many are running low on supplies. The lockdown extension has overwhelmed delivery services, grocery shop websites and even the distribution of government supplies. Meanwhile the Chinese government has sent teams to the city to help more than 660 companies in key sectors of the economy such as semiconductor and car manufacturing to resume production, reports state media. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Friday they would ensure the supply of medical goods and the smooth flow of supply chains. The move follows reports that parts of China's manufacturing sector might soon have to close, at least temporarily, because companies cannot get essential components from Shanghai. He Xiaopeng, president of electrical vehicle manufacturer XPeng, said that if work did not start again in Shanghai during May, potentially all car factories across the country might have to stop operating.

4-15-22 Ukraine war: Russia threatens to step up attacks on Kyiv
Moscow says it will respond to any Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory by striking Kyiv with more missiles. The "number and scale" of attacks will go up if its own settlements become targets, the ministry said. The warning came as Russia announced a missile strike on a military factory near Kyiv, which it claimed was in response to a Ukrainian helicopter attack on a Russian village. Ukraine denies it carried out the attack. "Tonight, sea-based high precision long-range "Kalibr" missiles hit a military facility in the outskirts of Kyiv," Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. The strike targeted Ukraine's Vizar military facility that was producing and repairing anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile systems, Mr Konashenkov added, warning that Russia would intensify missile attacks on Kyiv if Ukraine continued what he described as attacks on Russian land. He said: "The number and scale of missile strikes against objects in Kyiv will increase in response to the commission of any attacks of a terrorist nature or sabotage on Russian territory by the Kyiv nationalist regime." Andrei Sizov, a 47-year-old owner of a wood workshop near the factory, told the AFP news agency that the blasts came overnight. "Around 1:30am, my security guard called me because there was an air strike," he said. "There were five hits. My employee was in the office and got thrown off his feet by the blast." He also said he believed Russia was taking revenge for the sinking of the Moskva warship, which Ukraine claims it hit with Neptune missiles. On Thursday Russian officials accused Ukraine of sending two helicopters 10km (6 miles) into Russia's Bryansk region, bombing a residential building in the village of Klimovo and injuring eight people. Kyiv denies the attack and accused Russia of staging the incident to stir up "anti-Ukrainian hysteria". The BBC has not been able to verify the claims.

4-15-22 Ukraine's battle for control of its skies
Much of the focus of the war in Ukraine has so far been about the battle on the ground - but the fight to dominate the skies is just as important. The BBC has been given an exclusive interview with a Ukrainian air defence officer about the battle for control of Ukraine's skies. Captain Vasyl Kravchuk has a surprisingly ready smile for a man who has endured 50 days of war. We spoke to him via video link from his base at an undisclosed location. He knows the coming weeks will offer no respite. Russia may have received a bloody nose in its aborted attempts to take Kyiv, but with the Eastern region of the Donbas now firmly in Moscow's sights, the men and women of Dnipro's Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade will continue to play a key role in the next phase of the war. Defending Ukraine's skies from Russian attacks is already proving a challenge. As another Ukrainian air defence officer told the BBC, it is like trying to use a giant fly swatter which had large holes in it. "We can't cover the whole airspace," Capt Kravchuk says simply. The fact he is even sitting here speaking to us is somewhat remarkable - especially given the fact that "many air defence facilities were destroyed fully or partially" in the first days of the war. It's a rare public admission by Ukrainian forces that they suffered significant losses in the early stages of the war. But despite these losses, the air defences which survived have still been used to good effect. Oryx, which has been tracking military losses during the war using visual confirmation, says that Ukraine has destroyed, damaged or captured at least 82 Russian aircraft, including jets, helicopters and drones. Ukraine's equivalent aircraft losses stands at 33. Indeed, their successes have confounded military experts, who predicted that Russia would quickly achieve air superiority over Ukraine.

4-15-22 Russian warship: Moskva sinks in Black Sea
A Russian warship that was damaged by an explosion on Wednesday has sunk, Russia's defence ministry has said. Moskva, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, was being towed to port when "stormy seas" caused it to sink, according to a ministry message. The 510-crew missile cruiser was a symbol of Russia's military power, leading its naval assault on Ukraine. Kyiv says its missiles hit the warship. Moscow has not reported any attack - it says the vessel sank after a fire. The blaze caused the explosion of the warship's ammunition, Russia says, adding that the entire crew were later evacuated to nearby Russian vessels in the Black Sea. After saying initially the warship was afloat, late on Thursday the Russian defence ministry announced that the Moskva had been lost. The 12,490-tonne vessel is the biggest Russian warship to be sunk in action since World War Two. "While being towed... towards the destined port, the vessel lost its balance due to damage sustained in the hull as fire broke out after ammunition exploded. Given the choppy seas, the vessel sank," the Russian defence ministry said. Ukrainian military officials said they struck the Moskva with Ukrainian-made Neptune missiles - a weapon designed after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the naval threat to Ukraine in the Black Sea grew. The ship's sinking was described by the US as a "big blow", but American officials were unable to confirm whether Ukrainian Neptune missiles were responsible. "It's certainly plausible and possible that [Ukraine] did in fact hit this with a Neptune missile or maybe more," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said to CNN. A senior Ukrainian official said as many as 510 crew could have been on board the Moskva. On the first day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, the Moskva gained notoriety after calling on a small garrison of Ukrainian border troops defending Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender - to which they memorably radioed an expletive-laden message of refusal. Originally built in the Soviet-era, the Moskva entered service in the early 1980s. The vessel was actually laid down in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv, which has been heavily bombed by Russia in recent days.

4-14-22 One of Russia's most important warships has sunk in the Black Sea
One of Russia's most important warships sank in the Black Sea on Thursday following heavy damage that Ukraine's military has taken credit for, multiple outlets have reported. Ukrainian officials said earlier that their troops struck the ship — known as the Moskva — with missiles, but Russian officials have not acknowledged such a claim. Moscow did, however, cite a fire on board, per The Associated Press. Western officials have been unable to confirm what caused said fire. "During the towing of the cruiser Moskva to the port of destination, the ship lost its stability due to hull damage received during a fire from the detonation of ammunition," the Russian Ministry of Defense wrote in a statement on that matter, per CNN. "In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank." The Defense Ministry had said earlier in the day that the vessel was still afloat, CNN reports. Losing the Moskva is a huge symbolic setback for Russia, experts and journalists have remarked. In fact, the warship was reportedly the one Ukrainian forces told to "go f--k yourself" early on in the invasion.

4-14-22 Florida's 15-week abortion ban is now law
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday signed into law a new, 15-week abortion ban, bringing the sunshine state in line with a slew of anti-abortion measures passing through Republican legislatures nationwide, The Associated Press reports. The law, similar in design to the Mississippi ban currently under consideration at the U.S. Supreme Court, does not make exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or human trafficking; abortions after 15 weeks are only permitted if the parent's health is threatened or if the baby has a "fatal fetal abnormality," per The Miami Herald. It's "the strictest prohibition passed in Florida during the Roe v. Wade era." DeSantis signed the ban into law at a church in Kissimmee, Florida, surrounded by supporters who celebrated with applause and cheers. "We are here today to protect life. We are here today to defend those who can't defend themselves," the governor said, per HuffPost. The law will go into effect on July 1, but an immediate court challenge is almost guaranteed, considering the ban is currently unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, notes HuffPost. However, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision on Mississippi's 15-week ban some time in June, a ruling experts and advocates fear will gut or overturn Roe. Current protections under the landmark 1973 ruling safeguard the right to an abortion up until the point of fetal viability — generally around 22 to 24 weeks. Many states have already moved to curb that threshold, however. For example, Texas last year enacted an incredibly-restrictive six-week ban that's proven difficult to challenge in court thanks to a vigilante-esque enforcement provision.

4-14-22 Jan. 6 rioter who claimed he was following Trump's orders found guilty
Dustin Byron Thompson, an Ohio man whose attorney argued that he was following former President Donald Trump's orders when he stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was found guilty Thursday of felony obstruction of an official proceeding and five misdemeanors, including stealing a coat rack from an office inside the Capitol. The federal jury returned its verdict in less than three hours. For the felony obstruction count, Thompson faces up to 20 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for July 20. Thompson's attorney, Samuel Shamansky, had argued that his client believed Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, and was acting at the direction of the "gangster" former president, who wanted supporters to do his dirty work. "The vulnerable are seduced by the strong, and that's what happened here," Shamansky said in his closing statement. On Wednesday, Thompson took the stand and said he regretted his "disgraceful" behavior at the Capitol, and admitted to stealing the coat rack and a bottle of bourbon. "I can't believe the things that I did," he said. "Mob mentality and group think is very real and very dangerous." Thompson added that he believed Trump's election claims, and "if the president is giving you almost an order to do something, I felt obligated to do that." U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton called Thompson's testimony "totally disingenuous" and his actions at the Capitol "reprehensible." After the jury returned its verdict, Walton said "charlatans" like Trump only care about being in power, and he believes "our democracy is in trouble." One of the jurors, a 40-year-old man who asked to remain anonymous, told The Associated Press that Trump "wasn't on trial in this case." He added, "Everyone agrees that Donald Trump is culpable as an overall narrative. Lots of people were there and then went home. Dustin Thompson did not." During his testimony, Thompson said he took the coat rack so other rioters wouldn't use it against police, and the juror said at that point, he was "laughing under my breath." Read more at The Associated Press.

4-14-22 Patrick Lyoya: Video shows fatal US police shooting of black man
Police video has been released of a white officer fatally shooting a black man in the back of the head after a scuffle over a stun gun. Footage of the 4 April incident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, shows Patrick Lyoya, 26, running from the officer following a traffic stop. The officer, who has not been named, is then heard telling Mr Lyoya to "let go" of his Taser, before the man is shot as he lies face-down on the ground. The shooting has led to protests. Dozens of demonstrators gathered on Wednesday outside the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) demanding the name of the police officer involved be made public. State police are currently investigating the incident. Mr Lyoya is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo and had lived in Grand Rapids for about five years, according to the office of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the Lyoya family. On Wednesday, the GRPD released footage of the incident from a police body camera, a police unit's dashcam, a mobile phone and a home surveillance system. One of the videos shows the officer pulling over Mr Lyoya's vehicle shortly after 08:00 local time (12:00 GMT) on 4 April. The officer decided to stop the car for improper registration, authorities were quoted as saying by CNN. Mr Lyoya gets out of the car, but the officer asks him to get back in. Appearing confused, Mr Lyoya stays out of the vehicle and asks what he has done. The officer asks if he speaks English, and Mr Lyoya replies "yes". Mr Lyoya is then asked repeatedly if he has a licence, and after a brief conversation he runs from the officer. The two are then seen wrestling on the ground and the policeman gets out his Taser, which the two fight over. The officer tells Mr Lyoya to let go of the stun gun. During this altercation the officer ?accidentally? turns off his body camera, according to police. However, footage filmed from the mobile phone of Mr Lyoya's passenger has also been released, which appears to show the officer shooting Mr Lyoya in the back of the head. (Webmasters Comment: Another police cold blooded murder of a black man!)

4-14-22 Russian warship Moskva: What do we know?
Russia's flagship Black Sea missile cruiser has been "seriously damaged" and its crew forced to evacuate, Russian state media says. The defence ministry said ammunition on the Moskva exploded in an unexplained fire, but that the 186-metre (610 foot) vessel was still afloat. Ukraine claims it struck the vessel with its Neptune missiles. The 510-crew warship has led Russia's naval assault on Ukraine, making it an important symbolic and military target. Earlier in the conflict the Moskva gained notoriety after calling on Ukrainian border troops defending Snake Island in the Black Sea to surrender - to which they memorably radioed a message of refusal which loosely translates as "go to hell". Overnight Russia's defence ministry put out a statement that said "the vessel is seriously damaged. The entire crew have been evacuated". By Thursday afternoon the defence ministry said a fire onboard had been contained and that it would be towing the warship back to port, adding that it was still afloat. Moscow blamed the blast on an unexplained fire, making no mention of any missile strike. But Ukraine says it's responsible for the attack on the cruiser, which it claims it targeted with recently-introduced Ukrainian made missiles, and that at one point the cruiser even started to sink. In a Facebook post, Ukrainian officials said Russian rescue efforts had been hampered by ammunition exploding on board and bad weather. The BBC has not been able to verify either claim. Originally built in Ukraine in the Soviet-era, the vessel entered service in the early 1980s according to Russian media. The missile cruiser was previously deployed by Moscow in the Syria conflict where it supplied Russian forces in the country with naval protection. It carries over a dozen Vulkan anti-ship missiles and an array of anti-submarine and mine-torpedo weapons, the reports said. The Moskva is the second major Russian ship known to have been severely damaged since the invasion began.

4-14-22 Russia's loss of its Black Sea flagship Moskva is a 'massive blow,' and maybe also 'poetic justice'
Russian and Ukraine agree that the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, its Black Sea flagship, was taken out of commission on Wednesday, but there's no agreement on how that happened. Russian state-run media, citing the Defense Ministry, said "ammunition detonated as a result of a fire on the Moskva missile cruiser," the ship "was seriously damaged," and "the entire crew" of 510 was evacuated. Hours earlier, the governor of Odessa said Ukraine had hit the ship with Neptune anti-ship missiles and inflicted "very serious damage." Either way, "one of the Russian Navy's most important warships is either floating abandoned or at the bottom of the Black Sea, a massive blow to a military struggling against Ukrainian resistance 50 days into Vladimir Putin's invasion of his neighbor," CNN reports. And "whatever the reason for the fire, the analysts say it strikes hard at the heart of the Russian navy as well as national pride, comparable to the U.S. Navy losing a battleship during World War II or an aircraft carrier today." Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King's College in London, said losing the Moskva would be a "massive blow" for Russia. "Only the loss of a ballistic missile submarine or the Kutznetsov," Russia's lone aircraft carrier, "would inflict a more serious blow to Russian morale and the navy's reputation with the Russian public," retired U.S. Navy Capt. Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center, tells CNN. It is "a significant setback for Russia's war effort, for both military and morale reasons," and the Moskva's demise would "be seen as poetic justice in Ukraine," since it was the warship that told Ukrainian forces to surrender on Snake Island early in the war, only be told to "go f--k yourself," BBC News reports. "In more practical terms, this incident is likely to result in Russian warships having to move further offshore for their own safety," and the Moskva has been a thorn in Ukraine's side since the invasion began, "loitering offshore and menacing" Odessa.

4-14-22 New $800 million U.S. package of 'howitzers, helicopters, Humvees' for Ukraine aimed at Donbas fight
President Biden on Wednesday authorized another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, summarized by the Pentagon as a tranche of "howitzers, helicopters, Humvees." The new package includes 18 155 mm howitzers, 11 Soviet-designed Mi-17 helicopters, and 300 Humvees and armored personnel carriers, plus unmanned coastal defense vessels, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Switchblade drones, radar systems, and other materiel. Some of the munitions "are reinforcing capabilities that we have already been providing Ukraine and some of them are new capabilities that we have not provided to Ukraine," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. The package is "very much an effort to give the Ukrainians every possible advantage in this fight that's coming," in the eastern Donbas region, which Kirby described as "a little bit like Kansas," flatter and more open than the urban and forested battlefields around Kyiv. The new $800 million U.S. package, matched by another $540 million from the European Union, has more sophisticated and heavy-duty weapons than in previous tranches, representing the Biden administration's growing comfort sending lethal aid to help Ukraine beat Russia. "How that gets interpreted by the Russians — you can ask [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Kremlin," Kirby said Wednesday. "The envelope of what people are prepared to provide has grown considerably in the last couple of weeks," and not just on the Biden team, a U.S. official told CNN. The Czech Republic is sending Ukraine T-72 tanks, Slovakia sent in S-300 antiaircraft missile systems, and other countries "are providing terrific capabilities that they won't talk about," giving Kyiv "systems and weapons and platforms that the Ukrainians are comfortable using and know how to use," a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday. This Western weaponry "pouring into" Ukraine daily "seems certain to play a central role in the approaching, potentially decisive, battle for Ukraine's contested Donbas region," The Associated Press reports. But so far, "the Russian military is making little headway halting what has become a historic arms express," due to "Russia's failure to win full control of Ukraine's skies," lack of intelligence on which trucks are transporting weapons through Ukraine, and other factors. "The short answer to the question is that they are an epically incompetent army badly led from the very top," said former U.S. NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis. Still, many of the new weapons "are heavier, making them more difficult to transport across the country," CNN notes.

4-14-22 Ukraine war: Farmers stretched to the brink in Odesa
Every now and again, Boris lights a cigarette and nervously smokes away as he watches workers on his farm remove and repair parts of a ploughing machine. "The decision to continue sowing and to continue work was caused by the fact that you need to work in order to pay salary to workers, to pay people from whom I rent this land," he tells me. Boris has asked us not to use his surname for this story. Even though much of the Odesa region on Ukraine's Black Sea coast has been spared from the heaviest fighting, nothing is guaranteed. Russian troops seized the city of Kherson 200 km (125 miles) to the east and its navy is believed to have up to 30 war ships stationed in the waters, from where they fire missiles on land and threaten to stage an amphibious landing. Thirty-eight-year old Boris sent his wife and two sons abroad for fear of a possible occupation. He stayed to keep the farm running through the war and as he opens a vast warehouse the size of two or three football pitches, he reveals just how tough his job is. Stored in a massive pile is about 1,000 tonnes of black sunflower seeds, used to make cooking oil. Ukraine is the world's biggest exporter of seed oil. But right now, Boris cannot sell his harvest because, he says, "the Black Sea is closed and there is no way to sell products. Existing channels for sale unfortunately offer very low prices, which are not profitable." Boris says if he does not sell this stock within 18 months, it will rot here on his farm. A cruel irony, considering the increasing number of people around the world who are struggling to put food on their tables. Russia's shock invasion of Ukraine in late February has had a big knock-on effect on global food prices. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the price of vegetable oils increased by 23% in March, wheat prices by 20% and maize 19.1%. Ukraine and Russia are big exporters of these commodities. Prices had been rising before the war because the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains and bad weather affected harvests: this is now another strain for families.

4-14-22 'Nuclear-free' Baltic region is 'no longer' possible if Finland, Sweden join NATO, Russia warns
Russia on Thursday warned it would reinforce the Baltic Sea region — and possibly with added nuclear deployments — should Finland and Sweden move to join NATO, The Washington Post and CNBC report. Both Finland and Sweden have, as of late, been reconsidering their status as nonmember NATO states in light of Russia's unprompted invasion of Ukraine. And Finland, for one, shares a border with Russia. But a NATO expansion into Finland or Sweden would push Russia to strengthen its own forces so as to "balace" military power in the region, Russian Security Council Chair Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, per the Post. "If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double," Medvedev wrote on Telegram. "Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened." Russia would have to "seriously strengthen the grouping of land forces and air defense, deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. In this case, it will no longer be possible to talk about any nuclear-free status of the Baltic — the balance must be restored," Medvedev continued, noting Finland and Sweden's membership would give Moscow "more officially registered opponents," per CNBC. Medvedev's comments arrive just one day after both Finland and Sweden said their decision on NATO membership would arrive within a few weeks. Notably, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas dismissed Russia's threat as odd, considering Moscow has already positioned nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, he said, per CNBC. "The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania's border," the defense minister reportedly said. "They use it as a threat."

4-14-22 Police arrest suspect in New York subway shooting 'without incident'
Police in New York City have arrested a man suspected of shooting 10 commuters in a rush hour attack at a Brooklyn subway station. Frank James, 62, is alleged to have donned a construction worker's helmet, vest and a gas mask before throwing smoke grenades and opening fire. A massive 30-hour manhunt was launched in the wake of the attack. Mr James was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan after police received a tip-off, they said. "My fellow New Yorkers: we got him," Mayor Eric Adams said via video during a news conference. Officials said Mr James was the sole suspect in the shooting at Brooklyn's 36th Street station on Tuesday morning, in which 23 people were wounded, 10 of them from gunfire. The attack renewed calls to address violence in the city's transit system. Keechant Sewell, New York's police commissioner, said that Mr James was arrested "without incident". "There was nowhere left for him to run," she said. Police did not answer questions about the individual who called in the tip, though the Associated Press and CNN are reporting the suspect was the one who tipped off police to his location in lower Manhattan. Mr James will be charged on several counts, authorities said, including the violation of a federal law which prohibits "terrorist and other violent attacks" against mass transit systems. He could face life in prison if found guilty. He had nine prior arrests, police said, and he had ties to Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The search for Mr James was complicated by malfunctioning cameras inside the subway station. Officials on Wednesday were working to determine whether one or multiple cameras at the station were broken. The suspected gunman escaped the scene but was linked to the attack through a rented U-Haul van. The key to the van, rented in Philadelphia, was found at the scene, along with a Glock 9mm handgun, three ammunition magazines, a plastic container containing petrol, and a credit card with Mr James' name on it, police said.

4-14-22 Covid-19 news: UK is first in Europe to approve Valneva vaccine
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. The UK has approved a sixth covid-19 vaccine, which contains a whole inactivated form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and can be stored in a fridge. A vaccine that contains a whole inactivated form of SARS-CoV-2 virus is the sixth covid-19 vaccine to be approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). In March, Bahrain was the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for emergency use. Now, the UK is the first in Europe to sign off on the jab, which can be stored for up to a year in a standard fridge. The mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have to be stored at no more than -20°C, for a maximum of six months. Once thawed, the Moderna jab lasts up to 30 days in a standard fridge, while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be kept for just five days. The MHRA approval follows promising results from a study completed in October last year. Two doses of the Valneva jab, administered 28 days apart, led to about 40 per cent higher neutralising antibody levels than the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which can similarly be stored at higher temperatures. The study only compared the two vaccines against each other, not against people who did not receive any jab. The rate of covid-19 infections was “similar” between the two groups, with no severe disease occurring among any of the study’s 4012 participants. “The independent Commission on Human Medicines [CHM] and its COVID-19 Expert Working Group has carefully considered the available evidence [and] are pleased to say that we have advised that the benefit risk balance is positive,” Munir Piromohamed at CHM said in a statement. “The vaccine is approved for use in people aged 18 to 50 years, with the first and second doses to be taken at least 28 days apart.” This comes as Pfizer’s chief executive said the firm could develop a covid-19 vaccine that protects against all known variants by the end of the year. People with an increased risk of heart disease are up to six times more likely to die from covid-19. The study, which will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious diseases later this month, found people with a more than 10 per cent chance of having a stroke or heart attack in the next 10 years are nearly three times more likely to be admitted to intensive care with covid-19 and six times more likely to die of its complications. This is compared with people with a less than 10 per cent risk of developing heart disease, calculated according to factors like their body mass index, smoking status and blood pressure. The US has extended its covid-19 public health emergency status, which was initially declared in January 2020 and has been renewed every quarter since. It was due to expire on 16 April. The renewal allows people in the US access to free covid-19 tests, vaccines and treatments for at least another three months.

4-13-22 Trump spends $500k to unseat Georgia governor who refused to overturn 2020 election
Former President Donald Trump's Save America PAC is throwing $500,000 behind an effort to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in the first major test of the former commander-in-chief's kingmaker status, Axios reports. According to Politico, this transfer to the anti-Kemp Keep Georgia Right super PAC marks Trump's largest political donation of the midterm election cycle, though it hardly puts a dent in his $110-million war chest. The two major contenders for the GOP nomination are Kemp, who won a close race with Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2018, and former Sen. David Perdue, who lost his seat to Democrat Jon Ossoff in Jan. 2021. Mark Niesse and Jennifer Peebles of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that then-President Trump's claims of voter fraud may have driven down Republican turnout enough to cost Perdue the election. Kemp currently leads Perdue in the polls. At a rally in Georgia last month, Trump denounced Kemp as a "turncoat" and said "Trump voters will not go out and vote for Brian Kemp," who refused to help Trump in his quest to overturn President Biden's razor-thin victory in Georgia. Trump is under investigation by a Georgia grand jury after asking Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to flip the state to Trump. Trump has also endorsed a primary challenger to Raffensperger.

4-13-22 Poll: Biden approval rating hits all-time low of 33 percent
President Biden's approval rating is at an all-time low, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. When asked if they "approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president," 33 percent of respondents said they approved, 54 percent expressed disapproval, and 13 percent said they didn't know or had no opinion. Biden's approval rating previously hit 33 percent on Jan. 12, 2022, though his disapproval rating at the time was only 53 percent. At the same point in his presidency, former President Donald Trump's approval/disapproval spread was 39-55, according to Gallup. In April 2010, former President Barack Obama stood at 48-45. George W. Bush, still riding the wave of post-9/11 unity, had an approval rating of 75 percent, while only 20 percent of respondents disapproved of his job performance. As of Wednesday afternoon, Gallup had not yet released April job approval numbers for Biden. Gallup polling puts his lowest approval rating at 40 percent in the first half of Jan. 2022. According to Gallup, Trump hit his low point of 34 percent in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,412 U.S. adults from April 7–11 with an error margin of 2.6 percent.

4-13-22 Soaring petrol prices send US inflation to 40-year high
The US inflation rate hit a fresh 40-year high in the year to March after fuel prices soared during the first full month of the Ukraine war. Consumer prices surged by 8.5% - the largest annual gain since December 1981 - following a double-digit rise in energy prices. Last month, President Joe Biden banned all imports of oil and gas from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, US fuel prices reached new records. The attack on Ukraine began on 24 February and triggered a wave of international sanctions against Russia, which is the world's second largest oil exporter. US energy prices rose by 32% in the year to March, according to the country's Labor Department. It also said that food prices had surged over the same period, up by 8.8%. Like energy, food price inflation has been exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Both countries are big exporters of widely-used goods such as wheat and sunflower oil. Kristen Havlik, from North Carolina, said price increases in her area had been "insane". "During the first year of the pandemic, my rent went up by $400 a month which was extremely hard to afford as I had lost majority of my income from one of my jobs," she told the BBC. "My husband and I were privileged to both secure well paying jobs last year but if we had not, we would have had to move outside of our area to afford to keep living in NC." "We are both still very much working class and now can't save up enough money fast enough to keep up with the insane home-buying market where sellers are making record profits," she added. "The Russia-Ukraine war has added further fuel to the blazing rate of inflation via higher energy, food, and commodity prices that are turbo charged by a worsening in supply chain problems," said Kathy Bostjancic, chief US economist at Oxford Economics. The soaring rate of US inflation prompted the Federal Reserve last month to lift its key interest rate for the first time in three years. The US central bank also signalled that the interest will rise a number of times this year.

4-13-22 Brooklyn shooting: Person of interest named in New York subway attack
New York City police have named "a person of interest" after a morning rush-hour shooting at a subway station that left more than 20 people injured. Police said they were looking for Frank R James, 62, in connection with the attack as he had rented a U-Haul van that may be linked to the shooting. The key to the van, rented in Philadelphia, was found at the scene. "We are looking to determine if he has any connection to the train," NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said. The New York Police Department (NYPD) asked "anyone with information on his whereabouts" to call a hotline. Mr James has not been named as a suspect in the attack. Being identified as a person of interest means police believe he may have information concerning the crime. The New York Times reports that Mr James, who has addresses in Wisconsin and Philadelphia, appears to have posted dozens of videos on social media in recent years, in which he expresses bigoted views. More recently he had also criticised New York City Mayor Eric Adams. In a briefing late on Tuesday, police gave more details of the incident which saw a male attacker detonate two smoke grenades and open fire at Brooklyn's 36th Street station. The attack unfolded shortly before 08:30 local time (12:30 GMT) on Tuesday, and police said the man had a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. "He then fired that weapon at least 33 times, striking 10 people," police chief Mr Essig said. Seven men and three women were shot. Images from the scene showed bloodied passengers lying on the floor of the smoke-filled station. Another 13 people "suffered injuries related to smoke inhalation, falling down or a panic attack", the police chief said. All of the victims are expected to survive. "The male then fled the scene, and detectives are actively trying to determine his whereabouts," Ms Essig said. Investigators found the Glock handgun, three extended magazines, a hatchet and a range of potential incendiary devices at the scene.

4-13-22 Review from U.N.-linked security body finds 'clear patterns' of Russian 'war crimes' in Ukraine
The United Nations-partnered security body known as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe determined Russia broke international humanitarian law and committed war crimes by deliberately targeting civilians — particularly in the decimated city of Mariupol — during its invasion of Ukraine, The Washington Post writes per a OSCE report published Wednesday. "Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalogue of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia's forces in Ukraine," Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, said Wednesday in a speech. "This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting, and forced deportation of civilians to Russia." The report determined that the strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a deliberate Russian attack, and dismissed Russian claims that the hospital was being used by Ukrainian troops for military purposes. Because there was no warning or time limit given to civilians, "this attack therefore constitutes a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law and those responsible for it have committed a war crime," the report concludes. The OSCE also determined the attack on the civilian shelter at the Mariupol Drama Theater to "most likely" be an egregious violation of international humanitarian law" and a "war crime." The 110-page report only included offenses between Feb. 24 and April 1, meaning it did not analyze the strike on the Kramatorsk train station or the recent killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. The 57-member group — of which the U.S., Ukraine, and Russia are a part — began investigating last month following a vote on the matter. Russia was one of the dozen countries that did not vote for the investigation, per the Post. Overall, the OSCE's review found "clear patterns of international humanitarian law violations" by Russian forces, though "more detailed investigations are necessary, in particular with regard to establish individual criminal responsibility for war crimes."

4-13-22 Ukraine: Fugitive Putin ally Medvedchuk arrested - security service
Ukraine says it has arrested fugitive pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, seen as President Vladimir Putin's closest ally in the country. Ukraine's security service SBU posted a photo purportedly showing Mr Medvedchuk in handcuffs and wearing Ukrainian military fatigues. He had been under house arrest in the capital Kyiv on suspicion of treason - but escaped soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Mr Medvedchuk, 67, denies wrongdoing. In his nightly video address to the nation on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to exchange Mr Medvedchuk for Ukrainian "boys and girls who are now in Russian captivity". He earlier wrote on Facebook that Mr Medvedchuk had been arrested after a "special operation" by the SBU. The security service said in a statement: "You can be a pro-Russian politician and work for the aggressor state for years. You may have been hiding from justice lately. You can even wear a Ukrainian military uniform for camouflage. "But will it help you escape punishment? Not at all! Shackles are waiting for you and same goes for traitors to Ukraine like you." Mr Medvedchuk, whose daughter has President Putin as a godfather, is a wealthy businessman who leads the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life party. Russia on Tuesday said it was checking information about the reported arrest. Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this was because "so many fakes are now coming from Ukraine" that "now everything needs to be checked". A wealthy businessman with close ties to the Russian leader, for years he was tolerated in Ukrainian political circles because he was seen as an important channel of communication with the Kremlin. He also played an important role as a go-between with Russian-backed separatists who seized areas of eastern Ukraine. He has regularly been photographed alongside Vladimir Putin - while watching a Formula One race in Sochi, at martial arts meetings and hosting the Russian leader at his villa in Crimea.

4-13-22 Ukraine: The critical fight for 'heart of this war' Mariupol
There are growing signs Russia could be on the brink of fully capturing Mariupol, the besieged southern port city which has suffered a devastating, six-week assault. Officially, Ukraine's armed forces say they are sustaining its defence and are in "continuous contact" with their troops on the ground. But they concede it is likely Moscow will try to take full control of the city, while a regional Russian-backed separatist leader claims Mariupol is close to falling. Ukrainian troops have said they are running out of ammunition, and are believed to have been pushed back into two isolated pockets adjoining the coastline. The city's fate is likely to be critical for the next phase of the war. In Russian hands it would provide control of a clear swathe of territory connecting Moscow's two fronts in the south and east. It would release large numbers of forces to redeploy, and provide President Vladimir Putin with a moment of strategic "victory" after a lethally shambolic first stage to his invasion. It would mark a huge loss, if by now an expected one, for Ukraine's leadership which has described Mariupol as "the heart of this war today". Russian troops started their encirclement of Mariupol in early March. The siege has killed thousands of civilians and unleashed an appalling struggle for survival for trapped residents who remain. Thousands of people have escaped further north, risking a deadly journey through the front line. Here, in Zaporizhzhia, I have watched civilians arrive day after day, describing how they have witnessed the obliteration of their city. In recent days Russian forces are thought to have pushed in further by dividing the remaining holdout of Mariupol's defenders, according to think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). It's believed Ukraine's forces have been forced back to the port area and the Azovstal plant, a massive iron and steel works from where they had launched counter-attacks for weeks. Videos have emerged of fighters apparently from the 36th marine brigade vowing not to surrender their positions.

4-13-22 Ukraine War: Biden accuses Russian troops of committing genocide in Ukraine
US President Joe Biden has accused Russian forces of committing acts of "genocide" in Ukraine. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to "wipe out the idea" of a Ukrainian identity. Mr Biden has previously stopped short of references to genocide, instead accusing Moscow of "war crimes". French President Emmanuel Macron later told French TV he was reluctant to use the term and warned against an "escalation of rhetoric". Speaking to the public broadcaster France 2, the French President said he would be "careful with such terms today because these two peoples are brothers." "I want to continue to try, as much as I can, to stop this war and rebuild peace. I am not sure that an escalation of rhetoric serves that cause," he added. But Mr Biden insisted on Tuesday night that evidence of genocidal acts by Russian troops was mounting. "More evidence is coming out of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine," the president said. "And we're going to only learn more and more about the devastation. We'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me." He first made the comments as part of a throwaway remark during a speech in Iowa about increasing inflation, telling supporters in Iowa their ability to budget should not "hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away". The Kremlin said Mr Biden's comments were an "unacceptable" effort to "distort the situation" in Ukraine. "This is hardly acceptable from a president of the United States, a country that has committed well-known crimes in recent times," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not held back from accusing Russia of genocide and "crimes against humanity" following the discovery of mass graves in the city of Bucha, said Mr Biden's comments were "true words of a true leader". "Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil," Mr Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

4-13-22 Last fighters defend Mariupol as Russia says troops surrender
Updates from BBC correspondents: Yogita Limaye, Mark Lowen, Joel Gunter and Anna Foster in Kyiv, Jonathan Beale in Donbas, Tom Bateman in Dnipro, Catherine Byaruhanga in Odesa, Dan Johnson and Toby Luckhurst in Lviv. Russia claims 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in the besieged port city of Mariupol. But a top adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky insists the city is still standing and some marines have joined another battalion. The mayor of Mariupol says as many as 21,000 civilians have been killed in the southern city and 100,000 are still awaiting evacuation. French President Emmanuel Macron warns against "an escalation of words" after US President Joe Biden accuses Russia of genocide in Ukraine. Zelensky has praised Biden's remark as "true words of a true leader". The presidents of Poland, Latvia and Estonia and visiting Ukraine's capital Kyiv to meet Zelensky. But Germany's president has been told he is "not wanted" because of "close ties" to Russia in recent years.

4-13-22 Ukraine War: Finland to decide on Nato membership in weeks says PM Marin
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin says her country will decide whether to apply to join Nato "within weeks". She said she saw no reason to delay the decision, at a joint news conference alongside Sweden's prime minister. Her comments coincided with a report to the Finnish parliament that said membership of the bloc could result in "increased tensions on the border between Finland and Russia". Moscow has warned Finland and Sweden against joining Nato in recent weeks. Finland and Sweden are militarily non-aligned but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted increasing public support to become members of the Western defensive alliance. Swedish leader Magdalena Andersson told reporters that the same "very serious analysis" was taking place as in Finland and she saw no point in delaying it. Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported on Wednesday that Ms Andersson was aiming to apply for membership in time for a Nato summit in late June. Finland shares a 1,340km (830 miles) border with Russia, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that Moscow would have to "rebalance the situation" with its own measures if the Nato bid went ahead. "I won't give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast," said Ms Marin. She pointed out that Nato membership offered Finland the security guarantee of Article Five, whereby an attack on one member is viewed as an attack on all. While the two leaders met in Stockholm, Finland's security review was being launched in Helsinki. Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said Russia's war had changed the security environment in Europe and forced the review of Finnish defence policy. The report warns that "military force might be used solely against Finland," and that the security situation in Europe and Finland is more serious and more difficult to predict than at any time since the Cold War.

4-13-22 Finland and Sweden begin debate on joining NATO, are expected to apply in June
The leaders of Finland and Sweden met in Stockholm on Wednesday to discuss regional security after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the end result is expected to be both countries applying to join NATO this summer. "I won't give any kind of timetable when we will make our decisions, but I think it will happen quite fast," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said after the meeting. "Within weeks, not within months." That would be a remarkable turnaround for both Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. Marin called NATO membership "very unlikely" in January, and Andersson said in early March that Sweden applying to "join NATO in the current situation" would "further destabilize this area of Europe and increase tensions." But Andersson's ruling Social Democrats changed their longstanding opposition to NATO membership this week, saying Monday that "when Russia invaded Ukraine, Sweden's security position changed fundamentally." And Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet newspaper reported Wednesday that Andersson has made up her mind and wants Sweden to join NATO this June. Finland's parliament began formal debate on joining NATO on Wednesday, and Marin said earlier she expects her government "will end the discussion before midsummer" on whether to join. Former Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, long an advocate for joining NATO, says he now believes it's "a foregone conclusion." NATO foreign ministers discussed Sweden and Finland joining the alliance in Brussels last week, and "both NATO and U.S. officials stressed that it is up to the countries to decide whether they want to join — while signaling that they will be welcomed if they apply," The Washington Post reports. "Their potential accession would reshape European security and draw outrage from the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin used NATO expansion as a pretext to invade Ukraine. Now, his brutal war there may bring the military alliance ever closer to his door." Sweden and Finland already have close ties to NATO and take part in joint military exercises, but all 30 NATO members would need to approve the Nordic membership bids, a process that could take months or even a year. That window would leave both countries in a fraught limbo next to an angry and aggressive Russia. Moscow has warned Finland and Sweden in recent months that joining NATO could have "military and political consequences" and require Russia to "rebalance the situation."

4-13-22 Covid-19 news: Half a billion cases recorded since pandemic began
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. More than 500 million covid-19 cases have been recorded globally since the outbreak emerged, but the true number is probably far higher. According to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracker, more than 500,900,000 covid-19 cases have been reported worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) tracker, which updates daily, is just shy of this grim milestone, reporting 497,960,492 cases as of 12 April. Experts have warned a lack of testing infrastructure worldwide means the global case number is probably much higher than is being reported, particularly in poorer countries. A WHO analysis estimates Africa’s true case number is 100 times higher than that which is being reported. And unaccounted cases are expected to become more common as countries scale back their test capacity, for example in the UK. The number of new worldwide cases appears to have been falling in recent weeks, with the daily case rate 41 per cent lower than it was two weeks ago, according to Johns Hopkins University. Reduced testing and a subsequent underreporting of cases probably contributed to this apparent fall in cases. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the WHO has warned we are still in an “acute phase of the pandemic”, as the more transmissible omicron variant and its sublineages spread across the world. An analysis of Israel’s vaccine booster campaign has revealed the timing of booster roll-outs is crucial to preventing a surge in cases, particularly when infections are growing exponentially. The researchers, from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, also found vaccinating younger age groups, who are less likely to become seriously ill with covid-19, is key to preventing transmission. If Israel hadn’t initiated its booster campaign, officials would have “needed to apply extensive non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent a destructive epidemic wave”, the analysis concluded. The number of reported cases in England has fallen 26 per cent week-on-week, dropping from 51,253 on 6 April to 37,819 on 12 April. These figures are expected to be considerably less useful for tracking the pandemic’s progress since England scrapped free universal testing on 1 April. Doctors are investigating what could be causing a surge in liver inflammation, or hepatitis, in children in the UK, after 74 cases have been reported so far this year. Hepatitis can be caused by a range of pathogens, including viruses. Officials are looking at whether the rise in cases may be a rare delayed reaction to covid-19. Graham Cooke at Imperial College London has said exposure to a circulating virus after the lifting of restrictions could be behind the surge.

4-12-22 Almost two-thirds of Americans say COVID is a 'problem,' but not a 'crisis'
Almost three-quarters of Americans now believe COVID-19 is "a problem, but manageable," according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index released Tuesday. The poll shows that 73 percent of Americans describe COVID as "a problem, but manageable," 17 percent as "not a problem at all," and only nine percent as "a crisis." Democrats continue to take the pandemic far more seriously than Republicans. Only three percent of GOP respondents called COVID a "crisis," compared to 16 percent of Democrats. Republicans were 10 times likelier than Democrats to say the virus is no longer a problem. Clear majorities of Americans also said they believed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were declining in their states, a view Axios described as "much rosier" than the actual situation. According to CDC data, Axios reports, cases are on the rise while "hospitalizations and deaths [are] holding steady at low levels." CBS News reported Saturday on Americans' seeming lack of awareness or concern about the increase in cases driven by the new BA.2 subvariant, calling it "America's first 'so what' COVID wave." The poll surveyed 1,043 adults from April 8–11 with an error margin of 3.0–3.5 percent.

4-12-22 NYC Mayor Eric Adams, from COVID-19 isolation, says 'we will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized' after subway shooting
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) is continuing to isolate with COVID-19 as the city grapples with an ongoing "active shooter situation." Adams tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, meaning he was unable to join New York officials who held a press conference Tuesday after at least 10 people were shot on the subway in Brooklyn. The suspect remains at large. Adams released a video statement on social media, in which he said he's been in "constant communication" with the NYPD and other agencies about the shooting. "We will not allow New Yorkers to be terrorized, even by a single individual," Adams said. "The NYPD is searching for the suspect at large, and we will find him, but we ask the public to come forward with any information that may help us in this investigation." Adams also joined CNN on Tuesday afternoon, telling the network it's "premature" to say whether the shooting "was or was not" terrorism. He coughed near the end of the interview, leading CNN's Dana Bash to note, "I understand, obviously, you have COVID as we speak ... I obviously that hope you are doing well physically and that you recover soon." According to The New York Times, Adams has been overseeing the city's response to the shooting from Gracie Mansion. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said at a press briefing Tuesday she just spoke with Adams, who is "recovering well" and is "actively engaged in the situation."

4-12-22 New York police name Philadelphia U-Haul renter a 'person of interest' in Brooklyn subway shooting
Police in New York City on Tuesday evening identified a "person of internet" in the Brooklyn subway shooting Tuesday morning, saying investigators discovered the key to a U-Haul van rented by Frank R. James in a bag they believe belonged to the shooter. James rented the U-Haul in Philadelphia, police said, and it was found parked a few blocks from the Kings Highway station, where the gunman is believed to have boarded the subway.The gunman threw two smoke canisters into a N train car during rush hour, then fired at least 33 bullets from a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, hitting 10 people, five of whom are in critical but not life-threatening condition, New York Police Department Chief of Detectives James Essig said. Another 13 people were injured from smoke inhalation, falls, or panic attacks. The gunman is still at large, and there is a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Police did not name James, 62, as a suspect, and Essig said investigators aren't sure if he had any link to the attack. But NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell urged anyone with information on James to call the police. James has addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin, but he ranted about New York City and its subway stations in vitriolic YouTube videos. In one video posted March 1, the man believed to be James criticized Mayor Eric Adams for new polices to address safety in subways, elaborating on how easy it would be to getting away with committing crime on a subway, even with police patrolling the subway system. "He can't stop no crime in no subways," he said. "He may slow it down but he ain't stopping it." Along with the U-Haul van key, Essig said, police found a Glock 17 9-millimeter handgun, three ammunition magazines, a hatchet, detonated and detonated smoke grenades, fireworks, a black garbage can, and a liquid believed to be gasoline. William Weimer, a vice president at Phantom Fireworks, told The New York Times that in June 2021, a man named Frank James from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had purchased several of the fireworks brands seen in a police photo, at the company's Racine showroom.

4-12-22 Hochul warns New Yorkers to remain vigilant during ongoing 'active shooter situation'
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said on Tuesday that the epidemic of mass shootings "has to end and it ends now" during a press conference called after 10 people were shot at a New York City subway station in what Hochul described as an ongoing "active shooter situation," CBS News reports. "We say no more. No more mass shootings. No more disrupting lives. No more creating heartbreak for people," Hochul said. "And we are sick and tired of reading headlines about crime," she added, pledging the "full resources of our state to fight this surge of crime." Law enforcement officers were called to Sunset Park's 36th Street station Tuesday morning after a gunman opened fire from inside a train, injuring 16 people, including 10 who suffered gunshot wounds. None of the victims' injuries were life-threatening. Hochul also warned New Yorkers that the "cold-hearted" and "dangerous" shooter is still "on the loose" and urged them to remain vigilant. "We ask everyone to be careful, be cautious, report what you see. It is likely that someone out there listening to this is going to help us — lead us — to that individual," Hochul said. "You have a description of what they're wearing. You know the details." Law enforcement is reportedly looking for a heavyset man carrying a gas mask and wearing a worker's vest.

4-12-22 Report: Pentagon preparing to send more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine
The Pentagon is looking to transfer more sophisticated equipment to Ukraine, with a package possibly including armored Humvees, coastal defense drones, and howitzer cannons, U.S. officials told The Washington Post. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested more advanced weapons for his country's fight against Russia, and this new aid package could be worth $750 million, the U.S. officials said. They cautioned that the exact amount and items are still under consideration, and because some of the weapons will be new to Ukrainian troops, they'll likely need to be trained on how to use them. Since President Biden came into office, the U.S. has provided more than $2.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, with $1.7 billion coming after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24, the Post says. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, and they discussed weapons. Reznikov previously tweeted that Ukraine would like more artillery, armored vehicles, combat aircraft, anti-ship missiles, air-defense systems, and unmanned aircraft. A senior U.S. defense official told the Post that the U.S. sends eight to 10 flights of military assistance to neighboring countries each day, with the items then driven into Ukraine. Once there, Ukrainian officials decide how the gear is distributed, the official said. Read more at The Washington Post.

4-12-22 Biden clarifies that yes, he did mean to call Putin's Ukraine invasion 'genocide'
President Biden's off-the-cuff comments have sometimes landed him in trouble, but he clarified Tuesday afternoon that he did mean to call Russian President Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war "genocide." "Yes, I called it genocide," he told reporters on the airport tarmac in Des Moines, Iowa. "It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being, being able to be Ukrainian." He said "the evidence is mounting" of "the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine," and this week is "different than it was last week." But Biden also made it clear that this is still in the realm of his opinion and not legally binding. "We'll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me," he said. The United Nations treaty that made genocide a war crime in 1948 describes it as "as a crime committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Poland's Andrzej Duda have also referred to Russian's actions in Ukraine as genocide, CNN reports. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, who has used the word for weeks, thanked Biden for adopting the charge, calling it "true words of a true leader."

4-12-22 Multiple people shot in New York City subway
At least 13 people have been injured, including five from gunfire. in an incident during morning rush hour at a New York subway station. According to police, shots were fired at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park around 08:30 local time (12:30 GMT) on Tuesday. Photos from the scene show bloodied passengers lying on the station floor. Undetonated explosive devices were also found on the scene. The suspected gunman is on the loose. Described as a man in an orange construction vest and possibly wearing a gas mask, he is believed to have fled the scene. No motive for his actions has yet been identified. A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams called on New Yorkers "to stay away from this area for their safety and so that first responders can help those in need and investigate". At least four train lines are also said to be delayed in both directions. Law enforcement sources say the suspect opened fire from the platform and threw a smoke bomb inside an R line train that had just pulled into the station. New York's fire department told the BBC it originally received a call about smoke inside the station. But officials arrived to find several people shot and injured. Police have said there are now no active explosive devices inside the station.

4-12-22 Russian troops 'systematically raped' 25 women, girls as young as 14 in a Bucha basement, Ukraine says
After five weeks of Russian occupation, the Kyiv suburb of "Bucha is a landscape of horrors," The New York Times reports in a graphic photo essay compiled over more than a week spent with officials, coroners, and scores of witnesses in the recently liberated city. "The evidence suggests the Russians killed recklessly and sometimes sadistically, in part out of revenge." Ukrainian officials said that as of Sunday, they had discovered the bodies of more than 360 civilians in Bucha and its immediate surroundings, including more than 250 killed by bullets or shrapnel and now being investigated as war crimes, Bucha chief regional prosecutor Ruslan Kravchenko tells the Times. Along with the executions and random murder are horrific cases of torture and sexual violence. One man who fled his home with his wife when a Russian armored vehicle rammed their fence, said when they finally returned home after the Russians left, they found it "ransacked, filled with rubbish and beer bottles," the Times reports. "Then, in a cellar under the garden shed, his nephew discovered the body of a woman" wearing "a fur coat and nothing else." Police said she had been shot in the head, and they found condom wrappers, a used condom, and other signs she was kept as a sex slave before being executed, the Times reports. Ukraine's ombudswoman for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, said she has recorded many horrific cases of sexual violence by Russian troops in Bucha and other places, speculating that the rapes were partly revenge for stiff Ukrainian resistance but also a Russian weapon of war. In one case, "about 25 girls and women aged 14 to 24 were systematically raped during the occupation in the basement of one house in Bucha. Nine of them are pregnant," Denisova told BBC News. "Russian soldiers told them they would rape them to the point where they wouldn't want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children." The BBC also spoke with one woman who recounted being raped. CBS News, which spoke to a different woman who described being raped by a Russian soldier, notes that it is incredibly difficult to prosecute war crimes. Ukraine prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told CNN Monday evening that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes and has so far identified more than 500 suspects, including Russian politicians, military personnel, and propagandists.

4-12-22 Ukraine war: Putin says Russian invasion will achieve 'noble' aims
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has said his invasion of Ukraine will achieve what he called its "noble" aims. Speaking alongside Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, Mr Putin claimed that a clash with Ukraine had become "inevitable". Mr Putin said he had been left with no choice but to launch the invasion in a bid to protect the Russian speaking Donbas region. The UN says 10 million people have fled their homes since the invasion began. But during a public appearance marking the 61st anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, Mr Putin insisted that his forces are aiding oppressed people in separatist regions of Ukraine. "On the one hand, we are helping and saving people, and on the other, we are simply taking measures to ensure the security of Russia itself," the 69-year old insisted. "It's clear that we didn't have a choice. It was the right decision," he said, adding "the goals are perfectly clear, they are noble." The Kremlin claims that Ukraine has committed genocide against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, but there is no evidence to suggest that is the case. More than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the invasion began and the Russian economy has been rocked by a package of severe sanctions imposed by Western nations. However, the Russian president said that Russia does not "intend to be isolated", arguing that it is "impossible to severely isolate anyone in the modern world - especially such a vast country as Russia". Speaking from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, some 3,450 miles (5550 km) east of Moscow, the Russian leader also drew upon the success of the Soviet space programme, comparing Gagarin's achievement during the Cold War to Russia's current international isolation. "The sanctions were total, the isolation was complete but the Soviet Union was still first in space," Mr Putin said. Mr Lukashenko also dismissed the impact of sanctions, asking Mr Putin "why an earth are we getting so worried about these sanctions?"

4-12-22 Ukraine War: US 'deeply concerned' at report of Mariupol chemical attack
The US and Britain say they are looking into reports that chemical weapons have been used by Russian forces attacking the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Ukraine's Azov regiment said three soldiers were injured by "a poisonous substance" in an attack on Monday. However, no evidence has been presented to confirm the use of chemical weapons. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said officials were working to "urgently" investigate what she called "a callous escalation" of the war. The Pentagon called the potential use of the weapons "deeply concerning". Western nations have warned that the use of chemical weapons would mark a dangerous escalation of the conflict and have pledged to take firm action if Russia carries out such attacks. Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said the government was investigating the allegations, adding that early assumptions suggested phosphorous ammunition had been used. Phosphorus is not classed as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but using it as an incendiary weapon near civilians would be illegal. On Tuesday, pro-Russian separatist forces in Donetsk denied carrying out the attack. The Azov battalion, which has been heavily involved in fighting in Mariupol and has strong ties to the far-right, wrote in a Telegram post that Russian forces had dropped "a poisonous substance of unknown origin" during a drone attack at the city's large Azovstal metals plant. It said that its fighters had suffered minor injuries, including shortness of breath. One injured man described a "sweet-tasting" white smoke covering an area of the plant after an explosion. Another said he felt immediately unable to breathe and had collapsed with "cotton legs". The reported incident - which the BBC cannot independently verify - came hours after a spokesperson for the Moscow-backed Donetsk People's Republic urged Russia to bring in "chemical forces" to the besieged south-eastern city.

4-12-22 Ukrainian identity solidified for 30 years. Putin ignored the science
Censuses and surveys reveal Ukrainians’ burgeoning nationalism since independence in 1991. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, many military analysts feared that the capital of Kyiv would fall within days of an attack, undermining any further resistance. Instead, the war is well into its second month. Ukrainian fighters have reversed some Russian gains, forcing a retreat from Kyiv and an apparent narrowing of Russia’s sights to the country’s eastern provinces, closest to Russia’s border. What these analysts and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself missed, social scientists say, is research showing that people who live within the borders of Ukraine have identified more and more as Ukrainian — and less as Russian — since Ukraine’s independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. That trend intensified after Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and started backing separatists in the Donbas region, political and ethnic studies scholar Volodymyr Kulyk said in a virtual talk organized by Harvard University in February. “Russians came to mean people in Russia,” said Kulyk, of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv. These Ukrainian loyalists are now fighting tooth and nail for their country’s continued, sovereign existence. “Putin underestimated Ukrainians’ attachment to their country and overestimated [their] connection to Russia,” says political scientist Lowell Barrington of Marquette University in Milwaukee. “One of his biggest mistakes was not reading social science research on Ukraine.” The common refrain is that Ukraine is a country divided along both linguistic and regional lines, political scientists Olga Onuch of the University of Manchester in England and Henry Hale wrote in 2018 in Post-Soviet Affairs. While the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, most people speak both Ukrainian and Russian. People living in western cities, most notably Lviv, primarily speak Ukrainian and those in eastern cities closer to the Russian border primarily speak Russian.

4-12-22 Marine Le Pen says she opposes sanctions on Russian gas
French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen said she broadly supports sanctions against Russia, except when it comes to oil and gas supplies. The far-right politician will battle Emmanuel Macron for the presidency in a run-off election after obtaining her highest result ever in the first round. But she has faced criticism for allegedly being too close to Russia amid the war in Ukraine. "I am perfectly in favour of all the other sanctions," Ms Le Pen said. In the interview with France Inter Radio, she said: "I do not want French people to suffer the consequences of sanctions" on oil and gas. France, like many other European countries, imports much of its natural gas through pipelines from Russia, using it for residential and commercial energy. But Ms Le Pen has been criticised by rivals over her past support for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. She previously appeared to support Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, and in 2017 called for international sanctions over the issue to be dropped. In 2014, when Crimea was annexed by Russia, her political party received a loan from a Russian bank with alleged ties to the Kremlin. Ms Le Pen justified her previous remarks by saying the annexation of Crimea was a different situation to the current invasion of Ukraine, and painted her support for Mr Putin as reflective of her wider ambition for a "multi-polar" world, Reuters reports. Despite softening her stance on leaving the European Union and other nationalist issues in recent years, she is still widely opposed by most of France's political establishment. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, for example, publicly announced on Tuesday that he would vote for his party's rival Emmanuel Macron, and encouraged others to do the same. Mr Macron "has the necessary experience faced with a grave international crisis", the former president wrote, "and his commitment to Europe is clear and unambiguous". But in a sign of the changing political landscape, Mr Sarkozy's Republicans party candidate - once a dominant force in French politics - attracted less than 5% of the vote in Sunday's first round. Another former titan, the Socialists, received less than 2%.

4-12-22 Kinahan Cartel: US sanctions cartel leader with links to Tyson Fury
US officials have announced sanctions against several top members of the Irish Kinahan organised crime group. Among the seven individuals sanctioned by the US Treasury is Daniel Kinahan, who has previously worked as an advisor to boxer Tyson Fury. Treasury officials said Mr Kinahan "is believed to run the day-to-day operations of the organisation". The Kinahan cartel emerged in Dublin in the 1990s and the US says it is one of the world's largest crime groups. The gang, which the Treasury Department says now uses Dubai as a "hub" for its illegal activities, operates in Ireland, the UK, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, with interests in the drug trade and money laundering, according to the Treasury. US Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the gang "smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering". Speaking at a news conference in Dublin, Drew Harris, the Commissioner of Ireland's police force hailed the sanctions and warned senior gang members couldn't "hide from justice forever". The sanctions will target Mr Kinahan, who has previously been named by the Irish High Court as the controller and manager of the gang, his father Christopher Snr - a convicted drug trafficker and alleged founder of the gang, and his brother Christopher Jnr, who the notice accused of working with the gang to "transport and sell narcotics in the United Kingdom". The US Drug Enforcement Agency has also offered rewards of up to $5m (£3.8m) for information leading to the arrest of any of the three Kinahans. All those sanctioned will see their US credit and debit cards blocked and any money they hold in US banks frozen. They will also see access to their property restricted.

4-12-22 Covid-19 news: Heart inflammation from covid vaccines is rare
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Heart inflammation may be no more likely after a covid-19 vaccine than any other jab. In rare cases, the mRNA-based Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna covid-19 vaccines in particular have been linked to heart inflammation. The risk is higher among younger people, which contributed to the UK’s delayed decision to roll-out covid-19 vaccines to 5-to-11 year olds. Now, an analysis of 22 studies with hundreds of millions of vaccine doses administered between them shows heart inflammation is no more common after a covid-19 jab than it is after vaccines that protect against some other infections, such as smallpox or influenza – and in some cases the risk may be lower. The study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, found 18 cases of heart inflammation occur per 1 million covid-19 vaccine doses, compared with 56 cases per 1 million doses of non-covid vaccinations. The rate of heart inflammation was even found to be “significantly higher” after a smallpox jab than a covid-19 vaccine. Aligning with past research, the study found men and people under 30 were more likely to develop heart inflammation. The risk was also higher in those who had an mRNA vaccine as opposed to a jab based on different technology, such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines, and after a second dose of any covid-19 jab. “Our research suggests that the overall risk of myopericarditis [heart inflammation] appears to be no different for this newly approved group of vaccines against COVID- 19, compared to vaccines against other diseases,” study author Dr. Kollengode Ramanathan at National University Hospital, Singapore, said in a statement. “The risk of such rare events should be balanced against the risk of myopericarditis from infection and these findings should bolster public confidence in the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) is tracking two new sublineages of the omicron variant to determine if they are more transmissible, virulent or better able to evade past immunity. Dubbed BA.4 and BA.5, only a few dozen cases of the sublineages have been reported globally, however the WHO is tracking them due to their “additional mutations that need to be further studied to understand their impact on immune escape potential”. BA.4 has been identified in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England, the UK’s Health Security Agency said last week. BA.5 had exclusively been found in South Africa, however, Botswana’s health ministry reported cases of both BA.4 and BA.5 yesterday. People in the UK are more worried about their finances than catching covid-19, despite an estimated one in 13 people being infected across England, Wales and Scotland, while one in 16 are thought to have covid-19 in Northern Ireland. A team from University College London surveyed 28,495 people between 21 March and 27 March. One third (33 per cent) of the participants said they are concerned about catching covid-19, down from 40 per cent in January. In the light of the UK’s cost of living crisis, 38 per cent said they are worried about their finances, up from 32 per cent in January. The survey also found that 49 per cent of people feel in control of their mental health, down from 54 per cent six months ago, and the number of people reporting anxiety or depression symptoms is at its highest level in 11 months. “These findings could suggest that our return to more ‘normal’ living has not had all the mental health benefits that people necessarily expected.” Daisy Fancourt at UCL told Sky News.

4-12-22 Biden sets rule banning sale of untraceable DIY 'ghost gun' kits
US President Joe Biden's administration has finalised a set of new regulations targeting untraceable "ghost guns". The new rules come as Mr Biden faces increasing political pressure to act against a rise in gun violence. The rule bans businesses from selling kits that can be used to create a gun at home without serial numbers. In remarks at the White House on Monday, Mr Biden also nominated a new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The new regulations - which are nearly a year in the making - are expected to face stiff legal resistance from lobbying groups that oppose new gun control regulations. At the White House, Mr Biden showed the components of a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that he said had been made using a simple kit purchased online. Ghost guns can be self-assembled and sometimes 3D printed, which means they do not contain a serial number and cannot be traced. Background checks have not previously been required to purchase the assembly kits. The new rules require self-assembled "buy build shoot" kits to have serial numbers - legally making them a firearm. "You buy a couch [that] you have to assemble, it's still a couch," said Mr Biden said in his news conference. "You buy the parts you need to build a functioning firearm, it's still a gun." It also forces federally licensed firearm dealers to add serial numbers to any untraceable guns purchased through them. Experts say that a fraction of violent crimes are being committed with ghost guns, but law enforcement authorities say they are being recovered more frequently at crime scenes. In 2021, there were about 20,000 suspected ghost guns recovered by police and reported to the ATF - a tenfold increase from 2016, according to the White House. Meanwhile, the firearms business has seen record sales since the early days of the pandemic two years ago. In 2020, a record of about 22m guns were legally sold. Almost 19m guns were bought in 2021.

4-12-22 Mexico's fight to sue US gun manufacturers for $10bn
Mexico claims that half a million guns flow south from the US every year. Can a lawsuit against American gun manufacturers stem the tide? Just before sunrise on a warm Friday morning in June 2020, gunmen were waiting for Omar Garcia Harfuch, the city's then 38-year-old security head, in Mexico City's upscale Lomas de Chapultepec neighbourhood. What happened next would be captured on CCTV and the mobile phone cameras of terrified onlookers: the rat-a-tat-tat of bullets as dozens of heavily armed gunmen, some dressed as road workers, blocked his path with a truck and opened fire. "At that moment I knew we had been ambushed," Mr Harfuch later told Spain's El País newspaper. "Then I felt the first shot come through the windscreen". By the time the ensuing firefight was over, he had been shot three times. Three others - two bodyguards and an innocent woman selling snacks nearby - lay dead. The location and the prominent target of the ambush were notable anomalies in Mexico's bloody drug war. But the weapons recovered afterward were not: Barrett 50-calibre sniper rifles, pistols and military assault weapons. All are produced and sold by US-based gun manufacturers. The attack against Mr Harfuch, along with hundreds of other incidents, now form a key part of a lawsuit brought by the Mexican government against US-based gunmakers and wholesalers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Glock and Ruger. The lawsuit, filed in a federal courthouse in Massachusetts - where several of the companies are based - argues that the "flood" of illegal guns in Mexico "is the foreseeable result of the defendants' deliberate actions and business practices". The companies have argued that Mexico cannot prove that the violence detailed in the lawsuit is their fault, and have claimed US law shields them from liability over the misuse of their products. This week, oral arguments are to be heard in court from both sides for a judge to decide whether the case can continue. Though experts are doubtful that the lawsuit will achieve its primary aims - $10bn in damages, an end to "inflammatory" marketing practices allegedly appealing to criminals and requirements for "smart" safety technology - it has already been a publicity coup for the Mexican government.

4-11-22 Virginia cop convicted on all 6 charges in 2nd Jan. 6 Capitol siege case to go before jury
A federal grand jury on Monday evening convicted Thomas Robertson, a Virginia police officer fired for his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, on all six felony and misdemeanor charges tied to those actions. The convictions included felony obstruction of Congress as it counted the 2020 presidential electoral votes, plus civil disorder, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, violent entry, and evidence-tampering. Robertson, who was a police officer in Rocky Mount, Virginia, when he participated in the Capitol riot, is the second Jan. 6 defendant convicted after a jury trial, out of two cases that have gone before a jury. The other defendant, Guy Reffitt, was convicted on all five charges brought by prosecutors. Two other cases have been decided by bench trial; U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, appointed in 2017, acquitted one defendant of all charges and partially acquitted a second one. Nearly 800 people have been arrested in the Justice Department's sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, and about 250 have pleaded guilty. Robertson's trial "featured harrowing footage of the mob and testimony from a co-defendant," Jacob Fracker, "who served on the police force with Robertson at the time of the Jan. 6 attack," Politico reports. "Fracker pleaded guilty to his involvement in the breach and testified that Robertson was the driving force behind their actions that day," and "helped get rid of their cellphones after Jan. 6." The video footage showed Robertson in a gas mask, wielding a long stick that his lawyers argued was just a walking stick. "At the time, that was all fun and games," Fracker testified. But "my mom would slap me in the face if she saw what I was doing that day. I sit here today ashamed of my actions. I didn't have to do all that stuff, but I did." "I absolutely hate this," Fracker added. "I've always been on the other side of things. The good guys side, so to speak." He said he took the plea deal and agreed to testify against his former friend to cut down his prison sentence, so he could spend more time with his young daughter.

4-11-22 Mariupol mayor says civilian death toll has surpassed 10,000
The mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine, told The Associated Press on Monday that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed since Russian troops surrounded the port city, and he fears the death toll could soon reach 20,000. Vadym Boychenko spoke to AP by phone on Monday, painting a grim picture of life inside the city under siege. He said the bodies of civilians are "carpeted through the streets," and accused Russian forces of purposely blocking humanitarian convoys from bringing much-needed food, medicine, and other supplies to the city. The city has been bombarded by shelling, and Boychenko accused Russian troops of bringing the bodies of dead civilians to a shopping center with storage facilities and refrigerators and using trucks that have been turned into mobile crematoriums to dispose of them. The mayor, who is in Ukraine but not Mariupol, told AP that several people have been keeping him up to date on what Russian forces are doing with the corpses. Boychenko estimates that 120,000 civilians in Mariupol are in immediate need of food, clean water, and electricity. Ukrainian officials have said Russian forces set up "filtration camps" for residents of the city, and after processing they are sent to Russia or areas of Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. Boychenko told AP at least 33,000 people have gone through the camps, and those who do not pass the "filtering" are moved to improvised prisons. Read more at The Associated Press.

4-11-22 Zelensky: Russian forces left 'hundreds of thousands' of mines, unexploded shells in northern Ukraine
In northern Ukraine, Russian forces have dropped and left behind "hundreds of thousands of dangerous objects," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday night, including mines and unexploded shells. "At least several thousand such items are disposed of daily," Zelensky said. "The occupiers left mines everywhere. In the houses they seized. Just on the streets, in the fields. They mined people's property, mined cars, doors. They consciously did everything to make the return to these areas after de-occupation as dangerous as possible." In Kharkiv, authorities are asking people to stay away from some neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, where there are mines strewn across streets. Lt. Col. Nikolay Ovcharuk, head of the state emergency service's de-mining unit, said the plastic devices are PTM-1M mines, which were used by Soviet troops in Afghanistan and are detonated by timers. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of dropping "parachute bombs" over Kharkiv, and a resident who gave his name as Sergey told The Guardian that at about 1 a.m. Monday morning, "we heard some strange sounds, something whistled and then it all dropped." Zelensky said he believes Ukraine is now "one of the most contaminated by mines in the world," and considers this a war crime. Russian forces, he added, "did everything to kill or maim as many of our people as possible, even when they were forced to withdraw from our land. Without the appropriate orders, they would not have done it."

4-11-22 Why this may be the start of 'America's 1st so-what COVID wave'
COVID-19 — and more specifically, the BA.2 "subvariant of the Omicron variant that tore through the U.S. this winter — is spreading," Sumathi Reddy writes at The Wall Street Journal, and given that people are mostly testing at home, and this variant has fairly mild symptoms (if any ) among vaccinated people, "it is likely that public-health statistics are significantly undercounting cases right now." Top public health officials are predicting a surge in cases, like parts of Europe are experiencing. But there's a good chance "you're going to the movies and eating indoors," Reddy adds. "Your kid stopped wearing a mask to school; you no longer wear one to work. After two years of COVID precautions, you finally feel normal again. Well, mostly." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) national COVID map is almost entirely low-risk green. CBS News explains that this may end up being "America's first so-what COVID wave," because of vaccines and treatments, and crucially, because so few people are being hospitalized. Rather than focusing on case counts, "hospitalization rates are likely a more accurate indicator of transmission and reflect the severity of infections," the Journal reports. And the U.S. "is currently reporting 14,802 coronavirus hospitalizations, the lowest mark since reporting began in July 2020," CNN's Ryan Struyk tweeted Sunday night, citing Health and Human Services data. When should you worry and change your behavior? "Consider both the rate of increase as well as how long cases have been rising," Reddy reports. "A steady weekly rise of 5 percent for multiple weeks might signal that it's time to resume some protective measures, such as masking indoors," but "if cases are increasing by 50 percent week over week, that's a red flag." Another sign things are feeling more "normal" on the COVID-19 front is that President Biden's approval rating on his response to the pandemic has risen to 58 percent, from 50 percent in January, ABC News reported Sunday. That poll, conducted with Ipsos, surveyed a national sample of 530 adults between April 8-9, and its margin of sampling error is ±4.9 percentage points.

4-10-22 The looming catastrophe of the global food shortage
Russia’s war on Ukraine has sent food prices skyrocketing, leaving millions at risk of going hungry. Russia's war on Ukraine has sent food prices skyrocketing, leaving millions at risk of going hungry. Here's everything you need to know: Why the food shortage? The Russian invasion and the sanctions on Moscow that followed have dramatically reduced the production of crops and fertilizer in Russia and Ukraine, driving vulnerable areas in the Middle East and Africa to the brink of famine. The two large countries are both major producers of wheat, corn, and barley, while Russia and Belarus produce much of the world's fertilizer. Prices of those goods had already been trending upward due to global inflation and shortages caused by COVID-19, as well as the rise in gas prices that increased the cost of shipping. Now the war has made virtually every component of the global supply chain far more expensive. Supermarket prices are expected to rise by as much as 20 percent, while at least 44 million people are at risk of famine. For them, the war is "a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe," said David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Program. "We never would have dreamed anything like this would be possible." Are Russia and Ukraine still exporting food? Many Ukrainian farmers have gone to the front lines to fight, and the farms they left are being ravaged by Russian shelling. That means Ukraine's spring harvest of barley, corn, and other crops — projected to be a strong season before the war — will be less than half of the 2021 level, the Agriculture Ministry says. Ukraine banned exports of wheat and other food last month to secure its own wartime supplies, but at this point it can't really export anyway: Russian warships are blocking access to its Black Sea ports and have bombed at least three civilian ships carrying Ukrainian goods. Ukrainian farmers will likely also miss their coming planting season, and those who are still in the fields have scrapped export crops in favor of foods that can be quickly harvested to feed civilians and soldiers. Russia's own ability to export, meanwhile, has been hamstrung by sanctions.

4-10-22 Ukraine war: Disbelief and horror after Krematorsk train station attack
More than 50 people were killed and many more wounded in a missile strike on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Friday. One day later, people are attempting to pick up the pieces from the deadly attack. They're still searching through the wreckage and debris at Krematorsk station. The bodies of the dead were soon removed from the scene of a missile strike on Friday, but you can still see the dried blood and some evidence of human remains 24 hours later. The uncollected travel bags of those who did not survive have been gathered together and now lie in an empty ticket office. Sergei, a volunteer with the Ukrainian Army, was still looking through the wreckage of destroyed cars, parked outside the station. There was evidence in one of a burnt child's body. Sergei is used to death. He's been recovering the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers killed in battle. But on Friday, he was having to gather the corpses and the remains of unarmed civilians - the innocents of this war. He has no doubt that Russia is to blame for the attack that has left more than 50 people dead and many more injured. Watching mothers grieve over children killed in the blast has clearly taken its toll on Sergei. "When you see our future, the future of Ukraine being killed, you can't control your emotions," he says. He calls it a genocide. "You just don't understand the motivation of the people who did this. What was this for?" Thousands of people were gathered at Kramatorsk station when the missile struck at 10:30 in the morning. They were waiting for a train to take them west, to relative safety. The region's authorities had told civilians to leave as Russia steps up its offensive in the Donbas. Kramatorsk and a number of other cities in eastern Ukraine have recently been targeted by Russian airstrikes, artillery and missiles.

4-10-22 How will Russia attack Ukraine's new front lines?
The conflict in Ukraine has shifted to the east of the country where Ukrainian forces are battle-hardened and well-prepared. Analysts believe Ukraine's best units are in the east, and that they are dug into trench systems and other fortified positions. So far, Ukrainian troops have strongly resisted the Russian advance, but they could be heavily outnumbered by Russian forces who are inching forwards in some areas. Russian officials have said that the focus of its forces is now the "complete liberation" of the Donbas, broadly referring to Ukraine's eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. The terrain in the east will pose big challenges for the Russians as they attack. With less wooded land than the north of the country, analysts say open areas may favour the Ukrainian defenders. The battle for Slovyansk is likely to be the next pivotal battle of the war, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). If Russian troops advancing from Izyum are able to take the town, they could then choose to advance east towards Rubizhne to encircle a relatively small group of Ukrainian forces, or head further south to encircle a larger Ukrainian contingent. If Mariupol falls to the Russians, more troops may also be available to push north into the area west of Donetsk. Brigadier Ben Barry (retired), of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says Ukrainian forces have had years to prepare their defences and that Russian troops may struggle to force them out. "It's not just World War One-style trenches on the Ukrainian side, they will have also fortified key towns and villages they want to defend," he says. Ukrainian armoured vehicles and other equipment are positioned in revetments, or earth banks, for protection, he says. Many Ukrainian troops in the east are highly experienced - they have been holding back Russian separatists since the conflict of 2014. Their numbers may also be boosted, should Ukraine's military chiefs re-deploy units no longer needed to defend Kyiv after Russia's withdrawal from the north.

4-10-22 Full embargo on oil could stop war - ex-Putin aide
A "real embargo" on Russian energy by Western countries could stop war in Ukraine, President Putin's former chief economic adviser has suggested. Dr Andrei Illarionov said Russia "did not take seriously" other countries' threats to reduce their energy usage. Despite trying to reduce its reliance on Russian sources, Europe is continuing to buy oil and gas. Last year, soaring prices meant oil and gas revenues accounted for 36% of Russia's government spending. Much of that income comes from the European Union, which imports about 40% of its gas and 27% of its oil from Russia. This week, its top diplomat Josep Borrell said "a billion [euros] is what we pay Putin every day for the energy he supplies us". Dr Illarionov said if Western countries "would try to implement a real embargo on oil and gas exports from Russia... I would bet that probably within a month or two, Russian military operations in Ukraine, probably will be ceased, will be stopped". "It's one of the very effective instruments still in the possession of the Western countries," he added. While the oil and gas trade has continued during the conflict, widespread sanctions mean that a lot of other economic activity has stopped, many foreign companies have pulled out and exports have been disrupted. One recent survey by Russia's own central bank even forecasts the economy will shrink by 8% this year, while the International Institute of Finance says it could fall by as much as 15%. Dr Illarionov suggested that President Putin was prepared to endure a hit to the economy that shows where his priorities lie. "His territorial ambitions, his imperial ambitions, are much more important than anything else, including the livelihood of the Russian population and of the financial situation in the country... even the financial state of the his government," he said.

4-9-22 Zelensky predicts 'hard battle' as Russian forces shift east
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that his country's military will face a "hard battle" as Russian forces withdrawing from around Kyiv are expected to launch a new offensive in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports. "Yes, [Russian] forces are gathering in the east [of Ukraine]," Zelensky said during a joint press conference in Kyiv with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. "This will be a hard battle. We believe in this fight and our victory. We are ready to simultaneously fight and look for diplomatic ways to put an end to this war," Zelensky added. Writing at The Associated Press, Robert Burns called the withdrawal from Kyiv a "Russian defeat for the ages." Zelensky's statement came one day after a Russian missile attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine killed at least 52 civilians who were attempting to flee the region. Zelensky condemned the attack on the train station as "another war crime of Russia, for which everyone involved will be held accountable," according to The Washington Post.

4-9-22 Boris Johnson meets with Zelensky during secret trip to Ukraine
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson met in person with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Saturday, the Manchester Evening News reported. A spokesperson for Johnson told the Evening News that the meeting was intended as a "show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people" and that the two leaders discussed the U.K.'s "long-term support to Ukraine" as well as "a new package of financial and military aid." According to NBC News, the U.K. pledged additional military aid to Ukraine after a Russian missile attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine killed at least 52 civilians on Friday. On March 8, Zelensky received a standing ovation after a speech delivered to the U.K. House of Commons via video link. In the speech, Zelensky paraphrased Prime Minister Winston Churchill, saying "We will fight to the end." Later that month, Oliver Dowden, co-chairman of Britain's Conservative Party, said Johnson felt a "real emotional connection" with Zelensky and was "desperate" to visit Ukraine.

4-9-22 DeSantis predicts 'cold war' between Florida and Georgia if Stacey Abrams becomes governor
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said at a press conference Friday that if Democrat Stacey Abrams wins Georgia's upcoming gubernatorial election, it will lead to serious tensions between the two states, The Hill reported. "If Stacey Abrams is elected governor of Georgia, I just want to be honest, that will be a cold war between Florida and Georgia," DeSantis said. "I can't have Castro to my south and Abrams to my north, that would be a disaster. So, I hope you guys take care of that, and we'll end up in good shape." Cuba's current leader is Miguel Díaz-Canel. Raúl Castro stepped down as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in 2021, having succeeded his brother Fidel in 2011. Abrams, a former Georgia state legislator, is facing a rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who narrowly defeated her in 2018. According to Fox News and NPR, Abrams never conceded the 2018 election. Instead, she made a carefully worded statement acknowledging "that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor" while also accusing Kemp of voter suppression. Former President Donald Trump is backing former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in his primary campaign against Kemp, who Trump has condemned as a "turncoat" for refusing to overturn President Biden's narrow 2020 victory in Georgia. Kemp currently leads both Perdue and Abrams in the polls.

4-9-22 Jury acquits 2 men in plot to kidnap Michigan governor: 'The normalization of political violence'
Two men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) have been acquitted by a federal jury, who was unable to reach a verdict on similar charges against two other defendants in the case, The New York Times reports Friday. The jury had begun deliberating on Monday. U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker declared a mistrial for Adam Fox and Barry Croft, while Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were found not guilty of kidnapping conspiracy, per CNN. All four men were facing up to life in prison if convicted. The outcome of the case is a "significant defeat" for federal prosecutors, who are said to have sat in silence as the verdicts were read and Harris and Caserta hugged their lawyers, the Times writes. The verdict also seems to indicate that the jury agreed to at least some degree "with defense claims that FBI agents entrapped the men in a violent plot shortly before the 2020 election," The Washington Post notes. A July 2021 Buzzfeed News investigation into the incident suggested FBI informants "had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception," and that "the extent of [informants'] involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them." "Today, Michiganders and Americans — especially our children — are living through the normalization of political violence," Whitmer's office said of the verdict in a statement. "The plot to kidnap and kill a governor may seem like an anomaly. But we must be honest about what it really is: the result of violent, divisive rhetoric that is all too common across our country." "The governor remains focused on her work on behalf of Michigan and all Michiganders."

4-9-22 Gretchen Whitmer: Michigan governor kidnap plot case collapses
A US federal jury has acquitted two men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan's governor and failed to reach a verdict for two other defendants. Adam Fox, 38, Daniel Harris, 24, Brandon Caserta, 33, and Barry Croft, 46, each faced a kidnapping conspiracy charge. Mr Harris and Mr Caserta were found not guilty, but the charges against Mr Fox and Mr Croft ended in mistrial. The government had argued they targeted Gretchen Whitmer, 50, in a 2020 plot. Jurors began deliberating this week after 14 days of testimony and had indicated earlier on Friday that they were deadlocked on some of the charges. They ultimately reached no verdict against Mr Fox, who was alleged to be the group's ringleader, and Mr Croft, both of whom were also facing an additional count each of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. In a statement sent by her office on Friday, Governor Whitmer thanked prosecutors and law enforcement for their work on the case and warned that "Michiganders and Americans - especially our children - are living through the normalisation of political violence". According to secret chats and private conversations revealed in court, members of the group - some of whom were said to be militia members - viewed Ms Whitmer as a "tyrant". Prosecutors said the men planned to abduct her from her holiday home, conduct some kind of "treason trial" and set her adrift in a boat on Lake Michigan. But lawyers for the accused countered that the scheme was mostly "smoke and mirrors", profane talk by angry and disillusioned men. Throughout the trial, they maintained that the men had been entrapped - or improperly induced into the crime - by an undercover FBI operation. The FBI has said it began tracking the group's movements after spotting online discussions of political violence.

4-9-22 Ukrainians told to flee eastern region immediately
Ukraine calls on civilians in the eastern region of Luhansk to flee immediately. Its governor, Serhiy Gaidai, warns that Russia is "amassing forces for an offensive". Russian forces are stepping up their offensive in eastern Ukraine after withdrawing from the north. Russia is believed to have reorganised its military leadership in Ukraine, with Gen Alexander Dvornikov given overall charge. Western officials say the general has extensive experience of Russian operations in Syria. Ukrainian officials say ten humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from regions being besieged by Russian forces have been agreed for today. The proposed corridors include one for people to escape from the shattered port city of Mariupol. Ukraine says more than 50 people died and dozens were wounded after rockets hit a train station in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

4-9-22 Ukraine: Inside the spies’ attempts to stop the war
Traditionally, it is the job of a spy to keep secrets - but as the invasion of Ukraine loomed, Western intelligence officials made the unusual decision to tell the world what they knew. For nearly a dozen days in February, a small group of intelligence officers had been going to bed early. They had seen the intelligence predicting a war and knew that if Russia was really going to invade Ukraine, it would begin in the early hours of the morning. But when the news finally came on 24 February, it still felt unreal, one recalls: "It was hard to believe it was actually happening until I woke up early that morning and put the radio on." For months they had been sounding the alarm. "That day people went from 'Why are you being so hysterical?' to 'Why weren't you more hysterical?'" says the official. There was no satisfaction in being proved right, another intelligence official adds. But at least they felt they had tried to stop a war whose scale they had been warning of for months. The run-up to war and the weeks after it started saw American and British intelligence make public some of their most closely held secrets as part of an unprecedented campaign. For decades, intelligence had normally been something to share with as few individuals as possible. No longer. The decision had been taken to make the whole world know about it. This not only marked a dramatic shift in the way Western intelligence had been operating - it also meant confronting the painful legacy of the invasion of Iraq. The first signs of Russia's intentions arrived a year ago. Intelligence from satellite imagery pointed to a Russian troop build-up near Ukraine. But analysts had little understanding of Moscow's true intentions. That changed in mid-2021. "From summer we saw a small group of senior people planning for a full military invasion of the whole country," explains one Western intelligence official.

4-9-22 Biting 'unruly passengers' hit with largest-ever US fines
Two airline passengers accused of "unruly behaviour" have been hit with the largest fines ever proposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration. The five-figure penalties on the two flyers accused of violence are part of $2m (£1.5m) in fines levied this year. US airlines have seen record numbers of disruptive passengers since early 2021, with many incidents involving the refusal to wear an anti-viral facemask. The fines were announced by transport secretary Pete Buttigieg on Friday. "If you are on an airplane, don't be a jerk and don't endanger the flight crews and fellow passengers," he said in an appearance on ABC's The View. "If you do, you will be fined by the FAA." In one incident, an American Airlines passenger travelling from Texas to North Carolina has been asked to pay a $81,950 fine for threatening to hurt a flight attendant. The attendant had offered to help the passenger after she fell into the aisle of the plane. The unnamed passenger then allegedly pushed an airline worker and tried to open the cabin door. While flight attendants attempted to restrain her, she repeatedly hit one staff member in the head. When she was placed in cuffs, "she spit at, headbutted, bit and tried to kick the crew and other passengers", the FAA said in a news release. In the other incident, the passenger was flying on Delta Air Lines from Las Vegas to Atlanta. She allegedly tried to "hug and kiss the passenger seated next to her, walked to the front of the aircraft to try to exit during flight; refused to return to her seat; and bit another passenger multiple times". That passenger, who is also unnamed, was physically restrained by crew members and has now been asked to pay a fine of $77,272.

4-8-22 Russian missile strike on train station kills at least 30 civilians awaiting evacuation, Ukraine says
Two Russian missiles struck the train station in Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk oblast, as thousands of civilians were gathered Friday awaiting evacuation to safer regions of the country, Ukrainian authorities said. "The rocket hit the temporary waiting room, where hundreds of people were waiting for the evacuation train," Donetsk regional police said. "It is already known there [are] about 30 dead people, including children, and about 100 injured." Washington Post reporters who arrived at the train station counted at least 20 dead, the Post reports. Ukrainian leaders have been warning of a major Russian offensive in the Donbas, the eastern region that includes Donetsk and Luhansk, and strongly encouraged civilians to leave while there is still safe passage out. The Kramatorsk train station has been a crucial hub for civilian evacuation of the Donbas, as Nathan Mook, CEO of the World Central Kitchen charity, reported Thursday. Mook told BBC News on Friday that they were driving by the station right before the missile attack, and "we could see well over a thousand people. It was crowded, just like it was yesterday and the day before." After driving back to the wreckage, he added, he could see "the remnants of one of the missiles in the parking lots, blown out windows, a couple dozen casualties." "The inhuman Russians are not changing their methods. Without the strength or courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram. "This is an evil without limits." Russia's Foreign Ministry, as it has with other attacks where evidence points strongly to Russian culpability, denied any involvement in the strike, calling the finger-pointing at Moscow a "provocation" and insinuating that Ukraine hit its own train station with missiles. Zelensky in a Thursday night video address warned that what Ukrainian authorities are finding in Borodianka, a city 20 miles northwest of Bucha, "is much more horrible" even than the horrors of Bucha. "And what will happen when the world learns the whole truth about what the Russian troops did in Mariupol," he asked, where "on every street is what the world saw in Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region." Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said Thursday that investigators have found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians during Russia's occupation, and at least 320 civilians have been confirmed killed.

4-8-22 Ukraine war causes giant leap in global food prices, says UN
The Ukraine war led to a "giant leap" in food prices last month to another record high, the United Nations says. The war has cut off supplies from the world's biggest exporter of sunflower oil which means the costs of alternatives have also climbed. Ukraine is also a major producer of cereals such as maize and wheat which have risen sharply in price too. The UN said "war in the Black Sea region spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils". The UN Food Prices Index tracks the world's most-traded food commodities measuring the average prices of cereal, vegetable oil, dairy, meat, and sugar. Food prices are at their highest since records began 60 years ago according to the index, which jumped nearly 13% in March, following February's record high. The price of vegetable oils soared 23% while cereals were up 17%. Sugar rose 7%, meat was up 5%, while dairy - which has been less affected by the war - only climbed 3%. Food commodity prices were already at 10-year highs before the war in Ukraine according to the index because of global harvest issues. That has fuelled a cost-of-living crisis that is worrying politicians and has sparked warnings of social unrest across the world. In the UK, industry experts have warned that the cost of food could rise by up to 15% this year. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation warned last month that food prices could rise by up to 20% as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, raising the risk of increased malnutrition across the world. It has cut its world wheat projection for 2022 from 790 million tonnes to 784 million, because of the possibility that at least 20% of Ukraine's winter crop will not be harvested because of "direct destruction". But it said global cereal stocks could end the year 2.4% higher than the start because of stockpiles building up in Russia and Ukraine as both countries exports would shrink.

4-8-22 'Mariupol is a graveyard': Evacuees recount terror of Russian assault
Mariupol has been under Russian siege for five weeks, but many residents have managed to flee to other towns in Ukraine. They tell the BBC about the conditions in the besieged city - and the loved ones they left behind. People arriving in the town of Zaporizhzhia, which is acting as a hub for refugees, describe a merciless assault on Mariupol in which airstrikes and shelling have flattened entire districts. They have risked journeys through Russian and Ukrainian lines that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes as an evacuation "from hell". Waiting inside one aid facility was Yuliia, her two daughters and her mother Tatiana. They escaped on 4 April. "There are starving people... people are having mental breakdowns. People are being buried in the streets," Yuliia said, speaking to the BBC on condition that her surname was not used, a frequent request from residents still concerned about their safety. Her mother, Tatiana, added: "[There are] shallow graves, half a metre deep at best, with some earth on top. Dead bodies, all over the streets." The chances of getting out has diminished quickly for many residents. "When we were in Mariupol, Chechens were looting. They were taking people's gold. It was becoming really dangerous, we heard they were raping women," said Yuliia. "I was frightened for my kids and I realised we had to get them out in any way possible". The BBC cannot independently verify the claims. Chechen militants loyal to Moscow have been fighting in Ukraine since the start of the invasion and are reported to have been heavily involved in the siege of Mariupol. Elsewhere in Zaporizhzhia, aid workers have been finding homes and handing out money for evacuated families. On some days [there were] 50 planes, on other days 70. Each carrying two bombs. They were hitting the drama theatre, museums, hotels, apartment buildings. They didn't discriminate at all." When the water supply stopped, Luibov said people had to choose between nothing to drink or a deadly venture outside.

4-8-22 Kramatorsk: At least 1,000 at railway station when rockets hit - witness
More than 1,000 people were crowded into a railway station in eastern Ukraine when it was hit by rockets on Friday, an eyewitness has told the BBC.Forty people died, including 10 children when missiles exploded at Kramatorsk station as civilians were queuing to evacuate, according to the local mayor. Images from the scene show bodies and abandoned bags lying on the platform. Ukraine said Russia targeted civilians, but Russia has denied the attack. Nathan Mook, an aid worker who saw people crowding at the station, counted between five and 10 explosions: "Two minutes after we had driven by, you feel it before you hear it: the boom, the explosion." Mr Mook said he saw well over 1,000 people at the station just before the attack happened, and the regional prosecutor's office said nearly 4,000 people were there at the time, mainly women and children. More than 80 people were wounded, officials said. Officials said a temporary waiting area had been hit and many of the wounded were in a grave condition. Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko alleged that a Tochka-U missile armed with cluster munitions had been used. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there were no soldiers at the station. "This is an evil that has no limits," the president said, accusing Russia of cynically targeting civilians when it could not win on the battlefield. Russia's defence ministry accused Ukraine's armed forces of carrying out the attack and using civilians as a "human shield" and a Russian-backed separatist leader said it was a Ukrainian "provocation". But Mr Kyrylenko said it was another example of Russian fakes and cynicism, aimed at sowing panic. For days, crowded trains have been leaving the east, after regional leaders appealed to residents to flee Russia's invading forces. Busloads of evacuees have been arriving at the few remaining stations still open, from towns and cities that have come under Russian bombardment. Luhansk administration leader Serhiy Haidai said the town of Popasna was at particular risk of attack, and that 14,000 civilians were still there.

4-8-22 Covid-19 news: Omicron's symptoms last three days less 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. Omicron’s symptom duration is shorter than delta’s among people who have had a booster vaccine. Cristina Menni at King’s College London and her colleagues analysed more than 63,000 people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus between June 2021 and January 2022. The participants, who had all received at least two doses of any covid-19 vaccine, self-reported their positive test result and symptoms via the Zoe COVID app. From June to November 2021, when delta was the dominant variant in the UK, covid-19 symptoms lasted on average 7.7 days among the participants who were triple jabbed. This is compared with an average 4.4-day symptom duration when omicron was dominant, defined as the end of December 2021 to mid-January 2022, when the study completed. Omicron has long been known to be less virulent than past covid-19 variants. Its mild symptoms may also differ from delta’s. Fewer than one in five (17 per cent) of the participants who caught covid-19 when omicron was dominant reported a loss of smell, compared with over half (53 per cent) of those who probably had delta. Those who probably caught omicron were more likely to report a sore throat and hoarse voice than those with delta, however, the latter variant was more strongly linked to brain fog, headache and fever. “It is a lesson that we need to be far more flexible in thinking what the virus is and how it is going to present than we have been, certainly in the UK,” Tim Spector at King’s College London told The Guardian. More than two-thirds of people living in Africa have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus since the pandemic began – 97 times more than the continent’s officially reported cases, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study. WHO researchers analysed 151 previous studies on the proportion of people in Africa with covid-19 antibodies. They estimate about 800 million people had been infected by September 2021, but just 8.2 million cases were reported. Shanghai reported a record 21,000 covid-19 cases today. The city’s lockdown was recently extended to cover all of its 25-million-strong population. Officials have not indicated when the lockdown may end.

4-8-22 US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tests positive for Covid
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for Covid-19, making her the most senior member of Congress so far to report an infection. The leading Democrat is asymptomatic, her spokesman said on Thursday. Mrs Pelosi, 82, was seen hugging former President Barack Obama during his visit to the White House on Tuesday and standing close to President Joe Biden. According to the latest US guidelines, quarantine is not required after Covid-19 exposure for those vaccinated. Both Mr Biden and Mr Obama have been vaccinated, and the current president tested negative on Wednesday, the White House said. He is not considered a close contact under the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mrs Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill said: "The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided". "The Speaker will quarantine consistent with CDC guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and test regularly". The news of Mrs Pelosi's diagnosis comes as the US approaches 1 million Covid-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. After a steep spike in infections in December - fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant - Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have fallen precipitously since mid-January. But breakthrough infections have hit a number of high-powered Washington residents in recent days, with vaccinated leaders including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Congressman Adam Schiff announcing they had tested positive.

4-8-22 Ketanji Brown Jackson: US Senate votes to confirm judge to top court
The US Supreme Court is to include a black female justice for the first time in its 233-year history after the Senate confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nine-member bench. Three Republicans crossed the aisle to seal her appointment by a vote of 53 to 47. Justice Jackson's appointment fulfils President Joe Biden's campaign promise to put a black woman on the court. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, called it a "joyous day" for the US. The vote was overseen by Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first black woman to hold the office. Ms Jackson, 51, will replace Justice Stephen Breyer, a fellow liberal judge for whom she once clerked, upon his retirement in June. The lifetime appointment will likely see Ms Jackson on the bench for decades, but will not shift the ideological balance of the current court, with its 6-3 conservative majority. Ms Jackson has said she has a "methodology" to deciding cases but not an overarching philosophy. And she agreed with Republican senators about the importance of abiding by the text of the Constitution, as it was intended by the founders. During her confirmation, Democrats touted her experience working as a public defender. She will be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall - the first black Supreme Court justice - to have career experience representing criminal defendants. The jurist, a Washington DC native, currently sits on the influential US court of Appeals for the DC circuit. She has two degrees from Harvard University and once served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. She worked as a public defender in Washington before joining a private practice prior to her judicial appointments. Some Republicans took issue with clients Ms Jackson took on as a public defence lawyer - namely terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, with some accusing her of being soft on crime. Others, however, applauded the diversity of experience her legal career would bring to the bench over the course of what was at times highly fractious and almost entirely polarised six week confirmation process.

4-8-22 Anita Hill reacts to Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation: 'We should all be celebrating'
Anita Hill is reacting with "pure joy" to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation after condemning the Senate's "shocking" hearings. Hill, who testified about her sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, shared her reaction on CNN to Jackson being confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. "Pure joy," Hill said. "And not just joy for her, but also joy for the court and the American justice system. We should all be celebrating on all of those fronts." Hill, who is now a professor of social policy, law, and women's studies, celebrated the fact that Jackson will bring a "different perspective" to the Supreme Court, calling her confirmation an "important cultural moment." Prior to Thursday's confirmation vote, Hill argued in a Washington Post op-ed that Jackson was mistreated during the Senate's "shameful" confirmation hearings, comparing this to her own treatment by the Senate in 1991. She argued Republicans "repeatedly smeared" Jackson's reputation by "peddling false narratives about her supposed coddling of child pornographers and terrorists," demonstrating "their willingness to employ racist and sexist attacks." Hill told CNN the hearings were "shocking" to watch, especially given the Senate confirmed Jackson to another position less than a year earlier, and she expressed disappointment that "we had this opportunity to welcome a highly qualified Black woman" to the Supreme Court and "we couldn't conduct ourselves in a manner that was consistent the importance of that historic moment." In 2019, then-candidate Joe Biden expressed regret over the fact that Hill "did not get treated well" when she testified about Thomas, which occurred when Biden was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I apologize again because, look, here's the deal. She just did not get treated fair across the board," Biden said. "The system did not work."

4-8-22 NY attorney general seeks to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court
New York's top lawyer has asked a state judge to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court, for allegedly failing to turn over files for an investigation into his business practices. Attorney General Letitia James requested he be fined $10,000 (£7,650) per day until he complies. A judge previously ordered Mr Trump to provide the files as part of Ms James's probe into the Trump Organization. The former president's lawyer called the motion "frivolous". The New York attorney general opened a civil inquiry in 2019 into claims that - before he took office - Mr Trump had inflated the value of his assets to banks when seeking loans. Mr Trump and his family have denied wrongdoing and the former president has called the inquiry a "witch hunt". In February, a judge ruled that Mr Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr, 44, and daughter Ivanka Trump, 40, must answer questions under oath in the New York investigation into their business practices. They appealed the order to appear but did not object to a separate part of the ruling that the former president comply with a subpoena "seeking documents and information". Those were meant to be produced by 31 March. In court documents filed on Thursday, the New York attorney general said Mr Trump has not produced the requested documents and has raised objections "based on grounds such as overbreadth, burden, and lack of particularity". "The judge's order was crystal clear: Donald J Trump must comply with our subpoena and turn over relevant documents to my office," Ms James said in a statement. Ms James has repeatedly blamed Mr Trump for creating unnecessary delays in the legal process. Mr Trump's lawyer, Alina Habba, said in a statement sent to Reuters that: "We are prepared to adamantly oppose the frivolous and baseless motion filed by the attorney general's office. "Our client has consistently complied with the many discovery requests served by the attorney general's office over the years." The civil case is separate to a Manhattan criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's practices.

4-8-22 Canada proposes foreign buyers home real estate ban
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has proposed a two-year ban on some foreigners buying homes. The measure comes as the country grapples with some of the worst housing affordability issues in the world. Prices have jumped more than 20%, pushing the average home in Canada to nearly C$817,000 ($650,000; £495,000) - more than nine times household income. But industry analysts say it's not clear a ban on foreign buyers will address the problem. Data on purchases by foreign buyers in Canada is limited, but research suggests they amount for a small fraction of the market. "I don't think it's going to have a huge impact," said Ben Myers, president of advisory firm Bullpenn Research & Consulting in Toronto, who found foreigners accounted for just 1% of purchases in 2020, down from 9% in 2015 and 2016. "It's a fairly low number and let's face it, the people that really want to buy ... are going to find alternative ways to do it." Mr Myers said the soaring housing costs reflect strong population growth and a shortage of supply, due in part to rules that restrict development. The issues have worsened since the pandemic hit in 2020, when policymakers in Canada and elsewhere slashed interest rates to stabilise the economy, lowering borrowing costs and boosting demand even further. The moves have fuelled the soaring housing prices seen in many markets around the world, but in Canada the disconnect between home prices and incomes is one of the most dramatic, according to OECD data. Mr Trudeau pledged to tackle housing affordability during his campaign for election last year. In addition to the temporary ban on foreign buyers, the budget proposal his government unveiled on Thursday sets aside billions to spur new construction and proposes new programmes, such as a tax-free savings account for first-time buyers. Mr Trudeau has also discussed banning certain bidding processes that favour investors, who by some measures have accounted for about one in five homes purchased in Canada since 2014.

4-7-22 Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted 93-24 to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over allegations of war crimes and rights violations in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reports. There were 58 abstentions, and a two-thirds majority was needed, Axios notes. For context, 141 countries voted last month in favor of a resolution "deploring" Russia's invasion and demanding the complete withdrawal of Kremlin troops from Ukraine. Russia is now the second country to lose its Human Rights Council membership since the assembly's inception in 2006. In 2011, Libya was suspended from the council during then-leader Moammar Gaddafi's crackdown on anti-government protests, AP writes. The vote to suspend Russia arrives after reports of an alleged civilian massacre emerged out of the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Ukraine last weekend. "The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has vehemently denied its troops were responsible," AP writes. On Tuesday, in an address before the UN Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared the atrocities in Bucha to the actions of terrorist groups like the Islamic State. Ahead of Thursday's vote, Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, urged all UN member states to move in favor of suspension, CNN reports. "Now the world has come to a crucial juncture. We witness that our liner is going through treacherous fog towards deadly icebergs," Kyslytsya said, per CNN. "It might seem that we should have named it the Titanic instead of the Human Rights Council. ... We need to take an action today to save the council from sinking."

4-7-22 1st acquittal of a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant is reshaping other cases
Shawn Witzemann, a New Mexico man facing four misdemeanor charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, has decided not to go through with a planned plea deal with the government, after another Jan. 6 defendant was acquitted by a federal judge on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said it was "not unreasonable" for the defendant, Matthew Martin, to believe that law enforcement officials were letting some protesters inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, and ruled prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly entered a restricted area. This was the first acquittal of a Capitol riot defendant. Witzemann's attorney, Guy L. Womack, told NBC News on Thursday that Martin's case was the "proverbial straw that broke the camel's back," and his client is no longer planning to plead guilty, wanting to instead go through with a trial. Witzemann has been charged with knowingly entering restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. He has claimed he was acting as a journalist when he entered the Capitol during the attack. Witzemann will go before Judge Thomas F. Hogan, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who has publicly commented on the seriousness of the Capitol attack, NBC News reports, calling it "an insurrection" and "probably the worst thing that's happened to our democratic way of life in our history except for the War of 1812."

4-7-22 Manhattan D.A. Bragg insists Trump criminal case isn't 'shelved,' vows to publicly state indictment decision
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Thursday that despite the high-profile resignation of the two top prosecutors working on a criminal case against former President Donald Trump, that investigation is still ongoing. Bragg told The New York Times his office has recently questioned new witnesses about Trump and reviewed additional documents, but "citing grand jury secrecy rules," the Times reports, "Bragg declined to provide details on the new steps in the investigation." Bragg also sat down for an interview with CNN, as a skeptical MSNBC's Ari Melber showed. The two prosecutors who resigned said in a leaked letter that their team is convinced Trump is "guilty of numerous felony violations," it was "a grave failure of justice" not to hold him accountable, and the investigation has been "suspended indefinitely" by Bragg, who took over in January. Bragg told the Times their "letter speaks for itself," but he has not "shelved" anything and he's taking an "all of the above" approach to the investigation, which he has assigned to one of his most senior prosecutors, Susan Hoffinger. The team working on this investigation is comprised of dedicated, experienced career prosecutors," Bragg said in a statement. "They are going through documents, interviewing witnesses, and exploring evidence not previously explored. In the long and proud tradition of white-collar prosecutions at the Manhattan D.A.'s Office, we are investigating thoroughly and following the facts without fear or favor." Bragg also said in his statement that he will publicly announced his decision about whether or not to seek an indictment of Trump. "I'm the district attorney," he told the Times. "I own this decision, whatever conclusion we come to."

4-7-22 Ruby Bridges speaks out on book bans: 'Surely we are better than this'
Ruby Bridges is speaking out on efforts to ban books — including her own. The civil rights activist testified before Congress on Thursday in a hearing on "book bans and academic censorship." Last year, parents in Tennessee reportedly objected to teaching a book by Bridges, who at six years old became the first Black child to integrate a segregated school in New Orleans. Bridges testified that when she heard about efforts like these, she initially didn't respond because it "didn't deserve more attention." But she said that "as these bans have somehow gained even more momentum," she decided to speak out. "My books are written to bring people together," she said. "Why would they be banned? But the real question is, why are we banning any books at all? Surely we are better than this. We are the United States of America with freedom of speech." Bridges went on to say her books highlight Americans who were "seeking the best version of our country," and they reflect "our shared history: good, bad, and ugly." After speaking about becoming "the poster child for the civil rights movement," she also told Congress that "rarely do children of color of immigrants see themselves" in textbooks taught in schools. "If we are going to have a conversation about banning books, then I say that conversation is long overdue," she said. "Let's have it. But it must include all books. If we are to ban books for being too truthful, then surely we must ban those books that distort or omit the truth." Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) opened the hearing by stressing the importance of learning to "tolerate the speech you abhor, as well as the speech you agree with," adding, "If we cancel or censor everything that people find offensive, nothing will be left."

4-7-22 Ukraine war: Kyiv's successes do not mean imminent victory
The course of the war in Ukraine has taken many by surprise, not least the Russian leadership. But as our world affairs editor John Simpson reports from the western city of Lviv, Ukraine's politicians are cautioning against too much optimism. Some commentators in the West seem to think the Ukrainian war is pretty much won. One American military historian says he knows of no parallel to a major power like Russia invading a country at the time of its choosing and failing so utterly. Here in Ukraine, though, people aren't nearly so confident. They think they're in for a long slog, which will end either with a clear defeat for Russia, or - alternatively - when President Vladimir Putin feels he has gained enough Ukrainian territory to be able to claim victory. Precisely because they believe they are in for a long and difficult war, Ukrainian politicians from President Volodymyr Zelensky down are getting angry with what Ukraine sees as Nato's pathetically slow delivery of weapons supplies. The governor of Lviv Maksym Kozytsky, a close ally of the president, says, "In my opinion, from the West there is a policy of double standards and cowardice. It's cowardice not to call a spade a spade. And cowardice not to take any position. And cowardice leads to tragedies." There is a persistent feeling here that Nato is dragging its feet. Western officials here say this isn't true, and they're puzzled by it. The US chargé d'affaires to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien - currently based in Poland - insists that the US and its allies are pumping weaponry into Ukraine as fast as they can. But she accepts that the Kyiv government will always want more and quicker arms deliveries. Tanks are now starting to arrive from the Czech Republic - though one lesson of this war so far has been that tanks are horribly vulnerable to drones and shoulder-held missiles. The US is considering providing anti-ship weapons to counter the bombardment of towns and cities along the coast from Odesa eastwards.

4-7-22 Ukraine War: Veterans prepare for battle in occupied Luhansk
The sound of Russian artillery grew louder as we drove to a Ukrainian frontline position in Luhansk. The rumble of shelling interspersed with the occasional burst of small arms fire. We were within 500 metres of the Russian positions. This may be a conflict in the 21st century but, at times, with its maze of trenches, it feels more like something from the First World War. Russia's military offensive in eastern Ukraine is already intensifying. You can see it in the long queues of traffic driving west towards relative safety; you can feel it in the deserted streets as you drive through the towns and cities of the Donbas; and you can hear it with the increasing sound of Russian artillery. Russia is redeploying more of its forces from northern to eastern Ukraine. The objective is to step up the battle in the Luhansk and Donetsk - parts of which were already controlled by Russian backed separatists. Russia will take advantage of its shorter supply lines - something which proved a problem in its failed offensive on the capital Kyiv. Russia and its proxies now control around 90% of Luhansk and more than half of Donetsk - the old industrial heartlands of Ukraine. There is smoke rising across a landscape already scarred by mining and factories. Ukrainian forces have been fighting a war here for the past eight years. Their units include some of the country's most battle hardened troops. Western officials say Ukrainian forces stationed in the Donbas are the best trained and equipped units. As the Russian offensive pushes from the north, east and south there is a real danger they may soon be encircled and cut off. Ukraine has already lost ground to Russia. But they are digging in for the fight. As we travelled east towards the frontline we saw new defensive positions and trenches being dug. Anatoly, a 52-year-old soldier, peered through a periscope from his trench to view the Russian positions. He told me "I see the Russians, they look like me". But he was ready to hold the line. He said "if they try to take our position, I will kill them. If I don't kill them, they will kill me. It's the rules of war."

4-7-22 Nato: Ukraine asks for 'weapons, weapons, weapons'
Ukraine says it urgently needs more weapons from its Western allies to defend itself against Russia. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more atrocities against civilians like in Bucha could happen if Ukraine doesn't quickly get more military aid. Nato foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels where they will discuss military aid to Ukraine. Russia has warned that "pumping weapons into Ukraine" will have a "negative effect" on peace talks. "My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it: weapons, weapons and weapons," Mr Kuleba said before a meeting with Nato foreign ministers on Thursday. Although Ukraine is not a member of Nato, it is being supported by the alliance and many Nato countries are already supplying Ukraine with weapons. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more atrocities against civilians like in Bucha could happen if Ukraine doesn't quickly get more military aid. Nato foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels where they will discuss military aid to Ukraine. Russia has warned that "pumping weapons into Ukraine" will have a "negative effect" on peace talks. "My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it: weapons, weapons and weapons," Mr Kuleba said before a meeting with Nato foreign ministers on Thursday. Although Ukraine is not a member of Nato, it is being supported by the alliance and many Nato countries are already supplying Ukraine with weapons. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was already supporting Ukraine, but promised Moscow would be left in no doubt over "our readiness to protect and defend all allies". but also heavier weapons and many different types of support to Ukraine," Mr Stoltenberg said on Thursday. Over 30 countries including the UK have provided military aid to Ukraine, including €1bn (£800m) from the EU and $1.7bn (£1.3bn) from the US. So far Western supplies have been limited to arms, ammunition, and defensive equipment like anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems.

4-7-22 Ukraine War: 'Russian soldiers held us as human shields'
Clear evidence of Russian troops rounding up Ukrainian civilians and using them as human shields has been found by the BBC. In multiple interviews in Obukhovychi, villagers say they were taken from their homes at gunpoint and held in a school by Russians trying to stop advancing Ukrainian forces. Local people also gave accounts of Russian troops shooting civilians and holding others captive in and around Ivankiv, the neighbouring town. On the night of 14 March, Russian soldiers in Obukhovychi were under attack and losing men and armoured vehicles. The Ukrainians were regaining territory. As darkness fell, local people, sheltering in their cellars, heard explosions and the grinding sound of armoured vehicles manoeuvring. They had been under Russian occupation since the start of the invasion - the area was on the main axis of Russian advance. Obukhovychi is 100km (60 miles) from Kyiv, close to Belarus and just south of the exclusion zone around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. We have now managed to speak to many people about what happened that night. They all told us the same stories about 24 hours that traumatised the village. Families described how the Russians went door-to-door, rounded them up at gunpoint, and marched them to the local school - where the Russian forces used them as protection. Many of the houses in the village had the Ukrainian word for "people" painted on their gates - a way of warning soldiers to be careful and not hurt them. But, in the end, the signs were a magnet to Russian troops. We were told that if people didn't open their doors, the Russians broke them down. About 150 civilians, including the elderly and small children, were taken from their cellars to the school. "The [Russians] are fascists, vandals. It was chaos, children and people crying… I don't want to talk about the Russians. They're not human beings," 60-year-old Ivan told us. Lydmila Sutkova described the terror of being rounded up at the school. "When explosions came, we thought if the ceiling falls this will become a mass grave."

4-7-22 U.S. is training Ukrainians to use their new Switchblade drones, discussing fuel needs, Pentagon says
The Biden administration approved another $100 million in military assistance for Ukraine this week and announced that it has sent Ukraine 100 Switchblade drones, a type of light "kamikaze" drone that can be outfitted with explosives and flown into enemy targets. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that Ukraine has a particularly "urgent" need for Javelin portable anti-tank systems, and a senior Pentagon official elaborated that the "urgent need for Javelins" and the larger $100 million package is because "Ukrainians wanted to make sure that they're ready for increased Russian activity" in the Donbas. Kirby also said the U.S. military has trained a "very small number" of Ukrainian soldiers in the U.S. to use the Switchback drones. This "very small number" of Ukrainians, "less than a dozen," were already in the U.S. for professional training, "and we took advantage of the opportunity to pull them aside for a couple of days and provide them some training, particularly on the Switchblade UAVs," the senior Pentagon official said. "That is a system that is not organic to the Ukrainian military," though it's "not a very difficult system to operate," and "our expectation is that these individuals will be heading back into Ukraine relatively soon, as they were originally anyway." The U.S. has been getting the weapons to Ukraine "incredibly fast," anywhere from "four to six days has been the average of getting stuff from literally, from taking off from the states and getting into Ukrainian hands," the Pentagon official said. Such transfers have "never been done that fast before," Kirby agreed. The Pentagon official also suggested that the U.S. might help Ukraine's military with fuel, since Russia has been targeting fuel depots. "I will just tell you that we have had discussions with the Ukrainians about fuel needs and fuel requirements. And those discussions are ongoing. And I'll leave it at that." That comment deserves "special notice," tweeted Phillips O'Brien, a professor of strategic studies at Scotland's University of St. Andrews. It "looks like the U.S. is going to do what they can to get them the fuel to operate. Maintaining Ukrainian mobility in the Donbas will be crucial."

4-7-22 Ex-federal defense contractor is 1st Capitol riot defendant to be acquitted
A federal judge on Wednesday acquitted Matthew Martin, a New Mexico resident and former federal contractor facing misdemeanor charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. This is the first acquittal of a Capitol riot defendant. Martin testified during his bench trial that police officers let him enter the Capitol building during the riot, and he was unaware of everything going on around him. Prosecutors played footage in court shot by Martin at the Capitol, showing broken windows and the wails of an alarm. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said it was "not unreasonable" for Martin to believe law enforcement officials were letting some demonstrators come inside, and ruled that prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin knew he was entering a restricted area. Martin faced charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.After his arrest in April 2021, Martin lost his job as a contractor and the top-secret security clearance that came with it. Read more at NBC News.

4-7-22 Two men arrested after targeting Secret Service agents in influence operation
US officials have arrested two men who had spent thousands of dollars seeking to influence Secret Service agents. An affidavit filed with a US district court accused Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 36 of posing as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. FBI officials said the men had used the guise to get closer to four agents - one of whom served on first lady Jill Biden's protection detail. The agents have been put on leave ahead of an investigation, officials said. In a statement issued to the BBC, a Secret Service spokesperson said the agents will be "restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment and systems" as the investigation progresses. According to the affidavit filed on Wednesday by federal prosecutors, Mr Taherzadeh and Mr Ali spent thousands of dollars buying four Secret Service agents and one DHS official "rent-free apartments (with a total yearly rent of over $40,000 (£30.578) per apartment), iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator, and law enforcement paraphernalia". The pair also offered to buy one agent - who served as a protection officer for Mrs Biden - an assault rifle worth $2,000 (£1,528). Investigators said the men began to pose as federal agents around February 2020 in the closing months of the Trump administration, but declined to offer a motivation for the ruse and said the investigation is ongoing. The pair also spent thousands obtaining handguns, rifles and other material to pose as DHS employees, and Mr Taherzadeh often offered their targets the use of vehicles he said belonged to the government. Mr Taherzadeh also sent agents photos of himself in DHS bullet proof vests and a picture which was purportedly from a training seminar, but was really pulled from a social media post. However, an investigation into the pair was launched last month after an official from the US Postal Service responded to a report of an assault on a delivery worker.

4-7-22 2 men arrested over bizarre plot to pose as federal officers and gift Secret Service agents 'rent-free apartments'
Two men have reportedly been arrested as part of a bizarre plot to impersonate federal officers and provide Secret Service agents with gifts, including rent-free apartments. 40-year-old Arian Taherzadeh and 36-year-old Haider Ali were arrested and charged after they allegedly falsely claimed they worked for the Department of Homeland Security and were investigating violence connected to Jan. 6, according to The Associated Press. The men allegedly provided "rent-free apartments" costing over $40,000 a year to U.S. Secret Service members and a Department of Homeland Security employee, and Taherzadeh allegedly also offered to buy a $2,000 assault rifle for a Secret Service agent assigned to First Lady Jill Biden, CNN reports. Additionally, according to CNN, Taherzadeh allegedly gifted federal agents "iPhones, surveillance systems, a drone, a flat screen television, a case for storing an assault rifle, a generator, and law enforcement paraphernalia." The men also set up surveillance systems in a D.C. building and claimed to residents "that they could access any of their cellphones at any time," the AP reports. The men allegedly posed as DHS officers going back to Feb. 2020, according to The Washington Post. Four Secret Service agents have now been placed on leave. The agency told CNN, "The Secret Service has worked, and continues to work, with its law enforcement partners on this ongoing investigation. All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment and systems." But the AP says it's not currently clear what the two men who posed as federal agents were actually attempting to accomplish.

4-7-22 Amir Locke: No charges filed in Minneapolis 'no-knock' police shooting
No criminal charges will be brought against a Minneapolis police officer who shot dead a 22-year-old man in an apartment during a "no-knock" raid. Amir Locke was at his cousin's apartment on 2 February when a Swat team entered the home. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge officer Mark Hanneman, who fired the fatal shot. They also said they did not have enough evidence to prove criminal wrongdoing by any of the other officers involved. Mr Locke was sleeping in a couch in his cousin's apartment when a nine-member Swat team entered the home. In bodycam footage released by the police after the incident, he is under a blanket on the couch holding a gun - for which he had a permit - in his hand. He was shot three times by Mr Hanneman. His family has said they believe he was startled and reached for the weapon in self-defence. A judge had approved a warrant for the raid, which was conducted as part of an investigation into a fatal shooting in the neighbouring city of St Paul. Mr Locke was not a suspect in the killing or named in the warrant, and his death prompted outrage and protests in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, County Attorney Michael Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement that there was "insufficient admissible evidence to file criminal charges in this case". The circumstances in the case "are such that an objectively reasonable officer in Officer Hanneman's position would have perceived an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm" the statement said, adding that "an objectively reasonable officer would not delay in using deadly force". The statement also said that Mr Locke, an aspiring musician, was a victim and that his life mattered. "He should be alive today, and his death is a tragedy". Mr Locke's mother Karen Wells said in a news conference following the announcement that she was "disgusted with Minneapolis, Minnesota". Her son's death drew comparisons to the case of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky home by US police in March 2020 during another no-knock raid, which allows police to access without announcing their presence before entering.

4-7-22 Shanghai: Residents 'running out of food' in Covid lockdown
Some residents under lockdown in Shanghai say they are running out of food, amid the city's biggest-ever Covid outbreak. Residents are confined to their homes, banned from leaving for even essential reasons such as grocery shopping. Nearly 20,000 cases were reported on Thursday in China's biggest city - another near-record high. Officials have admitted the city is facing "difficulties" but say they are trying to improve this. But public anger is also being stoked by other drastic measures - such as the removal of children from their parents if they test positive. Shanghai officials later responded by allowing parents who were also infected to accompany their children to isolation centres. However, according to a Reuters report, there are still complaints over children separated from parents who were not Covid-positive. The city began another round of mandatory mass testing on Wednesday to identify and isolate every case. Shanghai residents who test positive can't isolate in their homes even if their conditions are mild or asymptomatic. They have to go to mandatory quarantine facilities, which critics say have become crowded and have sub-par conditions. When Omicron first emerged in Shanghai a month ago, the city quarantined only certain compounds. Then as the virus spread officials last week implemented a staggered lockdown where the city was split into two and each half had separate measures. On Monday the lockdown was extended indefinitely to cover the entire city of 25 million people. Strict rules mean most people have to order in food and water and wait for government drop-offs of vegetables, meat and eggs. But the lockdown extension has overwhelmed delivery services, grocery shop websites and even the distribution of government supplies. Many delivery personnel are also in locked-down areas, leading to an overall decrease in delivery capacity. Locals in some areas of the city say they've been completely cut off.

4-6-22 Over 2,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived at America's southern border in the last 10 days
The U.S. is experiencing a new surge of Ukrainian refugees at the southern border, with over 2,000 arrivals in the past 10 days, The New York Times reports. The sharp uptick in Ukrainian migrants, who are joining those from other countries around the world, poses an "immediate challenge" for U.S. border officials, the Times writes, considering authorities are already expecting a flood of activity once the restrictive Title 42 public health order is lifted at the end of May. The new arrivals also highlight the racial inequity at the border, where European migrants are treated seemingly more favorably than those from other regions. Just a week ago, only 50 Ukrainian refugees had found their way to the Mexican border city of Tijuana. But soon thereafter, that number surged to 500, then 1,200, the Times writes. A makeshift encampment was built, and "dozens of Russian-speaking volunteers, religious organizations and private groups" stepped in to offer food, shelter, and medical care to migrants figuring out their next move. Much of the issue stems from the U.S. promise to accept 100,000 refugees from Ukraine without detailing how it was going to do so, the Times writes. So instead, those with family and friends in the U.S. paid thousands of dollars to just travel to Mexico where they can enter sans visa, the Times writes. The government "made an announcement and had no program in place," said volunteer Olya Krasnykh from California. Meanwhile, outside experts are wondering why Ukrainian migrants get priority "over those from Central American and elsewhere," the Times writes. "President Biden's decision to welcome Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the United States is the right thing to do," said Center for Gender and Refugee Studies' Blaine Bookey. But "there is no way to look at what's happening at the southern border other than along racial lines."

4-6-22 Texas Gov. Abbott wants to begin busing 'hordes' of migrants to the steps of the U.S. Capitol
In response to the Biden administration's decision to lift a COVID-era southern border policy at the end of May, Texas will provide border communities with charter buses so they can ship migrants to Washington, D.C., The Texas Tribune reports Wednesday, per Texas. Gov Greg Abbott (R). According to Abbott, the migrants will be better off in the nation's capital, where the Biden administration can "more immediately" address their needs. "To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants who are being dropped off by the Biden administration, Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington D.C.," Abbott said, per the Tribune. "We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border." Much to Abbott's dismay, the U.S. last week set a date to end public health order Title 42, which, for COVID-19 related reasons, gave the U.S. power to rapidly expel migrants at the border. Those against lifting the highly-criticized policy have argued that halting its enforcement will cause an overwhelming surge in migration, though federal officials have also estimated similarly. Abbott himself has claimed lifting Title 42 will incite violence and "lawlessness." The Texas governor said Wednesday that the buses will begin by dropping migrants off at the steps of the Capitol, per the Tribune. Abbott has also said Texas will create boat blockades on the Rio Grande to further deter migrants. Read more at The Texas Tribune.

4-6-22 Ukraine War: Western leaders to impose further sanctions on Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he "cannot tolerate any indecisiveness" ahead of the West imposing further sanctions on Russia. The US said on Tuesday the measures will target financial and state-owned bodies, some officials and oligarchs. Media reports suggest Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughters will be among those on the list. The European Union is also expected to cut off Russian coal imports as concern over alleged war crimes increases. But Mr Zelensky, speaking to the Irish parliament on Wednesday, said there was still a need to convince some in Europe who believe "war and war crimes are not as horrific as financial losses" to back tougher sanctions. He added that "Russian oil cannot feed the Russian military machine", with Ukraine's foreign minister arguing on Twitter that an embargo on gas and oil was needed to truly impact Russia's ability to finance the war. Josep Borrell, the EU's chief diplomat, separately acknowledged on Wednesday that the one billion euros ($1.09bn; £833m) Europe spent on Russian energy every day put into sharp perspective the billion euros given to Ukraine in military assistance since the start of the invasion. Some European member states, including Germany, are heavily reliant on Russian energy and had been reluctant to directly target the sector. However, in a first, the European Commission proposed a potential ban on imports of Russian coal on Tuesday, which must be agreed by all 27 members. Europe buys around €4bn ($4.4bn; £3.3bn) worth of coal from Moscow every year. Sentiment appeared to change after evidence of Russian war crimes emerged, with French President Emmanuel Macron joining calls for a ban on coal earlier this week. The ban was suggested ahead of a range of sanctions set to be announced in coordination with the US and other G7 nations. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday a number were aimed at "holding accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports Putin's war".

4-6-22 Russia's Bucha horrors are pushing India, Turkey, other studiously neutral countries to the brink of condemnation
The horrific images and stories of Russian torture, executions, rape, and other atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine, have prompted new sanctions from Western nations and calls for war crimes prosecutions. Pope Francis on Wednesday kissed a battered Ukrainian flag "from that martyred city Bucha," fount of "testimony of new atrocities" and "horrendous cruelty carried out against civilians, defenseless women and children," the "victims whose innocent blood cries up to the sky and implores that this war be stopped." for the war crimes in Bucha. Countries with closer ties with Russia than the Vatican have started condemning the horrors documented out of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine under recent Russian occupation. Most aren't explicitly pinning the blame on Moscow, though they're now tiptoeing up to that line. "The images of the massacre ... are horrifying and sad for humanity," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. "The targeting of innocent civilians is unacceptable. It is our basic expectation that the issue is subjected to an independent investigation, that those responsible are identified and are held accountable." Turkey has been striving to be an honest broker between Kyiv and Moscow. India, which continues to buy Russian oil and has abstained from United Nations votes condemning Russia for its Ukraine invasion, called the Bucha reports "deeply disturbing" on Tuesday. "We unequivocally condemn these killings and support the call for an open investigation," India's U.N. ambassador T.S. Tirumurti said. China's U.N. ambassador and Foreign Ministry also called the Bucha reports "deeply disturbing" and called for an investigation. Cracks are also showing in countries trying to keep neutral on Russia. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday went much further than Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, saying "Russian forces committed war crimes against a defenseless civilian population" and reiterating "Israel's condemnation of the Russian invasion and the war crimes we have been exposed to in recent days." Bennett has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and is careful not to blame Russia. And even as India's government made what the BBC calls "the strongest statement it has made since Russia invaded Ukraine," the opposition Congress Party said India's position is becoming untenable. "Russia has been a trusted friend of India, and it has been a long-standing ally," lawmaker Manish Tewari said in Parliament. But "friends also have to be told if they are wrong, that they possibly need to get their act together."

4-6-22 Ukraine war: Destruction in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka
The town of Borodyanka may have faced some the worst attacks since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Police in the town, which is about 60km (40 miles) north-west of Kyiv, say there could be hundreds of people buried under the rubble of civilian apartment blocks destroyed in Russian shelling attacks. The BBC's Jeremy Bowen met people returning to Borodyanka.

4-6-22 Has Russia given up on taking Kyiv? Experts are divided.
After Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv region this week to re-focus Russia's invasion on eastern Ukraine, officials told CNN that the Ukrainian capital might not be entirely out of the woods just yet. Per CNN, U.S. and European officials said Putin's long-term goals remain unclear and warned that he could launch another attack on the Kyiv region if the pivot to eastern Ukraine proves successful. Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, wrote in The Spectator that Russia appears to have given up on its "its regime-change mission in Kyiv" and is instead aiming to achieve "a de facto partition of Ukraine." Ramani also argues, however, that Putin might not be satisfied with that outcome. "Putin's legacy to his core supporters could hinge on achieving the seemingly impossible: the subjugation of Ukraine ... As Putin fears backlash from hawks in his orbit more than anti-war demonstrators, a renewed Russian assault on Ukraine's major cities remains a possibility," Ramani wrote. Others seemed more confident that Putin won't be back for a second attempt to capture Kyiv. "I think they learned their lesson," Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel and military history professor at Ohio State University, told The Associated Press.

4-6-22 Mother ‘begged for life' of IS hostage, court hears
Parents of a US humanitarian worker killed by the Islamic State begged for her life in emails to her captors, a court has heard. Kayla Mueller, 26, was one of several people who died at the hands of a Syria-based IS terror cell dubbed the Beatles due to their British accents. On Tuesday, her mother Marsha spoke at the federal trial of El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, known as "Jihadi George". He has denied charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy to murder. Mr Elsheikh is the highest profile IS fighter to face trial in the US and the only alleged member of the notorious Beatles cell to do so. He has been linked to at least 27 abductions, but has asserted that he was not part of the group. The Sudanese-born Londoner, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2018, is accused of taking hostages, resulting in the deaths of four Americans - Ms Mueller, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig. He is also charged with conspiring in the deaths of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, and Japanese journalists Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. In opening statements last week, his lawyer argued that he was "a simple ISIS fighter" who went to Syria alone to support "suffering Muslims". But prosecutors played back past media interviews with Mr Elsheikh that contradict the claim he was not involved in the hostage taking scheme. During one interview, Mr Elsheikh describes asking the jailed Ms Mueller for an email address to reach her family, although he goes on to say he never sent any emails. Inside the Virginia courthouse on Tuesday, Ms Mueller's mother described exchanging several emails with the IS captors, in which she begged for her daughter's life.

4-6-22 Senate negotiators reach $10 billion COVID funding deal, without global vaccine funds
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Monday announced a $10 billion deal to fund COVID-19 treatments, vaccines, and related domestic tools to fight the pandemic. But the deal, lower than the $22.5 billion requested by the White House, doesn't contain funds for helping other countries fight the pandemic, slightly complicating the deal's passage through the Democratic-controlled House. Romney, the top GOP negotiator, said the package would address America's "urgent COVID needs" and highlighted that it "will not cost the American people a single additional dollar," since the funds were repurposed from previous COVID-19 relief packages. Schumer, the lead Democratic bargainer, said that "while we were unable to reach an agreement on international aid in this new agreement, many Democrats and Republicans are committed to pursuing a second supplemental later this spring." The White House, which had warned the federal government was running out of funds for vaccines and treatments, backed the compromise deal. "Every dollar we requested is essential," said Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "But time is of the essence. We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs." Republican negotiators over the weekend couldn't agree on a unified position on the international aid, with some insisting it be tied to President Biden dropping his plan to halt pandemic border rules, Politico reports. Democratic negotiators agreed to drop the funding to get the domestic funds on the move, but they called it penny-wise, pound-foolish. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said it was a "grave mistake" and "fiscally foolish" to not send tens of millions of unused U.S. vaccines aboard. "We know that the virus is going to mutate much more effectively in large bodies of unvaccinated people," said Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), co-chair of the Global Vaccination Caucus, and mutations travel around the world.

4-6-22 COVID cases, deaths down globally, but numbers carry 'considerable uncertainty'
The global tally of COVID-19 cases has dropped for the second week in a row, with confirmed coronavirus deaths also falling last week, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday, per The Associated Press. Nine million cases, "a 16 percent weekly decline," and more than 26,000 deaths were reported in this latest update, AP writes, according to the WHO. Confirmed infections are down "in all regions of the world." That said, the agency warned that the updated numbers "carry considerable uncertainty" — given a number of countries have halted widespread testing measures, there are likely many cases going undetected, AP writes. The WHO is also monitoring an Omicron variant comprised of two different subvariants — BA.1 and BA. 2 — which the agency said could be approximately 10 percent more transmissible than previous mutations, though data is still coming in. Meanwhile, the U.K. has reported record levels of COVID-19 infection across the country, and China's Shanghai is still in lockdown after another surge in infections. Read more at The Associated Press.

4-6-22 Covid-19 news: One in 16 people infected in England
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. Cases are declining among younger age groups but remain high overall. One in 16 people in England is thought to have covid-19, the highest prevalence recorded by Imperial College London’s surveillance study React since it started in May 2020. According to the Office for National Statistics, which uses a different method for estimating SARS-CoV-2 infection rates, one in 16 people in England had covid-19 on the week ending 19 March, rising to one in 13 seven days later. In the latest React study, swabs collected from a random sample of almost 110,000 people suggest 6.37 per cent of England’s population tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus between 8 and 31 March – more than double the one in 35 people who were thought to have the infection the previous month. The more-transmissible omicron BA.2 sublineage made up an estimated 94.7 per cent of the March cases, up from just 0.8 per cent in January. A very small number of the infections were recombinants of the sublineages BA.1 and BA.2, including five incidences of the recombinant XE. Early tests suggest XE may be around 10 per cent more transmissible than BA.2, according to the World Health Organization. Shanghai’s lockdown has been extended to cover all of the city’s 25-million-strong population. China’s largest city was initially placed in a two-stage 10-day lockdown, affecting its eastern districts for five days, followed by an additional five days of restrictions in its western districts. On 4 April, the city reported 13,086 new asymptomatic cases, after testing 25 million people in 24 hours. This is a relatively low number of infections compared with other nations, however, China is imposing strict restrictions as it pursues a “zero covid” policy. A second booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine provides some protection against severe illness among people over 60 who are infected with omicron BA.1, according to a study of more than 1 million people in Israel. Severe illness aside, protection against infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself waned after four weeks.

4-6-22 Texas military says it needs another $531 million to continue controversial state border operation
Texas lawmakers approved $3 billion last year to fund Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) controversial state border mission, Operation Lone Star, but that money has already run dry, the Texas Military Department told a state Senate panel. The Texas Legislature allocated $412 million to the TMD for Operation Lone Star and state officials transferred over another $480 million to keep the operation going through the spring, but the military department said it will need another $531 million by May 1 to keep the mission going through the end of the fiscal year in September, The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday. State troopers are also involved in the operation. "I think, quite frankly, you can do the same job, border security, with a lot less troops," state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, the only Democrat on the three-person Senate Border Security Committee and a supporter of the deployment, told Texas military officials. "I really don't understand the number of having to use 10,000 National Guard troops for border security." Operation Lone Star has been marred by low morale, late paydays, and questions about its effectiveness, but Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, appointed the Texas Military Department's new leader in March, told the committee things are getting better. State Sen. Bob Hall (R) asked Suelzer about the rash of suicides tied to Operation Lone Star last year. Suelzer said "every suicide's a tragedy" and "we need to do better," but the Texas Army National Guard's suicide death rate has been below the Pentagon and Army National Guard rate for two of the last three years. "The general omitted that the state's worst year of the three had been 2021," the Tribune notes, when the Texas National Guard's suicide rate was nearly double the National Guard average nationwide. Abbott says his operation has had success against drug trafficking and violence. But the plurality or majority of arrests from Operation Lone Star have been for misdemeanor trespassing on private property, Abbott's solution to sidestep constitutional restrictions on states enforcing border policy, the Tribune and ProPublica reported Monday. Those arrests have clogged local prisons and overwhelmed the justice systems of the participating counties, leading to migrants and asylum seekers spending months in jail awaiting trial or even charges, the Tribune reports. "There is also little evidence that trespassing arrests have lowered the levels of illegal crossings, which remain at record highs along the southern U.S. border, including in the regions heavily targeted by the operation."

4-6-22 Welcome to the Trump circus — without the clown-in-chief
Other politicians are now playing the same destabilizing role as the former president. Remember the Trump administration? I sometimes wonder if we do. Not the big moments — the corporate tax cut, the chummy meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the insults to our NATO allies, the two impeachments, the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Those events have become part of our country's recent political history and remain fully present in our minds. I mean the feeling of those four years. The sense of the country descending into chaos, driven to mad derangement by the president of the United States tweeting insults and provocations 24/7. To cite one example among thousands, on the morning of April 17, 2020, more than a month into lockdowns connected to the COVID-19 pandemic and a day after issuing guidance for reopening the country that deferred to state officials, President Donald Trump tweeted "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!," "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!," and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!" What did it mean? Was the president inciting an insurrection against the governors of these states? Was he joking? Trolling half of the country like some social medias--tposter with an unusually large and attentive following? Just about every day of the Trump presidency felt like the morning of April 17, 2020. Our president was a gaslighting demagogue-carnival barker, the ringmaster of the three-ring circus he'd set up at the center of our national life. To cover, closely follow, or comment on the news during those years was to question one's own sanity and capacity for shock on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. And then it was over. Despite Trump's pathetic incapacity to accept the truth of his defeat in the 2020 election, he in fact lost and left office at the appointed time, losing access to his social media megaphone in the process. The result has been at least a partial reversion to a more normal style of politics, with a fairly boring president doing properly presidential things, and a political news cycle somewhat less manic and harried. And as a result, we've begun to forget the experience of political psychosis that marked the preceding four years — while vaguely dreading its return the moment the 45th president launches another campaign for the presidency a little over a year from now.

4-6-22 Farming labour shortage could mean price rises, MPs warn
Chronic labour shortages in the food and farming sector could lead to price rises and the UK becoming more dependent on food imports, MPs warn. The report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said Covid and Brexit had a huge impact on the sector. MPs want ministers to ease English language rules for skilled workers, and expand the seasonal worker visa scheme. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was "continuing to work with the sector". Last year, a sudden decline in overseas labour led to more than half a million job vacancies in the food and farming sector, out of a workforce of four million. Almost a quarter of the UK daffodil crop was left unpicked. Fruit suppliers were forced to leave produce rotting in the fields. A lack of skilled butchers and abattoir workers meant some 35,000 pigs destined to be made into sausages, bacon and chops were incinerated or rendered - reduced to lard. When the supply of Christmas turkeys was threatened by a shortage of workers and HGV drivers, the government stepped in and set up a temporary visa scheme. However the committee heard that industry members had been warning the government since spring 2021 and that this was "too little too late". It led to a serious impact on animal welfare, food security, and the mental health of workers. While the report welcomed "some of the government's work" it warned that "without fundamental change" the UK was facing "a chain reaction of wage rises, leading to price increases and food production being exported abroad". Neil Parish, chairman of the EFRA committee, said: "The government's attitude to the plight of food and farming workers was particularly disappointing." MPs said they were "struck by the government's failure to grasp the labour issues" and there had been an "unwelcome tendency ... to blame the sector for not doing more to tackle the problem or fully utilising the immigration system, on the basis of incorrect information on its own immigration system".

4-6-22 Ivanka Trump testifies to Capitol riot committee
Former White House adviser Ivanka Trump testified for hours on Tuesday to the congressional committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol. Ms Trump, 40, was asked for her account of her father's activities as the crisis unfolded. She was one of several aides said to have tried to convince the president to condemn the violence. Her appearance comes days after her husband Jared Kushner, also an ex-White House adviser, met investigators. The questioning lasted up to eight hours, US media reports. Unlike other witnesses called before the committee, Ms Trump never attempted to invoke her right to remain silent, according to the panel's top chairman. "She's answering questions," congressman Bennie Thompson said. "Not in a broad, chatty term, but she's answering questions." The committee has also subpoenaed White House records of Mr Trump's meetings and actions on 6 January, but documents acquired by BBC media partner CBS News show no presidential contacts for more than seven hours, as the battle in the Capitol was at its most intense. That runs counter to multiple reports of presidential phone calls to Republicans in the US Capitol, including a heated conversation with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Ms Trump could shed light on the methods her father used communicate that day. One Democratic member of the committee described Mr Kushner's testimony as "helpful" in reconstructing the events of the day. As with Mr Kushner and the more than 800 other individuals called by the committee, Ms Trump's testimony has taken place in private. Public hearings are expected in May.

4-5-22 63 Republicans vote against House resolution affirming support for NATO and its 'democratic principles'
The House on Thursday evening passed a nonbinding resolution reaffirming its "unequivocal support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an alliance founded on democratic principles," and calling on President Biden "to use the voice and vote of the United States to establish a Center for Democratic Resilience within NATO headquarters," to underscore the alliance's "support for shared democratic values and committed to enhancing NATO's capacity to strengthen democratic institutions within NATO member, partner, and aspirant countries." The resolution passed 362 to 63, with all 63 no votes coming from Republicans, as Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) noted on Twitter. Weakening or destroying NATO is believed to be one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's top goals, and Pascrell called the vote evidence the GOP "truly is Putin's Party." Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a former U.S. Army commander in Europe, softened that allegation, suggesting that "perhaps this divisiveness in the U.S. government remains one of Putin's strategic goals that hasn't yet been defeated." William Saletan, writing at The Bulwark, argues that even if the end result of GOP efforts to block U.S. and NATO actions against Russia's Ukraine invasion are "a gift to Vladimir Putin," the stated motives are a little more complicated. Since Russia attacked Ukraine, 21 Republicans "have opposed, or at least sought to constrain, aid to Ukraine or sanctions on Russia," having "swallowed a cocktail of isolationism, defeatism, partisan paranoia, and Russian disinformation," he writes, and he summarized what he sees as "the main pillars of their reasoning" on Twitter. "The other side of the equation is the near-unanimity of support among Democrats, even from very progressive members, for standing up to Russia," Saletan observes. "Leftist Democrats generally oppose armed intervention, yet nearly all of them voted for sanctions against Russia and military aid for Ukraine," even "the Squad," simply "because they recognize the war as a showdown between right and wrong." The 21 Republicans who evidently disagree make up "a group three times the size of 'the Squad,' which Republicans claim is in control of every aspect of Democratic policy," Saletan writes. "Imagine how much power those 21 Republicans would wield in a GOP-controlled House," not to mention the 63 who voted against the NATO resolution.

4-5-22 Top U.S. military officer: Ukraine conflict will likely last years
Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Tuesday said he believes the conflict in Ukraine is "very protracted" and will last for years. Milley, the highest ranking military official in the United States, testified before the House Armed Services Committee, his first appearance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February. He shared that he expects "NATO, the United States, Ukraine, and all of the allies and partners supporting Ukraine will be involved in this for quite some time." It might not be a decade, he said, but the conflict will be "measured in years." There are about 100,000 U.S. troops now stationed in Europe, the highest number since 2005, CBS News reports. Milley said because of the situation in Ukraine, he expects an increased U.S. presence in the region for some time. "My advice would be to create permanent bases but don't permanently station, so you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces cycling through permanent bases," he said.

4-5-22 Ukraine war: Zelensky fears worst atrocities still to be found
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the worst atrocities committed by Russian troops departing from the north of the country are yet to be discovered. He said the town of Borodyanka may have suffered more than others. Horrific images of bodies in streets in towns like Bucha have generated shock and condemnation worldwide. Ukrainian intelligence officials said Russian units based in the region would be sent back to eastern Ukraine. The 64th motorised rifle brigade - which they allege committed atrocities in Bucha - would return to the conflict within weeks, probably to the Kharkiv area, they said. Russia denies killing civilians, and without evidence says Ukraine staged the scenes. The Ukrainian government started a war crimes investigation after it said the bodies of 410 civilians had been found in areas around Kyiv. Some were discovered in mass graves while others had their hands tied and had apparently been shot at close range. Officials in Kyiv also accused Russian forces of killing a village head, her husband and her son in the village of Motyzhyn for aiding Ukrainian troops in the area. There are also reports of at least three apparently tortured bodies in the town of Konotop in another northern region, Sumy. The images from Bucha prompted US President Joe Biden to call for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes. His intervention came as new satellite photos by the earth observation company Maxar showing bodies lining Bucha's streets during its occupation by Russian forces were published. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference in Warsaw on Monday that the killings were the "tip of the iceberg" and demanded more severe sanctions against Russia. In a BBC interview, he cited the desperate situation in the southern town of Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks. "What we've seen in recent weeks is that Russia is much worse than Isis [the Islamic State group] when it comes to its atrocities and massacres," he said.

4-5-22 Bucha killings: Satellite image of bodies site cont
A satellite image of Bucha in Ukraine appears to show bodies lying in the street nearly two weeks before the Russians left the town. The image from 19 March, first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by the BBC, directly contradicts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's claim that footage of bodies in Bucha that has emerged in recent days was "staged" after the Russians withdrew. The satellite image shows objects that appear to be bodies in the exact locations where they were subsequently found by Ukrainian forces when they regained control of the town north of Kyiv. Along another section of the road, the image shows what appear to be more bodies on the ground. Russia has made a series of other unfounded claims relating to images from Bucha - here's what the evidence tells us.After the Russian withdrawal, footage taken from a car as it drove through the town showed bodies on either side of the road. The Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted the video, dismissing the idea that it showed corpses, with the caption "staged video showing faked dead bodies in the town of Bucha near Kiev". Pro-Russian social media accounts circulated a slowed-down version of the video, claiming that the arm on one of the bodies moved. The video is grainy but a closer analysis of it shows that what is claimed to be a moving arm, is actually a mark in the bottom right corner of the vehicle's windscreen. We've circled this mark - which looks like a raindrop or a speck of dirt - along with similar marks visible on the windscreen earlier in the video. Another Russian claim focuses on a different part of the footage. The car passes another body, lying next to a pavement with red and yellow stones and shattered brown fencing. As it drives on, the body can be seen briefly in the right-hand wing mirror. Pro-Russian accounts claim the body "sits up". But a slowed-down version of the video shows the wing mirror is clearly distorting the reflection of the body, as well as houses in the background.

4-5-22 Head of village near Bucha killed with family in Ukraine
Russian forces have killed a village head, her husband and her son, Ukrainian officials say. This - and the discovery of the bodies of five men dressed in civilian clothes - has added to growing evidence of atrocities on the ground in Ukraine. The BBC's Yogita Limaye has been to visit the two scenes. In the town of Bucha, just outside Kyiv, the horror of what unfolded during the Russian occupation is finally coming to light. In the basement of a building that once housed a children's community centre, five bodies lay crumpled on the ground - five men dressed in civilian clothes, their hands bound behind their backs. Some were shot in the head, others in the chest. They were yet to be identified, but Ukrainian officials said the men were taken hostage by Russian soldiers and executed. "We heard them being shot," said Vlad, one of the volunteers who carried the bodies up from the basement. "We heard mines go off in the area. Around us there are mines. We are lucky we are alive." Vlad described hearing a husband calling after his wife who went out into the street to get water, then a volley of shots. Later he found both husband and wife dead. "I can tell you so many stories but I don't want to," he said. "I want to forget them." Not far away, in the village of Motoyzhyn, four bodies lay in a shallow grave in the woods. Three have been identified - 51-year-old Olha Sukhenko, her husband Igor and her son Oleksander, who was 25. Olha was the head of the village. It is believed that she and her family were killed on suspicion of helping Ukrainian soldiers, and left on the edge of the woods, half-buried, Olha's hand and her son's face visible through the dirt. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bucha on Monday. "We want you to show the world what happened here, what the Russian military did, what the Russian Federation did in peaceful Ukraine. It was important for you to see that these were civilians," he said. He said Ukraine was still prepared to negotiate with Russia. "Ukraine deserves peace," he told the BBC. "We can't live with war. Every day our army is fighting, but we don't want the lives of millions to be lost. That's why we have to have dialogue with Russia."

4-5-22 Russian troops are retreating from Kyiv, will head east after 'significant re-equipping,' U.S. and U.K. say
"Ukrainian forces have retaken key terrain in the north of Ukraine, after denying Russia the ability to secure its objectives and forcing Russian forces to retreat from the areas around Chernihiv and north of Kyiv," Britain's Ministry of Defense said early Tuesday. "Low-level fighting is likely to continue in some parts of the newly recaptured regions" until "the remainder of Russian forces withdraw," and those forces "are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine." About two-thirds of the 20 Russian 800-strong fast-response units, known as battalion tactical groups, positioned around Kyiv have already turned back north to Belarus, a senior U.S. defense official concurred Monday, and "we continue to believe" those troops "are going to be refit, resupplied, perhaps maybe even reinforced with additional manpower, and then sent back into Ukraine to continue fighting elsewhere." "Clearly the maximalist goals originally set out by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have not been attained," the U.S. defense official added. He "made it very clear he was after regime change in Ukraine, and a key piece of achieving that regime change was taking the capital city. He has failed to do that, and they are now moving away on the ground." Ukraine appears to have forced Russia to retreat from Kyiv, but "the next stage of this conflict may very well be protracted" and even uglier, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday. "We should be under no illusions that Russia will adjust its tactics, which have included and will likely continue to include wanton and brazen attacks on civilian targets" as well as missile strikes across Ukraine intended "to cause military and economic damage and, frankly, to cause terror." "At this stage, the Russian force is tapped out," and "without national mobilization, there are very hard limits on what is available in terms of fighting power," Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert with the CNA think tank, tells The Washington Post. "Russian political leadership will have a very significant choice to make," he added. "They cannot sustain a war with Ukraine as a 'special operation," and trying "to prosecute a long war" with these "large objectives" is "just not sustainable," Kofman said. "They'll run out of troops."

4-5-22 Germany takes over Russia's Gazprom subsidiary after apparent attempt to transfer assets to a Moscow DJ
Germany on Monday appointed a German trustee to oversee Gazprom Germania, the German subsidiary of Russian oil giant Gazprom, calling it a "transitory solution" to Gazprom's legally dubious attempt to dispose of its German shareholdings, Politico reports. The trusteeship will stay in place until Sept. 30, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said. "The government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supply in Germany — this includes not exposing energy infrastructures in Germany to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin," Habeck said. "It was not announced who will be the new economic and legal owner of these holdings. This is in itself a violation of the notification requirement under the foreign trade and payments ordinance." Gazprom Germania owns all its critical infrastructure in Germany and the European Union, including pipelines and underground gas storage facilities, the BBC's Russian Service reports. And the new owner that Gazprom tried to transfer its German assets to is a Moscow resident who performs under the stage name DJ Five. The part-time DJ, Dmitry Tseplyaev, is director of a company called Palmary, which owns a tiny stake in Gazprom Export Business Services, the other company Gazprom tried to transfer its German assets to, BBC Russian reports. Tseplyaev did not reply when BBC News Russian asked him how he came to nearly own a huge stake of Russia's oil and gas giant. EU antitrust regulators are also reportedly investigating Gazprom Germania for possible price gouging.

4-5-22 Russia can no longer pay its debts with dollars held in U.S. banks
The United States Treasury on Monday blocked Russia from making debt payments using dollars held at U.S. banks, a move that could force Russia to deplete its domestically held dollar reserves or even default on its loans, Reuters reported Tuesday. According to Reuters, Russia had two payments due on Monday — "a $552.4 million principal payment on a maturing bond" and an "$84 million coupon payment ... on a 2042 sovereign dollar bond" — both of which were blocked by the Treasury. "Russia must choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in, or default," a Treasury spokesperson told Reuters. The Treasury's new restrictions come as multiple nations have imposed or threatened new sanctions against Russia after Ukrainian forces discovered hundreds of dead civilians in the Kyiv suburbs. On Tuesday, Reuters reported, the European Union announced that it would ban imports of Russian "coal, wood, Despite the international crackdown on Russia's economy, however, the Russian rouble has rebounded to its pre-war value, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The Post attributed the recovery to a mixture of strong oil and natural gas exports, limits on currency exchange imposed by Russia's central bank, and a decline in "panicked customer withdrawals."

4-5-22 U.S. seizes its 1st Russian oligarch superyacht since Putin's Ukraine invasion, intends to keep it
U.S. and Spanish authorities on Monday boarded and seized a superyacht the U.S. says belongs to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, at port on the Spanish island of Mallorca. A U.S. seizure warrant says Vekselberg has owned the Tango, a 250-foot luxury yacht worth about $90 million, since 2011, but has kept his ownership shielded through shell companies and other opaque financial instruments. Vekselberg, the founder of metals and technology conglomerate Renova Group, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018, in response to Russia's poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. The Treasury Department hit him with new sanctions on March 11, part of an effort by the U.S. and Western allies to raise the cost of the Ukraine war for Putin and those enabling his actions. This was the first yacht seized by the U.S. since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the first asset seizure by the Justice Department's new Task Force KleptoCapture. "It will not be the last," Attorney General Merrick Garland said. "Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war." Spain, France, Italy, and other European countries have seized about a dozen superyachts tied to Russia's elite since Putin invaded Ukraine, as well as real estate and other assets. But unlike those seizures, "U.S. officials said Monday they would seek the yacht's forfeiture, alleging it represents the spoils of a crime," The Wall Street Journal reports. Yacht data service VesselsValue lists 65 superyachts owned by wealthy Russians, Politico reports, but Tango isn't among them, nor any other yacht tied to Vekselberg. Several superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs have sailed to the Maldives, the Seychelles, Dubai, and other ports where the U.S. and Europe can't nab them. But "these things are living, guzzling animals on the water that need maintenance," and "you need ports that can cater to that," Capucine de Vallée of Boat Bookings tells BBC News. "All the leading shipyards are in northern Europe." They would typically be headed to Europe now, Chris Jefferies of Superyacht World Magazine, tells BBC News. "Between December and April it's Caribbean season, and then yachts are moved to Europe for the Mediterranean season which will normally run from May to September."

4-5-22 Senate negotiators reach $10 billion COVID funding deal, without global vaccine funds
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Monday announced a $10 billion deal to fund COVID-19 treatments, vaccines, and related domestic tools to fight the pandemic. But the deal, lower than the $22.5 billion requested by the White House, doesn't contain funds for helping other countries fight the pandemic, slightly complicating the deal's passage through the Democratic-controlled House. Romney, the top GOP negotiator, said the package would address America's "urgent COVID needs" and highlighted that it "will not cost the American people a single additional dollar," since the funds were repurposed from previous COVID-19 relief packages. Schumer, the lead Democratic bargainer, said that "while we were unable to reach an agreement on international aid in this new agreement, many Democrats and Republicans are committed to pursuing a second supplemental later this spring." The White House, which had warned the federal government was running out of funds for vaccines and treatments, backed the compromise deal. "Every dollar we requested is essential," said Press Secretary Jen Psaki. "But time is of the essence. We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs." Republican negotiators over the weekend couldn't agree on a unified position on the international aid, with some insisting it be tied to President Biden dropping his plan to halt pandemic border rules, Politico reports. Democratic negotiators agreed to drop the funding to get the domestic funds on the move, but they called it penny-wise, pound-foolish. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said it was a "grave mistake" and "fiscally foolish" to not send tens of millions of unused U.S. vaccines aboard. "We know that the virus is going to mutate much more effectively in large bodies of unvaccinated people," said Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), co-chair of the Global Vaccination Caucus, and mutations travel around the world.

4-5-22 Supreme Court: Senate panel deadlocks on Ketanji Brown Jackson
A US Senate panel has deadlocked in a vote to approve President Joe Biden's nominee for the Supreme Court, but she is set to be confirmed anyway later this week. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would become the first black woman on the nation's highest judicial body. The nine-member court is currently split between six Republican-appointed justices and three picked by Democrats. Judge Jackson would replace Stephen Breyer, another liberal justice. The Senate judiciary committee, which like the full chamber is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, voted 11-11 on Monday on whether to back her nomination. A final vote before the 100-member Senate is expected by Friday. On Monday evening two Republican senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, declared support for Judge Jackson. With one other Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, having already said she will vote for the nominee, Judge Jackson's confirmation is assured. Democrats point out Judge Jackson would become the first former public defender on the court, and cite her experience in nine years on the federal bench. But many Republicans found fault with her decision during 30 hours of confirmation hearings not to comment on whether seats should be added to the Supreme Court, and her remark that she could not define the term "woman". They also accused her of leniency in child pornography cases. If confirmed, Judge Jackson, 51, would be the first black woman justice named to the Supreme Court in its 233-year history. She would also be just the third black American to ever sit on the country's top court, following justices Thurgood Marshall and current Justice Clarence Thomas. The jurist, a Washington DC native, currently sits on the influential US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit. She has two degrees from Harvard University and once served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. For any Supreme Court justice nomination, the president chooses his preferred candidate who then faces a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee before final approval by the Senate. The court plays a crucial role in US life and is often the final word on highly contentious laws and disputes between states and the federal government.

4-5-22 Sacramento shooting: One arrest made after six shot dead
Police have arrested one suspect in connection with a shooting in the centre of Sacramento, California's capital, on Sunday, that left six dead. Dandre Martin, 26, has been charged with assault and illegal firearm possession, police said on Monday. Multiple people are believed to have opened fire in the busy downtown area, close to the state Capitol building. Officials have identified the three men and three women killed in this year's worst US mass shooting so far. Three of the victims were men: Sergio Harris, 38, De'Vazia Turner, 29, and Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32. Three women were also shot dead: Johntaya Alexander, 21, Melinda Davis, 57, and Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21. Police say all six victims died at the scene, when multiple shooters opened fire just after 02:00 (09:00 GMT) on Sunday near the junction of 10th and K Street. An additional twelve people were wounded in the shooting and taken to local hospitals. By Monday, seven had been discharged. The violence was "unprecedented" for the city, its police chief said. Police have executed several search warrants as of Monday. At least one handgun, now understood to be stolen, was recovered. The family of Sergio Harris told local media the vivacious and friendly father had gone to a nightclub, London, late on Saturday and never returned. Mr Harris's wife, Leticia Fields, told the San Francisco Chronicle a stranger had told her on the phone that he had been shot. "It sounds like a lot of innocent people lost their lives tonight," Ms Fields told the Chronicle. "I'm taking it day by day. I haven't told our 11-year-old yet". Mr Harris had gone to the nightclub with his cousin, DeVazia Turner - another of the victims - Mr Turner's father told local TV station Fox40. "There's just nothing to say. I'm just here. I'm grief, that's all - grief," the elder Mr Turner said. Videos posted online appear to show a brawl break out in the area - packed with restaurants and bars - in the early hours on Sunday, just before rapid gun fire sent people fleeing. It was so far unclear whether the fight led to the shooting, police say, and on Monday, officials set up an online portal to ask the public to submit information from the scene.

4-5-22 Shanghai Covid lockdown extended to entire city
Chinese authorities have extended their lockdown of Shanghai to cover all its 25 million people after a fresh surge in Covid cases. Initially, there had been separate measures for the eastern and western sides, but the whole city is now subject to indefinite restrictions. Shanghai is the largest single city to be locked down to date. The important financial hub has battled a new wave of coronavirus infections for more than a month. Reported cases have risen to more than 13,000 a day, although the numbers are not high by some international standards. Residents in some areas of the city said the strict policy meant no-one was allowed to leave their housing compounds, not even to collect essential provisions. They reported difficulties in ordering food and water online, with restrictions on when customers are able to place their orders, because of a shortage of supplies and delivery staff. This country's "zero-Covid" system is, at best, struggling to cope. China has done Covid lockdowns before, but not on the scale of its financial mega-city. The logistical challenges required to confine 25 million people to their homes, while keeping them fed, are huge. Social media here is full of angry residents complaining that they can't order food because the delivery system is clogged up. Centralised isolation facilities - many using only camp beds, with no showers or other facilities - are bursting with infected people squashed in next to one another. One of China's few reliable media outlets, Caixin, has reported that close contacts of infected people will be moved to neighbouring provinces. This could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of Shanghai residents. The Chinese government's complete elimination strategy has become something of a mantra, with the government ridiculing other countries for sacrificing their own people on the altar of opening up.

4-4-22 Sacramento shooting: At least six dead in centre of California state capital
At least six people have been killed and 12 injured in a shooting in the centre of Sacramento, police in California's state capital say. People fled through the streets after rapid gunfire rang out in an area packed with restaurants and bars in the early hours of Sunday. Police nearby responded to the gunfire and came across a "very large crowd", police chief Katherine Lester said. No suspect is yet in custody in the wake of the shootings. "This is a really tragic situation," Chief Lester said. The officer said investigators had arrived at the scene and urged the public to come forward with any information that might help identify those responsible. The shooting took place at around 02:00 (09:00 GMT) near the junction of 10th Street and K Street, in an area that leads to the Golden One Center, where the Sacramento Kings play basketball. It is also only a few streets from the state Capitol building. Pamela Harris said her daughter called her at 02:15 to say that her 38-year-old son, Sergio, had been shot and killed outside a nightclub. "She said he was dead. I just collapsed," Harris told Reuters at the scene of the shooting. "I cannot leave here now until I know what's going on. I'm not going anywhere. It seems like a dream." Kay Harris, 32, said she was asleep when one of her family members called to say they thought her brother had been killed. She said she thought he was at London, a nightclub on 10th Street, the Associated Press reports. She said she has been to the club a few times and described it as a place for "the younger crowd". Community activist Berry Accius reached the scene at about 02:30 after a city council member called him about the shooting. "The first thing I saw was like victims," he was quoted as saying by CBS News. "I saw a young girl with a whole bunch of blood in her body, a girl taking off glass from her, a young girl screaming saying, 'They killed my sister.' A mother running up, 'Where's my son, has my son been shot?'"

4-4-22 Jury selection to begin in Parkland shooter's death penalty trial
Jury selection is set to begin in the trial that will determine whether the man who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, receives the death penalty. Nikolas Cruz has already pleaded guilty to multiple charges including 17 counts of first-degree murder, but jurors will be asked to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or receive a life sentence. Jury selection officially begins on Monday in Florida, and as many as 1,500 people will be considered as potential jurors, The Associated Press reports. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Cruz over the "heinous, atrocious" school shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead in 2018. After pleading guilty to all charges last year, Cruz said, "I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day. If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others." penalty or he will receive a sentence of life in prison instead, according to CNN. Public defender Stephen Harper explained to NPR, "The prosecutor is going to argue that this was a totally evil, unnecessary, and horrible act. The defense is going to argue that their client was seriously mentally ill." The jury selection process is expected to last several weeks, and according to the AP, prospective jurors will need to be available through September.

4-4-22 Monday's Judiciary Committee vote will likely send Ketanji Brown Jackson before full Senate
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation could come before the full Senate later this week following a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Monday, CNN reports. The committee is made up of 11 Republicans — all of whom have pledged their opposition to Jackson — and 11 Democrats, but even a vote along party lines will still send Jackson before the full Senate for a final confirmation vote. According to NPR, Republican committee members authored a statement claiming Jackson's record "shows regular misuse of judicial authority to impose liberal preferences instead of what the law demands." Democrats, on the other hand, have praised the nominee, with Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) describing her as "the best," per CNN. Despite near-unanimous Republican opposition, Jackson will very likely be confirmed to the Supreme Court. All 50 Senate Democrats, including repeat defector Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are expected to vote for confirmation, as is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), giving Jackson at least 51 votes.

4-4-22 Trump's Truth Social app branded a disaster
In October, Donald Trump announced he was planning to launch a revolutionary technology company. "I created Truth Social… to stand up to the tyranny of big tech," he said. "We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter yet your favourite American president has been silenced." The app launched on Presidents' Day, 21 February, but six weeks later is beset by problems. A waiting list of nearly 1.5 million are unable to use it. Truth Social looks a lot like Twitter, which banned Mr Trump from posting on the platform after a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol on 6 January, 2021. Twitter contended that Donald Trump, by making false claims the presidential election had been "stolen", had incited violence. He was banned for life on 8 January, 2021. Truth Social might look like Twitter, but it isn't available on Android phones, web browsers or, apparently, to most people outside the US. "It's been a disaster," Joshua Tucker, director of NYU's Center for Social Media and Politics, said. And a Republican ally of Mr Trump's, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Nobody seems to know what's going on." On 21 February, Truth Social was one of the App Store's most downloaded apps - but many who downloaded it were unable to use it. There was an assumption this problem would soon be resolved and Mr Trump would start posting his "truths" in the coming days - but neither of those things happened. My attempt to register, this week, was placed at number 1,419,631 on the waiting list. While YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook are among the 10 most downloaded apps, according to Similar Web, Truth Social is outside the top 100. Users who find their way in can find the app a little empty, as many big voices on the American right have so far stayed away. vb v b Another study found downloads have fallen by as much as 95%. And many are feeling frustrated. "Signed up for Truth Social a couple weeks ago and still on a waiting list," one Twitter user said, on Tuesday. "By the time I'm off the waiting list and on to Truth Social for real, Trump will be President again," joked another.

4-4-22 Trump, Nikki Haley back Sarah Palin's bid for Congress
Former President Donald Trump and former South Carolina Governor and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (R) have both thrown their support behind Sarah Palin's congressional campaign. "Wonderful patriot Sarah Palin just announced that she is running for Congress," Trump wrote in a statement released Sunday. "I am proud to give her my Complete and Total Endorsement." On Sunday, Fox News reported Palin jumped into the race after a meeting with Trump, who urged her to run. Palin served as governor of Alaska from 2006 until 2009 and was the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008. She has not held public office since but has remained in the public eye. In 2016, she endorsed then-candidate Trump for president. "Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big. Now, it's my turn!" Trump wrote. He also took the opportunity to jab at 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, writing that Palin "lifted the McCain presidential campaign out of the dumps despite the fact that she had to endure some very evil, stupid, and jealous people within the campaign itself." Palin's announcement on Friday that she would join the crowded field of candidates vying for Alaska's sole seat in the House of Representatives also drew Haley's support: Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy called a special election to fill Alaska's at-large House seat after Rep. Don Young (R), who had held the seat since 1973, died last month. The open primary will be held in June, with the top four candidates advancing to the general election in August.

4-4-22 France's President Macron must lead the way to peace in Ukraine
France's leader is uniquely positioned — and qualified — to influence NATO and Putin. Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has widened the divide between Russia and the West and threatened the security of Europe. With talks between Moscow and Kyiv so far failing to produce a negotiated settlement, and President Biden favoring unhelpful escalatory rhetoric, it is hard to imagine what the endgame of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will look like. Historian Niall Ferguson has even suggested that Washington is trying to prolong the conflict to bleed Moscow of blood and treasure. Some have hoped that Israel or China might facilitate an agreement to end the war, but neither can guarantee that a resolution to the conflict would protect Russia's long-term interests. The man best placed to resolve the crisis? French President Emmanuel Macron. Before the war, Macron took the lead in engaging Putin diplomatically. The French president should be applauded for trying to prevent war, but he never stood a chance. Macron was working within the suffocating constraints of an intensifying security competition between the United States and Russia. Putin had made it clear that avoiding war would require written guarantees from Washington that Ukraine will never join NATO. During a televised meeting with his national security team, Putin observed that in 2008 reluctant European governments had opened NATO's door to Kyiv under U.S. pressure. He reasoned that Washington could compel those same nations to one day vote for Ukraine's accession to the alliance. There was little Macron could do to assuage those concerns. Now that war is underway, and with no off-ramp in sight, the world needs bolder action from the French head of state. Following Biden's assertion that Putin is a "butcher" who "cannot remain in power," Macron was right to emphasize that Western leaders should avoid hostile rhetoric that intensifies the conflict, but his deference to Washington has so far prevented him from taking the action needed to resolve the crisis. Macron should now announce, after doing the necessary diplomacy behind the scenes, that if Putin withdraws military forces from Ukraine, Paris will block Kyiv's bid to join NATO. To make this assurance credible, Macron should explicitly and publicly, though graciously, reject U.S. leadership in Europe. That would be an uncomfortable step, but Europeans in general — and Ukrainians in particular — will be better off if he takes it.

4-4-22 France's Macron says he wants EU Russian oil and coal ban 'this week' after Bucha 'war crimes'
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said "his wish" is to see the European Union enact a total blockade on Russian oil and coal "this week" in response to Moscow's "war crimes" in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a Kyiv suburb. There are "very clear signs of war crimes" in Bucha, and "it's pretty established that it's the Russian army" that was responsible for the massacre of civilians in Bucha, Macron told French broadcaster France Inter. "We can't let it slide." "It's notable that Macron didn't mention targeting Russian gas, which accounts for about 40 percent of the EU's natural gas imports," BBC News reports. Germany, which has been reliant on Russian gas imports, has been resistant to an energy blockade, even as it has supported other hard sanctions on Russia and even provided Ukraine arms. But German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Sunday that the EU should at least discuss pulling the plug on Russian gas imports, one of Europe's last major financial lifeline for Moscow. Lithuania, which was nearly 100 percent reliant on Russia for gas in 2015, said late Saturday that it has now cut itself off entirely. "Seeking full energy independence from Russian gas, in response to Russia's energy blackmail in Europe and the war in Ukraine, Lithuania has completely abandoned Russian gas," Lithuania's energy ministry said. Lithuania started the weaning process in 2014, building its own liquefied natural gas import terminal in Klaipeda. "From this month on — no more Russian gas in Lithuania," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda tweeted Saturday. "Years ago, my country made decisions that today allow us with no pain to break energy ties with the aggressor. If we can do it, the rest of Europe can do it too!" Lithuania's Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia also stopped importing Russian gas as of Saturday, though they are currently relying on gas reserves stored underground in Latvia, The Associated Press reports. Macron said he will bring up the Russian oil and coal ban and other sanctions with France's European partners, "especially Germany, this week. "Those who are behind these crimes must answer for them," he said. "We must send the signal very clear that it's our collective dignity and it's our values that we defend."

4-4-22 Shallow grave provides more evidence of atrocities near Kyiv
Shocking images of bodies in the streets of Bucha, near Kyiv, have led to an outpouring of international condemnation of Russia. The BBC has seen further evidence of civilian killings near Kyiv - a shallow grave where four people allegedly shot dead by Russian forces were buried. Our reporters have also seen the bodies of five men in a basement in Bucha who had their hands bound. Downing Street says the attacks on civilians are "barbaric" and that the UK will push forward on more sanctions and military aid. France's President Macron says there are clear indications Russian forces have committed war crimes. Germany, which relies heavily on Russian gas, says it is "working towards" an embargo on Russian energy but won't act immediately. Russia says it rejects "all allegations" and is claiming videos have been faked without providing any evidence. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken during his visit to Bucha – a city in which Russian forces have been accused of slaughtering civilians. Despite the human suffering there, he told reporters that residents were showing their humanity by ensuring homeless animals were fed. “That’s a characteristic trait of our people, I think - treat animals the way you would treat humans,” he said. “[But] you can see around what was done to this modern town. That’s a characteristic of Russian soldiers – treat people worse than animals. That is real genocide, what you have seen here today.” Zelensky went on to blame Russia for “dragging out” peace talks in Turkey, saying this would only make the situation on the ground worse. “With every day, when our army are moving into the previously occupied territory, you can see what’s happening,” he said. "Day by day, they find bodies in cellars; people tortured, people killed,” he said. Moscow has denied targeting civilians during its invasion.

4-4-22 Gruesome images, stories from Bucha and other Ukrainian suburbs draw vows of new Russian sanctions, justice
As Russian troops pull back from suburbs and villages surrounding Kyiv and other parts of northeastern Ukraine, they are leaving bodies of civilians in the street and in houses, some with their hands bound and gunshot wounds through their skulls, local residents and officials, Ukraine's president, and journalists on the ground reported Sunday. The apparent massacre in Bucha, outside Kyiv, drew particular condemnation, plus vows of new sanctions on Russia and new evidence that Russia is committing war crimes. Photojournalists captured images of dead civilians, a mass grave at a local church, and bodies half-buried in the yards of houses. This video from The Associated Press doesn't show corpses, but videos of Bucha from The Washington Post and Reuters do. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN the images of dead civilians in Bucha are "a punch to the gut." NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the images show a "brutality against civilians we haven't seen in Europe for decades." Blinken, European Union leaders, and Britain all said they will respond with new sanctions on Russia, and German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said the EU should discuss banning Russian gas imports, a step Germany has resisted. And Bucha isn't unique in its horrors. In the images from Bucha, "there are bodies," one man arriving in Lviv from near Kharkiv told BBC News. "In the Kharkiv suburbs, there are only parts of bodies: legs, arms, heads." Survivors from Russia's occupation of Trostyanets told "whispers of rape" and recounted "an old man found toothless, beaten in a ditch, and defecated on," The New York Times reports. Near Sumy, fleeing Russians "were shooting indiscriminately and terrorizing the population," said regional administrator Dmytro Zhyvytsky. Russia's Defense Minister claimed the images out of Bucha were "fake" and "another production of the Kyiv regime for the Western media," but few outside of Russia (and not everyone inside it) are buying that story. "Russia's despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha are yet more evidence that Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Russians actions in Ukraine are a "playbook of what war crimes look like," former U.S. war crimes adviser Michael Newton tells BBC News. The Russians can claim whatever they want, but "the evidence here is irrefutable." Human Rights Watch reported Sunday that it has "documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine."

4-4-22 Hungary election: PM Viktor Orban criticises Ukraine's Zelensky as he wins vote
Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won a fourth term by a landslide in the country's general election, near-complete results show. His right-wing Fidesz party won 135 of 199 seats with almost 99% of the votes counted, preliminary results show. The opposition alliance led by Peter Marki-Zay was far behind with 56 seats. In his victory speech, Mr Orban criticised Brussels bureaucrats and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling them "opponents". Mr Zelensky has repeatedly criticised Mr Orban's ban on the transfer of arms to Ukraine, with which it shares a border. However, Mr Orban - who has close ties with Moscow - has condemned the Russian invasion and taken in half a million refugees since the war began in February. "We never had so many opponents," he said, quoted by AFP. "Brussels bureaucrats... the international mainstream media, and the Ukrainian president." Following the result, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Mr Orban a congratulatory message on the Telegram messaging app, according to the Kremlin. "Despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral ties of partnership fully accords with the interests of the peoples of Russia and Hungary," Mr Putin wrote. Mr Orban said that his "huge victory" could be seen "from the Moon, but certainly from Brussels as well". When officially confirmed by Hungary's electoral commission, the victory will be Fidesz's fourth successive win since 2010. The National Election Office said Fidesz would have 135 seats, a two-thirds majority, and the opposition alliance would have 56 seats - again, based on preliminary results. Mr Orban, 58, has had a fraught relationship with the EU, which considers that Fidesz has undermined Hungary's democratic institutions. In his 12 years in power, Mr Orban has rewritten the constitution, filled the top courts with his appointees and changed the electoral system to his advantage. During campaigning, the opposition's catchphrase was "Orban or Europe". Their candidate Peter Marki-Zay argued that Hungary should join Poland, the UK and others in supplying arms to Ukraine. And if called upon, and only within a Nato framework, should even consider sending troops. The opposition complained that Fidesz had isolated Hungary from the European mainstream, and from consensual democracy, fairness and decency.

4-4-22 Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam won't seek second term
Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam announced she would not seek a second term in office after a controversial tenure that has seen many of the territory's civil freedoms eroded. As chief executive, Ms Lam oversaw a turbulent period where massive pro-democracy protests led to greater Chinese control in Hong Kong. Ms Lam, 64, was Beijing's handpicked choice entering office in 2017. On Monday, she told reporters Beijing had been receptive to her decision. She also revealed she had informed China about her desire to not seek a second term a year ago, despite refusing in recent times to answer questions about her political future. Ms Lam said she was stepping back and prioritising her family. "There's only one consideration and that is family... They think it's time for me to go home," she said. Hong Kong's Chief Secretary John Lee is tipped to be the favoured replacement for Ms Lam. The city's leaders are selected by a committee of 1,500 members who are nearly all pro-Beijing loyalists. They're due to select the new chief executive next month. Local media outlets reported that Mr Lee, the second-highest ranking official, was due to present his candidacy for the leadership position this week. Mr Lee, a former police officer, was also a leading security official during the 2019 protests. He was elevated to the leadership ranks last year, in a sign, analysts said, of Beijing's intention to focus on security in Hong Kong. Though Carrie Lam has taken her marching orders from Beijing, the history books will show that she was Hong Kong's chief executive when the city's freedoms collapsed. She took over a part of China like no other, where dissent was tolerated, with a free press, and an independent judiciary. During her time in power, Hong Kong became a place of state oppression where political opposition has been obliterated.

4-4-22 Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam will not seek a 2nd term
Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, is not seeking a second term, she announced Monday. Lam, who took office in 2017, has been accused of trying to play both sides between Hong Kong residents and Beijing and criticized for her handling of COVID-19. During her daily press briefing, she said her decision not to run again is due to a personal reason. "There's only one consideration and that is family," Lam said. "I have told everyone before that family is my first priority. They think it's time for me to go home." In 1997, after being ruled by Britain, Hong Kong was transferred to China, with a guarantee of several freedoms for at least 50 years. Pro-democracy activists have since accused the government of curtailing political and individual freedoms, and Reuters writes that Lam and the other three chief executives to lead Hong Kong in the last 25 years have "all struggled to balance the democratic and liberal aspirations of many residents with the vision of China's Communist Part leadership." Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Lam was the target of massive protests in 2019, with demonstrators taking to the streets to show their opposition to a controversial extradition bill. The protesters called on Lam to step down, a demand she rejected. Reuters reports that at the time, Lam told a group of business people that Hong Kong's chief executive "has to serve two masters by constitution — that is the central people's government and the people of Hong Kong. Political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited." Lam referred to those protests, as well as the pandemic and "nonstop interference of foreign forces," on Monday, saying that during her tenure, "I have faced unprecedented and enormous pressure." Hong Kong is experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and while Lam said on Saturday there must be a "compulsory, universal test" of the entire population, she did not reveal when this might happen. In early March, when the government said it planned to test everyone, there was a surge in panic buying, and Lam had to call for calm.

4-3-22 Sacramento shooting: At least six dead in centre of California state capital
At least six people have been killed and 10 injured in a shooting in the centre of Sacramento, police in California's state capital say. People fled through the streets after rapid gunfire rang out in an area packed with restaurants and bars in the early hours of Sunday. Police nearby responded to the gunfire and came across a "very large crowd", police chief Katherine Lester said. No suspect is yet in custody in the wake of the shootings. "This is a really tragic situation," Chief Lester said. The officer said investigators had arrived at the scene and urged the public to come forward with any information that might help identify those responsible. The shooting took place at around 02:00 (09:00 GMT) in an area at 10th Street and K that leads to the Golden One Center, where the Sacramento Kings play basketball. It is also only a few streets from the state Capitol building. Community activist Barry Accius arrived at the scene at about 02:30 after a city council member called him about the shooting, he told ABC affiliate station KXTV. "It was just horrific," he said. "Just as soon as I walked up you saw a chaotic scene, police all over the place, victims with blood all over their bodies, folks screaming, folks crying, people going, 'Where is my brother?' Mothers crying and trying to identify who their child was."

4-3-22 Guantanamo inmate sent to Algeria after almost 20 years
Guantanamo Bay inmate Sufiyan Barhoumi has been repatriated to Algeria, US officials say, after spending nearly 20 years at the detention facility. He was captured at a safehouse in Pakistan with a top al-Qaeda member in 2002, and accused of taking part in a plan to bomb the US. But the US Department of Defense said his detention was no longer considered necessary. It said Algeria had given assurances that he would be treated humanely. In a statement, the department added that US authorities recommended that Mr Barhoumi could be sent back to his native country "subject to security... assurance". "The United States appreciates the willingness of Algeria, and other partners to support ongoing US efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility," the statement said. The department provided no further details about Mr Barhoumi. Algeria has not publicly commented on the issue. With the latest release, 37 detainees remain - including 18 eligible for transfer - at Guantanamo Bay, which is part of a US naval base complex in south-eastern Cuba. Since 2002, the detention facility has been used to hold what the US describes as captured unlawful combatants during America's war on terror.

4-3-22 Ukraine war: Bucha street littered with burned-out tanks and corpses
A suburban avenue in Bucha became one of the first graveyards for Russia's hopes of encircling and entering Kyiv and then deposing the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The moment came two or three days after the first Russian forces crossed into Ukraine on 24 February, when Ukrainian forces destroyed a column of Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers moving through the town of Bucha to the city of Kyiv. The convoy was destroyed in one of the first of many Ukrainian ambushes that stopped the Russian advance dead. Our BBC team was able to get to Bucha because during Friday the final Russian soldiers pulled out, as part of what the Kremlin has presented as a calm and rational decision to concentrate on the war in eastern Ukraine. Moscow says, without proof or any reliability, that its war aims in central Ukraine have been achieved, and they never included capturing Kyiv. The truth is that unexpectedly fierce and well organised Ukrainian resistance stopped them outside the capital, and the evidence includes the rusting and twisted wreckage of the column that still lies where it was destroyed on that suburban street. Two or three weeks into the war the Russian invaders ran out of momentum. On the street in Bucha you can see why. Elite troops from Russia's airborne forces rode into the town in armoured vehicles light enough to be carried by aircraft. They came from Hostomel airport, a few miles away, which had been attacked and seized by Russian paratroopers landed by helicopter on the first day of the invasion. Even then, there was fierce resistance from Ukrainian forces. When the column moved through Bucha on the way to Kyiv, they had a harsh awakening. The road is narrow and straight, an ideal place for an ambush. Witnesses said the Ukrainians attacked the convoy with Bayraktar attack drones bought from Turkey. Other neighbours said Ukrainian territorial defence volunteers were also in the area.

4-2-22 Fox News loses 'best places to work for LGBTQ equality' rating
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the United States, has stripped Fox News of its perfect rating on the Corporate Equality Index and its status as one of the "best places to work for LGBTQ equality," CNN reported Friday. According to Business Insider, the HRC dropped Fox's score from 100 to 75 due to its coverage of the Florida education bill critics have labeled the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The bill, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law on Monday, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Earlier this week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said opponents of the bill "have a sexual agenda for six-year-old children" which he said "sounds like the behavior of a sex offender." The HRC fired back on Friday. "We can no longer allow Fox Corporation to maintain its score if Fox News personalities and contributors continue to deny the existence of transgender people, minimize the violence transgender individuals face, refer to parents of LGBTQ+ youth as perverts, or equate leaders of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusions efforts with sex offenders," HRC press secretary Aryn Fields told Deadline. Fox had previously received perfect scores from the HRC in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. In 2021, 767 companies earned the same distinction. "At FOX, we celebrate our diverse workforce, and remain committed to LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion. We've established inclusive policies and practices with a focus on our recruiting, hiring, and training efforts as well as providing equitable healthcare and other benefits," said Fox Corporation Executive Vice President of Human Resources Kevin Lord in a press release. The Corporate Equality Index rates companies based on their non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity, their organizational culture, and the inclusivity of their benefits packages. 15 of the top 20 companies in the Fortune 500 received 100 percent ratings in 2022.

4-2-22 McConnell pressuring GOP senators to oppose Jackson confirmation
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Senate Republicans to vote against confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, The Hill reported Saturday.. Per The Hill, McConnell said his opposition is not based on "race or gender," but on concerns about Jackson's judicial philosophy and her record, which critics have characterized as being soft on crime. Despite McConnell's vote whipping, it is unlikely Republicans will be able to block Jackson's confirmation. Even if all 50 Republican senators vote against Jackson, Vice President Kamala Harris can still break the tie in the nominee's favor. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has broken ranks with his fellow Democrats in the past, said last week that Jackson can count on his vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the same on Wednesday, suggesting that Harris' intervention will not be necessary. According to The Hill, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he has not yet decided which way he will vote.

4-2-22 Russia threatens to end cooperation at International Space Station unless 'illegal sanctions' are lifted
Dmitry Rogozin, the director of Russian space agency Roscosmos, tweeted early Saturday that Russian cosmonauts cannot cooperate in operating the International Space Station until sanctions against Russia are removed, Reuters reports. "I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions," Rogozin wrote. In the same Twitter thread, Rogozin posted screenshots of letters from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency assuring him that they remain committed to continue to operate the ISS as usual. The ISS is a joint project of Roscosmos, NASA, and the space agencies of Japan, Canada, and the European Union. Russia operates one section of the station, while the remaining partners operate the other. The ISS maintains its orbit using reboost maneuvers that require the participation of the Russian-controlled modules. Axios notes that, since the invasion began, Rogozin has threatened numerous times to allow the ISS, which cost over $150 billion and weighs almost 500 tons, to fall to earth in an "unguided de-orbit" "The ISS doesn't fly over Russia, so all the risk is yours," Rogozin tweeted on Feb. 24, the day the invasion began. Despite Rogozin's heated rhetoric, cooperation between Russia and the West has so far continued uninterrupted at the ISS. On Wednesday, Reuters reports, "a U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts safely landed in Kazakhstan ... after leaving the space station aboard the same capsule."

4-2-22 Soviet-made tanks headed to Ukraine, courtesy of U.S. and allies
The U.S. and allies will work together to transfer Soviet-made tanks to Ukrainian forces for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, The New York Times reported Friday. A U.S. official told the Times the tanks will enable Ukraine's military to conduct long-range artillery strikes on Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, suggesting that self-propelled artillery vehicles — which bear some resemblance to tanks — are also being sent. The official was unable to say how many tanks were being sent or which allies would be providing them. Ukrainian troops already know how to operate Soviet-made vehicles. A $300 million military aid package the U.S. announced Friday also includes "armored off-road vehicles" for Ukraine's military, NBC News reported. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been persistent in imploring NATO to help Ukraine neutralize Russia's advantage in the air — whether by implementing a no-fly zone or by sending Ukraine fighter jets — but has also asked for armored ground vehicles. Last week, he asked NATO for "1 percent" of the alliance's tanks and aircraft and said Ukrainian forces did not have "a sufficient number of tanks, other armored vehicles, and ... aircraft" to "break the blockade in Mariupol." Ukraine launched several successful counterattacks that recaptured territory around Kyiv late last month. Zelensky's comments suggest that, armed with additional tanks, Ukrainian forces could carry their counteroffensive even farther.

4-2-22 Withdrawing Russian troops leave mines near homes and corpses, Zelensky says
Russian forces are placing land mines around homes, abandoned equipment, and even corpses as they pull back from around Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday. According to The Associated Press, Zelensky said these mines are creating a "catastrophic" situation for civilians who might want to return to their homes. "There are a lot of trip wires, a lot of other dangers," he added, per NBC News. Russia is a signatory to the international Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits placing mines or booby traps on or near "sick, wounded, or dead persons." A Russian deputy foreign minister announced Tuesday that Russian forces would "reduce military activity" around Kyiv, though a U.S. official warned that "no one should be fooled" by the announcement and that "any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv" is likely "a redeployment, not a withdrawal." Despite the deputy minister's assurances, Russian troops have continued shelling Ukraine's capital region.

4-2-22 The U.S. is lifting the COVID-era border policy restricting asylum. Now what?
The Biden administration announced Friday it would be lifting a COVID-era border policy originally enacted under former President Donald Trump on May 23, CNBC reports. The measure, known as Title 42, has allowed the U.S. to expeditiously expel migrants at the southern border without permitting them to seek asylum for reasons of public health. The CDC has governed both the measure and how long it's remained in place. Well, what happens now that there's an end in sight? For starters, on a basic level, the U.S. will return to the traditional immigration protocols "that have been in place for decades," CNN notes. But not everyone's happy. Though critics of the policy have welcomed its rollback, others are worried about a resulting influx of migrants at the border. In some scenarios, officials have estimated 12,000 to 18,000 migrants entering U.S. custody daily. It's for those reasons that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says he's none too pleased about the administration's decision, claiming it incites "violence and lawlessness." "Texas must take even more unprecedented action to keep our communities safe by using any and all constitutional powers to protect its own territory," Abbott wrote in a statement. With Abbott so vehemently opposed to the policy's end, is it possible Texas challenges the decision in court? BuzzFeed News immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz says he "would not be surprised" if so. Additionally, others are wondering how this decision might impact Democrats ahead of the midterms. Even though the White House is bringing about an end to a controversial policy, might Democrats' political "obliteration" be on its way? But as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has repeatedly said, Title 42 was never meant to be an immigration policy; rather, it was always a public health measure.

4-2-22 Defense Department announces $300 million in military aid to Ukraine
The United States will send Ukraine up to $300 million worth of military supplies, including armed drones, laser-guided rocket systems, machine guns, armored off-road vehicles, night vision and thermal imaging devices, and more, The Washington Post and NBC News report. "This decision underscores the United States' unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of its heroic efforts to repel Russia's war of choice," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement late Friday. NBC News called the aid package a "virtual wish list" for Ukraine, but the Post notes that the U.S. has "rebuffed" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's "other requests, such as setting up a no-fly zone" and sending fighter jets to Ukraine. On Sunday, Zelensky implored NATO to send Ukraine "one percent" of the alliances tanks and aircraft and decried NATO's bureaucratic "ping-pong about who and how should hand over jets." Since the beginning of the Biden administration, the U.S. has provided over $2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, and a spending bill signed last month includes an additional $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid for the embattled country.

4-2-22 Red Cross to attempt Mariupol evacuation after failed attempt Friday
A team from the International Committee of the Red Cross will launch a new effort on Saturday to lead a convoy of civilians out of Russian-encircled Mariupol after failing to do so on Friday due to "impossible" conditions, the group said according to NBC News. The Friday convoy was set to comprise around 54 buses and numerous private vehicles. A previous Red Cross attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol failed in early March, Reuters reports. Ukrainian government sources accused Russian troops of continuing to shell the city during the agreed-upon evacuation window, while Russia claimed Ukrainian forces were forcing civilians to remain in Mariupol as human shields. On Monday, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko — who is no longer in the city — said in a televised interview that Russia's assault on Mariupol has killed nearly 5,000 people and that some 160,000 remain trapped in the city without electricity or clean water. Ukrainian sources have also accused Russian troops of forcibly deporting thousands of Mariupol residents to Russia, a claim Russia denies. Mariupol is strategically located on a "land bridge" that would connect the Donbas, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists, with Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. After failing to quickly capture major cities, Russia has made taking Mariupol a major focus of its "special military operation" against Ukraine.

4-2-22 War in Ukraine: Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking oil depot
An oil storage depot was set on fire in a Russian city just north of Ukraine after what Russia described as an attack by two Ukrainian helicopters. A video shared on Twitter showed a blaze near apartment blocks in Belgorod, 40km (25 miles) from the border. Some clips appeared to show rockets hitting the oil depot. Ukraine's top security official, however, denied Ukrainian forces were behind the attack. "For some reason, they are saying we are behind it. This does not correspond to reality," security council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said. Ukrainian aircraft have not struck targets in Russia previously. Yet Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov accused Ukraine of launching the attack, and later Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov gave details. He said that at around 05:00 Moscow time (02:00 GMT) two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters entered Russian airspace at extremely low altitude and "launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility" on the outskirts of Belgorod. Some storage tanks were damaged and caught fire, he said. "The oil storage facility has nothing to do with the Russian armed forces," he said. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the incident "cannot be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing the talks" with Kyiv. So far those peace talks have made little progress. The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia was now trying to reorganise the fuel supply chain to prevent disruption of Belgorod's energy supplies. The city of 370,000 lies just north of Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, which has been heavily shelled by Russian artillery and remains surrounded by Russian forces. Governor Gladkov said in a Telegram message that nobody was killed at the oil depot, which is run by Russian state oil firm Rosneft. He said emergency workers were trying to contain the fire and there was "no threat" to residents. The emergencies ministry posted video of the blaze on Telegram.

4-2-22 US to end policy expelling migrants over Covid
The US will halt a pandemic policy that allowed migrants to be swiftly expelled over concerns about spreading Covid-19. The policy known as Title 42 will end on 23 May after more than two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday. Aimed at stopping virus spread in migrant holding facilities, the Trump policy was twice extended by President Joe Biden. Over 1.7 million people have been expelled under the policy. Mr Biden had been under pressure from his party to end the controversial order, with critics arguing that its public health benefits failed to outweigh harm to the rights of migrants. Enacted by former President Trump in March 2020, it allows US authorities to expel migrants seeking asylum without being given the chance to put forward their case. Children and some families are exempt. Though Mr Biden had pledged to reverse Trump-era immigration policies while in office, the CDC under his administration extended Title 42 in August 2021, and again in January, due to the delta and omicron variants, respectively. On Friday, the CDC said that it was ready to rescind the policy given the current, more favourable public health outlook and after consulting with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). "After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary," it said. Immigration rights advocates applauded the move. Friday's announcement marked a "momentous day for immigrant rights activists, immigrants, and refugees everywhere," Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said, while Murad Awawdeh of New York Immigration Coalition called it a "long-overdue" step. However, Republicans - and some Democrats - warned that repealing Title 42 could lead to a surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border.

4-2-22 Gretchen Whitmer: US jury deciding fate of 'kidnap plotters'
Jurors have begun deliberations in the trial of four men accused of a violent plot to kidnap Michigan's Democratic governor in 2020. The government says the four defendants targeted Gretchen Whitmer over stringent Covid-19 rules she imposed early in the pandemic. But lawyers for the accused argued that undercover FBI agents manipulated the men. In closing arguments, they said the plot had been "manufactured". Adam Fox, 38, the alleged ringleader; Daniel Harris, 24; Brandon Caserta, 33; and Barry Croft, 46, each face charges of kidnapping conspiracy. Fox, Harris and Croft also face a charge of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. The court heard earlier that they had planned to abduct Ms Whitmer from her holiday home, put her on "treason trial" and set her adrift in a boat on Lake Michigan. But lawyers for the accused argued it was mostly profane chatter, not an actual plan. They also claimed the men were lured into the plan by undercover agents. On Friday, attorney Chris Gibbons described his client, Mr Fox, as "a big talker" who was "broke as a joke" and "looking for connections". He claimed the government paid an informant, Daniel "Big Dan" Chappel, to befriend Mr Fox and try to radicalise him, with help from FBI handlers. "Somebody beats the drum and gets them all worked up. That's unacceptable in America," Mr Gibbons said. "We don't make terrorists so we can arrest them." Big Dan did not testify in the trial, informing the court through a lawyer that he would invoke his right not to self-incriminate, better known as "pleading the Fifth". In their own closing arguments, however, prosecutors detailed some of the steps taken by the four men, from setting up field training and encrypted chats to casing the governor's house and trying to buy explosives. "They trained to kidnap the governor, they cased her house in the middle of the night, they mapped it out, they planned it, they gathered weapons and bombs," Assistant US Attorney Nils Kessler said. "The feasibility of the plan doesn't matter," he added.

4-2-22 Amazon workers win battle to form first US union
A team of Amazon workers has forced the technology giant to recognise a trade union in the US for the first time. Workers at a New York warehouse voted 55% in favour of joining the Amazon Labor Union. The group is led by former Amazon worker Chris Smalls, who made his name protesting against safety conditions at the retail giant during the pandemic. Mr Smalls' victory marks a major defeat for Amazon, which had fiercely fought against unionisation. However, in Alabama, where Amazon was facing a separate union drive, the company appeared to have fended off activists in a tight contest in which challenged ballots could yet overturn that result. Together, the two elections mark a milestone for activists, who have long decried labour practices at Amazon, the country's second largest employer. Mr Smalls emerged from the vote count looking tired but jubilant, and popped open a bottle of champagne he was handed by supporters. "We did whatever it took to connect with these workers," he told the crowd, recounting an against-the-odds campaign that started with "two tables, two chairs and a tent" and relied on an online fundraiser for money. "I hope that everybody's paying attention now because a lot of people doubted us." In a statement, Amazon said it was disappointed by the loss in New York and that it was evaluating how to proceed. It also accused regulators of improperly influencing the vote. "We believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees," the company said. "We're evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the [National Labor Relations Board]". Rebecca Givan, professor of labour studies at Rutgers University, said Amazon's defeat by Mr Smalls and his team of worker-organisers was a "really big deal", calling it a "David and Goliath story" that upset the odds. But she warned he will be facing another tough fight when it comes to contract negotiations. "Amazon will do everything it can do undo this success, to break up these workers and to try to stop the momentum that will inevitably come from this victory," she said.

4-2-22 One mother's mission to ban 'vulgar' books
In the last year, book challenges have flooded local school boards and statehouses across the country at a pace not seen in decades. The BBC went to Katy, Texas, where the town's school district has removed some books from its library shelves after protests from parents about vulgar content. Students are speaking out against the move, saying it's a direct attack on their identity.

4-2-22 Sri Lanka imposes curfew amid food, fuel and power shortage protests
A 36-hour curfew has been announced in Sri Lanka as a state of emergency is enforced amid violent protests against food and fuel shortages. The move is aimed at stopping new protests - two days after crowds were accused of setting vehicles ablaze near the president's private residence. The military has since been deployed and now has the power to arrest suspects without warrants. Sri Lanka is in the midst of a major economic crisis. It is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which is used to pay for fuel imports. Faced with power cuts lasting half a day or more, and a lack of fuel and essential food and medicines, public anger has reached a new high in the island nation of 22 million. The protest outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's house on Thursday began peacefully, but participants said things turned violent after police fired tear gas, water cannons and also beat people present. Protesters retaliated against the police by pelting them with stones. At least two dozen police personnel were reportedly injured during the clashes, according to an official cited by Reuters news agency. On Friday, 53 demonstrators were arrested, and local media reported that five news photographers were detained and tortured at a police station. The government said it would investigate the latter claim. Despite the crackdown, protests continued, and spread to other parts of the country. Demonstrators in the capital carried placards calling for the president's resignation. President Rajapaksa said the decision to declare a state of emergency was taken in the interests of public security, the protection of public order, and to ensure the maintenance of supplies and essential services. The demonstrations mark a massive turnaround in popularity for Mr Rajapaksa, who swept into power with a majority win in 2019, promising stability and a "strong hand" to rule the country.

4-1-22 Ukraine reclaims Chernobyl nuclear plant as Russian forces withdraw
The International Atomic Energy Agency says the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant is now back in Ukrainian hands, but hasn't confirmed reports that Russian troops left because they were experiencing radiation sickness. Russian troops have withdrawn from Chernobyl and officially handed back control of the site to Ukrainian staff, says the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Both he and Ukrainian regulators had warned for several weeks that Russian military occupation had degraded the security and safety of the decommissioned nuclear plant. The Ukrainian state energy company Energoatom alleged on Telegram that Russian troops had withdrawn hastily because they had experienced radiation sickness from digging trenches in contaminated ground. IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi, in a press conference on 1 April immediately following trips to Ukraine and Russia to talk to regulators, said he had been given no explanation as to why troops left. But he described the withdrawal as “undoubtedly a step in the right direction” for safety. The IAEA said in a statement that troops had, officially and in writing, transferred control of Chernobyl to Ukrainian personnel and moved some soldiers towards Belarus. Other soldiers had also left the city of Slavutych, where many scientists and staff working at Chernobyl live. The situation at Chernobyl has been tense since the first day of the invasion, when Russian troops seized the site. Scientific monitors detected a local increase in radiation levels, which was put down to Russian tanks disturbing contaminated dust – a problem that Grossi said may have been repeated as troops left. Since then, scientists who had been working at the site have been unable to access their laboratories and staff at the plant were held for several weeks without being able to rest or rotate shifts.

4-1-22 US jobs rise again as firms raise wages to woo staff
US employers added 431,000 jobs last month as the American economy continued to rebound from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The figures from the Labor Department marked the 15th month in a row of job gains and helped to push the unemployment rate down to 3.6%. Bars, restaurants and hotels were among the businesses leading the hiring last month. The US has now regained nearly all the jobs lost since the pandemic hit. Faced with the tight labour market, businesses are paying more to woo workers. The average weekly wage in March was up 5.6% from a year ago, the Labor Department said. However, those gains continue to lag inflation, which hit 7.9% in February, a 40-year high. Terence Tubridy is managing partner of the IGC Hospitality Group in New York, which runs more than a dozen restaurants and employed 800 people before the pandemic hit. He said his top challenge is hiring right now, but pay isn't the only factormaking it hard to find workers. He said some former staff have left the industry, as their lives shifted in the pandemic. The shadow of the pandemic also continues to hurt - he said - discouraging potential recruits like wannabe actors from moving to the city. He expects the industry's hiring crunch to last for two or three years. "I don't think this is going away," he said. The monthly report was another sign of healthy growth in the world's largest economy, despite challenges posed by supply disruptions stemming from the Ukraine-Russia war and coronavirus. "There were no signs that the war in Ukraine or the surge in oil prices had put a temporary hold on hiring in any parts of the economy," said Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics. The US central bank raised interest rates for the first time since 2018 last month, in an effort to dampen demand and check the rising prices. It signalled plans for further increases over the coming year.

4-1-22 U.S. economy adds 431,000 jobs as unemployment rate declines to 3.6 percent
The U.S. economy added a solid 431,000 jobs in March as the unemployment rate dipped, the Labor Department says. The number of job gains came in a bit below expectations, as economists forecasted 490,000 additions, CNBC reports. But it was still a "solid" number, The Washington Post's Heather Long said, noting "93 percent of jobs lost in the pandemic are now back." The unemployment rate also declined to 3.6 percent. This comes after a strong report last month showed the economy added 678,000 jobs in February, although Friday's report revised this number up to 750,000. "Notable job gains continued in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and manufacturing," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao said the "healthy" March report showed the "job market is still red hot," adding, "If 2022's pace of jobs growth continues, we would reach the pre-pandemic jobs benchmark as early as June."

4-1-22 Russia accuses Ukraine of daring airstrikes on fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia
Officials in Belgorod, a Russian city near Kharkiv, Ukraine, say Ukrainian military helicopters were responsible for explosions and subsequent fires at a fuel depot early Friday. "The fire at the oil depot occurred as a result of an airstrike coming from two helicopters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which entered the territory of the Russian Federation flying at a low altitude," Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram. "There are no victims," though two workers were injured. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the explosions; Bohdan Senyk, the head of the public affairs department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told CNN there was "no information" about the incident. "It would be the first time that Ukrainian aircraft have flown into Russian airspace to hit a target, bringing the war home to Russia," and giving "a huge boost to the morale of Ukraine's military," BBC defense correspondent Jonathan Beale writes from Odessa. "Ukrainian helicopter pilots have plenty of experience of flying low and fast to avoid being detected by military radar and air defense systems. They've been doing exactly that in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine for years," Beale adds. "But if these unconfirmed reports are correct — flying at night, well into Russian territory, to launch an attack on an enemy fuel depot would have required extraordinary bravery — as well as finely honed flying skills." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the strikes on the fuel depot can't "be perceived as creating conditions comfortable for the continuation of negotiations," and everything is being done to reorganize the fuel supply chain. Russia has hit several Ukrainian fuel depots throughout the country, claiming the purpose is to cut off supply to Ukraine's military. "The Belgorod area was used as a staging ground for Russian forces shortly before the invasion, and Kharkiv has since been relentlessly shelled and hit with missiles," CNN reports. There were several explosions reported at an ammunition depot near Belgorod late Tuesday night, and Gladkov said Wednesday that a preliminary investigation pointed to a fire sparking those blasts.

4-1-22 Russian troops struggling without central war commander, U.S. says
The underperforming Russian military lacks a central war commander who's "on the ground" and calling the shots, The New York Times reports per U.S. officials familiar with the ongoing war. The Russian effort is being run out of Moscow — not Ukraine — meaning the Kremlin is giving instructions to generals in the field, who are then giving those commands to the troops, who are then told to "follow those instructions no matter the situation on the ground," the Times writes. Such an approach "may go a long way" in explaining why Russian forces have struggled to overcome Ukrainian resistance. Without a "unifying leader in Ukraine," the Russian air, ground, and sea units have remained out of sync, with campaigns "plagued by poor logistics, flagging morale and between 7,000 and 15,000 military deaths," officials say. The disjointed effort has also contributed to the deaths of at least seven Russian generals, the Times writes. An official also told the Times that Moscow's troops "had been left frustrated on the battlefield," unable to make any sort of move without instruction. They also do not have the agency to point out issues to higher-ups that should be obvious. The problem "shows up in the mistakes that are being made," retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a former NATO commander, told the Times. Meanwhile, however, there seems to be some command issues on the Ukrainian side of things, as well. On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky cryptically announced the removal of two generals who had "not decided where their homeland is," he said, per The Daily Beast. "Now I do not have time to deal with all the traitors. But gradually they will all be punished," Zelensky added. "Random generals don't belong here!"

4-1-22 War in Ukraine: Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking oil depot
An oil storage depot is on fire in a Russian city just north of Ukraine after what the local governor said was an attack by two Ukrainian helicopters. A video shared on Twitter shows a blaze near apartment blocks in Belgorod, some 40km (25 miles) from the border. Some clips appear to show rockets hitting the oil depot. However, Ukrainian aircraft have not struck targets in Russia previously. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov's claim was not confirmed by Ukrainian officials. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman also blamed Ukraine for the fire and said the incident "cannot be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing the talks" with Kyiv. So far those peace talks have made little progress. Russian authorities were doing everything to reorganise the fuel supply chain and avoid disruption of energy supplies in Belgorod, spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said. The city of 370,000 lies just north of Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, which has been heavily shelled by Russian artillery and remains surrounded by Russian forces. Governor Gladkov said in a Telegram message "there was a fire at the oil depot because of an air strike carried out by two Ukrainian army helicopters, which entered Russian territory at low altitude". "Nobody was killed," he added. He said emergency workers were trying to contain the fire as quickly as possible and that there was "no threat" to residents. The emergencies ministry posted video of the blaze on Telegram. Russia's Interfax news agency reported that residents nearby were evacuated and two people were injured at the depot. It said eight fuel tanks were on fire and nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene. The depot is run by Russian state oil firm Rosneft. Later queues of cars formed at local petrol stations, but Mr Gladkov said Belgorod's fuel supplies were still plentiful. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency says the blaze in three of the tanks has been extinguished, but there is still a risk of the fire spreading. On 29 March several explosions were reported at an ammunition depot near Belgorod.

4-1-22 Ukraine war: Gruesome evidence points to war crimes on road outside Kyiv
Footage of Russian troops shooting a man with his hands up on a highway outside Kyiv at the beginning of March was shared around the world. Now the Russians have been pushed out of the area and the BBC's Jeremy Bowen has been to see the grim aftermath of their short-lived occupation. We counted 13 bodies on a nightmarish stretch of road not much more than 200 yards long, between Mria and Myla, villages whose Ukrainian names translate as Dream and Sweetheart. Two of the dead are confirmed as Ukrainian civilians who were killed by the Russians. The others have not been identified yet - they lie where they were killed - but only two are wearing recognisable Ukrainian military uniforms. Our BBC team was able to get to the area, on the main E-40 highway as it approaches Kyiv, because Ukrainian forces had captured the sector only 10 hours earlier. The marks of battle and of heavy shelling were everywhere. Petrol stations and a hotel that was well-known for its spa and restaurant were in ruins. Shell holes and craters pockmarked both carriageways. Ukrainian troops changing a wheel in the ruins of a roadside garage said the Russians were about 4km (2.5 miles) away and had pulled their remaining men and armour back after a hard fight, lasting several days, in the early hours of the morning. Left behind in the heart of the desolation were the dead bodies, and a mass of questions and concerns about who they were and how they died. Some answers already exist for a couple who were killed by the Russians and left to decompose on 7 March. Their rusty, shrapnel riddled car lies in the road next to one of the petrol stations, reduced to a shell by fire. Next to it are the burnt and twisted remains of a body that is just about recognisable as the remains of a man. A wedding ring is still on the corpse's finger. Stretched out inside the hulk of their car is what is left of the incinerated body of a woman, the mouth opened in what looks like a scream. Their deaths were filmed by a Ukrainian drone on 7 March, operated by the Bugatti unit of Territorial Defence. The unit released the video, which was republished by news organisations around the world. It caused outrage because it showed the cold-blooded killing of a man who had raised his arms to show he was harmless, in the classic gesture of surrender. The bodies, the BBC discovered in an investigation this month, are of Maksim Iowenko and his wife Ksjena. They were part of a convoy of 10 civilian vehicles who were trying to escape the Russians and get to Kyiv.

4-1-22 Ukraine war: Russia blocks buses heading to Mariupol, says Ukraine
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. Ms Vereshchuk also accused Russian troops of blocking the bus convoy at a checkpoint near Vasylivka, three hours' drive from Mariupol, earlier in the day. "The Russian Federation, again, does not let our buses pass," she told Ukrainian news agency Unian. 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.

4-1-22 Ukraine war: Russian troops leave Chernobyl, Ukraine says
Russian troops occupying the former nuclear power plant at Chernobyl have left, the plant's staff say. According to Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom, staff at the plant said there are currently no "outsiders" at the site. Earlier, it said some Russian forces had set off towards the Belarusian border, leaving a small group behind. The announcement appears to confirm reports by senior US defence officials on Wednesday of a withdrawal. Russian troops seized Chernobyl at the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. "This morning, the invaders announced their intentions to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," Energoatom said in a statement on Thursday. The company later accused the Russian military of abducting members of the Ukrainian National Guard held captive since the start of the war. Energoatom sourced its information to workers at the plant and did not give numbers. It also confirmed reports that Russian troops had dug trenches in the most contaminated part of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, receiving "significant doses" of radiation. There are unconfirmed reports that some are being treated in Belarus. Reuters news agency quoted workers at the plant as saying some of the soldiers had no idea they were in a radiation zone. The Russian military, however, said that after capturing the plant radiation levels at the plant itself had stayed within a normal range. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that it was unable to confirm the reports. The head of Ukraine's agency in charge of the exclusion zone, Yevhen Kramarenko, said that radiation levels appeared to be normal and there was no indication of significant damage. However, as the sensors for detecting radiation levels were not working, staff needed to check the facilities, he added. The head of the IAEA said it was in close consultations with Ukrainian authorities on sending a mission to the Chernobyl plant in the next few days.

4-1-22 Covid-19 news: Shanghai extends lockdown despite cases falling
A regular round-up of the latest coronavirus news, plus insight, features and interviews from New Scientist about the covid-19 pandemic. People living in the city’s eastern districts were due to come out of a five-day lockdown today. On 28 March, China’s largest city introduced a two-stage, 10-day lockdown in a bid to control its omicron outbreak. Initially, the lockdown was planned to affect eastern Shanghai for five days, followed by an additional five days of restrictions in the city’s western districts. China’s health officials announced on 31 March they will instead lift restrictions on the east side in stages. With western Shanghai starting its five-day restrictions today, these extended measures plunge the city’s 26-million-strong population into lockdown. People are instructed not to leave their homes, even to dispose of rubbish or walk their dogs, Reuters reported. Most of the city’s public transport has also been suspended and all non-essential businesses are closed. Despite the lockdown extension, Shanghai’s reported case numbers are falling. On 31 March, the city reported 4144 new asymptomatic cases and 358 new symptomatic cases, compared with 5298 asymptomatic cases and 355 symptomatic cases the day before. Nearly all secondary school students in England have antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Covid-19 Schools Infection Survey. More than 7000 primary and secondary students from 150 schools were tested for antibodies in January and February. Extrapolating the results out across England, an estimated 96.6 per cent of secondary school students and 62.4 per cent of primary school pupils had SARS-Cov-2 antibodies at the beginning of the year. England is due to roll out a low-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds this month, which will include most primary pupils. The pre-existing antibodies among younger children therefore came about via a natural infection. Pregnant people who are vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 virus are almost twice as likely to get covid-19 compared with people who are vaccinated but not pregnant, according to an analysis of about 14 million hospital patients in the US. Pregnancy is the greatest risk factor for breakthrough covid-19 infections, above being an organ transplant recipient or having an immune system deficiency, the study found. This may be because certain aspects of the immune system are suppressed during pregnancy. Covid-19 vaccines provide significantly more protection among people who have previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to two studies published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases. A Brazilian study linked the CoronaVac, Oxford/Astrazeneca, Janssen and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to increased protection against a moderate-to-severe reinfection, while a Swedish study found covid-19 vaccination provides at least nine months’ of additional protection for people who have had the virus before. The studies did not look at the level of protection among people who fought off covid-19 after catching it post-vaccination.

4-1-22 Pope Francis apologises for Canada residential school harms
Pope Francis has apologised to a Canadian indigenous delegation for the Catholic Church's role in the country's residential school system. The schools, operated for more than a century, were run as part of government policy to assimilate indigenous children and destroy their cultures. The Roman Catholic Church operated up to 70% of residential schools. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and indigenous leaders welcomed the Pope's apology, calling it a step forward. Echoing other indigenous leaders gathered on Friday, Dene Nation National Chief Gerald Antoine called the papal apology "long overdue", saying it was a day "that will be lifted up in history". Chief Antoine and his fellow leaders also said it will be important that a formal apology be made in Canada. The Pope on Friday confirmed he would make a trip to Canada later this year to meet indigenous communities and to assist with reconciliation efforts. In his apology, Pope Francis said the residential schools caused him "pain and shame" and asked for God's forgiveness. "For the deplorable behaviour of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness from God and I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very pained," he said, speaking in Italian at the Vatican. The Pope on Friday confirmed he would make a trip to Canada later this year to meet indigenous communities and to assist with reconciliation efforts. In his apology, Pope Francis said the residential schools caused him "pain and shame" and asked for God's forgiveness. "For the deplorable behaviour of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness from God and I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very pained," he said, speaking in Italian at the Vatican. The visit by the delegation was organised by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has apologised for the suffering experienced at residential schools.


311 Atheism News & Humanism News Articles
for April 2022

Atheism News & Humanism Articles for March 2022