A Russian Foreign Ministry official said Thursday the U.S. risks provoking a nuclear missile crisis with Moscow, unless the U.S. and its NATO allies ensure restraint and predictability in the growing conflict over Ukraine. The stark warning came as Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, formally rejected a U.S. response to Russia’s demands that offered no new concessions.
Sergey Lavrov: “The main question is our clear message that we consider further NATO expansion to the east and weapons deployment, which can threaten the Russian Federation, unacceptable.”
On Thursday, President Biden reportedly warned Ukraine’s president in a phone call that Russia could invade in February. The U.S. has called a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the crisis on Monday — one day before Russia is set to take over the rotating presidency of the council.
President Biden confirmed Thursday he would nominate the first Black woman Supreme Court justice. He made the commitment at a White House event for retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Biden against a nominee backed by the “radical left” as Republicans indicated they would seek to draw out the confirmation process.
The Economic Community of West African States is holding an emergency summit today to discuss the bloc’s response to the recent military coup in Burkina Faso. On Thursday, coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba gave his first televised address since he led a mutiny that deposed President Roch Kaboré Monday.
Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba: “It is clear that the main priority remains security. We must significantly reduce the areas under terrorist influence and the impact of violent extremism by giving the security forces and the Volunteers for Homeland Defense the will to fight, and to go on the offensive.”
According to U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, Damiba received training on multiple occasions from the U.S. military. Since 2008, African military officers trained at American so-called peacekeeping programs have successfully led or attempted at least nine coups across West Africa.
In Honduras, Xiomara Castro was sworn in Thursday as the first woman president in the country’s history. Thousands of supporters attended Castro’s inauguration ceremony at the national stadium in the capital Tegucigalpa. During her speech, Castro ordered free electricity for Hondurans living in extreme poverty, vowed justice for Berta Cáceres and other murdered land and water defenders, and said her government will not continue to loot Honduras.
President Xiomara Castro: “Poverty increased by 74% to make us the poorest country in Latin America. This figure by itself explains the migrant caravan of thousands of people of all ages who flee to the north, Mexico and the United States, looking for a place and a way to subsist, regardless of risk it implies for their lives.”
Castro’s presidency marks the end of a brutal 12-year regime by the U.S.-backed right-wing National Party, which first came to power after the 2009 U.S.-backed coup that overthrew Castro’s husband, former leftist President Manuel Zelaya. This comes as many are demanding outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández be indicted and extradited to the United States to face charges of aiding drug traffickers, including his brother.
In Japan, six people who developed thyroid cancer in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown have filed a landmark lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The plaintiffs were aged from 6 to 16 at the time of the devastating earthquake and tsunami, which triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. A court acquitted former executives from the utility company in 2019. Meanwhile, a plan to release wastewater from the Fukushima plant starting next year has sparked international condemnation.
At least 70 people in southern Africa were killed as Tropical Storm Ana struck Madagascar this week before slamming into Mozambique and Malawi. Torrential rains triggered landslides and caused flooding that washed away bridges, submerged farmers’ fields and damaged tens of thousands of homes. Hardest hit was Madagascar, where the U.N. says 1 million people are already facing severe hunger from food shortages brought on by acute drought. Last year the World Food Programme warned Madagascar faced the first-ever famine caused by climate change.
One of the largest icebergs ever observed has broken up in the southern Atlantic Ocean. When it drifted away from Antarctica in 2017, Iceberg A68a was roughly the size of Delaware, weighing in at an estimated 1 trillion tons. Scientists warn melting ice from the berg has dumped billions of tons of fresh water into salty seas near South Georgia Island, with unknown consequences for marine life and the environment.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has canceled oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, ruling the Biden administration’s auction of 80 million acres last year failed to sufficiently account for the climate crisis. It’s a major victory for environmentalists who’ve been fighting what would have been the largest sale of offshore oil and gas leases in U.S. history.
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to prohibit new oil and gas wells and phase out existing wells within city limits. The measure also creates a program to help oil and gas workers transition to jobs in other industries. Council President Nury Martinez spoke ahead of Wednesday’s unanimous vote.
Council President Nury Martinez: “For far too long neighborhood drilling has disproportionately affected the health of our low-income communities of color. From freeways to power plants, our frontline communities bear the brunt of pollution and climate impacts.”
A 2021 study by University of Southern California researchers found residents of majority-Black and Latinx communities in South Los Angeles who live near oil and gas sites have lower lung function, which may contribute to environmental health disparities.
President Biden heads to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, today to promote his recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Hours before Biden’s visit, a bridge connecting Pittsburgh’s Regent Square and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods collapsed. No injuries were reported, but residents reported a strong smell of natural gas in the area.
The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for dozens of migrants who are feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Florida Saturday. Five bodies have been found, while 34 people are still missing. One survivor was rescued earlier this week as he clung to the hull of the sinking boat, which had departed from the Bahamas.
Oklahoma prison officials have carried out the first execution in the United States this year. Forty-six-year-old Donald Grant was strapped to a gurney at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester Thursday morning and injected with a lethal cocktail of three drugs. He was declared dead at 10:16 a.m. Grant, a Black man, had asked federal courts to halt his killing, saying Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol presented an unconstitutional risk of pain and suffering.
It was Oklahoma’s third execution since the death penalty was reinstated after a six-year pause that followed a string of botched executions. Last October, 60-year-old John Marion Grant convulsed and repeatedly vomited after he was administered a sedative in an execution that witnesses described as drawn-out and tortuous.
Here in New York, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island will vote on whether to unionize their workplace. The effort is being led by Chris Smalls, who Amazon fired in March of 2020 after he organized a wildcat strike demanding sanitized workspaces, protective masks and COVID-19 tests for workers. The Staten Island workers will vote on whether to join a grassroots worker group called the Amazon Labor Union, which is unaffiliated with any national union.
Hundreds of street vendors in New York City led a march to Times Square Thursday, demanding labor protections and for the city to stop issuing heavy fines to vendors who haven’t been able to get selling permits. Bronx Councilmember Pierina Sanchez is backing new legislation that would end the criminalization of street vendors and increase the number of vending permits.
Councilmember Pierina Sanchez: “So, we’re coming to 10,000 permits, just about, by 2032. It sounds good, right? It sounds OK. Except you think about the fact that there are 20,000 street vendors on our streets today. All they want to do is feed their families. All they want to do is make ends meet.”
Saturday marks 20 years since then-President George W. Bush branded the nations of Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “axis of evil” during his first State of the Union address.
President George W. Bush: “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
A little over a year later, the U.S. invaded Iraq, despite lacking any evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The attack was widely considered illegal under international law. According to the Costs of War project at Brown University, there have been over 180,000 Iraqi civilians killed by direct violence since the U.S. invasion.