The African Union has scheduled peace talks for next week in South Africa over the worsening crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned time is running out to resolve the war, which broke out nearly two years ago.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “This is a health crisis for 6 million people, and the world is not paying enough attention. I urge the international community and the media to give this crisis the attention it deserves. There is a very narrow window now to prevent genocide.”
Thousands have been killed in the brutal conflict; one analyst estimates the death toll to be as high as 800,000 people. Millions have also been displaced, and hundreds of thousands are facing famine. An investigation last year found that all sides fighting in the war had committed violations that might amount to war crimes.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine recently annexed by Russia in violation of international law. The order will include new limits on public gatherings, grant more power to police, and will curtail the right of people to travel and to communicate freely. In the occupied city of Kherson, Russian-installed leaders say they’ve begun evacuating 60,000 people as Ukraine’s military presses a counteroffensive aimed at retaking the city.
In Brussels, European Union leaders have announced new sanctions on Iran, after Russia launched a series of attacks on Ukrainian civilian and energy infrastructure using Iranian-made drones.
Meanwhile, Britain’s top military official has shrugged off Putin’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield, including in defense of recently annexed parts of Ukraine. Admiral Tony Radakin spoke Wednesday from London.
Adm. Tony Radakin: “He has few options left, hence the nuclear rhetoric. And while this is worrying and deeply irresponsible, it is a sign of weakness, which is precisely why the international community needs to remain strong and united.”
North Korea’s military has fired hundreds of artillery shells into waters off the nation’s west coast, in an action condemned by South Korea as a violation of an agreement not to engage in provocative actions near the two countries’ shared border. This follows a series of joint war games by the U.S., Japan and South Korea. On Wednesday, U.S. and South Korean forces practiced a joint river-crossing drill south of the capital of Seoul involving helicopter gunships, tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry.
In Lebanon, an outbreak of cholera has sickened dozens and left at least five people dead. It’s Lebanon’s first outbreak of the waterborne disease since 1993. This comes as Lebanon continues to suffer a deep economic crisis, which has led to poor sanitation and crumbling infrastructure. The cholera outbreak appears to have spilled over from neighboring Syria, where about two-thirds of water treatment plants have been damaged during the decade-long civil war.
In Iran, hundreds of people rallied at Tehran’s international airport Wednesday evening to cheer the return of Elnaz Rekabi, a female rock climber who drew international headlines when she joined a competition in South Korea without wearing a headscarf. On Sunday, the 33-year-old climber wore her hair in a ponytail, covered partially by a headband — in violation of Iran’s strict dress code — during a climb at the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asian Championships in Seoul. There were conflicting reports in Iranian media about whether Rekabi will now face arrest. She said in an interview with a state-run news agency Wednesday evening that she’d unintentionally forgotten to bring her hijab with her.
Elnaz Rekabi: “The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab that I should have had, and I went to the wall and ascended.”
Many of Rekabi’s supporters believe her statement was coerced. This comes as mass protests in Iran have entered their second month, sparked by the death last month of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s so-called morality police. After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour with Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian activist and lawyer and winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.
President Biden said Wednesday he will release another 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Biden’s move comes just weeks ahead of November’s midterm elections, when Republicans hope to capitalize on discontent over soaring inflation rates and high energy prices.
President Joe Biden: “Gas prices have fallen every day in the last week. Let me repeat: Gas prices have come down, and they continue to come down again.”
In Germany, nine climate activists with the group Scientist Rebellion have staged a nonviolent civil disobedience protest at the showroom of a Volkswagen factory in the city of Wolfsburg. On Wednesday, protesters glued scientific research papers to different models of Porsches on display, and they used superglue to attach themselves to the floor. Protester Gianluca Grimalda said the auto industry is responsible for some 12% of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions. His group wants Germany to reinstate a program making public transit more affordable, and they’re demanding a speed limit on Germany’s Autobahn highway system.
Gianluca Grimalda: “We are here because we know, as scientists, that there is a clear connection between the amount of CO2 emissions and the increase in temperatures. And we have already seen that now with only 1.2 temperature increase since the preindustrial level, we are observing famines, floods, droughts and many other extreme weather events. We know that that is the cause, and we know that we must stop CO2 emissions. We know that we must decarbonize.”
The Biden administration says the United States will provide Cuba with $2 million in emergency relief to help the island recover from Hurricane Ian. On Wednesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez expressed gratitude for the funds but said the amount pales in comparison to the economic damage to Cuba caused by the U.S. embargo, which Rodríguez called a “permanent pandemic” and a “constant hurricane.”
Bruno Rodríguez: “Between August 2021 and February 2022, the losses caused by the blockade were on the order of $3.806 billion. It is a record amount, a record for such a short period as these seven months. … Today the policy of President Joseph Biden’s government toward Cuba is regrettable. And it is the same Republican policy; no changes have been introduced in that policy. The surgical design that pursues every income, every source of funding, and supply in the country remains a daily theme.”
Oklahoma is scheduled to execute death row prisoner Benjamin Cole this morning, after the Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal Wednesday. Lawyers say Cole, who was convicted of killing his 9-month-old daughter in 2002, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is essentially in a “catatonic” state. Oklahoma is planning on executing 25 people over a period of two years, despite concerns over the state’s track record of botched lethal injections.
Here in New York City, officials opened a large tent Wednesday on an island in the middle of the East River to use as an emergency shelter for asylum seekers arriving on buses from the U.S.-Mexico border. The tent will hold about 500 men and can expand to hold 1,000, sleeping head to toe on thin cots. This is New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol.
Zach Iscol: “There’s not a lot of places that you can put this type of infrastructure and do this type of work caring for this many people. This is also a temporary facility. People are not going to be living in it. This is a short-term solution for people to figure out what their next destination is going to be.”
Nearly 20,000 migrant asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since April, many from Venezuela. Some have been absorbed by the shelter system, while others end up on the streets. Many have been taken into the homes of volunteers who are also organizing food and clothing drives for the new arrivals. Rights advocates are still calling for better shelters. New York Immigration Coalition executive director Murad Awawdeh said the tent shelter is “a stain on our city’s rich history of welcoming immigrants and morally reprehensible.” He added, “To continue ignoring the calls from advocates and other city officials to utilize alternative and more appropriate housing options, and instead begin implementing this dangerous plan, Mayor Adams has compromised New York City’s status as a beacon of hope.”
In Texas, immigrant justice advocates are raising alarm over what they say is the unlawful detention of at least seven migrants from Mexico who were shot at by two white men three weeks ago. Twin brothers Michael and Mark Sheppard opened fire on the migrants and later claimed they mistook them for “wild hogs” while out on a hunting trip. One person was killed, and another was injured. The others have been locked up by ICE, despite a directive that says they should be released since they were victims of a crime and have cooperated with authorities. The Sheppard brothers were initially freed on bond but have since been taken back into custody and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. One of the men, Michael Sheppard, was the warden of the West Texas Detention Center, which has been accused of violating prisoners’ human rights.
A federal judge has ordered Donald Trump’s former lawyer John Eastman to turn over 33 new documents to the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. U.S. District Judge David Carter says one of the requested emails shows that Trump knew the voter fraud numbers his team alleged in the Georgia election results were not true, yet signed off on their use in a voter fraud lawsuit anyway. Judge Carter said the documents are not protected by attorney-client privilege since they relate to a possible crime. This comes after special master Judge Raymond Dearie expressed doubts earlier this week that materials seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago were privileged and could be withheld from a Justice Department investigation.
Donald Trump was deposed Wednesday in the defamation lawsuit brought by former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who has accused the former president of raping her in the 1990s. Trump has denied the accusation. Last week a federal judge rejected his bid to again delay his deposition.
A judge on Wednesday sentenced former UCLA student Christian Secor to 42 months in prison for breaching the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 insurrection. Secor carried a flag inside the Capitol representing the white supremacist group “America First” and sat in the chair that had just been vacated by former Vice President Mike Pence. Secor also founded an “America First” group while at UCLA.
Students at Georgetown University confronted Mike Pence during a campus appearance on Wednesday.
Student: “Mr. Vice President, my question for you is: Why haven’t you extended that bravery to publicly denouncing the violence of January 6th, as was condoned by President Trump, in order to scourge the Republican Party of Trump’s anti-democratic, anti-freedom lies that you know to not be true?”
Mike Pence: “January 6th was a tragic day. But thanks to the courage of law enforcement at the Capitol and federal law enforcement, the violence was quelled. And we reconvened the Congress the very same day, and we completed our duty under the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country.”
Some students walked out of Pence’s speech. When asked if he would support Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024, Mike Pence answered, “Might be somebody else I prefer more.”
Actor Anna May Wong will become the first Asian American to be featured on U.S. currency. The newly designed quarters will enter circulation next week. Wong was a child of Chinese immigrants, born in Los Angeles in 1905. She acted in over 60 films before her death in 1961. She also was the first American actor of Asian descent to play a lead on a TV show. A biographical film of Anna May Wong is currently in the works.