Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday the world faces the most dangerous and unpredictable decade since the end of World War II — even as he insisted that the war in Ukraine was going according to plan. Over the course of a four-hour appearance at a foreign policy conference in Moscow, Putin said Russia stands ready for a negotiated end to the conflict in Ukraine, but insisted Ukraine and its allies are not willing to engage in diplomacy. He also railed against Western powers, comparing them to Nazi Germany.
President Vladimir Putin: “The disintegration of the Soviet Union destroyed the balance of geopolitical powers. The West felt it was the victor and declared a unipolar world order in which only its will, its culture, its interests had the right to exist. Now this historic period of Western dominance in world affairs is coming to an end.”
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in a televised address on Thursday that much of Ukraine will face extended blackouts after Russia launched a series of attacks on energy infrastructure. Zelensky spoke from a darkened street next to the wreckage of what he said was an Iranian-made drone used in recent assaults. He said Ukraine had shot down 300 of the drones and that Russia has launched more than 8,000 airstrikes and 4,500 missiles since it invaded in February.
The Biden administration has released its Nuclear Posture Review for 2022, with anti-nuclear groups warning the document will do little to prevent the threat of a catastrophic war. The document proposes cutting some programs like a submarine-launched nuclear cruise missile system begun under former President Trump. However, the White House is pressing ahead with a so-called modernization plan aimed at upgrading the U.S. arsenal, currently estimated at about 5,400 nuclear warheads. Last year the Congressional Budget Office estimated those programs will cost more than $630 billion this decade alone. The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement, “President Biden could have used the Nuclear Posture Review to dramatically decrease the risk of nuclear war by declaring that the United States will never start a nuclear war and ending the president’s sole authority to launch a nuclear strike. These changes would immediately reduce the risk of a misunderstanding, miscalculation or flat-out mistake leading to a world-changing nuclear war.”
Voters in Brazil head to the polls Sunday for a runoff election that pits far-right President Jair Bolsonaro against former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Polls have shown Lula with a slender but consistent lead. Ahead of the vote, Bolsonaro’s son, Rio state Senator Flávio Bolsonaro, claimed his father was the victim of “the greatest electoral fraud ever seen.” Attempts by the Bolsonaro family and their allies to sow doubt over the election have added to fears that Bolsonaro will attempt to stage a coup d’état if he loses.
Those concerns grew this week after authorities in Rio de Janeiro charged a former congressmember and Bolsonaro ally with attempted murder, after he attacked Federal Police officers with a rifle and a grenade as they sought to arrest him on Sunday. Bolsonaro has since tried to distance himself from the former congressmember, Roberto Jefferson, even though several photographs taken in 2020 show the pair laughing and smiling together.
Meanwhile, environmentalists fear what a Bolsonaro victory could mean for the climate crisis.
Marcio Astrini: “What Brazilians do now at the polls is much more than a change of president. These are fundamental choices for our country, choices for the future. We will choose whether we stay with democracy or not. We will have to choose If we keep the Amazon alive or if we keep Bolsonaro. It’s a choice between the two. It’s not going to be possible to have both at the same time.”
Canada has sent a delegation to Haiti to assess security and humanitarian concerns as the country faces worsening political instability and gang activity. Canada’s foreign minister and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa Thursday as the two countries push for an international armed intervention in Haiti. Haitians have taken to the streets in recent weeks denouncing foreign aid and occupation, saying the U.S. and other powers have contributed to the destabilization of Haiti. Protesters are also demanding the resignation of U.S.-backed Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry.
A group of Democratic senators, led by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, are urging the Biden administration to expand and extend temporary protected status, or TPS, for Haitians as thousands continue to flee to the United States. Haiti’s current TPS designation expires in February. The Biden administration has continued to mass deport Haitian asylum seekers, including children, despite widespread shortages of food, water and other vital resources.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal who have temporary protected status, or TPS, are at risk of deportation after negotiations with the Biden administration to expand the relief collapsed earlier this week. Talks had been ongoing for over a year as part of litigation demanding the U.S. government redesignate TPS for more than 260,000 people. In 2020, a federal appeals court reversed an injunction from 2018 that had blocked termination of their relief. That decision is not yet final as plaintiffs await another hearing, but people could lose their protections as early as the end of this year if the Biden administration continues to defend the Trump-era decision.
In Austin, Texas, families of victims of the massacre in Uvalde packed a Public Safety Commission meeting Thursday to demand the resignation of Texas’s top law enforcement official over the botched police response during the mass shooting, and the mishandling of the investigation that followed. Newly released body-camera footage shows Texas law enforcement officers at Robb Elementary School on May 24 acknowledging they should confront the gunman, but saying they were afraid of getting shot. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed that day, as over 70 minutes passed before police finally entered the fourth grade classroom and killed the gunman. Democratic state Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez: “No help arrived. We’ll never know how many children could have been saved. Two? Three? Four? A few died on the way to the hospital. Eva Mireles died on the way to the hospital. The actions by DPS in the aftermath of the shooting are nearly as egregious as their inaction on May 24th.”
Click here to see our interviews with Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez.
Elon Musk has closed his deal to purchase Twitter for $44 billion and has fired the company’s top executives, including its CEO and CFO. Musk changed his Twitter bio to read “Chief Twit” and tweeted, “the bird is freed,” late Thursday. Twitter employees have expressed fears Musk would slash its existing workforce by 75%. Meanwhile, many are expecting Elon Musk to reinstate Donald Trump’s account, which was permanently suspended after the January 6 insurrection.
In New Jersey, a federal prosecutor has issued dozens of subpoenas in a wide-ranging criminal investigation involving several people including U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. That’s according to NBC News, which reports the investigation also involves a company that’s authorized by the government of Egypt to certify exports of Halal food worldwide. Menendez is a Democrat and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2017, prosecutors dropped corruption charges against him after a jury couldn’t agree on a verdict. In that case, Senator Menendez was accused of influence peddling on behalf of a New Jersey ophthalmologist in exchange for flights on a private jet, luxury hotel stays and six-figure campaign contributions.
In Uganda, more than a dozen people, including six schoolchildren, have tested positive for the Ebola virus in the capital Kampala. It’s part of a new outbreak of the disease, which has seen over 100 confirmed infections and 30 deaths in Uganda since the first case emerged in September. It’s the fifth outbreak of Ebola in Uganda since 2000.
In Pakistan, tens of thousands of people attended the funeral of prominent journalist Arshad Sharif in Islamabad Thursday. Sharif was killed by police in Kenya Sunday in what authorities claimed was a case of mistaken identity. Sharif had fled Pakistan just two months before his death to avoid arrest following a series of criminal charges over his criticism of the Pakistani military and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who rose to power after the ouster of Imran Khan. Arshad Sharif had been living in hiding in Kenya. Supporters are demanding justice for Sharif and a thorough independent investigation into his killing. Pakistan has a history of media suppression and violence against journalists, and critics often blame the military.
In the Philippines, landslides and flooding have killed at least 31 people, while others remain missing as rains from Tropical Storm Nalgae lashed the central and southern Visayas and Mindanao regions. Authorities warn more flooding could be on its way as the storm makes landfall this weekend in northern Philippines.
In Mexico, same-sex marriage is now legal across the whole country after the states of Guerrero and Tamaulipas legalized marriage equality this week. Same-sex couples can now get married in all 32 states. This is LGBTQ+ activist Denisse Mercado, celebrating the news Wednesday.
Denisse Mercado: “Tamaulipas said yes to marriage, said yes to love, and yes to our families, and also that we have the same rights as other families. We are not 'unnatural'; on the contrary, we have existed throughout history.”