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President Biden toured storm-ravaged parts of Florida on Wednesday, pledging billions of dollars in federal aid for people impacted by Hurricane Ian, which made landfall last week as one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the United States. Biden viewed the storm’s path of destruction by helicopter, flying over Fort Myers Beach, which took a direct hit from Ian’s Category 4 winds. He then met with Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential rival in the 2024 presidential election. Biden said after their meeting the recovery effort could take years, and blamed the climate crisis for adding to Ian’s destructive power.
President Joe Biden: “More fires have burned in the West, in the Southwest, burned everything right to the ground, than in the entire state of New Jersey, as much room as that takes up. And the reservoirs out west are down to almost zero. We’re in a situation where the Colorado River looks more like a stream. And there’s a lot going on. And I think the one thing this has finally ended is the discussion about whether or not there’s climate change and we should do something about it.”
In Ethiopia, more than 50 people were killed and more than 70 injured in the northern Tigray region Tuesday after an airstrike ripped through a school housing people displaced by fighting between Ethiopia’s military and separatist rebels. It’s among the deadliest attacks carried out in Tigray since conflict erupted in November of 2020, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced from their homes. On Wednesday, both Ethiopia’s government and Tigray rebels said they had accepted an African Union invitation to join peace talks in South Africa aimed at ending the conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed papers formally declaring Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine. Putin’s signatures came as Ukraine’s military continued to claim battlefield victories against Russia, saying it retook more settlements in Luhansk and Kherson — two of the regions claimed by the Kremlin.
Also on Wednesday, Putin signed a decree declaring Russian control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear station, which has been occupied by Russia’s military since March. In a video statement posted online, the head of Ukraine’s nuclear power agency called on employees at Zaporizhzhia to resist Russia’s bid to take over plant operations.
Petro Kotin: “I am sure that your bravery will not yield to your wisdom, and you will not sign any deals with the occupier, you won’t sign any statements and contracts. Don’t do it, under any circumstances. … We will continue to work under Ukrainian law with the Ukrainian energy system. Don’t doubt it.”
The New York Times reports U.S. intelligence agencies believe parts of the Ukrainian government authorized the car bomb attack near Moscow in August that killed Darya Dugina, the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist. The Times reports that American officials claimed they were not aware of the operation ahead of time and would have opposed the assassination had they been consulted.
In Russia, a former TV news producer whose on-air antiwar protest was seen around the world has escaped house arrest. Marina Ovsyannikova made international headlines in March after she burst onto the set of a live news broadcast of Channel One, the Russian state media channel, appearing on screen for several seconds shouting “Stop the war! No to war!” before the camera cut away. In August, Russian police raided Ovsyannikova’s home and placed her on house arrest for allegedly spreading false information about the Russian Armed Forces. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.
On Monday, Ovsyannikova posted a video online from an unknown location, declaring herself innocent and showing off an electronic tag around her ankle used by Russian authorities to track her location.
Marina Ovsyannikova: “Esteemed colleagues of the Federal Penitentiary Service, put an electronic tag like this on Putin. It is he, not I, who should be kept away from society and put on trial over the genocide of the people of Ukraine and the mass killing of Russian men.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has agreed to cut crude oil output by 2 million barrels a day. On Wednesday, OPEC members, led by Saudi Arabia and joined by Russia, voted to keep global prices high by imposing their sharpest cuts to the world’s supply of oil since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Biden administration sharply criticized what it called a “shortsighted decision” to cut production while the global economy suffers negative impacts from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This comes amid growing calls for the Biden administration to ban exports of U.S. gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels. Food & Water Watch said in a statement, “Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling. Corporations are exporting record quantities of gasoline, and making record-setting profits as a result. … It’s time to take real action to rein in this outrageous corporate profiteering.”
A key member of the House Armed Services Committee has renewed his calls on President Biden to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the kingdom’s efforts to raise oil prices. Congressmember Ro Khanna told The Washington Post on Wednesday, “President Biden should make it clear that we will stop supplying the Saudis with weapons and air parts if they fleece the American people and strengthen Putin by making drastic production cuts.”
The Wall Street Journal reports the Biden administration is preparing to scale down sanctions on Venezuela to allow the Chevron Corporation to resume pumping oil there. In return for reopening U.S. and European markets to oil exports from Venezuela, the government of President Nicolás Maduro would agree to negotiate with U.S.-supported opposition groups over a new round of presidential elections in 2024.
In the United Kingdom, newly minted Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss faced protests Wednesday as she defended her proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy while expanding fossil fuel production. Truss was speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham when a pair of Greenpeace campaigners stood up and unveiled a banner reading, “Who voted for this?” The pair had their sign snatched away and were escorted from the conference hall as Conservative Party members booed them. Greenpeace’s Rebecca Newsom said after the protest that Truss should cancel plans to reverse a ban on fracking imposed by Conservatives in 2019.
Rebecca Newsom: “Nobody voted for fracking. Nobody voted to cut benefits. Nobody voted to trash nature. Nobody voted to scrap workers’ rights. There’s a whole host of things that the Conservative government were elected to do in 2019 that they are simply not doing.”
A new report warns that one out of every eight species of birds on Earth is threatened with extinction. In its flagship State of the World’s Birds report, the conservation group BirdLife International finds half of all species are in decline, primarily due to habitat destruction and the increasing use of machinery and chemicals in agriculture. BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita said, “Birds tell us about the health of our natural environment — we ignore their messages at our peril.”
A Michigan judge has thrown out felony criminal charges against former state officials accused of playing key roles in the Flint water crisis. The ruling ends a criminal probe of Eden Wells and Nick Lyon, two former leaders of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services who faced nine counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to promptly report an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease which killed 12 people and sickened dozens. Also avoiding prosecution are former Cabinet members of Republican ex-Governor Rick Snyder, who are accused of knowingly exposing Flint’s residents to dangerous levels of lead in the water supply.
Nayyirah Shariff, a community organizer and director of Flint Rising, tweeted, “We have many people’s lives that have been upended … including my own, and there are no consequences. Justice looks like someone going to jail, held criminally accountable.” This follows a decision in June by Michigan’s Supreme Court to throw out charges against former Governor Rick Snyder and other former officials for their complicity in Flint’s public health emergency. Flint Rising organizer Melissa Mays spoke to Democracy Now! after that ruling.
Melissa Mays: “No one is being held accountable. No one is seeing justice. No one is seeing reparations in Flint. Our homes, our bodies, our lives are still damaged and destroyed, and the people responsible are getting away with it, because, like Nayyirah said, they have a — rich white folk and government have a whole different justice system than the rest of us.”
In Thailand, at least 35 people were killed earlier today when a former police officer went on a murderous rampage. Police say the 34-year-old suspect shot and stabbed children at a child care center in northeastern Thailand, killing 19 boys, three girls and two adults. Thai authorities say the assailant then fled the scene, opening fire randomly from his car; he then returned home, killed his wife and child, and turned the gun on himself. It’s Thailand’s bloodiest mass shooting since 2020, when a soldier with an assault rifle killed 29 people and wounded nearly 60 others.
In Greece, at least 15 migrants have died and dozens more remain missing after a pair of boats capsized off the coast of Greece. In the first incident, a boat carrying about 40 asylum seekers sank off the eastern island of Lesbos. So far, 15 bodies have been recovered from the shipwreck — all of them women. Elsewhere, authorities are searching for survivors after a sailboat carrying about 100 migrants sank off an island in southern Greece late Wednesday.
Japan’s government has condemned another series of missile tests by North Korea. On Thursday, Japan’s military said it detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from North Korea into waters separating the two countries. This follows four other launches from North Korea in the past two weeks, including Tuesday’s launch of an intermediate-range missile that flew over Japan. Japan’s defense minister spoke earlier today.
Yasukazu Hamada: “These actions by North Korea are a threat to the peace and security of our country, region and the international community. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Today North Korea condemned the United States Navy after it redeployed a carrier battle group led by the USS Ronald Reagan to the Sea of Japan, saying U.S. actions were “posing a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”