NATO officials have joined the United States and other Western nations in voicing skepticism over Russia’s announcement Tuesday it is pulling back some troops near the border with Ukraine, saying they have yet to see evidence of a drawdown. President Biden addressed the latest developments Tuesday.
President Joe Biden: “We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position. And the fact remains: Right now Russia has more than 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine in Belarus and along Ukraine’s border. An invasion remains distinctly possible.”
Biden also reiterated the White House would continue to pursue a diplomatic path, even as the U.S. and other NATO members have been arming Ukraine and beefing up its military presence in the region. Earlier Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also signaled he welcomed more talks, as he spoke alongside visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and said, “We don’t want war in Europe.” Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are investigating after the websites of the Defense Ministry and two banks were hit by a cyberattack Tuesday. Ukrainians are marking a “day of unity” today in a show of national pride amid the ongoing tensions.
The families of nine victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre reached a settlement with gun manufacturer Remington for $73 million. It’s the first time a gunmaker has been held responsible for a mass shooting in the U.S. The Sandy Hook massacre claimed the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six educators. This is Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.
Veronique De La Rosa: “Today marks an inflection point, when our duty of care to our children as a society finally supersedes the bottom line of an industry that made such an atrocity at Sandy Hook possible to begin with. Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity.”
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre have reached an out-of-court settlement in Giuffre’s lawsuit against the British royal. Giuffre accused convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell of trafficking her to Andrew when she was 17 years old. She said Andrew sexually assaulted her at Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, at his mansion in Manhattan and at Maxwell’s home in London. The settlement means Andrew does not have to admit guilt over the claims. As part of the agreement, Andrew will make a “substantial donation” to Giuffre’s charity for survivors of sexual abuse.
Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been arrested on drug trafficking charges and is awaiting a decision on his possible extradition to the U.S. Hernández surrendered to authorities Tuesday and was escorted from his home in the capital Tegucigalpa by police, handcuffed at the hands and feet. The U.S. government’s extradition request accuses Hernández of trafficking drugs since at least 2004. His presidential term ended less than a month ago. He was a key U.S. ally for years.
A new U.N. report finds more people are being killed by pollution globally than by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report says pollution from pesticides, plastics and electronic waste is causing at least 9 million premature deaths a year. Despite the shocking figures, the U.N. warns the crisis is being neglected.
David Boyd: “To put it bluntly is that this is a product of racism, colonialism, classism, which means the majority of the people who are dying because of pollution and exposure to toxic substances are poor people, people of color, living in low- and middle-income nations and simply are below the radar screen for far too many people.”
Government scientists say coastal sea levels in the U.S. will rise by 10 to 12 inches by 2050 — that’s about the same level of sea rise as the past century in just 30 years. The findings were released in a report Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Coastal areas will suffer from even more frequent and dramatic flooding, and water supply and trade routes could be disrupted. The country’s top expert on the issue says the projected increase will happen even if countries are able to drastically reduce emissions, though acting to limit Earth’s warming will help prevent even greater climate catastrophe.
In more climate news, a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals the extreme drought plaguing the western United States is the worst in 1,200 years. Researchers at UCLA, NASA and Columbia University reviewed climate records dating back to the year 800. They attribute 42% of the severity of the current “megadrought” to greenhouse gases from human activity trapping more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal seized on the findings to call on Republicans and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to reverse their opposition to legislation to mitigate the climate crisis. “It’s time for Congress to act by making meaningful investments into climate action — before it’s too late,” Jayapal said.
In Brazil, massive flooding and mudslides have killed at least 34 people in Petrópolis, near Rio de Janeiro, though authorities say the death toll could rise. Dramatic social media videos show homes, cars and trees being dragged rapidly down hills. A similar event in 2011 killed over 900 people in the same region.
Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian teenagers in recent days in the occupied West Bank. Nineteen-year-old Nehad Amin Barghouti was killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in the town of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. This came just a few days after the Sunday killing of 17-year-old Mohammad Akram Abu Salah during a house raid and demolition near the city of Jenin. This is Abu Salah’s mother.
Mohammad Akram Abu Salah’s mother: “For me, as his mother, no one can feel how I feel now. I love him, thanks to God. I still live with the hope that he will come again and smile at me. His smile was like medicine to me.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian rights advocates have condemned a U.S. congressional delegation currently visiting Israel and led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for enabling Israel’s continued human rights and international law violations.
In Somalia, at least five people are dead, including two children, after al-Shabab fighters attacked several police stations and security checkpoints in the capital Mogadishu.
This comes as the U.N. is warning severe drought in Somalia is pushing nearly half of all children under the age of 5 into acute malnutrition this year. Hundreds of thousands need lifesaving treatment, according to the U.N., which called for urgent action to prevent catastrophic famine.
The Senate confirmed Robert Califf as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday. He will reprise the role he held for just under a year starting in 2016. Five Democrats opposed Califf over his work consulting for pharmaceutical companies and the FDA’s record on tackling the opioid epidemic. The FDA has been without a permanent head for over a year.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans boycotted a Banking Committee vote on five nominees to the Federal Reserve, including Fed Chair Jerome Powell, because they oppose Biden’s pick for vice chair for bank supervision, Sarah Bloom Raskin. Raskin, who is married to Democratic Congressmember Jamie Raskin, has vowed to focus on how the climate crisis threatens the economy; though Republicans say their opposition is linked to her work for the fintech firm Reserve Trust. Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown blasted his Republican colleagues for stalling the vote.
Sen. Sherrod Brown: “Instead of showing up to work to do their jobs, Republicans have walked out on the American people. My Republican colleagues claim it’s because they haven’t gotten the information they’ve requested from one of the nominees. Let me be clear: Ms. Bloom Raskin has been the subject of an unrelenting smear campaign and fearmongering by the ranking member and Republicans.”
The House Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection issued six more subpoenas tied to a plan to overturn election results by sending in fake Trump electors in states that were won by Joe Biden in 2020. In related news, President Biden has ordered the National Archives to hand over White House visitor logs from Trump’s presidency to the January 6 committee, rejecting Trump’s claim of executive privilege.