Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public statements on the situation at the Ukraine-Russia border in over a month Tuesday, accusing the U.S. and its allies of ratcheting up tensions and ignoring Russian security demands, including halting NATO’s expansion to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.
President Vladimir Putin: “I believe that the U.S., for example, does not care much about Ukraine’s safety, though they probably give it a thought in the background. But their main task is to contain Russia’s development. That is the problem. In this context, Ukraine is just a tool to reach this goal.”
Putin also accused the U.S. of withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and deploying military equipment to Eastern European nations. He said, however, he is open to more talks to ease the ongoing tensions. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone again Tuesday. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv, where he held a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Johnson vowed to increase military aid and help defend Ukraine against any potential Russian aggression.
Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukraine came as he faced increasing pressure back home. On Monday, a highly anticipated report was published which found Downing Street parties for government officials during the U.K.’s pandemic lockdown represented a “serious failure” as millions of Britons canceled plans and stayed home to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Tonga went into lockdown today after recording its first locally transmitted COVID cases since the start of the pandemic. The first cases were identified among port workers who were helping unload international aid shipments in the aftermath of last month’s devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami. Other small Pacific nations have also recently reported their first outbreaks, including Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Palau.
South Africa has announced it will no longer require asymptomatic COVID cases to self-isolate and reduced the isolation period for symptomatic COVID cases to one week. Officials also loosened restrictions on in-person schooling. South African lawmakers say the recent changes were made as the nation exits its fourth wave of the pandemic, spurred by the Omicron variant, and thanks to the high level of immunity in the population.
A number of European countries are also relaxing COVID curbs, with Denmark becoming the first EU country to lift all restrictions, despite a rise in cases. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, is warning countries against a hasty end to public health measures aimed at curbing transmission.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We are concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines and because of Omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. More transmission means more deaths.”
Separately, the WHO warned Tuesday that massive amounts of medical waste linked to the pandemic pose a threat to human health and the environment. The U.N. agency called for more biodegradable and sustainable materials and packaging for essential medical and personal protective equipment.
The president of Guinea-Bissau said he survived an attempted coup but that “many” members of his security forces died as gunmen tried to kill him and Cabinet members at the government palace. Local media reported at least six deaths linked to the attack. President Umaro Cissoko Embaló, a former army general, said the attack was linked to drug trafficking, though details remain unclear for now. Embaló took office in February 2020 after a contested election. Guinea-Bissau has endured a series of military coups and attempted military takeovers since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974. Tuesday’s attack was the latest in a string of coups or attempted coups in West Africa. The U.N. secretary-general decried mounting instability in the region Tuesday.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “We are seeing a terrible multiplication of coups. And our strong appeal is for soldiers to go back to the barracks and for the constitutional order to be fully in place in the democratic context of today’s Guinea-Bissau.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, the African Union suspended Burkina Faso following last week’s military coup which deposed President Roch Kaboré.
In Syria, two babies died in the freezing cold at a camp for displaced people in Idlib province. Aid groups report at least one other baby and child died in the past few weeks as a result of the harsh winter weather. Some 2.8 million people are living in temporary shelters amid the decade-long war. The U.N. says the tragic humanitarian situation in Syria is being further exacerbated by a worsening economy, that has seen food prices double in a year, and a shortage in aid funding.
Attorneys general from a dozen states and the District of Columbia have joined with over 25 district attorneys across the country, as well as gun violence prevention groups, in support of the Mexican government’s historic lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers. The suit was first filed last August, seeking to hold 10 U.S.-based firearms companies accountable for Mexico’s epidemic of gun violence. This is the first time U.S. gunmakers have been sued by a foreign government. In response to the growing support, Alejandro Celorio Alcántara, principal legal adviser for Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement, “We are confirming that the missing link in this whole equation of illicit trafficking is the gun companies. And I think that’s recognized on both sides of the border.”
Hundreds of Native American tribes have reached a tentative $590 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three largest U.S. drug distributors over their role in fueling an opioid epidemic that has devastated Indigenous communities. Most of that money would be used for substance use treatment and prevention efforts overseen by tribal health experts. J&J did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement. Native Americans have endured the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose.
ABC has suspended Whoopi Goldberg from “The View” for two weeks after facing widespread backlash over remarks she made on the show Monday claiming the Holocaust was “not about race.” The comments came during a discussion about a Tennessee school district’s decision to ban the book “Maus” by acclaimed author Art Spiegelman, whose parents survived the Holocaust.
Whoopi Goldberg: “The Holocaust isn’t about race.”
Sara Haines: “No.”
Whoopi Goldberg: “No, it’s not about race.”
Joy Behar: “They considered Jews a different race.”
Whoopi Goldberg: “But it’s not about race. It’s not about race.”
Joy Behar: “What is it about?”
Whoopi Goldberg: “Because you — it’s about man’s inhumanity to man.”
Goldberg apologized on social media Monday. She also addressed her comments during Tuesday’s airing of “The View,” where she said, “my words upset so many people, which was never my intention. I understand why now, and for that I am deeply, deeply grateful because the information I got … helped me understand some different things.”
Brian Flores, the former coach of the Miami Dolphins, has sued the NFL, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins teams, accusing them of racial discrimination. Flores says in the lawsuit that the NFL is “managed much like a plantation.” The case could become part of a class-action suit. The lawsuit stems from his interview processes with the Denver and New York teams and his firing last month from the Miami Dolphins. Among the allegations, Flores, who is Black, says Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him thousands of dollars to purposely lose games. Ross also reportedly tried to pressure Flores into hiring a prominent quarterback in 2019, but Flores refused because it would violate the NFL’s rules on tampering. In the years that followed, Flores says he was treated “with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.” Flores was fired from the Dolphins this January.
At least 14 historically Black colleges and universities reported bomb threats Tuesday — the first day of Black History Month — forcing them to lock down or cancel classes. At least half a dozen schools, including Howard University, also received threats on Monday and in previous weeks. No explosive devices were found on the affected campuses. Professor and award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi tweeted, “I am a product of a HBCU, where I learned how to think and write and be me. … Our HBCU family is resilient. But we shouldn’t have to be.”
Two fatal school shootings took place Tuesday. In Virginia, two campus police officers were shot dead at Bridgewater College, near Harrisonburg. A 27-year-old suspect was taken into custody. In Minnesota, a shooting outside the South Education Center in Richfield killed one student and left another in critical condition. Two suspects have been arrested.
In California, students at an Oakland middle school led a walkout Tuesday, protesting the Oakland Unified School District’s proposal to close and merge over a dozen schools. Parents, teachers and school staff also joined the action. And at least two teachers have gone on hunger strike in response. The Oakland school district has cited low enrollment at the schools and budget deficits.
In the nation’s capital, the D.C. City Council voted unanimously to redirect tax revenue from the area’s wealthiest residents to daycare workers. Thousands of caregivers are expected to receive checks for at least $10,000. Councilmembers hope to establish a program to subsidize daycare workers’ paychecks in future years in order to compensate for their chronic underpayment.
In New York, immigrant rights groups and progressive lawmakers are pushing forward a bill that would expand state-funded healthcare coverage for low-income New Yorkers regardless of immigration status. The bill, known as #Coverage4All, has advanced through two key health committees over the past week. The New York Immigration Coalition and other advocates are calling on Governor Hochul and the New York Legislature to include the bill in the state budget.
New York Immigration Coalition ad: “Immigrant workers have been on the frontlines fighting COVID. Without essential workers harvesting crops, delivering food, keeping grocery stores open and caring for our seniors, we couldn’t have gotten through it. But instead of fairly rewarding their sacrifices, thousands of immigrants died due to lack of health coverage. Our COVID comeback can’t be complete if essential New Yorkers are left behind just because of their immigration status. We need coverage for all.”