The United States and other nations have imposed new sanctions on Russia after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine which the Kremlin recognized as independent. President Biden warned Tuesday Putin was gearing up for a “massive military attack” on Ukraine.
President Joe Biden: “This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, as he indicated and asked permission to be able to do from his Duma. … Russia has moved supplies of blood and medical equipment into position on their border. You don’t need blood unless you plan on starting a war.”
U.S. sanctions will target Russian financial institutions, sovereign debt and Russian elites. Biden said the U.S. has “no intention of fighting Russia” but announced it was sending more troops and arms to Baltic countries, including F-35 fighter jets and Apache helicopters. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a planned Thursday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, calling the latest escalation a “rejection of diplomacy.” Other nations, including the U.K., Australia, Canada and Japan, and the European Union also announced penalties against Russia. On Tuesday, Germany halted approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Ukraine has called a nationwide state of emergency and told its citizens residing in Russia to leave “immediately.” President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week Ukraine will not cede any territory to Russia and is calling on its allies to further ramp up pressure against Putin’s government.
In Georgia, a jury found the three white men who chased down and murdered 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery guilty of committing federal hate crimes. Ahmaud Arbery was killed exactly two years ago, on February 23, 2020. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping and other charges. They now face an additional life sentence; the three already received life sentences after their murder conviction in a state trial earlier this year. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, welcomed the news but called out the Justice Department for initially offering her son’s killers a plea deal.
Wanda Cooper-Jones: “What we got today, we wouldn’t have gotten today if it wasn’t for the fight that the family took up on January the 31st. What the DOJ did today, they was made to do today. It wasn’t because of what they wanted to do; they were made to do their job today.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, also spoke after Tuesday’s verdict.
Marcus Arbery Sr.: “He loved his family. He called us every day. If he had but one word to tell you, guess what that was: 'I love you, Pops. I love you, Mama.' He always told you that. Now these times you don’t hear that, I’m struggling with that every day.”
In Louisville, Kentucky, the trial of ex-police officer Brett Hankison starts today. In March 2020 he fired 10 shots during a botched no-knock police raid that killed Breonna Taylor in her own home. Hankison is charged with wanton endangerment not for shooting into Taylor’s apartment, but for hitting her white neighbor’s apartment during the raid. No one has been charged for killing Breonna Taylor in her own home.
A major new U.N. report warns of a “global wildfire crisis” as worsening heat and drought drastically increase the risk of devastating fires around the world. The study says the risk of fires could surge by over 50% by the end of the century due to the impacts of the climate catastrophe and that “the heating of the planet is turning landscapes into tinderboxes.” Scientists found that even the Arctic and other regions that were previously not affected by wildfires face a high risk. It’s the first time the U.N. Environment Program has assessed wildfire risks worldwide and comes as massive blazes across the western United States, parts of South America, Australia and other regions have intensified.
Rights groups in Brazil say British, Canadian, U.S., Brazilian and Peruvian mining companies are planning to expand operations in the Brazilian Amazon. A new report from Amazon Watch and the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples says international investors have poured $54 billion into eight large mining companies, and specifically calls out U.S.-based investors BlackRock, Vanguard and Capital Group, who have provided almost $15 billion in financing for mining companies with a history of Indigenous rights violations and toxic pollution. The report also identified thousands of pending mining permits that would intensify deforestation on a combined area of Indigenous lands as large as the size of England, if approved by Brazil’s mining agency.
Hong Kong announced its 7.5 million residents will be required to take three COVID tests in March as it continues to be battered by its worst wave of the pandemic. Authorities announced this week business closures and other restrictions will be extended at least until April. Hospitals say Hong Kong’s early policy to isolate or hospitalize anyone testing positive led to its healthcare system being overwhelmed.
David Chan: “None of the hospitals had any plans in place. The Hospital Authority had not provided any instructions for how to handle it if cases were to escalate.”
In other parts of the world, governments are easing or removing COVID restrictions. In Britain, immunocompromised people and health experts have condemned Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement this week that the U.K. is ending all COVID restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms.”
Critics say the move will put medically vulnerable people at high risk and will imperil future responses to new variants.
Palestinian officials said Israeli forces killed another teenage Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank Tuesday. Fourteen-year-old Mohammed Shehadeh was reportedly shot by the soldiers, who then prevented ambulances from reaching him to administer care.
In other news from the region, an Israeli court has temporarily frozen the planned expulsion of a Palestinian family in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The move came one week before the Salem family would have been expelled from their home and amid ongoing Palestinian resistance to the dispossession of their land and homes. Israeli forces continue to harass and attack protesters and residents in Sheikh Jarrah.
In Burkina Faso, an estimated 60 people were killed and dozens injured Monday after an explosion near an informal gold mining site in the southwestern Poni province. Accidents are common at gold mines in the region, which operate with little oversight or regulation and often employ children, though the identities and ages of victims from Monday’s disaster are not known.
The United States women’s soccer team and U.S. Soccer have reached a landmark $24 million settlement, ending a years-long legal battle over equal wages. U.S. Soccer pledged to give the women’s national soccer team equal pay to the men’s team in all games and tournaments, including the World Cup. The women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in 2019, denouncing the drastic difference in wages compared to their male counterparts. They celebrated the agreement, saying, “We look forward to continuing to work together to grow women’s soccer and advance opportunities for young girls and women in the United States and across the globe.” The U.S. women’s soccer team has won four World Cup titles, while the men’s team has won none.
California is considering new legislation that would allow private citizens to enforce the state’s ban on assault weapons and “ghost guns” — home-assembled, unregulated firearms. The measure is modeled after Texas’s abortion ban. This is Governor Gavin Newsom.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “If Texas can use a law to ban a woman’s right to choose and to put her health at risk, we will use that same law to save lives and improve the health and safety of the people in the state of California. … There is no principled way the U.S. Supreme Court can not uphold this California law — none, period, full stop. It is quite literally modeled after the law they just upheld in Texas.”
Black farmers across the U.S., who were promised $4 billion in debt forgiveness as part of the pandemic stimulus package, have been stuck in legal limbo, thanks to lawsuits from white farmers. Some 15,000 farmers applied for the debt relief. The lawsuits claim the federal funds discriminate against white farmers, even though the measure was passed to help rectify generations of discrimination against farmers of color, including theft of land and refusal to grant loans. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said, “The USDA’s racist policies of unfairly denying loans to #BlackFarmers has caused foreclosures and insurmountable debt from one generation to the next.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Donald Trump’s bid to block the release of White House records related to January 6 to the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. The decision puts an end to Trump’s legal recourse in the matter.
Philadelphia housing justice advocate Jennifer Bennetch died last week of COVID-19 complications at the age of 36. Bennetch helped lead a months-long encampment protest in 2020 that forced Philadelphia city officials to hand over 50 vacant homes to a community land trust — a historic win for unhoused people. Bennetch was a member of Philadelphia Housing Action. We spoke to her in September 2020 about the significance of the victory.
Jennifer Bennetch: “Instead of allowing housing authorities to, like, sell units and make money off of them, after they intentionally neglected them until they were too much for them to deal with, then allow community groups to take on those units and rehab them and use them for what their original use was, which is to house people in need.”
Bennetch is survived by her three children. Her eldest has launched a fundraiser to support them in the wake of her passing.