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HeadlinesMarch 15, 2022

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Mariupol Residents Evacuate as Russia Blocks Aid Convoy; Kyiv Declares Curfew

Mar 15, 2022

The mayor of Kyiv has declared a 35-hour curfew after a series of Russian missile strikes hit residential areas of Ukraine’s capital. At least two people died when a Russian missile hit a 16-story apartment complex. Meanwhile, intense fighting raged outside the capital as the Russian advance appeared to be stalled.

In southern Ukraine, a convoy of 160 cars was allowed to escape the besieged coastal city of Mariupol on Monday. But Russian troops reportedly refused to allow an aid convoy into the city. An adviser to Mariupol’s mayor says Russia’s two-week assault may have killed up to 20,000 people in the city — though it was impossible to verify the figure.

Today the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia are traveling to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. On Monday, Zelensky spoke directly to the troops invading his country, saying in Russian that they should surrender.

President Volodymyr Zelensky: “On behalf of the Ukrainian people, we give you a chance to live. If you surrender to our forces, we will treat you as humans have to be treated: with dignity — the way you have not been treated in your army and the way your army doesn’t treat our people. Choose.”

Zelensky is set to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress by video link on Wednesday, where he’s expected to ask for more lethal weapons, and for the U.S. to broker a deal that would see MiG fighter jets transferred from Poland to Ukraine. Meanwhile, talks between Ukraine and Russia are resuming today.

Russian State TV Employee Interrupts Evening News Broadcast with Antiwar Protest

Mar 15, 2022

In Moscow, an employee of the main state-owned television station Channel One burst onto the set during Monday evening’s live news broadcast holding a sign reading “No war… Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” The protester, Channel One producer and editor Marina Ovsyannikova, appeared on screen for several seconds shouting, “Stop the war. No to war,” before the camera cut away.

Marina Ovsyannikova: “Stop the war! No to war!”

Marina Ovsyannikova was arrested by officers with Russia’s Interior Ministry. She has since disappeared and reportedly has no access to legal representation. Ahead of her protest, she recorded a video saying she had worked for years spreading Kremlin propaganda as a producer at Channel One.

Marina Ovsyannikova: “I am ashamed I allowed lies to be told on TV screens. I’m ashamed I allowed Russian people to be fooled. We were silent in 2014 when it all started. We did not go out to protest when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We simply watched this inhumane regime. Now the whole world has turned away from us, and the next 10 generations of our descendants will not wash away the shame of this fratricidal war. We Russians are wise and proud. It is up to us to stop this madness. Come out to protest. Do not be afraid. They cannot put all of us in jail.”

As she spoke, Ovsyannikova wore a necklace featuring Ukraine’s national colors — blue and yellow — alongside Russia’s white, blue and red. She said her father is Ukrainian and her mother is Russian. Human rights groups in Russia say 15,000 people have been arrested in antiwar protests since the start of the Ukraine invasion.

U.S. Warns China Not to Give Russia Military or Financial Assistance

Mar 15, 2022

The Biden administration has warned China against assisting Russia with financial or military assistance, in the face of devastating sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. On Monday, a U.S. delegation led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Chinese officials in Rome, hoping to press Beijing into severing ties with Moscow. The meeting came as China’s Foreign Ministry denied reports that the Kremlin asked Beijing for military equipment.

Zhao Lijian: “Recently the U.S. has been spreading disinformation against China in regards to the Ukraine issue, time after time, with sinister intentions. China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent and clear, and we have always played a constructive role in persuading peace and promoting talks.”

U.N. Agencies Warn of Rising Rates of Famine in War-Torn Yemen

Mar 15, 2022

The United Nations warns acute cases of hunger in Yemen have reached an unprecedented level, with over 160,000 people likely to experience famine over the second half of this year. The U.N. says more than 17 million people in Yemen are currently in need of food assistance, with persistent high levels of acute malnutrition among children under the age of 5. The stark warning came ahead of a donor’s conference on Yemen planned for Wednesday. Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, seven years after the Saudi-led coalition launched its war and blockade of Yemen backed by arms sales and technical assistance from the United States and allies including France and the United Kingdom.

CIA Used Prisoner in Afghan Prison as a “Training Prop” for Torture

Mar 15, 2022

Newly declassified documents reveal the CIA used a prisoner at a secret prison in Afghanistan as a training prop to teach interrogators how to torture other prisoners. Portions of a 2008 report by the CIA’s inspector general made public in court filings reveal the prisoner, Ammar al-Baluchi, was repeatedly stripped naked and had his head slammed into a plywood wall by trainee interrogators, who lined up to practice the technique on Baluchi for up to two hours at a time. The inspector general’s report revealed the torture left Baluchi with brain damage and did not yield any useful intelligence. Baluchi is still being held at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo, where he’s been in pretrial hearings for 10 years on charges he participated in plotting the 9/11 attacks.

U.K. Supreme Court Won’t Halt Extradition of Julian Assange to U.S.

Mar 15, 2022

Britain’s highest court has rejected an appeal from Julian Assange, who is seeking to block his extradition to the United States. The ruling means British Home Secretary Priti Patel will have the final decision on whether to turn Assange over to the Biden administration. Assange faces espionage charges that could bring up to 175 years in prison, after he published classified U.S. documents on WikiLeaks that exposed war crimes. Assange’s lawyers argued he could face prolonged solitary confinement in a U.S. supermax prison — conditions tantamount to torture. This is Simon Crowther, a legal adviser with Amnesty International.

Simon Crowther: “What it means is that non-legally binding diplomatic assurances that Julian Assange would not be tortured will not be scrutinized by the Supreme Court. … This is bad for Assange, but it’s also bad for justice in the U.K., and it’s bad for the global prohibition of torture, because this kind of agreement really needs all the scrutiny that it can get.”

Assange has spent over 1,000 days locked up in the Belmarsh high-security prison in London, where he recently suffered a mini-stroke. He’s scheduled to marry his fiancée, Stella Moris, inside Belmarsh on March 23.

Boris Johnson Planning Trip to Meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Mar 15, 2022

British lawmakers are calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cancel a planned trip to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Opposition politicians and even some members of Johnson’s Conservative Party cited the recent mass execution of 81 men by Saudi Arabia as the latest example of the kingdom’s abysmal human rights record. Johnson has called on Saudi officials to pump more oil to bring down rising energy costs, as Western countries look for alternatives to Russian oil. Last week the White House came under fire after a report claimed President Biden was planning a visit to Saudi Arabia to “help repair relations.”

The Biden administration has reportedly retreated from a plan to discuss the lifting of sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry. Several U.S. senators, including Florida Republican Marco Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, objected after reports emerged that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro met with American officials in Caracas earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Koch Industries signaled this week it has no plans to join nearly 400 other multinational corporations that have suspended their Russian operations. The conglomerate, which is run by the billionaire Republican Party donor Charles Koch, owns at least three companies still doing business in Russia.

Idaho GOP Passes Bill to Ban Abortions at 6 Weeks, Criminalize Gender-Affirming Surgery

Mar 15, 2022

Idaho’s Republican-led Legislature has approved an anti-abortion bill modeled after Texas’s first-of-its-kind law that effectively bans abortions after about six weeks. The Idaho law allows family members of a pregnant person — as well as a potential father — to sue a doctor who performs an abortion. Those who succeed could collect $20,000, plus legal fees, from the abortion provider. Under the law, a rapist could not file such a lawsuit, but a rapist’s relatives could sue.

This comes just days after Idaho lawmakers approved a bill that would ban puberty-blocking treatment, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery for trans children. It would also make it a felony to take trans youth out of the state to receive that care elsewhere. Those found guilty face up to life in prison.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Republican Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill Monday limiting how race can be discussed in classrooms. The bill garnered support only from white Republicans; all of Mississippi’s Black legislators opposed it and staged a walkout in January to protest it.

Joe Manchin Joins GOP Senators, Dooming Confirmation of Fed Nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin

Mar 15, 2022

In a reversal, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Monday he will oppose President Biden’s nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Manchin’s change of position all but dooms Raskin’s prospect of confirmation, which is opposed by all 50 Senate Republicans, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins. Sarah Bloom Raskin has vowed to focus on how the climate crisis threatens the economy. Last month, Democracy Now! asked Raskin’s husband, Democratic Congressmember Jamie Raskin, why Republicans opposed her nomination.

Rep. Jamie Raskin: “All of this is about things that she has said or written about climate change. She has said, of course, that she will follow the law and act completely within the dual mandate of the Fed. But what they’re attacking is the idea that there can be citizens who are fully aware of climate change, who take it seriously, who can serve honorably and lawfully in other capacities.”

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