President Biden has warned Russia against using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Speaking to reporters from Brussels Thursday, Biden was asked what the U.S. would do if Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to deploy weapons of mass destruction.
President Joe Biden: “We would respond. We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.”
Biden also said the U.S. will expand its sanctions on Russia, targeting members of the Russian parliament and weapons contractors. Today President Biden travels to Poland to meet with U.S. troops along NATO’s eastern flank, near the border with Ukraine.
In the latest news from the battlefield, Russia is claiming it has destroyed a military fuel depot outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Meanwhile, officials in the besieged city of Mariupol say they fear 300 people died last week in what they say was a Russian airstrike on a theater housing civilians sheltering from Russia’s assault.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday accused Russia of using white phosphorus munitions during its assault. Video released by the British channel ITV corroborates the claim, showing streaks of bright light falling over the Kyiv suburb of Irpin earlier this week. White phosphorus ignites on contact with oxygen and burns at extremely high temperatures. It’s fat-soluble, easily absorbed through the skin and can melt through flesh. Russia previously used white phosphorus in attacks on Chechnya. The incendiary is often called “Whiskey Pete” by the U.S. military, which used the substance in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. In 2004, U.S. Marines used white phosphorus as an offensive weapon in Fallujah, Iraq. Such use violates international laws on chemical weapons.
President Biden said Thursday the United States is ready to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Over 3.6 million Ukrainians have fled since Russia’s invasion began one month ago. Meanwhile, advocates continue to denounce the Biden administration’s mass deportations of Haitian asylum seekers. Human Rights Watch is urging the U.S. government to halt the removals, warning Haitians are being sent back to a humanitarian crisis, alarming levels of gang violence and political instability.
In related news, the Biden administration has announced it will expedite asylum processing at the U.S.-Mexico border. The move will allow immigration agents at border ports of entry to conduct “credible fear screenings” of asylum seekers. If they pass, asylum seekers wouldn’t be subjected to immediate removal from the U.S. However, immigrant justice advocates warn the new policy could lead to unfair asylum decisions and more speedy deportations.
Ethiopia has declared a unilateral “humanitarian truce” in order to ease the movement of aid in the conflict-torn Tigray region, where the government had previously been hampering access. The U.N. says hundreds of thousands are living in famine-like conditions in Tigray. All parties in the nearly year-and-a-half-long conflict, including Eritrean forces, have been accused of human rights abuses, including torture, rape and indiscriminate killings. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced.
North Korea confirmed it tested its largest intercontinental ballistic missile this week, as Kim Jong-un said he was preparing for a “long-standing confrontation” with the U.S. North Korean state media released a video featuring Kim walking in slow motion in front of the missile before approving its launch. South Korea responded by immediately conducting live-fire tests of ballistic and tactical missiles.
The White House says it will work with the European Union to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels by replacing them with shipments of liquified natural gas from the United States. President Biden announced the deal earlier today after meeting with top European officials in Brussels.
President Joe Biden: “Today we’ve agreed on a joint game plan toward that goal, while accelerating our progress toward a secure, clean energy future.”
Biden said the U.S. would work to supply an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquified gas to Europe through the end of this year. His announcement came after Canadian officials also promised to increase oil and gas exports to Europe. This week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called it “madness” that countries are seeking to replace Russian energy with more fossil fuel production.
In Australia, climate activists blockaded rail lines leading to Sydney’s major port for a fourth day in a row, in a nonviolent direct action campaign aimed at halting fossil fuel exports. Emma Dorge, an activist with Blockade Australia, live-streamed as she tied herself to a bipod structure over a freight rail line leading to the port.
Emma Dorge: “I’m taking this action because there is not much other choice but to collectively use our power and our bodies to disrupt extractive and exploitative forces.”
The continued protests come after the government of New South Wales said on Thursday it would increase penalties against the nonviolent protesters, who now face fines of over $20,000 and up to two years in jail.
Back in the United States, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he will oppose the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: “And nothing we saw this week convinced me that either President Biden or Judge Jackson’s deeply invested far-left fan club have misjudged her. I will vote against this nominee on the Senate floor.”
Democrats hope to confirm Judge Jackson by April 8, when lawmakers are scheduled to take a two-week break. The Senate can confirm Jackson without any Republican support if all 50 Democrats vote in her favor.
More damning details have emerged about Ginni Thomas’s efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss. In the weeks following the election, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sent a flurry of text messages to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, urging him to take action to prevent a Biden victory. The messages included conspiracy theories about a stolen election popularized by the far-right QAnon movement. On November 10, after news outlets declared Joe Biden the winner, Thomas wrote to Meadows, “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” In January of this year, the Supreme Court denied a request by Trump to block the release of White House documents around January 6. Only one justice dissented in the 8-1 ruling: Clarence Thomas.
In related news, the Supreme Court has declined to give any updates on the condition of Thomas, who was hospitalized last Friday with an unspecified infection. Thomas is 73 years old and the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court.
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton is accusing the Austin Independent School District of breaking state law for celebrating LGBTQ+ pride this week. In a letter, Paxton argued the district’s eighth annual pride events were considered sex education that require consent from parents. Several district administrators have reported death threats and had their personal information posted online.
In related news, the superintendent of Texas’s Granbury Independent School District has demanded a group of librarians remove books on sexuality and gender identity. An investigation by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune revealed leaked audio of Jeremy Glenn’s meeting with district librarians in early January.
Jeremy Glenn: “I’m not saying that we’re going to be pulling all our books out or burning books or anything like that. Absolutely not. I think there is an absolute place probably for every book. It just may not be in a public school library. We’re not going to have 14-year-old girls pick up a book in our high school about sex. It ain’t gonna happen.”
The Arizona state House has passed two anti-transgender bills. The legislation would prohibit medically necessary gender-affirming surgery for trans youth and ban trans athletes from participating in school sports. Arizona lawmakers also approved an aggressive anti-abortion bill that would ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who supports anti-abortion policies. In more Arizona news, the state Senate on Wednesday passed a Republican-led bill that would force residents to retroactively provide proof of citizenship to remain registered voters. Voting rights advocates have warned the bill could trigger “the most extreme voter purge in the country,” and say Black, Latinx, Native, low-income and senior voters would be disproportionately impacted.
In Minneapolis, unions representing public school teachers have agreed to a tentative contract that could end their strike, which began on March 8. The deal would reportedly boost pay for education support professionals, bring new protections to teachers of color, limit class sizes and increase funding for mental health. If the contract is ratified this weekend, some 29,000 students could return to Minneapolis classrooms on Monday.
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has signed three gun control bills into law. One measure bans firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. A second restricts untraceable “ghost guns,” while a third law limits firearms at government meetings and election spaces.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., survivors of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, rallied outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday demanding federal action on gun control. Activists placed hundreds of body bags on the National Mall to represent the 170,000 people across the U.S. who’ve died by gun violence since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. This is Parkland survivor and March for Our Lives co-founder Jaclyn Corin.
Jaclyn Corin: “The reality is, is that if we had gun safety legislation in Florida at that time and on a national level at that time, the shooter at my school would have never had access to that AR-15, and all of the following events would have never happened.”