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HeadlinesApril 12, 2022

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After Meeting with Putin, Austrian Chancellor Warns Russian Assault on Ukraine Will Intensify 

Apr 12, 2022

Austria’s leader met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning after his visit to Moscow that Russia is set to intensify the brutality of its assault on Ukraine. Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he spoke with Putin for about 75 minutes, becoming the first European leader to meet with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. This comes as Ukraine’s government says tens of thousands of Russian troops are massing for a major new offensive in eastern Ukraine aimed at capturing the entire Donbas region. On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed South Korea’s parliament, asking for military aid. Zelensky also said the death toll in the besieged city of Mariupol was far higher than previously reported.

President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Mariupol has been destroyed. There are tens of thousands dead. But even despite this, the Russians are not stopping the offensive operation. They want to make Mariupol a demonstratively destroyed city.”

Zelensky’s claims could not be confirmed, as Mariupol remains largely cut off from the outside world. On Monday, Mariupol’s mayor told reporters more than 10,000 civilians have died in the city. Meanwhile, the Pentagon says it’s monitoring unconfirmed reports that Russian troops used chemical weapons during the assault on Mariupol.

Kremlin Critic Vladimir Kara-Murza Arrested in Moscow After Antiwar Comments 

Apr 12, 2022

In Russia, police arrested the prominent antiwar activist and opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza on unknown charges Monday, after he called the Russian government a “regime of murderers.” Kara-Murza previously survived two suspected poisonings that rights groups blamed on Russia’s Federal Security Service.

U.N. Probes Reports That Russian Troops in Ukraine Used Rape as Weapon of War

Apr 12, 2022

The United Nations says it’s investigating reports of sexual violence and rape committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. Sima Bahous, the executive director of UN Women, spoke Monday to the U.N. Security Council. 

Sima Bahous: “The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags.

Bahous also warned of increasing risks of human and sexual trafficking of young women and unaccompanied teenagers. Her comments came as human rights worker Kateryna Cherepakha testified her organization has documented nine cases of rape by Russian soldiers involving 12 women and girls — something she called just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Kateryna Cherepakha: “We know that many of these cases will hardly, or even never, be disclosed, unfortunately, as many of those suffered are killed already by Russian invaders. We know and see — and we want you to hear our voices — that violence and rape is used now as a weapon of war by Russian invaders in Ukraine.”

Russia Condemns NATO Expansion as Sweden and Finland Consider Joining Alliance

Apr 12, 2022

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats said Monday they will review their long-standing policy of military nonalignment, after some lawmakers demanded Sweden apply for NATO membership. This comes after Finnish leaders said they’re considering a plan to end Finland’s long-standing neutrality policy in order to join NATO. In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned NATO against the inclusion of Sweden and Finland.

Dmitry Peskov: “We have repeatedly said that NATO remains a tool geared toward confrontation. It’s not the kind of alliance that ensures peace and stability, and its further expansion will not bring additional security to the European continent.”

Earlier this year, Swedish and Finnish soldiers joined about 30,000 NATO troops in northern Norway near the Russian border for Arctic war games known as “Operation Cold Response.”

China to Test 18 Million in Guangzhou as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens

Apr 12, 2022

China’s COVID-19 crisis deepened Monday as authorities announced plans to test 18 million people in the city of Guangzhou, northwest of Hong Kong. Officials sealed off the city to most new arrivals and canceled in-person classes for schoolchildren, after officials detected just 27 coronavirus cases on Monday. This comes amid growing popular protests against a sweeping lockdown in Shanghai, where some 26 million people have been confined to their homes for up to three weeks, sometimes without access to food or medicine. Some parents report they spent days separated from young children who tested positive for coronavirus.

Philadelphia Becomes First Major U.S. City to Reinstate Indoor Mask Mandate

Apr 12, 2022

Here in the United States, Philadelphia has become the first major city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate, after a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases. The move comes just six weeks after Philadelphia officials dropped indoor mask requirements put in place amid record rates of infection last winter. Meanwhile, several prominent U.S. universities — including Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Rice — have reinstated mask mandates on campuses. The number of U.S. infections is once again rising, led by northeastern states, where the BA.2 Omicron subvariant has become the dominant form of coronavirus.

Civilians Killed as Israel Goes “On the Offensive” Against Palestinians

Apr 12, 2022

Israeli forces have killed six Palestinians, including two women and a teenager, since Friday. In one incident, Israeli soldiers shot dead an unarmed Palestinian mother of six who they claimed did not heed calls to stop at an Israeli checkpoint near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Tension has been soaring in recent weeks between Israelis and Palestinians. Fourteen people have died in Israel in attacks by Palestinians over the past three weeks. Israel has responded by raiding Palestinians neighborhoods in the West Bank, setting up makeshift military checkpoints and conducting mass arrests. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who recently lost his parliamentary majority,  said, “The State of Israel has gone on the offensive.”

Egyptian Economist Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances After Forcible Disappearance

Apr 12, 2022

In news from Egypt, an economic researcher has died in custody after being forcibly disappeared in February. Ayman Hadhoud died in early March, but his family only learned of his death this weekend when they were asked to collect his body from a psychiatric hospital in Cairo. Hadhoud helped found the liberal Reform and Development Party in Egypt. On Monday, Hadhoud’s brother was summoned for questioning.

Meanwhile, the imprisoned Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah has become a British citizen in a bid to increase pressure on authorities to release him. The prominent human rights activist has spent most of the past decade locked up.

Ex-Cop Who Called for “Open Armed Rebellion” Convicted over Jan. 6 Insurrection

Apr 12, 2022

Back in the United States, a former police officer in Virginia has been convicted on six counts for his role in the January 6 insurrection. Thomas Robertson had served as a police officer in Rocky Mount, Virginia. A month prior to the insurrection, Robertson called for an “open armed rebellion.” He is the second January 6 defendant to be convicted by a jury.

White House Announces Crackdown on Unregulated “Ghost Guns”

Apr 12, 2022

The White House has finalized a new federal rule that would regulate “ghost guns” more like regular guns. “Ghost guns” are firearms without serial numbers that are usually assembled from kits and often sold over the internet or created in 3D printers. The Justice Department reports about 6,000 such guns are recovered at crime scenes each year.

President Biden announced the new regulation Monday at the White House, where he was joined by Mia Tretta, a survivor of the Saugus High School shooting in Santa Clarita, California. In 2019, Tretta was shot in the stomach by a teenaged classmate in an attack that killed her best friend, 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell.

Mia Tretta: “Dominic had died, and so had another classmate, Gracie Anne Muehlberger, a 15-year-old girl with an infectious laugh. And a community was left shattered. I later learned that we had been shot by a 16-year-old student for reasons I will never know. He had brought his father’s weapon to school, a firearm I would come to know as a ghost gun. Ghost guns are untraceable, build-it-yourself firearms that look like a gun, shoot like a gun and kill like a gun, but have not been regulated like a gun.”

Biden’s new rule does not ban sales of ghost gun kits; instead, it would mandate serial numbers for weapons parts, as well as a background check for buyers.

Biden Taps Steve Dettelbach to Head ATF After Senators Reject First Nominee

Apr 12, 2022

President Biden has nominated former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Biden’s previous pick, David Chipman, failed to win the support of three Senate Democratic Caucus members and withdrew his nomination amid attacks from Republicans and the NRA over his gun control advocacy. The Senate has confirmed just one permanent ATF director in the last 16 years amid heavy lobbying from gun advocacy groups.

Maryland Lawmakers Override GOP Governor’s Veto to Expand Abortion Access

Apr 12, 2022

State lawmakers in Maryland have voted to expand abortion access, becoming the 15th state to allow health professionals other than doctors to carry out the procedure. The new law provides funds for abortion care training programs and allows nurse practitioners, midwives and physician’s assistants to become certified to perform abortions. The bill became law after Maryland’s House of Delegates and state Senate voted to override a veto of the legislation by Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

Indonesia OKs Landmark Sexual Violence Bill; Protesters Reject President’s Bid to Extend Tenure

Apr 12, 2022

Indonesia’s parliament has approved a landmark bill aimed at preventing sexual violence. The new legislation provides prison terms of up to 12 years for crimes of physical sexual abuse — both in and out of marriage — and criminalizes forced marriage and online sexual harassment. It also sets up a trust fund and recovery services to help survivors of sexual violence. Women’s rights groups spent six years campaigning for the legislation.

Outside Indonesia’s parliament, police fired tear gas and water cannons to clear hundreds of students who rallied Monday to protest high prices for staples like cooking oil. The students are also demanding that Indonesian President Joko Widodo back away from a proposal that he extend his tenure beyond the two terms in office allowed under Indonesia’s Constitution.

Muhammad Lutfi: “We are protesting the extension period for the president’s tenure and the increasing price of oil and many other things that are hurting people. What’s clear is how the elites are forcing themselves to delay the election, and that’s what hurts the Constitution.”

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