Russia has begun a large-scale military operation to seize the Donbas region and other parts of eastern Ukraine. Earlier today, Ukraine’s military withdrew from the city of Kreminna, which was home to about 18,000 people before Russia’s invasion. A regional governor said fighting has largely flattened the city and killed more than 200 civilians.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian soldiers in the besieged city of Mariupol holed up in a vast steel plant and were staging a last stand against Russian forces. Drone video shows thick clouds of smoke rising from the factory complex, which has been heavily damaged by Russian bombs. Mariupol city officials said over 1,000 civilians were hiding in underground shelters below the steel plant. Other Mariupol residents say Russian troops won’t allow them to evacuate, despite weeks-long shortages of food, water and medicine.
Olga: “To be honest, we are not well. I have mental problems after airstrikes. That’s for sure. I’m really scared. When I hear a plane, I just run away. … We can’t do the laundry, because we don’t have water. We don’t have electricity. Now we have to carry water from far away. I don’t have the health to carry it.”
Russia continues to carry out strikes across Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry says missile and artillery forces struck over 1,200 targets overnight. In the western city of Lviv, seven civilians were killed and 12 others injured Monday in Russian missile attacks. After headlines, we’ll go to Ukraine for the latest.
A federal judge in Florida has struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for airports, transit hubs and passengers on public transportation. U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled from Florida on Monday that the CDC exceeded its legal authority in ordering the mask mandate. Judge Mizelle was nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed by Republican senators in 2020 to a lifetime appointment on the federal court, at the age of just 33, even though the American Bar Association gave her a rating of “not qualified.” Her ruling came as U.S. coronavirus cases continue to rise, particularly in northeastern states, with the official U.S. death toll from COVID-19 approaching 1 million. Later on Monday, the Biden administration said the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the mask mandate at airports. This is White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “The CDC recommended continuing the order for additional time, two weeks, to be able to assess the latest science in keeping with its responsibility to protect the American people. So this is obviously a disappointing decision. The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit.”
Psaki said the White House is reviewing the court ruling and that the Justice Department will decide whether to appeal.
Israeli warplanes launched overnight air raids on the Gaza Strip, after Israel’s military said it shot down a rocket fired from the besieged Palestinian territory toward southern Israel. Israeli officials said the airstrikes hit a Hamas weapons manufacturing site. The Palestinian Health Ministry did not report any deaths or injuries from the attack. The escalating violence came after a bloody weekend in occupied East Jerusalem, where Israeli police repeatedly used rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to clear unarmed Palestinian worshipers from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Those assaults left 158 people injured as Israeli police arrested over 450 Palestinians.
In Afghanistan, at least six people were killed and 11 others injured after two bombs exploded at a boys’ high school in western Kabul earlier today. The attack came as students were leaving morning classes. It targeted a part of the Afghan capital that’s mainly inhabited by members of the minority Hazara Shiite community, which has suffered numerous attacks by the militant Sunni group ISIS.
In Sweden, dozens of people were arrested in protests that broke out over the weekend in response to plans by a far-right group to burn copies of the Qur’an. A series of rallies were organized by the Danish-Swedish extremist far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who is also the founder of the white supremacist so-called Hard Line movement. Last week the group live-streamed a video on social media of Paludan burning the Qur’an in various Swedish cities, triggering counterprotests across southern Sweden. In 2020, Paludan was sentenced to three months in jail, convicted of racism and defamation.
Vice President Kamala Harris toured the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Monday ahead of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser. Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, pledged in a speech to Space Force soldiers that the U.S. will no longer conduct destructive tests of satellites, and she called on other nations to end their development of satellite-killing weapons.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “These weapons are intended to deny the United States our ability to use our space capabilities by disrupting, destroying our satellites, satellites which are critical to our national security.”
Last November, Russia tested an anti-satellite missile that created more than 1,600 pieces of orbital debris large enough to track, posing a risk to satellites and astronauts. The U.S. carried out a similar test in 2008. At the time, the U.S. test prompted protests from Russia, which had just proposed a treaty to ban space weapons.
A U.S. attorney’s office in Illinois said Monday it will not bring federal charges against the former Chicago police officer who murdered Black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. Jason Van Dyke, who is white, was released from prison in February for good behavior, serving just 40 months — less than half his nearly seven-year prison sentence for killing McDonald. Dash camera video of the murder shows Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times. The Chicago Police Department attempted to cover up the events with the help of then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Chicago gun violence prevention advocate and Democratic congressional candidate Kina Collins said in a statement, “Once again, our words have been ignored. And once again, our nation’s criminal justice system is proving to be more criminal and less just. It’s once again telling Black Chicagoans that our lives — and our deaths — do not matter.”
Florida’s Department of Education has banned 54 mathematics textbooks from classroom instruction, saying they feature prohibited topics, including critical race theory. That’s more than 40% of all textbooks submitted to Florida for review. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis praised the move, accusing publishers of seeking to indoctrinate students. In response, the head of Florida’s largest teachers’ union demanded transparency into who ordered the book bans and for examples of “objectionable” content.
A report published recently by PEN America found that in the past eight months alone 86 school districts in 26 states banned more than 1,100 titles in classrooms and libraries. Books about Black and LGBTQ+ people were heavily targeted, and the most banned book of the year was “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, who is a nonbinary author and illustrator.
A new study by Oxfam America finds the wealthiest U.S. billionaires are worth a combined $4.7 trillion — a 62% increase over the past two years. Oxfam released its report on Tax Day, noting that taxing the wealth and income of the nation’s 735 billionaires and enacting a global minimum corporate tax would drastically reduce widening wealth inequality in the U.S. This follows a recent ProPublica investigation that found the 25 richest U.S. billionaires paid a true tax rate of just 3.4% between 2014 and ’18. Meanwhile, over the past decade, a typical American household paid more in taxes than it accumulated in wealth.