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HeadlinesApril 22, 2022

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Photos Show Mass Graves Near Mariupol; U.N. Cites Evidence of Russian War Crimes

Apr 22, 2022

New satellite images appear to show mass graves outside the besieged city of Mariupol, in what Ukrainian officials say is evidence that Russia is burying bodies to cover up war crimes. The release of the images came as the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “Russian armed forces have indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure, actions that may amount to war crimes.”

Meanwhile, a top Russian general says his army is seeking full control over eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian news agencies quoted the commander as saying he’s seeking to create a land corridor connecting Russian-controlled Crimea in the south with the eastern Donbas region. The strategy suggests Russia might be planning an assault on the Black Sea port city of Odessa.

Biden Pledges Another $1.3 Billion in Military and Economic Aid to Ukraine

Apr 22, 2022

President Biden says the U.S. will send another $800 million in military equipment to Ukraine, including heavy artillery and tactical drones. The U.S. is also sending another $500 million in economic assistance to Ukraine. Biden’s announcement came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued to appeal to European countries for more weapons. He spoke by video Thursday to the Portuguese Parliament.

President Volodymyr Zelensky: “We need weapons to defend ourselves from the brutal Russian invasion that has caused as much evil as the fascist invasion 80 years ago. Leopard tanks, armored vehicles, anti-warship Harpoon missiles — this is what you have and how you can help us to defend the freedom and civilization of Europe.”

ISIS-K Claims Responsibility for Bombings Across Afghanistan

Apr 22, 2022

An affiliate of the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for three bomb attacks across Afghanistan Thursday that targeted Shiite Muslims in the minority Hazara community. In the largest attack, a bomb exploded inside a mosque in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens. This is a survivor.

Mahdi Mohibi: “We urge the Islamic Emirate to pay more attention to the security of the people. How long will such incidents continue? Afghanistan’s situation is so bad. We have no secure place to live.”

Elsewhere, two children were injured in Kabul after a roadside bomb exploded near a boys’ school in a Hazara neighborhood. A third bomb blast in northern Kunduz injured 11 people. 

French Voters to Decide Between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen in Presidential Runoff

Apr 22, 2022

French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are making their final appeals to voters ahead of Sunday’s runoff presidential election. Several polls show Macron in the lead. This is Le Pen’s third attempt at the presidency. Le Pen is a nationalist running on an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim platform. 

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Report Condemns Biden Administration’s “Inhumane and Wasteful” Treatment of Asylum Seekers

Apr 22, 2022

A new report by Human Rights First condemns the Biden administration for imprisoning tens of thousands of asylum seekers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, jails, where they face prolonged detention periods, physical and psychological abuse, medical neglect, racism, a lack of legal and language resources, and other harms. The group says their imprisonment is wasteful, cruel and a violation of U.S. and international law. This is Salma, an asylum seeker from Uganda, who was held at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California.

Salma: “They transported me to Adelanto, which took almost three hours. Imagine being chained, all of your body being chained. You cannot even scratch yourself. You cannot even reach out for water, for three straight hours. So, when I got to Adelanto, I was told to hand over all my stuff — my passport, my everything. And these are things that I never got back. So I handed over my identifications. I handed over my phones. Immediately they cut off my hair because it was braided. And then they gave me an injection that, up to date, I don’t understand what it meant.”

Private Data Brokers Help ICE Skirt Sanctuary Policies and Target Immigrants 

Apr 22, 2022

Documents obtained by a coalition of immigrant rights groups reveal ICE has contracted with the third-party data broker LexisNexis, allowing it to receive real-time jail booking data from sheriff’s offices in the state of Colorado. The move to track the whereabouts of immigrants curtails Colorado’s sanctuary policies, which are meant to prevent state and local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE. Jacinta González of Mijente’s #NoTechForICE campaign said, ”ICE agents once relied on the police to help them track us, arrest us, and deport us. Now, tech companies, by selling our personal data, are helping them instead.”

Honduran Ex-President Extradited to U.S. to Face Narcotrafficking Charges

Apr 22, 2022

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been extradited to the United States. Hernández was put on board a Drug Enforcement Administration plane Thursday in the capital Tegucigalpa and flown to New York, where he faces drug trafficking and weapons charges. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the indictment at the Justice Department. He said Hernández abused his position as president to operate Honduras as a narco-state.

Attorney General Merrick Garland: “Hernández is alleged to have received millions of dollars from multiple drug trafficking organizations, including from the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, known as El Chapo. In return, drug traffickers in Honduras were allowed to operate with virtual impunity. We allege that Hernández corrupted legitimate public institutions in the country, including parts of the National Police, military and National Congress. And we allege that Hernández worked closely with other public officials to protect cocaine shipments bound for the United States.”

Hernández was arrested in February, less than a month after his presidential term ended. He was a longtime U.S. ally, who received backing during his entire eight-year term despite mounting reports of serious human rights violations and accusations of corruption and involvement with drug smuggling. His brother Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández is currently serving a life prison sentence in the U.S. after being convicted in 2019 of smuggling cocaine.

Federal Judge Temporary Halts Kentucky’s 15-Week Abortion Ban 

Apr 22, 2022

A federal judge has halted Kentucky’s 15-week abortion ban — at least for now. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings — a Trump appointee — blocked the law from taking effect for the next two weeks, after Kentucky’s two remaining abortion providers said the law’s provisions prevented them from continuing abortion care. Both clinics now plan to resume offering abortions. Kentucky Republicans passed the bill in March, before overriding a veto by Democratic Governor Andy Beshear last week. This comes as the Supreme Court is weighing Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban in a case that could overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide.

SCOTUS Rules Puerto Ricans Don’t Have Constitutional Right to Disability Benefits

Apr 22, 2022

The Supreme Court has ruled the federal government can continue to deny benefits to seniors and people with disabilities living in Puerto Rico. In an 8-1 ruling on Thursday, justices sided with the Biden administration, which says Puerto Ricans aren’t entitled to claim full Supplemental Security Income benefits — or SSI — unless they move to the mainland.

The lone dissenter was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico. She wrote in a dissenting opinion, “There is no rational basis for Congress to treat needy citizens living anywhere in the United States so differently from others. To hold otherwise, as the Court does, is irrational and antithetical to the very nature of the SSI program and the equal protection of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Texas Executes Its Oldest Death Row Prisoner; Tennessee Halts Execution over Lethal Injection Drugs

Apr 22, 2022

Prison officials in Huntsville, Texas, have executed the state’s oldest death row prisoner. On Thursday night, 78-year-old Carl Wayne Buntion was strapped to a gurney and administered a single lethal dose of pentobarbital. Death penalty opponents have compared the drug’s effect to drowning or being burned alive.

In Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Lee temporarily halted the execution of 72-year-old Oscar Franklin Smith Thursday evening, just hours before Smith was set to die. Governor Lee cited an unspecified “oversight” in the preparation of a three-drug lethal injection cocktail meant to sedate and paralyze Smith while stopping his heart from beating.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered a pause to next week’s planned execution of Richard Bernard Moore. The court is weighing the constitutionality of South Carolina’s new execution law, which requires condemned prisoners to choose between the electric chair and a firing squad. 

NYT: Republican Leaders Privately Blasted Trump After Jan. 6 Insurrection

Apr 22, 2022

Newly published audio reveals top Republicans privately blasted Donald Trump in the days after the January 6 Capitol insurrection. The New York Times obtained a recording of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking on January 10, 2021, with Wyoming Republican Congressmember Liz Cheney. In the call, Cheney asks McCarthy whether the House might pass an impeachment resolution.

Rep. Liz Cheney: “Is there any chance? Are you hearing that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?”

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “I’ve had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. … The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation he should resign.”

Before The New York Times released that recording, McCarthy’s office denied reports he’d privately called for Trump’s resignation. In a statement, McCarthy called the reports “totally false and wrong.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who was Senate majority leader at the time, privately told colleagues after the Capitol insurrection that his party would soon break with Trump. “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” he reportedly said. McConnell would go on to vote against convicting Trump during the Senate’s second impeachment trial.

Black Lawmakers Stage Protest as Florida GOP Approves Gerrymandered Congressional Map

Apr 22, 2022

Republican state legislators in Tallahassee, Florida, have approved a gerrymandered congressional voting map drawn by Governor Ron DeSantis which virtually guarantees Republicans four more seats in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, Florida’s House voted 68 to 38 in favor of the map, sending it to Governor DeSantis for his signature. The vote was delayed after Black Florida lawmakers staged an impromptu sit-in protest against the congressional redistricting plan.

Black Florida lawmakers: “Whose house? The people’s house! Whose house? The people’s house! Whose house? The people’s house!”

State Representative Dianne Hart, a Democrat from Tampa, live-streamed video from the floor of the Florida House chamber as she joined Thursday’s protest. She said DeSantis’s map is meant to disenfranchise Black voters.

Rep. Dianne Hart: “We know that what the governor is doing with these maps is not fair. He is taking us from four representatives to two. That’s not fair. He should have allowed us, the Legislature, to draw maps. His job is to either accept them or veto them. But he’s not doing that. Instead, he’s sending his own map, and he’s saying, 'If you don't vote on my map the way I want my map to be, then guess what: You won’t get a map.’”

Also on Thursday, Florida’s House voted to rescind Walt Disney World’s self-governing status, after Governor DeSantis and his allies blasted Disney for opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. The bill now heads to DeSantis’s desk for his signature. 

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