U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has arrived in Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The trip follows Guterres’s visit to the Kremlin, where on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin promised “in principle” that Russia will allow civilians to evacuate from conflict zones. Ukrainian officials dispute that, saying convoys attempting to flee through humanitarian corridors continue to come under fire.
In Mariupol, the commander of the city’s remaining Ukrainian forces pleaded in a new video for an international rescue operation to evacuate troops and civilians from the massive steel plant where they remain holed up against a withering assault by Russia’s military.
Serhiy Volyna: “Here with us there are hundreds of civilians, including tens of children. There are many people with reduced mobility, many elderly. The situation is very difficult. There are shortages of water, food, as well as ammunition, weapons and military equipment.”
In southern Ukraine, Russian soldiers opened fire with tear gas and stun grenades on a crowd of peaceful protesters who’d gathered to demand an end to Russia’s military occupation of their city. Elsewhere, in Kherson, one person was killed Wednesday as rockets fell on a residential neighborhood.
The White House says President Biden will head to Alabama next week to visit a Lockheed Martin factory that produces Javelin anti-tank missiles — one of dozens of weapons systems which the U.S. has been supplying to Ukraine. The announcement came as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Western nations against intervening in the war.
President Vladimir Putin: “If someone decides to intervene in the current events in Ukraine from the outside and create unacceptable strategic threats for Russia, then they must know that our response, our retaliatory strikes, will be lightning fast, quick. We have all the tools for this, such that no one else can boast of right now. And we won’t brag. We will use them if needed. And everyone should know about it. We have made all the decisions on this matter.”
In India, acrid smoke hung over the capital Delhi for a second straight day today after a massive garbage dump caught fire. The landfill is taller than a 17-story building and covers an area larger than 50 football fields. Waste pickers who live in nearby homes complained of toxic smoke and fumes.
Udayveer: “I am not able to breathe, and my eyes are burning. We are helpless, but what can we do? We cannot leave our homes and go anywhere else.”
Officials say a buildup of highly flammable methane gas at the dump spontaneously combusted after temperatures topped 44 degrees Celsius — or more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s part of a blistering spring heat wave across large swaths of India and Pakistan that’s seen daytime high temperatures break records.
About one-fifth of all reptile species, including crocodiles and turtles, are at risk of extinction. That’s the conclusion of a major new study published in the journal Nature. Multiple factors are threatening reptiles, including deforestation, urban encroachment, hunting and the climate emergency. The zoologist Bruce Young of NatureServe co-led the study.
Bruce Young: “Reptiles represent a unique evolutionary heritage on the tree of life. And if all of those 20% of reptiles that are threatened today go extinct, we will lose a cumulation of 15 billion years of evolution that’s led to these fascinating creatures that we see around us today.”
Authorities in Southern California have declared an unprecedented water shortage emergency due to a record-breaking climate-fueled drought. This past January, February and March were the driest months in California’s history. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said, “We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there. This is unprecedented territory.” Under the emergency order, about 6 million Californians have been ordered to restrict outdoor water usage to one day a week. This is Adel Hagekhalil of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Adel Hagekhalil: “We are looking ahead and asking us to all work together, asking everyone to be ready to stretch the water that we have, so we all have enough water. And one day of watering a week is a good compromise, but if we don’t see the change, we will do the next action.”
A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found the western United States and northern Mexico are currently experiencing their worst drought in 1,200 years.
Moderna has requested emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine for children under the age of 6. There are currently no vaccines approved for children under the age of 5. Pfizer’s vaccine has been approved for children 5 and over.
Meanwhile, the White House has announced a new effort to increase usage of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, which can cut the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% in patients who take the drug early in the course of an illness. Many pharmacies report having an excessive amount of the drug. Vice President Kamala Harris began taking Paxlovid after she tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
The U.S. government has cleared Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner for release. Hassan bin Attash has been jailed by the U.S. for the last 20 years, even though has never been charged with a crime. He was just 17 years old when he was captured in Karachi by Pakistani security services in 2002 and turned over to the United States. Attorneys say Attash was tortured by the U.S. and its allies for up to 12 hours a day over a two-year period, including at a CIA black site. The Biden administration says Attash will remain at the Guantánamo Bay prison while it tries to find a country willing to offer him rehabilitation.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a follow-up case to a landmark decision on tribal sovereignty handed down by the court just two years ago. Justices will decide whether Oklahoma and other states have criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indigenous people against Native people within Indian reservations. This case follows the landmark 2020 ruling, McGirt v. Oklahoma, which found that state authorities cannot criminally prosecute Indigenous peoples under state or local laws; they should instead face justice under tribal or federal courts.
Indigenous communities in Oklahoma are condemning the head of the state’s Republican Party after he called for the disestablishment of the federally recognized Muscogee Nation reservation. The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes in Oklahoma was responding to remarks made this week by John Bennett, who’s also a candidate for a U.S. congressional seat. Bennett made more headlines this week after he called for the state killing of top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
John Bennett: “We’re in a war with bureaucrats that have forced vaccine mandates on us, mask mandates on us. And you know what? They’re pushing this wokeness confusion down our throats now. And by the way, we should try Anthony Fauci and put him in front of a firing squad.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Fauci told Congress that attacks by Republican politicians have led to death threats against him and his family.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill establishing a first-of-its-kind elections police force. The Republican-authored bill creates the “Office of Election Crimes and Security,” staffed by about 25 new law enforcement positions. Democrats and voting rights advocates sounded alarm over the plan, which could see people fined or jailed for things that were commonly accepted until a recent voter suppression bill became law — such as gathering ballots at churches or community centers before dropping them off at an official election drop box.
Democratic state Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson said the new law solves a problem that does not exist. She added, “Its implementation will put up additional barriers to voting and targets communities of color. This bullying tactic will intimidate and immobilize workers, families, and everyday people.”
A two-year study in Minnesota has concluded the Minneapolis Police Department engages in discriminatory, race-based policing. Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights launched the probe after the police killing of George Floyd. The report documented “racial disparities in how Minneapolis officers use force, stop, search, arrest, and cite people of color.” The report also determined that the Minneapolis Police Department covertly uses social media to surveil Black individuals and Black organizations unrelated to criminal activity.