The United States Senate has confirmed federal appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman and first former public defender to serve on the high court. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, presided over Thursday’s vote as president of the Senate.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “On this vote, the yeas are 53, the nays are 47, and this nomination is confirmed.”
Judge Jackson currently serves on the D.C. Court of Appeals and will be seated as the 116th justice on the Supreme Court this summer after Justice Stephen Breyer retires. The court’s balance of power will remain the same, with six justices appointed by Republicans and three by Democrats. We’ll have more on Jackson’s historic confirmation after headlines.
In Ukraine, at least 39 people were killed and about 100 others wounded today in a missile attack on a crowded train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Among the dead were four children. Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians attempting to flee Russia’s heavy assault on the region. Russia has denied responsibility.
For the first time, the Kremlin’s spokesperson has acknowledged that Russia’s military has suffered significant losses. Dmitri Peskov spoke with the British channel Sky News.
Mark Austin: “You’ve lost thousands of troops. How many troops have you lost?”
Dmitry Peskov: “Yes, we have. We have — we have significant losses of troops, and it’s a huge tragedy for us.”
In Brussels, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday the U.S. was preparing to send even more advanced weaponry to Ukraine. Blinken made the pledge after meeting with NATO ministers. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke after joining the meeting.
Dmytro Kuleba: “My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. It’s weapons, weapons and weapons.”
The U.S. has sent Ukraine $1.7 billion in military aid since Russia invaded Ukraine six weeks ago. Peace activists say the focus should be on diplomacy. CodePink’s Medea Benjamin wrote, “Ukraine’s foreign minister’s agenda should not be weapons, weapons, weapons, but negotiations, negotiations, negotiations and ceasefire, ceasefire, ceasefire.”
The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia’s membership to the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights during its assault on Ukraine. Ninety-three countries voted in favor of the resolution. Twenty-four voted against it, including Russia and China. Fifty-eight nations abstained — among them, India.
In Russia, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov says he was attacked on a train Thursday by an assailant who poured red paint over him, causing severe discomfort to his eyes. Last month Muratov closed the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta after receiving a second warning from a Russian state censor over its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine. The paper has since launched a European edition staffed by journalists who have chosen to leave Russia.
China is facing its worst COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic’s initial outbreak in Wuhan. On Thursday, China logged about 25,000 new cases — with 21,000 infections reported in Shanghai alone. That’s despite a lockdown that’s confined about 26 million Shanghai residents to their homes, where some people are reporting shortages of food and medicine. Meanwhile, Beijing city authorities have introduced their strictest COVID restrictions since early 2020, after authorities reported 35 infections around China’s capital over the last week.
Here in the United States, a new study finds life expectancy dropped for the second year in a row in 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take a heavy toll on public health. Overall, U.S. life expectancy has decreased by nearly two-and-a-half years since 2019 — by far the biggest decrease since World War II.
On Thursday, a federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling and reinstated a White House requirement that most federal workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports major cities in California spent large portions of their federal COVID relief money on police departments. About half of the $640 million Los Angeles received under the American Rescue Plan went to the LAPD.
In Colombia, a massacre in the Indigenous community of Puerto Leguízamo has sparked widespread anger and questions about what led to the assassination of at least 11 people. The killings took place the early morning of March 28 after Colombian soldiers ambushed residents. Al Jazeera reports one of the victims was 16 years old. Colombian President Iván Duque celebrated the massacre as a successful operation where dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had been killed. But witnesses say at least some of the victims were civilians and that the army lied to cover up the mass murder.
A joint report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch finds authorities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region have committed widespread abuses against Tigrayans since November 2020 that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes include murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deportation, sexual violence and other inhumane acts. The conflict has displaced more than 400,000 people, and the United Nations said in January up to 40% of Tigray’s 6 million people faced an “extreme lack of food.” This week, the Red Cross said it had secured the first shipments of humanitarian aid to Tigray in six months, after Ethiopia declared a ceasefire on March 25.
In Mexico, a new report says violence against journalists skyrocketed to unprecedented levels during the first three years and one month of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s term. During that time, there were nearly 2,000 reported attacks against journalists, including 25 murders — up 85% compared to AMLO’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto. At least eight journalists have been killed in Mexico so far this year.
El Salvador’s Congress has approved a new measure that punishes anyone — including journalists — who shares information about gangs. Violators face a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Press freedom advocates are denouncing the move as censorship and warn it could lead to wrongful arrests. This is the president of the Salvadoran Journalists Association.
César Fagoaga: “I think the government is trying to prevent us from speaking about certain things, from speaking about how they made deals with gangs, how the state protects gang members from being extradited to the United States.”
This comes as the Salvadoran government continues to enforce a brutal 30-day state of emergency that has suspended several constitutional protections and led to the arrest of over 8,000 people, accused of being in gangs, in the last 13 days. Click here to see our interview on this subject.
Pakistan’s Parliament is poised to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan from office, after Pakistan’s top court overturned his move to block a no-confidence vote, which he was widely expected to lose. Opposition lawmakers have accused Khan of carrying out an “open coup against the country and the Constitution.” Khan has accused Pakistani lawmakers of plotting with the United States to remove him from power.
Israeli authorities have lifted a lockdown of central Tel Aviv after soldiers killed a Palestinian man blamed for a deadly shooting at a bar Thursday night that killed two people and injured 13 others. Israeli police say the alleged gunman died in a shootout near a mosque in southern Tel Aviv after a nine-hour manhunt. The attacker was identified as a 28-year-old Palestinian from Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. Jenin was the site of an Israeli raid last Saturday that saw three Palestinians killed in a shootout with Israeli forces. Thursday evening’s attack was the fourth deadly assault targeting Israelis in less than three weeks.
In Puerto Rico, nearly half a million people remain without electricity after a fire at a main power plant caused the biggest blackout the island has seen so far this year. Thursday’s massive outage also left some 168,000 residents without water. The latest blackout has intensified public outrage against LUMA Energy, the private Canadian-American company that took over transmission and distribution of power from Puerto Rico’s public utility last June — a move that was imposed by the United States. LUMA has so far failed to reduce the frequency of power outages that have impacted Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which decimated the island’s electric grid.
New York’s attorney general has asked a judge to hold Donald Trump in contempt of court, after he refused to turn over documents to her civil probe into the Trump Organization’s business practices. Letitia James said Trump should be fined $10,000 a day until he turns over documents her office has requested on eight separate occasions. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports the U.S. Department of Justice has begun taking steps to investigate Trump’s removal of presidential records to his Mar-a-Lago resort — some of which were labeled “top secret.”
An investigation by The New York Times has revealed the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general and top aides ordered staff to hide damaging findings in reports of domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving DHS law enforcement officials. One report had found that at least 10,000 employees at Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Administration experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. Meanwhile, these agencies had a pattern of using cash payments, some up to $255,000, to settle sexual harassment complaints without investigating or disciplining the perpetrators.
President Biden has signed a bill to shore up the finances of the United States Postal Service. The Postal Service Reform Act ensures mail deliveries six days a week and eliminates a costly 2006 mandate that required the USPS to fund employee retirement benefits 75 years in advance.
This week, Democratic lawmakers joined climate activists outside USPS headquarters in a rally rejecting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s decision to buy a new generation of gasoline-powered delivery trucks. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said the Postal Service should instead commit to purchasing 160,000 union-made electric vehicles.
Sen. Ed Markey: “The Postal Service Board of Governors and the Biden administration can’t let this bad-for-business, bad-for-climate, bad-for-health, bad-for-labor decision stand. If DeJoy won’t get rid of this decision, the USPS should get rid of Louis DeJoy.”