President Biden has ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff, as the White House marked 1 million deaths from COVID-19 since the first cases were detected just over two years ago.
President Joe Biden: “Today we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States: 1 million COVID deaths, 1 million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses.”
Biden spoke from a virtual White House summit on the pandemic, where he called again on Congress to pass funding to combat COVID-19 at home and around the globe. Biden initially requested $22 billion from Congress in March — a figure rejected by public health advocates as too small. The request is now for $10 billion and remains stalled on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise. On Thursday, states reported over 115,000 new cases — and that’s likely a significant undercount due to an increase in home testing.
The United Nations says more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February. A further 8 million people are displaced inside Ukraine. This comes as Ukraine’s military continues to claim successes against Russian forces. Video footage released today appears to show a Russian ship on fire in the Black Sea after it was hit by what Ukraine’s military said was a missile.
In Washington, D.C., Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul delayed a vote Thursday on a bill to give an additional $40 billion in military and economic assistance to Ukraine. It’s by far the largest foreign aid package in decades. Paul is demanding that a special inspector general be given oversight of the aid money; his objections are likely to push a vote on the measure into next week, when it’s expected to pass.
Moscow has warned Finland over its plans to join NATO. The Kremlin condemned the move as hostile and threatened unspecified retaliation. In the past, Russia has threatened to station nuclear missiles on the Baltic Sea. We’ll have more on Finland and NATO expansion later in the broadcast.
In climate news, an investigation by The Guardian has found the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies are quietly planning scores of oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits with catastrophic global impacts. The Guardian’s report on so-called carbon bombs found the short-term expansion plans of companies including ExxonMobil, Gazprom and Saudi Aramco will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to a decade of CO2 emissions from China, the world’s biggest polluter. That’s enough to shatter the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Biden administration has canceled plans to auction off oil and gas drilling rights in three regions of the U.S. The decision will halt development affecting two parts of the Gulf Coast and roughly 1 million acres along the south coast of Alaska. Climate justice groups welcomed the move but said more urgent action is needed. A member of the group Earthjustice told CBS News, “The scientists are telling us the time to shift from fossil fuel energy is not years from now. It’s today. We need to end offshore oil leasing.”
The House committee probing the January 6 Capitol riot has subpoenaed five Republican congressmembers — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — after they refused to voluntarily cooperate with the investigation. Also subpoenaed are Congressmembers Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. January 6 committee member Adam Schiff spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday.
Rep. Adam Schiff: “Some were involved in the effort to overturn the election. Some spoke at the rally before the attack. One has said publicly that the president called him to rescind the election. They clearly have relevant testimony.”
The New York Times reports a federal grand jury has issued at least one subpoena as investigators look into Trump’s mishandling of classified documents. The probe centers on the 15 boxes containing government documents Trump took to his Mar-a-Lago resort when he left office in 2021. According to The Washington Post, those documents include items that were clearly marked as classified, including several labeled “top secret.”
Israeli forces fired stun grenades and assaulted mourners carrying the casket of slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem today. Israeli authorities ambushed Palestinian mourners before they could even leave the premises of a hospital for a procession to Abu Akleh’s funeral service. They were forced to place the casket inside a car to be transported to a church for the services.
This comes two days after Abu Akleh was shot in the head while covering an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp. On Thursday, the Al Jazeera network published new video evidence that Palestinian fighters were not in the vicinity of Shireen Abu Akleh when she was killed — and that Israeli troops had a clear line of fire on her position. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at a state funeral for Shireen Abu Akleh held Thursday in Ramallah.
President Mahmoud Abbas: “We hold the Israeli occupation authorities fully responsible for her killing, and it will not be able to conceal the truth with this crime. This crime shall not pass without penalty. We would like to point out that we reject, and have rejected, the joint investigation with the Israeli authorities, because it committed this crime and because we don’t trust them. And we will immediately approach the International Court.”
Israeli officials have approved more than 4,000 new homes in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In response, the Israeli group Peace Now tweeted, “The state of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation. It’s bad news for Israel and for anyone who cares about the people in our region.”
In Chile, Francisca Sandoval, a 29-year-old journalist who was shot in the head while covering a Workers’ Day march on May 1, has died of her wounds. Sandoval was reportedly shot after a group of men opened fire on the protesters. Two other journalists were also wounded. Sandoval is the first journalist to be killed in the line of duty in Chile since the U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship.
In Argentina, thousands took to the streets of Buenos Aires Thursday to protest the country’s soaring living and food costs. They’re demanding the government of President Alberto Fernández improve social aid programs, and have spoken out against Argentina’s repayment of a $44 billion debt with the International Monetary Fund, which they say largely burdens the people. This is one of the protesters.
Nahuel Orellana: “Today more than 300,000 people are going to be in the Plaza de Mayo to demand of the national government that there be no more hunger, no more misery. We want genuine work, a living wage equal to the basic food basket. We clearly say no to the International Monetary Fund and no to the foreign debt payment.”
The protest in Buenos Aires came just days after President Alberto Fernández announced he will seek reelection in 2023.
Sri Lanka’s embattled president reimposed a nationwide curfew and swore in a new prime minister Thursday, just days after his brother stepped down from the role amid massive protests over nepotism, corruption and a devastating economic crisis. The move did little to quell public anger, and opposition politicians joined protesters in rejecting the appointment.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith: “This is seriously going against the wishes of the people. We want to say publicly that the president appointing a person rejected by the people, and not an independent person, and those lawmakers who support it, will be rejected by the people.”
At least nine people have been killed since supporters of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa attacked protesters on Monday. More than 300 others have been injured.
At least 11 Haitian asylum seekers have died after their boat capsized near the island of Desecheo, located off the west coast of Puerto Rico. At least 31 others have been taken into the custody of the U.S. Coast Guard. This comes as a growing number of people continue to flee Haiti due to worsening gang violence, political instability, poverty and the impacts of the climate crisis.
Rights groups are condemning Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott over a joint statement he made with the National Border Patrol Council criticizing the Biden administration for providing asylum-seeking children in U.S. custody with food. Governor Abbott’s statement on Thursday read in part, “While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border.” Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, responded on Twitter, “I can’t come up with the words to describe how despicable and inhumane this is. Every child, regardless of whether Gov. Abbott and Border Patrol agents consider them 'our child' or not, deserves food and love. We should be shutting down these cages, not turning them into even more horrific places.”
A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday ruled that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under 21 is unconstitutional. A dissent was written by Judge Sidney Stein, who said, “I remain committed to keeping deadly weapons out of the wrong hands. Student safety on our campuses is something we should all rally behind and sensible gun control is part of that solution.” The two conservative judges who ruled in the majority were appointed by Donald Trump.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders has revived his bill to provide Medicare for all U.S. residents. The measure has 15 Senate co-sponsors, all of them in the Democratic Caucus. Sanders unveiled his proposal Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee, which he chairs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “It is not acceptable to me nor to the American people that over 70 million Americans today are either uninsured or underinsured. As we speak, right now, this moment, there are millions of people in our country who would like to go to a doctor, who have to go to the doctor, but simply cannot afford to do so. This is unacceptable. This is un-American. And this cannot be allowed to happen in the wealthiest country on Earth.”