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In Ukraine, air raid sirens sounded overnight in every region of the country as Russia’s military launched attacks that the Pentagon said were aimed at critical infrastructure. Russian bombs and shells fell on power plants, fuel and ammunition depots, railway stations — even an amusement park in Kharkiv, where one woman was injured by shrapnel. This comes as the Associated Press reports Russia’s bombing of a crowded theater in Mariupol on March 16 likely killed about 600 civilians who were sheltering inside — far more deaths than previously reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is calling for a prolonged truce to rescue about 200 civilians and Ukrainian fighters who remain holed up in a massive steel plant in Mariupol. Russia’s military claimed it would halt bombing the plant for three days to allow for a humanitarian corridor. Ukraine says Russia has reneged on similar pledges in the past.
In Moscow, the Kremlin has denied President Putin was preparing to formally declare war on Ukraine during a military parade scheduled for May 9.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says lawmakers could vote as early as next week on President Biden’s request for $33 billion in aid to Ukraine — including another $20 billion for weapons and ammunition. The bill has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. This comes as the Associated Press reports the rush to arm Ukraine has depleted the U.S.’s vast stockpile of weapons.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports the U.S. is providing Ukraine’s military real-time intelligence that it has used to target senior Russian officers. Ukraine claims to have killed approximately 12 generals on the frontlines.
A new report finds world hunger surged to a record high in 2021 — even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year exacerbated a global food crisis. The EU and the United Nations released the Global Report on Food Crises Wednesday. It finds 193 million people in 53 countries or territories faced acute food insecurity last year. That’s a 40% rise from the previous record level set in 2020. Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen suffered the highest levels of hunger. Speaking during a visit to Nigeria’s capital Abuja, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday 2022 is poised to set new records for world hunger as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupts wheat production and pushes global food prices even higher.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war. And I am determined to do everything to facilitate a dialogue that can help achieve this objective.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed an amendment to his state’s Constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion. The proposal follows the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion this week that indicates a majority of justices are prepared to strike down Roe v. Wade. On Wednesday, Governor Newsom told a crowd outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Los Angeles that California will remain a safe haven for pregnant people seeking abortions, even as he warned the Supreme Court was poised to revoke other civil rights gains, like marriage equality.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “This Supreme Court is poised to roll back constitutionally protected rights. And don’t think for a second — don’t think for a second — this is where they stop.”
In Texas, top Democratic Party officials are continuing to support conservative Democrat and incumbent Congressmember Henry Cuellar despite his long-standing opposition to reproductive rights. On Wednesday, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — the number three House Democrat — traveled to Texas to stump for Cuellar at a get-out-the-vote rally. Cuellar is anti-choice, pro-gun, and has backed private prisons, drone surveillance and increased border security. His home and campaign office were raided by the FBI in January as part of an investigation involving Azerbaijan and several U.S. businessmen, though Cuellar denies he’s a target of the investigation.
Cuellar faces progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in a tightly contested primary election runoff that ends May 24. Cisneros was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s a supporter of Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and reproductive rights. On Wednesday, Cisneros called on Democratic Party leaders to withdraw their support for her opponent.
Jessica Cisneros: “At every turn, my congressman has stood in opposition to the Democratic Party agenda, from being anti-union to being anti-choice. And with the House majority on the line, Cuellar could very much be the deciding vote on the future of reproductive rights in this country, and we just cannot afford that risk.”
The Federal Reserve has raised U.S. interest rates by half a percentage point — the largest such increase since 2000. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday the widely anticipated interest rate hike would help the U.S. economy beat back inflation, which is at a 40-year high. A comparatively low U.S. unemployment rate has led employers to raise wages to attract new workers, while disruptions to supply chains caused by the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to push prices higher.
A psychologist who helped the CIA develop its torture program testified at Guantánamo this week about waterboarding a Saudi man at a secret CIA black site in Thailand. James Mitchell said the prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, became so broken after the waterboarding sessions that he would voluntarily crawl into a small wooden confinement box. Al-Nashiri is accused of being the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. He was first detained in 2002 and then held at 10 secret CIA sites over a four-year period before being transferred to Guantánamo.
An Irish judge has ordered two members of U.S. Veterans for Peace to pay just over $10,000 for protesting at an Irish airport used by the U.S. military to refuel planes heading to the Middle East. The veterans, Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff, who are now both in their eighties, entered the airfield on March 17, 2019, to inspect U.S. planes on the runway while carrying a larger banner that read, “U.S. Veterans Say Respect Irish Neutrality. U.S. War Machine Out of Shannon Airport. Veterans for Peace.” On Tuesday, a jury in Dublin convicted them of interfering with the operation of Shannon Airport. They were acquitted of two other charges.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 assault on Congress has released text messages of Donald Trump Jr. pleading with the White House to condemn the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on the day of the riots. In one text message to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on January 6, Trump Jr. wrote, “We need an Oval address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.” The text messages were released as Trump Jr. reportedly met privately with the January 6 committee to answer questions.
Two New York Times reporters have released new audiotapes of House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recorded two days after the January 6 insurrection. In the recordings, McCarthy is heard talking with an aide about the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power. McCarthy appeared to oppose the plan largely because it would take too long to implement.
McCarthy aide: “I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here.”
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “That takes too long, too. It could go back to the House, right?”
Days after those remarks, the House voted on a resolution calling on the vice president to activate the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Just one Republican congressmember voted in favor of the measure.
In labor news, workers at more than 50 Starbucks stores have now voted to unionize. Starbucks Workers United has won union elections in 54 of 60 elections — a 90% win rate. The company is now fighting back by offering to increase worker wages and training — but only at nonunionized stores. This is Starbucks’ billionaire CEO Howard Schultz.
Howard Schultz: “Partners at Starbucks U.S. company-operated stores where we have the right to unilaterally make these changes will receive these wages and benefit enhancements. This covers more than 240,000 Starbucks partners at roughly 8,800 Starbucks stores across the country. We do not have the same freedom to make these improvements at locations that have a union or where union organizing is underway.”
In response, Starbucks Workers United filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Steven Greenhouse, the former New York Times labor reporter, tweeted, “This smells like illegal discrimination against union members for having dared to defy Howard Schultz & unionize. I predict the National Labor Relations Board will move quickly to find this a nationwide violation of federal law & will order Starbucks to give unionized baristas the same wage increases.”