World The United Nations Refugee Agency says the number of people displaced from their homes worldwide has reached a staggering new high of over 100 million — that’s up from 89 million just a few months ago, due in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing food crisis. This is United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
Filippo Grandi: “Will this also cause people to move? Now, it’s very difficult to tell, but I — unfortunately, I cannot imagine how, if you have a food crisis on top of everything that I have described, right? War, human rights, climate, you name it — on top of that, you have a food crisis, it will just accelerate the trends that are described in this report and that we have seen accelerating already in the first few months of the year.”
The surge in global refugees comes as parts of Africa are facing its worst drought in decades at a time when food and energy costs are soaring. The United Nations has warned 350,000 children in Somalia could die by the end of the summer. A recent report by two U.N. agencies estimated an all-time high of up to 49 million people in 46 countries could now be at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions. Earlier this week, Congressmember Ilhan Omar, who is a Somali refugee, tweeted “this should be the biggest story in the world right now.”
The leaders of Germany, France and Italy have arrived in Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During a stop in the Ukrainian city of Irpin, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized what he called Russian “barbarism.” Ahead of the trip, Macron repeated his call for Ukraine and Russia to hold talks to end the war.
President Emmanuel Macron: “Because at some point, when we have helped as much as possible to resist, and I hope Ukraine will have won, and, above all, for the fighting to have stopped, we will have to negotiate. The Ukrainian president and his officials will have to negotiate with Russia, and we, Europeans, will be at the table bringing up the guarantees of security, the elements which concern our continent. And that is the reality of things.”
On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the second known call between the two leaders since the war began. Xi reportedly expressed support for Russia’s “sovereignty and security” and pledged to increase ties with Moscow. He is also said to have called on all parties to push for a “proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis.”
On Wednesday, NATO defense leaders met in Brussels and pledged to increase military support for Ukraine. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new $1 billion U.S. military package. The NATO meeting came as heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. The United Nations is warning 10,000 civilians trapped in the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk are running out of essential supplies. Russia has seized about 80% of the city.
Ukrainian forces have reportedly shelled a maternity ward and four other health facilities in Donetsk, an area controlled by Russia. According to the United Nations, no one was killed or injured in the maternity ward attack, but some pregnant women had to be transferred to other hospitals.
Brazilian authorities say a suspect has confessed to killing and dismembering British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Araújo Pereira. Brazilian police said the suspect led them to a spot where human remains were found. In a statement, a local Indigenous group condemned the murders and praised the work of Phillips and Pereira, saying, “They were both human rights defenders and died doing work to look after us Indigenous people.” Days before Pereira went missing, he reportedly received threats for his efforts to stop illegal fishing in the area. The two suspects arrested so far are brothers who fish for a living.
A number of new revelations have come to light about Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. On Wednesday, the January 6 House select committee released video evidence that Republican Congressmember Barry Loudermilk gave a private tour of the Capitol to a group of people on January 5 — one day before the insurrection. At the time, the Capitol was closed to the public due the pandemic. In the video, one man on the tour is seen photographing stairways, tunnels, hallways and security checkpoints. The committee also released what it says is video from January 6 from outside the Capitol of one of the men who was on the tour with Loudermilk.
Capitol rioter: “There’s no escape, Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you. We’re coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer, even you, AOC. We’re coming to take you out and pull you out by your hairs. How about that, Pelosi? And go, might as well make yourself another appointment. When I get done with you, you’re going to need a shine up on top of that bald head.”
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is holding its third public hearing today beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. We will stream it live at democracynow.org. The hearing is focusing on Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Mike Pence to block Joe Biden from becoming president. Part of that effort was led by Trump legal adviser John Eastman, who claimed Pence could single-handedly overturn the election. In related news, The Washington Post is reporting Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, exchanged emails with Eastman about the election. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Eastman appeared to have inside knowledge of a debate within the Supreme Court over how it should handle Trump’s election fraud claims. In an email sent in late December 2020, Eastman wrote, “I understand that there is a heated fight underway.” Another pro-Trump lawyer responded, writing that the “odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be 'wild' chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.” John Eastman is a former law clerk of Justice Clarence Thomas.
In more news on the January 6 insurrection, new court filings show the leader of the far-right Proud Boys received plans to occupy six congressional office buildings, as well as the Supreme Court, around the time of January 6. The document was titled “1776 Returns.” One section of the report was named “Storm the Winter Palace.” Part of the document reads, “No Trump, No America.”
New Mexico’s state Supreme Court has ordered a Republican-led county commission to certify the results of the June 7 primary. The commission has refused to do so, citing conspiracy theories about the county’s voting machines, which were made by Dominion, the company at the heart of many of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. One member of the Otero County Commission is Couy Griffin, who co-founded the group Cowboys for Trump and once said, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” He faces sentencing on Friday for his role in the January 6 insurrection. The standoff in New Mexico comes as voting rights activists are expressing increasing alarm as supporters of Trump’s attempted coup take control of more local election bodies.
An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration has unanimously recommended approval of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines for babies and young children. The FDA could authorize the vaccines as soon as Friday, which means shots could be available beginning next week for the first time for children under the age of 5. States have already ordered millions of shots, but there has been one exception: Florida has not yet preordered any COVID shots for kids.
In other COVID news, the National Institutes of Health has announced Dr. Anthony Fauci has tested positive for COVID-19. The 81-year-old doctor is reportedly experiencing mild symptoms.
In Geneva, public health activists staged a die-in protest at the World Trade Organization summit Wednesday. They were calling on nations to embrace a broad waiver on intellectual property rules to save lives during the COVID pandemic.
In economic news, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point in an attempt to combat rising inflation. It’s the largest rate hike since 1994. The rate hike will make it more expensive for people to borrow for homes, cars and get other loans.
The Justice Department has filed federal hate crimes charges against the 18-year-old gunman who shot dead 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket last month. If convicted, Payton Gendron could be sentenced to the death penalty even though the Biden administration has imposed a moratorium on federal executions. Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke on Wednesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: “The affidavit in support of the complaint quotes the defendant as stating that his goal was to, quote, 'kill as many Blacks as possible.' The affidavit outlines how the defendant prepared for months to carry out this attack. It alleges that he selected a target in this ZIP code because it has the highest percentage of Black people close enough to where he lives.”
In Washington, D.C., the street outside the Saudi Embassy has been officially renamed Jamal Khashoggi Way to honor The Washington Post columnist who was dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul almost four years ago. The D.C. City Council approved the name change last year. A street-naming ceremony was held on Wednesday, just weeks before President Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia in an effort to mend ties with the oil-rich kingdom. The Yemeni-born Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman spoke at the ceremony in D.C. and criticized Biden’s trip.
Tawakkol Karman: “This means that Biden has abandoned his commitment to support human rights around the world, that Biden has abandoned his commitment to banish Jamal Khashoggi’s killer, that Biden has abandoned his promises to his people that he will be hand with hand with all freedom fighters around the world. And this is shame. It is shame. Shame on Biden administration.”