NATO leaders are convening for the final day of the military alliance’s summit in Madrid, where they’ve declared Russia a major threat and pledged even more support for Ukraine’s military. On Wednesday, NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join, after Turkey dropped its objection to the move. This comes as the Biden administration has publicly announced it would support the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladmir Putin warned against NATO deploying troops or weapons to Finland and Sweden.
President Vladimir Putin: “There’s nothing that might concern us in terms of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members. If they want to, please go ahead. But they should clearly understand that they didn’t face any threats before this. Now, if NATO troops and infrastructure are deployed, we will be compelled to respond in kind.”
This all comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its 18th week and as NATO described China for the first time as a “systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Ukraine and Russia have swapped more than 140 prisoners of war in the largest such exchange since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The prisoners include 95 fighters who defended the besieged city of Mariupol from a withering, weeks-long Russian assault.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin says it’s withdrawing Russian forces from Snake Island, Ukraine’s Black Sea territory occupied by Russia since February. Russian officials have called the move a “gesture of goodwill” that could pave the way for Ukraine to export desperately needed grain and cooking oil to world markets amid a global food crisis.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has filed suit to block the state’s ban on abortions after fetal cardiac cells begin contractions, which typically occurs six weeks after an egg is fertilized and before many people even know they are pregnant. Ohio’s so-called heartbeat bill went into effect just hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last Friday.
In Wisconsin, Attorney General Josh Kaul has filed suit to block enforcement of the state’s 173-year-old ban on nearly all abortions. Democratic Governor Tony Evers says the 1849 legislation should be superseded by a 1985 law allowing abortions until a fetus has grown enough that it could survive outside the womb — typically around 20 weeks of pregnancy.
President Biden is poised to nominate an anti-abortion Republican lawyer for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge in Kentucky. That’s according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, which reports Biden’s planned nomination of Chad Meredith is strongly opposed by Democratic Congressmember John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Yarmuth told the newspaper, “It’s clear that this is part of some larger deal on judicial nominations between the president and Mitch McConnell. I strongly oppose this deal and Meredith being nominated for the position. The last thing we need is another extremist on the bench.”
Chad Meredith is a member of the far-right Federalist Society who served as legal counsel to former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. In 2018, he argued on behalf of Kentucky before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, defending the anti-choice law H.B. 2, known as the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act. The legislation required physicians to carry out an ultrasound on patients about to receive an abortion; to explain the ultrasound imagery to the patient; and to play live audio of any fetal cardiac muscle contractions detectable by the ultrasound.
Chad Meredith: “Not every patient fully understands the nature and consequences of the abortion procedure. Not every patient understands the development of the fetus and the stage at which the fetus is and the extent to which it is developed.”
The Supreme Court has rolled back a landmark decision on tribal sovereignty it delivered just two years ago in the historic ruling McGirt v. Oklahoma. In a 5-4 vote, justices ruled Wednesday that the state of Oklahoma has concurrent jurisdiction and may prosecute non-Indigenous people when a crime is committed on a reservation and the victim is Native American.
Meanwhile, Ketanji Brown Jackson begins her tenure today as the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, after Justice Stephen Breyer said Wednesday would be his last full day on the job. Breyer, who is 83 years old, announced his intention to retire in January.
The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection has subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. On Tuesday, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Cipollone repeatedly warned against Trump’s plans to incite the mob to march on the Capitol on January 6.
Cassidy Hutchinson: “I saw Mr. Cipollone right before I walked out onto West Exec that morning, and Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of 'Please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.’”
Two more people have died after being trapped in a stifling trailer on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas. This brings the death toll to 53, the largest single human trafficking death toll on record in the United States. All of the victims are believed to have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border seeking refuge, including Honduran brothers Fernando José Redondo, Alejandro Miguel Andino, and his wife, Margie Tamara Paz. The mother of the brothers, Karena Caballero, spoke to reporters from Honduras Wednesday.
Karena Caballero: “Margie actually paid for her studies herself, with some help from her family. And even though she almost had a degree in economy, she had to leave from here. Why? I can mention all the companies my children applied for a job, and the answer was always 'You don't have work experience.’ Doors were closed for them. … If I had to demand something, please, Honduras government, fight for this country’s youth.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has traveled to Hong Kong for the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule after more than 150 years as a British colony. It’s Xi’s first visit to Hong Kong since authorities imposed a national security law severely limiting civil liberties and press freedoms, while violently suppressing large-scale protests and limiting who can run for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
In Mexico, the journalist Antonio de la Cruz has been shot and killed in his home in the state of Tamaulipas. Cruz wrote for local newspaper Expreso and is the second reporter from the paper to be killed, following the murder of Héctor González in 2018. This is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Mexican journalists, with at least 11 murdered since the beginning of 2022.
In Israel, outgoing far-right Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he will not run in upcoming elections. Israel is headed to its fifth election in three years after Bennett’s fragile coalition government fell apart amid internal divisions over Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been sworn in as president of the Philippines at a ceremony today in Manila. Marcos Jr. is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965 until 1986, when he was overthrown in a popular uprising. Survivors of Marcos’s brutal two-decade regime have recounted horrific details of torture under Marcos’s regime. Here in New York, Filipino American activists gathered in Times Square Wednesday for a protest. This is Nikki Pagulayan.
Nikki Pagulayan: “No matter what, they will not be able to silence us or quell our fight, because they are up against a movement that has defeated colonization, occupation and dictators past. Maybe the Marcoses have been so set that they forgot the hundreds and thousands of people that rose up across the homeland and overseas and ousted them once, because we will [bleep] oust them again!”
Back in the United States, the former R&B star R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his systematic sexual abuse of young adults and children. Survivor Jovante Cunningham spoke outside a New York City courthouse just after Thursday’s sentence was handed down.
Jovante Cunningham: “I started this journey 30 years ago. I was 14 years old when I encountered Robert Sylvester Kelly. There wasn’t a day in my life, up until this moment, that I actually believed that the judicial system would come through for Black and Brown girls. I stand here very proud of my judicial system, very proud of my fellow survivors and very pleased with the outcome. Thirty years did he do this, and 30 years is what he got.”
In Mississippi, a team searching a courthouse basement for evidence about the lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till has found the unserved warrant charging a white woman in his 1955 kidnapping. Till was 14 when the woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, accused him of whistling at her, leading to his murder. Members of Till’s family say that they want the warrant served and for Donham, now in her eighties, to be arrested.