A top United Nations official has warned fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has spawned the worst humanitarian disaster on Earth. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — who’s originally from Tigray — said the conflict, which first erupted in late 2020, now threatens the lives of millions, even as global leaders largely ignore the crisis.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “I can tell you that the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is more than Ukraine, without any exaggeration. And I said it many months ago: Maybe the reason is the color of the skin of the people in Tigray.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s remarks Wednesday came as Ethiopian officials called for a formal ceasefire agreement to end nearly two years of fighting with separatists in Tigray, where some 6 million people have been largely cut off from the outside world for months, unable to access food, medicine and other necessities. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front has so far rejected the peace proposal, calling it “obfuscation” meant to distract from ongoing fighting. The United Nations warns the Tigray conflict has combined with a worsening drought across Ethiopia to threaten the lives of 20 million people.
In Ukraine, Russian strikes on the northeastern city of Kharkiv overnight left at least 12 people dead and dozens more injured. In the deadliest of the attacks, a three-story residential building was flattened after it took a direct hit from a Russian missile. Video of the aftermath showed rescue workers sifting through the rubble of the building, which once housed about 50 people.
Dmytro Chubenko: “As of the midnight hour, we have seven dead and 16 wounded as a result of the rocket hit. These are the people who were inside the building who survived and also people who were in buildings nearby who sustained varying degrees of injuries from shrapnel, glass and other things.”
Human Rights Watch has condemned Russia’s assault on Kharkiv, accusing it of indiscriminately firing banned cluster munitions into populated areas, damaging healthcare facilities and homes.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military says it struck an ammunition depot near frontline fighting in the Kherson region. An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had reached a “strategic deadlock” in the war, with only minimal Russian advances.
Today, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is meeting with President Zelensky in the western city of Lviv, where they’ll be joined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal to allow Ukraine to safely export grain from Black Sea ports.
Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has testified to a grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia, as part of a criminal probe into election interference by Trump and his supporters. Giuliani spent more than six hours at the Fulton County Courthouse for Wednesday’s closed-door proceedings, after a judge ordered him to comply with a subpoena. Prosecutors told Giuliani’s lawyers this week he could face criminal charges over efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s win in Georgia after the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp have asked a judge to throw out a subpoena ordering him to testify later this month.
Donald Trump is struggling to find criminal defense attorneys who will agree to represent him. The Washington Post reports Trump’s current legal team includes a Florida insurance lawyer who’s never had a federal case, a past general counsel for a parking garage company and a former host at the far-right One America News network.
Contributions to Donald Trump’s political action committee have surged since federal agents seized classified documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. The Washington Post reports Trump’s PAC has sent out over 100 emails railing against the FBI since the August 8 raid, netting over $1 million a day at least twice. On Wednesday, former Vice President Mike Pence called on Republicans to end their attacks on the FBI.
Mike Pence: “Our party stands with the men and women who serve on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.”
Mike Pence also said he would consider speaking with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack if he’s asked to testify. Pence was speaking at a “Politics and Eggs” breakfast in New Hampshire, where speakers often include future presidential candidates.
A federal judge has ordered the U.S. pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to pay more than $650 million to two Ohio counties over their role in fueling the opioid epidemic. Wednesday’s ruling follows a federal jury’s verdict in November that found the corporations’ sale of highly addictive painkillers caused severe harm to communities and violated Ohio’s public nuisance laws.
South Carolina’s Supreme Court has temporarily blocked enforcement of the state’s six-week ban on abortions while a legal challenge to the law proceeds. Reproductive rights groups are suing to overturn South Carolina’s so-called fetal heartbeat law, which bans abortions once electrical activity can be detected in an embryo’s cardiac cells, which typically happens around just six weeks into a pregnancy.
In North Carolina, a federal judge has reinstated that state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In Louisiana, all three clinics that previously offered abortion care have closed their doors and will relocate to other states, after the state Supreme Court ruled Friday that a near-total abortion ban can remain in effect across Louisiana.
Meanwhile, a court in Florida has ordered a 16-year-old orphan to carry her pregnancy to term after she petitioned the court for the right to have an abortion, testifying that she was “not ready to have a baby.” A three-judge panel denied the request, ruling the girl “had not established … that she was sufficiently mature to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy.”
In Afghanistan, at least 21 people were killed and 33 wounded in a bombing at a mosque in the capital of Kabul. The attack came during evening prayers Wednesday. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but similar bombings in the past have been claimed by a local affiliate of the Islamic State.
Israeli forces raided and closed the offices of seven Palestinian civil society rights groups in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. Several of the groups report soldiers confiscated items and files, before leaving behind notices declaring the organizations unlawful. Israel designated six out of the seven groups as terrorist organizations in October of last year, a decision met with criticism from both the United Nations and international human rights groups.
With just two weeks remaining before a pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments expires, progressive lawmakers and activists are pressing President Biden to take sweeping action to cancel student debt. Today the Debt Collective is launching its “50 Over 50” campaign, a coordinated strike by 50 debtors over the age of 50 who say they’ll refuse to pay back their loans should President Biden renege on his campaign promise to cancel student debt. Activists are calling for the cancellation of all federal student debt — or at least $50,000 per person. This is Debt Collective activist Lystra Small-Clouden.
Lystra Small-Clouden: “Me and my fellow strikers can’t pay this debt, and we won’t pay. … Although I achieved my academic goals, my success was short-lived, because within my household we have accumulated over $300,000 in student debt. That’s why I am joining the 50 Over 50 debt strike. The 50 of us collectively hold nearly $6 million in student debt. I am pleading with President Joe Biden: Please make things right. Cancel all student debt.”