A critical meeting of foreign ministers from the G20 has ended in New Delhi, India, without any agreement on the war in Ukraine. The meeting wrapped up after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke briefly in the first reported high-level meeting between U.S. and Russian officials in months. Their 10-minute conversation came after a Russian missile slammed into a high-rise apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least four people. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said for the first time they’re contemplating a tactical withdrawal from the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Russian forces have mostly cut off remaining civilians from humanitarian aid. This is Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking earlier this week.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “The hardest thing is still Bakhmut and the battles that are essential for the city’s defense. I’ll give you just one example. We are holding the staff meeting quite often now, at least twice a week. The last meeting was on Thursday. And today General Syrsky reported that since this last meeting, about 800 enemies have been killed in his direction alone. Russia does not count people at all, sending them to constant assaults on our positions. The intensity of the fighting is only increasing.”
Finland’s Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to join NATO, setting the country up to become the military alliance’s 31st member. Wednesday’s vote came just days after Finland began constructing a 120-mile wall topped with razor wire along its 800-mile border with Russia. In Hungary, the party of far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Wednesday it will endorse the expansion of NATO to include Finland and Sweden. That leaves Turkey as the only holdout. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected Sweden’s accession to NATO after accusing it of harboring dissidents he considers terrorists. Sweden and Finland had hoped to join NATO simultaneously.
The Biden administration has approved $619 million in high-tech arms sales to Taiwan, including new missiles for its F-16 fighter jets. The deal will primarily benefit weapons makers Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. After the sale was announced, Taiwan reported China’s Air Force flew warplanes into airspace Taiwan considers part of its air defense identification zone, for the second consecutive day.
The U.S. Air Force says it has relieved six officers at a North Dakota nuclear missile base after their units failed a safety inspection. It’s not clear exactly what lapses prompted the firings. The Minot Air Force Base is home to more than two dozen B-52 nuclear-capable bombers, as well as 165 Minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. This follows a previous safety lapse at the base in 2007, when a B-52 bomber flew to Louisiana carrying six nuclear-armed cruise missiles, without the knowledge of the flight’s crew.
In Israel, police fired tear gas and stun grenades Wednesday at thousands of people who had blocked a highway in Tel Aviv to protest plans by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu to gut Israel’s judiciary. Eleven Israelis were hospitalized with injuries. It was the first time during weeks of mass protests that police used large-scale violence against Israeli citizens. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, dozens of protesters dressed as “handmaids” from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” rallied outside Israel’s Supreme Court Wednesday.
Adi Agasi Shafir: “Basically, it feels like we can say goodbye to democracy, because, on one hand, the Knesset will have the ability to pass any law they want; on the other hand, the court will not have the ability to stop anything like that. Any court that would hurt, whether women or LGBTs or any other minority, is going to pass with no one to stop it.”
The U.S. State Department has condemned the comments of Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who on Wednesday called on Israel to “erase” the Palestinian town of Huwara. His comments came after Jewish settlers attacked the town on Sunday, burning cars and homes and killing a Palestinian man. This is State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Ned Price: “These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting. And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence. We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments.”
The U.S. intelligence community has rejected claims that a foreign power was responsible for a series of unexplained injuries and illnesses suffered by U.S. officials working overseas. The episodes were dubbed “Havana syndrome” after diplomats at the U.S. and Canadian embassies in Cuba reported dizziness, headaches and other symptoms in 2016. Since then, about 1,500 U.S. officials have reported ailments in 90 countries. After a two-year investigation, an assessment by seven U.S. intelligence agencies found “no credible evidence” that any U.S. adversary possessed a weapon that could explain the ailments, which the report said were likely due to preexisting conditions, conventional illnesses and environmental factors. At the White House, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the report’s findings did not mean the U.S. would end medical support for those suffering.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre: “This doesn’t change the commitment that the president has in making sure that, you know, these families, our colleagues in the workforce, get the help and the assistance that they need. And they’re going to continue to work through that.”
In Greece, at least 46 people were killed and dozens more were hospitalized after a passenger train collided with a freight train late Tuesday in the central city of Larissa. It was the worst rail disaster in Greek history. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accepted the resignation of top transportation officials and said the crash was primarily due to “tragic human error.” Greece has declared three days of national mourning. Meanwhile, in Athens, police in riot gear fired tear gas at protesters who gathered outside the offices of the private company responsible for maintaining Greece’s railways. Greece privatized its rail system and other public infrastructure in 2017 as part of an IMF bailout amid a debt crisis.
New York City has agreed to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement to protesters who were aggressively “boxed in” or “kettled” by NYPD officers during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the country following the police murder of George Floyd in 2020. Over 300 people who were kettled, then beaten, detained or arrested by New York police at the June 4, 2020, Bronx protest will each receive $21,500. It’s believed to be the largest class-action settlement in a case of mass arrest. About a third of the demonstrators also previously settled with the city in separate claims. A Human Rights Watch investigation said the NYPD’s conduct that day amounted to “serious violations of international human rights law.”
In California, around 80 detainees at two Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities have been on hunger strike for nearly two weeks and say they are willing to risk their lives to fight against the inhumane conditions they are facing. A group of the hunger strikers from the Mesa Verde and Golden State Annex jails sued ICE and the private prison corporation GEO last week for retaliating against them by cutting off their heat, denying family visits and recreational time, and threatening solitary confinement. This is a strike participant speaking anonymously over the phone from the Golden State Annex.
Hunger strike participant: “I don’t see a detainment facility. It’s a prison. It’s four walls. People are packed in here like sardines. So, they can call it other words for this place. It’s a prison for me.”
The hunger strike follows a labor strike protesting detainees’ $1-per-day wage for eight-hour shifts. Earlier this week, local activists held a solidarity protest at the Oakland State Building.
Demonstrations took place across the country marking 20 years of harm by ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Protection. Organizers are calling for an end to government funding for the agencies, which over the past two decades have systematically targeted immigrants, Muslims and communities of color, using surveillance, detention, torture, military occupation and inhumane immigration policies. This is Dr. Maha Hilal from the Muslim Counterpublics Lab speaking at Wednesday’s protest in D.C.
Maha Hilal: ”DHS has surveilled, detained, tortured and punished communities with draconian immigration laws. … DHS has also targeted Black Lives Matter activists, created and spearheaded a Countering Violent Extremism program to target Muslim communities, … tearing families apart, putting people in cages and executing foreign nationals across the border.”
A judge has ordered Starbucks to reinstate illegally fired employees, reopen closed stores, halt union-busting tactics and take other reparative measures, after ruling the company engaged in “egregious and widespread misconduct” following the establishment of the chain’s first unionized store in Buffalo, New York. Meanwhile, dozens of white-collar Starbucks workers have signed an open letter condemning the company’s union-busting and protesting the company’s return-to-office mandate. The employees say “morale is at an all-time low” and warn “these actions are fracturing trust in Starbucks leadership.”
In Illinois, residents and activists from Chicago’s South Side successfully passed two measures in this week’s city election calling for housing protections related to the construction of the new Obama Presidential Center. The 19-acre center will house a public library, playground, community centers and a museum. But community members in the majority-Black South Shore say the project has already led to gentrification and displacement. The measure passed on Tuesday calls for eviction protections and rental assistance, city funding for home repairs and mortgage assistance, development of affordable housing on city-owned lots and 75% affordable housing on a vacant city-owned lot in nearby Woodlawn. Groups organizing with the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition celebrated the overwhelming approval of the nonbinding referenda and say they will continue fighting to make sure the city follows through on their demands.
Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has announced he’s been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, giving him an estimated three to six months to live. It was 51 years ago that The New York Times began publishing excerpts of the Pentagon Papers leaked by Dan Ellsberg — 7,000 pages of top-secret documents outlining the Pentagon’s secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam since the 1940s. The leak exposed years of government lies and would end up helping to end the War in Vietnam and lead to a major victory for press freedom. Ellsberg reports that since his cancer diagnosis, he’s done several interviews and webinars on topics including Ukraine, nuclear weapons and First Amendment issues. Ellsberg wrote, “I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!”