Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are “very far” from seizing the eastern town of Bakhmut, after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said Sunday it raised the Russian flag over the decimated city’s administration building. This followed a weekend of heavy fighting in Bakhmut and other parts of eastern Ukraine. In the nearby town of Kostyantynivka, at least six people were reported killed from Russian shelling. This is a 69-year-old survivor.
Anna: “Me and my neighbor ran out to the hallway, and we hugged each other very tightly. She’s bigger than me, and I hugged her very tight. And we stood there while everything was shaking because of the explosions. I have no idea how we have survived. There were six casualties. Six people just died.”
In Russia, authorities said they arrested a woman, Darya Trepova, in connection with a bombing Sunday which killed prominent pro-war military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in St. Petersburg.
The Russian ambassador to Belarus said Moscow will station tactical nuclear weapons near Belarus’s western border with NATO nations. NATO members will meet this week in Brussels, including Finland, which will officially become the newest member of the military alliance on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Russia has assumed the presidency of the U.N. Security Council for the month, in a move blasted by Ukraine, as President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the body of bankruptcy. The last time Russia held the rotating presidency was in February 2022, the month it invaded Ukraine.
A series of severe storms fueled an estimated 11 tornadoes across the southern and midwestern U.S. over the weekend, killing 32 people. At least 1 million customers lost power. Homes, businesses and other structures were destroyed or badly damaged in states including Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Iowa. An Arkansas high school teacher surveyed the damage in her classroom Sunday.
Lisa Worden: “Yeah, I’ve taught here 25 years, and this is my classroom. And when I walked out yesterday, I didn’t realize that would be the last time I would teach in this classroom. … We got out at 1:30, which was such a God blessing from our superintendent, because, otherwise, kids would have been on buses, and teachers would have still been here. And so, that would have been even more devastating.”
More severe weather in the affected regions is forecast this week, as scientists and the Biden administration warn such events are worsening in gravity and in frequency.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has shut down a women-run radio station for broadcasting songs and music during the month of Ramadan. Sadai Banowan, which means “women’s voice” in Dari, was the only station led by women, founded a decade ago. It’s the latest rights attack from the Taliban as women and girls have also been banned from education beyond the sixth grade and most jobs, with the United Nations warning the growing discrimination and systemic violence may amount to gender persecution — a crime against humanity.
Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian man at an entrance to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem on Saturday. Witnesses say soldiers fired more than 20 rounds in less than a minute, after the man tried to prevent police from harassing a woman whom they’d stopped on her way to the mosque. The victim, 26-year-old Mohammed Khaled Elasibi, was a Palestinian citizen of Israel who had just finished medical school. In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian man was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier hours later near the town of Beit Ummar. Witnesses say Israeli forces would not let medics access the injured 24-year-old, who bled to death.
The killings came as the Cabinet of Israel’s far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it had approved a plan to establish a new national guard under the control of Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s ultranationalist national security minister, who was once convicted of racist incitement against Palestinians and supporting a terrorist group.
In Syria, state media is reporting that Israeli airstrikes on Homs province wounded five Syrian soldiers early Sunday. It was at least the ninth airstrike by Israel inside Syria since the start of the year.
In Iran, police have arrested a mother and daughter after a viral video showed a man attacking them for not covering their hair in public in the northeastern city of Shandiz. The video shows the man confronting the two women as they wait in line at a shop. The man, who was also later arrested, appears to shout, then pours what appears to be a tub of yogurt over their heads. The women have since been charged with “committing a forbidden act” and flouting Iran’s dress code, which requires women to wear a hijab. On Saturday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reiterated that women must always wear the hijab, calling it a “religious necessity.” The order came even as millions of Iranian women and girls continue to routinely ignore the requirement, especially in Iran’s big cities. This is Melika, a 16-year-old in Tehran.
Melika: “You can’t throw a tub of yogurt on a woman’s head and think you did something great and to guide someone in the right direction. It’s that person’s business. She wanted to dress like that, and she dressed however she wanted. It’s no one’s business.”
Twitter’s billionaire owner Elon Musk has ordered the social media platform to remove a badge showing verified status for The New York Times, after the paper’s editors refused to pay for its Twitter Blue service. This comes after Twitter instituted a pay-for-play system in which companies, nonprofits and government institutions have to pay $1,000 a month to keep checkmarks showing their accounts have been verified. So far only a few dozen accounts have seen their badges removed; Musk signaled he’d removed the Times’s checkmark over its coverage, which he blasted in a tweet as “propaganda.” Other prominent accounts — reportedly including those of White House staffers — have refused to pay for Twitter Blue. That’s led to fears over misinformation and hate speech by imposter accounts on Twitter ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign raised over $4 million in the 24 hours following the news last week of his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury connected to a 2016 hush-money scheme. Trump released a fundraising video Sunday, two days before his expected arraignment in New York.
Donald Trump: “The election was rigged and stolen. But now we’re going to take back our country in 2024. … If you’re doing well because all of the things that I’ve done have brought you wealth and prosperity, or at least you’re extremely comfortable, it would be really great if you could contribute to our campaign.”
Trump is expected to speak from Mar-a-Lago Tuesday evening following his arraignment. Over the weekend, Trump lashed out against New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing his criminal case, claiming, “HE HATES ME.” It’s the same judge who presided over the prosecution of the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg.
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday he will run for the Republican presidential nomination. Hutchinson called on Trump to withdraw from the race due to his legal troubles. As governor, Hutchinson signed a trigger law banning abortion in 2019 and made Arkansas the first state to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients, costing over 18,000 people access to the program before a court blocked the requirement.
Millions of U.S. residents are poised to lose Medicaid health insurance as protections put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lapse. Under a bipartisan deal reached by Congress late last year, states are allowed to remove Medicaid recipients from the rolls as early as April 1 unless they prove they still qualify. Some residents of five states — Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota — have already been kicked off Medicaid, part of what the Biden administration estimates will ultimately be 15 million people losing benefits, including millions of children.
The FDA has approved the opioid overdose drug Narcan to be sold over the counter. Narcan, a quick-acting naloxone nasal spray, could become available in pharmacies, as well as convenience stores and gas stations, by late summer. Opioid overdoses killed over 81,000 people in 2021. It’s not yet known how much manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions will charge for Narcan. Advocates are calling for the life-saving drug to be distributed for free.
Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has checked out of Walter Reed hospital after receiving in-patient treatment for depression since mid-February. Fetterman is scheduled to return to the Senate on April 17 after the 2-week holiday recess. In a statement, Fetterman urged others with mental health challenges to seek help. He spoke candidly about his depression during an interview on CBS’s “Sunday Morning.”
Sen. John Fetterman: “It’s like you just won the biggest, you know, race in the country. And the whole thing about depression is, is that, objectively, you may have won, but depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost. And that’s exactly what happened. And that was the start of a downward spiral.”
California will require half of all heavy trucks sold by 2035 to be electric, as it moves to phase out diesel trucks. The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday granted waivers for California to set its own truck pollution standards that are stricter than federal ones. Last year, California passed a measure requiring all new passenger vehicles sold to be fully electric by 2035. Transportation accounts for some 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Supporters of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal are raising alarm after a judge on Friday denied his request for a new trial. Philadelphia Judge Lucretia Clemons dismissed evidence the case was tainted by judicial bias, police and prosecutorial misconduct, and that key witnesses were bribed or coerced. Mumia is 68 years old and suffers from numerous health problems. The journalist and former Black Panther has maintained his innocence for the four decades he’s been in prison after being convicted of murdering a police officer.
A federal court blocked Tennessee’s highly contested law targeting drag performance on Friday, just hours before it would have gone into effect. The temporary injunction came in response to a lawsuit filed by LGBTQ group Friends of George’s, which argued the legislation is overly broad and violates the First Amendment. The measure is the second major legislative attack on the trans community in Tennessee; the state also banned gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth last month.
Queer and trans youth led actions across the United States Friday, marking International Transgender Day of Visibility amid intensifying discrimination, violence and anti-trans laws pushed by Republicans. Here in New York, hundreds took to the streets in a march organized by NYC Youth for Trans Rights. Democracy Now! producers Tey-Marie Astudillo and María Taracena were there and spoke to 17-year-old Raven.
Raven: “It is so amazing to look around and see people like me that have had the same experiences as me, who know what it’s like to be trans. And it’s so great to just, you know, watch everybody be happy and be themselves in a safe place. … I’m the happiest I’ve been in a really, really long time here in this space with these people. And I think that it’s so good for people who think that they’re alone to know that they have people out there, people fighting for them, people fighting with them, people on their side, because, like, a lot of them just don’t have that. They go through so, so, so much. And gathering around, being able to look at people and hug people and talk to people that are like them, is something that can really heal the heart.”