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HeadlinesJune 15, 2023

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West Darfur Governor Assassinated After Accusing Paramilitaries and Militias of “Genocide”

Jun 15, 2023

In Sudan, a regional governor from Darfur was assassinated Wednesday after he publicly blamed the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and allied Arab militias for the “genocide” of civilians. West Darfur state Governor Khamis Abakar was abducted and killed hours after making the remarks in a TV interview. Reuters reports two government sources said the RSF was responsible for the killing. On Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration said fighting between rival military factions in Sudan has now displaced more than 2 million people from their homes, with more than a half-million fleeing to neighboring countries. Nearly 1,000 civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.

Vladimir Putin Admits Russia Is Running Short of Weapons and Drones as Ukraine Fighting Rages

Jun 15, 2023

In Ukraine, the mayor of Kryvyi Rih says Russian missiles struck two civilian industrial sites overnight, injuring at least one person. The attack came days after another attack on the central Ukrainian city killed 11 civilians. Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military said it shot down 18 Russian drones over the Black Sea port city of Odesa overnight. And Russia’s TASS news agency reports Ukrainian artillery fire killed a child in a Russian-occupied part of Kherson region. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with pro-war bloggers at the Kremlin, where he said, in a rare admission, that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine have been plagued by shortages of precision-guided munitions, communications gear, aircraft, drones and other equipment.

President Alexander Lukashenko Says Russia Sent Nuclear Arms to Belarus

Jun 15, 2023

The leader of Belarus said Tuesday he has received nuclear weapons from Russia and won’t hesitate to use them if his nation’s security is at stake. President Alexander Lukashenko made the remarks in an interview with a Russian state TV channel on Tuesday evening.

President Alexander Lukashenko: “We have missiles and bombs that we have received from Russia, both that are three times more powerful than the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There, more than 80,000 people died instantly, 250,000 overall. That’s from one strike. And this one is three times more powerful. I don’t know. Up to a million people would die immediately if, God forbid, this weapon were used.”

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on world leaders to respond to Russia’s first deployment of tactical nuclear weapons outside of its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. She wrote on social media, “It creates a serious threat to regional security & sets us on a dangerous path for nuclear escalation. The world must show Lukashenka & Putin that it won’t give in to nuclear blackmail.”

Protesters Take to Polish Streets After Death of Pregnant Woman Who Was Denied Abortion Care

Jun 15, 2023

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of cities across Poland Wednesday after a pregnant woman died when medical workers refused to provide her with a life-saving abortion. Thirty-three-year-old Dorota Lalik died of sepsis in May, three days after her water broke and she was admitted to the John Paul II hospital. The hospital has deep ties to the Catholic Church, and medical staff there opted out of providing abortion care, citing a so-called conscience clause allowed under Polish law. This is a protester at Wednesday’s pro-choice march in Warsaw.

Magdalena: “I came here because I do not agree with women dying, that they have no choice, that doctors have a so-called conscience clause. If they want conscience clauses, they would change their profession. Women are dying because of them, and also because of the law that has been established in Poland.”

DOJ Charges 2 over Planned Parenthood Firebombing; Google Made $10M from Anti-Abortion Ads

Jun 15, 2023

Here in the United States, the Justice Department has charged an active-duty marine and one other person for firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, California, with a Molotov cocktail in March of last year. The two arrested men, Chance Brannon and Tibet Ergul, could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

In related news, a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate finds that Google made over $10 million from ads by anti-abortion groups over the past 2 years. The Google ads were for so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which aim to steer people away from having abortions while posing as reproductive healthcare clinics.

Southern Baptist Convention Votes to Uphold Expulsion of Women-Led Churches

Jun 15, 2023

The Southern Baptist Convention has voted to uphold the expulsion of two churches led by women pastors, while tightening the church’s restrictions on women, banning them not just from serving as pastors, but from having any kind of leadership position. The moves come after organizing by the Southern Baptist Church’s ultraconservative members.

India and Pakistan Brace for Cyclone Biparjoy

Jun 15, 2023

In climate news, officials in India and Pakistan have ordered the evacuation of more than 150,000 people as Cyclone Biparjoy makes landfall in India’s Gujarat state. The storm crashed ashore earlier today near high tide, with a storm surge that threatened to inundate low-lying coastal areas. It’s just the third cyclone to hit India’s west coast in nearly six decades.

Minnesota Records Record Air Pollution as Canadian Wildfire Smoke Spreads Over Region

Jun 15, 2023

Here in the United States, thick smoke from dozens of wildfires burning in Canada settled over Wisconsin and Minnesota on Wednesday, triggering air quality alerts for “very unhealthy” levels of fine particle and ozone pollution. The air quality index topped 240 in the Twin Cities — the region’s worst levels on record.

Biden Vetoes Effort to Block Large Vehicle Emissions Rule

Jun 15, 2023

President Biden has vetoed legislation that would have rolled back a new rule limiting emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. The White House says the rule change will cut nitrogen oxide emissions in half by 2045, preventing thousands of childhood asthma cases and premature deaths every year. The bill to repeal the tougher emissions cleared the Senate in April with the support of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and with ailing California Senator Dianne Feinstein absent.

House Falls Short in Effort to Override Veto of D.C. Police Accountability Law

Jun 15, 2023

The House of Representatives has failed in its effort to override President Biden’s veto of legislation that would have blocked police accountability legislation passed by the City Council of Washington, D.C., in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Thirteen Democrats joined with House Republicans in voting to overrule the D.C. law, which expands access to police disciplinary records and body-camera footage, limits the use of tear gas and other chemical agents, and bans certain police tactics, including chokeholds. Washington, D.C.'s nonvoting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said in a statement, “The disapproval resolution is a profoundly undemocratic and paternalistic piece of legislation. Almost 700,000 people live in the nation's capital, and they are worthy and capable of governing their own local affairs.”

New York Grand Jury Indicts Ex-Marine Who Killed Street Performer Jordan Neely in Chokehold

Jun 15, 2023

Here in New York, a grand jury has indicted former U.S. marine Daniel Penny over the killing of Jordan Neely on a city subway on May 1. Penny, who is white, held Jordan Neely in a chokehold until he died. Neely, a beloved street performer, was unhoused and hungry, and crying out for help when the ex-marine attacked him. The charges will be unsealed when Penny is arraigned; the date of his arraignment is expected to be announced today.

Fed Pauses Interest Rate Hikes

Jun 15, 2023

The Federal Reserve has decided to hold interest rates steady, after 10 consecutive increases since early 2022. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren welcomed Wednesday’s announcement by Fed Chair Jerome Powell, writing, “The Fed raised interest rates at the fastest pace in decades and it needs to maintain this pause or risk throwing millions of Americans out of work.”

EU Moves to Rein In AI as U.N. Considers Global Regulatory Agency

Jun 15, 2023

The European Union has advanced a major new law that would regulate artificial intelligence, as governments around the world grapple with how to respond to the possible threats of the fast-moving technology. The EU draft law includes restrictions on the use of facial recognition and mandates disclosures of data by makers of chatbots and deepfake videos. This is European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Roberta Metsola: “Going forward, we are going to need constant, clear boundaries and limits to artificial intelligence. And here, there is one thing that we will not compromise on: Anytime technology advances, it must go hand in hand with our fundamental rights and democratic values.”

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently said he supports the idea of a global watchdog for AI, that could play a role similar to how the International Atomic Energy Agency regulates nuclear technology.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “The scientists and experts have called on the world to act, declaring AI an existential threat to humanity on a par with the risk of nuclear war.”

Arizona Mother Recounts Horror of Deepfake Kidnapping Scam

Jun 15, 2023

Here in the U.S., Jennifer DeStefano, an Arizona mother, testified at a Senate hearing this week about her harrowing experience with a deepfake scam that tricked her into thinking her daughter had been kidnapped. DeStefano says the fake kidnappers demanded a $50,000 ransom before she got in touch with her daughter, who was in fact safe and sound.

Jennifer DeStefano: “It was my daughter’s voice. It was her cries. It was her sobs. It was the way she spoke. I will never be able to shake that voice and the desperate cries for help out of my mind. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to hear your child pleading with fear and pain, knowing that they’re being harmed and that you’re helpless. The longer this form of terror remains unpunishable, the farther and more egregious it will become. There is no limit to the depth of evil AI can enable.”

Fears Mount of AI-Driven Misinformation in 2024 Elections

Jun 15, 2023

Election integrity groups have been sounding the alarm over the use of AI to misinform people ahead of the 2024 U.S. election. Florida’s Republican governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis released an attack ad earlier this month showing AI-generated deepfake images of Donald Trump hugging and kissing Anthony Fauci.

Guatemala Court Sentences Journalist José Rubén Zamora to 6 Years in Prison

Jun 15, 2023

A Guatemalan court on Wednesday convicted prominent journalist José Rubén Zamora of money laundering and sentenced him to six years in prison, in what rights groups have condemned as a trumped-up case and part of a crackdown on press freedom by the right-wing government of President Alejandro Giammattei. Zamora is the founder and president of the investigative newspaper El Periódico and has long reported on Guatemalan government corruption. The newspaper was forced to shut down in May after months of intensifying harassment and persecution. Click here to see our recent interview with José Rubén Zamora’s son.

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