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ukraine

Ukraine Celebrates Their Independence Day With A Careful Look Towards Russia

This Wednesday, Ukraine celebrated their Independence Day which also marked the 31st anniversary of when the country voted to break off from the Soviet Union. 

This year, however, became more of a somber occasion. Officials around the Ukraine were attending memorials and issuing warnings that Moscow could potentially carry out missile attacks against cities within the Ukraine. 

In years past, this holiday would be marked with celebrations and parades. This year commemorated exactly six months after Russia’s invasion began.

President Volodymyr Zelensky started off the day with an address that spoke of the recent invasion as a new independence day where Ukraine had to fight for its freedom instead of simply voting for it.

“A new nation emerged on February 24 at 4 a.m. Not born, but reborn. A nation that didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t get scared. Didn’t run away. Didn’t give up. Didn’t forget.” 

All across Ukraine, people paid tribute to the people who have been killed in the military ever since the invasion from Russia began.

The silent celebrations throughout Ukraine followed Zelensky’s warning that Russia may step up efforts to start attacks once again, including missile strikes. 

According to CNN, The US government joined Ukraine with concerns of the attacks and warned Americans visiting to leave the country immediately. 

Sadly, the expressed concerns appeared to have come true as Russia launched missile strikes all across Ukrainian territory.

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“In other major cities of Ukraine, even those which are far away from the battlefield, there have been explosions, there have been missile strikes,” said Sak, an adviser to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. 

Within these explosions, there has been at least 15 people killed and dozens more wounded from a Russian rocket strike. 

In a recent video, Zelensky said the rockets that were blasted from Russia hit a train and at least 4 of the carriages were on fire. 

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Many of the public celebrations for Ukraine’s independence day were canceled, but citizens showed their respect by wearing embroidered shirts similar to the national dress. 

Even through all the attacks, Ukraine is still uniting together to take a stand up against Russia. 

“Every new day is a new reason not to give up. Because, having gone through so much, we have no right not to reach the end. What is the end of the war for us? We used to say: Peace. Now we say: Victory,” said Zelensky.

pride

Singapore To Repeal Law Banning Gay Sex, ‘A Win For Humanity’

Singapore will repeal a law that bans gay sex in the city-state, effectively making it legal to be homosexual, which activists are calling a “win for humanity.”

terror

At Least Eight People, Including Five Americans, Injured In Jerusalem Shooting Terror Attack 

Around 1:30 am local time Sunday, police responded to reports of a “terrorist armed with weapons who shot at a bus and vehicles in a parking lot near the Old City of Jerusalem.” The attack took place near the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the shooter targeted a bus in the area. 

At least eight people, including five Americans, were wounded in the attack. Two of the Americans are being treated at the Hadassah Medical Center, and three at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, according to reports from the hospitals. 

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The hospitals stated that at least two of the injured Americans were tourists and Israeli media confirmed that four of the American victims were tourists and members of the same family. 

Emergency services reported that two of the victims are in serious condition while the other six victims are mildly or moderately injured. One of the wounded individuals was pregnant and had to endure an emergency cesarean operation, both the mother and baby are in serious condition, according to the Shaare Zedek hospital. 

The US Embassy in Jerusalem said that they are “shocked and saddened by the attack,” and are currently gathering more information. A spokesperson released a statement to CNN today regarding the attack: 

We strongly condemn all acts of terrorism and actions that exacerbate tensions. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims and we wish all of them a quick and full recovery.”

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Tom Nides, the US Ambassador to Israel, also released a statement via his Twitter condemning the attack: 

“Strongly condemn the terrorist attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem. I am praying for a quick recovery for all of the innocent victims,” Nides said.

“Deeply saddened to confirm that Americans were injured in this attack. I’ve spoken with the families and will keep them in my prayers. Continuing to monitor the situation.”

According to a police spokesperson, the shooter initially fled the scene with both security forces, the Shin Bet, and the IDF in pursuit. The suspect later turned himself into the police with his weapon being immediately seized. 

The suspect is an Israeli citizen born in 1996. While he’s not known for any terror related offenses, he has a criminal record and spent time in prison, his identity has not been released. 

Israeli media outlets described the suspect as a Palestinian who holds Israeli citizenship. Police and forensic investigators have begun a full investigation into the attack.

lgbtq

Ugandan Government Shuts Down LGBT+ Organization, Members Call The Move A ‘Clear Witch Hunt’ 

Uganda’s government this week decided to shut down operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a non-governmental organization that works on improving LGBT+ rights in the nation. The government released a statement in which they explained that the group was operating illegally in the country. 

Members of SMUG responded by calling the move a “witch hunt” against the LGBT+ community. 

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Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) said Friday the “group operated without being registered in the NGO Bureau.” The group initially tried to register in 2012, but was rejected “on grounds of being undesirable.”

SMUG members released a statement this past Friday stating that the choice to shut down the group’s operations was a “clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements.” 

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operation that seeks to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders, was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treating Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” the group stated

“The government should uphold their obligations to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.”

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Uganda is no stranger to anti-LGBT+ policies and laws. In 2009 the nation introduced an anti-homoseuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. Lawmakers in the country passed another bill in 2014 that replaced the death penalty punishment with a proposal for life in prison. 

That law was ultimately struck down, but lawmakers have attempted to reintroduce it in more recent years. 

Uganda is known as a socially conservative country, beyond just their restrictions to the LGBT+ community. In 2014 they introduced the Anti-Pornography Act which banned mini-skirts, and arrested victims who were subject to revenge porn. 

LGBT+ community members in Uganda face arrest, assault, and overall persecution for their identity.

monkeypox

World Health Organization Declares Monkeypox Outbreak As A Global Health Emergency 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern, the strongest call to action the agency can make. 

Since 2009, the WHO has declared seven global health emergencies, the most recent being for Covid-19, which was declared an emergency back in 2020. 

According to the WHO’s international health regulations, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

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The UN health agency states that the term implies that the situation is very serious, sudden, unusual, and/or unexpected. A global health emergency also implies this is a threat for public health beyond national borders, and may require immediate international attention. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, said at a press conference that the “committee met on Thursday to review the latest data, but were unable to reach a consensus.”

“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” he said. 

“For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

While he said the “risk of monkeypox is moderate globally, it’s high in Europe and there is a clear risk of further international spread.”

So far there have been around 16,000 cases of monkeypox globally, 4,132 of which were in the past week according to data from WHO. It’s now been found in 75 countries and territories, and there have been five deaths. 

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European regions have the highest number of total cases at 11,865, and the highest increase in cases within the last week, with 2,705. 

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the technical lead for monkeypox at the WHO health emergency program, stated that there’s “a lot of work to be done. Action must be taken to establish what causes risk and to reduce situations that could put people at risk so they can protect themselves. This is how we will get to the end of this outbreak.” 

Monkeypox is classified as a viral infection typically found in animals in central and western Africa, although it can cause outbreaks in humans, as we’ve been seeing. 

Besides Europe, cases have been reported throughout the US, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and others. 

Experts have stressed that anyone can get monkeypox as it’s spread through close or intimate contact. The UN has warned that some media portrayals of the virus impacting mainly Africans and individuals in the LGBT+ community “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma.” 

Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO emergencies program, said: “We all know how difficult it has been historically to deal with issues like this because of stigma. If nothing else this is about enlightened self-interest, as well as solidarity with those affected.”

flooding

Pakistan’s Largest City Experiences Torrential Rain And Major Flooding Due To Climate Crisis 

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, is experiencing extreme torrential rain and flash flooding causing a multitude of public services and businesses to close down over safety concerns. Infrastructural damage and flooding has left at least 15 individuals dead since this weekend. 

This past Sunday, Karachi experienced 2.3 inches of rain, which is equivalent to the average of an entire month’s worth of rainfall for the area. Every summer Pakistan endures heavy monsoon rains, but more recently experts have been warning that climate change is accelerating and intensifying existing weather patterns. 

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, issued flash flood warnings for citizens in more than 14 cities and townships. 

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“Since the monsoon season began last month more than 300 people have been killed by heavy rains across Pakistan,” according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. 

The 16 million residents of Karachi have witnessed entire neighborhoods become partially submerged from flooding. Photos from the area show individuals knee-deep in muddy flood water with vehicles left completely stranded and submerged. 

“Infrastructure including bridges, highways and roads have been damaged, disrupting traffic and upending the lives of millions across the city. Many have stocked up on fuel for their generators in case of power outages,”  said Afia Salam, a climate change advocate in Karachi.

“Climate change is a threat. We are a coastal city. It’s happening so fast and we will bear the brunt. People need to see the situation beyond individual events like a bridge falling or a road getting flooded.”

“The rapidity of these events is increasing and our response is not keeping pace. We are being reactive to individual events. Strategies need to be put in place, the poorest and most vulnerable are on the front line of the crisis,” said Salam.

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“Karachi, the country’s financial capital, boasts luxury hotels, malls and upmarket gated communities. But disparities in wealth and development remain, and an estimated 50% of its residents are forced to live in informal settlements,” according to the World Bank.

“Karachi’s infrastructure is highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters,” according to the World Bank.

Experts are stating that the climate crisis in Pakistan is also being exacerbated by poor flood management and ineffective disaster response. 

Extreme weather events in South Asia are becoming more frequent due to climate change, with temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan reaching record highs during a heat wave in April and May. 

According to a 2022 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they had “medium confidence that heat waves and humidity stress would become more intense and frequent, and annual and summer monsoon precipitation will increase.”

According to the IPCC India and Pakistan are among the countries that are expected to be the most affected by climate change.

heat wave

Record High Temperatures Hit Europe, Prompting Multiple Heat Warnings 

The UK and other parts of Europe are gearing up for one of the hottest summers to date. Multiple countries, including France and Britain, have issued extreme heat warnings and are working to combat the spreading of multiple wildfires.

British authorities have declared a national emergency and issued a “red extreme” heat warning for the first time in England’s history. Meteorological services in France have placed a majority of the country under the highest possible alert level for heat. 

Forecasters are predicting that Monday and Tuesday will see record-high temperatures in Britain, rising up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celsius); the current record is 101.7 degrees Fahrenheit (38.7 Celsius) which occurred in 2019. 

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Nikos Christidis, a climate attribution researcher in the UK, recently spoke to the media stating that climate change is making extreme heat events much more common, especially in the summer months. 

“The chances of seeing 40°C days in the U.K. could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” he said in a statement

Spain, Portugal, and France are evacuating thousands of their residents due to the threat of ongoing wildfires caused by the extreme temperatures. Authorities have also been warning of degrading air quality in these areas as well, especially in more heavily populated cities. The north of Italy is currently experiencing a state of emergency as well due to the heat and the droughts it’s causing. 

The hospitals in these countries are also becoming overwhelmed due to the additional services they need to provide to help combat the negative impacts of the heat. Additionally, rising Covid-19 cases are putting extra pressure on the hospitals and healthcare services in these nations. 

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Spain’s public Carlos III Health Institute estimate data showed that 350 people died in the country last week due to the heat. Over 800 heat-related deaths were reported by the institute in June, where temperatures reached levels between 104 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (40-43 Celsius). 

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a level four heat alert, the highest possible level, which warns of illness and possible death even for the healthiest of individuals due to the heat. 

People throughout Europe who live in poorer areas are more likely to live in buildings without access to air conditioning or greener spaces which have trees to offer natural cooling through shade. Christian Huyghe, scientific director at France’s National Institute of Agricultural Research discussed that this is likely just the beginning of the damage the world will experience from climate change. 

“What we see now is just the very beginning of the potential impact of climate change.”

Emergency orders and evacuations will likely continue this week as temperatures remain high.

Japan

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Party Gains Election Victory Days After His Tragic Assassination

Days after the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citizens went out and voted to keep Japan’s ruling coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in power.

wnba

US Olympic Basketball Star Brittney Griner Appears In Russian Court On Drug Smuggling Charges

Brittney Griner, two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist, went on trial in Moscow this week on drug smuggling charges which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

Griner’s supporters and US officials are advocating that she is being wrongfully detained and are pleading for her release. Others are worried that she will be used as a political pawn as tensions between US and Russia rise. 

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At the trial Griner was accused of smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. 

Being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotic drugs is not allowed… no later than February 17, 2022 at an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances from an unidentified person [Griner] bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor said, according to a TASS reporter in the hall of the Khimki City Court.

The prosecution argues that Griner “intended to import the drugs into Russia’s territory and put the prohibited substances into a backpack and a suitcase,” according to TASS. 

Cannabis oil is classified as a narcotic drug in Russia. 

Griner’s lawyers, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, said on Friday they were “unaware of any plans to exchange Griner for a Russian prisoner held in the US. We have no information about it, unfortunately,” the lawyers said during an impromptu press conference.

During the hearing, “an employee of the Sheremetyevo airport customs services was one of the two witnesses. He was interrogated on the circumstances of Griner’s detention and personal search,” the lawyers said.

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US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood, emphasized that Griner had been “wrongfully detained, the practice of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it occurs and is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad.”

“She [Griner] is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances and she asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith. The US government, from the highest levels, is working hard to bring Brittney and all wrongfully detained US nationals home,” Rood said.

Griner’s detention, which has been repeatedly extended, has sparked a wave of support among dozens of organizations in the US that have joined Griner’s wife, Cherelle, in urging President Joe Biden to strike an exchange deal with Russian authorities to release Griner and bring her home safely as soon as possible.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, pleaded with US officials to do more to secure her wife’s release.

“It’s really, really difficult. This is not a situation where the rhetoric is matching the action. I do have to unfortunately push people to make sure that the things they’re telling me are also matching their actions and so it’s been the hardest thing to balance because I can’t let up. It’s over 130 days and BG’s still not back.” 

Phoenix Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told reporters that Griner’s “detention is still tough on our team. We hope Griner will return home soon and that President Biden will take the steps to ensure that she comes home.”

row vs wade

Roe Vs Wade Overturned, Experts Warn Maternal Mortality Rate Will Rise In US 

The Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe vs Wade last week in a 6-3 decision, officially revoking the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States. Experts are now saying that pregnancy-related deaths will almost certainly increase, especially among people of color. 

Rachel Hardeman, a reproductive health equity professor and researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, spoke on the issue: 

“There are going to be more people who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term, which means that there’s going to be a greater number of people who are at risk. More pregnancy means more likelihood of deaths.”

Current state bans could lead to an additional 75,000 births every year for those who won’t be able to access abortion, according to one experts estimate. The bans will also likely impact younger and poorer people of color at a much higher rate.

Currently in America, for every 10,000 births, 23.8 people have died from either pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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More than half of the US states are likely to ban abortion following the fall of Roe.

“The truth of the matter is, it’s already hitting people [of color] harder than others – that’s been the reality,” said Monica McLemore, an associate professor of family healthcare nursing at University of California, San Francisco.

“Black people in the US were already 3.5 times more likely than white peers to die because of pregnancy and childbirth, according to one study looking at data from 2016-2017, and 2.9 times more likely,” according to a CDC analysis in 2020. 

“Because Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities are going to be disproportionately impacted by lack of access to abortion services, it’s going to exacerbate the maternal mortality racial gap that we’ve already seen in the United States,” Hardeman said.

“It’s translating into not getting the care they need, which can be a matter of life and death. And racism also takes an immense physical toll, so by the time that person becomes pregnant, they are at less optimal health than their white counterparts who haven’t experienced racism across the life course.”

The cumulative and chronic effects of living in America as a person of color increases stress, which can also affect reproductive health. “We know that the stress pathway is what leads to infant mortality, preterm birth, and other outcomes,” Hardeman said.

“We have to be thinking about the Scotus decision and abortion bans generally as a racist policy, because the burden will fall the hardest on Black pregnant people, it’s going to fall hard on Indigenous people and other people of color, people living in rural areas as well and people of lower socioeconomic status,” Hardeman continued.

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“The supreme court decision on Friday and bans on abortion instituted at the state level disproportionately harm people of color and reinforce a system of inequity and, frankly, of white supremacy.”

“If you think about why people get abortions, it’s often because it’s not safe for them to stay pregnant,” Stevenson said. “The people who are currently having abortions are very likely to actually have higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths and maternal mortality than the people who are currently giving birth.”

Having an abortion is “much, much, much safer than staying pregnant”, Stevenson said. 

Current research indicated that childbirth is 14 times more deadly than having an abortion. 

“We have to be thinking about the fact that because we live in a society where access to resources is based on racism and race, there are people who are not going to be able to access the services that are available.”

McLemore emphasized that direct action is what’s needed in order to protect the people in states that will be banning abortions. 

“Congress could act right now and render Scotus’s decision irrelevant by enshrining reproductive rights into national law. If this Congress doesn’t, she said, the six in 10 Americans who support abortion rights should vote for a new Congress that will,” she explained.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach here – with brilliance, not fear.”