First Thing: Putin gives state of nation address as Biden arrives in Poland | US news


Good morning.

Joe Biden arrived in Warsaw late yesterday evening, where he is due to meet Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, along with other leaders of countries on Nato’s eastern flank while the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has been delivering a war update during his state of the nation address.

Biden is to deliver his own speech later today, highlighting how the US has helped rally the world to support Ukraine, and to stress his country’s support for Nato’s eastern flank.

In Russia, Putin repeated claims that it was Ukraine and the west that started the war. He said the west will use anyone – terrorists, Nazis, “even the devil himself” – in order to fight Russia.

He said those initiating anti-Russian economic sanctions were just punishing themselves. The west has begun “not just a military and information, but an economic aggression” against Russia, he said. “They have not achieved success in either of these areas.”

“The initiators of the sanctions are punishing themselves,” he added. “They provoked a growth of prices in their own countries, the closures of factories, the collapse of energy sector, and they are telling their citizens that it is the Russians who are to blame.”

  • Is Biden’s speech going to be a response to Putin’s? The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan said it was not and that Putin appeared to have brought his speech forward to coincide with Biden’s visit to eastern Europe. He said: “We did not set this speech up as some kind of head-to-head. This is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else.”

  • How many people have died since the invasion began? There have been at least 18,955 civilian casualties since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights. The agency released the report citing the number of casualties as being 7,199 killed and 11,756 injured, but believes the actual figures are considerably higher.

Turkey hit by two more powerful earthquakes two weeks after disaster

Family of four hugging each other on ground at night outside.
People react after the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in Antakya. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake and a second measuring 5.8 shook Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, terrifying those left in a region devastated by twin earthquakes two weeks ago.

Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, said that at least three people were killed and 213 wounded by the latest quakes, after a large hospital in İskenderun, in the north of Hatay province, said it was evacuating patients.

The quake was felt in neighbouring Syria, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 500 injured in the north-west.

One person was reported dead in Samandag, a town in Hatay, by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). Residents there said more buildings collapsed, but most of the town had already fled after the initial earthquakes. Mounds of debris and discarded furniture lined the dark, abandoned streets.

  • What did the US secretary of state say during his visit to Turkey? Antony Blinken said Washington would help “for as long as it takes” as rescue operations wound down and the focus turned towards urgent shelter and reconstruction work. “It’s hard to put into words,” Blinken said, trying to describe what he saw. “Countless buildings, communities, streets, damaged or fully destroyed.”

Ohio train derailment reveals need for urgent reform, workers say

People in high-vis jackets by railway line.
The scene of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

US railroad workers say the train derailment in Ohio, which forced thousands of residents to evacuate and is now spreading a noxious plume of carcinogenic chemicals across the area, should be an “eye-opening” revelation for Congress and “an illustration of how the railroads operate, and how they’re getting away with a lot of things”.

Workers and union officials cited the Norfolk Southern Railway derailment in early February as a glaring example of why safety reforms to the industry – which include providing workers with paid sick leave – need to be made, writes Michael Sainato.

Thirty-eight cars on the train derailed in the town of East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania border, including 11 cars carrying hazardous materials that incited an evacuation order, a controlled release of chemicals, and fears of harmful chemical exposure to residents, wildlife and waterways.

Unions and rail companies have been at loggerheads for years over new contracts that would address what workers describe as poor working conditions, and would provide paid sick days amid grueling schedules caused by labor cuts.

  • What’s happened to the railroad workforce? The railroad industry workforce plummeted from more than 1 million workers in the 1950s to fewer than 150,000 in 2022, with a loss of 40,000 railroad jobs between November 2018 and December 2020. The six major railroad corporations that have yet to agree to provide workers with paid sick days reported more than $22bn in profits and spent more than $20bn on stock buybacks and shareholder dividends last year.

In other news …

FILE PHOTO: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, attend the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala in New York CityFILE PHOTO: Alec Baldwin attends the 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala in New York City, U.S., December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
Alec Baldwin in New York in December. Baldwin’s lawyers argued that the firearm enhancement law had not been in effect when the fatal shooting took place. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters
  • New Mexico prosecutors have walked away from their efforts to seek a five-year prison sentence for actor Alec Baldwin in the film-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, opting instead to pursue an essentially reduced charge against him. Baldwin, who still faces a count of involuntary manslaughter, now is looking at a maximum of 18 months in prison if convicted.

  • Venice canals have started to run dry as low tide and lack of rain has hit Italy leaving Gondolas and water taxis unable to navigate some of its famous waterways. Weeks of dry winter weather have raised concerns that Italy could face another drought after last summer’s emergency.

  • To better find, capture and remove invasive Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades, a team of researchers is attaching location-tracking collars on animals such as raccoons and opossums that the predatory snakes feed on. Burmese pythons have surged in south Florida in recent years.

  • A court in South Korea has ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same spousal coverage under the national health insurance service as heterosexual couples – the first time the country has recognised the legal status of a gay partner. The landmark decision by the Seoul high court overturned a previous ruling by a lower court.

  • A shooting on a carnival parade route in New Orleans on Sunday night killed one man and wounded four other people, including a four-year-old girl, according to officials. Authorities said they had arrested one suspect in the deadly quintuple shooting on a count of murder as well as a weapons charge.

Stat of the day: remains found in car sunk in creek belonged to student who went missing nearly 50 years ago

In this December 2021 photo provided by the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department, the 1974 Pinto Kyle Clinkscales was driving when he disappeared in 1976, is recovered from a creek in Alabama. Sheriff’s officials have previously said Clinkscales was killed, but now are raising the possibility that he went off the road and crashed. (Maj. Terry “Tj” Wood/Chambers County Sheriff’s Department via AP)
Clinkscale’s 1974 Ford Pinto was found in December 2021. Photograph: Major Terry “Tj” Wood/AP

Skeletal remains inside a car discovered in a creek a little more than a year ago belonged to an Auburn University student who disappeared in 1976, authorities have confirmed, closing the book on a missing person case that had puzzled investigators for nearly five decades. Kyle Clinkscales, 22, was last seen alive at a bar where he worked in his home town of LaGrange, Georgia, on the night of 27 January 1976. He was planning to drive back to school about 35 miles away in his white 1974 Ford Pinto, but he never arrived. Investigators found a wallet, an ID, credits and bones in the car. They turned the skeletal remains over to Georgia’s state bureau of investigation for DNA analysis. The cause and manner of death have not been determined.

Don’t miss this: a Black mother on the long shadow of school segregation

Andrea Harris Smith standing outside with eyes closed.
Andrea Harris Smith: ‘Almost 80 years after my grandparents completed the doll test, segregation remains a fact of life in much of America.’ Photograph: Jared Soares/The Guardian

At my son’s school, I’m often the sole Black mother walking through a sea of white parents, writes Andrea Harris Smith. The tide of whiteness regularly swallows up everything other than itself and I feel starkly exposed and different. Let me be clear: there are no dirty looks or any outward forms of exclusion – no hostility whatsoever. I am by no means walking through the torrent of rocks and spit and hatred spewed on the first families to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the 1950s. But I do hear those echoes somehow. No one is throwing rocks, but being the only one leaves a mark.

I am the granddaughter of Drs Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark, psychologists and educators whose research with African American children was central to arguments that led to the 1954 Brown v Board of Education supreme court decision to desegregate public schools. But almost 80 years after my grandparents completed the doll test, segregation remains a fact of life in much of America.

… Or this: Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira remembered in Rio as carnival emerges from Bolsonaro era

Stilt walker Liana Barros (far left) holds a banner she made honouring Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira as part of the Terreirada bloco during carnival in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
Stilt walker Liana Barros (far left) holds a banner she made honouring Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira as part of the Terreirada bloco during carnival in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. Photograph: Constance Malleret/Jo Bueno

Perched atop 35in stilts and wearing an antler headpiece, Liana Barros held up her carnival costume’s pièce de résistance: a banner bearing tribute to the British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who were murdered in the Amazon last year. The banner fluttered among other standards honouring figures such as the assassinated Amazon defender Chico Mendes, as Barros, a 50-year-old civil servant, paraded with the Terreirada, a visually striking bloco (a musical troupe that leads street parties) celebrating Brazilian folklore. Amid all the dancing and debauchery, Rio’s carnival has indeed always been an occasion for political protest and cultural commemoration too, writes Constance Malleret.

Climate check: stronger El Niño events may speed up irreversible melting of Antarctic ice, research finds

Melting ice in Antarctica.
Examination of climate models found stronger El Niños may accelerate the heating of deeper ocean waters while slowing the pace of warming on the surface. Photograph: Johan Ordóñez/AFP/Getty Images

Stronger El Niño events due to global heating may accelerate irreversible melting of the Antarctic ice sheet and ice shelves and the rise in sea levels, according to research from Australia’s top government science agency. Previous studies have found that rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are expected to increase the magnitude of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (Enso), the planet’s most significant year-to-year climate fluctuation and a major driver of extreme droughts and floods. Extreme warm El Niño events and cool La Niña events are expected to become more frequent as the planet heats. The new study shows how the impact of the weather phenomenon could have a “double whammy” effect, leading to worsening extreme weather and accelerating sea level rise.

Last Thing: ‘Electric Malady? Marie, girl, what a slay’ – deconstructing Ariana DeBose’s personalised Bafta rap

Viola Davis, my Woman King
The West Side Story star put in one of the all-time great berserk musical performances with a bespoke song celebrating, by name, many of this year’s female nominees. Photograph: BBC

If you didn’t watch the Baftas on Sunday night, it means you missed one of the all-time great berserk musical performances ever seen: Angela Bassett Did the Thing, writes Stuart Heritage. That wasn’t its official name, by the way. Technically it was a musical performance by Ariana DeBose, but it was a performance so gormless, so busy, so deeply and unsettlingly confusing, that to give it a name would only serve to minimise it. Academy Award-winning DeBose, quite out of puff, rapped about most of the female nominees in turn, while performing a terrifyingly high energy dance. To make matters worse, the Bafta director insisted on cutting away to every woman she namechecked, which would have been a lovely touch had any of them looked even slightly pleased about it.

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