Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given Joe Biden a second chance to demonstrate the steady leadership he promised, raising hopes among Democrats that the White House’s efforts to punish Moscow for its shocking aggression will resonate with voters in this year’s midterm elections.
As the war in Ukraine threatens to push already rising gas prices even higher, Democrats are blaming “Putin’s tax hike”. At the same time, they are touting the administration’s role coordinating a worldwide response to Russia, and the devastating impact of economic sanctions, highlighting a contrast with the former president Donald Trump, who has continued to praise Putin.
This strategy comes with considerable risk, however. Foreign policy is rarely front of mind for voters. The situation remains volatile and unpredictable.
Should Democrats be hopeful? Recent surveys have shown an increase in support for Biden, buoyed by approval of his handling of the conflict in Ukraine, though his overall ratings are still mired in the low 40s.
Do Americans support the administration’s response to the conflict? Broadly they say support the response. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, Americans overwhelmingly favor a ban on oil and gas purchases from Russia, even if it means paying more at the pump.
Fresh blasts in Kyiv as Zelenskiy says ceasefire talks will resume
Pre-dawn explosions have been heard in Kyiv this morning, as Russia and Ukraine were due to meet again for talks aimed at ending the 20-day war.
A series of Russian strikes hit a residential neighbourhood in the capital today, igniting a huge fire and prompting a frantic rescue effort in a 15-storey apartment building. At least one person was killed and others remain trapped inside.
Shockwaves from an explosion also damaged the entry to a metro station that has been used as a bomb shelter. City authorities tweeted an image of the blown-out facade, saying trains would no longer stop at the station.
Talks between Russia and Ukraine were due to resume today the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, adding that the previous round had gone “pretty well”.
CIA black site detainee served as training prop to teach interrogators torture techniques
A detainee at a secret CIA detention site in Afghanistan was used as a living prop to teach trainee interrogators, who lined up to take turns at knocking his head against a plywood wall, leaving him with brain damage, according to a US government report.
The details of the torture of Ammar al-Baluchi are in a 2008 report by the CIA’s inspector general, newly declassified as part of a court filing by his lawyers aimed at getting him an independent medical examination.
Baluchi, a 44-year-old Kuwaiti, is one of five defendants before a military tribunal on Guantánamo Bay charged with participation in the 9/11 plot, but the case has been in pre-trial hearings for 10 years, mired in a dispute over legal admissibility of testimony obtained after torture.
What does the report say? It says interrogators at the site, known both as Cobalt and the Salt Pit, went beyond the CIA’s guidelines in torturing Baluchi, using two techniques without approval.
Is he really brain damaged? A neuropsychologist carried out an MRI of Baluchi’s head in late 2018 and found abnormalities affecting memory formation and retrieval as well as behavioral regulation which were “consistent with traumatic brain injury”.
In other news …
The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has praised the employee on Russia’s state Channel One television who launched an extraordinary protest against Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Marina Ovsyannikova burst on to the set of the live broadcast on Monday evening, shouting: “Stop the war”.
A Democratic fundraising organization is filing a complaint to the Federal Election Commission in which it accuses Trump of violating campaign finance laws by spending political funds for a 2024 presidential bid.
A year to the month after the Ever Given blocked the Suez canal for a week – prompting global fascination and countless memes – the container ship’s cousin has run aground in the Chesapeake Bay. Officials are now scrambling to refloat that container ship, ironically named the Ever Forward, after it got stuck.
Jane Campion, the Oscar-nominated, multi-award-winning director of The Power of the Dog, apologized yesterday for telling the tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams they “do not play against the guys like I have to”, during an acceptance speech at the Critics Choice awards on Sunday.
Don’t miss this: The 300,000 volunteer hackers coming together to fight Russia
Kali, a Swiss teenager is trying to paralyse the digital presence of the Russian government and the Belarusian railway. He one of about 300,000 people who have signed up to a group on the chat app Telegram called “IT Army of Ukraine”, through which participants are assigned tasks designed to take the fight to Putin. In so doing, they are trying to level the playing field between one of the world’s superpowers and Ukraine as it faces bombardment and invasion.
Climate check: Manchin ‘very reluctant’ on electric cars in ominous sign for Biden’s climate fight
Faced with rising gasoline prices, many Americans are considering switching to an electric car. But Senator Joe Manchin, who holds key swing vote in US Senate, has poured scorn on the idea of phasing out gasoline and diesel cars. Manchin, who has taken more money in political donations from fossil fuel interests than any other senator, also said he had “a hard time understanding” why the federal government would invest in a network of electric car charging stations, as Biden intended to do.
Last Thing: Pete Davidson, Saturday Night Live star, to travel to space on Blue Origin flight
Pete Davidson is heading to space. The Saturday Night Live star is among the six passengers on the next launch of Jeff Bezos’ space travel venture Blue Origin, the company announced yesterday. The launch is scheduled for 23 March and Davidson will be the third celebrity on a Blue Origin flight, which give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness above the Earth’s surface before the capsule parachutes and lands in the west Texas desert. The company has not disclosed the ticket price for paying customers.
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