AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT | National
Captive medic’s bodycam shows firsthand horror of Mariupol
KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — A celebrated Ukrainian medic recorded her time in Mariupol on a data card no bigger than a thumbnail, smuggled out to the world in a tampon. Now she is in Russian hands, at a time when Mariupol itself is on the verge of falling.
Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a moniker from the nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks to bring people back from the brink of death. She got the harrowing clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it in a tampon.
Russian soldiers captured Taira and her driver the next day, March 16, one of many forced disappearances in areas of Ukraine now held by Russia. Russia has portrayed Taira as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion, in line with Moscow’s narrative that it is attempting to “denazify” Ukraine. But the AP found no such evidence, and friends and colleagues said she had no links to Azov.
The military hospital where she led evacuations of the wounded is not affiliated with the battalion, whose members have spent weeks defending a sprawling steel plant in Mariupol. The footage Taira recorded itself testifies to the fact that she tried to save wounded Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian civilians.
A clip recorded on March 10 shows two Russian soldiers taken roughly out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands bound behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. Their eyes are covered by winter hats, and they wear white armbands.
Ukrainian troops surrendering at Mariupol registered as POWs
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered after holding out against punishing attacks on Mariupol’s steel factory hung in the balance Thursday, amid international fears that the Russians may take reprisals against the prisoners.
The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered personal information from hundreds of the soldiers — name, date of birth, closest relative — and registered them as prisoners of war, as part of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.
Amnesty International said in a tweet that the Ukrainian soldiers are now prisoners of war and as such “must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment.”
More than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered since Monday, Russian authorities said, in what appeared to be the final stage in the nearly three-month siege of the now-pulverized port city.
At least some of the fighters were taken by the Russians to a former penal colony in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. Others were hospitalized, according to a separatist official.
Oklahoma passes strictest abortion ban; services to stop
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill prohibiting all abortions with few exceptions, and providers said they would stop performing the procedure as soon as the governor signs it in the latest example of the GOP’s national push to restrict access to what has been a constitutional right for nearly a half century.
Oklahoma lawmakers this year already passed a half-dozen anti-abortion measures, and while abortion providers across the country have been bracing for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court’s new conservative majority might further restrict the practice, that has especially been the case in Oklahoma and Texas.
Two of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics already stopped providing abortions after the governor signed a six-week ban earlier this month, and an attorney for the two other independent clinics said Thursday they will no longer offer services once the bill is signed. The bill is likely to reach Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk early next week, and the first-term Republican running for reelection has already said he would sign any anti-abortion bill the Legislature sends to him. It would take effect immediately after he signs it.
“This bill could go into effect at any time, and once it does, any person can sue the clinic, the doctors, anyone else who is involved in providing an abortion in Oklahoma,” said Rabia Muqaddam, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Oklahoma clinics in legal challenges against several proposed new anti-abortion laws.
The bills are part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights. It comes on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the nation’s high court that suggests justices are considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
CDC urges Pfizer booster for children ages 5 to 11
Kids ages 5 to 11 should get a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, advisers to the U.S. government said Thursday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention quickly adopted the panel’s recommendation, opening a third COVID-19 shot to healthy elementary-age kids — just like what is already recommended for everybody 12 and older.
The hope is that an extra shot will shore up protection for kids ages 5 to 11 as infections once again are on the rise.
“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a statement.
“We know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” she said.
‘How dare you!’: Grief, anger from Buffalo victims’ kin
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Relatives of the 10 Black people massacred in a Buffalo supermarket pleaded with the nation Thursday to confront and stop racist violence, their agony pouring out in the tears of a 12-year-old child, hours after the white man accused in the killings silently faced a murder indictment in court.
Jaques “Jake” Patterson, who lost his father, covered his face with his hands as his mother spoke at a news conference. Once she finished, Jake collapsed into the arms of Rev. Al Sharpton, the veteran civil rights activist, and cried silently, using his T-shirt to wipe his tears.
“His heart is broken,” said his mother, Tirzah Patterson, adding that her son was having trouble sleeping and eating.
“As a mother, what am I supposed to do to help him get through this?” she said.
Her ex-husband, Heyward Patterson, a 67-year-old church deacon, was gunned down Saturday at Tops Friendly Market. So was Robin Harris’s 86-year-old mother and best friend, Ruth Whitfield, on a day when they were supposed to go see the touring Broadway show “Ain’t Too Proud.”
Rebutting Turkey, Biden lauds NATO bids of Sweden, Finland
WASHINGTON (AP) — Flanked by the leaders of Finland and Sweden, President Joe Biden forcefully supported their applications to join NATO on Thursday as Russia’s war in the heart of Europe challenges the continent’s security. The U.S. president rejected Turkey’s opposition, insisting the two countries “meet every NATO requirement and then some.”
Biden walked to a White House Rose Garden appearance with his hands on the shoulders of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland for an event designed to emphasize U.S. backing of their NATO candidacies.
The firm show of support was targeted not only at Russia, but also Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who earlier emphasized his opposition to the two countries joining the military alliance. Erdogan’s new comments added to uncertainty about whether he is determined to derail the expansion, which needs the unanimous support of all 30 NATO members, or whether he is using the threat to gain concessions from the two nations as well as the United States.
Biden, in a notable pledge, said the U.S. and allies would “deter and confront any aggression while Finland and Sweden are in this accession process.”
Once-neutral Finland and Sweden are abandoning what in Sweden’s case has been 200 years of military non-alignment, driven to join NATO’s mutual defense pact in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war there.
Jan. 6 panel asks GOP lawmaker to testify about Capitol tour
WASHINGTON (AP) — The congressional committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection is asking a House Republican for more information about a tour of the building the panel says he led the day before the deadly attack.
The committee’s letter to Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk on Thursday is the latest attempt by House investigators to obtain cooperation from GOP lawmakers in the probe of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack, Supporters of then-President Donald Trump violently broke into the Capitol that day and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,“ wrote Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the chairman and vice-chairwoman of the committee.
“Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings” in advance of the insurrection, they wrote.
The voluntary request comes as the panel has already conducted more than 1,000 interviews about the insurrection and as it prepares for a series of hearings in June. The questions about tours of the Capitol ahead of the attack have lingered since the days afterward, when Democrats suggested that some Republican members may have helped the rioters. But so far there has been no public evidence of that assistance.
Ballot fiasco delays results in Oregon, vote-by-mail pioneer
OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) — Thousands of ballots with blurry barcodes that can’t be read by vote-counting machines will delay results by weeks in a key U.S. House race in Oregon’s primary election, a shocking development that is giving a black eye to a vote-by-mail pioneer state with a national reputation as a leader on voter access and equity.
The fiasco affects up to 60,000 ballots, or two-thirds of the roughly 90,000 returned so far in Oregon’s third-largest county. Hundreds of ballots were still coming in under a new law that allows them to be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day, and 200 Clackamas County employees were getting a crash course Thursday in vote-counting after being redeployed to address the crisis.
Elections workers must pull the faulty ballots from batches of 125, transfer the voter’s intent to a fresh ballot, then double-check their entries — a painstaking process that could draw the election out until June 13, when Oregon certifies its vote. The workers operate in pairs, one Democrat and one Republican, in two shifts of 11 hours a day.
Voters from both political parties milled about in a narrow room with windows that allowed views of workers opening ballots, transferring votes, reviewing flagged ballots and using the vote-counting machines. They expressed shock at the error and anger at the slow reaction by embattled Elections Clerk Sherry Hall, who has held the elected post for nearly 20 years. By Wednesday night, workers had counted 15,649.
“It blows my mind,” Ron Smith, a Clackamas County voter, said. “It’s a little bit questionable. That’s why I’m here. … With all that’s going on, we don’t need extra suspicion. It seems like something like that would have been tested correctly at the beginning of this whole entire process.”
Senate OKs overhaul of baby formula rules in aid program
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate approved a bill Thursday aimed at easing the baby formula shortage for families participating in a government assistance program that accounts for about half of all formula purchased in the United States.
The House passed the bill the day before, so it now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law.
Participants in a program known as WIC get vouchers that are redeemed for specific foods to supplement their diets. The vouchers usually can only be used to purchase one brand of infant formula, which encourages the manufacturer to offer big discounts to secure a state’s business.
The bill makes it possible in extenuating circumstances for the Department of Agriculture to waive certain requirements so that WIC participants can purchase whatever brand is available.
“Now, millions of parents will have an easier time finding the baby formula that they need,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the bill was passed.
Boeing crew capsule launches to space station on test redo
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing’s crew capsule rocketed into orbit Thursday on a repeat test flight without astronauts, after years of being grounded by flaws that could have doomed the spacecraft.
Only a test dummy was aboard. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crew flight.
It’s Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight demo.
At least this time, Starliner made it to the proper orbit, quickly giving chase to the space station despite the failure of a pair of thrusters. But the all-important rendezvous and docking loomed.
“That’s another big day for us,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “So there might be a couple of sleepless nights ahead of us still to get through the rest of the mission, but today feels really good.”