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Wednesday, May 29th

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Ukraine war briefing: 50 countries swing behind peace summit in Switzerland

Ukranian rocket fired in Kharkiv
  • The Ukraine peace summit planned by Switzerland has so far drawn delegations from more than 50 countries, the Swiss president, Viola Amherd, has said. Russia has not been invited, but Switzerland says it might be if Moscow had not repeatedly stated it is not interested. The Ukrainian government has said Russia does not negotiate in good faith anyway.

  • Amherd said she was in discussion about whether Switzerland might step aside from receiving a Patriot missile defence system that is due from the US, so Ukraine can get one sooner.

  • The Ukrainian presidential office has said additional reinforcements were being deployed in the Kharkiv region, including army reserve units. Heavy enemy fire prompted repositioning of some troops in the Kupiansk direction to the east of Kharkiv city, the general staff said on Wednesday. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president, has postponed all his upcoming foreign trips, underscoring the seriousness of the threat his soldiers are facing. The Ukrainian military said troops fell back from areas in Lukyantsi and Vovchansk near Kharkiv “to save the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses”, Peter Beaumont writes.

Israeli minister attacks Netanyahu over Gaza future

Yoav Gallant

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has voiced open frustration at the government’s failure to address the question of a post-war plan for Gaza.

In a rare public sign of divisions over the direction of the military campaign within Israel’s war cabinet, Mr Gallant urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare publicly that Israel has no plans to take over civilian and military rule in Gaza.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet,” he said, “and have received no response.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded harshly, saying he was "not ready to exchange Hamastan for Fatahstan," in reference to rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah.

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Effort to make it harder to change the Missouri Constitution in doubt

Elizabth ColemanBecause of a 50-hour filibuster by Democrats, the Missouri Senate didn’t vote Wednesday on a measure to make it harder to amend the state constitution and instead is asking the House for a last-ditch compromise.

The move, which came after the record-setting filibuster, leaves the future of the resolution in doubt. Members of the Freedom Caucus said sending Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman’s resolution to conference is a death knell for the GOP priority.

Coleman’s resolution would, if approved by voters, require any constitutional amendment to pass in five out of eight congressional districts. Currently, only a simple majority is needed.

But Democrats engaged in a round-the-clock filibuster because the version that was sent back from the House included other provisions, including an item barring noncitizens from voting — which already is illegal. Democrats said that those provisions were aimed at deceiving voters into gutting the initiative petition process and that they wouldn’t sit down unless those items were taken out.

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Biden and Trump agree to presidential debates in June, September — but with some big changes

Biden and Trump to debate

The last time either President Biden or former President Donald Trump participated in a presidential debate was nearly four years ago, when they tangled in Tennessee at the height COVID-19 pandemic. Now Biden and Trump are finally set to meet again. Here’s what will be different this time — and why it matters.

On Wednesday, Biden posted a video on social media challenging Trump to “make my day, pal” and debate him “twice” before the November election. “So let’s pick the dates, Donald,” the president said, adding that “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays — the only time Trump is not required to be in court for his hush money trial.

Trump immediately responded on his Truth Social network, calling Biden “the WORST debater I have ever faced.” “Just tell me when,” Trump wrote. “I’ll be there.”

Within hours, Biden and Trump had tentatively agreed to two debates: one on June 27 in Atlanta, hosted by CNN, and one on Sept. 10, hosted by ABC News. Dates and details will be finalized after further negotiations.

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North Carolina could ban face masks for medical reasons in public

NC about to ban masks in publicThe North Carolina state Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to ban anyone from wearing masks in public, even for health reasons.

Republican supporters of the ban said it would help law enforcement crack down on protesters who wear masks. They say demonstrators are abusing COVID-19 pandemic-era practices to hide their identities following a wave of pro-Palestine protests nationwide and at North Carolina universities.

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US Capitol Police investigate cocaine discovery at headquarters

US Capitol PoliceThe United States Capitol Police (USCP) said they are launching an investigation after a small bag of cocaine was discovered inside its headquarters.

Police found a “roughly one-inch by one-inch zip lock bag with a small amount of a white powdery substance, which field tested positive for cocaine.”

It was found on the floor inside the Capitol Police headquarters, in an area that’s used for a staging spot for furniture and supplies and is “heavily trafficked” by employees and various contractors, USCP said in a release.

The bag was found by an officer just before 1 p.m. Wednesday and was immediately reported to a supervisor.

USCP headquarters is not at the Capitol, but a few blocks away on D Street and Second Street.

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Medics at UCLA protest say police weapons drew blood and cracked bones

Cops clearing UCLA protest used weaponshe UCLA protest, which gathered thousands in opposition to Israel’s ongoing bombing of Gaza, began in April and grew to a dangerous crescendo this month when counterprotesters and police clashed with the activists and their supporters.

In interviews with KFF Health News, Chan and three other volunteer medics described treating protesters with bleeding wounds, head injuries, and suspected broken bones in a makeshift clinic cobbled together in tents with no electricity or running water. The medical tents were staffed day and night by a rotating team of doctors, nurses, medical students, EMTs, and volunteers with no formal medical training.

At times, the escalating violence outside the tent isolated injured protesters from access to ambulances, the medics said, so the wounded walked to a nearby hospital or were carried beyond the borders of the protest so they could be driven to the emergency room.

“I’ve never been in a setting where we’re blocked from getting higher level of care,” Chan said. “That was terrifying to me.”

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Supreme Court allows Louisiana's congressional map with new, mostly Black district

SCOTUS allows La mapThe Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for Louisiana to use a congressional map with a second majority Black district, a move that has implications for which party wins control of Congress after the November elections.

The court’s decision, made in a response to an emergency request from state officials and voting rights advocates, is the latest twist in a yearslong battle over the boundaries of the state's six congressional districts involving the interplay of race, politics and redistricting.

"Louisiana will finally have a fair and equitable map," said Jared Evans, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The Supreme Court put on hold a lower court's ruling invalidating a map that increased the number of mostly Black districts from one to two.

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Blinken, in Kyiv, vows unwavering US support as Russian attacks intensify

Blinken in UkraineThe U.S. will stand by Ukraine until its security sovereignty is guaranteed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Tuesday in a visit to Kyiv, at a time when Russia is mounting fresh attacks in the country's east.

The top U.S. diplomat is the first senior U.S. official to travel to Ukraine after U.S. Congress passed last month a $61 billion military aid package following a delay of several months during which Russia gained advantage on the battlefield.
In a policy speech at Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Blinken acknowledged the delay of U.S. weapons made Ukraine more vulnerable to Russia's attacks but said Kyiv can count on Washington's unwavering support because the American people understood that Russia will not stop in Ukraine.
"Putin is ramping up yet another offensive against Ukraine in Kharkiv and across the east, sending wave after wave of Russian soldiers, Iranian drones, North Korean artillery, and tanks, missiles and fighter jets built with machines and parts supplied by China," Blinken said.

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