Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
Russia’s attack against Ukraine continues despite being met with Ukrainian courage, defiance
It’s been a week since Russia initially invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine after weeks of President Vladimir Putin promising international leaders that he had no such move planned.
As of this week, one million Ukrainians have fled the country, with the majority making their way across the border to Poland. UNICEF has warned that Europe is headed towards the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The Russian army has continued its relentless attack, primarily targeting the most highly populated cities, including Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Late Wednesday, it was reported that Russian troops had captured Kherson, a port city in the south of Ukraine, making it the first major urban center conquered by Russia. Early Friday, Russia shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear plant, and the direct shelling caused it to catch fire. Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that if the plant explodes, it could cause a disaster worse than the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The Ukrainian army and armed civilians have put up a heroic and strategic fight, with reports of people stepping in front of Russian tanks to stop them, assembling Molotov cocktails and standing in the way of what Putin believed would be a quick victory. This defiance has allowed Ukraine to hold onto its seat of government in Kyiv. Alongside the army and citizens, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has kept the world abreast of the situation on the ground with his defiant videos and speeches, refusing to leave his country despite threats against his life, including a reportedly foiled assassination plot.
In the meantime, Western countries have responded with economic sanctions against the Central Bank of Russia and imposed sanctions on Putin himself along with several Russian oligarchs. Since the start of the attack, the Russian ruble’s worth has plummeted to less than one cent.
However, the Russian attack is seemingly far from over despite Russia agreeing to “humanitarian corridors,” which would allow residents in cities besieged by Russian forces to evacuate. Early Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with Putin, who allegedly vowed to conduct an “uncompromising fight” in Ukraine. Macron now reportedly believes that “the worst is yet to come.” —Gabriella Patti
Biden delivers State of the Union address, commenting on Ukraine and inflation
President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night. “Last year, COVID-19 kept us apart. This year, we’re finally together again,” Biden said.
Most attendees remained maskless at the event, including Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, after the Capitol physician loosened Covid-19 requirements. Some lawmakers wore blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine’s flag, to convey support for Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Biden opened his address on the topic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said that Putin “sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways.” Instead, Putin miscalculated, Biden said: “He met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined.” Biden added that “the U.S. would close American airspace to all Russian flights and assemble a Justice Department task force to go after Russian oligarchs,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Biden then moved to discuss inflation, which has reached a four-decade high. “We are going to be OK,” he said. Though higher prices left many families struggling to pay bills, Biden argued that the best way to counter higher prices is to boost domestic production of automobiles and semiconductors, rebuilding the nation’s roads and bridges. “Economists call it ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy.’ I call it building a better America,” Biden said.
While Biden primarily focused on foreign policy and inflation in his address, he also “aimed to reframe his stalled legislative agenda,” reminding Americans of what he sees as key successes—such as his COVID-19 relief bill and bipartisan infrastructure legislation last year.
Biden highlighted his work in combating the virus, mainly through increasing vaccinations, and said the nation had reached a point where the pandemic “need no longer control our lives.” He added his administration is prepared to deploy new vaccines if necessary, announcing a new “test-to-treat” program where individuals who test positive at a pharmacy could immediately receive antiviral pills free of cost.
Biden also paid tribute to retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, emphasizing his nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the court.
The president ended the night with calls for lawmakers of both parties to work on a “unity agenda” for the country, focused on beating the opioid epidemic, addressing mental health, supporting veterans, and ending cancer. “It is in this moment that our character is formed. Our purpose is found. Our future is forged,” Biden said. — Hannah Cote
Dancing With the Stars veteran Maks Chmerkovskiy escapes Ukraine, reunites with family
Ukranian-born dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy finished judging a Ukrainian version of World of Dance when Russian forces invaded the country. This week, the U.S. citizen has returned to his wife and son in Los Angeles safely.
Chmerkovskiy, who is married to Dancing With the Stars' pro dancer Peta Mergatroyd, shared videos on social media of the war he witnessed unfold, along with personal messages of his desire to escape. All the while, he expressed pain knowing Ukrainians left behind had fewer options. Upon his return, the star told Good Morning America that he feels "guilty," "shamed," and "upset." Chmerkovskiy also expressed the pain of seeing those trying to escape Poland, including women and children left in an unheated, cold train station, having to wait overnight for another train.
Now back in the States, he said he is "going through something mentally."
"I felt like things got real,” he said, “and all of a sudden I don’t have all of the things needed to feel safe." —Mary Rose Somarriba
14-year-old Maximo Carrizo joins NYCFC, youngest to sign in Major League Soccer history
Maximo Carrizo turned 14-years-old on Monday, and his birthday present was signing with Major League Soccer.
New York City Football Club (NYCFC) just signed Maximo Carrizo, the youngest player ever to join the MLS.
He broke the previous record set in January when Axel Kei signed with Real Salt Lake at 14 years and 15 days old. NYCFC also signed 14-year-old Christian McFarlane to a deal in September.
The MLS club signed Carrizo to a homegrown contract, which allows MLS teams to sign local players from their own development academies directly to MLS first-team roster. Carrizo’s deal runs through the 2027 campaign with a team option for 2028.
“It’s an honor for me and my family to make MLS history by becoming the League’s youngest player to sign a First Team contract,” Carrizo said in a statement. “This is an incredible club with amazing people, I’d like to thank everyone at NYCFC for believing in me and helping me take the next step in my career. I know I’m young and I have a lot to improve, but I am ready for the challenge and will work hard every day to show everyone what I am capable of.” —HC
Good News of the Week
Study shows app could cut the risk of baby loss for moms of color
A new study out of St. George’s Hospital in London suggests a simple app could help reduce pregnancy risk levels in moms of color to equal that of white moms.
The odds of suffering pregnancy complications, including miscarriage or stillbirth, are higher for women of color in the United States and the United Kingdom, regardless of income or education level. Tennis superstar Serena Williams shed light on this phenomenon when she spoke up about almost dying after the birth of her daughter, Alexis.
The study of 20 thousand women showed moms of color who used the app in their first trimester had a risk of baby loss three times lower than typical. The algorithm caught several cases of placenta problems that human caregivers might have missed, allowing timely intervention to save the baby’s life.
The new research was a collaboration between Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives. The BBC reports the technology uses an algorithm to more accurately identify high-risk women, based on data the women can upload themselves about how they’re feeling. Moving from a decades-old system of checklists administered by humans takes the potential unconscious bias out of the equation. Plus, the app makes the delivery of healthcare much more individualized.
The BBC quoted researcher Professor Basky Thilaganathan, said the results suggest the technology could help “almost eliminate a large source of the healthcare inequality facing black, Asian, and minority ethnic pregnant women . . . We can personalize care for you and reduce the chances of having a small baby, pre-eclampsia, and losing your baby.”
The promising technology is being rolled out to additional U.K. locations over the next two years. It’s beyond exciting to think how many little lives could be saved with a simple app. —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
Last weekend, Saturday Night Live invited the Ukrainian choir Dumka of New York to perform a song of prayer during its cold open.