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Missile strikes on Ukrainian cities as call-up causes chaos in Russia

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Russia launched renewed strikes on Ukrainian cities on Saturday, as Moscow’s mobilisation drive to refresh its struggling war effort continued to provide scenes of chaos across Russia.

Ukrainian officials said a Russian missile hit an apartment building in the city of Zaporizhzhia, killing one person and injuring seven others, and said a total of three people were killed and 19 injured in strikes across the south and east of the country.

In Russia, even Kremlin cheerleaders expressed unease at the progress of the mobilisation drive, announced by the president, Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday. Viral videos have shown mobilised men who appear variously to be confused, drunk or angry at receiving the call-up.

There are many reports of local authorities rounding up people who have not served before, have illnesses or are over 50, contradicting Putin’s announcement of a “partial mobilisation” that would only involve those with military experience. There are reports of men and women with young children being mobilised, and many videos of emotional family farewells.

Margarita Simonyan, the hawkish head of propaganda outlet RT, complained that military offices across the country were rounding up those who were not supposed to be called up. “It’s as if they were tasked by Kyiv to do that,” she said, in a rare criticism of authorities.

The mobilisation drive is a huge gamble by Putin after months in which the war in Ukraine has been portrayed as a “special operation” that would be completed without bloodshed. Now, the call-up brings the war closer to home for hundreds of thousands of families, and has prompted a race for the borders for many Russian men eager to avoid the draft.

There was a fresh wave of anti-war and anti-mobilisation protests in cities across Russia on Saturday, although the numbers were small as police have cracked down harshly on previous protests.

In the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk, one man was detained for a sign that read: “Mobilise yourself, you lice-infested rat.” Protests were expected in Moscow and St Petersburg late in the afternoon.

A further sign of problems in Moscow came as the defence ministry sacked Gen Dmitry Bulgakov, the deputy minister in charge of logistics. The ministry gave no reason for firing Bulgakov, who had worked in the role for many years.

“The top appears to be looking for people to blame at the moment. Someone had to be punished, and [minister of defence Sergei] Shoigu doesn’t want to put the blame on the generals, on the military,” said a former defence ministry official who has worked with Bulgakov.

“The mantra is: ‘We are fighting well but not just getting the logistics we need, we aren’t getting our breakfast on time,’ so to speak. It is not the fault of the guys fighting.”

Police break up an anti-war demonstration in Moscow on Wednesday

Police break up an anti-war demonstration in Moscow on Wednesday

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Putin has taken personal control of the war effort, citing US officials briefed on classified intelligence who suggest the Russian president has overruled military commanders, insisting, for example, that the Russian army should not prepare a retreat from the city of Kherson.

The mobilisation drive comes as Russia is holding “referendums” in areas of Ukraine it controls, in which the remaining residents are asked whether they favour their regions becoming independent states and then joining Russia.

The votes, which have been widely dismissed as illegitimate in Kyiv and the west, are a pretext for Russia to annex Ukrainian territory. Putin promised on Wednesday that Moscow would defend its new territories with all available means, including nuclear weapons.

The voting began on Friday and is due to continue until Tuesday in the Russia-controlled parts of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In some places, election officials set up mobile polling stations in courtyards, citing security concerns, and there were numerous videos showing people filling in ballots under the watchful eye of police.

There is little doubt that the Kremlin will announce an overwhelming decision to join Russia, but Ukrainian officials have said Russia declaring an annexation will not stop Kyiv’s attempts to win back the territories.

“Half of the population fled the Donetsk region because of Russian terror and constant shelling, voting against Russia with their feet, and the second half has been cheated and scared,” said the governor of Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko.

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Otu-Umuokpu Anambra USA in Houston Gets New Leadership  

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Houston – TX: The Otu-Umuokpu Anambra USA Association Inc., Headquartered in Houston, Texas, has inaugurated its new executive leadership. An election was held in November 2023 where a set of new executive leadership emerged and was officially sworn-in on February 4, 2024.

Adaeze Stella Icon Adeone Samuel ( Stainless) is now the group’s new President, whereas Adaeze Nkiruka Mbonu ( Mmili doluedo) is the  Vice President.  Former President, Adaeze Dr Maria Elioku (Nkpulunma) remains the President Emeritus. A complete list of the new executive board members will be available on the group’s website, it was gathered.

While welcoming the new leadership team, President Emeritus Dr. Elioku thanked the outgoing executives for their impeccable service during their tenure. “As we all know, our mission as Otu- Umuokpu Anambra, USA Association is to promote and uphold our welfare and culture as well as foster unity, love, and harmony among us; and I am glad that within the past years, we were able to curtail distracting challenges to uphold those values,” she said.

Otu- Umuokpu Anambra, USA Association is a community of all paternal daughters of Anambra State of Nigeria with the core mission to promote and uphold the welfare and culture of her members; and foster unity, love, and harmony among them. The group has since its inception shared the uniformity of their ancestry as a unifying tool for community development and bonding of sisterhood.

For more information about Otu-Umuokpu Anambra, USA Association, Inc., please call 832-640-6329 or click to visit their website >>>>

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Mexican Authorities say they saw a huge increase in migrants from Africa and Venezuela in 2023

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Mexican authorities say they saw a huge increase in the number of migrants from Africa and Venezuela entering the country in 2023.

Those migrants generally enter Mexico from Central America, and cross the country in a bid to reach the U.S. border.

Mexico’s Interior Department said year-end figures showed that nine times more migrants from Africa entered Mexico in 2023, with numbers rising from 6,672 in 2022, to 59,834 in 2023.

The report also showed the number of migrants from Venezuela more than doubled last year, rising from 96,197 in 2022 to 222,994 in 2023.

In part, that may reflect more rapid and more numerous movements of migrants through the jungle-clad Darien Gap that connects South America to Panama.

Smugglers are moving migrants more quickly through the dangerous route, which last year was traversed by over half a million migrants. Once in Panama, migrants make their way through Central America to Mexico.

Overall, the number of all irregular migrants found in Mexico in 2023 rose by 77%, going from 441,409 in 2022 to 782,176 last year.

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White House pushes back on GOP attacks on Muslim judicial nominee

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WASHINGTON — The White House is slamming three Republican senators for leveling what it deems to be “cruel and Islamophobic attacks” at a Biden judicial nominee as part of a larger “smear effort” to discredit the man, who would be the first Muslim American judge to serve on the federal appeals court if he is confirmed.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are being called out specifically for a “malicious” line of questioning about circuit court nominee Adeel Mangi’s views on Hamas militants’ terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7 at his December confirmation hearing. That led to a broader attack from the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative judicial advocacy organization.

“While Mangi served on its board of advisors, the [Rutgers Law School Center for Security, Race, and Rights] taught students to hate Israel and America and to support global terrorism, blaming America for the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and most recently blaming Israel for the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7th,” the group wrote in a statement released Monday.

The White House said conservatives’ criticisms were driven by Islamophobia.

“Mr. Mangi has been subjected to uniquely hostile attacks, in a way other nominees have not — precisely because of his Muslim faith,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement first shared with NBC News. “Senators Cruz, Hawley, and Cotton owe Mr. Mangi an apology.”

“He represents the best of America, and when confirmed, Mr. Mangi will not only make history — he will make an outstanding judge,” Bates added.

The senators told NBC News they remain opposed to Mangi’s candidacy, with a Cotton spokesperson accusing him in a message of “ties to antiSemites,” a Cruz spokesperson saying the White House “can’t defend Adeel Mangi’s record” and a Hawley spokesperson saying of Mangi that “people who advise pro-terrorist campus groups have no place on the federal bench.”

All three cited Mangi’s involvement in the Rutgers Law School Center for Security, Race, and Rights and condemned its decision to host an event on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which featured as a speaker Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Biden administration is under pressure to improve its standing with Muslim and Arab American communities following its vocal support of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

President Joe Biden nominated Mangi to serve as a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, last fall.

The Anti-Defamation League, which battles antisemitism, said Mangi was “subjected to aggressive questioning unrelated to his professional expertise or qualifications,” and it criticized the Republican senators for “berating” Mangi “with endless questions that appear to have been motivated by bias towards his religion.”

“This was an attempt to create controversy where one did not exist,” the ADL said last month.

Weeks later, the Judicial Crisis Network launched a digital ad campaign against Mangi, alleging he is antisemitic and “radical.”

Bates, the White House spokesman, wrote, “Mr. Mangi has forcefully and repeatedly condemned Antisemitism, terrorism, and the October 7th terrorist attacks.”

At the hearing, Cruz repeatedly asked Mangi whether he condemned the atrocities of the Hamas terrorists and whether there was “any justification for those atrocities.”

“I have no patience ― none ― for any attempts to justify or defend those events,” Mangi said in December in reference to the Oct. 7 attacks.

Nonprofit groups dedicated to combating Islamophobia in the U.S. have spoken out in Mangi’s defense, as well.

“The deplorable smear campaign against him is steeped in Islamophobic tropes that have no place in our country,” Arsalan Suleman, the CEO of America Indivisible, told NBC News in a statement. “The Senate should confirm Mr. Mangi as soon as possible and condemn these malicious and spurious attacks.”

So far, 177 of Biden’s nominees to be federal judges have been confirmed. More than 65% are women and 65% are people of color, according to the White House.

Biden has nominated and Congress has confirmed more Black women to life-tenured federal judgeships than during any previous administration, according to the White House, including Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

While Mangi has cleared the Judiciary Committee process in the Democratic-led Senate, it’s unclear when his nomination will be brought up for a vote in the next procedural step before a confirmation vote.

If he is confirmed, Mangi would be only the third Muslim American federal judge ever.

Mangi has served on the board of directors of the Muslim Bar Association of New York, the Legal Aid Society of New York and Muslims for Progressive Values and as an ally board member for the National LGBT Bar Association, according to his biographical page at the law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, where he is a partner.

Culled from the NBC

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