First Thing: Ukraine forces pushing back Russian troops in Kharkiv – The Guardian US

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Ukraine’s government has suggested Kyiv could expand its own war aims with an intensifying counteroffensive against Russia’s forces, and said it would suspend the flow of Russian gas through its country to Europe.

With the war now in its 11th week and Russia pounding the vital port of Odesa with missile strikes in an apparent effort to disrupt supply lines, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said late last night that the military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from the key city of Kharkiv and back towards the border with Russia.

The Ukrainian military’s general staff said its forces drove the Russians out of four villages to the north-east of Kharkiv, a key city that has been under attack from the Russians since the beginning of the conflict.

Meanwhile, trapped and wounded Azovstal soldiers are pleading for rescue.

  • In what way might they expand? Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, seemed to indicate that the country could go beyond merely pushing Russia back to areas it or its allies held on the day of the 24 February invasion and mean “the liberation of the rest of our territories”.

  • What else is happening? Here’s what we know on day 77 of the invasion.

Pro-choice states rush to pledge legal shield for out-of-state abortions

The New York attorney general, Letitia James
The New York attorney general, Letitia James, announcing a fund to support abortion rights. Photograph: snapshot/Future Image/J Nacion/Rex/Shutterstock

After the bombshell leak of a supreme court draft opinion last week revealed that the majority of justices plan to overturn Roe v Wade, a handful of states have been reaffirming and expanding their abortion care.

In recent days, a flurry of bills and statements have been emerging in largely Democratic-run states as lawmakers and organizations scramble to prepare for the possibility of a post-Roe America.

As some states seek to become “safe havens” for out-of-state abortion seekers, other states have been increasing abortion funding, expanding provider access and offering legal protections from lawsuits launched by citizen “bounty-hunters” against those involved in abortions.

Only 38% of women of reproductive age live in states that have shown support for abortion rights, according to the research organization Guttmacher Institute. In contrast, 58% live in states that have demonstrated hostility towards abortion rights. Only 4% of women live in middle-ground states.

  • Last month, the New York state senator Liz Krueger introduced a bill that would shield New York doctors who offer abortion services to out-of-state patients.

Al Jazeera accuses Israeli forces of killing journalist in West Bank

Shireen Abu Akleh was one of the Arab world’s best-known reporters.
Shireen Abu Akleh was one of the Arab world’s best-known reporters. Photograph: Al Jazeera Handout/EPA

Al Jazeera has accused Israel of deliberately killing one of its reporters during a firefight between Israeli security forces and Palestinian gunmen in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.

Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a Palestinian American and one of the Arab world’s most well-known reporters who had covered the conflict for decades, was shot in the head this morning and taken to hospital in critical condition. She had been covering a military raid in a northern town and nearby refugee camp, a historical flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and body armour clearly marked as “press”. The Qatar-based television network said her colleagues at the scene said the veteran reporter was shot by Israeli forces.

In a statement, Al Jazeera called on the international community to hold Israeli forces accountable for their “intentional targeting and killing” of Abu Akleh. “In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” it said.

  • What has the Israeli military said? A statement said its troops had shot back after coming under “massive fire” in Jenin and that “there is a possibility, now being looked into, that reporters were hit – possibly by shots fired by Palestinian gunmen”.

In other news …

Donald Trump at a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office in September 2019.
Donald Trump at a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office in September 2019. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
  • As president, Donald Trump repeatedly asked aides if China could be manufacturing hurricanes and sending them to damage the US, three unnamed former senior officials told Rolling Stone. Trump also reportedly wanted to know if using such a “hurricane gun” would constitute an act of war.

  • Survivors of the brutal regime of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos have described his son’s apparent landslide presidential election victory as the product of trickery, warning that it is unlikely the billions stolen by his family will be recovered, and that human rights in the country will be weakened.

  • The lifting of zero-Covid policies in China would see a “tsunami” of infections and almost 1.6 million deaths, a study claims, citing in part China’s low vaccination rate of elderly people. China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation.

  • Vicky White spent 16 years developing a reputation as a model deputy in the sheriff’s office that operates the jail in Lauderdale county, Alabama, according to her boss. Authorities now say that makes it harder to come to grips with how she became the lover of a murder suspect incarcerated at her lockup.

Stat of the day: California water use leaps 19% in March, one of the driest months on record

Sprinklers water a patch of grass in Los Angeles.
Sprinklers water a patch of grass in Los Angeles. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

California’s drought is worsening yet new figures show that in March, water usage jumped nearly 19% compared with 2020, one of the driest months on record. The startling figures come despite pleas from the authorities who have urged residents to curb their water usage. They also come the same day that the Los Angeles mayor ordered residents and businesses to restrict outdoor watering to just two days a week in an effort to conserve.

Don’t miss this: Finding it hard to get a new job? Robot recruiters might be to blame

AI 3
It is estimated that at least three-quarters of all resumes submitted for jobs in the US are read by algorithms. Illustration: Ben Hickey/The Guardian

There is a phenomenon in recruiting that is baffling experts: while there are record-level job openings in both the UK and in the US, why do many people still have to apply to sometimes hundreds of jobs, while many companies complain they can’t find the right talent? Some experts argue that algorithms and artificial intelligence now used extensively in hiring are playing a role.

… Or this: ‘Republican and more Republican’: Idaho shifts ever rightward

A truck with an upside-down American flag is parked in the parking lot during a church service organized by Ammon Bundy.
A truck with an upside-down American flag is parked in the parking lot during a church service organized by Ammon Bundy. Photograph: Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Idaho has long been one of the most conservative states in America with its fair share of extremism. Now, critics warn, the extremists are being normalised. Once dismissed as backwoods fanatics, the far right has entered the political arena and identified a path to power. That path leads through a state Republican party that has long exploited tensions between independent-spirited Idahoans and the federal government and more recently embraced Donald Trump’s culture of grievance.

Climate check: Vanuatu’s push for legal protection from climate change wins crucial support

Aerial view of Erakor island in Port Vila, VanuatuAerial view of a boat carrying tourist to the stunning Erakor island in the Port Vila bay, just of Vanuatu capital city in the south Pacific on a sunny day.
Aerial view of Erakor island in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photograph: @ Didier Marti/Getty Images

Vanuatu’s push for the international court of justice (ICJ) to protect vulnerable nations from climate change has received the backing of 1,500 civil society organisations from more than 130 countries, as it heads toward a crucial vote at the UN general assembly later this year. If it succeeds, the ICJ’s advisory opinion – although non-binding – carries legal weight and moral authority which experts say could help shape international law.

Last Thing: Ordure! Ordure! Canadian MP sorry for logging on to session from toilet stall

Public toilet cubicles, front view
‘If you don’t have to have the camera on, turn it off.’ Photograph: MileA/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A Canadian lawmaker has apologized after he was caught logging on to a parliamentary session from a toilet stall. The Liberal party member Shafqat Ali participated in the hybrid session of parliament, joining a Zoom-like feed. But members grew suspicious. “The member of parliament was literally using the washroom while participating in a sitting of the House of Commons, the cathedral of Canadian democracy,” the Conservative House leader, John Brassard, said.

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