• Matthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | Mar. 27-Apr. 1

Three of this week's most prominent headlines.


1. New developments in the war in Ukraine.


Russia is pulling back troops from Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, leaving the city in destruction. (President of Ukraine)


As a result of both Western economic sanctions on Russia as well as unexpectedly fierce resistance from Ukranians, the war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate in the past week. Fred Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in an Institute for the Study of War report, “The ineffectiveness of the campaign is so clear, and the ferociousness of the Ukrainian defense is so obvious . . . [that] it’s created an equalizer where neither side can move much from where they are now.” This stalemate, experts claim, has had devastating impacts on both sides. Continued skirmishes between Russians and Ukrainians with no clear victor do nothing but cause more deaths and damage to Ukrainian cities.


Still, Western action has remained limited, mostly in the form sanctions on Russia and supplies for Ukraine. Because of this, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has remained critical of Western inaction. In a March 27 speech, Zelensky contrasted the “determination, heroism and firmness” of the Ukranians with the cowardice of Western countries, many of whom have thus far have refused to send military forces to Ukraine.


However, hopes for a diplomatic solution began rising after Russia pledged to dramatically reduce its military presence in Kiev and Chernihiv, two of the biggest cities in the country. This represents significant progress with regards to peace talks, but experts warn that the conflict is still far from over. Russia has shown no signs of relenting in the conquest of the surrounding regions, and many fear this is just a ploy to surround and eventually capture the Ukrainian capital.


2. Controversy at the 2022 Academy Awards.


On March 27, the 94th Academy Awards was held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California. While multiple ground-breaking awards were announced, the single moment that stood out from this year’s Oscars was the infamous slap. While presenting the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, American comedian Chris Rock commented on actress Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, caused by a hair-loss condition known as Alopecia. Moments later, Pinkett Smith’s husband, actor Will Smith, walked on stage and smacked Rock. After sitting down, Will Smith proceeded to shout at Rock before allowing the night to continue. Just minutes later, Smith won best actor for his performance in “King Richard.” It has been reported that Smith was then asked to leave the theater, but he refused.


The next day, March 28, Will Smith formally apologized to Chris Rock, posting on Instagram, “I was out of line and I was wrong. . . . I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.” However, the Academy Board of Governors still decided to discipline him, announcing the commencement of “disciplinary proceedings” on March 30, warning Smith that he may be expelled from the organization for a decade or more. On April 1, Smith preempted such action and voluntarily left the organization which he had been a part of for almost two decades.


3. Antilynching bill becomes law.


On March 29, President Joe Biden signed into law an antilynching bill. Named the Emmet Till Antilynching Act after the Black boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, the law will make lynching a federal crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Having passed the House with only three votes against and the Senate unanimously, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act represents a bipartisan end to over 100 years of failed efforts to make lynching a federal crime.


Antilynching legislation was first introduced in 1900, but it was blocked by Southern senators and ultimately failed. Since then, lawmakers have tried and failed to make lynching a federal crime nearly 200 times. Vice President Kamala Harris and the original sponsor of the bill credits the bills passage to Ida B. Wells, one of the most influential antilynching voices of the 19th century. Michelle Duster, the great-grandaughter of Wells said at the signing, “Despite losing everything, she continued to speak out across this country and Britain about the violence and terror of lynching.” And now, nearly a century and a half later, her work has come to fruition.