War and Conflict: Situation Exacerbates for both Russia and Ukraine
A month after Russia launched its military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR reported that more than 10 million Ukrainians, or nearly a quarter of the population, had been displaced. As the war continued and Russian forces largely appeared to stall around major Ukrainian cities, Russia has shifted to using artillery strikes against the highly populated cities, including Kyiv, the capital, according to reporting by The New York Times. Some of the strikes have targeted civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and residential complexes, killing hundreds of civilians from afar. Meanwhile, in Mariupol, Russian forces have surrounded and laid siege to the port city of nearly half a million people for several weeks, cutting off access to water, food, electricity, gas, and humanitarian aid.
Culture: 94th Oscars
The 94th Academy Awards, or Oscars, was held on March 27. During the ceremony, “CODA” became the first film from a streaming service (Apple TV+), as well as the first film featuring primarily deaf actors in leading roles to win an Oscar for Best Picture, according to The New York Times. Actor Troy Kostar also won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in “CODA” becoming the first deaf man to win an Oscar for acting. During the presentation for Best Documentary Feature, actor Will Smith walked onto the stage and struck comedian Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s short hair, caused by her alopecia. In his Best Actor speech for his performance in “King Richard.” In his acceptance speech, Smith, referencing the incident, said “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family.”
Politics: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Hearings
Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, faced several grueling days of confirmation hearings in Congress beginning on March 21. Jackson has been widely considered by media commentators to have an especially qualifying mainstream judicial record. Despite this, over the several days Jackson spent answering Judiciary Committee Senators’ questions; she faced several aggressive allegations from Republicans. Notably, several Republican senators used misleading claims to portray Jackson’s sentencing record as soft on child sex abuse, according to reporting by The New York Times. If confirmed, she would be the 166th justice and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Politics: Biden’s New Budget
President Joe Biden proposed a $5.8 trillion budget on March 28. His proposed budget, which would boost domestic spending by seven percent, included increased defense spending, reflecting security concerns amid the war in Ukraine, and increased health and climate spending, to be paid for in part by new taxes on the richest Americans. The budget included $733 billion for military spending, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, and included an additional $682 million in funding for Ukraine. To prepare for the next pandemic, the Biden administration requested $81.7 billion spread across a period of five years, including funding for pandemic preparedness for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health. Also included were a request for $127 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, a 15 percent increase, and $8.4 billion for the FDA, a more than one-third increase.