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News Brief: April 1 – April 7


Russia Accused of Genocide

Following Russia’s withdrawal from the town of Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were found dead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of genocide.

Genocide is defined as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” according to the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

David Simon, a senior lecturer and the director of the Genocide Studies program at Yale University, told ABC News that intent pf the act is more important than the scale or gruesomeness.

Simon also said although there is no legal threshold in terms of how many people have been killed, the possibility of genocide accusations usually comes up when the number of deaths enters the thousands; 1,480 civilians have been killed and 2,195 have been injured since Russia’s invasion.

Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal, but stopped short of a genocide accusation.

“To say that a genocide is occurring is also to say we can’t sit on our hands and do nothing,” Simon said.

Methane, a Greenhouse Gas, Saw Record Growth in 2021

In 2021, methane increased in the atmosphere by the largest amount since measurements began almost 40 years ago, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Methane is a gas with approximately 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide, and the second largest contributor to global warming.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said there are economically viable solutions. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years while methane lasts around nine, a fact that provides an opportunity for quick change according to Xin Lan, a research scientist working at the University of Colorado, Boulder and NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory.

“That means if we reduce methane emissions now, we should be able to see the atmosphere levels coming down rather quickly in a few years,” Lan said. 

In November 2021, President Joe Biden announced a new rule requiring oil and gas companies to more accurately track methane leaks. Also in 2021, Biden and EU President Ursula von der Leyen launched the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to cut methane emissions by almost 30% within the decade. More than 100 countries have signed the pledge.


Two Men Arrested After Targeting Secret Service Agents in Influence Operation

Two men, Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, spent thousands of dollars posing as Homeland Security employees and attempting to influence Secret Service agents. One served on First Lady Jill Biden’s protection detail.

According to investigators, their ruse began in early 2020 and included buying apartments, surveillance systems, a drone, a case for storing an assault rifle and more. They also obtained handguns and rifles and offered the agents use of vehicles they claimed belonged to the government.

The scheme appears to have begun unraveling last month after an official from the US Postal Service responded to a report of an assault on a delivery worker, initiating an investigation.

Taherzedeh and Ali have not commented on their motivations; the targeted agents have been put on leave ahead of the investigation.

Read more here.

Justice Jackson: the First Black Woman to Become a Supreme Court Justice

On April 7, 2022, the Senate voted their approval of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Supreme Court hearings regarding Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination began on Monday, March 21. Throughout the hearings, Jackson discussed topics ranging from parental involvement in public school athletic activities and transgender athletes to some of her rulings on past cases.

A few weeks later, on Thursday, April 7, the Senate recorded a final vote of 55-47, electing Jackson to the Supreme Court and making her the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

Hurricane Season: 19 Named Storms Expected

Forecasters predict 19 named storms to occur in the upcoming hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30.

A rotational wind storm becomes tropical, and is then named, when it begins sustaining winds of 39 mph; a hurricane occurs at sustained winds of 74 mph; a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) has 111 mph sustained winds. The amount of each currently anticipated is six, nine and four respectively.

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University said the primary factor contributing to the overactive season is “the likely absence of El Niño,” the upper-level wind patterns in the Caribbean that impede hurricanes from forming. 

The weaker conditions, known as La Niña, allow more storms to form and have become increasingly more common over the past 30 years, according to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science.

“Coastal communities are warned to start making proper precautions for an active hurricane season now,” the linked CNN article said.


Norman’s Next Mayor: Larry Heikkila

On Tuesday, April 5, Larry Heikkila beat Breea Clark and won the election to become Norman’s next mayor.

Clark advocated for the city’s proposed water rate increase and resuming projects interrupted by COVID-19. Clark also said homelessness was not exclusive to Norman, its solution requiring collaboration at multiple levels.

Heikkila said city money should not be used to build homeless shelters. Heikkila also advocated for strengthening Norman’s police and fire departments, which he said Clark and council had “defunded.”

When neither candidate earned more than 50% of the votes in February, the election went to a runoff. There, Heikkila received more than 53% of votes from more than 24,000 submitted ballots, securing his position as Norman’s next mayor.

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