10 things you need to know today: March 7, 2023
Ukraine generals say Bakhmut siege is depleting Russian army, Biden praises South Korea plan to pay victims of Japan's WWII forced labor, and more
Ukraine generals say fight for Bakhmut draining Russian army
Top Ukrainian generals said Monday their soldiers would stay and fight Russia's army for the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut to drain Russia's resources before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, The New York Times reported Monday. Ukraine's strategists believe the costly fight for Bakhmut, where Russia is making slow progress by sending waves of mercenaries into heavy fire, is stalling Russian forces as Ukraine prepares to receive promised tanks, long-range precision rockets, and other advance weapons from the West that military experts have said could help turn the tide of the war, now in its second year. Ukrainian officials say a weakened Russian military will be unable to prevent Ukraine, bolstered with new arms, from retaking occupied territory in other parts of the country.
Biden lauds South Korea plan to pay victims of Japan WWII forced labor
President Biden on Monday praised what he called South Korea's "groundbreaking" plan to establish a fund to compensate some of its own citizens who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II and earlier under Japan's colonization of the Korean peninsula. Seoul long demanded that Japan pay reparations, and South Korea's Supreme Court in 2018 ordered Japanese companies to pay damages. But South Korea said in a reversal that it would pay the victims directly through a foundation financed by South Korean companies. The change is part of a push to improve relations between Seoul and Tokyo, the United States' two closest allies in Asia.
Khamenei calls schoolgirls' poisonings 'unforgivable' crime
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Monday that the recent wave of poisonings targeting schoolgirls was an "unforgivable" crime. He said it would warrant the death penalty if determined to be the result of intentional attacks, state TV reported. "Authorities should seriously pursue the issue of students' poisoning," Khamenei said. The comments came as public anger intensified over the attacks, which have sickened more than 1,000 girls since November. Some politicians have blamed religious groups that oppose the education of girls. The government has scrambled to address the issue after facing months of anti-government protests following the death in police custody of a young woman arrested by Iran's morality police for violating a dress code.
Report: Biden administration considering reinstating migrant-family detentions
The Biden administration is considering resuming detentions of migrant families who cross the border illegally, The New York Times reported Monday, citing officials familiar with the discussions. President Biden halted the policy as he sought more humane alternatives to the Trump-era policy. Instead of detaining families, the Biden administration has been releasing them provisionally, and keeping track of them with ankle bracelets and traceable cellphones. But the number of migrants fleeing violence and financial crises in other countries has been rising, intensifying pressure on Biden to clamp down on the southern border. Officials are bracing for a potential new wave when the COVID-prevention policy of sending back asylum seekers ends May 11.
Norfolk Southern to increase use of hot-bearing detectors for rail safety
Norfolk Southern on Monday announced that it will increase the use of sensors along railroad tracks to detect overheated bearings and other potentially dangerous problems following a derailment that released toxic chemicals in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border last month. The rail operator said it "anticipates adding approximately 200 hot-bearing detectors to its network, with the first installed on the western approach to East Palestine," the Ohio town where the fiery accident occurred. The Biden administration and Congress are exploring other proposals to increase rail safety. Investigators said the crew on the train got a warning from a hot-bearing detector shortly before the derailment, but didn't have time to react.
Estonian prime minister's party gains seats in sign of Ukraine support
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' ruling Reform Party led Sunday's parliamentary election with 31.2 percent of the vote, putting the center-right leader in position to form her second government. Kallas said Monday she was "humble and grateful" for the sign that Estonian voters "overwhelmingly value liberal values, security founded on the EU and NATO, and firm support to Ukraine." Kallas' party will have 37 members of parliament in the country's 101-seat assembly. That's three more than it had in the last parliament. The far-right rival Conservative People's party lost two seats, but still has the second biggest bloc with 17 MPs. The Center Party that is popular with Estonia's large ethnic-Russian minority won 16 seats.
Report: 4 Americans kidnapped in Mexico victims of mistaken identity
A U.S. official said Monday that four U.S. citizens who were assaulted and kidnapped in northeastern Mexico over the weekend were targeted in a case of mistaken identity, according to CNN. The Americans, traveling in a white minivan with North Carolina plates, came under fire shortly after crossing into the Mexican border city of Matamoros from Brownsville, Texas. The gunmen might have mistaken them for Haitian drug smugglers, CNN reported, citing the official. Zalandria Brown of Florence, South Carolina, said her brother, Zindell Brown, is one of the victims. She said he and two other men were accompanying a friend who went to Matamoros for tummy tuck surgery. "This is like a bad dream you wish you could wake up from," she said.
Protests against Israel judicial overhaul spread to military
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers in the military reserves, including elite fighter pilots, have signed letters expressing reluctance to perform nonessential duty or have dropped out of training missions in a sign of escalating opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reform plan. Netanyahu's hardline conservative government has proposed controversial measures that include sharply limiting the Israeli Supreme Court's authority to overturn laws. Critics say the judicial overhaul the government is pushing through parliament will undermine Israel's democracy, and a third of Israelis fear the crisis could erupt into a civil war. The government has waved off the reservists' objections as whining by privileged elites.
Newsom: California won't do business with Walgreens over abortion-pill policy
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted on Monday that his state would not do business with Walgreens because the massive pharmacy chain has said it wouldn't distribute abortion pills in some Republican-controlled states. Newsom, a Democrat with an increasingly high national profile, said California wouldn't conduct business with "any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women's lives at risk." Walgreens released a statement clarifying its position. The company last week said it wouldn't dispense the abortion pill mifepristone in 20 states, including some where abortion remains legal. On Monday, Walgreens said it would provide the medication in any jurisdiction where it is legal.
Toblerone changing logo as it falls afoul of 'Swissness' law
Toblerone is being stripped of its iconic Matterhorn mountain logo because it is falling short of the standards of Switzerland's "Swissness" law, which requires minimum levels of local ingredients and production for items marketed using Swiss national symbols or labels. The chocolate bar's American owner, Mondelez International, is moving some production of the popular triangular treat from Switzerland to Slovakia. To be labeled as Swiss, the chocolate must use 100 percent Swiss-sourced milk, and 80 percent of its other ingredients, other than cacao, must be from Switzerland, too. After the move, Toblerones will no longer qualify.