First Thing: Biden flags ‘clear sign’ Russia considering chemical weapons

Show caption A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows burning apartment building in north-eastern Mariupol, Ukraine. Photograph: AP First Thing First Thing: Biden flags ‘clear sign’ Russia considering chemical weapons US president says Russian leader’s ‘back is against the wall’ and warns of severe consequences of any such attack. Plus, the backlash against book banning Nicola Slawson Tue 22 Mar 2022 10.18 GMT Share on Facebook

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Good morning.

Russia’s false accusation that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons is a “clear sign” that a desperate Vladimir Putin is considering using them himself, Joe Biden has said.

The US president said Putin’s “back is against the wall and now he’s talking about new false flags he’s setting up including, asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe – simply not true. I guarantee you.

“They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he’s considering using both of those. He’s already used chemical weapons in the past, and we should be careful of what’s about to come.”

Putin “knows there will be severe consequences because of the united Nato front,” he said at an event on Monday, without specifying what actions the alliance would take.

What is going on with the peace negotiations? The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called for talks with his Russian counterpart as the key to ending the war. He said direct discussions “in any format” were needed.

Is Russia targeting journalists? A reporter describes life under siege in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and why it is so important to break the silence. “The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in,” said Mstyslav Chernov.

What else is happening? Here’s what we know on day 27 of the invasion.

Ketanji Brown Jackson vows to defend US constitution in opening remarks

Ketanji Brown Jackson vows ‘liberty and justice for all’ during opening remarks. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Ketanji Brown Jackson promised to defend the US constitution and what she called the “grand experiment of American democracy” in her opening remarks to the Senate confirmation hearings that could see her become the first Black woman to sit on the US supreme court since it was created 233 years ago.

Jackson, 51, addressed the Senate judiciary committee on Monday at the start of four days of potentially bruising partisan wrangling over her nomination. She struck a conciliatory tone, stressing her ideological neutrality.

“I have been a judge for nearly a decade and I take my responsibility to be independent very seriously,” she told the 22 senators in front of her. “I decide cases from a neutral posture.”

The nominee talked of the “historic chance” to be the first Black woman on the supreme court – but first she had to listen to a lot of white men.

The Missouri Republican Josh Hawley is wrong to attack Jackson , and should be ignored in confirmation hearings this week, the Senate judiciary chair said.

The Texas senator Ted Cruz complained that the supreme court confirmation hearings have become increasingly angry and confrontational. His comments came the day after he was filmed becoming confrontational at an airport in Montana.

China Eastern Airlines crash: families await grim news as rescuers sift through wreckage

Footage of the crash site showed a deep scar in the earth with wreckage scattered across the area. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

About an hour into its journey from Kunming to Guangzhou, flight MU5735 fell out of the air. After cruising at an altitude of 29,100ft, it suddenly dropped to about 7,000ft where it briefly ascended before diving again and crashing into remote bamboo forest in the mountains near Wuzhou. The fall appears to have taken about two minutes, according to flight tracking data.

“The plane did not smoke during the fall,” a witness told the Beijing Youth Daily. “The fire started after it fell into the mountain, followed by a lot of smoke.”

Villagers reported the sound of explosions and a raging fire. Some locals raced to the scene ahead of hundreds of fire and rescue personnel – and reportedly local militia groups – travelling the final distance on foot via a dirt trail.

Did anyone survive? There has been no official announcement on the death toll but state media reported there were no signs of survivors. The flight was carrying 132 people, including nine crew.

Is there any indication of what caused the crash? It is too early to say. The plane’s black box has yet to be located.

In other news …

Refugees ‘very happy’ with declaration, while experts say ‘concrete steps’ must follow. Photograph: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have welcomed the announcement by the US that it considers the violent repression of their largely Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar a genocide . “We are very happy on the declaration of the genocide; many, many thanks,” said 60-year-old Sala Uddin, who lives at Kutupalong camp.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said she should have been released from detention in Iran six years ago and urged an end to the detention of other dual nationals still held in the country, saying without their release “the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete”.

Hundreds of Chevron workers in California went on strike Monday after the company and the United Steelworkers union failed to reach a contract agreement . More than 500 workers at a refinery producing gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and lubricating oils began striking at 12.01am.

Donald Trump and his two eldest children continued their fight to overturn a decision requiring the former president to answer questions under oath as part of an investigation into his business practices, filing fresh paperwork yesterday that accused a New York judge of abusing his discretion in issuing the decision.

Stat of the day: $17bn of global assets linked to 35 Russians with alleged ties to Putin

An international collaboration is tracking wealth of oligarchs and officials accused by western governments of being supporters of President Putin. Composite: Guardian

More than $17bn (£13bn) of global assets – including offshore bank accounts, yachts, private jets and luxury properties in London, Tuscany and the French Riviera – have been linked to 35 oligarchs and Russian officials alleged to have close ties to Vladimir Putin. Today, the Guardian, working in a partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and other international news organisations, is unveiling the initial research in an ongoing project.

Don’t miss this: Progressives are resisting rightwing book banning campaigns – and are winning

Many censorship efforts are backed by rightwing donors. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/AP

The right wing in America has spent the past 18 months waging an increasingly vocal war on education, banning books and restricting the discussions teachers can have in classrooms, usually when it comes to issues like racism or sexuality. That could be starting to change, however, as progressives have won a series of victories in some states, suggesting a backlash against censorship in education could be on the way, writes Adam Gabbatt.

… or this: Workplaces are in denial over how much Americans have changed

The return-to-office message often feels divorced from the profound nature of what we’ve experienced. Composite: Getty Images

America is looking to fully reopen – to get back to “normal” – and it’s clear that company leaders still want the old version of the all-American work ethic that was dependent on hustle culture and productivity. But is that incompatible with who we’ve become – and, more importantly, the realities of the world in which we live? Many of us have drastically changed. It’s not just our attitudes towards work and life, but also that our bodies are reacting differently to trauma, stress and even love, writes Alvin Chang.

Climate check: Rich countries must stop producing oil and gas by 2034, says study

Iraq is one of the poor countries reliant on fossil fuel production that should be given until 2050, the report says. Photograph: Hussein Faleh/AFP/Getty Images

Rich countries must end all oil and gas production in the next 12 years, while the poorest nations should be given 28 years, to provide a fair transition away from fossil fuels, according to a study. The report found that wealthy countries such as the UK, US and Australia had until 2034 to stop all oil and gas production to give the world a 50% chance of preventing devastating climate breakdown, while the poorest nations that are also heavily reliant on fossil fuels should be given until 2050.

Last Thing: Nothing fishy with our paella, say Valencians

Men in traditional costumes carry a paella pan during the Moors and Christians festival in Bocairente, Valencia, Spain. Photograph: DEA/C. SAPPA/De Agostini/Getty Images

Many crimes have been committed in the name of paella but now researchers in Valencia have laid down 10 commandments of what thou shall and shall not put in their national dish after questioning 400 amateur chefs aged over 50 from 266 Valencian villages. The 10 permitted ingredients are: rice, water, olive oil, salt, saffron (or food colouring), tomato, flat green beans, lima beans, chicken and rabbit. No fish or shellfish. Ever.

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