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SAY WHAT?- Note: We were writing this when the news of Roe broke; it's hard to keep up with the deluge of atrocities by the cabal of extremists formerly known as SCOTUS. We hope to get to the abysmal criminalizing and corralling of women and their bodies soon, but we may need to take a break from the awful before we do.

In a ruling most sentient beings deemed a lethal "revolution in Second Amendment law," the right-wing "court that dark money built" cited dubious 300-year "history" to strike down New York's rigorous limits on concealed carry - and by extension gun restrictions now protecting 83 million people - dismissing the notion of "proper cause" to be packing in public or the bloody real-world implications of that dismissal and likely unleashing a flood of challenges to any and all gun-control measures. The "maximalist opinion" by Justice (sic) Clarence Thomas, a self-righteous standard-bearer for a party that inexplicably claims the right to regulate a uterus but not an AR-15, renders most of the nation's gun-control laws "presumptively unconstitutional." For advocates of common-sense gun laws, it is "the worst-case scenario," brought to us by the party that used to rail against legislating from the bench before they began a decades-long crusade to strip us of any rights except that of bearing arms, also babies. We're all the Wild West now - or maybe just Texas - and, as of Friday, Gilead.

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SAY WHAT? - In a surreal spectacle that managed to juxtapose the best and worst of abstruse humanity - its big beating heart alongside its enduring inequities and tendency to wage brutal pointless wars - an international audience of 1%ers amiably haggled Monday for a while before one of them bought the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize won by independent Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov at auction for a record-shattering $103.5 million, which will now go to help Ukrainian children displaced by the war; Muratov had earlier also pledged to donate his $500,000 prize money to give child refugees "a chance for a future." Muratov is the co-founder and longtime editor of Novaya Gazeta, established in 1993 after the break-up of the Soviet Union with - irony alert - money from former President Mikhail Gorbachev's Nobel Peace Prize, and one of Russia's last major media outlets critical of the Kremlin. For years Muratov had defied tightening restrictions - and occasional paint attacks - to produce Novaya Gazeta pieces on corruption in Russia, the wars in Chechnya and Crimea, and growing abuses by Putin. It survived long after most other outlets had closed or been blocked following Putin's invasion of Ukraine, but in March finally suspended both print and online operations after it became a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison to report anything on the war that veered from the government line. In today's Russia, says Muratov, "independent journalism is impossible."

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SAY WHAT? - Woefully amplifying our relentless, dismal descent into stupid, Georgia Republicans have chosen for their GOP Senate candidate, in John Lewis' state yet - the staggeringly unseemly Herschel Walker, an ignorant, incoherent, homophobic, MAGA-tainted, gun-toting, black former NFL running back - Run, Forrest, run! - with a history of violence against women who's "dumb as paint," likely ill with CTE or multiple personality disorder diagnosed by a therapist who believes in "Satanic demons," and, "even by recent GOP standards, an absolute fire hose of lies" about....everything, from his (imaginary) work in law enforcement to his (inflated then deleted) college education to his (borderline scam) chicken and fabric businesses, to, now, his (ever-evolving) family history with this week's revelations that the guy who's long and loudly reviled fathers who leave a child has (first) one and (then) three more kids than he'd previously acknowledged and who, yes, he left. Whew. The latest deception of many offers dubious testament to his mentor, another famous know-nothing bigot who leveraged his celebrity and the amorphous fears of a populace facing massive change to reach a pinnacle of power they're extravagantly unfit for: Walker, says one pundit, "may literally be the only person who lies more than Trump," who reportedly lied over 30,000 times without "the Lie Cops" busting him. In that and other sordid ways, "His candidacy is ultimately a test of how much Trump broke our politics" - though, to get real, it's not like it was in such great shape before. Still, let us count the sorrowful ways.

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SAY WHAT? - Whoa. Things are getting pretty wild at the Jan. 6 hearings as former aides and perps of our own "American monster" crawl out from their caves to disclose just how crazed the circus got near the end of its apocalyptic run. Monday's testimony showed that Trump knew he lost but, increasingly "detached from reality," he chose to ignore his (relatively) sane minions, listen to a "definitely inebriated" Rudy Giuliani, keep up the "Big Lie" that keeps getting bigger, and, 'cause grifters gonna grift, "the big rip-off" with it. As at the first hearing, the Committee mostly and effectively used eye-popping video of the violence along with testimony by Trump's own low-lifes - Trump said Pence "deserves" to hang, the lies and delusions were "completely nuts," Kushner called warnings of violence "whining" - to drive home what was clearly a #TrumpCoupAttempt. In the wake of that realization, furious hashtags have sprung up like so many overdue subpoenas: 

#TrumpIsATraitor#TrumpCrimeFamilyForPrison,

#TrumpIsACriminal#TrumpTreason. 

Just as vitally, those forced to testify under oath have exposed the active support or covert complicity of scores of Republicans in the Administration and, inevitably, in Congress. Thus do the powerful opening words of Liz Cheney, one of the century's most improbable heroes, echo through the proceedings: "I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

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SAY WHAT? - Unarguably declaring, "We have the right not to be shot" in the only country where it's necessary to declare that, hundreds of thousands of Americans marched Saturday against the insane gun carnage that every day kills roughly 106 people and wounds another 200. In D.C., where 50,000 gathered in the rain, our collective trauma was made real when someone may or may not have yelled "gun" and a crowd fled in panic even as a speaker from the stage bellowed, "DO NOT RUN!" This is what our lives have now become. In Texas, where 19 kids and two teachers were just gunned down in Uvalde, 10-year-old Alexandria "Lexi" Rubio was buried amidst tears as, elsewhere in the state, crowds chanted, "Fuck Ted Cruz."

Responding to a request from Parkland survivor and March For Our Lives organizer David Hogg, many people posted pictures of their bountiful, furious signs, which spoke for us all: "Active shooter drills should not be a thing...Fuck the NRA...Save Lives or Step Aside...This shit doesn't happen in Australia...How many gun deaths are enough GOP?... Stop making it easier to buy an AR-15 than it is to adopt a dog...We march for those who can't... As a woman, I hope that one day I will have as many rights as a gun...Am I Next?...Vote For Our Lives...Our government is bold enough to force you to have a kid but too weak to ensure they make it to recess alive...Jesus don't like killing/No matter what the reason's for....Enough is enough." From one Texas pol, "The only kind of evil (is) not doing anything." And from Eleven Films, a searing, gut-punching video reminding us, "This is not a movie. This is real life." Don't look away. 

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])

  

SAYWHAT?  - In a world beset by bloodshed, Israeli violence against Palestinians is little-reported but still ongoing, and grievous. Both settler attacks and home demolitions are soaring. At last weekend's annual Flag Day "celebration" marking Israel's capture of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, tens of thousands of flag-waving Israeli nationalists marched through the city's Muslim quarter harassing international media, attacking Arab business owners and chanting "Death to Arabs" and "May Your Village Burn" - this, as police who routinely assault Palestinian protesters for chants deemed “incitement” ignored them to arrest anyone flying a Palestinian flag. Meanwhile, Israeli forces last week shot and killed four Palestinians in the West Bank, at least three for no discernible reason. Journalist Ghufran Warasneh, 31, was headed to her first day of work at a local radio station when she was killed by soldiers; they claimed "an assailant armed with a knife" tried to stab a soldier, which is how journalists always start new jobs, and "our soldiers thwarted the attack with live fire to neutralize the assailant.” Video shows Warasneh on the ground as feverish Israeli soldiers fire in the air and shove away concerned bystanders. Soldiers also killed a 29-year-old standing outside his home, a Palestinian who reportedly fired at soldiers demolishing a home, and a 16-year-old walking with two friends; shot in the back, he was the 14th Palestinian child killed this year.

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SAY WHAT? - In an excruciating, infuriating metaphor for heartless GOP inaction in the face of America's soaring gun carnage, stony-faced state  employees working at the behest of NRA-fanboy and Tennessee GOP Gov. Bill Lee unceremoniously hauled off a tribute to the Uvalde victims - cards, flowers, 19 stuffed animals - minutes after  local clergy and gun-reform advocates tearfully left it at Lee's office. The group also presented Lee with a letter signed by 49 faith leaders asking for common-sense changes to gun laws; Lee  refused to accept it, and said they should mail it to him. The action came days after Lee wrote he was "heartbroken by the horrific tragedy in Uvalde (and) the loss of innocent lives," adding, "We lift up their families in prayer and thank all the first responders who acted quickly" (sic), even though in truth they just stood around for over an hour to save their own panicked, racist asses. Last year, with great fanfare, Lee proudly signed into law a bill allowing pretty much any adult to carry a gun without a permit/ license or any training; at the time, he thanked the NRA, which applauded the bill as "a great step forward in the advancement of self-defense rights...without government red tape or delays," for "helping get this done." Note to the GOP: If you don't like being called monsters, stop acting like monsters.

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SAY WHAT? - The pitiless news cycle lurches on. Trauma fatigue sets in, and much of a weary, heartsick, willfully unheeding America - too awful, too often, we hate it here, let's watch a movie, clearly it's hopeless - moves on. But lest we forget: For the families in Ulvade planning funerals not vacations, for all the families of all the dead in all the horrors gone too soon, a cavernous hollow remains. The obituary for Alexandria Aniyah "Lexi" Rubio, 10, makes the devastation achingly real, makes Lexi, as her grieving father devoutly wishes, "not just a number." The daughter of a journalist and a deputy with the sheriff's office, Lexi was "driven, athletic, intelligent and fun." Now, the obituary declares to the mournful accompaniment of  "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," her visitation hours and prayer service will be June 10 at the mortuary; her funeral service will be June 11 at the First Baptist Church, followed by interment at Hillcrest Cemetery.

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SAY WHAT? - Small bodies drop. Ghouls pray and babble. Most of us rage, weep, howl for action. In Uvalde, the families of 19 children - who all had a heartbeat so where are the alleged protectors of young lives? - had to tell police what their blessed child wore to school that day and get DNA tests to help officials identify now-unrecognizable, AR-15-ravaged corpses. In response to the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers, evil freaks and bought pols who love guns more than children blame meds, morals, not enough God, anything but the over 400 million guns adrift in a nation they now hold hostage, steeped in blood. The U.S. has 4% of the world's population, and 46% of its guns; it has more than twice the number of guns than the next most-gun-infested country, Yemen; its gun violence is soaring, with over 45,000 dead in shootings in 2020, an increase of 35%; gun violence is now the leading cause of death among young people; there have been two dozen school shootings so far this year. Since 2004, when a ten-year ban on assault weapons expired, mass shootings have tripled. Before the ban there were 400,000 AR-15s in America; today, there are 20 million. This is the country gun addicts have chosen.

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SAY WHAT? - In a "brain-melting" confluence of authoritarian crackpottery both domestic and foreign, America's right-wing confab CPAC just spread their malignant wings abroad for the first time to gather in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, an anti-democratic bastion righteously battling "the woke revolution" in the name of God, nation, family and "Western civilization," aka old white men. Somehow - WTF - the demented meet-up of global neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, conspiracy cranks and garden variety bigots got startlingly little press coverage. But its choice of venue, in a self-described “illiberal” regime that's been called "a systemic threat to the rule of law," is ominous. With the support of his Fidesz party - and Tucker Carlson - Orbán has steadily undermined the country's democratic institutions, curbing the press, packing the courts, tweaking elections, silencing critics and spewing anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, anti-any-form-of-other bile under the  racist rubric of replacement ideology. Days after a sick kid in Buffalo murdered 10 innocent black people, Orbán marked his fourth term in office by arguing the western world is "committing suicide" by replacing "European Christian children with migrants," and don't forget "gender madness." Hence, one recent analysis: "How Democracy Died in Hungary."

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SAY WHAT? - In one of their harshest and most ominous moves since a supposedly more beneficent Taliban returned to power last August, a new edict mandates that all Afghan women cover their faces with a full burqa - swathed head-to-toe, eyes peering from a veil - if they dare to wish to leave their now-prison-like homes: "They are putting us in a cage." The decree, which marks a return to a signature policy of their dark past and a drastic escalation of strictures on women, was issued by the Taliban's hardline Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice - which replaced the Ministry of Women's Affairs, so what else needs to be said. The rule officially tasks male "guardians" in women's lives - brother, husband, father - with enforcing the crackdown, leading already-besieged women to feel they're "fighting on two fronts - with my family and with the Taliban." If women violate the rule, men face penalties that rise from "persuasion" by a minister's visit to a fine or trip to Taliban offices to prison time to unspecified "further punishment." Meanwhile, virtue-and-vice thugs regularly patrol streets and shops to interrogate, harass or beat women who are only covering their head with a hijab, wearing bright colors, or committing other sins of propriety. Asked why they have the right to decide how women dress or practice their religion, one official responds, "It's not us - it's God."

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SAY WHAT? - What to say. Taking our times' vitriol and enmity to its logical, barbarous conclusion, a proudly white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, heavily armed 18-year-old drove hours to kill 10 black, mostly elderly people grocery shopping in Buffalo, N.Y. because he believed all the paranoid right-wing ghouls - from 4chan to the GOP to a ceaselessly hate-spewing Tucker Carlson - who told him he'd soon be "replaced" by inferior people of color, and there's nowhere else their macabre rhetoric could lead except to racist mass murder, so, inevitably, again, it did. Ten people were killed and three others wounded after Peyton Gendron drove his parents' car over 300 miles to a Tops grocery store in a largely black Buffalo neighborhood to commit what authorities called “straight up, a racially motivated hate crime” in which 11 of 13 victims were African-American; most of them ranged in age from their 50s to 80s. Coming from the scene of a massacre one official called “like walking onto a horror movie, Armageddon-like,” ”Sheriff John Garcia said, “This person was pure evil.”

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SAY WHAT?- Heavens! Claiming a right to privacy she's effectively denied millions of women, including rape and incest victims, poor victimized Susan 'Snowflake' Collins was so troubled by chalk-wielding desperados who hate-crimed the (public) sidewalk outside her house by (politely) asking she protect the rights of those women that she called the cops on them - this, while her party of neo-fascists and Christian zealots works tirelessly to drag us all back to the 1300s, so umm, sure, do let's fret about your fucking sidewalk. Collins called police in Bangor over the weekend after pro-choice constituents left a flowery, multi-colored, extremely civil message in chalk on her front sidewalk. “Susie, please," it read. "Mainers want WHPA — Vote yes, clean up your mess,” with the "i" dotted by a uterus that likely gave her the vapors. The "mess" references her decisive votes for Neil Gorsuch and Drunken Frat Boy Kavanaugh, which got us to this long-awaited, God-forsaken opening of an evil  Pandora's Box that will likely roll back the rights of some 50 million women and girls to the point that any pregnancy - ectopic, traumatic, a 10-year-old raped by her grandfather - must be carried to term, but thankfully the sanctity of Susan Collins' sidewalk will be protected, so there's that. The WHPA, or Women's Health Protection Act, would keep abortion rights legal at the federal level even if SCOTUS overturns Roe v Wade; Wednesday, Collins helped kill it by again voting "no" along with every other cretinous Republican. Of course she did.

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SAY WHAT? - U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is the latest Republican to attack the Disney corporation for speaking out against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law, introducing a bill earlier this week to dramatically rework copyright law and retroactively limit Disney’s copyrights.

And as Republicans trip over one another to punish Disney for a press release, experts are calling Hawley’s bill “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the state’s Don’t Say Gay bill in March, banning teachers in younger grades from discussing “sexual orientation and gender identity” and requiring other teachers to only talk about those subjects in a “developmentally appropriate” way. The law does not define what those terms mean, instead empowering parents to sue if they feel like the law was violated.

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SAY WHAT? - Popular rage is still churning at the hypocrisy of illegitimate religious zealots posing as SCOTUS judges taking American women and their bodies hostage, with ongoing protests, dire warnings, emerging horror stories and recurring proof that, under oath and without shame, they all lied. At one of those historic moments when the right and wrong side of history is painfully, chillingly delineated, there are plenty holding fast to the ugly wrong, whether from frenzied hate - the New Hampshire legislator in her pink suit screaming and pointing at pro-choice protesters, "You're a murderer!...and you're a murderer!..." - or, more often, simple, careful cowardice. Thus, the reports of increased, online censoring of pro-choice narratives; the hedging of companies like the massive PR firm Zeno, which despite their past, alleged "commitment to a gender equal world" and mission to "achieve something better for humankind" is privately advising corporate clients that in a "textbook 50/50 issue" like abortion - actually 75/25 - that can spook shareholders, "being at the center is not advisable, so be judicious"; and, of course, the leaked, gutless, perfidious talking points issued by a craven GOP urging pols to just blather that, "All of us are in favor of life" and "Americans are compassionate people who want to welcome every new baby into the world." It's just the women with agency we don't want.

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SAY WHAT? - With a Supreme Court overrun with religious zealots reportedly ready to void Roe v Wade and usher in a new crypto-fascist theocracy - Go Handmaids, Marthas, Aunties, silent wives and whores of Gilead! - GOP goons are already busy "removing the veils" of their anti-choice fervor and going full-on, red-meat, lunatic misogyny in their escalating efforts to remove any sliver of respect for a woman's right to choose her fate when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the longtime support of up to three-quarters of Americans for that fundamental right, GOP lawmakers have introduced 536 bills in 42 states to restrict or outright ban abortion, all in lethal preparation for SCOTUS' anticipated reversing or at least gutting of Roe when it hears arguments on Mississippi's post-15-week abortion ban in June. Combined, all those state moves constitute a chilling blueprint for a no-abortion future now being eagerly mapped out by forced-birth activists emboldened by the country's rightward veer and enabled by a court majority of hateful partisan hacks. Thanks again, Susan Collins. No, we're not bitter. Kinda shocked, though: Cruelty, it turns out, really, truly is the point.

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SAY WHAT? = In a small act of courage at a hostile time and place for it, Jillion Orr chose to "show my true colors" - rainbow-hued, it turns out - at her graduation from Utah's Brigham Young University, the Mormon, notoriously homophobic school whose draconian rules demand students live a "chaste and virtuous life" and church leaders have proclaimed same-sex romance Satanic. Based in Provo and affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU explicitly bans queer dating or displays of affection under an unholy Honor Code that also forbids alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, presumably thong underwear and "sexual relations outside a (duh, male/female) marriage." Recent pronouncements from the largely old white men who lead the Church include a call to take up "intellectual muskets” to defend the doctrine that marriage = a man and a woman, and the charge that LGBTQ+ activism, which "comes from Satan," seeks "to confuse gender, which is eternal." BYU has reiterated those ungodly beliefs, with the feds recently ruling they can practise bigotry while taking federal money thanks to, praise the Lord, a religious exemption. To date, BYU's most visible, dazzling dissent came in 2019 from valedictorian Matt Easton, who declared at graduation, "I stand before (you) to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God. I am not broken."

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SAY WHAT? - In the latest sorry tableau exposing the dumb-and-dumber fraying of our national discourse, we just witnessed the "gloating performance art" of ever-tawdry Marjorie Taylor Greene in court, where she was trying to prove she's not too insurrectionary to be in Congress. Facing a legal challenge from a coalition called Free Speech for the People, Greene on Friday became the first purported member of Congress to publicly testify under oath about the Jan. 6 riot, which at the time she was a big fan of. Fresh from her triumphant reporting to Capitol Police of a "threat of violence" from a Will Smith gag by Jimmy Kimmel - "Officer? I'd like to report a joke" - Greene appeared in an Atlanta courtroom to fend off the group's charge that, under a post-Civil-War-era 14th Amendment barring from office anyone who's "engaged in insurrection or rebellion," she cannot run for re-election. Greene, of course, had responded to the challenge with her usual grace and reason. In a lengthy Twitter post, she ranted about "destroying democracy," "killing people's free speech," "nasty arrogant elites," "communists," "LOSERS," "slander," "a very dangerous attack on our Republic," and, seemingly without irony, "political platforms that (entertain) conspiracy theories and lies invented by one party against another."

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SAY WHAT? - This week marks the 108th anniversary of what Wallace Stegner called "one of the bleakest and blackest episodes of American labor history," when armed thugs hired by John Rockefeller Jr. burned down a tent encampment and machine-gunned the families of striking coal miners in Ludlow, CO, killing at least 26 - including 15 women and children who suffocated in a pit - for the crime of seeking to be treated as human beings. The attack on April 20, 1914 against 1,200 striking mineworkers was the culmination of a long struggle in Colorado coal country, where the United Mine Workers had been organizing a diverse workforce of thousands of miners, many Greek, Mexican and Italian. Most worked for the massive Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. owned by the Rockefellers, America's richest family, who despite growing public revulsion for the excesses of the Gilded Age still ran CFI like the Robber Barons they were. Miners died in the hundreds in cave-ins and from disease, working 12-hour days, seven days a week, for 80 cents per ton of coal; they got no pay for the so-called "dead work" of prepping a mine to minimize its hazards; they had to live in company shacks in company towns, shopping at company stores using company scrip, guarded by company thugs who ruled towns like concentration camp kapos.

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SAY WHAT? - Offering a fiery master class in how to fight back against GOP bigotry and fear-mongering, Michigan Democratic state Sen. Mallory McMorrow just excoriated a slimy GOP colleague who, wielding her party's rabid, pervert-themed smear of the day, charged her support for LGBTQ kids, teaching history and recognizing the reality of American racism is JUST LIKE wanting to "groom and sexualize kindergartners."

The deranged attack by lawmaker Lana Theis is part of a loathsome national trend by Republicans who, seeking new weapons in a ceaseless culture war, now glom onto labeling anyone who disagrees with them or their vision of a fascist Christian theocracy a pedophile, a fan of pedophiles, or a "groomer" for pedophiles, just like QAnon says.

One visible practitioner of this dubious art is dimwit Klan Mom Marjorie Taylor Greene, who opposed SCOTUS Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson by declaring any lawmaker supporting her "is pro-pedophile just like she is." Dems, she babbled, are "the party of pedophiles...the party of princess predators from Disney... the party of...their identity, and their identity is the most disgusting horrible evil thing happening in our country" - one more reason we love the nuanced discourse of participatory democracy so much.

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SAY WHAT? - Faced with horrific, mounting evidence of their atrocities in Ukraine - bombing schools, playgrounds, orphanages, maternity hospitals, train stations with missiles marked "For the Children"; summary executions and other "grave abuses"; dumping thousands of bodies of burned, tortured, hands-tied civilians into pits, wells, mass graves or leaving them strewn in the streets of razed cities; raping women, teenagers, children; driving almost two-thirds of Ukraine's children, five of 7.5 million, from their lives, with nearly half of those remaining beset by hunger and likely most by lifelong trauma - charged with what are deemed these “unspeakable crimes,” Russia has dug deep into full, mad, staggering denial: Nothing to see here. Addressing the U.N. Security Council, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy broadcast images from Bucha of "evil on earth” - civilians shot and killed in the back of the head, hands tied behind them -charging perpetrators be held accountable: "This is how the Russian state will now be perceived. This is your image." Western leaders concur.  Britain termed Russian crimes "truly barbaric”; Biden has called them "genocide" and joined efforts to bring war crimes charges. Still, Russia blindly denies and refutes. Watching the same bloody images at the U.N., Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia cited “flagrant inconsistencies" by Western media and Ukrainian “terrorists” and argued, "You only saw what they showed you.”

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