Julián Castro

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary
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Julian Castro dropped out of the presidential race on January 2, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Castro is the only Latino in the 2020 field and is running a campaign focused on addressing immigration and education. He joined Obama’s Cabinet in 2014.
Stanford University, B.A., 1996; Harvard Law School, J.D., 2000
September 16, 1974
Erica Castro
Roman Catholic
Cristian and Carina
Fellow, University of Texas at Austin, 2017;
HUD secretary, 2014-2017;
San Antonio mayor, 2009-2014;
Founded the Law Offices of Julián Castro, PLLC, 2005;
San Antonio City Council, 2001-2005;
Attorney at the San Antonio office of law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, 2000-2002


Julian Castro Fast Facts
Updated 12:17 PM ET, Thu Aug 26, 2021
Here is a look at the life of Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and 2020 presidential candidate. Personal Birth date: September 16, 1974 Birth place: San Antonio, Texas Birth name: Julián Castro Father: Jesse Guzman, political activist and educator Mother: Maria "Rosie" del Rosario Castro, political activist and college administrator Marriage: Erica (Lira) Castro (2007-present) Children: Cristian and Carina Education: Stanford University, B.A. in political science and communications, 1996; Harvard Law School, J.D., 2000 Religion: Roman Catholic Other Facts His first name is pronounced "hoo-lee-AHN." Castro's parents never married and separated when he was 8 years old. He was raised primarily by his mother and his grandmother, Victoria Castro. Has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage and of affirmative action, even telling The New York Times that it helped him get into Stanford. Castro does not speak fluent Spanish, writing in his 2018 memoir that his mother spoke English at home, like many immigrants at the time, and that he declined to take Spanish classes in school because he spoke it with his grandmother. Castro is one minute older than his identical twin brother, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro. Timeline 1994 - Works as a White House intern. 2000-2002 - Attorney at the San Antonio office of law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. 2001-2005 - Councilman representing District 7 on the San Antonio City Council. At age 26, Castro is the youngest councilman ever elected in the city's history. 2005 - Founds the Law Offices of Julián Castro, PLLC. June 2005 - Narrowly loses to former Judge Phil Hardberger in the San Antonio mayor's race. May 9, 2009 - Elected mayor of San Antonio with 56.23% of the vote. June 1, 2009-July 22, 2014 - Serves as San Antonio mayor, winning reelection in 2011 and 2013. September 4, 2012 - In Charlotte, North Carolina, delivers the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, becoming the first Latino to do so. May 23, 2014 - President Barack Obama announces plans to nominate Castro as the next secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). July 9, 2014 - The US Senate confirms Castro as HUD secretary in a 71-26 vote. July 28, 2014-January 20, 2017 - Serves as the 16th secretary of HUD. July 18, 2016 - The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) says that Castro violated the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting federal workers acting in their official capacity from attempting to influence elections, when he praised Hillary Clinton in an April interview with Yahoo's Katie Couric. In his response, Castro acknowledged that he'd violated the act. September 1, 2017 - Joins the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin as the Dean's Distinguished Fellow and Fellow of the Dávila Chair in International Trade Policy. October 2018 - Castro's memoir, "An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up from My American Dream," is published. December 12, 2018 - Announces the launch of a presidential exploratory committee. January 12, 2019 - Officially announces his bid for the Democratic nomination for president in San Antonio. January 2, 2020 - Castro announces the end of his campaign via Twitter. January 6, 2020 - Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren for president. July 10, 2020 - Castro announces his stepmother, Alice Guzman, died of Covid-19 on July 9, 2020. July 12, 2021 - MSNBC announces that Castro has been hired as a political analyst.


climate crisis
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Castro released a “People and Planet First Plan” in September 2019, calling for a combined $10 trillion in federal, state, local and private investments over 10 years to shift the US to clean energy. Like other candidates, Castro ties the shift from fossil fuels to job creating, estimating that the influx of investment will create 10 million jobs over a decade. But Castro’s plan also focuses on the racial impacts of climate change, citing a series of studies that found those most directly impacted by issues like toxic waste, asthma and pollution are more likely to be people of color and more vulnerable communities. Under the plan, coal-generated electricity will be phased out by 2030 and replaced by zero-emission sources and all new light- and medium-duty vehicles will be zero-emissions. By 2045, the United States will be net-zero emissions and by 2050, Castro forecasts, the world will be at net-zero carbon emissions, led by the United States. Castro has proposed ending subsidies to oil companies and has backed the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. He has also pushed relying more on wind and solar energy, two industries growing in his home state. Castro says his first executive action would recommit the US to staying in the Paris climate accord, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Castro’s climate crisis policy
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Castro in October 2019 unveiled a “Unions for All” plan that aims to more than double union membership. It would require large, publicly traded corporations to reserve at least one-third of board seats for workers, who would be elected by employees who are not managers. His plan would prohibit anti-competitive labor practices, including noncompete agreements “that limit worker freedom and mobility.” He would end “employee misclassification,” according to the plan, which affects short-term contract workers and “gig economy” workers. A parallel “Dignity for Domestic Workers” plan includes a push for passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, which would strengthen overtime protections, end exclusion from anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws, and include health and safety protections. The plan would establish portable benefits, including paid family leave, medical leave and health care. It would protect workers who report crimes or labor violations from retaliation from legal authorities or employers. Castro supports raising the top marginal tax rate, though he hasn’t specified a number, and has called for undoing Trump’s 2017 tax package. He has said that he believes it “makes sense to renegotiate agreements like” the North American Free Trade Agreement, the deal with Canada and Mexico, but that he disagreed with “folks who think that we should completely scrap our trade agreements.” He’s also said he did not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation deal negotiated under Obama that Trump withdrew from in one of his first acts as President, as it was originally negotiated. More on Castro’s economic policy
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Castro’s plan calls for universal prekindergarten, an issue that was central to his time as mayor of San Antonio. The plan also calls for: federal investment to combat teacher attrition, shortages and underpayment; student loan debt revisions; and free tuition for public colleges and universities and for technical and vocational education. Castro has proposed investing $150 billion in upgrading high school facilities, creating programs so students have the chance to earn college credit in high school at no additional cost and increasing the prevalence of trade programs in high school. More on Castro’s education policy
gun violence
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Castro has been a longtime gun control advocate and currently supports three key policies: renewing the ban on so-called assault weapons, curbing the use of high-capacity magazines and instituting universal background checks. Castro, as part of his education plan, has supported the creation of so-called “red flag” laws, which allow families and police to petition a judge to temporarily block someone’s access to firearms if there is credible concern they might hurt themselves or others. Castro, when speaking about the issue, often leans on the fact he is from Texas, a state that embraces gun culture and hunting. But he’s argued that it is possible to “have common sense gun reform and still have the Second Amendment in place.”
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Castro supports the single-payer “Medicare for All” proposal, which would create a national government-backed health care plan and essentially eliminate the private insurance industry, and has suggested paying for it by raising the top marginal income tax rate. He has said, however, that while people should “have the ability to enroll in Medicare,” they should also be allowed to have private plans or supplemental insurance. Castro did not raise his hand during the first Democratic debate when asked if he supports abolishing private insurance. “I believe that Medicare should be available to all who want it, but if you want to have a supplemental private health insurance plan that is strong, then I think you should be allowed to do that,” he told CNN in June 2019.
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In April 201, Castro released his People First Immigration plan, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers – undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors – as well as other undocumented immigrants who “live, work and raise families in communities throughout the United States” and immigrants who are in the country under temporary protected status. The plan also aims to expand the number of asylum seekers admitted to the United States, strengthen the family migration system and decriminalize crossing illegally into the United States. His plan would reorganize Immigration and Customs Enforcement by “splitting the agency in half and re-assigning enforcement functions” within it. He has not called for abolishing the agency but does want an investigation into its role, along with those of Customs and Border Protection and the Justice Department, in the Trump administration’s policies that led to family separations at the border. Castro succinctly laid out his stance on immigration during the first Democratic debate, saying he would do away with the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including the ones that limit the number of asylum seekers at ports of entry and force them to wait in Mexico for the adjudication of their cases. More on Castro’s immigration policy


Russia's war in Ukraine
Updated 1:34 PM ET, Tue Aug 9, 2022
One person has died following explosions in the area of a Russian military airbase in Crimea on Tuesday, according to Sergey Aksenov, the head of the so-called Republic of Crimea. “The situation is localized and is under control. I repeat once again: there is no general evacuation in the district. Only residents of houses located very close to the military airfield will be resettled,” Aksenov said on Telegram.  About 30 people were evacuated from their homes, said Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of the Crimean region. A cordon perimeter has been set up around the perimeter of the airfield, Kryuchkov said on his Telegram channel. Earlier on Tuesday, Minister of Health of the Republic of Crimea Kоnstantin Skorupsky said five people were injured following the explosions. It is not clear if the person who died was among those previously reported as injured.  One of those injured is undergoing surgery for non-life threatening injuries, Skorupsky said. Four of the injured received outpatient care for wounds due to cuts from glass fragment and were sent home after treatment, he added. Citing the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian state media RIA Novosti earlier reported the blasts had been caused by detonated aviation ammunition “on the territory of the airfield 'Saki' near the settlement of Novofedorivka.” Aksenov said he is at the scene in the village of Novofedorivka in the Saki district and “there is a dispersion of fragments.” Emergency crews are working the site, he added. “Measures were taken to set up a cordon perimeter in a 5-kilometer zone: fences, traffic police crews and foot patrols in order to prevent injuries to local residents.” Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said it cannot determine the cause of the explosions. “The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot determine the cause of the fire, but once again reminds of the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places,” the ministry statement said. "The fact of a fire can be used by a terrorist country in an information war.” The US State Department has sanctioned two high-ranking Belarusian officials “for involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters,” and will move to impose visa restrictions “on 100 regime officials and their affiliates for their involvement in undermining or injuring democratic institutions or impeding the transition to democracy,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday. The measures were announced on the second anniversary of the election in Belarus – a fraudulent election and one in which longtime strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory. It sparked massive protests throughout the country. “The Belarusian people have demonstrated remarkable resilience in sustaining the pro-democracy movement for two years at great personal sacrifice. These calls for democracy are voiced by Belarusians exiled abroad, over 1,200 political prisoners unjustly detained inside the country, and countless ordinary Belarusian citizens,” Blinken said in a statement. “Their peaceful calls for democracy have been met with unprecedented brute force and a consolidated crackdown by the Lukashenka regime,” he said. The two individuals sanctioned Tuesday — Mikalai Karpiankou, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Commander of the Internal Troops, and Dzmitriy Balaba, the Commander of the Special Task Police Force (OMON) of the Minsk City Executive Committee of Internal Affairs — “played a significant role in the repression surrounding the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election,” Blinken said. “Today’s action expands existing restrictions on Karpiankou and Balaba to include visa restrictions against their immediate family members, including Karpiankou’s wife Irina and adult son Igor, and Balaba’s wife Tatyana and adult sons Artem and Maksim, making them ineligible for entry into the United States,” he said. According to Blinken, the new tranche of those facing visa restrictions includes “those holding high-ranking positions in the Administration of the President, Ministry of Interior, State Security Committee (KGB), the Central Election Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office, Central Office of the Investigative Committee, Ministry of Transport and Communication, Main Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK), the National State TV and Radio Company ‘Belteleradio,’ the Second National Television Station, and the Air Force and Air Defense Forces,” as well as “members of Parliament, district judges, security officials, members of executive committees, and state university administrators.” “Individuals subject to the proclamation have been implicated in torture; violent arrests of peaceful protesters; raids of homes and offices of journalists, members of the opposition, and activists; coerced confessions; electoral fraud; politically motivated sentences of political prisoners; expulsion of students for participation in peaceful protests; passage of legislation impacting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms; and acts of transnational repression,” Blinken said. There has been a series of explosions in the area of a Russian air base in Crimea. Social media images and video showed a large plume of smoke rising from the vicinity of the air base at Novofedorivka, on Crimea's west coast.  Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the head of the Crimean region, confirmed several explosions had occurred near the village of Novofedorivka. "So far, I can only confirm the fact of several explosions in the Novofedorivka area. I ask everyone to wait for official messages and not to produce versions," Kryuchkov said on his Telegram channel. The series of explosions was caused by detonated aviation ammunition, Russian state media RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.  “Around 3.20 pm, several aviation munitions detonated on the territory of the airfield 'Saki' near the settlement of Novofedorovka, on a bunded storage site,” a Russia defense ministry statement said, according to RIA Novosti.  State media reported there were no injuries due to the explosions, and aviation equipment at the airfield was not damaged, citing the defense ministry.  Separately, Sergey Aksenov, the head of the so-called Republic of Crimea, said he visited the scene and that "the circumstances are being clarified." Ambulance crews and an air ambulance were sent to the site of the explosions, according to the Ministry of Health of the region. There has been no word from the Ukrainian side about any attack in the area. Ukraine is not known to have struck the territory of Crimea since the Russian invasion began. Russian firm Transneft said Tuesday that Ukrainian operator Ukrtransnafta suspended the pumping of Russian oil through the southern line of the Druzhba oil pipeline on Aug. 4. Transneft said it could not receive transit fees due to European Union sanctions restrictions, Russian state news agency TASS reported, quoting the firm.  Oil supplies via the southern line of Druzhba to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been suspended, while the transit through Belarus toward Poland and Germany continues, according to TASS. "Ukrtransnafta suspended providing services on transportation of oil through Ukrainian territory starting August 4, 2022, due to the lack of receipt of monetary funds for services provided. The transit via the northern line of the Druzhba oil pipeline through Belarus towards Poland and Germany is per normal," Transneft said, according to TASS.  Supplies were carried out on a prepaid basis, but Transneft could not pay for transit services due to the European Union’s sanctions, the company said. Transneft made a payment on July 22 but it was returned to the company’s account, it said.  "As of now the European banks (correspondents) are no longer authorized to independently decide on the possibility of this or that transaction. To confirm the fact that the transaction is not among those banned it is necessary to obtain a permit from the national authorized state body. The fact that European regulators have not yet articulated a consensus on the algorithm of actions for banks in various jurisdictions, as well as the order of providing such permits, makes things even more complicated," Transneft added, according to TASS.  To resolve the issue, Transneft has submitted a request to the authorized bank to transfer information to the European regulator to obtain a permit to carry out payments, according to TASS, while alternative options for making payments are also being developed. The Ukrainian military has carried out what appears to have been their deepest strike yet into Russian-occupied regions of the country. "This morning there was a good news, there was a very powerful detonation in Henichesk region," Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of Kherson Civil Military Administration, said on Ukrainian television Tuesday. Henichesk is in southern Kherson region, close to Crimea, and about 200 kilometers, or about 125 miles, from the nearest Ukrainian front line. Khlan suggested that the target had been on the railway between Henichesk and Melitopol. "We are still waiting for the official confirmation of our Armed Forces, from the General Staff, but it's a very pleasant news. The detonation was heard during 1.5-2 hours on this railway station, which connects Crimea and Melitopol," he said. Fighting continues around the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow has called for dialogue with the US after suspending inspections under a key nuclear weapons treaty. Here are the latest headlines: Nuclear expert highlights risks at Ukraine plant: The head of the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom warned that Ukraine and Europe could face another Fukishima if the power supply to the massive Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant is further disrupted. Petro Kotin said that only one line of power to the massive complex was now operational after shelling damaged the lines in the past few days. Mre Russian fire around Bakhmut: Russian forces are keeping up the pressure on the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region as they try to take more territory in Donbas. Russian forces are conducting offensive battles in the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka and trying to displace Ukrainian units with artillery fire, said the Ukrainian military. Ukrainians claim heavy strikes against Russian positions in Melitopol: Russian forces endured a "night of hell," said Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the occupied southern city, adding that residents reported hearing about 10 explosions overnight and further blasts at dawn. Smoke was rising from a military base that had been struck four times previously, he added. Largest grain shipment yet leaves Ukraine: The bulk carrier Ocean Lion left the port of Chornomorsk on Tuesday carrying nearly 65,000 tonnes of corn destined for South Korea. It is the largest cargo of grain to leave a Ukrainian port since last month's agreement. Moscow calls for dialogue on nuclear treaty: Russia and the US need to continue dialogue on the START nuclear weapons treaty, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, following Moscow's announcement that it will temporarily suspend inspections of its facilities under the treaty. ##Catch Up## The Russia-backed leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said they are negotiating with North Korea to bring in construction workers "to restore the territory of the Republic." On Russian television on Tuesday, Pushilin also announced that "fair" tribunals will be held soon "over the war crimes of Ukraine," with one of the first being held in Mariupol. "From the testimonies of the Azov fighters and the data that investigators receive after studying their positions, command posts, a complete picture of what is happening is being formed," he said. Some context: On the battlefield, Pushilin said Russian forces and their allies are advancing northwards into Donetsk, with "ongoing combats" on the outskirts of Bakhmut and Soledar. He also claims Ukrainian forces have sustained heavy losses in the sweeping operations in Pesky, also in Donetsk. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military's General Staff said that Russia was keeping up the offense in Bakhmut, but "Ukrainian soldiers inflicted fire damage and forced the invaders to flee." He added that their forces had also rebuffed Russian attacks on the outskirts of Donetsk. Russia and the US need to continue dialogue on the START nuclear weapons treaty, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, following Moscow's announcement that it will temporarily suspend inspections of its facilities under the treaty. Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Peskov refused to comment directly on Russia’s decision and referred questions to the country's foreign ministry, which issued Monday's official statement.  Asked whether Moscow is ready to present to Washington further proposals on START, or is instead waiting for the US to make the first move, Peskov said: “Time will tell. We haven't received any specific proposals on this yet. But once again we repeat: dialogue is necessary.” On Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Russia "is compelled to resort to this measure due to Washington’s stubborn striving to achieve, without prior arrangement, the resetting of inspection activities on conditions that do not take into account existing realities and are creating unilateral advantages for the United States, and are de facto depriving the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory." A US State Department spokesperson said Monday that "the principles of reciprocity, mutual predictability, and mutual stability will continue to guide the US approach to implementation of the New START Treaty, as they have since the treaty entered into force in 2011." "We keep discussions between the parties concerning treaty implementation confidential," added the spokesperson. On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom warned that Ukraine and Europe could face another Fukishima if the power supply to the massive Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant is further disrupted.  Speaking to CNN on Tuesday in Kyiv, Petro Kotin said that only one power line to the massive complex was now operational after shelling damaged the lines in the past few days.  “If there is no connection to the grid, then you cannot provide electricity from the outside, then the diesel generators will start. But everything will depend on the reliability of those generators. … This is a dangerous situation, because if those stop you could have a disaster of melting nuclear materials,” he said, comparing the potential fallout to the Fukishima disaster in Japan.  The Fukishima plant’s reactor overheated when the backup power supply failed after the impact of the Tsunami in 2011.  Kotin said that Energoatom has supplies ready to go into the facility for repairs, but they haven’t been able to enter the site.  The Zaporizhzhia plant occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro River. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.  OSunday, Ukraine's Energoatom released a statement that said that one worker had been injured by Russian shelling around the facility on Saturday. Kotin said that Russian soldiers have not been firing from inside the large complex, but close to its outskirts. He said Russia continues to occupy Zaporizhizhia with around 500 soldiers and hardware and that Russian soldiers moved assets into two special blast bunkers in recent days.  There are around 1000 employees still on the site, according to Kotin, who have kept communications lines open but are working under constant stress of the occupying force including beatings and threats.   “If the situation worsens, we need to think about our population at the plant. We are planning on how, during war conditions, we will be able to evacuate the personnel.” “Great release of radioactivity could happen from there. There could be a cloud, a radioactive cloud,” he said, adding that the international community needs to work quickly to demilitarize the zone.  Kotin told CNN that the ultimate plan of the Russians is to disconnect the plant from powering Ukraine and connect it to the grid to power occupied Crimea.  Like other Ukrainian officials, he blames Russia for shelling the complex – he said the distance of the incoming strikes suggested Russian positions.  Russia blames Ukraine.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, accused Ukraine of “taking Europe hostage” by shelling Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to Russian state news agency TASS.  Visiting Ukraine right now to experience what's it like living in the middle of a war, seeing its bombed cities and feeling the danger isn't likely to be high on many people's travel wish list. But six months after Russia invaded the country, unleashing a wave of death and destruction, one organization is inviting tourists to come visit Ukraine. Online platform Visit Ukraine.Today last month launched guided day tours of the so-called "Brave Cities" that have defied and continue to resist Russian invaders, offering travelers a look at how the country is living amid conflict. "Set off on a journey to awesome Ukraine right now," the tour company's website implores. Despite international alerts warning against travel to Ukraine, the company says it's so far sold 150 tickets, while its website offering information on safely traveling to and from Ukraine is receiving 1.5 million hits a month, up 50% on pre-invasion numbers. Read the full story here. The largest cargo of grain to leave a Ukrainian port since last month's agreement has departed the port of Chornomorsk. The bulk carrier Ocean Lion left Tuesday with nearly 65,000 tonnes of corn destined for South Korea. A UN document obtained by CNN on Monday sets out technical details for the corridor through which merchant ships exporting agricultural products can travel. The document reads: "As a vessel moves through the Maritime Humanitarian Corridor, it is additionally protected by a buffer zone. The size of the buffer zone is a 10 nautical mile circle around the vessel while moving through maritime humanitarian corridor." "No military vessel, aircraft or UAVs will close to within 10 nautical miles of a merchant vessel transiting the Maritime Humanitarian Corridor, excluding territorial seas of Ukraine," it said. The High Seas Transit Corridor itself is 111 nautical miles long and 3 nautical miles wide. Some context: Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in Turkey last month to resume Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports, which was a global breakthrough amid the world food crisis sparked by the war. Since the invasion in late February, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 47 million people have moved into a stage of acute hunger as a consequence of the war, and Western officials have accused Russia of using food as a weapon during its invasion. The first shipment of grain following the agreement left the port of Odesa on August 1 but was rejected by its buyer in Lebanon due to delayed delivery, according to the country's Ukrainian Embassy. At the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Change of Command Ceremony at the Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, the US Defense Secretary said Russia is seeking to expand their footprint on the African continent. Speaking on Tuesday, Lloyd Austin said: "Russia is peddling cheap weapons and backing mercenary forces. And that’s yet another reminder of Moscow’s willingness to sow chaos and threaten the rules-based international order -- and it goes far beyond Putin’s reckless invasion of Ukraine." Austin also mentioned China's desire to expand into Africa, saying they want to "build bases in Africa and to undermine US relations with African peoples, and governments, and militaries."  But Austin assured that the United Sates is "committed to ensuring that Africa enjoys the protections of the international rules and norms that advance all of our safety and prosperity," adding that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in South Africa to launch a new US "strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa." Some context: Austin will travel to Latvia later Tuesday, while Blinken is heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he will meet with President Felix Tshisekedi and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula. On Monday in Pretoria, South Africa, Blinken made a case for a partnership between the the US and African nations, saying that they cannot achieve any of their "shared priorities" unless they work together as equal partners. Blinken's Africa tour also includes a stop in Rwanda, and comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traveled to Ethiopia, Uganda, the Republic of Congo, and Egypt at the end of July following Russia's alienation from Europe amid the war in Ukraine. Read more here. Russia has notified the US that it will temporarily suspend inspections under the START nuclear weapons treaty, the country's foreign ministry announced Monday. “The Russian Federation is now being forced to resort to this measure as a result of the persistent desire of Washington to achieve a restart of inspection activities on short notice under conditions that do not take account of existing realities, creating unilateral advantages for the United States of America and effectively deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory,” read a statement from the ministry. The New START Treaty allows for 18 on-site inspections every year that allow Russia and the US to keep a close eye on each other's nuclear weapons. The treaty, which was extended in early 2021 for five years, limits both nations to deploying 1,550 nuclear warheads over 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers. According to the ministry statement, Russia is fully committed to compliance with all the provisions of the START Treaty and the suspension of inspection measures are “temporary." The aim is "to ensure that all the mechanisms of the START Treaty function in strict accordance with the principles of parity and equality of the parties, as was implied when it was agreed and put into force," it said. "Now these principles are not being upheld.” Inspections will restart "once the current problematic issues relating to the resumption of Treaty inspection activities are resolved," said the ministry. CNN has reached out to the US State Department for comment. The treaty is the only one left regulating the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law extending the treaty for five years on January 28, 2021, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Washington had extended the treaty on February 3 that year. In a statement, Blinken said the extension of the New START Treaty allowed for verifiable limits on Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers until February 5, 2026, and the treaty's "verification regime enables us to monitor Russian compliance with the treaty and provides us with greater insight into Russia's nuclear posture, including through data exchanges and onsite inspections that allow U.S. inspectors to have eyes on Russian nuclear forces and facilities." Russian forces are keeping up the pressure on the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region as they try to take more territory in Donbas. The Ukrainian military said Tuesday that the Russians were conducting offensive battles in the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka and trying to displace Ukrainian units with artillery fire. It said that the Russians had tried to conduct "battle reconnaissance" in a string of towns and villages close to the main highway from Bakhmut towards the further eastward Luhansk region. "Ukrainian soldiers inflicted fire damage and forced the invaders to flee," the military's General Staff said.  Down south: The General Staff said that efforts by the Russians to advance on the outskirts of Donetsk city had also been rebuffed. Along the front lines in the Kherson, Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, the General Staff said Russian forces had carried out air strikes against a number of settlements. The southern town of Nikopol, across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, came under attack again overnight, according to Yevhen Yevtushenko, head of Nikopol district military administration. Yevtushenko said 40 shells had been fired, seriously damaging industrial sites. He said the Russians were firing from under the cover of residential areas on the other side of the river. In its latest assessment of the battlefield, the UK's Defense Ministry says that over the last month, "Russia’s assault towards the town of Bakhmut has been its most successful axis in the Donbas," but also noted that Russia "has only managed to advance about 10km during this time." "In other Donbas sectors where Russia was attempting to break through, its forces have not gained more than 3km during this 30 day period; almost certainly significantly less than planned," the Ministry says. "Despite its continued heavy use of artillery in these areas, Russia has not been able to generate capable combat infantry in sufficient numbers to secure more substantial advances." Russian forces endured a "night of hell" in Melitopol, the occupied southern city's mayor said, adding that residents reported hearing about 10 explosions overnight and further blasts at dawn.  "We cannot clearly name the places of explosions for now, but we know there are dead and injured," Mayor Ivan Fedorov said. Smoke was rising from a military base that had been struck four times previously, he added. "It is clear today that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are not going to abandon Melitopol and definitely will liberate it along with the resistance movement of local residents," Fedorov said. Russian referendum: Fedorov also dismissed Russian plans for a referendum in occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, where Melitopol is located, saying the date and format of the proposed vote on joining Russia had been changed multiple times "as they understand they would not have any support of local residents." On Monday a Ukrainian politician cooperating with the Russian occupation signed a decree in support of preparations for the referendum. Fourteen-year-old Serhii Sorokopud is still haunted by what happened when Russian tanks rolled into his village five months ago. He lifts his T-shirt to show the deep scars across his back — a reminder of a trauma both hidden and visible. Russian troops set up a military camp in the small farming community of Yahidne, northeast of the capital Kyiv, on March 3, on their advance toward the capital. Serhii and his family were taken captive with hundreds of others in the basement of his school. Ten days later, as he stood in line for food in the playground, there was an explosion and he was struck by shrapnel. "First, there was a strong blow to the back. I fell, couldn't get up, couldn't move," he told CNN on Thursday, showing the spot behind his school where he was hit. "People ran over and lifted me up. I couldn't even walk. There was a lot of blood." Read the full story here. A buyer in Lebanon has rejected the cargo of the first grain ship to leave Ukraine since the early days of the war due to delayed delivery, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Embassy in the Middle Eastern country.  The M/V Razoni departed the Black Sea port of Odesa on August 1, carrying more than 26,000 metric tons of corn under a UN-brokered deal aimed at easing the global food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion. “According to the information provided by the shipper of the Ukrainian grain aboard the Razoni, the buyer in Lebanon refused to accept the cargo due to delays in delivery terms," the statement said. "So the shipper is now looking for another consignee to offload his cargo either in Lebanon/Tripoli or any other country/port.” Some context: Ukrainian officials say they aim increase grain shipments to three to five vessels per day within the next two weeks. Shipments continued Monday, with two vessels carrying 60,000 metric tons of agricultural products to international markets departing from ports in southern Ukraine. Between 70,000 and 80,000 Russians have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Colin Kahl, Defense Department undersecretary for policy, said during an on-camera briefing at the Pentagon on Monday. “I think it’s safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months. Now that is a combination of killed in action and wounded in action, that number might be a little lower, little higher, but I think that’s kind of in the ballpark,” Kahl said. Kahl said that number of casualties from Russian forces is “remarkable” considering Russia has “achieved none of Vladimir Putin’s objectives” since invading Ukraine at the end of February. “The Ukrainian morale and will to fight is unquestioned, and much higher I think than the average will to fight on the Russian side, so I think that gives the Ukrainians a significant advantage,” Kahl added. The US Defense Department Monday announced a $1 billion package of additional weapons and security assistance for Ukraine in the latest round of military aid. It is “the largest single drawdown of US arms and equipment” since August 2021, according to a Pentagon statement. This marks the eighteenth drawdown by the Pentagon. What the package includes: The package for the first time will have munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), a US-Norwegian air defense system the Ukrainians need for shooting down Russian cruise missiles aimed at population centers. The transfer of NASAMS itself could still be some days away according to US defense officials. The first system to arrive is expected to be from Norway, which can get it to Ukraine quicker than the US.  This package focuses heavily on additional ammunition and weapons that Ukrainian forces have used successfully against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. There is additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and 1,000 Javelin anti-tank weapons among key items. This is the first transfer of Javelin’s announced since June. There are also hundreds of AT4 anti-armor weapons included.  United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described recent artillery and rocket fire around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in central Ukraine as "suicidal," further adding to fears of an accident at the plant, which is the largest of its kind in Europe. "Any attack on nuclear power plants is a suicidal thing," Guterres told reporters Monday in Tokyo. "I hope that these attacks will end," he said, and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be given access to the plant. The Zaporizhzhia plant occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro river. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work. On Sunday, Ukraine's state energy company Energoatom said that one worker had been injured by Russian shelling around the facility on Saturday. Energoatom claimed that three radiation monitoring sensors were also damaged, saying "timely detection and response in case of aggravation of the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from spent nuclear fuel casks are currently impossible." "This time a nuclear catastrophe was miraculously avoided, but miracles cannot last forever," the company added. Speaking on Ukrainian television, Energoatom's chairman Petro Kotin said one strike Sunday was up to 20 meters away from the processed fuel storage area. "If they had hit the containers with the processed fuel, it would be a radiation accident," he said. Read the full story here.