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6 to Know: Ukrainians in South Florida React to Invasion of Homeland

It’s Friday, February 25th - and NBC 6 has the top stories for the day

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It’s Friday, February 25th - and NBC 6 has the top stories for the day.

No. 1 - One person died and several others were hospitalized after a driver accelerated into the outdoor dining area of a restaurant Thursday night in Miami Beach, police said.

Paramedics and police officers responded after 6 p.m. to Call Me Gaby, an Italian restaurant located at 22 Washington Avenue. Investigators said a woman in a Bentley was attempting to parallel park outside of the restaurant but instead accelerated into the sidewalk cafe area, striking several tables, according to Miami Beach Police. Seven people were transported to the hospital, where one of them died, police said. One of the victims was a 3-year-old with minor cuts and bruises. Officials did not identify the victims.

No. 2 - Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

Ukraine’s leadership said dozens of people have been killed so far in what it called a “full-scale war” targeting the country from the east, north and south. President Vladimir Putin deflected global condemnation and cascading new sanctions and threatened any foreign country attempting to interfere. President Joe Biden and other world leaders moved to impose heavy economic sanctions on Russia in hopes of making the Kremlin pay so heavy a price that it will change course. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at least 137 service members have been killed.

No. 3 - Ukrainians living in South Florida predicted for weeks that Russia would invade their homeland — and now, what they feared most is here.

“Sadness - I’m sad,” said Peter Piaseckyj, who was born in Ukraine and now resides in north Miami-Dade. “Actually, I woke up three or four times to watch and see what was happening in Ukraine.” Peter and his wife, Oksana, showed NBC 6 reflections of their family’s rich heritage in Ukraine. The couple watched overnight as Russian fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and artillery batteries struck their homeland. The images from the ground is showing the destruction. There are long lines for fuel, for cash at the bank, and on the roadways to the safety of Poland. Click here for their words and those of others living in South Florida in a report from NBC 6 investigator Willard Shepard.

No. 4 - Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to limit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary schools, advancing a measure that has drawn widespread condemnation from LGBTQ activists and the White House.

The House passed the bill on a party-line vote, with most Republicans in support. It now moves to the GOP-controlled Senate. The proposal, which critics have dubbed the “Don't Say Gay” bill, has attracted scrutiny from President Joe Biden, who called it “hateful,” as well as other Democrats who argue it demonizes LGBTQ people. The debate comes amid a nationwide, often contentious reexamination of how schools should teach about race, gender and history. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has stopped short of endorsing the proposal but, when asked about it recently, he replied, "I do think you’ve seen instances in which kids are encouraged to be doing stuff with like a gender ideology and I think the parents really do need to be involved in that.”

No. 5 - The Biden administration will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

No. 6 - A state commission has recently taken action against seven Florida defense lawyers — all hailing from Miami-Dade County — as part of an investigation it says has uncovered fraudulent billing practices, referring some lawyers to law enforcement, the NBC 6 Investigators found.

With some defense attorneys suspected of submitting questionable billings now blocked from getting state funds for new cases and a shortage of eligible attorneys to take on death penalty cases, stakeholders say the death penalty system in Miami-Dade is “broken” and at risk of a “constitutional crisis.” Since 2020, NBC 6 found the Justice Administrative Commission (JAC) in Tallahassee has suspended or blocked seven attorneys statewide from being appointed by judges to new criminal cases as part of its investigation into billings. The NBC 6 Investigators found all seven are Miami-Dade defense lawyers, including several who’ve handled some of the county’s most notorious murder cases. Click here for more in a three-part series from NBC 6 investigator Tony Pipitone.

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