Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 23, 2016

Harold Maass
AP Photo/ Will Weissert
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Trump enters Nevada caucuses looking for third straight win

Donald Trump's rivals are hoping to slow his momentum in Tuesday's Republican caucuses in Nevada after his decisive wins in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries. Trump, however, is favored to win and leave his nearest rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, to battle for second place. "Trump is still the guy to beat in Nevada, but I see this being a good test between Rubio and Cruz," said former Nevada Governor Robert F. List, who is aiding Rubio's campaign. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson are expected to lag far behind. [The New York Times, USA Today]


Cruz fires his national spokesman

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked his communication director, Rick Tyler, to resign on Monday for distributing an inaccurate video suggesting Sen. Marco Rubio — a rival candidate for the GOP presidential nomination — had disparaged the Bible. Rubio (R-Fla.) pounced on the incident, saying it reflected a pattern of dirty tricks by Cruz, whose allies also spread a false rumor Dr. Ben Carson was quitting the race as the Iowa caucuses were getting started. Cruz said he told Tyler to resign because his campaign upholds the "very highest standards of integrity." [CNN, Houston Chronicle]


Syria agrees to cease-fire terms proposed by the U.S. and Russia

The U.S. and Russia have agreed on conditions for a cease-fire to begin Saturday in Syria, U.S. officials announced Monday. The "cessation of hostilities" will exclude attacks on the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's local affiliate. The Syrian government agreed to the terms on Tuesday, shortly after the main umbrella for Syrian opposition and rebel groups said it had accepted a "temporary truce." [The Associated Press]


Sen. Claire McCaskill diagnosed with breast cancer

Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Monday that she has breast cancer. The Missouri Democrat said she would take a leave of absence from the Senate as she undergoes treatment expected to take roughly three weeks in St. Louis. McCaskill said she would post information on how she would have voted on important issues until she returns to Washington. She did not say how severe the cancer was, but indicated she expected to make a full recovery. "It's a little scary," McCaskill wrote on Tumblr, "but my prognosis is good." [The Washington Post]


Sea levels rising at fastest rate in 2800 years

Sea levels are most likely rising at the fastest pace in 28 centuries, according to a paper released Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors also said that human emissions of greenhouse gases were primarily to blame, and confirmed previous studies warning that oceans could rise by four feet by 2100 if current emissions continue. [The New York Times]


Kalamazoo Uber driver charged on 6 counts of murder

Prosecutors filed six murder charges against Uber driver Jason Dalton on Monday for a Saturday shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said Dalton had made "incriminating statements," but had not directly confessed. Dalton reportedly said he "took people's lives." Six people died in seemingly random attacks at three locations — outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, an apartment complex, and a car dealership. [The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times]


Oil prices surge on expectations of slower production

Oil prices rose by 6 percent on Monday as investors bet that the world's major oil producers would slow down production. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq all gained around 1.4 percent. Oil prices slipped down by 1 percent early Tuesday, and stock futures edged lower, too, as investors awaited fresh data on the housing market and consumer confidence. [Reuters, MarketWatch]


Charlotte, North Carolina, extends transgender rights

The Charlotte, North Carolina, City Council voted 7-4 on Monday to let transgender people use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the move "sent a signal that we will treat people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree." North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the measure could "create major public safety issues," and warned before the vote that passing it would probably "cause immediate State legislative intervention, which I would support as governor." [ABC News]


U.S. drivers log record 3.1 trillion miles

Americans drove a record 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. The jump came as the country experienced record low gasoline prices. The previous record of 3 trillion miles was set in 2007, before the Great Recession forced Americans to drive less. California led the nation with an 11.3 percent increase in miles logged in December compared to a year earlier. [Los Angeles Times]


Winemaker Peter Mondavi dies at 101

Pioneering California winemaker Peter Mondavi Sr. died over the weekend, a family spokeswoman said Monday. He was 101. Mondavi ran the family winery from 1976, when his mother died, until his retirement in 2015. He introduced several innovations that helped transform California's Napa Valley from a jug-wine backwater to a global elite wine region. He was the first in Napa Valley to age wine in imported French oak barrels, now a common practice. He also had a famous falling-out with older brother Robert Mondavi, who founded a rival winery. [Reuters]