Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 12, 2021

Appeals court delays Trump documents' release, Myanmar sentences U.S. journalist to 11 years, and more


Appeals court delays Jan. 6 committee access to Trump documents

An appeals court temporarily blocked the National Archives from releasing Trump White House documents to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack pending former President Donald Trump's appeal. The court will hear arguments in the case Nov. 30. Trump claims executive privilege gives him the right to withhold the documents, which include call logs and handwritten memos from then-chief of staff Mark Meadows. A lower court judge, Tanya Chutkan, twice rejected Trump's attempt to keep them secret, saying President Biden was within his rights when he waived executive privilege and said the committee should get the material. The appeals court's decision to put the release on hold came just before a Friday deadline for the National Archives to hand them over.


Myanmar military junta sentences U.S. journalist to 11 years

A Myanmar court on Friday sentenced American journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison after a secret trial in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison, according to his lawyer and employer, Frontier Myanmar magazine. Fenster, 37, was detained while waiting to board a U.S.-bound flight in May. He's the first foreign journalist sentenced since Myanmar's military seized control of the country in a February coup. Fenster was convicted on three charges, including breaches of immigration laws and incitement for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. Earlier this week, a separate court in Yangon filed more serious sedition and terrorism charges against Fenster, which carry sentences of up to life in prison. Thomas Kean, Frontier Myanmar's editor-in-chief, said there was "absolutely no basis" to convict Fenster.


Judge approves $626 million Flint water crisis settlement

A federal judge on Thursday approved a $626 million settlement in the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. District Judge Judith Levy's decision marked a milestone in the years of lawsuits and investigations into the scandal, in which children and other residents of the predominantly Black city of 95,000 were exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water. The state of Michigan will pay most of the settlement, which is one of the largest in state history. "The settlement reached here is a remarkable achievement for many reasons, not the least of which is that it sets forth a comprehensive compensation program and timeline that is consistent for every qualifying participant," Levy said in the decision.


Xi consolidates power in China with 'historical resolution'

China's ruling Communist Party on Thursday adopted a landmark "historical resolution" putting President Xi Jinping in the center of the story of modern China's development, elevating him to the status of iconic past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The resolution sets up Xi to serve a third term, and potentially rule for life. The party's Central Committee called on the nation to "unite around the party with Xi at the core," and realize the party's goals through 2049 to achieve "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." Pushing through the resolution helps Xi "to further consolidate his power and to define his historical legacy," said Jinghan Zeng, a professor of China and international studies at Lancaster University in Britain.


Biden calls service members 'the spine of America'

President Biden on Thursday called people who have served in the military "the spine of America" as he observed his first Veterans Day as president. "There's nothing low risk or low cost about war for the women and men who fight it," said Biden, who participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Biden illustrated the point by suggesting that the brain cancer that killed his son Beau, who served in Iraq, might have been linked to pits where military waste was burned. Biden also honored three influential veterans who died recently: Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of State; Gen. Ray Odierno, a top general in Iraq; and ex-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).


Belarus leader threatens to block Europe gas supplies

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to block gas supplies to Europe if Western leaders impose more sanctions against his government over an intensifying migrant crisis. The threat is real: One of Russia's natural gas pipelines that Europe relies on crosses Belarus. The clash started when thousands of migrants, most of them from the Middle East, began gathering recently at Belarus' Polish border. Polish and European Union leaders have accused Lukashenko's government of luring the migrants with promises of passage to Western Europe in an effort to destabilize Poland and neighboring Latvia and Lithuania, and threatened to retaliate with new sanctions.


U.S. warns Europe that Russia might invade Ukraine  

The United States has warned European Union allies that Russia might be building up military forces near the Ukrainian border in preparation for an invasion, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing multiple people familiar with the matter. The deployment comes as tensions between the E.U. and Russia are already high due to clashes over migrants and energy supplies. Moscow denies any aggressive intentions. One person close to the Kremlin said Russia isn't invading but needs to show it's willing to use force. CIA Director Bill Burns reportedly discussed the troop movements this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Putin on Wednesday to help defuse tensions with Russian ally Belarus over Middle Eastern migrants seeking to enter the E.U. through Poland.


Astroworld crowd-surge death toll rises to 9

Texas A&M student Bharti Shahani, 22, has died "from the horrific, horrific injuries she sustained" in last week's crowd surge at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, a lawyer for her family, James Lassiter, said Thursday. Shahani reportedly died Wednesday night. She had been placed on a ventilator. "This was a monumental travesty from start to finish," Lassiter said. Shahani attended rapper Travis Scott's music festival with her cousin and sister. Her cousin, Mohit Bellani, blamed the organizers of the concert, according to The Washington Post. "They suffocated us," Bellani said. "They did this to Bharti." Her death brought the death toll from the tragedy to nine. A criminal investigation is ongoing. Scott has said he's "absolutely devastated" by the "tragic loss of life."


U.S. calls on Houthis to release embassy employees detained in Yemen

Iran-backed Houthi rebels breached the compound in Sanaa, Yemen, that houses the closed U.S. Embassy, and detained several Yemeni employees on Thursday. A "majority" have since been released, a spokesperson for the State Department said, and the United States is engaged in "unceasing" diplomatic efforts to free the rest. The U.S. is also calling on the Houthis to "immediately" vacate the compound and "return all seized property." A State Department official told The Washington Post the detained Yemeni employees work security and were guarding the exterior of the compound. Because of Yemen's civil war, the United States transferred its embassy operations in 2015 to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis oppose the Houthi rebels, and launched a military intervention in Yemen in an attempt to push them back and keep Iran from expanding its influence in the region.


F.W. de Klerk, who shared Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, dies at 85

F.W. de Klerk, the former South African president who handed over power to Nelson Mandela to end apartheid rule, has died at age 85, a spokesman for the F.W. de Klerk Foundation confirmed Thursday. De Klerk was diagnosed last year with cancer. De Klerk and Mandela shared a Nobel Peace Prize for ushering their country into a new era. But he was controversial at home, where some blamed him for violence against Black South Africans while some white citizens felt betrayed by his push to end white minority rule. De Klerk had only been in office five months when he announced in February 1990 that Mandela would be released after 27 years in prison and that the ban on the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid political groups would be lifted.


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