Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 20, 2022

The Supreme Court clears release of Trump documents to Jan. 6 panel, Biden defends his record as his first year ends, and more


Supreme Court rejects Trump bid to block documents from Jan. 6 committee

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump's request to block the release of some of his White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Trump tried to use executive privilege to keep his White House records secret. But President Biden has signed off on letting the National Archives give more than 700 documents to lawmakers to help shine light on what Trump and his aides did before, during, and after the riot. The Supreme Court, with only Justice Clarence Thomas publicly dissenting, let stand an appeals court ruling that said providing a full accounting of the attempt to overturn the election result was more important than Trump's desire to keep his White House communications secret.


Biden defends record and blasts Republicans as 1st year ends

President Biden marked the end of his first year in office by holding his first news conference in 10 months, highlighting his accomplishments, acknowledging COVID-19 frustrations, and accusing Republicans of stalling his agenda with obstructionism. Biden said Republican lawmakers are afraid to do anything former President Donald Trump doesn't like, saying they were intimidated by him. The criticism contrasted with his tone a year ago, when he came into office predicting that partisan gridlock would ease during his presidency. Biden vowed to pursue a scaled-down version of the $2 trillion proposal to expand the social safety net and fight climate change, saying it will be split into smaller bills, and predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin would "move in" to Ukraine but regret it.


GOP blocks voter protections as Democrats fail to change filibuster

Democrats on Wednesday failed to push their voting rights legislation through the Senate, lacking the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) blocked an effort by their party to change Senate rules to let the measure pass with a simple majority in the evenly divided chamber, instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. That effectively killed the voter protections that President Biden and leading Democratic lawmakers saw as a top priority. Democrats say that beefing up federal voting rights protections is necessary to counter voting restrictions passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures. Republicans say Democrats are misrepresenting the state laws to grab more power.


Biden administration offering free N95 masks

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it was making highly efficient N95 masks available to the public — three per person, free of charge — as part of its stepped-up efforts to fight the record-breaking COVID-19 surge driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant. The government will send 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks to community health centers and pharmacies across the country in what officials described as the "largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history." N95 respirators, when used correctly, filter 95 percent of airborne particles. The announcement came on the day the Biden administration officially launched a website it is using to let every American family order four free at-home COVID-19 tests to be delivered by the United States Postal Service.


University of Michigan agrees to $490 million sexual abuse settlement

The University of Michigan has agreed to pay $490 million to settle lawsuits by 1,050 former athletes and other students who say they were sexually assaulted by the former football team doctor, the late Dr. Robert Anderson, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the university announced Wednesday. The suits accused the university's administration of failing to act after learning of alleged sexual assaults by Anderson, who worked at the school from 1968 to 2003, and died in 2008. The university said $460 million of the settlement money will go to the initial claimants, and $30 million will be set aside for other victims who might decide to participate in the settlement before the end of July 2023.


Boris Johnson says U.K. will ease COVID restrictions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that his government would ease coronavirus restrictions in England. The so-called Plan B rules were put into place to curb the COVID-19 wave driven by the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant and included mask requirements, guidance for working from home, and vaccination passports. "Our scientists believe that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally," Johnson said, explaining the new policy. The announcement of the lifting of the tighter restrictions came as Johnson faces calls to resign and broad criticism over a series of parties at his office during lockdowns.


CIA doubts 'Havana Syndrome' caused by hostile foreign actor

The CIA has determined it's unlikely that "Havana Syndrome," a mysterious set of symptoms first detected among U.S. diplomats in Cuba, is the result of a sustained global campaign by a hostile foreign actor, NBC News and The New York Times reported late Wednesday, citing CIA officials familiar with a new intelligence assessment. Most of the 1,000 cases reported by U.S. diplomats and spies have plausible, alternate explanations, like undiagnosed medical conditions, environmental causes, or stress. But the agency could not rule out foreign involvement in two dozen cases, including many of those affecting people at the U.S. embassy in Havana starting in 2016, NBC News reported. A group of victims said in a statement that the interim findings "must not be the final word on the matter."


French actor Gaspard Ulliel, 37, dies in ski accident

Award-winning French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who played Hannibal Lecter and stars in Marvel's upcoming show Moon Knight, died Wednesday in a ski accident in the Alps. He was 37. Ulliel collided with another skier at the intersection of two runs, and suffered brain trauma. He was taken to a hospital by helicopter but died of his injuries. Ulliel starred as Hannibal Lecter in 2007's Hannibal Rising, and in 2017, he won the César Award for Best Actor for his role in It's Only the End of the World. He was previously nominated for the award for playing fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in 2014's Saint Laurent, and was awarded Most Promising Actor for 2004's A Very Long Engagement. He was also the face of Bleu de Chanel, the Chanel fragrance. Ulliel is survived by his girlfriend, Gaëlle Pietri, and their 6-year-old son.


Vaccination and prior infection both protected against COVID, CDC study says

Coronavirus vaccination and natural immunity from prior infection both protect people against new COVID-19 cases, but vaccinations are more effective at keeping people out of hospitals, according to a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers looked at infections and hospitalizations among 1.1 million vaccinated and unvaccinated people, with and without prior infection. COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates were highest among unvaccinated people with no prior infection. Unvaccinated people who had already survived COVID-19 had higher hospitalization rates than vaccinated people initially, although that shifted months later as vaccine effectiveness waned and the Delta variant surged, before most Americans were eligible for booster shots.


Lusia Harris, the 'Queen of Basketball,' dies at 66

Lusia Harris, the only woman ever drafted by an NBA team, has died at age 66, her family confirmed in a statement Wednesday. The family noted in a statement that Harris died unexpectedly, not long after receiving an "outpouring of recognition" due to the short 2021 documentary The Queen of Basketball, which told her story. Harris led Delta State to three consecutive AIAW national collegiate championships from 1975 to 1977. A 6-foot-3 center who averaged 25.9 points and 14.5 rebounds per game, she was named an All-American three times. She was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round of the 1977 NBA draft, but didn't try out for the team because she was pregnant. She also played on the inaugural U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, which won a silver medal in Montreal.


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