Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 24, 2022

The U.S. urges its citizens to leave Ukraine, anti-vaccine-mandate protesters march in Washington, and more

1

U.S. urges all U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine

The State Department on Sunday recommended that all U.S. citizens leave Ukraine due to the threat of invasion by Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. "Our recommendation to U.S. citizens currently in Ukraine is that they should consider departing now using commercial or privately available transportation options," a senior State Department official told reporters. The State Department earlier told the families of embassy personnel to leave. Russia in 2014 seized and annexed Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea that the United Nations recognizes as Ukrainian, and Britain said over the weekend that Moscow is now plotting to install a pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. A U.S. National Security Council spokesperson called the alleged plot "deeply concerning." Moscow called the allegation "ridiculous."

2

Anti-vaccine-mandate protesters march in Washington

Protesters marched along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Sunday in opposition to government-mandated COVID-19 vaccinations. Organizers of the rally said they were protesting mandates, not the vaccines themselves. "Since the vaccines do not stop people from getting sick, why should we impose them as a requirement to keep one's job or to enjoy the freedoms that we have always enjoyed such as eating at a restaurant, going to a concert, or attending school or the university?" said Louisa Clary, an organizer, in an email to The Wall Street Journal. The demonstration came as the Biden administration is calling for more Americans to get vaccines and booster shots to help curb the spread of the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant, which has made so many workers sick that many businesses are struggling to stay open.

3

Fauci says Omicron wave has peaked, but warns against overconfidence

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's top medical adviser on COVID-19, said Sunday that the COVID-19 wave fueled by the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant was peaking nationally, but he warned Americans not to "get overconfident." Fauci said on ABC's This Week that he hoped that in a few weeks the level of infection would fall below the "area of control," where the virus will still be around but it won't "disrupt society." Daily new infections have started falling in the Northeast and Midwest. Nationwide totals are declining, although they remain more than double last winter's peak. Hospitalizations and deaths appear to be leveling off, although there could be "a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalizations" in areas with low vaccination and booster rates.

4

Jan. 6 committee has spoken with former Attorney General William Barr

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, said Sunday that investigators had spoken with former Attorney General William Barr. Thompson was asked on CBS' Face the Nation about a draft executive order given to then-President Donald Trump seeking to have the Defense Department seize voting machines following Trump's loss to President Biden in the 2020 election. "We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false," Thompson said. "So, if you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it's a discussion, the public needs to know." Several news outlets reported on the draft order last week. It was among the Trump White House documents the National Archives handed over after the Supreme Court turned down Trump's request to keep the documents secret.

5

Israel says 4th COVID vaccine dose increases resistance to severe illness

A fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose made people over 60 in Israel three times more resistant to serious illness than people in the same group who had received three shots, Israel's Health Ministry said Sunday. Those who got a fourth shot — the two initial doses and two boosters — were twice as resistant to infection than those who had received just one booster. A preliminary study published Monday by Israel's Sheba Medical Center said the fourth shot increased antibodies but "probably" not enough to completely resist the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant. Israel earlier this month started offering people over 60 a fourth dose as Omicron drove a surge of infections.

6

Mutinous soldiers detain Burkina Faso president

Mutinous soldiers have detained Burkina Faso's president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, after they took over a military base on Sunday and later reached the presidential palace. Gunfire erupted on the base in the country's capital, Ouagadougou, a day after the latest protest demanding that the West African nation's president step down. Security forces tried to disperse crowds that came out to support the mutinous soldiers. Some of the demonstrators vandalized a building occupied by Kabore's political party. Defense Minister Aime Barthelemy Simpore told state broadcaster RTB that the unrest affected barracks in several cities. He initially denied that soldiers involved in the mutiny had detained Kabore. "In some of these barracks, the calm has already returned," he said.

7

Trial begins in Palin's defamation lawsuit against the Times

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times goes to trial on Monday. Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has accused the Times of falsely linking her to the 2011 Arizona mass shooting that left six people dead and then-Rep. Gabby Giffords seriously wounded. The Times said in a 2017 editorial that Palin's political action committee had incited the violence. Palin says the Times and former editorial page editor James Bennet defamed her. She is requesting unspecified damages and has argued in court papers that the editorial caused $421,000 in damage to her reputation. To win, Palin has to show that the editorial was written with "actual malice" toward her.

8

Armenia's president resigns over lack of power

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian resigned on Sunday, saying the country's constitution didn't give him enough authority to enact policies to address a national crisis. "The roots of some of our potential problems are hidden in the current Basic Law," he said in a statement. Sarkissian feuded last year over the dismissal of the head of the armed forces and other issues. The prime minister has had more power than the president since a December 2015 referendum making the country a parliamentary republic and limiting presidential authority. The leadership change comes as Armenia faces a border crisis with Azerbaijan, whose forces entered eastern Armenia in May 2021.

9

Food shortages could last weeks as workers call in sick due to Omicron

Food shortages in many supermarkets could persist for weeks as record numbers of workers at processing plants and grocery stores call in sick due to the wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. In Arizona, for example, one produce company had 10 percent of its processing plant and distribution employees out sick recently. Food-industry experts said the crunch could continue for weeks or months, even if the number of new cases falls nationwide. Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 lockdowns prompted panic buying that resulted in shortages of meats, baking supplies, and paper goods, including toilet paper. But the shortages in the latest wave have been broader, as the lack of workers creates even more supply problems.

10

French adventurer dies at 75 while rowing solo across Atlantic

French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin was found dead over the weekend in the boat he was attempting to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. If he had succeeded, Savin, 75, would have been the oldest person ever to accomplish the feat. But he sent out distress signals on Friday in what his daughter, Manon Savin, said was a sign of "great difficulty." The Portuguese coast guard found Savin's boat overturned near Portugal's Azores archipelago. Savin left Portugal on Jan. 1, and celebrated his 75th birthday at sea on Jan. 14 as he pursued what he had described as his "last challenge at sea." Savin successfully crossed the Atlantic in 2019 in a bright orange barrel-shaped vessel. "Unfortunately, the ocean this time was stronger than our friend," his team said in a statement posted on Facebook.

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