Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 27, 2022

Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement gives Biden a Supreme Court pick, U.S. and NATO reject Russia's Ukraine demands, and more

1

Justice Stephen Breyer to retire, giving Biden a Supreme Court pick

Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the Supreme Court's current term, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with his plans. Breyer, 83, is the oldest justice, and one of just three liberals on the nine-member high court. His decision to step down now, while Democrats control the Senate, will give President Biden the opportunity to name his replacement. Liberal activists have been urging Breyer to retire before the midterm elections so Republicans won't be able to block a Biden nominee if they regain control of the Senate. Despite similar liberal urging, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not retire during former President Barack Obama's term, clearing the way for former President Donald Trump to seat Justice Amy Coney Barrett upon Ginsburg's death in 2020 and expand the conservative majority to 6-3.

2

U.S., NATO send responses rejecting Russia's demands on Ukraine crisis

The Biden administration and NATO on Wednesday sent written confirmation to Russia that they will not make concessions on Moscow's main demands toward resolving the Ukraine crisis. Russia wants NATO to reduce military deployments in Eastern Europe and deny Ukraine membership in the Western defense alliance. The U.S. and NATO said both demands are out of the question and always have been. "There is no change, there will be no change," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He also repeated the U.S. position that any Russian invasion of Ukraine would trigger a massive response and economic cost. Russia made no immediate response, but Russian officials have vowed to take "retaliatory measures" if its demands aren't met.

3

Fed officials signal rate hike in March

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that with inflation high and the job market strengthening it will "soon" be appropriate to start raising interest rates, which the central bank has kept near zero to boost the recovery during the coronavirus pandemic. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Fed leaders were inclined to "raise the federal funds rate at the March meeting," assuming current trends continue. "The economy no longer needs sustained high levels" of monetary policy support, he said in earlier remarks. The Fed also is tapering the bond purchases it has used to further support the recovery, on track to end the program in March. The suggestion that the Fed could aggressively increase borrowing costs added pressure on stocks.

4

Spotify removes Neil Young's music after singer's Joe Rogan objections

Spotify on Wednesday removed Neil Young's music from its streaming service after he posted a letter on his website saying he would not allow his catalog on the same platform as podcast host Joe Rogan's "fake information" about coronavirus vaccines. "They can have Rogan or Young. Not both," Young said in the letter to his manager and record label. He said people spreading bogus information about vaccines could be killing people who believe it. Rogan, who hosts one of the most popular podcasts on Spotify, has faced frequent criticism for his statements on the pandemic, including that healthy young people shouldn't get vaccinated. "We regret Neil's decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon," a Spotify spokesperson told The Washington Post.

5

Search continues but hope dims for 38 missing from capsized boat

Coast Guard ships and planes on Wednesday intensified the search for 38 people who went missing off the coast of Florida four days ago when their boat capsized in a storm. Search crews have found the body of one passenger, and another was rescued by a merchant vessel that spotted him sitting alone on the overturned 25-foot boat. The survivor said nobody on board had a life jacket. Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian said the vessel sailed from the Bahamas in a suspected human smuggling voyage and was caught in the storm as it crossed the Gulf Stream on the way to Florida. Human smugglers frequently use the Bahamas as a stepping stone for migrants, particularly from Haiti and Cuba, hoping to reach the United States.

6

Capitol rioter sentenced to 44 months for throwing objects at police

U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., on Thursday sentenced Nicholas Languerand, who was arrested in South Carolina in April, to 44 months in prison for throwing objects at police during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Laguerand also took an officer's riot shield. Languerand pleaded guilty, and will get credit for time served. Prosecutors had recommended a 51-month sentence, but Bates said he was granting a "modest reduction" due partly to Languerand's "extremely difficult and chaotic upbringing." When Languerand was a child, he nearly died when his father intentionally set fire to the trailer Languerand and his mother lived in. His defense lawyer had proposed a one-year prison sentence.

7

North Korea launches 2 missiles in latest weapons test

North Korea on Thursday conducted what was believed to be its sixth weapons test this month, firing two suspected short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea's military. The missiles flew 118 miles and came down in the sea. The tests were seen as part of an effort to pressure the Biden administration into resuming long-stalled negotiations into lifting hard-hitting U.S.-led economic sanctions in exchange for limits on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile programs. Under international law, North Korea is not supposed to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The flurry of tests came as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic added to the economic damage caused by the sanctions.

8

Another figure in Gaetz investigation agrees to cooperate

Florida radio host Joseph "Big Joe" Ellicott has agreed to plead guilty to fraud and drug charges and cooperate with the investigation into allegations against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), including sexual contact with a minor, sex trafficking, and obstruction of justice, one of Ellicott's attorneys, Joe Zwick, said Wednesday. Ellicott is only loosely acquainted with Gaetz, but he was good friends with former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, Gaetz's "wingman" who is central to the investigation into whether Gaetz paid for sex with a 17-year-old and then obstructed justice. Greenberg also is cooperating under a plea deal. Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and has not been charged with any crimes. Zwick said his client already has met with investigators to discuss Gaetz.

9

San Jose becomes 1st city mandating insurance for gun owners

San Jose, California, has become the first city in the country to require gun owners to buy liability insurance. The San Jose City Council approved the measure in a lopsided Tuesday night vote over opposition from gun-rights advocates and gun owners, who said the ordinance would violate the Second Amendment. Critics of the policy vowed to challenge it in court. Supporters on the council, some of whom said they had friends killed by gunfire, said the requirement would help address gun violence, which Councilmember Sergio Jimenez called "a scourge on our society." The insurance requirement will encourage the city's 55,000 gun-owning households to use gun safes and trigger locks, and take gun safety classes, Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) said. 

10

Charlie Brown voice actor Peter Robbins dies at 65

Peter Robbins, the voice actor who portrayed Charlie Brown in the 1960s Peanuts cartoons, has died from suicide, his family confirmed Wednesday. He was 65. Robbins voiced Charlie Brown from 1963 to 1969 in such classic TV specials as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. He battled mental illness and addiction throughout his adult life. In 2013, Robbins pleaded guilty to threatening and stalking his ex-girlfriend and her cosmetic surgeon. Robbins reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder, and checked himself into a California mental hospital shortly after Christmas. He told his agent, Dylan Novak, "I really need your prayers," according to TMZ. Hospital staff reportedly urged him to stay a few weeks, but he discharged himself on Jan. 18 and was found dead days later.

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