Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 28, 2022

Biden says the Supreme Court is 'long overdue' for 1st Black female justice, data shows economy grew at fastest pace since 1984, and more


Biden says Supreme Court 'overdue' for 1st Black female justice

President Biden, reacting to liberal Justice Stephen Breyer's plan to retire from the Supreme Court, reaffirmed his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the high court, a milestone he said was "long overdue." Breyer, 83, met with Biden at the White House, where the president praised him as a model public servant. Biden vowed to nominate a replacement by the end of February. He has already met with one of the potential nominees, Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, one of Breyer's former clerks the president interviewed for her current job as an appeals court judge in the D.C. circuit. Breyer's retirement before the fall midterms gives Biden the opportunity to pick a justice while Democrats control the 50-50 Senate.


Economy grew last year at fastest pace since 1984

The U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2021, its strongest growth since 1984, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. In 2020, it shrank by 3.4 percent, the largest drop in 74 years. The turnaround came after the federal government provided trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief. Growth picked up in the fourth quarter as companies managed to partially restore inventories that had been depleted by supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and strong demand. The recovery and supply problems have resulted in high inflation as well as strong job growth, which have made it possible for the Federal Reserve to map out plans to wind down its efforts to boost the economy with asset purchases and near-zero interest rates.


Russia, U.S. push diplomacy despite stalemate in Ukraine crisis

Russia and the United States said Thursday they remained open to diplomacy to resolve the Ukraine crisis, although Moscow said it was clear the U.S. and its NATO allies were not willing to address its security concerns. A day earlier, the U.S. and NATO submitted written responses rejecting Russia's demand that Ukraine be barred from NATO membership. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia, which has massed 100,000 troops near its Ukraine border and raised fears it plans to invade, needed time for review the situation, but that the U.S. and NATO responses left little reason to be optimistic. President Biden reiterated to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that there is a "distinct possibility" Russia could invade Ukraine in February.


Affordable Care Act enrollments hit record 14.5 million 

A record number of Americans — about 14.5 million — have enrolled in health coverage through Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces this year, according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services. The total smashed the previous enrollment high by nearly 2 million. The data marked a victory for President Biden, who has made expanding insurance access one of his domestic priorities. The White House responded with a statement in which Biden said he was proud to see "the highest numbers ever produced in an open enrollment period." The 14.5 million included 10.3 million who picked health plans through HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace. Another 4.2 million signed up through in the District of Columbia and 17 states that run their own marketplaces.


Judge cancels Biden administration's offshore oil and gas leases

A federal judge on Thursday invalidated a massive offshore oil and gas lease in the Gulf of Mexico, ruling that the Biden administration violated federal rules by relying on an analysis that didn't fully take into account how the leases would affect the climate. In his first days in office, President Biden issued an executive order pausing new oil and gas drilling permits. Thirteen states filed a lawsuit, and a Louisiana judge blocked the order. The Biden administration, saying its hands were tied, offered 80 million acres for drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, and sold 1.7 million acres of leases, netting nearly $192 million. Environmental groups sued over the sale, saying it was based on flawed assumptions from an outdated model, and U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras agreed.


Coast Guard calls off search for migrants missing since boat capsized

The Coast Guard said Thursday it was suspending its search for more than 30 people still missing after a suspected human-smuggling boat capsized last weekend off the Florida coast. The decision came after search crews recovered five bodies. "It does mean that we don't think it's likely that anyone else has survived," Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian, the commander of the Coast Guard's Miami sector, said in a news conference. The vessel reportedly capsized on the way to Florida after leaving the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, a country often used as a departure point for migrants from Haiti and Cuba. Only one survivor has been rescued — a man found clinging to the overturned vessel's hull.


Apple reports record quarter despite supply bottlenecks

Apple on Thursday reported record quarterly revenue and profit despite supply chain problems. The iPhone maker said revenue reached $123.9 billion in the last three months of 2021, and profit hit $34.6 billion. Both figures exceeded analysts' expectations and smashed company records. CEO Tim Cook said supply chain constraints are expected to ease in the current quarter, although it was not possible to project when the bottlenecks would clear up for good. Apple predicted it would see year-on-year growth in the first quarter of 2022. Apple shares rose 4 percent in after-market trading after the earnings report.


Report: Climate damage from gas stoves worse than previously known

Gas stoves emit tiny methane leaks even when turned off, contributing more to climate change than previously believed, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Even when off, U.S. gas stoves emit 2.6 million tons of methane — in carbon dioxide equivalent units — per year, about as much as 500,000 cars, the California research team found. "They're constantly bleeding a little bit of methane into the atmosphere all the time," said the study's co-author, Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist. The data on emissions around stoves in homes also raised concerns about indoor air quality and its impact on health due to high levels of nitrogen oxides.


MSNBC reveals Brian Williams replacement

MSNBC President Rashida Jones confirmed Thursday in an internal memo that Stephanie Ruhle, who anchors the morning show Stephanie Ruhle Reports, will replace Brian Williams as host of The 11th Hour. "Stephanie has been a staple of our dayside anchor team and a trusted voice on topics at the intersection of politics, finance, and international business," Jones said. Ruhle also will appear on the network's other platforms as NBC News senior business analyst, Jones said. Williams announced in November that he would be leaving after nearly 30 years with NBC News, saying it was "the end of a chapter and the beginning of another." Williams moved to MSNBC from the NBC Nightly News after a controversy over false statements he made about his experiences covering the Iraq War.


East Coast braces for powerful winter storm 

A major winter storm is threatening to hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic with hurricane-force winds and heavy snow this weekend. "A winter storm is likely to create significant impacts across New England Friday night through Sunday," the National Weather Service said Thursday. "Notable impacts may also extend south along the East Coast through North Carolina." New England could get the heaviest snow, with more than 20 inches possible in eastern Massachusetts, Long Island, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod. New York City could get six inches of snow or more. The Weather Channel said the system could develop into a powerful nor'easter starting late Friday.


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