Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 2, 2022

Legendary football star Tom Brady officially retires, Putin accuses the U.S. of trying to drag Russia into war over Ukraine, and more

1

Tom Brady officially announces retirement from NFL

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady confirmed Tuesday that he was retiring from football after 22 seasons and seven Super Bowl wins, ending 72 hours of speculation after his team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got knocked out of the playoffs. Brady, 44, said he couldn't make the "competitive commitment" necessary to compete at the highest level in the NFL. "My teammates, coaches, fellow competitors, and fans deserve 100 percent of me, but right now, it's best I leave the field of play to the next generation of dedicated committed athletes," the football legend wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. Brady led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl wins, then won his final ring after moving to play his final two seasons for the Buccaneers.

2

Putin accuses U.S. of trying to drag Russia into war to justify sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday broke a month-long silence on the Ukraine crisis, accusing the United States and its allies of ignoring Moscow's security concerns. Putin said the U.S. was trying to pull Russia into war as a pretext for imposing harsh economic sanctions to "contain Russia's development," adding that Moscow was willing to continue diplomatic talks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as the U.S. awaited a response on a proposal for negotiations on trimming Russia's demands. Moscow, which has fueled invasion fears by massing 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, wants NATO to bar Ukraine from joining the Western security alliance, and roll back its expansion in Eastern Europe.

3

Bomb threats target HBCUs as Black History Month starts

At least 13 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) reported receiving bomb threats on Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month. At least one of the schools, Howard University in Washington, D.C., also reported a threat Monday. Howard said Tuesday that it lifted a shelter-in-place directive after investigating the latest threat. Morgan State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Kentucky State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Albany State University, Bowie State University, Delaware State University, and Alcorn State University were among the schools that received threats. It was the third time in a month that HBCUs had received bomb threats. Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund also called for the Department of Justice to prioritize stopping the threats, saying they were "highly disruptive and damaging."

4

Native American tribes reach $590 million opioid settlement 

Hundreds of Native American tribes reached a $590 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three biggest U.S. drug distributors over their role in the opioid epidemic, according to an announcement in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, where national opioid litigation is centered. Along with a $75 million settlement the distributors reached with the Cherokee Nation last fall, tribes that have suffered disproportionately high addiction and death rates from opioids will now get a total of $665 million. Purdue Pharma has committed to providing tens of millions more under a settlement still in mediation. "We are not solving the opioid crisis with this settlement, but we are getting critical resources to tribal communities to help address the crisis," said Steven Skikos, a top lawyer for the tribes.

5

National debt rises above $30 trillion

The U.S. national debt surpassed $30 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, according to the Treasury Department. The coronavirus pandemic has fueled a $7 trillion increase since the end of 2019. The U.S. government owes more than $6 trillion of the debt to itself through government trust funds, but nearly $8 trillion of the total is owed to Japan, China, and other foreign creditors. Deficit concerns were a factor in stalling negotiations over President Biden's $2 trillion Build Back Better proposal, which sought to expand the social safety net and increase spending to fight climate change. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), one of two Democratic moderates who kept Biden's package from clearing the evenly divided Senate, said one reason he couldn't back the bill was that it would increase the nation's "staggering debt."

6

4.3 million people quit jobs in December, down slightly from record

About 4.3 million people quit or changed jobs in the United States in December, down slightly from the record 4.5 million resignations in November, according to the Labor Department's latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. The data provided further evidence that the labor market is in flux as the economy recovers from earlier coronavirus pandemic damage while employees struggle to adjust as schools, workplaces, and day-care centers close or alter their operations due to the COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant. Employers reported 10.9 million job openings, far above pre-pandemic levels. "All of this is uncharted territory," says Rucha Vankudre, a senior economist at labor market analytics firm Emsi Burning Glass.

7

New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján recovering from stroke

Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) was hospitalized after suffering a stroke, his chief of staff, Carlos Sanchez, said Tuesday. The New Mexico Democrat underwent surgery to ease brain swelling. "He is currently being cared for at UNM Hospital, resting comfortably, and expected to make a full recovery," Sanchez said. Luján's illness could complicate President Biden's push to quickly replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, because while Luján, 49, is absent, Democrats will only have 49 votes, leaving them without the majority they need in the evenly split Senate to confirm nominations and pass bills on party-line votes. In a 50-50 vote, Vice President Kamala Harris has to step in to cast the tie-breaking vote.

8

Pfizer, BioNTech request vaccine approval for children under age 5

Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday they were asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization to offer two doses of their coronavirus vaccine for children younger than age 5. The companies said they had started submitting data, and were continuing their research on whether the vaccine regimen for this age group should include a third dose. Clinical trials indicated that only children 6 months to 2 years old got an immune response from two doses similar to that of teenagers and young adults. Those 2 to 4 years old got less protection from the initial doses, but regulators encouraged the companies to request authorization anyway, so that immunizations could begin for children under 5, the only Americans not yet eligible for COVID-19 shots.

9

Times sues State Department for emails related to Hunter Biden

The New York Times has sued the State Department, seeking access to diplomatic emails mentioning Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, Insider reported Tuesday, citing court filings. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, requests access to emails sent by U.S. embassy officials in Romania between 2015 and 2019, Insider reported. Lawyers for the Times claim the State Department has delayed responding to Freedom of Information Act requests made in June by Times reporter Kenneth P. Vogel, who had also asked for emails mentioning attorney Rudy Giuliani and Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate to Hunter Biden. Politico said the lawsuit was aimed at determining whether embassy officials did inappropriate favors for private businesses.

10

Student dies in shooting outside Minnesota school

One student was fatally shot and another wounded Tuesday at a school in Richfield, Minnesota. The shooting occurred on a sidewalk just outside the South Education Center, an alternative school with students from pre-K to age 21. Officers responded shortly after the incident was reported, just after noon, but by the time they arrived the suspects had fled. The victims were rushed by ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center, where one of them died. The other was listed in critical condition. Also on Tuesday, two campus officers were fatally shot at Bridgewater College in Virginia after they responded to a call about a suspicious person at the small private liberal arts college. The suspect fled on foot but was later apprehended, and identified as Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, of Ashland, Virginia.

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