Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 3, 2022

Biden approves sending 3,000 troops to support allies in Ukraine crisis, Biden aims to "supercharge" his "cancer moonshot" effort, and more

1

Biden approves sending 3,000 troops to back allies in Ukraine crisis

President Biden has approved sending 3,000 more U.S. troops to Poland, Germany, and Romania as tensions rise with Russia over Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. About 2,000 of the soldiers will go to Poland and Germany. The other 1,000 are based in Germany but will be deployed to Romania. The troops are expected to move "in the coming days" to support the defenses of European allies, Defense Department officials said. But Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stressed that the soldiers "are not going to fight in Ukraine." The U.S. has placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert recently as the U.S. and its NATO allies have warned that Russia has massed 100,000 of its forces near the Ukraine border and is preparing to invade.

2

Biden unveils plan to 'supercharge' cancer 'moonshot' campaign

President Biden on Wednesday unveiled a plan to boost cancer prevention, screening, and treatment to reduce the death rate by at least half in the next 25 years. The push is designed to "supercharge" the "cancer moonshot" Biden started and spearheaded when he was vice president under former President Barack Obama, Biden said as he announced the campaign. Biden said he would create a "cancer cabinet" to lead the effort. Biden embraced the cause after his son Beau died from brain cancer in 2015 at age 46. Biden and first lady Jill Biden were joined Wednesday by Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother, a cancer researcher, died of the disease. Some details of the plan were not immediately clear, including how to pay for it.

3

Army says it will start discharging unvaccinated soldiers

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that it will immediately begin discharging 3,300 soldiers who have refused orders to get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to an Army memo dated Jan. 31, commanders must immediately begin "involuntary administrative separation proceedings" against any soldier who "has received a lawful order to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19," "has been provided a reasonable opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination," "has made a final declination of immunization," and "does not have a pending or approved medical or administrative exemption." The Army will be the last branch of the armed forces to begin discharging unvaccinated service members. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force have discharged a combined total of almost 600 troops, according to The Associated Press.

4

Jeff Zucker resigns as CNN president over 'consensual' affair

CNN President Jeff Zucker resigned Wednesday after admitting he failed to disclose a romantic relationship with one of his chief lieutenants. Zucker, 56, said the information about his "consensual relationship" with his "closest colleague," CNN Executive Vice President Allison Gollust, came out during an internal investigation into Chris Cuomo, the CNN host fired in December over his involvement in the response of his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to sexual harassment allegations that forced him from office. Zucker said he was required to disclose the relationship "when it began but I didn't. I was wrong." Both Zucker and Gollust are divorced. Gollust, who plans to continue working at CNN, said she and Zucker were friends for 20 years but their relationship "changed during COVID."

5

U.S. says Syria counterterrorism raid was successful, but locals say civilians died

U.S. special forces conducted a major counterterrorism raid in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border on Thursday. First responders said 13 people were killed, including six children, in what appeared to be the largest such U.S. operation since the assault that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019 during the Trump administration. Residents told The Associated Press that the raid involved helicopters, explosions, and machine-gun fire at a house in rebel-held Idlib province, an area where there are many camps for Syrians displaced by the country's civil war. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said "the mission was successful" with "no U.S. casualties." The target was believed to be an al Qaeda leader.

6

NY judge's son pleads guilty to Jan. 6 riot charges

Aaron Mostofsky, a New York judge's son who was among the first people to enter the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft of government property, entering a restricted building, and civil disorder, a felony. During the riot, he carried a bulletproof vest and riot shield he picked up at the Capitol. Mostofsky admitted that he participated in the riot "dressed as a caveman and carrying a walking stick," according to a statement of offense. He had told a friend that "the fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election was so obvious, even a caveman would know the election was stolen" from former President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg accepted the plea and scheduled sentencing for May.

7

Facebook lost daily users for 1st time last quarter

Facebook lost daily users for the first time in its 18-year-history last quarter, the social media giant's parent company, Meta, said Wednesday. Meta also reported a larger-than-expected decline in profits and middling revenue forecasts, sending its stock price plummeting more than 20 percent in after-hours trading. The drop in stock price at least temporarily erased nearly $200 billion in Meta's market value — "a figure greater than the size of the entire Greek economy," The Associated Press noted. The decline in Facebook's daily users was fairly modest — fewer than a million people worldwide — and the number of people logging into Facebook each month actually grew a bit, as did daily use of all Meta apps combined, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

8

FBI identifies 6 juveniles as persons of interest in HBCU bomb threats

The FBI on Wednesday identified six "tech-savvy" juveniles as persons of interest in apparently racially motivated bomb threats made against more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities this week. Howard University in Washington, D.C., was the first school to issue a shelter-in-place order early Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month. The university issued an all-clear notice later in the day. Howard and other schools received threats on Monday and Tuesday. Investigators said persons of interest around the country are suspected of using sophisticated methods to hide the source of the threats.

9

Prosecutors charge 4 over actor Michael K. Williams' fatal drug overdose

Federal prosecutors in New York said Wednesday that authorities had arrested four people in connection with the fatal overdose of actor Michael K. Williams, the Emmy-nominated actor best known for his role in The Wire. Irvin Cartagena, 39; Hector Robles, 57; Luiz Cruz, 56; and Carlos Macci, 70, were charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl analog, fentanyl, and heroin. Cartagena was also charged with selling Williams the drugs that caused his death. Williams, who was 54, was seen on surveillance video appearing to buy from Cartagena the day before he died. Williams was found dead at his Brooklyn home on Sept. 6, wearing the clothes he had on in the video. The Medical Examiner found he accidentally died of an overdose of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.

10

Washington Football Team picks Commanders as new name

The Washington Football Team announced Wednesday that it has selected the Commanders as its new name. The franchise has been called the Washington Football Team for two years as it searched for a permanent replacement for its former name of 87 years, the Washington Redskins, which it dropped following steady complaints that it was offensive and racist. Team president Jason Wright and coach Ron Rivera said during the 20-month selection process that the new name probably would refer to the military because the team is based in the nation's capital. "We are excited to rally and rise together as one under our new identity while paying homage to our local roots," team owner Dan Snyder said as the team unveiled its new logo and uniforms.

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