Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 8, 2022

Biden vows to stop pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, Supreme Court halts re-do of Alabama electoral map faulted for racial bias, and more

1

Biden vows to block gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine

President Biden vowed to block the planned Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe if Moscow sends troops into Ukraine. Biden, standing with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House, said the U.S. and its NATO allies are unified in their commitment to react strongly if Russia invades. Biden also said any U.S. citizens remaining in Ukraine would be "wise" to leave, even though Biden said he remained hopeful that diplomacy would defuse the crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a bid to de-escalate tensions. "I believe that our continent is today in an eminently critical situation, which requires us all to be extremely responsible," Macron said.

2

Supreme Court halts redrawing of Alabama electoral map

The Supreme Court on Monday put on hold a lower court decision ordering Alabama to redraw a congressional district map that appeared to discriminate against Black voters. The high court's 5-4 decision marked a key win for Republicans because it meant the map drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature could be used in the November mid-term elections when Republicans will try to regain control of Congress. The lower court judges ruled the map diluted the influence of Black voters, who represent 25 percent of the population but only make up a majority in just one of the state's seven districts. Conservative justices said it was too close to Election Day to redraw the map.

3

Biden science adviser Eric Lander resigns 

President Biden's top science adviser, Eric Lander, resigned Monday after an internal investigation found that he violated the White House's workplace policy. The two-month investigation found that Lander was "bullying" his former general counsel, Rachel Wallace, Politico reported, citing investigation recordings and documents it obtained. Lander apologized in his resignation letter to Biden, saying he was "devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them." Biden warned on his first day in office that he would fire "on the spot" anyone who doesn't treat others with respect. Lander is the first Cabinet-level administration official to be fired or leave under pressure.

4

National Archives takes 15 boxes of records from Trump at Mar-a-Lago

The National Archives and Records Administration last month took 15 boxes of documents and other items from former President Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing Archives officials. Trump had taken them to his Mar-a-Lago resort residence in Palm Beach, Florida, instead of turning them over as the Presidential Records Act requires. Trump advisers say the former president did nothing wrong by keeping the boxes, saying they contained gifts and letters from world leaders. The Post also reported recently that Trump frequently tore up documents, apparently violating records rules. Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said following the Presidential Records Act "is critical to our democracy" because it ensures accountability.

5

Rumble offers Joe Rogan $100 million to switch from Spotify

Conservative video hosting website Rumble on Monday tweeted an offer to pay popular podcaster Joe Rogan $100 million to leave Spotify and bring his show, The Joe Rogan Experience, to its platform. Rogan and Spotify apologized for Rogan's airing of inaccurate COVID-19 information and his use of racial slurs as several recording artists, starting with Neil Young, pulled their music off the streaming platform in protest. Rumble bills itself as an anti-censorship platform and is popular with the American right, and its CEO, Chris Pavlovski, said in a letter to Rogan posted on Twitter that his company is ready to "stand with you, your guests, and your legion of fans in desire for real conversation."

6

Canadian judge bars protesters from honking horns in Ottawa

A Canadian judge on Monday issued a 10-day injunction barring truckers protesting vaccine mandates from honking their horns in downtown Ottawa. "Tooting a horn is not an expression of any great thought I'm aware of," Justice Hugh McLean of the Ottawa Superior Court said. He also said the ban would not violate demonstrators' right to protest. A convoy of truckers and other demonstrators protesting Canada's COVID-19 policies entered Ottawa on Jan. 29 and has been blocking streets and using horns to disturb residents ever since. According to the order, police now can arrest and remove people who knowingly violate the ban, and release them if they promise in writing to obey the judge's order.

7

Frontier to buy Spirit Airlines in deal worth $6.6 billion

Frontier on Monday agreed to buy rival low-cost airline Spirit for $2.9 billion in cash and stock. The total value would be $6.6 billion, including debt and operating leases. If the sale goes through, it will create the nation's fifth-biggest airline and a discount-flight powerhouse more able to compete with bigger carriers. Low-cost airlines have shaken up the airline industry in recent years by offering passengers often far cheaper flights by cutting frills. The consolidation comes as the travel industry tries to rebound from a painful pandemic-induced slowdown while still fighting higher costs and labor shortages caused by COVID-19. Spirit shares jumped by 17 percent on Monday. Frontier rose by 3.5 percent.

8

Judge rules U.S. must pay Texas church massacre victims and families $230 million

A federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. government must pay $230 million to victims and families of victims of a 2017 Texas church massacre. The gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been court-martialed by the Air Force for assaulting his then-wife and stepson in 2012. He should have been barred from owning firearms due to the conviction, but the Air Force failed to enter his name in the correct database, allowing him to buy the AR-556 rifle he used to kill 26 people and wound 22 others at the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez awarded damages to about 80 people who were wounded or lost family members. 

9

U.S.-born Eileen Gu wins freestyle skiing gold for China

Eileen Gu, the 18-year-old Californian competing for China at the Beijing Winter Olympics, won her first gold medal on Monday. The U.S.-born freestyle skiing prodigy was trailing Tess Ledeux of France and another skier heading into her final jump of the women's big air competition. She landed her first-ever double cork 1620, a move in which skiers spin 4 1/2 times while rotating twice off-axis while soaring 20 feet above the snow. It was enough to vault her into first. Ledeux, unable to match Gu's score, won the silver medal. Gu has attracted international attention for her decision to represent China, her mother's homeland, rather than the U.S. She has two more events in her effort to win three golds.

10

COVID knocks U.S. figure skater Vincent Zhou out of Olympics

U.S. figure skater Vincent Zhou said Monday night that his positive coronavirus test would prevent him from competing in the men's singles competition, which starts Tuesday. Zhou, 21, contributed to the U.S. silver-medal winning team performance, but he will not be able to join his teammates Tuesday when they accept their medals due to the Beijing Winter Olympics' strict COVID-19 protocols. "We just feel bad for him not being able to share this moment with us," said Brandon Frazier, who was part of the silver-medal-winning effort along with his partner, Alexa Knierim. "When you get held back from doing what you've been training to do your whole life, it's a really tough pill to swallow."

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