Daily briefing

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

Russia claims control of Ukraine port but Kyiv offensive stalls, the U.N. General Assembly condemns Russian invasion, and more


Russia claims control of Ukraine port as battles rage in other cities

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said Wednesday that the country's forces were still fighting around Kherson, despite Russia's claim that it had taken "complete control" of the Black Sea port. Mayor Igor Kolykhaev said Russian soldiers had entered the city, and that he asked them not to shoot civilians. Russian forces continued to hammer Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, with airstrikes, but Russia's offensive against the capital, Kyiv, appeared to have stalled. Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged extensive casualties for the first time, saying 498 Russian troops had been killed and 1,597 injured. Ukraine said it had killed 5,840 Russian troops. It put the civilian death toll at 2,000. 


U.N. General Assembly condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine

The United Nations General Assembly voted Wednesday to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine. The resolution, which passed 141 to 5, called for Russia to "immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine" and withdraw all its military forces from its smaller neighbor. Thirty-five nations, including India, Cuba, and China, abstained. Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea were the only countries to vote with Russia against the measure. President Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin had underestimated the unified global opposition to Moscow's unprovoked attack. "He did it because he thought he could split NATO, split Europe, and split the United States," Biden said. "We're going to demonstrate to the whole world: No one can split this country."


Jan. 6 panel tells court Trump, allies may have committed crimes

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack said in a court filing Wednesday that former President Donald Trump and a right-wing lawyer may have participated in a "criminal conspiracy" to overturn President Biden's victory in the 2020 election. "Evidence and information available to the Committee establishes a good-faith belief that Mr. Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts," the committee said in the filing. The committee is trying to persuade a judge to grant it access to emails from the lawyer, John Eastman, who is trying to deny the panel access by claiming attorney-client privilege. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately comment. Prosecutors have not accused Trump or Eastman of any crimes.


Fed chair says rate hikes still coming despite Ukraine uncertainty

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine had created some economic uncertainty, but the central bank plans to stick to its plan to carefully raise interest rates to fight high inflation. Powell acknowledged that the fighting in Ukraine, which has prompted the United States and Western allies to hit Moscow with sanctions, was causing "tremendous hardship" that could affect other countries. "The implications for the U.S. economy are highly uncertain, and we will be monitoring the situation closely," Powell said in remarks prepared for dual appearances this week before House and Senate committees. The Fed is expected to get started with a quarter-point interest rate hike at its meeting in mid-March.


Judge rejects N.Y. attorney general's bid to dissolve NRA

A New York state judge on Wednesday rejected New York Attorney General Letitia James' attempt to dissolve the National Rifle Association. New York Supreme Court Judge Joel Cohen said the state's allegations of corruption and mismanagement by top NRA officials fell short of showing the public harm necessary to justify the "corporate death penalty" for the gun-rights group. Cohen, however, allowed most of James' case against the NRA to go forward. James filed the lawsuit 18 months ago, accusing the NRA and its leaders of violating state laws for nonprofits by using tens of millions of dollars of the group's money for excessive expenses and contracts that benefited their relatives and close associates.


1st Jan. 6 jury trial begins

Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their arguments Wednesday in the first case related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack to go to a jury trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler told the jury that the defendant, Guy Reffitt of Texas, boasted that he "lit the match that started the fire" in the riot aiming to block lawmakers from certifying then-President Donald Trump's election loss to President Biden. William Welch, Reffitt's court-appointed attorney, told jurors Reffitt didn't go into the Capitol, and that the case against Reffitt was based on "bragging and a lot of hype." In another Jan. 6 case, Joshua James, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group, on Wednesday became the first person to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy in connection with the riot, as part of a plea deal.


Google to require workers to return to offices in April

Google said that it would require employees to return to its U.S., U.K., and Asia Pacific offices to work about three days per week starting April 4. All Google workers returning to offices will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or get an exemption. The move marked the internet giant's first step toward ending remote-work policies as COVID-19 cases drop sharply as the Omicron-variant-driven surge subsides. Google-parent Alphabet is the latest in a wave of big technology and finance companies beginning to require workers to come back to the office. Some companies, however, have said they are making voluntary remote-work policies permanent.


Rep. Van Taylor of Texas apologizes for affair and drops re-election bid

Rep. Van Taylor (R-Texas) dropped his bid for a third term in Congress on Wednesday, conceding the GOP runoff to rival candidate Keith Self after admitting to an extramarital affair. "About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world. I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life," Taylor wrote in an email to supporters, The Dallas Morning News reported. Taylor reportedly had an affair with Tania Joya Georgelas, who has been called the "ISIS bride" because she is the widow of an infamous American who joined the Islamic State. Self, a former judge, will become the nominee under Texas law if Taylor withdraws in writing to the state party chair.


Florida governor tells high school students to remove masks

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday told a group of high school students to remove their masks during an event at the University of South Florida on Wednesday, Tampa Bay's NBC affiliate reported. "You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off," DeSantis said as he approached the podium. Several of the students standing behind the podium laughed. Most of them removed their face coverings. "Honestly, it's not doing anything," said DeSantis, a longtime critic of COVID restrictions. "We've gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous." Democrats challenging DeSantis in November's gubernatorial election reacted to the remarks by calling the governor "heartless" and a bully.


Paralympics reverse course and ban Russian athletes

The International Paralympic Committee said Thursday that competitors from Russia and Belarus "will no longer be allowed to participate" in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The IPC had announced Wednesday that athletes from the two countries would be allowed to compete but only as "neutrals," under the Paralympic flag. The Winter Paralympics start Saturday, with the opening ceremonies on Friday. "At the IPC, we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix," IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement. "However, by no fault of its own, the war has now come to these Games." Many members had said their countries would not compete if Russia did, he added.


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