10 things you need to know today: March 4, 2022
Russia and Ukraine agree on safe corridors for civilians, Russia seizes Ukrainian nuclear power plant, and more
Russia, Ukraine agree to safe corridors for evacuating civilians
Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine reached a tentative agreement Thursday to establish safe corridors for civilians trying to escape fighting in Ukrainian cities. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said the two sides agreed to observe ceasefires wherever the safe corridors are formed. Vladimir Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin's lead negotiator, said the positions of both countries are now "absolutely clear, they are written down point by point," including conditions for any diplomatic settlement. The meeting, held in Belarus near the Polish border, was the second between representatives of the Russian and Ukrainian governments since Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine a week earlier.
Russia seizes Ukraine nuclear plant
Russian troops seized Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after a fire broke out at the southeast Ukraine facility during Russian shelling. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's attack on the plant, the largest in Europe in terms of power-generating capacity, amounted to "nuclear terror." The White House called on the Kremlin to halt military activities around the plant. Russian forces surrounded several cities in southern Ukraine as the war ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin entered its second week. Russia on Thursday seized the Black Sea port of Kherson. The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, accused Russia's military of intentionally targeting civilian areas. Putin said in a meeting with his security council that the invasion was going "according to plan."
Ex-Louisville officer found not guilty of endangering Breonna Taylor's neighbors
A jury on Thursday found former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Brett Hankison not guilty for endangering a family in a neighboring apartment during the raid that killed Breonna Taylor. Hankison was accused of firing shots that went through a wall and endangered the lives of Cody Etherton, his partner, Chelsey Napper, and their 5-year-old son. The officers burst into the apartment, then opened fire after Taylor's boyfriend fired a shot, thinking the officers were home invaders. Taylor, a Black medical technician, was killed. None of the officers were charged over her death. She and her boyfriend were not the targets of the raid, which was part of a narcotics investigation focused on someone else.
U.S. adds more sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs
The Biden administration on Thursday announced it was imposing more sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, this time targeting Russian oligarchs who support President Vladimir Putin. The measures include "full blocking sanctions" on at least eight so-called elites, including Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, and visa restrictions on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their relatives and associates. Also on Thursday, the United Kingdom said it was imposing sanctions on Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov, two oligarchs with a combined wealth of $19 billion who were hit by the U.S. sanctions. "In coordination with the U.S. and other allies, these measures amount to the largest set of financial sanctions in history," U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a press release.
Florida Senate passes GOP bill banning abortion at 15 weeks
Florida's Republican-controlled Senate approved legislation banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The party-line vote sends the measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to sign it. The vote ended a months-long fight over the strictest abortion ban in the state's history. The ban does not include exceptions for rape or incest, but it provides exceptions for women facing risk of death or "irreversible" physical injury, and if the fetus has fatal abnormalities. The bill is the latest GOP legislation seeking to challenge Supreme Court precedents that have established the right to abortion up to fetal viability, around 24 weeks. The high court soon will decide on a 2018 Mississippi ban Florida's law was modeled after.
1 million refugees flee Ukraine
More than one million refugees fled Ukraine in the first week since Russia invaded, United Nations officials said Thursday as the war entered its second week. About half of the refugees are children. "I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one," said Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement. In the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Thursday that the United States has created an 18-month Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Ukrainians who have been in the U.S. since March 1. About 75,000 Ukrainians living in the U.S. are expected to benefit from the program, the Department of Homeland Security estimates.
Iowa's governor signs law barring transgender girls and women from female sports
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a law Thursday banning transgender girls and women from competing in school sports in the state. The law's supporters said it would ensure fair competition for girls and women in K-12 schools, community colleges, colleges, and universities. "No amount of talent, training, or effort on their part can make up for the natural, physical advantages males have over females," Reynolds said. The law requires transgender girls and women to play against boys and men. Transgender boys can compete as boys. Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat, called the law "appalling" and said it discriminated against "some of the most marginalized kids in our society."
Sacklers agree to pay $6 billion in new Purdue Pharma opioid settlement
Members of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, have agreed to pay $6 billion to eight state governments and Washington, D.C., to address the role of the company, maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, in the nationwide opioid crisis. The deal, announced Thursday as part of Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy plan, will provide states with money for treatment programs. It also would include compensation for tens of thousands of people who became addicted to the drug after the company downplayed its risks. The judge still must approve the settlement. The judge rejected an earlier $4.3 billion payout after the states objected to a provision giving some of the Sacklers immunity.
Surgeon general asks tech companies for data on COVID misinformation
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is reportedly asking tech companies to hand over information pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on their platforms. A request for information from Murthy's office calls on companies to provide information regarding "exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of COVID-19 misinformation," in addition to data about the demographics exposed to this misinformation, The New York Times reported Thursday. The request also reportedly asked for information about major sources of COVID-19 misinformation. Murthy in a statement to the Times said that "technology companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about the misinformation on their platforms" to help protect "the nation's health."
Airbnb suspends operations in Russia and Belarus
Airbnb is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, CEO Brian Chesky tweeted on Thursday night. He did not give any additional details on the decision. On Monday, Airbnb said it would help find short-term accommodations for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees through its independent nonprofit, Airbnb.org, which provides housing for people in crisis. "We know that Hosts and guests on Airbnb around the world will be eager to stand up and assist this massive effort to help those fleeing Ukraine," the company said. In the last week, several companies have said they will limit or stop their activities in Russia, including Disney, Ikea, and H&M.