Daily briefing

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

Russia and Ukraine make little progress in talks as Russian strikes escalate, the global COVID death toll hits 6 million, and more

1

Russia and Ukraine end 3rd round of talks with little progress 

Russia and Ukraine on Monday ended a third round of talks with no breakthrough, as Ukraine continued to resist intensifying Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities. Russia is demanding that Ukraine accept neutrality, demilitarize, drop its effort to join NATO, and give up parts of eastern Ukraine. An adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said some progress had been made on improving the "logistics of humanitarian corridors" for civilians to leave besieged cities as conditions worsened. Ukrainians boarded buses to leave the eastern city of Sumy on Tuesday, the first evacuation from a Ukrainian city through an agreed humanitarian corridor after several failed attempts.

2

Global COVID death toll reaches 6 million

The known global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic on Monday surpassed 6 million, up from 5 million in November, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. "Six million is really unfathomable," said Beth Blauer, the data leader for the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins. "These are real lives." The grim milestone came as COVID-19 trends are improving around the United States and the world as the surge driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant eases. Death rates are still the highest among people who haven't been vaccinated. "The large majority of the deaths and the severe cases are in the unvaccinated, vulnerable segment of the population," said Tikki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore's medical school and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Immunization Coalition.

3

Supreme Court rejects GOP efforts to block Pennsylvania, North Carolina redistricting rulings

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Republicans' efforts to block congressional districting plans ordered by state courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, handing at least a temporary victory to Democrats. In separate orders, the high court ruled that maps selected by the North Carolina and Pennsylvania state Supreme Courts were to be used for the 2022 midterm elections. Both maps are more favorable to Democrats than the ones drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislatures. The North Carolina map is expected to give Democrats an additional House seat, and the Pennsylvania map is expected to result in more Democratic wins, too. The Republicans argued that the Constitution gives state lawmakers sole authority in decisions on conducting elections.

4

Senate unanimously approves anti-lynching bill

The Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill to criminalize lynching after a century of failed attempts. The legislation, which passed the House last month and is expected to be signed by President Biden, makes lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The effort to pass the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, named after the 14-year-old boy from Chicago tortured and killed while visiting family in Mississippi, gained momentum following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), said the Senate's unanimous passage of the bill sent "a clear and emphatic message that our nation will no longer ignore this shameful chapter of our history."

5

Biden administration tightens emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks

The Biden administration announced Monday that it is tightening emissions standards for large trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency is updating standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from heavy-duty trucks for the first time since 2001 in a bid to reduce smog. The EPA also announced more than $1.3 billion in funding to get more clean transportation and school buses on the road. Before this move, the Biden administration had focused on cutting emissions from passenger cars and other light-duty vehicles. Heavy-duty vehicles cause about 23 percent of total vehicle emissions, although there are far fewer of them than smaller vehicles.

6

Supreme Court declines to reverse ruling overturning Cosby sexual assault conviction

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a request by prosecutors to undo a 2021 ruling in Pennsylvania that overturned comedian and actor Bill Cosby's 2018 sexual assault conviction. The justices let the decision, which was made by a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court, stand. The Pennsylvania high court said that Cosby should never have been charged because a previous local district attorney had promised in 2005 that he would not be prosecuted. The ruling angered sexual assault victims. Cosby had spent nearly three years in state prison. He had been sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former employee of Cosby's alma mater Temple University.

7

Gas prices hit record high as Russia's Ukraine invasion drives up oil prices

Gas prices continued to rise early Tuesday as bipartisan support for a ban on Russian oil imports grew in Congress. The national average reached $4.173 per gallon, surpassing the previous record of $4.114 reached in July 2008, automobile club AAA said. The price of oil jumped by about 14 percent on Monday, with the international benchmark Brent crude reaching about $129 per barrel, up from about $65 per barrel in early December. U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate rose about 8 percent to roughly $125 per barrel. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been urging President Biden to ban Russian oil imports as part of the effort to impose harsher sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

8

Authorities call grounded Haitian freighter largest human smuggling event in years 

Authorities in Florida said Monday that a wooden freighter that ran aground with 356 Haitian migrants on board was the largest human smuggling event in years. The boat got stuck Sunday about 200 yards from shore in the Florida Keys near the well-known Ocean Reef Club on North Key Largo. About 158 migrants swam and waded to shore. The 198 others were rescued by a Coast Guard cutter. Hansel Pintos, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's seventh district, said the vessel appeared designed to ferry goods between Haitian coastal towns, not travel on the open ocean. "Folks who make this kind of voyage in grossly overloaded boats are putting their lives in danger," Pintos said. Haiti has struggled with a worsening security situation since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July.

9

Report: Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows may have committed voter fraud

Mark Meadows, who quit his North Carolina congressional seat to become former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff in March 2020, registered to vote for the 2020 election using the address of a rural North Carolina mobile home he never lived in and, according to its former owner, never slept at, North Carolina's WRAL reported Monday night. Meadows voted by mail from Alexandria, Virginia, in 2020, but he is still registered at the North Carolina rental home. Registering using a residence you have never stayed at constitutes voter fraud in North Carolina and providing false information on your voter registration form is a federal crime. Meadows was a prominent critic of mail-in voting in 2020 and a vocal proponent of Trump's false post-election voter fraud claims.

10

Trucks, other vehicles circle D.C. in 2nd day of COVID policy protest

Hundreds of vehicles, including dozens of semi-trucks, circled the Capital Beltway for a second day on Monday to protest vaccine mandates and other elements of the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Organizer Brian Brase said the group did not plan to leave the highway but that some participants wanted to drive into Washington, D.C. The so-called People's Convoy made two loops of the 64-mile highway on Sunday and one on Monday. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told her no security threats were anticipated. "It seems their cause has dissolved with masks coming down, and COVID no longer quite the problem it has been nationwide," Norton said.

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