Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2022

Survivors emerge from bombed Mariupol theater, the House passes a bill seeking to suspend normal trade relations with Russia, and more

1

Survivors rescued from bombed theater used as shelter in Mariupol

Survivors began emerging Thursday from a theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol that was destroyed by a Russian bombing. "The bomb shelter [of the theater] was able to hold. The rubble is beginning to be cleared. People are coming out alive," the former Donetsk region head Sergei Taruta wrote in a Facebook post. It was not yet clear how many of the estimated 1,200 who reportedly were sheltering in the building have survived. The word "children" was spelled out on the ground around the building. Russia has denied its forces bombed the building. Early Friday, Russian missiles hit the outskirts of Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine that had been a haven for Ukrainians fleeing other parts of the country.

2

House passes bill that would suspend normal trade relations with Russia

The House on Thursday approved legislation seeking to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and its ally Belarus as part of the ongoing effort to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. The bill passed 424 to 8. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he expected the Senate to quickly approve the bill. "We must do all we can to hold Putin accountable for senselessly attacking the Ukrainian people and undermining global stability," House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) wrote in a joint statement. "The suspension of normal trade relations is an essential part of our effort to restore peace, save lives, and defend democracy."

3

Putin threatens to rid Russia of 'traitors' who oppose Ukraine war

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to crack down on people in his country who oppose his invasion of Ukraine, accusing them of serving Western interests and being willing to "sell their own mother." "The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like a gnat that accidentally flew into their mouths — spit them out on the pavement," Putin reportedly said in a call with top officials. He said such a "self-purification" would strengthen Russia. The angry language came as the Russian State Investigative Committee announced criminal investigations against several people accused of spreading "false information" about the military operation Putin ordered in Ukraine.

4

35 companies agree to produce generic Pfizer COVID pill versions

Thirty-five global manufacturers have signed agreements to produce generic versions of Pfizer's antiviral treatment for COVID-19. The Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed nonprofit that negotiated a licensing deal with Pfizer last fall, announced the list of companies participating in the effort and said a 36th company, in Ukraine, was unable to sign its sublicense due to Russia's invasion. The companies plan to sell their versions of Pfizer's COVID pills inexpensively in 95 lower-income countries that are home to half the global population. Together, they operate in 12 countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It will take several months for the companies to get production up and running.

5

Moderna asks FDA to approve second COVID booster for all adults

Drugmaker Moderna on Thursday asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize it to offer a fourth shot of its COVID-19 vaccine for all adults. The drug maker's request came after rival Pfizer asked for federal approval of a fourth dose — a second booster after the two initial shots — of the coronavirus vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech, but only for seniors. Moderna said in a press release that it wanted broad approval for a second booster to give "flexibility" to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide the "appropriate use" of its vaccine. U.S. officials have been preparing for additional booster doses to restore fading protection from serious disease and death.

6

North Carolina investigates Mark Meadows for potential voter fraud

North Carolina's Department of Justice said Thursday that it has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into reports that Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump's final White House chief of staff and a former congressman, committed voter fraud in 2020, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general told WRAL and other news organizations. The New Yorker and WRAL reported earlier this month that Meadows and his wife registered to vote a few weeks before the 2020 election using an address for a mobile home in rural Macon County that they rented that year but rarely, if ever, visited. The mobile home now has a new owner, and the former landlord said she doesn't think Mark Meadows ever even set foot in the place, much less resided there.

7

Jobless claims fall as job market continues to bounce back

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 to 214,000 last week in a sign that layoffs are continuing to drop as the job market bounces back from disruption by the coronavirus pandemic. The less-volatile four-week average of new claims dropped to 223,000 from 231,750 a week earlier. A 50-year low of 1,419,000 Americans were receiving unemployment aid in the week that ended March 5, a 71,000 decline from the previous week. The federal government reported in early March that U.S. employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the most since July. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent in January.

8

NTSB: 13-year-old was driving pickup in crash that killed college golfers

The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that a 13-year-old was driving the pickup truck that struck a van in West Texas, killing nine people, including six members of the University of the Southwest golf teams and their coach. The young teen and an adult who was riding in the truck also died. National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the truck's left front tire, which was a spare, blew out, and the pickup crossed into the oncoming lane of the darkened, two-lane highway. It hit the van, which was returning to New Mexico from a competition in Texas. Both vehicles burst into flames after what "was clearly a high-speed collision," Landsberg said.

9

Peru top court orders jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori freed

Peru's Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered former President Alberto Fujimori to be released from prison, reinstating a controversial pardon granted on Christmas Eve in 2017. Fujimori has been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations, including murder and corruption during his rule in the 1990s. Then-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori after 10 years in jail, arguing that the Andean nation's former leader suffered a heart condition exacerbated by prison conditions. The country's Supreme Court overturned the medical pardon in 2018 and ordered Fujimori, now 83, to serve out his sentence. Organizations representing victims are calling for the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights to review the decision.

10

Moscow court extends detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner

A Moscow court on Thursday extended the detention of professional basketball star Brittney Griner by two months, until May 19. Griner was arrested in Russia last month at the Moscow airport on drug charges. She is accused of possessing cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. Griner was reportedly arrested on Feb. 17, but her detention wasn't reported until three weeks later. She appeared in court Thursday and pleaded not guilty. It was her first public appearance since her arrest, although Russian state media released a mugshot taken after she was detained. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), a former athlete who, like Griner, played for Baylor University, has been working to secure her release. He recently expressed concern that the U.S. Embassy has been denied consular access to her.

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