Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 21, 2022

Russia escalates attack on key Ukrainian port of Mariupol, Ketanji Brown Jackson heads into historic confirmation hearings, and more

1

Russia escalates Mariupol assault but Ukraine refuses to surrender city

Russian jets bombed an art school where about 400 Ukrainians were sheltering in the besieged eastern port city of Mariupol on Sunday. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said "no information" was immediately available on casualties or how many people were trapped in the rubble of Art School No. 12. The bombing came as Russian forces pushed into all of the city's civilian neighborhoods, resulting in house-to-house warfare as Russia and Ukraine fought for control and Ukraine refused Russia's call to surrender the city. The escalating battle for Mariupol came as Russia's advance stalled in Kyiv and other cities. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated that peace talks were progressing despite the ongoing assaults.

2

Ketanji Brown Jackson heads into historic Senate confirmation hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday is scheduled to start historic confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court. Jackson, a 51-year-old federal judge who has served for nine years, is expected to make an opening statement late in the day. She will then answer two days of questions from the committee's 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Jackson went through the same process last year when President Biden appointed her to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. The Harvard-trained Jackson is the first nominee since Thurgood Marshall, who was the first Black Supreme Court justice, to have experience as a criminal defense attorney.

3

Zelensky appeals to Israel for more help fighting Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday praised Israel for trying to broker peace with Russia but called for the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to do more to help Ukraine defend itself against invading Russian forces. "It is possible to mediate between countries," Zelensky said, "but not between good and evil." Zelensky, who is Jewish, appealed to Jewish Israelis by invoking times when they were persecuted. Zelensky called for Israel to do more to help Ukraine, asking why Israel had not provided Ukraine with weapons like its Iron Dome anti-rocket missile defense system. Some Israeli lawmakers objected to Zelensky's comparison of the plight of Ukrainians to that of Jews during the Holocaust.

4

White House says Biden to visit Poland but not Ukraine

The White House announced Sunday night that President Biden will travel to Warsaw, Poland, on Friday to meet Saturday with Polish President Andrzej Duda and discuss "the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia's unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created." Poland is hosting thousands of U.S. troops under the auspices of NATO, and has also taken in about 2 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's invasion. Poland, which spent the Cold War behind the Soviet Union's "iron curtain," joined NATO in 1999. Biden will travel to Europe on Wednesday to meet with the leaders of NATO member nations Thursday on strengthening the alliance's deterrence and defense following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not travel to Ukraine itself.

5

Russia's Ukraine invasion threatens to increase world hunger

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is threatening to cause global food shortages and increase world hunger, The New York Times reported Sunday. The war has left much of the world's supply of wheat, corn, and barley stuck in Russia and Ukraine, pushing up wheat and barley prices by 21 percent and 33 percent, respectively, since Russian forces attacked Ukraine nearly a month ago. The cost of some fertilizers has jumped 40 percent, the Times reported. Prices of other commodities, including metals and oil, also have surged. "Ukraine has only compounded a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe," said David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Program. "There is no precedent even close to this since World War II."

6

China Eastern airliner crashes with 132 on board, state media says

A China Eastern airliner with 132 people on board crashed in southern Guangxi province on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV reports. The Boeing 737, apparently Flight MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou, crashed in mountains near the city of Wuzhou. There has been no news on casualties. According to FlightRadar24, the aircraft rapidly lost speed and entered a sharp descent before it stopped transmitting data at 2:22 p.m. local time. China's airline industry has among the best safety records in the world, Reuters reports. The Boeing 737-800 airplane that reportedly crashed Monday had been flying for six years. China's last fatal civilian air crash was in 2010, when 44 of 96 people aboard a Henan Airlines Embraer E-19 crashed at Yichun's airport.

7

Houthi rebels launch strikes against Saudi oil facilities

Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who are battling a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, targeted Saudi energy and water desalination facilities with missile and drone strikes, briefly slowing production at a refinery, the Saudi energy ministry said Sunday. The attacks hit a petroleum distribution terminal, a natural gas plant, and the Yasref refinery in Yanbu, a Red Sea port. The ministry said existing inventory could offset the production loss. Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, said in a call on the company's earnings that the adjustments would prevent any reduction in deliveries to customers. Oil prices rose by more than 3 percent early Monday after the attack, as European nations consider joining a Russian oil embargo in response to Russia's Ukraine invasion.

8

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas hospitalized with infection

Justice Clarence Thomas was hospitalized on Friday after experiencing flu-like symptoms and has since been diagnosed with an infection, the Supreme Court announced Sunday evening. Thomas is receiving care at the Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was diagnosed with an infection after undergoing several tests, and is being treated with intravenous antibiotics, the Supreme Court said. Thomas' symptoms are improving and he expects to be released in a day or two. Supreme Court spokesperson Patricia McCabe said Thomas will "participate in the consideration and discussion of any cases for which he is not present on the basis of the briefs, transcripts, and audio of the oral arguments."

9

Car rams carnival participants in Belgium, killing 6

A speeding car rammed carnival revelers in a small Belgian town on Sunday, killing six people and severely injuring 10 others. "What should have been a great party turned into a tragedy," said Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden. Prosecutors said two local people, both in their 30s, were arrested at the scene. About 150 residents in Strepy-Bracquegnies, about 30 miles south of Brussels, had gathered at dawn and were picking up other revelers at their homes as they walked, dressed in colors, behind drummers. The crowd was participating in the traditional celebration for the first time in three years, after it was canceled twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors said there was no evidence to suggest this tragedy was terror-related.

10

Shanghai Disneyland closes as China fights coronavirus surge

Shanghai Disneyland closed Monday as the biggest coronavirus outbreak in two years hit China's most populous city. Shanghai, which is home to 24 million people, has appealed to people to stay home but stopped short of ordering a lockdown. Bus service into the massive city has been suspended. Jilin, a city of two million in northeastern China, ordered residents to stay home, and, along with the city of Changchun, ordered citywide coronavirus testing. Jilin province, where Jilin and Changchun are located, reported 1,542 of China's 2,027 new cases on Sunday, up from 1,737 the day before. The southern business center of Shenzhen eased its week-long lockdown, allowing shops and offices to reopen.

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