Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 22, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson pledges independence on Supreme Court, Russia escalates attacks on Ukraine cities, and more


Ketanji Brown Jackson pledges to rule 'without fear or favor' on Supreme Court

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson told senators on the first day of her historic confirmation hearings Monday that she takes "very seriously" her "duty to be independent" as a judge. "I evaluate the facts and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me without fear or favor," Jackson said, "consistent with my judicial oath." She faces her first round of questions Tuesday. The Senate confirmed Jackson last year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, she will be the first Black woman to serve on the high court and the first justice with experience as a public defender.


Russia steps up strikes against Ukraine cities

Russian forces escalated strikes against Ukrainian cities on Monday, with one attack leaving a once-busy Kyiv shopping mall in ruins. Residents in the besieged southern city of Mariupol endured a fresh wave of airstrikes after Ukrainian authorities rebuffed Russia's ultimatum for them to surrender the strategically important port city. "A neighbor said that God left Mariupol," said Nadezhda Sukhorukova after escaping. "My city is dying a painful death." President Biden heads to Europe this week to discuss the Ukraine war with U.S. allies. Russia's foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, John Sullivan, to warn that Biden's recent remarks calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a "murderous dictator" were pushing "Russian-American relations on the verge of breaking."


U.S. determines Myanmar committed genocide against Rohingya minority

The United States on Monday formally accused Myanmar's army of committing genocide against the country's Rohingya minority. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the military's attacks against Rohingya were "widespread and systematic," with evidence indicating a clear aim to wipe out the mainly Muslim minority. "The day will come when those responsible for these appalling acts will have to answer for them," Blinken said at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where evidence of the Myanmar military's abuse against Rohingya Muslims is on display. U.S. officials hope the designation will boost efforts to hold Myanmar's military leaders accountable for years of alleged atrocities, which peaked with a series of massacres in 2017.


Russian soldiers disperse Ukrainian protesters with stun grenades

Russian troops on Monday used stun grenades and warning shots to disperse Ukrainians demonstrating against Russia's invasion in the southern city of Kherson, Ukrainian officials said. "Russian security forces ran up, started throwing stun grenades into the crowd and shooting," the Ukrainian armed forces press service said. Video footage showed several hundred protesters running away as projectiles landed around them in Kherson's Freedom Square. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the protesters' courage after they confronted Russian forces occupying their city. "There is no need to organize resistance," Zelensky said. "Resistance for Ukrainians is part of their soul." He said the war and commitment to defending the country has turned ordinary Ukrainians into heroes.


Biden urges CEOs to prepare for Russian cyberattacks

President Biden on Monday told leaders of U.S. companies they had a "patriotic obligation" to invest in bolstering their defenses against cyberattacks that Russia could launch as it continues to face harsh sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. Biden warned that the United States has "evolving intelligence" that "Russia may be planning a cyberattack against us. ... The magnitude of Russia's cyber capacity is fairly consequential, and it's coming." Biden told members of the Business Roundtable that federal assistance was available to companies if they needed it. He added that his administration was "doing its part" to prepare for such an attack.


Biden reportedly sending Ukraine old Soviet air-defense weapons

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. went on a secret buying spree to collect "a small number of Soviet missile defense systems so that they could be examined by U.S. intelligence experts and help with training American forces," The Wall Street Journal reports. Now the U.S. is sending some of those air defense systems to Ukraine to help Ukrainian forces shoot down Russian fighter jets and missiles. Ukrainian soldiers already know how to operate old Soviet weapons systems. President Biden was authorized to give Ukraine and NATO allies the weapons systems from the secret Soviet stockpile under the annual spending bill he recently signed, and Congress has been notified about these transfers, the Journal reports, citing U.S. officials.


Powell says Fed could accelerate rate hikes to fight inflation

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Monday that the central bank would speed up its interest-rate hikes if necessary to bring down high inflation, which has reached its highest pace in 40 years. "There is an obvious need to move expeditiously to return the stance of monetary policy to a more neutral level, and then to move to more restrictive levels if that is what is required to restore price stability," Powell said to a conference of business economists. The Fed last week hiked rates for the first time since 2018. It raised them a quarter-point from near zero, where it has kept them since the start of the coronavirus pandemic sent the economy into a recession. The Fed also signaled at the end of its two-day meeting that it would raise rates six more times this year.


Former Missouri governor's ex-wife accuses him of physical abuse

The ex-wife of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens accuses him of being physically abusive and exhibiting such "unstable and coercive behavior" that steps were taken to limit his access to guns, according to court records released Monday. Eric Greitens, now a leading Republican Senate candidate, said the allegations were "completely fabricated." The affidavit from Sheena Greitens was filed as part of a child custody battle in Missouri. Sheena Greitens, a University of Texas public affairs professor, began divorce proceedings after a sex scandal that led to Eric Greitens' resignation in June 2018. She is asking the Missouri court to transfer the custody case to Texas, partly to protect the children from the public spotlight as their father attempts to revive his political career.


Report: 96-year-old Holocaust survivor killed by Russian strike in Ukraine

The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial institute confirmed Monday that 96-year-old Holocaust survivor Borys Romanchenko was killed Friday by a Russian strike on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The memorial said it was "stunned" by the death of Romanchenko, who survived the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald, Peenemünde, Dora, and Bergen-Belsen during World War II. It said he had worked "intensively on the memory of Nazi crimes and was vice-president of the Buchenwald-Dora International Committee." Yulia Romanchenko, Borys' granddaughter, told CNN that she asked locals for news of her grandfather's house after learning through social networks about shelling in his neighborhood. "They sent me a video of a burning house."


Search continues for victims, black boxes from China plane crash

Thousands of firefighters and police continued to search Tuesday for victims and the flight recorders of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 jet that crashed in mountainous terrain in southern China on Monday. All 132 passengers and crew were feared dead. Debris was scattered across slopes that were charred by fire that erupted when the aircraft hit. The plane crashed near Wuzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, state broadcaster CCTV reported. It was flying from Kunming, capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, to the port city of Guangzhou when it plunged from cruising altitude. "Accidents that start at cruise altitude are usually caused by weather, deliberate sabotage, or pilot error," Dan Elwell, a former Federal Aviation Administration head, told Reuters.


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