Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 28, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine would consider neutral status in a peace deal, China's biggest city imposes a coronavirus lockdown, and more

1

Zelensky says Ukraine ready to consider neutral status in peace deal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that his country was prepared to discuss neutral status in a peace deal to end Russia's invasion, but only if it's approved in a referendum and compliance is guaranteed by third parties. "Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it," Zelensky told Russian journalists in a video call ahead of a new round of talks with Russia on Monday. Ukraine's military said Sunday its counter-offensives had forced Russian forces outside Kyiv back into Belarus. Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Agency, said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has realized "he can't swallow the entire country" and might try splitting it, like North and South Korea.

2

China's biggest city imposes its 1st coronavirus lockdown

The government of China's biggest city, Shanghai, announced Sunday night that it was imposing staggered lockdowns and mandatory coronavirus testing to help contain the latest COVID-19 outbreak. Local officials will start putting the policies into place on Monday. Shanghai, a global financial hub with a population of 26 million, had just a handful of new cases daily in early March, but new infections spiked to more than 2,600 on Sunday. Under the restrictions taking effect Monday, only citizens providing essential and public services will be allowed to leave their residences in half of the city for the next five days, and in the other half for the five days after that. Shanghai avoided full citywide lockdowns earlier in the pandemic.

3

U.S. NATO ambassador says Biden comment doesn't mean U.S. seeks Russia regime change

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith on Sunday reiterated the White House's downplaying of President Biden's declaration that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" after his country's invasion of Ukraine. Smith emphasized that the United States does not have a policy aiming for regime-change in Moscow. She said Biden's ad-libbed comment was a "principled human reaction" after meeting with Ukrainian refugees and hearing "their heroic stories as they were fleeing Ukraine in the wake of Russia's brutal war in Ukraine." Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that Biden's suggestion that the U.S. wanted Putin out of power played "into the hands" of "Russian propagandists."

4

House Jan. 6 committee report details contempt case against 2 Trump allies

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack released a report on Sunday detailing the case for filing criminal contempt of Congress charges against two Trump administration officials for failing to comply with its subpoenas. The panel argued in the report that former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino Jr. participated actively in the efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden's decisive 2020 election victory over Trump. The panel is expected to vote Monday on recommending that the full House refer the matter to the Justice Department. Navarro, like numerous other Trump allies, has refused to cooperate with the committee, citing Trump's claim of executive privilege.

5

Blinken reassures Israel and Arab allies

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday assured Israel and Arab allies in the Persian Gulf region that the potential revival of the international nuclear deal with Iran would not threaten their security. Blinken, speaking ahead of a meeting with Israel and four Arab nations, acknowledged the allies' opposition to a possible deal they say will embolden Iran. "When it comes to the most important element, we see eye-to-eye," Blinken said during a news conference with Israel's foreign minister. "We are both committed, both determined that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon." The Trump administration withdrew from the landmark deal in 2018, and it subsequently came apart. The Biden has been trying to restore it.

6

FDA to authorize second boosters for people 50 and older

The Food and Drug Administration is expected this week to authorize a second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for people aged 50 and older, The Washington Post reported Sunday, citing several government officials. The decision comes as the United States braces for a rise in COVID-19 cases from a fast-spreading Omicron sub-variant that has fueled a surge in Europe. The officials said the announcement could come as soon as Tuesday, and that the policy could still change. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, is expected to promptly sign off on the FDA decision.

7

White House principal deputy press secretary tests positive for COVID

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday following her return from President Biden's Europe trip. She had traveled on Air Force One with Biden, who was in Europe to discuss the Ukraine crisis with allies. "I last saw the president during a socially distanced meeting yesterday, and the president is not considered a close contact as defined by CDC guidance," Jean-Pierre, 44, said in a statement Sunday evening. She said she had "mild" COVID-19 symptoms and would work from home during a five-day isolation, then return, provided she tests negative. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID-19 before the Europe trip, and stayed in the U.S.

8

ISIS suspect goes on trial for deaths of U.S. journalists, aid workers

El Shafee Elsheikh, one of four Islamic State militants accused of murdering journalists and aid workers after traveling from London to Syria, goes on trial this week in connection with the deaths of four Americans. Elsheikh, 33, is the only alleged member of the notorious terror cell know as "The Beatles" to face trial in the United States. He and a friend, Alexanda Kotey, were captured by Kurdish forces in 2018, then transferred to U.S. custody. Kotey pleaded guilty last year. Elsheikh's trial in a Virginia federal court begins Tuesday for his alleged role in the capture and murder of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Mohamed Emwazi, dubbed "Jihadi John" in the press, killed many of the prisoners on camera. He was killed in a 2015 drone strike.

9

UNC beats St. Peter's to take last spot in NCAA men's Final Four

The University of North Carolina trounced underdog St. Peter's 69-49 on Sunday to earn the last spot in the Final Four of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. St. Peter's was the first 15th seed in history to reach a regional final. But they couldn't get shots to fall against Carolina, a No. 8 seed. UNC will play Duke in the Final Four for the first time in their storied rivalry. Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, in the last of his 42 seasons at the school, will be leading his team into a record 13th Final Four. Kansas, the lone surviving regional No. 1 seed, will play Villanova in New Orleans, with the winners of the two games facing off for the championship. The women's Final Four will be set Monday.

10

CODA becomes 1st streaming-service film to win Best Picture Oscar

The Apple TV+ film CODA won Best Picture at Sunday's Academy Awards, upsetting Netflix's The Power of the Dog to become the first movie released by a streaming service to win the top Oscar. Jane Campion won Best Director for The Power of the Dog. Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for her role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Will Smith, who rattled the event by slapping Chris Rock on stage, won Best Actor for his performance in King Richard. Ariana DeBose won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in West Side Story, becoming the first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar, according to Variety. "Even in this weary world that we live in, dreams do come true, and that's really a heartening thing right now," DeBose said in her acceptance speech.

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