Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 1, 2022

Russia, Ukraine agree to humanitarian Mariupol cease-fire, Biden orders oil release, and more

1

Russia, Ukraine agree to Mariupol cease-fire

Russian and Ukrainian officials on Thursday announced a temporary cease-fire in the battered southern port city of Mariupol to let civilians out and humanitarian aid in. About 100,000 residents are believed trapped in the besieged city, which was home to 450,000 before Russia invaded Ukraine. Both sides have accused the other of violating local cease-fires intended to let civilians leave through humanitarian corridors. The International Committee of the Red Cross is hoping that the temporary cease-fire will let the convoy of 45 buses reach trapped civilians. "Time is running out to help these people," said ICRC spokesperson Alyona Synenko.

2

Biden orders oil release 

President Biden on Thursday ordered the release of one million barrels of oil per day from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve over 180 days to help bring down crude oil prices driven up by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Oil prices fell slightly in anticipation of the announcement. The release — the largest since the emergency stockpile was established in the 1970s — will help offset the loss of about three million barrels per day of Russian oil. "It is still a Band-Aid on a significant shortfall of supply," said Scott Sheffield, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources, a major Texas oil company.

3

Inflation gauge jumps to 40-year high

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the personal consumption expenditures price index, the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, rose 6.4 percent in February compared to a year earlier. It was the biggest increase in 40 years. The change reflected sharply higher prices for necessities, including food and gasoline. So-called core inflation, which leaves out volatile food and energy costs, increased by 5.4 percent. The data didn't cover the full impact of Russia's Ukraine invasion, which sent oil and gasoline prices soaring. Consumers increased their spending 0.2 percent in February, down from a 2.7 percent increase in January. Adjusted for inflation, consumer spending fell 0.4 percent in February.

4

Judge strikes down parts of Florida voting law 

A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ruled parts of Florida's year-old election law unconstitutional, saying they were enacted "to discriminate against Black voters." Judge Mark Walker said the state can't enforce provisions limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, imposing strict rules on voter-registration organizations, and prohibiting some kinds of assistance to people waiting in line to vote. Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the law last May as GOP legislatures around the country were changing voting laws in response to the 2020 election. Walker was the first judge to strike down any of those laws. DeSantis called the ruling partisan and predicted it would be reversed on appeal.

5

Russians return Chernobyl to Ukrainians

Russian troops left the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant and returned control to Ukrainians on Friday. The move came after Russian soldiers got "significant" radiation doses while digging trenches around the restricted site, Ukraine state power company Energoatom said. Energoatom, which operates the site, did not provide details on how many Russians were exposed to contamination near the plant, which has been closed since suffering the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Russian forces seized the site early in their invasion of Ukraine, which started Feb. 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia is withdrawing from the north and center of the country to regroup and prepare for new powerful attacks in the southeast.

6

Kushner interviewed by Jan. 6 committee

Jared Kushner appeared virtually on Thursday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Kushner is former President Donald Trump's son-in-law, and the first known close Trump relative to speak with the panel. Kushner served as one of Trump's senior White House advisers. During an interview with MSNBC, committee member Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said the interview was "really valuable" to the committee. Luria said Kushner was asked about published reports regarding the days leading up to the Capitol attack. Kushner, who was traveling on Jan. 6, "was able to voluntarily provide information to us to verify, substantiate, provide his own take on this different reporting," Luria said.

7

LGBTQ advocates challenge Florida 'Don't Say Gay' law

A group of students, parents, a teacher, and LGBTQ advocacy group Equality filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration over the controversial "Parental Rights in Education" law the Republican governor just signed, calling it "offensive and unconstitutional." The legislation, which critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill, bars teachers from starting discussions of sexual identity and orientation with public-school students from kindergarten through third grade. The lawsuit is the first challenge to the law. Bryan Griffin, deputy press secretary for DeSantis, said in a statement that the governor is "confident it is legal to protect young children and parental rights," adding that the law "does not single out any particular group."

8

Turkish prosecutor calls for moving Khashoggi trial to Saudi Arabia

A Turkish prosecutor on Thursday called for moving the Istanbul trial of the Saudi suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Khashoggi, a frequent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, appeared to have been killed and dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on orders from the "highest levels" of the Saudi government. A U.S. intelligence report released a year ago also said the crown prince approved the operation, which the Saudi government denies. The case increased tensions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which sharply cut its imports of Turkish goods.

9

U.S. to let citizens pick 'X' gender marker on passports

The United States will officially allow citizens to select "X" as a gender marker on their passports beginning next month, Jessica Stern, U.S. diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, announced on Thursday. Stern called addition of the third, gender-neutral marker a "momentous step" that would recognize "that there is a wider spectrum of humanity than is represented by a binary sex designation on passports." Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in June 2021 the U.S. would add a "gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons." He said Thursday the X gender marker being made available to U.S. citizens is a "historic moment" and a "meaningful step towards LGBTQI+ inclusivity."

10

Fox News hires Caitlyn Jenner as contributor

Fox News Media announced Thursday it had hired former Olympic decathlon champion and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner as a contributor. "Caitlyn's story is an inspiration to us all," Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said. "She is a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community." Jenner came out as transgender and started publicly identifying as a woman in 2015. She ran for California governor last year in a failed attempt to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). She has appeared on Fox News numerous times, and said she was "humbled by this unique opportunity to speak directly to FOX News Media's millions of viewers."

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