Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 13, 2022

Putin says Ukraine peace talks have hit "dead end," New York police search for gunman after subway attack, and more


Putin says Ukraine peace talks have reached a 'dead end'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that peace talks between his government and Ukraine had come to a "dead end," and that without a deal acceptable to the Kremlin, his forces would continue their war "until its full completion." Putin, in his first extended comments since his Ukraine invasion started on Feb. 24, said the stalemate came after Ukraine made "fake" allegations of Russian war crimes in the town of Bucha near Kyiv, and "deviated from agreements" the two sides reached in peace talks in Turkey. Britain's Defense Ministry said Russia would likely escalate its attacks in eastern Ukraine within two or three weeks. President Biden said Russia's actions in Ukraine qualify as "genocide."


N.Y. police search for 'person of interest' in subway attack

A gunman wearing a gas mask threw two smoke canisters into a crowded New York subway car during morning rush hour on Tuesday, then fired at least 33 bullets from a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, wounding 10 people, five of them critically, New York police said. Another 13 people were injured from smoke inhalation, falls, or panic attacks. The gunman fled. Police conducted a manhunt and identified a "person of interest" as Frank R. James. Investigators said they found a bag in the Brooklyn subway train containing the key to a U-Haul van James rented in Philadelphia. Police also found a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, three ammunition magazines, a hatchet, fireworks, and a liquid believed to be gasoline.


West, Ukraine investigate unconfirmed Russian chemical attack

The United States and some of its Western allies are investigating claims by Ukrainian military commanders that Russian forces used chemical weapons that sickened a small number of people in the besieged port city of Mariupol. Pyotr Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city government, said local officials believed a chemical agent was dropped by drone onto the Azovstal steel plant, one of the last strongholds of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. The White House pointed out that the use of chemical weapons hadn't been verified, and urged caution. President Biden has vowed the U.S. would make an "in kind" response to any use of chemical weapons, but the White House also wants to avoid escalating the conflict.


Oklahoma governor signs near-total abortion ban

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a law banning nearly all abortions in the state. The Oklahoma law is the most extreme challenge passed recently in Republican-dominated states seeking to give the Supreme Court's new conservative super-majority an opportunity to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The law, which would make performing an abortion a felony unless the pregnant person's life is in danger, is likely to be blocked by courts. Supreme Court precedents have established that states can't ban abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks into a pregnancy, although the court is considering a case challenging the pre-viability ban.


Ukraine says it thwarted Russian hackers

Ukrainian government officials said Tuesday that they thwarted an attempt by Russian military hackers to knock out power to two million Ukrainians last week in a cyberattack on the country's power grid. "The threat was serious, but it was prevented in a timely manner," a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official, Victor Zhora, told reporters. "It looks that we were very lucky." The hackers, allegedly working for Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, reportedly used an upgraded version of malware used in a 2016 attack to cause blackouts in Kyiv. Zhora said the hackers penetrated the power grid networks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and later uploaded the Industroyer 2 malware.


Inflation hit highest level since 1981 in March

U.S. inflation reached 8.5 percent in March, up from 7.9 percent in February and the biggest one-year jump since 1981, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. The rise in the Consumer Price Index came as gasoline prices surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which sent crude oil prices soaring. Strong demand after the passing of the Omicron coronavirus wave, along with persistent pandemic-related supply shortages, also contributed to higher prices for groceries and other goods. With volatile food and fuel prices excluded, inflation decelerated compared to February. Some economists predicted that the March figure would mark inflation's peak. The national average for a gallon of gas was $4.10 on Tuesday, down from a March high of $4.33.


British prime minister fined over COVID lockdown parties

British police have issued fines against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his finance minister, Rishi Sunak, over parties held at government offices while the rest of the country was observing strict 2020 and 2021 coronavirus lockdowns, a Downing Street spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how much the officials had to pay. "Let me say immediately that I paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology," Johnson said on Sky News. Johnson has denied wrongdoing but faced an angry backlash over staff parties held while the public was barred from gathering with friends and family due to the pandemic.


South Dakota House impeaches attorney general over deadly crash

The South Dakota House voted Tuesday to impeach state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg over his actions after he killed a pedestrian in a 2020 crash. Ravnsborg initially told police that he was driving and thought he had hit a deer, but returned to the scene the following morning and found the body of Joe Boever, 55. A state House committee last month concluded that Ravnsborg, a Republican, had not committed an impeachable offense, but the full House came to a different conclusion. The 36-31 vote in favor of impeachment sends the matter to the state Senate for a trial. Gov. Kristi Noem, also a Republican, tweeted that the House "did the right thing for the people of South Dakota and for Joe Boever's family."


Biden waives ethanol-blend rules to help lower gas prices

President Biden on Tuesday announced that his administration was waiving rules restricting ethanol blending to reduce gasoline prices by about a dime a gallon. The move is the latest in a series of actions Biden has taken to counter a spike in fuel costs since Russia's invasion of Ukraine disrupted oil markets. Biden acknowledged that tweaking ethanol mixes was a minor step, but said it would help. "Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away," Biden said. Most U.S. gasoline is blended with 10 percent ethanol, a biofuel cheaper than gas. The Environmental Protection Agency waiver will allow widespread sale of a 15-percent ethanol blend.


Comedian Gilbert Gottfried dies at 67

Comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried died Tuesday after what his family said was a "long illness." He was 67. Longtime friend and publicist Glenn Schwartz said Gottfried, who voiced roles in Aladdin and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, had battled recurrent ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm condition. Gottfried was known for his shrill voice and sometimes jarring jokes. "Gilbert's brand of humor was brash, shocking, and frequently offensive, but the man behind the jokes was anything but," Frank Santopadre, Gottried's friend and co-host of Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, said in a statement.


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