Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 19, 2022

Ukraine says Russia has launched "the battle for Donbas," a judge voids the U.S. public-transport mask mandate, and more

1

Russia starts eastern Ukraine offensive

Russia has started its expected major offensive in eastern Ukraine with a flurry of missile attacks on cities across the country, Ukrainian officials said Monday. Russia has been massing troops and material for an anticipated offensive in the Donbas region, parts of which are controlled by pro-Russia separatists. "It can now be stated that the Russian troops have begun the battle for Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. "A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive." Ukrainian security officials said their forces were "holding on" in the targeted areas.

2

Judge voids CDC public-transport mask mandate 

A federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national mask mandate for planes and public transportation. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the CDC had overstepped its authority and failed to properly justify the policy. The mandate had been scheduled to expire on April 18, but the CDC extended it until May 3 to allow time to study the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2, which is spreading quickly in parts of the country. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the ruling was "disappointing." The Transportation Security Administration stopped enforcing the mandate, but the Biden administration still recommends that travelers wear masks.

3

Feds won't charge against ex-officer over Laquan McDonald shooting 

Federal prosecutors announced Monday they would not file civil-rights charges against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager. Van Dyke served about three years in prison after being convicted on state second-degree murder charges for shooting the 17-year-old McDonald. Federal law requirements for proving civil-rights violations in such cases are "more stringent than the state charges on which Mr. Van Dyke was convicted," a statement released Monday by U.S. Attorney John Lausch's office said. Federal prosecutors would have to prove that Van Dyke did not act as "the result of mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment," the statement said. Prosecutors made their decision after consulting with McDonald's family, the statement said.

4

Philadelphia reinstates mask mandate

The city of Philadelphia started enforcing its new indoor mask mandate on Monday, making it the first major city in the country to reinstate a local face-covering requirement this spring due to rising coronavirus infections. The policy requires people to wear masks in all indoor public places. Businesses can require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for workers and customers instead. Some public health advocates said the move was wise given the spread of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2. A business group sued on Saturday hoping to block the mandate. Bistro owner Shane Dodd told The New York Times he feared losing business to suburban restaurants not subject to the requirement.

5

DeSantis defends Florida's rejection of math textbooks

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday defended the state Department of Education's rejection of 41 percent of 132 public-school K-12 math textbooks, saying they wasted space on "social and emotional learning" that diluted the essential subject matter. "Math is about getting the right answer," he said. "It's not about how you feel about the problem." The state education department said some of the books discussed prohibited topics, including critical race theory. Democrats accused DeSantis of making muddy and dishonest allegations about school material to score points with conservative voters. "#DeSantis turned our classrooms into political battlefields and put kids in the crossfire to advance his presidential ambitions," State House Rep. Carlos Smith (D) tweeted.

6

Biden calls for using U.S. materials in infrastructure projects

The Biden administration issued a new guidance on Monday requiring all projects, including bridges, highways, and internet networks, funded through the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to use U.S.-sourced steel and other materials. The policy includes a process to waive the requirement if there is not enough domestic material, or if it is too expensive to get the job done. "There are going to be additional opportunities for good jobs in the manufacturing sector," said Celeste Drake, director of Made in America at the White House Office of Management and Budget. President Biden reportedly hopes that increased domestic production will reduce price pressures to counter Republican arguments that the infrastructure package has driven up inflation.

7

Infowars files for bankruptcy

Conspiracy website InfoWars has filed for bankruptcy as the company and its founder and host, Alex Jones, brace for massive penalties in defamation cases. Jones was sued by relatives of people killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting after he repeatedly called the massacre, in which 20 children and six educators died, a hoax. InfoWars, which described itself in filings to the Texas court as a "conspiracy-oriented website and media company," said it had less than $50,000 in assets and $1 million to $10 million in liabilities. Courts in Connecticut and Texas have found Jones liable in the defamation cases but damages remain to be determined.

8

Hip hop pioneer DJ Kay Slay dies of COVID at age 55 

Hip hop pioneer Keith Grayson, who performed as DJ Kay Slay, has died at age 55 from COVID-19 complications, his family confirmed in a statement released through New York radio station HOT 97, where he hosted The Drama Hour for more than two decades. Grayson became immersed in New York City's early hip hop scene when he was growing up in Harlem. He started out as a graffiti artist in his teens and started selling bootleg mixtapes on street corners in the early 1990s. He released his first studio album, The Streetsweeper, Vol. 1, in 2003, and worked with numerous artists, including Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss, and Busta Rhymes, on other albums.

9

Mac Miller drug dealer sentenced to over a decade in prison

A man charged in connection with rapper Mac Miller's overdose death has been sentenced to more than a decade behind bars, Rolling Stone reported Monday. Thirty-nine-year-old Ryan Michael Reavis received a prison sentence of 10 years and 11 months on Monday, over three years after Miller's death, Rolling Stone reported. Prosecutors were seeking over 12 years, while Reavis asked for five. Reavis pleaded guilty to distribution of fentanyl last November. Prosecutors said he distributed fentanyl-laced pills to Cameron James Pettit, who then distributed the drugs to Miller two days before his fatal overdose in September 2018. Officials determined that Miller "died from mixed drug toxicity," including cocaine, fentanyl, and alcohol. He was 26.

10

Kenyan runners sweep Boston Marathon

Kenyan runners swept the top spots at the Boston Marathon on Monday as the world's oldest annual marathon returned to its traditional Patriots' Day spot for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020. Reigning Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir, 28, won the women's division after trading the lead eight times with Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia in the final mile, and finished in 2:21:01. Evans Chebet, 33, broke away from the pack with four miles to go to win the men's race in 2:06:51 in his first major marathon victory. Daniel Romanchuk of Champaign, Illinois, won the men's wheelchair title for the second time, and Manuela Schar of Switzerland took her fourth women's title, and second in a row.

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