Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 21, 2022

Russia focuses on last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol, DOJ says it will appeal mask mandate ruling, and more


Russia holds off on storming last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his troops to hold off on storming a steel plant that is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the besieged port city of Mariupol, but he told Russian forces to surround it "so that not even a fly comes through." The fall of Mariupol would give Russia a key port and complete a land bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, a part of Ukraine that Moscow annexed in 2014. Western nations said they were rushing artillery, helicopters, and other heavy military equipment to help Ukrainian forces fight off Russia's new offensive in eastern Ukraine. The Pentagon said Ukraine had returned at least 20 fighter jets to action after receiving parts for repairs.


DOJ to appeal mask mandate ruling

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it was appealing a Florida federal judge's ruling striking down the Biden administration's mask mandate for people traveling in planes, trains, and buses, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the requirement was still necessary "at this time" to protect public health. The CDC said the policy was "well within CDC's legal authority to protect public health." DOJ had said a day earlier that it would appeal the ruling if health officials said the mandate was still necessary to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Legal experts said the DOJ had to challenge the order to preserve the CDC's authority to take action against deadly diseases in the future.


Russia tests missile Putin says should make enemies 'think twice'

Russia announced Wednesday it had successfully tested the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which Moscow says can deliver nuclear warheads at hypersonic speeds and dodge defenses. "This truly unique weapon will force all who are trying to threaten our country in the heat of frenzied, aggressive rhetoric to think twice," Russian Vladimir Putin said. But Russia's Defense Ministry said the missile wouldn't be ready for use until "after the completion of the testing program." In Wednesday's test, a Sarmat missile was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia and hit a target 3,500 miles east on the Kamchatka Peninsula. U.S. officials made no immediate comment.


UK judge approves Julian Assange extradition to U.S.

A United Kingdom judge on Wednesday approved WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of classified material. Assange has been in British custody since 2019, and a U.K. court in December granted his extradition. In March, the U.K. Supreme Court denied him permission to appeal because his "application does not raise an arguable point of law." U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel will make the final decision, although Assange can appeal to the High Court. A judge previously said sending Assange to the U.S. would be "oppressive" because of his "mental condition," but the U.S. promised he would receive "appropriate clinical and psychological treatment."


Florida Senate advances bill against Disney World self-government

Florida's Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill seeking to eliminate Disney World's special taxing district, which has allowed the theme park to govern its own land. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) pushed the move to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District after Disney publicly pushed for the repeal of the state's parental rights in education law, which critics refer to as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) said Reedy Creek and five other special districts targeted in the bill have "powers we do not believe they should have in 2022." Sen. Tina Polsky (D) called the proposal "revenge governance and the most brutal form of cancel culture." The state House is expected to vote Thursday.


New Mexico regulators hit 'Rust' production company with maximum fine

New Mexico's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau on Wednesday fined a film production company nearly $137,000 for firearms safety failures on the set of Rust over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by actor and producer Alec Baldwin with a prop gun. The state workplace regulator hit Rust Movie Productions with the maximum possible fine, citing safety failures in clear violation of industry protocols. The agency said production managers didn't address complaints from crew members or sufficiently tighten safety procedures after two misfires on set before the deadly October accident. The production company failed to act despite "a set of obvious hazards to employees," Bob Genoway, bureau chief for occupational safety, told The Associated Press.


Jury finds former Ohio doctor not guilty in fentanyl deaths

An Ohio jury on Wednesday acquitted former Ohio doctor William Husel on murder charges. He was accused of hastening the deaths of 14 critically ill patients by prescribing them large doses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Husel's medical license was suspended three years ago. He faced the possibility of life without parole on the charges, one count of murder for each patient. The jury also was allowed to consider the lesser charge of attempted murder. Husel hugged one of his attorneys after Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Holbrook read the verdict. Franklin County prosecutors said the case was "carefully tried and prepared," and they accepted the verdict.


Shanghai lets 4 million more people leave homes

Shanghai on Wednesday cleared four million more people to leave their homes under relaxed anti-coronavirus restrictions in China's biggest city. Nearly 12 million of the city's 25 million people are permitted outdoors now, health official Wu Ganyu said at a news conference, adding that virus was "under effective control" in much of the city for the first time since the start of the current outbreak. The changes came as the International Monetary Fund warned the global flow of industrial goods could be disrupted by China's shutdowns in Shanghai and other industrial hubs, resulting in a reduction of the IMF's forecast for economic growth in China this year to 4.4 percent from the previous estimate of 4.8 percent, a sharp drop from last year's 8.1 percent growth.


Netflix stock rout continues 

Netflix shares continued to dive on Wednesday, dropping 35 percent the day after the streaming-video company reported its first quarterly subscriber loss in more than a decade. Netflix said after releasing the results that it is considering offering a lower-priced option supported by ads to help attract customers. That would mark a significant shift, as Netflix has always touted itself as commercial-free. "Those who have followed Netflix know that I've been against the complexity of advertising and a big fan of the simplicity of subscription," Netflix Chair and Co-CEO Reed Hastings said in a call with analysts after the company released its quarterly results. "But as much as I'm a fan of that, I'm a bigger fan of consumer choice."


Russian, Belarusian tennis players barred from Wimbledon

The All England Club announced Wednesday that it was barring tennis players from Russia and Belarus from competing at Wimbledon this year because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Belarus supports. The ban affects reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, a Russian player who was recently ranked No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is currently No. 2. No. 8 Andrey Rublev, also Russian, will be banned, too. No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is the top-ranked women's player affected. She was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year. Former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open winner also from Belarus, and last year's French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, also are among the banned players. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament starts on June 27.


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