Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 25, 2022

Top U.S. officials meet with Zelensky in Ukraine, Macron wins re-election in France, and more


Zelensky meets with top U.S. officials

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Sunday night with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the highest-level U.S. visit to Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago. Zelensky pressed the Biden administration officials for more powerful weapons to help Ukrainian forces fight back against Russia's new offensive in eastern Ukraine, a Zelensky adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said on Ukrainian TV. Zelensky had said Saturday when he announced plans for the visit that he would push for more military aid. "This was an important time to be there" and talk face-to-face, Blinken said Monday morning in Poland near Ukraine's border. He said Ukraine is "succeeding" and Russia is "failing" in the war.


Macron wins re-election in France

French President Emmanuel Macron won re-election to a second term on Sunday, beating far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. The election runoff was a rematch of their 2017 race, when the center-right Macron ran as a fresh face and trounced Le Pen 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent. Sunday's vote was closer but still decisive, with Macron, now running with a clear record, winning 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent. Macron said his re-election was a win for "a more independent France and a stronger Europe," although he called it his duty to "respond effectively" to "the anger that has been expressed" in the campaign. Le Pen conceded defeat but said French voters showed they wanted a "strong counter power" to Macron.


Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Easter as war hits 2-month mark

Ukrainians celebrated Orthodox Easter on Sunday as the country continued to fight Russian forces who invaded two months ago. The celebrations took place under a curfew barring residents of all 24 of Ukraine's regions from going outside overnight. In parts of eastern Ukraine, where Russia is conducting a new offensive, Ukrainian officials urged Orthodox worshipers to attend services virtually to avoid possible Russian "provocations." Hundreds of people, including soldiers, gathered around St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in the capital, Kyiv, with baskets to be blessed. President Volodymyr Zelensky attended a different service in the city and soothed worshipers, telling them: "All of us believe our sunrise will come soon."


Beijing coronavirus cases surge as China's zero-COVID policy tested

Public health officials in Beijing said the Chinese capital confirmed 22 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the most yet in a single day this year. Shanghai, China's most populous city, said 39 COVID-19 patients died on Saturday, a three-fold increase from the previous day. Although the rates of coronavirus infections and deaths remain low in China compared to many other countries, the rising numbers raised concerns about the ability of Chinese authorities to stamp out the surge with their zero-COVID policy. Under the policy, China effectively contained an outbreak in Jilin province with six weeks of lockdowns, but cases have been rising in Jiangsu and Hebei, the provinces surrounding Shanghai and Beijing.


U.S. to resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after their three-hour Sunday trip to Ukraine that they had told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the United States would resume diplomatic operations in Ukraine this week. The move would mark a first step toward reopening the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. Washington closed the embassy ahead of Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, but Blinken said the U.S. aims to reopen it within weeks. The Biden administration also plans this week to announce the nomination of career diplomat Bridget Brink as the new ambassador to Ukraine. There has been no confirmed U.S. ambassador to the country since Marie Yovanovitch was ousted in 2019.


Supreme Court revisits case of coach who wanted to pray on football field

The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in the case of a Washington state high school football coach who lost his job for praying on the 50-yard-line in violation of school district orders. It will be the second time the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, has been considered by the high court. When the court first took up the case a couple of years ago, it decided it was premature to rule on it. Four justices expressed sympathy for the free-speech arguments of former Bremerton High School assistant coach Joseph Kennedy, who said he should be allowed to say a post-game prayer of gratitude at midfield. Now the court has a newly expanded 6-3 conservative majority that has been strongly protective of religious rights.


Japan says 11 dead, 15 missing in tourist boat accident

Japanese authorities on Sunday confirmed the deaths of seven men, three women, and one child who were on a sightseeing boat that went missing on Saturday. Fifteen other people, including another child, remained missing. The captain and crew member on the boat, Kazu 1, reported in a distress call that water was flooding the vessel's stern, and it was sinking. They said everyone on board was wearing life jackets. Search crews in patrol boats and aircraft are continuing the search, and believe the boat sank. The seas were rough, with waves up to nearly 10 feet, when the crew sent out the distress call. Japan's Meteorological Agency's regional website said the temperature of the water was 35 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit, making survival difficult.


Ex-fire chief dies in Nebraska wildfire

Wind-driven wildfires killed a retired fire chief and injured at least 15 other firefighters in Nebraska, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said Sunday. The body of the former fire chief, 66-year-old John Trumble, was found Saturday, a day after his vehicle left the road as smoke and dust reduced visibility. He was overcome by smoke and fire. In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Sunday signed emergency declarations to speed resources to communities threatened by 20 wildfires burning across the state. Nearly half of the state's 33 counties, stricken by drought, have been affected by the fires. A wildfire that started two weeks ago in northern New Mexico merged with another fire, forcing a fresh round of evacuations.


California man accused of threatening Merriam-Webster over gender-identity language

Federal authorities last week arrested Jeremy David Hanson of Rossmoor, California, on allegations that he made threats against Merriam-Webster Inc. for using gender-inclusive language, NBC News and other news outlets reported Sunday. Hanson is scheduled to appear in federal court in Massachusetts on April 29 to face one charge of interstate communication of threats to commit violence. He is accused of posting threats on the dictionary company's website, including one on Oct. 2, 2021, under the username "@anonYmous," in which he commented on the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry for the term "female," saying: "There is no such thing as 'gender identity.' The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot."


Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez headline Amazon-union rally

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) participated in a rally outside Amazon's JFK8's warehouse on Staten Island, New York, on Sunday, criticizing Amazon co-founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and urging the company to formally acknowledge the warehouse's newly formed Amazon Labor Union. Sanders called for Bezos, "who owns a $500 million yacht," to think about his workers when he's sailing. "Working people are sick and tired of falling further and further behind while billionaires like Bezos become much richer," Sanders said. The rally came as employees at Amazon's LDJ5 warehouse, also on Staten Island, prepare to vote Monday on whether to become the second Amazon facility to unionize. Amazon did not immediately comment.


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