Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 27, 2022

Russia shuts off natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria, Gaetz slams McCarthy over leaked Jan. 6 comments, and more

1

Russia shuts off gas to Poland, Bulgaria

Russian state-run gas company Gazprom said Wednesday it cut off natural-gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, escalating tensions with the West over Ukraine. The move followed weeks of threats that Russia would suspend gas deliveries unless buyers pay in roubles. Poland's PGNiG gas company confirmed the shutoff, but said it was still supplying customers. The United States and allies agreed in Germany on Tuesday to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine despite Russia's warning that further support for Ukrainian fighters could provoke nuclear war. Russia said its forces had "liberated" the Kherson region in southern Ukraine and other areas. Explosions in neighboring Moldova's breakaway pro-Russian state of Transnistria raised concerns the war could spill over.

2

Gaetz slams McCarthy over leaked Jan. 6 comments

House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told other Republicans in a Jan. 10, 2021, conference call that he feared several far-right lawmakers were security risks in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, The New York Times reported Tuesday night, citing an audio recording it obtained. McCarthy singled out Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), among others, saying Gaetz was "putting people in jeopardy" with attacks against fellow Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who had criticized then-President Donald Trump for inciting the mob. McCarthy noted that Trump supporters stormed the Capitol "prepared with rope, with everything else." Gaetz slammed McCarthy and other GOP leaders as "weak" and "sniveling."

3

Tesla shares dive after news of Musk's Twitter takeover

Tesla shares plunged by 12 percent Tuesday as investors dumped shares on concerns that CEO Elon Musk might sell a significant number of shares to fund his $44 billion Twitter takeover. The decline reduced Tesla's valuation by about $126 billion. The electric-car maker's market capitalization is now down more than $275 billion since Musk revealed that he had become Twitter's biggest shareholder. The value of Musk's 17 percent Tesla stake is now down more than $40 billion. Tesla shares also have been dragged down by a broader selloff fueled by high inflation and slowing economic growth, and by anticipation of Federal Reserve interest hikes.

4

Harvard pledges $100 million to redress slavery ties

Harvard University announced Tuesday that it was pledging $100 million to research and redress the school's "extensive entanglements with slavery" in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Harvard released a report detailing how it profited from slavery through its donors. The document said faculty and staff members at the Ivy League school enslaved more than 70 Black people from the school's founding in 1636 until Massachusetts outlawed slavery in 1783. "Enslaved men and women served Harvard presidents and professors and fed and cared for Harvard students," the report said. "The truth is that slavery played a significant part in our institutional history," Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in a letter Tuesday to the university community.

5

Kim Jong Un vows to expand North Korea's nuclear arsenal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to expand his country's nuclear stockpile "at the fastest possible speed," and threatened to use it "if any forces, regardless of who they are, try to infringe upon our fundamental interests," The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing North Korean state media. Kim's remarks during a Monday night military parade indicated that he likely will "continue provocative weapons tests in a pressure campaign to wrest concessions from the U.S. and other rivals," the AP wrote. During the parade, Pyongyang showed off its largest intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-17 — which it claimed to have test-fired last month.

6

Harris tests positive for COVID-19

Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19, her press secretary, Kirsten Allen, said in a statement Tuesday. Harris, 57, was not suffering any symptoms. She is the highest level Biden administration official to be infected with the coronavirus in a recent wave of cases. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tested positive in March. Harris had not seen President Biden since April 18 and was not considered a "close contact." Before she tested positive, she had been scheduled to join the President's Daily Brief meeting at the White House on Tuesday. Harris, who is working from home, said she was "grateful to be both vaccinated and boosted." 

7

Cawthorn caught with gun at airport, again

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) was caught Tuesday trying to board a flight at North Carolina's Charlotte Douglas International Airport with a loaded gun, the Transportation Security Administration said. Charlotte police identified Cawthorn, 26, as the owner of the 9 mm Staccato C2 pistol, and issued him a citation for possessing a dangerous weapon on city property. Officers confiscated the handgun. It was the second time the controversial lawmaker has been caught with a gun at an airport. A TSA crew found Cawthorn with an unloaded Glock 9mm handgun in his carry-on at the Asheville, North Carolina, airport in February 2021, although he wasn't charged. He also has been accused of bringing knives to several schools.

8

Biden pardons 3, reduces sentences for 75

President Biden on Tuesday announced pardons for three convicted felons and reduced sentences for 75 non-violent drug offenders in his first use of his clemency powers. Biden pardoned Abraham Bolden Sr., Betty Jo Bogans, and Dexter Eugene Jackson. Bolden, 86, was the nation's first Black Secret Service agent on a presidential detail, protecting the late President John F. Kennedy. The Chicago resident, who served three years in prison, has tried to clear his name, saying he was falsely accused of trying to sell a Secret Service investigative report in 1964 because he had spoken out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

9

Pfizer asks FDA to authorize boosters for kids 5 through 11

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize giving their coronavirus booster shots to children ages 5 through 11. The companies gave the FDA test data showing that their low-dose COVID-19 booster for children in that age group could provide protection against the highly contagious Omicron variant, and renew waning immunity that has left other age groups vulnerable to Omicron and other variants. "Over time, immunity to the vaccine wanes," said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford infectious disease researcher who has helped test Pfizer's vaccine. Skeptics questioned whether younger kids need a booster after the initial two doses of Pfizer's vaccine.

10

Myanmar court sentences Suu Kyi to 5 years on corruption charge

A court in military-ruled Myanmar on Wednesday found civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty in the first of 11 corruption cases against her and sentenced her to five years in prison, Reuters reported, citing a source with knowledge of the proceedings. Suu Kyi, 76, won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her opposition to military rule, and led the country for five years during its effort to install democracy. She has been in custody since the military took power in a February 2021 coup. She has been held at an undisclosed location and previously was sentenced to six years for minor alleged offenses, which critics say were politically motivated.

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