Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 29, 2022

Biden asks Congress for $33 billion Ukraine aid package, Russia strikes Kyiv with cruise missiles during U.N. chief visit, and more

1

Biden asks Congress for $33 billion Ukraine aid package

President Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in military, humanitarian, and economic aid to Ukraine as Russia's invasion enters its third month and Russian forces intensify their offensive in eastern Ukraine. The package, which would include more than $20 billion in military and security assistance, is bigger than most nations' annual defense budgets and by far the largest funding proposal for Ukraine since the war started. The Biden administration, which this week announced $800 million in artillery, armed drones, and other weapons for Ukraine, also is asking for new authority to rapidly transfer arms to Ukraine from the Pentagon's arsenal. "It's not cheap," Biden said. "But caving to aggression is going to be more costly."

2

Russia strikes Kyiv with missiles during U.N. chief visit

Russia hit Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, with cruise missiles on Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring several others in its most intense attack on the city since Russian forces retreated from the area two weeks ago. The shelling occurred an hour after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a news conference with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who called Ukraine under Russia's invasion "an epicenter of unbearable heartache and pain." Russian strikes also targeted other areas far from its ground offensive in eastern Ukraine. Witnesses reported explosions in Polonne in the west, Chernihiv near the Belarus border, and the southwest railway hub of Fastiv. Air defenses in the southern city of Odesa intercepted rockets.

3

U.S. economy shrank in 1st quarter 

The U.S. economy shrank by 1.4 percent on an annualized basis in the first quarter of 2022, the first such retreat since early in the pandemic. About 0.8 percent of the dent stemmed from decisions by businesses to buy goods aggressively before the 2021 holiday shopping season so they wouldn't get caught short by supply shortages during the winter coronavirus surge, which let them restock slowly in the new year. Economists said the slowdown was unlikely to build into a recession, because economic fundamentals remained strong despite high inflation, the war in Ukraine, and ongoing pandemic worries. Rising wages resulted in strong consumer spending, and companies were able to make big investments thanks to higher profits.

4

FDA proposes ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes and all cigar flavorings. It said the policy could significantly reduce tobacco disease and death by "reducing youth experimentation and addiction." Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the proposed rules would "help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit." Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association, said the plan would reduce youth smoking and "save lives, especially in Black and brown communities." A spokesperson for tobacco company Altria said the ban would push flavored products into "unregulated criminal markets."

5

U.S. says Russian intelligence behind attack on newspaper editor

The United States has concluded that Russian intelligence was responsible for an April 7 attack on Dmitry Muratov, the Nobel Prize-winning editor of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, The Washington Post reported, citing a U.S. official. Muratov, a critic of Russia's Ukraine invasion, was preparing to take a train from Moscow to Samara, Russia, when someone threw a mixture of red paint and acetone at him, causing chemical burns to his eyes. The assailant made reference to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, shouting, "Muratov, here's one for our boys!" Muratov was traveling and not immediately available to comment on the U.S. intelligence assessment, a Novaya Gazeta spokesperson said.

6

China unveils measures to ease economic harm from lockdowns

China's leaders this week announced measures to ease the economic impact of lockdowns imposed to fight an increasing number of COVID-19 outbreaks. Many companies will get to suspend unemployment insurance payments as long as they don't resort to mass layoffs. The measures also include reduced electricity and internet charges for businesses, more passes for truck drivers to bypass COVID-19 roadblocks, and government allowances for migrant workers unable to find jobs. "We need to place greater importance on stabilizing employment," Premier Li Keqiang said after a cabinet meeting late Wednesday. "The new round of COVID flare-ups has hit employment quite hard."

7

BVI premier, port director arrested on drug charges

British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie was arrested Thursday in Miami on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. The criminal complaint filed in the U.S. Southern District of Florida said Fahie and the director of the British Virgin Islands' ports, Oleavine Pickering Maynard, were accused of agreeing to help a man who said he worked for the Sinaloa Cartel, but was really a confidential federal source, ferry cocaine through the tiny island territory in exchange for a $500,000 upfront payment. Maynard and her son Kadeem Stephan Maynard also were charged.

8

USPS faces lawsuits over plan to buy gas-guzzling delivery trucks

Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and environmental activist groups have filed lawsuits seeking to block the U.S. Postal Service from buying 148,000 gas-powered delivery trucks over the next decade. The USPS resisted pressure to renew its fleet with electric vehicles to help the Biden administration achieve its goal to reduce the federal government's carbon emissions in the name of fighting climate change. Suits by the state attorneys general, Earthjustice, and the Natural Resources Defense Council argue that the Postal Service relied on bad calculations to defend the decision to buy trucks getting 8.6 miles per gallon, barely more than its current 30-year-old vehicles. The agency's plan to run just 10 percent of its fleet on electric power is far below the targets of private delivery companies.

9

Oklahoma legislature passes 6-week abortion ban

The Oklahoma House on Thursday approved a Texas-style proposal to ban abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant. The 68-12 vote in the Republican-controlled chamber sends the legislation to GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it. It would take effect immediately. Planned Parenthood filed a court challenge to the new legislation and a near-total abortion ban Stitt has signed. The measures are the latest restrictions passed in Republican-led states defying longstanding Supreme Court precedents protecting women's right to an abortion up to fetal viability at about 24 weeks. The laws will give the court's new conservative supermajority opportunities to scale back abortion rights.

10

Only curbing emissions can prevent mass extinction in oceans

If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, warming waters and oxygen loss in seas could lead to a mass extinction of sea life as bad as the five worst catastrophes in the planet's history, scientists said in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science. The devastation could wipe out much of the species diversification seen since the event that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Sharply reducing emissions could cut extinction risks by 70 percent, and curbing ocean pollution, overfishing, and other stresses could save even more ocean life. "If we turn around our emissions quickly, we could still lose something like 5 percent of marine species," says co-author Curtis Deutsch, a climate scientist at Princeton University.

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