Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 5, 2022

Russia launches strikes targeting Ukraine arms deliveries, Biden considers moves to protect abortion access, and more

1

Russia bombs Ukraine rail lines, aiming for Western arms deliveries

Russia bombarded railroad stations and other supply lines across Ukraine on Wednesday, accusing the United States and other Western powers of "stuffing Ukraine with weapons." Russian missiles, launched by air and sea, also destroyed power facilities. The U.S. said there was no indication the strikes impeded the flow of arms to Ukrainian forces. Russian artillery and aircraft hit areas heavy with Ukrainian troops, weapons, and fuel depots. Ukraine did not immediately release damage reports. The attacks came ahead of Russia's May 9 Victory Day, marking the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Anticipation of the military celebration stoked fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the occasion to rally support for expanding his war.

2

White House considers executive actions to protect abortion access

White House officials this week scrambled to come up with ways to protect abortion access through executive actions following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that could overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Officials discussed, for example, whether it would be possible to offer women Medicaid funding to travel to states where abortion is legal if the procedure isn't available where they live. The leaked draft also energized anti-abortion groups, and sparked a flood of donations to abortion clinics and abortion-rights groups. NARAL Pro-Choice America saw donations jump 1,403 percent in 24 hours, with 51 percent of donors giving for the first time, spokeswoman Kristin Ford said.

3

Federal Reserve announces half-point interest rate hike

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced a rare but expected half-percentage-point interest rate hike as part of its intensifying effort to fight the highest inflation rate in four decades. The central bank also revealed that in June it plans to start reducing the $9 trillion asset portfolio it piled up as it was pumping money into the economy to boost the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Now that demand is bouncing back and coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, the Fed wants to unwind the economic stimulus, which has contributed to higher prices. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said after the meeting that the Fed isn't "actively considering" raising rates by three-quarters of a percentage point at a time. The news sent stocks surging.

4

Biden declares disaster in New Mexico areas hit by wildfires

President Biden on Wednesday approved a disaster declaration for parts of New Mexico devastated by wildfires that have been spreading since early April. U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.) announced the move during an evening U.S. Forest Service briefing on efforts to contain the biggest fire, which is burning near the historic Old West town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, east of Santa Fe. That fire, created by the merging of the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires, has burned 160,000 acres and is 20 percent contained. The presidential emergency declaration "will help us do that rebuilding and it will help us with the expenses and the hardship that people are facing right now," the congresswoman said.

5

Donald Trump Jr. meets with Jan. 6 committee

Donald Trump Jr. spoke voluntarily with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, CNN and The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. Trump Jr. did not work in the White House as a senior adviser like his sister Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, but he did serve as a campaign surrogate for his father. He also pushed former President Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through vote fraud. On Jan. 6, Donald Trump Jr. was backstage with his father at the "Stop the Steal" rally held before the Capitol riot. Trump Jr. reportedly answered questions and did not invoke the Fifth Amendment during the three-hour virtual interview.

6

White House to address hunger with food-security conference

President Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will convene a conference in September to discuss ways to reduce hunger and improve nutrition nationwide. The conference will bring together anti-hunger advocates, nutrition specialists, food companies, health-care professionals, and government representatives. It will be the first such White House event since then-President Richard Nixon hosted the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health in 1969. That gathering produced the school lunch program, food stamp expansion, improved nutrition labeling, and other policies. "Too many families don't know where they're going to get their next meal," Biden said, adding that hunger caused by the pandemic brought "a stark reminder of the need for urgent, sustained action."

7

Intuit to reimburse TurboTax customers $141 million under settlement

Intuit will pay $141 million to users of its TurboTax tax-preparation program who were deceived by its offer of free tax-filing, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday. The settlement was signed by the attorneys general of all 50 states. It calls for Intuit to halt TurboTax's "free, free, free" ads and pay 4.4 million customers restitution. James' investigation started after ProPublica published a 2019 report on deceptive tactics luring low-income people away from federally supported free services. "For years, Intuit misled the most vulnerable among us to make a profit," James said. "Today, every state in the nation is holding Intuit accountable" and "putting millions of dollars back into the pockets of impacted Americans."

8

Judge accepts Derek Chauvin's plea deal for violating George Floyd's civil rights

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson on Wednesday accepted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's plea deal with prosecutors in his federal civil rights trial over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Chauvin pleaded guilty on Dec. 15 to violating Floyd's civil rights by kneeling on his neck, even after he lost consciousness. Chauvin, who is white, and three other officers detained Floyd on suspicion of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. Under the plea agreement, Chauvin's lawyers and prosecutors agreed he should be sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison. Chauvin already has been convicted of murder, but he is appealing, arguing that jurors were intimidated by protests that erupted over Floyd's death.

9

U.S. forgives student loans of 110,000 people in public service 

New data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that more than 110,000 student-loan recipients have been excused from paying $6.8 billion in debts under temporary changes to the troubled Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Hundreds of thousands more borrowers could get relief under the effort, which stems from policy fixes the Biden administration announced last year. The average borrower affected so far received nearly $60,000 in debt relief, the department said. Then-President George W. Bush signed the law into place in 2007. It lets employees of the government and nonprofits have federal student loans canceled after 120 payments, or 10 years.

10

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces inductees, including Dolly Parton

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2022 inductees on Wednesday. Dolly Parton, who had said she hadn't earned the honor and asked not to be considered, made the list, as did Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Lionel Richie, and Carly Simon. The Hall of Fame had said it wouldn't remove Parton from the ballots, which had already been sent out when the iconic Southern singer tried to bow out. "We are in awe of Dolly's brilliant talent and pioneering spirit and are proud to have nominated her for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation said. Parton recently told NPR she would "accept gracefully" if she were inducted.

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