Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 11, 2022

Ukraine reclaims towns from Russia near Kharkiv, Biden slams the "ultra-MAGA" GOP and calls fighting inflation his priority, and more

1

Ukraine reclaims areas Russia had seized near Kharkiv

Ukraine said Tuesday that a counteroffensive by its forces has taken back four villages Russia had seized near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second biggest city. Russia continued its heavy bombing of Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odessa, in an expansion of Moscow's effort to disrupt Western arms shipments to Ukrainian troops fending off its ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine. A U.S. intelligence assessment found that Russia appears to be preparing for a "prolonged conflict" that could become "more unpredictable and escalatory" due to a "mismatch" between what Russian President Vladimir Putin wants and what his military can deliver, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified Tuesday.

2

Biden slams 'ultra-MAGA' GOP, calls fighting inflation his top priority

President Biden on Tuesday defended his administration's efforts to fight inflation, telling Americans that reining in rising prices is his top domestic priority. "I know families across America are hurting because of inflation," Biden said. "I understand what it feels like." The White House has said inflation was being fueled by pandemic-caused supply-chain bottlenecks and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted oil markets and drove up costs. Biden accused "ultra-MAGA" Republicans of exploiting frustration over inflation to push their "extreme agenda." Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said Biden appeared to be "living in an alternate reality," blaming him and his fellow Democrats for rising prices.

3

Musk says he would let Trump back on Twitter

Elon Musk said Tuesday that Twitter will reverse its permanent ban of former President Donald Trump if Musk completes his deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion. He has promised to make Twitter a bastion of unregulated speech. The Tesla CEO said virtually at an auto conference that Twitter's decision to shut down Trump's account after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol for violating its policy on inciting violence was a "morally bad decision" that was "foolish in the extreme." He said taking down harmful content and temporary bans are appropriate, but permanently banning Trump "alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice."

4

House passes $40 billion Ukraine aid package

The House on Tuesday approved a $39.8 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine. The 368-57 vote, with only some Republicans voting no, sends the package to the Senate. House Democrats increased the plan beyond the $33 billion President Biden requested. The legislation includes $6 billion for defense assistance, including arms and training, and $4.4 billion for emergency food aid in Ukraine and around the world. Democrats avoided speed bumps by abandoning the idea of linking the Ukraine aid to a stalled $10 billion COVID-19 mitigation package. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the vote was a "critical step" in demonstrating U.S. support for Ukraine as it resists Russia's invasion.

5

Palestinian-American reporter killed in West Bank clash

A Palestinian-American reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, died Wednesday after being shot in the head while covering Israeli raids in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Palestinian authorities and Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of shooting the 51-year-old longtime Al Jazeera correspondent. Al Jazeera said Israeli forces shot Abu Akleh "in cold blood" even though she had been "clearly wearing a press jacket that identifies her as a journalist." Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel had gathered information suggesting Palestinian militants "firing indiscriminately" were responsible for the journalist's death. The Palestinian Health Ministry said a second journalist, Ali Al-Samudi of the Jerusalem-based Al Quds newspaper, also was wounded by gunfire.

6

Trump-endorsed candidates had mixed day in latest primaries

In the latest tests of former President Donald Trump's power to influence voters, a Trump-endorsed candidate lost the Nebraska gubernatorial primary, while a Trump-backed congressman beat a House GOP rival in a primary for a House seat in West Virginia. In Nebraska, hog producer and University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen, who was endorsed by Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), beat rivals who included Trump-backed businessman Charles Herbster and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom. Herbster faced allegations of groping and forcibly touching eight women, which he denied. In West Virginia, Trump-endorsed Rep. Alex Mooney beat Rep. David McKinley, whom Trump criticized for voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the creation of the Jan. 6 committee.

7

GOP Rep. Tom Reed resigns a year after sexual misconduct allegation

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that he is resigning, effective immediately. The news came more than a year after a former lobbyist, Nicolette Davis, said in a story published in The Washington Post that Reed had sexually harassed her by rubbing her back and thigh and unhooking her bra at an Irish bar in Minnesota four years earlier. She was working as an insurance-company lobbyist at the time. Reed apologized, saying he did not know of Davis' complaint until he read the article but regretted that his "behavior caused her pain." According to Punchbowl News, Reed is going to work for Prime Policy Group, a bipartisan Washington, D.C., government relations and public affairs firm.

8

Gas prices reach all-time U.S. high

Gasoline prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, without adjusting for inflation. The average U.S. price for a gallon of regular gas hit $4.37. But oil prices were down about 10 percent since the weekend and by 20 percent since March as COVID-19 lockdowns slowed China's economy. Many traders expect slowing global economic activity to bring some relief at the pump, unless high demand in the summer driving season keeps prices high. "I think the consumer will get a bit of a break here," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. "Just watch out for July and August. I think the consumer will drive this summer whether it's $4 a gallon or $6 a gallon."

9

Gun homicide rate rises to highest level since 1994

The firearm homicide rate in the United States hit its highest level since 1994, jumping by 35 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, according to data published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rates among Black boys and men ages 10 to 44, and among American Indian or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44, showed the largest increases. "The COVID-19 pandemic might have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors that increase risk for homicide and suicide, particularly among certain racial and ethnic communities," CDC researchers wrote in the report. Seventy-nine percent of homicides and 53 percent of suicide involved guns.

10

Boston judge finds chef Mario Batali not guilty of indecent assault

A Boston municipal court judge on Tuesday found celebrity chef Mario Batali not guilty of indecent assault and battery. The verdict followed a quick trial after the former Food Network personality waived his right to a jury trial. The allegations stemmed from a 2017 encounter in a bar, where a Boston woman said Batali aggressively kissed and groped her while they took a selfie. Boston Municipal Court Judge James Stanton agreed with claims by Batali's lawyers that the picture showed the incident was amicable, and that the woman had credibility issues. "Pictures are worth a thousand words," he said. The judge rebuked Batali but said he had paid "a high cost" in damage to his reputation.

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