Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 17, 2022

Biden travels to Buffalo to comfort victims' families, Ukrainian fighters evacuate besieged Mariupol steel plant, and more

1

Biden to visit Buffalo, 'comfort' families of mass shooting victims

President Biden is traveling to Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday to "comfort the families of the 10 people whose lives were senselessly taken" in Saturday's mass shooting at a grocery store, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Police are calling the attack a racist hate crime by an 18-year-old self-described white supremacist who was targeting the Black community. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump vowed to expose fringe websites and right-wing pundits he said had fueled the hateful ideology that authorities say motivated the attacker. "Even though they did not pull the trigger, they did load the gun," Crump said, surrounded by the family of one of the victims, Ruth Whitfield.

2

Ukrainian fighters evacuate Mariupol steel plant, ending standoff

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters, dozens of them seriously wounded, were evacuated Monday from the besieged Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, ending their standoff against Russian fighters who have seized control of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. Ukraine and Russia agreed to a local cease-fire that allowed dozens of buses to leave. "Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive," President Volodymyr Zelensky said. About 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, many from the skilled and controversial Azov Regiment, had held out for weeks in the steel plant's network of underground tunnels and bunkers as Russia bombarded the complex. Hundreds of civilians who had sheltered there were evacuated earlier after being trapped for weeks.

3

U.S. COVID death toll hits 1 million, CDC says, as new cases spread

The U.S. COVID-19 death toll has risen above one million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Monday. President Biden last week ordered all federal flags flown at half-staff to mark the grim milestone. The news came as "cases are spreading at an alarming rate across the United States, particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest," The New York Times reported. Average daily new cases have surpassed 90,000, up 60 percent in two weeks. Hospitalizations have reached more than 21,000, far below peak levels but up 23 percent from two weeks ago. Experts believe the wave of infections is worse than official data show, because results from many at-home tests aren't officially recorded.

4

SEC filing: Trump must post on Truth Social before Twitter

Former President Donald Trump plans to "partially restrict himself" on social media sites like Twitter, even if Elon Musk completes his purchase of the company and follows through on his recently stated intention to let Trump back on the platform, CNBC reported Monday, citing an SEC filing from Digital World Acquisition Corp., the SPAC working to take Trump's media and technology company public. According to the filing, Trump must first post to his social network Truth Social, and "can't publish the same content on another social media site for six hours," CNBC said. Once the six hours are up, he can post on "any site to which he has access," the filing says.

5

Police say California church attacker targeted Taiwanese community

David Chou, the 68-year-old Las Vegas man suspected in Sunday's Southern California church shooting, appears to have been motivated by "political tensions between China and Taiwan," making the attack "a politically motived hate incident," Orange County Sheriff Donald Barnes said Monday. Chou faces one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. He is accused of opening fire in a lunch meeting of members of the Taiwanese congregation at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, an Orange County suburb. Churchgoers tackled and subdued him while he reloaded, witnesses said. Dr. John Cheng, 53, was dead shot while charging Chou in an attempt to disarm him, Barnes said. 

6

Biden reverses Trump order, redeploying U.S. troops to Somalia

President Biden has authorized the military to send hundreds of Special Operations forces into Somalia, The New York Times reported Monday, citing four officials familiar with the matter. The Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, had about 700 ground troops stationed in the country, but former President Donald Trump withdrew nearly all of them. Biden also approved a Pentagon request to target leaders of Al Shabab, a Somali terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda, the Times reported. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson confirmed the orders, which she said would permit "a more effective fight against Al Shabab."

7

North Korea COVID outbreak continues to grow

North Korean health officials announced Tuesday that the country's first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak has continued to expand, with another six deaths and 269,510 people with fevers. The country, which until recently claimed it had no COVID cases, has now recorded 56 deaths and more than 1.48 million people ill with fever since late April. North Korea lacks tests to confirm how many of the fever cases were COVID-19. Some experts fear the outbreak is much larger than the government has reported, due to a lack of test kits, medicines, and vaccines. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday ordered the military to keep pharmacies open 24 hours a day and help distribute medicine.

8

Biden reverses some Trump restrictions on Cuba

The Biden administration announced Monday that it will ease some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba that were imposed by the Trump administration. The State Department said it would lift a $1,000-per-quarter limit on money families can send to their relatives in Cuba. The U.S. also will allow non-family remittances to help Cuban entrepreneurs establish and maintain independent businesses. The U.S. will permit passenger flights to locations other than Havana, increase visa processing, and revive the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, as well. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the moves would "support Cubans' aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home."

9

Macron names Elisabeth Borne as French prime minister 

Newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday named Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne to replace Jean Castex as prime minister. Borne will be the first woman to serve as France's prime minister in 30 years, and only the second in the country's history. "Nothing should stop the fight for the place of women in our society," Borne said. The first woman to serve in the post was Édith Cresson, who was prime minister from 1991 to 1992 under Socialist President François Mitterand. Borne, a centrist, is expected to use her deep experience in how the state works to try to push through retirement reform and climate change measures Macron promised in his re-election campaign.

10

FDA, Abbott reach agreement to reopen baby formula plant

The Food and Drug Administration and Abbott Laboratories reached an agreement Monday aiming to help speed up the reopening of the company's shuttered baby formula plant. The FDA said the deal could make it possible for Abbott to resume production at the Sturgis, Michigan, facility in two weeks. The factory has been shut down since February, when a potentially deadly bacteria was detected on equipment there following illnesses and two deaths among babies that consumed formula produced at the plant. The effort to reopen the factory is part of the plan to ease a nationwide shortage of baby formula that is stoking alarm and hardship among parents. The FDA said Monday it would make it easier to import some infant formulas from abroad.

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