Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 18, 2022

Biden calls the racially motivated Buffalo massacre "domestic terrorism," Cawthorn is ousted in N.C. GOP primary, and more

1

Biden calls Buffalo mass shooting 'domestic terrorism'

President Biden visited Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday and called last weekend's deadly mass shooting there an act of "domestic terrorism." Biden remembered each of the 10 people killed and three who were wounded in the attack at a grocery store in the predominantly Black neighborhood, and condemned the racist ideology the heavily armed 18-year-old white man arrested in the store espoused in an online manifesto. "White supremacy is a poison," Biden said. He called on Americans to reject the "great replacement" theory being pushed by some pundits and politicians. The theory, which reportedly motivated the 18-year-old gunman, imagines a conspiracy to supplant white people with people of color. "In America," Biden added, "evil will not win."

2

Cawthorn defeated in Republican primary

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) lost his bid for re-election on Tuesday, narrowly defeated by state Sen. Chuck Edwards in a crowded Republican primary. Cawthorn, once considered a rising star in the GOP, relied heavily on former President Donald Trump's endorsement, but a series of scandals and missteps eroded his support. Trump's backing lifted Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), who won the GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina. He will face Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court Justice and the first Black woman nominated to represent North Carolina in the Senate. In Pennsylvania, Trump-endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, Stop the Steal rally in Washington, won the GOP nomination for governor. Mastriano will face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D).

3

Finland, Sweden formally apply to join NATO

Finland and Sweden on Wednesday formally applied to join NATO. The two Nordic countries had long held proudly to their military nonalignment, but shifted toward applying for membership in the Western military alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Security experts said adding Sweden and Finland to NATO would significantly strengthen the alliance in the Baltic Sea. "This is a historic moment, which we must seize," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a ceremony where Swedish and Finnish ambassadors to the alliance submitted their application letters. All 30 NATO members will have to approve the expansion, and Turkey recently unexpectedly said it had reservations about admitting Finland and Sweden due to their purported willingness to harbor Kurdish militants Turkey considers terrorists.

4

DOJ asks Jan. 6 committee for transcripts

The Justice Department has asked for transcripts of interviews conducted by the House select committee investing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The request suggests that Attorney General Merrick Garland is stepping up the Justice Department's investigation into the riot. The committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has not finalized an agreement with the Justice Department on what material to hand over. The DOJ told the committee in April that some of the interviews "may contain information relevant to a criminal investigation we are conducting."

5

Hezbollah coalition loses majority in Lebanon

Iran-aligned Hezbollah and allied parties have lost their majority in Lebanon's parliament, according to election results released Tuesday. Neither Hezbollah's bloc nor its rivals in a Saudi-aligned coalition led by the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian party calling for disarming Hezbollah militants, were able to secure a majority, both sides said. Hezbollah's alliance appears likely to secure at least 61 seats, slightly more than the Lebanese Forces bloc but down from the 70 it won in the last election in 2018. The division could hamper efforts to form a government as Lebanon contends with a devastating economic crisis, although Hezbollah still might be able to pull together a majority if it can win over some independent legislators.

6

FDA authorizes Pfizer booster for kids ages 5 to 11

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized giving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster to children ages 5 to 11. Children in the age group will be eligible for the third dose of the vaccine at least five months after they received the second shot. The companies asked the FDA to approve the booster, which will be the first available to children that young, based on a small study they said indicated it was safe and effective in boosting antibody levels to counter waning immunity. Previously, only people 12 or older were able to get booster shots. The companies said the booster dose intended for younger children increased protection against the coronavirus, including the highly infectious Omicron variant that has increased the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19.

7

Michigan judge suspends dormant 1931 abortion ban

A Michigan judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a dormant 1931 state law that would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother. The decision was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court probably overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights nationwide. Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said Planned Parenthood was likely to win its lawsuit because the abortion ban probably violates the Michigan Constitution. Since "it is unknown whether the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade," Gleicher wrote, suspending the 1931 law "furthers the public interest, allowing the court to make a full ruling on the merits of the case without subjecting plaintiff and their patients to the impact of a total ban."

8

Report: Data suggests intentional crash of China jet

Flight data from one of the black boxes of a China Eastern jet that crashed in March indicated that someone crashed the plane intentionally, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with U.S. officials' preliminary assessment. The Boeing 737-800 was cruising at high altitude and suddenly went into a near-vertical dive, slamming into a southern China mountain and killing all 123 passengers and nine crew members. "The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit," a person familiar with the preliminary assessment told the Journal. Chinese officials have not flagged any mechanical problems related to the crash. Boeing and the Civil Aviation Administration of China, which is leading the investigation, did not immediately comment.

9

Fetterman wins Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) won the Democratic nomination for Senate on Tuesday, just four days after he suffered a stroke. Fetterman, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential bid, easily defeated Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a moderate who had been considered a rising Democratic star during the Trump era. Fetterman will face either former hedge-fund executive David McCormick or celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz in November; their Republican primary race is too close to call. Fetterman underwent a procedure Tuesday to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator. His wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, accepted the nomination on his behalf, calling his hospitalization "a hiccup" and reaffirming his commitment to his campaign.

10

White House offers public 3rd set of free at-home COVID tests

The White House announced Tuesday that Americans can now order a third set of free, at-home coronavirus tests to be delivered by the Postal Service. Under the expanded program, the number of tests being made available to each household doubled to 16. President Biden first promised to make the tests available at no charge as Americans were dealing with a shortage of tests during the winter Omicron coronavirus wave. More than 70 million households had ordered and received a total of 350 million tests by the time the extension of the program was announced. The move came as fast-spreading Omicron subvariants are sending infection rates climbing in many parts of the United States, although deaths and severe illnesses remain far below winter peaks.

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