Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 19, 2022

New York investigates social media platforms used by Buffalo massacre suspect, the U.S. reopens its embassy in Kyiv, and more

1

N.Y. investigates social media platforms after Buffalo massacre

New York Attorney General Letitia James' office announced Wednesday it is investigating social media platforms used by the suspect in the deadly Buffalo mass shooting, which authorities have called an act of domestic terrorism by an admitted white supremacist. The investigation will focus on the messaging service Discord, the 4chan and 8chan websites, and Twitch, the platform the killer used to livestream the attack. Before allegedly murdering 10 people at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood, the suspect reportedly dropped hints about his plans on 4chan and created a private chat in Discord. "These social media platforms have to take responsibility," New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said.

2

U.S. reopens Kyiv embassy, confirms ambassador to Ukraine

The United States has reopened its embassy in Kyiv, which it closed just before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday. "The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia's unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again," Blinken said in a statement. Hours later, the Senate confirmed Bridget Brink as ambassador to Ukraine, giving the embassy its first confirmed chief since former President Donald Trump recalled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in May 2019 under pressure from Rudy Giuliani and his allies.

3

Turkey blocks talks on Finland, Sweden NATO membership

Turkey on Wednesday blocked NATO from starting talks on admitting Finland and Sweden hours after the two Nordic nations formally applied to join the Western military alliance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objects to what he calls Sweden's sheltering of Kurdistan Workers' Party members, which Turkey considers terrorists. "So you won't give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership?" Erdogan said in a speech. Turkey is seeking concessions before going along with the NATO expansion, which requires agreement by all 30 NATO members and ratification by their parliaments. Sweden and Finland have long held proudly to their nonaligned military status, but both decided to join NATO after nearby Russia invaded Ukraine.

4

U.S. Soccer reaches equal-pay deal with men's, women's players

The U.S. men's and women's national soccer teams on Wednesday announced a collective bargaining agreement with the United States Soccer Federation that achieves women players' years-long goal of equal pay. The new contracts, which run until 2028, call for pooling future World Cup earnings, and sharing endorsement money and other revenue 50-50. "To be able to say finally, equal pay for equal work feels very, very good," women's team captain Becky Sauerbrunn told Today. U.S. Soccer and the United States Women's National Team Players Association reached a settlement earlier this year to end a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by women players, who for years performed better than their male counterparts but made far less.

5

Russia says more Ukrainian fighters surrender at Mariupol steel plant

Russia's military said Thursday that more Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the battered Mariupol steel plant where they had made a last stand to defend the port city. About 1,730 Ukrainian defenders have now left the tunnels and bunkers under the mill, Russia says. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has registered the Ukrainians as prisoners of war. Some of them are wounded. The evacuations started Tuesday under a deal between Russia and Ukraine, which are expected to discuss prisoner exchanges. Ukraine, meanwhile, is holding its first war-crimes trial for a Russian soldier. The suspect, 21-year-old Russian tank-unit officer Vadim Shishimarin, admitted Wednesday that he fatally shot an unarmed, 62-year-old civilian.

6

Ex-officer pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd killing

Thomas Lane, the former Minneapolis Police officer who held down George Floyd's legs, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree manslaughter under a deal with prosecutors. Lane, 39, is one of three officers accused of aiding and abetting in the killing of Floyd, who died after another former officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed a knee into the unarmed Black man's neck for more than nine minutes. The officers detained Floyd in May 2020 after a store clerk said he had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Under the plea deal, the state agreed to dismiss a second-degree murder charge. Defense lawyers and prosecutors jointly recommended a 36-month sentence for Floyd's death, which triggered nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

7

Kansas Supreme Court upholds GOP congressional map

The Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the state's redistricting law, which was passed by Republicans and will make it harder for the only Democratic incumbent in the state's congressional delegation to win reelection. The court ruled that the voters and voting rights groups that challenged the congressional map had "not prevailed in their claims" that the map amounted to an overly partisan gerrymander that violates the Kansas Constitution. The decision came just ahead of the state's June 10 filing deadline for candidates running in the November congressional election. Congressional maps have faced challenges in at least 17 states as Republicans push to regain control of Congress.

8

CDC: With COVID rising, a third of U.S. should consider indoor masks

With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rising, areas with higher transmission risk that are home to a third of the U.S. population should consider issuing new calls for people to wear masks indoors, federal health officials said Wednesday. New U.S. cases have risen above 100,000 a day, up 26 percent in the last week. More than 22,000 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19. The Northeast and Midwest have been hit hardest, but other regions should be on alert, officials said. "Prior increases of infections, in different waves of infection, have demonstrated that this travels across the country," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, said at a White House briefing.

9

Dow, S&P 500 plunge in worst day since 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,165 points, or 3.6 percent, on Wednesday in its worst day since June 2020. A disappointing quarterly earnings report from retail giant Target fueled fears that inflation will tip the economy into a recession. The S&P 500 fell just over 4 percent, also its worst single-day decline since 2020. The tech-heavy Nasdaq plummeted 4.7 percent, its worst drop since May 5. Stock futures fell sharply early Thursday. Target is one of the many retailers and other large companies seeing high transport and inventory costs eroding profits. "It's clear that transportation costs matter and they're impacting [some of] the largest companies," said Kim Forrest, founder of Bokeh Capital. "So I think investors are scratching our heads going, 'So, who's next?"

10

Musk says he's ditching Democrats and voting Republican

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday he is turning away from the Democratic Party and would now vote Republican. "In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party," Musk tweeted. "But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican." Musk, the world's richest man, says he still plans to buy Twitter once it provides data on how many of the social media platform's accounts are fake. He has said if the deal goes through he would lift the permanent ban on former President Donald Trump, a Republican. Tesla's stock fell nearly 7 percent on Wednesday after Musk's comments and Tesla's removal from the S&P sustainability index.

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