Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 16, 2022

DOJ files hate-crime charges against Buffalo mass shooting suspect, Biden announces another $1 billion in Ukraine military aid, and more

1

DOJ files hate-crime charges against Buffalo mass shooting suspect

The Justice Department said Wednesday it is filing multiple federal hate crime charges against Payton Gendron, who is accused of killing 10 Black people last month in a racially motivated attack at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. "No one in this country should have to live in fear that they will go to work or shop at a grocery store and will be attacked by someone who hates them because of the color of their skin," Attorney General Merrick Garland said after visiting the massacre site and meeting with relatives of the victims. The DOJ's criminal complaint said Gendron's motive "was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and eliminating the white race." If convicted, Gendron could face the death penalty.

2

Biden announces $1 billion more in Ukraine military aid

The Biden administration on Wednesday said it will send Ukraine another $1 billion in military aid, including artillery and advanced rocket systems, to help the country fight back against Russian invaders. The boost comes as Ukrainian forces continue resisting a Russian push to seize control of Sievierodonetsk, the last major city Ukraine controls in the Luhansk region of the Donbas. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week repeated pleas for speeding up deliveries of Western anti-missile defense systems and other arms the Ukrainian defenders need to hold onto Sieviereodonetsk and other besieged areas. The leaders of France, Germany, and Italy visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Thursday in a diplomatic show of support.

3

Fed hikes interest rates sharply to fight inflation

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it will raise short-term interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point — its largest interest rate hike in 28 years — as part of an intensifying effort to fight high inflation. The Fed, which just a month ago raised rates by half a point for the first time in 22 years, also signaled that more hikes are coming. Wednesday's increase came as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued to push up food and fuel costs, and inflation reached a 40-year high. "Given last Friday's very ugly inflation report, they are stepping hard on the brakes," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.

4

Biden signs executive order boosting LGBTQ protections

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday seeking to strengthen protections for LGBTQ people "in celebration of Pride Month." A recent poll by the Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, found that more than two-thirds of LGBTQ young people said their mental health had been negatively affected by recent efforts in conservative states to enact laws restricting health-care and other rights of transgender people. Biden's order seeks to shield LGBTQ youth from "discredited and dangerous" anti-gay conversion therapy, which is banned in 20 states and Washington, D.C. The order also calls for providing more suicide prevention resources and establish programs to respond to the LGBTQ mental health crisis, senior administration officials said.

5

Fauci tests positive for COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, has tested positive for COVID-19, the National Institutes of Health said Wednesday. Fauci, who has been vaccinated and boosted twice, is experiencing "mild symptoms" and isolating at home, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he leads, said in a statement. Fauci, 81, is taking Paxlovid, the Pfizer anti-COVID drug, an NIH representative said, and he had not been in recent contact with Biden. This is the first time Fauci — a leading face of the federal government's pandemic response in the Trump and Biden administrations — has tested positive. COVID-19 cases have risen in recent weeks after falling sharply from the winter surge.

6

EPA says 'forever chemicals' more dangerous than previously believed

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday said that so-called forever chemicals pose a greater health threat than previously believed. These man-made compounds, known as polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are found in drinking water, cosmetics, and food packaging, exposing millions of Americans. The EPA's new advisory says lifetime exposure to the most common of these substances, PFOA and PFOS, even at the low levels of 0.004 and 0.02 parts per trillion, respectively, can harm immune and cardiovascular systems. They have also been linked to low birth weights. The guidance is intended to push local officials to install water filters and warn consumers of the threat of contamination.

7

Biden calls for oil companies to produce more gas, cut record profits 

President Biden on Wednesday called for oil companies to produce more gasoline and dial back record profits to help bring down record fuel prices, which have soared since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The national average for regular gas climbed above $5 per gallon this week, adding to concerns about high inflation. Biden wrote in a letter to executives from Marathon Petroleum, Valero Energy, and Exxon Mobil that they were refining less gas to push up prices and increase their profits. "At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable," Biden wrote, noting that gas prices were rising faster than oil prices. U.S. refiners say they are operating at near-peak capacity.

8

FDA advisers back Moderna, Pfizer vaccines for small children

The Food and Drug Administration's committee of outside experts on Wednesday recommended authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5. The finding that the vaccines are safe and effective for infants through preschoolers, the only age group without an authorized coronavirus vaccine, put the shots a step closer to final approval. The FDA is expected to accept the committee's recommendations on approving the shots for emergency use. That would send the matter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final approval to make the vaccine available through pharmacies and doctors' offices.

9

Florida synagogue sues over Florida abortion restrictions

A Florida synagogue has filed a lawsuit arguing that a new state law prohibiting most abortion after 15 weeks violates Jews' religious freedom and the state's constitution. Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach says the law, scheduled to take effect July 1, clashes with Jewish teachings that abortion "is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman," among other reasons, and therefore "prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion" and imposes "the laws of other religions upon Jews." The lawsuit also says the law violates privacy rights. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) office said it "is confident that this law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges."

10

Brazilian suspect confesses to killing missing journalist, indigenous activist

A Brazilian fisherman held in connection with the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira has confessed to killing the men in Brazil's remote Amazon, police in the South American nation said Wednesday. Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing June 5 after accompanying an indigenous patrol organized to prevent fisherman and hunters from illegally poaching on Javari Valley indigenous land. Brazilian Federal Police said the suspect, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, told them where the bodies were buried, and investigators went to the remote spot and recovered two bodies deep in the jungle.

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