10 things you need to know today: July 8, 2022
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe killed by gunman, WNBA star Brittney Griner pleads guilty in Russia, and more
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassinated
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died Friday after being shot as he spoke at a fellow politician's campaign event ahead of Sunday elections for the upper house of Japan's parliament. Public broadcaster NHK reported that Abe, 67, was rushed to a hospital showing no vital signs after being hit in the neck and chest. TV footage aired by NHK showed Abe delivering a speech when a plume of smoke rose behind him, at least two gunshots rang out, and he collapsed with blood on his shirt. A suspect was arrested on attempted murder charges, and police seized a double-barrel gun that appears to be handmade. Shootings are rare in Japan, which has some of the world's strictest gun laws.
Brittney Griner pleads guilty to Russia drug charges
Basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court on Thursday. The Phoenix Mercury center said she had packed for Russia in a hurry and mistakenly brought the cannabis vape cartridges that security agents at a Moscow airport found in her bags, and she never intended to break Russian laws. The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who had been playing in Russia during the WNBA's off-season, could face up to 10 years in prison. The next hearing in her trial is scheduled for next Thursday. President Biden assured Griner's wife, Cherelle, that he was working to get the WNBA star released. The U.S. has classified her as wrongfully detained, and believes Russia arrested her as leverage shortly before invading Ukraine.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces resignation
Boris Johnson announced Thursday that he is stepping down as Britain's prime minister, although he plans to stay on as caretaker leader until members of his Conservative Party pick a new leader this fall. More than 50 ministers and senior aides in his government had resigned in the previous 36 hours over Johnson's handling of his party's latest sex-and-bullying scandal, with many telling Johnson that leaving was the only way to restore trust in the government. Johnson, without referring to the scandal, said he would appoint a new Cabinet and keep working until a successor is chosen. That process could take months. "I want you to know how sad I am at giving up the best job in the world. But them's the breaks," he said.
Putin says Russia's war in Ukraine has just begun
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that his army is just getting started with its invasion of Ukraine. Putin warned the West it would fail if it sought Russia's defeat on the battlefield, but added that he is still open to diplomacy to settle the conflict, which Russia started in February. "We don't reject peace talks," Putin said. "But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us." Putin made the remarks as his top diplomat, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, heads into a closed-door foreign minister's meeting at a G20 gathering in Indonesia on Friday, where he will speak with outspoken critics of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Derek Chauvin gets 21 years for violating George Floyd's federal civil rights
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating George Floyd's civil rights by pressing his knee into the unarmed Black man's neck for more than nine minutes, killing him. Chauvin pleaded guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights in December, and admitted keeping his knee on Floyd's neck even after he passed out. The white former officer and colleagues detained Floyd in 2020 on suspicion that he tried to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Chauvin was previously convicted on separate state murder and manslaughter charges, and is already in prison on those charges. He will serve his state and federal sentences concurrently.
Biden awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people
President Biden on Thursday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, actor Denzel Washington, and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Biden also awarded the nation's highest civilian honor to New York nurse Sandra Lindsay, one of the first Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccination, and Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim Army captain. "The Fourth of July week reminds us what brought us together long ago and still binds us — binds us at our best, what we strive for," Biden said. He called the honorees an "extraordinary, extraordinary group of Americans," adding, "This is America."
Lawmakers demand investigation of tax audits on Trump critics
Lawmakers on Thursday called for an investigation into whether two former FBI leaders who clashed with then-President Donald Trump were illegally targeted for rare and demanding tax audits. The odds that both former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired in 2017, and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who replaced Comey and was fired by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018, would be subjected to the audits are astronomical, The New York Times reports. Republicans argued the controversy was similar to one during the Obama administration involving the tax-exempt status of certain conservative groups. "The IRS should never be used as a weapon against political opponents," Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said.
Jury finds former Theranos CFO guilty of fraud
A jury on Thursday found former Theranos executive Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani guilty of working with disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes to defraud investors and patients by making false promises about their company's unreliable blood tests. The 12 jurors found Balwani guilty on all 12 felony counts. Holmes was found guilty earlier this year in her trial, in which she accused Balwani of sexually and emotionally abusing her when they were lovers, and manipulating her. Balwani's lawyers tried to shift the blame onto Holmes, once a rising star in Silicon Valley and the face of the company's effort to woo investors. Both Holmes, 38, and Balwani, 57, could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
U.N. World Food Program director warns of looming hunger crisis
The United Nations World Food Program's director is warning that a hunger catastrophe could erupt in the next two years. WFP Director Patrick Beasley called for immediate action, including the lifting of a Russian blockade preventing the shipment of 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain. The number of people the U.N. classified as "acutely food insecure" was 130 million before the coronavirus pandemic. After COVID, it increased to 276 million. "This number has increased to 345 million due to the Ukraine crisis," Beasley said. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a global breadbasket, has caused soaring prices and shortages of basic foods. "The international community must act to stop this looming hunger catastrophe in its tracks — or these numbers will explode," Beasley said.
Actor James Caan dies at 82
Legendary actor James Caan, best known for his Oscar-nominated role in The Godfather, has died, his family confirmed in a post on his official Twitter account Thursday. He was 82. The cause of death was not disclosed. Caan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the 1973 Academy Awards for his portrayal of Sonny Corleone, eldest son of Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone, in The Godfather. He returned briefly in The Godfather Part II. Caan was also known for memorable roles in Misery, Rollerball, Elf, and other films. He received an Emmy nomination for the early made-for-television movie Brian's Song (1971). His other TV work included the NBC dramedy Las Vegas.