Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 29, 2022

Biden tries to ease Taiwan tensions in talk with Xi, the economy contracted for the second straight quarter, and more

1

Biden talks to Xi to ease tensions with China over Taiwan

President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China discussed Taiwan in a two-hour video call Thursday as tensions rise ahead of a possible visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that has angered China, which considers Taiwan as part of its territory. It was the first time Biden and Xi had spoken directly in four months. Xi warned that the United States was "playing with fire" and should stay out of its relations with Taiwan. "President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes anyone who will change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

2

Economy contracted for second straight quarter

The U.S. economy contracted by 0.9 percent in the second quarter, after shrinking at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the first quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday. Two consecutive quarters of contraction technically meet the unofficial definition of a recession, but it's up to the nonprofit, non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research to determine whether the economy has fallen into a recession. The eight economists on the NBER committee that makes the call considers many factors, and the White House said the economy remained too strong to fit the label after posting record job growth and foreign business investment. "That doesn't sound like a recession to me," President Biden said.

3

Russia hits Kyiv region with 1st missile strikes in weeks

Russian forces fired six missiles at the Kyiv region on Thursday, targeting the Ukrainian capital for the first time in weeks. The attack hit a military unit in the village of Liutizh on the outskirts of Kyiv, said Oleksii Hromov, a senior official in Ukraine's General Staff. Russia also targeted the northern Chernihiv region in what Ukraine said was retaliation for popular resistance against Russia's invasion. The Russian strikes, fired from the Black Sea, wounded 15 people, Kyiv regional Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said. Ukrainian officials said their forces launched a counteroffensive to take back the occupied southern Kherson region, which Russia seized early in its invasion, which started in February.

4

Biden administration decides against expanding 2nd-booster eligibility

The Biden administration has decided not to expand eligibility for second coronavirus vaccine boosters this summer, and accelerated its plan to offer shots of new Pfizer and Moderna boosters adjusted to protect against the now-dominant Omicron subvariant BA.5 by September, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. Only people over age 50 and those over 12 with some immune deficiencies are currently eligible for a second booster. Some public health officials have pushed for wider eligibility for second booster shots already available because BA.5 is spreading fast. But the administration instead decided to focus on getting people the more effective booster ahead of a potential winter surge.

5

L.A. County halts plan for mask mandate as COVID cases fall

Los Angeles County has dropped plans to impose a new universal indoor mask mandate after new coronavirus cases declined, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Officials in the Southern California county warned for months that new mandates might be necessary as COVID-19 infections and hospitalization rates soared due to the rapid spread of the highly infections BA.5 Omicron subvariant. Before the reversal, the mandate was scheduled to take effect Friday. The policy would have required everyone age 2 and up to wear face coverings at shared offices, factories, stores, event spaces, restaurants, bars, gyms, educational facilities, and programs for children. L.A. will continue to require masks in indoor transit areas, including taxis and airports.

6

Flooding kills at least 8 in Kentucky

At least eight people have died in flooding caused by heavy rains in eastern Kentucky, state authorities said Thursday. Parts of the state got eight to 12 inches of rain early in the day. "This is by far the worst flooding disaster at least in my lifetime in Kentucky," Gov. Andy Beshear told NBC Nightly News. "It has wiped out what we believe are hundreds of homes." Beshear said the death toll was expected to rise into double digits. Up to three more inches of rain could fall Thursday night through the weekend, and flood alerts remained in place in areas that are home to four million people in Kentucky, southern Ohio, West Virginia, and soutwestern Virginia.

7

Mulvaney testifies to Jan. 6 committee

Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney testified Thursday to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack by a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters. Mulvaney was acting White House chief of staff until March 2020, when Trump replaced him with Mark Meadows. Mulvaney was serving as special envoy to Northern Ireland when the insurrection occurred. He resigned afterwards, and told reporters after his interview that he hadn't "talked to anyone in the White House for a long time." The panel's vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), told CNN last weekend that the committee hoped to interview more high-ranking former Trump aides and Cabinet members.

8

San Francisco declares state of emergency over monkeypox

San Francisco officials declared a state of emergency on Thursday to accelerate funding and emergency efforts to fight a monkeypox outbreak in the city. There were 281 known monkeypox cases in San Francisco as of Thursday afternoon, accounting for 30 percent of the cases reported in California. It is spreading primarily among gay and bisexual men and transgender and nonbinary people, the Los Angeles Times reported. For weeks, LGBTQ activists have been calling for acquiring more monkeypox vaccines and other actions, saying people at high risk have been overlooked. Earlier this week, U.S. health officials said that roughly 800,000 doses will soon be distributed nationwide.

9

Amazon reports better-than-expected sales

Amazon shares jumped more than 12 percent in after-hours trading Thursday after the online retail giant reported better-than-expected quarterly sales and strong, continuing growth from Amazon Web Services. Amazon posted a $2 billion quarterly loss on sales of $121.2 billion, capping the company's first back-to-back quarterly losses since 2014. "Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we're making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network," Chief Executive Andy Jassy said. "We're also seeing revenue accelerate."

10

Uvalde principal reinstated after review of school shooting report

Uvalde, Texas, school officials have reinstated Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary School, following a review, her attorney, Ricardo Cedillo, told ABC News Thursday. Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District superintendent Hal Harrell thanked Gutierrez in a letter obtained by ABC News for submitting responses to the Texas House's investigative report into the May 24 mass shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead. The July report included criticism of Gutierrez and other school officials, as well as all police agencies that responded to the attack. "As a result of our review, you will be allowed to return to work," Harrell wrote to Gutierrez. Harrell had suspended Gutierrez earlier in the week.

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