Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 2, 2022

A U.S. drone strike kills Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, officials confirm Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan over China's objections, and more

1

U.S. drone strike kills Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri

The United States has killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone strike in Afghanistan, President Biden announced Monday night. Biden said from the White House that he approved the operation after U.S. intelligence officials tracked al-Zawahiri, who plotted the 9/11 terrorist attacks with his predecessor Osama bin Laden, to a home in downtown Kabul where he was hiding with his family. "Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more," President Biden said. The U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan a year ago this month. Biden said he "made a promise to the American people that we would continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We've done just that."

2

Pelosi to visit Taiwan despite China threats

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan during her Asia tour, Taiwanese and U.S. officials said Monday. Pelosi would be the first U.S. House speaker in 25 years to visit the self-governing island, which China considers part of its territory. Pelosi did not include the Taiwan visit in the itinerary she released ahead of her trip, which started Monday in Singapore. "She's definitely coming," a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. China's Foreign Ministry on Monday repeated earlier threats that China "will not sit idly by" if Pelosi visits Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Biden in a phone call last week: "Those who play with fire will perish by it."

3

1st Capitol rioter to go to trial sentenced to 7 years

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Guy Reffitt, the first Capitol rioter to go on trial, to just over seven years in prison, the longest term yet for a person charged with crimes linked to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress. The Wylie, Texas, man was found guilty in March by a federal jury on five felony charges, including obstruction of justice and entering a restricted building with a firearm. Prosecutors asked the judge to classify Reffitt's crimes as domestic terrorism and give 15 years in prison. Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected the terrorism classification, saying it would result in a far harsher punishment for Reffitt than other defendants charged over the insurrection.

4

2 found dead in car burned by California's McKinney fire

Emergency workers found two people dead inside a car burned by the McKinney fire, which started Friday in Northern California's Klamath National Forest and quickly spread to become the state's biggest wildfire this year. The car was parked in a driveway off Highway 96, west of the town of Klamath River, which was nearly wiped out by the flames. Rain slowed the blaze's growth Monday, but lightning strikes ignited several small fires, complicating efforts to contain the flames. The fire has burned more than 55,000 acres. Continuing thunderstorms could bring erratic winds and more lightning, which could cause unpredictable fire behavior that is "dangerous for firefighters," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Garner.

5

Kentucky flood death toll rises to 37

Rescue workers struggled Monday to reach parts of Kentucky cut off by floodwater that washed away bridges and made roads impassable. The death toll rose to at least 37, up from 28 a day earlier, as already devastated communities braced for more rainfall. "There are hundreds of unaccounted for people, minimum," Gov. Andy Beshear said. The list of victims identified so far included four siblings, ages 2 to 8. "The oldest one is in second grade,'" Beshear said, looking at the list of the dead. An aunt said the children, their mother, and her partner climbed onto the roof of the family's flooded mobile home, but "the water got so strong it just washed them away."

6

Oregon investigating 14 potential heat-related deaths

Oregon authorities suspect heat caused the death of at least 14 people during last week's record-setting heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the region, where temperatures seldom rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, got triple-digit temperatures. The deaths were reported from Thursday through Saturday. Much of the region spent the week under excessive heat warnings. Temperatures reached 102 degrees in Portland, Oregon, and Redding, Washington, while Yakima, Washington, had a 107-degree day. Portland had temperatures of 95 degrees or higher for seven straight days, breaking the previous record of six days.

7

U.S. to send Ukraine another $550 million in arms

The United States plans to send another $550 million in weapons to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion, the White House announced Monday. The latest commitment will bring the total U.S. aid to Ukraine to more than $8 billion since Russian forces attacked the country in late February. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was authorizing diverting arms and equipment from U.S. inventories to help Ukraine defend itself. John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said the latest arms transfer will include ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems rocket launchers Ukraine has used to destroy Russian command posts and ammunition depots, and for 155-millimeter howitzers.

8

BP earnings triples thanks to soaring fuel prices

British energy giant BP reported Tuesday that its second-quarter earnings tripled as oil and gas prices skyrocketed after Russia invaded Ukraine. The company said profit, excluding one-time items and other fluctuating inventory value, rose to $8.45 billion from $2.80 billion in the second quarter of 2021. The earnings allowed BP to return money to shareholders by boosting its dividend by 10 percent, with expected 4 percent annual dividend increases through 2025. BP also said it would buy back $3.5 billion worth of shares. The British government has announced a 25 percent windfall profit tax on energy company earnings from domestic operations as the country struggles with 9.4 percent inflation, a 40-year high.

9

U.S. manufacturing expansion slows, but less than expected

U.S. manufacturing activity expanded at its slowest pace in two years in July due to declining orders and growing inventories, although the slowdown was not quite as bad as expected. The Institute for Supply Management's gauge of factory activity fell to 52.8 from 53 a month earlier, according to data released Monday. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected a reading of 52. The institute's measure of production also dropped to its lowest point in more than two years, and new orders contracted for the second month. Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM's Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said that contraction and excess inventory in the supply chain are causing members of the panel to express "concern about a softening in the economy."

10

Browns QB Deshaun Watson suspended for 6 games 

A disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association has suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games after 24 women filed lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct. Watson has denied the allegations. He has not been charged with any crimes, and has reached settlements in 23 of the 24 lawsuits. "Although this is the most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of nonviolent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson's pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL," former federal judge Sue Robinson wrote in a 16-page ruling released publicly Monday afternoon. National Center on Sexual Exploitation CEO Dawn Hawkins said the "suspension should have been stricter."

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