Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 3, 2022

Pelosi meets with Taiwan's president as China reacts angrily, Kansas voters soundly reject anti-abortion amendment, and more


Pelosi says Taiwan visit supports democracy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in what she called a show of U.S. solidarity with the self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory. Pelosi, the highest ranking American elected official to visit to Taiwan in 25 years, met with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen early Wednesday. "America's solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy," Pelosi said in a statement. China responded by sending warplanes to buzz the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait and planning live-fire air and sea military exercises and missile tests near Taiwan, saying Pelosi's trip "seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty."


Kansas voters reject anti-abortion amendment

Kansas voters on Tuesday resoundingly rejected a proposal to remove abortion rights from the state Constitution, with 59 percent opposing the amendment and 39 percent supporting it after 95 percent of the votes were counted. The decisive margin, in a red state, marked a major victory for the abortion rights movement in the first test of voter sentiment since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June. "The voters in Kansas have spoken loud and clear: We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion," said Rachel Sweet, the campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. Emily Massey, a spokesperson for the pro-amendment campaign, called the vote a "temporary setback."


Trump-backed election deniers win key votes in Michigan, Arizona

Several 2020 election deniers won high-profile Republican primaries on Tuesday in five states. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump last year, lost his primary to former Trump administration official John Gibbs, who backed the former president's baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Arizona state lawmaker Mark Finchem, another Trump-backed election denier, was projected to win the Republican nomination for GOP secretary of state, a job with oversight over the state's elections. Venture capitalist Blake Masters, who has said Trump won in 2020, was projected to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the state. Eric Schmitt won Missouri's GOP Senate primary, beating scandal-plagued Eric Greitens.


U.S. imposes more sanctions on Russia over its Ukraine invasion

The State Department on Tuesday announced more sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine. The targets this time included dozens of Russian companies and individuals, including oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin and technology firms linked to the Russian military. "As Ukrainians continue to valiantly defend their homeland in the face of President Putin's brutal war, Russia's elite are running massive revenue-generating companies and funding their own opulent lifestyles outside of Russia," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Some of the targets have already been punished by the European Union and Britain, The New York Times reports. The Treasury Department also imposed new sanctions against several wealthy Russians, including Putin's rumored girlfriend Alina Kabaeva.


Taliban faces nationalist backlash after U.S. drone strike kills al-Zawahiri

The Taliban faced a nationalist backlash on Tuesday after a spokesman for the Islamist group's government in Afghanistan released a statement confirming that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed in Kabul by a U.S. drone strike, The Washington Post reports. "If the martyrdom of Zawahiri is confirmed, then shame on you that we could not protect the true hero of Islam," an Afghan named Ehsanullah reportedly tweeted. Al-Zawahiri was at the top of America's list of most-wanted terrorists. But he was a hero to Islamist militants, who could pose a threat to the beleaguered Taliban's hold on power a year after it pushed aside Afghanistan's previous government as U.S. forces withdrew.


2 more bodies found in California fire zone

Authorities in Northern California found the bodies of two more people killed by the fast-moving McKinney fire, bringing the death toll to four. The latest victims were found in homes in rural Siskiyou County. The first two bodies were found in a burned vehicle earlier in the week. Authorities said nobody else has been reported missing in the fire zone. About 1,300 firefighters are struggling to contain the McKinney fire, which started Friday in Klamath National Forest near the California-Oregon state line, and keep it from burning more buildings as storms that could dump helpful rain also threaten to start new blazes if lightning hits dry fuel.


Biden administration sues to block Idaho abortion ban

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Idaho on Tuesday, seeking to block the state from imposing a "near-absolute ban" on abortion on the ground that it violates federal laws. The challenge in U.S. District Court in Idaho also called for preventing the state from prosecuting or disciplining doctors. "Today, the Justice Department's message is clear," U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said. "If a patient comes into the emergency room with a medical emergency jeopardizing the patient's life or health, the hospital must provide the treatment necessary to stabilize that patient." The case is the Biden administration's first court fight over abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.


Florida school-shooting victims' families give emotional testimony 

Relatives of the 17 people murdered by Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 gave emotional testimony Tuesday for a second day during the penalty phase of his trial. Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of first-degree murder in October. This part of the trial will determine whether he gets the death penalty or life without parole. One parent, Dr. Ilan Alhadeff, said the loss of his 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, has devastated his family, describing her "infectious laugh that I can only get to watch now on TikTok videos." He yelled: "My first-born daughter, daddy's girl was taken from me!" Annika Dworet, whose son Nick was a star swimmer, said her family's "hearts will forever be broken."


California, Illinois declare states of emergency over monkeypox outbreaks

Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois have declared states of emergency due to monkeypox outbreaks. On Tuesday, the day after the two Democratic governors made their declarations to help access emergency resources, California had more than 800 cases and Illinois had more than 500, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. New York on Friday became the first state to declare a state of emergency over the smallpox-like virus, which causes lesions that look like pimples or blisters, and sometimes fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. California is "working urgently" to "slow the spread of monkeypox" by "leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing, and community partnerships" that were strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom said.


Stephen King testifies against Penguin Random House-Simon Schuster merger

Bestselling author Stephen King testified Tuesday as a witness for the Justice Department as it challenges Penguin Random House's proposed $2.2 billion acquisition of rival Simon & Schuster. The government is arguing in the antitrust trial that letting Penguin Random House, the biggest U.S. book publisher, buy the No. 4 U.S. book publisher would reduce competition, resulting in less pay for authors and fewer books for readers. "I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition," said King, who has long been published by Simon & Schuster. As the industry consolidates, he added, "it becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on." Attorney Daniel Petrocelli, who represents the companies, unexpectedly told King he had no questions for him.


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