Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 4, 2022

China launches unprecedented military drills around Taiwan following Pelosi visit, the Senate ratifies NATO proposal to admit Sweden and Finland, and more

1

China starts live-fire military exercises around Taiwan

China on Thursday launched unprecedented live-fire military drills around Taiwan in a show of force following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, a self-governing island Beijing considers part of its territory. The exercises, scheduled to last until Sunday, included air, ground, and sea strikes. Chinese forces launched two missiles near Taiwan's Matsu islands off China's coast. Chinese naval ships and warplanes crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial maritime boundary. Taiwan called the drills "irresponsible, illegitimate behavior," saying they violated its territorial space and United Nations rules, amounting to a blockade. Pelosi continued her Asia tour with a stop in South Korea.

2

Senate ratifies proposal to admit Sweden, Finland to NATO

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of letting Sweden and Finland join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Both countries decided to give up their longtime neutrality and apply to become members of the Western military alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, hoping to protect themselves from any further Russian aggression. The 95-1 Senate vote made the United States the 23rd NATO member to ratify the proposal. All 30 members have to agree before Helsinki and Stockholm can be admitted to NATO. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the Senate's ratification of the proposed additions "a signal to Russia: they cannot intimidate America or Europe."

3

Biden signs executive order supporting interstate abortion travel

President Biden on Wednesday signed a second executive seeking to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions, but Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services to consider using Medicaid to cover travel expenses to defend "the bedrock right to travel across state lines to seek reproductive health care in states where those services remain legal," according to a White House fact sheet. Biden signed the order during the first meeting of his Task Force on Reproductive Health Care.

4

Highland Park July 4th mass shooting suspect pleads not guilty

The suspect in the Highland Park, Illinois, July 4 mass shooting entered a not guilty plea on Wednesday. The suspect, Robert "Bobby" Crimo III, faces 117 felony counts for the attack in the Chicago suburb. Judge Victoria Rossetti told Crimo, 21, that he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Investigators say Crimo climbed onto the roof of a store and fired more than 80 rounds with an assault-style rifle, killing seven people and wounding dozens more at an Independence Day parade. Police say he then dropped the rifle and escaped disguised as a woman. He was arrested later the same day after an intense search. He allegedly considered attacking another gathering in Madison, Wisconsin.

5

Ukraine grain ship clears inspection in Turkey

The first ship to leave Ukraine carrying grain since Russia invaded in February passed inspection in Turkey on Wednesday and resumed its trip to Lebanon. Ukrainian officials said another 17 vessels were "loaded and waiting permission to leave" under a July 22 deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to allow Ukraine to ship 20 million tons of grain that has been stuck in the country, causing global food shortages. Ukraine is a major grain exporter, but a Russian blockade in the Black Sea has prevented it from safely continuing shipments. Lingering anger and mistrust between Kyiv and Moscow has threatened to derail the agreement, which lasts four months but can be extended.

6

Alex Jones' false claims exposed in Sandy Hook defamation trial

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones acknowledged during his defamation trial on Wednesday that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was "100 percent real." His comments came a day after parents of the victims testified that they have faced harassment and death threats because of Jones' false claim — on Infowars and other platforms — that the attack, which killed 20 students and six educators, was a hoax. In a devastating cross-examination, a lawyer for Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, produced text messages from Jones' cellphone that Jones' lawyer emailed him, apparently accidentally, appearing to show Jones withheld evidence by falsely claiming he had no texts about Sandy Hook. "You know what perjury is, right?" Bankston asked Jones.

7

Rep. Jackie Walorski, 3 others killed in car crash

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and three other people were killed in a car crash in her home state on Wednesday. Walorski and two aides were driving south on Indiana 19 in Elkhart County, returning from a ribbon-cutting ceremony, when a northbound car crossed the center line and hit them head-on. Zach Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, were traveling with Walorski and were killed, as was the driver of the other car. Walorski, 58, had represented Indiana's 2nd Congressional District since 2013. Potts was Walorski's district director, and Thomson her communications director. Walorski had been poised to become a leader of the powerful Ways and Means Committee if Republicans regained control of the House in the November midterms. House Minority Whip Steven Scalise (R-La.) said Walorski, Potts, and Thomson "died serving her constituents."

8

Chile investigates sinkhole near copper mine

Chilean authorities are investigating a 105-foot-wide sinkhole that opened last weekend on land where Canada's Lundin Mining operates a copper mine. The National Service of Geology and Mining dispatched specialists to inspect the site, which is just over 400 miles north of the South American nation's capital, Santiago. Lundin Mining released a statement saying the sinkhole hadn't affected any workers or the surrounding community. The company said it alerted authorities as soon as the problem appeared, the sinkhole "has remained stable," and "no movement has been detected related to the surficial sinkhole" in the mine, where work has been temporarily suspended.

9

Alabama girl escapes kidnapper, helps police discover bodies

A 12-year-old girl escaped a kidnapper in rural Alabama by chewing through her restraints, then led police to the mobile home where she had been held, where they discovered two decomposing bodies, local authorities said. Police announced the gruesome discovery on Tuesday, and it was widely reported on Wednesday. The girl was found walking on the side of a road, sparking a 24-hour investigation that led police to the home of José Paulino Pascual-Reyes, Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett said. Pascual-Reyes, 37, was arrested and charged with first-degree kidnapping, three counts of capital murder, and two counts of abuse of corpse. The unidentified girl had been tied to bedposts for nearly a week. "She's a hero," Abbett said.

10

11 golfers sue PGA Tour over suspension for playing in rival startup league

Eleven golfers playing in the fledgling LIV Golf Invitational Series on Wednesday filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour for suspending them as punishment for joining the Saudi-backed breakaway events. The lawsuit — filed by Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak, and Peter Uihlein — argues that the PGA Tour is imposing anticompetitive restraints to protect its monopoly. The PGA Tour's commissioner, Jay Monahan, said the organization was trying to protect its players and fans. "Fundamentally, these suspended players — who are now Saudi Golf League employees — have walked away form the tour and now want back in," Monahan said.

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