Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 14, 2022

Ukraine pushes deeper into Russian-occupied areas, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham proposes nationwide abortion restrictions, and more

1

Ukraine pushes deeper into Russian-occupied areas

Ukrainian troops recaptured more territory in northeastern Kharkiv province on Tuesday, as Russian occupying forces continued their frenzied retreat amid Ukraine's surprisingly effective counteroffensive. Ukraine's border guard services said the army has retaken the town of Vovchansk, just two miles from the Russian border, for the first time since the Feb. 24 invasion. Russia also abandoned Melitopol, the second largest city in Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia province, and fled toward Russian-annexed Crimea, according to the city's pre-occupation mayor. Russia's hasty retreat was unexpected after months of an apparent stalemate. "They left like the wind," one Ukrainian civilian, Svitlana Honchar, said in the newly freed northeastern village of Chkalovske. "They were fleeing by any means they could."

2

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham proposes nationwide abortion restrictions

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and leave in place more restrictive bans in some states. There's "no chance" Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will allow a vote on the legislation, The New York Times said. The bill appeared designed to give Republicans a chance to unite behind a shared policy on the abortion issue ahead of the November midterm elections. Some Republicans have pushed to sharply limit or ban abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had protected abortion rights for 50 years. Others want more modest restrictions. A backlash, particularly among women voters, has hurt Republicans' chance of winning control of the Senate in November.

3

Inflation rises despite falling gas prices

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the consumer price index rose 8.3 percent in August compared to a year earlier, down from 8.5 percent in July and 9.1 percent in June. Prices rose 0.1 percent month-to-month, picking up after holding steady in July. Economists had expected falling gas prices and other factors to pull down inflation a little more. Excluding volatile food and energy costs, core prices increased 0.6 percent from July to August, up sharply from July's 0.3 percent figure. Core prices were up 6.3 percent compared to a year earlier. They rose 5.9 percent in July. The news sent stocks plunging on expectations of even-more-aggressive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, hurting economic growth.

4

U.S. says Russia covertly funneled $300 million to influence foreign politics

Russia has secretly given more than $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates since 2014 in a campaign to influence policies and elections, according to a new U.S. intelligence review. The Biden administration ordered the review this summer and downgraded the classified findings so it could share them with the public and other countries. A senior Biden administration official said Russia is "trying to advantage specific political parties and undermine democracy in all of these countries," and the U.S. believes "one of the most effective ways to counter Russian covert influence is to expose it." The official said releasing the information also puts "these foreign parties and candidates on notice that if they accept Russian money secretly, we can and we will expose it."

5

New Hampshire GOP Senate primary too close to call

The Republican U.S. Senate primary in New Hampshire remained too close to call early Wednesday in the latest test of the far-right's influence in the GOP. Conservative retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc led the more moderate state Senate President Chuck Morse by just 1,270 out of 125,337 votes, with 82 percent of the precincts reporting, leaving it unclear who will face Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan. Hassan won her primary Tuesday with token opposition. Bolduc is a political newcomer who campaigned on former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud in 2020 and vaccine conspiracy theories. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who won his gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, endorsed Morse, calling him "the candidate to beat Sen. Hassan."

6

Clinton investigator Ken Starr dies at 76

Ken Starr, who as independent counsel uncovered the sex scandal that led to then-President Bill Clinton's impeachment, died Tuesday in Houston. He was 76. Starr's wife, Alice, said he died of complications from surgery after an undisclosed illness. The Texas native became a federal judge at 37, and served as solicitor general during the George H.W. Bush administration. He then investigated Clinton as independent counsel, initially focusing on the Whitewater real estate venture in Arkansas before looking at Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Starr said Clinton lied under oath about the affair and obstructed justice. Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. In 2020, Starr served on former President Donald Trump's impeachment team during his first Senate trial.

7

Queen Elizabeth's casket arrives in London ahead of Monday funeral

Queen Elizabeth II's coffin arrived in London on a flight from Edinburgh, Scotland, on Tuesday, accompanied by Princess Anne, the queen's only daughter. The coffin was then taken by hearse to Buckingham Palace. Crowds of mourners gathered outside the palace to silently watch. King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, gathered privately at the palace with his siblings and the queen's grandchildren. On Wednesday, the coffin will be taken to Westminster Hall, where it will lie in state until the queen's Monday funeral at Westminster Abbey. Before returning to London to receive his mother's coffin with his family, King Charles visited Northern Ireland, saying Queen Elizabeth "never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and for its people."

8

Alex Jones faces 2nd defamation trial over Sandy Hook hoax claim

A second defamation trial began Tuesday against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for falsely claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax. In the first trial, a Texas jury last month ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the 20 6- and 7-year-old schoolchildren murdered in the Newtown, Connecticut, attack. Six adult staff members also were killed. More than a dozen relatives, including parents of some of the children, were in the courtroom Tuesday to hear opening arguments in the Connecticut case, in which the jury will decide whether Jones, founder of Infowars, should have to pay damages to the families of eight victims plus an FBI agent who responded to the shooting.

9

Rapper PnB Rock fatally shot in Los Angeles robbery

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed Tuesday that Philadelphia rapper PnB Rock was fatally shot Monday at Roscoe's Chicken 'N Waffles. The gunman demanded jewelry and other valuables, then opened fire after a struggle and fled out a side door, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. The 30-year-old Rock, whose legal name was Rakim Allen, had just been location-tagged in an Instagram post, and police are investigating whether that was why the attacker showed up. Rock was known for his melodic flow and hit songs like "Selfish" and "Fleek." His collaboration with rapper YFN Lucci, "Everyday We Lit," reached No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100. His label, Atlantic Records, called his death a "senseless loss" in a statement posted on Instagram.

10

Influential French director Jean-Luc Godard dies at 91

French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, has died. He was 91. Godard's wife, Anne-Marie Mieville, told French media that he "died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones." Godard made his feature directorial debut with Breathless in 1960, after beginning his career as a film critic. Breathless was listed as the 13th greatest movie ever made in Sight & Sound's most recent poll of the all-time best films. "Modern movies begin here," Roger Ebert wrote in 2003, calling the film "revolutionary" and praising its "headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society."

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