Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 20, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest after state funeral, kidnapped American Mark Frerichs is freed in a Taliban prisoner exchange, and more


Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest at Windsor Castle

Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on Monday after her funeral at Westminster Abbey in London. The queen was interred with her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, who died last year. Royal officials described the closed-door ceremony as a "deeply personal family occasion." The chapel is also the final resting place of Elizabeth II's parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and numerous other British monarchs, including Henry VIII and the beheaded Charles I. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted during the funeral that when Elizabeth turned 21 she vowed in a radio address to devote her life to serving Britain and the Commonwealth. "Rarely has such a promise been so well-kept," he said.


American Mark Frerichs released in Taliban prisoner exchange 

Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran held captive in Afghanistan since he was kidnapped in late January 2020, has been released in a prisoner exchange, Biden administration officials said Monday. Under the deal, the United States granted clemency to Haji Bashir Noorzai, a prominent Taliban member who was serving 17 years in a U.S. prison on drug trafficking charges. "Bringing the negotiations that led to Mark's freedom to a successful resolution required difficult decisions, which I did not take lightly," President Biden said in a statement released by the White House. Frerichs was a contractor doing construction work in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped, likely by the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction.


Hurricane Fiona moves on after devastating Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic

Hurricane Fiona hit the eastern Dominican Republic on Monday, after drenching parts of Puerto Rico with more than two feet of rain and causing what Puerto Rican Gov. Pedro Pierluisi described as "catastrophic" destruction. Ponce, Puerto Rico's second largest city, got more than 21 inches of rain in 24 hours. The rain caused rivers to overflow and triggered landslides. Homes, roads, and bridges were washed out, and most of the U.S. territory remains without power. Pierluisi said the damage would be in the "billions." Fiona hit as a Category 1 storm with top winds of 85 mph, but it strengthened to a Category 3 storm early Tuesday as it bore down on the the Turks and Caicos Islands.


Russian missile hits near 2nd Ukrainian nuclear power plant

A Russian missile hit near a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Monday, striking just over 300 yards from the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant's three reactors but not damaging them. The missile did cause some destruction to nearby industrial equipment and caused a nearby hydropower plant to temporarily shut down. Ukrainian authorities called the strike an act of "nuclear terrorism." The plant is Ukraine's second largest nuclear power station after the massive Zaporizhzhia plant, where nearby shelling has sparked warnings of a potential radiation disaster. The latest strike followed warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin of possible attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure after an unexpectedly strong counteroffensive forced Russian forces to retreat in parts of eastern Ukraine.


Pro-Russia separatists plead for annexation votes as Ukrainian counteroffensive expands

Pro-Russia leaders in the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk "republics" in eastern Ukraine on Monday called for Russia to rush votes to annex the areas. Lina Vokalova, deputy head of the Luhansk People's Republic's "public chamber," demanded a public referendum to approve annexation and "fulfill our dream of returning home — to the Russian Federation." The urgent pleas came as Ukrainian forces extended rapid gains during their counteroffensive, sending Russian forces into an embarrassing retreat from northeastern Kharkiv province. Ukrainian troops are now reportedly pushing into cities in Luhansk and Donetsk, raising the possibility that Russia could start losing territory it controlled in the eastern Donbas region before its forces invaded Ukraine in February.


Texas sheriff investigates DeSantis' migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard 

Sheriff Javier Salazar of Bexar County, Texas, on Monday announced a criminal investigation into the effort spearheaded by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to fly 48 Venezuelan asylum-seekers from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard last week. Salazar, an elected Democrat, said the migrants were "in the country legally," and "somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life," then "unceremoniously stranded" them for "nothing more than political posturing." Immigrants' rights groups and Democrats have made similar complaints. DeSantis said the migrants signed a waiver and left willingly. "Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected," DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said.


China says Biden remarks 'severely violate' U.S. policy on Taiwan

China on Monday reacted angrily to President Biden's statement during a TV interview that the United States would defend Taiwan if China invaded. China's foreign ministry said Biden's remarks, which he made in a CBS 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday, "severely violate" Washington's policy of formally recognizing Beijing as the sole government of China. China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province. "We are willing to do our best to strive for peaceful reunification," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said. "At the same time, we will not tolerate any activities aimed at secession." Tensions between China and the U.S. over Taiwan have escalated recently following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) visit to the self-governing democratic island.


Powerful earthquake hits Mexico's Pacific coast 

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico's Pacific coast on Monday. Little major damage was reported, but at least one person was killed under a wall that collapsed at a mall in the port city of Manzanillo, Colima, according to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said via Twitter that there were no reports of damage in the capital city. The powerful quake struck on the anniversary of major earthquakes in 1985 and 2017. Earthquake alarms went off less than an hour after alarms that sounded during a nationwide disaster simulation marking the previous temblors.


'Grand Theft Auto VI' maker confirms major leak

Rockstar Games confirmed Monday that about 90 videos of in-development footage from the next installment of its blockbuster Grand Theft Auto game were leaked online Sunday. "We recently suffered a network intrusion in which an unauthorized third party illegally accessed and downloaded confidential information from our systems, including early development footage for the next Grand Theft Auto," the publisher said. Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier described it as "one of the biggest leaks in video game history." The breach was particularly significant because little information had previously been available about the game, Grand Theft Auto VI, which Rockstar only confirmed was in development in February, nearly a decade after the release of Grand Theft Auto V.


Maryland judge vacates murder conviction of 'Serial' subject Adnan Syed

Judge Melissa Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court on Monday vacated the conviction of Adnan Syed, 41, for the murder of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park in 1999. Syed was 17 when Lee was killed, and was serving a life sentence. He has always maintained his innocence. The case was featured in the first season of the Serial podcast. Phinn said she was freeing Syed "in the interests of justice and fairness" because prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that could have helped in his defense. Prosecutors had asked Phinn to vacate the conviction, saying new evidence pointing to two other possible suspects called its "integrity" into question.


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