Daily briefing

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

Putin declares martial law in occupied parts of Ukraine, Trump answers questions in rape accuser's defamation lawsuit, and more

1

Putin declares martial law in occupied Ukraine regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declared martial law in four Ukrainian regions Moscow has illegally annexed but Ukrainian forces are fighting to win back. The move will let pro-Russian authorities in occupied parts of the four regions carry out forced relocations and impose tough new restrictions on local residents. Putin also granted more authority to regional governors in Russia so they could tighten restrictions there. The decree affects the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions. In the southern region of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces have broken through Russian defenses, Moscow's proxies have been relocating civilians and occupation officials ahead of an expected battle for the area's capital city.

2

Trump deposed in rape accuser's defamation lawsuit

Former President Donald Trump answered questions under oath Wednesday in a defamation lawsuit filed against him in 2019 by writer E. Jean Carroll over his denial that he raped her in a New York City department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Trump has publicly called the allegation "a hoax and a lie." Carroll, a former advice columnist for Elle magazine, described the alleged assault in a book. Trump denied knowing Carroll, said she was "not my type," and accused her of making up the story to sell books. Trump attorney Alina Habba said her client was "pleased to set the record straight today," calling the case one of many "witch hunts against Donald Trump." Carroll's lawyers said they were pleased to get Trump's deposition, which his lawyers had fought.

3

Biden announces release of 15 million barrels of oil from reserve

President Biden on Wednesday announced the release of another 15 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and called for energy companies to share some of their record profits with consumers by lowering prices. Biden's plan to sell the stockpiled oil in December is the final part of an unprecedented release of 180 million barrels of oil to keep gas prices from rising. The decision came as the midterm elections loom and major oil exporters led by Saudi Arabia and Russia move to cut output to boost prices. Biden pointed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine for pushing oil prices higher, and said he was "doing everything in my power" to bring fuel prices down.

4

Judge says Trump signed court document with voter fraud claim he knew was false

U.S. District Court Judge David Carter in California said in court filings Wednesday that former President Donald Trump signed a court document affirming evidence of voter fraud in Georgia he knew to be false. Carter said in an 18-page opinion that emails from attorney John Eastman, a key figure in Trump's effort to overturn his 2020 election loss, show Trump knew the numbers were wrong. Carter ordered the emails to be turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. In March, Carter said Trump "more likely than not" committed crimes connected to efforts to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's electoral victory.

5

Report: White Americans now dying of COVID at higher rates than Black Americans

White Americans are now more likely to die from COVID-19 than Black Americans, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing an analysis of deaths from April 2020 through last summer. The data marks a shift from earlier in the pandemic, when Black people were at least three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their white peers. Vaccination rates are one factor. Black and white Americans were equally reluctant to get the COVID vaccine when it first became available, but Black people overcame that hesitation more quickly, Tasleem Padamsee, an assistant professor at Ohio State University, told the Post. Death rates also were higher among Republicans than Democrats in low-vaccination counties. Opposition to masks and hospital closures in predominantly white rural areas also contributed.

6

Florida health officials warn of spike in potentially deadly skin infections

The Florida Department of Health says the state has confirmed more cases of flesh-eating bacteria this year, with the biggest increase registered in Lee County, the area hit hardest by Hurricane Ian last month. Florida has recorded 65 cases of the vibrio vulnificus bacterial infections this year, and 11 deaths. That's up from 34 infections and 10 deaths in all of 2021. Twenty-nine of this year's infections and four deaths were in Lee County, where health officials this week attributed a spike to exposure to Ian's flooding. "Flood waters and standing waters following a hurricane pose many risks, including infectious diseases such as vibrio vulnificus," the county health department said, warning people with open cuts to avoid warm brackish or salt water.

7

FDA advisers recommend withdrawing drug meant to prevent premature birth

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted Wednesday to recommend taking a drug designed to prevent premature births off the market due to doubts about its effectiveness. The 14-1 vote by the FDA's Obstetrics, Reproductive, and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee came at the end of a three-day meeting in which the panel members reviewed clinical trial results for the drug, Makena. Makena is the only approved U.S. treatment for preventing preterm births, defined as the 1-in-10 births that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. "It would be unfair to keep the drug on the market and expose especially vulnerable populations to an ineffective therapy," said panel member Dr. Mark Hudak, a pediatrician at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.

8

Moderna says new booster provides 'superior' Omicron protection for months

New data from Moderna indicates that its updated COVID-19 booster vaccine triggers a "superior" immune response against the Omicron coronavirus variant versus the drugmaker's original vaccine. The company said the bivalent vaccine, designed to target both the initial version of the coronavirus and Omicron, produced higher antibody levels than the original vaccine when given as a fourth dose. "Clinical trial data now indicates that the superior immune response produced by our bivalent booster has durability for at least three months," Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said in a statement. The company said bivalent boosters offer "optimal protection" for fall booster campaigns designed to help fight a potential winter surge.

9

Taxpayer group asks Supreme Court to block Biden's student loan forgiveness plan

The Brown County Taxpayers Association in Wisconsin on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to block President Biden's federal student loan forgiveness program. The group, which promotes taxpayer rights, argues the program circumvents Congress' control over government spending, and would cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion. "The blow to the United States Treasury and taxpayers will be staggering," the group's application for the high court's intervention said. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that the program would cost $400 billion. The Education Department puts the expected cost at $379 billion. The Biden administration opened applications for the program this week. It would cancel up to $10,000 in debt for many borrowers earning less than $125,000, with another $10,000 in relief for Pell Grant recipients.

10

U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss resists pressure to resign, fires another minister

British Prime Minister Liz Truss rejected calls to resign on Wednesday, saying during hostile questioning in Parliament that she's "a fighter and not a quitter." Truss faced another setback in her battle for political survival when she had to fire a top member of her Cabinet, Home Secretary Suella Braverman, for sending a lawmaker a government document through her personal email, a security breach. On Friday, Truss sacked her finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, who designed sweeping, unfunded tax cuts that sent the British pound plummeting. Truss repeated her apology for the now-abandoned budget. A left-leaning tabloid, The Daily Star, posted a video with Truss' portrait next to a head of lettuce, over the caption, "Will Liz Truss outlast this lettuce?"

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