Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2022

Liz Truss resigns and triggers a U.K. leadership fight, the U.S. says Iran has sent experts to Crimea to help Russia attack Ukraine with drones, and more

1

Liz Truss resigns, U.K. leadership fight begins 

British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced her resignation Thursday after just six weeks in office. Truss, whose time in office was the shortest in U.K. history, faced a revolt in her Conservative Party and widespread calls to quit after her government's risky plan for unfunded tax cuts sent the British pound plunging and rattled financial markets. "I recognize that given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party," Truss said Thursday. Britain's third prime minister in as many years, Truss took over after Boris Johnson left due to several scandals. Conservative lawmakers immediately began debating who would become the next leader. Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, and Johnson are the leading contenders.

2

U.S.: Iranians are in Crimea to help Russia attack Ukraine

Iranian military experts are "directly engaged on the ground" in Russian-occupied Crimea, helping Russian forces use Iranian-made "kamikaze" drones against Ukraine, the White House said Thursday. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States has evidence Iran has sent a "relatively small number" of advisers to the Ukrainian peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Tehran is "impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine" by providing Russia with the weapons and other support, Kirby said. The British government said members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps were sent to train Russian forces on how to use the drones and to provide tech support. Britain has announced sanctions against Iranians involved in providing the drones to Russia.

3

Appeals court says Lindsey Graham must testify in Georgia election inquiry 

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) must testify before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating then-President Donald Trump and his allies for possibly illegal attempts to undermine the 2020 presidential election in the state. The decision by the three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to question Graham about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the election. Graham, who can still appeal to the Supreme Court, says the calls were part of his fact-finding about whether to certify the vote. The appeals court said "efforts to 'cajole' or 'exhort' Georgia election officials" are not legislative activities protected by the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution.

4

Ukraine urges energy conservation as Russia knocks out power

Ukraine on Thursday called on residents to reduce electricity use as authorities rushed to repair power facilities damaged by Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy and heating infrastructure ahead of winter. "Russia is trying to destroy the energy system of Ukraine, to make our people suffer even more," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in his nightly address. Attacks over the last 10 days have destroyed about a third of Ukraine's power generation. Western officials say Moscow is targeting Ukraine's infrastructure to force Kyiv to negotiate even though a Ukrainian counteroffensive is pushing Russian forces out of some occupied Ukrainian territory. U.S. defense officials say under-equipped Russian forces could face greater threats than civilians from the coming cold weather.

5

Courts block 2 challenges to Biden's student debt relief plan

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected a challenge to President Biden's plan to forgive some student loan debt for millions of Americans. Barrett, acting alone as the justice with jurisdiction over the lower court involved in the case, turned away an appeal filed by the Brown County Taxpayers Association in Wisconsin. Barrett appeared to agree with the district court judge that the group doesn't have standing to challenge Biden's plan to forgive up to $10,000 in student-loan debt for people making less than $125,000, and up to $10,000 more for recipients of Pell Grants. A different federal district court judge in Missouri on Thursday rejected a lawsuit filed by six Republican-led states, ruling they don't have standing.

6

Georgia early voting surges

Georgia voters are casting early ballots at a record pace as their state's U.S. Senate race, which remains locked in a near dead heat, promises to be one of the few likely to determine which party controls the Senate. Georgia entered its third day of early in-person voting Wednesday, with more than 291,700 ballots already cast, 268,050 in person and 23,690 absentee. That exceeds the totals from the first two days of voting in 2020 (266,403), even though that was a presidential election, and 2018 (147,289). "We're extremely pleased that so many Georgians are able to cast their votes, in record numbers and without any reports of substantial delays," said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Midterms usually have far lower turnouts than presidential election years.

7

Report: Musk plans to cut 75 percent of Twitter's staff

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told potential investors that he would cut nearly 75 percent of Twitter's 7,500 workers if his deal to buy the social media company goes through, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing interviews and documents. Twitter faces major reductions even if Musk doesn't take over. The company's current management intends to slash its payroll by $800 million by the end of 2023. Twitter has also been gearing up to cut back on data centers and other infrastructure it needs to accommodate its more than 200 million daily users. Those plans "help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk," the Post said. "Musk's $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company."

8

Ex-UCLA gynecologist found guilty of sexually abusing patients

A California jury on Thursday found former University of California, Los Angeles, gynecologist James Heaps guilty of sexually abusing patients. Heaps, 65, was first charged in 2019, then indicted last year on 21 counts of sexual misconduct from 2009 to 2018. He was found guilty of three counts of sexual battery by fraud and two counts of sexual penetration. The jury deadlocked on nine counts and found Heaps not guilty on six others. A prosecutor said during the trial that Heaps, who faces up to 28 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 17, "used his position as a doctor, as a specialist, to sexually assault ... incredibly vulnerable women." UCLA has paid hundreds of accusers $700 million.

9

Pentagon will cover costs of service members' travel for abortion care

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a Thursday memo that the Pentagon will pay for service members to travel for abortion care. The plan came in response to recent bans and other abortion restrictions that 13 Republican-led states have put in place since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Bans in several other states have been paused by court order. "The practical effect of the recent changes is that service members may be forced to travel greater distances, take more time off work, and pay more out-of-pocket expenses to access reproductive health care, all of which have readiness, recruiting, and retention implications for America's armed forces," said Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.

10

Jury clears Kevin Spacey in sexual misconduct civil trial

A federal jury in Manhattan on Thursday cleared actor Kevin Spacey in a civil sexual misconduct case filed by Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp. Jurors found that Rapp had not proven his allegation that in 1986 Spacey, who was 26, invited Rapp, then 14, to his Manhattan appartment and made forceful sexual advances without Rapp's consent. The jury said Spacey didn't touch Rapp sexually, so he couldn't be held liable under New York's Child Victims Act. "I'm very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations," said Jennifer Keller, an attorney for the Oscar-winning Spacey. Rapp said he was "deeply grateful for the opportunity to have my case heard before a jury."

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