Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2022

Karen Bass is sworn in as Los Angeles mayor, NASA's Artemis I mission ends with ocean splashdown, and more

1

Karen Bass becomes 1st woman to serve as Los Angeles mayor 

Karen Bass, a former Democratic congresswoman and speaker of the California State Assembly, took the oath of office Sunday as Los Angeles' 43rd mayor. Bass, 69, is the first woman and second Black person to hold the position. She was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris. Los Angeles is at "an inflection point," Bass said, as the city deals with a homelessness crisis, climate change, an affordable-housing shortage, and the coronavirus pandemic. She said she would declare a state emergency on homelessness Monday, her first full day in office. She urged Angelenos "to welcome housing in every neighborhood." "I call on our city to not just dream of the L.A. we want but to participate in making the dream come true," Bass said.

2

NASA's Artemis I mission ends with Pacific splashdown

NASA's Artemis I mission ended Sunday when the uncrewed spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico's Baja California. The Orion capsule's 25½-day flight took it around the moon in a crucial test to prepare for the return of astronauts to the moon. Rob Navias, the NASA commentator who led the space agency's live broadcast, called the capsule's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere "textbook." A recovery fleet that included boats, a helicopter, and a U.S. Naval ship called the USS Portland was waiting for the capsule near the spot where it came down. The next step in the Artemis program will be to send astronauts around the moon in about two years, followed by a mission to put astronauts on the moon.

3

U.S. official shares details on Brittney Griner's flight home

Top Biden administration hostage negotiator Roger Carstens on Sunday provided new details about the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange with Russia last week. Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February, had spent the last few weeks in a notorious Russian penal colony, serving a sentence for having vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage. Carstens said on CNN's State of the Union that Griner was "full of energy" and talked with every crew member on the 18-hour flight home from Abu Dhabi, where the exchange occurred. The U.S. released convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the Merchant of Death, in exchange for Griner, whom the State Department had classified as wrongfully detained.

4

Iran executes second protester over anti-government violence

Iran has carried out its second known execution related to nationwide anti-government protests, Iran's judiciary and the semi-official Tasmin news agency reported Monday. The judiciary said the man, Majidreza Rahnavard, was hanged publicly in the city of Mashhad. A court convicted him of "waging war against God," saying he killed two members of the Basij paramilitary force last month. Leaders of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights said "Rahnavard was sentenced to death based on coerced confessions" after a "sham trial." Mohsen Shekari – the first known protester executed – was hanged last Thursday. Several others have been sentenced to death over the protests, which erupted after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after her arrest by Iran's morality police.

5

U.S. raid kills 2 ISIS members in eastern Syria

U.S. commandos killed two Islamic State members in a Sunday helicopter raid in eastern Syria, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. One of those killed in the operation was a provincial official known to be involved in plotting and assisting in ISIS operations, CENTCOM said. "ISIS continues to represent a threat to the security and stability of the region," Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for CENTCOM, said in a statement. "This operation reaffirms CENTCOM's steadfast commitment to ensuring the group's enduring defeat." Buccino added that the death of the ISIS officials would "disrupt the terrorist organization's ability to further plot and carry out destabilizing attacks in the Middle East." ISIS has been severely weakened since it lost its self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria five years ago.

6

Serb protesters clash with police in northern Kosovo

Serb protesters blocked roads for a second day and clashed with police in an outburst of ethnic tensions in northern Kosovo. There was an exchange of gunfire with police after authorities arrested a former Serb police officer. The unrest has intensified in recent weeks in response to what Serbs, who consider the area to be part of Serbia, consider to be anti-Serb actions by the government. EULEX, a European Union mission sent to patrol northern Kosovo, said someone threw a stun grenade at one of its armored vehicles on Saturday. Nobody was injured, but the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the EU would "not tolerate" violent, "criminal" attacks against its mission's personnel. "Calm must be restored," he wrote on Twitter.

7

Outgoing Ariz. Gov. Ducey piles shipping containers at Mexican border

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is pushing to stack up shipping containers as a barrier on his state's border with Mexico before he leaves office, The Associated Press reported Sunday. The containers are doubly stacked and topped with razor wire in a high-profile gesture to back up his criticism of the Biden administration's immigration policy. "Arizona is going to do the job that Joe Biden refuses to do — secure the border in any way we can," Ducey said, according to the AP. Environmental agencies have expressed concerns that the containers could halt the flow of natural water in the area and cause lasting damage. The Biden administration has called the placement of the containers illegal and ordered it to stop.

8

U.S. expected to announce major fusion energy breakthrough

The U.S. Energy Department is expected to announce Tuesday that government scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have for the first time produced a net energy gain in a fusion reaction, a major step toward limitless, inexpensive clean energy, the Financial Times and The Washington Post reported Sunday. Scientists have been trying since the 1950s to recreate the kind of fusion reaction that powers the sun, but none have produced more energy than the process consumes. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is scheduled Tuesday to unveil a "a major scientific breakthrough" at the Lawrence Livermore lab. The FT reported that the fusion reaction produced about 120 percent of the energy it consumed.

9

Congress seeks to meet Friday deadline to prevent government shutdown

Congressional leaders return to the Capitol on Monday facing a Friday deadline to reach a deal to keep federal agencies funded and avoid a partial government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats have agreed to $858 billion in defense spending, but negotiators have been unable to break a deadlock between Republicans and Democrats over $26 billion in non-defense spending increases Democrats want. Democrats can pass the bill in the House with a simple majority, but they need support from 10 Republicans in the Senate to get past a GOP filibuster and advance the legislation. Some GOP lawmakers are calling for a short-term fix now, and a long-term bill once Republicans take control of the House in January.

10

Former NBA player, coach Paul Silas dies at 79

Former NBA All-Star Paul Silas, who spend nearly four decades as a professional basketball player and coach, has died, his family announced Sunday. He was 79. Silas' daughter, Paula Silas-Guy, told The New York Times the cause of death was cardiac arrest. "He was one of the all-time great people in our game, and he will be missed," said Charlotte Hornets Chair Michael Jordan. Silas played for 16 years, most prominently for the Boston Celtics, a team he helped win a championship in 1979. Silas then became a coach, mentoring numerous stars, including a young LeBron James. "Paul's lasting contributions to the game are seen through the many players and coaches he inspired, including his son, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

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