Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 15, 2022

The Fed slows its interest rate hikes, the House passes a stopgap spending bill to avert a shutdown, and more

1

Fed slows interest rate hikes but signals more increases in 2023

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark short-term interest rate by 0.5 percent, easing back after four straight 0.75 percent hikes but continuing to aggressively increase the cost of borrowing to cool the economy and bring down the highest inflation in decades. The latest change, which came at the end of a two-day policy meeting, brought the federal-funds rate to a range between 4.25 percent and 4.5 percent, the highest level in 15 years. With inflation falling slightly, Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated after the meeting the central bank would continue raising rates but probably slow its increases further to a more common 0.25 percent hike at its next meeting, scheduled for Jan 31-Feb. 1.

2

House passes stopgap spending bill to avert shutdown

The House on Wednesday passed a stopgap spending bill seeking to keep the government funded for another week to give Democratic and Republican negotiators time to hammer out a $1.7 trillion year-end spending package. The funding patch, which the House approved in a 224-201 vote, would prevent a partial shutdown on Friday at midnight, giving federal agencies enough money to keep operating until Dec. 23. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate would quickly pass the measure, as soon as Thursday, provided there is no "unwelcome brouhaha" in the chamber, where a single senator can hold up the stopgap fix to demand amendments.

3

WHO official: China's COVID surge started before zero-COVID rules eased

China's explosion of COVID-19 infections started long before rare public protests prompted Beijing to abandon tight restrictions under its "zero-COVID" policy, the World Health Organization's emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said Wednesday. "There's a narrative at the moment that China lifted the restrictions and all of a sudden the disease is out of control," he said. "The disease was spreading intensively because I believe the control measures in themselves were not stopping the disease. And I believe China decided strategically that was not the best option anymore." The Chinese government started shifting away from the economically damaging "zero-COVID" rules this month. Official tallies of new infections have fallen as authorities eased testing requirements, but lines at fever clinics are growing, Reuters reported.

4

Biden says U.S. 'all in on Africa's future,' countering China's rising influence

President Biden on Wednesday vowed to step up U.S. involvement in Africa, telling a group of African leaders at a three-day summit in Washington that America is "all in on Africa's future." "African success and prosperity is essential for a better future for all of us, not just for Africa," Biden added. Biden's comments came as the United States tries to boost trust among African leaders who have felt abandoned by Washington. China and Russia have capitalized on listless U.S. Africa policies, increasing their influence across the continent. Biden did not mention China by name, Politico noted, "but much of his speech was squarely aimed at starting a continental competition with that other global superpower, which has invested billions upon billions in Africa." 

5

Raffensperger calls for ending Georgia's runoff elections

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday said in a statement that the state should drop its runoff system in general elections. He said holding a second round of voting anytime the leader in a general election falls short of 50 percent of the vote puts an unnecessary burden on voters and election officials. The state has had to hold runoffs to decide U.S. Senate elections in 2022 and 2020. Most recently, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who also won a runoff in 2020, beat Republican Herschel Walker to win a full term in a runoff earlier this month. "Georgia is one of the only states in [the] country with a General Election Runoff," Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a statement. 

6

Peru declares state of emergency after protests

Peru's defense minister, Alberto Otárola, announced a nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday after a week of violent protests that followed the Dec. 7 removal of former President Pedro Castillo. Lawmakers impeached Castillo, leading to his arrest, after he illegally tried to dissolve the Andean nation's Congress. Prosecutors on Wednesday called for 18 months of pretrial detention for Castillo, a leftist elected in 2021. Castillo is charged with rebellion and conspiracy. The South American nation's Supreme Court met to consider prosecutors' requests, but delayed the session until Thursday. Castillo's vice president, Dina Boluarte, replaced him after he was ousted. Six people have died in clashes between protesters and police.

7

Autopsy finds soccer journalist Grant Wahl died of aortic aneurysm

An autopsy indicated that Grant Wahl, the celebrated soccer journalist who died suddenly while covering the World Cup in Qatar last week, suffered from a catastrophic rupture in the ascending aorta, a blood vessel leading from the heart, his family said Wednesday. The news came after a burst of speculation on social media about possible causes of Wahl's death, from links to COVID vaccines to Qatari government retaliation for an article he wrote about migrant worker deaths in Qatar. Wahl's wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, is a leading infectious disease physician, and she had his body returned to the United States for the autopsy. "I really do feel some relief in knowing what it was," she said.

8

Man charged with attacking Pelosi's husband cited 'evil in Washington,' investigator says

The man charged with attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband told investigators he wanted to harm the Democratic leader because she is second in line for the presidency, and there is "evil in Washington," a San Francisco police investigator testified in court on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Lt. Carla Hurley interviewed the suspect, David DePape, the day Paul Pelosi, 82, was beaten with a hammer by someone who broke into the couple's San Francisco home. DePape allegedly said he wanted to kidnap Speaker Pelosi, who was out of the town on Oct. 28, the day of the attack. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen Murphy ruled that prosecutors had shown enough evidence to move forward with state charges, including attempted murder.

9

Stephen "tWitch" Boss, former 'Ellen DeGeneres Show' D.J., dies at 40

Stephen Boss, a hip-hop dancer known as tWitch who was the D.J. on The Ellen DeGeneres Show for nearly a decade, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 40. The Los Angeles County medical examiner's office ruled the death a suicide. Boss rose to fame on So You Think You Can Dance, joining the show in 2008 at age 25 and finishing the show's fourth season as runner-up. Later on the series, he performed a hip-hop duet with Ellen DeGeneres that led to his next big break. He became DeGeneres' D.J., guest host, and executive producer. "He's my pal, he's my sidekick," DeGeneres said on the show's last episode this year. Boss' wife, Holker Boss, said tWitch "lit up every room he stepped into."

10

France beats Morocco, advancing to World Cup final against Argentina

France beat Morocco, 2-0, on Wednesday to advance to Sunday's World Cup final against Argentina. France, the defending champions, have a shot at becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups in 60 years. Les Bleus won their semifinal in Khor, Qatar, thanks to goals from Theo Hernandez and substitute Randal Kolo Muani. France faces an Argentine team led by soccer superstar Lionel Messi, who is aiming for his first championship in his last World Cup. Morocco had upset European soccer powerhouses Spain and Portugal to become the first African nation, and the first Arab nation, to reach the tournament's final four. Morocco will play Croatia for third place on Saturday.

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