Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2022

Argentina wins the World Cup led by superstar Lionel Messi, Putin visits Belarus to meet with his top ally in Russia's war in Ukraine, and more

1

Argentina beats France to win the World Cup

Argentina, led by global soccer superstar Lionel Messi, beat defending champion France in the World Cup final on Sunday. The two powerhouses ended play tied 3-3, but Argentina won 4-2 in a shootout to take its first world championship since 1986. Messi, winning his first World Cup in what is likely his final appearance in the tournament, scored Argentina's first goal in the 23rd minute on a penalty kick, making him the only man to score in all four World Cup knockout rounds. With Argentina up 2-0 late in the second half, France's superstar, Kylian Mbappé, scored twice to force extra time. Messi scored again to give Argentina the lead, but Mbappé scored another goal to tie the game and force the shootout.

2

Putin visits Belarus, raising fears of broadening war

Russian President Vladimir Putin travels to Belarus on Monday for his first visit in three years to the country, Russia's strongest ally in its invasion of Ukraine. Putin's trip comes after recent joint military exercises by Russia and Belarus. Belarus' leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has indicated he doesn't intend to send Belarusian troops into Ukraine, but Western military analysts say his signs of support  for Putin could force Ukraine to beef up its defenses near Belarus as Russian forces try to counter recent gains by Ukrainian troops elsewhere in the country. "The risks are really high," said Yauheni Preiherman, director of the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations, a think tank based in the Belarusian capital.

3

House Jan. 6 committee heads into final public hearing

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack is holding its final public presentation on Monday. The panel is expected to focus its closing argument on what it has learned about former President Donald Trump's effort to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Biden, and how Trump's call for his supporters to fight Congress' certification of the election influenced rioters. The committee has called the effort to reverse the result an "attempted coup." The committee expects to refer some cases to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. The committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has said the referrals could include alleged criminal and ethics violations, legal misconduct, and campaign finance violations.

4

Russian drones target power facilities in Ukraine's capital 

Russia attacked cities across Ukraine with "kamikaze" drones early Monday. Some of the drones targeted key infrastructure facilities in and around Kyiv, in Russia's third air attack on the Ukrainian capital in less than a week. The Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down 30 of 35 incoming drones — cheap, disposable unmanned aircraft designed to crash into their targets and explode on impact. Russia has been conducting drone and missile strikes against Ukraine's power grid since October. Kyiv's mayor said nobody was killed or wounded in the most recent attack. The governor of the region surrounding Kyiv said two people were injured. Other officials said the drones damaged the electricity network, and engineers were rushing to stabilize energy and heat supplies.

5

Twitter bans links to rival social media

Twitter announced Sunday that it would bar users from directly posting links to rival social media websites, calling that "free promotion." Twitter said it would eliminate accounts created to promote rival sites, including Facebook, Instagram, Truth Social, Mastodon, Tribel, Post, and Nostr, but later deleted the blog post and tweets announcing the policy. The ban covered tweets urging people to follow an account on one of these sites, or tweeting a direct link to one of these sites' accounts. Some Twitter users who have left the platform since Elon Musk bought it in October, and others who Musk has banned, have urged people to follow them on alternative platforms, such as Mastodon.

6

COP15 biodiversity summit ends with pledge to protect land and oceans

Delegates from almost 200 countries early Monday reached a landmark agreement to protect nearly a third of the world's land and oceans by the end of the decade to help threatened wild plants and animals survive. The deal came at the end of the United Nations' COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal, Canada. The framework gives countries eight years to hit targets for protecting life, such as slashing subsidies for unsustainable agriculture and fishing practices that harm nature. The deal aims to "halt and reverse biodiversity loss" by 2030 to address an ongoing extinction crisis. A million species are at risk of disappearing forever in a mass extinction scenario scientists compare to the devastation from the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs.

7

Proud Boys go on trial over Jan. 6 role

The trial of five Proud Boys defendants charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack begins Monday with the start of jury selection. A leader of the far-right group sent a message to fellow Proud Boys as the mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters was gathering outside the Capitol, saying: "I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to ash today." The Proud Boys are charged with seditious conspiracy over the attack. Their trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., is kicking off less than a month after the leader of another far-right group, the Oath Keepers militia, and a top lieutenant were convicted of seditious conspiracy in a separate case.

8

Vatican defrocks MAGA priest for 'blasphemous' social media posts

The Vatican has defrocked prominent anti-abortion and political activist priest Frank Pavone for "blasphemous communications on social media" and failure to obey his bishop's orders to stop his partisan activism for former President Donald Trump. Pavone has "no possibility of appeal," according to a letter to U.S. bishops from the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, that The Associated Press obtained and published Sunday. Pavone has been in conflict with his superiors in Texas for more than a decade. In 2016, he put an aborted fetus on an altar and posted video of it on social media. Pavone said the punishment stemmed partly from a 2020 tweet in which he criticized "supporters of this goddamn loser Biden."

9

Musk holds poll asking users whether he should stay on as Twitter CEO

Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted Sunday that he would ask users in a poll whether he should continue as head of the social media platform, which he bought in October in a $44 billion deal. "Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll," Musk tweeted. With more than 6.1 million votes and nine hours left of the poll, "yes" was winning, with 57.6 percent. In the comments of his tweet, many users encouraged one another to vote "yes" or "no." Some users speculated that Twitter investors from Saudi Arabia and Qatar told Musk to step down.

10

'Avatar: The Way of Water' leads the box office

Avatar: The Way of Water led the domestic box office with $134 million in North American ticket sales over its debut weekend, according to studio estimates released Sunday. It also brought in $300.5 million internationally. The film by director James Cameron tied The Batman for the fourth-biggest debut of 2022. Only Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187.4 million in May), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181 million in November), and Thor: Love and Thunder ($144.2 million in July) did better this year. Avatar's opening weekend, the third-biggest global debut during the coronavirus pandemic, gave a boost to movie theaters but analysts had expected it to do even better, with some predicting a domestic view of $150 million or more.

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