Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 29, 2022

Santos faces federal investigation over lying, U.S. rolls out COVID testing rule for China arrivals, and more

1

Santos faces federal investigation after admitting to lying during campaign

Federal prosecutors are investigating Representative-elect George Santos, a Republican elected in November to represent parts of Long Island. Santos, 34, has admitted to lying on the campaign trail about where he went to college, his Jewish faith, and his business dealings, and questions remain about "the source of what appears to be a quickly amassed fortune," The Associated Press reported. Anne Donnelly, the Nassau County district attorney, called Santos' fabrications "nothing short of stunning." Donnelly's office is also investigating the politician. Santos, who is scheduled to be sworn in next Tuesday, has insisted his resume is not false but "debatable." One Republican has called for Santos' investigation. 

2

U.S. to require negative COVID tests for travelers from China

The United States will require all travelers from China to show negative COVID-19 tests before entering the country from Jan. 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced. The rule, which applies to all air passengers age 2 and over regardless of nationality or vaccination status, is a response to skyrocketing COVID cases in China after the government lifted its strict "zero COVID" policy. Estimates from Chinese health authorities suggest more than 35 million people were infected in a single day last week, Bloomberg reported. In its announcement, the CDC cited a lack of transparency from China about its outbreaks and expressed concern over potential new variants. But some experts say the testing rule will provide little more than a "false sense of security" and could even "make the Chinese even less forthcoming," The New York Times reported

3

China to begin re-issuing passports

Chinese officials said the country will resume issuing passports and visas in another step toward winding down the country's "zero COVID" policy. The move could potentially mean a massive wave of Chinese tourists will go abroad for the first time in more than a year, especially ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year in January, which The Associated Press noted is normally the country's biggest traveling season. This marks a rapid change in the government's handling of overseas travel, as China has largely isolated itself from the rest of the world since the pandemic began. But as COVID cases in China soar, some countries, including the United States, Italy, and Japan, have all issued decrees requiring negative COVID tests for any visitors from China. 

4

Mastermind behind Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot sentenced to 19 years

The convicted ringleader behind the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was sentenced Wednesday to more than 19 years in prison. A federal jury convicted Barry Croft Jr., 47, of conspiracy in August after it was found that he played a major role in the failed ploy to kidnap the governor and try to start a national rebellion. Federal attorneys had sought life in prison for Croft, presenting evidence that he was a direct danger to society. Croft's sentence comes just one day after co-conspirator Adam Fox was sentenced to 16 years behind bars on similar charges. A number of other men involved in the plot have also been charged and sentenced.

5

Rep. Jamie Raskin diagnosed with 'serious but curable' cancer

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin announced Wednesday that he'd been diagnosed with "a serious but curable form of cancer" known as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He said he would soon start chemo-immunotherapy and the prognosis for most patients like him after four months of treatment was "excellent." Raskin has "cemented himself as an influential House Democrat," Politico said, first as a manager of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment, then as a Jan. 6 select committee member. Last week he ascended to the top Democratic position on the House Oversight committee, which "is expected to be home to some of House Republicans' most high-profile and politically contentious investigations." Raskin said he plans to work throughout his treatment. 

6

Russia launches 'massive' new wave of missile strikes against Ukraine

Russia fired more than 120 missiles at cities across Ukraine Thursday in a "massive" attack targeting essential infrastructure including power stations, The Associated Press reported. Ukraine's air defenses intercepted 15 missiles over the capital of Kyiv, where at least three people were injured, according to the city's mayor, Vitali Klitschko. He warned of power outages and urged residents to store water and charge their devices. Ninety percent of the western city of Lviv was reportedly without electricity. As Ukraine continues to resist the unprovoked Russian invasion, Moscow has "methodically targeted" infrastructure as the nation freezes to "weaken the country's resolve and force it to negotiate on Russian terms," AP explained.

7

Exxon sues EU over energy windfall tax

ExxonMobil is suing the European Union in an attempt to get the bloc to scrap its windfall tax on oil companies. Fossil-fuel companies such as Exxon have "raked in multibillion-dollar profits" in the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, disrupting the global energy market and sending household bills soaring, The New York Times explained. The EU's windfall tax, which is supposed to take effect Saturday, aims to "shield consumers from high energy prices" by applying a levy that kicks in when an oil company's profits go 20 percent above those averaged between 2018 and 2021, the Financial Times said. Exxon, which reported global profits of $20 billion for this year, argues the levy is "counterproductive." Its lawsuit is "the most significant response yet against the tax from the oil industry," the FT added.

8

Serbs in Kosovo to remove roadblocks

Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo on Thursday gave in to pressure from the United States and European Union to remove barricades they had placed along roads into Serbia. The move marks a potential de-escalation in tensions between the two neighbors after a weeks-long dispute over license plates: Kosovo wants Serbs living in its north to switch from Serbian plates to ones issued by Pristina. On Monday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put his nation's army at its "highest level of combat readiness." Kosovo closed its main border crossing with Serbia Wednesday. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognize it as a sovereign country. Experts had warned that the chance for confrontation should not be ignored. But "removal of the barricades is expected to defuse tensions," Reuters reported. 

9

Goldman Sachs expected to fire 8 percent of staff

Goldman Sachs, the world's second-largest investment bank, plans to cut up to 8 percent of its workforce, or about 4,000 jobs. The firm's chief executive David Solomon made the announcement in a year-end message to staff, Bloomberg reported. Remaining employees could see their bonuses cut by 40 percent. The "bleak" message "underscores how far the bank's fortunes have sunk," the Financial Times added: The firm saw record results in 2021. "Wall Street is in retrenchment mode," Bloomberg said. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Group AG, and Barclays Plc are also facing major cuts as a recession looms and revenue from investment banking falls. "Wall Street executives aren't sure how bad the economy will get, and are proactively pulling back on lines of business to get ready," Bloomberg said.

10

Twitter outages plague users worldwide

Twitter users across the world reported outages and glitches on the social media platform Wednesday, "one of the more significant disruptions" since Elon Musk took over the site, Bloomberg reported. At one point more than 9,000 users were reporting problems, but most of them seemed to be resolved by early Thursday morning. "The disruption, while short-lived, could stoke critics of Musk and the way he's handled the takeover and its aftermath," Bloomberg said. Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter and subsequently fired half of the site's workforce, including many of its engineers. He has since announced he will step down as CEO once he finds a suitable replacement. When users complained about the wave of glitches, Musk tweeted: "Works for me." 

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