Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 13, 2023

Garland appoints a special counsel to investigate Biden's handling of classified files, inflation falls for a sixth straight month, and more

1

Special counsel to investigate Biden's handling of classified documents  

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to review President Biden's handling of classified material after his time as vice president under former President Barack Obama. Garland assigned the job to Robert Hur, a veteran prosecutor who worked in the Trump administration, after Biden's personal attorneys found small sets of documents with classical markings at a Washington think tank Biden set up after his vice presidency, and at his residence in Wilmington, Delaware. Hur said in a statement he would conduct his investigation with "fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment." Biden said he was "cooperating fully and completely," according to The New York Times. A different special prosecutor appointed by Garland is overseeing two investigations into former President Donald Trump.

2

Inflation falls for 6th straight month

The Consumer Price Index, a key inflation gauge, fell to an annual rate of 6.5 percent in December, its sixth straight monthly decline, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. The December rate was down from 7.1 percent in November, and a peak of 9.1 percent in June. On a monthly basis, prices fell 0.1 percent in December. The core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose by 5.7 percent last month from a year earlier. The December figures were in line with expectations. Declining gas prices and airfares helped nudge down inflation, boosting hopes that the Federal Reserve is on track to continue slowing its aggressive campaign of interest-rate hikes intended to cool the economy and bring inflation down.

3

Fight continues for bombed-out Ukrainian salt mining town of Soledar

Ukraine said Friday that its forces are continuing to hold out against a Russian offensive in the eastern salt mining town of Soledar, one of the bloodiest battlefields in the war. The fight for Soledar has resulted in heavy casualties for both sides. Ukraine says Russia has thrown waves of soldiers into the fight for what is now a bombed-out shell of a town. Moscow appears to be determined to secure its first major battlefield victory after months of humiliating setbacks. Its forces have had to retreat from several areas they once occupied in the face of an unexpectedly strong Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Wagner ultra-nationalist mercenary company run by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it has occupied the town.

4

Tornadoes slam Alabama, killing at least 6

A large tornado tore through central Alabama on Thursday, killing at least six people. The tornado destroyed buildings and knocked down trees and power lines, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of people. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) declared a state of emergency in six counties. The twister was part of a wave of severe weather throughout the South that was driven by a powerful cold front sweeping across the eastern United States with warm, humid air ahead of it. Authorities reported dozens of tornadoes in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and parts of Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina were placed under tornado watches.

5

U.N. atomic watchdog chief heads to Ukraine to deploy observers

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi is scheduled to travel to Ukraine next week as the United Nations nuclear watchdog deploys international inspectors at the country's South Ukraine, Rivne, and Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plants threatened with disaster since Russia invaded in February. Power lines at the latter two plants were knocked out in November missile strikes, prompting warnings of a potential nuclear disaster. The agency also will deploy inspectors at Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986. With a possible new Russian offensive looming, Grossi plans to put two or three inspectors in the sites, which remain under Kyiv's control. The IAEA has had a rotating team of experts at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, since September.

6

Proud Boys leader's seditious conspiracy trial starts

Attorneys made opening statements Thursday in the seditious conspiracy trial of former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four lieutenants from the far-right group. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said the Proud Boys, determined to keep then-President Donald Trump in power, decided to launch a coordinated attack on "the heart of our democracy," and joined the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot to prevent the peaceful transition of power to President Biden. McCullough showed jurors a video clip from the first 2020 presidential debate in which Trump said the Proud Boys should "stand back and stand by." Defense lawyers said there was no evidence of a Proud Boys plot, accusing prosecutors of "trying to build this conspiracy that does not exist."

7

Survey: Percentage of Americans believing antisemitic conspiracy theories rises sharply

Nearly twice as many Americans believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes now than in 2019, according to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey released Thursday. Reuters reported that about 85 percent of respondents expressed belief in at least one anti-Jewish trope, up from 61 percent in 2019. Twenty percent believed six or more such tropes, up from 11 percent in 2019. Reports of antisemitism have increased nationwide in recent years. The problem received attention recently when former President Donald Trump hosted the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Ye had recently faced criticism over several antisemitic remarks. Trump said Fuentes showed up uninvited at his dinner with Ye.

8

Nebraska governor appoints predecessor to Sasse's Senate seat

New Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) on Thursday appointed his predecessor, former Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), to the Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Jan. 8 when he resigned to become the new president of the University of Florida. Pillen said he had interviewed nine Republicans for the vacancy, and chose Ricketts because he believes he will win a special election for the seat in the fall and a full term in 2026. "I don't believe in placeholders," Pillen said. Ricketts is the Nebraska GOP's "most established figure," Aaron Blake writes at The Washington Post, after a two-decade turnaround. In his first run for office, in 2006, he lost a challenge to then-Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), 64 percent to 36 percent.

9

NYC nurses end strike after union reaches contract deal

Thousands of New York City nurses ended a three-day strike on Thursday after their union reached a tentative contract deal with Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. The nurses walked out Monday demanding better staffing and working hours. The deal grants a raise of 19.1 percent over three years and creates 170 new nursing positions to address a staffing shortage that was exacerbated by the pandemic, The New York Times reported. Nancy Hagans, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said the nurses "went on strike for patient care." Montefiore said "this strike impacted everyone — not just our nurses," and it tried to resolve the dispute quickly.

10

Lisa Marie Presley dies at 54

Singer and songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, died Thursday after going into cardiac arrest at her home in Calabasas, California, her mother, actress Priscilla Presley, announced in a statement. She was 54. Presley attended the Golden Globes on Tuesday to see actor Austin Butler win for his portrayal of her father in the film Elvis. Her personal life made her famous — she was the daughter of the king of rock 'n' roll, and married to the king of pop, Michael Jackson, from 1994 to 1996 — before she made her own musical mark with three studio albums. "I hope she is at peace in her dad's arms," fellow singer LeAnn Rimes tweeted.

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