10 things you need to know today: February 9, 2023

Zelensky asks U.K. to send Ukraine fighter jets, Turkey's president admits response problems as earthquake death toll rises, and more

Zelensky and Sunak
(Image credit: ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Zelensky asks for fighter jets in surprise U.K., France visits

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his calls for more Western military support for his country Wednesday as he made surprise visits to Britain and France. Zelensky told members of the United Kingdom's Parliament that Ukraine needs fighter jets to push back invading Russian forces. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said fighter jets were "part of the conversation," and "nothing is off the table." After leaving the U.K., Zelensky flew to Paris for a dinner meeting with French and German leaders at the Elysee Palace. On Thursday, he is scheduled to meet with European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said would signal "European solidarity and community."

The Associated Press

2. Turkey's president acknowledges response problems as earthquake death toll rises

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday visited areas devastated by this week's powerful earthquakes in southern Turkey, acknowledging problems in the government's response as the death toll rose above 16,000. Anger mounted over the slow arrival of rescue teams in many hard-hit areas, where freezing winter weather diminished hope of finding more survivors buried in the rubble. "Where is the state? Where have they been for two days?" said Sabiha Alinak outside a snow-covered collapsed building where her young relatives were trapped. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations said that country, also hit hard by the quakes, had a "lack of capabilities and lack of equipment," blaming years of war and Western sanctions, according to Reuters.

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Reuters

3. Republicans grill Twitter executives about Hunter Biden laptop decision

The House Oversight Committee, now under Republican control, held a hearing Wednesday to grill three former Twitter executives about the social media platform's brief 2020 blocking of the sharing of a New York Post story about the contents of a laptop that reportedly belonged to Hunter Biden, President Biden's son. The former executives said removing the story was a mistake. Republicans have long criticized the move, which was reversed 24 hours later, as an attempt to help Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and an example of anti-conservative censorship by Twitter and other social media giants. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, the committee's top Democrat, said it doesn't matter if Republicans disagree with Twitter's policy, because it "is a private, First Amendment-protected media entity."

The Washington Post

4. Investigators: Putin likely complicit in downing of Malaysia Airlines jet

An international investigation found "strong indications" that President Vladimir Putin signed off on a decision to provide an antiaircraft missile system Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, Dutch prosecutors who led the inquiry said Wednesday. There was no evidence Putin ordered the strike. The Joint Investigation Team previously said the missile that hit the Boeing 777, killing all 298 people aboard, was a Russian-supplied Buk surface-to-air missile. A Dutch court in November convicted two Russian former state security officers and a Ukrainian separatist leader on murder charges in the case, although they were never arrested. Dutch prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer said the team was suspending the criminal investigation because, "All leads have been exhausted."

The New York Times The Washington Post

5. Kim Jong Un takes daughter to North Korea military celebration

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, accompanied by his daughter, visited troops before a massive military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the country's army. Kim praised the isolated communist-run nation's nuclear-armed military for its "irresistible might," state media reported. The event marked just the fourth known public appearance by Kim's daughter, Kim Jue Ae. She is believed to be 9 or 10 years old. Experts interpreted his decision to bring his daughter to the event as a signal that he won't give up North Korea's nuclear arsenal because he sees it as crucial to the continuation of his family's dynastic rule.

The Associated Press

6. Admitted white supremacist pleads guilty to Walmart mass shooting near Mexico border

Patrick Crusius, 24, pleaded guilty Wednesday to 90 charges, including federal hate crime and firearm offenses, linked to a mass shooting that killed 23 people at a Walmart near the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. Nearly two dozen other people were injured in the attack. Crusius has acknowledged he targeted Mexicans. The admitted white supremacist had railed against a "Hispanic invasion" of the United States in a statement he posted online shortly before the attack, according to The Washington Post. Investigators say Crusius told them he was motivated to commit the crime after reading about the "great replacement theory," a white-nationalist conspiracy theory holding that elites are plotting to destroy and replace the white race with minorities and immigrants.

El Paso Times The Washington Post

7. Florida overhaul of Disney tax district advances toward vote

Florida lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a proposed state takeover of Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has given the entertainment giant special status since 1967. Under the overhaul plan, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) would appoint a new five-member board to replace the existing one, and Reedy Creek would be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District within two years. Disney gets to keep the tax benefits it had before under the bill, which is expected to pass the state House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday. The legislation revises a bill DeSantis signed last year after he targeted Disney over its opposition to the state's Parental Rights in Education legislation, which critics call the "don't say gay" law.

Tampa Bay Times Orlando Sentinel

8. Church of England to explore gender neutral terminology for God

Church of England officials said Wednesday they would start exploring the possibility of using gender-neutral terminology to refer to God. After a priest asked during the General Synod, the Church's governing body, about developing more inclusive language for those who wish to speak of God in a "non-gendered way," the centuries-old institution announced it would form a commission on using gender-neutral terms this spring. "Christians have recognized since ancient times that God is neither male nor female," a Church spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters. But, the spokesperson said, "the variety of ways of addressing and describing God found in scripture has not always been reflected in our worship."

Reuters

9. Disney to slash 7,000 jobs

Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger announced Wednesday that the entertainment giant would cut 7,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in costs under a reorganization giving more authority to people responsible for creating content. The company also will increase its focus on sports media. Iger outlined the plans in his first earnings call since returning as chief executive after Disney's board dismissed Bob Chapek in November. Iger said Disney would change its TV and movie offerings, reinstate its dividend, and possibly adjust the prices of its streaming services, The Wall Street Journal reported. "It's time for another transformation," Iger said. Disney shares rose 5.7 percent in after-hours trading.

The Wall Street Journal

10. China balloons spy on militaries around the world

China's spy balloons, like the one shot down over the weekend after it flew through U.S. airspace, are part of a global surveillance system that collects information on the military capabilities of countries around the world, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing three American officials. Some officials are convinced the flights are designed to help Beijing get better at spying on U.S. military bases, its biggest concern, according to the Times. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference that the U.S. has shared information about China's program with dozens of countries. "We're doing so because the United States was not the only target of this broader program, which has violated the sovereignty of countries across five continents," he said.

The New York Times

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