Daily briefing

10 things you need to know: February 17, 2023

Grand jury recommends perjury charges in Georgia Trump election case, EPA chief promises to hold railroad accountable for Ohio derailment, and more


Georgia grand jury: Some witnesses possibly lied in Trump election testimony

A Fulton County, Georgia, special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse his 2020 election loss in the state said it believed at least one witness lied while testifying under oath, according to a five-page excerpt of the grand jury report released to the public on Thursday. The grand jury recommended that prosecutors file perjury charges "where the evidence is compelling," the report said. The grand jury also stated it found no evidence of widespread election fraud after hearing testimony from "poll workers, investigators, technical experts, and State of Georgia employees and officials, as well as from persons still claiming that such fraud took place."


EPA head vows to hold railroad accountable for Ohio derailment, toxic spill

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan on Thursday traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, and promised that the Biden administration will "get to the bottom" of the train derailment that resulted in a fire and toxic chemical spill earlier this month. The visit came hours after a tense town meeting where angry residents demanded that town officials address ongoing safety issues. The railroad, Norfolk Southern, declined to participate in the meeting. "The community has questions, and we hear you," Regan said in a news conference with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "We are absolutely going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable." Air monitoring has not detected quality problems. Officials are urging residents to drink bottled water until testing shows their wells are safe.


Biden says latest downed flying objects don't appear related to China spy program

President Biden said Thursday that three flying objects shot down after the U.S. military downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon earlier this month did not appear related to Beijing's surveillance balloon program. The Biden administration and Congress have called the flight of the first balloon an unacceptable violation of U.S. airspace. Biden said he would soon speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the suspected spy balloon. China has accused the U.S. of overreacting. "We are going to keep our allies and Congress contemporaneously informed of all we learn and all we know, and I expect to be speaking with President Xi, but I make no apologies for taking down that balloon," Biden said at the White House.


Producer prices rose faster than expected in January

U.S. wholesale prices rose 6 percent in January compared to a year earlier, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The rate was slower than the December pace of 6.5 percent, but faster than expected. The producer price index for January jumped 0.7 percent on a monthly basis, the most since June. The data marked the latest indication of stubborn inflationary pressures despite the Federal Reserve's push to raise interest rates to cool the economy and bring inflation down. The January change marked a step backward from December, when month-over-month producer prices dropped by a revised 0.2 percent. The average monthly increase was about 0.2 percent before the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.


Police: MSU shooting suspect had 2 handguns, left motive clues in notes

The suspect in the shooting that left three students dead and five people wounded at Michigan State University this week had two 9-millimeter handguns — purchased legally but not registered — and multiple ammunition magazines, police said Thursday. Officers found the suspect, identified as Anthony McRae, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after the shooting spree. McRae had two pages of notes with him that included a list of places he wanted to visit, along with a list of businesses and other locations "where he had been asked to leave," according to The Detroit News. Police said they had not determined a definitive motive, but the suspect appeared to have felt slighted by several people and businesses.


Fetterman receiving treatment for clinical depression

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), still recovering from a stroke he suffered last May, checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to get treatment for clinical depression, his office said Thursday. The attending physician for Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, examined Fetterman and recommended he go to Walter Reed. Fetterman campaigned last year as he continued to contend with the aftermath of the stroke, and his health was a concern during the campaign. "While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks," his chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said, adding that Walter Reed doctors who examined Fetterman said he is "getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself."


Biden signs executive order to investigate systemic racism in government

President Biden on Thursday signed an executive order directing federal agencies to step up efforts to address racial inequality and systemic racism. Biden called for extending a review of long-standing disparities in government services and treatment that he ordered on his first day in office, and for making it an annual requirement for federal agencies. "By advancing equity, the federal government can support and empower all Americans," Biden said. The order, signed during Black History Month, shows that Biden is "doubling down" on the commitment he made when he took office "to put equity at the center of how this government operates," said Chiraag Bains, Biden's deputy assistant for racial justice and equity.


Tesla workers say company fired people in retaliation for unionization effort

Tesla Workers United said Thursday that the electric car maker fired more than 30 people Wednesday at a Buffalo plant where workers had launched an effort to unionize this week. The union organizers said in a filing to the National Labor Relations Board that workers at the plant, where employees hone Tesla's Autopilot capabilities, were fired "in retaliation for union activity and to discourage union activity." Employees at the plant told The New York Times that most of those let go weren't part of the campaign. The timing was "very suspect," said Arian Berek, a data annotation specialist involved in the organizing committee who was laid off Wednesday. Tesla did not immediately comment.


Fox News stars privately mocked Trump stolen election claims, Dominion suit shows

Fox News star hosts and executives privately mocked former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even as they promoted election conspiracy theories on the air, Dominion Voting Systems argues in court papers filed Thursday. "Sidney Powell is lying," Tucker Carlson wrote to a producer about the Trump attorney. Sean Hannity said in a deposition he didn't believe the stolen-election claims Powell was pushing "for one second." Dominion, which sells electronic voting equipment, is pursuing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corporation, saying Fox employees and guests deliberately amplified false claims that Dominion changed votes in the 2020 election. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in April.


Bruce Willis diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia

Actor Bruce Willis' family released a statement Thursday saying that his health had worsened, and that he has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The condition inhibits his ability to communicate. The statement updating the public about Willis' health came nearly a year after his family said the 67-year-old action and comedy movie star was stepping back due to an initial diagnosis of aphasia. "While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis," said the statement by his wife, Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore, and his children Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel ,and Evelyn. "FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and can strike anyone."


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