Daily briefing

10 things you need to know: February 18, 2023

U.S. terminates search for objects in Alaska and Lake Huron, Kamala Harris says Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, and more


U.S. terminates search for objects in Alaska and Lake Huron

U.S. officials on Friday announced that they had ended the search for two unidentified objects that had been shot down in American airspace. The first object was taken out Feb. 10 over Alaska, while the second was destroyed two days later over Lake Huron in Michigan. In a statement, NORAD said no debris from either object had been found, and that they would not be continuing to search for any remaining pieces. "The U.S. military, federal agencies, and Canadian partners concluded systematic searches of each area...and did not locate debris," the statement said. The decision to terminate the search comes as officials also announced they had finished recovering the Chinese spy balloon shot down at the beginning of the month off South Carolina. 


Kamala Harris says Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine

Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday that the United States had determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity during the war in Ukraine. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Harris said that "justice must be served" to the perpetrators of these crimes. "Russian forces have pursued a widespread and systemic attack against a civilian population — gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation," Harris said, also claiming that Russia has conducted "execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution." Secretary of State Antony Blinken concurred, saying that the U.S. reserved these "determinations for the most egregious crimes." While Russia has long been suspected of committing these crimes, this is the first time the United States has presented formal evidence. 


North Korea launches missile amid training by U.S. and South Korea

North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile toward the sea on Saturday, South Korean and Japanese officials said. The missile was reportedly launched from the hermit state's capital of Pyongyang and was airborne for about 66 minutes before landing in Japanese waters. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that he believed the missile could have a range of around 8,700 miles, "in which case, the entire United States would be within its range." South Korean officials also confirmed the launch and said in a joint statement with Japan that it was a "serious act of provocation." The launch comes as the United States and South Korea are preparing to conduct joint military exercises in the Korean Peninsula. 


U.S. working to negotiate meeting with Chinese diplomat in Munich

American and Chinese officials are working to broker a deal between the nation's two top diplomats in an effort to have them meet this weekend at the Munich Security Conference. The two sides are trying to come together to have Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet with China's top foreign diplomat, Wang Yi, on the world stage amidst tensions between the two countries. Talks had reportedly slowed after Beijing asked that the U.S. formally request the meeting, something American officials were hesitant to do. At least one American official said, "It's a two-way discussion to land a meeting," adding that talks would continue throughout the conference. 


Biden administration considering penalties for Ohio rail disaster

The Biden administration is considering potential civil penalties for freight rail company Norfolk Southern after a devastating environmental crisis in Ohio, senior administration officials said Friday. Following a freight train derailment on Feb. 3 that put the town of East Palestine at risk from toxic gases and hazardous waste, the White House detailed the procedures being taken by government agencies to try and mitigate the situation. This includes steps taken by FEMA, the EPA, Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and the National Transportation Safety Board. While Norfolk Southern has pledged to cover the cost of the environmental cleanup, the White House said it would charge the company three times as much if it did not. 


Gunman kills 6 in Mississippi, law enforcement says

A gunman killed six people in Tate County, Mississippi, on Friday before being taken into custody, state law enforcement said. The shootings all occurred within the small town of Arkabutla, about 20 miles south of the Mississippi-Tennessee border. Police identified the suspect as Richard Dale Crum, 52. Crum allegedly shot victims in at least three different locations, including two separate homes. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said on social media that he had been briefed on the shooting at that it is believed the suspect acted alone. A motive remains unclear, and Crum has been charged with first-degree murder, though officials said additional charges will likely follow. 


At least 45,000 dead in Turkey as deaths from earthquake continue to climb

At least 45,000 people have died following a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, with the death toll expected to continue soaring. At least 264,000 apartments in Turkey have been destroyed, and thousands of people are still missing as the likelihood of finding additional survivors continues to slip away. However, there are signs that many people may still be alive under the rubble. Workers were recently able to save three people, including a child, from a collapsed building in southern Turkey. Limited supplies and funding are also making it difficult for rescue operations to continue. 


U.N. says African counties are charged 'extortionate' interest rates

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that African countries are being charged "extortionate" interest rates despite already being mired in debt. Guterres' remarks came during a speech to open the African Union summit in Ethiopia. Guterres said that he was hoping to enact reforms within the structure of international finance in order to put a stop to the skyrocketing rates charged to Africa by foreign entities. "The global financial system routinely denies [developing countries] debt relief and concessional financing while charging extortionate interest rates," he said, while also pledging that the U.N. would spend $250 million from its emergency fund to help fight ongoing crises on the continent. 


Officers involved in Tyre Nichols' death plead not guilty

The five former Memphis police officers charged in the beating death of Tyre Nichols all pleaded not guilty on Friday during their first court appearance. The five former officers were arrested in January on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression in relation to Nichols' death. Nichols died on Jan. 10 following a traffic stop in which body cam footage shows the officers pulling him out of his car and deploying pepper spray. Nichols can be seat being brutally beaten by numerous officers with their fists and batons. Following Nichols' death and an internal investigation, all five officers were fired, and a sixth officer who has not been charged was also later fired. 


Songwriter Kyle Jacobs, husband of Kellie Pickler, dead at 49

Kyle Jacobs, a songwriter and husband of country music star Kellie Pickler, was found dead in his home Friday, law enforcement said. According to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, the 49-year-old Jacobs was found dead in the couple's Nashville-area home, and that his death is being investigated as an apparent suicide. Pickler reportedly told police that she awoke prior to the incident and called emergency services when she was unable to open the home's bedroom door. The couple had gotten married in 2011 and previously appeared together on the CMT reality series I Love Kellie Pickler. No further details about Jacobs' death have been released at this time. 


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