10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2023

Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine, well-wishers praise Jimmy Carter for his lifetime of service as he enters hospice care, and more

Biden and Zelensky shaking hands.
(Image credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via Getty Images)

1. Biden secretly travels to Ukraine in show of support

President Biden made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Monday in a show of solidarity with Ukraine several days ahead of the anniversary of Russia's invasion of the country. Biden met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and announced an additional half-billion dollars in U.S. aid, demonstrating America's commitment to helping Ukraine fight back against Russia. "One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands," Biden said. His stop in Ukraine came ahead of a publicly scheduled two-day trip to Poland. Biden has vowed to support Kyiv "as long as it takes," and made supporting Ukraine central to his push for revitalizing the Western defense alliance in Europe.

The New York Times The Associated Press

2. Admirers praise Jimmy Carter for a lifetime of service

Well-wishers shared tributes to Jimmy Carter on Sunday after the announcement that the former president was declining further medical treatment after several recent hospital stays, and starting hospice care at his Georgia home. "Across life's seasons, President Jimmy Carter, a man of great faith, has walked with God," said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). Carter, a former peanut farmer and Georgia governor who served one term as president from 1977 to 1981, continued a life of service after his presidency, helping build homes for the poor, and supporting peace and democracy around the world. Maria Shriver, the niece of former president John F. Kennedy, called Carter, 98, an "inspiration" who "moves humanity forward every single day."

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The Guardian NPR

3. Blinken promises support for post-earthquake rebuilding in Turkey

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Sunday during a visit to earthquake-ravaged Turkey that the United States would provide $100 million in disaster assistance. He also assured Turkey — a NATO ally with sometimes tense relations with the U.S. — of Washington's steady support in the recovery from the 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes that hit Turkey and neighboring Syria on Feb. 6, and killed more than 46,000 people. Blinken took a helicopter tour with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, flying over devastated parts of southeastern Turkey. Given the "extent of the damage," Blinken said, "it's going to take a massive effort to rebuild but we're committed to supporting Turkey in that effort."

The Washington Post

4. Watchdogs urge more oversight for Ukraine aid

Government watchdogs are calling for more oversight over the $100-billion-plus in U.S. weapons, humanitarian aid, and financial support being sent to help Ukraine fight off a Russian invasion. "When you spend so much money so quickly, with so little oversight, you're going to have fraud, waste and abuse," John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told USA Today. "Massive amounts." Sopko and some House Republicans say the closer oversight is necessary to prevent aid from being siphoned off by corrupt officials, and to keep terrorists from getting their hands on weapons. The Pentagon said safeguards already are in place to make sure Ukrainian forces account for weapons they receive.

USA Today

5. Michigan GOP picks Kristina Karamo as leader

Michigan Republicans over the weekend selected election denier Kristina Karamo as the party's leader in the battleground state. Karamo, who refused to concede after losing her secretary of state race by 14 percentage points, won the job as the GOP chair in Michigan after three rounds of voting that took so long it exceeded the time the party had originally rented the venue for its state convention. Karamo, the first Black woman to lead the GOP in the state, beat former attorney general candidate Matt DePerno 58 percent to 42 percent. DePerno — a vocal backer of Donald Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him — had received the former president's endorsement.

The Detroit News The New York Times

6. U.N. ambassador warns China not to send weapons to help Russia's Ukraine war

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Sunday said China would be crossing a "red line" if it sent Russia weapons to help in its invasion of Ukraine. "We welcome the Chinese announcement that they want peace, because that's what we always want to pursue in situations like this. But we also have to be clear that if there are any thoughts and efforts by the Chinese and others to provide lethal support to the Russians in their brutal attack against Ukraine that that is unacceptable," Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview on CNN's State of the Union. A day earlier, U.S. officials told NBC News that the United States believes China might already be providing Russia with non-lethal aid.

NBC News

7. Meta to offer verified accounts on Facebook, Instagram

Facebook-parent Meta plans to start offering users verified blue badges and direct customer-support access for $11.99 a month, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Sunday. "This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services," Zuckerberg wrote in posts on Facebook and Instagram, which Meta also owns. Users will have to submit a government ID to prove their identity to be eligible for the service, Meta Verified. The paid status will give subscribers "extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you," Zuckerberg said. The service, similar to programs at Twitter and Snap, became available in Australia and New Zealand last week and will be expanded to the United States within several weeks.

The New York Times TechCrunch

8. North Korea test fires more missiles after U.S., Asia allies conduct drills

North Korea on Monday fired three missiles in a sign of escalating tensions with the United States, South Korea, and Japan. North Korea also issued a warning after the U.S., South Korea, and Japan held aerial drills on Sunday in response to a Saturday intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea. That missile came down in waters off Japan's main northern island of Hokkaido. "We affirm once again that there is no change in our will to make the worst maniacs escalating the tensions pay the price for their action," Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said, as quoted by official state media.

Bloomberg

9. L.A. Catholic bishop fatally shot

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials said Sunday they were launching a murder investigation after the death of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell, 69, who was found with a fatal gunshot wound on Saturday by officers responding to a medical emergency call. Archbishop José H. Gómez of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles described O'Connell as "a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant." "We are deeply disturbed and saddened by this news," Gómez said in a statement Sunday. "Let us continue to pray for Bishop Dave and his family. And let us pray for law enforcement officials as they continue their investigation into this terrible crime."

Los Angeles Times

10. Comedian, S.V.U. actor Richard Belzer dies at 78

Actor Richard Belzer, known both for his edgy stand-up comedy and his role as cynical TV detective John Munch on Homicide: Life on the Street and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, died Sunday at his home in southwest France. He was 78. Belzer's film debut came in the cult comedy The Groove Tube (1974). But the work many TV audiences know him for is his portrayal of Det. Munch from 1993, on the first Homicide episode, until 2016 on Law & Order: SVU. He said in a recent interview with The Boomer Tube that the character's "paranoia and anti-establishment dissidence" fit well with his own personality. "I would never be a detective, but if I were, that's how I'd be," he said.

The Hollywood Reporter CNN

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