Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 21, 2023

Putin blames the West for the Ukraine war as Biden visits Kyiv, a strong aftershock sparks panic in earthquake-ravaged Turkey and Syria, and more


Putin blames West for Ukraine war as Biden makes surprise visit to Kyiv

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday to criticize the West and justify his war in Ukraine, which remains at a stalemate ahead of the anniversary of Russia's invasion on Friday. "It's they who have started the war. And we are using force to end it," Putin said in the speech. He also said Russia is suspending participation in the last nuclear nonproliferation treaty with the United States, New START. President Biden upstaged Putin on Monday by making a risky, unannounced visit to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised the U.S. would support Ukraine "as long as it takes" to repel Russian forces.


Turkey, Syria rattled by strong aftershock that kills at least 3

A strong, 6.3-magnitude earthquake shook southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday. The aftershock triggered panic in areas devastated by two more powerful quakes two weeks ago, sending people running out of buildings into the streets in several cities. The White Helmets, a civil defense force in northern Syria, said via Twitter that civilians had been hurt by "falling debris, stampedes, and jumping from high areas." The Monday quake killed at least three people and injured 213 in Turkey's Hatay province, Turkey's interior minister said in a news conference. The Feb. 6 temblors, which registered 7.8 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, killed more than 43,000 people.


Ron DeSantis raises national profile with N.Y. visit

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) visited New York City on Monday at the start of a trip aiming to spotlight crime in Democratic-led cities as he seeks to raise his profile ahead of a possible campaign for the2024 Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis, speaking at a restaurant in the GOP stronghold of Staten Island, criticized public safety strategies in New York and other major cities. "Those woke approaches to crime and law and order and being anti-police, those policies have failed," DeSantis said in a live interview on Fox News. "Florida's policies have succeeded." New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, said DeSantis might find the city different from the Sunshine State because it doesn't ban books or discriminate against gay people.


Project Veritas forces out founder James O'Keefe

Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe announced Monday that the right-wing group had removed him as its leader. The news came after the board placed O'Keefe on leave as it looked into complaints about his treatment of staff members. "So currently, I have no job at Project Veritas," a tearful O'Keefe said in a video that was posted online but he said was for the group's staff. "I have no position here based upon what the board has done." Project Veritas bills itself as a news organization. It is primarily known for heavily edited hidden camera videos targeting mainstream news organizations, labor groups, and Democratic politicians.


5th person confirmed to be cured of HIV

Researchers announced Monday that a 53-year-old man in Germany has become the fifth person in history to be cured of HIV, which can lead to AIDS if untreated. The patient, known as "the Dusseldorf patient," received a stem cell transplant 10 years ago and has not taken HIV medication in four years, ABC News reported. The Dusseldorf patient is the third person to be cured of the virus through a stem cell transplant. "It's really cure, and not just, you know, long-term remission," said Dr. Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen who published the findings in the case in Nature Medicine. "This obviously positive symbol makes hope, but there's a lot of work to do." The first reported cure was in 2009.


Rushdie, other critics slam 'censorship' of Roald Dahl books

Critics including Booker Prize winning novelist Salman Rushdie are speaking out against the British publisher of Roald Dahl's classic children's books for removing language deemed unacceptable to modern readers from new editions. Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House, has edited some of the late author's wording in his classic children's books. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example, the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, one of Charlie's rivals, is now described as "enormous" instead of "enormously fat." Rushdie said the changes amount to "absurd censorship." Dahl died in 1990 at age 76.


Suspect arrested in killing of L.A. bishop

Los Angeles County authorities on Monday arrested a suspect in the killing of Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell, who was found dead in his bed of a single gunshot wound on Saturday. There were no signs of forced entry in the Catholic archdiocese-owned home where O'Connell, 69, lived. L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the suspect as Carlos Medina, the husband of O'Connell's housekeeper. Surveillance video showed what appeared to be Medina's SUV in the driveway at the time of the killing. A tipster told investigators that Medina, 65, who had done work for O'Connell, had been acting strangely since the killing, and saying the bishop owed him money, Luna said.


Tourist killed by shark in New Caledonia

A 59-year-old Australian tourist died over the weekend after being attacked by a shark while swimming off a beach in New Caledonia, a French territory east of Australia and north of New Zealand. The man was swimming near a pontoon off a Château-Royal beach in the capital, Nouméa, when the shark bit him. Two people on a jet-ski rescued him and took him to shore. People performed CPR on him but he died of his injuries. Authorities closed the area to swimming and boating "until further notice," Nouméa City Council said in a statement. The attack was the second off the beach in less than a month. A 49-year-old woman was injured by a bull shark in late January.


Ohio opens clinic, plans to sue Norfolk Southern over toxic chemical release

The Ohio Health Department on Tuesday is opening a clinic to address health concerns in East Palestine following the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train that led the company to release and burn toxic chemicals on board to prevent an explosion. The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sent a notice of intent to sue addressed to Alan Shaw, the president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. Yost said in the letter, dated Feb. 15, that the rail company released pollution that "continues to contaminate the area around East Palestine, created a nuisance, damage to natural resources and caused environmental harm. Local residents and Ohio's waters have been damaged as a result." The company also faces multiple class-action suits from residents.


Prosecutors downgrade charges against Alec Baldwin over 'Rust' shooting

Prosecutors on Monday downgraded charges against actor Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of Rust, a low-budget Western film. Attorneys for Baldwin and the movie's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, had argued that their clients never should have faced a "firearms enhancement" because the state legislature didn't pass the enhancement law until after the October 2021 shooting. The change reduces the possible prison sentence from a mandatory five-year minimum to a maximum of 18 months for involuntary manslaughter. Baldwin, who shot and killed Hutchins while rehearsing a scene, has said he was not responsible for the accident because he had been told his gun was "cold," meaning it was loaded with blanks.


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