10 things you need to know today: February 28, 2023
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visits Ukraine in show of support, the U.K. and the EU reach a post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, and more
Yellen visits Ukraine in latest show of U.S. commitment
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Kyiv on Monday in the latest move by the Biden administration to demonstrate its commitment to supporting Ukraine with military and financial aid to help it counter a Russian invasion now entering its second year. Yellen, making a rare trip to a war zone by a U.S. Treasury chief, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials. She said she discussed the distribution of $10 billion in financial assistance that is part of a $45 billion package approved by Congress in December. "I want you to know this: You are not alone," Yellen said. "The United States has your back — and we will stand with you for as long as it takes."
U.K., EU reach 'decisive' post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland
Britain and the European Union reached a deal Monday to end their dispute over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said during a press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the agreement marked a "decisive" breakthrough offering a "long-lasting" solution to a key sticking point in Britain's divorce deal with the European trading bloc. The agreement, known as the Windsor Framework, will result in "smooth flowing trade" within the United Kingdom that "safeguards" Northern Ireland's rights, Sunak said. Von der Leyen said the deal showed that the EU and U.K. remain "close partners." Sunak has promised lawmakers a vote on the deal, which some in his ruling Conservative Party have yet to endorse.
Belarus anti-government group claims drone destroyed Russian surveillance plane
Belarusian anti-government activists said Monday they had destroyed a sophisticated Russian military Beriev A-50 surveillance aircraft in a drone attack near the Belarusian capital Minsk. Neither Russia nor Belarus confirmed the attack, which the Belarusian activists said occurred at an air base. The type of Russian plane allegedly destroyed can track up to 60 targets at a time. Aliaksandr Azarov, leader of Belarusian anti-government organization BYPOL, told Reuters on Monday that the operation was planned over several months, and that "partisans" hoped to carry out more strikes soon. Minsk has labeled BYPOL, which includes former law enforcement officers who support opposition politicians, as a terrorist organization.
White House says no consensus on COVID origins
The White House said Monday there was no agreement yet within the Biden administration about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The statement came a day after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Energy Department had concluded, with "low confidence," that the COVID-19 virus most likely originated with a leak from a Chinese lab. The FBI has come to the same conclusion, but four other federal agencies and a national intelligence panel have determined that the pandemic most likely started through natural transmission from an infected animal. Two other agencies remain undecided. "There is not a consensus right now in the U.S. government about exactly how COVID started," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby Kirby said. "We're just not there yet."
Murdoch acknowledged Fox News hosts endorsed false election narrative
Rupert Murdoch, chair of Fox News' parent company, acknowledged in a deposition made public Monday that some of the conservative news network's commentators "were endorsing" the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump through fraud. "I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it, in hindsight," Murdoch said in testimony related to Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Murdoch said the former host Lou Dobbs endorsed it "a lot," while prime-time star Sean Hannity did "a bit." Dominion says Fox hurt its reputation and business by letting Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani tout false claims on its programs, including that Dominion machines were used to change votes.
Biden administration announces crackdown on child labor violations
The Biden administration on Monday announced that it was cracking down on child labor violations. The move came after a New York Times investigation documented a sharp rise in exploitation of migrant child labor, as record numbers of children cross the southern border without parents or guardians, and some wind up in grueling, dangerous jobs. "Too frequently, employers who contract for services are not vigilant about who is working in their facilities," the Labor Department said in a statement. The Labor Department said it would target factories and suppliers that use child labor, as well as the companies that rely on them for products.
DeSantis takes control of Disney self-governing district
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill Monday giving him control of a special taxing district that had allowed Walt Disney World self-governing power for decades. DeSantis and his fellow Republicans pushed through the legislation after Disney's top executives came out against a bill that forbids teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to third grade. Critics call the legislation the "don't say gay" law. Under the bill DeSantis signed Monday, the governor can appoint the five-member board overseeing government services in the district containing Disney's Florida theme park properties. "Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end," DeSantis said. "There's a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day."
Democrat Elissa Slotkin announces run for open Michigan Senate seat
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) on Monday announced she was running for the Senate seat being left vacant by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is retiring. Slotkin, 46, became the first Democrat to formally enter what is likely to be a high-profile contest in a battleground state in 2024, a presidential election year. "We need a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder, and never forgets that we are public servants," Slotkin, a former intelligence officer for the CIA, said in a campaign video posted on Twitter. Slotkin's announcement followed indications that potential rivals state Sen. Mallory McMorrow and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II would not run.
'Dilbert' ditched by major comic-strip platform as backlash spreads
The backlash over racist remarks by "Dilbert" comic creator Scott Adams continued to intensify on Monday as dozens more newspapers and a major comic strip platform announced they were cutting ties with Adams. "Dilbert" vanished from the GoComics site, which also features "Peanuts," "Calvin and Hobbes," and other popular comic strips, on Monday, hours after "Dilbert" distributor Andrews McMeel Universal said it was cutting its ties to Adams. The rejections started pouring in after Adams, speaking on his YouTube show, said on Feb. 22 that Black people are a hate group that white people should "get away" from. "We are not a home for those who espouse racism," Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Chris Quinn wrote in a response echoed by numerous papers.
Georgia judge says Trump grand jury members can comment on report
The judge overseeing the Fulton County special grand jury that investigated former President Donald Trump's effort to reverse his 2020 election loss in the state told ABC News on Monday that members of the panel are free to publicly discuss their final report. The remarks came days after forewoman Emily Kohrs revealed that the grand jury had recommended indictments against several people. She also shared her thoughts on seeing Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rudy Giuliani as part of the proceedings. Trump's lawyers said after Kohrs' comments last week that the investigation "has been compromised." Judge Robert McBurney told ABC News that members of the grand jury can talk about the report and witness testimony, but not about their deliberations.