Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2023

Russia forces down a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea, Biden orders more background checks during gun sales, and more


Russian fighter jets force down U.S. drone

Two Russian Su-27 fighter jets on Tuesday forced down a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea. The Pentagon said the Russian warplanes dumped fuel on the American Reaper drone, and one of them bumped it, hitting its propeller. Air Force personnel remotely operating the drone put it down in international waters, destroying it. The U.S. called the Russian maneuvers "dangerous," "reckless, and "environmentally unsound." The incident was the first known direct clash between the U.S. and Russian militaries since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, although the United States has provided Ukraine with arms and intelligence. Moscow has accused the West of trying to use the war to destroy Russia.


Biden orders more background checks for gun buyers

President Biden issued an executive order Tuesday calling for more background checks during gun sales. The order doesn't require universal background checks. That would require legislation passed by Congress, and Biden stands little chance of pushing gun laws through the Republican-controlled House. But Biden directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to clarify who is deemed to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, because anybody who is must be federally licensed and check buyers' backgrounds. Biden instructed Garland to use his judgment and go after anyone "willfully violating the law." Checking a buyer's background is "just common sense to check whether someone is a felon, a domestic abuser before they buy a gun," Biden said.


Regulators investigate Silicon Valley Bank collapse

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the sudden failure of Silicon Valley Bank, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. Few specifics were immediately available, but one thing prosecutors reportedly are examining is stock sales by executives at the bank shortly before a run on deposits caused it to collapse. Customers tried to withdraw $42 billion — a quarter of SVB's deposits — last Thursday alone. SVB Financial CEO Greg Becker and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Beck didn't respond to the Journal's requests for comment. The SEC and DOJ declined to comment.


Meta announces second round of mass layoffs

Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it would cut 10,000 jobs in 2023, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month said would be a "year of efficiency" for the social media giant. Meta is the first Big Tech company to announce a second round of mass layoff as the industry cuts costs to shore up its finances in preparation for an expected economic downturn. Meta eliminated more than 11,000 jobs, or 13 percent of its workforce at the time, in its first round of layoffs last fall. Like other tech companies, Meta went on a hiring binge as online services boomed earlier in the pandemic, doubling the staff it had going into 2020.


Imran Khan's supporters clash with Pakistan police

Supporters of Pakistan opposition leader Imran Khan on Tuesday clashed with police who showed up at his Lahore home to arrest him. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, and Khan's backers responded by throwing stones. Police forced their way in, seeking to arrest Khan on charges that he sold state gifts while he was serving as Pakistan's prime minister. Khan called the arrest attempt and the charges against him politically motivated. He said the government wanted to put him in jail to discourage his party from participating in looming elections. Government minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said police were only complying with a court order to bring Khan in.


Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over train derailment

The state of Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern over the derailment of one of its trains that released toxic chemicals in East Palestine last month, state Attorney General Dave Yost said Tuesday. The lawsuit accuses Norfolk Southern of violating state and federal laws on the handling of hazardous waste, negligence, and air and water pollution. The state is asking for damages and financial penalties, and a "declaratory judgment that Norfolk Southern is responsible," Yost said. "This derailment was entirely avoidable," Yost said, adding that the fallout would "reverberate through Ohio and Ohioans for many years to come." The state wants the rail operator to reimburse it for its costs, including emergency response and economic harm.


San Francisco leaders express support for reparations for displaced Black residents

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously supported a draft proposal to provide reparations for Black people, including a $5 million lump sum for people whose families were displaced by the city's urban renewal in the 1960s and '70s. The board didn't say which of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee's 100-plus recommendations, which include housing grants and tax exemptions for Black-owned businesses, it would ultimately support. A final proposal is due in June. The city's redevelopment of its Fillmore District, once known as the Harlem of the West, shuttered 883 businesses and displaced 4,729 households. The city is seeking ways to make amends, although city officials question whether $5 million payments will be possible given massive budget deficits.


Polish court convicts activist for providing abortion pills

A Polish court on Tuesday convicted human rights activist Justyna Wydrzynska of providing abortion pills to pregnant women in violation of Poland's anti-abortion laws, some of the most restrictive in Europe. The court found her guilty of providing abortion pills she had in her home to a woman whose husband prevented her from traveling to Germany for an abortion. Wydrzynska was sentenced to eight months of community service. She could have faced up to three years in prison. Abortion rights supporters protested the verdict outside the Warsaw courthouse. Wydrzynska co-founded Abortion Dream Team, which provides information on safely terminating pregnancies. She said the ruling wouldn't stop her from continuing her work. Her group plans to appeal.


Women's rights pioneer Pat Schroeder dies at 82

Former Rep. Pat Schroeder, a pioneering feminist who fought sexism in Congress, has died of complications from a recent stroke. She was 82. Schroeder's former press secretary, Andrea Camp, said Schroeder died at a hospital near her home in Celebration, Florida. Schroeder, first elected as a Vietnam War opponent, spent 24 years in Congress. The pilot and Harvard-trained lawyer helped push through key legislation for women and families, including the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member, and the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which barred employers from dismissing women because they were pregnant. She also used her wit to call out what she called "the good old boys' club" in Washington.


Cyclone kills hundreds in Malawi and Mozambique

The death toll from Cyclone Freddy's second strike in less than a month in Malawi and neighboring Mozambique rose to more than 200 on Tuesday. At least 190 people have been confirmed dead in Malawi, with hundreds more injured or missing. The official toll in Mozambique was 20, but it was expected to rise as search and rescue teams reached areas isolated by flooding and cut off from communication networks. Many of the victims died in mudslides in hard hit Blantyre, Malawi's second largest city. Heavy rains caused flooding that swept away thousands of homes. Survivors have reported saving people who were buried up to their necks in mud.


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