Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 17, 2023

Poland becomes first NATO member to send Ukraine fighter jets, 11 big banks agree to $30 billion deal to prop up First Republic, and more


Poland becomes 1st NATO member to send Ukraine fighter jets

Poland on Thursday became the first NATO country to agree to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country would provide four Soviet-era MiG-29s under an agreement it reached with Kyiv. He said Poland would deliver the warplanes in "the next few days," and hinted his government might send more fighter jets within weeks. Ukraine has repeatedly pleaded with its Western allies to provide fighter jets to help it fight invading Russian forces. Ukraine has requested American F-16s, but the Biden administration has held back. Unlike F-16s and other modern jets, Ukraine's pilots have been flying MiG-29s for decades and should be able to use Poland's planes immediately.


11 big banks prop up First Republic in $30 billion deal

A group of 11 banks on Thursday agreed to deposit $30 billion in First Republic Bank to signal confidence in its finances following the sudden failure of three other midsize lenders. The deal includes $5 billion infusions from four of the biggest U.S. banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are kicking in $2.5 billion each. BNY Mellon, PNC Bank, State Street, Truist, and US Bank are contributing $1 billion apiece. The deal came as top financial officials scrambled to reassure the public their deposits were safe. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell called it "most welcome."


French government pushes through pension reform, bypassing lawmakers

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, acting under President Emmanuel Macron's orders, announced Thursday that she was pushing through the government's controversial pension overhaul when it became clear the plan did not have enough support for approval by the National Assembly. The government invoked special constitutional power to enact the bill, which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, without Parliament's approval. Unions and workers have staged a series of nationwide strikes and protests against the plan since January that have disrupted schools, rail service, garbage collection, and other services. Macron made the reforms a central goal of his second term, saying the changes were necessary to make the pension system sustainable.


Senate advances bill repealing authorization of Iraq war

The Senate voted 68-27 on Thursday to advance a bill repealing authorization for the Iraq war. The bipartisan legislation has 12 Republican co-sponsors, and the White House said President Biden supports it. The bill would repeal the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of force in Iraq, marking a formal end of the wars. The measure also signals an effort by lawmakers to reassert their authority over the use of U.S. military resources in foreign interventions. "I hope this year, on the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, both chambers will finally speak in one voice" and send the war powers repeal to Biden's desk, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor.


Virginia charges 10 over death of Irvo Otieno

Virginia authorities on Thursday charged three hospital employees with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man, at a state psychiatric hospital, a prosecutor said. Seven sheriff's deputies were charged in the case on Tuesday. Otieno was taken into custody on March 3 because he was deemed to be in mental health distress. After three days in jail, Otieno was taken to the hospital restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said. Videos show seven sheriff's deputies holding him down for 12 minutes. "They smothered him to death," she said. The deputies are on administrative leave pending the resolution of the case.


Sanofi becomes 3rd drugmaker to slash insulin costs

French drugmaker Sanofi announced Thursday that it would slash prices of its insulin by up to 78 percent, and cap out-of-pocket costs on its most popular version of the life-saving diabetes medicine, Lantus, at $35 per month for patients with private insurance. Sanofi is the third major insulin producer to make drastic price cuts urged by politicians and patient advocates. Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly recently cut U.S. insulin prices up to 75 percent and 70 percent, respectively. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act capped Medicare beneficiaries' insulin costs at $35 a month. A 2020 survey by advocacy group T1International found one in four Type 1 diabetes patients rationed insulin due to the drug's cost.


Pentagon releases video showing Russian jet hitting drone

The Pentagon on Thursday quickly declassified and released a 42-second video showing a Russian Su-27 fighter jet dumping fuel on an American MQ-9 Reaper drone before bumping the remotely piloted drone's propeller, forcing it to crash in the Black Sea about 30 miles from the Ukraine coast. The U.S. said Russia's pilots recklessly collided with the drone in international airspace. Moscow has denied its warplanes hit the drone, blaming the incident on the U.S. Moscow warned the U.S. to halt "hostile" surveillance flights to help Ukraine so close to Russian territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday, his first trip there since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, in a show of support as tensions rise.


Cyclone Freddy death toll surpasses 400

The death toll from Cyclone Freddy's second landfall in Mozambique, Malawi, and the island nation of Madagascar continued to rise on Thursday, exceeding 400 as emergency crews reached remote areas that had been cut off by flooding, mudslides, and high winds. The storm made its first landfall in February, then made a rare loop and hit again. The storm has dissipated since hitting southern Africa over the weekend, but some parts of Malawi continue to get heavy rains that could cause more flooding, particularly near lakes, the ministry of natural resources and climate change said in a statement. "We mobilized boats and other means to search and rescue people. There are lots of communities stranded," said Paulo Tomas, spokesperson for Mozambique's disaster relief agency. 


Florida GOP-led House committee advances 6-week abortion ban

A Republican-controlled state House committee in Florida on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a proposal to ban abortions six weeks into pregnancy. Democrats opposed the plan but acknowledged "there was nothing they could do to stop it from eventually becoming law," according to The Associated Press. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed a 15-week abortion ban that still faces court challenges. If passed, the new legislation will only take effect if courts uphold the previous law. The proposed six-week ban includes exceptions to save the life of a pregnant woman, and in cases of rape and incest, up to 15 weeks into a pregnancy. DeSantis has said he supports the ban, which could boost his appeal to conservatives in a likely presidential bid.


Report: Grand jury heard a 3rd phone call of Trump pressuring Georgia officials

The Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse his 2020 election loss in Georgia heard audio of a third phone call in which he pressured a state official to help him claim victory in the state over President Biden, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Thursday. In the third recording, according to interviews with five people who served on the grand jury, Trump talked with the state House speaker, fellow Republican David Ralston, who resisted Trump's request to call a special legislative session to reject Biden's narrow victory in the state. The speaker "basically cut the president off," one juror said, telling Trump he would help in any "appropriate" way possible. He didn't call a special session.


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