Daily briefing

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

Xi and Putin meet in Russia to show unity unshaken by Ukraine war, a UN climate report warns immediate action is necessary to avert catastrophe, and more


Xi, Putin meet in show of unity 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Russia Monday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a show of support as Putin faces allegations of war crimes over his invasion of Ukraine. The two leaders met for more than four hours as the United States and its Western allies intensify their opposition to Russia over Ukraine. Xi said China was ready join Russia "to stand guard over the world order based on international law." Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Xi's trip, coming days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, "suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed to Ukraine." 


UN report: Immediate action needed to prevent climate catastrophe

The world will pass a tipping point within 10 years where catastrophic warming is unavoidable unless nations immediately transition away from burning fossil fuels, according to a report released Monday from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study found that the world will probably pass the ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures by the early 2030s. Once the planet passes that threshold, scientists believe that climate disasters will become too extreme for humans to adapt, and heat waves, famines, and other scourges could kill millions over the rest of the century.


Biden issues 1st veto to block anti-ESG bill

President Biden on Monday used his veto power for the first time, blocking a bill that aimed to reverse a rule allowing pension managers to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions. "Retirement plan fiduciaries should be able to consider any factor that maximizes financial returns for retirees across the country. That's not controversial — that's common sense," Biden said in his veto message. The move sends the bill back to Congress, where opponents do not have the two-thirds of votes needed in both the House and the Senate to override the veto. Unless opponents come up with more votes, the rule will stand.


Macron government survives no-confidence votes

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron survived two no-confidence votes in the French National Assembly on Monday, clearing the way for Macron's push to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The pension overhaul has sparked two months of nationwide protests and strikes, which appear likely to continue as the government implements the changes it rammed through last week without a vote in the National Assembly when it became clear it lacked the necessary support for approval. The French Senate approved the plan this month. The government narrowly survived one of the votes, with its opponents falling just nine votes short of the 287 majority needed for the bill to pass, fueling questions about the legitimacy of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne's cabinet.


NYC braces for possible Trump indictment, protests

New York City workers on Monday started preparing for protests called for by former President Donald Trump ahead of his possible indictment over hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. Workers erected barricades around a Manhattan courthouse as a grand jury heard more testimony in the case. Lawyer Robert Costello, possibly the grand jury's last witness, said former Trump fixer Michael Cohen handled the payment to Daniels without involving Trump. The former president, now running for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, has predicted he will be indicted Tuesday, which would mark the first indictment of a former president in U.S. history. Trump's call for protests stoked fears of another riot like the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. 


American held hostage for 6 years freed in West Africa 

American aid worker Jeffery Woodke was released Monday six years after being taken captive by suspected ISIS-linked militants in Niger. Details of the release were not immediately clear. Woodke was believed to have been taken to neighboring Mali at some point during his captivity. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said via Twitter that he was "gratified & relieved." Sullivan thanked Niger's government for helping to arrange Woodke's release, which came just after Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from the first visit by a sitting secretary of state to the West African nation. French journalist Olivier Dubois also was released, nearly two years after he was captured in Mali.


L.A. strike shuts down nation's 2nd-largest school district

Tens of thousands of Los Angeles school employees are going on strike Tuesday after last-minute efforts to avert a walkout failed. Leaders of the union representing 30,000 support workers, seeking a 30-percent pay increase and $2 more per hour for the lowest paid workers, said the three-day strike in the nation's second-largest school system was unfortunate but necessary. The Los Angeles teachers' union urged its 35,000 members to walk out in a show of solidarity. L.A. schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the walkout would disrupt the lives of students' families, and set back learning for the district's 420,000 children, compounding losses from the coronavirus pandemic.


6 more Oath Keepers convicted over Jan. 6 attack

Six people affiliated with the Oath Keepers militia group were convicted of federal crimes Monday for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Four of the defendants — Sandra Parker, Laura Steele, Connie Meggs, and William Isaacs — were convicted on various charges, including conspiring to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. The other two defendants, Bennie Parker and Michael Greene, were convicted of lesser charges, though the jury is still deliberating on one felony charge each for them. This was "the third and final trial examining the role that members of the far-right group played in the attack," according to The New York Times.


Missouri attorney general limits gender-affirming care for minors

Missouri's Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, announced Monday that he would file an emergency rule to limit access to gender-affirming care for minors. Hundreds of activists gathered at the state Capitol urging state senators to act on a stalled bill seeking a total ban on the care for children. Bailey's proposed emergency rule will require an 18-month waiting period and 15 hour-long therapy sessions, along with treatment of any mental illnesses a child is experiencing, before doctors can provide gender-affirming care to transgender children in the state. Bailey said he was protecting children "from being subject to inhumane science experiments." Maysa Akbar, chief diversity officer for the American Psychological Association, said the rule amounted to "discrimination" that would be harmful to transgender children.


Trump loses effort to block evidence in civil rape trial

Former President Donald Trump on Monday lost his last bid to prevent key evidence from being introduced in his civil rape trial next month. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in Manhattan ruled that key witnesses could testify in the trial, and that the jury could hear misogynistic remarks Trump made when he was being recorded, apparently without his knowledge. The lawsuit was filed by writer E. Jean Carroll, who said in a 2019 memoir that Trump raped her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale Manhattan department store, in the mid-1990s. Trump said he never encountered Carroll at the store, and didn't know her. In a deposition, Trump dismissed Carroll's allegations, saying "she's not my type."


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