10 things you need to know today: May 22, 2023
Ukraine pulls out of Bakhmut, Biden and McCarthy to continue debt ceiling talks, and more
Ukraine pulls out of Bakhmut, advances on flanks
Russia's Wagner Group paramilitary forces captured all but an "insignificant" corner of Bakhmut from Ukrainian defenders, Ukrainian Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky said Sunday, a day after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin declared victory in the decimated town. But Ukrainian forces continued their advances on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut and are "close to tactically encircling the city," Syrsky added. Ukraine's control of the high ground around Bakhmut will allow its forces to defend vital supply lines and shell Russian troops trying to hold the ruins of the city. The nine-month battle was the bloodiest of Russia's war on Ukraine, and Russia's state-run Channel 1 declared "mission accomplished" on Sunday, comparing Wagner's capture of Bakhmut to the Soviet army's capture of Berlin in World War II.
Biden and McCarthy to meet Monday for debt ceiling negotiations
President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will meet Monday to resume negotiations on the debt ceiling, McCarthy announced Sunday. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that if the debt ceiling — the amount of money the government is authorized to borrow to pay its obligations — isn't raised, the country could default on its debt as soon as June 1. Republicans want to cut federal spending and add work requirements for recipients of Medicaid and the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families program in exchange for raising the limit. Biden has said he's open to making some spending cuts as long as Republicans consider raising tax revenues.
SpaceX launches private citizens to International Space Station
SpaceX on Sunday launched a four-person crew on a mission to the International Space Station. The team includes former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and three paying customers, including stem cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi, the first woman from Saudi Arabia to go to space. "I am very honored and happy to be representing all the dreams and all the hopes of all the people in Saudi Arabia and all the women back home," Barnawi told reporters before her journey. The spacecraft is expected to dock with the ISS at 9:24 a.m. ET Monday, with the crew spending about eight days there. The trip, dubbed AX-2, was put together by Axiom Space, and is the second all-private mission to the ISS, CNN reported.
Debt limit breach threat already taking economic toll
Uncertainty over whether Congress will raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. Treasury runs out of tricks around June 1 is taking a toll on the U.S. economy. Short-term borrowing costs have risen as investors demand higher yields on government bonds, and small businesses are starting to brace for a catastrophic default, delayed payments, and job cuts. Financial markets are still expecting House Republicans and the White House to strike a deal, but the economy is wobbly after bank failures, persistent inflation, and a run of sharp interest rate hikes, and market confidence could turn quickly, MFS Investment Management strategist Robert Almeida told The New York Times. "When the herd moves, it tends to move really fast and in a violent way."
Sen. Tim Scott to launch GOP presidential campaign
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will officially kick off his 2020 presidential campaign Monday in North Charleston, his hometown. Scott launched an exploratory committee earlier this year and will begin his run for the Republican nomination with a record $22 million in the bank, most of it transferred from his Senate election campaign account. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, will be on hand to endorse his colleague at the kickoff, Politico reported. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, is entering an increasingly crowded primary field dominated by former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). DeSantis is expected to officially launch his presidential campaign as soon as this week.
Greek conservatives win big, but fall short of parliamentary majority
The center-right New Democracy party of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis notched a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections but fell five or six seats short of an outright majority in Greece's 300-seat parliament. New Democracy won a larger-than-expected 41 percent of the vote, according to returns, while the main opposition center-left Syriza party underperformed with about 20 percent. Mitsotakis called Sunday's election a "political earthquake" and is expected to seek an outright governing majority in a second election in late June or early July, under more favorable electoral rules for his party. Syriza's Alexis Tsipras, whom Mitsotakis defeated in 2019, called the results "exceptionally negative for Syriza," adding, "Fights have winners and losers." Mitsotakis' success was attributed to the economy.
Italy's Mount Etna erupts, forcing airport closure
Italy's Mount Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupted Sunday, forcing the nearby airport to a standstill after the runways become covered in ash. The volcano, located on the eastern coast of Sicily near the city of Catania, began spewing ash Sunday morning, Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) told The Associated Press. The eruption did not come as much of a surprise, as volcanic activity had been reported for days. It caused ash to fall throughout Catania and nearby settlements, local officials said, and the Catania Airport tweeted it would be closed "until normal safety conditions are restored." Mount Etna is the tallest volcano in Europe, and has been known to erupt multiple times per year; the last major event was in 1992. A previous eruption of Etna in 2021 lasted several weeks.
NAACP warns Black, LGBTQ tourists to avoid Florida
The NAACP issued a travel advisory over the weekend cautioning Black and gay or trans tourists that "Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals." The civil rights group added that Florida now "devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color." The NAACP advisory joins similar warnings issued last week from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the gay rights group Equality Florida. All three warnings cite laws recently signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). Laws banning gender-affirming care and loosening gun laws "pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state," Equality Florida said. Tourism is one of Florida's biggest industries.
Brooks Koepka wins 3rd PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka on Sunday won the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club, defeating Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler by two strokes. This win gave Koepka his third PGA championship and fifth major title. Over the last three years, Koepka sustained several knee injuries, and he told reporters after his win that looking back at "everything that's gone on, I'm just so happy right now that I'm kind of at a loss for words." Koepka is a member of LIV Golf, the Saudi Arabian-financed league, and is its first golfer to win a major championship.
'Fast X' zooms into the top spot at weekend box office
"Fast X," the 10th installment in the "Fast & Furious" franchise, had a strong opening weekend at the box office, bringing in $67.5 million domestically and $251.4 million internationally. Paul Dergarabedian, a media analyst for Comscore, told The Wall Street Journal that "over the past several years, the 'Fast and Furious' has been earning the lion's share of its box office outside the U.S." The first "Fast & Furious" movie was released in June 2001, and Universal said its longest-running franchise is also its most profitable, earning $6 billion worldwide. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" brought in $32.7 million over the weekend, coming in second at the domestic box office, followed by "Super Mario Bros." with $9.8 million and "Book Club: Next Chapter" with $3 million.