10 things you need to know today: October 19, 2023

Biden says aid will get to Palestinians, Jim Jordan loses another vote in his bid to become House speaker, and more

President Biden in Israel
President Biden in Israel
(Image credit: Miriam Alster / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

1. Biden: Humanitarian aid to enter Gaza

President Biden announced Wednesday that the United States would provide $100 million in aid for Palestinian civilians, and said Israel and Egypt had agreed to let 20 trucks of food, water and medicine into Gaza. The promise came as health officials warned of an escalating humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory. Biden and U.S. intelligence officials said a U.S. assessment indicated a blast that killed hundreds at a Gaza City hospital wasn't caused by Israel. Hamas blamed an Israeli airstrike; Israel said it was a misfired Islamic Jihad missile. The carnage triggered protests across the region and prompted Jordan to cancel a summit where Biden had planned to meet with three key Arab leaders. USA Today, The New York Times

2. Jim Jordan loses another speaker vote

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) lost a second vote for House speaker on Wednesday. Twenty-two Republicans — up from 20 in the first ballot — joined Democrats in voting against the hardline House Judiciary Committee chair's bid to replace ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), leaving him 18 short of the 217 votes he needs. The continuing GOP chaos is keeping Congress from passing any legislation, and a potential government shutdown is looming. Republicans expect a third vote Thursday, but with Jordan's prospects dim, some are considering changing House rules to give the interim speaker-pro-tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), more power so the House will be able to conduct some routine business if the selection process drags on. Reuters, The Associated Press

3. Natalee Holloway murder suspect finally confesses

A federal judge said Wednesday that longtime suspect Joran van der Sloot, a 36-year-old Dutchman, confessed to killing American teen Natalee Holloway on an Aruban beach in 2005. Van der Sloot previously pleaded not guilty, but admitted in a plea agreement in a related extortion case that he crushed Holloway's head with a cinder block after she rejected his sexual advances, and pushed her body out to sea. U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco sentenced him to 20 years for trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway's mother in exchange for telling her where the body was. "It's over," the teen's mother, Beth Holloway, said. "Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter's murder. He is the killer." NBC News, The Associated Press

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4. US forces block Iraq drone attacks

Drone attacks on Iraqi military bases used by U.S. forces slightly injured several coalition soldiers as tensions spread over the Israel-Hamas conflict following an explosion at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds. U.S. forces intercepted all three of the drones that targeted one base in western Iraq and another in northern Iraq. Two of the drones were destroyed but one was only damaged, later hitting the western base and injuring an unspecified number of personnel. Iran-backed Iraqi militias have threatened to attack U.S. facilities in retaliation for Washington's support for Israel, The Associated Press reported. The Hill, The Associated Press

5. Price cuts dent Tesla profits

Tesla reported Wednesday that its third-quarter profit fell 44%, more than analysts had expected. The decline was partly due to Tesla's deep price cuts to boost sales. Revenue rose 9% to $23.4 billion as Tesla continued to deliver more of its electric vehicles, although analysts had forecast stronger growth. High operating costs associated with projects such as the automaker's delayed Cybertruck pickup also hurt the bottom line. Tesla said it was now on track to start Cybertruck deliveries Nov. 30, four years after it unveiled the futuristic-looking pickup. The company's previously industry-leading profit margin fell from 17.2% a year ago to 7.6%, in line with other automakers. The Wall Street Journal

6. US resumes Venezuela deportations

The Biden administration on Wednesday resumed deporting Venezuelans caught trying to cross the U.S. southern border illegally. The first deportation flight landed in Caracas with more than 100 men and women on board. The Biden administration is under pressure to toughen its approach to border enforcement as record numbers of migrants attempt to enter the United States without proper documentation. More than 380,000 Venezuelans have been stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border since President Biden took office in 2021. Weeks ago, the administration made nearly half a million Venezuelans who arrived before July 31 eligible for deportation relief and work permits, citing their South American nation's "increased instability and lack of safety." Reuters

7. Far-right influencer sentenced for 2016 voter suppression lies

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn sentenced right-wing social media influencer Douglass Mackey to seven months in prison on Wednesday for spreading false information on Twitter, now known as X, to suppress Democratic turnout in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors said in the spring trial that evidence showed Mackey, who posted under the alias Ricky Vaughn, participated in private Twitter groups where people reveled in using lies to benefit Donald Trump. One participant called it "the deep psyops of meme war." Prosecutors said Mackey conspired to dupe supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton with posts falsely saying they could vote by text or social media post. Donnelly called the scheme "nothing short of an assault on our democracy." The Associated Press, The New York Times

8. Greta Thunberg arrested at London climate protest

British police on Wednesday charged Greta Thunberg and 25 other people for disrupting public order during a protest outside an oil and gas conference in London. The 20-year-old Swedish climate activist was released on bail and told to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Nov. 15. Video posted on social media showed Thunberg and other protesters chanting "oily money out" and blocking the entrance of the upscale hotel where the conference was taking place. Officers can later be seen leading the activists into a police van. Thunberg has been charged and fined twice for protests in Sweden this year. She has also been detained or removed from demonstrations in Norway and Germany, The Washington Post reported. The Washington Post

9. Workplace health insurance premiums rise

The annual cost of workplace family health insurance coverage paid by employees and their companies jumped 7% this year to an average of nearly $24,000, according to the KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey released Wednesday. Employees now pay an average of $6,575 for their share of the premium, up nearly $500 (almost 8%) from 2022. Companies pay the rest. "We have a huge premium increase this year. There's just no other way to cut it," said Matthew Rae, who co-authored the survey. Coverage for single workers jumped 7% to $8,435 a year, with workers paying more than $1,400 of that, up $75. The increase is roughly equal to the rise in wages and inflation, and far smaller than the double-digit increases of the early 2000s. KFF Health News, CNN

10. Court worker arrested at Trump civil trial

A New York court employee was arrested for disrupting Donald Trump's New York civil fraud trial after she approached Trump and his lawyers, saying she wanted to "assist" them. Court officers stopped the woman before she got close to the former president. Judge Arthur Engoron also told Trump and his lawyers to "stop commenting during the witness' testimony" — "particularly if it's meant to influence testimony" — after Trump threw up his hands and conversed loudly with his defense team while a witness was testifying against him. Earlier this month, Engoron issued a gag order prohibiting Trump from disparaging court staff after he attacked a court employee on social media. New York Daily News, The Hill

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