Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 22, 2022

Russia positions additional troops as U.S. military aid arrives in Ukraine, stock market has worst week since pandemic started, and more

1

Russia positions additional troops as U.S. military aid arrives in Ukraine

The first shipment of a $200 million military aid package U.S. lawmakers approved last month arrived in Ukraine Saturday. As U.S. and Russian diplomats continue to pursue a peaceful solution, Russia has moved more troops to the Ukrainian border and has not backed down from any of its demands. Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced joint military drills on Ukraine's border with close ally Belarus as well as new naval exercises in the Black Sea. Putin has also threatened to deploy Russian military assets to Cuba and Venezuela.

2

Stock market has worst week since pandemic started

Between Tuesday and Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,400 points, the worst week since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The S&P 500 fell by 5.1 percent and the Nasdaq by 6.2 percent during the same time period. "The biggest drive of the plunge" was reportedly "growing concerns that persistently high inflation will force the Federal Reserve ... to aggressively raise interest rates this year." After a crash at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, markets quickly bounced back and had been on an upward trajectory for almost two years. Some analysts say the market was overvalued and that this drop was a necessary correction.

3

Judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden's vaccination guidelines have hit another snag. A federal judge on Friday blocked the administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers, just one week after the Supreme Court struck down his vaccine-or-testing mandate for the nation's large private employers. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey V. Brown in Texas said Biden did not have the power to mandate "that all federal employees consent to vaccination against COVID-19 or lose their job." The Justice Department plans to appeal Brown's decision.

4

Studies show boosters keep Omicron patients out of hospitals

Booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are 90 percent effective against hospitalization with the Omicron variant, according to new data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday. Booster shots were also found to have "reduced the likelihood of a visit to an emergency department or urgent care clinic," and were shown most effective against infection and death in Americans aged 50 and older, the data revealed. "I think we have to redefine fully vaccinated as three doses," Dr. William Schaffner, a CDC vaccine adviser who was not involved in the studies, said. "I think it's the third dose that really gives you the solid, the very best protection."

5

Biden orders $15 minimum wage for all federal employees

Federal agencies were directed on Friday to raise the minimum wage for government employees to $15 an hour. The rule will take full effect on Jan. 30, and the new pay guidance will impact close to 70,000 federal employees. Just over 2 million federal workers are already earning at least $15 an hour. The pay bump excludes the U.S. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission, both of which fall outside the purview of the Office of Personnel Management.

6

Anti-abortion protesters gather in D.C. as Supreme Court weighs curtailing abortion rights

Pro-lifers from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C., Friday for the annual March for Life, a protest that has been held annually since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. This decision, which gave American women the right to an abortion up until the point of fetal viability, could be weakened or overturned entirely this summer when the conservative-dominated court rules on a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The theme of this year's March for Life was "Equality Begins in the Womb."

7

Air strike on Yemeni prison kills at least 70, Houthis claim

Saudi-led coalition forces reportedly carried out an air strike against a detention center in Yemen Friday, killing at least 70 people, injuring over 100, and drawing condemnations from the United Nations. In a statement released Saturday, the coalition denied targeting the prison. "The target in question" lacked the "distinctive symbols and preventative measures" necessary to mark it as non-military and had "not been placed on the No Strike List (NSL) in accordance with the agreed upon mechanism," the statement read. The Saudi-led coalition, supported by the U.S., intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015 after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the nation's capital.

8

Sinema faces possible censure over refusal to help circumvent filibuster

The Arizona Democratic Party could vote Saturday to censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) over her refusal to support a Senate rule change that would have circumvented the filibuster and enabled President Biden's voting rights bill to pass. The Primary Sinema Project has raised over $300,000 for the Arizona moderate's eventual primary challenger even though she is not up for re-election until 2024. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has even floated the idea of campaigning on behalf of Sinema's eventual primary opponent.

9

Thousands to protest vaccine mandates in D.C. Sunday

Organizers are reportedly expecting thousands of protesters for an anti-vaccine mandate rally in Washington, D.C., this weekend. The rally, largely organized in Facebook group "Defeat the Mandates DC" and on some internet forums, has raised at least $200,000 in crowdfunding. Leaders say they are expecting "tens of thousands of attendees" to begin protesting at the Washington Monument at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Though the rally has been marketed as anti-mandate — not explicitly anti-vaccine — "organizers on Facebook have been quick to promote their links with anti-vaccine organizations," including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Children's Health Defense fund, who filed the permit for the event.

10

McConnell says he misspoke when he contrasted 'African-American voters' with 'Americans'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) attempted to set the record straight Friday after he drew criticism for saying Wednesday that "African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans." McConnell and his staff have said he inadvertently omitted one word from the statement, a word they have identified as "all" and "other." McConnell also defended his record on race relations, pointing to his presence in the audience at Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and his role in organizing a civil rights march while a university student.

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