Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2022

Biden to convene National Security Council to discuss Ukraine crisis, Winter Olympics conclude after 15 days of competition, and more

1

Biden to convene National Security Council to discuss Ukraine crisis

President Biden is scheduled to meet with the National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the situation on the Ukrainian border. Biden said Friday that he is "convinced" Russian President Vladimir Putin has made up his mind to invade Ukraine. Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have stepped up artillery attacks against government forces and begun evacuating women and children, while Russian forces stage large-scale military exercises, including test-firing nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles. Current estimates place the number of Russian troops positioned along Ukraine's border at up to 190,000.

2

2022 Olympics: Games conclude after 15 days of competition

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics closed Sunday after 15 days of competition. The closing ceremony featured children with illuminated snowflakes performing a loosely choreographed dance to an arrangement of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," followed by the Parade of Flags, set to an arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Norway topped the medal table with 16 gold medals, followed by Germany with 12 and China with nine. The U.S. came in fourth with eight gold medals. American athletes also brought home 10 silver medals and seven bronzes. Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics. The 2026 Winter Games will be held in the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

3

Queen Elizabeth II tests positive for COVID-19

Queen Elizabeth II, 95, has tested positive for COVID-19, Buckingham Palace announced Sunday. She is reportedly experiencing "mild cold-like symptoms" but expects to be able to continue performing "light duties" during the coming week. The queen may have contracted the virus from her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, who tested positive earlier this month. The queen is fully vaccinated. On Feb. 6, Elizabeth marked 70 years on the throne.

4

Freedom Convoy: Canadian police arrest at least 170 protesters and tow more than 50 vehicles

Canadian police took aggressive action over the weekend to break up the Freedom Convoy protests that have occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks. Police arrested at least 170 people on Friday and Saturday and towed more than 50 vehicles. Police used batons and "chemical irritant" against protesters, who they described as "aggressive and assaultive" and accused of attempting to use children to shield themselves from police. Videos show some demonstrators being trampled by police horses. One protester reportedly threw a bicycle at a police horse, and another was arrested after allegedly launching a gas canister.

5

Trump courses could host new Saudi-backed golf league

Former President Donald Trump's company is reportedly working on a deal with a new Saudi-backed golf league that would make at least two of Trump's courses — located in Doral, Florida, and Bedminster, New Jersey, into stops on the tour. The PGA Tour pulled a tournament from Doral during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and another from Bedminster after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The new league, overseen by the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Investments, has been working to recruit PGA players, including Phil Mickelson. Mickelson reportedly said in an interview that, despite Saudi Arabia's "horrible record on human rights," he views the new league as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

6

Epstein associate found dead in jail while awaiting trial for raping minors

Former French modeling agent and Jeffrey Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel was found dead in his Paris jail cell during the night, a spokesman for the city's prosecutor said Saturday. Brunel, 75, had been charged with raping minors over the age of 15 (France's age of consent) and with sexual harassment. He was also suspected of procuring young women for Epstein's sex trafficking ring. The prosecutor said Brunel was found hanging and that his death appeared to be a suicide. According to some sources, no cameras recorded Brunel's death.

7

Americans could see increased energy costs if Russia invades Ukraine, Harris says

Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters Sunday that if Russia invades Ukraine, Americans may have to "put ourselves out there in a way that" could result in increased energy costs. She added that the administration is "taking very specific … steps to mitigate what that cost might be." Harris met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. Zelensky told Harris, through an interpreter, that he is grateful for American support and that "the only thing we want is to have peace." In a speech delivered the same day, Harris warned the U.S. and NATO would respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine with "far-reaching financial sanctions and export controls."

8

Nepali police clash with rioters over U.S.-funded infrastructure project

Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police outside Nepal's parliament as lawmakers debated a $500-million aid grant from the United States. Protesters rushed police barricades and hurled stones at officers. Police responded with batons, tear gas, and water cannons. The grant would fund construction of a 187-mile electricity transmission line and improve roads in the South Asian country. Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said the infrastructure program would benefit 24 million of Nepal's 30 million people. Two communist parties, which are part of the governing coalition, oppose the deal, claiming that the project will erode Nepal's sovereignty.

9

Australia welcomes tourists after nearly 2 years of closed borders

Australia re-opened its borders to tourists on Monday after nearly two years of stringent travel restrictions that earned it the nickname "Fortress Australia." Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that 56 international flights were expected to land at Australian airports in the next 24 hours. "We are going from Covid cautious to Covid confident when it comes to travel," he said. Before the pandemic, Australia's tourism industry was growing at a rate nearly double that of overall GDP growth, but many in the industry worry that it will take a long time for tourism to return to pre-COVID levels. Tourists who have received two vaccine doses will not need to quarantine.

10

2022 Olympics: U.S. figure skaters won't receive medals until doping investigation concludes

The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Sunday in Beijing that the U.S. Olympic figure skating team will not receive their medals until a doping investigation into Russian skater Kamila Valieva has concluded. The CAS panel, which initially ruled Monday that no medals would be awarded for events in which Valieva finished in the top three, rejected the Americans' appeal after meeting Saturday evening. It may take months or years for the investigation to reach its conclusion. Only then will the nine Americans, who finished second in the Feb. 7 team event, receive their medals. If the Russian team is disqualified, the U.S. will move up to third place on the medal table. 

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