Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 26, 2022

Biden signs gun control bill, Pfizer says Omicron vaccines produce stronger immune response, and more

1

Biden signs gun control bill

President Biden on Saturday signed the major federal gun control bill in 30 years into law. "God willing, it's going to save a lot of lives," Biden said after signing the bill. He also said the Supreme Court "has made some terrible decisions," alluding to the court's ruling on Thursday that Americans have the right to carry handguns for self-defense and to its Friday decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The gun control bill, which passed the Senate with the support of 15 Republicans and all 50 Democrats, encourages states to pass "red flag" laws, closes a loophole that allowed some abusive romantic partners to purchase firearms, and directs billions of dollars to mental health services.

2

Pfizer says Omicron vaccines produce stronger immune response

A pair of Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine boosters designed to target the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus have been shown to produce a significantly stronger immune response to Omicron, the companies said Saturday. The vaccines were designed to target the original BA.1 subvariant of Omicron, but preliminary results suggest that they could also be effective against the increasingly dominant BA.4 and BA.5 strains. "Based on these data, we believe we have two very strong Omicron-modified candidates that elicit a substantially higher immune response against Omicron than we've seen to date," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. The results of the study have not yet been peer reviewed or published.

3

Ukrainian military intelligence accuses Russia of trying to 'drag Belarus into the war'

Ukrainian military intelligence accused Russian of attempting to "drag Belarus into the war" after Russian military aircraft fired missiles into Ukraine from Belarussian airspace on Saturday. These attacks, which were carried out by Tu-22M3 jet bombers, reportedly mark the first time since the war began that Russian warplanes have fired missiles from within the borders of Belarus. Russian forces used Belarus as a staging ground for their invasion of Ukraine, but no Belarussian troops have crossed the border into Ukraine.

4

World leaders condemn Dobbs decision

Right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro praised the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn the right to an abortion, but he was an outlier among world leaders. "Women's rights are threatened. We must consistently defend them," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Saturday. On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all condemned the ruling. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield joined America's allies in disparaging the ruling of their country's highest court, with Thomas-Greenfield calling the decision "cruel, dark, and dangerous."

5

Report: Chinese government tracks people with records of crime, mental illness, and political dissent

A new report published Saturday details the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party tracks and surveils the country's 1.4 billion people with the intent of predicting and preventing criminal or politically subversive behavior. Examples include automated systems that alert authorities when multiple people with criminal records check into the same hotel, when someone known to have a mental illness approaches a school, or when a political dissident books a train ticket to the site of a planned protest. "This is an invisible cage of technology imposed on society," said Maya Wang, the senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.

6

GOP lawmaker misspoke when she called Dobbs a 'victory for white life,' spokesperson says

A spokesperson for Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) says the congresswoman misspoke when she calls the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade a "victory for white life." Speaking at a rally for former President Donald Trump in Illinois on Saturday, Miller said, "President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday." Spokesman Isaiah Wartman said Miller meant to say the ruling was a victory for "the right to life" and that the gaffe resulted from "a mix-up of words."

7

G7 nations to ban imports of Russian gold

President Biden announced Sunday that the G7 nations will move to ban imports of Russian gold, highlighting the bloc's solidarity as its leaders met in Munich. "The United States has imposed unprecedented costs on Putin to deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war against Ukraine," Biden wrote on Twitter. "Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia." The G7 comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

8

Tucker Carlson: critics of SCOTUS abortion ruling are 'horrified by the return of democracy'

Fox News Host Tucker Carlson on Saturday described the original Roe v. Wade decision as "poison" and a "political document." He also praised the Supreme Court's Friday decision to overturn Roe as a victory for democracy and accused Democrats of seeking to govern by judicial fiat. "This particular ruling dramatically reduces the power of unelected judges to dictate the details of the lives of millions of Americans and returns that power to voters," Carlson said. "Voters get to decide how they want to live ... And yet the same people who have been lecturing us for years about 'the end of democracy' are horrified by the return of democracy."

9

Taliban begs U.S. to unfreeze currency reserves amid earthquake devastation

Afghanistan's Taliban government pleaded with the United States on Saturday to allow them access to the $7 billion in foreign currency reserves that were frozen after the U.S.-backed government collapsed last summer. This request came as the Taliban regime struggles to respond to a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the country on Wednesday, killing over 1,000 people. Even before the earthquake struck, Afghanistan was already in the midst of a dire economic and humanitarian crisis, with about half of the country's 39 million people suffering from acute hunger.

10

Rhode Island GOP state Senate candidate allegedly punches opponent at abortion protest

Republican Rhode Island state Senate candidate Jeann Lugo dropped out of the race on Saturday after allegedly punching his Democratic opponent in the face at an abortion protest Friday night. "Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent — a police officer — violently attacked me," Democratic candidate Jennifer Rourke tweeted. "This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won't give up." Lugo, a Providence police officer who was off duty at the time of the incident, says he "stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking." The police department has placed Lugo on administrative leave and opened a criminal investigation into his actions.

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