Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 17, 2022

Biden fails to secure oil and regional security commitments at Arab summit, Russia prepares to launch next stage of offensive, and more

1

Biden fails to secure oil and regional security commitments at Arab summit

President Biden on Saturday told a summit of Arab leaders that the United States "is invested in building a positive future of the region, in partnership with all of you," though he failed to secure commitments for increased oil production or for a regional security alliance — including Israel — to counter the threat of Iran.  Biden also insisted that the U.S. will not "walk away" from the Middle East "and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran."

2

Russia is preparing 'for the next stage of the offensive,' Ukrainian military intelligence says

Ukrainian military intelligence on Saturday reported "a certain activation of the enemy along the entire front line," as Russian forces deploy artillery, jets, and attack helicopters to strike targets all along the line of contact. "Clearly preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive," Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Vadym Skibitskyi said. Russia has also stepped up strikes against Ukrainian cities, killing at least 40 people since Thursday.

3

Gas prices could spike again just before midterms, experts warn

Democrats are expressing concerns about their electoral prospects after energy analysts warned that gas prices could spike as soon as October, inflicting a fresh jolt of pain at the pump just before the midterms. Gas prices have fallen from a national average of five dollars a month ago to $4.60, but that could change drastically. As new European sanctions on Russian oil take effect, the price of oil could rise to 50 percent above where it currently stands. If Russia retaliates by shutting off oil exports altogether, it could more than triple.  

4

Federal judge blocks Biden admin directives on transgender school bathrooms and athletes

Outlets reported Saturday that a federal judge had temporarily blocked a Biden administration directive allowing employees and students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities. The directive also allowed transgender student athletes to play on sports teams that matched their gender identities. Judge Charles Atchley Jr. of the Eastern District of Tennessee, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, sided with 20 Republican attorneys general, who argued that the directive made it impossible for them to enforce state laws. Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement Saturday the ruling was "a major victory for women's sports and for the privacy and safety of girls and women."

5

Saudi crown prince brought up Abu Ghraib in response to Biden's Khashoggi accusations

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly hit back at President Biden during a meeting between the two leaders on Friday. When Biden confronted bin Salman about the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which MBS likely approved, the crown prince brought up the abuse of prisoners that took place at Abu Ghraib prison during the U.S. war in Iraq. "The Crown Prince responded to President Biden's remarks on the Khashoggi affair quite clearly — that [Khashoggi's murder] while very unfortunate and abhorrent, is something that the kingdom took very seriously," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a press conference Saturday, adding that such "mistakes" happen "in any country."

6

Ukrainian cargo plane carrying explosives crashes in Greece

A cargo plane operated by private Ukrainian carrier Meridian crashed over northern Greece on Sunday, killing all eight crew members. The plane, an Antonov An-12BK, was flying from Serbia to Jordan with the ultimate goal of delivering a load of Serbian mines and other weapons to Bangladesh. The flight crew reported issues to Greek aviation authorities and attempted an emergency landing at an airport in Kavala but crashed about 25 miles west of the airport. Onlookers reported that the plane was on fire as it crashed and that explosions could be heard coming from the site of the wreck for two hours after the plane went down.

7

Ted Cruz says Obergefell decision was 'clearly wrong'

The Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, was "clearly wrong" from the beginning, Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday on his podcast Verdict with Ted Cruz. "Had the court not ruled [the way it did] in Obergefell the democratic process would have continued to operate — that if you believed gay marriage was a good idea the way the constitution set up for you to advance that position is to convince your fellow citizens, and if you succeeded in convincing your fellow citizens, then your state would change the laws to reflect those views," Cruz told co-host Liz Wheeler.

8

Wildfires ravage France and Spain as heat-related deaths soar

Firefighters on Sunday continued to battle blazes across France and Spain as a European heat wave caused a spike in heat-related deaths. Fires in southwestern France have displaced around 14,000 people, and Spain's National Defense Department has deployed "the majority" of its fire-fighting aircraft to combat more than 30 forest fires across the country. Between July 5 and July 9, Spain recorded 25 deaths due to high temperatures. That number soared to 237 for the 5-day period between July 10 and July 14. Major wildfires are also raging in Hungary, Croatia, and Crete.

9

Poll shows Grassley in tightest race since 1980

A new poll released Saturday shows Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who at age 88 is running for an eighth term, is facing his tightest race since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980. The poll, which was conducted between July 10 and July 13, found that 47 percent of likely Iowa voters would vote for Grassley if the election were held that day, while 39 percent would support retired Navy Admiral Michael Franken (D). Grassley's eight-point lead is identical to the margin in his 1980 race against then-incumbent Sen. John Culver (D). None of Grassley's challengers since has succeeded in winning even 40 percent of the vote.

10

Italian leaders beg prime minister to remain in office amid friction in governing coalition

Italian political, business, and labor leaders are begging Prime Minister Mario Draghi to remain in office in order to maintain stability after Drahi attempted to resign last week due to fragmentation within his governing coalition. President Sergio Mattarella rejected Draghi's resignation, but Drahi reportedly remains determined to leave office rather than submit to "ultimatums" from populists in his coalition. Giuseppe Conte, a former prime minister and the leader of the right-populist Five Star Movement said Saturday that his party "cannot share the responsibility of government if there is no certainty over the issues that we have underlined," including a minimum wage law.

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