Daily briefing

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

Russia will allow UN inspectors at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Michigan judge blocks enforcement of pre-Roe abortion ban, and more


Russia will allow UN inspectors at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that his country's forces would allow United Nations officials to visit and inspect Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which has been occupied by Russian troops since the early days of the invasion. Putin made his announcement following a call with French President Emmanuel Macron. Zaporizhzhia has attracted international attention in recent weeks as Russia used the plant as a base from which to launch missile strikes at nearby cities. Each side has blamed the other for explosions at the plant.


Michigan judge blocks enforcement of pre-Roe abortion ban

A Michigan judge ruled Friday that county prosecutors could not enforce the state's 1931 abortion ban. "The harm to the body of women and people capable of pregnancy in not issuing the injunction could not be more real, clear, present and dangerous to the court," said Oakland County Judge Jacob Cunningham. He also described the 1931 law as "chilling and dangerous" and reportedly ridiculed arguments from Republican prosecutors seeking to enforce the ban. An attorney for the anti-abortion prosecutors said they plan to appeal.


Supreme Court issues emergency order blocking Georgia election law

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned emergency order on Friday temporarily blocking a Georgia election law pertaining to two seats on the five-member Georgia Public Service Commission, which sets utility rates. All commissioners are elected in statewide elections, but each commissioner represents just one of the state's five districts. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of a Trump-appointed federal judge, who ruled that statewide elections robbed voters in the majority-Black District 3 of their power to elect a candidate of their choice. This ruling came one day after a U.S. District Court declined to block Georgia's ban on providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote.


'I think he'll get indicted,' says lawyer close to Trump's inner circle

Former President Donald Trump took to Truth Social on Friday to promise a "major motion pertaining to the Fourth Amendment" in response to the raid on Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. But, with Trump facing a criminal probe from the Justice Department as well as separate investigations in Georgia and New York, the walls could be closing in. "He should be worried about all these investigations," said a lawyer close to Trump's inner circle. "I think he's a target of all of them and I think he'll get indicted." Separately, senior Biden administration officials have expressed "deep concern" over documents Trump removed from the White House, suggesting they could put the U.S. intelligence community at risk.


Airlines must do more to support travelers experiencing delays or cancelations, Buttigieg says

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday that airlines are failing American travelers. "The message to the airlines is that you've got to make it easier for passengers to understand their rights. And you've got to support passengers when they experience delays or cancellations," Buttigieg said in an interview that aired Friday. On Thursday, he sent a letter to the executives of all U.S. carriers describing this summer's "level of disruption" as "unacceptable." He also announced the creation of a Department of Transportation resource allowing travelers to compare how airlines respond to delays and cancelations, and recommended that airlines "provide meal vouchers for delays of 3 hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers" stranded overnight.


ISIS militant gets life in prison for role in torture and death of 4 Americans

Judge Thomas S. Ellis III of Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced ISIS militant El Shafee Elsheikh to life in prison without parole on Friday. Elsheikh, a member of a three-member ISIS cell known as "the Beatles" for their British accents and banter, was convicted in April of hostage-taking and conspiracy for his role in the abduction, torture, and death of four Americans — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig. Carl Mueller, Kayla's father, described Elsheikh's demeanor in the courtroom as "cold, with no remorse."


Finnish prime minister takes drug test amid criticism over partying

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Friday that she had taken a drug test to dispel rumors that she was under the influence of drugs in videos that showed her singing and dancing with friends in what she described as "a boisterous way." Marin, at 36 the country's youngest-ever PM, told reporters, "I have taken a drug test today, the results of which will come in about a week," and described the accusations as both "serious" and "unjust." Marin said she consumed alcohol on the night in question but was sober enough to step away and attend to her governmental duties if necessary.


HBO Max removes 36 movies and shows to cut costs, pivot, and de-clutter

Streaming platform HBO Max removed 36 movies and TV series by the end of the day on Friday, aiming to cut costs, pivot away from children's programming, and de-clutter the platform. Content being removed includes teen drama Genera+ion and more than 200 episodes of Sesame Street. Although none of the shows and movies being axed were drawing large audiences, the move will still save the company tens of millions of dollars in residual payments to cast, crew, and writers. HBO Max is also moving away from kids' content, which has underperformed, and aiming to avoid deluging users with obscure content — what one executive described as the "Netflix problem."


Drought in Europe lowers water levels, revealing WW2 warships

Water levels in Europe continued to fall due to the ongoing drought. According to a report published Saturday, the Danube has fallen to one of its lowest levels in a century, revealing the hulks of over 20 German warships from World War Two. Nazi forces scuttled the ships near the Serbian river port town of Prahovo in 1944 while retreating from advancing Soviet troops. In the Rhine, the drought has exposed "hunger stones," rocks into which people carved messages and dates to mark the low point of previous droughts. Dates visible included 1947, 1959, 2003, and 2018.


Vanessa Bryant testifies she lives 'in fear' of seeing leaked Kobe Bryant crash photos

Kobe Bryant's widow provided emotional testimony Friday, telling the court she still lives in fear of seeing leaked photos from the crash site where her husband and daughter were killed. Vanessa Bryant took the stand as part of her lawsuit against Los Angeles County, which she brought after deputies allegedly improperly shared photos from the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband and their daughter, Gianna Bryant.


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Russia claims victory in 4 staged Ukrainian referendums
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