Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 19, 2023

Putin visits illegally annexed Mariupol territory following ICC warrant, At least 15 dead after 6.8-magnitude earthquake hits Ecuador, and more


Putin visits illegally annexed city of Mariupol following ICC warrant

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the bombed-out city of Mariupol on Sunday in his first trip to a territory that had been captured by Russia. The Kremlin said that Putin traveled to Mariupol to explore the city, and video released by the state showed him speaking with residents and being briefed on rebuilding efforts. Mariupol became an international symbol of defiance against the Russian invasion of Ukraine after it held off invading forces for more than three months following the outbreak of the war, before Russia finally raised its flag over the city in May 2022. Putin's visit is the first time he has been seen in public after an arrest warrant was issued for him by the International Criminal Court for war crimes against Ukraine. 


At least 15 dead after 6.8-magnitude earthquake hits Ecuador

At least 15 people have died after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the southern coast of Ecuador on Saturday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the rumble occurred near the southern town of Baláo and was more than 41 miles deep. Despite this, the earthquake caused widespread damage throughout large swaths of southern Ecuador, with more than 350 reported injuries and numerous buildings collapsing. There were also unconfirmed reports of aftershocks being felt across the country. This is the strongest earthquake to hit the seismically active region since 2016, when nearly 700 Ecuadorians were killed. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso urged the public to remain calm as people continued to be hospitalized. 


North Korea fires another ballistic missile as U.S.-South Korea drills continue

North Korea launched yet another ballistic missile on Sunday, firing the weapon toward the sea off the coast of the Korean Peninsula in another test to put additional pressure on an American-South Korean military alliance in the area. The South Korean and Japanese defense ministries both confirmed that a missile was launched, and flew around 500 miles before hitting an undetermined target. The United States and South Korea are in the midst of an 11-day training exercise known as Freedom Shield, the largest joint operation between the two countries in more than five years. Following the launch, South Korea said the U.S. deployed a strategic bomber to ward off any additional tests by the North Koreans.  


Manhattan DA responds to threats against office following Trump calls for protests

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg wrote a memo to colleagues on Saturday saying that his office would "not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York." Bragg's message added that the safety of those in the district attorney's office was the highest priority, and that "our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment." Bragg's message comes after former President Donald Trump said he expected to be arrested by the Manhattan DA, and urged his supporters to protest any charges against him. 


Ukrainian grain export deal extended despite disagreement

Ukraine and Russia agreed on Saturday to extend a deal allowing grain exports from Ukrainian ports safe passage through the Black Sea. Ukraine and Turkey, which helped broker the deal, said the commitment had been extended for another 120 days. However, Russian officials backtracked on this, with the country's foreign ministry telling Russian news agency Tass that the deal had been extended just 60 days. While it remains unclear how long the safe passage agreement will last, any extension is vital to the world economy. The deal was originally brokered last July in an effort to help combat the global food crisis, and had already been extended once prior to this new re-upping.


Florida considering ban on menstrual cycle discussions for elementary grades

A bill being discussed in the Florida House of Representatives would ban the discussion of menstruation and sexually transmitted diseases for the state's elementary-age children. The Republican-proposed bill would limit discussions on human sexuality and reproductive cycles to grades six through 12. In a hearing over the bill, state Rep. Ashley Gantt (D) reiterated that the bill would indeed "prohibit conversations about menstrual cycles" for girls who get their periods prior to sixth grade, noting that many girls often begin menstruating between 10 and 15 years old. State Rep. Stan McClain (R), who proposed the bill, said he did not want to ban young girls from learning about menstruation and would be open to an amendment changing the bill's wording. 


French parliament to vote on no-confidence motion for Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron will face a test of his leadership this coming week as protests continue over an unpopular proposal by his government to raise France's retirement age from 62 to 64. Opposition lawmakers filed two motions of no-confidence against Macron this past Friday, and parliament is set to vote on the proposals on Monday. However, despite the ongoing anger against Macron's government, parliament is unlikely to form a strong-enough coalition to garner enough votes to actually topple the French president. The no-confidence motions come as France continues to see waves of violent protests over Macron's proposals, with thousands taking to the streets in anger in Paris, nice, and cities across the country. 


FBI investigating after another U.S. citizen kidnapped in Mexico

The FBI said it is continuing to investigate the disappearance of a California woman who was kidnapped outside her home in Mexico more than five weeks ago and hasn't been seen since. Maria del Carmen Lopez, 63, a U.S. citizen, was kidnapped in Pueblo Nuevo in the Mexican state of Colima on Feb. 9, the FBI said. The agency, which is conducting a joint investigation with Mexican authorities, said it is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to her safe return. Her daughter, Zonia Lopez, told local news that witnesses described the woman being forced into a white van on her property. The U.S. State Department advises against travel to Colima due to "widespread" kidnappings and other violent crimes. 


Memphis police supervisor in Tyre Nichols case allowed to retire 1 day before firing

The Memphis, Tennessee, police supervisor who was on the scene when Tyre Nichols was beaten to death was allowed to retire with his full pension and benefits just one day before being fired, according to documents released on Friday. Lt. DeWayne Smith was identified as the officer who had retired earlier this month just prior to his termination hearing. At a city council meeting over the weekend, some expressed anger that the Memphis Police Department allowed Smith to retire with his full benefits package despite the circumstances of the case. "I just don't like the fact that his parents are paying this officer to go on and live and that's troubling," council vice-chairman JB Smiley Jr. said. 


Arkansas bests defending champion Kansas in another stunning March Madness upset

The defending champion Kansas Jayhawks were eliminated by the Arkansas Razorbacks in a stunning upset on Saturday in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Kansas, a number-one seed and favorite to go far in the competition once again, started off the game well and held their own through most of the tilt. However, Arkansas would dominate in the second half, and make five free throws in the last two minutes of the game to help the Razorbacks beat Kansas 72-71. Kansas is now the second number-one seed to be ousted in the tournament in an unlikely chain of events, after the Purdue Boilermakers were upset by Fairleigh Dickinson the previous day. 


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