Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 4, 2023

Chinese balloon continues to sail through United States, Democrats to alter 2024 presidential primary schedule, and more


Chinese balloon continues to sail through United States

A suspected Chinese spy balloon continued to make its way across the United States on Friday. The balloon, which was first spotted last week, was seen heading southwest over Kansas and Missouri going into the weekend, flying at approximately 60,000 feet — significantly higher than most commercial planes. Defense officials said the balloon had first been spotted flying over Montana, which is notably home to a nuclear missile silo site at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Backlash from American officials has been swift, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling his upcoming trip to China. However, China has denied that the balloon is used for surveillance, claiming it is merely a weather ship. 


Democrats to alter 2024 presidential primary schedule

The Democratic Party looks poised to reorder its 2024 presidential primary calendar, setting the stage for a major shakeup on the campaign trail. The plans for the altered calendar, which will officially be introduced at a party meeting in Pennslyvania on Saturday, will see South Carolina replace Iowa, the traditional starting point, as the Democrat's first primary state. The calendar, which was first introduced this past December, will also elevate Nevada to a second-place voting day alongside New Hampshire and will move Michigan and Georgia into the early primary stage. The move by the Democratic National Committee is part of an effort to empower more Black and minority voters. 


2nd Chinese balloon seen flying over Latin America

The Pentagon said Friday that a second purported Chinese spy balloon had been spotted over Latin America, just days after a similar balloon was first detected over Montana. Defense officials said they were "seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America," adding that they "now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon." News outlets in Costa Rica first reported on Thursday that the balloon had been spotted soaring over the country's western coast. It is unclear what the goal of this device is, and unlike the balloon flying over the United States, China has not commented on the one spotted over Latin America. The Pentagon said they will continue to monitor both devices. 


6th Memphis police officer fired in relation to Tyre Nichols beating

The Memphis Police Department said Friday that it had fired a sixth officer in relation to the controversial beating death of Tyre Nichols. Preston Hemphill had previously been suspended from the MPD following an investigation into the Nichols incident. Police announced his termination, saying that he had violated numerous department policies and codes of conduct. This reportedly included violations of truthfulness, personal conduct, compliance with uniform regulations, and compliance with taser regulations. The investigation into Nichols' death is ongoing, and it is unclear exactly what role Hemphill may have played in the beating. While the first five officers to be fired have all been charged with murder, Hemphill has not been charged with any crimes. 


Arctic front brings life-threatening temperatures to Northeast

An arctic blast is set to bring life-threatening temperatures to the American Northeast starting on Saturday, with forecasters warning of blizzard-like conditions also on the horizon. The National Weather Service said Sunday that the temperature in the region would be "10 to 30 degrees below average," as residents braced for the incoming frigidness. Wind chill advisories remain in effect throughout the Northeast and into the mid-Atlantic coast. Schools in Boston were closed on Friday as the city's mayor, Michelle Wu, declared a state of emergency through the weekend. However, it was New Hampshire's Mount Washington Observatory that made headlines after a windchill of -108 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded — the coldest in United States history. 


GOP sends 1st set of subpoenas to Biden administration

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, on Friday sent the first round of subpoenas to the Biden administration since the GOP won back control of the House of Representatives. Jordan issued subpoenas to the FBI, Department of Education, and Department of Justice as part of an ongoing investigation by the GOP into the alleged weaponization of the government. The subpoenas officially went to FBI Director Christopher Wray — appointed by former President Donald Trump — as well as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland. The White House said the subpoenas "make crystal clear that extreme House Republicans have no interest in working together with the Biden Administration."


Soldiers on both sides freed following Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap

Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers were freed on Saturday in a series of swaps to release prisoners of war, officials on both sides of the conflict announced. Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak confirmed on the social media site Telegram that 116 Ukrainian POWs had been returned home, including troops that had held out in the city of Mariupol following the Russian takeover. Russian defense officials also confirmed that 63 Russian troops had been released from detention, including some unknown "special category" prisoners. However, the swap offered no reprieve from the violence, as three civilians were killed following a Russian missile strike on Friday. 


Massive train derailment in Ohio causes fire, prompts evacuations

A large fire broke out in an Ohio village following a large train derailment on Friday night, prompting the immediate area to be evacuated as firefighters worked to battle the blaze. At least 50 train cars derailed in the town of East Palestine, located near the state's border with Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said. No information has been provided as to the cause of the derailment, and no injuries were reported. Smoke and flames were seen shooting into the night sky and firefighters battled the inferno, as crews looked to determine which train cars were still on fire. The evacuation order remained in place as of Saturday morning. 


Elon Musk wins lawsuit as jury says he did not defraud investors

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was found not liable in a San Fransisco court on Friday in a class-action lawsuit related to a series of tweets he sent about the tech company in 2018. Musk was sued by a series of Tesla shareholders over tweets in which he wrote that "funding [was] secured" to take the company private at a predetermined share value, adding that "investor support" was already onboard. However, it was later determined that at the time of these tweets, no such funding had reportedly been obtained by Tesla. Despite this, the jury deliberated for less than two hours, and found that Musk could not be held financially responsible for the shareholders' losses. 


Teenager dies in Australian shark attack

A 16-year-old died on Saturday after being attacked by a shark in Western Australia. The teenager was reportedly riding a jet ski in the Swan River, near the Australian city of Perth, when police said she may have jumped into the water to swim with dolphins. At that point, police said, the girl was ambushed by the shark. Police officials described the incident as "very, very traumatic" and said the girl's family was "absolutely devastated by the news." There are typically around 20 shark attacks in Australia per year, but they are rarely fatal. According to the most recent data, the mortality rate from a shark attack in Australia is just 0.9 percent. 


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