Thursday, April 21, 2022
More aid going to Ukraine, UC Berkeley on lockdown, CNN+ done after less than a month, Musk still aiming for Twitter, lawmakers vote to strip Disney of special district and wildfires rage in the West.
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Happy Thursday. Here’s what is happening:
The Washington Examiner: President Joe Biden announced a new round of funding to support Ukraine Thursday morning and said he'll soon ask Congress to approve additional funding to aid the war-ravaged nation:
Biden touted positive developments in the war in Ukraine, namely Russian troops leaving Kyiv to focus on the eastern Donbas region of the country, but he also said it's now time to focus on the next phase.
"We are in a critical window of time now that they're going to set the stage for the next phase of this war," Biden said. "The U.S. and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine with the forces that they need, the weapons they need — excuse me, the equipment they need — their forces need, to defend their nation."
Biden met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal ahead of the remarks.
The new round of funding includes another $800 million for 144,000 artillery rounds, 72 155 mm howitzers, which adds to the 18 the United States provided in the last aid package last week, 72 tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers, field equipment, and spare parts, according to a readout from the Pentagon.
The U.S. is also providing more than 120 Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems, a similar technology to Switchblades that the Air Force developed specifically to address Ukrainian needs, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters. This weapon will require "some minimal training," he explained.
Switchblade drones are small “kamikaze” drones that can be used to fly short distances and are mounted with a small explosive that can attack personnel and vehicles.
The Pentagon didn't provide many details about the newly developed drones.
The New York Times reports the new aid would effectively create five new Ukrainian artillery battalions and includes more than 120 new drones built specifically for use by Ukraine’s forces.
Another $500 million of emergency funding will be used to maintain critical government operations in Ukraine, per The Times.
From The Guardian: Russia has been hiding evidence of its ‘barbaric’ war crimes in Mariupol by burying the bodies of civilians killed by shelling in a new mass grave, the city’s mayor said on Thursday, as a satellite imagery company released photos that appeared to match the site:
The mayor, Vadym Boichenko, said Russian trucks had collected corpses from the streets of the port city and had transported them to the nearby village of Manhush. They were then secretly thrown into a mass grave in a field next to the settlement’s old cemetery, he said.
“The invaders are concealing evidence of their crimes. The cemetery is located near a petrol station to the left side of a circular road. The Russians have dug huge trenches, 30 metres wide. They chuck people in,” he said.
Later on Thursday, the US company Maxar Technologies released images of what appeared to be a mass grave in the same area. The site had been expanded in recent weeks to contain more than 200 new graves, Maxar said.
More than 100,000 people remain trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol with around 200 people waiting to be evacuated, Mayor Vadym Boichenko, Reuters reports:
Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile which President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday would make Moscow's enemies stop and think, Reuters also reports.
POLITICO reports that the U.S. will ban Russian ships from its ports in an effort to further alienate Russia from the world.
The White House detailed a plan on Thursday to accept as many as 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing violence, making official a pledge announced last month, The New York Times also reports.
A still developing story: The University of California Berkeley campus is being advised to shelter in place after a reported emergency at the campus’s Cesar E. Chavez Student Center, the campus newspaper is reporting:
Multiple sources point to a threat of an active shooter. The suspect allegedly made threats against faculty at the Student Learning Center. In-person classes have been canceled for the rest of the day, according to an updated campuswide UCPD alert.
According to the live UCPD scanner, an individual is barricaded inside the center’s room 501, and an individual heard another shouting “I am the reason why this is all happening!” Police on the scanner mentioned the use of “less-lethal force” if the individual was found.
A loudspeaker on Sproul Plaza advised students to move inside and away from any doors and windows.
Blackwell Hall, due to its proximity to campus, is on lockdown, and is not letting students in or out. Additionally, all campus services, including libraries, dining halls, Bear Transit shuttle services and parking garages are closed until further notice.
From CNN: CNN+, the streaming service that was hyped as one of the most significant developments in the history of CNN, will shut down on April 30, just one month after it launched:
CNN+ customers "will receive prorated refunds of subscription fees," the company said.
The decision was made by new management after CNN's former parent company, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this month.
The prior management team's vision for CNN+ runs counter to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav's plan to house all of the company's brands under one streaming service. Some CNN+ programming may eventually live on through that service. Other programming will shift to CNN's main television network.
"In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling," Discovery's streaming boss J.B. Perrette said in a statement.
"We have very exciting opportunities ahead in the streaming space and CNN, one of the world's premier reputational assets, will play an important role there," Perrette added.
Perrette and incoming CNN CEO Chris Licht notified staffers of the decision in a meeting on Thursday afternoon. Licht bluntly told employees it was a "uniquely shitty situation."
Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s COO, is facing internal scrutiny over two occasions in which she pressed The Daily Mail to shelve a potential article about her then-boyfriend, Activision Blizzard’s Chief Executive, Bobby Kotick, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Fox News host Sean Hannity this week became the longest-serving cable news host in the industry’s history, surpassing CNN’s Larry King, The Hill reports.
Elon Musk will explore a potential tender offer for Twitter and has $46.5 billion in committed financing for a deal, CNBC reports:
In an updated filing published Thursday, Musk said that given the lack of response from Twitter’s board, he is now exploring a tender offer to purchase some or all shares of the company directly from its stockholders.
The filing says Musk has received commitments for $46.5 billion to help finance the potential deal. Musk has secured about $25.5 billion in debt financing through Morgan Stanley Senior Funding and other firms, and he said he has committed about $21 billion in equity financing. The other participating firms are Bank of America, Barclays, MUFG, Societe Generale, Mizuho Bank and BNP Paribas.
Musk has not yet determined if he will make a tender offer for Twitter or whether he will take other steps to further the proposal, the filing states.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the company received Musk’s proposal.
Amazon is set to let other online merchants piggyback on its Prime service to deliver goods quickly to their customers, CNBC reports.
The Associated Press reports that a federal judge has temporarily blocked a Kentucky state law that effectively eliminated abortions after the state’s two remaining clinics said they couldn’t meet its requirements.
Florida lawmakers have voted to dissolve Disney’s special district, eliminating privileges and setting up a legal battle, CNBC reports:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has his guns pointed at Disney World.
On Thursday, the Florida state legislature passed a bill seeking to dissolve a special district that allows the Walt Disney Company to act as its own government within the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties. The bill passed the state Senate Wednesday with a vote of 23-16 and sailed through the state’s House of Representatives by a vote count of 70-38.
The proposal was first introduced on Tuesday by Republican state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, but opponents claim it’s really driven by DeSantis. Widely seen as a contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, DeSantis is locked in a bitter and public feud with the entertainment giant over the company’s denouncement of Florida’s HB 1557 law last month. HB 1557, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about dissolving Disney’s long-established special district, which it’s occupied for 55 years, leading opposing senators and other critics of the bill to question its timing and the speed at which it’s being pushed through.
State Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday that the bill isn’t retaliatory, but said “when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.”
Also in Florida: The state legislature approved a congressional map Thursday pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis over the strong objections of black and Democratic lawmakers who say it will diminish the state’s black representation in the U.S. House and benefit Republicans, the AP also reports.
NBC News reports that The CDC is asking physicians nationwide to be on the lookout for unusual cases of severe hepatitis in children:
Nine cases have been reported in Alabama, and an additional two have been identified in North Carolina, according to those states' health departments.
Dozens of such cases have also been identified in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control announced Tuesday.
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver, a condition that can result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Some of the children in Alabama developed jaundice, and blood tests showed signs of elevated liver enzymes.
Several children in that state became so ill that they needed a liver transplant. No deaths have been reported. All were ages 1 through 6 and were healthy previously, without any underlying conditions.
Bailey Pennington, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said two "school-aged" children in that state developed severe hepatitis and have since recovered.
"No cause has been found and no common exposures were identified," Pennington said in a statement.
The Associated Press: Thirteen sexual assault victims of Larry Nassar are seeking $10 million each from the FBI, claiming a bungled investigation by agents led to more abuse by the sports doctor, lawyers said Thursday:
It’s an effort to make the government responsible for assaults that occurred after July 2015. The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the FBI made fundamental errors when it became aware of allegations against Nassar that year.
Nassar was a Michigan State University sports doctor as well as a doctor at USA Gymnastics. He is serving decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts.
“This was not a case involving fake 20 dollar bills or tax cheats,” attorney Jamie White said. “These were allegations of a serial rapist who was known to the FBI as the Olympic U.S. doctor with unfettered access to young women.”
Nassar, he added, continued a “reign of terror for 17 unnecessary months.”
White is not suing the FBI yet. Under federal law, tort claims must be a filed with a government agency, which then has six months to reply. A lawsuit could follow, depending on the FBI’s response.
“No one should have been assaulted after the summer of 2015 because the FBI should have done its job,” said Grace French, founder of a group called The Army of Survivors. “To know that the FBI could have helped to avoid this trauma disgusts me.”
White noted the 2018 massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The FBI received a tip about five weeks before 17 people were killed at the school, but the tip was never forwarded to the FBI’s South Florida office. The government agreed to pay $127.5 million to families of those killed or injured.
In the Nassar case, Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics told local FBI agents in 2015 that three gymnasts said they were assaulted by Nassar. But the FBI did not open a formal investigation or inform federal or state authorities in Michigan, according to the inspector general’s report.
Los Angeles FBI agents in 2016 began a sexual tourism investigation against Nassar and interviewed several victims but also didn’t alert Michigan authorities, the inspector general said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly apologized for how agents handled the matter.
The New York Times reports in the days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell told associates they believed President Donald Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.
Kevin McCarthy vowed to push Donald Trump to resign after Jan. 6, and Mitch McConnell said he deserved impeachment. Then their fury faded.
(McCarthy disputes that he and McConnell would personally urge Trump to resign, The Washington Post reports.)
From Dessert News: Sen. Mike Lee says the text messages he sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the 2020 election don’t signal advocacy for overturning the results in favor of Donald Trump.
And ABC News reports that the House committee investigating January 6 is expected to meet with Donald Trump Jr. in the coming days:
Trump Jr.'s appearance is voluntary and comes after the committee invited him to speak with their investigators, sources told ABC News. The panel has not subpoenaed him.
Trump Jr. would become the latest member of the Trump family to meet with the committee. In recent weeks, the panel interviewed Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom served as senior White House advisers to former President Donald Trump.
An attorney for Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump Jr.'s fiance, met with the committee for a second time earlier this week in an interview that sources said was contentions at times and focused in part on the fundraising efforts around Trump's "Save America" rally on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump Jr.'s text messages are among those that former chief of staff Mark Meadows turned over to the committee, sources said.
As ABC News has previously reported, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the vice chair of the panel, quoted extensively from text messages sent to Meadows during the riot from Fox News hosts, GOP lawmakers and Donald Trump Jr.
At the time, Cheney said the messages left "no doubt" the White House "knew exactly what was happening" at the Capitol during the riot.
NBC News: A Florida man has been arrested for allegedly pepper spraying officers at the Capitol on January 6, and who law enforcement officials say then allegedly made a menacing call to the FBI special agent investigating his role in the riot.
Prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden subpoenaed documents from a paternity lawsuit that included tax records for the president's son, CBS News reports, citing documents and an attorney involved in the matter:
"They wanted every record relating to Hunter Biden we had," Clint Lancaster told CBS News. Lancaster represented Lunden Roberts, a woman who filed suit against Hunter Biden in 2019 alleging he was the father of her child.
A December 2020 subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware, obtained by CBS News, requested all documents "regarding [Hunter] Biden's income, assets, debts, obligations, and financial transactions… and all personal and business expenditures." The request specified January 2017 to the present.
The subpoena also requested a wide range of tax documents pertaining to Hunter Biden.
"All federal, state, local and foreign tax documentation related to Biden," the subpoena reads, "including but not limited to, IRS Forms 1099, income and payroll tax returns, state tax returns, and amended tax returns."
The move by federal authorities to obtain these records offers a new, if narrow, glimpse into the long-running investigation into the president's son — a probe that began as a tax inquiry several years ago.
The CDC says its order requiring masking on planes and other public transit is still needed, setting in motion a DOJ appeal of a federal court decision that overturned the mandate, USA Today reports.
Reuters reports that Delta Air Lines plans to restore flight privileges to about 2,000 customers who were barred from flights after failing to comply with mask rules.
And United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby on Thursday said it is ‘very unlikely’ that the Biden administration’s mask mandate for airplanes will return, POLITICO reports.
They also reports that vaccination coverage for kindergartners dropped across the country in the 2020-2021 school year, according to data released by the CDC on Thursday.
New: Vaccination rates for kindergartners dropped in the 2020-2021 school year. About 35,000 students weren't up to date on their vaccinations; the status the 400,000 children who didn't enroll as expected that year is unknown. politi.co/3jWiwZE via
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, The Washington Post reports. Other recipients this year will be Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Shaye Moss, an election department employee in Fulton County, Georgia.
The FAA's failure to notify Capitol Police about a parachute stunt at a nearby baseball stadium led to an alert and urgent evacuation of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday night, ABC News reports.
The Hill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the apparent failure to notify Capitol Police was ‘inexcusable.’
NBC News: Puerto Ricans on the island and in Congress criticized a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday that found it's constitutional to deny federal benefits to aging and disabled U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico, though they can access benefits if they relocate to the mainland.
The New York Post reports that a photo of Johnny Depp’s cocaine stash and a humiliating image of him ‘passed out’ emerged in court Thursday as attorneys for his ex-wife Amber Heard grilled him on his alcohol and drug use.
The Associated Press reports that Ford is recalling more than 650,000 pickup trucks and big SUVs in the U.S. because the windshield wipers can break and fail.
The recall covers certain F-150 pickups, and Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs from the 2020 and 2021 model years. Also included are F-250, 350, 450 and 550 trucks from 2020 through 2022.
Ford’s F-Series pickups are the top-selling vehicles in the U.S.
The company says in documents posted Thursday by U.S. safety regulators that teeth on the wipers aren’t the right height. That can cause the wiper arms to become stripped. Documents say malfunctioning wiper arms can reduce visibility and increase the risk of a crash.
Dealers will replace both front windshield wiper arms. Owners will be notified by letter starting May 23.
Ford Motor Co. says that as of Feb. 25 it had 754 reports of malfunctioning wiper arms. Some of the trucks were built with higher-torque wiper motors due to the global shortage of computer chips.
ABC News: A wildfire inferno is setting up in multiple states as dangerous fire conditions threaten to spread the fires even further.
At least 14 fires are currently burning through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.
North of Flagstaff, Arizona, where the Tunnel Fire has been scorching through communities after sparking on Sunday, about 750 homes have been evacuated. The Tunnel Fire has burned through 20,000 acres so far and is 0% contained.
About 100 miles southwest of Flagstaff, the Crooks Fire in Prescott, Arizona, has blazed through 2,000 acres and is also 0% contained.
Voluntary evacuations have been ordered in Jarales, New Mexico, where the Bosque Fire has burned through 165 acres and is expected to grow, while mandatory evacuations were issued in Boulder County, Colorado, after the Table Mountain Fire grew to 52 acres.
Red flag and high wind alerts had been issued Thursday for eight states from Arizona to Nebraska. Relative humidity is also down to 5%, with wind gusts as high as 70 mph are possible. The wind is being created by a storm system moving through the West on Thursday and Friday.