Diaspora

10 things you need to know today: October 13, 2022 – The Week

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1
A Connecticut jury on Wednesday decided that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should pay $965 million in damages to the families of eight Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims and a law enforcement first responder. The damages, awarded in the second of three Sandy Hook defamation suits Jones faces, are compensation for the suffering he caused by falsely claiming on his Infowars show that the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax, staged to stoke support for gun control. Parents of some of the 20 first graders murdered testified that Jones’ lies prompted disturbing threats that started before their children’s funerals. Jones vowed to appeal and claimed he can’t pay regardless. “Do these people actually think they’re getting any of this money?” he said on his show.
2
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to condemn Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four regions of Ukraine. The 143-5 vote, with 35 abstentions, called for Moscow to immediately reverse its attempt to take over Ukrainian territory. It was the strongest support for a resolution against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. The vote marked a symbolic defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin, although the U.N. can’t enforce the resolution. Russian forces continued air attacks in retaliation for a blast that damaged a key bridge between Russia and Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Russia hit areas around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, with Iranian-made kamikaze drones early Thursday. Ukraine said the drones targeted “critical infrastructure facilities.”
3
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s effort to delay his deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, tied to Trump’s dismissive denial of her allegation that he raped her in a department store in the mid-1990s. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan called Trump’s effort to pause the deposition “inexcusable,” saying that “completing those depositions — which have already been delayed for years — would impose no undue burden on Mr. Trump, let alone any irreparable injury.” Trump’s deposition is scheduled for Oct. 19. Carroll’s deposition is set for Friday. Trump lawyer Alina Habba said the former president’s team looks forward “to establishing on the record that this case is, and always has been, entirely without merit.”
4
Nury Martinez resigned Wednesday as a Los Angeles City Council member after days of pressure over a leaked audio recording in which she made racist comments during a meeting on redistricting with other Latino political leaders. “It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” Martinez said in a statement. Her resignation came days after the Los Angeles Times published the leaked recording. Martinez earlier stepped down as City Council president, and labor leader Ron Herrera, who hosted the October 2021 meeting, has resigned from his position. Council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, who participated in the discussion, have apologized but resisted calls to resign.
5
The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether Florida improperly used coronavirus aid to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, as part of a program to highlight President Biden’s immigration policies. The Treasury Department watchdog confirmed the inquiry in a letter last week to Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and other Congress members who asked whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was using the aid illegally, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. DeSantis said he was using money from a $12 million earmark in his state’s budget, but the money allegedly came from interest Florida collected on $8 billion it got under the American Rescue Plan, the last federal COVID-19 stimulus package.
6
Ukraine said on Wednesday that it received the first of four air defense systems promised by Germany to help it battle escalating Russian missile and drone strikes. Defense officials from dozens of allies are meeting in Brussels to consider providing Ukraine with more weapons. The gathering came two days after Moscow launched “its broadest barrage of missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian cities since the war began, knocking out water and power systems and killing more than 20 people,” The New York Times reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the ongoing strikes are retaliation for an explosion on strategically important bridge linking Russia to Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula occupied by Russia.
7
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is holding what is likely to be its final public hearing on Thursday. The panel is expected to “highlight newly obtained Secret Service records showing how President Donald Trump was repeatedly alerted to brewing violence that day, and he still sought to stoke the conflict,” The Washington Post reported, citing three people briefed on the records. The Jan. 6 committee plans to share surveillance video showing Trump supporters with paramilitary gear gathered just outside Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House. Secret Service records indicated some officials concluded they stayed outside the rally so agents wouldn’t confiscate their weapons.
8
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized two updated coronavirus boosters to be given to children as young as 5. The FDA said the COVID-19 shots produced by Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, could be administered to children ages 5 through 11, and Moderna’s new boosters could be given to kids 6 through 17. The updated vaccines, already approved for older people, combine protection from the original strain and the Omicron variants that have become dominant. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky recommended the updated boosters for people in the expanded age groups. “This is a critical step in our fight against COVID-19. An updated vaccine can help bolster protection for our children this winter,” she wrote on Twitter.
9
The MacArthur Foundation on Wednesday announced its 2022 MacArthur fellows. The 25 winners of the so-called genius award include a sociologist studying what drives people to own guns and an astrodynamicist working on how to manage “space traffic” orbiting Earth. The MacArthur Fellowship includes an $800,000 grant with no strings attached (increased from the previous stipend of $625,000). One of the winners, Yejin Choi, uses computational linguistics to spot fake news and phony consumer reviews, among other things. “I didn’t think much of myself,” said Choi, 45. “I thought this award was supposed to be for other people out there — not ever for me. Being an immigrant, being a woman — I had to overcome a lot. I had impostor syndrome.”
10
The Biden administration on Wednesday sent a delegation to Haiti to discuss the gang violence deepening a humanitarian crisis in the struggling Caribbean nation. The U.S. team is meeting with Haitian officials over Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s request for international support for police seeking to take control back from the gangs. One of the gangs has blockaded the country’s main fuel terminal, crippling transport and worsening food and drinking water shortages as Haiti faces its first cholera outbreak in years. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged foreign leaders to consider Henry’s call for an international force of specialized troops to help Haiti confront the gangs. The U.S. also dispatched a Coast Guard cutter to patrol the waters around Haiti, as requested, and is sending humanitarian and security aid.
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