(Want to get this newsletter in your inbox? Here’s the sign-up.)
Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Thursday.
1. President Biden announced the release of a million barrels of oil per day, over 180 days, from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
It’s the largest release since the reserve was established 50 years ago. One million barrels a day represents roughly 5 percent of American demand — and 1 percent of global demand — at a time when Russian oil exports are down about three million barrels a day globally.
Biden is under growing pressure to push gas prices down. “The price effect is likely to be short-term,” said a former senior State Department official, who added that it will provide a bridge until supply comes online from other countries.
Europe: Leaders pushed back against a demand by President Vladimir Putin of Russia that Russian-imported natural gas be paid for in rubles, a requirement that Putin said would begin tomorrow.
The account supports a Pentagon report released yesterday that Russian troops were withdrawing from Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Russia had seized the area early in the invasion.
There is little evidence, however, that Russia is reducing its military activity around Kyiv, despite its earlier statements. According to NATO, troops are “not withdrawing but repositioning,” perhaps to concentrate on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces are struggling with low morale and weapons shortages, according to British intelligence, which noted that Russians have accidentally shot down their own aircraft and have refused orders. Nonetheless, according to an independent poll — a potentially useful tool, despite the challenges of accurately capturing public opinion in Russia — Putin’s approval ratings have skyrocketed.
3. The federal investigation into the events of Jan. 6 appears to have moved into a new phase.
Previously, investigators focused largely on the rioters who had entered the U.S. Capitol, leading to more than 700 arrests. But the Justice Department now appears to be examining the possible culpability of a broad range of figures, including allies of former President Donald J. Trump who were involved in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Prosecutors are also asking about the planning of the rallies that preceded the assault on the Capitol.
4. Home wasn’t always a safe space for many adolescents during the pandemic.
A new survey of 7,705 U.S. high school students conducted in the first half of 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found high rates of reported abuse — with 55.1 percent of respondents saying they suffered emotional abuse from an adult in their house in the preceding year and 11.3 percent saying they suffered physical abuse.
Research conducted in 2013 found rates that were substantially lower, with 13.9 percent reporting emotional abuse and 5.5 percent reporting physical abuse. The survey also found high levels of emotional distress and underscored the protective role that schools can play.
In other pandemic news, here’s how to prepare for a potential wave of Covid-19 from the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
5. Sections of a Florida election law are unconstitutional and racially motivated, a federal judge in Tallahassee ruled.
Judge Mark Walker said the law, put in place a year ago, was part of a deliberate effort to make it harder for Black voters to cast a ballot. It is the first federal court ruling striking down major elements of a voting law enacted by Republicans in battleground states since the 2020 election.
He also placed Florida under a 10-year order to get clearance from the federal government before changing any key aspect of its voting laws. The decision is certain to be appealed and is likely to be overturned by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit or the Supreme Court.
6. New Mexico broke ground in the tuition-free movement among states.
The state’s new law allots almost 1 percent of its budget toward covering tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. All state residents of any immigration status, including new high school graduates and adults enrolled part time, will be eligible.
Flush with oil and gas revenue, New Mexico is the first state to offer full financial coverage, even before other scholarships and financial aid are applied, enabling students to use those funds for expenses such as child care. One educational expert called the state’s program “very close to ideal.”
7. Best actor winner Will Smith refused to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock onstage, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement yesterday.
Disciplinary proceedings against Smith have begun, and he will have a chance to respond. At the academy’s next board meeting, on April 18, members could “take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions.”
In a sold-out comedy show in Boston, Rock — who has refused to file charges — said he was “still kind of processing what happened” and would discuss it in greater depth later.
8. She took the White House photos. Trump moved to take the profit.
Chief White House photographers typically publish books after their tenure. But when Shealah Craighead — Trump’s chief photographer and the first woman in that role — planned to do the same, Trump intervened.
First, his aides asked for a cut of the advance if Trump wrote the forward and did promotion, according to former Trump associates. Then Craighead was asked to hold off entirely so Trump could use her photos and those of other White House photographers in his own book, now selling for up to $230 a copy. For now, Craighead has no plans to publish.
In other book news: Since last fall, when New York City libraries scrubbed late-return fees, more than 21,000 items have poured in, some with touching apologies.
9. Brawn mattered more than brain to mammals after an asteroid strike killed the dinosaurs.
On average, mammals have the largest brain to body size ratio among vertebrates. But beginning some 66 million years ago in the Paleocene Epoch, mammals’ relative brain sizes decreased as their bodies grew.
Before the asteroid struck, the largest mammals topped out at the size of a badger. With the non-avian dinosaurs gone, mammals had full access to a leafy buffet and began tacking on mass, and the strength to navigate their destroyed world.
The findings come from a new study of recently unearthed skulls. Researchers used CT scans to measure braincases and compared them with expected proportions. They were comparatively small — likely to conserve the energy that a big brain requires.
Since creating the account as a University of Michigan sophomore, she’s expanded it to Twitter and TikTok, sold merchandise and hosted a live New York City show.
Followers often pitch her pages, but it’s hard to impress Rauwerda these days: “For example, there are only 25 blimps in the world,” she says, adding: “It went around Twitter a couple days ago. I was shocked. I was like, ‘Everyone knows this.’”
Have a unique night.
Sean Culligan compiled photos for this briefing.
Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.
Want to catch up on past briefings? You can browse them here.
What did you like? What do you want to see here? Let us know at email@example.com.