Happy Thursday! We’re not sure exactly what’s going on with our neighbors to the north, but a Quebec judge recently ruled Canadians have a “God-given, Charter-enshrined right” to give each other the middle finger.
Have Canadians only been acting polite this whole time because they thought it was illegal to be rude?
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced early this morning the Kentucky Republican was hospitalized last night after he “tripped at a local hotel during a private dinner.” The statement indicated McConnell was receiving treatment, but did not disclose the nature of his injuries.
- According to a letter from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, nine boxes of documents were retrieved from the Boston office of President Joe Biden’s attorney Patrick Moore late last year. “When NARA contacted President Biden’s personal counsel on November 3, 2022, to arrange to pick up boxes from the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., they informed NARA that Mr. Moore had moved other boxes from the Penn Biden Center to Mr. Moore’s law firm in Boston,” the letter states. The additional documents were reportedly retrieved on November 9, but the letter—dated earlier this week—says NARA has not reviewed the contents of the boxes for classified material.
- Protesters clashed with police in Tbilisi, Georgia on Wednesday for the second consecutive day, angered by a law proposed by the Georgian government that would require non-governmental and media organizations that receive at least 20 percent of their funding from overseas to register as “foreign agents.” Protesters have compared the law to one in Russia used to crack down on press freedom, and voiced concern its adoption would undercut Georgia’s bid for European Union membership.
- Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday rejected an offer from Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky to visit Ukraine, saying he doesn’t “have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not.” McCarthy added he will “continue to get [his] briefings,” but that he “won’t provide a blank check for anything.” Zelensky had suggested seeing “how we work, what’s happening here, [and] what war caused us,” would “help [McCarthy] with his position” on supporting additional military aid for the war-torn country.
- The Treasury Department announced Wednesday—International Women’s Day—the United States was imposing new sanctions on Iran for its treatment of women and girls. The sanctions singled out two senior officials in the Iranian prison system for their alleged roles in human rights abuses targeting female prisoners in recent months following protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in custody. High-ranking military leaders, three Iranian companies, and other government officials were among those also hit with the latest sanctions, which were imposed in concert with Australia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday job openings in the United States fell month-over-month in January to 10.8 million, down from a near-record 11.2 million in December but still well above the historical average. The quits rate—the percentage of workers who quit their job during the month—ticked down to 2.5 percent, while the number of layoffs and discharges edged up slightly to 1.7 million.
- The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced Wednesday the U.S. trade deficit—the gap between the value of U.S. imports and exports—expanded to $68.3 billion in January, up from $67.2 billion in December. Imports were up 3 percent month-over-month while exports grew 3.4 percent, another example of strong economic activity to start the year.
- The Senate voted 81-14 on Wednesday to pass a joint resolution blocking the adoption of a controversial crime bill passed by the D.C. city council which would have reduced maximum sentencing guidelines for some high-profile crimes. President Joe Biden has said he will sign the Senate’s resolution into law.
- In a nearly 90-page report released on Wednesday, the Justice Department—citing hundreds of interviews with officers and hours of body cam footage—found the Louisville Police Department engaged in a pattern of conduct that “deprives people of their rights under the Constitution and federal law.” The years-long investigation—prompted by the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in 2020 during a no-knock raid gone wrong—found the department routinely uses excessive force, conducts searches without warning or adequate grounds, and unlawfully discriminates against both black people and people with behavioral health disabilities. The Louisville Metro Government and Louisville Metro Police Department are expected to enter into a court-enforceable consent decree with the DOJ to act on the report’s recommendations.
Moving on Mexico
Late last week, four Americans—Zindell Brown, Shaeed Woodard, Latavia McGee, and Eric James Williams—drove a van from Brownsville, Texas, across the Mexican border, headed to Matamoros as medical tourists. McGee was reportedly scheduled to undergo cosmetic surgery, but she’s lucky to have escaped with her life.
The group of friends were kidnapped by armed men on Friday, and two of them would not cross the border again alive. A third sustained a serious gunshot wound to the leg, and another innocent Mexican citizen was reportedly killed by the gunfire. Mexican authorities have not yet released an official motive for the attack, but the working theory is that members of a drug cartel mistook the group for Haitian drug smugglers. After what was assuredly a harrowing and traumatic weekend, Mexican officials found the group on Tuesday stashed in a wooden house. A man guarding the victims was detained, but no further arrests have been made.