A U.S.-China Thaw in the Making?

Happy Friday! And congratulations to Florida eighth-grader Dev Shah, who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night by spelling “psammophile” correctly in the 15th round. 

Shah had a little help in his victory: The New York Times described the schwa—“the ‘uh’-like sound that can be represented by any vowel in the English alphabet”—as a “stone-cold killer” for knocking out a handful of finalists.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Senate voted 63-36 on Thursday evening to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Act, legislation suspending the debt limit until January 2025 in exchange for billions of dollars in spending cuts. After a handful of amendments were shot down, 46 Democrats voted for the final passage of the compromise hammered out by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden, compared with just 17 Republicans who backed the deal. The White House has said Biden will sign the bill into law imminently, staving off a federal default that could have come as early as Monday.
  • The Senate also voted 52-46 on Thursday to overturn Biden’s student loan debt relief plan, with two moderate Democrats and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joining the Republican-led effort. Biden has said he will veto the repeal of his program—which cancels up to $20,000 in student debt for borrowers meeting certain criteria—but the forgiveness is already on hold as the Supreme Court weighs the move’s constitutionality.
  • Several people were reportedly injured by shelling in the Russian region of Belgorod on Wednesday, with Russian officials claiming the attack originated in Ukraine. On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces repelled three cross-border incursions by a Ukrainian proxy group, though Kyiv denied involvement and blamed anti-Putin Russian militants for the assaults. Similar attacks in the Belgorod region were carried out last week, and a residential neighborhood of Moscow was hit with a series of drone strikes earlier this week.
  • The Biden administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions and visa restrictions targeting individuals and companies on both sides of the ongoing conflict in Sudan. The sanctions—the first to be leveled by the U.S. in response to the fighting that began in April—followed a breakdown in peace talks between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces earlier this week.
  • The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Thursday that a concrete company, Glacier Northwest, could sue a union after workers walked off a job site—leaving wet concrete in mixing trucks—in a manner that failed to “take reasonable precautions to protect the employer’s plant, equipment, or products from foreseeable imminent danger due to sudden cessation of work.” Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson authored the only dissenting opinion.
  • Federal prosecutors have reportedly obtained a copy of an audio recording of former President Donald Trump—during a meeting at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club in July 2021—admitting he kept a classified document after he left office without declassifying it. The document reportedly pertained to a potential military strike on Iran, and the recording—which is an “important” piece of evidence in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material—supposedly demonstrates Trump understood the nature of the document and his inability to retroactively declassify it. The Dispatch cannot independently confirm the veracity of these reports.
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—increased by 2,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 232,000 claims last week, suggesting the labor market remains tight despite rising interest rates and recession fears.

Still Cold as Ice

President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the 2022 G20 Summit. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the 2022 G20 Summit. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

After years of worsening relations between the United States and China, President Biden is looking for a reset of sorts. “I think you’re going to see that begin to thaw very shortly,” he said at the recent G7 summit, referring to the iciness between the two superpowers.

But it takes two to détente, and while the U.S. sees increased communication as a way to reduce the risk of unwanted open conflict, China seems to view talks as another leverage point.

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