Happy Tuesday! It is that time: The annual Morning Dispatch March Madness bracket pool is back and better than ever!
To enter, click here (you will need to have a free ESPN account) and select “Join Group.” The password is “TMD2K23!” and predictions must be completed by Thursday morning before the first games tip off. If you want to be eligible for prizes (including a Dispatch lifetime membership, Yeti tumblers, mugs, hats, T-shirts, and more), fill out this form so we can connect you with your ESPN entry.
We’ll keep you updated on the leaderboard over the next few weeks—let’s get even more entries than we had last year!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- President Joe Biden delivered a speech Monday morning on the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, pledging SVB depositors’ money—and the United States’ banking system as a whole—remains safe, but calling on Congress to enact laws to prevent similar bank failures in the future.
- AUKUS leaders—Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese—announced a plan on Monday that would result in Australia acquiring conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines to combat the growing Chinese threat in the South China Sea. According to the framework the three leaders laid out yesterday in San Diego, Australia will buy three such submarines from the United States in the “early 2030s” pending congressional approval, and build its own—with British and American assistance—in the “early 2040s.”
- Iranian Chief Justice Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi announced Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had pardoned approximately 82,700 prisoners, including 22,000 people who were arrested in the anti-regime protests that rocked Iran in recent months. Ejehi said people who committed violent crimes were not included in the mass clemency, and his comments indicated just how extensive Iran’s crackdown on protesters last fall truly was.
- The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Monday the Biden administration will allow approximately 25,000 Ukrainian refugees who entered the United States via the U.S.-Mexico border last spring to remain and work in the U.S. for at least another year. While the nearly 120,000 Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the United States after April 25, 2021 received two-year grants of parole, those who were processed on a more ad-hoc basis between February 24, 2021 and April 25, 2021 received only one-year grants.
- Sayfullo Saipov, the ISIS-inspired terrorist who killed eight people and injured 12 others in 2017 by driving a rented truck onto a bike path in Manhattan, was sentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of release. Saipov’s was the first federal death-penalty trial to take place during the Biden administration, and jurors were unable to reach the unanimous verdict necessary to sentence him to death. Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions in 2021, and the Saipov case was one of just seven inherited cases in which he allowed prosecutors to continue pursuing the death penalty.
- Real estate brokerage Redfin reported last week that the U.S. rental market cooled in February, with the median asking rent price falling 0.3 percent month-over-month. Rent growth slowed on an annual basis for the ninth consecutive month, with median asking rent prices just 1.7 percent higher in February 2023 than February 2022. Austin, New Orleans, and Phoenix saw some of the biggest price declines, while Charlotte, Columbus, Milwaukee, and Nashville experienced the steepest rent increases.
- Pfizer announced Monday it had agreed to acquire Seagen—a biotech company developing cancer drugs—in a deal valued at $43 billion. The companies expect the deal—Pfizer’s biggest since 2009—to close later this year or early next, but it’s likely to face antitrust scrutiny from regulators.
- A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Monday the Kentucky Republican was discharged from the hospital earlier in the day, and will spend some time—likely one to two weeks—at an inpatient rehabilitation facility before returning home. McConnell tripped and fell at a private dinner in Washington, D.C., last week, suffering a concussion and minor rib fracture.
- Patricia Schroeder, a Democrat who represented Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1997, died on Monday from complications of a stroke at the age of 82.
Biden Tries to Have It Both Ways in Alaska
The Biden administration announced yesterday it had approved a large oil drilling venture in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. The ConocoPhillips project—known as Willow—will provide a boost to domestic oil and gas production over the next decade, but the move drew plenty of criticism from environmentalists, climate activists, and Democratic lawmakers. The approval reflects the tightrope the administration is now trying to walk between pursuing a climate agenda and continuing oil production to temper gas prices and avoid further supply crunches.