Happy Thursday! San Francisco’s board of supervisors changed their mind yesterday and, at least for now, will not let police officers deploy remote-controlled robots equipped with explosives to kill suspects considered violent or dangerous.
You almost had us, Skynet.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- German law enforcement on Wednesday arrested 25 people suspected of plotting a coup to install ringleader German Prince Heinrich XIII as head of state. Arrested suspects include a soldier from Germany’s KSK special forces unit—reformed recently over concerns of far-right encroachment—and a judge who formerly served in Parliament in the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Prosecutors said the group embraced ideas from QAnon and the Reichsbürger, a conspiracy movement that considers Germany’s post-World War II government illegitimate. Members also sought support from Russia, prosecutors allege, though investigators haven’t found evidence that Russia offered assistance.
- Peru’s Congress ousted President Pedro Castillo Wednesday after he attempted to head off an impeachment vote by dissolving the legislature, replacing the country’s Constitution, and imposing a curfew. Military commanders declined to follow Castillo’s orders and many formerly loyal cabinet ministers resigned, with some labeling his moves a coup attempt. The national police have detained Castillo, and Dina Boluarte—his former vice president—has been sworn in as president, promising to “install a government of national unity.” Castillo—a left-wing former schoolteacher and union leader—won office in 2021 on a platform of increased wealth redistribution and constitutional reforms but has been plagued by multiple scandals and corruption investigations.
- Chinese officials further softened COVID-19 safety measures on Wednesday, dropping most mass testing requirements, narrowing lockdowns from entire neighborhoods or districts to individual buildings and floors, and allowing people with asymptomatic or mild COVID cases to quarantine at home. The sharp change from years of COVID-Zero measures follows recent street protests in several cities across the country, but, thanks to China’s previously limited case counts and comparatively low vaccine uptake, the moves may result in a COVID-19 surge capable of overwhelming the country’s hospitals.
- Chinese imports fell 11 percent year-over-year in November according to CCP government data, while exports fell 8.7 percent—the largest dip since February 2020 and well above economists’ predicted 2 percent drop. COVID-19 lockdowns and a sputtering real estate market have clobbered China’s economy, fueling concerns about a global downturn next year.
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday joined Maryland, South Dakota, and South Carolina in moving to ban state employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices, citing concerns that the Chinese Communist Party could obtain U.S. citizens’ personal data from TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance. Abbott also urged Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan to pass a law codifying the rule and extending it to local governments.
- The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in Moore v. Harper, a case stemming from disputes over a congressional map implemented by North Carolina’s state legislature last year but struck down by the state’s Supreme Court as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Justices are tasked with deciding whether the state court acted out of turn in blocking the map given the deference to state legislatures outlined in the U.S. Constitution’s election clause, even though the court believed the map violated the state’s constitution. A majority of the Supreme Court in Wednesday’s hearing seemed disinclined to embrace the “independent state legislature” theory, which would give legislatures sweeping power to regulate federal elections with minimal state court oversight.
- A search overseen by former President Donald Trump’s legal team at a federal judge’s direction in recent weeks reportedly turned up two more items marked classified in a Florida storage unit that the General Services Administration—which aids presidents leaving office—helped Trump rent last year. The items were reportedly turned over to the FBI after the search—which was conducted by an outside team hired by Trump—in a belated effort to comply with a May subpoena that compelled Trump and his legal team to forfeit all materials with classification markings.
- Outgoing GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York announced Wednesday he will no longer challenge Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel for her post, but argued the GOP’s performance in recent years indicates she does not deserve a fourth term. “I won’t be running for RNC Chair at this time with McDaniel’s reelection pre-baked by design, but that doesn’t mean she should even be running again,” he said. “It’s time the GOP elects new leadership!” RNC Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon is reportedly considering a bid.
Will Democrats Upend the Primaries?
For the last half-century, Iowa and New Hampshire have held a favored place as the starting-gun states of the presidential primaries, basking in the national attention and outside political spending that accompanied that position. In recent years, however, Democrats in the two small states have looked on nervously as a growing national chorus grumbled that their idiosyncratic, heavily white electorates made them a poor barometer of sentiment in an increasingly diverse party.
Now the hammer is dropping. Acting on recommendations from President Joe Biden, the Democratic National Committee’s Rule and Bylaws Committee voted last week to shuffle its slate of early-state primaries—assuming they can get buy-in from the states in question.