Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- There’s been a flurry of activity on the Korean peninsula in recent days, with North Korea reportedly firing four short-range ballistic missiles off its west coast on Saturday after launching as many as 23 missiles on Wednesday and six missiles on Thursday, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that reportedly failed in flight. One of the missiles on Wednesday reportedly crossed a disputed maritime border with South Korea for the first time, causing air-raid sirens to go off and the South Korean military to respond with three missile tests of its own. South Korea also scrambled its fighter jets on Friday after detecting as many as 180 North Korean warplanes in flight, and the United States deployed two B-1B bombers and four F-16 fighter jets to the area over the weekend. Pyongyang has said the flurry of missile activity is in response to joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, but Western officials believe Kim Jong-un is preparing for another nuclear test.
- Xinhua, a state-run news agency in China, reported Friday that President Xi Jinping broke his relative silence on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to issue his first major rebuke of the Kremlin and warn against using nuclear weapons. The international community, Xi said, should “oppose the use of or the threat to use nuclear weapons, advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used and that nuclear wars must not be fought, and prevent a nuclear crisis in Eurasia.”
- The Pentagon announced a new $400 million security assistance package for Ukraine on Friday, tapping into previously approved congressional aid to send Ukraine 45 upgraded Soviet-era T-72B tanks from the Czech Republic, 1,100 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, 40 armored riverine boats, and funding to refurbish both HAWK air defense missiles and M1117 armored security vehicles. The Netherlands will provide another 45 upgraded T-72B tanks as well. The United States has now sent Ukraine approximately $18.2 billion in military aid since Russia’s invasion in late February. Citing “people familiar with the discussions,” the Washington Post reported Saturday that the Biden administration has been privately nudging Ukrainian officials to “signal an openness to negotiate with Russia” in order to “ensure the government in Kyiv maintains the support of other nations facing constituencies wary of fueling a war for many years to come.”
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that U.S. employers added 261,000 jobs in October, down from September’s 315,000 figure but still well above the pre-pandemic average and above economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate ticked up from 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent as the labor force participation rate remained relatively unchanged at 62.2 percent. Average hourly earnings—a key measure for hints on inflation—were up 4.7 percent year-over-year, slowing from September’s 5.0 percent annual rate.
- The Centers for Disease Control on Thursday updated its clinical guidelines for doctors prescribing pain-killing opioids, softening its “voluntary” and “flexible” recommendations after guidance issued six years ago to curb the opioid epidemic was seen as presenting a “barrier” to necessary care in certain cases. The updated guidelines still favor non-opioid therapies in many instances, but the agency no longer recommends certain dosage limits or capping opioid treatment for acute pain to three days.
- A report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week found that the rate of alcohol-induced deaths—including liver disease, acute intoxication, harmful use, etc.—spiked 26 percent from 2019 to 2020, the fastest such increase in more than 40 years.
- One day after the FBI’s Newark office announced it had received “credible information of a broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey, the law enforcement agency announced Friday it had identified the source of the threat and that the threat “no longer poses a danger to the community.” It’s not clear whether a suspect was taken into custody or charged with any crimes.
- The Hickory Police Department has opened an investigation after someone allegedly shot into the home of the parents of Pat Harrigan—the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 14th congressional district—on October 18, while Harrigan’s children were in the house. No one was injured, and law enforcement officials have not disclosed any leads on suspects or motives for the shooting. Jeff Jackson—Harrigan’s Democratic opponent—pulled a campaign ad that was filmed in front of a separate home owned by Harrigan out of “an abundance of caution and concern.”
- The Houston Astros won the World Series on Saturday, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies four games to two in the best-of-seven contest. It’s Houston’s second championship in team history, and first since their 2017 title, which was tainted by a cheating scandal.
The Housing Market has Chilled Out (A Little)
The housing market is starting to calm down.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), pending home sales fell 31 percent year-over-year in September—the fourth straight month of decline. Active listings, meanwhile, were up nearly 34 percent in October—still well below October 2019, but a sign that houses are lingering on the market longer than during the peak pandemic frenzy. Sticker prices began retreating from their stratospheric climbs in July, when the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index notched its first month-to-month price drop since January 2019—falling a squint-to-see-it 0.3 percent.