Happy Wednesday! Norwegian officials said yesterday a beluga whale wearing a Russian-made harness and believed to have come from a Russian military facility was spotted multiple times in recent weeks off the coast of Sweden.
Oh, it’s go time.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Several drones struck Moscow Tuesday morning in an attack the Kremlin blamed on Ukraine. Ukrainian officials deny responsibility for the barrage, which targeted an upscale neighborhood home to many oligarchs and politicians. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday the Biden administration does “not support attacks inside of Russia.”
- Ukrainian officials reportedly confronted Chinese envoy Li Hui earlier this month over the number of captured Russian weapons built with Chinese electronics and semiconductors, despite Beijing’s attempts to position itself as a mediator in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “Ukraine made its point about the importance of China not to allow Chinese components channeling down to Russia,” Vladyslav Vlasiuk, special advisor to the Ukrainian president on sanctions, told Semafor.
- The United States’ Indo-Pacific Command accused a Chinese pilot of an “unprofessional intercept” after the J-16 the pilot was flying swerved in front of a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea last week, visibly shaking the U.S. plane as it flew through the fighter aircraft’s wake. The U.S. military called it an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver,” and part of a pattern of China’s increasingly confrontational behavior in the region.
- The Treasury Department sanctioned 17 individuals and entities in China and Mexico Tuesday over their role in the production of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills. The targets of the sanctions are accused of providing pill presses and other equipment used to give the fake pills the trade markings of genuine pharmaceuticals.
- Turkey’s currency fell to record lows against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory in presidential elections over the weekend. The lira—which has lost more than 7 percent of its value since January—slid more than 1 percent Tuesday in its largest one-day decline since June 2022, closing at around 20.4 lira to a dollar. Economists warn Erdoğan’s insistence on keeping low interest rates despite record-high inflation is destabilizing Turkey’s economy.
- The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday the debt ceiling agreement between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion compared to present projections over the next decade if the bill is enacted in its current form. The House Rules Committee voted 7-6 Tuesday—over the objections of two hardline House Freedom Caucus members, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina—to move the deal to the House floor, where members are set to vote on it later today.
- The Salt Lake City Tribune reported Tuesday GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah plans to resign from the House as early as this week. Stewart, a six-term congressman who won his last election by more than 30 points, is reportedly stepping down due to his wife’s ongoing health issues. His departure would narrow the already slim five-member GOP majority in the House and trigger a special election in his district.
- Rep. James Comer of Kentucky—Republican chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee—said Tuesday he would pursue contempt of Congress proceedings against FBI Director Christopher Wray. The director refused to comply with a subpoena from the committee seeking records of FBI interviews with confidential sources from June 2020, which included the name “Biden.” Comer alleges the documents could connect Biden to a bribery scheme during his tenure as vice president.
- Allies of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched a new PAC Tuesday—“Tell It Like It Is,” a variation of the governor’s 2016 campaign slogan—ahead of Christie’s increasingly likely 2024 GOP presidential primary run. Brian Jones, a veteran of both late Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid, is leading the effort to boost Christie, joined by several of the governor’s former advisors.
Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed an anti-homosexuality law prescribing decades-long prison sentences—and even the death penalty—as punishment for certain types of homosexual activity, parliamentary lawmakers confirmed Monday. All but two of the country’s 389 members of parliament voted for the law, and affected Ugandans are outraged and alarmed—but not necessarily surprised.
After all, a similar law was passed in 2014 before being overturned on a technicality after international outcry. “When it happened in 2014, I was 20,” Qwin Mbabazi—a Ugandan LGBTQ advocate who works for the United States group GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders—said at a recent event. “Now it’s a decade, I’m 30. And I don’t want to go through this. I don’t want another decade of where we are.”