Happy Wednesday! Planning to tag along with your daughter’s Girl Scout troop to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall?
We’re sure you’ll have a great time—unless, of course, you’re an attorney at a firm involved in litigation against a restaurant the Rockettes’ parent company also owns, in which case the lobby facial recognition software will flag you and security will escort you out before you ever reach the auditorium. Merry Christmas!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit Washington, D.C. today, to meet with lawmakers and—if security concerns allow—address a joint session of Congress, Punchbowl News first reported Tuesday afternoon. The visit will be Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began February 24 and coincides with Congress’ push to pass about $45 billion in new military and economic aid for Ukraine within the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. Ukrainians are experiencing widespread power outages as Russia continues strikes on civilian infrastructure, but Ukrainian troops have been holding back a renewed Russian push to take the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk oblast.
- The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday along party lines to release six years’ worth of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the public once they are redacted to protect personal information such as Social Security numbers. The committee, led by Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, first sought the returns in 2019 as part of an investigation into an IRS program that mandates the auditing of presidents and vice presidents, but it only gained access to them a few weeks ago after a lengthy legal battle. Neal alleged Tuesday the IRS didn’t perform the mandatory audits during the first two years of the Trump administration.
- The Taliban announced Tuesday that, effective immediately, universities in Afghanistan are now closed to women entirely; they had already restricted the subjects female students could study and segregated classrooms by gender. Also Tuesday, the Taliban released two Americans who had been detained in Afghanistan. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the release was not part of an exchange and that no money had been paid for the prisoners’ release.
- The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill being considered by Congress this week now includes language banning the social media app TikTok from federal government devices. The Washington Post also reported that TikTok has “agreed to sever decision-making over its U.S. operations” from its Chinese Communist Party-controlled parent company ByteDance amid negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
- U.S. Central Command announced Tuesday that Special Operations forces—accompanied by troops from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces—captured six ISIS officials in Syria this week during multiple helicopter raids. It’s the second such operation in recent weeks: Special Forces on December 11 killed two ISIS operatives in a nearly three-hour gun battle.
- More than 80 percent of the continental U.S.—including Austin and Orlando—is forecast to experience temperatures below freezing this week as cold air moving down from Canada is projected to bring temperatures 30 to 50 degrees below normal for this time of year. The National Weather Service has warned of “life-threatening” cold for hard-hit areas like the Plains and Midwest. Quickly dropping temperatures and accelerating wind speeds could produce a “bomb cyclone” blizzard and knock out power for millions.
- Early Tuesday morning, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in rural northern California killed at least 2 people, injured 12, and left more than 72,000 customers without power, leading California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency for Humboldt County. The violent earthquake near the intersection of three tectonic plates came days after a smaller earthquake in the Bay Area woke residents before 4 a.m.
- Former film magnate Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and other sexual crimes by a Los Angeles jury on Monday and could face up to 24 years in prison when sentenced. He is currently serving 23 years in prison for a 2020 New York rape conviction. Weinstein was also acquitted of a 2010 sexual battery allegation, and a mistrial was declared for some other charges, including an allegation of rape brought by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Democratic Backsliding in Mexico?
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) seems to have a simple legislative mantra these days: If at first you don’t succeed in overhauling your country’s elections administration, try, try again. At the urging of Mexico’s populist left-wing executive, the country’s legislature has in recent days rushed to approve sweeping electoral changes that critics warn could undermine future votes.
Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE, from its Spanish initials) oversees the country’s federal elections and performs a host of related tasks—registering political parties, overseeing political finance and advertising, maintaining the voter rolls and distributing voter IDs, helping with local elections, and running recalls. Established in 1990 to counter longstanding vote manipulation, its standing bureaucracy was developed to create an electoral administration system relatively free of party loyalties.