Niger Orders American Exit

Happy Thursday! The United States is now the 23rd happiest country in the world, according to the annual World Happiness Report, falling out of the top 20 in the global index for the first time due largely to discontented Americans in their twenties. 

But nobody bothered to talk to any members of the Morning Dispatch team—the cheeriest 20-somethings around—when they were compiling the data. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Federal Reserve on Wednesday held its benchmark interest rate steady—at a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent—following a higher-than-expected inflation reading earlier this month. “We know that reducing policy restraint too soon or too much could result in a reversal of the progress we have seen on inflation and ultimately require even tighter policy to get inflation back to 2 percent,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters following the decision. The stock market rallied, however, after updated projections from the central bank showed a majority of Federal Open Markets Committee members forecasting three rate cuts in 2024.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule on Wednesday limiting vehicle tailpipe emissions in an effort to push manufacturers toward electric vehicles. The new regulations target light-duty vehicles—like cars and SUVs—and require manufacturers to limit how many pollutants cars in model years 2027-2032 can emit. The rule, while aggressive, is less stringent than the agency’s original April 2023 proposal, which would have required some 60 percent of all vehicles in the 2030 model year to be electric. The final rule issued this week, however, would likely see some 30 to 40 percent of the 2030 pool be EVs, depending on the level of emissions from the other cars in the model year.
  • A State Department spokesperson announced Wednesday that the agency is organizing daily helicopter flights out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to evacuate American citizens to the neighboring Dominican Republic as the situation in the violence-plagued Caribbean country continues to deteriorate. According to the spokesperson, more than 30 people will be able to leave the capital every day, and 15 people were airlifted on Wednesday. On Sunday, a government-chartered flight from the northern city of Cap-Haitien brought 37 Americans back to the United States. 
  • North Korean state media claimed Wednesday that the country had successfully tested a new solid-fuel engine for hypersonic missiles capable of reaching U.S. targets in the region, like Guam or Alaska. The reported test came just a day after North Korea fired ballistic missiles off its east coast during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Seoul, South Korea.
  • Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar unexpectedly announced his resignation on Wednesday—one year ahead of planned elections—as his party, Fine Gael, polls poorly against nationalist party Sinn Féin. “I believe this government can be re-elected and my party can gain seats,” he said. “But after careful consideration and soul searching, I believe a new [prime minister] and leader will be better placed to do that.” He will officially step down when his party selects a new leader in April but plans to continue to serve as a member of parliament for his constituency.
  • Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong resigned on Wednesday, just a year after he was first elected to the role. The Vietnamese Communist Party, which controls the country, said in a statement accepting his resignation that Thuong had violated party rules—though the statement did not specify his offenses. Thuong’s resignation from the largely ceremonial role comes amid an anti-graft campaign that forced his predecessor’s ouster last year. 
  • Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the trial in Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis’ sprawling racketeering case against former President Donald Trump, granted Trump and his co-defendants permission to appeal his recent decision allowing Willis to stay on as prosecutor despite her longtime romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the former special prosecutor on the case. Trump’s lawyers now have 10 days to file an appeal with the Georgia Court of Appeals, which will have 45 days to decide whether to take it up. In the meantime, “The Court intends to continue addressing the many other unrelated pending pretrial motions,” McAfee wrote in his order.

‘There Are No Winners in This’

Supporters of Niger's National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP) display a French national flag with an X-mark during a protest outside a French airbase in Niamey demanding the departure of the French army from Niger on September 1, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of Niger's National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP) display a French national flag with an X-mark during a protest outside a French airbase in Niamey demanding the departure of the French army from Niger on September 1, 2023. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. State Department and Pentagon officials traveled to Niamey, the capital of Niger, last week for talks with the West African nation’s ruling military junta. The delegation’s stated goal was to “continue ongoing discussions” on the resumption of American security cooperation with the Nigerien military and putting the country back on a path toward democratic governance.

We wish we could have been a fly on the wall for those conversations, because they apparently did not go very well. Fewer than four days after the trip concluded, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane, a spokesperson for the military government, went on state television to announce the end of Niger’s security pact with the United States.

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