Happy Thursday! The Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lexington, Kentucky, is going above and beyond to attract new tourists to the city—extraterrestrial tourists, that is. The bureau laser beamed a welcome message into space toward potentially habitable planets, inviting any aliens interested in bluegrass, horse farms, or bourbon to stop on by.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Biden administration announced on Wednesday the redesignation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a specially designated global terrorist group amid their escalating attacks on international shipping vessels in the Red Sea. The Trump administration had previously applied the designation to the Iranian-backed group in addition to adding it to the foreign terrorist organization list, but President Joe Biden revoked both designations shortly after taking office in February 2021. “This designation seeks to promote accountability for the group’s terrorist activities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement released Wednesday. “If the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the United States will reevaluate this designation.” Yet American and Houthi forces continued to trade fire throughout Wednesday: A U.S.-owned commercial vessel was hit by a drone in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 60 miles from the Yemeni coast, and the U.S. fired a fourth round of missile strikes at Houthi targets in Yemen.
- Iran carried out missile and drone strikes in western Pakistan on Tuesday, striking Sunni militant group Jaish ul-Adl, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that has previously launched attacks on Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed the strikes didn’t target Pakistani citizens, just “Iranian terrorists on the soil of Pakistan.” The Pakistani government condemned the strikes as an “unprovoked and blatant breach” of the country’s sovereignty, and recalled Pakistan’s ambassador to Iran after claiming the bombardment had killed two Pakistani children. This morning, Pakistan launched retaliatory air strikes against what it claimed were terrorist hideouts in southeastern Iran, reportedly killing seven people. Iran’s foreign ministry today summoned Pakistan’s charge d’affaires in Tehran to “offer explanations” for the attacks, according to Iranian state media.
- A Maine judge on Wednesday suspended a decision to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot. Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy rejected an appeal from Trump’s legal team to stay the case and instead remanded the case back to Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, ordering her to await a decision by the Supreme Court in the Colorado disqualification case. “While it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will decide, hopefully it will at least clarify what role, if any, state decision-makers, including secretaries of state and state judicial officers, play in adjudicating claims of disqualification,” Murphy wrote in her decision.
- Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection. “At some point in a career, one needs to step aside and allow others to bring fresh ideas and abilities into the fight for liberty,” Duncan said in a statement. Nearly 40 lawmakers in the House have announced they will not seek reelection next November. Looking to return to Congress is former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who filed on Wednesday to run for his former seat in Ohio as an independent.
K-12 Education’s Absenteeism Problem
There are lots of ways to describe being absent from school: “playing hooky,” “cutting class,” “skipping,” this scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Nearly four years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the classic story of a bunch of Ferrises blowing off school to lead downtown Chicago in a rousing rendition of “Twist and Shout” seems insufficient to explain the U.S. public education system’s nationwide problem with student attendance. The causes of the current crisis—which in 2023 saw rates of chronic absenteeism 71 percent above their national pre-pandemic average—are many and complex, and researchers and policymakers are still struggling to understand why attendance hasn’t rebounded. And while some states and school districts have taken steps toward boosting attendance, the scale of the problem remains daunting.
While all of us surely missed the odd day of school, chronic absenteeism typically refers to students who are absent at least 10 percent of the school year—or 18 days in the 180-day academic year. Unlike truancy, which relates only to unexcused absences, chronic absenteeism captures absences that are both excused—times when there’s a note explaining the student was sick or at the dentist, for example—and unexcused, where no reason is given.